Friday, December 21, 2012

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Feliz Enchiladas

We are celebrating another trip around the sun, with a Happy Mayan Winter Solstice potluck and fire. Today we prepared our contribution to the feast... enchiladas.

With Alex and William to help me, the work went surprisingly fast... in fact things went so smoothly, we made a record number of enchiladas. Ours are cheese, green onion, and a bit of black olives, with either corn, or flour tortillas.

Alex kept our supplies replenished. William was tucking and rolling. Besides the fun we will have when our friends come to share the fire and food, my holiday joy comes from doing things with the children.

Ay, Mama! Our blessings are boundless, just like our eight trays of happy enchiladas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bird House & Barn

... a sad, and frustrating, Farm Report

This is the chica we named Zoe. Before five, this morning, something squeezed into the shark cage and ended her life. She cried out, and Geoff ran to the garden, I followed close behind, but we were too late.

I'm sorry. No one wants to read any more bad news. I hesitate to share another sad pet loss story. We've been hit hard this year, and well... we're trying to figure this out. Seems like whenever we feel confident that all is well and secure, a new predator assault is launched, and we find ourselves, once again, mourning, and puzzling. The reason I am sharing the story, this time, is because I hope my chicken farming, urban and rural, comrades can learn something from our mistakes. So, while this is not a post I am happy to write, I do hope it can serve to inform, and perhaps save a life.

This is "the shark cage." Back when our first concern was coyotes, we were proud of this strong, practical, secure monstrosity. We figured what it lacked in idyllic farm beauty, it made up for in sheer shark proof engineering.

We were wrong.
The spacing of the wiring of the original panels is too large. Way too large.
We learned this the hard way, when Kamen was attacked by a bobcat through the bars. As large as that cat was, and the boys saw him doing it, the cat had no problem fishing his hungry paws into those spaces and shredding Kamen.

Incredibly, Kamen did survive and if you want to know what we learned about first aid for an injured chicken, then read this post. And if you want to learn more about great hen care and treatments, please go to Hencam, where you will find practical advice, and emotional support, including the true, sometimes, hard to take realities of keeping backyard hens.

We added chicken wire, a skirt of it all the way around the chicken's coop, and we paved the coop, so nothing could dig under and in. And, once again, we breathed a sigh of relief, confident that we outsmarted the predators, and we did... for about ten months.

Last month something smaller than the bobcat, we think it was a raccoon, pulled Zelda through the bars. Probably the same bandit that took away our two rabbits. Two pet rabbits, two chicas lost... I am still trying to come to terms with all of this. We added new remedies, and measures, and felt certain, again, that we were secure... but last night came the new twist.

This attack was from inside the closed, covered, reinforced shark cage. It did not tunnel under, it did not cut through anything. As near as we can tell, it was small enough to squeeze between the steel bars, a narrow, tight, two inch gap, and whatever it was, it was big enough to behead a hen. After examining everything, standing in the predawn drizzle, and trying to manage my emotions, too, I went to the Internet.

Fellow chicken keepers, I hope you never have this issue... trying to figure what might be attacking your coop, taking your hens, but I did find a useful tool at Backyard Chickens. They have a list of predators, with signs and indications, that may help you figure out your enemy. As I scrolled down the list of suspects I was surprised to see who I could rule out, and the further down the list I went, the more confused I became... I was running out of suspects. Then I came upon "Weasel." What a match: "Weasel: Bites on neck found, will attack only a few or a lot, bluish coloration of skin about head and under wings. Sometimes run in family packs. Occasionally a faint skunk odor may be evident. Weasels will enter a one-inch opening. Hard to trap." Even the "faint skunk odor," was a clue we had detected.

But I had my doubts, too. Weasels in San Diego County? I could not be sure, so naturally I Googled "Weasels in San Diego." This recent Union Tribune article is conclusive. We do have weasels in our county, and they love to eat chickens. Weasels climb, tunnel, squeeze, and dash. They are persistent and lethal.

"Weasels will enter a one-inch opening..." this is critical, frustrating news. Our shark cage is not secure, and it won't be until we have it practically shrink wrapped in quarter-inch hardware cloth. Also, I will be adding more pavers around the perimeter of our chicken coop.

Our five hens, Betty, Kamen, Shebot, Little Debbie, and Lucky Penny will sleep in a dog crate, in the barn, until the new and improved weasel-proof shark cage is updated and fully operational.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sharing Hope, and Gratitude

"It is important, I feel, that in times of this much sorrow, pain, and grief, there is also that much joy, love, and hope in the world. Hard to remember in times like this, but we can't lose faith. Keep your loved ones close in your heart, and be grateful for everyday we are privileged to live and love."
Cut and pasted from my friend, Jen's FB status.

There are a lot of compassionate and caring messages floating around, in the news, in blogs, between friends, as we witness this sorrowful event. I've read the news, the profiles of each victim, and I've spent the weekend trying to balance confusion, grief, and frustration with joy, hope, and love.

Normal feels sacred.
The children are home.
Alex passed his driving test!
Holly celebrated a happy birthday!
Tasha's leg is healed... enough to escape to the front yard, sneak into the garage and dance like a deer in the office.
Geoff and Maria shopped for Christmas gifts together.
Max is a masterful gift wrapper.
We had three kinds of Cornish Pasty for dinner.
William's laughter rings out through the house and makes me smile, every time.
The kitties are snuggly and loving.
Our furnace works... first time we even turn it on in four years!
And the oven... you'll be shocked, too! Our oven has heated up every time this week.

Normal is a blessing.
The house is a mess. A sweet, familiar, blessed mess, because we live here, and everyone one is home, and we've been making things, baking, cooking, playing, creating, solving problems, tinkering.

Normal is a comfort,
and I am thankful to hear Maria, writing a message to hang on her door, ask "How do you spell wrapping?"
I am thankful to Geoff, for filling my car with gas, and filling our pines with lights, filling my head with ideas and notions, and filling my heart with passion.
I am thankful for raisins, which taste delicious.
And also almonds, which are also delicious.
I am thankful for wool batting, bloomers, and Maria's bouncing announcement of "Good news! Good news! Eight more days! Til Christmas! Eight!"


The holidays we celebrate embrace light, joy, love, and hope. It's not lost on me that these will be hard blessings to find, to recognize, to receive, in the face of such great loss. I am sorry. I pray that everyone who is hurting, who is battling, who is trying to heal, working to do good, who wants some normalcy... I am praying for us all, that we find comfort in the love, support, care, and compassion of friends and family.