Monday, May 28, 2007

Baby Huey

I'm not sure about those Cornish Cross meat birds. They have grown, and grown fast, until they look like monsters next to the other chickens.

They seem to have no "off" switch to their appetite. We take the food away at night and in the morning they are up and running around with lots of energy. By 10 AM they have gorged themselves and can barely move. Their breasts are huge. Anna calls them "chickens with boobs". Their feathers are thin (the better to pluck) and the pink skin shines through.

They make me think of Baby Huey, the cartoon duckling that was so huge and so clumsy. All of the chicks are outgrowing their enclosure, although I want them to get another week's worth of feathers before I move them outdoors. We are plotting to make a chicken tractor out of the aluminum frame from a building awning that Richard picked up from a free pile a couple of years ago. Pictures to follow.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ban Waing

My neighbor, Kathleen Stocking, has joined the Peace Corps this year and is now living in Ban Waing, Thailand.

She wrote that they area used to be a teak forest, but was now treeless and eroded. I didn't really get it until I typed "Ban Waing" into Google Earth and came up with this satellite photo.

Ban Waing is in the center of the photo. To the west looks like healthy forest, to the north are red blotches, fires. Ban Waing itself has the same grey color as photos of the moon. Still, Kathleen writes:
If you look on the map, I'm about 300 kilometers south of Chaing Mai, in the north of Thailnd. It is still hot and now the rains have started. The clothes never dry.

People still farm all around the edges of the village. They live in teak houses, for the most part, with all the bedrooms upstairs and the family room underneath the house. This is where people sit to talk and where villagers can come by to visit. The kitchens are off the back under and awning and they cook there and wash their clothes and dishes there. This prevents the heat of the kitchen from getting into the house and also is a stop-gap for fires. They used to wash their dishes and clothes in the little streams that run through the town and in the big river but now -- except for the very poor -- no one does this because the streams are basically open sewers.

These people know a lot about food and farming. They can and do grow anything and eat anything. One of the ladies in my family compound, Ginseng Lurry, is often out early in the morning digging little holes in the yard (in the rain, wearing a bamboo hat) with a stick. They know how to save and select the best seeds and grow things from them. Their houses are not very clean but all their time and energy -- very successfully -- goes into farming.

The school lunches are very high quality: nutritious, tasty and cheap. Alice Waters -- with her little gardens and kids preparing vegetables in poor Calfifornia schools -- is light years behind these folks who do a lot with a little and do it extraordinarily well.

Unfortunately a lot of the lore of farming and cooking is being lost with the young going to Bangkok to get jobs.
I'm thinking of the recent review of The Worst Hard Time. I had forgotten that the dust storms were a nationwide disaster:
On May 10, 1934, a collection of dust storms moved over the Midwest carrying, Egan says, "three tons of dust for every American alive." It dumped 6,000 tons on Chicago that night. By morning, the storm was 1,800 miles wide -- "a great rectangle of dust" weighing 350 million tons -- and was depositing the surface of the Great Plains on New York City, where commerce stopped in the semi-darkness.
Everyone of my generation grew up with a certain awareness of soil erosion and Smokey the Bear. We are evidence that peoples' attitudes and behavior can change, and do so quickly, in the face os environmental disaster.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


When they called from the post office at 6:45 on Monday, Richard could hear our box of chicks peeping loudly in the background. One was dead in the box, but the rest are thriving in the garage, growing wing feathers already.

The all yellow chicks are Cornish X meat birds, destined for the freezer by fall. Anna has solved the "Don't name anything that you're going to eat" problem by naming them Curry, Stirfry, Nugget, etc.
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Summer Birds

Anna left me a note on the backdoor Wednesday night to tell me she had seen an oriole. Thursday morning, Richard looked out the window by the coffee maker and saw an indigo bunting on the bird feeder. A few hours later I was hanging laundry when a hummingbird came over and hovered a few inches in front of my face. I was on a tight schedule, but I took time to boil up some syrup and fill and hang the hummingbird feeder.

As it turned out, work was slow. It was a beautiful day and when they offered me the option of a day off, I took it. I went home and cleaned the kitchen and made enchiladas for dinner, which inspired Shelagh and Jordan to ditch their plans and eat dinner with us.

By then there were two hummingbirds sparring for places on the feeder. Shelagh and Jordan made a rhubarb cake for dessert and then Shelagh played piano while it baked. I listened while planting in the garden. It was a nice night.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Geriatric Cannibal Joke

Every Thursday is Seniors Day at the casino. Liver and Onions is the weekly special. Nobody is neutral about Liver and Onions, they either love it or hate it.

Yesterday a patron left my Three Card Poker table to go have lunch with his wife. He came back raving about the meal:

"That's the best liver I've had since my mother died!" I told him I was glad he had enjoyed the meal.

"Yes," he reminisced, "Mother was a heavy drinker. Her liver was excellent!"