Hi y’all, I know, long time since I have popped in. The harvest season was so very busy. More on that another time–soon!

Right now I thought you would all like to know that our dear Marianne Dashwood died last night.

About 5 weeks ago she began her regular seasonal molt and everything was fine at first. Then it became clear she was very uncomfortable and miserable and having a hard time of it. But other than making sure she is safe and warm and has extra protein, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to help a chicken through a molt. Her new feathers began coming in but she was still not well.

About two weeks ago she stopped coming out of the coop. James put a small bowl of food and water in the coop for her but she hardly touched either. The other three Dashwoods left her alone. It’s good they didn’t pick on her, but at the same time, they cut her out of the flock.

Wednesday and Thursday she was perkier. She left the coop and was moving around. We thought she was feeling better and on the mend. We even joked about James playing Colonel Brandon and reading her Shakespearean sonnets during her convalescence.

But Friday afternoon when I came home from work I found her laying on her side in the run and unable to sit up. I scooped her up into my lap and she snuggled against me. I petted her head, and talked to her. James had given the Dashwoods a big bowl of soybean mash earlier in the day and there was some still left, so I put some onto my finger and put it on the side of her beak to encourage her to eat. And she did. But only a very little. Still, she cooed a bit as I held her. So I had some hope that maybe . . .

I found a cardboard box and made a bed for her in it and brought her into the house. Waldo was surprisingly uninterested and not bothered at all about there being a chicken in the house. I found an eyedropper and every little while tried to get her to take some water. She was not interested. We made her as comfortable and warm as we could and tiptoed around the house so as not to disturb her.

Saturday morning it was clear she was dying. James and I took turns holding her for a while and crying over her. Then we put her back in the box and left her in a bright window so she could enjoy some sunshine for a little while longer.

The business of dying takes a long time. She pretty much slept all day, opening her eyes only briefly if she happened to sense us looming over her. We’d talk quietly to her, gently stroke her soft head, and then leave her be.

When we went to bed Saturday night her breathing had became shallow and labored. We stroked her head and wished her a good journey. When we got up this morning she was dead.

James called her Scarer of Hawks and Eater of Elderberries. There was no question about where we would bury her. James dug a deep hole beneath the elderberry. And now she will become part of the elderberry tree. And the cherry tree too, which is only a few feet away and which she also loved.

The weather this weekend has been unseasonably warm and Elinor, Margaret and Mrs. Dashwood, all in various stages of molting themselves, have been out in the garden enjoying the warm sun, scratching in the dirt, and finding no end of surprises including some tasty sunchokes.

I plan to be back again soon with garden harvest news and photos. In the meantime, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!