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The Little White Chicken and Other Stories

The little white chicken had an adventure or two a few days ago.  My original portable chicken had become broached, or should I say assaulted by raccoons, presumably, this summer.  I moved the surviving birds to a most miserable existence in the indoor chicken coop in the carriage house.  Better to be alive and miserable than have one's feathers strewn across the pasture to become the main course of a midnight snack.  A friend repaired the coop, somewhat, and installed the growing little welsummer chicks and the seven surviving Aracona chicks that arrived early in July.  To my horror, I found, one early morning, some white feathers outside of the coop.  No signs of forced entry, nor of abrupt exit.  No body parts to be found dragged across the grass.  In other words, no young chickens anywhere.

            I had a fit, in private, about the competence of the person repairing the coop, thank goodness I restrained myself from speaking out loud and barricaded its edges with the smaller coop, now housing three gift roosters (coq au vih!).

            My dog, Nelly Zolotoroffsky, loves watching chickens.  It is a comedy act on t.v. for her as she, in turn, stares at them, or chases around the coop as they move from side to side.  Suddenly, an afternoon ago, I saw a flash of white in with the Horned Dorset flock.  Nelly flew after it.  The white chicken!  I hadn't seen it for three days.  Sparkling, brilliant white.  An ideal prey for the Great Horned Owl who lives in a tree near the house and keeps me awake some nights.  Or the visiting raccoon.  Or, or, or. But how to catch her.  I didn't even see where she hid.  Nelly sighted her one more time that day.  But she was out of reach for both me and the dog.

            Yesterday, when I went out to water the chickens, I saw her.  Nell had trapped her between the big portable coup and the little one I had propped against its door.  One fell swoop and I had her.  I'm not the Great Horned Owl I said to the fluttering bird.  And slipped her back in with her relatives. Apologies to the roofer I had a fit about.

            There has been a miraculous occurrence here in the past couple of weeks. I'm lambing!!  Not the best time of year for it, but, none-the-less, a wonderful occurrence.  Nine surviving out of ten!  Not bad. And they look good too.  That in itself is a topic for gratitude.  No fly strike, here. One is bottle fed.  And more than a handful.  Georgina Graham is her name.  She is one of those.  She didn't know how to suck for the first two or three days that she was on the planet, and so I tube fed her a dangerous three times a day.  I had no milk replacer and wasn't about to spend sixty dollars on it and so she had cow's milk and eggs as the start to her life.  She now drinks goat's milk, no eggs and is a huge chunky little thing.  Her twin made it just fine, however, nursing on their dam and yet, doesn't look as good as Georgina Graham.  Amazing, that Georgina shall stray.  I may be exchanging two lambs for sixteen hours of log splitting for my firewood supply and it may be that one of them is her twin.  She both tries my patience and delights me.  She shall be permanent.  It seems that she may be out of my Horned Dorset room.  She has deep indentations where horns may sprout and they are bumpy to the touch.  I'd really like her to be out of the Horned Dorset.  Time will tell.

            Life here has been even more intense than I could ever have imagined.  The roofers moved in for eight days.  I cooked.  Thank goodness I cook French Country food.  It is both relatively inexpensive, delicious, and while completely unfamiliar to the roofers, was most satisfying to them.  One of their comments was that while they never felt they had over eaten (there never was a crumb left, by the way at any meal) they felt satisfied well into the dawn or evening. I tried to make every meal as varied as possible, and, I think I did.  This was not the year of the vegetable garden, oh, there area few redaction and a bit of garlic and so I didn't have the variety of last year, so there were limitations to say the least.  However, there were oil cured olives, salt capers, anchovies, bacon and some of last year's beans and I did all right.  The only problem in the kind of cooking that I do is in the number of pots that need be used.  I told some friends who are well versed in cooking for their very large family's, a recipe that is common here that dates about two thousand (yes) years.  It sounds good, they said, but what a lot of pots.

            I've been rereading Lady Feltiplace's Receipt Book, of late.  She continues to fascinate me.  Written or compiled four hundred and five years ago, it contains a number of things of great interest to me. Of course, they had many more ingredients in their foods than we are accustomed to.  In our days, the rich, of course, and in some instances the middle and lower classes as well.  Rose water is not readily available, as an example.  There is one recipe for an apple jelly that comes out a clear green color that I've never quite had the confidence to try to make.  Perhaps this year.  I do make her apple cheese, to my greater pleasure, and, if I haven't missed the prune plums, shall make plum cheese as well, again.  Green walnut liquor does sit maturing in my dining room and, if the birds don't get all of the elderberries, some shall find itself in my larder as well.

            It is September.  August flew past me punctuated by the sound of a compressor and nail gun, and the laughter and shouting that came from the men working on the roof.  I started the annual barn sweater and didn't finish it, yet.  My summer bedroom is finished being painted but hasn't been returned to its ideal state.  The guest bedroom floor is sanded, nicely, and I shall poly it, with luck, this afternoon.  The little porch is painted, its floor sanded and polyed.  I've yet to sew the cushion covers for it but they may occur soon as well.  It is my dream to take Saturday afternoon off and do things like sew.  The door to the dining room has been base coated and I hope to vinegar paint that shortly as well.  The load of slab wood that arrived last week is seeing itself being disseminated in tiny increments.  I won't say why.  It becomes increasingly apparent that it is not wise to ask the new person who has turned up asking for work why he didn't realize that and that and that before he started and had to stop after a half an hour to go get that and that and even more of that.  Shall we say gas.  And a can in which to put it.  Etceteras.  Sometimes I think I shall lose my mind.

            I am giving myself a special treat this weekend and am having some shelves built for the dining room.  The olives and green walnut liquor are so appealing in their clear glass jars that I want to look at them.  The pickled sour cherries and the Queen Anns are also very nice.  Therefore I'll have some shelves made on which to display them.  At least, until it gets too cold in there.  That room is quite close to being finished.  It will be a miracle if I can this month but I am going for it.

            The goats have returned from summer camp.  I am drying two of them off and only milking three.  This afternoon shall be a cheese making time.  The little cheeses have a great appeal to me.  One sits in the new freezer.  It shall be interesting to see how it is defrosted.  I don't have the courage needed to mature my fresh cheeses.  Perhaps that shall be in the offing.  There is something about pink mold growing on food that kind of turns me off of wanting to eat it.  But the pictures in Taste of France  all show cheeses at various stages of development.  Pink mould is only one of them.

            The miracle of the week is the little white chicken who survived its adventure outside of its coop despite the Great Horned Owl, coyotes, raccoons and families and Nelly Zolotoroffsky.  The miracle of the hour is the energy, strength, resolve and interest in life that have been restored to me since the debilitating kidney stones were blasted out of my body a few weeks ago.  I am grateful for all things.

Sylvia Jorrin  

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