Left out.

Sometimes, the chickens do things that make me sad.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them to bits.   The situation with Roseanna has not gotten any better though.  I have to agree with them, she’s a complete weirdo.  She just has no manners.  She steps on other flock members, knocks them over when she comes rampaging through the group and is just generally….well…WEIRD.

The flock has just had it with her.  They peck her when she tries to join them.  She hasn’t been injured yet, but I’m going to have to figure out what to do with this situation.  At this point, she’s become an outcast and spends most of her time by herself, which she doesn’t seem to mind.  Last night, everyone was in The Dust Bowl preening and she sat alone in a pile of twigs just watching.   It broke my heart a little bit.

rosanna alone

It’s ridiculously hot here today….AGAIN.  I’d planned on going to a local farmers market but one of my spies on the scene contacted me and said that it’s packed and it’s HOT.  I’m not good in public on a nice day.  I just don’t like crowds. So, I think we’ll make the trip to another AIR-CONDITIONED market that a local orchard runs.  It’s actually a store…which is better for me and no one will get stabbed if they get in my way because I won’t be hot and sweaty.  I’m only thinking of people’s safety.

The flock has been a bit cranky too.  Cluck has been stalking Vinnie and I’m not sure why other than Vinnie is another boy.   Last night, Vinnie was minding his own goofy business when all of a sudden Cluck freaked out and threatened him with the whole ruffled hackle feathers routine.  Vinnie responded by ruffling his hackle feathers for a split second and then ran like a scared little girl.  Cluck took off after him and Vinnie ran faster and so did Cluck.  Pretty soon, Vinnie ran over to the fence where I was sitting on my chair and looked at me frantically.  Cluck glided up behind him and by this time Vinnie had made himself very tall and skinny and looked as though he might just pass out right there.  I got very close to the fence…just out of Cluck’s pecking distance and whispered..”Cluck, honey” and then yelled “KNOCK IT OFF”…and Cluck blinked at me a few times and turned and walked away.  Vinnie was still all tall and skinny and I tried to calm him down by stroking his chest feathers and finally he stopped his frantic clucking and got back to his  previous business of just chickening around.

AND, one of the Wyandotte sisters has become obsessed with the other chickens’ feathers.  If she sees a feather out-of-place on one of the other birds, she feels that it’s her important responsibility to remove the out-of-place feather.  She thinks she’s the aesthetician of the flock.  I think she’s a budding feather picker and she better stop it or I’m going to put her beak on the back of her head.  She and I have talked and she’s considering her options.

flowers

In other news, the plants on the deck are doing wonderfully!  I don’t want to talk about the garden.  Really.  Topic is completely off-limits.  I’m pretty sure that those tomatoes from the farm market we go to will be DELICIOUS.

 

Salmonella.

If you follow the world of poultry at all, you’ll know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recently issued an advisory statement regarding a particular hatchery’s chicks being infected with Salmonella.  It’s been very difficult for those who have found that their chicks originated from that particular hatchery and emotions, fear and denial have been running fairly high at many of the popular internet chicken water coolers.

The backyard chicken movement across the country is exploding.  People are understanding the value and joy of keeping a small flock of birds for their own use or perhaps to share eggs with the community that are local in origin and humanely obtained.  With the spread of the popularity of backyard chickens, also comes a lot of new folks who not only aren’t knowledgeable about backyard chicken raising, but also do not have the knowledge to follow biological safety.  It’s not their fault.  They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

germ

In one of my previous positions, I was an infectious disease physician extender meaning that I rounded for the physician and saw his patients, evaluated their status and lab results and wrote progress notes that were later confirmed and signed off on by the attending doctor.  During that time, I learned quite a bit about infectious disease, but I’m certainly not an expert and I’ll be honest about that right now.  However, being in healthcare in general, you learn a tremendous amount about how disease is transmitted and what should be done to avoid that from happening.  I thought I’d take a moment and list some friendly tips and some information about Salmonella.

Salmonella is an equal opportunity bacterium.  It would like to live in you and if it decides that you’re a cool place to hang out, you’ll know about it.  Gut-wrenching abdominal cramps, unbelievable diarrhea and fever are the typical symptoms.  Someone on another page that I was reading mentioned that it’s not that common and you might not even know you have it. 1.2 MILLION cases are reported every year.  Some of those people do okay, some are hospitalized because they are so severely dehydrated, some have lasting effects like joint pain and other damage to their bodies and some, frankly, die.   I assure you, you’ll know you have it and so will everyone else at your house and maybe everyone else in your area because you’ll be doubled over on the commode yelling about your abdominal pain while your body tries to purge every molecule of water from it through your backside.  This isn’t one of those overnight stomach bugs.  This is one of those fluid and electrolyte draining, dehydrating, miserable situations that at some point during which you’re sure you’re dying.  Salmonella and Salmonellosis is not anything to take lightly.

Prevention is the key when dealing with a bacterium like Salmonella.  There is no cure other than supportive care and antibiotics are not always helpful because the darn bacterium keep figuring out ways to be resistant to the antibiotics that we’ve over used over the years.  It’s not enough to say “well…it’s just diarrhea…it’s not going to kill you”, because it most certainly CAN kill a human especially if they are a child, elderly or immunosuppressed.

In order to prevent something from occurring, you have to understand how it occurs.  Salmonella bacteria live in the GI tracts of animals.  Those animals aren’t necessarily sick, but they are carriers and at various times, shed the bacteria through their feces.  Humans encounter that feces in a variety of ways, none of which you want to think about too terribly much, because you are, after all, eating poop in order to come in contact with the bacteria.  It can also spread through dust and animal dander and if you’ve ever been around a chicken, you know that not only are they atomic poop machines but they also are dusty, dandery and well, lets just be honest…downright dirty. Without going into too many details about how the condition is spread…because I’ll start screaming…let’s move on with tips on how to minimize your risk for contracting and spreading Salmonellosis or as I like to call it…common sense.

WASH YOUR HANDS

Every time you touch a chicken, touch anything in the coop, open the coop door, change water, add food to the feeder you’re at risk for picking up bacteria.  I shouldn’t even have to tell you to wash your hands.  Many people think a quick rinse under the kitchen sink is washing their hands.  NO.  Let me say that again…NO.  When you utilize your kitchen sink to wash your grubby chicken poopy paws, you’re just introducing that bacteria into the area where you cook and wash dishes.  STOP IT.  Either keep hand sanitizer in your pocket to use on your way to the house (and you should do it before you touch that back door handle, by the way) OR keep antibacterial soap outside of the house near a water source and wash your hands before entering your home.  When you wash your hands, you should do it long enough that you can sing the entire ABC song that you learned in kindergarten while you do it.  Get under your nails with a scrub brush, do the backs of your hands and wrists because bacteria are sneaky.  If you’ve only used hand sanitizer, you’ll still want to get under your nails and wash well with soap and water.  Washing your hands is the number one single thing that you can do to protect yourself and your family.  Make your children and your hubby or wife wash their hands often.  You have no idea if they’ve been out petting chickens or giving them treats or maybe they found a hidden cache of eggs in the sandbox.  You can not expect to stay healthy if you do not wash your hands.  If you know your hands are contaminated by chickens…touch NOTHING in the house until you’ve washed your hands.  You don’t want to be the one with chicken poop under your nails from cleaning up one of your girl’s dirty, poopy vents and then come into the house and answer the phone.  Don’t take anything into the coop that you do not want contaminated.  That includes your children and your dog that likes to eat chicken poop and then kiss you on the lips.  Use bleach wipes to regularly disinfect the area around your sink and your door knobs on entrances and exits that are high traffic for your family.  Using that rich chicken poop compost in your garden?  Make SURE you’ve washed your hands and under your nails after you’ve worked in the garden and wash any food from the garden before you consume it.  You’ll thank me later.

COOP SHOES.

For Pete’s sake, don’t wear your good shoes that you want to wear anyplace else into the chicken coop or anyplace else for that matter where the chickens are leaving precious chicken poop presents for you.  I have three pairs of shoes/boots that are chicken coop only footwear.  I don’t wear them into the house and I don’t wear them in public and it’s not because they’re ugly, it’s because I’ve been walking around in chicken bedding and they aren’t fussy about where they poop and when you’re chasing a chicken in the coop, you aren’t fussy about where you step.  Get yourself some ugly shoes from the discount store and a pair of boots and make those your permanent coop shoes.  Take them off before you go into the house and leave them in the garage on newspaper or on something that you can disinfect.  Tracking chicken poop all over your living quarters is inevitable if you wear your coop shoes into the house…and we all know what that means.  Even though you don’t see it, it’s on the floor.  Let’s say you set your purse or gym bag on the floor or your child’s back pack and then unthinking, you pick it up and put it on the counter or the table.  The bottom of your purse and bags that you set down in public places are simply filthy.  Hang them from the back of a chair instead of throwing them on the floor where someone (probably your kids) have walked and probably tracked in chicken poop that they stepped in outside.  Educate your children.  They don’t want to get sick either and it’s never too early to learn common sense sanitation practices.

WEAR AN APRON.

Cover up your clothes if you’re going to be working in close contact with your flock.  An apron can save you from chicken poopy clothes and from dander and dust.  They aren’t a perfect solution, but unless you like doing laundry and changing your clothes every time you come back to the house, they are helpful and will save you a ton of time in the laundry room.  Wash them frequently in hot soapy water and you might want to just do a chicken clothes load of laundry.  Just a suggestion.  Your family will give you grief about the apron and when they do tell them you’re doing it so they don’t get flaming diarrhea and leave it at that.  “YOU CAN JUST THANK THIS APRON FOR NOT HAVING FLAMING DIARRHEA” and then spin on your heel and leave the room.  That usually gets them.

LEAVE THEM OUTSIDE.

As much as I love my chickens, and I really do love them, they are NOT allowed in the house.  They never were kept in the house and I would no more consider allowing them to live in the house at any age, than I would consider living in their house.  Chickens are carriers for many things that make humans sick.  They don’t belong in your living environment.  They are animals and they aren’t clean animals.  They are indiscriminate poopers and they belong in an environment where they can indiscriminately poop.  You can argue with me until you’re blue…chickens need to be outside or outside of your living area anyway, from the DAY you bring them home or they hatch.  They are not clean animals.  You will get sick in some form or another and your feathered room mates will probably be somehow involved with that.  Trust me…you don’t want to hear my “I Told You So” song…because it also comes with a dance.

STOP KISSING THEM.

Really?  Do I have to tell you that?  Come on…they sleep in their own poop…they walk in their own poop and then they scratch their face with their scaly poopy foot.  Do I really need to tell you not to kiss them on their darling cheek?

KIDS!!

Alright.  Your kids are cute, the chickens are cute…look how cute they are together….AWWWWW.  Little Susan likes to kiss the chickens and play with them outside…and oh look…she’s eating a cookie.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Children should be taught proper hand washing so that they know every time they’ve touched the chickens or been outside that they should wash their hands.  They probably have learned about singing the ABC’s while they wash their hands at school.  Ask them…they’ll teach you.  And make them leave their shoes in the garage!  If they’ve been running around where your chickens free range, those shoes are most likely stomping on poop while they’re outside.  Common sense stuff.  Shoes….in the garage…clothes…changed when you come in…hands….WASHED before you do ANYTHING else.  Those should be the rules for children in your home.  And tell them to leave the chickens alone if they don’t understand.  Kids are not nearly as cute when they are spewing poop and crying from stomach pain or lying in a hospital bed.

I’m glad that I have chickens, but I’ve been vigilant about germs from the first moment we set eyes on them at the farm store.  I just hate stomach ailments.  I’d rather chew tinfoil than throw-up or have nausea.  Being an RN, I’m a bit of a freak about it, but I’ve just given you some easy things that you can do to minimize your risk for illness.  If you purchased your chicks from this hatchery with the Salmonella contamination, I would recommend that you contact your local farm extension office for advice regarding their future with you.  I don’t want to sound callous, because I would be devastated if it were my  birds, but if yours test positive for Salmonella you are endangering not only yourself and your own family, but you’re endangering any human who might come in contact with you,  your flock, and your eggs.

The Centers for Disease Control have a great website that can educate you about preventing disease.  I was also on the The Chicken Whisperer’s page today and he’s been doing radio shows with scholars and veterinarians and I understand that tomorrow the hatchery owner of the place with contamination may be joining the show as well as someone from chain of farm stores that sold chicks from this hatchery.  You can find information here about The Chicken Whisperer’s live radio program.

Just use common sense.  Stay healthy.  And for Pete’s sake go wash your hands.

 

 

Mwahaha.

It feels like it’s been raining here for WEEKS.  Actually, it’s only been for the past week.  Now that I think about it, the weather was fine until Greg rototilled up that garden.  Ever since then, we’ve had several downpours a day…which is great if you’re trying to grow your own tropical rainforest.  It’s not so great if you’re trying to put a garden in or doing other simple tasks like just walking to the car.

Everything FEELS wet because the humidity is somewhere between “I can’t breathe” and “hey…just a second, I need to wring out my shirt”.  I don’t like it.  It makes me cranky and everything smells….and it’s not good smells either.

This morning as I was talking myself into going to work, I went into the hall bathroom to find towels to steal so that I could take a shower so that I at least smelled better even though my hair would make it look like I was wearing a bush on my head.  I had been smelling something like mildew in the house and I figured it was just the humidity.  I think everything smells moldy when it’s humid.  I think I inherited my super smell skills from my mom who would sniff a piece of bread that LOOKED perfectly fine, but she would declare “MOLDY!!” and toss it.  It’s one of those gifts… sort of like The Long Island Medium, but with mold.  square eggs and i

Anyway, I went into the hall bathroom to get those towels and when I opened the door to the linen closet the moldy smell reached out and slapped me in the face…which isn’t very nice.  Confused, I started rifling through the contents of the closet and everything seemed okay.  Maybe I was just insane (maybe?).  I reached for a couple of towels that were on the shelf, making a mental note to tell my daughter NOT to wad them up when she put the clean towels away, and my hand encountered something wet.

She’d put wet towels…and I mean SOAKING wet…that she’d apparently used for her shower, back in the linen closet.  Not just one…but TWO.  She neatly rolled them up (10 points to Gryffindor), and had just put them back in the linen closet. WET.

I pulled the sodden towels out and was nearly knocked out by the smell of mildew.  Holy Mother of All Things MOLDY!!!!  That wasn’t the worst, though.  I tossed the towels into a pile waiting to be taken to the laundry room  and as they flew through the air, they unfurled and OH MY GOSH!!!  The reeking stink of mold just filled the room.  She’s going to be ELEVEN.  How did this even make sense in her head?  I was ranting about towels and mildew and sanitizing and selling her to gypsies and Tom just finally came and got the towels and took them down to the laundry to room to start the DECON cycle of the washer…also known as “WASH WITH LAVA HOT WATER”.

I just don’t understand.  I just don’t get it.  How was putting wet towels in the linen closet a good idea on ANY level??  Usually she leaves them on the floor like any other normal kid and I pick them up and put them in the laundry or  Tom shoves them in a corner of the bathroom…and I pick them up and take them to the laundry.

This is why I have grey hair.

The humidity also brings bugs that need an aircraft carrier in order to land and take off.  The May flies are still around and last night when Emma went to take her shower, there was one hovering around the bathtub.   She came rocketing out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, proclaiming that there was a BUG in the TUB.  May fly.  Tom, being the great white hunter, went in and saved the day by smashing and flushing.  Drama mitigated.

We’ve also been having problems with wasps and other unidentified flying, stinging things.  Greg had a wasp get into his apartment, so he did what any other brave man would do and screamed while he sucked it off the light fixture with the vacuum cleaner.  One day I was surfing Pinterest (where all genius ideas live) and I found a do it yourself project to make a wasp catcher!  YAY!  It involved an empty two liter soda bottle, some sugar syrup and some wire.  I would show you a picture of it, but…um…it’s not pretty and I’d have to go out in the rain to take one…so just forget it.  Long story short, all I’ve caught is a mosquito, a stick and some mold.  However, I DID have a moment of intense pride when I first hung it up because I’d recycled an empty soda bottle into something seemingly useful…or at least something that the neighbors can talk about at their next meeting to discuss ousting me from the neighborhood.

The chickens are fairing pretty well with all the rain.  This morning, I opened the door to let them out into the run and they all scurried out as usual.  As I was leaving to go back to the house, they were happily munching leaves that had fallen from the trees over their run…which, with my luck, instantly will kill a chicken.  Nobody fell over dead, so I figured the leaves must not be toxic, at least not right away.  As I was closing the door to the coop, I glanced down and there…in the crack of the door jamb was a ROACH.

I didn’t scream…which is good because it was early.  The roach scuttled off to somewhere unknown, but I have a feeling I know where they are living.  The people who lived in the house prior to us buying it had wood stacked along the back of the property.  I think they must have stacked in sometime in the 18th century because now it’s just a decaying pile of something that looks like firewood, but if you touch it, disintegrates into a pile of decayed wood chunks.  When we were making the chicken run, I thought a few logs would be nice for them to perch on and when I tried to pick one up, I found myself holding just a piece of bark while the rest of the log fell apart.  The inside was FULL of termites and peppered with a healthy dose of roaches with a few roly poly bugs thrown in for variety.  While that is surely everything that chickens dream about, it just made me scream a lot.cockroach

I stood there absolutely STRICKEN because there were ROACHES at the door of my CHICKEN COOP.  I knew I couldn’t spray anything…but WAIT…I had diatomaceous earth!!!!  A whole bottle of it was stored in the cabinet in the coop and I’d just been reading the other day how it interferes with a bug’s exoskeleton and turns them into bug jerky!

I got out the diatomaceous earth and gleefully sprinkled it around the coop and in the door jamb and I might have even laughed out loud while I did it…which is going to further unnerve our neighbor Steve and his wife, who think I’m a bat to begin with and won’t even wave at me anymore, when they hear “MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” coming from behind our garage at 7:30 in the morning.

Thinking I had most likely saved all chicken kind from roaches, I stood back and admired my dusty work.  I could just picture them creepy crawling back to the coop and then encountering the diatomaceous earth and then their legs would just….fall off…or something…I really didn’t care…they just need to DIE!!!!!

Now…about that wood pile.  I’m going to need a backhoe full of diatomaceous earth.  When I dump that baby on that wood pile, there’s going to be the biggest pile of bug jerky and legless crawly things that you’ve ever seen.

I’ll bet I should call Anderson Cooper, because CNN is DEFINITELY going to want to cover this.

 

******  This post is part of The Homestead Barn Hop and The Down Home Blog Hop!

Monday.

I’m not good at Mondays.  Come to think of it, I’m not good at Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday either.  I’m very good at Friday afternoons, Saturday and Sundays.  Unless you want to count being productive as being “good” at it, in which case…I’m not so good.  Hey.  We all have limitations.

It wasn’t a bad weekend.  The BORBs made it to their new home with their new people and it turns out that they were not a chanting, axe-wielding, hood-wearing, satanic cult.  Nope…just a little girl who is raising chickens for 4H who currently has 30 pullets.  THIRTY.  The BORBs are going to be busy young roosters and they’ve already sent me a note asking me to forward their mail and to please stop worrying about them because with 30 girlfriends, they don’t see a problem with this new situation at all.

The rest of the flock, back at our place, has calmed down considerably since the two buff colored bowling balls are out of the picture.  Yesterday, at “WEED TIME” there was no fighting, no pecking and no chicken screeches that typically occurred whenever any one of them approached a pile of weeds being eaten by one of the BORBs.  In other words, there’s peace in the valley.   Cluck Norris has reclaimed his post as high-ranking rooster but still spends most of his time preening by himself, watching the flock from a distance with one eye on the sky and reading “YOU TOO CAN BE A SCARY ROOSTER”.  He’s such a loner and it seems as though he WANTS to be friendly, he’s just so suspicious of everything and everyone.  I think I need to take him to the bookstore for a different book…perhaps “PARANOIA WILL DESTROY YA”.  Either that or we step up the hugs and compliments during the nightly “YOU MUST LOVE US OR ELSE” chicken boot camp that Greg and I are running.

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Vinnie, (he’s the barred rock that we think is rooster that’s in drag as a hen) and Cluck have actually had a couple of those ridiculous rooster showdowns where they get in each other’s face and fluff up their hackle feathers in an attempt to look bigger than they are.  Cluck is very good at it (you know…he’s reading that book).  Vinnie gets all fluffed up for about 4 seconds and then turns around and walks away like “It’s good dude…no worries…and why are you such a GROUCH.”  Vinnie, if he is a rooster, is obviously low man on the totem pole…or rooster pole…or whatever chickens use.

We’ve had a LOT of storms this past weekend.  On Friday afternoon, after I snuck out 15 minutes early (OH STOP IT…I’m salary), the first thing I noticed was that the sky was a bit…mmm…OMINOUS and by ominous, I mean freaking scary looking.  I live just five minutes from where I work, and by the time I was three minutes into the drive, it was raining drops the size of saucers.  I can deal with rain…I sort of like it even when it’s a downpour.  However, I turned a corner and suddenly was hit with winds that rocked my SUV (and not like the way The Foo Fighters rock it, I might add) and the rain became so heavy that it was impossible to see the road.  Because nothing will stop me when I’m heading home on a Friday, I just kept going but was a bit concerned when mature trees were…um…in shapes that they aren’t normally able to achieve.  Later on the news, it was reported that we’d had 120 mph straight line winds that had moved through the area which apparently is what caused the tree origami during the ride home.   Fortunately, we had no damage to the large trees on our property, but much of the area had not fared as well, and damage to homes, trees and property was very heavy.  I’m just glad I was in the car because my hairspray only goes up to 110 mph winds.

The rain (and over an inch fell in about 15 minutes) flooded the front walkway to the house because one of the drains that are strategically placed in various areas to PREVENT flooding, was stuffed with maple tree seeds…you know, those stupid helicopters?  They’re ruining my whole groove because they are EVERYWHERE and you absolutely can not sneak up on the chickens when there are seed helicopters crunching under your feet. I could have driven around to the back of the house, but then Tom’s truck would be between my SUV and the house and of course I had no umbrella…not that it would have helped in the hurricane force winds.   So, I called Tom.

“Hey I’m sitting in the driveway and the walk is all FLOODED.”

He knew I’d sit in the car until next week instead of slog through the water in my work shoes, so he came out in the deluge and dug helicopters out of the drain while I skittered around trying to avoid deep puddles and screaming because I was getting wet.  He’s a good egg.

The rain also meant that my weekend plans of getting the garden in were pretty much washed out…almost literally.  The entire weekend was predicted to have repeated bouts of this storm nonsense which meant that the plants that I still haven’t thinned would go on to be unthinned and unplanted for yet another weekend…if they hadn’t blown away in the 120 mph winds.

Rain always makes me panic a little about the chickens.  I’m firmly convinced that if they don’t have the wherewithal to come in out of the dark, that I’ll find the whole lot of them standing in the rain looking bedraggled and sodden.  Nobody likes a wet chicken.  In the past, whenever there’s been even a HINT of rain, I’ve raced outside to the coop to make sure they were all safely contained inside…or called Tom and Greg obsessively until they went out and dragged them inside and locked up the coop.  Fortunately, during the huge wind/rain event Friday, they were all snug in their  coop.  With the rain predicted for the rest of the weekend, I was pretty sure they were going to have to spend the weekend inside the coop which meant I was going to have to entertain them…because I’m insane.  So, I made the decision that I was going to let them go outside over the weekend and if it started raining, I was going to let them figure it out.

Saturday afternoon, it started to sprinkle.  The sprinkle, quickly turned into full-out raining.  I’ve strategically set up the chicken run (again because I’m insane) so that I can see it from two different vantage points, the sofa and the deck…and since it was raining, I was NOT on the deck.  I looked out from the window behind the sofa and there they stood…in the rain…in the run, fluffing up their feathers and looking slightly annoyed.  I decided I wouldn’t watch…if they were going to drown in the rain, I didn’t want to witness it.  I didn’t watch for all of 30 seconds before I was back at the window….because I’m insane.

The run was empty.  They had gone inside!  Apparently, when I didn’t show up with a sack of scratch, they decided they’d had enough of standing around waiting in the rain and had broken camp and gone to the coop.  My shriveled black heart swelled with maternal pride.  Apparently they also know, that no one likes a wet chicken.

power toolsThe rest of the weekend was fairly unproductive.  I ranted about the rain and garden, ranted about stuff on the island in the kitchen, and ranted about having more laundry than the people on “19 Kids and Counting”.   I finally settled down on Sunday and baked some of the BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever had (no lie) and baked some bread.  Sunday afternoon, on one of my visits to the coop, I found Greg outside the fence of the run showing them a power tool.  I think I’ve severely underestimated them because they were FASCINATED.  Greg held a drill outside their reach and spun the drill bit several times which I honestly thought would send them careening into another county.  They were fixated by the sound and the spinning bit.  Vinnie edged closer…and closer…and Greg stopped spinning the bit for a moment.  Vinnie ran up…pecked the drill bit and took a giant step backward just to make sure that it wasn’t going to get him when it started making that insane WHIRRING noise again.  They stood and watched with one eye while Greg talked to them about power tools, never taking their eye (just ONE eye) off the spinning bit.  He’d stop it and they’d edge closer to see what it was…he’d start it again and they’d all take a step back, but not really in fear…because they were hopelessly curious about that tool.  It was sort of fascinating.  I might give them a list of things to do that involves power tools!  However, I’m not letting them go to Lowe’s with my credit card anymore.

vinnie drill

So, the weekend summary is this:  120 mph winds and torrential rain will screw up your hair and your shoes if you have a tree full of helicopters in your yard.  Chickens, although they act as if they have no brain, will stand around in the rain waiting for you to take them in only if they think they’re going to get handfuls of “CLUCK YEAH!!” scratch, if they go inside.  Otherwise, they will go in just fine on their own, albeit with a surly attitude because they didn’t get any “CLUCK YEAH!” scratch.  Also, chickens love power tools and I make the best chocolate chip cookies, not only on the PLANET, but in the universe.

 

I’m participating in Homestead Barn Hop #159!

 

Rotothingy.

Last night as I was rocketing home from work, I noticed an appliance dolly in the side yard as I pulled up to the house.  It’s never a good sign when an item meant to carry around appliances is out in the middle of the grass and it could only mean that Greg and Tom were up to something that I would probably tell them I hadn’t approved and to STOP IT.  I don’t recall signing any paperwork that mentioned appliance dollies.

As I was getting out of my SUV, Greg and Tom pulled into the driveway and loaded in the back of the truck…surrounded seraphim and cherubim…was the thing to till up the GARDEN.  I might have done a tiny dance right there in the driveway…which only adds to the neighbors’ case that I’m batty.

I went back to check the chickens to make sure that Vinny hadn’t taught them any other horrendous tricks.  Everything was good…everyone had their scaly toes on the ground where they should be.  So I grabbed my weed basket and headed for my favorite chickweed patch.  As I came around the back of the pool area, this is what I saw

greg 1

They were starting to till up the garden!!!

Although the fact that they had just started and Greg was already holding a finger gun to his brain was probably not a good sign…and look at that expression on Tom’s face…they’re clearly very excited about this garden project.

I fully expected the rotothingy (nope, not in the WordPress spell check) to be unloaded and parked near the garage and in a few days there’d be stuff hanging on it, like extension cords and jackets and eventually we’d forget we had it and the rental company would just charge us enough to buy the damn thing which is fine, because we had no idea where it was anyway and we’d end up buying tomatoes at the farm market.

But NO!  They were out there and the process was actually STARTING!  I skipped around and picked weeds for the Beak Faces, trying to look nonchalant, but still trying to keep an eye on the progress.  Finally, I gave up being stealthy and just walked over and watched.

I asked Tom why there was a dolly in the side yard and he replied that Greg’s initial idea was to carefully skin the sod off the ground and then transplant it into areas of the yard where there were dead spots of grass.  I looked over at the side yard and indeed, there was a small chunk of sod.  Apparently, Greg had tried his brilliant, money-saving idea and found that skinning sod off the yard is a TERRIBLE idea because it’s very DIFFICULT.  So you’ll notice that the idea seems to have been abandoned in the photos because Greg is just tilling the grass into the garden.  Also, it would have been two years from now by the time he’d gotten all that sod moved and replanted and then there would have been watering and “KEEP OFF THE GRASS” signs and remember Greg had already left the hose on for six hours, so the water bill is going to be ridiculous and by NOT moving the sod, we’re actually saving money, See how that works?

greg 3

Anyway, it was slow going with the rotothing, so I annoyed Greg and took a couple more photos and then took my basket back to the coop where the forlorn chickens were peeping sadly because they’d not gotten their chickweed yet and I’d been gone with the basket for what seemed like years to them.  I need to get them a clock…and maybe teach them to tell time…although they can’t even roost without drama, so I might hold off on that whole clock thing.

Tom and I had to take Emma to her school last night to test drive instruments for next year’s fifth grade music program. So, we left Greg to his own devices with the rotothing which is risky on a good day.  I don’t like going places at night after I’ve worked all day.  I think it’s because I’m old, because it never used to bother me.  We drove over to the school and there were two-zillion cars there.  Once inside they directed us to the gym where we had to fill out far too much paperwork for a music program and were given a “PARENT PACKET”, which is always terrifying because those typically include RULES which I’m bad at following.  The program stretched ON and ON and I griped MORE and MORE and then mothers started asking questions that were CLEARLY answered in the packet if they would just put down their phones and READ THEM.  The leader of the evening noted that she was not going to read the packet to us because we were perfectly capable of doing that ourselves and then she read the packet to us.  By this time, I was an axe-swinging-curse-mumbling maniac.  They had started the program LATE which always makes me mad and I hadn’t eaten all day and why can’t we just PICK an instrument and get out of there.  When they asked “are there any other questions?” and another mother raised her hand, I almost tackled her.  Tom kept giving me the “STOP IT” look.  Finally, they turned us loose to the “instrument petting zoo” and then we had to stand in line….which makes me even crazier.  Emma finally settled on playing the viola (YES!) which I told her was a good choice because orchestras are always in the air conditioning and flutes have to walk with the marching band in 900 degree southern Indiana heat.

Right about that time, Greg sent me a text image.  HE WAS DONE!  My spirits lifted a little!  We headed home and when we got there, Greg was cleaning things up and noted to me that I had just gotten my Mother’s Day present for the next five years.

garden

Then he asked where the Tylenol was…apparently running a rotothing is physically painful work when the ground is packed clay and hasn’t been turned over since the dawn of time.  I haven’t talked to him this morning.  Hopefully he’s not lying on the floor of his apartment in a full body muscle cramp.

So, the garden is finally tilled.  I guess they’re going to give it another till today to work it up a little bit more and then LOOK OUT!  I am going out there and I am going to PLANT like a fool!  Which is more accurate than you think, because I noticed this morning that the squirrels had trashed Greg’s carefully cultivated and planted morning glories that he was trying to train to climb the pergola by the pool…which also means, they’ll be digging up everything that I bury in the garden.

Which means this project is probably doomed because squirrels are jerks and I’ll end up buying tomatoes at the farm market this year anyway.

 

 

 

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This blog post is included in the From the Farm blog hop!  Join us!

Change.

This is it.  I turn fifty this year.  I have no idea how it happened.  In my mind, I don’t feel fifty at all.  My body is another story, but I won’t go there because it’s not pretty….not pretty at all.

Anyway, I’ve always been a very driven person.  I wanted the big important high status job,  I wanted lots of letters after my name and I wanted status.  Period.  In my career, I’ve always left jobs to take a job that would advance me further.  I knew that there wasn’t anything that could stop me and I worked hard and wanted MORE, MORE, MORE.  To put it simply…I’ve always been an overachiever.  In a big over achieving way.

Lately though, as I approach this big milestone birthday, I’ve found myself changing.  Suddenly, I don’t care to achieve any more.  I’m quite happy with what I have.  In fact, sometimes, I think I’d be happier with a little less in my life.  Family suddenly seems terribly important to me, as does our home and the things we do in our “off” time which I guard rabidly. The world around me seems to be much more important too.  Not the people, generally, but I’m worried about the planet.  We’ve got a darn good gig here and I feel like we’re screwing it up big time.  Suddenly, the idea of chemically laced food, medications with strong, damaging side effects, pollution in the air and water, and the way we treat the animals of the planet all seem very, VERY wrong to me.

I’ve stopped caring what other people think.  I’ve also cut people out of my life who were making it more complicated and dramatic.  It sounds harsh, but I don’t want that anymore.  It used to be that a little drama and adrenaline drove my day.  Now, I walk away from it.  I no longer feel compelled to get involved in every argument I’m invited to.  My icy exterior that I’ve been told can be “intimidating” is  melting a bit, although I still speak my mind and feel entitled to do so.   I no longer will keep my mouth shut to preserve what others think of me. This is who I am.  At almost 50.

I’m suddenly interested in developing talents that I’ve always had, like art and writing.  Before these changes in me started to appear, I never did those things because I thought “What am I going to do with it when I’m done?”   I don’t care what I do with it now.  It makes me happy.  Maybe that’s the whole thing right there…I’ve figured out how to be happy without having an unnatural front to it and I just don’t care what people think because I’m not here to make them happy.  This is my life…not theirs.

So, WHY am I writing all this drivel when it has nothing to do with chickens?  Isn’t this a chicken blog?  Well, yes…and actually, my twelve little chicken dumplings (which is WAY different from chicken and dumplings…which by the way are delicious) have taught me some things.  They’re little teachers in chicken feathers…and they don’t give homework, which is good, but they do teach important life lessons that honestly, for the first time in my life, I’ve been open enough to accept.  None of it is rocket science…which chickens have been rumored to be able to do, but it’s never been witnessed.

Since I brought the chicks home, I’ve felt this strong urge to care for them.  Not because they can give me anything, but because they are helpless and have no choices.  My husband suggested it was empty nest syndrome, but I still have two children at home, granted one is 21 and the other is 11, and maybe he’s right, but I think there is something more to it.  It’s the simplicity of it.  The daily feeding and care and doing what’s naturally best for them.  It’s not giving them chemicals and things they don’t need, but furnishing natural things for them and watching them grow into beautiful creatures whose feathers are glossy and naturally beautiful.  It’s watching them grow from infancy or chickhood to maturity.  It’s teaching them to trust me and showing them that not everything in the world is meant to be feared and I will keep them safe.  It’s growing food for them and us (if I EVER get that garden in) that feels so basic and so real.  I think that’s what I’ve been missing for many years…I needed to feel something basic and REAL.  Not something contrived to impress other people or make myself feel more important.  I don’t need to feel more important.  I don’t need someone or degree to tell me I’m worthy of anything.  I AM important.  I can make a difference in the world, even though it’s just my little piece of it in the backyard.  Suddenly.  It’s okay to be just me and to let out all the things I’ve always wanted to do but was afraid of what people would say.  It simply doesn’t matter.  I don’t care if anyone thinks that keeping chickens in the backyard at the edge of a major Indiana city is stupid, or dirty.  It brings me simple joy.  There’s something to be said for that.

I’ve become interested in pulling things around me that are things I’ve always loved.  I immerse myself in artwork, writing and music.  I’ve found things from my childhood that speak to me.  I looked everywhere online for a plant that my grandmother and aunt grew.  It’s called Baby Tears and it has tiny little leaves and trails and spreads from the pot it grows in.  Having that plant, that my grandmother used to grow is very important for some reason.  Caring for it and watching it grow and spread, is a big deal.  It’s a simple thing and it ties me to my roots.

Last night, I washed my husband’s grandmother’s china that had been languishing in a box in the garage.  It’s an old pattern of pink roses.  I walked by that box in the garage probably 345.5 times and never thought about it, but one day, I stopped and picked up a fragile cup.  Why was I letting something so beautiful sit in a box?  After the china was washed and dried, I arranged it in the china hutch.  My husband was watching and when I stood back to look at the finished work, he said “My grandmother would be happy”…and although I did not ever meet his grandmother, that made me feel incredibly happy myself.  I hadn’t done it because someone was coming over and I wanted to impress them, which is commonly how I’d worked in the past, I just liked it.  It had meaning.  I think I’ve come to the point to where I want things to mean something.  I don’t want it to be complicated or stuffy.  I just want purity and simplicity and I don’t care what anyone thinks about that.

Every night, my husband and I go out to the chicken coop.  I say it’s to tuck the chicks in bed, but frankly, they don’t really care if I come out or not.  While I’m there, I usually bring them a treat, turn off their window fan if it’s cool outside or maybe change their water so that it’s clean and fresh with a new dose of apple cider vinegar in it.  Most of the time though, I sit in my chair with my feet propped against a bale of straw and Tom leans on the fencing in the coop and we just watch them.   They play, scratch in the shavings, peep incessantly, bicker over bits of treats, annoy each other and then finally they’ll begin to settle down on perches or in mounds of shavings on the floor.  They usually sleep in groups and the other night I noticed one of the Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers (BORBs) walk slowly over to where the other buff pullet and BORB were settled in the bedding.  He peeped at them and scratched around in the shavings and finally settled as close to them as he could and laid his neck and head over the back of his brother and closed his eyes.  They became an entwined pile of honey colored feathers.  Seeking warmth, comfort and companionship from each other in a simple, pure way.  That simple act was perfectly beautiful to me.

We usually hang out in the coop for a while. Time seems to slip away for me out there.  The night toads are singing in the trees and the contented peeping and scratching of the chickens is very soothing to me.  As the last one settles down, Tom will start shuffling around a bit and I’ll know it’s time to tear myself away from them.  I love to watch them fall to sleep, in what seems like puddles of fluffy feathers.  We lock the coop and head to the main house up the path between the pool and garage that is bordered by holly bushes.  It’s all so wonderful that I feel as though it’s not real sometimes.

Many years ago, while working for a major bookseller, I discovered a photo study of a woman named Tasha Tudor.  She was an acclaimed children’s illustrator and author who lived in New England in a home that was built by her son, Seth, using only hand tools in the 1970’s.  She was an elderly woman in the first book I found (The Private World of Tasha Tudor) and I felt strangely drawn to her.  She lived alone in this hand-built home with the things she loved.  A parrot, finches, doves, goats, chickens, her beloved corgi dogs and cats were her constant tasha chickencompanions.  She devoted her life to gardening and artwork and to living on her terms.  She always felt as though she had been born into the wrong century and lived her life in its entirety, as though she lived in the Victorian era.  There was a simplicity and purity to her lifestyle that appeals to me.  A devotion to art and writing that I admire and would like to develop.  People told her she couldn’t do things and she did them anyway, because it was the way SHE wanted to live.  How many of us have that opportunity and seize it?  I believe we all do…if we let go of what others think and stay true to ourselves and the calling of our own soul.

So, that’s where I am as I approach fifty.  I’m drawn to be more simple and devoted to the talents I’ve been given.  I’m fascinated with the idea of living in old ways that are proven by time and experience.  I’m ready to let go of things that hold me back, like critical former friends and living as if I was chasing something that I could never catch.  And honestly, I have to thank twelve chickens.  They calmed my mind so that I could hear the cry of my own soul.   A noise that I was too busy to hear before.

Tasha Tudor wrote many books and illustrated countless others.  The title that I think I love the most is Take Joy.  So inspired am I by this magical, eccentric woman and by the life I’ve found through the chickens, I believe I will.

 

tasha chickens

 

 

Simple Saturdays Blog Hop

I participate in Simple Saturdays Blog Hop  and Homestead Barn Hop

 

Slide.

Sooooooooo, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the word “garden” in a couple of posts.  That’s because there still isn’t one.  Well, I guess that’s not exactly true…there are now four orange stakes out in the backyard stuck in various places.  See, this past weekend was all about the chickens.  They’re greedy like that.  Today was Monday and since I work full-time, I wasn’t around all day to harangue, nag and annoy my husband until he rototilled the darn thing up.

eggs and I square

I guess I didn’t do any gardening this weekend now that I think about it.  I grew that wheat fodder for the chicks…sort of gardenish.  I looked at garden plants when we went to Rural King…I think that counts.  I watered the plants, that I still haven’t thinned) in their dissolvable pots and plastic trays.  So that’s not a total loss.  Tom did stick the orange posts in the ground on Saturday to mark something out…the garden…some weird triangulation equation…where he needs to go with the pooper scooper…I’m sure it meant one of those things.

Actually, I had gotten home Friday afternoon and Tom asked me to come out to see where he’d laid out the garden.  I was impressed.  I hadn’t had to do any haranguing that day.

 

We walked out to the part of the yard that slopes away from the pool towards the woods and pond.

As we came around the end of the pool, I looked down the slope and there were approximately 116 orange fence poles (the ones that don’t match the chicken fence…read the whole blog…you’ll see) stuck in the ground all over the slope.

“What do ya think?”

“Ummm…Tom…we’re not going to have any YARD left.”

“You said you wanted it big.”

“Yeah…but…I think we’ll need migrant workers at this point.”

I tried to figure out exactly what SHAPE all these poles lined out.  It was either a star or the state of Maryland…and I’d say closer to the state of Maryland.  It seemed as though there were a dizzying number of bright orange fence posts stuck in the ground.  What kind of math did this guy use?

Frankly, I’d expected a completely different thing when he said he was going to “lay out the garden”.  I envisioned some white string and some stakes…this looked like the ground had sprouted quills.    As we walked around in the posts (orange…orange posts) I was getting more and more confused.  I told Tom again that I thought it was kinda….LARGE.  To which he replied that it was just like his drawing…which means absolutely nothing to me because I had NO idea how large he’d drawn it . I vaguely recall him asking some questions and then waving something printed out on the drafting computer in front of me and I was probably distracted by something shiny and I don’t remember anything about the conversation.

I do that.  I’ll agree to all sorts of things and then later I’m dumbfounded to learn that I agreed to any of it.

Anyway, I think I finally asked him WHY there were so many posts and what were those posts doing ALLLLLLL they way down by the edge of the yard near the pond.

Turns out, he had marked out several plots and was trying to find the FLATTEST spot on the SLOPE (see those two words?  One of them doesn’t work with the word GARDEN).

So…about that SLOPE.  Basically, the back of our property sort of slopes into this…um…wooded ravine that holds a creek that empties into the pond.  I guess I hadn’t thought about this clearly…I also don’t go out there much because I saw a SNAKE hole once.  How am I going to plant a garden on the side of a hill?  I stood there amidst the posts (ORANGE!) and thought about finally dragging all those plants in the dissolvable pots and plastic trays down to the garden and how I’d carefully plant them and water them and the garden would be so fresh and new and then…we all know what would happen.

It would rain and the whole thing would wash into the ravine.  Complete with my wood obelisk for my sweet peas and all my cute herb markers that I have yet to make.

Don’t they farm on the sides of hills in China?  Granted those are rice paddies, but I should be able to work this out, right?  I sure hope so, otherwise I’m going to be weeding  tomatoes in a kayak and screaming about snakes the entire time.

In.

So it’s been about four or five days since the Peep Squad took over the run.  Every night, we’ve had to chase them down in the coop or come up with a variety of noises that I’m SURE the neighbors can hear, to try to get them to come IN.   You’d think any self-respecting chicken would be packing up her beach bag and heading back to the coop at sunset.  Nope.  NADA.  ZIP.  ZILCH. NONE.

It’s frankly quite irritating and a little frustrating and soon you’re envisioning frying them all.

But I keep my cool.  Mostly.

So tonight I went out at dusk and my husband came with for moral support.   I picked a big basket of chickweed and headed for the coop singing “CHICKCHICKCHICK” at the very top of my lungs…I swear, the neighbors think I’m absolutely out of my mind and soon to be institutionalized.   The excited peeping started out in the run and there was a lot of running and hopping and tripping  over each others big scaly feet.

They KNOW that basket.  I KNOW they know that basket…and I use it to my advantage.

So I sailed on into the coop with my basket and they high tailed it for the ramp and door.  I threw big clumps of chickweed in several areas in the back of the coop and they all took a pile and started scratching and eating.  Perfect time to count fluffy butts.

Ten.  TEN.  I count again…TEN.  UGH.

eggsandisquare

Tom looks back outside and the two Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers are standing at the other end of the run looking insolently at the coop.

I’m in the coop “CHICKCHICKCHICK”‘n it up and talking baby talk and making peeping sounds and throwing grain around like a lawn sprinkler.  I could see two sets of scaly pink feet at the base of the ramp.  Eep!  They were considering making their move.

They came creeping up, drawn by their insane addiction to chickweed, and just when the first one was about to step in…Oprah Wingfrey, one of the black sex link pullets, rushed the door from the other direction.  I grabbed at her…which, in turn, scared the two Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers (it has to be capitalized…they’re like their own special ENTITY.  Want one?  Both?  No?) away from the door to the other end of the pen.

So Tom resorted to a series of owl noises that he thought sounded scary…but the chickens disagreed.

They came creeping up AGAIN.  I tried not breath…threw a little more grain…they were both standing in doorway…ANNNNND….Oprah rushed the door again, this time with the naughty Barred Rock in tow.

I windmilled my arms around and kept the two pullets in and the two BORB (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers) flipped out in grand style and ran to the other end of the run.

If this wasn’t a semi-family show, I’d insert some colorful swearing right about HERE.

So Tom took it up a notch outside and scared them from that end of the run, toward the coop.  They were traveling at about a million miles an hour at this point.   They’re like little buff colored…cannon balls.  Jerks.

This time I had the rest of the flock examining a nice new bunch of chickweed that I’d placed WAY on the other side of the coop.  It’s not just a hatrack (points to head).

I trickled grain onto the wood in front of the doorway and the crazy little knot heads slowly climbed the ramp and stepped into the coop.  YESSSSSSSSS!

I was leaping through the coop I slammed the run door and I heard the ramp go clattering into the run outside. YAY!!!!

You know I turn fifty this year.  I would also like to keep living in this neighborhood without people running when they see me.  Someone needs to explain this to these chickens.

 

Till.

So, remember all those seeds and onion sets and plants in dissolving pots (I still haven’t thinned them)?  Here’s the thing…we haven’t turned over ONE inch of garden yet.  I don’t mean we haven’t turned over LAST year’s garden, I mean we haven’t turned over vast amounts of green grass to turn it INTO a garden.  You’re right, not only did we get chickens before we had the whole coop thing worked out, but now we have 8,576 plants and seeds and I keep trying to buy MORE and I have absolutely nowhere to put them.

We’re idiots.

AprilIt’s APRIL.

Seriously, I swear, when we started this whole idea we had GREAT intentions.  Tom drafted a garden plan in his fancy-pantsy drafting program.  Like, he spent a LOT of time on it.  There were different colors and different views and measurements and angles and math that I couldn’t even BEGIN to comprehend.   Like, worse than long division, kind of math. He used the word “triangulation” a couple of times.  Our big plan was that we were going to “lay out” the garden and then rent some massive rototiller thing and it all sounds so easy to me…except you know it won’t be.  I’m sure this is going to involve blood, sweat, tears, swearing, rock throwing, yelling, swearing, arguing and then more swearing.  You just KNOW this is what’s going to happen.  And then…THEN…we still have to put a fence around it that involves some twirly post digging thing and a fence stretcher so that we can keep the bunnies from Watership Down and the deer out of the garden.

I am not going to get discouraged.

I just envision myself in my cute apron and floppy southern-old-woman hat picking tomatoes and putting them in a perfect garden basket while butterflies flit around the garden and the chickens cluck happily in their pen.

The reality is that I’ll be in a  mandolin t-shirt and a pair of ratty shorts, a pair of purple crocs with my hair in a pony tail screaming about garden worms and giant orb spinning spiders that probably migrated here on a banana ship.

I love my dream world.