Monday, August 31, 2020

Last Days of August

It is hard to believe we are here, at the last days of August. I know. I always have these moments. There is always a month or season or event that sneaks up on me, then I exclaim, most incredulously, How is this possible? Well, as cliche, or typical as it sounds, how long we have been living in this new age, this Stay at Home Season, boggles my mind.

What do you think of Thistle standing on Tasha? Chickens don't ride astride, so I guess there's no point in getting a saddle for the goats, but I think about it. I think of hens in boots, herding rabbits. Goats riding the range, and everyone around a campfire when the sun goes down.

SweetPea, Heidi, Dolly, Willow, and Thistle, our Happy Campers. It looks peaceful, but these five have to stick together, and neither the Chiclets, nor the Chicas, are welcoming. It's disappointing. I try not to conflate bird-brained societies and behaviors with people, with the world at large, but it's hard not to draw parallels.

Here are Ventura and Lucia grappling for nest space. In the movies, in idyllic farm scenes and romantic depictions, a farm has long rows of nests boxes, or cute little hay strewn cubbies, and every hen takes her spot. Someone in a pristine apron, and cute shoes, passes through with a basket, and gathers eggs at the appointed hour, probably just after sun-up, while coffee is percolating.


It ain't like that. Not for us.

Our chickens lay eggs in inconvenient places, with no particular rhyme or reason, at no particular time of day. When a new hot spot is discovered, all hens will want to lay there. The overturned bucket, with the rusted out bottom, lost favor to the goats' hay rack. I gave this old crate a low wall, and now it's the favored nest. There are four spots suitable for laying eggs, and only one is good enough for these two.

Geoff and I are debating about a freezer. We don't debate each other. We just can't decide if it's a really very good idea, or a very much unnecessary addition. Sometimes it seems like an obvious choice to have more space so we can preserve garden food, store more, and make fewer treks to the market. We have two refrigerators, already. I find this an embarrassing admission. Consumption and material heaps make me feel apologetic. And I do have some good size heaps. Sorry.

This is sort of a non-sequitur, but our toaster is dying. It has four slots, and only two are working. One of our refrigerators doesn't defrost anymore, so about every four months we have to (urgently) pack everything into coolers, and into the garage fridge, and repair/defrost the kitchen fridge... it's an event. Anyway, about two months into this Stay at Home Season, I observed that everything is going to be so busy with our use, that the life expectancy of appliances, and materials, will seem to have shortened, because we are using them at a far greater frequency. I want someone to make a calculation of the rate of wear and tear on our homes, our furnishings, and appliances, our faucets, and floors, and everything, when seven of us are here everyday, for every meal, all the time. How would that compare to when people left the house, when we ate out, or vacationed, when some of us were gone for days, or weeks at a time? It makes me think of dog years, how they're counted on a different scale to make them equivalent with a human life span. In COVID years, I feel like our kitchen has aged faster. It's 16 years old, strictly chronologically, but... I'd say the last six months move it to an equivalent of three years, dating the age of our kitchen at 19 years old. Yeah, so I think we need a new toaster. But I still don't know if it makes sense to get a freezer. Also, I have started fantasizing about painting the cabinets, because I have been looking at them for 19 years, even though we've only lived here 11 years, and I am beginning to be not happy with them. Math is complicated, but trust me, this all adds up.

Hello, SweetPea. This is what some of the hens do to escape the Mean Girls.

Come to think of it... my hair, in COVID time, is aging faster, too. Could be the stress.

Heidi is an inflated pigeon. Have I already said? She is as wide eyed and innocent as she looks here. She minds her business, and makes no fuss for anyone. She is a sweet girl. Naturally, she gets pecked and chased, and she always looks surprised about it, as though it makes no sense to her. And why should it? Poor Heidi.

Ta-da! Maya, the compact Black Australorp, is officially a hen, a layer. And this is her compact, and beautiful, wee brown egg. The shell is very smooth, as though it were lightly polished. I don't know if she will grow. I don't know if her eggs will get bigger. Hopefully those will correlate. I only want bigger eggs if she gets bigger, too.

There was some hesitation, a mild lack of consensus about this pullet's name. I gave it some time, some thought. She is another mild and shy girl. She makes no fuss, and she is polite. She is also very pretty, with vivid, jewel-like ear lobes, which is why we tried the name Tiffany on her. But when she sits with Thistle and SweetPea, that name feels a little trite, a little flat. She is a natural beauty, an American beauty, and so we settled on Willow.

I noticed Thistle checking out the nest box, a few days ago. She, and the Happy Campers, are a month younger than the Chiclets, who have only just begun to lay. But her instincts were correct, and I had the good fortune of being there when she laid her very first egg, and what a beauty! It's the most blue we've seen, and it came out hard, nicely formed. What a lucky and good hen.

Ventura is laying, like Maya. Both of these hens will sit on my lap and fall asleep. We haven't noticed, yet, if Puanani is laying. She's aloof, and honestly... not very bright (Imagine I am whispering this, out of her earshot. We hate to label her, or lower our expectations, but the girl is pretty daft. I can't deny it.)

Pretty Willow. This name suits her.

I finally removed the towering stack of casually collected bottle caps from a cabinet. It was threatening to topple, and I would have been utterly confounded at my choice of amassing these so haphazardly, if it came to all 400+ pieces crashing across the kitchen. This represents a lot of parties, over 11 years, and like I said a casual collection. We kind of regret that we weren't more diligent about keeping all of them, because now we are planning an art piece. Brown, is the rarest color, then purple, and blue. I can't believe there are so few purples, given my love of grape soda. I don't drink it often, but I only see three purple caps. The brown one is for a root beer. Actually, there are even fewer green caps, than blue.

Every now and then we talk about a restaurant, or meal we miss. It hasn't been too traumatic, or disappointing to eat at home all the time. But one time Max and I remembered Rueben sandwiches, and it made our minds and bellies ache! That conversation happened at least two months ago, and this week I finally thought of it while I was in a store and could do something about our craving. All I could think of us was corned beef, rye bread and sauerkraut, and I had to settle for pastrami, and didn't think of the Swiss cheese, nor the Thousand Island dressing... I had no idea a Rueben has Thousand Island dressing. I did think of fries, though! I wanted to recreate sitting in a restaurant and ordering something indulgent, yummy.

Thanks to Trader Joes, and some quick searches about making Thousand Island dressing, and order of assembly, using a sharp cheddar instead of Swiss, we pulled this off... it's a lot like a grilled cheese! I had no idea. Alex made a vegan dressing, and cooked up pea protein patties, also from Trader Joes. I loved the camaraderie, all of us rallying and collaborating around this meal, and they turned out super yummy! We all want to do this again. This is why we need two refrigerators, apparently, so we can have more sauerkraut on hand!

The last day of August. The days slip by. Happily, we are together, still making plans, still keeping hope.


Unknown said...

There are 5 people in my house...we not only have 2 refrigerators, both often packed, but also 2 freezers* (uprights, partly so items don't get buried, and partly because that's what my parents had when I was in high school...).

We've gotten even more firmly entrenched in cooking ahead and freezing - breakfasts and easy dinners especially, as well as freezing meat, and some veggies and fruit.

And it has been good in these times, to be able to eat from the cold boxes and visit the store less often (we live in a college town, and have seen confirmed cases go from a few a day (somewhere between 2 and 5) to 12, then 20+, and the last couple days near 100 a day).

I'm also trying cooking things reminiscent of meals out...and trying new to me veggies (shishito peppers tonight, pan 'blistered' with greek yogurt dill dip. Yum!)


--Jean Marie

*My mom sold McBee one-write check systems, and with her first bonus they bought an upright freezer and a vacuum bag sealing system for freezing produce. And the garden produce was frozen instead of canned...quicker, easier, and healthier.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Thank you, Jean Marie.
I am sorry to read about the cases going up where you live. I am not sure it's much better here. We haven't been out to eat since March. With every meal coming from our own kitchen, it's become much easier to justify purchases for cooking, for keeping food. I was saying to my husband that I wish we could switch the garage refrigerator for one that is two thirds freezer, one third refrigerator... the flip of how they typically are.
I had to Google "McBee one-write." Good for her! She must have done really well to earn that bonus.
And! I need to get my hands on some shishito peppers... you are the second person to mention pan blistering those, and how delicious they were!