One of my daughter’s favorite books these days is The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss. It’s a simple tale that follows the seasons of the life of a little boy. The story begins in the late spring. The little boy watches the abundant life around him grow. Then he wonders, sometimes doubtful, if he is growing. His mother always reassures him.
In my lap or curled under the crook of my arm, my little girl loves to hear this story retold over and over. Like the little boy, she watches life grow around her. Our seeds grows, our plants grow, our friends’ babies grow. Seasons come and seasons go. Life for little ones is accutely rhythmical and connected to our four seasons. The toddling toddler of last summer is sizing up to be a more sophisticated, agile, and talkative two-year-old this coming summer.
Last fall my husband and I finally decided the time was right to start a project we had talked about for years. We decided to start our own backyard chicken flock. How wonderful it would be for Beatrix to have her very own little chickens to look after and watch grow!
Early in the fall, my husband began building the chicken coop over the course of many weekends. Beatrix was a part of the process through it all. She “helped” her daddy measure and move 2 x 4’s around. She saw the frame go up. She watched as the henhouse was built. The coop acted as her playhouse for most of the fall season. She stayed close to her father’s side (as long as his work was safe for her to be around.)
A few weeks into the construction of the coop, she and I took a trip to our local feed store and picked out our sweet and fluffy chicks. We had some terrible luck with our first eight chicks. Beatrix had her first lesson on life and death. She took it in stride. And eventually she loved our second batch of chicks wholeheartedly. All eight continue to be a part of our family now.
She has had the opportunity to watch them grow from fluffy, precious chicks living in a large plastic storage box beneath my sewing machine cabinet to the egg-laying hens they are today. We have lived out mild fall days and frigid, (even) snowy mornings with our girls.
Now, summer awaits us. And our hens are in their prime. Just like little children, it is as if our hens sense the time and space of their world as it is now. Months ago, I could depend upon the flock to march up to their hen house at precisely the time of dinner preparation. These days, they are nowhere near ready to roost at dinner time. Light abounds and the girls stay busy foraging well into the evening hours. Their egg production is as abundant as our daylight hours are long.
Soon another summer will be in here in full earnest. Our season will be marked by months of long warm days, an overgrowing garden, and an overflowing egg supply waiting to be shared with friends and neighbors. Like the little boy in The Growing Story, Beatrix continues to grow. Though she has changed in her abilities, her childhood spirit is alive and well and just waiting to embark upon the essence of the celebratory season of summer.
We are looking forward to many days full of sprinkler fun and sandbox creations. Of frozen fruit pops and hammock nestles. Of fireflies and song birds. Of morning walks and afternoon naps. Of excursions to the neighborhood pool and picnics under the shade of our pecan trees. Of harvesting and preserving. Of conversing with chickens and gathering eggs. Of blowing bubbles and ice cream delights.
It has always been our goal to provide for her a childhood that is authentic and real. We both feel that the natural world (paired with nurturing parenting) is by far the most important gift we can offer her. Whether in the woods, at the farm, or in our own backyard, the natural world provides for a well-rounded sensory experience and a lifetime’s worth of wonder and awe.
My greatest wish is that every child has the opportunity to live out an authentic childhood. One full of play and work alongside their parents and loving adults. Rich with life of all sorts. Full of time spent exploring and discovering. Time for quiet reflection and time for jubilant play.
More than any other season, summer epitomizes childhood. May your days be simple and slow, full of rhythm and joy for the bountiful season that is summer. After all, this time and place will never be here again, just as it is now.