Saturday, September 25, 2010

Always the chicken race bridesmaid…

Today was a sad day for me - for the second year in a row. What are the chances that all the cards would fall into place in just the perfect way AGAIN so that I would miss out on what is obviously one of the most important and exciting days in my small town?? Clearly the answer to that question is 100%.

Today was the Charity Chicken Race in my neck o' the woods. And it fell on the exact day and time as my oldest son's soccer game…just like it did last year - my first year owning chickens and being aware of the race. I mean I'm a chicken lover and I live in a town that is so dedicated to chickens that they hold a chicken race and I CAN'T GO! But as any mom will tell you, kids come first, so there I was on the sidelines cheering my 6-year-old's soccer team while hoards of locals darted around a racetrack holding decorated chickens experiencing full-on chicken nirvana.

And to top it all off, my son's team lost their game today, although my son did score one of the two goals for his team. But his best friend was on the winning team, so he wasn't sad that he lost since his friend was happy, and the kids are still young enough that they're just happy to be out there playing. How could I miss that?

Clearly I could not.

But I'll admit as I was sitting there, I was thinking how badly I wanted to decorate a chicken. And race a chicken. And buy chicken memorabilia. And listen to the chicken calling competition. And chuck a chicken. And fully immerse myself in local chicken culture.

Maybe next year the planets will align correctly and the game and the race will be on different days - or different times at least.

Until then I'll just chase my girls around the yard for kicks and fantasize about what would have been...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Great White Beast Strikes Again

Last night was one of those nights - you know the nights where you just shake your head and wonder if other people experience such weirdness in their own lives…

I had just put the boys in the bath and let the dogs out for a run in the backyard. Our obedient Shepherd barked to let me know it was time to let them back inside and I obliged. However, Saffie was not with him. This isn't highly unusual since she is prone to loping around the yard in search of mischief, but I hadn't fed them yet and since food is her priority, it was weird not to be bowled over as she dashed past me into the kitchen.


I decided to do a quick jog around the yard while calling her name and whistling madly, which always gets her attention.


I started to get a bit concerned that somehow she'd wiggled her tubby body under the fence and escaped from the back yard. Our fence line is very secure, but that seemed like the only viable option since she's not the type of dog who could ever scale a 6-foot privacy fence.

Finally I walked around to the corner of the yard and called her and she appeared out of nowhere looking very guilty with something orange on her nose and her mouth. My first thought "GAH! She's eaten an orange kitty!" As she ran over I saw that this orange stuff stuck on her nose wasn't fur, but was feathers.

Oh dear.

She bolted from me back to the corner of the yard and I saw a mess of orange feathers there on the grass.

Next to the feathers I saw an orange lump wedged flat against the grass pinned toward the bottom of the fence. Oh man. It was a chicken, and not one of my girls, but obviously one of my Korean neighbor's chickens. And it was missing a lot of tail and back feathers. I could see from her underdeveloped comb and wattles that she was a young pullet - not of egg-laying age yet.

Saffie continued to nip at the poor thing so I grabbed her by her scruff and ran back into the house with her and tossed her into her crate. Then I grabbed the camera and headed back outside to rescue the terrified chicken.

The poor thing was panting and shivering and had a bloody bald spot on her back where her feathers were torn out. I was torn between being glad that Saffie's first instinct wasn't immediately killing and eating the chicken - and being slightly disappointed that she chose hurt it at all.

I picked her up and petted her and then realized I had no idea what to do with this thing. I ran around in circles a few times hoping to get inspired, but nothing jumped out at me. I set her down on the grass to see if she could walk, and she could stand, but was too shocked to move at all. Then I thought I should toss her over the fence back into the neighbor's yard, but she was in shock and I imagined her falling 6 feet to the ground and thudding into an injured, bloody lump on the grass and that didn't seem like the best idea.

So I ran onto our screened-in patio and put her there while I got the boys into their pajamas and tried to figure out what to do with the chicken. I told them what happened and that we'd have to wrap the chicken in a towel and drive her to the neighbor's house (since trotting around in the dark with a wrapped-up chicken and two little boys in PJs didn't appeal to me).

We went on the patio to get her and she was gone. Of course she was. A totally screened in patio and no chicken. The three of us searched for a good 10 minutes and found her inside a roll of art paper in the boys' easel.

We wrapped her in a towel and got in the car - me with the chicken on my lap - both boys giddy about the whole experience.

(Awesome photo taken by two small boys fighting over one cell phone camera - and yes, I'm appropriately wearing a chicken tshirt).

I pulled into the neighbor's driveway and told them the story. They were very thankful to have her back, but didn't seem as concerned as I would have been, which is fine because my chickens are family pets and their chickens are simply egg producers. I don't think they name their chickens, but I can tell they still like and respect them. The neighbor didn't seem very concerned over the missing feathers and bloody back either since she said that the chickens peck each other from time to time too, but again, different chicken-owner relationship at their house. She thanked me profusely and we left.

Saga over.

Damn puppy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Focus on the Other Two Beauties

I've noticed that my blonde beauty, Clementine, gets all the chicken-related attention around here. When people visit us, Clementine is the one that gets awkwardly held and fussed over. Clementine is the one who gets the most photo op's. And even on the blog, Clementine is the focus most often that not. It's easy to see why - she's a big blonde beauty who likes to be around people and actually enjoys the attention. Maggie and Clementine are the two more "chickeny" chickens who are harder to catch when I need to round them up and definitely don't fight over who gets to sit on my lap first.

I thought it was only fair to focus on the other two this time around because they are beautiful silly chickens who deserve center spotlight for once.

Sookie, my generic Easter Egger, looked like a chipmunk when she was a chick. She's the smallest hen, but oddly enough she reigns supreme at the top of the pecking order. She's faster than the other two and impossible to catch if she doesn't want to be caught. Luckily for me, all three of our chickens trust me enough to let me round them up when I need to. I chose her because I was told there was a huge chance she'd lay greenish-blue eggs and I was beyond excited about that. You've seen our eggs - all brown, so that hope came and went pretty quickly.

She has a beautiful set of feathers on her with a lion's mane sort of vibe around her neck. She has a small comb and wattle - I believe it's called a peacomb and her legs are a greenish-grey.

Poor Sookie desperately needed to lay and egg while I was taking photos and humored me just long enough and then bolted for the nest. Of course her two curious sisters stand there staring at her in her most delicate of moments. Can't a chicken have an ounce of privacy these days?

Maggie, my Barred Plymouth Rock, is the most inquisitive of all the chickens. If there is something unusual going on, she's the first one to investigate. She's definitely second-in-command to Sookie and spends a lot of time following her around.

She thinks anything I have in my hand might be a treat, so even a blade of grass in my fingers is enough to send her hurtling across the yard for a quick peck. She really is a curious little thing with gorgeous coloring and a bright red floppy comb. I know none of my chickens are show quality, but I'm not in this for the ribbons or the breeding, so it's irrelevant.

As soon as Clementine realized that she wasn't going to be the focus of my photo shoot she shot back into the chicken coop to sulk.

She can be so dramatic sometimes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A discrepancy in the paint department

You've heard of Christmas in July. How about Easter in September? There has been a mix-up in the Internal Paint Department of our chickens lately and we've had some interesting surprises in the nest boxes. This diagram of the inside of a chicken explains what's been happening to cause these issues. You can see the Hen Paint Department a bit above the man's hands in the photo. Clearly, we have a disturbance within ours.

Take the striped egg from a week ago. It looks like this one got stuck in the paint department a bit too long. The stripe forms an almost perfect line across the top of the egg with a much darker botom to the egg.

Then today we found a white egg in the nest. Clearly this one bypassed the paint department altogether. You can see it in the picture below next to a regular brown egg and one of our recent speckled eggs, which was obviously caused by some bad airbrushing.

I've had a word with all the hens but none will fess up as to who's the culprit. They're a very tight knit trio and their beaks are sealed during my interrogations. Although, Clementine did admit to laying a bizarre oblong egg a few weeks ago, she's mum on the rest.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Deep down at the bottom we found a garden

As I promised, this weekend was THE weekend. The one where Farmer B and I tried to turn the thicket of shoulder-high weeds back into a garden. I have been dreading it since the beginning of the summer. I anticipated it being a horrible experience with oppressive heat and bugs... and holy heat wave - was I ever right.

Farmer B started by pulling up the anti-puppy fence that we keep around the garden and immediately both dogs dove in to the long grass. We ended up accidentally breaking the underground electric dog fence while pulling up the garden fence, which was an added bonus. Include an added trip to Home Depot to buy wire repairing equipment to this wonderful task.

Did I mention this weekend is Farmer B's birthday too? Yeah, he's a dedicated husband when it comes down to it.

Then Farmer B used the push trimmer to hack through the weeds in an attempt to find the raised beds. Surprisingly they were still under there - burried, but intact.

Did I mention how hot it was? Luckily the heat index was just UNDER 100 degrees so we didn't pass out, but contemplated it several times.

After he whacked down all the grass and weeds around the raised beds it was my fun-filled job to pull up the masses of weeds that had found a new home in the raised beds. As I was doing this with sweat running down my arms and spiders the size of cats running up my arms I really wondered if it was all going to be worthwhile at the end of the day.

When I got one bed about halfway cleared I decided to grab Clementine from the chicken run and toss her into the bed to save me from the creepy-crawlies who were hell-bent on latching on to my face as I pulled up 3-foot long weeds. My dainty (useless) yellow chicken spent 2 seconds in the blistering direct sun in the garden, made an angry bokking noise, then made a bee-line for the shady woody area all the way on the other side of the yard before I could even grab the camera. Pathetic chicken.

Then I decided to bring out Maggie and put her to work. I tossed her into the raised bed and went back to weeding. It worked out GREAT! She grabbed two large spiders and some wormy-leggy thing before becoming overwhelmed from the heat and making a bee-line to the same shady patch of trees where Clementine was relaxing.

Pathetic. Both of them.

At the end of the day I had a sore back, a visible garden area and one de-weeded raised bed. I was beyond exhausted, but felt good that it was done… but felt angry that I still had the other bed to clear.

On Day 2 I returned to the garden (sans useless sun-shy chickens) and pulled the weeds out of the second bed. I was happy to see that the spiders were just as comfortable in this bed as they were in the other one. I was a bit afraid that some big-fanged 8-legged creature might not ruin my day by jumping at my arm. Luckily my fear was unwarranted.

I did find something very interesting buried in this bed though…

Carrots! Who knew? I didn't attempt to bring them inside since I'm sure they were woody and rubbery and weird, but it was a funny thing to see growing amongst the weeds.

At the end of day two, it was done. A weedless garden. Two weedless raised beds. Finally.

I figured that when I was done I'd have one of those "See what you get for not weeding all summer?" moments. I was wrong. Instead I had a "Gah - this was HORRIBLE - THIS is why I didn't go out into the garden all summer" moments.

I'm now faced with a couple of problems.

1) I'm convinced that these beds are now full of weed seeds just ready to sprout at their first opportunity. I'm not sure quite what to do about that. I do not have the resources to empty out the beds and buy all new compost, peat moss and vermiculite. So I'll have to think on this one since I did want to try a Fall planting…

2) I now have about 3 inches less of mix in the boxes as I did when I started. Regardless of what I decide, the boxes will have to be topped up in a big way before I ever plant again.

So there you have it. As my dad would say "Good job done." As I would say after doing this "@$%^ job done!"

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hubcaps and Horseshoes

You know how if you find a hubcap on the side of the road, you're supposed to lean it up against a street sign so the person who lost the hubcap can find it when they retrace their steps?

Did you know that apparently the same thing is true for horseshoes?

I was walking the dogs this morning and ran across this on the bottom of a street sign.

I am now heavily on the lookout for a limpy horse cruising around the neighborhood looking for his missing shoe. Clip, clop, clip, thud. Clip, clop, clip, thud.

Who knew? At least when horses lose their shoes they don't have to worry about anyone tying them together and chucking them over a power line.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I once was lost, but now I'm found

I'm here. I'm alive. I'm riddled with blogging guilt… I blog for my own mental stimulation and amusement and I let is slide for entirely too long. I knew it was bad when my own mother scolded me for going 19 days straight without an entry. I always assume no one notices my absences, but then I get messages from my wonderful garden blogger friends who were nice enough to check up on me and make sure I hadn't dropped off the face of the Earth. (Thanks guys!)

The real reason for my 20-day lull in blogging is actually a lot less spectacular.

Remember how overgrown my garden looked in mid-summer?

Remember my plans to tie a rope around my waist and go into said garden and weed it back to something presentable and replant for the Fall?

Well I went in, but I forgot to tie the other end of the rope to something else and I got so deep in the garden that I couldn't find my way out. I spent the past 20 days lost in the deep overgrowth in my garden, clawing my way from raised bed to raised bed with the hopes of catching a glimpse of sunlight and a chance at finding my way out to civilization.

I had a glimmer of hope on Day 14 when I thought someone had spotted my signal fire, but was disappointed yet again when I realized that I hadn't actually built a signal fire, but was merely watching the "concert lighter" app on my iPhone.

It wasn't until I was spotted by a low-flying plane who saw my crude shelter by the bean trellis that a rescue attempt was started. By this point I had gone feral and was involved in a sordid affair with my garden gnome, Basil Boddywicket.

I've since showered, re-discovered clothes and mended bridges with Farmer B. However I'm still left with the problem of a dramatically overgrown garden that I'm too apprehensive to set foot in.

I have already proclaimed this weekend as the "reclaiming the garden" weekend at our house. Living in Florida I have developed a fear of large overgrown bushy grassy areas. I always equate them with poisonous snakes, biting bugs, spiderwebs and plants that adhere themselves to your legs causing itching, swelling and hives.

So although Farmer B doesn't know it yet, this weekend is his weekend to pull up the fence surrounding the garden, weedwack down the scary stuff that is higher than my children are tall, and put some ant killer down on the Antropolis that has claimed the back of the garden.

I will then daintily tiptoe in and weed the beds, rake, add some compost and try to kick this thing into gear again. Let's hope this time it all works out. It's actually written on our calendar, which is a huge step in the right direction. Maybe putting it out there to the world will also give me the motivation I need to follow through.

So, I'm as back as back gets right now... I'm crossing my fingers that it's for real this time...
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