“Look, Mama!”

Pamela proudly hoisted a ventilated basket brimful of eggs.  In their pre-washed state, some of them were streaked with dirt (oh, right, dirt) but that made them look all the fresher.  She had passed the First Test of Poultry Ownership with flying colors– mostly varying shades of brown.

We were at Stone Barns Center on an extraordinarily mild late January day.  About a dozen children and their guardians ambled down the path from the upscale gift shop across the parking lots, beside the sprawling pastures and the greenhouses in their semi-dormant state.  It had been a ridiculously snowless winter compared to the polar onslaught of the previous year.  Plants had taken a nap, rather than a deep sleep, and by the time the Pennsylvania groundhog would announce his bizarre six more weeks of winter prediction, we were all saying, what winter, sure, why not?

The folks at Stone Barns are incredibly nice, especially our guide for this special program, Hands on the Farm Egg Collecting.  She clearly enjoyed her work and patiently answered our city folk questions.  At the end, even though you don’t get to keep the eggs, we clearly got our money’s worth.  After all, it’s not every Saturday you get to meet actual chickens.  And they give us so much– from soup to nuggets!

PJ took to egg gathering like…well, you know…but not all the children found the experience pleasurable.  Some, just like my mom when she was a little girl, found it downright terrifying.  And me?  Well, in the interests of not exposing my allergies to the special aroma of a hen house (there were hundreds of birds…free-range, organic, local, whatever—they were stinky!) so I declined to enter the egg gathering shed.  Pamela, qualmless, skipped in without me.  As I watched the other kids, dutifully lined up with basket and parent in tow, I fleetingly considered whether I was too chicken to raise birds.  Naaaaa.  I’m a bird-lover from way back, rescuer of hummingbirds, feeder of chickadees, even doing FeederWatch duty for Cornell’s program back in pre-Internet days.

Then, as I reminisced about my avian experiences, I  heard girlish sobs from the henhouse—my heart paused.  Not Pamela?!  Two younger girls and their distraught mother emerged in a cloud of feathers, as if wrapping up a quick pillow fight.  Not Pamela.  Several minutes later, the rest of the coterie came out, sans drama, all toting their tokens of animal husbandry.  I gave PJ a “good job” and she grinned.  It’s official.  We were ready for our six ducks and whatever eggs they cared to lay.

Let’s call your grandmom and tell her all about it.

Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes