Old Home Day

The best day of the year in my little town is our July 4th celebration (scheduled on a weekend that’s not the 4th.) It’s called Old Home Day and has been happening here for about a century. It starts with early morning road races and ends with a chicken BBQ served by the firemen in the fire station. In between there’s a parade – no politicians allowed – but children  on bicycles are encouraged. Eleanor and Edwina had their own float! We put them in a wire dog crate, bungee-corded that to a kid’s wagon, and rolled them down the street. People LOVE seeing chickens. The girls were right behind an alpaca and a couple of mini-horses, but the oohs and ahhs for the chickens were the loudest.

There’s an art show, a dunking booth and a frog jumping contest. There’s a cake decorating contest. I entered this:

chicken shaped cake

The nest is made from shredded wheat. Many people in town knew that it was my entry. The cakes are not returned. They are used as prizes for the cakewalk (think musical chairs, but if you win, you get a cake.) In our little town of only 5,000 people, about 100 donate cakes for this. Doesn’t that just make you smile?

This year my 10-year old son entered the Soap Box Derby for the first time. He and his Dad made a cart out of wheels and things left at our “transfer station” (glorified dump.) For this event, a road is closed off and the police get out their radar gun to gauge the speed of the carts. The police love Old Home Day.

Old Home Day is one of the reasons why this town doesn’t feel like a normal suburb. It really is a small community.

Lulu and Buffy are Friends

Before Buffy became sick and Lulu got injured, they were two independent birds. Perhaps because they were the only ones of their breeds, perhaps due to their personalities, they didn’t have best friends. Watch the HenCam for any length of time and you’ll see chickens in pairs. One viewer even said that the white hens reminded her of synchronized swimmers! But Buffy and LuLu were each on their own.

For the last few weeks Buffy and Lulu have been forced into togetherness as they recuperated together in a stall in the big barn. Now that they are in the HenCam coop, they are acting like friends. Actually, I think it is ditzy Lulu who is maintaining the friendship. She seeks out Buffy during the day and roosts near her at night. I wouldn’t say that placid Buffy is welcoming of the attention, but she doesn’t chase Lulu away – and for Lulu, who annoys the other girls – a hen that puts up with her is a best friend! I’m happy for both of them.

Thank You Birds and Bugs

I have one young peach tree in the meadow. Conventional wisdom is that you can’t grow edible fruit without using pesticides, organic or otherwise. I haven’t done a thing, yet so far, the leaves are unchewed and the fruit is green, fuzzy and whole. What I have done is provide nearby habitat that is perfect for insect-eating birds. In my small meadow, there are two pairs of bluebirds hatching eggs in birdhouses made especially for them. Those birds eat a lot of bugs! There’s also a Carolina Wren in a birdhouse, mounted to the back of the henhouse, that my son made when he was five. Everything is “wrong” with this box – from the color – black – to the size of the opening. Yet this bird calls it home.

weathervane and Carolina Wren

(This weathervane, by the way, is  on top of the HenCam barn. Made by this company in California.)

Early this spring, we had to deal with Asian Ladybugs in the house. Tens of thousands of them had over wintered in our window casings. Some were confused and came indoors instead of finding their way outside. Yuck! But, it was worth it. My birch tree in the front, which always has terrible infestations of absolutely disgusting sawfly larvae (that even the chickens refuse to eat) is so far free of them this year. The only bugs crawling all over the branches have been ladybugs.

It’ll be interesting to see how the veg garden fares. In the past, the cucumber beetles have been a scourge. As have the squash borers. I hope the birds like them.

Getting Better

I am feeling a tad sorry for myself. After twenty plus years of shoulder pain that has varied from mild to severe, depending on my activity level (which has included stints in professional kitchens, writing cookbooks, heavy gardening and manure mucking) I am doing something about it. Actually, the pain finally gave me no choice. My MRI showed tendonitis in several areas and a couple of minor tears to the tendon, so yesterday I had a cortisone shot and was told to go to physical therapy for 6 weeks. I’m fine with that. But I was also told to REST and since my idea of “moderation” is not what my doctor was describing, I have to wear a sling for six weeks so that I DO NOT garden. Not even pull a weed. Or use my chef knife to chop the lovely veggies I’m growing. Or walk the dog holding the leash in my right arm. I’m sulking.

On the other hand, LuLu is feeling quite well. She is still in the infirmary with Buffy. They’ll be there until LuLu’s feathers grow back. Which they are! Take a look.

hen growing new feathers

Those funny quill-like things are new feathers, not yet unfurled. For a chicken that my husband, who got her out of the clutches of the dog, was sure was going to die, this is a miracle.

Clearing out the Pantry

I eat locally in season, but I also believe in imports. It’s silly not to use cinnamon, drink orange juice and coffee, and buy sea salt. Trade routes have existed for millennia. Then again, it also doesn’t make sense to eat mealy peaches from Chile, or buy feedlot beef when I can get the best meat from a farmer a few miles up the road.

Most of my meals are made from scratch, but they are simple. Some veggies, a bit of protein, a nice grain. My pantry is stocked with staples like canned beans and pasta. My freezer has peas, corn and sliced peaches, homemade broth and stews. This winter I had severe tendonitis in my wrists and wasn’t allowed to hold a knife. I discovered frozen, cubed winter squash, chopped onions, and those little cubes of garlic and basil being imported from Israel.

But all is not spartan here. I am a sucker for jars of marinades, pilaf mixes, and sauces. I go to food shows and come home with simmer sauces. I buy boxes of crackers on sale for my kids’ lunches. The pantry was full, and the products were getting old.

I decided to see how long I could go without grocery shopping for anything other than staples of milk and other necessary fresh foods, like snack carrots and broccoli. It’s been a few weeks and I’m still at it. I had an opened bag of arborio rice that I turned into a very nice risotto with a package of frozen spinach from last year’s garden that was hiding in the bottom of the freezer (I have a vacuum packer, and it was still perfect! That’s one useful gadget.) Yesterday I did have to buy some chicken so that I could use up the package of green mole sauce. Today I’m going to use up that can of fire-roasted tomatoes and chilies.

Take a look around your house. I bet you have more food than you realize.

By the time I’m done with my “clear out the pantry” project, I should be harvesting the first peas of the season. Right now, I’m finishing up the spring mesclun. But, mostly, I am getting great pleasure from my wildflower meadow which is in bloom.