Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chicken and Two Veg *

Not in the cooking sense, you understand. Our chickens will live out their senior years in the chicken assisted living facility known as Triskelion Farm. Having had mixed success with chicks this year, trying to widen our range of both colored eggs and exotic chickens, our ratio of cocks to hens managed to come out too high. Consequently, we have been playing catchup in the hope that the new coop occupants would both play nicely together and not start a "who is cock of the coop" war! Thanks to Heather we have some pretty Marans with a boatload of creative names, and the photos really don't do them justice. "Little", who spent the first few weeks of his life on everything except life-support, has now caught up with the others and is a very colorful and robust young man. Having tried to save money by designing our own coop (back of envelope design shown below) and getting the ever-handy Todd to build it, we have had to give in and add another coop in the small run, to accommodate the growing (literally) number of chickens. Thus a small village is growing up at the back of the arena, much to the puzzlement of the cows who spend hours gazing into the runs.

As you can see the vegetable choice is much wider than just two, and our color chart for nutrition is well covered. We aren't really self-sufficient but we do have enough produce to last the winter, supplemented with regular eggs and dairy products.

What is more pertinent, we know where they came from, and what went into the ground and onto the leaves. Also thanks to Keith and Michelle, and the "poop barter", we also have a much wider choice of veggies than we could ever grow ourselves. Jorg and I count ourselves lucky in these troubled times that we have the means and the health to use the beautiful space that we have in this way.

*"Meat and two veg" was the traditional British meal post-WW2. Much lampooned by the rest of the world - under or over-done meat, soggy cabbage, burnt potatoes, we've heard it all.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Musical Interlude

Blue Grass music has a great tradition in Virginia, with bands and events all over the State. Originating in Kentucky in the early '40's with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, a whole new musical genre was spawned. Folk, Country and Western, Mountain and Hill Billy music (particularly from the Appalachians, and hence the Virginia link), Jazz sets and even Rock and Roll have all influenced bands over the years. With a traditional line-up of fiddle, banjo, guitar/ukulele/mandolin, and base, in varying numbers and often augmented with other acoustic stringed instruments.

The reason for this minor piece of musicology is an article in the Guardian I ran across on Steve Martin ( - a man of many parts, and undoubtedly all of them done to the highest level. In my ignorance, not having been in the US all my life, I had failed to take in the fact that he is a very accomplished banjo player. That is until I happened to hear him on "The Prairie Home Companion" playing two pieces from his CD The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, brought out this year. Now I, in a fit of enthusiasm, and being egged on by my lovely wife (who is no mean performer on the guitar - even on 3 strings after a long evening in an Irish pub, but I digress) and who bought me a handsome, vintage 5-string banjo, once took lessons. And if anyone thinks that producing that melodic "plunk plunk" is easy, you obviously haven't tried. As my kids can tell you I have about as much musical talent as a bullfrog, and in the end I decided it was better to listen to someone who could play, than make the sort of noises guaranteed to have the neighbors calling the local noise abatement society.

So in that spirit, and because the blog has not had any music before, the link below should take you to the "Tin Roof" track from Steve Martin's CD. For me it is a sublime piece of banjo playing, and totally unfair that one man should have so much talent!

Post Posting Note: An old friend of mine has reminded me that "a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the banjo but doesn't........." Thank you Tara, I rest my case.