Monday, June 23, 2014

Chickens, Smoke and Another Snake

Today was the first real day of my summer break.  I finished my leadership conference (which I'd been surprised and very pleased to be asked to attend) at 3:30 on Saturday.

Sunday was an exciting day -- one that definitely diverted my mind from dwelling about school matters.

It started out quietly enough.  We took a drive up to the little town of Jackson to buy a cooking pot.  The 20 chickens that we've been raising for meat were processed on Saturday and it was imperative that I immediately cook one as beautifully as a chicken could ever be cooked.  So I took Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking down from my bookshelf and (for the first time ever in my life) bravely set about following one of her recipes.  I will write more about her "Poulet Poele A L'estragon" (Casserole-roasted Chicken with Tarragon) tomorrow.  I will admit, however, that I've gained a pound since yesterday and blame it entirely on Julia.  The reason we had to buy a cooking pot is because our home-grown chicken weighed in at almost 6 pounds -- double the size of the one in Julia's recipe.  I had no casserole pot large enough.  So we drove up to our favorite cooking shop in Jackson to buy a pot for our chicken to cook in.

With our brand new, dark orange enameled, cast iron pot in the back seat of the truck, we drove a little further to check out a small lake for trying out our kayaks.  It's a humble little lake, but very pretty.  No motorized boats are allowed on it and there were very few people.  Just what we were looking for.

On the way back, we saw a smudge of smoke from a fire.   We stopped at the grocery store in Angels Camp for tarragon for Julia's recipe and then set off on the winding highway home.  By now the smoke was roiling up over the hills and it was evident that the fire had grown much larger.

Spotter plains, helicopters and tanker planes were already at work and fire crews in their red trucks zoomed past with their sirens blaring.

By now we were less than 10 miles from home and my heart was racing with worry.  The breeze had picked up and these blazes can travel very quickly.

At home, the smoke from the fire looked farther away and not as immediately threatening.  I'd just gone inside to lay down and rest for awhile when I heard a plane overhead.  The sound of its engines gradually died away and then came roaring back.  And died away.  And roared back. I rushed outside and the plane was very low and close and circling around our house and pond.  I ran all around the house looking for smoke or flames.  There was nothing except the far-away smoke from the other fire.  Bruce was certain that the plane was simply in a holding pattern as the pilot waited for instructions on what do next.  I believed the logic of this, but I was on the edge of panic anyway.

And Bruce was right.  A few minutes later, the plane left.  A short time later I went down to the pond to water the baby oaks we'd planted there.  I was joined by Poom, Max, Bruce and Murphy.  And a rattlesnake.  I ran for the snake tongs and bucket.  Bruce grabbled with the tongs and got it safely put in the bucket.  It's now been safely relocated a ways from us.

Tonight the fire seems just about out.   The snake is gone.  Let's hope that tomorrow things stay very, very boring.

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