Monday, December 29, 2008

Teaching Old Birds New Tricks

It wasn't necessary, but I just had to do a Google search today to find out the origins of the phrase "bird brain". As much as I love my girls, they have sorely tested my patience getting accustomed to their new spacious coop this last week. At first I locked them in with food and water for three days. Fortunately, the weather was bitter cold with icy precipitation. Perfect for hunkering down. They were warm, dry and well fed. One the third day I opened the coop to let them roam around outside for just a few hours before dusk, so they wouldn't 'forget' where they were to return....or so I assumed. In fact, they all returned to their old coop and put themselves to bed there instead. After dark, we moved them, one by one, back up into the new coop and closed the door. Another two days locked in with food water and special treats of fruit and sunflower seeds (their favorites) should surely lock this memory into place. Yesterday we made the decision to move that old coop completely out of view to prevent a repeat of the after-dark carry over. Believe it or not, at dusk, every one of those hens still went back to the old location- the phantom coop. Could they still 'see' it and 'feel' it even though it wasn't there? It was disturbing...well, okay, sorta comical, but also incredibly frustrating. "Bird Brain" came to mind, along with a few more eloquent descriptive names that I won't publish. We bribed them up the ramp with treats, chased them around in the mud and even snagged a few with pretty ungraceful moves. We cheered when they got it and went up the ramp and through the tiny door...cried 'fowl' when they changed their minds and backed out again. The MAN and I gave each other an out of breath high five when the last one was safely tucked in for the night...whew. I held my breath again tonight when dusk came and I saw them from the kitchen window scrambling around. I had a thought that a rooster may have helped here. You know, follow the big leader? These girls were all looking to each other for leadership and couldn't make up their minds who should have the position! They finally all made it in tonight except for one forlorn hen who felt the most direct route was through the closed window. She was so pooped out trying to fly through the windows that by the time I walked out there, she had no steam left. I simply picked her up and put her to bed. Good grief. Oh, and the Google search? A chicken's brain is the size of a child's fingernail....yep, no doubt about that...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas, Baby

for Green Eyes and the Gang in Oz....

Monday, December 22, 2008

First Day of Winter

The Return of the Sun?
Wishful thinking

Room with a View

the loft with cathedral ceiling

the noisy downstairs neighbors with open kitchen, six nesting boxes and free range toilet facilities. I feel a little interior decorating urge coming on.This is Heidi, the two headed Black Australorp hen. She's hiding out here on the the farm after running away from the carnival last year. She is very shy and rarely photographed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nesting News

The wind is howling outside of this big empty farmhouse tonight. After keeping an eye on three days of wintry mixed precipitation and losing power for a time here in PA, I've also been keeping tabs on the weather in New Hampshire, where the IceMan is happily under 2 1/2 feet of snow. Since the state-of-emergency ice storm a little over a week ago, the upper northeast has experienced unrelenting winter weather. This has put quite a damper on plans to get him home in time for Christmas. I'm trying to let go of the notion that I can control the weather and that I will be at the center of my family's celebrations this year.
The other location tab on my weather site today is Los Angeles, CA where my beautiful Green Eyes just landed on the first leg of her trip to Aussie land. In a few minutes she'll board another silver bird for the 15 hour flight to Melbourne (where it will be 93 degrees when she lands tomorrow afternoon) and then another four hour flight to Perth on the west coast. If she returns as planned, Green Eyes will be back in the fold here the second week of January... Just in time to pack up her belongings and move into a sweet apartment with two of her gal pals at the end of the month.
Rather than lament the planned and unplanned changes to our family traditions this year, with a little effort, I am focusing my attentions on favorite simple winter time pleasures instead of caving in to 'normal' pressures of the season. A little greenery and a few candles make a world of difference. A power outage Friday night came just as I started putting together a pot of french onion soup. I moved the whole operation to the wood stove and finished it, complete with gruyere topped toasty bread chunks. It was a perfect end to a cold miserable day of driving in nasty weather and a simple winter pleasure that I normally wouldn't have come up with on a typical Friday night. Slow time. Slow Food. Wood fire and candlelight.We savored every tasty bite.
As a finale to the weekend, the MAN and I made the decision to buy a new coop for the girls before the hardest part of winter hits. The MAN constructed their current home a good many years ago and it was in dire need of some rehabilitation and winterizing. However, winter beat us to that task. The new coop was delivered late this afternoon. It is quite roomy and nice. The hour before dark was spent on filling the nesting boxes with straw and moving the sleepy hens, one by one, into their new home. Filling those small nesting boxes seemed, somehow, to give me some comfort about the big empty nest I will be rambling around in the rest of this week. We'll need to keep the hens locked in for a few days to adjust and reboot their memories about where they are to roost at night. I guess time will tell how well all of us old chicks learn our new tricks!

Hinkel Haus

Easy French Onion Soup

1/2 stick of unsalted butter
4 large onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
salt and pepper, lots of pepper
1 cup red wine
4 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts good beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about half an hour. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Greetings from the Farm !!

I haven't laughed this hard in ages! I hope you enjoy this silly Christmas card starring yours truly and the MAN half as much as we do!!
Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rich Traditions...

Our attendance at our favorite annual Christmas craft show at the Kimberton Waldorf School this past weekend marks eleven years at the venue. Less than five miles from home, this school is one of the big hubs of our community. Not only is it a great sales venue for Farm at Coventry products, but it is a weekend of catching up with old friends~ shoppers and vendors alike~ honestly, the highlight of our sales year. One of our vendor friends is Kurt Walser, the man who makes the beautiful chocolates pictured here. He is a baker by trade, but every Christmas season he is known for his incredibly fine handmade chocolates. I love Tom Hanks' character, Forrest Gump's famous line "My Momma always said that life is like a box of chocolates". Well, Life is indeed grand when you have these beautiful handmade Swiss chocolates in your possession. Kurt lives and works less than an hour away, but we only see him once every year at this show. He comes to our booth before the show opens on Friday night, picks out gifts for his wife and daughters and we barter for the chocolates (always the biggest box, of course!) The chocolates are so fine that the MAN and I split each one down the center with a sharp knife and share each delectable creation. Let me describe the ones we have savored so far: Rose Dark Chocolate Ganache with rosewater covered in dark chocolate, Honey Truffle~ honey, butter, vanilla bean, dark chocolate dipped in cacao chocolate powder, Lavender Dark Chocolate Ganache with lavender flowers covered with dark chocolate and White Truffle Lemon Ganache covered with white chocolate... they are unbelievably delicious and an anticipated once-per-year treat.
The show is full of artisans with beautiful handmade gifts ...baskets brimming with hand spun and dyed wool, hand knit hats and scarves, earthen potteryware, hand-loomed rugs, hand-hammered silver jewelery, turned wood bowls, hand-dyed silk scarves, hand-dipped beeswax candles, handmade wooden knitting needles, wood block prints...etc, etc. Can you imagine all the hands coming together to create this wonderful annual event?
The library is the stage for the coffee, tea and dessert bar (a wonderful selection baked by many parents) The music for the entire weekend is performed by various students and faculty...singing, harp playing, piano duets...all by candlelight. The lunch is prepared by students and parents: always a delectable soup, green salad and homemade bread and homemade pizzas. It is this huge community effort that sets the stage for our first real taste of Christmas Spirit. Even in this difficult economy, the community of friends supports each other in their various works while sharing good food and fellowship. This year we shared a corner with a new vendor, artist Michael McNelly who created this beautiful chicken sketch. We giggled like school kids with him the entire weekend and of course, bartered for goods before sharing hugs and goodbyes until next year. We have joked that there is no recession when it came to soaps and creams this year because sales were so great. But it is the rich traditions of friendship and community and the common values of offering beautiful handmade items to a crowd of appreciative consumers that kept us warm and carried us home in the snow on Saturday night.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Checklist

Salves poured...

Bags labeled...

Bags filled...

Bows tied...

all of the orders are ready to go...
those over there, packing up for the show...
just keep moving, it's no time for slow...

But next week,
There's a massage appointment with my name on it.


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