Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Still Life with Chickens

I have always been entranced by chickens. One of my favorite driving- back - roads-of-Maine memories is happening upon a small chicken processing plant bearing the sign “The cluck stops here!” My grandfather raised a backyard flock of chickens – Rhode Island Reds. (He had downsized from the family farm by the time I was born.) He referred to them as “the biddies.” A major treat was to be entrusted to gather the eggs although sometimes it took courage to slip my hand under the sitting hen. Once a year I would participate in a special overnight and get up early to accompany him to the Agway and pick up the carton of chicks which would peep gently beside me on the back seat while we got them home and under the warm lights.
I was deep into these memories as I meandered slowly through the Poultry House at the Topsfield Fair last weekend. Coming back to school I grabbed a copy of Still Life with Chickens: Starting Over in a House by the Sea by Catherine Goldhammer. It’s a lovely memoir chronicling the year following a divorce when the author needs to sell her home and start over somewhere smaller with her daughter. Her daughter refuses to move and is bribed with the promise of chickens at the new home. With the bargains and compromises which move family life forward, the chickens arrive much sooner into their lives. Not only are there wonderfully funny moments, but there are also inspirational ones as the author is empowered by learning how to raise these chicks. I definitely see chickens in my backyard’s future!

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