Kiyoshi Saito meets garage art

Kiyoshi Saito meets garage art

Or rather, Kiyoshi Saito meets crazy chicken lady meets crazy chicken lady’s unemployed boyfriend meets the alley-facing back of our garage.

But that wouldn’t fit in the title area. And it probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Not that the name Kiyoshi Saito necessarily makes a lot of sense either, unless you’re a fan of sosaku hanga.

Anyway, I have a Kiyoshi Saito woodblock print of two roosters called Competition for a Charm. I love it. There are other prints of his that I covet fiercely and can’t afford, but I remember this one from my childhood, when it hung in my parents room. It went with me to college and it has been with me in every place since.

And of course, now I have become a crazy chicken lady with a boyfriend that has too much time on his hands. Not, you understand, that I’m complaining. “We need some chicken art on the back of the garage,” he said the other day. “I know what I’ll do!”**

chickenart

**Steve credits his inspiration to Joy Wants Eternity. If anyone should feel so inclined, he would love free tickets.

I know why the uncaged hen doesn’t lay

I know why the uncaged hen doesn’t lay

The welsummers haven’t laid a single egg. Now this could be normal because from everything I’ve read, it can take several weeks for them to get over the trauma of being moved. But again, you don’t know why they’ve been sold at auction. Perhaps they’re just old. “Check their vents,” one Web site urged. “If they are moist, they’re of egg bearing age. If dried and puckered, the hens have probably outlived their usefulness.”

(If the above grosses you out, read no further.)

So I checked their vents. This, for the unititated, basically means running around after chickens who don’t want to be caught, rounding them up and herding them into the coop, and lunging at their feet–at which point you dangle them upside down. The hens don’t like this, but at some point, they give up–and just kind of go stiff, like they’re dead. Which made life much easier.

And which made it much easier to see that they were crawling–CRAWLING–with lice. There were eggs crusted around their vents, creepy crawlies scurrying over their skin. It was gross, and those poor hens must have been miserable.

Now I had dusted them before they went into the coop in the first place, but obviously it didn’t work. So I dusted them again with diatomaceous earth (which, by the way, totally kills any chicken poo smell in the coop and I’ve started adding to their feed as a dewormer), and went down to Del’s to get a permethrin spray. I would like to be all natural and everything, but sometimes you just need to use chemicals. Came back, cleaned out the coop, sprayed it down. Caught ALL the chickens, sprayed them down too (though no one else seemed to have lice). This was Sunday; yesterday, they were clean and clear.

So what I think is that they just had a bad infestation and stopped producing–and that’s why they went at auction. Could be wrong, but it’s a working theory that allows me to the luxury of thinking that one day they will produce.

Oh, and I battened down the hatches of the run yesterday. The buttercup and Stubbs both gave me an egg. So there’s a clutch of eggs somewhere out there in the yard ….

Are we boys or girls?

Are we boys or girls?

Chicken experts weigh in! At 9 weeks, I’m thinking all these guys are roosters; Carrie thinks there’s still a good possibility they might be hens.

Tomato Girl – Jayne Pupek

Tomato Girl – Jayne Pupek

“Get me a book, will you?” I asked Steve about a week ago, as he prepared for a jaunt to the library. “I’m running out of things to read.”

So he came home with Tomato Girl. “It looked like something you’d read,” he said by way of explanation. Actually, it didn’t really, but that’s fine. No complaints on my end. Sometimes one gets in a reading rut; sometimes one needs something a little more unsettling.

Which is what Publisher’s Weekly says about it on the back cover, saying that it’s an accomplished debut. And the author bio says she’s published in literary journals and has written a book of poetry.

The reason that I’m telling you all this is because I want you to know that I was absolutely fair. I was prepared to like this novel. I opened its covers with a completely open mind. And sadly, nothing prepared me for its sheer, unutterable terribleness. It was beyond bad. And the really sad thing was that it wasn’t like trashy novel bad, which is just bad writing plain and simple and you harrumph about the crap that gets published these days, but it was a mass market paperback so who really cares? No, it was more like college fiction workshop bad, where everyone thinks they are saying profound new things in beautiful new ways, but it would be more enojoyable to hear a tortured cat scream for three hours straight. (If you’re wondering where that piece of randomness came from, chalk it up to the feral cats on the prowl last night.)

Enough said.

*Update: I feel a little guilty for posting that review, so I feel the need to mention that she has samples of her poetry on her site; they are MUCH better than this novel.

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.

The mysterious egg

The mysterious egg

Sunday morning, I reached into the coop and pulled out an egg. It wasn’t white, so it must have been laid by a Welsummer. Even though it was more of an ecru color than the terracotta Welsummers are supposed to produce, I rejoiced. “Look!” I crowed to Steve. “Another hen is laying!” And then I scrambled it up with an Old Faithful egg and two eggs from the grocery store, and we feasted at least partially on our own eggs.

About an hour later, our neighbor Adam from two houses up knocked on the door. “One of your chickens is in my backyard,” he said.

“Great,” Steve said. “Let me grab a wine cooler and a plastic lawn chair. There’s no better entertainment than watching Zia trying to catch her chickens.”

“Very funny,” I said, and we all trooped into the alley. There was a brown and white chicken standing confused right in the middle. She clucked. So did I.

“That’s not my chicken.”

“Well whose is it?” asked Adam.

“Oh my God,” I said remembering the chicken-trading conversation I had had with Carrie the day before. “Maybe it IS my chicken. Does she have no toes?”

At the point, I was next to the chicken. Sure enough, it was Stubbs, the chicken with no toes who lays an egg a day that Carrie no longer wanted. And sitting right next to her–also in the middle of the alley–was an egg so fresh that it steamed. She had obviously laid it right then and there. It looked identical to the one I had pulled out of the coop–but that would have meant laying two eggs in 12 hours. Which I don’t think is possible.

I managed to catch her despite the snide comments from the boys. Put her back by the coop, where she has been ever since. The question is about the first egg. Was it a Welsummer egg? Did Stubbs manage to squeeze out two in 24 hours? Sadly, that was the last egg I’ve gotten from anyone. Now that all the kids are official free-rangers, I have this suspicion that they’ve found a better place to lay than the coop. A place that I will never, ever find.

I want eggs!

On book reviews, or my continued loserdom

On book reviews, or my continued loserdom

Here’s the cycle: I vow I will post reviews of every book I read again; I’m good for a week; the books pile up; I tell myself I’ll get on top of it; they languish some more; I start feeling daunted; they need to be returned to the library; I forget what I’ve read.

I don’t even know whether people even read the book reviews, but the simple truth is that I miss them. There’s something so evocative about them for me; I remember where I was reading the book itself, where I was when I was posting the review–and more importantly, where I was in my life, what was going on.

And so, I heretofore vow once again to start the book reviews. Moreover, I am just going to abandon the whole list of books that I SHOULD review, which is incomplete anyway. There’s nothing super memorable anyway. Even the books I thought were memorable have somehow faded into the background–with one exception: Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American. I didn’t like it as much as I liked What I Loved and full appreciation is marred by the fact that her male protagonist often speaks like a woman trying on a masculine voice; nonetheless, it was so well-written, and with such universally acute observations, that I would wholeheartedly recommend it nonethless. Siri Hustvedt is fascinating to me; she is, in my opinion, a better writer than her more famous husband Paul Auster–yet is not nearly as well known. It’s a shame.

Concrete table, revisited

Concrete table, revisited

Still no progress on the concrete countertops, but that’s really my fault because I’ve been too swamped with work to help. (Poor Steve. He feels neglected because every time he tries to talk to me during the day, I tell him to zip it.) But remember when he was doing his test run on working with concrete? The bbq table? The finished product’s pretty darn cool. And handy, too.

The top of the table

The whole thing

“It’s been a long, hard day free ranging.”

“It’s been a long, hard day free ranging.”

Chicks!

Don't forget me!

Steve has been complaining that I don’t post any of his pictures, to which I say, “Get your own blog.” However, to be fair, I will say that he was right and I was wrong about the height of the roost. Okay, Steve, does that make you feel better?

Henopause

Henopause

Which is what I am hoping is NOT the reason that the four Welsummers I bought aren’t laying yet. It’s been two weeks; supposedly, this should be enough time for the little stewpots to get over the trauma of moving. And really, there is NOTHING traumatic about their existence. Trust me. They have a nice comfy place to sleep, lots of yummy organic mash and daily treats, fresh water, and a carefree existence. A very carefree existence: Geoff and I like the idea of everyone free-ranging. I mean really free ranging, not just hanging out in their 150 square foot run.

freerange-006

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that today is the first time I’ve just opened the gate; the Houdini twins–two of the chickiepoo crosses–have been squeezing out the gate for eons.)

But have the Stewpots given me a single egg? Nope. Nothing. Nada. The only eggs we’re getting are from the buttercup, who is coming to be known as Old Faithful. She lays eggs more often than what I’ve read about buttercups. I think she’s just so happy not to have a rooster coming after her all the time that she’s laying eggs doubletime in gratitude

So the question is whether they’re going through henopause. It’s either that, or they’re molting. Such is the risk of getting chickens at auctions: Who knows why they were given up?

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-21

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-21

Harry and Steve have bonded

Harry and Steve have bonded

So much for the never-ending “I hate that useless little freeloader.”

The boyfriend and the dog are now BFFs. It all started when I went to California a few weeks ago. Steve took Harry swimming every day. Now, he takes him everywhere he goes. Day before yesterday, Steve actually threw him in the Jeep to go to the bank. (When asked why, he said–rather defensively–“I’m trying to teach him fiscal responsibility.”)

Yesterday, Steve bought a canoe in preparation for his nephew coming to visit. He bought it off Craig’s List, so drove a pretty fair distance to get it, and then he went canoeing up by Deception Pass.
canoe

And yes, he took the dog. Apparently, Harry was so traumatized by being in a canoe that he kept jumping in the water. And he was tired. So tired, in fact, that he permitted this indignity upon his person:
indignity

Like clockwork

Like clockwork

Another egg from the buttercup this evening.

So … what should I name her? Please don’t suggest Buttercup …

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-14

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-14

  • I can’t deal with all this dog hair–even with a furminator. Anyone ever shave a pug? #
  • To clarify that blog title: I am not unemployed. That’s Steve. It’s a hard life. He’s taken up fishing. #
  • My brain hurts. #
Winner! Best chicken-related Craig’s List ad.

Winner! Best chicken-related Craig’s List ad.

roosters one or both hen needs divorce
I have 2 roosters, this is their second year now, they are not aggressive, more tame, used to dogs and horses. They are vocal as roosters should be. The hen is frigid and tired of rooster noodles. I need sleep, the hen needs her feathers back. They are her sons and they dont care. Help please.