I earned this little badge today on RocketFrench! That’s fun! I also recently found out our library has purchased Mango languages so I have been using that program as well. It’s free. Together they provide excellent practice – RocketFrench! is very conversation-oriented whereas Mango provides a bit more grammar instruction. There’s nothing like practicing with a native speaker, and I just met a girl at school whose parents are French…hmmm…wonder if they would chat a bit now and then! There’s also a French conversation group at the Senior Center on Mondays that I would like to go to with Ben. Must work up courage 🙂
Mom was on the phone with me today and I took her out to “chat” with Gordon. He cooperated so nicely and crowed many times for her! Then Merlin joined in. It was so funny. Mom was crowing back to them on the phone (on speaker). There was some drama this morning. As Gordon grows up, he is figures out how to crow, but also that hens are looking more interesting. He is curious about mating. But he doesn’t’ seem to have the process down. He has been essentially picking fights with one hen – AllisonAudrey (a very petite hen adopted from Tijen). She has her nice feathers back in after molting and is looking quite spry and cute. She stood up to him so well it was amazing. In fact, she managed to grab a huge mouthful of his fluffy beard! I was there, trying to gently separate the two of them with my pitchfork. AllisonAudrey’s little face as she marched away with Gordon’s beard in her mouth was so funny. She really knew she’d gotten him pretty good! He has a lot more beard left, of course, but it was hysterical to see her little face with her beak full of her prize. The little Barred Rocks had their first full day with the rest of the flock yesterday and everyone was fine. I am so so relieved. They even roosted last night along with the big chickens. The one with the broken leg is managing QUITE well – it is so remarkable. She is still limping, but it’s not slowing her down. She looks more slight than the other one, but she is eating and drinking fine. I got the necropsy report back on the peep girl yesterday, but it is inconclusive and they want to run a few more tests. The vet reassured me that I am very unlikely to get some horrible chicken illness. That worries me – it is totally not a sanitary place down there – it can’t be, especially when it is so wet all the time. And when chickens eat, they often are very messy and shake their heads, spraying stuff all over. This is particularly true when they eat yogurt 🙂 They don’t like messy beaks!
I think there is an inverse correlation between the number of chickens you keep, and the amount of work you invest in keeping them. When we had 60 birds as a kid, I know for a fact all we did was the bare minimum because Dad and I were largely the ones doing chicken chores. We did the water, unfreezing it in the winter, cleaning the coop once a year in the spring, and closing up at night. Well, we have less than a dozen birds and so far this week I’ve been running an infirmary with separate food, water and run area for a little girl with a broken leg (hand carrying to and from apartment in the coop to run area, with Mr. Merlin lurking about watching). Try tucking a hoe under your arm, chicken under the other wriggling and trying to get away, food (because you only want to skulk around once in case Merlin gets frisky) all while trying to do this FAST because you’re on the way to drop boys off at school, and it’s POURING fat drops of rain, constantly.
So last night, Mr. Dave invited a man from headquarters up for dinner since the poor guy is hanging out here away from his family to help with a project. It has been nice to meet a few of the visitors – we got to have dinner with another gentleman last weekend. So Dave springs this dinner on me…but thankfully I had a very nice roast in the fridge (I had no idea I’d bought a $25 roast!) and salmon, potatoes, broccoli…plenty to make a nice dinner. And Dave is a good cook. So that was all well and good. But just as he pulls up in the driveway I’m out with my headlamp on and a dead chicken on a shovel. I found the second of two peep girls dead on the floor of the coop as I was doing my evening tending. I knew she was in bad shape – I saw the same symptoms 10 days ago when we lost the first peep girl. I am sad, but have tried dosing everyone else with antibiotics. WHICH, by the way, is hard to do – you dose via waterer, well the chickens are NOT thirsty because water is all around them right now. They are essentially drinking potty water from puddles. So to think they are getting enough antibiotic from their waterer…unlikely. And I’m doing enough hand watering through a hamster waterer for the Barred Rock who is injured. I’m not hand watering Merlin. No way. I am making sure I see them drink at least some. I might try to find medicated feed instead. I think they make that for chicks, not sure about adult chickens. So anyway – I am trying to prevent the mystery illness from striking other chickens, especially ones we’ve named and hatched. Dave is laughing at me because the only two laying hens we had have died (the others are too young – not laying just yet – or are older and haven’t come online yet from the molt). So we are feeding a whole bunch of unproductive hens right now and have had to buy eggs for the first time this year. Humiliating to the chicken enthusiast who is typing out this whole sodden story. So back to the chicken and the shovel – I buried her in a shallow grave and covered it with leaves and sticks so I could figure out where it was later should I need to get her. I called the WA State Dept of Agriculture and talked to a very kind vet who knows all things chicken. He said since I’ve had two deaths now the state will pay for shipping the bird in for avian influenza testing if I pay for the necropsy (about $20). I am totally for that. And as it turns out, a friend and farmer has had a few deaths of the same symptoms, so she is interested in what I find out. It doesn’t sound like avian influenza – no respiratory involvement – but there are different kinds. Hopefully they will figure this out. In the meantime, again back to the shovel – I finished burying and came in for dinner. This morning I did chicken chores, raced off to school with Ben for stretch math (45 min weekly with 5 kids in Sam’s class) and then back to quickly dig up the chicken before a teleconference for work. So I am out there digging up the chicken, trying to find her again under the leaves, wondering how wet she’ll be (and how awful wet feathers might smell). I got her into a plastic bag then called the avian health lab to see how they wanted her shipped. I was told to coat her with soapy water to keep her cool, then pack her in ice. I got the ice, I doused her in water (it’s pouring out, too) and skipped the soap. I had had enough, really. I put her in a box – thankfully Dave gets a lot of packages, so I save chicken-sized boxes – you just never know – and put in the ice. Then I called FedEx to arrange pickup as I was wrapping the box in duct tape (thinking to myself, you only package things with duct tape if it’s something criminal – so this box looks a little suspicious). I’m on the phone with FedEx and she’s going – and is it ready now? “Yes – packing it up now!” Then “And how much does the package weigh?” Uhhh…”Five pounds, approximately.” I really am so excited to find out what is going on. I am MORE than half tempted to drive to Puyallup tomorrow with Ben to watch the necropsy. In fact…I may just call and see if we can.
I asked the vet how I can become a mid-level chicken practitioner – like a PA for chickens. He said the best route there would be vet tech. Hmmm…maybe. Just maybe. Dave is shaking his head. So all this is going on and I didn’t get to eat breakfast until noon. That is how most days are here. Did I mention I was invited to write a series of articles on chicken husbandry for an online paper here? I am excited and that entree is allowing me to showcase my friends who are farmers and backyard enthusiasts, and torment nice vets with questions 🙂
MOVIE: 2012_Nov_Gordon crows. This is after 4 days of practice, but still cute!!!
When we came back from walking to school with Sam this morning, guess who was flapping and crowing!? GORDON! He has found his rooster voice! He is getting very full of himself. Such pretty feathers and walking so smartly. This is going to get interesting. Merlin seems unperturbed. He clearly thinks he rules the roost still. I ripped out most of the garden beds and let the chickens have at it. They enjoyed tilling the soil for me.
We got two cute Barred Rock girls and two Rhode Island Reds from Bay Hay – the last of their fall chickens. Dave likes Barred Rocks and I really wanted one, too. Well, Jersey really hurt one Barred Rock. Ripped skin right off her neck and hurt her leg. After nursing the poor thing for 5 days in a separate hospital in the garage, separate recess time, hand feeding, etc., I went to Lisa Barfield DVM at Winslow Animal Clinic after calling and talking over options with her. (As in can’t really diagnose without X-ray but that will run $150. You can’t really do much for chickens anyway. They recover from trauma well, just not illness.) She was SO sweet – she popped out of her busy exam rooms and felt the hen’s leg and said it was broken. Didn’t charge me. I brought her a bottle of wine and a very silly card with pictures drawn of my chicken infirmary – apartment and separate run area (I was busy with hammer and staple gun this weekend!). I am keeping both Barred Rocks separate but visible to the rest of the flock, and providing separate food, water, and sleeping area. However, tonight I found the little girls had broken free of their separate run and sneaked into the coop all on their own! Wow. Chickens will find a way, that’s what my father in law says. Never ceases to amaze me.
This seems to have become a tradition – Sam played the Star Spangled Banner last year in front of the whole school as a first-grader, and our friend Matt Martinez (SGT!) delivered remarks about being a veteran. That was a huge deal for all of us – we never anticipated Sam would be invited to do that and nail it without any warm-up in advance, and Matt nailed his remarks like a pro. This year Sam was invited back, and chose to play his electric guitar. We had quite a discussion about how much distortion would be respectful, eventually deciding on the beautiful sound of “Brit Combo” on his portable amp. We did a sound check and practice yesterday. Some kids were walking by upstairs on the catwalk and stopped, knelt down, and watched for a few minutes. Sam saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, looked up and watched them, never missing a beat! In fact, he knows just where in the song he can scratch his nose while playing.
So today, Ben carried the amp, Sam carried the guitar, and I carried notes for remarks I was invited to make about a gift of a very large 600 sq ft garrison flag, donated by a Veterans Cemetery to the school. Long story there, over a year in the making, but a neat one. So I connected the story of Francis Scott Key to the garrison flag he saw flying over Ft McHenry and the large flag donated to the school. The sun shone brightly and Ben’s two flags fluttered stridently in the breeze as we marched to school. I have to tell you, there is nothing cooler than walking with a big electric guitar slung over your shoulder. Wow, am I lucky to have these cool boys who get me into all kinds of things. And lucky to have a principal at the school who welcomes interesting gifts.
My hand shook less this year making the video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Our love to each of you, and special thanks to the Veterans in our circle of friends and family. Your sacrifice is part of a long tradition. At least you are not camped in Valley Forge, but I bet my dad in NJ feels a bit like it! He just got power back after 8 days of camping, only to have all kinds of things happen to his equipment. Not fun. Our thoughts are with you, Dad 🙂
Here is an excerpt from an email I wrote to Gramma, Ben, about spending time with you today (Fri Nov 2). We had gone for a bike ride (you) and jog (me) at Battle Point Park, played on the playground, watched geese diving in the pond for food, then went to lunch at Bainbridge Bakers, and then checked out a preschool – your first time in one. Turns out they didn’t have room for drop-ins – lucky me! No pressure to leave you with anyone else so I can spend a dumb hour at the gym wondering about you. I didn’t want to do that anyway. 🙂 Here is what I wrote to mom:
> yes you are right about the commitment to continuing to know your > little dears, and the humility to fully appreciate the tremendous gift > of a little hand holding yours, not someone else’s, every minute it. > I felt little Ben’s hand reaching up for mine today as we walked > around and was so grateful. I tell him that all the time. we stopped > to look at a delivery truck parked in the middle of the road. Just > stopped the entire world from spinning and focused on him – little > nose, little eyes, lips parted studying it. He picked out all the > letters and actually read the word “food” on his own after blending > sounds. That is the first time he has actually read a word on his own. I am so proud of him, so proud to be his mom, and will be so > very sad when he starts school. I am so very grateful for this time > with my boys. I do understand very > definitely that it is a gift that I am thankful for every day, to have > TIME with them, to know them intimately, better than anyone else ever > will. I am so lucky. but yes, it is hard work to take care of the > home, chores, volunteer and work, and still make sure your little one > gets big doses of love and attention as often as possible. :0
Little Ben – I love you very much! Your strong grip on my hand sometimes prevents me from getting my keys, or from saving my phone from another fall (at least I have learned how to replace a cracked faceplate now!), but I wouldn’t trade that vice grip for anything. You and Sam have colds today, and I am counting my blessings that I can snuggle you perhaps a few minutes today because you won’t feel like writhing to get away 🙂 Sam is too big – he may still get away. But you…I have you for a little longer my friend! You guys have just woken up – I hear your little voices! I’m running in to get you!