|The yellow foot tart.|
I was finally running away for a weekend.
A much overdue, much needed trip to stay with my sister in windy Wellington. The timing was perfect and I had been quite organised despite sickness's and sleepless nights. I was nearly at the mark of freedom. All that was left to do was finish making dinner, double check my bags and be dropped in town to a dear friends house in order to be picked up very early the next morning. I had a stomach full of butterflies and a sense of disbelief until I was on that plane. Three whole days to be my in charge of only me.
No fighting, no loud boy voices, no whinging, a peaceful shower, great sleeps, toileting with no "muuuuuuuum!" in the background, no 24/7 demands. I love my little family so much but hey, sometimes we all need a bit of sanity time to remember who we are and that we are also our own identity.
Something many a mother has forgotten at times, I hear all you mums yell "amen!"
This is a treat that we sometimes only dream about and never get too often.
So here I was, dinner was on the boil, Master 3 watching a DVD so I could focus on cooking. Miss 5 was quietly playing teachers in her room- her toys all lined up and listening tentatively.
At 4:00pm I thought I better go and get the chickens fed and let them free range for a while as I doubted they would get out all weekend. An extra long graze would be ideal to get all the grass into them and stretch their legs out of the cage for a while.
I opened the gate.
Dora flew out followed by jumpy the chicken who took a long time to take a liking to us mere humans. Yellow foot, the cuddly dog natured chicken didn't follow but I was certain she must be popping out her afternoon egg so I left her alone in peace.
I peeped into the box.
For some strange reason I jumped into the cage almost checking under every leaf, like I would find her hiding under a tiny stick or a plant? My first thought was, I have killed her.
I knew I couldn't keep chickens! Like when a sheep has had enough, they take themselves away and lay down to die. She has gone away to die I thought. Maybe it was from the poo stuck to her bum that I didn't know what to do with? (another story in itself!)
Where did she go though? There seamed to be no holes in the cage.
......somebody has STOLEN my chicken! Was my next thought. My favourite chicken :(
Times are tough I guess and you would get an egg a day or a stringy feed I supposed.
Miss 5 walked out concerned with the weird actions of her mother.
"Maddie," I said, literally scratching my head, "I think someone has stolen our chicken!?"
"Nooooooooo!" came the devastated reply.
"I think?" half reassuringly.
So we are looking around the back yard and i'm thinking, surely we could easily see a bright orange chook hanging around. Where could she be? I then noticed Murphy our little dog sniffing around a wee hole in the cage, probably the size of the chickens head. Could she have been so desperate for grass or an adventure that she squeezed out of that?
I could hear one of the neighbours was gathering his chickens up next door. In and out of the trees in his typical way was calling fondly to his "girls" and in full blown conversation. I politely started to yell out, "excuse me", and "hello" until Miss 5 decided that this wasn't working so suddenly in my ear was a loud "Oiiiiiiiiii!" He came skipping over right away. "Maddie!" I whispered in my trying-to-hide-my-giggle growl.
We have a conversation about the said chook. It went something like this. "Oh yes, at around 1:00pm I saw her on the lawn, I thought it weird you weren't there with her and chased the large orange cat away that was harassing her. I had heard a loud noise and being a tarot card reader I thought 'maybe I should look outside, something is there....' and what do you know! I was right for once!"
"She went down that way...." he was very worried.
Given that chickens tend to stay close to their fellow friends and not roam too far from familiarity we looked in bushes, trees and hide holes in case she has been scared by the manky wild puss and gone into hiding. I clutched my chook pellets and shook them hard. "Here, chook chook chook...."
Is this what you call out for a lost chicken I wondered?
At this stage, I was worrying about dinner on the stove, the fate of the chicken and the typical last stress that should have been a give in on a mother smelling the sweet smell of a bit of relaxation just around the corner.
Just then the hedge guy shows up to give me a quote. Bad timing! Darling hedge man was one of those people that spoke.... for ages. You know, thinking, pondering, repeating himself and quite franking not getting the message from a crazed, wild chicken lady that I had more important things on my mind. "Get back to me with a quote?" I suggest. Nope, he goes on and on....
Now I have Miss 5 tugging at my jeans, still in a panic.
"I've got to go sorry," I finally say, thinking of the burnt dinner on the stove.
Just out of chance I figure I would look up at the road side, you never know I guess, she is more like a dog than a chicken. I'm still calling out my little chook-come-back song and the two young girls from next door come out. "Have you seen my chicken? I ask with a bit of a giggle remaining in my tone.
One of the girls replies,"I saw a chicken over there at that house when I came back from the doctors at 2:00?"
We are getting closer to the mystery.
At this stage, up at the road I have the two small kids in a panic, two neighbourhood teenagers eager to help, the cat and the clue-less dog who are revelling in the excitement of everybodies energy.
A circus I think to myself.
At that crazed moment, a fellow workmate calls out, she is picking her daughter up from home based care. I worked with her at the newspaper agency, you know, during those business suits and professional days pre kids? I quickly stop shaking my pallets around. "What have you lost?" comes the question.
"Oh, ya know....my chicken." I replied casually, trying to hold on to a wee bit of dignity.
"Oh, we haven't seen a chicken here today, sorry," replied the home owner while her husband in the background is rubbing his tummy and mumbling "Mmmmmmm chicken." This is so bizarre I think.
The tribe of kids and fellow animals are now around the back trying to herd in the other chickens to safety.
I knock on the neighbours door where the 2:00pm sighting had been. A friendly but confused face opens the door. "I don't suppose you have seen a chicken today," I ask.
"Yes........" came the hesitant reply. The eyes said it all. The 'i'm so sorry...' eyes.
"Oh." I replied sadly.
Coming to terms with the fact that it was time to say our goodbyes to the chook, I waited to hear the story of how it happened.
"At about 3:00pm," she went on,"my son noticed a black cat chasing a chicken down the alley way towards the road...."
"By the time he had got there, there was no sign of either, so unfortunately it did not look or sound good. We went up the road to see if it was the other neighbours missing chicken, but his were safely inside his coop. We wondered whose it was."
Has the whole neighbourhood had chicken encounters today while I was obliviously packing my bags inside? She must have been waddling along right outside my window only metres fom me!
I went to return home to break the news to the kids when I saw an orange shape in amongst this ladies trees in the back yard. "There she is!" I say a little confused. "Noooooo!" she replied.
Sure enough, the little madam is munching away quietly on the grass as happy as can be. I approached her as she tilted her head at me like a dog trying to figure out what you are saying and giving out a cheeky,
As I bundle her up in my arms she looks like the chicken that got the corn (or a four hour free range holiday!)
Happily reunited with her favourite chicken, Miss 5 wanted big "cuddles" with the poor hen and tears were almost shed from the worried bird loving neighbour.
A neighbourhood ecstatic with such a happy ending!
Safely inside the cage, a thorough safety check complete and excitement over, I stood by myself in the kitchen for a moment wondering how to save the dinner....
what the hell was all that?