I often serve eggs in the morning and when I do, someone inevitably asks, “This one of your eggs?”
You see, I’ve been getting a few random, small brown eggs from one very dear chicken. I usually cook them the day they are laid. They are organic, fresh, and cook up fluffy and perfect. I’ve been finding about three a week. With spring here, it looks as if more eggs will be coming (in a more steady way) soon. That and the fact that I am feeding my chickens special “crumble” that forces egg laying means it’s only a matter of time until no one will have to ask if they are eating one of “my” eggs. It will be a given.
Each time I find an egg in the nest, I squeal with delight and pick it up. Then I have to carefully carry it around with me for a half hour as I finish taking care of the animals. I show it off to anyone who comes by, as if I found a nugget of gold or something. No one ever reacts with the excitement or wonder that I expect. Obviously, people take small miracles for granted.
I have four almost-fully-grown Rhode Island Reds that will be laying soon. They are in a new pen Neva and I made this weekend out of a big iron frame that was protecting our monster chandelier when it came packaged a few months ago. When I saw that big, indestructible rectangle, I said to Mark, “Don’t you dare throw this away – I can use this.”
“He said, “What on earth do you want that rusty thing for?”
“A cage for what?”
I didn’t know at the time, but I knew I would always need another cage, considering my animal husbandry explorations. When it was time to move my bigger chicks into a “holding area” near the pen, I knew the iron frame would be just the thing. Mark dragged it from the workshop to the chicken area and bought me some supplies. Neva and I wrapped chicken wire all about the thing and wired it together. No door – that would have been too complicated. We just tilt the contraption and shove the birds in. Now I have a spiffy new chicken run.
I’ve always admired people with the “use it up and wear it out” mentality. It takes innovation to use resources wisely, which is good for the planet, good for the mind, and involves creativity and skill. It may be easier to write a check for something you need. Nice new, sparkly things do look nice, new and sparkly. However, I am rather turned off by the glut of consumerism and waste in our world, so I associate good feelings to making a cage out of a packing crate. People who do not see the value (and accomplishment) in reusing resources are missing something wonderful. Anyway, more and more, I’m trying to be someone who lives in more environmentally responsible ways. Gotta do my part to save the world (global warming is real, friends). Saves money too, and there are things I want far more than shiny new (unnecessary) everyday stuff – like a trip to Egypt to see the sphinx.(But first, we are discussing going to hike Glacier Park, because in twelve years, all glaciers will be gone. You haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth” yet if you don’t understand that decision.)
Where was I? – Oh, I was bragging about my up and coming chickens. I also have five Americanas (blue eggs). These birds are young teenagers (4 weeks old) but they will be laying in three months. I have seven baby chicks of assorted breeds peeping in my basement too, which will start laying some time in June. I am totally egg-a-fide now. It is just a matter of time until the windfall begins.
I am going to buy myself three tiny turkey chicks next week. I’m shooting for a boy and two girls, although they are not pre-sexed so you have to guess. Linda (the feed storeowner) taught me how to best determine what these babies are by their behavior. I’m told turkeys get as big as Neva (bigger! 80 pounds), and that if you handle them a lot, they are terrific pets. They will run around with the chickens, gobble and add ambiance and flavor to my ever-growing poultry collection. I even have the names picked out for my turkeys, but I won’t share them. Certain people would be offended – though anyone who knows me well also knows my humor and understands how I like to amuse myself in stupid ways, so perhaps you can guess.
I also plan to buy some game hens later that I intend to let run wild in my chicken area. Why not? They lay eggs you can eat, and they make some funky raw sounds that are fun too.
When I bring new animals into our world, Mark just takes a nonchalant look and makes a few comments about whatever seems interesting to him about them. He never discourages me or seems put out. In fact, he is rather supportive of my interests. I guess he thinks it could be worse. Not like I’m interested in buying a racecar or having surgery done to change my body or anything else that might contradict our concept of the perfect life. His generous attitude is partially because it doesn’t really cost anything to add a few bird mouths to feed and it keeps me happy. Most importantly, I do all the drudgery pet care. He also finds the animals interesting, educational, good for a laugh, and he is very into eating organic. Nevertheless, he has put his foot down about a pig. You see, I want a mini pot bellied pig. I think they are too cute. He thinks pigs are dirty and nasty. He says I can only get a pig if I will eat it, and since I won’t, we are at a pig-stalemate. He is determined to be the only pig in my world. I’m not ready to give up my pig fantasy however. It is just a matter of finding the right negotiation tool. The question is, what’s the ticket to get a guy to give in to a girl’s pig desires? Hummm….. I’ll have to ponder that one.
I bought about six grape plants last week. Every time I see one I’m like “gotta have one of those.” I have muscadine, concord, suffolk and lakemont varieties. As it turns out I won’t be using any of them for making wine. No-siree. I did my homework and learned I will need a vineyard with specific breeds of grape for that. So today, I’ll stick these grape plants along the fence somewhere and hope they will grow and bear fruit. These particular grapes will be for eating or making jelly.
I said, “Honey, will you let me have a vineyard, please?”
Mark sighs. “A whole vineyard? Can’t you just work with a nice arbor filled with grape vines? How much wine can one girl make and drink?”
(The man obviously underestimates my potential for wine consumption now that I don’t need to be a constant “good example” for dancing children).
“I need a vineyard. I read a book.”
“A book. Of course. Aren’t you supposed to be so busy with your MFA that you have no time (thank god) to read books? Why do you need a vineyard to make wine? I doubt every person who makes wine has an entire vineyard.”
“According to my book, lots of people do. Tending to a vineyard gives you the whole experience.”
“You need the whole experience? You haven’t made a single bottle of wine yet. We can buy grapes, ya know. We don’t know if we even like homemade wine.”
“If I buy the grapes it won’t be the same.”
“How do you know?”
Since I had no answer for that, I told him all about the information I’m learning about making wine. Each plant yields 8-11 pounds of fruit. You need 10 pounds to make a gallon of wine, which is five bottles. Each vine must be 6 feet from another, staked with wire to make rows of fruit bearing vines. I want to make 40 gallons a year. That takes one tenth of an acre, hardly a drop in the bucket of our 50 acres . Grapes like acidic, sandy, rocky soil. We can add sand to our clay to get good results. Grapes like being near water, which is why commercial vineyards are on coastal areas, like California, Italy or the other end of our state. They don’t like being near forests, because they need to stay dry and you don’t want deer eating them – but I will work around that. My wine will be for home consumption (or gifts) so it is not like everything has to be perfect. Grapes grow best on hillsides. We have hillsides! I figure we can clear a section of our land and plant a vineyard (you till the soil in fall and leave it unbothered, don’t even walk on it, then in spring plant about 40 vines and tend to them for three years.) Voila, we have a vineyard. It’s that easy.
Mark sighs. He is thinking about the eight apple trees still in the back of the trailer that he has yet to plant. (He got too tired to finish all our planting after putting in our pear and peach trees this weekend). In three years I’ll have apples. Will I have time for grapes too? He is probably wondering if it would be easier to say “You want a vineyard? Sure. Whatever,” because it is possible I will give up the idea by fall. But then again, I’ll have taken my wine making course by then, and I might be hotter for a vineyard than ever, so he dare not make promises he may not want to be bother with later. He has his own passions you know. He has benches to make. Tables and turned bowls.
But then again, he is also probably thinking a vineyard would be kind of fun – another new experience that might lead us into new territory. He loves gardening. Loves eating healthy, natural, homegrown things. Loves my cooking. Loves giving me busy work that keeps me out of trouble. If a vineyard isn’t too much trouble, it might be cool . . . .
I tell him that people with vineyards also plant roses, as if this might influence him somehow.
He says that is because of the pollination issues. Roses attract bees, which will cross-pollinate, which results in more fruit. He points out that he has never really been into roses.
Bees? You need those? I’ll have bees by then. Plenty!
He groans. He still hasn’t warmed up to the bee issue.
“Moreover, even if you can live without them, I love roses. Gee wiz, I am so meant to have a vineyard.”
He is smart. He says, “We’ll discuss it later, in the fall. Let’s see where we stand with work and money and our time then.”
That is fair. That isn’t a “no”. It isn’t a “yes”. It is one of those famous “we’ll see”‘s that kids hate so much. In the end, I figure having a thing isn’t always necessary anyway. The fact that you can have it if you want it badly enough is what counts, and he has given me that.
I’m appeased. I’ll keep reading about wine and vineyards and put the idea of my own vineyard on the backburner of my mind. If I don’t plant a vineyard of my own, I’ll write a book about a heroine who makes wine and has a backyard vineyard. Yea, there is no such thing as information that goes to waste.
In the meantime, I think I will drag Mark to the other coast next month for a weekend getaway. There is a Georgia vineyard route there with small commercial growers that welcome tourist. We can do the wine country drive, learn what varieties work in our region of the country. We can sip samples, buy some bottles for home – maybe even see how much work it all is and find out if they sell plants for when (if) the time comes.
Anyway, That is my farm report for today. I’d love to write more, but I gotta go. I have homework. Bear with me. I may be MIA for a few weeks as I finish this MFA. I have to turn in my thesis April 9th and I’m ready to knock it out and put it to bed. My best birthday present ever will be tying a bow around that puppy and not bothering with it for a while.
Sigh. To work.
Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow.