Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Came Early

I WAS going to title this post "All I Want for Christmas Is a Damn Egg." Having diligently tended my cluckers for the past seven months with nothing to show for it, I had become duly discouraged. But events have transpired to make that message mute. I won't lie, I thought this day would never come. I even considered the possibility that I may have purchased a flock of duds. I then entertained a series of paranoid delusions that infertility perhaps may be contagious - I suppose that's a tale I should save for my memoirs. Nevertheless, though the ladies showed every indication that they were ready to start their laying careers, I had resigned myself to an eggless life.

For the past few weeks, Fruit Loop, who lives up to every last letter of her name, has been terrorizing the yard with obnoxious clucking that borders on rooster crows. I threatened the stew pot to no avail. She continued marching about with her shrill squawking "BRRRWAAAAAAHHK brahk brahk brahk brahk!!!!" I made the mistake of attempting to pet her while she was roosting in the coop to which I received such an eardrum splitting "PihkaaaaaAAAAAWK!!" that I'm certain I will require hearing aids in the near future. Since her arrival at Itty Bitty, Fruit Loop's comb and wattles have grown threefold. I knew both the borderline crowing and growth of headgear were good signs of eggs to come, but every day I would check the nest and yard for little white or brown gifts and... nothing.

Someone had suggested putting fake eggs in the nest to encourage the girls to do their stuff. I pulled out some of Ute's plastic Easter eggs and placed them in the laying box. I only had colored eggs, but I assumed that wouldn't matter; the point was for the ladies to GET THE POINT! Those pink and yellow eggs laid in the box for over two weeks getting kicked around, popped open, pooped on... nothing.

This past week I even contemplated dressing up as a rooster to give the girls some motivation. Whenever they see me coming, both Eggo and Fruit Loop have taken to doing that special crouch that allows the rooster to mount and do his stuff. I usually give them a few firm pats on the back, pull their tail feathers up, and give the tail a little shake. They seem to like it and give themselves a good feather ruffling when I'm done. In my mind, I'm just trying to loosen up those eggs to let them come down. But I guess from the chickens' perspective, I probably seem more like a rooster doing "it" to them. Oh god, I feel weird now that I said that, not to mention a bit pervie.

Last night, when I was putting the hens to bed, I checked the laying box to see if it needed a cleaning. And lo and behold, there was a real, live, perfectly formed egg resting in the box right next to the impostors! I'm not sure who laid it, but I suspect it was Fruit Loop as it was a darkish brown. I ran inside with the biggest shit eating grin, announcing to the Disgruntled Farmhand that we were now officially the proud owners of EGG LAYING chickens. I held that egg in my hands for a solid 10 minutes, turning it over, shaking it, feeling the weight of it in my palms. It was by far, the most beautiful egg I had ever encountered. I think I'll use it to make a coffee cake for Christmas breakfast.

Happy Holidays to each and everyone of you from all of us here at Itty Bitty!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Get Yourself Some Grandparents for the Holidays

That's my Nona and Pops. I stole them from my friend Kd. She ran off to New Zealand to raise cows and chickens or crayfish or something and just left the grandparental units by the wayside. Imagine abandoning a perfectly good Nona and Pops like that! I figured since they were essentially free for the taking, I'd snatch them up. Wouldn't you? Look how cute they are.

We went to visit Pops for his 90th birthday and bring over some homemade treats that I had canned over the summer. After all, I owed Nona since she gave me all of her canning jars, and we're not talking a couple dozen here. I inherited her entire stash! (It's not like Kd was going to bring them to New Zealand.)

In her prime, Nona was the absolute queen of canning. She has my mother whipped, hands down. Every summer Pops would dig up the sizable backyard and plant loads of veggies. Nona tells me they would can over 100 quarts each of tomatoes and string beans. That should give you a clue as to how many jars I've got squirreled away. Total score!

I called Nona to ask if we could drop by and the tone of her gleeful response I can only liken to when I tell my 6 year old daughter that we're going to Fairyland. I instantly remembered that Nona and Pops no longer have family members living nearby and that visitors are scarce. This is all too often the unfortunate circumstances for the elderly in modern society; family moves away and friends have either passed or are not mobile enough for visiting. When I was very young, my parents would take me and my siblings to visit some of the older folks from our church who had a hard time getting out for Sunday services. It was part of my parents' commitment to community, but they also reveled in conversing with folks who had a lot of life behind them and could spin a good yarn. In our fast-paced urban lifestyles, we've let go of this practice, much to our cultural detriment.

But I didn't visit Nona and Pops out of some guilt-laden fear of myself becoming old and alone, or for the vulturous prospects of snagging some more canning loot. I sincerely enjoy Nona and Pops company. The first time I met Pops, or Papa but I like to call him Pops, Nona was fiddling with some pills and Pops turned to me and stated very matter of fact "She has to take those so she doesn't get pregnant." I laughed so hard I nearly choked on the piece of bread I was munching. My uproarious laughter at this dry comment bordered on rude, but I couldn't help myself. That was some funny stuff. I've heard tell that Pops doesn't always know what's going on these days, but I suspect that he just chimes in when he has got something important to say. And I could talk to Nona for hours about the old days in Oakland and San Lorenzo, where they have resided for the last 50 years. Nona tells me about the orchards that used to be scattered throughout the area, the canning, gardening, and sausage making that she would do with her Portuguese mother-in-law. She gives me updates on her at least 40 year old tortoise named Georgia, who is currently hibernating and who, I was told, once disappeared for over two years and then turned up again one day roaming around the backyard.

Nona and Pops are a funny, good-natured, kind pair whom it is always a pleasure to visit. They even sent me a birthday card! They're the best. We hope to get the entire Itty Bitty clan over there before the holidays.

And no, you cannot have my Nona and Pops. I stole them fair and square. If you need a Nona and Pops, go out and get your own! There are plenty out there and I'm sure they would love a visit from some young whipper snapper such as yourself. The holidays are the perfect time to adopt a grandparent.