Friday, September 26, 2008


Aunt Penny and the half-moon hoe, at work in the field Boggy Creek Farm (Aunt Penny and the half-moon hoe, at work in the field Boggy Creek Farm)

From Carol Ann Sayle's News of Boggy Creek Farm:

September 25, 2008
Obituary of Aunt Penny Barrock

Aunt Penny, as she was known to the Friends of the Farm, died peacefully, at the age of six and one-half years old, 1 PM, Monday, September 22, 2008, at her home, the Hen House at Boggy Creek Farm, in Austin Texas. She is survived by her subordinates, Tootie J. Tootums and Hoppy J.Tootums, her nieces the twin Patty Wyandottes, and her servants and companions, Carol Ann, Larry, Cousin Claire, Andrea, and The Marias. She is predeceased by her mentor, Mrs. Elvira Bentley, who passed away in 2004.

Aunt Penny was a singular hen -- the most remarkable hen that Carol Ann has seen in a twenty-six year association with chickens.

Aunt Penny spent the first two months of her chickhood in a garage in a fancy neighborhood in Austin, but since she was deemed "illegal," due to antiquated subdivision rules, her servants brought her to the farm for adoption in March of 2002. There she lived in a tacky cage on the back porch of the farm house, and earned her keep by watching over the twin one-month old hellions, the Patty Wyandottes. Once the three were transferred to the Hen House, Aunt Penny quickly decided that she didn't like chickens. She instead favored the company of the farmers.

At a young age, she and her mentor Mrs. Bentley (the golden hen with the bent tail) went to work in the field each morning, accompanying Carol Ann and the half-moon hoe to dig up worms. r at least that was her assessment of any project's objective. Appetites sated, she and Mrs. Bentley would retire to the huge fig tree at the farm stand and watch further action from the shade. Anytime her servants walked by, Auntie would issue salutations, to which they would respond appropriately.

Aunt Penny was quite vocal, possessing, as do all superior chickens, over thirty vocalizations, many more than either dogs or cats. She carried on long conversations with Carol Ann daily. Hawks on high elicited a low-toned growl from her and a quick dust-raising scurry to the cover of trees, leaving Carol Ann to deal with any forthcoming atrocities. (She did not apologize, even in her final days, for this desertion.)

When Mrs. Bentley went to her reward, a victim of worms, Aunt Penny was elevated to the status of Head Hen. She was a wings-off executive of the Hen House, preferring to be in it only at perch time or for a spot of grain. She didn't like the competitiveness of the other hens at "afternoon treat time" or any other mealtime, much preferring to eat out. She enjoyed, for instance, lunching with the Marias who sat in the arbor under the shade of the climbing Old Blush rose. They were not competitive and indeed shared all kinds of interesting tidbits with Auntie.

She was a real fan of the farmstand and her beloved Friends of the Farm. They also seemed endeared of her and polite enough to hand out special treats such as bits of croissants and crumbles of tofu. Indeed, tofu was Auntie's favorite gourmet food. After a satisfying snack, Auntie could be found resting underneath the market tables, watching ankles pass by, or under the cashiers' tables. She just enjoyed being with humans.

She was, in her later years, a frequent visitor inside the farm house, occupying her own rocking chair (apparently willed to her by Larry's grandmother) and scouting the floor for any edible morsels. Even though she had to put up with rude comments from Larry, she learned to ignore him, as she did all rooster types.

Regarding roosters, Auntie absolutely detested the two she had known in the Hen House. Clumsy Buffy could be tolerated, but Rusty Roo, she decided, was an avian member of the Taliban. He was consistently rude and even brutal at times, since he considered Auntie's activities outside of the Hen House the behavior of an infidel. At times, Carol Ann would have to kick him off of Auntie or stand between him and her until she could get up on the perch. Auntie was not an infidel, just a career girl who found out at an early age that she had no maternal instincts.

The hens, however, deferred to Auntie as the Head Hen. Her sidekick, the bespectacled Tootie J. Tootums, following Mrs. Bentley's death, accompanied Auntie to work in the fields, and was known to be very respectful when Carol Ann uncovered a cut worm -- she always allowed Auntie first dibs. If it was a grub worm, however, Tootie and Carol Ann both knew that Auntie detested them, shaking her head briskly and negatively, so Carol Ann would toss them over to Tootie, who swallowed them whole.

Aunt Penny laid many fine, large brown eggs, usually preferring to lay them in special nests of her own choosing in the farm stand barn. She loved to pose very still for the half hour or so necessary to lay the egg, thus fooling folks into thinking she was a "stuffed hen." She'd tilt her head and they'd exclaim, "Oh! it's a real chicken!" Well, even though that was a tiny insult, as if she was one of those hens, she still enjoyed their surprise. Often she would allow children to watch her actually lay the egg. It was one of her gifts to the community.

At her death, Aunt Penny was shrouded in her signature organic cotton tshirt (featuring her comely figure) and entombed at the base of the graveyard pecan tree. Her grave is adjacent to Mrs. Bentley's, around the trunk from Tubby J.Tupelo's, and has a fine view of the farm house and the fields of her dreams.

Visitation is every Wednesday and every Saturday, 9 to 1. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to her favorite charity, The Green Corn Project, whose annual fundraiser tasting party every year at the farm (this year Sunday, October 26th) features leftovers saved for the hens.

Tootie J. Tootums, Boggy Creek Farm (Tootie J. Tootums, now head hen)

Her untimely departure (thanks to worms, just like Mrs. Bentley) at the still fertile middle age of six and a half years old, has left a huge hole in the heart of the farm. She will be missed by many -- but not by Rusty Roo.

[For more photos and stories of the hen house, go to the Boggy Creek Farm website.]


Jesse Wendel said...

This sucks.


Also, if you are not subscribing to the newsletter, you're missing some of the best food writing anywhere.

Blue said...

Thank you for telling us of Aunt Penny's death. May I never forget the time she flew onto my back in a panic and perched there, delighting the children and leaving red scratch marks all over me.

cygnetbrown said...

I love your picture of Aunt Penny. I like it so well, I would like to use the photo on sustainable farming in an upcoming St Louis article. Do I have your permission to use it? My email address is If I have your permission, I will write the article in her memory. Thanks