Francoise the rooster

Remember this fella?

Certain verbs cannot be fully appreciated until you live with a rooster. Verbs such as strut or preen. Or crow. By October, Francoise had built up his crowing prowess to a powerful regimen of 7 p.m., midnight, 4, 5, 6, and 7 a.m. Lord only knows what happened on workdays. Needless to say the neighbors finally said uncle. Can you blame them? While I miss his handsome face, as they say, silence is golden.

After a careful and cautious Craigslist adoption process last month, Francoise is now roosted with a flock of 11 hens across the San Francisco Bay in Milpitas. His new owners offered to trade us a baby pygmy goat for him. I resisted the temptation—but just barely.

farewell Jolie

We fared worse on other fronts. While Mike and I were off gallivanting in Paris, we suffered our first major loss. I’m terribly sad to report that Jolie has passed on to the big chicken coop in the sky. We had nursed her back to health twice earlier in the fall, and she had seemed to turn a corner, but her health declined while we were away and a friend had to tell us the news.

Now it’s just Isabelle and Eugenie—a most uncommon pair. The two remind me of football players: Eugenie is a linebacker and Isabelle is a wide receiver. Can you guess who calls the plays? When I peek into the coop on cold nights I can see Isabelle’s head tucked beneath Eugenie’s fluffy petticoats, trying to stay warm. Everyone likes a down comforter.

Chickens on the prowl

Chickens before dawn

We still miss Jolie. She had a sweet chirp that was so gentle compared to the other chickens, and a feathery bouffant that invariably blocked her vision. But I’m told these things happen. With the rollercoaster that the past month has been, it’s easy to get melancholy. My musical leanings tend to be a litmus for the landscape inside my mind; right now my favorite song is by Florence + the Machine. I’m a sucker for metaphor and I like singing along:

But it’s always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaaah

Fresh eggs

Because another “first” happened while we were in France: Eggs! Isabelle has been cranking out precise white eggs the size of oblong golf balls for over a month. Eugenie laid her first egg, a lovely light brown one, this weekend. If hope is the thing with feathers, what then are eggs?

Fried egg, polenta, and black coffee

Fried Egg and Polenta with Rosemary

2 cups milk (preferably 2% or whole)

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup polenta

parmesan cheese, grated

rosemary, finely chopped

eggs

butter

salt

In a medium saucepan, add the milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and turn heat down to medium. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until the polenta thickens and begins to bubble, about 20 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and grate in parmesan cheese to taste, about ¼ cup to ½ cup. Salt to taste.

Meanwhile, pre-heat a skillet on high heat. If you have a cast-iron skillet, use that. Add a pat of butter. When it’s melted and sizzling, crack in two eggs. Cook to desired doneness—we like over easy.

Serve the polenta in a bowl topped with a fried egg, sprinkle of salt, freshly ground pepper, and finely chopped rosemary. (Go easy on the rosemary.)