I have 3 blueberry bushes next to my front door. A few weeks ago I noticed that some critter had methodically cleared all of the almost-ripe berries off of one bush. So I went to the local garden center and got netting. The illustration on the package shows a bird flying over a fruit tree with an annoyed look on its face. What the picture doesn’t show is that chipmunks and birds get tangled up in the netting and die. I don’t think that a couple of pints of blueberries are worth the lives of 4 chipmunks and 1 titmouse. I’ve thrown out the netting. This fall, I’ll plant blueberries in my backyard, where Lily, my dog, will keep the critters away.
There are about two hundred people watching hencam everyday. Did anyone out there notice Candy sneak into the vegetable garden??? This evening I found her in the shade of the carrot tops, looking quite pleased with her life. Luckily, she did not eat the new pea shoots. It is likely that Candy was looking for some peace and quiet away from the hens. Nevertheless, I don’t want her in the garden! So please, if you see her where she shouldn’t be, email me!
I like to think that I am a pretty good gardener. My veg garden is weed free. My flowers bloom. But when I went to the farmers’ market a half-mile up the street from me (a neighborly, rather informal gathering of mostly local backyard growers with excess from their gardens), I realized that my ping-pong ball sized cabbages paled in comparison to what is grown nearby (no excuses for me now about weather!). My lettuce is bolted and done; yet I was able to buy a perfect head for $1. I took solace in the fact that my carrots are looking quite good this year (I finally convinced myself to thin them — which really is important.) Still, I have enough in my garden to make a perfect summer meal.
Last night, I gathered what I had: a handful of purple beans, a dozen big Swiss chard leaves, a scallion, 2 carrots, 3 small tomatoes and one green pepper. I sauteed these veggies with a clove of garlic from a neighbor’s patch (if you haven’t had fresh garlic, you’re in for a pungent surprise!). Once wilted, I tossed this mixture in with browned spicy chicken sausage and some pasta. A bit of Parmesan cheese, and dinner was done. Perfect.
Where are the eggs, you ask? I had them for lunch in a potato salad (potatoes bought at the same farmers’ market). Oh, and there was a bit of leftover Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert. (See my Farmstead Egg Cookbook, page 115. Easy. Luscious. Eggy.)
I take Snowball into the veg garden while I weed. She doesn’t tear up the garden the way the big hens do. I bring her in to eat bugs. I’ve got a cucumber beetle infestation that I’m hoping she’ll help with. But chasing insects is hard work and Snowball has learned that all she has to do is to wait for me to hand feed her the juiciest morsels. Snowball has recently become impatient with the speed of my bug-catching and she tells me about it in with loud beep-beeps. She sounds just like Road Runner! In fact, I think that Snowball is just as fast. You should see how quickly she comes running when I call her name. She’s a little white beep-beeping blur.
I get emails that begin like this: “My husband thinks I’m crazy. I sit and watch the chickens.” And, “I work in a cubicle and the chickens are a little bit of pleasure in my day. They keep me calm.”
Isn’t it ironic how birds that are so busy and fussy, constantly moving, and squabbling amongst themselves, can be so calming? But it’s true. Having a bad day? Watch the chickens for awhile. Need to decompress after work? Sit with the hens. Need a good laugh? Visit with the girls.
I’m a dog person and I ride horses. I’ve been around animals all of my life. And I can tell you that hens provide a different sort of companionship than these other wonderful creatures. They are silly and comforting. What a delightful combination. Even if you have a small yard, you too can have these mental health boosters in your life. Forget the “chicken in every pot.” I say, let’s have three chickens in every yard!