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Henzilla’s due date

Henzilla’s due date

It’s Sunday. I can’t believe how quickly the past two and a half weeks have gone. Henzilla is happily incubating her eggs, while I sneak them out from under her in the dead of night to candle them. There are four that are growing and three that are duds. Amazingly enough, I found one of the duds pushed out of the nesting box into the dirt below. Guess she knows.

Every day or so, Henzilla gets up, relieves herself, gobbles down food and water, and picks on all the other birds. (She’s always had this tendency, hence the name, but it’s worse than ever. I wonder if she’s establishing her dominance so that all the other birds will leave her chickiepoos alone.) She then scurries back to her nest, fluffs all her feathers out and settles back on the eggs.

Now that Henzilla is occupied for most of the day, her half-sister has taken over picking on everyone. Up until now, I’ve been calling her The Big Gray One–but now she has her very own moniker: Attila. Attila the Hen.

You’re not going to believe this …

You’re not going to believe this …

but the kitchen is FINISHED.

Well, okay, not 100 percent finished. We still need to get a new fridge and hood for the stove, but those are last on the line. We’re also getting new curtains for underneath the sink. But the bulk of the work? DONE.

It’s amazing.

Here’s a recap of the kitchen’s past.

Here’s what it looked like completely gutted.

And now, here’s a panoramic set of photos of what it looks like now.

Full circle

Full circle

We got back from spending the holidays with Steve’s family in Rockford Friday night, and of course, one of the first things I did was to check on the chickens. (It was late, so couldn’t pick up Harry from Carrie and Jimmy’s til the following morning.) Henzilla was sleeping in one of the nesting boxes, which I thought was a little strange. The next morning, she was still there, fluffed up and sort of dazed looking. She clucked at me. When I lifted her, she was lying on the three fake eggs the chickens like to roll under themselves when they’re laying. She ruffled her feathers and glared at me before settling herself down on them again.

I have a broody hen, I thought to myself. She just started laying about a month ago, and she’s already broody. “She’s been broody for about three days,” Carrie confirmed when I got Harry. What to do with a broody hen? Why, put fertilized eggs under her of course! Posted an ad on backyardchickens.com, got several responses … including one from a guy who breeds Barnevelders.

Which is totally fitting because this is the breed that started this whole chicken adventure. If you recall, I spent a fortune on hatching eggs and got a single bird. Now, perhaps I’ll have some more–and if the parent birds are any indication, I’ll get chickens that actually have that gorgeous double-lacing instead of one that appears more barred than laced. (And no, Barnie hasn’t started laying yet either.)

So here’s to round two with Barnevelders! It’s a happy new year thus far …

Pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarf goats … or fainting goats

Pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarf goats … or fainting goats

Oh the choices.

I’ve pretty much decided that if this goat venture gets started, we’re getting Nigerian dwarf goats. They produce more milk and, unlike pygmy goats that are cobby, retain the lines and shape of a regular goat, only in a smaller size.

But there’s something pretty compelling about fainting goats. I’m assuming these don’t last long in the wild.

Chickens bedamned!

Chickens bedamned!

We’re getting goats!

(Not really on the bedamned part; I love my chickiepoos, and I’m getting as many as 5 eggs a day these rainy, cold days.)

Is it any wonder that kids don’t like to read?

Is it any wonder that kids don’t like to read?

I’ve been doing Big Brothers Big Sisters for several months now. My “little” is in 7th grade; she’s told me some things about her school that make my hair stand on end. I won’t even get into the social aspects (like having a gun pointed in her face by a member of the SWAT team). But let me just say that the more I learn about the Seattle public school system, the more appalled I become.

Take this, the 6th grade level expectations for language arts (conveniently posted for ridicule at the Seattle Public Schools web site):

In sixth grade, students are aware of the author’s craft. They are able to adjust their purpose, pace and strategies according to difficulty and/or type of text. Students continue to reflect on their skills and adjust their comprehension and vocabulary strategies to become better readers. Students discuss, reflect, and respond, using evidence from text, to a wide variety of literary genres and informational text. Students read for pleasure and choose books based on personal preference, topic, genre, theme, or author.

Good lord. And the person who wrote this convoluted, awkward piece of crap is tasked with helping kids become better readers and writers?

Hoo boy. The blather continues for 7th grade:

In seventh grade, students are aware of their responsibilty as readers. They continue to reflect on their skills and adjust their comprehension and vocabulary strategies. Students refine their understanding of the author’s craft. Oral and written responses analyze and/or sythesize information from multiple sources to deepen understanding of the content. Studnets [sic] read for pleasure and choose books based on personal preference.

Can someone please tell me what a student’s responsibility as a reader is? And what, precisely, does “reflecting on skills” mean? Because I for one have never put down a book mid-chapter and said, “Let me reflect upon my reading skills now and adjust my comprehension strategies.”

And really, what are comprehension strategies anyway?

Argh.

Captain Beefcake was probably delicious

Captain Beefcake was probably delicious

Captain Beefcake’s nocturnal crowing was bothering one neighbor. I had found a lovely home for him, complete with five acres and a harem of 10 hens with whom to have his wicked way. Then, my flock was infected with mycoplasma gallisepticum. Not a huge deal in and of itself; MG is endemic and not a risk to humans. But once a bird has had it, it remains a carrier for life. And in all good conscience, I couldn’t give someone with a healthy flock an infected chicken. So I found another person who takes unwanted chickens and slaughters them for food. She picked him up yesterday and put him in the pot last night.

May he rest in peace.

A Post for Lauren

A Post for Lauren

who told me that I really needed to update the blog. So, in no particular order, here’s what’s going on.

1. I love my accountant. The tax season is once again upon those of us who routinely file for an extension. Taxes aren’t fun; my accountant is. She’s also the best darn accountant on the planet as far as I’m concerned. For those of you who freelance and are looking for someone really good–and very affordable–contact me. I want to share the tax love.

2. Learn from my chicken mistakes. Do not buy auction birds. Do not add birds to your flock without quarantining them. And if you do suspect that your birds have Mycoplasma Gallisepticum, do not feel that you should be responsible and take one to a vet in Seattle that specializes in exotic pets unless you want a bill for $230 dollars, enough medication for a single bird when three are showing symptoms, and a vet you can far too easily picture in a basement somewhere playing dungeons and dragons buck naked except for a strategically wrapped snake. No, be irresponsible and go to your local farm supply where you can get tetracycline for a measly five bucks and treat the entire flock.

3. I am a sailing widow. Steve’s sailing around Vancouver Island. He’s been gone for two weeks, will be back in, oh, another two or so. I miss him. His cell phone doesn’t work, so he calls when they dock into a port. I don’t think we’ve ever gone for more than three days without talking before this.

4. First bellydance performance tomorrow night. AHHHHHH

5. Two week trip to California was good. Hung out with Millie, built Mom a chicken coop. She’s getting 8 eggs a day now. I’m bitter.

I think that’s about it.

Captain Beefcake is a rake.

Captain Beefcake is a rake.

I was wondering if CB is fertile, despite his tender years. So this afternoon–after I went back to the chicken auction and picked up a pretty 4 month old Auracana cross for $5 (yes, I need intervention)–I cracked open the buttercup egg she oh-so-obligingly deposited in her “secret” nest while I was gone.

It was fertile.

(For those of you who are desperately curious about what a fertilized egg looks like, here you go.)

And later this afternoon, I went to check up on the new chickiepoo, and one of the Welsummers was bokbokbokking in the coop, so I hung around. She laid an egg. (Saved from the stewpot!) Just for giggles, I cracked that one open too.

It was fertile, too.

So obviously, CB is living up to his name, and with enthusiasm at that. I just hope he’s leaving his sisters alone. First, that’s incest. Second, it would be statutory rape.

Two eggs today!

Two eggs today!

Behold! Two eggs today! The buttercup’s egg was in her hidden nest; the brown one was in the coop. Those plastic eggs must be working. I have no idea who this is from. The barred rock? A welsummer? But two eggs!

Two eggs

Captain Beefcake gets his groove on

Captain Beefcake gets his groove on

The early bird catches the hen, and boy, Captain Beefcake is on the PROWL.
Captain Beefcake

At 13 weeks, he’s already started (cough, cough) with the hens. Well, not ALL the hens. Mainly my black Australorp, who I bought a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Michelle Obama; her sister’s name was Oprah. “Because they are all black ladies,” explained the woman I bought her from. I don’t know how Michelle Obama would feel about having a chicken named after her, but if you have a chicken with your name, this would be the one to have. She’s a love and will eat berries right out of your hand.
Michelle Obama, the chicken

The violence of chicken love is a little shocking. He grabs the back of Michelle’s neck and smushes her to the ground. Then he has his wicked way. It looks painful; on the other hand, Captain Beefcake also doesn’t have a lot of staying power. It lasts about three seconds.

Three seconds is also about the time it takes the buttercup and the welsummers to put him in his place when he goes after them. He starts doing his little drag wing thing and hop. They affix beady little eyes on him. He tries to get close, at which point they aim a sharp peck at him, and he goes running.

And no one can get close to my new speckled sussex. It’s amazing how different hand-raised and farm-raised chickens are. Captain Beefcake sidled up to her one day and she sprinted across the lawn in sheer fright. To be fair, she does that with everyone.
Mrs. Spotty

On another note, he’s now the only rooster left. Yes, that other blue birchen marans was a rooster; he now has a home on a farm in Monroe, where he is going to have a harem of frizzles.

After two years, five months, and two days—we have a countertop

After two years, five months, and two days—we have a countertop

Just one because the large one is too heavy for me to carry, and he still has to pour one over the dishwasher (which requires rebuilding the cabinet).

But seriously, it’s going to be gorgeous. We’re both pleased, and, despite our WANTING concrete, still pretty surprised at how good it looks.

countertop 008

The Toss of a Lemon – Padma Viswanathan

The Toss of a Lemon – Padma Viswanathan

Padma Viswanathan tells a ripping good yarn. The year is 1896; Sivakami is 10 and her family is looking for a husband. They visit the healer in her mother’s home town to have her star chart done; he begs the family to let him marry her. Though his own chart says that he might die in the ninth year of his marriage, the birth of a son might stop his death from coming to pass. When the son is finally born, he does the calculations and realizes that he will die. And because they are Brahmins, and because Sivakami will enter a world of virtual seclusion upon his death, he does everything he can to prepare her, including hiring a local man, Michumi (who also happens to be gay and therefore trustworthy) to oversee the properties.

And then the story wafts over the next three generations, with Savakami holding the family together with the help of Michumi. Ripping good yarn. One of the things that was fascinating to watch was the arc of superstition and magic. Sivakami believes in the superstitions of her tradition–tradition, of course, being one of the few things allowed her. But her son Vairun (who by the way has vitiligo, which is a great thing to see represented in fiction) wholeheartedly rejects the idea of Brahmins’ inherent superiority and of all superstition, including star charts–despite the fact that his and his sister’s both come true. And it’s interesting to see how the story starts in one place–a mythologized place of legend–and ends grounded in the modern world, with problems blamed on people, not on gods.

To be absolutely, completely honest, I lost interest in The Toss of a Lemon toward the end, and it felt like a bit of work to finish it. And I didn’t really like the ending–don’t worry, no actual spoilers–because the end of an era, which has taken the novel almost 600 pages covering sixty-odd years, feels too explicitly stated. Still, if you read one book this summer, make it this. In addition to being a gripping read, Viswanathan’s prose is gorgeous.