Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An Everyday Miracle

This is the next stop for the Christmas tree's cranberry-popcorn string. Like the pumpkin left over from Halloween and Thanksgiving and now reduced to a hollow shell, the deconstructed garland has gone down the hill to the chicken yard, there to be transmuted by fowl means into eggs for our table and rich black dirt for my garden.

It's a lazy woman's compost pile, that chicken yard -- when I clean up the garden, I take the old plants -- lettuce that's gone to seed, worm-eaten broccoli or collards -- to the chickens who gobble up every leaf and worm and bug. Almost all of our food scraps are put into the bucket that waits behind the wood cook stove and every day, when I make the trek down the hill to feed Gregory Peck and his eight ladies, the girls run clucking to meet me, anxious to see what I've brought. One old biddy pecks at my ankles to encourage me to dump the bucket NOW, while the others circle around, jockeying for position. Some of their favorite treats are rice or noodles or bread, the seeds from green peppers, and squishy tomatoes or strawberries. But what they really like is meat.

Chickens are omnivores: grain can be the staple of their diet; they appreciate green stuff and fruits and veggies; but a turkey carcass with lots of meat clinging to the bones can inspire an avian feeding frenzy.

Scientists have hypothesized a close link between dinosaurs and modern birds -- when I see the carnivorous gleams in my girls' bright orange eyes, I can believe it.
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