Months ago, one of little Swedish Black hens and sometimes Chicken Chicken started kicking up fusses just after dawn. Local ordinances forbid residents from keeping roosters because sunrise squawking makes the neighbors cranky. Anyway, In June and July, I found myself running down the stairs before dawn and out the back door to shush chickens almost every day. Andie, who is not an early riser, was calling the little hen “Chicken Soup.” I developed a plan: we would identify which of the hens was the complainer, if there was only one, through the clever use of chicken jewelry. Yes, I bought different colored plastic leg bands. Andie and I chased the nearly identical chickens until we caught them and gave them name tags. Sort of. We determined that the tiny hen with the white leg band, LaVerne, was our vocalist.
The professor from the organic farming course of last summer agreed to take LaVerne to the Chicken McMansion on her farm. When the day came, Ellen arrived with a cat carrier. Andie was working, so I resigned myself to chasing LaVerne without backup.
You haven’t lived until you’ve climbed halfway into a chicken coop in your street clothes. Remind me to burn these garments later.
This went on for quite a while. Before I climbed in here, I’d warned Pete, “You have two jobs here: take pictures and heckling.” As you can see, it’s not easy to photograph a chicken roundup. Or my butt.
Finally, I got my hands on the little bird, who pecked my hands, but settled right into Ellen’s arms. After a few minutes, we stuffed LaVerne into the cat carrier and off they went. I still get up before sunrise most days, but with the solstice behind us and the equinox ahead, that time is a bit later every morning. Chicken Chicken, without the goading of her sidekick, sleeps in. This morning, I didn’t see her in the run until just after 7.
Ellen says she holds LaVerne in her arms all the time. I could never get near her. It was obviously meant to be.
And now, an interesting travelogue, if you don’t mind.
Go ahead: google “locusts chicken army” or “locusts duck army.” Nobody can resist an awful pun. Pesticides are nasty shit. If you have bugs, what you need are chickens or ducks.
Okay, maybe not rich, but not at all bored. Some vineyards deploy ducks to tackle pest problems. I can see myself rolling up to a winery with my team of hungry chickens help them solve their unpleasant problem. In fact, I’m picturing a bottle of gratitude now.
We’re about to have houseguests and chaos and July is my favorite of the months. I am trying to enjoy every July day, because I miss it every day that is not in July. Like, every one. That’s quite a few, so every day, I am saying out loud, “It’s July, which is my favorite.” If this sounds to you like I’m brainwashing myself, you underestimate my ability to argue with me, because I am also like, “August is boss, Ta.”
Obviously, there’s a lot to be said about June, too.
Summer has arrived.
A week ago and a half ago, there was a commotion in my office and a co-worker walked toward my desk with tears in her eyes. I’ve seen this before, but I mumbled, “Why are you crying?” She delivered news and I stood at my desk for a long time, until I sat down and stayed there. If you’ve worked in an office for any length of time, you’ve participated in a scene like this. In this office, some of my co-workers have worked together for thirty and forty years; I’ve been in this department for twenty-odd years. My friend Anne, with whom I’d had a rollicking lunch a week earlier, died unexpectedly. Anne, who appeared on PIC as Mary, often stopped me in my tracks with hilarious and sensible chatter, and unusual requests. I am sorry now I didn’t write down more of our wild conversations because she was truly an original.
This morning, Anne was on my mind when I was up in the attic. In the middle of cleaning cat boxes, I looked up and found the glittery hula hoop Anne gave me following my first hip surgery. I’ve always been terrible with hula hoops, so when Anne turned up with one before my stitches dissolved and said, “Practice,” I almost died laughing.
Years ago, before I really knew her, she asked if her daughter could join me to watch me jarring tomatoes or sauce, I don’t remember which. I lost track of time and forgot. When we next saw each other, she gave me a stern talking-to about agreeing to do something and not following through. After that, I was always careful with specifics. If I was buying Girl Scout cookies from Anne’s daughter, I delivered money on time. If we were having lunch, I was ready at noon. If we were walking through my garden and talking about plants with her daughter for a school project, I was prepared. Because Anne expected me to commit to whatever we were doing with thoughtfulness and equal enthusiasm.
In recent years, her intermittent health problems may have complicated her life, but Anne laughed about them. I sometimes found myself staring at a plate of food while Anne described some awful incident while Anne laughed and laughed. With an inch of distance from whatever annoyed or upset her, Anne made jokes and I howled.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but years ago, Anne decided we would be friends. As an IT professional, she frequently walked through my office, and we worked at making each other laugh, but one day, it was apparent to me she’d decided we’d be real friends. We got up from my cubicle, barged into my supervisor Gianna’s office and started riffing. Gianna was speechless for some time, then blurted, “What is this, a comedy show?” Encouraged, Anne and I fired off one-liners until Gianna threw us out, and she was laughing, too. I will never know why Anne decided we would be friends, but I’m grateful she did.
I will miss her very much.