Monday, January 29, 2007

The Harrowing Hen Story

I overheard one of the students say that this is the most expensive sweatshop he’s ever had the pleasure of paying for and at the same time working. He was referring to the fact that besides learning to chef, we spend much of the day carrying out “duties” or chores. This on top of the fact that many of the items we cook are sold in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop and at the nearby farmer’s market. Personally, I think it is great that our marmalades are flying off the shelf. What we don’t get in monetary compensation we gain in self-confidence. However, this entry is about one particular duty that was a doosie. I was on hen bin duty, which means that after lunch I had to take out the bucket of scraps and feed it to the hens. Scraps is a broad term that include, but are not limited to, carrot peels and coffee grinds. This was my first time on this duty and it was quite an ordeal. I had four overflowing buckets of unsavory looking stuff to carry and dump in the trough near the hen house. Because it had been raining earlier in the day it was quite muddy outside. This would have been a perfect time for my Wellies, but I somehow forgot their importance (see earlier blog entry). I decided that I would wear my new tennis shoes instead, not knowing I would have hen bin duty. Note to self…always have Wellies on hand no matter what! As I entered into the fenced area I slipped and spilled some of the scraps on the ground. Immediately, the hens began to attack me. Actually they were going for the “yummy treats” but it sounds more dramatic to say they were attacking me. Nevertheless I got scared and ran out of the gate but one of the hens followed me. I had to chase the hen around for ten minutes before I captured it and put it back inside. After I regrouped, I proceeded to pour the buckets in the trough and of course on myself. All the while some local Irish farmers were watching from their tractors, probably very amused. This story has a sad ending though. That evening, after school, one of my cottage mates and I walked up to Broderick’s (a quaint grocery/gas station) and on the way spotted a dead hen in the road. Thank God I caught the hen that escaped or else I know I would have felt responsible. However, maybe there was talk in the chicken coop that I would be back again soon and one of the hens thought that a break out would be a better option. Anyway, I am still mourning and hoping I don’t have that duty any time soon.