Thursday, March 31, 2011

That's alot of eggs!

March is the first full month of keeping count of eggs, and I'm impressed with their dedication to laying. Elinor, Fanny and Kitty are responsible for 78 brown eggs; Emma, Harriet and Lydia contributed 75 green eggs for a total of 153- that's 12.75 dozen eggs for the month!

Where do all those eggs go? For sure the three of us can't eat them all. Sometimes the dogs, Sadie and Cooper, get scrambled eggs. Sadie has acid reflux (who knew!) and can't eat dog food. So we cook for them- rice, vegetables and (shhh- don't let the girls know) chicken usually. Sometimes eggs and cottage cheese. Oscar the cat joins in for a snack, but FeeBee the fat (28 lbs, at least) cat only eats dry cat food. I digress.....

We've given our neighbors, who look out their back door and can see the coop, some. My grandmother, who has always taken a special pride in the chickens and their eggs, gets a steady supply. Last week she put in an order for 3 dozen to pass out to three of her nieces. So the three of them each got 6 brown eggs and 6 green eggs. The girls laid 37 eggs last week, so I just brought 'em in and started filling up cartons. When we went to grandma's on Sunday she and I delivered eggs. Our  former neighbors have gotten eggs as well as Will's side of the family. There are a few more people who have let us know they want some too, so they are next up.

It's a rainy night here in NC. I put up the umbrellas in the chicken's yard and let them out this afternoon until I couldn't take the cold any longer. I'm not sure where the saying "madder than a wet hen" came from, but the girls were perfectly happy scratching in the mud while the rain rolled off their feathers. They bitched at me for shooing them back in the coop and shutting the door. I thought I was doing good to take them banana for snack and staying out with them for 20 minutes.

Maybe someone will lay a blue egg tomorrow in honor of April Fools Day.

I'm going to have to start giving away some of the eggs I've blown out too!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting up with the chickens

I get up early....I'm sitting on the back porch now and it's before sunrise. The girls are all snug in their house and I'm listening to an owl hooting somewhere close by. My dad always got up early. He spent almost 27 years in the navy and even after retirement he would still be up by 5am with a pot of coffee going. The sound of the percolator would wake me up and we started a tradition while I was in college of sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and talking. It was usually the only time we had alone after I moved away. Whenever I'd come back for a visit, regardless of what time I went to bed, I always got up. After he died I would lay in bed at my mom's waiting for someone else to get up so I didn't have to walk into an empty kitchen.

This is the last Saturday in March. Last year on the last Saturday in March I was at my mom's. I'd come up the day before so we could make final plans for my grandmother's 90th birthday party. On Friday night I'd gone to my best friends house and we'd sat up talking until 2am before I left to go back to mama's. My mother had gotten into the habit in the last few years of getting up early, getting the paper and making a pot of coffee. She'd read the paper, drink the pot of coffee and be back in bed for a nap by 10am unless she had something else to do. Linda enjoyed her sleep! The sound and smell of the coffee pot perking away woke me before 6am, so I got up and joined her in the kitchen.

We talked and drank coffee, then we broke out the old photo albums. I'd planned to scan photos and make a few collages to have at the party. We laughed at the clothes and hairstyles from the 40's and 50's. In high school my mom wore alot of tight black sweaters- with a white bra (easily seen under said sweaters). She informed me that good girls didn't wear black underwear and grandma wouldn't let her have one. Sounds about right for grandma. We sat there until the coffee was gone and we fixed another pot, then we got dressed and headed to grandma's house, probably around 9am.

Once at grandma's I broke out her photo albums. I know over the years I'd looked through them before, but I found photos I swear I'd never seen before. Grandma had kept every single drivers license she's ever had- talk about some dated hairstyles, clothes and makeup! We laughed and talked and planned. About noon I needed to leave to come back home and mama needed to pick up a few things for the party, which was only two weeks away. We went out to grandma's "little house" to check the freezer and see how many more pork shoulders she needed to buy for the bbq my brother was cooking for the party.

Mama threw open the freezer lid and discovered that  while she thought she'd bought more, only two pieces of pork were there. She literally shut the lid, thought a few seconds and opened it again- as if they were hiding the first time. Shopping plans changed to include a meat run. My grandmother's niece from Utah had made several trays of a dessert for grandma's party and had sent them ahead. They were in the freezer and my mom had broken into a tray when they arrived and every time she went to grandma's she'd get a piece and eat it frozen, so she had a piece (kinda like a blond brownie with nuts and cherries) then shut the freezer.

I left grandma's headed for my house, about 63 miles away. When I got home I went to the local hardware/garden shop to buy terra cotta pots and dishes I was making cupcake stands from- for the party. I figured grandma could use them as bird feeders later (the dish sat on top of the pot, which was turned over). I worked on that, mama shopped and around 6pm she showed back up at grandma's with 7 pieces of pork to put in the freezer, get another piece of goodness and stayed and had a sausage biscuit with grandma before going home.

I went to bed early that night (having had less than 4 hours of sleep), but the phone woke me around 10:30pm. My brother was calling to tell me that mama had a heart attack and the EMS were there trying to start her heart. You know how everything seems to stop? I got off the phone with him and I just stood there, knowing that nothing was ever going to be the same....Terry followed the ambulance to the hospital and I grabbed some things and set out with my 17 year old son. I didn't want to call grandma and tell her, so we drove to her house first and by the time I got there it was almost 1am. Of course it startled her to have someone at the door and as soon as she realized it was me she knew something bad had happened. By the time we got to the hospital mama was on life support and they were trying to determine exactly what happened. Over the course of the next 6 days it became obvious that she wasn't going to improve- she never regained consciousness and by Wednesday all the tests were in and we sat in a room with her doctor while he told us she was brain dead. I watched my grandmother age 10 years in that room and from then until now I don't think I've made it a day without crying. On Friday, April 2, 2010 the tubes were removed and the machines cut off. It was what she made me promise to do in that situation.

My brother didn't want to be there, but grandma, my husband Will, my cousin Lexie and I were with her. The whole week I would talk to her and hold her hand and pray for some sign that she knew I was there. Never happened, not even an involuntary tightening of her fingers on mine. But right after the machines were cut off, as I was holding her hand, she gripped mine so hard I thought maybe they were wrong and she was going to wake up. Of course she didn't....she also didn't die for several hours. My son finally insisted that my brother take him to the hospital, so he and Terry came into the room and said goodbye to mama. She waited for them, because within 15 minutes she passed away.

So today is the anniversary of the last time I spent with my mom and grandma. My grandmother will be 91 next Sunday. Will, Ian, my brother and I will spend the day with her and she'll probably want to go to the cemetery, which I hate but it seems to bring her some comfort. This past year has been so hard and awful and sad for all of us. One day I hope to be able to remember that last Saturday and only smile and laugh (right now the ugly cry is going on). The sun is up, the chickens just flew off their roost....I think I'll go make some coffee, sit on the porch and read. It's what my mom would do if she were here.

Mama, me and grandma all dressed up for a day at Fort Macon. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Keeping up with the egg production

On Feb. 20 I started keeping track of the egg production, just because I could. That first week they laid 36 eggs...not bad for 6 little hens. The second week I started not only keeping count of the number but also the color of eggs.

Our chickens are pets, with benefits

 Week two saw 30 eggs- 16 brown, 14 green
Week three there were 18 green eggs and 17 brown eggs (first time the green outnumbered the brown)

This is week four and this week there is an interesting pattern:
Day 1: 3 brown, 1 green
Day 2: 2 brown, 3 green
Day 3: 3 brown, 2 green
Day 4: 2 brown, 3 green
Day 5: 3 brown, 2 green

Will they stick with the pattern for the next 2 days? We'll see!

UPDATE 3/19/11:

Day 6: 2 brown, 2 green
Day 7: 3 brown, 2 green

The comets have maintained their laying schedule for 7 days, which is pretty impressive. And to be fair the others were only out of sync 2 of 7 days. The week 4 total is 18 brown, 15 green.