Monday, August 27, 2012

Cats and Chickens

Rocky (RIP 1995-2007)

There are many (especially city dwellers) who believe cats can’t be trusted with a flock of chickens.  My personal experience is that they can.  Now maybe my cats are an exception to the rule.  I don’t know.  But I’m more prone to believe it’s just their being a product of their environment.     
We currently have two cats.  (Always two in our household!)  When you live in the country, you almost need at least one for rodent pest control, ‘cuz even the cleanest of the clean house will start seeing mice when ol’ man winter starts rolling in.  Not much you can do about it except have a cat that’s a really great mouser, put down poison, or use traps.  I prefer utilizing the natural instinct of the hunter over the other methods.    
Josey (RIP 2000-2010)
We’ve had our oldest feline, Smokey, since he was a kitten in 2008.  He made his home with us before we got chickens and after we’d lost our oldest and dearest kitty, Rocky (RIP 1995-2007)...  Smokey was an abandoned kitty found, with his little brother, wrapped in an old rug and tossed into a dumpster.  A neighbor had rescued them one stormy and rainy night and nursed them back to health before finding homes for them.    
Smokey doesn’t go out of his way to be friendly towards the flock, but he doesn’t chase them down to play “cat & mouse” games either.  He’s what we’d call an aloof kitty.  Smokey’s decent at keeping the wild birds, who wish to eat the chicken feed, at bay and he’s a fair mouser.  (If the birds are flying less than 3ft off the the ground, he’s quite the athlete at jumping up and snatching them out of the air!)  

Smokey’s also a shy kitty.  Let a stranger come onto the property and he quickly melts away into the background until they leave the premises.  Then just as suddenly, he’s back.  
Smokey (2008)

The youngest, Tawnta, came to live with us after we got our flock and had lost our best mouser, Josey (RIP 2000-2010).  He was born in the country in summer 2010 and lived with a family with young children until he was weaned.  That’s when he came to live with us!  Tawnta was the runt of the 
litter, but by far the spunkiest of the lot!  
By contrast to Smokey, Tawnta was a well-loved kitty, handled from birth by children who use to coddle him.  You can see it in his personality.  When a stranger visits, Tawnta doesn’t run and hide like Smokey does.  This kitty goes out of his way to get in your face to find out what you’re doing there.  He reminds me so much of the way Josey was!  (While opposite in the spectrum of appearances, their personalities were identical.  More times than not, I’ve thought Tawnta might have been Josey’s reincarnation!)    

Being young and naive when he first arrived to our home, Tawnta occasionally chased our chickens and tagged the hens in the butt with a little swat, then would run off in the opposite direction as quickly as his little legs could carry him.  Hens started giving him the wide berth as a result.  But the older he got, the less he did this and eventually the game ceased altogether.  He now walks nonchalantly in their midst, seeking their company.  
Tawnta laying on some eggs in a planter (2011)

Chickens circling Tawnta while he's eating a mouse
- they're looking to steal it from him! (2012)
One of Tawnta’s favorite past times is to snap a nap in the hen house.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve found him sleeping on a clutch of eggs when a broody hen gets up for a quick meal and a drink of water.  Keeping the eggs warm for her so she can enjoy those little moments in life without worrying about her eggs getting too cold, perchance?   
Let Tawnta kitty see a rodent tho’?  Well, it just doesn’t stand a chance!  He’s an excellent mouser and mole catcher/killer.  I’ve lost count of how many half-eaten mice or moles he’s brought me on our back door threshold (gross!!) - an “alter” offering to the God’s or Goddess of the house!  More than once, I wished he would just eat the whole thing or just leave it out in the field!  LOL  

                                                                                                      If the chickens have decided to jump the fence into our little sanctuary yard and find the alter offering, they’ll actually snatch it up and make a run for it.  (They like leftover mouse.)  The flock has even been known to circle Tawnta in hopes of stealing his catch out from underneath his nose!  Poor kitty can't have a fresh kill in peace!  

We enjoy all of our critters here at the Wet Hen.  There's far more entertainment than you can shake a stick at!  

After a long hiatus....

I return.  Sorry for being away for so long, but we had some personal family business (on each side of my hubby's and my own) that needed to be attended to as soon as school let out for the summer... When bad news rains, it seems to pour!!  I think we have most all of it sorted out by now, but there's still a potential that we may have to leave again for (this time) a much shorter spell.

I have a recipe for you today, but no pictures!  Sorry about that... I haven't made this one in so very long.  Will try to get it done later this week and post the pics for your enjoyment!

Carbonara with Bacon (or Pancetta)

4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz of your favorite pasta or gnocchi
1 Tbsp olive oil (or bacon fat)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb sliced pancetta or bacon, chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped (optional)

  • Whisk together the eggs, cream, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Blend thoroughly, and set aside.
  • Cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta, then return to pot (off the heat), and cover to keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook pancetta or bacon over medium heat until browned, tossing with nutmeg.  Drain on paper towels.
  • Using the same skillet, add the onion and (optional) mushrooms and cook until onion is transparent, about 8 minutes.  Remove onion from skillet; place in a bowl, and cover to keep warm.
  • Combine pasta / gnocchi, onion, pancetta / bacon, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and (optional) spinach in the same large skillet over low heat.  Slowly stir in the egg-mixture, tossing gently so the eggs don’t scramble.  Cook until just heated through.  Remove from heat and toss with parsley, and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

    Serves 6