Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mama's Chickens

My mama loved raising chickens better than anything besides growing her flowers and always managed to have some when we were growing up. I can’t remember a time when chickens weren’t running around scratching all day or hearing the ole hens cackling when they’d laid their eggs. And there’s nothing like being chased by an ole sittin hen when she gets the mindset to be ornery when she thinks her chicks might be harmed.
 When spring time came in mama kept an eye on those ole hens when they took off to build their nest. Mama knew where every nest was and if she didn’t she’d watch them till she knew just about the exact location.  Daddy tickled all of us to death. He’d stand on the porch and say, “lookie yonder at your mamie, she’ll follow them ole hens till one of these days she’ll get a snake around her neck.”

There were a lot of varmints to contend with like hawks, foxes, etc. but that didn’t detour mama from doing what she loved to do. Sometimes an ole hawk would dive down and grab a baby chick.
One ole hawk really was bold one day and dived down in the middle of the yard. Mama run down those steps faster than a cat could lick and grabbed the first rock she could get her hands on and threw it straight up at that hawk. The rock didn’t come close to him but it scared him enough to drop the little chick. The poor little thing died on impact if it wasn’t already dead.  It broke mama’s heart and she said, “I’ll kill that thing if it’s the last thing I do.” Daddy wanted to put his two cents in but knew better and turned around and walked back in the house. Those varmints were brave to show themselves around mama.

When an ole varmint grabbed a hen on her nest mama would take the eggs and put them under another ole hen. We never could keep up with how many ole hens and chickens mama really had but she knew each one of the hens and had most of them named and knew where each one built their nest.
When it came time for all the baby chicks to hatch out there’d be several ole hens and their baby chicks running around to feed and those hens were mean as a striped snake. We knew better to get their feathers riled. 
 Those ole roosters were awfully cocky as well.  Mama never could stand to hear an ole rooster crow in the middle of the day. She said it meant bad luck. She’d throw rocks at one to get him to stop. It was usually the young roosters that had just learned how to crow and thought they were something. Daddy told her that one day she was wasting her time and she said, “well it’s about time they learned when to crow and I’ll teach em.”

She’d put as many of the ole hens up in chicken pens as she could and the little ones would go in and out through the chicken wire till roost time. When the chicks got a little older she’d let them out of the pen to make room for more. Every now and then a fox would reach through or under the wire and get one of the hens and leave the babies to fend for themselves. Mama would catch the babies and put them in a cardboard box and feed them. She’d take them in the house at night and cover them with an old rag. They’d peep for a little bit and then get quite as a mouse till morning. When morning came she’d carry the box back out on the front porch and let them out for the day.

She did this many times and they thought of her as their mama cause every evening at about the same time they’d come up the front door steps looking for mama. Someone would holler here comes your babies mama. If she was in the house she’d come a trotting. If she was already sitting on the porch she’d stick her legs out and they’d climb up both legs and onto her lap. Sometimes they’d climb up on her shoulders. She’d say, “awe, come on and I’ll put you to bed, I know you’re ready fer it.” She’d carry each one and place them back in their box till morning.  This became a daily routine for mama till they grew big enough to fend for themselves. They’d grow so big they already had their little tail feathers and they kept on prancing up those steps for mama to put to bed.  It’d finally get to the point she had to run them back down the steps and I can just hear her now, “ uns go on now and find ye a place to roost, you’re plenty big enough to fend fer yourself.” 

My uncle was visiting late one summer evening and was sitting on the porch talking with mama and daddy when a batch of those chicks came up those steps and walked towards mama. She straightened her legs out and they climbed up her legs as pretty as you please and onto her lap.  He asked her about it and she told him they did that every evening wanting to be put to bed. He said he’d never seen anything like it before in his life. He told mama she had those chicks spoiled and she said, “spoiled or not, someone has to take care of the little fellers.”

Mama also loved to raise those pesky guineas and we all hated those things with a passion, daddy included. An ole guinea ain’t got any sense and can do the craziest things. When they sit on a nest of eggs till they hatch out they practically abandon their little ones. We’ve watched ole guinea hens stand out in the pouring down rain and look straight up and never try to hunker down so the little ones could get under them and stay dry. They’d walk around with their head in the air and let the little ones drown. The only thing they were good for was letting us know when a snake crawled through the grass. They’d all gather around it and you never heard the beat and of course the chickens had to join in as well. It’s a wonder the snake didn’t die of a heart attack on the spot.
They also loved going to the main, paved road and just stand in the middle of it.  When one or two would meet their waterloo we’d shout in secret for our own sake. She lost quite a few in that road but always managed to triple even more so come spring.

The only thing an ole guinea is fit for is keeping bugs off of stuff. They sure did keep the bugs off of mama’s flowers. They’d even eat ole stink bugs, shewww.  I do believe that’s one of the reasons mama liked to raise them. She sure prided herself on those flowers.

Mama did some funny things when it came to raising chickens and guineas. When an ole guinea was sitting on a nest of eggs mama would watch her till she left the nest for a while and then slip and take those eggs out of the nest and put them under an ole sittin hen while she was off of her nest. She’d remove all of the hen eggs except ONE and replace them with the guinea eggs. It was the funniest sight you’ve ever seen to see that ole hen walking around with a bunch of baby guineas and one little chick in the bunch. 

We always said, there was never a chicken or guinea that built a nest that mama couldn’t find, even if it meant going into the snakiest places there were. Mama prided herself on her chickens and guineas. My mama was an inspiration to us all and even though we didn’t always understand her motives or love for certain things she sure did know her stuff and taught us a lot of life lessons along the way. 

I love going back to our childhood home in the spring. I can still hear those ole hens cackling when they lay their eggs and see them running around with those little chicks behind them and yes, I can still hear those ole guineas as well. I can also see mama standing in the yard watching an ole hen take off towards her nest.  It’s like turning back time and I’ll always cherish those sweet memories of mama and her chickens and the ole guineas too. 

                                          © Susie Swanson, 2018

Happy Spring everyone !! Sorry my Text is black but I've only got office now because my Microsoft Word went down. I've tried to work with the text but so far no luck. I'm still working with it because I do not like this text color at all . As for spring, where has it gone? The second day of spring and we've had snow showers all day with brutal, cold wind. I'm trying not to complain with so many of you having it far worse and I'm praying for you all. blessings, ~Susie~

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Window Of Time

As I look through the window of time
there's a deep peace of content and hope that cheers
for the things I see so clearly my spirits does climb
as I step into the light of my childhood years

A family all together on many evenings long ago
gathered around the table what joy it does bring
the supper hour, a magnet drawing love to glow
I listen to the voices that makes my heart sing

My mama's cooking is the best to be found
the aroma of the smells are oh so inviting
her reward is her family gathered all around
a table full of love prepared from summer's canning

I see my hard working daddy with his wrinkled brow
washing his face and hands like always before
after the end of days work and milking the cow
they all bow their heads and give Thanks even more

The old oil lamp in the middle of the table, is still there
with darkness settling in waiting for daylight
it shines so bright on mama and daddy's silver hair
and the love will forever linger in plain sight

Then comes the morning of another yesterday
with many little feet running all through the house
anxious to eat and waiting patiently for school or play
before the break of dawn it was quiet as a mouse

Walking to catch the bus and crossing the little creek
some are anxious to get to school and some in a fuss
till the sight of a long neck crane with a minnow in it's beak
so engrossed till we all just about miss the school bus

So many memories still tucked away around that old road
a place to ride an old worn out bike or play and roam
walking home from the bus in the evening in a tired mode
till I see more welcome sights that await me at home 

Awe, I see mama's pretty quilts blowing in the wind
every little stitch was sown with love in her heart
the first signs of spring has slipped around the bend
quilts and flowers in my heart will never part

All of the gardens are planted and pretty as can be
so many little hands knowing how to plant and hoe
taught when to work and when to play so patiently
the bounty is worth it, nary a weed is allowed to grow

The rewards of summertime is splashing in the creek
or running through those trails the whole day long
catching lightning bugs in a jar and playing hide and seek
in that place called childhood my heart will always belong

When the bounty is ready to harvest I see the skies so blue
soon the cool, crisp nights of Fall will give way to the cold
as the snowflakes fall so gently, the playing is way over due
down those snowy hills we own and sliding makes us bold

So many things to see through that window glass
brings joy to my heart and a hunger like I've never known
for the precious memories I hold nothing can ever surpass
in a place where childhood memories were so easily sown

Oh how I love that wonderful, old window of time
those sweet, familiar faces I see just like always before
that ageless old mantle clock will forever chime
through that window even if time has shut the door

© Susie Swanson, 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Memories Of March

March can come in like a lion and go out like a lamb or vise versa. We never know what it's gonna bring. Sunny and warm one week, a blizzard the next, and it's the beginning of tornado season in my neck of the woods, but I love March and it's windy days. I guess because it usually brings so many early spring time signs. I look out and see daffodils, forsythia's, crocuses, tulips, and other early flowers in bloom and it warms my heart even on a chilly day. The wind usually blows every day of the month and sometimes late February and certainly April borrows from March. There's nothing like hanging clothes on the line in March and April. Shoot, I always start hanging them out in February when it start's borrowing from March. Nothing like fresh, laundry hung on the line in a good, stiff wind all day.

I remember back when I was a young'un mama would start as soon as the March wind came in, dragging out the quilts and all the bed linens and whatever else she could drag out. You talk about many an all day job that surely was, and every line was filled to the brim and those quilts and sheets would flap all day on those lines. The next pretty day she'd start taking down curtains, dragging out all the winter coats and anything else she found laying around. Whewww, after all of that we thought she would be done but oh no. She'd tell daddy to pull off those long handles , they were going in the wash. I can hear him now, “I ain't pullin em off to catch my death of cold till the first of May and ye ought to know that by now.” Of course he had several pairs but he acted like it was the only pair he had to save his life. Let's just say mama always won the debate.
Oh, I can't forget how she'd get us all together and we'd have to drag the mattresses outside to sun all day and the pillows were hung on the line to air out as well. But we always did this several times a year in the warmer months.

Spring cleaning came early with mama and March was her month. She always said, “waitin's what broke the wagon down and I've gotta get in that garden soon.” But what she really was hankering for was not just the vegetable gardens but the flower beds. While daddy was out looking for certain types of tater seed (and he wouldn't stop till he found them if it took a week or two) mama was buying up more flower bulbs. He'd always tell her, “I hope ye know, ye can't eat them flowers.” Oh boy, what came next wasn't to purty. Mama loved her gardens and worked hard in them just like all of us but she loved her flowers more. I do believe daddy finally figured that one out cause he kinda kept his mouth shut in later years. But in all honesty she did have a green thumb and everything she put in the ground came up. Mama did take pride in her gardens too. I know why she started her spring cleaning so early. She knew when that garden stuff came in she'd be busy in that hot kitchen canning all summer with the sweat dripping off of her brow. 

The only thing I don't like about March is those stinky skunks. They always start passing through mostly in the early mornings and it's hard to stick ye head out the door. We sure did dread walking out the door to go catch the school bus when that stink was lingering. It made us feel like it was on our clothes and just knew someone would get a whiff and turn their nose up at us but if they ever did they never let on. And that's the one thing that has delayed a lot of laundry hanging for me. There's been times I would leave the laundry basket sitting full till the March wind got up enough in late morning to blow the scent out. You talk about pitching a fit when one had passed through when mama started to hang her laundry out. She called them pole cats and she always said, “ if it wasn't fer getting stunk up so bad a body ought to tie a paper poke to their tail and set it on fire.” I still laugh today when I think of her saying that and it comes to mind every time one passes through. But one good thing about the March wind, the scent doesn't last long be it March or April.

I'll never forget one March day our dog Ole Mack tangled with a skunk. He was a full blooded collie and with that long hair it was the dickens getting him cleaned up. We couldn't stand it when he came near us, poor ole feller. I never in my life seen as much water carried from the spring and boiled in an old iron pot in the back yard for his bath or I should say several baths. That was the one time I saw mama part with some of her canned tomatoes. She opened those cans and poured several of them in that old wash tub. Shoot, we never did buy anything like tomato juice from the stores. It took us a while to get him clean enough not to smell it and it worked. Ole Mack was the most gentle dog we'd ever seen and I think he quite liked it cause the scent just about got him too. After we got him cleaned up we had to start over and all of us had to take a bath as well and after that we prayed really hard we'd never have to do that again. Of course, skunks come and go and leave their mark just for show and I do believe they laugh as they spray and go.

March can surely bring in anything including those stinky skunks and if I look close enough I might see wild ducks swimming down the creek at the back of my house. And I love hearing the frogs start their croaking late in the evenings but the sweetest sound is the spring birds and their serenading.

But in spite of all the things that can happen in March I focus on the good things and good memories. All of life's pleasures and treasures awaken from their long winter nap. It awakens my heart and soul to new birth and a refreshing feeling comes over me of what's to come. And sometimes it can start as early as February when it takes a notion to borrow from March.

                                              © Susie Swanson, 2018

                                               Happy March Everyone