The cool evening air nips at my cheeks as I head back down the hill, lugging the full three-gallon waterer for my chickens. I re-open the end of the ark where I keep their food and water, but they take no notice of me, still engaged with the treasure hunt of finding scratch grains that I scattered in the leaves on my first trip down.

I position the waterer on a bit of broken cinder block, wedged to keep it as level as possible, since nothing on our land is ever truly level (except, one would hope, the house itself!). All in a day’s work living on a hill.

When I unscrew the plastic stopper, water blurps out into the red tray that matches the combs and wattles on my four birds. One comes to drink, the others are still more interested in scratching. It is, after all, something they’re very good at.

My bare feet slide in my work boots as I climb back to the house; I often stuff them in without socks to do this chore. As I approach the house, it strikes me that I am suddenly looking the sun in the eye as it sinks slowly behind the low hills on the other side of the valley where our road runs. Somehow being level with the sun gives me a huge expansive feeling and I stretch out my arms to embrace the world.

Otto, our boxer, comes up along side me to enjoy the view, but before too many minutes have passed I hear the low whine in his throat that tells me he’s cold and thinks it’s time to go inside.

I pat him on his graying head and push open the back door to find my husband curled up in our oversized chair, reading to Eli.

My heart is full.

I am thankful.

So happy…

I find myself feeling utterly content over the smallest things lately.

I cleaned out the chicken ark today to keep things all tidy for my birdies, and to do that, I have to shut them on the bottom level.  Well, I’d kicked Sadie out of the nest box in order to do this, and she wasn’t too happy.

As soon as I lowered the walkway to the second floor, she flew–literally!–up to the second floor and hustled into the nest box and sat there crooning to herself.  I sat next to the ark and listened to her and to the happy sounds the the other four were making over the new grass they were now sitting on.

Otto came and sat in my lap–again, literally, all 67 pounds of him–and we just listened to the chickens and watched Lacey and Bella play tug-of-war and chase each other around the yard.

And then I heard the Sadie cackle her victory cackle, and bustle back down the gangplank to join the others, and I opened the nest box and there was her egg.

It’s such a small thing, but in that moment, holding her warm egg, looking out over the grass as it turns brilliant shades of emerald, I felt profoundly grateful and at peace.

There’s definitely something to this whole letting go thing… but more on that later.

For now, here’s a picture of my cute lady-bug mud clogs.  I know you were just dying to see them.

Breakfast for dinner

So last night, we took stock of what we had in the house, and had a loaf of 2 day old bread (well, it’d been out of the freezer for a couple days anyway), and lots of yummy fresh eggs (3 of them were just laid today!).  Old bread and eggs equals French Toast!

Armed with a recipe from the food network, I messed with it (surprise, surprise), adding about 2 teaspoons of vanilla and a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon to the custard mix.  I then sliced up the loaf of bread, which is the basic hearth bread from my favorite baking cookbook, The Bread Bible, preheated the oven and was off an running.

Notice the 13 eggs in the picture.  They are all from my chickens! (have I mentioned that I have chickens? 😉 ) And this makes this a somewhat local meal, pretty good given that it’s winter. The honey’s from a farm nearby, and the vanilla is a Tennessee product that’s made with vanilla beans and rum, the way it’s supposed to be (no high fructoste corn syrup!)

The recipe was a little complex in its steps getting many dishes dirty in the meantime, but it was worth it.

First you soak the bread in your custard mixture for about 30 seconds a side:

Then you let it drip on a rack with a cookie sheet under it (so it doesn’t make even more of a mess!).  Sprinkle the top of it with more cinnamon before you put it in the pan.

Then you pop it into your pre-heated and buttered saute pan and cook both sides for about 3 minutes each, or until they look about like this:

Then you pop the slices into the oven for 5 minutes (I used a glass pan) while you fry up the next two slices, which conveniently takes you about 6 minutes, giving you time to remove the first set from the oven and hide under foil to keep warm before popping the next batch in the oven.

You can also then turn the oven off after you’ve cooked all of it, wrap all the slices of toast in foil and pop them back in the oven (with the oven off) to keep warm while you wait for your husband to get back from the grocery store where he ran while you were cooking because you forgot to get syrup and syrup is sort of essential with French Toast (omg, how could you! I can’t believe you forgot the syrup!).

And then when your husband gets back you can finally enjoy your breakfast for dinner:

But you’d better keep an eye on it because French Toast this good isn’t likely to hang around for long!