Tales from a Spanish Village – Two Old Fools and Chilly Chickens

Mountain weather is unpredictable, as Joe and I found out after our first winter in Spain, seven years ago. Snow cut off our village for nearly a week, and we had no electricity or water. However, we coped. We had bottled water and two woodburning stoves that kept us warm and cooked our food. We couldn’t shower, so we doubtless hummed a bit, but no visitors could have reached our door anyway.

As I sit typing, I can see steely clouds gathering, cloaking the mountaintops. Will it snow? Probably not, but we’re prepared, just in case. We have water, food and logs in abundance. Our chickens provide us with fresh eggs but, unfortunately, they also give us cause for concern.We’ve kept chickens for seven years, and our latest are the most lacking in common sense. As dusk falls, they make their way to bed, but not in the way their predecessors did in the past. Instead of roosting on their pole, in their snug, dry henhouse, they insist on sleeping on a shelf outside. In the summer it didn’t matter, but now nights are freezing, often wet, and there is the threat of snow.

We’ve tried everything to break this silly habit. We spoke to them severely, explaining it was for their own good, and that they’d catch pneumonia if they stayed outside. The chickens didn’t listen. We tried removing the shelf, but they just huddled unhappily underneath where it used to be, outside in the cold. So we replaced the shelf and tried education. Just before bedtime, Joe helped them onto their night perch, hoping they’d get the idea, you understand. But they simply jumped back down again as soon as his back was turned.

Chickens are totally blind in the dark, so we changed our tactics. Now we wait until dark, and Joe (complaining loudly) plucks each chicken from the outside shelf and carries her into the henhouse. There they stay all night, but the following night they roost outside again. And the nightly ‘putting the girls to bed’ ritual continues.

Joe and I watched a TV show the other night about brains. It seems a chicken’s brain is about the size of a jellybaby, so perhaps our expectations are too high. It’s very likely our hens will never get the idea. Through my window, I see the clouds are thickening and night is falling. The temperature is already freezing; it may well snow tonight. Brrrr… Time to send Joe out into the cold to put the chickens to bed, one by one. Roll on summer…

Sweet Spanish Toast

(Recipe from Mouth-Watering Spanish Recipes)

Serves 6

~ 5 to 8 minutes preparation ~
~ 8 to 10 minutes cooking ~

Very similar to the savoury dish called ‘French toast’, this sweet, ‘eggy bread’, is popular as a dessert in Spain. At home we love it as a teatime treat, or weekend breakfast. The grown-up version makes a nice after-dinner dessert served in small pieces, with a bit of vanilla ice cream. Our chickens usually provide us with enough eggs for this delicious dish. Unfortunately, we rarely have stale bread as the chickens eat it…

Ingredients:
6 slices of thick, stale, white bread
300ml (10 US fl.oz) sweet sherry (or milk for the kids)
3 eggs, beaten
Butter for frying

Method:
1) Trim the crusts off the bread and cut into 4 squares or triangles.
2) Soak each side of the bread pieces in the sherry (or milk), for a minute or so.
3) Dip the bread into the beaten egg and fry in butter until they are golden on both sides.
4) Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon, or ice cream, or a drizzle of honey, and serve.

Victoria is the author of 'Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools' (available at Amazon UK or Amazon USA) and 'Two Old Fools – Olé' (also available at Amazon UK or Amazon USA)

“a charming and funny expat tale” The Telegraph (UK)
“Weeks later you will be doing the dishes and recall some fleeting scene with chickens or mules or two old fools and laugh out loud all over again.” The Catalunya Chronicle

Contact Victoria by email on TopHen@VictoriaTwead.com or via her website at www.victoriatwead.com

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