Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My daughter: pro-lifer?

Ours is a strongly left-leaning household. My dad, the leftist economist, used to excuse himself to the bathroom during Reagan's speeches. I knew from a young age the distinction between being pro-choice and pro-abortion. And yet, I am flummoxed with how to address Emily's latest proclamation of belief: the young maple seedlings in our yard should, she says, all be allowed a chance to live.

Maple seedlings are not the usual weed. Yes, they come up all over the yard, in countless numbers, and no, I didn't plant them. I don't want them all. Maple trees, of course, are wonderful, valuable shade trees, and we host two adult maples next to our back deck, which keep the house cool and provide shelter for birds. I'd be happy for a few more to grow to maturity in our yard.

And yet, it never occurs to me to start trees from seed, much less to select our yard trees among the host of volunteers. These pictured, growing in the compacted soil under Emily's rope swing, are our compromise for the moment, as I just mowed around them last night, at Emily's request. Will they grow up strong, to replace the black cherry which currently bears the rope swing? I don't know. Nor do I know if the politics of maple survival is simply an offspring of Emily's current sensitivity to death, because of the chickens, or if I am facing a long-term relationship with a daughter whose voting politics may make me flinch.

All I know this morning is this: Emily often states her strong support for Obama, with her mom, and we have compromised together to let a few maple seedlings live in the yard, in inconvenient places.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hazel biking, and what parents can't do

Hazel has been telling us since spring break at least that she doesn't want to bike without training wheels yet. Further, she told us when she might be willing to try again when she was 10. I could tell she was close to ready - this spring she has learned to scooter, which requires the same balance and steering skills. However, nothing we did could make her willing to try.

This week we were down in Kentucky, visiting my parents and my in-laws. Emily learned to bike at their house, at age 4 years and 2 months, with a push across the driveway followed by her streaking across their lawn down the hill afterward. On Thursday evening in Bardstown, Ky, the neighbors were visiting with their daughters, and the dad was trying to teach his daughter, Maia, to bike on the gentle slope of my in-laws lawn. Whether due to the magic of Gram and Papa's house or the teaching skills of a parent who was not her own, Hazel, after a handfull of attempts ended by her stopping herself with a foot, finally started pedalling, and took off, biking toward Gram. Brian's parents have won the jackpot, getting to watch both girls learn to bike for the first time; we won, because now we can really start family bike rides.

And Hazel isn't even 10 yet, after all. She is, appropriately, very proud of herself. This summer she has learned to swim, and learned to bike, and now can enjoy the fruits of both labors.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kissing a snake

One of Emily's good friends had a birthday party at a nature center this week. It was a lovely party for me to watch - a whole gaggle of girls running around catching bugs and tadpoles and toads, looking at plants. We didn't get lucky enough to see a snake outside, but there was this lovely black snake inside the center. After a bit of cake, Emily went over to make friends with it.

Someone asked me if we were getting more chickens, and Emily, listening in said "Oh no, we're getting hermit crabs!" The choice of species was news to me, but I think getting a critter which can defend itself, even by hiding in a shell, is a great idea. I love chickens and do hope to have them again someday, but perhaps not just yet. If I win the lottery, I'll get more chickens again - along with one of those $1000 coops which I was scoffing at just a couple of months ago.

In the meanwhile, we'll be making the best of our resident bunnies and chipmunks - which are furry, cute *and* seem to be able to survive the resident foxes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Darn fox. (I assume)

We came home from the pool today to an empty, broken cage, a dead little hen, and nothing else but a pile of feathers. At the moment, I'm ready to go back to horses or cats, or even to venture into dog ownership. This time, it is too unbelievable to cry over.

High-water Waterslides

This photo, from the Ohiopyle State Park website, looks like a lovely scenic waterfall. Incredibly, though, it is from an area labelled as a "natural waterslide", and yesterday the girls and Brian and I witnessed at least 10 young men sit and get whooshed through this into a pool below. All survived, and some actually did it twice.

Obviously, the girls and we parents did not try this, though Emily tried some more sedate waterslides below this one. But we all cooled off and had a really lovely time. It is steaming hot here this weekend, and this water was just the ticket.

When we lived in the Finger Lakes region of New York, we saw many parks with sections like this, but the topography must have been just a bit different. We and others swam there often, but I don't remember any waterslides, official or unofficial. I think in New York this wouldn't have been labelled, because they tended to say "No swimming" at all the areas that looked like they'd be perfect for just that. Perhaps the lawyers in New York are more bloodthirsty?

We got home at 10:00, and the chickens were easy to catch from their outside pen - they were roosting. We brought them indoors, and then went to bed, to sleep and sweat, and dream of waterslides.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Survivor's First Crow

For the last three days, I've done a lot of reflection about what I hope for from chickens, and how we should be caring for them. The two survivors now spend their nights in our closed garage; the surviving rooster is now family, not dinner or future exile.

This morning, when I took the girls down to the garage to get their scooters and head off for school, I opened the garage door, and this guy puffs up his neck, raises his head, and sortof warbles something which was, despite the warble, unmistakably a first crow. He's got his girl (at right), and he now wears the only pants in the cage. And I hope very much that he keeps his crowing for such moments. It was 8:40 am, and surely the neighbors can't complain about that, right?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

End of day fox update...

We still only have the two white ones (see the new chickenhouse post for a photo of one - I didn't have the heart to photograph today), with no survivors returning. I have mended the coop, but tonight they will stay indoors so Mr. Fox won't start a habit of chicken terror.

The girls have done well, responding well to the remaining two and not at all wanting to give up on chickens. I realized later that this was my fear - that they would disengage from the process, not wanting to love the remaining two. In fact, we have one survivor I wasn't counting because he seemed so much beyond hope. Last night, Brian brought in one, with wing broken (and perhaps a leg?), neck at an angle, who was alive. He set it on an old pair of soft cut-off sweats in the cage in the garage, and with a lot of love and water/food delivery from Emily, he seems a bit more perky than he did this morning, and looks at us, and tries to get up every so often. I told Emily that if he survives the night I'll call the vet - I really thought the chicken would give up and die. This is a black one - I *think* the one Hazel called Stripey, though the stripe is gone and only a few white feathers remain among his mostly black ones.

So we have three chickens - 2 are roosters - but now, these are staying with us, unless the neighbors have us arrested for crowing.


Brian came home at 3 am to see a fox outside our coop - apparently had scared most of them out through the bottom of the door or something, because 2 chickens were left inside, the doors still closed, and at least 10 lying dead outside, scattered around the yard. We have very small hope a couple more may reappear in the morning.

I am so sad, and so not looking forward to telling the girls when they wake up.