Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New friends!

Just look at that face! This is Groggin, my friend Elizabeth's elderly iguana. She was out of town last weekend, so I checked in on him. She'd told me he probably wouldn't move while I was in her apartment, but I found him to be quite animated. When I misted him he squinted his eyes and tipped his head back in glee. Then after a while he opened his eyes and started smacking his lips, so I smacked back and we had a bit of conversation. After I filled his bowl with the kale and carrot salad he eats, he toddled over and dug right in. All in all, I'd say he's a nifty friend. Here's a look at him full body. He'd moulting -- towards his belly is soft, but closer to his spine is crackly old skin.

Groggin lives with Maisie, who is a very sweet, feminine kitty.

She enjoyed chasing her toy-on-a-fishpole, and perching where she can look out the window. She's not keen on being held, but she seemed to really enjoy my company.

It's nice to make new friends!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming soon to a garden near me...

Just a quick look at the seedlings popping up in my tray. I never got the grow light up, but I guess there's some useful light coming in the southern window. Still, the broccoli raab (in the foreground) is getting leggy and I'm going to have to do something to help it!

There are six kinds of tomatoes lined up on the left, just four squares of each -- I like tomatoes, but I don't need a truckload! Also two kinds of cabbage, lots of basil, broccoli, Himalayan blue poppies, and something else I can't see from where I'm sitting.

And just by the way, there is a phalaenopsis and two amaryllis getting ready to bloom inside. They must be the Easter kind!

With money as tight as it is this year, it's wonderful to be able to expand the garden with seeds!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Eartha Chick Goes Missing

Here's my good weather routine. When I get home from work, I go directly to the barn. I look around to see if the chickens have come home to roost after their day out in their run. Usually I scatter some scratch grains around and call "chick chick chick" and they all flock to me. A quick count should show twelve hens and Egglebert. Then I close their hatch door to keep them inside, safe in the knowledge that the dogs may go outside without chasing hens.

Some days it's just not routine.

Today I counted eleven hens. I'm pretty sleepy from working on a mailing list all day, so I count again. Eleven. I look in all the hidey places in the barn but come up empty. I peek my head through the hatch and see absolutely zero hens outdoors. I go outside and walk around the hen run searching for evidence of wrongdoing. No feathers, no body parts strewn in the grass. I'm tired, so I go in the house and let the dogs out. Then the dogs come in for dinner and I think I should go and count again. Still eleven, so then it's inventory. One yellow, Peep is there, three other Marans, three reds, three Ameraucanas. Where's the black hen?

Oh, no! Eartha Chick is the softest of hens. She's a bit skittish, but when I steal a stroke of her feathers it's just heaven. Then I think, yes, she's kind of independent. If she were outside, she might decide to go on an adventure. I look out into the fenced yard (where the dogs run) and sure enough, there her black self is, eating grass under the perimeter pines.

Now you need to know that the fence surrounds almost an acre of grass -- no way could I chase down a hen in that space! So I had to use my smarts. I got a can of scratch grains and started calling "chick chick chick"! She looked straight at me, squinted her beady eyes, and squeezed out a vengeful green chicken turd. This was not going to be easy.

I tossed some grain, she pecked it, keeping one beady black eye on me. If I shifted my weight in her direction, off she skittered. I finally got her to flee across the yard towards the barn. But each time I made the approach to grab her she flew in the other direction. (Oh, ok, chickens don't exactly fly, but they flap their wings and run on their tippy toes and I think they believe they fly.)

Next brainstorm -- let the other hens out so she would have more reason to approach the barn. Back in the barn, open the hatch, out they run. Zip back into the yard and sure enough, she's eager to rejoin her girlfriends. It only took a few tries to finally grab her (by which point Egglebert was truly p-o'd) and give her the opportunity to fly over the fence, in with her girls.

By the time I got into the barn and called "chick chick chick" all the chickens were marching up their ramp and back inside. One-two-three... yes, twelve hens and one Egglebert.

Back to the routine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


At my previous home I had a neighbor-over-the-fence who took genuine offense the day I told her I was a vegetarian. "You should eat meat. God gave us dominion over the animals!" she exclaimed. I had no reply, and from that day forward we no longer discussed dinner menus.

But the notion of man's supposed dominion nagged at me. Surely people don't believe in a divine handout of burgers and wings?

Today I read a brief interpretation of Judaic thought on the subject on the website JewishVeg.com. It defines "dominion" to mean guardianship or stewardship. I feel more comfortable with this idea.

Which leads me to the difficult decision I have had to make in my flock. As noted in my previous post, Tweedledum's adolescence has developed into a full-grown adult desire to be the A#1 cock-of-the-walk. His aggression for Egglebert led to full-time restriction to a large dog kennel. Even inmates get time for hygiene and exercise, but with the exception of an occasional five minute excursion around the pen when I am able to close off the rest of the chickens behind a rickety door and stay to supervise, Tweedledum's free-ranging days are over. The flock is terrified of him. And I am weary of his aggression towards me, which has resulted in a number of bruises and scabs.

I told my friend Farm Girl Beth today that I would take her up on her kind offer to use Tweedledum for soup stock. Today I inched closer to becoming a real farmer. Man's dominion over the animals implies not only providing food and shelter, but tackling those deeper moral conflicts, applying Mills' "greatest happiness principle" to create a coop where the greatest good comes to the greatest number. Certainly in this instance removing Tweedledum, "culling" as it is called in the trade, will result in the greatest peace and calm for the chickens. Ultimately this will result in better laying (production dropped dramatically since the incident last week), more egg income, and happier hens.

Facing this decision has weighed on me the past few days. I procrastinated, hoping some other solution would appear. Then today, as I mulled it over, Beth literally walked right in, and in this moment of synchronicity I knew what was right. She is a kind person and will treat Tweedledum with respect.

Life in the country is not often simple.

Addendum, March 6. Today was Tweedledum's final day. I arrived home and noticed the gate was latched differently than I normally do it. Farm Girl Beth had been here. In the hen pen, all activity revolved around the cracked corn I scattered for the girls. No one raced to the dog kennel in alarm, cackling "he's gone! He's gone!" But I paused a moment to cry just a little.