JULY 31 & SOUR MILK // elspeth


We had a sick chicken recently. Before her illness the girls called her "other potato-head." She's the same variety, Americana, as the chicken they like best. But she's different enough from Herself to be distinguishable: she's higher up in the pecking order, for one, so her feathers aren't always ruffled and falling out. And she's always the last to come in from being in the yard, and her head is a bit pointier. She's also a bit of a grump. But she got sick for two days in early July, and now she has a new name: "Sicky Chick."

I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with her. She started sitting around and didn't seem to be eating or drinking or laying much, but on the advice of my friend Victoria I put oregano oil in the chickens water and offered her a bit of sour milk, and two days later she was out again hunting for earwigs. 

The sour milk is a new thing around here. The girls (human girls) don't always finish their milk at the table, and I hate throwing it out. It's important to offer it, I think, but it's raw and unhomogenized and doesn't save well, and so I end up pouring half of it in the compost more often than not. I was reading about something else in Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking the other day, and she offered a solution. She said her household always has a crock of sour milk going: you simply leave raw milk out at room temperature and it thickens up into a cultured dairy substance with a slightly yeasty but not unpleasant smell. The Irish use it to make soda bread, and I suppose I will now too, when I get around to it, as it really is as simple as leaving a jar of milk covered with cheesecloth on the counter. In the meantime Darina instructs that if it gets too sour, a person can feed it to her hens. She's right. They dip into it with their beaks and slurp it up with what appears to be pleasure, although pleasure on a chicken is a difficult emotion to read. 

In the meantime there's summer: the same long days at the restaurant but bigger girls with more of their own agendas. Sally's learned to jump off the dock into water over her head and swim back, and Nora has for the first time demanded a play date "with her own friends." The mulberries are ripe and we're headed blueberry picking tomorrow and planning on jam. The latest Bon Appetít is filled with amazing sounding things like pounded flank steak with zucchini salsa and green gazpacho, and with any luck I'll be eating them all and reporting back soon.

Happy almost August, friends.


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