In which Tracy comes by to clip some wings. Tracy is the former owner of our two new chickens — an engineer at HP who also raises Islandic sheep, and manages her flock of some 30 chickens, all of whom are apparently sufficiently well-trained to free-range about the property and put themselves to bed in their coop every evening. Says she knows how to clip feathers, and agreed to show me how.

She uses a pair of ordinary kitchen scissors, and here’s the technique: you sit down among the birds who have come to you for a treat, grasp a chicken by the leg and soothe it in your lap. Spread out the wing and find the end feathers, clipping them above the shaft, which is still live. You will probably never need to know this. But the intricate beauty of a simple chicken feather is enough to stop your busy life for a moment of wonder.

As we didn’t know which chicken required this intervention, both the new girls were so treated. Tracy says they don’t care. Grace, who has never attempted flight, to our knowledge, escaped Tracy’s attention.

We opened the door to the run, and the chickens quickly dispersed about the orchard. Tracy and I fell into conversation in the shade of one of the apple trees, and were pretty surprised when we saw Miss Clipped Wings strutting by OUTSIDE the fence.

Right. WTF? We brought her back inside and watched her escape again. See the wire stretched across the gate in the photo below? Easy peasy. The simple addition of, yes, chicken wire across the base of the gate seems to have, these three days later, done the job.

Simple, Larry asks?

The drama of life without an oven has come to an end with the installation of our new model this morning. It was only a month, but some of the inventions we attempted were pretty pitiful. Cook one of the frozen left-over casseroles in the microwave? An explosion of cheese sauce all over the oven and noodles of baked cardboard. Yes, I know you’re supposed to cover something you cook in the microwave. How could I have forgotten?

Bake a loaf of bread on the barbecue? Fine, if you like a blackened crust and underdone interior. It tastes okay, once you saw off the charcoal.

We were fortunate enough to score an invitation to dinner from our neighbors, Marjorie and Ted. Amy and Mike, Marjorie’s sister and husband, had come to the valley, and would take home a load of firewood from our endless stash. In return for a dinner Mike would cook, of the game he’d harvested. Goose and pheasant, sauteed in butter, with some special seasonings of his devising. Both these people are wild-life biologists, and we heard, among other things, how it is possible to identify a wolf-kill of, for example, a rancher’s cow. Or find a spotted owl’s nest. Pretty cool stuff.

I thought I remembered picking shot out of a pheasant I roasted once that Larry had shot, back in Minnesota days. He says it never happened. He certainly has not shot anything since. So much for life off the grid.

Life with a simple country garden? Larry’s little acre has been blessing us all summer . . . with, among other successes, at least four 30-pound Napa cabbages. That’s a lot of cabbage to work into the meal plans. I wonder if it will be easier now that I have an oven?

And speaking of life in the country, we were awakened last night, midnight or so, by a furious scratching in the wall behind our bed. Somebody preparing winter quarters, apparently. We checked with our builder this morning to learn exactly what type of insulation had been used, and he said not to worry, nothing could penetrate. Yeah, well. You trap or poison the thing, it dies, and you live with the smell unto eternity? We did a perimeter search this morning and found nothing except an overgrown jasmine plant, which we will trim later, honestly. I know what you’re thinking. It’s one of the chickens, right?

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