Saturday, August 05, 2017

5~ Bird House & Barn, A Farm Report

It's been quite sometime since I publish a Farm Report, in the format and style that I used to do quite regularly. I still post about goats and chickens. And goats. And chickens. About the garden, the cats, weather, harvests. And sometimes, I share practical advice, or... sad news. This time I have something to share that I do not want to share, because I am angry with myself about it, grieving, and ashamed.

I call myself a "chickenblogger." And some may read that as a declaration of expertise, or authority, but I mostly think of it in a self-aware way... I am a scaredy-shy-anxious person, who blogs... the chicken blogger. And being that I don't profess to be an expert, I feel compelled to admit something awful I've done, with horrible consequences. Not for the pity, not for any attention, really, but because I feel a responsibility to be transparent about the good and the bad of keeping chickens, so that others can learn from my experiences, from the ideas that have helped me, and the mistakes that have broken my heart.

In the afternoons I let the hens free-range. Our yard is mostly safe, and I know there are risks... we get hawks, and even the occasional daylight bobcat has been seen. But, when I'm home, it's a nice choice to make for the chickens, and the goats, to have time and space to explore a larger area. The key is to get them in and secured before it gets dark. If I don't... the run can be attacked by owls, opossums, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, weasels, snakes, and the hens would be mostly helpless to defend themselves.

Saturday morning, I awoke to Chango staring so intently out our window, onto the backyard, that I actually asked a cat, "Chango, what's wrong? What do you see?" It took my eyes a few scans to focus, to see what he saw. It was carnage. Geoff woke up to my distressed gasp, and all I could utter, as I ran out of the room was, "Chickens." Down the stairs, out the door, I tried to revisit the night before... and I knew. I knew, with self-loathing shame, I forgot to close and secure the run. Not one hen clucked or stirred. The goats were silent, and the mess spread across the entire lawn. Feathers. Wings. Bits, terror, loss.

It looked, it felt, like I'd lost all eleven hens, like it was a complete wipe-out. And I thought about my favorite hens, about how stupid and irresponsible I am, about their fear, pain, suffering. I thought, I can't be a farmer, play at this. I've failed them. I say, often, "If it's 'easy to do,' like locking up a chicken run, then it's 'easy to forget.'" But that's no consolation when facing dead pets. And no excuse for not insuring that I don't make that mistake. I used to have an alarm on my phone... every day, at dusk, it went off, and whether I needed the reminder, or not, I would think about the chickens, and double check myself. For some reason, that alarm had stopped going off... new phone, user error? I hadn't even noticed. No excuse. There has to be a system, a back-up plan, for making sure pets, farm animals, loved ones, are not forgotten.

Geoff, and Alex joined me, and we found nine hens, as they came out of hiding. Amazing. I saw Mako, and Fiona, there was Liberty, and those mean sisters, Pepper and Pippi, we had Koa, Tricia McMillan, Tamsyn, and Emma Thompson. We lost Mama Tompson, who was broody, an easy catch, since she never left her nest. Poor dear. We lost Ginger. She roosted on top of the nest box, above Mama Tompson. The goats looked distressed, so did the cats. They'd seen it all, I'm sure.

We cannot be sure what it was... we suspect weasels or skunks. Their was a whiff of musk in the air. It was a messy, ravaging event. I only think about it in hopes of knowing what we are up against. But really, 'what we are up against' is human error. No excuse. There has to be a system, a back-up plan, for making sure pets, farm animals, loved ones, are not forgotten. My alarm is activated, again. Geoff added an alarm to his phone, too. Nothing in life is fail-safe. I get that. And playing at being a farmer is no game. I get that, too. Most of the time, in many ways, having chickens and goats is as easy, and fun, whimsical and cute, as all of the blogs, and Instagram pages depict it. I have shared my concerns about publications that make chicken keeping seem a little too easy. And I've shared all I have learned about what I have found necessary for keeping them healthy and safe. We have learned plenty, the hard way, and we have worked hard to make as safe a home as we can for our farm pets. We've been, mostly, successful, and fortunate.

The cute cottages we assembled and installed, four years ago, are falling down, and basically expired. Max demolished the goat's cottage... or he finished demolishing what they have been working at taking down, all along. Goats! We are building them a new shelter, with a sturdy and raised floor, and plenty of rain cover. When that's complete, I will get started on a new shelter and roosts for our hens. We have to do this, I see, keep doing our best, adjusting our sails, and trying to make things better.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Friday, August 04, 2017

4~ A Blanket For a Sail

I see, it's not actually a sail. It's a shade. But the notion fixed itself in my thoughts, and I can't let it go. I'd be tempted to paint the little boat pea-green (Is it a skiff? Sometimes a term or expression comes to mind, from a book I've read, a song I've heard, and I pause to reflect on memory, recall and fallibility.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes... sailing away, in a pea-green boat.

But wait... back to fallibility. I always thought the line in Harry Nilsson's song was "use your heart as a compass, but it turns out the heart is both a rudder, and a blanket. Either I have been rudderless, or Nilsson was paddling his boat up mixed metaphors.

The important thing is... I really love that blanket, for a sail, or for a shade. And I like the little boat. I'll tell you an idea we discussed... to construct a swing, or a zip-line, suspending a boat above the yard, for rides, and laughs.

I've been thinking of returning to patchwork and quilt making. I don't know why I have to ponder, muse, contemplate, day-dream, imagine, and calculate, sometimes for months, even years, before I do something. Is it the same as procrastination? Because I want to quilt. I'd like to quilt. Other things get stalled, too, this same way. And I just seem to wait for an intangible sign, a push from somewhere or something, I don't know what, before taking on the task in mind. Adaliza's patchwork kit is waiting for me. Maybe I don't feel worthy of those pretty prints, or capable of making something from a pattern, but I am eager to begin. I am preparing, in my mind. It feels close... the doing. But! Oh dear... just look at the sad state I left my last quilt project in: Total confusion.

Well. Now, my rudderless heart feels like crying.

Sometimes, I fall in love with ideas. I shop for them, collect them like threads, or spices in a cupboard, knowing that some day they'll come in handy for something practical, or flavorful, or wonderful. Ideas, and inspiration. I love those. But, possibly, I have too many, too much, and instead of reclining in imaginary hammocks, pondering the feasibility of riding in a boat above our lawn, I ought to be clearing out the cupboards, and using up those spices, and threads.

Am I paddling up a creek of mixed metaphors? It's 'heart for a rudder, faith as compass, a blanket for a sail.' In the song, anyway, and I must say, I was happier with that song when my memory was fallible and I had the lyrics mixed up. Geoff suggests I bring out a GPS, take the train. Naturally, this only inspires a whole new orbit of ideas, and compass directions.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

3~ In August

How often does my family hear me exclaim, catching my breath, "That sky," then reaffirm my affection for the August clouds? Often. Yesterday, in fact. The clouds in August are a show, a panorama of nature's prowess and majesty. The thunderheads are like distant beacons, over the foothills and mountains, captivating from afar, and to stand beneath them... riveting, terrifying, wonderful. It's almost enough to recall, or imagine, standing in a summer storm. It's better still to follow those beacons, and be there, again, where the air is impassioned, and water drops heavily, loosened from a torn sky, making dusty sage and buckwheat smell sweet and smoky, like hot honey. Oh, yes. I love that August sky.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2~ August on the Little Bird House Farm

Don't tell anyone I said so, but this summer has been quite mellow, as far as weather has been concerned. I'm afraid I'll jinx the whole thing, and we'll finally be hit with a heat wave that reaches to the coast, or brings even greater masses of visitors, seeking cooler temperatures, to fill the beaches and roads. There have been hot days, for sure, and the humidity gets pretty heavy, but I know it can be worse. Much worse, and I dread that. In the meantime, I keep relishing the warm, but not scorching weather, and loving those Summer Clouds. Here, on the coast, we get low clouds, and fog, but the real clouds, the thunder heads, cumulus clouds, with projecting heads, churning and climbing into the sky... they are east. They make a spectacular show, from afar, and up close, they're majestic and powerful, portentous. Yesterday, the thunderheads seemed to build so tall that it was as though they were collapsing under their own mass, and the clouds toppled and spilled west, threatening rain, and flood. The air was heavy with the chance of a deluge. We waited. Hoped.

All is well on our little farm. Well enough. I could admit that the goat's and chicken's cottages are in desperate need of renovations, or maybe, honestly, it's time to tear them down and begin anew. Didn't we just build that? The run, the shelters, all of it? Okay... if I ever said that "cute cottages are ideal housing for goats and chickens," I was in a delusional haze. Naive. Dreaming. Chickens should be in concrete bunkers that can be hosed out, and goats probably could use the same. They need industrial strength construction, with any surface that can take power washing. Lately, I have been pining for upper body strength, engineering knowledge, and power-tool skills, all of which I would apply to basic, sturdy, easy to clean shelters for goats and chickens.

Just the same, all is well on our little farm. We get lots of eggs, and lots of cucumbers, and lots of teeny tiny tomatoes, and so much passionfruit is on the fence, that I could open a passionfruit fruit stand, and stay in business all summer. The flowers I planted have had mixed success. None of the lobelia made it, but we have little zinnias, and bright cosmos. We brought home some more zinnias, taller ones, too. Mako Hen approves. It's time to take out the basil... in spite of my deadheading efforts, which were valiant, it's still going to seed. The bees approve, and I like that.

We could feel the weather, the restless weight of those heavy clouds, and we waited for rain. It did not come. Not here, anyway.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

1~ Los Gatos

Chango, and Mister Foo.
There's a particular way they look at us that convinces me they know more than they are letting on. It makes me glad to think they probably like us.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, July 31, 2017

31~ Upstairs Downstairs Rocks

This is a drawing, diagraming our home, that Maria made when she was six years old. The depictions of rooms and details are dear, and even the perfectly wrong bits are endearing. We've been sorting through things in her room, getting reorganized and tidied up. Finding treasures, like this, like her journal from first grade, have been the source of a lot of happy laughter.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

30~ For Sneezes?

Handkerchief: /ˈhaNGkərCHif,ˈhaNGkərCHēf/
a square of cotton or other finely woven material, typically carried in one's pocket
and intended for blowing or wiping one's nose.
synonyms: hanky; kerchief, bandanna; tissue
"a monogrammed handkerchief"

There are all sorts of descriptions and histories of the handkerchief. I've always liked the expression Lucy uses, in The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, when she asks the hedgehog laundress, "Have you seen my pocket-handkins?"

As Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle goes through her ironing, Lucy spies one, but it's not hers,
"Why, there's another handkersniff, but it isn't mine. It's red?"

And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, replies, "Oh no, if you please'm. That one belongs to old Mrs.Rabbit, and it did so smell of onions! I've had to wash it separately... I can't get out the smell."

Pocket-handkins and handkersniffs... two words, alone, that endeared me to Beatrix Potter.

These pocket-handkins came four to a pack, from Collage, in Portland Oregon... a Sublime Stitching blank textile. Just the kind of souvenir I cannot resist... one that packs easily, and will inspire creative play.

I decided to revisit painting and embroidering. So, I drew a romantic little ratty, with her bouquet of pink posies. Then I used acrylic craft paints to fill in color. I use water sparingly, and the cotton square was heavy enough, that none of the paint seeped through, which is nice.

A bit of navy blue floss for her eye, and gray for her face, arms, and legs. A pale, sage-y green for the stems and leaves, and three shades of pink for everything, else, including all of those French-knot flowers.

After outlining her dress, and creating a belt of posies around her waist, I trimmed the edges in leaves, and more flowers.



Because, I love anthropomorphic rats and mice and bunnies, and romantic bits, like pocket-handkins embroidered by hand.

I wonder, would I actually sneeze into this little handkersniff?
Would you?

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.