Is It Spring Now?

The snow which came at the beginning of February is almost a memory. Just a few patches remain, and today, the pond is thawed, the ice of yesterday and this morning gone.

The chickens are back on grass, and loving every minute of it.

Their nests are full of eggs each day.

Even the fig in the hoop house is budding.

In 1999, we purchased this sauce dish in Hagi 萩, a small town far off the beaten path in western Japan on the sea of Japan. Hagi is famous for its earthy, subdued pottery. I haven’t used this dish much. I was perfectly happy letting it sit on its shelf and being beautiful. Recently I discovered that it is a perfect utensil for pouring eggs into a skillet. One, two, three raw eggs fit perfectly in it, and when the butter in the skillet is hot, the eggs pour smoothly into the skillet.

Twenty years ago when I first picked up the dish, did it know that in the future it would become one of my favorite kitchen utensils? Did it know before I did that I would be living with chickens and ducks and need a handy utensil to pour raw eggs into a hot skillet? Is that why it called out, “Buy me,” in Hagi?

A Chicken Parade

The village of Edison held their annual Chicken Parade yesterday at high noon. The quiet village was packed to watch happy chicken owners parade their chickens through the village. It’s a fun parade, all ten minutes of it. I don’t think I could ever take my chickens to the parade. All those people. All that noise and laughter. My chickens would break out of their cage and fly over the rooftops.

It Takes All Winter

It takes all winter for flower buds to age until they glimmer like starbursts on a frosty spring morning. Fragile, these gobo (burdock) seed pods shatter easily, waiting for a passing beast to rub against them and scatter their seeds. Their spiny barbs latch onto anything. You can’t walk past them without them sticking to you.

Lavender, mint, oregano seed pods all wait for something to scatter them. They look fragile, but they’re not, surviving all winter through rain, snow, and frosts.

Things to Ponder While the Snow Melts

So what do you do with a doll you have loved for years as a child and are now too old to play with it? If you’re in Japan, you can have a funeral for it. There are Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines throughout Japan which regularly conduct funerals for dolls.

Things with eyes and mouths can not be thrown away, is a way of thinking in Japan. There is a view that since dolls are in such a close relation with people, that they share our memories and feelings, so throwing them away is not an option.

At a doll funeral, priests conduct a memorial service for the dolls, thank them for their service, and send them on to the next life after the service. At the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, some 30,000 dolls a year are honored this way and during the funeral huge taiko drums are played, and shrine maidens perform special dances for the dolls.

In a world awash in conflict, strife, and controversy, it’s calming to know that there are places where some feel so much for their dolls that they conduct elaborate funerals for them. It’s a pleasant thing to ponder as I watch the snow melt.

A Two Week Break

The snowpack is finally melting away, one snowflake at a time. For two weeks the ground has been covered with snow. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a snowpack last this long. Usually, they are gone in a day or two. It’s been a two week break from any garden work.

The snow has melted enough, the air warmed sufficiently, for the chickens to run free.

In a few days the grass will be poking through the vanishing snow. The chickens will be back to scratching for bugs and worms.

Glaciers Recede, Duck Eggs Appear

I gathered the first eggs of the year yesterday. Among them was one of Emma’s, the biggest duck egg of all. With duck eggs for breakfast, I can forget about the snow.

It is above freezing, the sun is burning away the clouds, the glaciers around the house are receding, and I have finished shoveling the driveway so I can deliver eggs, bread, and tofu tomorrow.

Not quite the twenty meter (sixty-five feet) high snow walls along the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route you can see from April into June in the Northern Alps of Japan, but it’s fun to pretend the snow here is that deep.


Snowed In

This is a first. I had to shovel my way into the garden this morning.

Shovel a path for the ducks to walk to their swimming hole.

Shovel a path to the hoop house the ducks spend the night.

The ducks don’t care how much it snows as long as they can swim. Can you really call what ducks do on water as swimming? They float and paddle, they dive and splash, but swimming implies some effort, and as buoyant as ducks are, floating is effortless for them. They often go to sleep floating on the pond. Which makes me wonder if wild ducks ever fall asleep on a lake, go sleep paddling, and wake up wondering how they got to where they are when they open their eyes.

It has been many years since we’ve seen this much snow. The forecast is for steadily warming temperatures with snow melting warmth knocking on our door. With this much snow it’s easy to imagine this as the start of an ice age, forcing us to flee on foot out of here, sojourning across vast snowfields in search of snow free lands far to the south, thousands and thousands of snow refugees fleeing advancing glaciers nipping at our heels.

In a few days the snow will most likely be gone and my mind can wander through other calamities. Today it is all about the snow.

No Sneaking About in the Snow

The snow sparkles this morning under a blue, cloudless sky. You don’t need to ask, “Who goes there?” when powder-puff snow blankets the ground. Every last footstep of every last creature leaves an imprint in the snow. There is no sneaking about in the snow.

Down the lane I stumble on the sad, feathery grave of a flicker. One of the many flickers which grace our woods has met its demise. With no tracks of a fox, bob cat, coyote, or cougar in sight, a goshawk, or merlin, or such forest bird of prey must have snagged the poor flicker. To sneak about on a snowy day you must fly.

The Hush of Snow

The pond is a sheet of snow today. The hush of a snowy day is so calming. With no wind, the soft, gentle flakes pile up everywhere. Vines become white ribbons chasing phantom shapes through the air. Dried flower stalks turn into cotton puffs.

Daffodils droop their yellow heads in the snow, hoping for sunny days.

The dogs run all day. Fluffy snow on a not too cold day is their idea of a perfect playground. Tonight they are fast asleep, dreaming of more snow.

The chickens aren’t that fond of the snow. The ducks don’t mind. As long as their pool doesn’t freeze, and it won’t with the heater at the bottom of their pool, they paddle all day.

2519 Is Just 500 Years Away

Soaking soybeans is an artful practice. The beans are so peaceful, resting in the quiet water. I let them soak overnight in gently running water. It’s just the slightest of streams falling into the pot, not even making a ripple, just a dimple you can see at the top of the picture. The flowing water gently purifies the beans. By morning they are plump and beautiful.

Outside the tofu cabin, the small sequoia we planted more than a decade ago is now so tall I have to tilt my head back to see the top. Behind it, the cottonwoods tower more than a hundred feet. If I live to be five hundred years old, the sequoia may tower three times the height of the cottonwoods and dwarf the cottonwoods. In 2519 a three hundred foot sequoia on Bow Hill will draw the attention of everyone traveling through the Skagit Valley. This sequoia is destined for great things.

Around the sequoia are these curious tracks. Are they Chicken tracks? I’m not sure, but they are the normal routes the chickens take on their meanderings around the pond.

Where many chickens gather, the snow is trampled to smithereens, three toes at a time.

It’s been a few years since the pond has frozen over like this. If it snows like forecast this weekend, the pond will become a white field, and maybe the chickens will take shortcuts across the pond to get to the other side, maybe. I’ll know if I see chicken tracks across the snow covered pond.