Dinner was on the stove when I told my husband I was heading to the coop for a minute.
"Do you have a gin bottle hidden in there?'' my husband asked. "You spend a lot of time in there.''
No gin bottle, but I do go out to the coop a lot.
We have 12 guineas stashed in a coop my husband built a few paces from our house. They've been with us since June, arriving in a box when they were but a day old and looking like downy eggs with legs. They are feathered pesticide, a funny-looking breed that will eat its weight in ticks and naughty bugs with the ferociousness of a sharks attacking chum. That's why we got them in the first place.
What I didn't expect was how much I would love them. They are wild and skittish. If one moves right, the rest of them do too. They're like fish with wings. But they are like beaked valium to me. Even their insanely loud "buckwheat, buckwheat, buckwheat'' call lulls, takes me out of my head and away from my duties and lists and deadlines.
I've have spent many hours sitting by the pen when they were in our garage and teaching them to eat out of my hand in the coop. I've been attempting to train them to come when I call, adopting an embarrassing Minnie Pearl-sounding yell of "millet, millet, millet!'' to announce guinea crack grain is being served. The guy at my local Farm Depot thinks I am crazy. He says they're too wild to train. So far though 10 of the 12 birds respond. This week, at 3-months, we'll be letting them out of the coop to free-range. With luck, all that millet they've consumed from my hands will mean they will return each evening to their coop and safety.
Maria hasn't enjoyed them as much as I had hoped. She chases them and doesn't understand why they won't sit in her lap. She also is no fan of the pecking they do when she hand-feeds them. (When you've had your tatas blistered by breastfeeding, what's a few seconds of pecking?)
I've only birthed one baby, a baby who is nearly 5. So, the oxytocin-inducing pleasure of sitting and doing nothing but staring at a miracle is behind me. The guineas have given me a little of that again, allowing me to wonder at their growth and notice individual quirkiness and traits. One I call Rose is the loudest, a little white one I call Poop is always poop-stained and wildest, a lavender one I call Fern is the most stand-offish. (I have no real idea yet what their genders are, so names might be changing. I would bet anything, though, that Rose is a girl.)
I was trying to remember this week what I used to do, back before Maria, that relaxed me so. I thought of gardening all day on Saturdays, long baths in the evenings, after-work yoga classes, reading the paper, and having brunch on Sunday mornings. I don't do much of those things anymore, if at all. One day, I will. It's on the dry-erase board list:
Until then, I've got my coop. (Click here to see a video!)