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Friday, August 26, 2011

Elaine on Eggs (Blog Forty-eight)

We have begun reaping the results of our chicken raising efforts as within the past week, the girls, at least the older ones, have begun laying.  Two, two, one, two, THREE EGGS!  Each day holds a surprise in the hen house.

The first egg was of such importance that we had to take a picture of it “on location.”  Not until we were inside our house and examining the photo did we realize a second egg was partially hidden in the straw.  We checked the nesting box later in the day, and there were two more eggs waiting.  How convenient for us that all hens choose to lay in the same box. 

Since we have not yet discovered the daily laying timetable of our girls, we have been checking numerous times to see what we can find.  8:45, no eggs.  9:45, “hot off the press” – the egg that day still warm from  hen's body.  Holding this roundish object in my hand makes me reflect on the miraculous aspect of the event.   Eating them is another small miracle – dark yellow yolks with a rich eggy taste.  Thank goodness current nutritional thinking says an egg or two a day is usually fine. 

Of course on the days of three eggs we heap praises on our bigger hens.  And on the days of two eggs or one, we discuss between ourselves who is sloughing off on the job: Violet, Dot, or Tallulah.  Ruby and Little Spotty have not yet begun laying, as they are about four weeks younger than the big girls.  Violet in particular clucks and squawks with great vehemence.  I would like to think once the egg for the day is done with that she would calm down, but so far her loudness is impossible to categorize. 

Meanwhile, Little Jerry patrols back and forth, seemingly very proud of his girls and himself.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

End of the Season (Blog Forty-seven)

The rhythm that is the seasons is very much much in evidence right now.  Last Monday, I returned to my high school English job as the first work day had arrived and this coming Wednesday is the first day of school with students.  The previous Saturday I went on my last summertime fishing trip, as Elaine and I traveled to the South Fork of the Shenandoah in the Front Royal area.

Earlier this month, we picked wild blackberries for the last time this year, just gathering enough for blackberry pancakes (picture below).  That blackberry harvest ended a long sequence of berries that has ripened with strawberries in May, cherries in May and June, raspberries and wineberries in July, and dewberries and blackberries in July and August.

Next month, we will be able to pick a few summer grapes, as well as gather some mockernut and shagbark hickory nuts, plus some paw paws.  The main nut, though, will be the wild black walnut harvest in early October, and the trees on our Botetourt County land are heavily laden.  Good for us, and good for the gray and fox squirrels that also live here.

Sometime in late October and early November, we will gather some persimmons and that will conclude our various harvests for the year.  But it is a comfort knowing that our freezer will be full of quart berry "bags," and our pantry filled with jams and preserves.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Up a River without a Paddle (Blog Forty-six)

My son Mark and I are both high school English teachers, and we both go back to school in a few days. So this past Monday we decided to take our Dagger Legend canoe on a fishing excursion down the James River which flows near our Botetourt County, Virginia homes.

 Elaine kindly did the shuttle, dropped Mark and me off at the put-in near the community of Glen Wilton, and we then arranged our lunches, water, rods, and tackleboxes, and prepared to debark.

"Dad, where are the paddles?" Mark asked.

If two people are going on a canoe fishing trip, there are three essentials: a canoe, fishing gear, and, well, paddles.  I had managed to leave one-third of the essentials in the backseat of my vehicle.

Of course, I know better.  I have written four books on river fishing.  The following day I was scheduled to give a talk to the Buchanan Rotary Club on river fishing for goodness sakes.  It was also abundantly clear that I had royally messed up in the trip planning category.

There were only two options.  First, I told Mark to see if he could find some sticks that might serve as makeshift paddles (picture below).  Second, because Mark had left his cell phone in the car, I would walk into Glen Wilton and see if someone would let me use a phone and call Elaine on her cell.

Fortunately, the local post office was open and the kindly post mistress let me use her phone.  As the line from Streetcar Named Desire goes, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Elaine, who has long sweetly endured my forgetfulness, drove back to the access point and dropped off the paddles.

The fishing was poor as I never could figure out what the smallmouths were feeding on, but Mark and I enjoyed our day together, witnessed an osprey, a turkey hen with poults, and a fawn along the shoreline.  I also broke my flyrod, which like the paddle episode was entirely my fault.  All in all, it was a day when my incompetence seemed to be as glaring as the August sun.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Six Roosters, Two Hens (Blog Forty-five)

Recently we wrote about our fear that we might have six roosters and two hens in our backyard chicken run.  Well, about two weeks ago, friends Jack and Marylynn Leffel came over for dinner and the former confirmed that we do, indeed, have a half dozen young males. 

What to do? Given the fact that two hens would not provide us with enough eggs, we purchased some16-week-old hens.  We were able to swap our alpha male, Third Man, and two of those newly bought hens to a farm family in Franklin County.  In exchange, we received seven dozen farm fresh eggs. 

In spite of our best efforts to find good homes for several of the other roosters, we have had to dispatch two of them, which, we must admit, was a very hard thing to do, given the fact that we had raised them from chicks. 

The good news is that the three remaining roosters, Little Jerry and two nameless males, are quite tolerant of each other...for now.  And our now five hens, Ruby and Little Spotty Hen, which we raised from chicks and the three newbies, which Elaine has named Tallulah, Dot, and Violet, seem to be happier that several of the roosters, specifically the aggressive Russell, have, well, become the dear departed.

This leaves Little Jerry in charge of the backyard, and we believe he will be up to the task.