Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Reluctant Farmer

This is a story about the chicken and the eggs. The setting is a small patch of syngonium, philodendron, and fern by my entry door. One day last February during a routine weed-and-water session I discovered an egg.

Smaller than supermarket size, it was unblemished, light tan, and warm in my hand. I assumed it was laid by one of the neighbor’s chickens, although none were in sight. Was it progeny? Or was it the first ingredient in huevos rancheros. I turned it about in my palm, could not tell the difference. It was my first egg in the wild.

"You won’t believe this," I said to my husband, Win. "I found an egg in the garden."

"Just one?" Win raked aside foliage. "Maybe there are more."

No additional eggs that day but during the next three we found a single egg, same time, same place.

Perplexed, we pulled a stakeout. Day five we met the mom. She was a frumpy thing, flustered to find us hovering about but with enough aplomb to flounce and high-step around us to hop into the plants. We watched her jiggle her nether-side of cinnamon-colored feathers into the damp earth, settle in, head and neck tucked low. Hard black eyes, crenellated headdress neon red half submerged atop the fluff.

"Must belong to the neighbors," said Win, referring to the dozen or so chickens that free-range between our two properties. "Wonder why she left."

I don’t know what precipitated the break in community relations but by the second week we knew this chicken had run away from home. Apparently comfortable in her new digs she settled in for what would become a daily routine.

Each morning at 9:20 a.m., give or take, she leaves her nest, emits a three-note squawk, and strolls with a certain dignity down the brick stairs to the backyard. She flaps atop the cyclone fence separating the properties and retreats within the neighbor’s lean-to shed. She returns to us in about 30 minutes to hunker down until the next morning.

February passes, then March. April we button up our house for summer departure. Throughout the bustle of leave taking our chicken continues to rule her roost. We anticipate her welcome home squawk upon our return in the fall.

Tyson did not produce more than the four eggs we found her first week in residence. We did put those eggs to good use.

Four Egg Frittata
Whisk eggs, add seasonings, such as basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme. Heat tablespoon of butter or olive oil in small skillet. Tilt eggs into skillet. Layer atop eggs half cup thinly sliced onions and zucchini. Top with grated parmesan cheese. Once eggs are set put skillet on high oven rack. Broil about one minute, until frittata is puffed and lightly browned. Slide onto plate. Serves one as meal or two as appetizer.

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