Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Escape Story #567

Strike a pose, there's nothing to it: Vogue!
Morning around here is a terrible time to be regular.  But I don't get to schedule the call of nature, I just have to answer it. And that is what I was doing yesterday, mid-get-to-school rush, when Blue answered the door.  I didn't know she was answering the door because I was in the bathroom, focusing on gettin' regular.  And from that throne I heard the common call of the Common Pony-tailed American Child, "Mom!  Mo-om!"  To which I responded as all moms sometimes do, at top volume, "I can't help you right now, honey.  I've got a log hanging from my ass.  It's just going to have to wait a minute."  To which she finally informs me, "Well, there's this man at the door and he's wondering if we're missing our cows."  And our dignity.

When I finally met the chuckling man at the door, I was still in slippers and pajamas, because I am not a morning person by nature.  I thought it would make me a virtuous woman if I forced myself to be up and about in the morning.  After babies didn't turn me in to one of these bright and happy sunrise people, I turned to more hard-core hobbies whose crying you can't fix by rolling over and shoving a breast at it: cows and chickens.  (Full Disclosure:  I don't actually know how they would respond to that.)  But instead of turning me into a better person, I've just invented clever and humane ways to not have to deal with them until after the kids have launched, my tea is fully sipped and I've read the obits, the comics, the dog ads (I have no idea why I read those.  I think I just like the pictures and imagining breeders and what they are eating for breakfast and what they are wearing: sweats and wife-beaters?) and completed the sudoku in pen (to add some challenge to the paper's idea of a puzzle).  And then I pull on the cover-alls over my pajamas and head out for the "morning" chores.  So that is why I met the man dressed like that.

Houdini-in-training
Yes, those were my cows.  Although I spent the past sunny Sunday morning doing fence repair, not all was repaired apparently, and some time during the night, the cows broke the electric wire and scooted under a fence. I am not that bad at fence repair.  Cows are just that good at exploiting any weakness in your containment field.  And this man, also a husband of bovines, knew all about that, and he was very understanding.  Following their tracks, we can see that they ventured into the garden and trampled all my newly planted peas and kale seeds, sinking deep into the fluffy loam I'd labored over for knee-bruising, shoulder-aching, wrist-swelling hours on Saturday.  They danced around the garage a few times, and then took off down the road. The "neighbor" (he's a little far away to really be a neighbor) was awakened this morning by early commuters wondering if those were his cows in the road. He had once checked in on a sick cow of mine and so he recognized the fugitives, and took them in anyway, to keep the safe until we could come up with a plan.

What attracted them to his farm was the only fully functional bull for many miles around.  He'd spent much of that morning already, while I was crapping and making lunches and setting timers on children to brush their teeth, trying to separate my obstinate cows from his young bull.

We agreed to meet up again at 10:30 while he went to breakfast and I repaired my fence and drove to town for some cow-provisions.

As my body was busy prepping the farm and running errands, my mind remembered, in sympathy with the cows, the time I snuck out in the middle of the night with my friend.  She lived in town, so after sneaking out there was actually some place to go. We chose the wild and crazy park, obviously, and sat on the swings in the middle of the night in November and looked at the stars and giggled about our bad-ass selves.  Then these guys showed up. Big guys, chatting us up. And so we decided we would rather be home again, because these guys were neither cute nor interesting nor really in our age zone.  Just as we were leaving, the men following a creepy twenty feet behind us, the entire park filled with light from all sides.  I thought I may have died, that's how bright the lights were. Bull horns instructed us to stay where we were, which was not what I expected in heaven. German Shepherds descended, also from all sides, into the park which was just a sunken triangle of grass and a few toys.  The large pack of nazi-dogs strained at their leather harnesses, followed by an even bigger pack of cops.  I might have been relieved, a little, since those boys were so strange.  We were interrogated under flashlight, names, numbers, parents were called (mine were on vacation and this was not the first phone call they had received about their children and they were already starting on their way home to try to salvage what they could after the house fell victim to a teen kegger.  They did not think any of this was as hilarious as their children did.)

Already a political being, I thought, My god, is this how we spend our tax dollars?  Chasing down kids on swings who didn't read  the "Park closes at dusk" sign? Seemed a little over-kill and for we two girls, it was.  But for the boys who'd joined us, it wasn't.  Arrests were made of the Most Wanted Men and we were let free after assuring the cops we had no idea who they were.  I think we should have received community service awards and rewards instead of community service because we were the jail-bait that lured those men into the awaiting hand-cuffs of the po-po.  Without oblivious us, those men might still be on the lam, menacing society.  And that is my memory about sneaking out in the middle of the night.

Later, on his 4-wheeler, the neighbor herded our cows to the edge of his field.  I opened the gate and we marched them down the road.  Of course, at this moment, the arborists arrived to slaughter my neighbor's willows, all big trucks, cherry pickers and chippers and beeping backing up in the middle of the road.  And so the cows bolted and ran and leaped over fences.  And so did I.  And then suddenly (and tragically for the typical and satisfying Greek trajectory of "the story,") the whole episode ended quite quickly and safely with cows back home, pacing around rehashing their totally awesome adventure while Jim and I chatted about the pleasantries of farming, ie: how many coyotes he shot (ack!) and dead calves and vultures and mice.  And I tried to offer to return the favor some day without sounding like a hooker for cow-herding help.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One Black Sex Link Ninja Chick

That's a sex link, alright
The chicks are here, the replacements.  It sounds like I've captured and caged spring in our sun room.  The little clouds are already starting on their true feathers at only 8 days.  We like to pick them up, hold them, little new moments.  I like the feel of their warm branchy feet, and little bit solid, a little bit dreamy, tickley.  The large box is covered by a wire screen to keep out cats and kittens (it's a baby-happy farm right now) and it leaves a plaid branding our our foreheads as we lean in to watch.  They sprawl under the heat lamp, new wings unfolded, flapped open like laundry going on the line. The way they sleep is like babies, with this dead limpness you want to jolt awake to make sure it's not permanent. They scratch up the shavings directly into the watering dish. But otherwise, they are incomprehensibly suited for the life of a chicken.  How do they know moments after emerging to scratch beneath them for food, to sip water by cupping it in their beaks, turning their heads up, and pouring it down their gullets like communion. Exactly what and how to do it, that's what they're born with.  I'm used to human babies who still can't seem to dress themselves lo these 10 and 7 years later.  Hell, 36 years later I'm still puzzling out what it means to be human and how to do this.

Just this morning, for a slap-stick example, I trekked from house to barn without my cover-alls because they were cold and inconveniently shoved into the bottom of the entry closet and anyway I never get all that dirty.  And as any observant human versed in the irony of fate, today was the day where the March mud was too thick for the crap load and the wheelbarrow and I were obligated to wrestle and I was dressed, not as a seasoned wrestler, but as idiot in fresh jeans.  And that's how I am, ill-suited for almost every task of modern life, like I'm the one that was born yesterday.

Is it really possible to come into this world like that, completely prepared for it?  That's why I stare at the baby chicks.  My kids are maybe thinking they're cute, but I'm trying to suss out the magic of being perfectly suited to the life before you.

We picked up a rainbow of chicks. The store policy, untransgressible as always, is a minimum purchase of six chicks.  So we came home with six - several more than I wanted.  We can see the housing crash coming from here.  We are going to have to figure out how to house 8 chickens (including the two that survived our first batch).  It's a riddle alright.

humanling mastering the fine art of existence
I was describing to someone the illness that swept through our old flock, the Christmas Crisis, and I was telling her how there was nothing to be done but replace them in spring.  She somehow thought that meant I hadn't done anything and she mistakenly contrasted herself with me saying, "If my chickens got sick, I would definitely take care of them.  I love my chickens." Ah, naive and inexperienced newbie, never a death to darken her one-year-old coop doors yet.  I've learned to let people stay that way, in their bliss.  The bubble will be popped naturally enough.

It's not that you don't want to do anything, it's that with chickens there's not much to be done.  I no longer felt like telling her how I cradled them, hand mixed antibiotics, pried open their lock-jawed beaks and dripped it in on Christmas Eve. I no longer felt like cataloging the process of the discovery: NO vets in the area know anything about chickens.  When I meet these sorts of quick, erroneous assumptions, I admit I'm confused about how to deal with them.  I don't owe anyone anything, any explanation, any excuse, anything.  And that's all explanations sound like to someone who's made up their mind about you: lame excuses.  And yet, sometimes it might make sense to defend oneself and reputation, but it's just chickens...

In other arenas, I'm learning to bite back and bite quickly.  I present more Valley Girl than Smarty Pants.  This is really a problem, believe me. And so when patronizing arises in circumstances where I need to be respected and heard, it seems to be working well for me to address the problem immediately, mid-sentence, and them move on to my larger point.  But with chickens, who the hell cares?  I guess that's just what she meant... they're not worth biting back about.

So we've got Leghorn ("Ah say, ah say, ah say whatcha lookin' at, son!") Luna, Rhode Island Red Poppy, Rhode Island Red Glory, Wyandotte Sri Racha, Black Sex Link Ninja, and Black Australorp Zoe. And in a few months, they'll meet Barred Rock Dragon and White Rock Priscilla. That's eight chickens and seven varieties. As they say: We don't just tolerate diversity, we celebrate it! And until disease, coyote or owl strike, this is our rainbow of egg-makers, a pot of golden yolks at the end.

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