Fledglings Are Us–Bluebirds, Flycatchers, Hummingbirds, and the King of the Birds

Emma the Aussie Photobombs the Wren’s Nest

Wild birds don’t get taken in by scares about bird flu or other corporate derived scams, such as inflated gasoline prices (see under the heading “Windfall Profits”). They just go about the business of being birds, and will take advantage of every structure we build, freeloaders that they are. I really can’t blame them, since we invaded their spaces.

First example has the be the earliest nesters, the Bluebirds. They regularly take advantage of the old Bluebird nesting box I made, at least when it is not inhabited by flying Squirrels, which actually prefer the Wren nesting box. Our new family fledged in April, which I know to be the month because one of the fledglings almost flew into the back of my head, while on one of its training flights. Never fear–father Bluebird was right behind him, teaching by example. Junior has now discovered our bird bath, and slings water out of it like an outboard motor.

A perennial spring inhabitant of our house are the Flycatchers, who prefer nesting in the structure under our deck. This year they changed from nesting under our porch, to nesting just outside and left of our door from our walkout basement, onto our patio. The nest was masterpiece of bird architecture, and before we knew it there were four bird sized fledglings staring down at us every time we walked out of our door. The last few days they would sit up on the edge of the nest, and examine us with a sour expression, while the mother chirped at them from understory bushes nearby. My translation was from Flycatcher to English: You fat kids get out of there, and come and learn how to catch your own food.

One day, the biggest kid was gone, and there were only three. The mother kept chirping at the others. By noon the next day, there were two. By sunset, there were none. Happy fly catching to all of them.

Hummingbirds are a whole different story. They nest here, but only a storm blown nest will give away the location. Their favorite appears to be a white Oak right outside of our house, which we saved from our dipstick fill dirt people who piled dirt up three feet around it. We excavated it from that, so we claim it as part of our structure. Multiple Hummers are now chasing each other all around our house, probably charges from a nest around there.

And then there is the king of the birds, the Wren. To my knowledge they have never nested in our wren box, preferring to go their own way. They normally nest in our hanging Boston Ferns on our porch, but a wren is going to wren. This year they nested in the regional flower of the rural South, a satellite dish. This deserves a great Irish song by The Chieftains, “The Wren in the Furze.”

The wren oh the wren he’s the king of all birds,

On St. Stevens day he got caught in the furze,

So its up with the kettle and its down with the pan

Won’t you give me a penny for to bury the wren.

The Chieftains

A Furze is a prickly gorse bush, akin to the native Hawthorne I grew from seed, which is 6′ and climbing. The Wrens are having better luck with the satellite deesh.

Which brings me to the problem with people. Like birds, we normally raise the alarm when danger is near–just think of Crows when a Hawk is around. According to our corporate media, I should instead be one of three things–exhausted, reeling, or broken, or a combination of all of them. The cliche department left off the ringer, which is pissed off, which I am regularly. Therefore I propose a new trans controversy, which is trans-species.

I am planning on identifying myself as a bird, since I don’t fit in to the current news industry narrative of what people should be feeling. With a few exceptions, such as cowbirds, birds are noble, useful, and incredibly resourceful creatures. They don’t contribute to anthropomorphic climate disturbance, or purchase weapons of mass destruction. They rarely utilize weapons of mass distraction, also.

I’ll be proud to be a bird. Like in the old Woody Allen joke, we need the eggs.

How to Put the Hammer Down on Big Chicken

The AI [Avian Influenza] virus is most often transmitted from one infected flock to another flock by infected birds, people or equipment.

North Carolina State University

In yet another amazing display of smoke and mirrors, the British government has banned free range chickens, and therefore, free range eggs. This rather transparent ploy came as many large indoor factory farms suffered bird flu outbreaks, which the government blamed on free range flocks, which strangely enough, were not experiencing the same levels of infection. Free range eggs, however, had taken over two-thirds of the consumer market in the UK, with five large grocery market chains selling nothing but free range eggs. Now that market share will be shifted back to factory farmed eggs.

This is the politics of Big Chicken–if you can’t beat the competition, have the government shut them down.

And it isn’t just free range chickens that are taking the blame–there are also those pesky wild birds. The following quote came from the NPR website, under the title of “A worrisome new bird flu is spreading in American birds and may be here to stay.” Here’s what one of the people who head Big Chicken in the US has to say–

“So I think I am kind of holding my breath this month,” says Denise Heard, director of research programs for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.

The virus has a number of ways to get from wild birds into poultry, says Heard. Since the last outbreak, the industry has worked to educate farmers about how to protect their flocks.

“Wild migratory waterfowl are always flying over the top and when they poop, that poop gets on the ground,” she says, explaining that the virus can then get tracked into bird houses on boots or inadvertently moved from farm to farm on vehicles.

Heard says there currently seems to be less spread of the virus from farm to farm than was seen during the last major outbreak. Instead, there are more isolated cases popping up, perhaps because wild birds are bringing the viruses to farms and backyard flocks.

NPR, April 9, 2022

There is just enough truth here that it makes the idea of 5 million chicken mega-farms being composed of “bird houses” more than particularly hilarious. Migratory waterfowl do in fact suffer from bird flu, but they don’t die at nearly the death rates that battery caged chickens suffer. The slip-up comes when Ms. Heard says the virus is “moved from farm to farm,” which will be obvious when spring migration ends, and the disease just keeps on trucking.

My crystal ball tells me the next scapegoat will be backyard flocks. After all, of the more than 13 million diseased and culled poultry that Iowa had in March 2022, 53 were from backyard flocks. Just do the math. The interwebs is already full of do’s and don’ts for local chicken. Big Chicken gets a pass.

However, don’t expect anything from Big Chicken except higher prices, windfall profits, and the same low quality products. Therefore, I am proposing a Joel Salatin, aka the world’s most famous farmer, style solution to the problem: do nothing, as long as part of the nothing includes buying none of their products. Salatin, who is the right kind of conservative, in that he works to conserve the environment, says you can protest, lobby, and write all the letters that you want, but if you still buy those McNuggets regularly, Big Chicken just doesn’t care.

So the next time an industry plays the old look over here, not there, game, just assume they have something to hide. I know where my eggs come from, and its from our big chickens, but not Big Chicken.

With Five Million Chickens on One Farm, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Actually, there were two farms in Iowa that had more than five million chickens each. Were. Iowa, the largest egg producer in the US, obviously is interested in quantity rather than quality. Now they have 10.3 million fewer chickens because of just two mega-farms, all in the space of one month.

Factory farms are justifiably notorious for the use of battery cages for chickens, that are too small for the chickens to even turn around. Disease will spread throughout an entire population of birds in no time due to the overcrowded conditions. But the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture thinks he has found the true culprits in this story–wild birds.

The theory is that asymptomatic migratory birds transmit bird flu to chickens that are locked up tight from both reporters and wild birds. As imaginative as I usually am, I am at a loss to see how this transmission occurs, short of crows with crowbars. Even sabotage by the Animal Liberation Front sounds more plausible (ALF has the most unintentionally humorous website on this planet).

Anyway, the numbers, via the Iowa Capital Dispatch

March 17–5.3 million chickens to be culled from one farm

March 31–5 million chickens to be culled from another farm

I foresee more to come. Those pesky wild birds are everywhere.

Maple Fry Fork

Maple and Walnut

I wasn’t familiar with the Swedish term “fry fork” until this year (Google translate says that the Swedish is “stek gaffel,” for what that’s worth). I ran across it in the new English edition of Carving Kitchen Tools, by Moa Brännström Ott. I was so intrigued by this book that I made sure that it arrived on the first day of publication, 2/1/2022.

Spoons, Fry Fork, Butter Knife

I made my fry fork before I knew there was such a thing. It excels at flipping bacon, and most of all, making soft scrambled eggs. Here’s how to make them, from a French farmhouse, to the great writer Elizabeth David, who learned the technique there, to her student Jane Grigson. That’s how cooking works.

Soft Scrambled Eggs

Eggs (One per person)

Sea Salt

Olive oil

That’s it. The trick is in the cooking. I like carbon steel pans for this, as they heat up fast, and cool off quickly.

Give the eggs a thorough beating, and heat up the olive oil in the pan at high heat. As soon as the oil begins to spread out, starts moving around and forming thin layers at the point of the heated surface, and thicker layers elsewhere, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, and take a break. When the oil has returned to an even surface, pour in the beaten eggs. Then do nothing.

What, no running around like in a cooking competition? This is more Zen than that. When the eggs begin to set, slowly separate and turn the curds to the desired size. Serve the eggs while they are still moist–no rubber eggs here.

The fry fork is just the tool for this dish. Carved from green Maple, I call mine the trident style for obvious reasons. If Neptune wants to banish me to ten years of roaming the eastern Mediterranean in an Odyssey, eating great seafood, kicking butt and taking names, and generally playing ancient Greek James Bond, I’m down with that-especially if I get to slaughter all the local scumbags, who are eating my food and drinking my wine, when I finally get back to my home city. No wonder that poem is still so popular.

Want Jumbo Eggs? Raise Jumbo Chickens

Double Extra Large

Our Barred Rock chickens have passed their third birthday, and are still churning out some eggs. Not only that, but they continue increasing in magnitude. Here are the USDA grades for eggs:

Size or Weight ClassMinimum net weight per dozen
Jumbo30 ounces
Extra Large27 ounces
Large24 ounces
Medium21 ounces
Small18 ounces
Peewee15 ounces

Notice these are per dozen sizes. Therefore I have deduced the per egg sizes. I just give the three largest:

Jumbo–2.5 oz per egg

Extra large–2.25 oz per egg

Large–2 oz per egg

Obviously the grades are divided by increments of .25 oz, which makes perfect sense, but these grades are intended for commercial producers. For home growers who sell a few eggs, I propose a couple of new marketing categories:

Double Extra Jumbo–3 oz per egg

Extra Jumbo–2.75 per egg

The Jumbo is considered a rarity in the commercial market, but two out of a random dozen of our eggs that I weighed were Jumbo eggs, and one was a 2x. This size was not at all unusual:

Extra Jumbo

Using these new size categories could mean a few extra bucks at the farmer’s market this year, for growers of quality eggs. I think we will have a couple of 2x jumbo eggs for breakfast today.

Turkey Schnitzel with Shoestring Potatoes and Fried Egg

A Stack

Twice a week I am dispatched into a land that is riddled with followers of the VLF–the Virus Liberation Front. Mask-less marauders are legion, but I am an expert at evasion, and they rarely come within ten feet of me. If one tries to, I give them the dreaded contemptuous stare of disapproval.

Let’s have a celebration, a classic German dish, to honor the Fauci ouchie shots. I’ll be ready for the booster in a few months. Schnitzel time!

Ingredients

Two Turkey breast cutlets

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

1 Egg

Pork fat and olive oil, for frying

Schnitzel-izing the Turkey breast is actually the middle thing you want to do. Cook these first.

One Large Tater, Precious

The tater is peeled and sliced with a mandolin–not the musical kind. I have to have some pork fat to cook mine in. As with all taters, don’t forget the salt. This is the base layer the schnitzel rests on.

The last stage is to fry two eggs for the top layer, and these are from our birds. I always fry eggs in olive oil, though that is looked down upon by some experts. Fine, experts, just don’t come to our house looking for some eggs. Make them as runny as you like as well.

The VLF reminds me of an actual group, the ALF, or Animal Liberation Front. I can only look at their website a couple of times a year, because I am still too young to die from a terminal fit of laughing. ALF is a group of militant Vegans, whose goal is to liberate all the livestock on Earth. Their home page formally featured an attractive young woman wearing a Ninja suit, holding a pink nosed bunny that she had no doubt liberated from some tyrant’s rabbit hutch.

They are also the topic of a magnificent short story, “Carnal Knowledge,” where a group of them attempt to liberate an entire farm full of Turkeys. The narrator, who is something of a dipstick, gets trampled by an whole building of gobblers, and finds himself face down in a pile of Turkey shit. Naturally, all the liberated Turkeys end up being run over by a semi.

Irony rules. Let’s just hope the VLF don’t get their hands on a vial of Smallpox virus.

May Day Breakfast with New Taters, Homegrown Eggs, and Leftovers

Let’s Eat!

We started off International Worker’s Day the right way, with our once every weekend Farmer’s Omelette. We had to celebrate the needs of workers to conserve every penny, so we made this partly with leftovers, although they were no ordinary leftovers. Having grown up on what we call a “dirt farm,” I know how to use a leftover.

The Base

Heaviest Skillet available

1 slice good Bacon (preferably organic)

New Taters, Precious

Just Enough Time to Wash off the Dirt

First, cook the slice of bacon. The real purpose of this is to render out the fat needed to fry the taters. I like to add some olive oil for extra flavor, if needed. These little gems didn’t need any. The Yukon Golds were so tender I didn’t even peel them. Naturally, I had planted them in composted chicken manure to begin with.

Fry the taters until practically done, and chop the bacon. Turn the oven on to 400 F. Time for the magic leftovers.

Leftovers

Grilled organic Onions

Grilled organic cherry Tomatoes

Chicken kabobs on Friday night, grilled over hardwood charcoal. It was all too good, and had those two left over. The Florida Maters were halved, and the onions diced. They just needed to be warmed, so I threw them in with the chopped bacon. Then came the money shot.

Eggs

Homegrown Eggs

Our chickens are getting fat and happy, and we had nine eggs on two days each last month–and we only have eight hens. Currently we are feeding about five families with our eggs. The birds will without doubt be demanding overtime feed soon.

Cook the eggs over-easy style in the oven, but without turning them over. Watch this like a chicken on lookout for a hawk, and take out while the yolk is still runny. This is more than enough to feed the two of us, plus a snack for our two dogs. They especially like the taters.

Snow!

Snow Birds

We hardly ever get snow, or temps in the teens, and today we have–BOTH. I saw this coming, so yesterday I bought 110 pounds of bird food. Half was for the wild birds, and half for the chicks. Birds don’t even care about how cold it is, except for how hungry it makes them.

Today we have been invaded by the biggest flocks of finches and sparrows that we have ever seen. Our three feeders, two tube feeders with squirrel guards, and a wooden feeder that I repaired after it was squashed by a tree during a tornado, will have to be refilled a couple of times.

We have, in addition to the resident cardinals, flocks of gold finches and purple finches. They can seriously knock down some sunflower seed. The chipping sparrow flock is probably the lergest of all, and they prefer smaller seeds. Good thing I bought both.

The living part of the chicken coop is completely frozen shut, and it will take a lever of some kind to get it open. We did get them out into the pen, but it will be screwdriver time to get the small coop doors open.

It’s still snowing, and it is a regular Hitchcock film just outside my window.

The Birds!

Four layers of Patagonia expedition weight fleece kept me quite warm, however, when I went to gather eggs. Having been in the outdoor industry has its perks.

Presidential Pie for the Inauguration Day

Emma and Siegfried Wish You a Hippy Inauguration Day

I have been waiting for just the right opportunity to make this pie, and here it is. It’s a combination sweet potato and pecan pie, and it only has about ten million calories in it. It was also the favorite pie of one President Obama. Naturally, it’s from a bakery in Virginia.

A digression here: since Mr. Jefferson of Virginia was asked to write the constitution for the first French Republic (he declined,) let’s have a few lines of the French national anthem.

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé, 

“Arise, Children of Patriots,

The Day of Glory has Arrived!

Against us, the Tyrant’s banners

Are elevated.”

Damn skippy. Now, back to pie.

The origin of this pie is Red Truck Bakery in northern Virginia, and the genius behind it is Brian Noyes. Go buy his cook book.

Ingredients

1 Creole Pie Crust (more Southern than the original. I really can’t follow a recipe very well.)

Hickory Nuts (not in the original recipe. See above. As it turned out, mine were all ruined anyway.)

Baked and mashed Sweet Taters, Precious

1 Egg

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Whipping Cream

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Bourbon (as much as you dare)

Fill up half the pie dish. That’s plenty.

That’s just the bottom layer. To quote Will Shakespeare, “I will call it Bottom’s dream.” Quoted out of context as usual. Now to the pecan top layer, which is the scary part.

Ingredients

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Sorghum Syrup (VERY southern)

Some Bourbon and Cinnamon

2 tablespoons melted Butter

Pinch of Salt

Here’s where I really depart from the recipe: corn syrup, as called for, is verboten in our kitchen so we improvised a replacement.

Honey

Maple Syrup

1 tablespoon Flour

A layer of Pecan Halves

The last ingredient is a thickener. The result is a masterpiece.

“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” Or at least for Couple of Days

The crust is a bit ragged, but it will have a short life anyway. Handsome Joe and Handsome Kamala should drop by for a bite. Otherwise I am gaining several pounds.

Cracking the Code on Tempera Paint

When the temps hit freezing here in the South, many people go into semi-hibernation. Not me–I’m as busy as a porcupine sticking spines into the mouth of a fox. I think I have a paint recipe that doesn’t require ten coats to cover something. It may take even only one.

New Tempera

2/3 cup Boiled Linseed Oil

1 Egg

1/3 cup Water

3 tablespoons Pigment

Mix them together in that order. The extra oil and pigment make this is a nice thick paint. I must have been channeling my hero Sandro Botticelli. My covid mask has a print of the Birth of Venus on it. Thus far, no one has objected to the nudity–on the mask, that is.

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