Recently, we adopted two hens – Lyla, a Buff Orpington and Daisy, a Barred Rock – from a neighbor whose house is up for sale. The timing couldn’t have been better for us. After losing our sweet Gimpy along with two other hens in a raccoon attack earlier in the year, and then the sudden deaths of our last Black Australorp and second-to-last Brown Leghorn as a result of the record-breaking summer heat, we were down to only four chickens before Lyla and Daisy arrived.

We knew our neighbor had loved them. Not only did she tell us so, but the care she’d given these two hens is evident. They’re beautiful birds. So much so, in fact, we were a little embarrassed to introduce them into our existing chicken clan. That’s not to say we don’t pamper our hens! Au contraire. Farmer John especially dotes on the chickens. Still, perhaps as a result of granting them their freedom throughout the day, our birds tend to be a tad rougher of feather. We’re hoping their street-smart appearance doesn’t rub off on Lyla and Daisy too much. It’s nice watching clean, fluffy hens running around.

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What’s most interesting about the merging of our neighbor’s hens with ours is that now, out of six chickens, we have six different breeds: Production Red, Brown Leghorn, Americauna, Black Sex Link, Buff Orpington and Barred Rock. If they actually all hung out together, the diversity would be particularly apparent; yet as it stands, Lyla and Daisy tend to go one way, while the rest (dubbed by John as “The Gang of Four”) go another.

Until snack time. Even though Lyla and Daisy haven’t quite figured out the difference between a good treat and a GREAT treat (the exquisiteness of bread crumbs continues to elude them), they fully understand that when a human holds something out in their general direction, it means food is most likely forthcoming.

Cameras, however, are confusing…and more than a little disappointing. Like a few days ago, when I spotted Lyla and Daisy meandering up the walkway towards the house and dashed out to the front porch, camera in hand. They thought sure the small object must be some sort of gustatory delight and headed straight for it. The Gang of Four, previously nowhere in sight, immediately picked up on the familiar cooing sounds of chickens asking for a hand-out, and quickly caught up with the other two.

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Daisy and Lyla, wanting nothing to do with such a rude procession, turned to go (as Miss Red pushed forward from fourth place – notice that left foot pumping, below).

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It didn’t take long for Daisy and Lyla to hightail it (literally) and give way to the pushy Red.

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Before they had a chance to discern for themselves that the object I clutched was not an offering of snack food, my itchy trigger finger set off the camera’s flash. Startled, the hens froze in their tracks, like deer caught in the headlights.

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Once they came to their senses again, they realized they wanted no part of this. Even if the human’s light saber were filled with something as delectable as cooked rice, say, or al dente egg noodles, it wasn’t worth either the fear or the temporary blindness (in one eye, anyway) to investigate the contents of that vessel any further. Lyla, Daisy and The Gang of Four skedaddled down the walkway as fast as their little chicken legs could carry them.

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You know what, though? The next time I walk out to the porch with something in my hand, they’ll be convinced it’s a split cucumber, chopped chard or fresh bread (Lyla and Daisy are bound to acquire a taste for it one of these days) and will once again come running. Even if I’m carrying only the camera, the hens will come. I’d bet my life on it. For their sake, however, I’ll make sure the flash is turned OFF.

**Despite the hail, despite the 20.25 inches of rain that’s fallen on the farm since the beginning of September, we’re starting to see a little progress with some of the crops. Believe me, they aren’t ecstatic! But we’re cutting out the bad stuff and harvesting the good – enough to reopen the farm stands. Yay. Here’s what we’ll have for you this coming Wednesday, Oct. 21:

Butternut squash (from the crop we harvested a few weeks ago and set aside to cure); spaghetti squash; summer squashes (zucchini, Zephyr, pattypan and yellow squash – more of some and less of others); okra; arugula; bunches of Asian greens; different colors of bell peppers; Cubanelle peppers; jalapeno peppers; purple eggplant, heirloom Rosa Bianca eggplant, Apple Green eggplant and white Japanese eggplant; the first bunches of radishes (don’t know yet whether we’ll have a lot or just a few); possibly some Asian cucumbers; and whatever else we can find out there in the mud!

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
http://www.angelvalleyfarms.com
Farm stands:
In NW Austin on Jollyville Road, between Oak Knoll and Duval, Wednesdays 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.;
In Jonestown on 1431 at the blinking yellow light, Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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