It's 11 am and I don't know where my chickens are.
Until recently, they have been about as complex to own and care for as feather pillows. And then I decided to free range them and that has created issues they don't mention in the books and advice columns. On the back porch, I stepped in one such issue in my socks. The other issue is with our King Louis. That avian-eating feline had opportunities to disembowel them when they were but handfuls of fluff, and yet he valiantly refrained because he knew they were pets. Now he's cowering at the bottom of the pecking order. I found all five chickens cornering him and closing in! I gave them to the count of five to stop because that is simply not allowed. King Louis is top dog around here. Don't mess with him or your ass is mine. I will EAT chicken, if that's what it comes to!
Otherwise, the girls are absurdly easy.
But when the forecast was for 20 degrees in the Fahrenheit, I began to fret. We went from 90 to 20 in three days. I don't know how they're handling it, but I'm a mess. The thermostat won't let me go higher than 66. Yes, I know, that is HIGH. But I was wearing flip flops and a bikini top just three days ago and I need a minute to acclimate! After yesterday, when my fingers turned numb typing, I acquired an office heater that is right this minute toasting my footsies to a perfect golden brown.
Anyway...I nothing about chickens and winter is very clear. They say that full grown chickens only need a little shelter down to 0 degrees and any lower than that and they're screwed. But my chickens aren't exactly full grown... so what does that mean? I decided that it meant I needed to move their coop from the dog run to the barn. I'd seen old etchings with chickens and cows and milkmaids gleefully frolicking all together in a barn. So I'm guessing it works... old art can't be wrong, right?
We shuffled the coop to the barn. But the girls did not follow. Huck and I spent the greater part of our evening chasing them down to send them to their room. You'll note I have an historic and well founded chicken phobia. So this was not my favorite activity. In fact, honest to god, I'd rather be washing dishes. At one point Huck said to me, "It'd be easier for you to actually catch one if you used your hands... instead of your feet." Yes, I had already figured on that, but thanks for pointing out the obvious.
After a night in the barn, I let them out, assuming they'd know it was their new home. But chickens have very tiny brains, we've noticed. In fact, it no longer surprises me that I was chased by a headless chicken as a child (see a previous post for full story!) because their heads are so small and so empty that it really seems unlikely that they are of much use. It is entirely possible that a chicken could live a long and probably happy life without one.
They spent the day under the porch. By evening, I was worried they'd fall asleep there, a place I could never get to them, but a coyote would find a buffet. Huck wasn't home. So I invited my own Coyote out with me. The moon was high. And that boy was full of energy. I could see his point: a child at a nighttime chicken rodeo.
My goal: catch all five and cage 'em in the barn. Bonus pressure: wild coyotes howling about a half mile away. The Buff Orpingtons were easy. Next time, I'd get all B.O.'s. They have the most agreeable personalities. The rest are a disaster. I locked them in the dog run until they fell asleep. Then the two Barred Plymouth Rocks were easy to catch. But the White Rock, she's a bitch. Priscilla is psycho. I don't know why I got a white one, as I'm pretty sure that's the one that chased me. Eventually she fell asleep behind the dog house and I had Coyote poke her with a stick until she stumbled out in what looked like a drunken stupor. I almost expected her to tell me how beautiful I was "no.. I mean... really... really... beautiful...and so nice too... you know girls... like my girlfriend... she... she's just... you know... knows she's beautiful... but you... I like you. You're reeeeeeealy nice... I like nice girls..." But she was just a sleepy chicken, not drunk. So much like kids, they just melt your heart when they're sleeping. So easy to love when they finally shut up and stop scratching at you.
I left them in the barn after the morning milking (in which I got nearly a full gallon, yes ma'am, with nary a kick!). But by the time I left to bring Coyote to his awesome and perfect Montessori school, they were out. No idea where.
And just as I was writing this, Huck reported that they are cuddled up with the cows! awww.
Speaking of cows, I just made a huge roll of Fromage Blanc and it was exceedingly tasty. Don't you wish you were here! We've eaten most of it on La Panzanella's Croccantini... and it pains me to buy the stuff as I worked for them for three years and received all of my focaccia, crusty Italian loaves, and croccantini for free. My boss was Ciro, the owner and "inventor" of the ultimate cheese tasting cracker. Paired with the cheese and crackers, we layered some very special tomatoes. These tomatoes were given to us as starts from our last land lord, a Sicilian with a passion (that's redundant!). He actually ordered the seeds from Italy. And those tomatoes tasted so beautiful, I almost wept. A summer sunset on my tongue.
And I wondered if this world is really a fallen place at all. Maybe paradise is not lost behind us, in a distant human history. Maybe paradise is in the palm of my hand. Not a collective memory, but a collective possibility. We know what the future holds for us, and it is a pepper cracker, fromage blanc and an old world tomato communion. Take. Eat. This we do, not in remembrance, but in our only moment. We take paradise into our mouths, ourselves, and we shall all thrive with a little Eden on the tip of our tongues.
"Listen, the only way to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it into the body first," Mary Oliver, The Plum Trees.