but we have Eggs!

Slice of Life 2020: Day 16


Tumbling stock markets, empty grocery shelves, closed businesses…

but we have eggs!

Boy was I glad to see these today when I went out for my morning chicken check. Each morning, I go out to the coop to check on my gals and grab the eggs. It is a ritual of sorts that keeps me connected with the earth and the seasons. Rain or shine, I walk the 30 yards from my back door to the coop. The birds are chirping in the spring and the white oak leaves are blowing in the wind. I walk, coffee in one hand, veggie scraps in the other out to the coop, calling: chick, chick, chickens! They know this call. When the hens hear it, they strut to greet me pushing against the fencing, clucking and pecking.

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Barring some tragic critter raid, I can basically count on 3 – 5 eggs a day from this flock. They are generous and stout, good qualities during these uncertain days. I am particularly thankful for them today in the midst of this current crisis. The eggs shelves at the local grocery are empty. On Saturday, the entire egg case was wiped clean, like a white board at the end of a long school day.

I just rolled past this section in the store…

grateful for my flock and the agrarian cycle that continues unaltered in my backyard.

Why Did the Chickens Cross the Road?

Well, that’d be to get their picture taken!

Boredom and heat have been known to drive many a sweating person to do things out of the ordinary. Some people pant and complain. Others go mad. But, a few are driven to do featherbrained projects for sheer frivolity. Recently, we fell into the later group. With temperatures soaring into the upper 90’s for months, the lawn baked crispy brown and the elephant ears drooping with exhaustion, we were ready to fly the coop. All the outdoor subjects were scorched from the intense sun and heat. Summer has been on us like a chicken on a June bug.

chicken portraiture

My dad was in town with his camera and we were pecking around for a photo project. Capturing water droplets on the weary elephant ear plants was a bust. That’s when we took inspiration from the chicken coop, as we often do. At least chickens don’t turn brown and shrivel up in the hot September sun. They do pant though. Sultry chickens, in their element, remind us that we aren’t alone struggling against heat and dirt.

Somehow, we managed to set up the dark side of the reflector disk and attempt chicken portraits, just like your typical back-to-school pictures in the fall. It took a little wrangling and a few attempts to get the gals to hold still. Plus, they were a little stinky. But, eventually, we found a way to set them on a black fabric-covered block and capture a few in-focus profile and side angle shots. In the end, the hens calmed for a few seconds and I took a couple of head shots. It was a riot experimenting with poses and back drops. Gabe even brought his green screen.

Alas! These chickens didn’t have to cross the road to get their photos taken. They just needed to perch and hold still.

Wednesdays

Wednesdays we’ve been studying photography.  Since it was going to cost me about $700 to enroll Gabe in an elective photography course, I decided to step in as his teacher and keep the costs down.  Too bad for him, because I’m a student of photography myself.  Now, there are two of us studying photography.  Hopefully, we’ll improve twice as fast.  On a whim, this past Wednesday’s assignment took us to the chicken coop.

“Let’s work on getting comfortable with the Manual setting,” I told Gabe as we strode out into the back yard.

The heat had broken so the bugs were down and the coop stink was at bay. I figured the hens would provide a little bit of gorgeous and a lot of goofy for our practice session. On our approach, the chicks all gathered to greet us, apparently waiting for a tasty handout. We took in the situation, plopped down right outside the coop gate and started shooting.  This was a brave move, considering the large globs of manure within a foot of our station, but proved to be a great location for some close ups.

IMG_7498IMG_7493IMG_7521 (2)IMG_7520“It’s cloudy, so you’re gonna have to open the aperture some,” I said showing him the small black dial on the top of his camera.

The hens, sensing some new freedom, poured out and around us.  Red came in for a peck at my wedding ring (as long as we have Rhode Island Reds, we are going to have a chicken named Red!).  The lovely, and newly laying Barred Rock sauntered over to surmise the commotion.  It was the perfect set up.

“Mom! All the photos are looking blurry,” my boy complained.

I was struggling to get my own photos in focus when I saw that Gabe had grabbed the Rock and placed her into a patch of tall grasses nearby.

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“You’ll need to raise your shutter speed and increase your ISO,” I instructed.  Gabe was now laying on his side, going for the ground-up view.

“What is the ISO?” he asked, eyes squinting into the view finder.

“I’m not sure, but it’s a setting that allows the camera to take in more light,” I said.

Next, we moved back over to see if anybody had dropped an egg-sized load in the nest boxes.  We were in luck. There was a mamma chicken just outside the box.  Like a human parent gazing adoringly into the crib of her sleeping newborn, we captured this broody hen admiring a small batch of recently delivered eggs.

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At that point the door to the boxes flung open and a camera was shoved into a nest box wit a hen assuming the position of egg-birth.  There’s only so much restraint to be offered by a 12 year old!

“Oh boy!” I said, as I snapped a quick photo of this weird scene.  “We better give her a little privacy.”

At that, we packed up our equipment and got out of there.   Time to get back to the books.

Time for Latin and science; although, I suspect the real learning this Wednesday took place right out in the back yard.

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