My chickens have not given me an egg in almost a month. I have a small flock — one elderly rooster, 11 assorted hens and three teenagers who are too young to begin producing. Hens lay according to the light and since I refuse to force the issue and add a light to the coop, I shall have to wait. I have taken note lately and observed that they went in to roost at 4:29 p.m. on the solstice, but by the Saturday after Christmas bedtime was 4:32 p.m. Almost imperceptibly, the days are lengthening.

I spent last weekend figuratively hoeing out my greenhouse. I came across a flat of baby kale plants that had reseeded in my friend Sharlee’s garden. I painstakingly separated them into large pots with good, weed-free soil. Hopefully I will be eating it within the month. It is amazing how one layer of plastic can bring along a growing season. Supposedly it gives five degrees. As soon as I locate the propagating mat, I am going to start up some chard, winter lettuce and spinach. Remember these crops can all freeze and will be edible on a warm day.

Because of poor planning, all that is left in the vegetable garden is American flag leeks. I started them from seed and spent a pleasant afternoon last spring separating the hair-sized seedlings into the ground. Now many are over an inch in diameter. I wish I had followed Sumner Silverstein’s advice. He buries deep with just the very tip showing; therefore they are nicely blanched. Thank heavens there is always next year. Mine are nevertheless delicious. I sauteed a pan of them along with balsamic vinegar and good olive oil and served them on a big pile of fenugreek sprouts topped with a dollop of blue cheese dressing. Yummy!

Nature is so forgiving. I planted winter rye way too late; the turkeys and the crows worked over the plot, I abandoned all hope, and yet here it is up about two inches on new year’s day.

Barbara Smith, who has since moved up North, was the organist at the Stone Church for years. In 1986 she gave me a calendar titled Appalachia. I have kept it these 22 years as it offers the best advice possible for a simple lifestyle. We are in a new and hopefully better year. I do not believe it is blatant plagiarism to admit I am about to copy something word for word. What follows are the 31 suggestions for the month of January.

1. Work and pray for peace.

2. Reflect on the past year — how can I simplify?

3. Keep records of energy uses and expenses.

4. Close off unused rooms.

5. Read a biography of a person of color (George Washington Carver Day).

6. Write up a budget with family members.

7. Curb alcohol intake.

8. Sprinkle ashes on icy walks and driveways.

9. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

10. Use more herbal medicine remedies.

11. Go to an art museum.

12. Offer to sit with an ill relative.

13. Turn off the lights when not in use.

14. Ventilate your house.

15. Educate your family on minority rights (Martin Luther King Jr. Day).

16. Fight discriminatory attitudes.

17. Sprout beans for salad.

18. Set aside a family exercise time.

19. Save electricity — use lamps and candles.

20. Cook potato-cheese soup.

21. Send for herb and seed catalogues.

22. Renew barter trading.

23. Plan your summer garden.

24. Begin to count your calories.

25. Have a cross-country ski experience.

26. Get in touch with your inner resources.

27. Protest U.S. military budget (Viet Nam Cease Fire Day).

28. Pay bills on time.

29. Visit a hospital.

30. Redecorate a room with imagination.

31. Use dental floss — avoid tooth decay.

That’s it except for three suggestions I have for certain people. Use a tissue for spitting, walk on the left facing traffic and stop tailgating. My Dad told me, when teaching me to drive: “If you can read the license plate you are too close.”