Waiting for Agnes

Just another WordPress.com site

Poultry in motion December 22, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 5:22 am
Tags: , , , ,

An excerpt from the diary of Danielle-Spencer the hen:

Sunday

It might be morning, I don’t know. It’s still dark. Water and chunks of ice are falling from the sky. We huddle under the shelter and peer gloomily out. It could be the apocalypse.

Definitely the apocalypse. A hooded person appeared through the ice and chased us through the mud. Now I am in a house of card. The house moves and lurches. My tiny feet scrabble on the floor. Maybe I will sit.

The lurching has stopped.

 

The house of card is unfolding. Tigers? Lions? A tiny person? Oh my.

The tigers are stalking me, trying to look excited, but I can see the fear in their eyes. I am Chicken! One loud bok and they disappear. The tiny person isn’t so easily got rid of. At least there is no falling ice here.

And no mud. Look! I can hop here…and here…and here on these bits of cloth draped all around. And up! Up to the… pretend sky? This is too confusing. I will sit.

I see another chicken. In a field? I can just hop… no. Is it a pretend field?

I am moving. I didn’t mean to move, but I am moving. And I’m in the field. It is not pretend.

That’s a big chicken.

Holy crap. Gotta run.

Aaaaaaarrrrrghhhhhh. Big chicken has a big beak.

Ha! Hiding place. I will sit here. Shame about the water falling on me.

The hooded person is back with a funny tent. But my hiding place is secure.

Or not. Back in the house of card. Am so confused. Will putting all this food in the water and pooping on it help? No.

Dark again. House of card has disappeared. I am in a bed of straw. This might not be so dreadful.

Monday

What fresh hell is this? My bed of straw is at the feet of the big chicken. The big chicken is awake. And he is shouting? Beats pecking me I guess.

Ah. Food is coming. Even in the apocalypse there is food. That’s reassuring.

Crap. Big chicken has seen me. Running. Running. Flying! Take that big chicken!

Big chicken is shouting. From my lovely tree I can watch his curious ways. Ah see (I say in my best David Attenboroughesque voice), see how the big chicken makes his journey from the house of straw to the water hole? Pausing only to poop, and shout, and stretch his left wing, and shout, and stretch his right wing, and shout. See how he makes himself so tall to shout? Almost like a dance. And now, having taken his fill from the water hole, he begins his slow, erratic march to the lemon tree. To shout at the lemons? I could do this all day.

But what is this on the horizon? Another hooded person. With no hood. And another person. Are they following the big chicken? Oh now this could be fun.

Big chicken runs and shouts. People run and shout. They flap a big flappy tent at the big chicken. Ha ha big chicken, see how you like running in the long long grass. Oh. The big chicken is in the flappy tent. And gone.

All is quiet. Bit bored now.

Hmm. Getting dark again. Bit of drool on my feathers. Must have had a nap. Might venture down for a snack.

Damn. Forgot about the apocalypse. People are back with big flappy tent. But I am fast.

See, people? I am up. Bye bye people.

Tuesday

I am definitely well suited to this David Attenborough gig. I have found a new field. It is small and full of low, brown sticks. Excellent for sitting.

Sitting. Sitting. Contented sitting. A bit of scratching about. Some whispery commentating of the march of the ants. More sitting.

Not more people. I was just getting into a really good sit.

The people are circling. I will hop over here….no, that’s no good. Over here? No. Hands waving at me. Here? No. Ouch. Didn’t see that stick.

And I am up. But not flying. My wings are folded tight. I am with the people.

And now I am in a funny plastic house. Small people and tigers are watching me. This apocalypse is exhausting.

The plastic house is lurching.

And I am home. Home, glorious home.

 

Coming home to rooster December 18, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 9:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

After the horrible loss of our feathered family, earlier this week, I was reconciling myself to the still emptiness of our back yard. We had said our good-byes to the hens, packed away their belongings, cleaned out their house and anticipated a summer of romping around in chook-poo free grass. I didn’t want to rush out and replace the ladies too soon. How could any hen replace Agnes? And what if a fox struck again? I had a plan forming to amass a pile of tasty baked goods with which to bribe our nearest and dearest to help in the construction of a high-sided, roofed, super-fox-proof outdoor run, with work commencing in February.

And then we heard from the happy new owner of Lucy, Snow White and Cinderella. Remember these little cuties?….

 

 

A couple of weeks ago they went to live around the corner with our friend and fellow midwife, all looking very much like hens. All was well. At the time I had said ‘If any of them turn into roosters you can send them back’, feeling pretty confident that, at seven weeks past supposed chicken-sexing time, we wouldn’t be seeing them in our yard again. Hmm. Chicken-sexing time? Six to eight weeks of age? Not such a narrow window after all. See our affectionately named ‘ranga chick’ up there, on the bottom right? Well, ranga chick grew into Lucy. Then Lucy grew into:….

 

 

Russell. Russell Crow. And he does. Frequently. For the past three hours he has been angrily searching our yard for his flock, cockadoodledooing at every tree, bird, interruption, poop-break, snack-break and drink-break. At four months old he is still just a baby really, but is already impressively larger and louder than a fully grown Agnes. Since his dramatic return after dusk last night I have been laughing maniacally, the beloved has been groaning and muttering ‘I don’t want a rooster’ on a loop, and one of our cats has been having a long, fur-shedding, possum-tailing, bug-eyed freak out. And it’s true. We didn’t want a rooster. I swore black and blue that I’d harden up and kill any roosters for the table. Who was I kidding? How could I kill Russell?

 

Gone December 15, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 9:32 am
Tags: ,

There will be no more chicken jokes.

For there are no more chickens.

I have a horribly sick feeling in my stomach, having to write this.

Our feathered ladies are gone.

Killed and scattered by some roaming beast.

I have spent the day torturing myself with thoughts of how scared they must have been.

A very kind friend has gathered their remains and put them all in a box to be buried.

I don’t know if I can look in the box.

Yes they were chickens, livestock, birds.

But they were our pets and we doted on them.

We loved Agnes and her feisty, bossy attitude.

We loved Lola’s boastful crowing over each and every egg she popped out.

We loved Betty’s doddering, confused mothering of her chicks.

We loved Mrs Poulawitska’s uncoordinated dashing about and her secretive egg laying.

We cannot wait for Agnes any longer.

Good bye feathered ladies.

 

What do you call a chicken in a shell suit?* December 5, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 6:48 am
Tags: , ,

 

 

 

*      *      *      *      *

The first of 21 days of A Chicken Joke A Day

Because…

It’s the silly season.

Our feathered ladies have been neglected too long here in blogville.

*      *      *      *      *

 

*From the first Christmas Cracker of the season.

 

 

 

 

Fancy November 21, 2010

Filed under: Bad baking — titchandboofer @ 9:43 am
Tags: , , ,

Three easy steps to make your own super fancy breadcrumbs:

1. Waft around the kitchen in a happy haze, thinking ‘Oh how glorious! The sun is shining, the small person is sleeping, I will make bread, lovely lovely bread, full of lovely lovely seeds and chia and things!’ Devotedly tend to the yeast, feeding it with honey and warm water, delighting in it foaming up. Toss flour with seeds, stirring distractedly while you watch one of your chickens try to remember how to get out of the hen house (seriously, every few weeks it’s like Betty short-circuits – she can get stuck on the balcony for hours, peering over the edge and skittering away from the ramp like it’s on fire). Knead, rise, beat down, knead, rise, bake.

2. Contemplate your two loaves of freshly baked bread with a great sense of virtue. Enthusiastically offer warm bread to your beloved as reviving afternoon snack. ‘I am domestic queen! I am nurturing my family with wholemeal goodness!’ Butter your own slice of warm bread. Bite into it. Think to yourself ‘Damn. Damn damn bloody buggery damn. Forgot the salt.’ Contemplate your two loaves of fairly tasteless bread with a great sense of disappointment. Decide you will tough it out and eat it as toast, slathered with salty peanut butter. Be really determined not to waste the fruit of your labours.

3. One day later, decide that you cannot eat such bland toast. Not even at six in the morning. Not even hurriedly. Not even in the car on the way to work. Not even with nutella. Using your tiny food processor, turn the whole lot into breadcrumbs.

We’re going to be eating a whole lot of schnitzel.

 

More defiant baking: Part one October 14, 2010

If I’ve been out and about during the day, far from the kitchen and thoughts of dessert planning, I sometimes think to myself ‘Ah well, perhaps we don’t need dessert tonight. Perhaps I can just have a cup of tea and maybe a teensy piece of chocolate or twelve’. I’m almost convinced of this. Until about seven thirty pm. Then I get completely distracted, eyes glazing over, while I compile a mental list of potential dessert ingredients. Then I start grilling the beloved:

If I was making pudding, what would you want?

Don’t want pudding, am busy.

But if I was and you did, what would you want? (such a stupid question, beloved cannot understand the overwhelming need to make something different and will invariably suggest making these chocolate fondants)

Don’t want pudding. Thought you weren’t baking today? WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT BAKING? I’M WATCHING MY STORIES!!

What about something with cherries?

NO BAKING! STORIES! CHERRIES BAH!!

Lemon?

Gah. Can’t you just make chocolate fondants?

Hmmm. Lemon. Something quick and lemony? Lemon delicious? No. Boring. Lemon lemon lemon.

muttering… fondant fondant fondant

Hah! Lemon fondants! Would still need chocolate. Hmmm. White chocolate?

Ugh.

That’s it! White chocolate and lemon fondants! (could be way too sweet, but worth a shot)

8pm Puddings

300 grams of white chocolate (at least 35% cocoa butter: ie. Green & Black’s or Whittaker’s)

75 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

75 grams of brown sugar

40 grams of plain flour

6 eggs of various sizes*

Zest and juice of a lemon

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter six ramekins/small cups/small glasses.

Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over just simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

Put the butter, sugar, flour and eggs into a food processor and whizz until combined and smooth.

Add the zest and juice and whizz to incorporate.

With the processor running, add the melted chocolate in a continuous stream.

Divide the batter evenly between the six ramekins.

Bake for 8-9 minutes.

You can prepare these up to two days in advance. Just cover and chill the filled ramekins before the baking stage. I usually do this if I’m only baking for the beloved and I – bake two at first and the remaining four can be plucked out and baked as we like for snacks and whatnot. When you cook them, increase the baking time to about 12 minutes.

Turn out the puddings into bowls and top with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Dig in…with the first spoonful, the shell of the pudding will burst and molten pudding will ooze out deliciously.

The verdict: almost there, but not quite perfect. The balance of white chocolate to lemon needs to swing more to the lemon for my liking, to balance out the white chocolatey sweetness – next time I would add the zest of two more lemons. I would also use Whittaker’s white chocolate instead of Green & Black’s – the vanilla isn’t needed here and adds unnecessarily to the sweetness. We still have four in the fridge waiting to be baked, so I’m going to cook up some lemon curd this afternoon and try one with that for some added lemony oomph. Watch this space…

In exciting news, Betty is back on the lay after two months of concentrated chick-raising. Pictured (back left) are the shells of two of her gorgeous little eggs. Darker than Lola’s creamy shelled eggs (back right) and Mrs P’s bright white delights (front), Betty’s eggs are light brown, slightly glossy and oblong, with compact golden yolks and very viscous whites.

 

Conflict resolution September 24, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 11:14 am
Tags: , , ,

Management

The House

Faux-Farmville

Agnes D. Hen

HOPO

The Yard

Faux-Farmville

24th September, 2010

Dear Ms Hen,

We write pursuant to your letter, dated 17th September. Firstly, we regret to inform you that our planned Yard meeting has been postponed once again due to conflicting schedules. We hope to set a date in October that will suit all parties. However, in the interim we have several suggestions with regard to the grievances you have so comprehensively detailed.

We are disappointed to hear that you feel your position as HOPO is under threat. From our perspective, there is no other hen for the job. Mrs Poulawitska is clearly being a Pain in Your Wing, but she has neither the experience nor the competence to oust you. Obviously the job is not always going to be Grain and Dust Baths. There will be times when you need to take your title literally. Our advice: Peck hard and Peck often. A more drastic measure is Hypnosis, although clearly this should be a last resort. You may refer to The Yard Policy and Procedure manual to guide you through the process. Essentially you Wing The Offending Hen, pinning her beak to the ground, and scratch a line, extending from her beak into the distance. This should immobilise her for some time, enabling you to assert your authority and settle The Flock.

As for the junior members of The Flock, we require your patience and understanding for just a little longer. Their positions in The Yard are only temporary. Once their capabilities as Layers or Crowers are discerned, their contracts will be terminated and they will be redirected elsewhere. In the meantime do not feel compelled to keep tabs on them. Their adoptive mother is their immediate supervisor and we will not hold you responsible in the event of Attack or Abduction. We apologise for the disruption but caution that other temporary junior positions are likely to arise in the future. It is not always possible to negotiate far in advance, as the hens of your flock may Go Broody at any time.

Lastly, The Crow. We are acutely aware of The Flock’s distress and the need for action. Management has also felt the negative impact of the Crow keenly. Plans for a Scarecrow are on the table but, as you know, the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly. To view and comment on the plans please contact our front desk and book a time. As an interim measure we commit to Active Pursuit of The Crow whensoever this is possible, as well as early and more frequent collection of Eggs.

We hope these suggestions assist you in working effectively as HOPO.

Yours in gratitude for your ongoing support of the Faux-Farmville Kitchen and Garden.

Management

 

Growing pains September 17, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 10:37 am
Tags: , ,

Agnes D. Hen

HOPO

The Yard

Faux-Farmville

Management

The House

Faux-Farmville

17th September, 2010

Dear Management,

I am writing this letter in reference to our recent conversation regarding my contract of employment here at Faux-Farmville. As mentioned, I have several issues to bring to your attention prior to our upcoming meeting.

Firstly, as per my existing contract – section 1, subsection ii – I will retain the HOPO (Head of Pecking Order) position until such a time as I elect to step down. In addition, as per subsection iv, my input will be considered in respect to filling the position after my retirement. For the past two months, my position as HOPO has been continually undermined, nay threatened, by one Mrs Poulawitska. Her threatening behaviour is becoming ever more difficult to ignore or manage. On several occasions she has taken advantage of the recent flock-split (the precedent for long-term union action, only recently resolved) to peck the inferior hens in a manner far above her station. She has been seen laying in the HOPO nest, charging at invaders WHEN I AM PRESENT and generally choosing to ignore my authority. Her behaviour towards the junior flock has been appalling, again undermining my authority with them. Punitive action is called for and management must act.

Which brings me to my second issue: the junior flock. Quite frankly I am deeply upset that the entirety of section 5 of my contract (dealing with flock expansion) has been disregarded by management. The terms of my contract clearly state that consultation must occur before flock expansion is instigated. Expansion increases my workload enormously and appropriate consultation prior to this action could have enabled planning for delegation. As things are, there is a great deal of role uncertainty leading, I feel, to the issues described above with Mrs P. As for the members of the junior flock, I am near at a loss for words. Initially all three were bearable, in a cutesy kind of way, spending most of their day tucked under their adoptive mother’s wings, heeding instruction and not interfering with the running of The Yard. In just four short weeks much has changed. Now in their tween weeks, they have the run of The Yard and are frequently seen willfully escaping the supervision of their adoptive mother. As a group they have no notion of sticking together under pressure and when emergencies occur they dash, at high speed, in three different directions. Without the ability to delegate to another suitable hen, situations like this are totally unmanageable. I simply cannot be in five places at once. I’m uncertain how this can be rectified without resorting to group expulsion.

My last, but by no means least, issue is the continuing problem of The Crow. Despite management’s awareness of this issue, seemingly nothing has been done to protect the product of our labours from this invader. Section 8, subsection iii of my contract states explicitly “If an invading presence persists in a manner beyond the control of the HOPO, management has a responsibility to take steps to assist in finding a solution”. The hens under my supervision can be quite fragile in temperament and morale is only weakened if they must bear witness to the cruel theft of their work. Confusion has reigned on many a day, as we try to ascertain whether Lola is Going Broody or just Guarding Her Egg from attack. As management is no doubt aware, there is such a thing as a Scare Crow. Does this not sound helpful? The finer details of purchasing/constructing such a thing are beyond my knowledge, but it CANNOT BE THAT HARD.

I look forward to our meeting, anticipating that together we can resolve these pressing issues.

Yours peckingly,

Agnes D. Hen

 

Oh what a difference a few hours make September 14, 2010

I hate being woken up by a migraine. Like a tiny person is trapped under my temple, trying to get out with a hammer drill. Pain, nausea, yadda yadda yadda. It’s 4am. No matter how many times this happens, I will always try and convince myself that if I just shut my eyes and press my fingers really hard into my temple I’ll fall asleep and wake up cured. 530am. Not cured. Shuffle blearily down hall, praying that my absence won’t wake small early, take two panadol, shuffle back to bed. Small still sleeping. Beloved getting ready for work. Shut eyes tightly and resume temple-pressing. 7am. Small awake and using me as climbing frame. Seems to be winking at me. Realise one eye is partly swollen closed. Super. Phone the beloved at work to accuse her of breaking the baby. She’s not here, so it must be her fault somehow. Boil kettle. That will help. Tea. Shower. Wash small’s eye with cool, boiled water. He’s thrilled. Contemplate breakfast. Still feeling sick and throbbing-heady. Eat toast anyway. Small begrudgingly eats some porridge, is mainly interested in making me play with his maraca. Loud noises. Day stretches out in front of me. Eggs sit accusingly in egg-crate on bench. Cannot bake today. Still recovering from coconut extravaganza. Had planned on lovely gardening. Would rather lie down with ice-pack clamped to my head. Thankfully one of the LMFs is having a slow work week. Take small to her place for a change of scenery and fun times with his two year old friend, L. Both children too grumpy for any kind of fun. More panadol. More tea. More toast. Small scoffs a quarter of my piece of toast with nutella and perks up instantly. L takes one look at his nutella-smeared face and tells him he’s a disgrace. This declared sternly from behind her own mask of chocolatey goodness. Quite funny really. Sense of humour returning. Must be feeling better. Wander in LMF’g garden, making grand plans for its future. Am inspired to reconsider own gardening.

Take small home via nursery near LMF’s house. Nursery run by two endearingly peculiar women who dispense gardening advice like a stream of consciousness as they meander through the pots and stands of mysterious acrylic knits. Just get down the op-shop and get some terylene curtains to fling over these, that’ll keep off the possums, you don’t want to bother with those bags of topsoil no put those back just dig in lots of poo, blow up old wine cask bags and tie them to the branches, put a clothes line on its side and pull one lot of strings this way and one that way and then throw another curtain over that, don’t let the afternoon sun at your canes, get out at night and look on some hard rubbish collections for old trellis, you don’t want to go spending money on fancy new stuff, those plastic bits in the bottom of fruit boxes very handy for this, make sure your tomato bed is 18 degrees before your seedlings go in….. Go home with many bags of poo and a mandarin tree. Unload car into front garden. Feeling quite excited by prospect of gardening now. Lunch with small. He semi-happily gets through some pumpkin goop, a bit of yoghurt and half a salada with cashew spread. He sleeps. I loll on the couch with supremely trashy crime novel. Have not thought about tiny person with drill for some time now. Am cured. Huzzah! Eat some chocolate to celebrate.

Small wakes up. Beloved gets home. Afternoon sun streams into front garden. We all sit in sun drinking coffee. Well, not small. He just scoots around with no pants on, eating leaves. Man-next-door waves happily to us over newly exposed and surprisingly low fence and drags around his garden bin for me to use. Agnes clacks down the drive, ecstatic at this rare opportunity to shuck of the responsibilities of managing the workforce and forage alone in the front garden. LMF arrives with six year old M, my excellent gardening assistant. Beloved, small and LMF lie in the sun. M and I do digging and ‘crunching’ (M’s favourite activity, stabbing the ground with a pitchfork to loosen up our heavy clay soil), and find homes for a beurre bosc pear, a nashi, the mandarin and some rhubarb crowns. We carefully spread straw around the newly planted trees. Agnes carefully scratches it all away, glaring hard at us (did I say you could put that there? who authorised this?). The light begins to fade. LMF and M go home. Beloved and small go in to potter in the house. I do a last bit of pottering outside. In a spurt of enthusiasm I decide to give these chard chips a try:

So, I may have been a little enthusiastic with the salt, but otherwise a success. Even small thought they made an excellent pre-dinner snack. Dark now. Chooks in bed. Beloved cooking dinner. Bath for small and I. Happily tired and grubby from digging and crunching and planting. Restorative pasta dinner. Tangy lemon tart, courtesy of The Granny. And now it’s time for a mug of tea. Good night all. Good night tiny person with drill. I’m glad you took the afternoon off. Feel free to take the rest of the week.

 

Black nemesis September 4, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives — titchandboofer @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , ,

We cannot go out anymore. Possibly not even to work. Not, as would be almost reasonable, because of the hideous cold that has seen the deforestation of a small South American country in order to keep us in tissues. No no, not that. We have become daylight security detail for the hens.

My delight at the resumed productivity of our hens is facing a serious setback. A sleek, black, feathered setback. The Crow. See that beady eye? The muscular legs? The tensely coiled posture? The giant beak?* All weapons in The Crow’s arsenal. He? She? The Ayatollah? arrives mid-morning and takes up position in one of the Ash trees at the back of the yard. From this vantage point my black nemesis has learned the daily comings and goings of our flock. No longer bothering to swoop down and snack on the hen’s breakfast leftovers of grain and corn, The Crow bides its time, sensitive to every one of Agnes and Co’s feathery tells.

The scratching of claws on the wooden floor of the hen house, as one of the ladies prepares her nest (or if it’s Lola, her six nests – every day, six nests, then she chooses her favourite). The lull as the hen is doing her best work for the day, still and quiet on her chosen nest. Then the triumphant fanfare of bokking as she exits the house, alerting everyone – feathered and not – to her great feat.

That is when The Crow strikes. Dropping silently to the ground, unheeded by hens busy with their post-laying snack, it stalks purposefully up the ramp into the hen house. There it peers into the nest, sniggering gleefully (I assume) before carefully lifting the precious egg in its beak and hopping back to the doorway. Pausing briefly to check for witnesses, it then makes a break for it over the back fence, snow white egg clamped in glossy black beak.

This backyard atrocity came to light a few mornings ago. Standing at the kitchen sink, holding small and a mug of tea, I watched The Crow fly across the yard, wondering why it was carrying one of the beloved’s golf balls. Realisation dawned quickly enough for me to dump small unceremoniously on the kitchen floor and dash outside, staggering across the yard with my boots half on, shouting ‘DROP IT!! DROP IT!!’ in the manner of someone with a thieving dog. Luckily The Crow did drop it, Mrs P’s bright white egg, safely into a garden bed from where I triumphantly retrieved it. Smugly, I went back inside, resumed activity with tea and small, only to watch the entire scene replayed instantly with Agnes’s egg. I swear it winked at me as it took off over the neighbour’s balcony. Bastard.

*Photo not of actual Crow, but surely a close relative. Unable to photograph actual Crow as it’s shaking so hard with mocking laughter whenever it sees me.