Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Birthday Beach!

If you were to look at my Blog profile, you might note a difference: One year older. Gulp! I'm feeling old today, but managed to not act my age yesterday. We had a little beach frolic. I am so blessed to live near this place!

And to be able to continue my "immersion in Lake Superior" birthday tradition!

I swear it wasn't that cold and even pretty good body surfing. Wheeeheeee! There's nothing quite like it, a freshwater ocean. Thanks, beach!

Friday, August 25, 2006

8 Chicks at 8 weeks!

Finally, another chick update! Our 8 bird-tweens are on their own now, with no more mother-hen wisdom to help. It’s been about a week since the second momma hen laid her first egg behind the baby coop, a sign that she was ready to move on. We gave her a day off in the chicken tractor by herself, then integrated her into the adult flock again. She’s keeping to herself or causing a few riffs with the other hens, but hasn’t headed back toward the chick “nursery” at all.

It’s a bit sad, perhaps (lonely chicks!), but satisfying to know that both hens have done their jobs well and moved back into egg laying rotation on their own. A “natural” cycle, at least as natural as domestic critters can manage!

The chicks are continuing to look HUGE- growing fast. They’ve definitely figured out the outdoor perches, but are reluctant to go into their little coops at night (too dark?). There’s always quite a bit of shuffling and peeping in the evening while they figure out who gets to be in the warm middle of the pile and who wants to perch on the little indoor perches. They do alright on their own, but coming running to us when we get near: “Will you be our mother?!? Or maybe give us treats? No? Ok, we’ll just rest on this here handy perch…”

Still looking like 2 roosters (one on the right), so we’ll see about their fate later in the fall. Now that we have Mr. Miracle Rooster (adult, doing fine now) we’re not real inclined to butcher him this fall. He’s never challenged a human, and was raised in pretty close contact with us. These young ones are a little “spookier,” having been raising by chickens! Crazy, eh? So, we’ll see…

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Fair Wisdom

Near the Rabbit Cages. Words to live by!

Apparently the universal symbol for goats is a fun loving, laundry eating rascal. (Liz, watch out!)

Milk, even though I DO enjoy drinking it on occasion, is a really strange concept. I swear I'm not trying to be obnoxious with this picture. This is the view you are, ah, presented when you visit the dairy barn; pretty typical practice, I think.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Fair... and a Bear!

OK, no more suspense: our visitor was indeed a bear. WF took out the feed last night, and so far no more visits. Neighbors say they've been seeing bears, too. I guess it's one more sight of the seasons changing, already- yikes! (Liz, I'm really glad it wasn't a super-strong racoon. One bear is enough excitement!)

When Canned Goods Go Bad (ha!)

We also spent some of the weekend at the county fair! I do love fairs and spent plenty of time at them as a child, always yearning to wear the white clothes and show an animal in the ring. I was a dedicated suburban 4-H kid, with lots of photography and arts & crafts and indoor gardening projects, but the animal realm was just a bit out of reach, alas. I lived vicariously through some cousins who showed animals and even got to SLEEP in the fair barns while their animals were there- wow! I was in awe.

The Fair is such an amazing rural tradition. This year was this fair's 116th annual event. Rows of canned goods, wilting veggies, baked goods, knitting projects and even tiny bales of hay were on display this year, as they have been for decades. It's a concept I haven't thought of in years: bring in the samples of your hard work from the year, perhaps attempting to hide your pride for the sake of MN modesty, but hoping for a blue ribbon or better. I worked toward the fair for the entire year in 4-H as a kid, but I'd somewhat forgotten that adults can do it too, showing off their products and projects. The premiums won't make you rich, but really, isn't $2.00 for blue ribbon on a bunch of rhubarb still a nice little profit?

Perhaps next year we'll bring some produce "on the road." I doubt I'd bring the chickens, though: too hard to wrap my head around the idea of travelling show chickens- what do they think of the whole deal??

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ominous Omnivore

Nightime Creature:
"Chickens? What would I want with silly old (or young) chickens?
I think I smell sunflower seeds and corn. Much tastier. It’s just inside here somewhere…

Maybe if I can just get rid of this pesky board, I can get some… But what’s this wire stuff? It makes my claws go “pling!” just like on a guitar string. Huh! Maybe I’ll try the other side….

Getting closer, but but still can't reach it...grrr...

Oops, an angry human is running toward me: gotta make tracks!"

Hmmm....Human here: we were lucky again last night. Can you guess our nighttime visitor? We really think he/she was after the chicken food, not the chickens. No chickens spent the night in the tractor, but were in two other places that this visitor didn't touch. Just a little midnight excitement for a Saturday night!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Chick Co-parenting

And now solo parenting? Here is Momma hen (formerly known as Blue Saddle) keeping an eye on her charges: all eight of them. Yes, there was a little change while I was gone. The two hens had been co-existing somewhat uneasily in the pen together, each with their own 4 chicks. Apparently, when WF let them out into the fresh green grass for the first time, the other hen (Superhen) decided she’d had ENOUGH and took off toward the other chickens. His attempts to herd her back in with the babies only led to peevish pecking, so he didn’t force the issue.

She is apparently done with parenthood. The chicks still want at least ONE momma, so quickly adapted and are all following around Blue Saddle for now. It gets a little crowded at night, but she’s putting up with all 8 of the teens for now. They are getting good at perching practice and definitely look like little chickens now, not so much like chicks. Looks like there might be 2 roosters in the bunch, not a bad roll of the dice, eh?

WF is working on plans for their new “tractor” so they can enjoy fresher grass soon. Wonder how long the last momma hen will stick it out before she wants to return to her swinging single days, too? Probably only another week or so, and they’ll be on their own!

Cheep! Not yet, Mom! Will you tuck us in? Hey, sis pushed me! *jostle jostle*

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cheesehead interlude

So can you guess/remember where I spent this week?

One more hint:

Madison, the capitol city of Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland! They take their dairy products very seriously in Wisconsin. There’s also quite a movement to celebrate local food and farms. True, Madison already has a good reputation as a hip college town, but I was impressed with the amount of local “fine dining” touting local ingredients, and of course, a lively farmer’s market. Liz would be proud!

I was attending a serious international scientific conference for work, but I still managed to feel a bit of the thrill of travel, had a few fun conversations with people from around the world, ate veggie sushi, etc. I DO love to travel. I also caught a sudden, severe summer cold right before leaving, so had to pace myself… but was well provisioned by the homeopathic, natural remedy-stocked Community Pharmacy.

WF stayed home to tend to the critters, mainly the rooster. Things looked pretty bad for a while, and WF was close to ending it all for Mr. Rooster. But then antibiotics were tried, and he got steadily better. Rooster is running around now with the hens, actually mostly recovered! His crow is deep and a bit hoarse, but he’s getting around, etc. We’re not entirely sure what it was, but the suspected culprit is aspergillus, perhaps present in low levels in the litter. Rooster spent 3 days literally “cooped up” while we were gone a couple weekends ago, so perhaps got too much at a time? More to worry about, but we’re thankful that he’s better and no other chickens are showing signs of it now. Big coop cleaning in the near future…

The chicks are doing fine, still growing fast. A few things have changed in their situation: more soon! The poultry pageant definitely continues. It’s good to be back home, but trying to keep life and chores and recreation in perspective… even work travel is good for giving fresh eyes!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Not-so-cute chicken post

Well, the “keeper’s wife” had her first visit to town, and I welcomed the “escape” for a few hours. Of course it’s 1912 and there are no WF/GTR household problems to deal with! Would you like to see a picture of my beautiful lighthouse home?

Alas. We are dealing with our first real chicken health crisis: a very unwell rooster. The only adult rooster, the one we’d hoped to keep a while. He can’t breathe. No other symptoms, other than going downhill now that he hasn’t been able to eat or drink or sleep, since all of his energy is going into breathing (big open beak on the exhale-??). I’m worried, of course, about the others, but so far, no one else shows signs (and there's likely been ample time to develop them).

We’re doing what we can, but of course nothing is simple. Trying to figure out exactly what it could be so we can treat him correctly. I’ve read entirely too many websites, called the extension service, posted on message boards, bugged a vet acquaintance at home (eeek) and called my few chicken-raising friends. No one really knows, either… we’d have do cultures, etc, to truly know, and I haven’t yet figured out how to get that done. And really, he’s a chicken, not even truly a pet chicken. Our latest thought is something fungal, not necessarily catching.

It’s times like this that I wonder if I’m really cut out for this “farming” life. We are such greenhorns and don’t have many mentors around to ask for help. I am a worry-wart, and WF tends toward “let it be and it will fix itself.” Neither is really the best approach in times of crisis.

And the whole idea of chicken health care… this critter is NOT a pet, doesn’t even have a name, but is “The Rooster”, a definite character. We’d like him to live, or at least help him somehow, so…WF’s been spoon feeding him for the past couple days, which helps the rooster stay alive, but it’s not fixing anything. This animal is just like one we ATE (and enjoyed eating) a few months ago, yet we’re trying heroics to nurse him. And then there’s the question of when to put him out of his misery: Is it too soon? Are we waiting too long? What do you do with the body after that ?!

So: Doubting ourselves, frustrated with the lack of answers, feeling powerless, yet with more power than we really want: ie the ability to end a bird’s life or fight to save it and the weight to decide which is the right answer.

Does chicken-raising have to cause this much turmoil???

Thursday, August 03, 2006


A good living history presenter always stays in character, sort of:

Ahem. Dear Readers, I've been told that through using this strange typewriter made of an unusual material, I may transmit my words to the world. I do find that claim to be quite fantastical, but nevertheless, I am always eager to try a new amusement.

Life at Sand Island Lighthouse is enjoyable, but I do so appreciate a holiday now and again. I will be traveling to visit the Aerial Transfer Bridge and Keeper Lederle's family in Duluth this weekend: the steamer leaves tomorrow. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the shops, as well: I'll finally get to see the new hat fashions for 1912. The trip is a bit of a lark, but my husband (the keeper) wishes me to enjoy the brief summer while the ships may still find passage. It is important to him that I enjoy this life and always come back!

I will be taking his hat to the men's milliner for a repair. It is dashing uniform hat, don't you think? He's just hoping no inspector visits the station while I am away with his hat!

If you will be in Duluth this weekend, perhaps we shall see each other near the Canal? I will be bravely facing the gondola ride across with clenched hands and would welcome the company! With best wishes for your health,

Mrs. Luick
July, 1912

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Part of our weekend vacation commute:

A scene from a somewhat secluded Boundary Waters lake. We managed to get away for a short trip, thanks to some wonderful neighbors, very patient friends and determined last-minute packing. No, we didn't see smoke and we didn't get burnt up in crazy heat. We were quite far away from the fires, but missed the chance to have our own campfire due to the fire bans.

We were also surprised at the number of other people around- we weren't able to show our trip companions a totally quiet BWCA for their first trip, but still managed to enjoy the quiet scenes.

WF is never far away from birds of a friendly, curious sort, even in the wilderness (Loons are not chickens, but still fun, right?)

The chickens survived our absence with the help of some great neighbors, and are growing incredibly fast. More pictures soon as I find time.

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right? I'm feeling a bit revved up and stressed about my upcoming weeks already, though. I am headed to Madison next week for a conference- 5 whole days away, on my own. Before and after that, a living history character that I, ah, "assist" has to make some appearances. I'll be bouncing around for a while, but the hotel has wireless internet, and I'll bet telegraph offices can be found in 1912, if the need is urgent. Carry on!