I pull on my red chicken boots and walk downhill on a soggy lawn. The morning sun illumines bee wings flying to and fro my solitary hive. I slow my steps, pause to observe the glorious sight. “Good morning, girls!” I say to the worker bees.

The hens, whose house is next door to the hive, know my footfall and voice. “Bock, bock! Pleeeease let us out!” they squawk.

“Be patient,” I say. For the deluge had washed away the diatomaceous earth I’d spread on the grass around the hive to prevent crawling creatures from invading their home.

Sure enough, a yellow cedar slug’s antennae aims for the hive’s entrance that faces east. Instinctively, I stomp my right boot on the mollusk, pick up the smashed, slimy carcass, and throw it into the weeds.

Vigorously, I attempt to wipe its sticky mucus from my fingers. Meanwhile, I notice another slug aims for the north side of the hive, then another on the south side. And as I expect, several yellow jackets wrestle with honey bees on the ground cover beneath the hive’s entrance.

While I slay slugs and yellow jackets, the Isa Browns impatiently await for me to open the henhouse door.

At last, I refresh their grain, lift their chute, gather six eggs, turn their straw, refresh their water, and say good-bye for the day. I harvest cucumbers, tomatoes, and cabana peppers in my very weedy vegetable garden and climb the hill. I set down the egg basket and pull off my boots in the basement, then wash slug slime from my hands in the washtub.

The beautiful day passes my study window as I work at my desk. Sandhill cranes fly over our little patch of earth, perhaps headed for Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden.

Like a thief, the first scent of autumn creeps through my open window, provokes a familiar, ambivalent feeling. The hens, bees, and I would rather the bitter cold of winter pass us by.

However, Michigan’s Winter Wonderland grants a season of respite from gardening. And that’s good timing for a writer. Our twelve months rightly divide themselves into six: October through March to write and celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. April through September to deadhead, till, plant, weed, harvest, and preserve.

I am grateful for the eight quarts and six pints of bread and butter pickles in my pantry, the sum of my vegetable garden’s yield for 2023.

Dear Reader, as the sun sets on the day of the slugs, I pause to watch my Isa Browns fly up to the top roost pole, one by one. The fourth hen on the pole nudges the hen next to her with her head. The hens move and make space on the pole. And so they nudge each other until all six hens roost together on the top pole.

I cannot explain what their maneuvering says, other than the remarkable fact that they know to roost together in the safest place within the henhouse.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com