New Trellis & The Fate of Tuppence

20120830-190018.jpgGood news first.  I just finished this trellis for Margaret.  It’s a nice, simple design derived from lots of other trellis shapes that pretty much sucked.  Umm…  Why did I say that?

Well, just about all the rest looked clunky or stubby or lacking in some kind of combination of elegance and strength.  Additionally, the way the tip-ends of the lumber pieces were filigreed were just lacking in imagination.  45 or 90 degree cuts suggest nothing other than the artificial geometric convenience of mitre or pull saws.  Why go there?  To remedy that, I turned to a wonderful design tool that most folks these days either never encountered or simply forgot about.  We’re talking about that sweet device called the French Curve.

As Wikipedia states, it is a template for drawing “smooth curves of varying radii.”  Now how awesome is that?  You get this steady change of curvature that can hardly be accomplished free-hand or by any other way.  Moreover, that curve keeps changing as it goes along (duh!).  And it feel very organic in a very uncanny way.  And, fortunately for Margaret and myself, she had two of different sizes.  Perfect!  Just mark the start and stop points and use the template to connect them.  Just decide what part of the curve appeals to you the most and mark it, so you don’t forget where that part is.  For the small top pieces, I marked down 1/3 distance and went across 3 inches.  Imagine a capitol “L” that fell over to the right onto its face.  The top of the “L” is 1/3 down the edge of the board and the lower limb ends 3″ along the length.  I then used a piece of tape to mark my start point and aligned that with that 1/3 down starting point.  The tail end of the curve naturally lined up with that 3″ end-point.  Once that’s done, the jig saw comes out and a lot of cutting gets done.

The thing is, my original motivation for avoiding too many straight lines was that I felt this need for making something that both suggested something of Nature and something Super-Natural.  One such form is the Japanese Torii.  While Wikipedia says that “The function of a torii is to mark the entrance to a sacred space…”–and that is very accurate–it also can designate the resident of a spirit force and a sacred space.

While the shape I created is far from a strict torii, what I desired was the element of “wings.”  That is the essential shape that is understood in the torii.  This character:  鳥 means “bird” and is part of the word, “torii.”  So what I wanted was a trellis that suggested the wings of a bird while also paying homage to both my maternal heritage and the chickens that wander the backyard.  Why not, eh?

So, the French Curve.  To avoid hard lines and to give a sense of something in as constant flux, as in the movement of a bird’s wings, the paisley weirdness of the French curve came to mind.  Since Margaret has always enjoyed puttering with art and drawing, I tasked her with the job of tracing the ends of the 2 x 6 planks.  BTW, I chose 2 x 6 planks over the 2 x 4’s shown in nearly all other trellis plans, because I wanted greater long-term strength for that 8ft span between the uprights and because, proportionately, 2 x 4’s didn’t appear to possess the adequate potential for suggesting the wing-tip swoop that I desired after shaping the ends.

When it came to the top stringer pieces, it was obvious that they also needed the French Curve treatment, as well as additional length, to both echo the 2 x 6’s shape and sweep.  In the end, it appears that all went better than hoped for.  Margaret will be planting wisteria at the north end and grapes at the south end of the trellis.  If things go as planned, the wisteria will do its thing in the early half of the year, while the grapes will fill in in the latter part.  Fingers crossed!


That difficult rooster, Tuppence, met his end on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  Margaret and I had planned on visiting some friends in Alsea, Oregon over those days, so it struck me as an imperative to deal with Tups.

Most of the hens looked like refugees from a battered women’s shelter.  Golda, Daisy, and Aurora were missing lots of saddle feathers.  Henny, the most traumatized one (having not grown with a rooster through her life), was missing feathers from the top of her head and was bleeding.  Only Edie was without damage, as she possessed the fierceness to establish herself as the real Alpha bird.  The situation needed to change.

Looking at the three-day weekend, it struck me that both the hens and the neighbors needed reprieve.  Yeah, Tuppence was a noisy boy.  No sense making folks suffer while the owners were out of town, right?  It was time for me to do the deed.

Having been familiar with “killing cones,” I spent some time looking for something convenient and inexpensive to do the job.  In the end, I bailed on the idea of a metal one and drove to Home Depot to get one of those medium-sized orange traffic cones.  All that was needed was to cut off the tip enough to allow a chicken’s head to stick out the skinny end.

And so it was.

Unless someone asks me about the particulars, I will leave it to say that it was not a smooth operation.  If you think your knife is sharp, chances are it isn’t enough.  If you think the sight of blood might be an issue for you–or that you think you can handle the sight of it–then you might consider that blood does have a distinctive smell.  I never made that one-to-one connection, as I associated it before only with fish.  Now, how about that?  I’m still puzzled that I don’t have the same memory from when I helped slaughter the swine I raised back when in high school.  Perhaps it’s that pigs can scream at a higher decibel that the Concorde Super Sonic Transport at takeoff.

Well, before I ever entertained the thought of having to kill one of my chickens, I did have it in mind that it would be wrong if one died by my hand without my eating it.  And, of course, nothing is ever as easy as first imagined.  Now, were talking about kitchen work and not just the matter of killing.  This is a rooster we’re talking about and not some young pullet fattened and raised to be a fryer.  Nope, this is probably the meat equivalent of some old hen well past her laying years–and then some–and then suitable only for stewing.

Thinking about stewing, I turned to an old classic book of French cooking, I Know How To Cook.  In there, I found a recipe for “Coq Au Vin.”  Cognac and Burgundy wine!  Nothing like booze to soften an ill-temperament like Tuppence’s.

How did it turn out?  Well, while I think the recipe created a incredible sauce, Tuppence got the upper hand on antagonizing me.  I think, at some point, I neglected or otherwise lost control of the temperature, and the bird meat turned tough.  Miserable!  But, fortunately, there was Margaret.  It was her admonishment that cooking “slow and low” is the only insurance to breaking down the collagen in tough meat towards a palatable meal.

After that night of failure, Margaret suggested we put the remaining pieces into a Dutch Oven, add carrots, sweet potatoes, wild rice, and chicken stock, and insert into a 300 degree oven for 2 or 3 more hours.

The end result?  Something bordering on the most amazing chicken dish I ever had in the whole of my life.  Salvation!



About magdave

Two people passionate about the slow life of creating tasty food in our little kitchen, with the help of our greenhouse, the garden patches
Image | This entry was posted in Chickens, Cooking, Food. Bookmark the permalink.

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