Surprises are priceless. They are the icing on top of the cake of life. When I was off two weeks ago, working hard on my highly sophisticated chicken ranch, Klucker Farms, I received one of those surprises.
Some time ago I extended an open invitation to my great-aunt, Elaine Bicker, who lives in Lanark, Ill., to come down and experience Klucker Farms first hand — to see all of my lovely girls and massive garden. I love showing off my chickens — especially my brahma, Sweetie Pie, who looks like it has fancy bloomers on its legs and feet. To tell you the truth, now, I almost wish I had called it “Frizzy Feet.”
While I was relaxing on the couch on a cool August morning watching Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on the “Today Show,” which happens to be one of my guilty pleasures when I’m home, the phone rang. When I answered, it was Elaine. “Hi Angie! We’re in Clinton. We’re going to have lunch at Grandma’s and then head on over after the dishes are done.” When I hung up the phone, I was thrilled to be having company. However, I took one look around my house to realize that some major cleaning had to be done before they came.
I quickly ran into the kitchen, threw open the cabinets and grabbed furniture polish, window cleaner and a roll of paper towels. With a vengeance, I tore through each room in my house like Speedy Gonzales. All that was missing was the ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! My house isn’t a pigsty by any means, but when I get company, which isn’t very often, I like to make it really shine. I even bent down with my dust rag and asked my old dog if she wanted to be polished. It’s a good thing Cordy can’t talk because I don’t think I would have liked her answer.
After about 2 ½ hours of sprucing up my house, it looked pretty darn good. I even had time to spare before my company arrived — just enough to enjoy a nice, cold Cherry Coke. It could be the drink of choice for Speedy Gonzales for all I know.
So, around 2 p.m. my company rolled into the driveway. Elaine’s sister, Doris, was driving with my grandmother in the front seat and Elaine in the backseat. Elaine had finally made it to Klucker Farms and my little yellow house on the prairie. Much to my surprise and joy, Elaine brought a homemade apricot pie, which she had just baked that morning.
When they came in the house, Elaine gave me a picture of my grandfather in his World War II uniform that she had found at home and thought I might like to have it. I love having old photographs of my family displayed throughout my home. I even have wedding pictures of both of my grandparents framed in my bedroom.
After visiting awhile, we ventured outside to see the girls. I put on my chore boots, work gloves and headed into the chicken coop to grab Sweetie Pie. Since my brahma is very friendly, it let Elaine and Doris scratch its head. I swear Sweetie Pie is more like a dog than a chicken. I wish my leghorns were as friendly. They tend to look at me like I’m the monster from the 1954 film, “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
After visiting the chickens and checking out the deluxe chicken condo, we ventured into my garden. I showed them all of my plants and out-of-control squash, pumpkins and watermelon, which were thriving on some chicken manure I had spread last fall in that general vicinity. It doesn’t take much because my watermelons have definitely spiraled out of control this year.
Before heading home, I gave Elaine and Doris both a goody bag filled with Yukon gold potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and miniature pumpkin. Even though I gave my grandmother a goodie bag the week before for her birthday, I also sent her home with a little pumpkin too. Everyone needs a little piece of Klucker Farms to take home with them even if its not eggs.
Three years ago Elaine sent me some great recipes to try and this is one I will share with you.
Elaine’s refrigerator pickles
• 14 cups sliced cucumbers
• 1 large pepper, cut up (suit to your taste)
• 1 large onion, cut up (suit to your taste)
Put ingredients in large mixing bowl or pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons salt over mixture and stir with a wooden spoon two to three times in one hour. Drain. Then pour 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 tablespoons of celery seed and mustard seed. Do not cook any of this. Put in the refrigerator in glass containers. Note: Keeps good and tastes good.
Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001.