Yesterday was Day 23 since I put the first batch of eggs in the incubator after our trip to the chicken farm. I’ve held out and held out, unable to bring myself to dispose of those eggs that I accidentally overheated during the first day of incubation. The temperature in the incubator exceeded the level that can kill chicks. Yet I hung onto them, candled a sampling of them after a week, and again after another week, and didn’t see anything in the ones I candled while easily spotting babies in the second batch. But still I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them. I turned them in a faithful yet hopeless spirit. I had to turn the second batch anyway. What’s a few more to turn at the same time? Princess didn’t want me to get rid of them either. She was convinced they would be okay. I didn’t want her to be disappointed, so I delayed.

Yesterday, starting to worry about the second batch of eggs (today is Day 21 for them!), I decided it was time to do the right thing. I can’t have bad eggs exploding and hurting my good batch by infecting the incubator. I decided to load the first batch up, take them outside, and break one open just to reassure myself that the cause was really lost, then toss the whole batch in the woods. It was easy to pick them out as I had marked them differently–the first batch was marked for turning with X’s and O’s, the second batch with A’s and B’s. So I got an empty egg carton, opened the incubator, and started taking them out one by one and placing them in their sad little casket.

And I thought, maybe I am too stupid to be a farmer? I screwed up the first thing I did.

Then, as I placed yet another egg in the carton, even in the moment that I took this photo to chronicle the sad post that this was to be, I heard something.

And I looked back at the incubator.

One of those X/O eggs from the first batch that I was about to pick up and throw away–


There was a BABY in there!!!!! I quickly put the other eggs back.

And within a few hours, out this baby came.

None of the other eggs in the first batch have the least crack. Is this the sole survivor? I asked Princess what we should name it.

“Lucky,” she said.

And I told her, “We’ll figure out a way to mark it. If it’s a hen, of course we’ll keep it. But if it’s a rooster, it’s the rooster we’ll keep.”

And at first Lucky looked so tired. He flopped around and rested his weary, lucky, shell-cracking head on a brother egg.

Then he got rowdy and started climbing all over the other eggs.

And Princess said, “We have to get it out of there! It’s going to disturb the other eggs!”

My cousin has a brooder for us, but we haven’t brought it over here yet. Yes, we’ve had 23 days to prepare, but I was busy. Getting settled in the new house and writing my book and making truffles. So, in our incompetent way, Princess and I tried to figure out what to do. We got one of the boxes we’ve been using to move things from the old farmhouse. I got the light I used for candling and put a big bulb on it. I put newspaper down in the box. But how to get the light fixed over the box to keep Lucky warm?

“I’ve got some Scotch tape in my room,” Princess said.

Uh, no! I rooted around and finally came up with this candelabra thing I could hook onto the side of the box to brace the light, then set an old address book on top of it to keep the light directed the right way. I put the box against the wall and just needed something heavy to keep it there so the address book and the light wouldn’t change direction.

“Give me a phone book!” I told Princess.

She gave me the teeny tiny county phone book.

“No!” Sheesh. “The BIG one!”

And here is the result. What can I say? We’re two girls with a chicken. We’re doing good if that light isn’t tied on with a hair bow.

Princess got Lucky out of the incubator, sparing the other eggs his wild ways. And we set him in his little box, all by his lonely lonesome. He needs friends, doesn’t he? Maybe he’ll have some soon?

Meet Lucky.

We have chicken!

Finding Sugar


This was the last time I saw her. It was March 21st.

My cats are indoor-outdoor cats. Farm cats. I kept them inside for several days after we moved in then started letting them out again. Spice disappeared for a couple of days, until I heard her crying and pulled her out of a tangle of brush in a ravine. Diego was gone for about ten days. He showed up on the back porch one day as if he had no idea anyone was worried about him. I’ve kept him inside, snacking on cinnamon toast, since then. It’s not easy keeping ten cats inside the house. I’ll start letting them out again. Eventually. When I get over the trauma of losing them like that and am convinced they are fully settled in our new home. At one point, the three of them–Spice, Diego, and Sugar–were gone all at the same time. This was my Sackcloth and Sobbing Period. Then Spice and Diego came back. But Sugar…..

I thought I’d never see Sugar again. Then two days ago, my boys–who drive across the river ford every day to head to high school–said they saw Sugar across the river in a meadow. How she got across the river is a mystery, but they were convinced it was Sugar. Princess went up and down the road across the river giving out our phone number at every house and asking about Sugar. She found one man who said he’d seen her.

Yesterday, he called me.

“Your cat’s here right now.” He told me he couldn’t get near her. She’d run.

I jumped in the car and chased right over there. I pulled over on the side of the road in front of his house and jumped out. There was Sugar, running across his meadow. I called to her and tried to not run, afraid I’d scare her off. But she was already scared. She ran across the road and up a hill. I clambered (don’t you love the word clambered?) up the hill after her. I sat down, shook the can of Pounce I’d brought with me, and called her and called her. But by then I couldn’t even see her anymore.

Then the man yelled up at me that she’d come back down off the hill and run up the road.

I clambered back down and took off after her before I realized she was too far ahead of me and still running. I went back to my car and drove after her. About a half mile down the road, I spotted her again. I pulled over, grabbed the Pounce (and my camera, of course!) and called her.

She stopped on the hill and looked at me. I got out of the car and sat down on the side of the road in the dirt. I shook the Pounce can and talked to her and called her. And talked to her some more. I knew there was no use going after her. She’d run. I’d have to convince her to come to me.

But she seemed terrified, almost as if she’d gone wild, and she didn’t seem to recognize me. I raised her from the day she was born in the corner of my bathroom at the old farmhouse.

I didn’t care if I had to sit there for hours on the side of the road in the dirt. I was within sight of my Sugar. I wasn’t going home without her.

I kept talking to her, pleading with her, and then she started crying. And crying. And that’s when I knew it was going to be okay. She was crying. She recognized me. She was telling me how bad and awful and horrible it had been and how much she’d missed me. She started coming down the hill. And she kept coming till I put away the camera because Sugar was more important than pictures and I tossed bits of Pounce closer and closer. She ate up the pieces and came closer and cried and cried and I waited, waited, waited, till she had almost climbed into my lap then I picked her up and ran to the car.

She didn’t really like the part about the car ride.

Home, she stuck her head in the cat bowl and didn’t bring it out for quite some time. She’s soooo thin, poor baby.

Then she looked around, as if reacquainting herself with her surroundings.

And I think she said something like, “Don’t ever let me do that again, it was terrible.”

Then she gave herself some serious down time.

My Sugar is home.

April 15, 2008 - As the Egg Turns

It’s the first thing I do every morning. The last thing I do at night. And, oh yeah, in between. Turn the eggs. A hen on her nest turns her eggs as much as 18 times a day. You can get away with turning them three times a day by hand. If the egg isn’t...
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April 9, 2008 - Candling Eggs

In olden times, candling eggs was literally done with a candle. The purpose of candling is to shine a light through the egg so you can see what’s going on inside it. This old-fashioned candle process totally doesn’t work for me. The light just isn’t bright enough. I think I’d need a bonfire. So I...
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April 5, 2008 - My Sweet Spice

She was gone. For two days. I heard her meowing from a steep ditch where water runs off the hill, down to the river. I’d just taken a shower, but clean clothes and all, I went barrelling down the bank, sliding, hanging onto trees. I managed to coax her out of her hiding spot inside...
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