We took a short trip to Montreal, Canada, last week. The kids were off school and we had a birthday to celebrate, so we decided to go somewhere interesting within driving distance. Montreal is beautiful in the winter. So much to do; so much to eat; so much to see.
The only problem with trying to leave a farm, however small, even in the middle of the winter is that the animals still like to be fed and cared for. Despite our best efforts, the chickens, rabbit, dog, cats, and even fish have still not learned to care for themselves. Until they do, human attention is necessary and we couldn’t just pack up and leave for four days without enlisting the help of a caretaker.
Our good friend (and applewood bartender) Geoff, was up to the task. Geoff is, first and foremost, a writer. He recently published his first novel, Fall (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13393811-fall), and when he’s not at applewood, he is generally hard at work on his as-yet-untitled second novel. The opportunity to stay at the farm and get in some peaceful writing time made the situation a win-win. He signed on for the week and we got our bags packed for the trip.
In the weeks leading up to Montreal, there were many jokes about how many chickens we currently have (19) versus how many we were likely to have upon our return (0). The joke being that Geoff would undoubtedly spend all of his time sleeping and the chickens would die off, one by one, of starvation and neglect. Ha ha ha.
It’s actually a pretty funny story.
Our chickens are attracted to the deck of our house because there is a wild bird feeder up there and when the bird seed falls, it becomes available for them to peck.
We don’t much care for this behavior, because they poop everywhere they go and having poop on the deck (insert nautical joke here) doesn’t thrill and excite us. We asked Geoff to try to keep them off as much as possible.
That first day, Geoff noticed a number of chickens on the deck and went out to encourage them back down to the lawn. The last chicken was wily and evaded Geoff, who finally picked her up and placed her on the lawn. At which time, she stumbled, did a somersault, and died.
Since we don’t know why she died, she wasn’t eligible for consumption. She was semi-ceremoniously delivered to the woods down by the stream for the birds of prey, foxes, and/or coyotes to snack on. And then there were 18…
This took place on February 18th. It was President’s Day, but also Laura’s birthday. So, despite the loss of a chicken, we were in a celebrating mood. As luck would have it, our friend Xan Endrinal gave birth to her beautiful baby boy that very day and so we had two reasons to celebrate. Geoff and Xan have been friends for many years, and the birth of her baby gave him a real juxtaposition of life and death (and likely helped his writing that day as well).
And while we don’t tend to refer to a chicken’s egg-laying as birth, necessarily, it really isn’t so very different than that at its core. Our lovely Bantams, Huck and Molly, recently started contributing to the daily egg count (well, Molly anyway). Molly laid her first egg a couple of weeks ago. She has consistently laid about three per week and they might just be the cutest things we’ve ever seen. Ever.
The egg on the left is from our Rhode Island Reds. These are the most common and prolific of our layers. In the middle is an egg from Favorite Hen, our Golden Laced Cochin. Her eggs are smaller and more elegant; she gives us about two of these a week. The one on the right is Molly’s first egg. It looks like a toy. She has laid eight of these so far and they make us laugh every time.
Here’s Laura holding a RIR egg and one of Molly’s side by side:
So, while we may have lost one life due to the bizarre and unpredictable workings of nature (read: Geoff’s neglect), life has continued to go on in magnificent ways. Welcome Bantam eggs! Welcome Baby Declan!
Until next time…