Instead of washing the dishes, I run a half-dull pencil across one corner of someone’s school paper I just flipped over. Hours of talking with an unstable client at work this weekend have left me without words. My fingers want to trace clean lines, simple forms. I need something quiet and directly satisfying, completely under my own control. The papers pile up as I draw a kestrel, geese in formation, barns, a wood frog.
Around home, we compile shenanigans. We chug to the hilltop with Eloise the Tractor and her trailer and our tent. Pitching our two-person tent that takes me back to our honeymoon fifteen years ago, but now, I pitch it with and for our kids to snack and read while Andrew and I scuff across the newly disked fifteen-acre field, picking rocks. We move our rainbow rangers—adolescent meat chickens—from the kitchen brooder to a chicken tractor, fortified with cardboard and heat lamp against the chill, and rearrange the brooder to make room for new chicks this week. We work on cleaning out the barn, tearing down ceilings that release a foot of dust, mice, hay, and more dust.
Skip, always helpful, finds a duck egg and totes it so carefully in her mouth that her teeth don’t even scratch it. Sam, always zooming around, plays soccer and baseball and football in cleats, pausing to hug passing chickens. Stella makes dirt soup, tricycles, calls Skip with a high-pitched “HooHoo” that Skip always comes to, and also hugs the chickens.
At work, I often have several patients at once—a lacerated paw, a hard-breathing dog, a vomiting cat. At home, there are competing noises—Sam yelling, Stella yelling, hungry birds, the cacophony of toys covering the living room floor. Right now I am drawing this frog.
Somehow, probably while I was a work, Andrew has replaced a board in the ramp leading into our barn’s top level. The gaping, leg-tempting hole across the ramp is gone, as if it healed. That one board changes my whole outlook. What seemed unsightly, un-useful, treacherous for the past year is now strong and whole. Inviting. One board, making all the difference.
I pause in sketching because a gawky Barred Rock chick has managed the jump to brooder-edge, where she poops over the side onto the kitchen floor. These laying henlets will need to move outside soon, too, following the meat birds. Silkies and Polish chicks and Mille Fleur d’Uccle chicks will arrive this week, completing our three-ring poultry circus. In the next two weeks, we will plant close to 300 trees, and we’re scheming with our neighbor to install a fence around our lower field.
Our April activity rivals the spring peepers in frenetic volume. The wood frogs, though, early and brief heralders of spring, have chuckled themselves into silence. They are still, like a pencil drawing of a wood frog on a quiet kitchen table near midnight.