(For the uninitiated, it appears you're supposed to smear Vaseline onto your chickens' combs in frigid weather to keep frostbite at bay. Who knew? If anyone had ever told me I'd be doing things like this someday...)

The second bus has only just left, so my Starbucks hasn't kicked in yet. Now, imagine me in my new winter coat, in the coop. It's 11 degrees outside, and so the birds and I are all huddled up inside. I grab Bandit, instead of doing my usual coaxing thing, wherein I coo to her, stick out my hand, and she comes right over to hop up on me. No, I'm cold and bitchy, so I grab her without ceremony. She freaks out and climbs onto my arm. My right arm, which is the one I need to use to smear the Vaseline onto her comb, and the one with the index finger already dipped in the goo. I try to transfer her to the other arm, but instead, she runs up my arm and onto the top of my head. I'm wearing my good hat, the cute brown one I bought on our Moms' Weekend Away last fall, with the silk flower on it. Bandit's claws get stuck in the fabric, and she flaps into the air. Hat falls off into the only pile of new, wet chicken **** below us. Then I realize that my right arm has **** prints on it, because before I caught her, she'd run through the pile. I lean over to get the bird off my head, but she won't budge. Instead, she walks up onto my neck.

So I'm standing there with a nervous chicken on my bare neck, who won't get off.

And a nice chenille hat lying in a pile of steaming wet chicken **** at my feet. (Yes, it steams when fresh, if it's cold enough outside.)

And my new coat with ****-laced chicken footprints on it.

But she finally moves to my left arm, and I pet her, and smear the Vaseline all over her comb. She doesn't like it at first, but she seems to get used to the feeling of me stroking the goo into her. I dunno. Maybe we're all just relieved it's almost over. I smear some onto her waddle for good measure. Pet her some more, plop her back down.

I then try to go after Sunny, the only other hen with a noticeable comb, but she bolts and I think maybe I need to have someone else hold the damned birds next time. And I need to wear old clothes. And maybe I should scoop the manure first?

That was my first experience with lubing the chickens. My second one came today, in advance of a worse cold snap. This time, I had the kids hold the birds on their laps while I smeared the birds. I'm happy to report that not only did it go far better for ALL of us, I do believe that the chickens actually enjoyed the experience. Even the rooster, by gawd! He was practically swooning my the time I was done with his waddles. I don't even want to know why.

That's me. Farmer Susan. You can tell by the pine shavings that are embedded (with what-all else) in my sneakers, pant cuffs, and gloves. Yee-haw.