Monday, July 27, 2009

All Roosters But One...

Saturday morning I hauled all the boy chickens, except Evil Rooster, off to a swap meet in Topeka. I was really sad, I have to say. All the little roosters that Mrs. Peckins patiently hatched this summer were so cute. Once they lost all their baby fuzz, they were just like little boys on the playground, pushing one another around, bumping chests, and messing around instead of paying attention.

Of the ten surviving chicks, six were roosters, so I had to do something. The Silver Sebright rooster also went. He was the meanest of the babies, even whipping up on everyone else in the cage, so he had to go in his own cage.

I did not think anyone would want any of the boys except maybe the Sebright, but I was wrong. There was a lot of interest immediately. Several men asked me what I wanted for the roosters. I had no idea what to ask, so I said, "Make me an offer."

Men are strange about wheeling and dealing. It is some form of ritual and there are rules my XX genes simply are not coded to unravel. No one would make me an offer immediately.

Within ten minutes a woman and two girls purchased the Silver Sebright rooster. I think he went to a good home. The woman sells chickens and her young daughters are a big part of caring for the chickens. She gave me her card. I felt alright letting the rooster go off in the arms of a young girl. I held him one last time in farewell, but he is not the sentimental type whatsoever.

Several more men came by and asked what I wanted for the Porcelain D'Uccle roosters, who are about the size of robins now. Finally, one young man offered me fifty cents apiece for all of them. I am sure I am totally ignorant, and innocent, but I did ask him if he had fighting roosters. If he did, I assured him, it was none of my business and I was not judging, only that I could not allow my chicks to go to such an end. He assured me he did not fight roosters but sold many chickens to 4-H kids. I hope that is true.

He scooped up four of the babies, remarking how tame they were. I took the other two in my hands and we walked to his vehicle where he was selling a variety of poultry and fowl. When we got there, there was an aquarium of SNAKES for sale! The guy quickly assured me the snakes were not his. Oh great - another bad end I had not considered!

Sold out, I was packing up a mere 20 minutes after I had arrived when a couple came by, disappointed that all the little roo's were gone. We chatted for a few minutes and they seemed like nice people. I said they could surely get some of my roosters from the guy who had bought them all from me. After they walked away, it dawned on me that I could give Evil (formerly known as Elvis) to them! It was too late by the time I caught up with them. They had already bought one of my little guys - for $1, I might add.

Even though they had already purchased one of the little roosters, we talked for some time and I felt that they would give Evil a good chicken home on a farm belonging to the man's parents. He was sure his parents would greatly enjoy having a rooster named Elvis. As they walked away, I couldn't resist, and in my best Elvis voice, I said, "Thank you. Thank you very much!"

It was agreed that I would bring Evil to them the next day. But when I got home, I spent a lot of time watching the chickens. Even though Evil and I do not get along, I admire his roosterly bravery, especially in such a tiny little body. He is a gentleman with all of his ladies, and does not peck his children. He struts around crowing all day in the short grass and the gravel of the driveway, keeping an eye on things, while his wives and children scatter in the tall grass to feast on worms, grubs, seeds and insects. If he and a hen or a peep go for the same bug or morsel of food, Evil always defers to the hen or the chick. He is a real father, a warrior.

He is not as flamboyant as the little red cochin roosters were, nor as vocal. There is nothing comical about him the way there was with Big Man. I have never felt much affection for him as an adult rooster, but ultimately I could not take Evil away from his home and his flock. It will not be hard to impose birth control now - just gather the eggs daily (and eat them) and there will be no more problem of too many roosters.

The swap meet was fun, but I drove about fifty miles round trip. I sold a $13 rooster for $5, and had to hand that $5 over as a vendor fee. I sold the six peeps for $3 and bought three day-old guineas for $7.50. $17.50 in the red, not counting gas. I am such a wheeler dealer!

Monday, July 20, 2009

When the Hen is Finished Raising the Chicks

It has been fun this summer to observe my little chicken flock, Mrs Peckins in particular, who hatched the first brood of baby chicks. Mrs. P's patience and perseverance was impressive. She sat on the nest for such a long time but the eggs did not hatch. When I took her off that nest for good, she could not walk very far without resting. Evil Rooster stood over her gallantly. That chivalry softened my heart toward him, the evil little bird that attacks me every chance he can.

Once the babies hatched, I kept the hen and chicks separate from the rest of the flock for about a week. Mrs Peckins is not a high ranking hen, and I was afraid the others would abuse her or the chicks, but I need not have worried. She was all business and no one was allowed to mess with her peeps!

She shepherded her little brood about, clucking and murmuring to them, calling them to eat and bringing them to the water. After the sad accident of one of the chicks drowning in Duke's water bowl, Mrs Peckins did not bring her babies around that bowl again - at least I never saw her do so.

She knew to lead her babies into the chicken coop at night well before the bossy hens came in, thus insuring her family had a warm, safe nest every night.

The babies followed her about for many days, never straying far from her protective wings. In a flash, they would all run to her if some signal of danger was given. Though one of the other hens tried desperately to adopt some of the peeps as her own, the babies all knew Mrs Peckins was their mother and did what she ordered.

Everything was as usual one particular morning when I opened the chicken pen. The babies spilled out along with Mrs Peckins as they scurried out into the grass for bugs and other goodies. I went up to the barn and worked for a couple of hours. When I came back, the babies were no where to be seen. Not one tiny little white fluff was in sight. I panicked. Some horrible predator must have eaten them all, like so many little fluffly chicken McNuggets! I ran around searching for any survivor. At last, on the far western side of the yard, there were the peeps, in a little flock of their own, busy with their chicken business. Just like that - they were no longer Mrs. Peckins' responsibility. After that day they were on their own.

The other hens would peck at the babies for getting too close to them at feeding time. Mrs Peckins did not peck her babies until they were all fully out of their baby fluff, and then she began to peck them, too. If they had not gotten the message that they were on their own, she helped them with a well-aimed peck right on their little backs. Peck! Squawk! - and a baby would go skittering away. I never saw Mrs. Peckins ever peck one of her babies more than once. It only takes once and a chicken knows it needs to straighten up and fly right, apparently.

I was thinking about this natural order of leaving the nest the other day when my son called with another life emergency. I should have been pecking him a long time ago:

"Mom, I wrecked my car." PECK!

"Mom, I needed a 2.50 GPA to get off academic probation, but I ended up with a 2.25!" PECK!

"Mom, I left the keys in my car and it was stolen." PECK!

"Mom, I am in jail for Disorderly Conduct." PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK PECK ....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Suffering In the Heartland

Today, at almost ten o'clock in the morning, the temperature is only sixty eight degrees, even though the sun is shining from a cloudless sky. It is "human being" weather. Perfect summer weather for me and my old dog, Duke. Not too hot. In fact, it is not hot at all. It is beautiful. So naturally, I am sitting indoors writing on the computer.

Usually on this date in Kansas, a person can not breathe from the hot humidity suffocating everything in a moist blanket of suffering. The older I get, the less I can tolerate it. Same goes for Duke. In an effort to help ease his suffering through the typical ungodly Kansas heat and humidity horrors this year, I had him professionally shaved. Dropping him at the vet's I carelessly said "Do not shave his legs, since he runs through the tall grass."

Will I ever learn that careless speech leads to catastrophes?

When I returned for Duke, I was met with a miscarriage of responsible pet ownership that brought tears to my eyes. Duke's normally thick, beautiful coat of Chow/German Shepherd genes had been reduced to the same stubble left on a new Marine's head. His flabby old belly was exposed. His wrinkled neck seemed too vulnerable for such a good old dog. Worst of all, he had been given a poodle cut! The thick silky fur on his shoulders and hips had been left in place, giving him the look of a silly city dog with no common sense. All I could think to say to this poor animal was "I am so, so sorry!"

He looks horrible and it is all my fault. I know he is far more comfortable without that smothering dog fur that keeps him perfectly comfortable in the snow and ice of January. But he looks so silly, even the chickens do not give him a lick of respect.

I know precisely how he feels. When my mother remarried, I had to move to Wichita and go to a new school. I was doing okay until my aunt graduated barber school. My aunt and my mother forced me into getting a haircut - a "pixie" haircut. The shoulder length hair that I had valiantly defended against my mother's constant assaults, fell in long strands from my aunt's shiny new scissors. When I looked in the mirror, I knew the entire rest of sixth grade was going to go so very, very badly for me. My bangs were a mere 1/2 inch, emphasizing my high forehead. I was almost bald. No one can wear a hat in school, or a head band, or a scarf. You just have to go, pink ears shining, white forehead beaming, humiliation complete.

A moment of silence for the abject abuse suffered by me that year... and another moment for the Dukester. Cruelly, a humiliated heart continues to beat....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Killer Pitch

I have a video tape of my little family at Christmas the year my son was two. He was so excited over the Christmas tree lights and the decorations, he was running in tight little circles and screaming with glee. It is the funniest thing to watch and one of my fondest memories.

His father was running the video camera as my daughter and I trimmed the tree. My son tried several times to throw one of the decorative tree ornaments to his father. He did not quite know how to throw, and each ball fell behind him. After several tries, he threw them straight at his father. It was the documented beginning of my son's stellar athletic career. Sniff, sniff! It makes me so emotional!

When he was older, my son and I played catch. I would throw the ball as high as I could so he could dive for the catch. He enjoyed that. We also played burn-out, even though by then I was not the athlete I had once been. My son started right out pitching in Little League, and the games of burn-out came to an abrupt end because he could win with one throw! He had a great fast ball. His money pitch would come in sizzlin' and dip low on the outside corner of the plate. He struck out so many kids with that naturally sinking pitch. I do not know how he did it, but it was killer!

He pitched many, many innings of baseball when he was a little guy. After we moved to Spirit Creek Farm, I continued to drive him into to Topeka for practice and for games. He played baseball so much that pitching became second nature to him.

He woke one morning to discover a mouse in his room. From his bed, he grabbed a baseball and threw a slammin' fast ball at the mouse, killing it instantly.

Wonder how many Big Leaguers have a killer pitch like that on their resume?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Spirit Creek Farms

I googled "Spirit Creek Farm" and found one in Wisconsin and one in New Jersey!

The Spirit Creek Farm in Wisconsin is an off-the-grid, producing organic farm. Check out their web site and read about their organic food products. Not only is this young couple producing food, they are creating a market place for other organic farmers. Young people like this give me HOPE!

Blessings of success and abundance for Andrew and Jennifer Sauter Sargent!

There is another Spirit Creek Farm in New Jersey, a horse farm. An actual horse farm! I have not contacted them yet, but that doesn't mean you can not check out their web page yourself.

There is something about that name "Spirit Creek Farm".....