> jumping into life.

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I'd forgotten that in Vermont, one ought not to trust Google Maps to know which roads are really roads. I've seen more than one sign that says, "If you are following OnStar, MapQuest, or Google directions to get to [town on other side of mountains], don't. It will be very aggravating and very expensive to rescue you."

But I'd forgotten that. So when the road turned to dirt (by which, this being March, I mean mud), I kept going. It'd been dry for a week; how bad could it be? I had good tires and a manual transmission.

Anticlimactically, it wasn't that bad. I only hit a few bronco ruts--the kind where the road takes you for a ride--and it had been dry, so the mud wasn't deep enough to stick in. After a little while, however, I began to think I might have missed my turn. So I found a dryish spot to stop, and pulled out the Gazetteer. I had missed my turn, I discovered, and I also discovered that this was probably due to the fact that my turn consisted of one of those roads that they print with a little dotted line. A class 4 road--and, as it turned out, one that hadn't been plowed all winter.

So I turned around in somebody's muddy driveway, slip-slopped back down the hill, and mapped my way there like I should have done in the first place. Ah! A road over, drawn with a good thick solid line. This proper pass over the mountain had a sign that said, "Snow Tires Required," but it had at least been plowed, and I have snow tires.

The rest of the drive went, if not smoothly, then at least without event. I got to the farm a little late nonetheles, but nobody seemed much to mind. The two topless kids peered at me over their quesadillas, all big eyes and curly hair, while their mother made me a cup of tea. "I'd make you coffee," she said, "but he's the one who makes coffee. I'm afraid I don't know how!" I assured her that tea would be delightful (which it was) and after a few minutes of visiting and tea-sipping, we headed down to the chickens.

Chickens everywhere. Perched on fenceposts and parked cars, scratching in the snow and muddy sod, scurrying out of the way just in time as we drive by. He had separated my chickens--we'd decided to buy fifteen-week-old pullets rather than day-old chicks--so they were in a smaller pen inside the greenhouse where they all roosted for the winter. We'd had three warm days in a row, and with the sides still down, the greenhouse was getting a bit... overpowering. We worked fast: he reached into the pen, snagged a chicken, and handed it to me, and then I stuffed it in a crate. We only had one escapee, a little Silver Spangled Hamburg who we had to finally catch with a net. We got ten birds in one big dog crate, and three each in a cat carrier and a wax box which had previously contained cabbage. Except we put four in the cat carrier and only nine in the crate, or maybe it was ten after all, so that when I got them home and unloaded them it turned out we had one extra.

J noticed this, and then we spent the next forty minutes counting them. Have you ever tried to count chickens? Ours at least are several different kinds, so you can count the black-and-white-ones (six), the plain brown ones (four), the brown-and-black ones (two), the brown-and-gold ones (two), the white one (one), and the little black one (one). See? Sixteen. But the next time you count, there are five brown ones and six black-and-white. Seventeen. Or four brown but only one brown-and-gold. Sixteen. Or five brown and everybody else in line. See? Seventeen! Eventually, we decided we were 90 percent sure that we had five brown instead of four and seventeen altogether instead of sixteen.

When I called the farmer, he insisted that he'd only hatched four brown ones, and we couldn't possibly have five. So maybe we don't. This weekend we're going to clip their wings back before we put them on pasture, and we can count them then as they go out the door.

[pictures forthcoming, I promise!]


At least you weren't counting them before they hatched:)

Pre-hatch might be easier to do, but of equally unreliable accuracy.

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