Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wednesday is Rednesday

I am playing along with SueLovesCherries at My Secret Garden today. She asks you to share something you like in red. Well here goes:

My sweet little angel!
(in a red dress)

I had to put some nice pictures up to counteract the leg post (ha ha) from yesterday.

However, my Ella can holler like the boys when necessary.

We got some hand me up clothes from a friend and Ella's first instinct was to put on a red dress. Go. Figure. Of course I am going to have a princess for a daughter. It's simply pay back.

I have to stop her when she wants to wear the pink Barbie-Cinderella HEALS HEELS (I simply can not spell) out to the barn though. Yeah, that came in the new loot too. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

And I Shaved My Legs for This?

My husband's birthday was over the weekend.

He had only one birthday wish.

He wanted me to shave my legs.

"You know I like my women shorn," Mike tells me the day before his birthday, "You know I don't ask for much from you."

As I roll my eyes back in my head and quantify that his lack of expectations is one of the biggest understatements of the year, I sigh in dread.

"Which 'women' would that be? I thought you were married to me." I queried back. "Are you cheating on me?" I have not had bare legs since last August or September. Actually, I never shave in the winter. Begrudgingly, I usually shave in the summer or at the onset of short season, but this year I drew a line in the sand.

"Like sheep, shorn and hairless," he rejoins with glee, "Seriously, that's all I want. Please shave your legs."

"No. I was born with hair on my legs. I hate shaving my legs. Shaving is unnatural," was my response. I am a self righteous hippie about some things. Especially body hair and body image. So, here I am to rant my grievance with the western world's concept of beauty. I guess I hold a little grudge against the American standards of attractiveness.

"Pleasssse......" Mike went into his annoying whining mode.

"You don't treat me any differently when I do shave? Why should I???"

"It's my birthday."

Just so you don't flee in terror I subscribe to daily showering, but shaving just does not make it to my list of important. I mean, we are born with hundreds of hair follicles on our legs. We're supposed to have hair there! Right? RIGHT!

I know some of you don't agree with this philosophy. And those who are grossed out will be clicking away from my site about now. That's OK. I expect it. Go ahead and flee.

I actually relented and granted my husband's only wish. Using the "Prestige Emjoi" I proceeded to deflock my legs. It's the grown up baby sister to the Epilady. Remember that mid evil depilatory device?

It's totally one of those hair rippers that make you cringe in fear. It sounds like a snarling grinding evil machine you could find in a dungeon, but instead resides in my medicine closet for most of the year until I must commit self torture. But seeing as ice water flows through my veins I am able to endure the 1/2 hour agony in silence. The pile of hair on the floor afterward was hilarious. But now I feel totally naked. If you actually want to see the before and after pictures click here. I did not want to incite pandemonium by displaying these to the world...

This "gift" while seemingly insignificant, is really an imposition to my beliefs. Just so you know, I checked out some historical facts about the emergence of leg shaving and it's origins. Billions of women on this planet do not shave. This is a fact. We are just convinced we need to in the States and are indoctrinated at a very young age with this custom...

According to Wikapedia, for women, the practice of shaving the legs derives from a current cultural standard in the West that deems leg hair on women unattractive. This standard emerged during the early twentieth century, as women's legs became more visible owing to shorter hemlines, and when the safety razor made the practice of leg shaving practical. The reasons for this cultural standard are debated, but it is sometimes seen as an example of a cultural mechanism for increasing sexual dimorphism. Others have suggested that it was promoted as a means of selling razors to a broader segment of the populace.

Some women, despite the social pressures that favor hairless legs in certain Western countries, never shave at all. While some refrain out of lack of concern, others consider leg and armpit shaving an unnatural and repressive societal double standard. Still others refrain in an effort to be less environmentally wasteful.

Research also suggests that women who do not shave their body hair are "characterized by higher global self-esteem." Scholars suggest that this is because women with lower levels of self-esteem are less likely to be satisfied with their natural bodies, and thus more likely to alter them.

So with my self esteem intact I have gone through my yearly torture, but thoroughly resented it. My bare naked legs feel weird. Maybe next year I can convince my husband that hair is really OK, but I doubt it. You may still be asking why I rip my hairs out by the roots instead of shaving the old fashioned way. Well, I can only say it will give me at least two nag free months from my husband and that may be a gift in it's self... And I hate and detest and despise shaving.

Happy Shaving Ladies!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sex Education According to Wyatt

This morning over breakfast, the following pleasant exchange took place between Wyatt, Mike and me.

Wyatt, who is soon to turn 5 years old, perkily asks, "Do you know how ladybugs have babies, Dad?"

Dad plays the fool saying, "How Wyatt, please tell us."

Wyatt pipes up with his response eagerly saying, "The mom and dad ladybugs go piggyback. Then they have babies."

Mike and I exchange a quick look of shock. Then I suppress my giggles, just barely stifling a snort laugh.

Mike, in total control of his laughter gazes at our son to see what will come next. Then he nods his head in agreement, "Yep your pretty much right about that."

At this point I have to ask, "Where did you learn that Wyatt? From Trevor or something?" Six year old cousin Trevor who lives next door is about all things relating to "the body" and quite curious about parts and reproduction...

Wyatt comes back saying, "No. We just know. Me and Adam just watched all the ladybugs and figured it out."

Mike looks at Wyatt with raised eyebrows saying somewhat sarcastically, "Oh really?"

Wyatt nodding his head emphatically says, "Yeah! We saw it."

So check that off my list of "To Do's" since I guess my boy has this whole sex ed thing in the bag. Let's just hope this ladybug girl does not show up at our house any time in the next 15 years...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Positve You've Never Seen These Before!!

There are a few perks to my work for which I am grateful beyond words. For example, this week, I went to the coast to do some field surveys and was amazingly fortunate to meet with an expert birder who monitors a breeding population of snowy plovers! I witnessed fresh hatched plovers getting their monitoring bands, which are an integral part of the tracking of this rare species. I had never seen snowy plovers up close and personal like this before!!

Western snow plovers are Federally endangered and they are specifically protected along the Pacific coast. Thus, each bird in this particular monitoring area has it's own special color and number of leg bands. Populations are tracked meticulously in this manner.

Now is where you are supposed to say Aawwww!

Don't let him fool you, this snowy plover chick is perfectly capable of fleeing the scene at a dead run. On the dried mud flats these chicks are virtually invisible when they stop moving. And once you step away from them, they become one with the earth and are almost impossible to see. Thus, during the breeding season humans are NOT aloud in the nesting territories for fear the eggs or hatchings could be crushed. Only staff members of this preserve area have access to this sensitive location.

The babies are rounded up in a soft cap which serves as a holding cell for them during the brief banding and inspection process. They mostly lie still feigning they are pieces of rock or dirt. I also thought they kept their eyes closed tightly since it is appears to be a protective strategy to avoid being seen. Their eyes are really huge so it's easier to spot them when they are not squinting.

These speckled little fuzz balls are tiny!! They were actually running around foraging for food before their capture for banding. They look weak but are totally functional in finding food for themselves.

This little guy above will grow and turn into this:

During the breeding season these birds exhibit a subtle sexual dimorphism (the sexes looking different). This bird is an adult male plover in breeding plumage. Females have less black accenting on their head, eye and neck. After July, the males and females look almost identical.

This barren looking habitat is perfect for the snow plover. They camouflage effortlessly with the salty white crust and brown earth in this wildlife area. The lands are managed to promote shorebird use, especially snowy plovers.

Just outside the management area, tidally influenced pickleweed marsh occurs. This native halophyte forms a low growing mat up to 18 inches in height and pretty much covers the ground surface, but it is no good for plover nesting.

And finally, a brown pelican roosting site occurs nearby and groups of these big beaked pelagic birds flew over head during my site visit.

Seeing these heavy looking seabirds flying in loose v-shaped strings was a great finishing touch to my field work. Their giant wings, spread lazily across the sky, flapped against the onshore wind as they made the short trip to the ocean from their inland resting place.

The steady flow of salt infused air, courtesy of the vast Pacific Ocean located just a sand dune away, made my eyes water somewhat annoyingly; but the excitement of seeing the snowy plovers and other bird species was ample mitigation. And when my watch said I had to go, I was sad to leave this little slice of amazing coastal wildlife.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Have Been Mauled

Yes, the inevitable has occurred. I have been injured.

Fortunately, I will recover. The wounds are not mortal.

But next time I may not be so lucky...

If you are afraid of gore or are among those who faint at blood, I will forgive your skipping the pictures. Cover your eyes or just skip down to the text below.

I will understand.

But here is the gruesome evidence.

Here is a close up for your inspection of the severity of the laceration.

I know I should be thankful that I still breath this earth's air and that I am among the land of the living. Please do not cry for me or lament my awful misfortune.

At this point, I know you are asking one fundamentally important question:

How pray tell did I acquire such a dramatic and life threatening injury?

Answer: Mr. D (Our intrepid Danish leghorn rooster).

As I was collecting eggs this week, Mr. D decided he wanted to renew our previous grievance, and that he would show me his extra special rooster attack. The atrocious wound in the pictures occurred through jeans. And there was no hole in the jeans, but Mr. D succeeded in harming me!!!! How dare he!!!!

Even stranger yet, I did not even feel his spurring on my leg. The rooster was just hopping around my leg and I kicked him a few times. Then as I was walking back to the house with my hostages ("the eggs") I felt something strange on my leg.

I was all, "WTF!!" Is my leg burning a little bit? "Why yes it is!"

I stooped down and pulled up my pants and voila! The red puncture wound you see was there on my leg!

Methinks Mr. D has been taking additional ninja lessons..... Hmmmmmmm.

As the scab on my leg clings to my skin reminding me of this evil assault, I think revenge is not far away. A slow roast over a BBQ is just the cure.

Now I am totally freaking my self out, since all I can think of is that I am Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs. Now the only question is, "Where can I get some fava beans?"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Virtual Girls Night Out

What the hey?

I will do a little blog hopping tonight and you can check out other lady bloggers by clickin' on this picture. Look for Mr Linky for the list of other blogs.


Since me and baby Ella had a day to our selves without any boys whatsoever the party can continue.

Highlights for today:

We hiked at Mt. Madonna Park.
We napped.
We pulled weeds in the garden.
We scooped horse poop.
We made pasta for dinner.
We danced to George Michael.
We baked banana bread.

It was a good day for my little baby lady and me!!! :)

On a closing note party leader for VGNO asked if someone ever told you that you looked like somebody famous.

I have gotten: Alicia Silverstone, Loretta Swit, and the wife of warrior Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Who the heck knows. All I can say is my skin is aging and I hope things do not deteriorate much more since I am approaching 40.... OUCH but at least it is still a few years away.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Somebody Googled "This" and Got to Here

Like most people, or rather like bloggers, since we bloggers are not like other people, I have a meter on my blog which tracks a lot of stuff which I don't understand at all.

Luckily, I am able to figure out what key words means. And I am humored about several of the word combinations that have resulted in somebody out there finding this blog here.

These are the top fifteen for your reading enjoyment:

1. see a rooster's rear end

2. do cats mourn the loss of the dead kittens

3. dead cat blood mouth

4. two dead cats

5. chickens have no feathers on their butt

6. bainbridge island rooster

7. cat hung up dead

8. raccoons eating goldfish

9. costco frozen lasagna

10. how to move to simpler life on the oregon coast

11. cat rubs and meows a lot

12. goldfish in bags law

13. baby tree swallow formula

14. if my cat is 6 years old, my dog is 3 years old and my horse is 12 years old what would be the equivalent.... (the rest got cut off)

15. round chicken coop

16. ground squirrel abatement

Therefore, by this account all I have going on at my blog is dead cats and naked chickens. Yep, that about sums it up! Two Dead Cats, Why Me is a post that keeps on giving. I would have never imagined that. And there are numerous posts where I make fun of and disparage the fact our chickens are bald, so go figure.

All I have to do is add in the occasional serving of a juicy lasagna story and some baby tree swallows to round out the conversation. Otherwise, I think I need to throw in the towel about now. Happy googling folks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Empty Nest Syndrome

Yes, it has happened. Actually it happened four days ago, but I was so sad I could not post until now.

Just kidding.

The baby bluebirds have left their bungalow. Baby birds always grow up and fly away. You can't stop them. One more generation has been fledged to hopefully come back and nest on our compound.

But on a lighter note, the pack of six is still dog piling in their box on the opposite end of the property. I expect within the next three or four days the baby tree swallows will be flying in loopy circles above the pastures. If you look really closely, you can see the reflection in the swallows eyes of me taking the picture. Cool!

And finally I can not believe that just a few months ago I was putting gladiola bulbs in the ground and that they are blooming now.

Is it June already??

I guess so.

How did that happen?

I think this deep red is my favorite. They almost look like roses in bud.

Don't blink.

You might miss something.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jail Break June 2009

Wanted, Preferably Alive:

Criminal Equine Responsible for Instigating a Jail Break and Committing a Willful Act of Property Destruction.

Gemma. Large bay mare. Five years of age. Questionable parentage of mixed European descent. Eats voraciously. Loves to Party and Meet New MEN. Last seen acting like a sorority girl at fraternity party, keg tapped and beer freely flowing. Likes men with a Swedish accent.

Members of the jury, this is my mare Gemma, who I saw upon my awakening this morning, running through the orchard behind my house. Tail held high, strutting like a stripper at naughty gentleman's club, I saw her doing a slow passage past my kitchen window. Great...

Then the second fugitive was spotted. Alfie, the senior equine on our property, was enjoying some liberty from his solitary confinement.

The figure below exhibits the crime scene, as I found it this morning. You will observe the "Point of Escape" in Gemma's field. The evidence suggests that she BROKE through the hot wire fence in a heat of passion snapping it cleanly in two. I believe the fugitive may have been armed with scissors due to the clean severing of the fencing.

Her destination: Alfie's field.

Gemma loves Alfie. Especially when she is in heat. So escaping from her confinement she made her way to Lover's Lane positioned in between Alfie and Sharpie/Max's pen. While I did not see any happenings, I found skid marks impressed by large equine footprints on the EXTERIOR the fence line along Lover's Lane. The evidence leads to much frolicking in this region.

The Unwilling Accomplice: Alfie, Swedish Male, 24 years old. The retired gentleman who was the object of somewhat undesired attention is Alfie. He is a parlor border at our compound. While he no longer enjoys the pandemonium associated with youthful indiscretions, an occasional foray to the wild side suits him well. He has been observed to partake in flirtatious activity with Gemma in the past, but only for a limited time as he tires of her quickly.

I discovered the point of "break in" where Gemma ripped down the fencing in Alfie's paddock. Apparently, Gemma was not satisfied with the attentions she was receiving from across the fence decided to take matters into her own hands. If you note in the upper right hand corner of the figure "Crime Scene" above, there is an arrow pointing to the location labeled "Second Fugitive Freed Here" which is where the fence was torn down by the anxious and over sexed equine felon, Gemma.

How does Gemma tear down hot wire fencing you ask? I have seen the criminal in action and she simply paws it until it breaks. That is when the electrical current is turned off. Such as the case was during this particular break out situation. Normal maintenance in the horse area resulted in the scheduled interruption in power to the fencing. Said electricity was not turned back on in the time period proceeding the maintenance. Thus, the convict tested the fence for conductivity in the wee hours of the morning and finding it "not shocking" escaped to create pandemonium.

It appears that Alfie, enticed by the young lady with dark brown eyes, followed Gemma on a free for all around the orchard. By the time the fugitives were apprehended, Alfie showed no interest in Gemma whatsoever. The fact is, a 75 year old male would likely have a difficult time keeping up with a 15 year old female. For those are the human age equivalents for this pair of unlikely accomplices. Poor Alfie's stamina is just not what it used to be and I am guessing that after 1o minutes of a fluttering heart and a pushy broad, he decided to nibble at some dried grasses.

Some time during these illicit and illegal activities the fencing in Sharpie and Max's pen was torn down. However, these two upstanding and law abiding citizens did not attempt to defy the authorities and contribute to the rein of terror on the property. They are highly fearful of the hot wire fencing and it is NOT an object which they wish to challenge. But let it be noted that the fencing was ripped from the insulators in the corner labeled "Site of Attempted Break Out." It lay on the ground in the field. Although the electricity was off and they could have walked over it, the boys would not test it's power. My suspicion is that the ring leader and top conspirator, Gemma, made her best efforts in freeing her comrades, but thank goodness fell short of completing this task.

After the fugitives were apprehended and locked in solitary confinement within their respective cells, I went to investigate the crime scene further. Upon arrival at Gemma's field and making observations, I discovered THIS heinous crime!!!

I give you Exhibit No. 1 which shows the savage defacement of landscaping!!!! This is an act against botany of an unforgivable vein. To remove the bark from a tree could potentially kill it. Now in addition to running from the law and freeing other inmates, Gemma is guilty of attempted murder with a lethal weapon.

Please observe the details in Exhibit No. 2. I ask you, the jury, to study closely. This is the damage caused by large equine incisors against the bark of a tree. This is a crime against Sycamores. It is brutal and crewel. Obviously, mayhem and destruction was rampant during the early morning hours on our property.

Recovery is a long and arduous process which takes sometimes years. Reformation of bark and the vascular tissues is essential for the tree to remain healthy!

Now I would like to present Exhibit No. 3 for inspection.

Let the record show this exhibit of a cottonwood the tree which was brutally attacked in the summer of 2008. It is still recovering from it's wounds but luckily has not succumbed to death as a result of the vicious mauling. This crime of tree gnawing is one which Gemma has been found positively guilty of committing.

The criminal has defaced and defiled private property in the past and with a record of this kind of naughty activity the three strikes rule may apply for future transgressions.

As a result of previous destruction caused by said equine defendant, Gemma, the warden has implemented a tree protection program to shield the victim from further battery.

Please study Exhibit No. 4 below which shows the extensive hot wire safety system. It is designed with state of the art materials including baling twine. Additional premeditated attacks are deemed unlikely with this new and improved security system.


Here is the last piece of evidence. I present the gate location where all this chaos began. The damages here were repaired by the Break Out Maintenance Crew. The barrier to movement at this location formerly consisted of a single strand of hot wire of a smaller width and fewer number of electrically charged wires. Now a double strand of wires has been installed to prevent further escape plans by the rogue mare.

As a last note, I present the gang of 3. Jury please consider the nonchalant, glazed look on the face of the bay mare. I am wondering if her comrades in orange did not put her up to this crazy stunt. Maybe they taunted her such that she had no other choice than to prove her self. They say the hazing in jail is terrible and the two in the orange jump suits here may just have pushed Gemma over the edge. Can she plead not guilty by reason of temporary insanity?

Or did she act alone, taking the rest of the herd down with her?

The evidence has been presented and it is for you the jury to decide...Is Gemma guilty or not guilty of acts against equine law!

The warden says, "GUILTY AS CHARGED!"

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More and More Birds from the Nest Box Files

More baby birds again...they will all be gone so soon and I will move on to other topics.

But this time I made a map of the nest boxes. Isn't Google earth the best!! I use it many days a week for work and for things personal too.


Nest Box 1: Super star bluebirds. Babies near fledging.
Nest Box 2: Tree swallow with four eggs.
Nest Box 3: Tree swallow with five eggs.
Nest Box 4: Tree swallow with six babies. (1 baby missing)
Nest Box 5: Bluebirds attempted nesting. Found female dead from apparent egg impaction. She was laying giant blue eggs and I think the last one could not pass. The females body was rotten at the back end and it was strangely swollen.
Nest Box 6: NOTHING!!!
Nest Box 7: Eggs laid and abandoned.

The baby bluebirds are only days away from fledging now and I can only hope I get another set of pictures before they are gone away. Baby tree swallow in nest #4 need more time but there are boxes #2 and #3 which have yet to hatch eggs.

And I took a little video of the babies since it is hard to do them justice with only the photos.

Warning: I am not Steve Irwin of the Crocodile Hunter fame. I so miss him. I cried sporadically for three or four days when I found out he died. My narration skills leave much to be desired but at least you can see more of the little babies.

I had a cute little edited version of the nest box patrol and it WOULD NOT upload for any amount of my efforts. So here are the clips individually since THEY were not so fussy. The box numbers correspond with the map above.

Nest Box 1: Contents are four baby bluebirds.

Today when I checked this box one baby flew out and landed in some grasses. The parents were quick to follow. Later on the baby was flying around and landed in a tree when I was out feeding the horses. I just happened to see it fall into a ground squirrel hole. I plucked it out and put it back in the box. He can just jump out when he feels like it tomorrow. I just could not justify his being eaten by a ground squirrel on his first day out. And yes, given the chance they would eat a baby bird!

Nest Box 2: Tree swallows.

Nest Box 3: Tree swallows.

Nest Box 4: Six tree swallow babies.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rings Around The Chicken Coop

Yesterday I was doing my normal morning stuff with the kids like feeding the mules otherwise known as the "horses," filling their water troughs and checking the wild bird nesting boxes while walking round our property. Ella was riding high and along side on my back in her backpack. She likes to be carried like this still.

I rounded the southeastern corner of Gemma's field and inspected the septamom's nest box. The momma tree swallow filled her box with SEVEN babies, and I could not help but think that they all are not going to survive. They are stacked in there on top of each other like birdy sardines. Somebody's going to get smothered. I think Mrs Tree Swallow must have heard about "Octomom" and thought she needed to show how birds can do it too.... The parents fly in circles or big loopy swoops around the pastures, catching insects on the wing, and are examples of constant motion in their efforts to feed their gang.

Then looking toward the chickens area about 300 feet away I saw THEM. That is the loose chickens, now playing the role as the fugitives. They were on the lamb. You see, they have been on lock down in the penitentiary since the vegetable garden and corn field have been planted. Their little, yet sharp feet are the equivalent of miniature rototillers and their beaks can peck a fruit off a plant in about three shakes of a ground squirrel tail.

Yet there was Mr. D, perched on the gate, surveying his land and HIS women. With chronic short man, bald guy syndrome he needs to get up high to feel superior. His beady eye and jaunty head flick reminded me that he is a predatory machine, although since he has no tail I still can't take him seriously. I think he would be happy if upon view of his splendid form, I was struck with fear and trembled at his mightiness. However this is just not to be. An 8 lb bird can not frighten the Amazon woman that I am.

Five half-feathered hens were browsing through the garden, pecking and scratching, doing what hens do. There was never a squirming bug or fresh leaf that was not edible to this herd of ugly ass chickens. Need I remind the uninformed that these birds still have no feathers across their back ends and they are a hideous site to behold. Saying they are butt ugly is a complement.

As I approached the scene of the jail break I could see the problem. Somebody left the gate slightly ajar...

Well there was no lamenting or cursing the perpetrator for the transgression. Jail keepers have an off day too I suppose. My duty as the underwarden was simply to herd the ladies and the rooster back into their pen before the hens scratched the garden beyond salvageable.


"OK Ella, lets round the hens up Little Woman." I commented to the monkey on my back.

"Yeah, yeah, yay. Go mommy," she eagerly replied.

The chicken pen is a fenced rectangular area of approximately 1,000 square feet and one side is backed by the chickens house. A row of eucalyptus trees forms a boundary on the southern side and the trees limbs hang over the pen in some areas. I began my circuitous route around the chicken containment system cautiously approaching the inmates.

The hens were now hiding behind the coop area and as I rounded the back corner they scattered like roaches scurrying across a dirty kitchen floor. They knew they were in trouble, since the tall person was nearing them. Actually, these days at the approach of any humans the chickens now run for the hills since they have it all figured out. If we chase them it is with the intention of confining their liberties in one form or another. These are Einstein chickens folks. They may be the most unattractive birds to ever walk on two scaly legs, but they are smart.

"Great." I say out loud, "They're gunna give me a run for my money today."

"Chickens naughty, Mommy!" Ella observes with glee.

"Yes, real funny Ella. These chickens are very naughty. They're going to eat the little plants in the garden too."

By this time Wyatt had shown up and he was eager for some live chicken action. I am all strategy with the birds. They are crafty now and wise beyond their 18 months of age.

"Wyatt, I want you to chase the chickens around the fence line and I will man the gate and close it when they come in. OK." I figured maybe Wyatt would not seem so imposing and the birds may not flee so quickly for him. Or did I just want him to do my dirty work...

"No Mom, I don't want to," Wyatt immediately responded. I was not expecting his reaction. This is my normally intrepid and fearless son, but then I forget how many times Mr. D has threatened the little kids.

"Uhhhhh, why not?"

"I'm uscared of Mr. D. He's gonna get me."

"Take a stick with you then. If he starts to charge you bop him one." I suggested to my barefooted caveboy. He grabbed himself a long piece of Eucalyptus and shook it around a little to test it.

Wyatt took a few steps toward the band of hellions then stopped and came back to me. "No, he's going to get me," Wyatt remained fearful of Mr. D. There was a genuine concern in my boy's face and I recalled how many times Mr. D has charged him. Maybe Wyatt had a point. Don't send a Boy to do what a Mom should do.

"Fine, I'll chase the birds. You have to stand at the gate then and close it fast when the hens go in the pen. Can you do that?" I queried.

"Yes." And with that settled I started to push the birds around the pen by walking slowly at them with my arms somewhat extended. At this the five "Chinese-crested" chickens clumped together momentarily then turned and bolted.

Normally, I can stalk one bird keeping it moving along the fence line and chase it into the pen by maintaining the correct body position. But not today. One circle, two circles, three circles, four circles around the pen I went.

At this point I was getting a little bit annoyed and I was starting to sweat. Picture if you will a mom with red backpack, toddler in tote, awkwardly ducking under tree limbs and trotting ineffectively after half naked hens as they dashed into the garden area. Where is the video camera when you need it.

I finally managed to get three hens in the pen through artful stalking, but then HE decided I had done enough. And by HE, I mean the rooster. The tides were about to turn according to Mr. D. As I rounded the last leg of the pen and moved closer to chase him into the gate, the rooster turned on me and put on his best feather fluff and started hopping at my legs.

"Oh so you're going to play like that now!" I laughed.

Mr. D, making his neck fluff up to appear twice his size, charged at me. Let the games begin I always say.

Mr. D has attacked everybody except me at our property. For some unknown reason he has avoided me. I am guessing it is due to my status as a tall person, but I am not a very good chicken whisperer so I could not tell you why exactly he has avoided me up until now.

So I simply put a foot out and shoved his body back a few feet. Undaunted he came at me for more. I judiciously put a foot out and softly punted him once again. I was surprised how light and airy his body felt as it contacted the top of my foot. I wondered just how far I could actually kick him without breaking him.

Back and forth we went. I gently kicked the rooster. Then he charged me. I kicked harder at the rooster. He charged me. I kicked the rooster loosing my crock. He charged me. I grabbed the crock and threw it at the rooster. He charged me.

Now I know what Suzi has complained about. Mr. D is a vile and evil little cock.

Meanwhile, Wyatt gazed on in a happy stupor while manning the gate. Ella was similarly stupefied and not a word was spoken from her monkey-like position on my back. Yeah, and I was kicking and avoiding and battling that bird with a 40 lb handicap on my back.

I had had enough of randomly chasing hens, irate roosters and kids who fear them. I chased at Mr. D one last time and he scuttled at me with intent to spur. I gave him a firm and direct boot to the chest and sent him flying near the gate. Finally, Mr. D capitulated to his jail time and ran to the hens within the pen. Wyatt shut the gate. Case closed.

Enough wasted time on a unsightly bunch of hens... and a mean ass rooster. The remaining hen running a muck in the garden would have a field day. I was just done.

I guess I won't feel much sorrow when we turn all these birds into freezer meat. Yep. You have read correctly. Come August when the new and fully feathered chickens are ready to move in at our compound there will be an in with the new-out with the old ceremony. Dirty big secret be told, we have a brand new batch of chickens growing up at the in-laws. And when they are ready, I won't have to look at these naughty hens and mean spirited roosters again!!

Whoo hoo! I can hardly wait for the pretty chickens to arrive. Call me what you will, but I want to have beautiful, fully feathered chickens, and they are only a few months away...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nest Box Patrol Week II

We did a nest box patrol today and found more eggs to show off. These are tree swallow eggs lying in a bed of turkey feathers. They look like miniature chicken eggs with their beige color.

In a few weeks they will look like this. These are the babies that were sitting beneath the tree swallow mom who was flattened out in the nest box as shown HERE. These guys are about 6-7 days old I think.

And here are the 10-12 day old blue bird babies. Mom and pop were hovering around the fence line as I was taking pictures. Mom came back with a fat grub hanging from her beak so I took my pictures quickly so as not to interrupt the constant feeding that is going on.

I lifted this one little guy up a bit so his feather development was more visible in the picture. They will be all grown up and flying around in a small herd before you know it. The family groups stay together for several weeks after the babies fledge and it is not uncommon to see two set of parents and babies forming bands.

Grow babies grow!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rhythms of Simplicity

As I was riding Gemma-horse one morning this week and feeling the rhythm of her foot falls in my dusty arena, I began to hear and sounds of the morning one by one as they came to my awareness. The gentle 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 of Gemma's trot methodically drummed tup-tup-tup-tup between the movement of her diagonal pair of legs. Then the new tempo of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 sounded out a waltzing canter and provided the beat for all the players surrounding us both near and far.

A hypnotic mood was developing and I let my mind roam while physically performing the motor patterns necessary for riding my horse. These motor patterns are well ingrained in my core, to the cellular level, and often I don't think when riding, but just react where appropriate. To multi-task is essential with horses. And even more important is to have the ability of reacting without thinking. But this not usually because I am day dreaming.

The distant sound of passing cars on our road was the filler in the background with a whoosh and a fade. The incessant clucking of the chickens from 400 feet away never left the sound track since the cackling hens were like scratches in an old record, signaling the arrival of eggs. And the sound of my horses light but deep breathing filled the spaces between my ears. All these sounds floated around my empty brain forming a record or some kind or another.

I could hear my own steady breath sucking wind from the crisp air; my own involuntary biological need for oxygen was making a pattern among the cluttered field of noises. Lastly and most importantly, the swallows chirping and sputtering and squeaking and twittering above us, reminded me that others were foraging to feed their little ones.

With my neurons firing in strange and disconnected ways, my thoughts were triggered to a time in the past, years ago on the Cosumnes River. It is the only big river without a dam on it in the the Sacramento Valley of California. It's a mostly wild river and not in a threatening whitewater kind of way, just wild in animals and plants and nature.

While riding the 20 meter circle, patterning my horse in her current training curricula, I noticed the specific flight pattern of the tree swallows. Their dipping and diving occurred just above our path as they were cutting through the morning air. They were gathering insects disturbed by our air turbulence. A horse in a sand arena, riding a circle, can effect the bugs in the air above. Who would have thought?

My mind a jumped to thoughts over a decade old but vivid and clear, since no lapses in time can remove the rhythm of a tin canoe in a wide open river slicing cleanly through the water. The path of the bow was causing disturbance to insects, it's metal point braking through the water and air just so. The turbulence was just enough to unsettle insects resting on the water's surface. As the bugs fled from the water and rose into the air, the bats snatched them on the wing. The gnats and the flies and the mosquitoes were effortlessly swallowed by hungry bats fluttering under a rising moon.

As the bats dipped and dived showing their velvety black wings, they disappeared into the darkness, slipping quietly just out of view to my human eyes, carrying away crunchy treats. They were wonderful and graceful showing how the mighty small can hunt upon the even smaller. The silent marauders made no sounds, and the only evidence of their rhythm was my observation of their determined attacks, again and again, from my position in the front of the canoe. So, those without sound can make a rhythm too.

I am never shocked how associations link my thoughts to one another. Ideas seems random, but really are not. Present links to past and past links to present. It is a never ending circle of remembrance through exposure.

We always took the canoes out under a full moon in the height of summer since the light was just enough by which to travel, but not so bright as to discourage the animal kind. Simply put, we embarked upon the river just as night was descending because that is when the magic awakened within the summer time forest.

The blackened waters, dark only due to nights decent, flowed slowly but steadily downstream creating quiet ripples which sparkled under the rising moon. Dark bands of cottonwood and valley oak trees hugging the banks were almost continuous along the length of the river. Their silhouettes against the sky resembled men with hulking shoulders and lumpy backed monsters out of "Where the Wild Things Are,"or otherwise terrifying only to those who are unaware of their own power in the woods. Smooth, dark waters passed slowly under the canoe, while the gently swaying giants bordered the banks. Our paddles quietly pushed our boat upstream as to not break the spell of these ancient ones.

The long reaching limbs hanging over the water created gentle breaks in the shiny black surface, reminding me to reach my hand in the water and feel the river move through my fingers. As the full moon rose to the tree line casting it's bright light across the river, it filled my heart with a quiet reverence and awe. The transitions in life, while brief, are sometimes the finest moments.

Ghostly white egrets roosting in the trees startled as they moved through the canopy jostling for the best place to sleep. Their awkward sounding squawks and angular white bodies bobbing on the tree tops reminded me night was really descending. Egrets sleep in groups on the tops of trees for protection and their gathering indicated time for bed. But I was not one bit sleepy.

On the water, I remember how loud and shocking the slap of the beaver tails were as our canoe neared them. A loud "whack" followed with a splash and the nocturnal rodents swam away to feast on tree saplings along the river bank. The splosh of fish in the river and the shine from a white breaching belly would surprise and remind me of the lives under water which were invisible beneath the black cloak of the surface. Millions of crickets calling to their mates in what seemed like unison made me feel small and large all at the same time. The rhythm of the river was broad and expansive, encompassing layers of sounds and patterns which are all so intricately connected that no one could compose it's song and do it justice.

When we turned the canoe around and headed back to land I felt sad and uncomfortable to leaving the magical boat on a river so alive with creatures of all kinds. Back to my square box of a house was the last place I wanted to go, but to all good things an end must come. The best part of this rhythm is I know where to go to recreate it and I can pass it to my children when they become old enough to follow this song.

The Day the Swallows Came Home

The tree swallows are here already.  They arrived January 30 much to my dismay.  Swooping and calling and chirping their merry song over my ...