Wednesday, February 10, 2010
First Rate Chicken Coop
Part 1 of 3
by C. Hope Clark
High Hope for the Freelance Writer
We retired to three acres in rural South Carolina. To my delight, a neighbor had chickens. I grinned ear to ear every time Mr. Kirby called and asked us to look in on his birds while they went out of town. Before long, the urge got the best of us, and we decided to start a brood of our own. We could save money on eggs!
Chicken coop books covered my kitchen table. Nothing fit my dream, so I designed my own, stealing ideas from a hundred other structures found online. With a stiff new tool belt and $300 worth of lumber and materials in the garage, I broke ground.
My nights filled with images of nails, caulk, studs and paint, as did the floor of my garage. By day I pondered predators and weather, determined to stop any potential hazard for my birds by designing a fool-proof coop. The cashier at the building supply labeled us the chicken coop couple after our sixth trip, asking when we were hanging the chandelier. We enjoyed the chuckle but were hell-bent on building a house resistant to whatever nature threw at it.
A month later, The Chicken Ranch flaunted insulation, interior paneling, vinyl flooring, three colors of paint, lights, motion sensors, a French drain, chain-link fencing, a shaded dirt patio and an awning over a concrete run. The night we finished, I put pen to paper, calculating expenses and return on investment. My husband laughed as the figure hit $1500. As he walked away, I recalculated, woefully figuring it should take us no more than, say, fifteen years to re“coop” our expenses in fresh eggs.
“The Chicken Trilogy”
Part 1 of 3
by Cynthia Briggs
Mean-Spirited Fowl makes Savory Chicken Broccoli Souffle
“Grandma! He got me! He pecked me again!” I sobbed as I threw my arms around my grandmother’s legs and buried my tear stained face into her apron. The barnyard bully had once again forced me to seek the protection of Grandma’s arms.
I was a mere 4 years old when Grandma assigned me the daily task of gathering eggs from the hen house. She knew I delighted in slipping the eggs from beneath the hens’ warm fluffy tail feathers. Sometimes I’d disturb the girls and they’d fly from their straw lined nest squawking in protest. But, over all they were patient with my innocent awkwardness.
In contrast, the hen house rooster had no patience with me setting foot into his territory. The foul bird had given me good reason to be terrified of him and he’d turned my favorite farm chore into a daytime nightmare.
Every day when I scampered to the hen house to collect the eggs with renewed hope that the vicious creature had gotten lost during the night and couldn’t find his way back to the barnyard. Without fail he’d fly at me with his angry claws and sweep sand into my eyes as he rapidly flapped his powerful wings. He’d knock me to the ground and peck me repeatedly with his wickedly sharp pointed beak.
Although Grandma was usually slow-to-anger, her presence alone was intimidating as she tipped the scales at 250 pounds and stood 5’ 10” tall. Using her size and a crusty glare, she attempted some mediating tactics by hovering at the chicken yard gate. Quietly she’d wave a wooden club, for the rooster’s benefit, while I collected the eggs. She also positioned herself with the threat of the chopping block in full view.
I’m not sure if the rooster was just plain stupid or if he underestimated Grandma’s gift with the cleaver. But the day came when he found out who ruled the roost. “That bird has gotten too big for his breeches! He’s pecked you for the last time!” She picked me up and set me out of her path.
“Where’s my hatchet?” She asked as the wooden screen door slammed behind her with a loud bang. Grandma advanced toward the chicken yard like a female bear protecting her young. Her amazingly smooth momentum was uninterrupted as she swiftly grabbed her well-used hatchet from the chopping stump.
She charged past the hen house with her sights on the zealously mean rooster. The feathers flew and yet another notch was carved into the chopping block.
Soft, nervous chuckles began bubbling out of me when I realized the rooster had finally got what I felt he deserved. Grandma had put the mean-spirited fowl in his place. After plucking the last of the rooster’s pinfeathers, Grandma artfully dressed the bird and plunged him into the stew pot. I couldn’t stop giggling.
At dinner that evening I grinned fiendishly and cackled with guilt-free satisfaction when Grandma served Savory Chicken Broccoli Soufflé. It was comforting for me to know I’d be able to gather eggs in peace and never again be terrorized by the ornery rooster.
Savory Chicken Broccoli Soufflé
6 large, fresh eggs, separated
1 cup sharp cheese, grated
1 10-ounce can cream of celery soup
10 ounces milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped (or mushrooms, celery, onions, peas)
1 cup chicken, cooked and finely diced (or shrimp, crab, ham, smoked salmon)
Beat egg yolks together in a large bowl. Mix soup into egg yolks, then add milk, salt, dry mustard, and white pepper. In a separate large bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Continue folding in meat, veggies and cheese.
Fold into an ungreased, 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve immediately with green side salads, glasses of white dinner and crusty rolls, if desired. Presto! Dinner is served!
Yield: 4 servings
Coming in March: Part 2 of the Two Trilogies