Category: Around the House

Life, The Universe and The Election Process

Hey! How ya doin’?

We survived hurricane Sandy with minimal damage. The power flickered, but never went out. We are without cell service, but AT&T Wireless has been notified and life goes on.

'Vote!' photo (c) 2005, Ho John Lee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I’m writing. I’m writing many words, just not here. I had some deadlines, for our town paper and for Albinism Insight, and I’ve been plowing away at the fiction piece I’m working on.

I ran into a reader last weekend who commented on my more informational posts of late. I have opinions (heaven only knows) but the recent focus has been the election and I don’t want to discuss my politics here. I will say I’m am disgusted by the commercials from both sides and the major news outlets really aren’t any better (ANY of them). I am taken back to my college days where as a communications major, I perfected my analytical skills for dissecting for what I hear and read. The idea was that if you could analyze commercials, or press releases you could better understand what would work for your perspective clients.

The skill set actually has broad application in everyday life.  It doesn’t matter if it is a commercial, or “news”. My mantra these days seems to be “what’s your source?” I am overwhelmed by it all, I don’t want to just follow party lines. I really want to understand the views of the people who are running for office at every level. This is very hard to do, especially, when the candidates spend their time pointing fingers at their opponents rather than talking about their own plans and beliefs.

A note to all political candidates. STOP telling me what you think I want to hear. START telling me what YOU stand for. I’m not undecided, but I like to be sure of my choices. I want to understand the other side’s position so I know what I’m voting against as well as I know what I am voting for. Not an easily attainable goal these days that’s for sure.

There is only one week left and I doubt the campaigns will change their tactics now. I’ll vote. I believe it is a privilege not to be taken lightly. But, I’m not sure I’ll be happy regardless of the outcome of any of the races that impact me.

I welcome comments on the election process, but please, keep it civil.

We are ready for Halloween Part 1 – The Jedi

My Little Jedi in costume.As I’ve mentioned previously, Halloween is a big deal ’round these parts. This year Mim wanted to be a Luke Skywalker.  I looked at buying a costume, but $35 for a piece of crap that likely wouldn’t last the month just doesn’t work for me.  Fish helped him find a picture of which iteration of Master Skywalker he wanted to emulate and I plotted a way to create it out of items we have or could acquire at a relatively low cost. It is important to note here that I am in no way, no how crafty.  Basically, I can use tape and operate a stapler.  This had to be easy.

Black jeans and a slightly oversized black shirt would provide the base.  For accessories, we needed a cape, boots, a belt and a light saber. The light saber was solved by an $8 purchase at the fair.  Fish was tasked with creating the boots and the belt out of duck tape and brown, paper grocery bags and some velcro.  For the cape, I went to Goodwill and bought a brown, mens, extra-large, hooded sweatshirt. The plan was to slice it right up the middle and use double sided tape to finish the edges, but Grammy stepped in and stitched the seams.

Light Saber $8

Gorilla Tape (couldn’t find Duck tape in Black) $8

Hoodie $10

Black Shirt $5

Boys black jeans $14

Total Cost $45

So, I actually spent $10 more than the pre-made costume, BUT, the jeans aren’t modified in any way, so he can wear those to school.  He needs to wear the costume at least 3 times (maybe 4) and I’m confident even with his rough and tumble ways the clothing will hold up.  The light saber, is iffy, but for the month of October, the light saber is ONLY for use with the Halloween costume.

He was pleased with the outcome and in the end, that’s truly all that matters.

 

Eggstatic

Our efforts have begun to pay off!

Can we have (DRUM ROLL PLEASE) TA DAH!!!

A small egg all by itself in an egg carton

IT’S AN EGG!!!

On the left is an egg from a mature chicken. On the right our little egg.

It’s a little small compared to an egg laid by a mature chicken, but we’ll take it. Of course the girls need to get busy!

Pile of empty egg cartons waiting to be filled.

Mamma’s got LOTS of egg cartons to fill.

Killer Instinct

Don’t let the innocent faces confuse you. These are the faces of killers.

On the left, Dory a 2 year old collie.  On the left, Mork, an almost 8 year old Collie

Three chickens in three days!

When we came home Friday evening, we closed the chickens in and tried to do a headcount, but as they are literally a moving target, I didn’t worry too much for absolute accuracy. I was aiming to be sure I hadn’t locked half the flock outside.

It was as I was backing out of the driveway headed to my house that I saw the brown lump out of the corner of my eye. Yup, a dead chicken in the middle of my Mother-in-law’s front yard. I sent the kids home and instructed them to call both dogs in. I’ll admit it, my city kid roots showed through as stood there wondering “what the hell am I supposed to do with a chicken carcass?” I called some of my experts but no one was available, so I just left it knowing A-man would be home soon.

As for what killed it, the dogs were barking their heads off when I pulled in (something I’ve become remarkably adept at blocking out). So my theory at the time was they had scared a predator off, but it was too late for the chicken. Heh, innocence is bliss ain’t it?

Saturday, I was at a karate tournament and A-man was in the barn working on a chicken door for the pen. A chicken door in the pen would allow us to leave scraps for the chickens without the fear that the dogs would nosh and make themselves ill.

Sunday we were all set to tackle some nagging chores. When we heard the dogs screeching and growling outside the back door. As I rounded the corner on the deck, I saw the telltale black and white feathers. As I texted to the other co-owners “We forcibly expressed our displeasure with their behavior.” Then we put them inside and A-man went in search of electrified poultry fencing.

!%$#@!!! Dogs!!! I can hear the critics nodding their heads saying “Ay yut, coulda told ‘ja that’d happen”. I know it is instinct, but they are herding dogs. Can’t they just herd the chickens? Everybody gets a little exercise, no one gets hurt right? Yeah not so much.

We spend the afternoon installing the chicken fence. Chicken fence that is meant to be installed on flat land when we live on anything but flat land. We finally got it all set up and let the birds out to “play”. They seemed to figure out pretty quickly, not to touch it. I went home to let the dogs out and in search of caffeine. A few minutes later, I heard A-man yelling. A-man doesn’t yell. He is not easily ruffled. As I bolted down the trail between the two houses, Mork, the older of the two dogs, met me half way. I grabbed his collar and dragged him back. Seems he plowed right through the fence and snagged another chicken without even batting an eye. I guess our previous expression of our displeasure didn’t settle in. Like I said !%$#@!!! Dogs!!!

For the short term, we’re on a rotating schedule. If the chickens are out, the dogs are in and vice versa.

!%$#@!!! Dogs!!!

For those who are counting, between this incident and the three we lost last weekend, we’re down to 20 birds.

. . . and Then There Were Two

A Rhode Island Red, a New Hampshire Red, (Back row), a Leg Horn and a Barred Rock foraging. Image Copyright Lee Laughlin, 2012

Our flock is a mixed flock. I’d love to tell you that the breeds were picked for their superior laying ability, but the truth is it came down to appearance, availability and egg color. Yes you read that right, egg color. You’re probably most familiar with the quintessential white egg. Here in New England we have brown eggs (sing with me now, brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh). Some of the fancy breeds lay beautiful pastel color eggs, but A-Man and eggs have not always had the best relationship. In college he experienced salmonella poisoning and a reaction so severe it required an ambulance ride and hospitalization. It’s only been relatively recently that he started eating eggs again.

Despite the fact that the perpetrator of his illness was a western omelet, something about the fancy eggs brings back bad memories. So our girls will only lay white and brown eggs. The majority of our flock are reds 6 New Hampshire and 6 Rhode Island. Our next largest population are the barred rocks then we have 3 Leg Horns and 3 sex-linkeds. well, we had 3 sex-linkeds.

A Barred Rock in the brush Image Copyright Lee Laughlin 2012

Last week the circle of life continued. One of our flock became another creature’s lunch. One of the other Mother Hens (the human kind) was nearby at the time, but the exact details of the demise are unclear. The girls were out and about foraging for bugs and at one point there was a big kerfuffle that involved the dogs throwing a ginormous hissy fit, a flurry of feathers and lots of squawking. Things settled down pretty quickly, so no one thought much of it at the time. When we did our nightly headcount we discovered that one of the sex-linkeds was gone. A search was conducted but every other hen was in the pen and the saying “birds of a feather stick together” is true. Not to mention, that no bird EVER misses out on a bowl of dinner scraps. Holding out just a smidgen of hope, we waited 24 hours before before we broke the news to our respective flocks, but she didn’t return.

The birds exiting the pen in the morning. The Sex Linkeds are the two on the far left with golden brown feathers on their breast and black feathers on their backs. Image Copyright Lee Laughlin 2012

So now we’re down to 23 birds. I suspect this will not be the last time this happens, nature of the beast as they say. The birds go off in the woods to forage. The collies have decided that the birds occasionally need to be herded. If the hens move too far away from home base, Mork, the older one will circle them back in with calm and patience. Dory, the younger one demonstrates no finesse whatsoever and just runs at them barking until they move back to where she thinks they should be. However, the dogs are limited by an electric fence. If a chicken strolls beyond the fence they will lose their protection detail. “Oohhh I’ll take a jolt in the neck to chase a chicken”, said no dog ever.

 

Peaceful Coexistence

The chickens have grown and the time has come to give them some freedom. You know, let them fly the coop so to speak. It’s time to let them free range and get their fill of bugs and the oh so delectable weeds we raise here in Skeeterville. It’s better for their health and heaven knows it is better for our wallets. Free ranging also makes for happy chickens, they are less restless in the coop.

It was always in the plan to let them free range as much as possible. The challenge was going to be integrating the fowl with the canines. We have collies, who are herders by nature, but still, there was some uncertainty about how things would play out.

We started by letting the chickens out while keeping the dogs in. This was fine in the hazy hot and humid days of summer. The dogs would much prefer to be inside in the shade. However, the ultimate goal was peaceful co-existence.

Today, it appears our efforts paid off.

One collie laying down with a chicken wandering beside him the other watching a group of birds off camera.

Real

Fish, her second halloween (as a bunny) with Blankie

“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now, you shall be Real to every one.”

– Nursery Magic Fairy, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

When my daughter was an infant, my mother-in-law gave her Bear and my dear friend Jeanne gave her a purple Comfort Silkie Blankie. Fish took to them almost instantly and the two traveled everywhere with us. B&B were a team. I wasn’t able to locate another bear, but we bought several more Blankies and rotated them regularly so they wore relatively evenly. This way if one were lost, (GOD FORBID), Blankie would not be gone for good (and Mom & Dad could still sleep at night). For most of the first two years of her life, Fish thought there was only one Blankie. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she discovered the Blankie stash. It was like Christmas. She grabbed them all and snuggled them close.

After a while, Fish settled on one specific Blankie for comfort. Thankfully by then she was able to keep track of Blankie herself and the world did not come to a screeching halt if Blankie could not be immediately located. Blankie’s importance has definitely diminished over the years, but she remains part of Fish’s inner circle of confidants. We kept the others (down to two from a high of four) in a drawer “just in case”.

Lately, poor Blankie has been showing her age. Her flannel side is thread bear and has disintegrated in to long shreds. Her tag (probably her most important part) is literally hanging on by a thread*. She’s had to stay home a few times for fear of not surviving camping or air travel. Still she perseveres and provides much needed comfort. She’s a trooper!

Three pictures horizontally, Fish with "rag" and a less worn Blankie, The Real Blankie and Bear, and the tag litterally hanging on by a thread.

Bear too is showing her age, she’s lumpy and has required several nose jobs over the years (props to Grammy and her mad sewing skills), but she has been Blankie’s faithful nurse and companion and she too is a member of the inner circle. I’m grateful to them both for their service. Not many would tolerate being smooshed under a feverish child, being drenched in vomit or stuffed into a small backpack to travel on adventures. Still, they provide comfort and keep secrets and are to be lauded for their efforts.

Someday, they too will be Real.

*Right after I wrote this, the thread broke and Blankie and her tag were separated forever.

“I now sleep with one of the replacements.  I’ll never give up the old one until she’s a few threads held together by nothing but love.” – Fish

Escape From Skeeterville

Last week when I heard my slider open, I was a little startled. Both kids were in the house (one still in bed) and my Mother-in-law (the only other person to come through my sliding door during the day), was away. Turns out it was Dave, my husband’s cousin with interesting news.

Two chickens in the coop many more outside the coop. “Are your chickens supposed to be out?”

“Well, yeah, they have the automatic chicken door.”

“No, I mean out as in all over the yard out.”

“Um, no.”

We think it was a combination of things, when the coop door is closed, there is er was a gap just wide enough for a curious chicken to squeeze through, but we’re not 100% sure that the coop door was 100% closed. I headed next door and with Dave’s help, herded the wandering fowl back inside the fence. A quick head count and we determined everyone was fine, no harm no well, you know.

Eventually, we hope to let them free range some, but they need to be a little bigger to hold their own with the dogs. That said I swear they are doubling in size every day!

Life is never dull in these parts!

one bird looking in from the outside.
We think this guy is a rooster. I picked him up but as we got close to the door, he flew out of my hands. Once everyone else had made their way inside, he went willingly.

Time Flies

We recently went to let the chicks have some time outside pecking at the ground and enjoying the fresh air. The only problem was somebody had sprinkled our flock with grow dust. Overnight it seemed they’d doubled in size! We moved a few of them outside and quickly realized this wasn’t going to work as they’d grown enough to fly out of the fenced in pen we’d used in the past.  We quickly rounded up the supplies we needed to move them to their permanent home. Finally, it was moving day!

Just like the commercial airlines, we packed them in a tote like sardines. We made sure to bring the food bag, and then it was just a short limo ride next door and we released them into their permanent Casa De Poultry. It didn’t take long for them to ahem, make themselves at home.

Three photos, 24 chicks in a rubbermaid tote, the tote in the back seat of my car and chicken poop in the wood shavings.

They hung out inside for a few days while A-man made their run predator proof (or as close as he could get). When the day came to open the door and let them roam, there was some trepidation on their part. Three of them stood in the door way and peeked out, then looked at each other and the rest of the flock and back outside. The conversation seem to something along the lines of

“After you.”

“No, after you.”

“Oh no, I insist, after you.”

Eventually they all made it outside and decided things were acceptable. We’re letting them get use to their new surroundings and grow enough to stand their ground with the dogs. Once their a little bigger, we’ll let them free range and see how everyone adjusts to that. In the mean time, their living the good life!

We go back at night to make sure everyone made it inside before the chicken door closed and without fail, they are inside, snuggled up and sharing pillow talk by about 8pm. They are sound sleepers too, if we go in to fill food or refresh water, no one makes a peep (literally).

So far so good!!

A few chicks like to sleep on the cross beam of the knee wall, but most are huddled in the corner softly peeping.