Sunday, January 29, 2006

Henhouse Haute Couture

Ah, few and loyal readers- thanks for the responses last week! I haven’t decided to stop posting. It’s just been crazy busy this week, but in a good way… ways that can lead to stories like THIS:

It’s the poultry fashion for passion!

A few “lucky” hens are now displaying their passion for fashion, or, er, their new fashion for (rooster) passion. They are sporting their new back-protecting saddles, hand made by the chicken fans at Shoresh Heritage Ranch. The designer is fond of roosters, too, and was very thoughtful in making these little gems available in many colors and sizes on the web.

Yes, we just thought it would be cute...ah, the next thing to try to protect those girls from the overzealous roosters before we send the roosters to the big freezer in the sky, or something. So, last week I found myself “dressing” (in only the fashion sense of the word, of course!) a few lucky hens. We’re lucky they are fairly tame- those things weren’t easy to get on. Just slide it over their wings… uh-huh. FW held them while I acted as the costuming director. Blue for this one? Or burgundy? How about khaki? Does she look like a medium or a large? Ha. Wasn't too bad once we go the hang of it- a bit like dressing a very feathery baby.

Once they were outfitted, there was a little ruffling at first, a little “inspecting” with the beaks, but now they seem to have completely forgotten about their place in the cutting edge of poultry fashion. The way our lives have been this week (leaving at 6 or 7 am, not getting home until 10pm), we haven’t really been able to monitor the effects on the “social” interactions first hand.

FW was home on Monday to watch for any problems, then we left them to their own devices. I did notice today that the biggest Rooster was leading a small group of his current favorites down the path, and none were “saddled”…giving some other hens a chance to gain favor? A welcome rest for the previous favorites? (Now, maybe they can tell him to go cluck off- sorry!)

Who knows…it does seem to be helping to protect them for now. And now we can be known as the crazy chicken-dressing people, a bit of notoriety that began already at yesterday’s Sustainable Farming Meeting. But there’s already interest from other chicken-keepers, so maybe we’ll be doing a favor to harassed hens all across the North!

And now, allow me to present… the Haute Couture Hens! Down the runway… but without their cluck-me heels....ahem (sorry, again, couldn't resist).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

More Pictures

I've been struggling a bit lately to try to figure out exactly WHY I have this blog and what it all means. What should be written, what should be shown? I alternate between being embarrassed to have this potential time waster to already thinking "This would make a good blog story!" and being compelled to document, photograph or listen better so I can share it in this forum. Who's reading? What do they think? Does it matter?

I can also wax lyrical about the wonders of complete "self publish" freedom, connections with the larger "blogosphere," and then devolve into documenting our days or just wanting to share cute pictures of the cats.

Here is a brief entry to the latter before the next planned "perplexed poultry" post!

We did alot of Ikea-purchase assembly in the past week. Schroeder is never one to let a lap opportunity go by, even if it means "helping" with furniture assembly.

Some more "messages" in the snow. Are the mice trying to send us secret messages, ala crop circles? Pretty sure this was a different mouse than the subject of the last post/pictures!

Out skiiing, etc, I am sometimes stopped in my tracks (heh) by the beauty of this spot and the remnants of different lives on this land. We don't know much about the farming history of this land, only what a neighbor told FW- "Some old Norwegian went broke growing potatoes." I wonder who put up these fence posts, and what were they fencing in?

Predation before Breakfast

Chicken fans can relax, at least for now... the predation noted in the title did not involve domestic critters. We got out skiing yesterday morning in the amazing sun (!), and I was completely distracted by the tales told in the fresh snow. It was hard to get much, stop, take glove off, take photo, put glove back on, ski, stop... But I think it was worth it. The first compelling sight:

Hmmm. I just barely noticed it before skiing over. Closer look revealed:

Sudden end for mouse, nutritious meal for bird! (I wonder what sort?) As I zoomed in on the blood spots, I wondered if I was being morbid... ie poor mouse. Then I realized I have been commiserating much with potential "prey" chickens. This picture can equally be a celebration of continued life for the predator!

But there's not TOO much rooting for predators around here, since we do try to keep alive some tasty prey birds (chickens). Lots of these tracks were also around up on the "east 20" hill, making me wonder...

Not sure what it is yet, but likely fox or coyote. We're also wondering about fishers, who have taken some distant neighbor's cats in the past. I never really understood the historic idea that all predators are bad and we should exterminate every one (ie big hunts for bounties, etc). But now that we have chickens, I'm definitely hoping that those four-footeds keep their distance from the coop!

The largest rooster is actually growing to be quite watchful... here he is, stretching up above the snowbank to keep an eye on Lutsen and I while "his" hens were scratching in the snow. He may be watchful, but he's also, ah, very "interested" in his hens. They are getting a bit worn. More about that in the next post. Catching up!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Trains, Planes and Fresh, Warm Eggs

Travels! Good for the soul, not so good for the retention of nice mittens. More on that later. It was good to be away and to return to a cleaner house than normal. A fastidious housesitter and the, ah, embarrassment-fueled cleaning frenzy before her arrival made the house a bit more polished than usual, which is nice. Hoping to keep up with some of the cleaning/decluttering tasks now that we’re back. It’s a lighter feeling to know that a former resident’s shopping list from 2001 is no longer stuffed in the back of the junk drawer….

So, Boston. Mostly a good visit with family, FW’s sister and her husband and two cute kids. Uncle FW became an immediate jungle gym, with much climbing, chasing and delighted shrieking by the girls. Spent a lot of time “at home” with them, but did some outings to the Science Museum and Harvard Square. Also took a couple days to head up the commuter rail to the end of the line to see some off-season tourist spots, window shopping and beach leaping (FW still finds my beach exuberance strange-?).

Had this conversation with our 5 yr old niece while calmly riding the “T” subway train among all the commuters with books and ipods one day:

GTR: You’re lucky to have trains like this here. We don’t have them where we live.
S: Why?
GTR: Well, there used to be some, but people decided we didn’t need them anymore.
S: Why?
GTR: Hmm, I think it’s because some people think cars are easier to use.
S: That’s not good, because cars use too much gas! Trains are better- they don’t have to stop for gas!

A girl wise beyond her years. She kept asking “What does ____ mean?” and surprising us with her insights about certain things. It was fun to hear her older sister learning to read, talk with FW’s sister and generally glimpse other lives for a few days.

Speaking of trains…here is the “new home” of my former convertible mitten/gloves. I took them off on the train to mess with the camera, then violated my own travel rule of “always look back” to see if you’ve left anything. The seats were too high to see into, FW was in a hurry to get off at our later-turned-out-to-be-icky stop, and once I had realized they were left behind, the train had left the station, so to speak. Alas. The T staff was very helpful once we got back to the North Station in Boston, but the gloves were nowhere to be found, even on the actual train car we’d ridden on… I suspect they’ve been adopted by some Bostonian. Ah, well… hope the new owner enjoys the remnants of my morning jogs and chicken chores to be found on them. I did find some nice sort-of replacements at the Whole Foods Market (one of the suburban tour highlights). Alpaca, still convertible, just not as good for driving, etc.

The flights were fine, even if the whole concept of flying is a bit mind-blowing when you really sit down and think about it. Some of the only sun we saw all week was AFTER we had flown above the clouds. Surreal.

And upon our return, all inhabitants of our little homestead were intact, and FW came in today with 3 very large, warm eggs. Warm eggs are another, more grounded mind-blowing concept. Body temperature, reminding me where those eggs came from!

Ok, feeling a bit more caught up. Off to do the weekend chores... more photos later!

Saturday, January 07, 2006


We've managed to get away briefly, thanks to a competent co-worker who was looking for a place to stay for a while before she moves out of town. She listened intently to the crazy chicken, cat, generator and showblower directions necessary for living at our house, and didn't ask very many questions. We're hopeful!

The weather on the East Coast has not been much better than the weather on the "North Coast", but the scenery (and family to visit) is good variety. I NEED that variety to keep my brain happy, somehow. I'm sure there are some studies out there about the overall benefit of different "stuff" and routines. W (who will be for now known as FW, as someone recently pointed out that it sounded like I was living with the president, SHUDDER) is not yet convinced, but he's having a good time playing Uncle and being a jungle gym with his nieces.

The Patriots game (?) is on the TV behind me, feeling a bit TOO much variety in real world stimulation to think straight. We're here, returning home soon!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Eve!

Whoooeee, do we know how to have fun at our house! Hosted our first small New Year's "event" here last night, and let me tell you, the anticipation was running high. Schroeder was curiously watching the preparations...

(Picture does not depict actual later Schroeder party-behavior, which included hiding in the basement and running away from guests, because all strangers (with the possible exception of Melissa) are SCAREY).

And Bill was resting up (Bill's fan club insisted that I show him enjoying this new bed a bit more thoroughly...W says this is the Bill egg/embryo pose).

But poor Lusten had no idea that the height of festivities would include Melissa trimming her nails!

But really, we did have a good time. We wanted to stay home, and Melissa and Jen were looking for a nice, quiet place. We celebrated with some Chick-Pea and Spinach Soup (really needs a better name) from the Tassajara Recipe Book and played games, roasted produce in the fire (apples, yams, etc), sneezed (Jen is getting sick, we are taking all possible precautions with Zinc and Vit. C and sleep) and didn't quite all make it to Midnight (They headed home early, but we all managed, separately). There were celebratory kisses and all that... all 5 inhabitants of the house in the same room. Not sure what the chickens did. Quieter than the last few New Year's, but nice. Best wishes to everyone for a lovely 2006!