It’s Sunday. I stand in the warm sunshine of our kitchen’s sliding glass door. Downhill, our Isa Browns peck and scratch in their pen. The foundation for my beehive stands beyond and between the henhouse and greenhouse: three symbiotic structures indispensable to growing our favorite foods.

The repurposed greenhouse built in 2006 for growing lavender plants now holds bee equipment, handy gardening tools, and straw for the chickens’ bedding.

Usually a congenial and often amusing view, today the coop is sadly less one resident. Since the April day we brought the flock of half a dozen home in our cats’ kennel, they’ve proved a dream come true. No cannibalism. No mites. No complaints.

And we appreciate their large, brown eggs with yummy orange yolks!

Mind, beekeeping is my idea. I’m determined to learn and overcome the trials and tribulations of housing these remarkable pollinators and harvesting their honey. One must roll up their sleeves to realize the benefits of the Apis mellifera to our natural world and personal health.

On the other hand, my husband, who raised chickens (roosters too) with his twin brother when boys, prefers poultry.

“They don’t sting,” he says.

Matter of fact, he showed mercy upon his egg layers and let them out to range Thursday past. After a long winter, overcome with sympathy for his pullets, Mel tends to cave when they squawk for green pastures. It’s reminiscent of those years our young daughters cried, “Daddy, pleeease, can we go?”

Well, when Mel went to close the henhouse chute two nights ago, a Brown went AWOL. Not a feather left behind.

The following night, the doorbell rang. “I’m sorry, Mr. Underwood,” said a young neighbor down the road, “but I think our dog killed one of your chickens. I’d be happy to pay for it.”

Relieved to know the victim’s whereabouts, Mel shook his head. “These things happen when you care for animals.”

I admire the five reddish-brown hens, golden light upon their up-turned tail feathers, oblivious to their loss.

A human being, I know all too well the grief and disappointment of losing who and what you cherish. I recall two miserable weeks last summer fighting yellow jackets, searching for their nest in vain while the worker bees battled the robbers in relentless defense of their queen and colony.

In the end, I found three empty honey supers once filled with capped comb. Yet, the number of dead bees indicated the queen got the heck out of Dodge with her devotees.

Consoled my over-wintered hive may have survived, I remember what a fellow beekeeper said in church this morning. “I bait and trap yellow jackets with meat, water, and a bucket.”

Be sure, dear Reader, I took note of his methods. Soon, I’ll organize the greenhouse and assemble a hive for another season observing the most magnificent insect in flight and on the frames of honeycomb.

My goodness, there’s no place on this little farm the hens love to explore more than our cluttered greenhouse.

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