Saturday, May 24, 2008

It Was a Short Break

Some break, huh? It would seem I am a compulsive writer. I never meant to quit Chickenblog or to stop posting for more than a week or 2. Posting is time consuming and I know I should be applying a whole lot of energy, mental and physical, to figuring out what the heck we are going to do next. My hand is unaccustomed to writing with pen and paper, so I come to the computer, to the familiar glow of the monitor and the friendly tap-tap of my keyboard and I pour my feelings and thoughts out, sort them. I think meditation and journaling would be good for me, and maybe Chickenblog is my meditation and journal. Certainly I look more productive typing at a desk than if I would if sat in the lotus position, eyes closed, burning incense. Even this is something I may just keep in a file, and then Geoff says, "Chickenblog is the good and the bad. Don't stop posting."

Last night I realized that our barely 1 week new chick was failing to thrive. She was so listless and small. She always was petite, but last night she looked fragile and faint. She wouldn't eat. I could barely coax her to sip water from my finger tip. Her only interest was in sitting in the palm of my hand. Pip and Betty scratched and ate, they explored their enclosure and took long drinks of water, tilting their heads back, the way they do. And Lola could not even hold her wings up; they hung by her sides, her eyes were mostly closed. She dropped her beak on my hand. I slept and woke, tossed and turned all night, lying on the ground beside their cage. I woke every time they moved. They stirred every time I moved. And every time I looked, I would see Lola, standing apart. A few times she was at the feeder, even taking little bites and it made me hopeful. Her sisters slept together sprawled like sunbathers beneath the heat lamp. The last time I saw Lola she was looking at me, and then she was gone. Geoff woke me around 5 in the morning to say that she had died. I knew she was going to die. I even wondered if I should have helped her with that.

Do you know what this feels like? To lose this sweet little chick, my symbol of daring and making our own destiny? It is a sad, sad blow to my hope, to my faith. This is an unhappy blogiversary. I am glad I chose to take a break. What could I write about today? 'Our chick died... ?' 'I finally unpacked our bedroom and moved in, and now the landlord wants us to get ready to move out... ?' Do I believe in signs? Yes, I guess I do look for indicators of my fortune, good or bad, of our destiny. It does not look good. It has not looked good for some time. That's not all together grateful. I love my husband and my children. We are not destitute. We enjoy many blessings. It's just that there has been a steady stream of setbacks, delays, wrenching events, health challenges and stresses that gnaw away at my morale. Poor Lola. Sweet, Lola. I held her up to my children as a sign that we were moving forward, that life is good.

We buried Lola in the second barrel. The first wine barrel already has some carrots and a tomato plant growing in it. I haven't planted the other one, so now we will buy flowers to plant in it. Geoff took out a wood burner and engraved the side of the barrel. Lola's Garden. I couldn't bury her in the yard here, at Garage Mahal. The yard is too full of prickly plants, and it would mean leaving her behind. I cannot bear to leave anything behind any more. The barrel looks so pretty with her name on it. I hope we can keep flowers growing in it, looking pert and bright like she did. Maria keeps asking when we can bring Lola back out of the garden, when she will be well enough to come out. We tell her Lola couldn't be a chicken any more and has decided to grow as a flower. Are there chickens in heaven?

Friday, May 23, 2008

6 Years? Must Be Time For a Break

Celebrating the 6 years of blogging puts one in a reflective mood, and hearing from one's landlord puts one in a packing mood.
Net effect: I think it's time for a little break from blogging. Well, only until I cannot resist the urge to post a chicken picture or share a quote from one of my
delightful and brilliant children.

As promised, the highlight of our blogiversary is the Heifer International Chick Giveaway. We heard from many readers, even some new names popped up, and it's been wonderful. Thank you for joining our party. Inspired by your support of Chickenblog, and motivated by our own desire to share something good with the world, we are giving 6 families flocks of chicks.

Here is what Heifer International has to say about chicks:

A flock of chicks can help families from Cameroon to the Caribbean add nourishing, life-sustaining eggs to their inadequate diets.

The protein in just one egg is a nutritious gift for a hungry child. Protein-packed eggs from even a single chicken can make a life-saving difference.

Heifer helps many hungry families with a starter flock of 10 to 50 chicks. A good hen can lay up to 200 eggs a year - plenty to eat, share or sell.

Because chickens require little space and can thrive on readily available food scraps, families can make money from the birds without spending much. And chickens help control insects and fertilize gardens.

Enough About Me...

Favorite joke of mine goes something like this: Oh, I've been talking about myself all evening. You've hardly had a chance to speak. So, what do you think of me?

Here is the final lineup: Pip, Lola and Betty. No, it's not an illusion. Pip towers over her sisters. She looked much smaller in the store.

Besides a few updates from critters here at Garage Mahal, I want today's post to be all about the world outside our domain. And good timing too, because I am still in denial, shocked really, by Wednesday's news. Feh.

First order of business: Joy! It's all about connecting, this internet and blogging stuff. So, I read "No Ordinary Moment," which gives me art and insight, and from there I meet a new friend at "Clearing the Air" and she's got these 5 beautiful children, more art and insight, and she has a friend in the middle of something big: An adoption, which they have been chronicling at "The Intersection" and at their blog, where they say: "The better we tell our stories, the better we want to live them." The joy is that they have just received a green light to go to Africa and bring home their 2 children. Gee, it sounds so easy, so happy ending, but trust me it has been a long road, a real labor and I think their happy ending is really a result of their faith and dedication to making a difference in the lives of these two children. And the journey is just picking up speed. Ahead: A flight to Sierra Leone!

"Apples and Ostriches Don't Mix." Headline from the morning paper? No, it's the latest post from "Em and the Gang." Em is a North Carolina woman, "mom, wife, student, babysitter, business owner," asking, "I never have enough time for everything I want to do each day -how about you?" I hear ya, Em. I hear ya!" If I mention her awesome giveaway, you might win the apron that I covet... such a dilemma...

I promised critter updates. You've heard about our 3 chicks and my daring madness, but we haven't said much about the tadpoles in a while. They are growing. We can count about 12 of them in our aquarium-pond. The smallest ones still look like little sperm or big sperm, to be more accurate. The larger ones, the ones that were starting to form legs, now have actual back legs. It's strange, because the legs were fused just beneath the tail and then I noticed that they just sort of separated, unfolded, and now they are fully formed little froggy legs. It's so cool!

Metamorphosis is strange and wondrous.

While we are on the subject of "critters," check out this critter! As a certain blogger would say, "Oh, my stinkin' heck!" That statement will make more sense if you actually follow the link and see for yourself the big, angry opossum Heather caught in her backyard. She wrote all about the "not so cute" critter in her most recent post, and the fun continues when you read the comments her readers left behind. It seems there are 2 camps in the 'possum debate, and "DaisyCake" left some well informed facts and tidbits about opossums.

Did you know:
"*Possums date back to the days of the dinosaur?

*they are N. America’s only marsupial?

*unlike rats, (and much like cats) they are fastidious and groom themselves?

*Opossums are extremely resistant to disease. They very rarely, if ever, carry rabies.

*Opossums are sometimes referred to as the sanitation engineers of the forest. They help to keep the environment clean by consuming carion and all kinds of bugs, including ROACHES (shout out to East Texas!). They help gardeners by consuming snails, slugs, and other destructive creatures. They also catch and eat rats."

Of course, Heather makes the very good point that 'possums eat chickens, so I don't know how much good will I have toward the giant one that lives in our backyard. By the way, Heather is an amazing person, great web-designer and all around fun blogger; not limited to 'possum wrangling!

Yesterday I met a new (to me) blogger, his name is Adrian and his blog is "Baldy's Blog" He has a story to share and a message that needs to be spread. I have to warn you: He's cute looking, even bald. And, his story is hard to read. He is fighting for his life, and sharing the journey. The internet and blogging are all about connecting and so is life on this planet. We are all connected and Adrian has reminded me of this in a very heartbreaking and inspiring way. Please help me share his story so that we can put our blogs to their best use: Spreading support, news, love, information and connections in the real world.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chickenblog Changes Weather! Celebrating Continues!

Big headlines in our news today. And if you need a respite from devastating disaster and economic news, then you've come to the right place. Our news is about the weather and about taking small steps to make big differences.

When Maria came to breakfast dressed in her swimsuit, I knew she had an agenda in mind, which she confirmed when she announced: "I'm going fwimming today!"

It's been so hot around these parts, fwimming sounded like a perfect pastime. And it has been a few years since I have succumbed to the Siren's call of cheap plastic pools. I love the hope and anticipation stored-up in a small, backyard pool.

So, we got our pool. It is striped in green and blue. It is small, yet inviting, and it filled quickly and Maria stepped in and sat down even quicker!

Even Chango appreciates the sparkling water of a backyard pool, and he came to show his devotion.

I took a lot of these pictures, but I will limit myself to sharing just 2. I love Chango, and his pink tongue and his neurotic insistence on drinking water from any place except a cat bowl.

Now, about the weather... nothing turns a heat wave into a cold front like investing in a back yard pool. It was not hot yesterday and it's far, far cooler today! Expect to be surprised, right?

I was shivering just watching them. I admire the dedication, their sheer will to have fun in the new pool. Max swam a few laps and did a few flips into the deep end, not! They stayed in for quite a while, and they came in to the house with hearty appetites, then slept very well through the night.

"In for a dime, in for a dollar," er, well, that's what Geoff said when I sighed, and said, "Maybe we should have brought home 3 chicks instead of just 2." A trio of chicks can huddle together in a great fluffy, chicky heap, and they can look out for one another, and look so cute and... okay, okay, I'm looking for excuses.

Gee, can you guess what I've done?

That's Pip showing her backside, and hunkered down in the center is Lola and snuggling in on the right is Betty aka Elizabeth. Pip is an Ameraucana, like Lola. It was a good decision... we've been reading our chicken books and introducing a new chick to a pair of established hens would be traumatic. I knew that I would eventually want to have 3, so I jumped in! In for a dime, in for a dollar.

Thank you for leaving so many nice comments, for congratulating us on our reckless mission. We are having so much fun getting to know these girls, and we know that having chickens is a bit risky and very much an indulgence, but for some families having chickens could mean turning their lives around, making improvements that could save them and pave the way for better opportunities, so I urge you to play along with us and leave comments on Chickenblog. To celebrate our blogiversary we are donating chicks through Heifer International. How many chicks are donated depends on your participation. On May 24th we will tally up all of the new comments and make the big contribution to Heifer International. It's just a fun way to combat the blues, make a difference, share the love and give back... it makes everyone a winner in our celebration.

Did I actually say "Expect to be surprised?" Sigh. Geoff just called. He crossed paths with our landlord. The landlord has family moving to the area; they are looking for a place to rent. Can you guess what comes next? I tell ya, this one is gonna hurt. Sorry, I promised only good news.

Monday, May 19, 2008

6 Year Blogiversary... Off to a Flying Start!

Here is the backstory: We are celebrating 6 years of Chickenblog with a giveaway that makes everyone a big winner. How big depends on You! Yes, you make the difference, and by leaving a comment this week, you can influence the forces of blogging joy and generosity, because more new comments = more chicks and more chicks means more families being able to provide for themselves.

So, far we have 13 comments and that has inspired us to give an entire flock of chicks to a family in need. There is time for more, so don't be shy. Stand up and be counted. Leave a comment and make the world a better place. This news makes Lola so happy... just look at her standing tall and proud.

And Miss Lola Ameraucana says, "Muchas gracias pip pip pip."

Lady Betty Orpington would like to thank you too. At least we hope she's a lady. There is only a 90% guarantee she or Lola will be hens. She is 100% cute Buff Orpington.

You can still see her egg beak... the very same egg beak that helped her hatch free of her egg.

Max insists we call her Elizabeth.

Feel free to ask us any practical questions you'd like... about coops, landlords, space... anything!
I have no answers! but feel free to ask.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chickenblog Celebrates 6 Years of Scratching, Clucking, Deep Thoughts and Other Musings

Tomorrow marks the 6 year anniversary of the first week of Chickenblogging. Back then I was daydreaming, imagining our lives on 2 acres... the pond and goats were pure fantasy. The cats and the flourishing children are a dream coming true, something I take great delight in. Gone are the two acres and the tractor and chickens too, but in the last 6 years we've had our share of new adventures, good times, wild rides, big expectations, setbacks and it's all here... well, maybe not all of it, but mercy, there is a lot in this blog!

Either I have been touched by God, and had my spirit renewed, or I am completely daft, but I am not daydreaming any more... not daydreaming alone. I am taking action. I want to own my life, where and when I can. When I first brought home 4 chicks in a paper sack we were no more organized, prepared and brilliant than we are today. We had no coop, or even a yard with a blade of green grass. Heck, we didn't know what to expect as chicken farmers. The Jolly Green Ranchers, I called us. But we rose to the occasion and we learned and grew, and we loved it.

Max and I were looking at old, old pictures, and my son said in a sad voice, "Everything was perfect then, wasn't it?" He sighed and I knew the familiar tone of his longing. But nothing was perfect then. Yes, it was a good time, our Rancho days, having my grandparents with us, making gardens and running around 2 acres. Over time we have idealized those days, and we have been living in anticipation of our real home, the next move without fully owning this time and place... it's gone on for too long.

Max, mi'jo, these are perfect times too, in their own way. We are here and we are healthy and capable. We have so much to appreciate and embrace. Our fears and disappointments are with us, but they cannot lead us, they cannot own us.

So, by daring, by will, by faith and hope, by stupidity if necessary, this woman is taking over, moving forward and celebrating this day and the next! I don't know where we are going to move to or when, the house is a work in progress and on and on, because things are not literally perfect, but I want to finish every day thinking: This day was good. I did my best. I am happy, and we are moving forward. Thank you. Mil gracias. These days are perfect enough to me, to honor and cherish.

Now, about this anniversary. Everyone knows the tradition with anniversaries and blogs: Giveaways! Yes, great, big giveaways are all the rage, and there are so many good ones. You know I racked my brain trying to think up a good one. Something to bring in the crowds and pump up the celebratory mood. Something to express our joy and whimsical natures, something to get everyone excited about Chickenblog and the world, and being winners!

While I would love to make something wonderful for a winner, like a quilt or a huge tray of chile rellenos... well, sorry, but that's just not possible. And if I thought it would make the world a better place I would offer an egg beater or a fruit of the month club membership, but those are a bit out of my price range and not exactly reflective of my mood, my intent. I want to give away a gift that means something bright, hopeful and inspiring... a gift that keeps giving.

This is it: Chickenblog is celebrating 6 years of blogging, family, friendships, dreams come true, big plans, love and sharing, with the gift of chicks! No, not our chicas!

Chicks from Heifer International! It's up to you: To be a winner leave a comment this week, and when we tally up all of the new comments of the week on May 24th we will make a donation to Heifer International. Inspired by the number of new comments and hearing from Chickenblog readers we will figure out how many chicks to send to a family in need. This will be a giveaway to "help children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant."

These 2 are staying with us, wherever we go.