About this time every year I let a few zucchini grow to a hefty size. Some of these I cut up and freeze to make into zucchini bread later, when the gardening frenzy is over, for my winter breakfasts. Others I slice in half lengthwise and serve to the hens.
I did that today, and they all came running. The three Buff Orpingtons, the crones of the flock, who\’ve had zucchini before, dove in right away. The young hens–two New Hampshire Reds and one Barred Rock–didn\’t quite know what to make of the thick green slabs, and every time they approached one of the B.O.s chased them away. I guess there\’s a food hierarchy in the flock, but it doesn\’t seem to apply to sleeping arrangements–at night they all snuggle up together on their roost, in no particular order.
I noticed that the B.O.s, who looked like shiny pale golden balls in early summer, are starting to look a bit scruffy. This is their second summer, and they are probably ready to go into a molt. That means they\’ll go around losing their feathers, looking pathetic and not laying eggs for a while.
The young trio, on the other hand, after a summer gorging on grass and bugs, are reaching their prime. Chickens really can be things of beauty. The two R.I.R.s are a rich chestnut all over, with a couple of iridescent blue feathers in their tails. And the Barred Rock, with her black and white horizontal stripes and her bright red comb makes me think of the typical apache outfit–a striped black and white sweater and a bright red bandanna around the neck. All the chicken needs to complete the look is a Gauloise hanging from her beak. All three are bright-eyed and, yes, bushy tailed, and laying little brown hard-shelled eggs. They will be in full production by the time the B.O.s start molting, which bodes well for our winter omelettes.
How many times have I mentioned winter in this post? The year has turned, and as you drive on the roads around here you can see people getting serious about their wood piles. July isn\’t even over yet, but the tips of the top branches of the maple in our side yard are already starting to redden. The roadsides are lined with Queen Anne\’s Lace, the tall gray-green spears of mullein, cobalt blue wild asters and goldenrod. The worst of the heat seems to be over.
I try to spend every possible minute of these last long days outside, storing up sunlight for the coming winter.