Saturday, December 30, 2006

Holiday snapshots

We did have a lovely holiday, with many simple, warm traditions:

Some sparkling juice by the fire (wearing ratty old flannels)...

Some tasty (?) oyster stew at BOTH sets of parent's houses (actually, it's not that bad, once a year)...

Shimmering trees (Nice, eh? Definitely NOT our house/tree. My mother has a much more discerning decorating eye and more time than me!)

And after-holiday chaos to be cleaned up (or enjoyed, if you are a cat)! We are very blessed. Happy New Year, everyone!

Finally- Snow!

Our driveway this morning:

It's not quite enough to cross-country ski, so we had to celebrate and make use of it somehow:

Ha. (And as a nod to the knitting blog world, please note that I knitted that scarf for WF last year. Ribbed alpaca, very nice!) But we didn't make snow chickens. The real chickens are a presence enough, themselves:

(Wow, we're sure lucky that WF person put down some nice green hay for us. Snow? Phsaw! Maybe we'll give more eggs in appreciation...)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Climatologist Chicken

Ms. Orpington says:
Hmmm.... Green grass AFTER Christmas in Minnesota. More evidence for my emerging "Poultry Position on Weather Weirdness". It IS delicious evidence, however. Excuse me... gotta do a little closer, sampling. **peck-snap, peck-snap, peck-snap!**

Hope you all had a nice, if green holiday! We are back and the chickens are definitely enjoying the weather. "Big Rooster" is done molting and tells me we are all now free to admire his new tail feathers.

And, of course, his spurs:

Yikes! I also appreciate his calm temperament. After this photo session, I asked him to kindly remove his poop-prone harem from my deck, and he happily obliged. Definitely points in his favor if it comes down to one rooster, not two! Young rooster (nearly full grown, but with little nubbin spurs) is just now finding his, ah, interest in the hens. Poor guy is pretty frustrated. But we're NOT going to have repeat of last year, which led to some interesting poultry fashion. Close monitoring and adventures continue...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Solstice Gift

We had a nice solstice surprise when WF checked the chickens and coop tonight:

The first egg from a young hen who was hatched from an egg here, nearly 6 months ago! The cycle of seasons AND the cycle of chickens makes itself present tonight. The egg on the left is from an older hen, likely the one who's been laying sporadically for the past month or so. The one on the right is a very first egg, likely from a rather suprised former pullet! Heck, she could even be the daughter of the other egg-layer. Circles...

Special significance today on the most natural and earth-based holiday. I don't mind celebrating Christmas with family the day after the "actual" date, etc because the 25th was chosen by humans. But the solstice has been celebrated RIGHT NOW for centuries. Even our young chicken is getting into the spirit of renewal!

But before we get too mystical about this, it's good to note that while it's a surprise to get a first egg on the darkest day (chickens are rather light sensitive) the "increasing day length" now bodes well for some fresh egg production from these budding young hens. Horray!

Peace, everyone: may you all find a pleasant holiday surprise, somewhere!

Holiday Haiku

Happy Solstice, everyone! The return of the light: whoohoo! Very important to those of us in the darker North. In honor of this ancient holiday, I will bring to light (heh) our holiday letter from this year, slightly edited for the blog.

I do like writing and receiving holiday letters, but felt that our past two had been a little too heavy on minutia. Hence, this year's haiku. Enjoy!

Holiday Haiku
Counted syllables for you
Short and sweet this year

Life’s good at RF
GTR, WF are well
More chickens; same cats

New chicks; second batch
Raised by broody mother hens
Flock continues on

Chicks hatch July 1st
As Grandma Rita passed on
Know life’s transitions

Cute baby chickens
Well documented on blog
Photos and Youtube (!)

First “processing” done
Hard work; good eating later
Chickens in freezer

Three fluffy felines
Lutsen, Schroeder and Bill-cat
Hiss, meow and purr

Elderly Bill-cat
Still with us, thanks to nursing
GTR has soft heart

Gardens well tended
Tomatoes, garlic and greens
Battle with ground squirrels

Little brother R
Is now married to AR
Nice looking couple

More peak oil worries
Coming energy troubles
Occupy WF

Striving for peaceful
life; less impact on the earth
growing good food here

Solar panels still
Provide most of what we need
gen’rator if dark

Community thoughts
Maybe sharing land with friends
Meetings continue

Wishing you all well
More details, photos online
Be in touch this year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Chicken TV

Some friends of ours are great public library DVD aficionados, and they recently invited us over to watch this:

They are true friends: people who willingly (and even enthusiastically) sit through our exclamations about the different breeds, etc while watching a movie about chickens. It was fun, but I must say, rather “fluffy” and a bit quirky in choice of subject matter. No scholarly depth about how chickens evolved or anything like that, but still a fun Friday night diversion. We are so exciting, yes?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Easily Amused

Lutsen wonders: do these new glasses make her look too bookish?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Green Christmas

No, not the enviro-green, but a TRULY green Christmas in Minnesota. That should be cause for alarm. I hereby declare to the rest of world: Northern MN has GREEN GRASS showing in front yards, etc. It's nearly Christmas; we should/could have snow by now, or at least dead, dry grass. Something's just not right in the climate, and that's NOT very Christmas-cheery.

Want some proof? Check this view of St. Paul (admittedly, not Northern MN, exactly, but still, it shouldn't be 48 degrees in December, even in that slightly-warmer part of the state. Yikes.


Hey, wow! I have a blog!? That needs updating every once in a while? Oh, yeah.
Please stand by while I think of something entertaining or enlightening to say. I think the lull in exercising while sick these past couple weeks has caused a similar lull in the writing, post-creating part of my brain.

I did enjoy this, though: it’s one of the top hits in a search that ALSO yields this blog (I’m so proud): “cat cheese puff”. How random and bizarre, another nearby cat getting by on cheese puff power!

OK. I know that there IS a lot to write about in the wider world, but sometimes I wonder if that’s what I should be doing here. Do people come here to read about my thoughts on global warming? Local food? Welfare reform? Or to see pictures of the chickens and hear what we’ve been up to here at home (Hi Dad and Donna!)? Or does it really matter at all, because this is MY blog? Hmm. I suppose I could be more industrious with the REAL writing one of these days, even if just for my own darn self.

I DO know that I love it when posts get comments (baring my soul, here, people, be nice). But alas, I think I may have violated some blog comment etiquette rules by not always responding. Sorry about that.

I know I forget to go back to places where I’ve commented to see an answer there; do people really see responses put in the comments? But so many people don’t use their emails, and then I get busy (already feel guilty about using too much work computer time) and... Result? I think: less comments. What do you think? What’s the best practice in this case?

This is mostly a place for sharing and recording our own phenology/events (plus writing practice), but I’ll admit that the online community is also very intriguing… I just don’t have the online time to really nurture it as I’d like. (Where DO you all find time?) But I will make a good try to get answers posted in the comments sections, at least. Sound good?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Laundry Life

How NOT to reassure your fearing-blasé-middle-age wife:

GTR: I used to do so much more in my life: travel, adventure, intellectual or idealistic things. What am I doing with my life now?

WF (innocently): Laundry?

Ha! In his defense, I WAS standing there with some freshly air-dried laundry in my hands. Ah, life.

What day is it?

Ah, Saturday. The sun’s out, the washing machine’s going, the chickens are sunbathing. I’m still fighting my sinus bug, and WF is just now up again after a bout with a stomach bug. Bill the cat is resting after a couple, ah, messy days. I’m really getting tired of germs, but I think we’re turning the corner. I'm getting a good review of various remedies: did you know that slippery elm powder is useful for both human and cat digestive issues? Ginger is also a favorite for human maladies. Need to keep up on my herbal learning...

We’re tackling the house and dishes today, which have been put aside during this icky sick/work craziness time. I’m done with the busy first step of two major work projects (grant applications, so the real work could come later), just the regular end of budget year busy-ness ahead.

Oh, wait; is it the holiday season? These Christmas card things started appearing in our mailbox, seriously a surprise to me. We don’t decorate much around here, and if anything, try to focus on Solstice. I used to do a bit more, but with 3 cats and solar power (and a celebration-averse or just ambivalent WF), it’s hard to go too crazy with climbable, electricity-using decorations. I’m trying to remember (and instill) the value of just plain old ritual and seasonal celebration; humans have done that for centuries. Even if we’re not caught up in the commercial or christian Christmas, we can still celebrate the return of the light and the turning of the seasons, a time of gatherings and family. We can all use that in the midst of the cold, dark, germy winter, right?

Ok, now to find some energy for some gifty sewing or holiday letter writing...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Out, foul snot!

Dear Mr. Rhin O. Virus:

I do believe you’ve left an elephant shoved up inside my sinuses. Kindly remove it at once. Consider this also your eviction notice, effective immediately.

You have definitely overstayed our temporary rental agreement. Your little party in my sinuses has been so wild that it is completely blocking all exits to those delicate little caverns. Not only is this a fire (and breathing) hazard, it has trapped your dirty little bacterial friends inside. They’ve taken your cue and begun wild, drunken partying as well. I do not appreciate elephants in sinuses, nor green, sludgy snot.

I have reluctantly called in reinforcements, kindly given to me by modern western medical practitioners. Your complete disregard for my kinder methods (goldenseal and echinacea, herbal steam, saline neti pot washes, massive amounts of assorted teas) and the subsequent bacterial bash has led me to this unusually drastic measure. You additional disregard for my need for sleep to have brain power to address serious work projects has also increased my animosity.

“Is this a tissue I see before me? Out, damned snot! Out, I say!”

Sincerely, GTR

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Commercial Break

We take a break from regular programming to bring you this message:

Hello. I’m Bill the Cat. Have you been searching for the perfect snack to share with your feline friends?

I recommend Smart Puffs, the crispy cheesy taste cats (at least me, and I’m a cat) crave.

The wonderful musky smell...

The cylindrical cheesy goodness...

The delicate crunchy texture...

A purrrr-tastic delight! It’s the only thing that turns ME into a lap cat! Mmmm! I’ll think I’ll have just one more...

(Actual cat intake of cheese puffs was limited by prudent humans, but I swear it’s his favorite treat. We bond over bags of these "healthy" cheese puffs. One of senior Bill-cat’s many little quirks...)

Chilly Chickens

It does finally feel like “nice” winter around here (ie not just cold and gray, but fun snow and some sun), and the chickens are not exactly sure what to think. Sun = good. Snow = bad. Straw on top of snow, put down by the kind WF = okay, good enough reason to go out. At least there's not yet quite as much snow as last year's similar view.

Some of these chickens are experiencing their second winter, but for seven of them, this is a first. Newer readers may not have followed our “second chicken generation” saga, documented starting here. Or actually, here. Those chicks are now 5 months old, and fairly hard to distinguish from their mothers. We still have one rooster from that batch, along with 6 (well-documented) hens:

The young hens are reaching the time when they should start laying some eggs. The “elder” hens have been taking it pretty easy, with a total of 10 eggs in November (!). We think it’s still a product of the molt, but sheesh, it will be nice to get some eggs again. I had no idea molts took so long.

We’re not sure how productive these young ones will be this year, though, as we have a very “natural” chicken raising philosophy: no extra light or heat, just a well-insulated passive solar coop (mostly because we don’t have the power to run that stuff off the grid). It worked well last winter, and the hens continued to lay all winter. But they were young and fertile, and had gotten into their egg-laying groove by the end of September. These new hens (due to our reluctance to let the broodiness go ahead the first time the elder hens tried) were born quite a bit later, so are behind that curve.

But the passive solar coop does work fairly well (when we get sun!). We spent quite a bit of time calculating how high to set the big (recycled) south-facing window and how big the eaves should be to get max sun in the winter and the minimum in summer. Sometimes I feel bad that it gets rather chilly in the coop, but these Buff Orps are a cold hardy breed and did fine last winter. I have to think that people DID have chickens in MN before they had electricity to keep them warm, right? We all need to think of the past as we think of an energy-uncertain future…

Blog note: I did switch to beta in order to use categories. I’m still not sure how to get them to show up on sidebar, but click on the tag below the posts to get more chicken pics, etc!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Germs and Gov't Gems

(re: Title- I know I love alliteration a little too much. "A little alliteration goes a long way." Ha!)

Anyway. I’ve been slow to post this week, partly because of a sneak attach by some cold germs (masqueraded as allergies until it was too late, grr) and partly because of some crazy work projects. One big chunk of the work-work is done (whew!) but I’m going to have this little rhinovirus guest for a while. Sigh….

I’m a big believer in natural healing, self care and PREVENTING these nasty bouts. If I’m aware enough, I can usually catch them with zinc, vitamin C, Echinacea, more sleep and less sugar before things get too bad. I’ve lately heard good things about elderberry, and have been trying that, too.

I think this particular round came from my big Monday evening in town, consisting of a visit to the gym, yoga class (in a lovely old 1914 school) and library. Darn public germs! Gotta be better about no nose/eye touching and handwashing out there.

Anyway, off the topic of germs and back to gems: When I was at the library, I indulged in a little wander in the Federal Depository section. Have you ever been to one? They are FASCINATING. Well, as a former federal employee and current history buff, I think so. Where else can you find the 1896 Report of the Office of Animal Industry (with some great “modern” butter-making photos) right next to some 1970’s Energy Crisis activities for teens, nestled up against some 1980’s era maps of western National Parks?

I don’t completely understand the concept of these places: they are such a wonderful, random hodgepodge of documents from all eras. It’s like picking up a dictionary to see what word your finger falls on; serendipitous messages from the past. I rarely see any actual people in the stacks, just row after row of carefully prepared reports, some over 100 years old. Who says government paperwork doesn’t live on? I hope these throwbacks to a long-ago paper age last through this computer age; where else am I going to get my 1930’s Farm Co-op News fix?