Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Had to put Ridgeway Lite on hold until I find a yarn to my liking. So I've switched back to the Cabled Hoodie for awhile:

I've made it to the underarm shaping on the back. Easy pattern, nice yarn (Paton's Classic Wool in Faded Blue). A win-win knit sitchie-ation!

Musings on My Mother, Part 1
When I was 12yo, we moved from Portland to a rural community about 20 miles south. Here is the paradox that is Oregon: driving 30 minutes from Portland in just about any direction puts you smack into some very rural countryside. From a bastion of liberalism to cows 'n conservatism. From good private schools to "unified school districts" where kids ride the bus through the countryside for nearly an hour to get to school.

I know now that my mother did not want to move there. But greater forces were at work and she decided to make the best of it, and provide her "city kids" with the best that country living had to offer.

Our "spread" consisted of an old farmhouse, a garage/barn/shed, a chicken coop and yard, and about 3/4 of an acre of land. Sort of a "country gentleman's" mini-farm. The land could support about half-a-horse and a good-sized vegetable garden, if you were so inclined.

My mother decided that the animal to inaugurate our farm experience would be chickens. The coop and yard were ready to go, and so was mom. So off we drive to the nearest town (5 miles up the road), to the local farmer's co-op and feed store. For anyone who's never lived in the country, the co-op is THE hub of community activity. All farm business, gossip, and general scratchin' and lyin' are done at the co-op. Lotsa snuff dippin' and spittin'. Trucker hats? Feh! Either John Deere or International Harvester tractor caps, worn with your basic OshKosh b'Gosh overalls and a flannel shirt -- that's the basic Farmer Uniform.

The co-op had wooden floors and smelled strongly but pleasantly of animal feed and of leather from the animal harnesses hanging down from the ceiling throughout the building.

Now, these old farmers must have been absolutely dying of laughter inside, but managed to hold it together long enough to sell my mother a dozen Rhode Island Red laying hens. The old farmer fella at the counter cautioned my mother that these hens had been retired from the local egg farm, but would still lay eggs for a good number of years. He brought out 4 burlap bags from the back of the store, tied at the top with twine. Inside each bag were 3 hens, faintly wriggling and poking the burlap. We also purchased bags of Purina Chicken Feed, feed corn, and water trays for our little Henny Pennies.

And off to home we went. My little brother kept peeking into the back of the station wagon where the burlap bags containing the hens were lying. "Mama," he asked, "are they OK? They aren't moving around much." "They're fine," my mom said, "they just want to get home to their new house." My brother wasn't convinced, but didn't say anything.

We rolled up in the driveway, and hauled the burlap bags into the chicken yard. The big moment had arrived! We were going to be real farm kids, now! Mom ran around, filling water and feed trays, then she carefully opened the burlap bags. We backed away slowly and held our breath. But nothing happened. Not a cluck or a peep from any of the bags.

Mom cautiously pulled back the top of one of the bags. Three Rhode Island Red hens lay on their sides, staring back at her. Alive, and apparently, healthy, but lying quite contentedly on their sides. Mom gently removed all the hens from the bags. 12 hens, all basking in the June sunshine. On their sides. My little brother starts crying, "Mama! What's wrong with the chickens? Are they dead?" My sister joins him in the crying. Mom starts lifting the hens up, trying to get them to stand on their own. They flop back down as soon as she lets go. She starts to get a little frantic, and drags them over, one by one, to the water trough so they can get a drink of water. The hens are perfectly content to lie on their sides and cluck. She then tries gently lofting the chickens into the air to see if they'll flap their wings and start moving on their own. No luck. Prone chickens, again. What the hell is wrong with these chickens?

Well. What the aw-shucks farmers down at the co-op had neglected to tell my mom is that these hens, having come from an egg farm, sat in a laying rack all day and never got to go run around in a nice chicken yard like the one we just brought them home to. Their poor little legs worked, but were weak from disuse.

This story has a happy ending. The hens, after several hours of lying around, with my mother hand-carrying them to the water trough, eventually wobbled to their feet and started pecking at their food and exploring their new home. We ended up having those hens for a number of years, and they laid a lot of nice brown eggs that were very fresh and good.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

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