Monday, February 18, 2019

Visitors and Projects

We seldom have company in winter. Living as far from a main road as we do, and with no other place that might be called a destination out here, people have to be coming specifically to visit us, not stopping along the way to somewhere else.

It's nice when people come out. The past month or so we've had the physical therapist and the nurse coming to see Larry through his rehab frm knee surgery. It's nice to see them--they're young and they like this place. I think many young people would not like it, honestly; it's old-fashioned, far from any urban attractions, and bascially far from much of anything, cable, good internet and cell service included.

Last week some young neighbors came over on Valentine's Day evening, surprising us with ice cream cake, a bouquet of candy and some of their home-raised meat. What a treat that was, and such a surprise. This year I hadn't done much for Valentine's Day beyond put out some decorations. To tell the truth, I was still kinda hurt that my husband had not given me a Christmas gift, and was childishly "getting back" at him by not giving him a valentine. Well, wouldn't you know the man came through this time with a beautiful card and chocolates! I felt like a heel, as I should have.

So the surprise treats was extra special. Add to that a lovely handmade card from my sister and the day turned into a happy one, and I felt well-loved by the end of it.

This weekend I posted this photo of a chest of drawers we'd just finished refurbishing. It came out so well, considering the poor condition of its veneer when we started. It's heading to our Ravenswood booth.

A friend saw the photo and said she was looking for something like that, but with no paint. As it happened, we had one waiting to be worked on in our workshop. I sent her photos, and she said yes--exactly what she was looking for. So Sunday they drove out to get it, a distance of about 2 1/2-3 hours. I made dinner, they arrived with wine and beer, and we had the best visit before loading up the chest. It was in really good shape and I was not going to paint it; all it needed was a few pieces glued back in place and some pulls replaced. There were a couple pieces of trim missing, but thank goodness my friends agreed that it was too beautiful for a paint brush to be put to it.

I finished this little table this weekend too, and posted a photo. Another friend wants it and at first considered coming out to get it, but we've found a way to get it to her without her venturing out here.
This one will leave today or tomorrow for its new home. We had to put a new top on it, as a dog had chewed up one corner, and I replaced the pulls with some that just looked better--which inspired painting the little flower trim on the back white to match the pulls.

Later this week more friends will arrive, this time to work on stories. My storytelling friend Judi and I will begin presenting our Celtic stories and songs in a couple weeks, so we wanted to get together to go over the details and get our powerpoint of photos tweaked. I am really looking forward to this. I've been reading stories and folklore and choosing photos from my travels for the slide show. So I'll be cooking up some soup and such for these visitors. My books are piled high for research on this program.

I am enjoying this unexpected flow of people through here. The old house seems to come alive, and benefits from a little extra attention as far as cleaning. Nothing like visitors to get us hopping on the dusting.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Chick! Chick! Chick! Chicken Lore!

Who would think chickens would have so many superstitions and so much folklore attached to them? But then of course they would. Humans have been keeping chickens for centuries, valuing eggs, meat, feathers and the propensity of chickens to eat bugs and weed seeds.

Exactly how long has our relationship with the fair fowl existed? Wikipedia says that "Genetic studies have pointed to multiple maternal origins in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia,[4] but with the clade found in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa originating in the Indian subcontinent. From ancient India, the domesticated chicken spread to Lydia in western Asia Minor, and to Greece by the 5th century BC.[5] Fowl had been known in Egypt since the mid-15th century BC, with the "bird that gives birth every day" having come to Egypt from the land between Syria and Shinar, Babylonia, according to the annals of Thutmose III." (from wikipedia)

According to some research there are over 19 billion chickens in the world today, surely enough to take over the world if they had a mind. Fortunately, chickens have long been said to have a tiny mind--think Chicken Little--and perhaps that is just as well for the rest of us. (The story of Chicken Little was originally called Henny Penny, interestingly enough.)

1916 children's book illustration for Henny Penny. Artist unknown.

Chickens were once regarded as sacred animals, and to mistreat them could bring disaster, as this story notes:

"Cicero wrote about the sacred-chicken-related folly of Publius Claudius Pulcher in 249 B.C. Seeking approval to launch a surprise naval strike he consulted the sacred chickens aboard his ships. The chickens refused to eat, an ill omen for the upcoming battle. Frustrated, he announced, “If they will not eat, let them drink,” and had the birds thrown overboard. His fleet suffered near annihilation during the battle of Drepanium. After returning home from the humiliating defeat, Pulcher was subsequently convicted or exiled and died soon after. Several other ominous portents of the sacred chickens came true, including the Manicus’s defeat by the Numantines in 137 BC and the death of Tiberius Gracchus." From the blog Superstition Saturday.
Even today in Key West, chickens are a protected species and it is against the law to kill them, although not illegal to eat them, which seems an odd conundrum.

A rooster roams free near a restaurant where we were eating during a trip to Key West in 2016.

In West Virginia, chickens--roosters in particular--can be weather prognosticators. People say that if a rooster crows before midnight, his head will be wet by morning. If the rooster keeps crowing all day, there will be a hard rain within 12 hours.

Other Appalachian chicken sayings:

It's bad luck to set an even number of eggs.

Thunder will kill baby chicks that are just about to hatch.

To break a setting hen, tie a red ribbon around her neck, with a bow in front on her breast.

If hawks get in your chickens, place a flat rock in your fire grate. the hawks will leave.

If chickens pick their feathers after a rain, it will soon rain again.

A rooster crowing a daybreak will scare off evil spirits and ghosts.

It is unlucky to set a hen in August.

A hen that stands before you and flaps her wings is the sign that good news is on the way.

If you put iodine in the chicks drinking water they won't peck each other.

Thunder will cause a hen to stop laying.

Pennsylvania Dutch lore says that chickens squawking and fluttering about at night means that there will soon be a death in the famiyly. (I am most relieved to report that this is apparently not true of West Virginia chickens, as mine often carry on at night to the point that we go down to check on them, only to find them all looking at us like, "What?" No family deaths ensued after these ruckuses.)

An interesting belief from England says that if a hen lays an egg without a shell, she has been impregnated by the wind, and the egg is called a "wind egg." I have always heard that such eggs (they do happen sometimes, just the egg encased in a membrane with no shell) are laid by hens getting near the end of their laying years.

Some other chicken beliefs from around the world:

If you burn eggshells, the hens will not lay. Which is exactly opposite the practice of many West Virginians who bake the shells and feed them back to the chickens so that they will lay better and their shells will be hard.

In England, pieces of pancake are tossed to chickens and other poultry on Shrove Tuesday. If the rooster eats the pancakes without calling the hens, it's a sign of a poor harvest that year, but if he calls the hens, a good harvest can be expected.

In old Persia, people believed that setting a hen on a cloudy day will cause all her chicks to be black. But if you set her at dark, all the chicks will be pullets.

In France, a piece of iron is put into a setting hen's nest to protect her and her future chicks from lightning.

In Devonshire, England the following was a cure for snakebite: Kill a chicken and put the affected area immediately into the chicken's stomache cavity. Leave it there until the chicken's flash is cold. If the chicken's flesh turns dark, it was a sign that the flesh had absorbed the poison and the person would recover. If the chicken's flesh remained its natural color, it was bad luck for the victim, who probably would not survive the ordeal.

For more chicken history and lore, check out the following:

Smithsonian Magazine: How the Chicken Conquered the World.

Anomaly Info: Facts and Myths: Chickens.

The Cunning Wife: Magical Animls in European Folktales and Lore

Folklore Thursday: Origins of Breaking the Wishbone

Granny Sue's News and Reviews: The Golden Fruit

Granny Sue's News and Reviews: Chicken Riddles

And then there are chicken folktales! Here are ten from all over the world:

The Story of Chicken and Elephant:  from South Sudan

Chicken at the Well: from Africa

Half-Chicken: from Mexico

The Miraculous Hen: from Russia

Mrs. Chory's Chickens: from America

The Hawk and the Hen: from the Philippines

The Hen and Her Chicks: from India

Black Snake and the Eggs: from Africa

The Little Red Hen: from England

The Farmer and the Jackal: from India

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Many-Colored Days

Although the skies have been almost uniformly gray this month, our life seems to have taken on many colors.

Days often start now with a rush, instead of our usual leisurely pace. We used to get up early enough, but we'd take our time getting moving--having our tea and coffee, reading Facebook and emails and blogs, then making breakfast and having coffee as we planned the rest of the day. After breakfast he would go outside to take care of chickens, pets and birds, take ebay packages up to the mailbox, and putter around with whatever he wanted to get into. I would usually clean up the kitchen and go back to the computer to finish up the morning's reading or list new things on ebay.

Now we get up, get the bed made, get dressed, hustle to get coffee and tea, sweep the floors, get laundry going and hopefully get breakfast before the home health nurse or the physical therapist is here. They don't come every day or even on the same day, but 3-4 days a week one or the other comes to see Larry. So we have to be ready because they like to come early. And honestly, we don't mind because that leaves the rest of our day free.

Lately I've been back into painting furniture, and have finished a few projects with a few more in progress. It's nice to get back to it after a long hiatus, although we're getting crowded up as pieces get finished.

I've been working harder on ebay too, and it's paying off in sales. Lots of sales, everything from faux  fur coats to Fenton glass to vintage jewelry to glass lamp shades. Almost every evening I'm packing something. Pretty cool.

The other thing that's kept me busy is writing and storytelling. I'm writing more poetry than I have in a long time and it feels good. I'm also reading more poetry, and last night went to a poetry reading to share some of my work. It felt good. On the storytelling front I am working on new stories for the Celtic programs coming up in March and April, and also learning to use a data projector so that we can show photos as part of the program. Being a non-techie person this is a learning curve for me but I'm getting there--and I'm happy with the projector I bought which seems to do a very good job and have good quality images.

Today was one of those days filled with variety. First we had both the nurse and the physical therapist come to see Larry. Then I worked on ebay while Larry went into town to get a load of gravel. I also worked on a story and when he got back, I went out to help him unload the stone on our muddy, muddy road. So much rain, along with freezing and thawing weather, had made a mess of our driveway this winter. When we finished we stopped for a glass of wine as a reward for our work, then he went to the chicken house to fix a better way to let the hens out into their yard, and I went back to writing, this time a new poem. And now I am writing this blog. Later we'll pull apart a pork roast that's been cooking all day to make into pork barbecus. Then maybe I'll do some painting on a couple pieces of furniture that are waiting for me.

I love these days. They will end soon enough. The nurse and the therapist will soon stop coming and we'll miss their young company. The Celtic programs will commence and I'll be on the road a bit for that. The grass will start to grow and we'll be busy keeping it cut. Gardens will need to be planted. The year will roll on and we will roll with it. But this time of year, when we can choose what to do and when, is just about my favorite, I think. Even if it is gray and rainy almost every day.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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