Friday, November 15, 2013

chicken soup for the fowl

I had a lot planned for this week.  And a few things I wanted to work on.  But I did not get to any of them.



Because Elliott has been home sick all week.  And it took a while to settle into our being together.  And for me to accept that our being together meant that my plans?  They were not going to happen.  Between medicine and comfort food and keeping him as comfortable and resting as I could while also preparing to drag a sick child as germlessly as possible all around town in order to get the two well children to all of their activities and to school.  It just did not happen.

But you know what did happen?  I settled in.  And pushed my pile of books aside.  He and I had a lovely few days together.  We read lots.  Moved from the warmth of one wood stove to the other.

Visited the river and watched it slowly start to freeze.



And had time to see just what happens if you throw a rock into it.



Played quiet games together.


Baked things.  Like this:  a pumpkin pie using the puree we made from the pumpkins Elliott's teacher gave us after the pumpkins had served their purpose as weights on a scale made of blocks for their math unit on weight.

And this morning he is well and happily back at school.  And now?  I miss him.  And would rather be tending him than doing that list of things that I had such a hard time letting go of earlier in the week.

And so, what I have left of our time together this week is a pie in the refrigerator.   Well, it is there, for now.

Fuzzy blankets abandoned all over the house.

Three thermometers in various stages of disrepair.  One that takes too long to work.  One that has a battery that seems to be impossible to replace, and which slowly slipped away toward its useless condition over the course of the week.  And one that is new, and it and I are working on building a relationship of trust with each other.  Elliott and I were like Goldilocks as we started with our favorite but fading one, then followed with the one that took too long and was often sneezed or popped out before the beep finally sounded, and the last one was then used, but its accuracy questioned each time.



But the most lasting souvenir of our time together? The chicken tunnel, of course.



Elliott and I made our annual chicken tunnel.  And by annual, I mean we did it last year too.  I don't know why this amuses me.  But it does.  So very much.  A tube of chickens, like a line of colorful gumballs in cellophane, that you can squeeze the end of and one will pop out and roll away. Or in this case, run away.  Or lay an egg.  Or something.  It just makes me giggle.

Granted, the day we made it was Day 1, of 3 sick days, and I thought Elliott was just a teensy bit under the weather and likely should have been at school but I had misjudged where his sickish demeanor was headed.  And I forced him outside into the mid 30 degree temperatures in his fuzzy clothes despite his protestations, thinking of my mother as I announced, let's just got outside for a bit.  The fresh air will be good for you.  And he insisted on wearing Jonathan's parka instead of his own, which is very warm but also very big, and the gusty frigid wind was going right up inside his parka.  And about half way through he started to cry about how cold he was and then we went inside and I took his temperature.  Oh dear.



Anyhoo.  We did this together.

The garden, though needing to be tidied, the last few cold crops brought in, and the stakes and fencing put away for the season, is just about done for the year.  I had hoped to work on it a bit this week when I needed a change of pace and some fresh air myself.  I did not do any of these things, but I did start to look at all of the fallen tomatoes, the frost bitten greens, the soil that needs to be scratched up a bit and worked and decided that it was time to let the chickens at it.  I was so pleased last year with their work on the garden in the fall, tilling the soil a bit, adding their own fabulous manure to the soil, working in the leaves and other compost I throw out there and let them at it.  And get their fill of fresh greens before the winter makes these nutrients harder to come by.  Maybe it was a coincidence? But I think letting them in made a huge difference in the garden's yield.

So, in order to allow the chickens access to the garden which has been off limits to them all summer, and also to make things a bit easier with our dogs, we designed a rather genius system last year in which I cut a hole in the fencing of the chicken area and a hole in the garden fence, and then used some spare fencing pieces and pinned them to the ground on opposite sides, to make a rounded tunnel, connecting coop to garden.  Safe from our marauding dogs, but low enough for the dogs to leap over when they want to move through that area.  Scraptastic, and it allows the ladies to move back and forth throughout the day, taking cover from the city hawks, getting food and water, and laying eggs back at the coop whenever they need to.



I would like to point out my rather crafty work in the above picture.  Tunnel 2013 is apparently shorter than Tunnel 2012 and therefore a rather "defeats the purpose" opening was left when I connected the tunnel to the garden fence.  No problem.  I wiped the blood from my scratched and seriously frigid fingers on my pants (have you worked in 30 degree temperatures with scraps of sharp ended garden fencing?) and thought for a moment.  And then grabbed at the dangling remains of the staking wire I had used to support the sunflowers when they started drooping a few months ago. And took care of my problem.  Lovely, eh?

Somewhere in all my wandering around with a grumpy sick child in tow, I left the garden shed door open and Zebra took it upon herself to find a much more desirable place to lay than the boring old coop laying boxes.  And now all the ladies have begun to leave their eggs for us here instead.


It takes some convincing to get the chickens to use the tunnel.  Elliott, chicken whisperer, was very helpful with this, talking to them, dropping some scratch, calling to them.  But no luck.

Eventually we scooped Light Hawk up from the chicken area and deposited her across the way in the garden.  She trotted about the tunnel for a bit and then returned to the chicken area.  It was like walking the Fowl Fashion Runway for her.  Lots of exclamations of admiration and clapping (from us).  And bawking (from the girls).  We pretended not to notice the unattractive molting.



Isn't she lovely?  Raspberry, our hen who thinks she is a rooster, now saw the opening in the fence.  Man, they can be a bit dimwitted.  And then she headed in, strolling toward the garden, the others soon to follow.


Unfortunately for Light Hawk on her way back over, Millie discovered what we were up to and decided to try to join in.


Which just proved to us that Chicken Tunnel 2013 is in fact dog proof.  And open for the season.

So, while some mothers might have taken it upon themselves to make something chicken related of a whole different variety, like say chicken noodle soup, I made a chicken dispenser.

And a pumpkin pie.

And made one grumpy sick boy happy and healthy again.

Which was, in fact, a very good use of my week.

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