Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flowers & Fowl: Meeting the Chickens of Wellfleet

The chicken coops of Wellfleet were on display Saturday
afternoon during Preservation Hall’s annual garden tour, dubbed this year “Flowers & Fowl.” I was fortunate enough to attend the fundraiser with my French-speaking granddaughter, a familiar face already for some of the chicken coop owners who read this blog. I know nothing about chickens, although I have been told a few hens might add to our B&B’s charm. Mostly I interact with fowl when I cook it with curry. Juliette, on the other hand, has already petted chickens at a farm in California, where she celebrated her fourth birthday, one year ago. She held my hand as we walked from the Long Pond parking lot to Sharon Lindsay’s yard. We headed straight for the back where goats were braying. Sharon allowed us to step into the coop. Several other attendees milled around. Juliette and I had prepared a few questions. It was Sharyn's first "chicken interview."

Me: “Do the chickens have names?”

Sharyn: “My first batch did. I named them after my girlfriends.”

Juliette: “How many eggs a day?”

Sharyn: “Fifteen!”

Juliette: “Do you have any poussins?”

Me: “That’s French for chicks.”

Sharyn: “Peep is three weeks old. Want to gather some eggs with me, Juliette?”

You can bet the answer to that question was yes. Juliette got to hold Peep and left proudly clutching an egg in each hand.

We said hello/goodbye to the goats, and it was off to Mac Hay and Tracy Harmon Hay’s new home where a lemonade sign decorated the front lawn. Juliette immediately made friends with Lil, one year her senior, who suggested a private tour of the family coop. I ran after the two girls and got to “Mr. MacGregor’s Garden” just as they ducked into the small chicken house Mac had built, pulling the door shut behind them. Suddenly a hen let out a shriek. I could hear flapping as the door swung open again to release the girls. “It was cobwebby in there,” Juliette reported.Lil then gave us a tour of the house. Her sister, Bella, sold Juliette an organic cotton t-shirt. Docent Tracy Plaut pulled Juliette and Lil close for this photo. Then Bella showed us her chicken paintings, displayed on a string along one wall. Meanwhile, Lil had resumed watch over the lemonade. Both girls warned us that the next coop featured “mean” chickens. We set off anyway.

I enjoyed visiting Liz Grant's beautiful garden. There were bees, and a great variety of flowers, but we had chickens on the brain and did not stay.

Next door, we checked out Bob & Lorraine LaPointe’s Bonsai Chicken Coop. There were no roosters, but fabulous big, healthy chickens, eagerly scratching and waiting around for a little girl like Juliette to feed them. This we did not know, being chicken-ignorant, but Sharyn Lyndsay swooped in, on a break from her own coop, and showed us how the feeding worked. Juliette caught on right away. (Can anyone guess whose foot this is?)

The Bonsai Chicken Coop hens made appropriate chicken sounds, not clucking but a gentle murmur that was interrupted by a squawk from time to time.

“Maybe they call them the squeaking chickens?” Juliette mused.

“Want to go home now?” I asked.

“I want to see more chicken groups,” she replied.

"Coops, you mean," I corrected.

Our final stop was Lisa Brown and Deirdre Oringers’s Bound Brook Island home. Their chickens roam free in the yard there and came promptly when Lisa called.

“Arrow, the rooster, likes Redback best,” Wellfleet's favorite local high school teacher explained. “That’s why she’s missing feathers.”

The seven chickens provided 4 to 5 eggs a day. They were “wine dots” and “black dots.” These hens looked very different from the buff-colored beauties at the LaPointes, presumably the “mean” ones Lil and Bella had warned us about.

“I really liked the chicken group where I got the shirt, and the one where I got the eggs,” Juliette told me as we drove home.

Not as many people attended Flowers & Fowl as in years past. This was a mistake. They missed a super community event. Juliette and I really enjoyed ourselves.

Note: Read more about the Prez. Hall 2010 garden tour and the Prez. Hall 2009 garden tour.