Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to Crack a Farm Fresh Egg

I have, since acquiring a house, also acquired a desire to own a couple of chickens. Where this desire came from, I really have no idea. I have never had chickens before. My grandparents had some chickens when I was a kid, but I don't recall anything about them except our dog trying to kill one of them one time.

Nevertheless, I intend to embark on this poultry endeavor eventually because for some reason I have equated chickens with this idyllic and pastoral vision in my head. Just like Caroline Ingalls, I can run around in plaid dresses and a long apron, scattering seed to the fowl and gathering their eggs. After their eggs are gathered into my apron, I walk purposefully into the house and lay them out on the butcher block counter top where I am whipping up some culinary delight of pioneer proportions.

Expertly, I grab an egg in one hand and bang it on the side of my metal mixing bowl. . . . And that is where the vision stops, because unlike Caroline, I still hold a barely cracked egg and there are a couple of shell pieces in my bowl. Slightly discouraged but not yet defeated, I whack the egg a little harder against the edge of the bowl. Now more pieces fall off, and I drop the entire egg in the bowl where it breaks and its contents ooze out and mix with all the pieces of shell.

Unfortunately, this true story just happened a couple of weeks ago at my friends' house. Dennis was in fits of laughter, threatening, "There better not be one piece of shell that ends up in that cornbread!" Cherelyn just looks at me and says, "And you want chickens."

All I can say is that "old farm hands" got an earlier start. They were not in their mid thirties, cracking their first brown egg. No, I'm sure they had many a shell bit get into their cornbread before they learned to perfect the technique. I remain convinced that with a couple of chickens of my own and some practice, the plaid dress and apron wearing version of me will emerge. And I will crack eggs, one handed and victorious.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Some Quiet Time

It's amazing, after living in a small town, what your new definition of "hustle and bustle" can become. I would probably consider my town a "burg". A handful of people live here. Nothing really happens. There is no rush hour, no traffic lights, and the only places open after 7 p.m. are the bars on Main Street. So my town snoozes away, sleepily closing it's eyelids to the hurried antics of other towns hundreds of miles away.

Despite the constant calm, I just today noticed a sharp contrast when Lewis and I walked up the hill outside our town and into the forest. It was in the forest that my ears noticed the absence of the noise I never notice constantly occurring down below in town. Up here I could only hear a slight breeze in the pines, the sound of last fall's leaves crunching beneath my feet.

Lewis and I took a break on the side of a hill, sitting in the warm sun. (Well, okay, I was sitting in the warm sun and Lewis was trying to contort his body in such a way as to fit every last square inch of himself into the shade beam created by a tree trunk, but the point is that we were resting.)

As I was sitting there, I noticed a little snake writhing around in the leaves. I am by no means a reptile fan, and of all the wildlife I could have viewed during that moment, a little snake would be last on my list. Actually, a large snake would be last on my list. (Imagine that, a 40 foot python in the foothills surrounding my small town. Now THAT would be something). The point is, I saw wildlife, creepy as it may be. Wildlife I would have missed had I just kept walking like I do when I'm in town.

My town is filled with deer. Deer in the streets, deer in the yards, deer eating people's gardens. I see and walk by deer on a daily basis. But I do not really stop to look at them. I am usually on my way somewhere, and the deer are so prevalent that I just walk right by them. I think if I had seen a deer in the forest earlier today though, I would have stopped and really appreciated it for the beautiful creation that it is. Not just a pest plucking the heads off of tender new garden shoots, it's liquid eyes and athletic movements attest of an animal built for speed, grace, and intelligence.

So I'm grateful today to have taken a step outside of whatever noise my sleepy burg distracts me with. With the promise of spring right around the corner, it is good to be seeing again with new eyes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tail Feathers

My dog has tail feathers. Also affectionately referred to as his pants, Lewis's tail feathers are long and flowing in the winter and clipped short in the summer.
His winter tail feathers.
His summer tail feathers.

Lewis's tail feathers are quite talented and can do multiple things. For example, the other day we were hiking out on the bluffs by the Columbia River. Being the gorge, it was quite windy. Lewis, having a "Born Free" moment, was standing on the edge of a cliff with the wind at his back. His tail feathers were splayed out nicely by the wind. Had they been slightly longer, he may have been able to base jump with them.

His tail feathers also almost act as a blanket. Right now he is lying in his slumber ball with his tail feathers arranged nicely beside him. Just a few more inches and he could pull them over his bottom, creating a bottom cozy.

I could also braid his tail feathers if the mood struck me, or they could become tail feather dreads. My favorite time of year though, is when they get shaved off for the summer. He can strut his stuff for the doggie ladies, displaying his muscular set of glutes, getting ready for winter and the fresh set of tail feathers.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Green Banana

I don't know that I would necessarily characterize myself as a banana connoisseur. In order to be that, I would have to have experienced bananas in all their various states. From green and crunchy to science experiment in the fridge, waiting to become the banana bread I will invariably never make, I would have had to at least have a sampling of each (and every one in between) to be able to claim the title of connoisseur. So, with the disclaimer that I am no expert, I would still like to make a case for the superiority of the green banana.

Primarily, I should qualify the adjective "green". By green, I do not mean a banana where the skin comes off but the peel stays on. I also do not mean a banana that is far enough along to peel, but you still chip a tooth and get a nasty film on your teeth when you attempt to bite off a chunk. These I have tried, and that's gross.

What I am referring to is the banana just a tiny bit further along than this. There is still some green on the skin. The banana can be a little finicky to peel, but it will usually give in. Then when you sink your teeth into the thing, it doesn't fall apart as a mushy mess in your mouth. There is a crispness to it, maybe like a mealy apple, only that sounds gross, so don't think of a mealy apple. But don't think of a crisp apple either because that is too crisp. In fact, don't think of apples at all because I'm talking about bananas.

My point, though I'm not sure I have one, is that ripe bananas are not good. A fruit should never be the consistency of baby food unless you are eating it out of a baby food jar. Anytime there are brown spots on stuff, that's bad. Do you eat apples (there I go with apples again) when they have brown spots all over them? How about any other fruit? No. Brown spots are an indication of impending rot, so don't do it! For the love of all things good, adopt a taste for the green banana.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Till 'Er Up

I like to work on my friends' farm. However, they are always warning me not to do this or that without supervision because they are afraid I am going to get hurt. I'm not sure why they have this fear since I am not the one who broke my leg stepping out of a horse trailer. I am not the one who scraped all the skin off my arm on tree bark. Nor am I the one who was trampled by a horse this summer.

That being said, last fall I wanted to rototill their garden. This I would do while they were both at work. Cherelyn sounded dubious, "Are you sure you shouldn't wait until Dennis gets back from work? I'm not sure you should rototill with no one here." How hard could it be? I assured her. Just pull the chord and give 'er some gas while following along behind. I had rototilled once several years before. I figured it was one of those skills you retained. With a doubtful look on her face, Cherelyn reluctantly drove away to work while I trotted out to the garden and the rototiller.

After a quick appraising look to figure out how to start it, I fired the rototiller up. It started easily, but I must admit I was at a bit of a loss as how to get it to go. Recalling it should be self-propelled, I looked around for some lever with the telltale rabbit and turtle on it. No offense to any do-it-yourselfers, but it was evident that this rototiller's rabbit and turtle lever had been broken and replaced with some home remedy years ago.

Not to be deterred, I figured since the tillers were tilling, I could just place them on the ground and the thing would go. Oh, it went all right. About a hundred miles an hour. Suddenly I was speed rototilling! Wind in the hair, dirt flying, me running behind, trying to maintain control. It was great. Only nothing was getting tilled except the top half inch of soil. I am happy to say that it only took three running, dirt flying swaths to figure out the self propel mechanism. And the garden did indeed get tilled thoroughly and deeply enough. I can't wait until next year when I forget how to engage the self propel again. Let the speed rototilling begin. . .

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Mothering Parrot

I recently had a conversation with a friend about her rescued parrot. The parrot had apparently been living in less than desirable conditions. Sloughed onto a neighbor by the previous homeowners, she was kept around because the neighbor felt sorry for her. I don't really remember the details of how my friend acquired her, but the parrot is now living in a happy home and exhibiting the characteristics of a contented bird: egg laying.

Now, I know that parrots are birds, and I understand that birds lay eggs. I even understand that birds sit on eggs. But I have never in my life pictured or seen a parrot sitting on an egg. This concept of the happily nesting parrot is completely new to me. Parrots bob their heads. Parrots talk. Parrots make messes while they hold peanuts with their feet and shell them with their beaks. Parrots bite. Hard. In my mind, parrots do not nest. It's far too motherly of an activity.

So I did a little google search for photos of parrots nesting on eggs. I came up with this one, which was the closest I got.
As you can see, this parrot is not exactly sitting on the eggs. The eggs are there. The parrot is hovering. But this is far from the full blown, fluffed breast feathers over the eggs while the parrot sits contentedly and clucks like a chicken. So I am left discontent. I do believe that my friend's parrot is happily laying eggs and indeed sits on them. However, the nesting parrot is a phenomenon that remains a mystery to me. I'll just have to see it with my own eyes someday.