My chickens are finally back in my good graces. Let’s see, in three months I have eaten six of my own eggs. At 23 bucks for a bag of organic grain, I figure each egg costs about $14. Apparently I don’t raise hens for economic reasons. At any rate for the last several weeks I have mentioned words like dumplings, coq au vin and stew while feeding them. Either that did the trick or the fact that I put down rat poison and draped bird netting over the coop entrance to thwart the crows. I know, I know, the horror of using rat poison, but let’s get real here. While I am morally opposed to its use, I am a big hypocrite. I loathe the rats almost as much as I do raccoons. The couple of barn cats do their very best but the rodent population tends to get ahead of them in the winter.

Thanks to Bob Moore for bringing my attention to the Vern Laux segment on National Public Radio concerning the ivory gull. It seems two have been spotted and there is quite a bit of brouhaha among bird watchers. They are an arctic bird in serious trouble. There are only about 800 of them left as a result of ice shrinkage, mercury contamination in their eggs and the decline of the polar bear. They live on sea ice above the Arctic Circle and scavenge the kills of bears. It was great to hear Vern speak so fondly of them.

As long as we are on the subject of animals, a quick mention of last Monday’s Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney, Pa., is close to my hometown of Rew. In fact, my school, Bradford High and Punxsutawney were football rivals. We always had woodchucks running around the property wreaking havoc on horticultural endeavors. There was one old varmint we named Pete who was the arch enemy of our beagle, Emma Jones. She chased him endlessly with no success. We always tried to say the tongue twister faster than the next: how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

There was a fine turnout for the annual farmer’s invitational supper at the Agricultural Hall. Melinda DeFeo put together an awesome venison stew and Rebecca Miller made a great vegetable soup. It was wonderful to see a good crowd of kindred spirits. We discussed genetic modification, the farm-to-school program and Brazilian crops for the Vineyard.

My new favorite television personality is Rachel Madow. She comes to MSNBC from Air America. She can be seen at 9 p.m. after Keith Oberman weeknights on channel 59 on cable. She made some comments the other night that bear repeating. For several years the previous administration has whipped us into a fearful lather about the terrorists and the havoc they could wreak on our infrastructure. Last week the winter ice storm took out thousands of electric and telephone poles and rendered over a million homes powerless. This says much about our failing power grid, and if a winter storm or a hurricane can put us in such dire straights why is there no debate in Congress concerning the infusion of government funds for repairing bridges, roads and levies? While we are at it, let’s have people digging trenches to lay those power lines underground. I know my Dad worked for the CCC when FDR was at the helm. He dug ditches and was grateful for the work.

What’s up with these tax breaks that are supposed to get us back on track? I know if I receive a pitiful $500 check, I’ll pay the electric, put some gas in the truck and buy some food. It will be gone in an afternoon. No one will go out and spring for a new outfit or television.

I have loved the distractions offered up by the shenanigans of Rod Blagojevich. The newly sworn-in Dan Quinn was overheard saying:

Early to bed

Early to rise

Work like hell

And organize!