Chickens and Lawns

Hens have scaly, tough, clawed feet and they use them to scratch and dig. But they don’t particularly like to shred up turf. So, if you have a dense, lush lawn with no bare spots, then you can let your hens wander about with no worries at all. The hens will trot here and there, picking at bugs and seeds and grazing a bit on the grass.

I don’t have one of those lawns. There are bare spots. There are areas that are mostly crab grass, which means that in the winter there are dead tufts with dirt showing. Still, it doesn’t look too bad, does it?

It’s a large expanse. What harm can a few hens do?

Take another look at the photo. Do you see a red hen checking out the side of the barn? There’s a bit of loose soil there where the rain, coming off the roof, has pounded the ground.

A little scratching, a little rearranging, and it becomes this:

a dust wallow for a dozen hens.

It’s a good thing that nowhere on my list of gardening wishes is a pristine lawn.

Adorable Egg Molds

I think that hard-cooked eggs are pretty just as they are. The ones from my hens have bright white whites and deep-yellow yolks. I like polka dots, so a sliced egg’s sunny circles make me happy. It should be enough. It usually is. But, once in awhile I want to push that cute-factor, and that’s when I turn to a trick from Japan – I mold eggs into shapes. The Japanese have been doing this for ages, making adorable hard-cooked eggs for their children’s bento box lunches.

You’ll need molds.

The directions are in Japanese, and the illustration appears to be missing some  steps.

Fortunately, I bought these at a local store and was able to ask the Japanese shopkeeper for a translation. It’s easy! Here’s what you do:

If the eggs are from your own hens, wait until they are at least 10 days old. That way they’ll peel easily.

Put the eggs in a pot, add water so that they are covered by an inch. Bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water is rolling, turn off the heat and cover. Let sit for 16 minutes.

Here’s the hard part – you have to peel these when they are still hot. After years of working in kitchens, I have asbestos fingers and can handle hot eggs. But, you might want to run the egg briefly under cold water. Peel immediately and place in the molds.

Snap shut and put in the refrigerator until chilled.

You can also make a homemade heart mold. Cut a piece of cereal box cardboard and fold into a vee. Line with parchment paper. Place the egg in the vee, set a chopstick on top and hold down with rubber bands. The stick has to be pressing down hard enough to cause a clear depression. Do a few extra because you’ll probably have one or two that crack (I think homegrown eggs are firmer and not as pliable.) Chill in the mold.

The heart eggs can be sliced, or you can cut a bit off the bottom so you have fat, upright hearts. So sweet. And just look at this cute bear.

Isn’t it nice that such simple little things can make you smile?

I might have to get the Hello Kitty egg mold next.

Agatha, Painted

About a month ago, out of the blue, I got an email from a reader in Texas. Jennifer loves animals. In fact, she loves all animals, and is proving that in a concrete way. Jennifer is an artist and she is painting every single one of the 5,000 or so mammalian species known to science. But that’s another story. This story is about how much she loves chickens. She doesn’t have a flock or her own, not yet, and so gets enjoyment from watching my girls. Jennifer is particularly enamored with Agatha (aren’t we all?) She offered to paint Agatha’s portrait. Of course I said yes!

This week, Agatha’s painting arrived, and I immediately hung it in a cheerful spot in my house.

Jennifer has an Etsy shop where you can order portraits of your own chickens. If you don’t have hens, she can paint another one of Agatha for you. Or Buffy. In fact, any of my girls would be happy to model for Jennifer. Candy says that Jennifer can paint her, too, but only if there are no chickens in the painting. And only if Jennifer captures her regal bearing. And she’ll only pose if there are banana chips involved.


A Relaxing Outing With The Goats

It’s a nice afternoon. The goats could use some time outside of their small winter paddock. Come and join us. I’ll put their leashes on – not that I’ll lead them anywhere – the leashes are just in case they need a little direction.

They’re happy to mill around outside of the barn. There’s grass to eat. No trouble to get into.

Caper does, however, have to check out the faucet. It makes a good nose scratching post.

The boys find the herb bed. A bit of a prune won’t hurt the sage. But, don’t eat it down to the ground! And that plant label isn’t the sturdiest thing to rub one’s head on, Caper. Now you’ve bent it.

Perhaps it’d be better if the goats graze in the meadow. To get there we pass the Chinese Beech Tree. No, Caper! Don’t eat the bark! No head scratching, Pip! Good thing I put the leashes on.

It’s peaceful back here.

For few moments, anyway.

The vegetable garden gate is open. No matter. They can’t possibly get into trouble in there. It’s empty.

Oh, no it’s not. I forgot about the overwintering strawberries. Good thing I have a leash on Caper.

What? Is it time to go back already?

Caper knows how to unlatch the door. But, I’ll do it! I don’t want him getting into the habit.

That was relaxing, wasn’t it?

Icy Pond

It’s been a mild winter here, but the temperature does go well below freezing, especially at night. The ice on the pond has varied from thick to thin.

Sometimes ice spans almost the entire water feature, sometimes only the edges. The pump is on and so there’s always flowing water, which the wild birds appreciate.

Look closely at that flash of color under the ice, walk around, bend a little, and this is what you’ll see:

Goldfish and goldfish-koi. Are there really that many? Are they really that big? It must be an optical illusion caused by the rippling water. After all, the fish are supposed to be in a state of suspended animation in that frigid water. They don’t eat. They certainly don’t grow. Or breed. Right?

We’ll have to wait until springtime to find out.