Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wynona and Twilight, pigs, and bees

This is officially my current favorite spot in our house.  In the kitchen, just inside the back door.  Tucked in close to the woodstove, with three recent finds at a barn sale.  A small deacons bench that fits at the end of the kitchen island as though it was made for the space.  A large wooden barrel with a top, a solution at last for my enormous sacks of flour that I have not been able to find a home for in the kitchen until now.  And a beautiful and functional large wooden drying rack for all the laundry we would otherwise hang outside, but which the cold temperatures have made less attractive these past few weeks.  Until the arrival of the bench, I have felt like I could not get close enough to this stove on the cold mornings while I wait for the stove to warm the air, farther into the room.

The change of weather is inspiring changes here and there about the house, putting summer things away, taking warm clothing and gear out.  And moving everything as close as we can to the two woodstoves that chug out heat for us all winter long.

It is where I sit and work.  It is where I sit and greet the kids when they return from school.  And then move away to fix a snack for them, and they plant themselves on it.  With a game.  Or a book.

Jonathan's gathering of little things here and there, morsels that have made our day just a little bit better, seems to be ongoing.  His reaction to the cold, the transition of seasons.  Gathering up what we will need for our winter ahead.

One trip into the world to get milk for our morning's coffee led to another find.  And oh my goodness.  I must share.  I was already quite excited when Jonathan called Saturday morning and told me to wait to start breakfast because he was bringing home donuts.  I mean really.  Donuts.  

But then, he arrived home with these.

No.  Your eyes are not deceiving you.  That there is bacon.  These are Sweet Pigs.  From the Urban Sugar food truck.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Bacon jam and maple bourbon glaze.  

From the breakfast table and the now empty donut box, I headed out to the garden to try to get it a bit tidied up for the winter.  The chickens were there, happily working along with me as I pulled the stakes, cages and fencing and put it away, scratching at the earth I turned as I did so, finding worms and other things that were exciting to them as I worked.  

I decided that it was time to pull the parsnips.  They are seriously huge this year.  Raspberry worked along side me here as well.  

I also harvested another batch of broccoli and found a forgotten patch of beets.  

And then, Jonathan returned home with some new members of our backyard flock.  We had lost two of our hens about a month ago, to a raccoon.  Sadly down two of our best layers, and as our flock ages and lays less, and also lays less frequently given the colder weather, we have been needing to supplement our eggs from the store a bit lately.  And so, we began searching for a few new hens, and hoped to use what we have learned about how the chicks are raised affecting their behavior as we did so.

This is Twilight, a Black Australorp.  Elliott named her for her dark coloring and the blueish sheen she has in the sunlight.  She is sweet.  A bit shy.  And very mellow.

And Wynona, a Wyandotte.  She is gorgeous.  Not so mellow.  A bit frantic even.  When it is time to lay an egg, she moves about like a small child strapped in her seat belt in the backseat of the car on a long road trip.  A bit of a pheathered Phillip.  And she is quite the flyer.  She follows me everywhere, including in and out of the garden as I come and go.  Over the fence.  To Elliott, she is Speckles.  A good name.   But to me?  She is Wynona.  I think I detect a country twang to her singing, and her coloring works too.

They are gorgeous ladies, young but already laying, gifting us two eggs on their first day here.  They were raised by a young girl and her mother, handled gently and frequently and free ranged.  Their substantial size and beauty and health as well as their gentle tameness and comfort with me are evidence of the difference between chickens that are farm raised in large batches, versus chickens that are perhaps better suited for small backyard flocks, often being tended by families with children.  They are more social, more comfortable with the attention they may receive, more rewarding when we all coexist in such close proximity.

All this talk of their personalities.  We know they are just chickens.  And we have certainly experienced a good deal of loss to predators here.  But, while they are here with us, we try to treat them humanely and caringly, hoping that our care for them and our children's observance of this and care of them themselves will teach them a respect for creatures, for nature, for the earth through these relationships and experiences.

And for now, they stick close together, and deal with the antics of the rest of our flock, who seem intent to assert themselves as dominant, even though I do believe that Twilight and Wynona could kick their feathered fannies, should they choose to do so.  Which I don't think, given what I have observed of them thus far, they will choose to do.  

And then, late last night, we listened to a message from my bee mentor Bonnie.  Warning of high winds and rain the following day and hoping I had remembered to strap my hives.  Oops.

Apparently, when your wife checks the weather app on her iPhone and announces, at 10:30 pm, that the hives need to be strapped and stumbles out in the dark to the barn and roots around for straps.  And uses whatever strap-like material one can find at that hour.  In the light of the iPhone.  

Our roof rack straps.  Ah well.

The sun is out today.  And the bees are venturing out even.  I spied some pollen in their sacks as they returned.

Autumn Pollen.  New chickens.  Bacon jam.  Just a few of the little things we bring home as we all get ready.  For the winter ahead.  For Warmth.  For Nourishment.  For Comfort.

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