Friday, October 16, 2009

The Lone Egg & An Evolving Philosophy

One brown egg.

A single, solitary brown egg.

That's all I found in the hen house when I fed the hen this morning. Oh, did I say hen? I meant hens - all 7 of them.

Yes, 7.

Why, Teri, if you have 7 hens, did you find only 1 egg, you ask? Why? Because we have some opportunistic slackers who are drunk on the heavenly mash and sweet scratch we generously ply them with every day, but are refusing to give anything in return. They haven't given for some time. These new gals that we welcomed to our farm a month or so ago are not putting out.

In short, they're takers, they're not givers; and for that, I'm seriously thinking it's freezer time. You know why? Because for the first time in months, I had to buy eggs at the store this week. Why am I buying eggs when I have 7 perfectly healthy hens wandering around the chicken yard, for whom I buy feed twice a month?

And may I say, it's a very nice, clean fresh chicken yard at that. Because on Monday, did I spend the day primping and preening so Mike and I could enjoy a nice, intimate celebration of our 13th anniversary? Oh, no. Not me. I donned a dust mask, and for the first time in months laced up what were once very expensive running shoes and along with my intrepid mother-in-law, cleaned out the chicken coop and chicken yard, raking and scraping up months of hay, food scraps and chicken poo. We spent a couple of hard hours cleaning that coop and yard, then scattered fresh Bermuda grass all over the coop floor, filled the nests with nice soft grass, and spread yet more Bermuda out in the chicken yard. The girls were very excited by the fresh grass and scratched merrily in the new green litter.

We had one hen, though, who was very distressed during the process, continuing to check the nests to see what was happening, wandering from one end of the coop to the other, checking the nests again. As women who have felt a certain urgent need to deliver an uncomfortable burden ourselves a collective 9 times in the past, it finally occurred to us that perhaps the little red hen's distress wasn't so much upset at her changing habitat as it might have been an urgent need to give birth to an egg. And soon. We hurriedly put hay in one of the nests and she gratefully settled right in to complete her daily labor. Poor old girl. Nothing like arriving at the emergency room to have your baby only to find there's not so much as a wheelchair ready to give you rest. As fellow birthers, we should have cottoned on earlier.

She doesn't realize it, but the little red hen's distress may have very well saved her life. Because now we know who is providing us that one lone egg; we know who is returning our hospitality with labor of her own. We know who will be spared when the inevitable axe falls, should the other girls not start producing real soon.

I'm not sure when I became such a cold-hearted "put up or die" kind of person. Never before did I require that everyone show a direct return on my investment if they were to live. Never before did I respond to slights and discourtesies and just plain ungrateful behavior with threats of death. It's this odd new approach to life and death that has crept into my makeup that I'm pondering these days, trying to determine if I need to quash this new philosophy, or if it's a necessary step in my evolution from city girl to farm woman. It's a slightly disturbing turn of events, and I'm not sure where I'm going to come out on this.

I do believe my "serve me or you die" attitude may be leaking out a bit, oozing from the seams; I'm afraid my grim reaper watchfulness may be starting to make the people around me nervous. Could that be why Mike's mom, my beloved mother-in-law, works from dawn till dusk when she visits, never sitting during the day, hardly resting long enough to eat a quick meal before returning to some unpleasant task? Perhaps I should tell her that the yummy vittles and clean towels we proffer during her visits don't require labor in return; that my tit-for-tat requirements extend only to the farm critters.

On the other hand, my refrigerator and kitchen counters have never sparkled so much as they do following my mother-in-law's visit this week. Could be that mercenary glint in my eye has its merits....

More to ponder as I walk among the chickens.

Without an axe.

For now.

Love from the farm,

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