Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chicken and the Egg

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Actually, here in Gainesville, GA, it's Bob, our elderly neighbor and owner of one million laying hens.  Yes, I said, ONE MILLION. 

Bob is just one of many bird barons who populate Georgia. Poultry and eggs are the number one agricultural product, with a annual value of over $4 billion. The industry as a whole, including processing and supporting industries, has an economic impact of $18 billion. 

Gainesville owes so much to poultry power they erected a statue of a rooster in the middle of downtown. The founding father as it were, since roosters are neither eaten nor lay eggs. 

And in Georgia, chicken's not just for lunch or dinner anymore. Chick-fil-A, a fast food chain based in Atlanta, serves chicken on a biscuit for breakfast.  I guess at Chick-fil-A, it's chicken instead of an egg. But people love it.  Ex-residents speak of it fondly. Colleagues of mine made a stop before a morning meeting, talking about it as though it were a special treat. "You've never been?" they asked me in amazement. 

We took a trip over one lunchtime to see what all the "clucking" was about. We weren't quite ready to try breakfast. Sadly, we were both under-whelmed by our grilled chicken on a bun with limp lettuce and failed to see what inspired such devotion. 

But the eggs Bob gave us? Those were egg-stra-special. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Climate Change

Talking about the weather is a small-talk staple, handy in almost any situation. But although mocked as a trite topic, weather is so much more than that. Rain, snow, sun, ice: weather forms an ever changing backdrop to our daily lives. The drama of a crippling blizzard or ice storm. The sensuous pleasure of  long, sunny days. The downright dreariness of a wet week. Our moods, outlook and health are affected by the weather. 

In New Hampshire's North Country, weather's impact goes even deeper. The tourism and wood industry based economies depend on the right weather to operate, whether concerning snowfall, leaf color or frozen ground to hold heavy equipment. We have such great dependence and so little control. 

Ah, a North Country winter. They start with spitting snow in October and end in April with frigid winds and a last snowfall or two. Spring is hard-earned, a sweet reward after an endurance test of below zero temps and towering snowbanks. Slippery roads and high heating bills. Inky, icy dark at four p.m. 

I spent twenty-four years in New Hampshire. I used to laugh at "snow-birds" and consider them wimps. I cross-country skied, snow-shoed, hiked and even camped (once!) in winter. The sight of pink alpine glow across the snow-topped mountains was one of my favorite sights. 

So what happened? I got tired. Tired of being cold for eight months each year. Tired of seeing fall come earlier and earlier. (like August 15th) Remember the dog days of summer--so hot the road tar was soft under your sneakers as you plodded to the lake? Despite reports of global warming, it seems like we're still getting long, cold winters but summers just aren't what they used to be. 

The weather was a big factor in our decision to move to Georgia. I'm a self-diagnosed sufferer of seasonal affective disorder. Endless gray days make me feel blah. Until you're out of it, you don't realize how stressful winter is, mentally and physically. And lately, economically. $4 a gallon heating oil drove me out. 

As I write this, on February 9, it is 72 degrees and sunny. There is a soft southerly breeze. I feel energized and optimistic. To me, a hot sunny day is like a Christmas present. And Christmas lasts nine months in the South.