Sunday, November 29, 2009

Short-term Theology

I had a number of thoughts about this:
1) Are the tests God gives Spelling Tests?
2) Is the economic crisis so bad that we're disparaging people who take our jobs at temp agencies?
3) Does this mean that all temptation is temporary?

Mostly, though, I just laughed, and was Thankful for visiting family over the holiday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fowl Pets

Yesterday was a lovely day, starting with a soccer game on a new team for Emily for winter, and filled with looking forward to the end-of-season party for Emily's usual team. In the middle, though, the day got ruined with a certified letter from the township. Shockingly enough, we're not in trouble for growing weeds, but for the "building" our chickens are living in.

Today, I spent way more time than I would have liked writing the township a response letter. The girls drew pictures of their chickens to support the point that these fowl are friends, not food. We went in the yard and played with them (as usual for a weekend), but this time I took my camera for documentation.

Emily found a woolly bear caterpillar, and shared it with Hazel. Emily obligingly loved on Swallow for the camera. We played hide-and-go-seek.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free-way chicken

In our neighborhood, a truly free-range chicken is a dead chicken (even yesterday, while the ladies were having a jaunt in the backyard with me nearby, a dog got loose and was caught by its owner just 50 feet away, way too close for comfort). If free-range, under government regulations, means a couple square feet of outdoor space per hen, we're all set, but with chicken wire on all sides and vittles brought in by hand, this ain't my grandfather's kind of free range.

But freeway chicken we have. Last week I engaged in an act which would have seemed unthinkable to me last time we got chickens, when I thought keeping them would be easy, that I wouldn't need to take too much trouble for them. Hazel and I drove over an hour south, to meet a colleague and his wife, who agreed, very kindly, to take in our rooster, Bolt, in exchange for a quieter (possibly) hen. Bolt was clearly going to a home where he could live his days out in poultry heaven, a ladies man to a couple of dozen hens; meanwhile, we took in Gabby, an 8 month old Delaware, as a pet to join our small flock (photographed from our porch, just next to and above the coop).

Gabby is adjusting well, leading our flock in and out of their indoor enclosure at night, keeping the others in line when they cross some mysterious chicken behavioral boundary or perhaps simply her personal space. No one is laying yet, but they seem content, making the most of the fresh fall leaves we add for them to shuffle around each day. No one is getting pecked, and if Gabby is less catchable for the girls, well, I can hardly blame her for having the sense to know trouble coming on two feet.

Most of me just feels so grateful and glad to have found a home for Bolt before his crowing got us in trouble with neighbors, and to have again an even number of chickens for our two children. I do have to wonder about the carbon footprint of my transaction: environmental ethics might have suggested that Bolt be served as dinner, locally, rather than driven by car an hour away so he could eat grain and grass for a longer lifetime with my kindhearted colleague's family. But the heart has its own logic, and mine has the logic of two 7 and 10 year old girls, whose chickens *are* pets, the consolation for a coopful of heartache in the past, whose chickens will help us learn about life, death, eggs, and nutrient cycles. In this household, driving a chicken on the interstate is just the latest strange escapade in trying to nest in our own home range.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Unveiling The New Coop

Two months ago, my colleague loaned us a book on chicken coop designs, and before we even knew we had three roosters, we were plotting which one. A year and a half ago, I was wishing we'd built a better coop before letting our flock outside where the wild things are. But now, I think we finally have it together.

It is a three-part unit, currently bolted together, but easily separated for transport. (We can just barely carry each portion between us, but we can, so that makes it mobile.) Chicken wire on all surfaces, stretched to make music when you pluck it. But there will, we assume, be no other kinds of plucking going on. These three hens (and the soon-to-be-evicted Bolt) may not be terribly expensive, but a lot of hours have been spent on their home.

Chicory and Bluebird, the Japanese cochin roosters, were moved along, generously taken in by Blackberry Meadows Farm, so we are currently down to four, and Bolt is promised to a colleague's sister, who is breeding Brahmas. But now, chickens may come and chickens may go, because we have space for them.

Now we can settle in and wait for an egg.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making it through the week

Last night Brian and I were out late, and didn't need food when we got back from driving the babysitter home. This morning, opening the fridge was a bit of a shock, but I had to laugh. For a moment it was almost like being back in grad school.

This week, besides Halloween, I've been busy with attending the Agronomy meetings and academic advising. I've enjoyed lower-carbon hybrid commutes (car/bus on Monday; car/bike on Tuesday, both avoiding downtown traffic with different methods), and learned that a car/bike commute can be the best of both worlds (30 minutes door to door, no waiting, no traffic jams, no parking fee, biking only on riverfront bike trail, no hills to pedal). On the other hand, the car/bus commute required more exercise than I might have thought and took a full hour and a half, including my one-mile run/walk with a heavy bag to make it from the end of the bus line back to the shop where the car had gotten inspection, in time to get the girls from afterschool.

I really could have used a broom.