Don’t worry, Betty White is still with us. My husband has an uncanny gift for bird watching. We have narrowly missed horrific car accidents because instead of the road, Karl-Peter’s eyes follow the skies for unusual fowl. For years I made fun of Karl-Peter for his obsession with birds, until this weekend, when his bird savvy saved Betty White’s fluffed up life. We were sitting on the couch eating breakfast when KP’s neck straightened at something out our front window. “That bird doesn’t belong here,” he said. I smirked and went back to eating my scrambled eggs. There was a large bird on our neighbor’s front lawn. Big deal, I thought. Then KP ran out the front door. Confused, I chased him once around the house into our backyard, where I witnessed a scene that will give me nightmares for months to come—an angry-beaked hawk swooping toward Betty with murderous intent. KP threw his arms in the air and screamed, I screamed too, and the hawk nearly missed Betty’s scurrying little grey fluff by inches. We herded the girls into the coop, and there they remain, cooped up—but safe.
What to do going forward? We used to be the kind of people who were smug to say, Our chickens are free-range. Now the chickens have a tight curfew and are only free-range with chaperones. There must be some analogy to parenting here. Here is KP keeping watch over the flock. I think he should get a Chicken Lifeguard red tank top for his birthday, and a high chair with a blow horn.
All the websites I read for hawk-protection advice said, “Get a dog.” Izzy, unfortunately, sides more with the hawks. I think I have been naïve all this time to the many predators licking their chops at our chickens from above, and for all I know, below. I’ve been told I can’t shoot at hawks in town. So for now, I’m looking to invest in some chicken helmets.
And meanwhile, some sassy chicken claw heels. Thanks for the tip, Ralph.
Pane al Pepe Verde, or Green Peppercorn Bread
Adapted from The Italian Baker
2 3/4 – 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1 t. salt
2 t. olive oil
1 c. water
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 T. green peppercorns, mashed into the olive oil
Whisk flour, sourdough, and salt in mixing bowl with the olive oil-soaked peppercorns. I found mine at Penzeys Spices in Minneapolis, and good luck finding these at your average grocery store, unless you live in a thriving, multicultural metropolis. Rochester failed me on the green peppercorn front, but never Penzeys.
Knead dough by hand on floured counter briefly, and put in covered oiled bowl.
When dough has doubled, about two hours, put on floured counter and shape it into a boule. Cover with saran and a towel and let double again, about one hour.
Preheat oven to 500, put baking stone on lowest rack.
When dough has risen, make several squiggly slashes and put in oven. Spray three times with water in the first ten minutes of baking.
Immediately lower heat to 400. Bake about 35 minutes. Cool on rack. Beautiful, beautiful loaf.