Sunday, November 28, 2010

Keep Calm and Hook On

LizoftheLake sent me a great website - a site that explains the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. I had heard about the poster, saw one in JoAnn's (although it was all wrong - black letters on white background with no crown), and then received the email from Liz. When the same thing is brought to mind so many times, I wonder if that means I should be considering a rug pattern. The original was printed in case of invasion of the British Isles during World War II - with King Edward's crown on it - but the posters were never used and were destroyed after the war. A British bookseller found a copy and reproduced it for sale. Liz's website allows users to generate their own posters - hence, the hook on above.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chicken Rescue

I usually get on and off the expressway about a mile north of my road so I can avoid the traffic on my own road. One day last week, I was heading for the expressway when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a flock of chickens. Chickens move differently from other birds and their odd motion caught my eye. What was unusual was they were in the deserted parking lot of a torn down gas station. The area behind the gas station used to be a lovely little piece of nature with a small pond and a natural wooded area beyond, but now it's just a weed patch with a lot of detritus left by thoughtless people. I was on an errand and didn't stop or think about those chickens until later.

When I was on my way home, I saw two young men standing in the parking lot watching the chickens. I drove past, then decided to turn back and offer my help. I thought maybe the boys were dealing with an escaped flock. It turned out that the boys, Sean and Dakota, were just watching and wanting to pet a chicken. It looked like there were at least a dozen chickens running through the weeds and some of them looked injured. It was impossible to determine the breed of the chickens, they were kind of a motley crew, some white, speckled, golden, and black.

We decided to try to catch as many as we could, so I drove home for some supplies. Those very nice boys knew nothing at all about chickens, but they worked really hard for a couple hours while we tried different ways to catch or trap the chickens. Finally, when the sun was going down, the chickens started roosting and burrowing into clumps of grass, and we started catching them. The boys couldn't hold onto any of the poor hens until Sean found some gloves in his car, then the gloves made him brave enough to hang on. We caught five and scared away quite a few. One white rooster and a couple of hens were the only ones roosting above the ground and they were in a willow shrub just a few feet above the weeds.

I took five hens home that night and then went back by myself the next night. It was really cold and really dark, in a place that seemed really dangerous. A young girl was attacked there and dragged into the woods a year or two ago and once I started thinking about that it seemed really foolish to spend much time there alone. I caught three more hens, plucked two right out of the willow bush by giving the rooster a shove on his chest so he lost his balance and dropped down a branch. I surely do not need another rooster, but I'm sorry I didn't take him. The next day, all of the chickens were gone. I found only a few piles of feathers.

Yesterday, I visited with some people (freecyclers who generously gave me some wood for my chicken house)who live just down the road from that place - I got to meet their potbelly pigs, all four living in an apartment with two adults and two cats. They said the coyotes had been really loud a couple nights ago. Well, I'm glad that at least eight hens survived. They are living in my stallion barn - there isn't enough sunlight in there, but I thought they should be isolated at least temporarily.

Now that I've seen the chickens living in the barn, I'm wondering why I decided to build a chicken house, I should probably just move all of the chickens into the barn - I could put the hens all in the double stallion stall and put the roosters across the way in one of the 12x12 stalls. They would be warmer all winter and it would be easier to care for them. I can even heat that barn if necessary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Basement Stairs

I now have basement stairs!!!

I can't remember when a walk down into my basement was easy - the stairs have always been rocky - starting with a landing a foot lower than the doorway to get to it, and ending with bottom steps created by stacked boards that floated away whenever the basement flooded - but, NOW! Yahoo! I have real steps built correctly and beautifully by a real carpenter! However, I have only looked at them, haven't gone down them yet.

I had a rather bad incident a few days ago with the old basement stairs. I left for a few hours (went to a political potluck gathering at vegetarian co-op house - which should tell you it was basically on campus in Ann Arbor - where it seems grad students either look the same or are the same as when I was in grad school.) Since I was going to be in Ann Arbor, where every second citizen is on the alert for dogs left to suffocate in cars, I left all four dogs home together. Bad decision.

When I got home, I was greeted at the gate by the cats and at the door by the dogs - well, by some of the dogs. Blue was missing. I looked all around the house and couldn't find her. Then I heard her cries. She was down in the basement. I was pretty sure Gibby, in his excitement rushing in and out through the doggy door, had knocked Blue down the basement stairs - and Blue, with her blindness and deafness, was in a panic, bumping into the new wall and getting stuck under the stairs, spinning in circles. I went down the stairs, got to the last existing stairstep while hanging onto the handrail, and the step twisting, with the sides breaking loose from the wall - then the handrail pulled loose, and I was suddenly on the basement floor. I got Blue and tossed her up to the secure steps, and then realized I probably couldn't get out. As each day goes on, I get stiffer and stiffer and can barely lift my legs, so I was seeing myself stuck in the basement until help could come. I thought about calling 911, but then I remembered how the volunteer firemen around my store would laugh about the old or fat ladies who were stuck in bathtubs and had to be pulled out - I could hear them laughing about the fat old lady who got stuck in her basement - and somehow I climbed out of that basement.

I called Joe first thing in the morning and begged him to build some stairs for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cats and Roosters Everywhere!

What fun to walk out of the house in the morning - cats and roosters everywhere - running in my direction. The Barred Rock rooster is just like a dog, he follows me all over and he is soooo big - I'm really pleased that all of the roosters are nice, at least nice to me and nice to the cats, they certainly weren't nice to Old Rooster or the hens.

Tonight, two of the roosters flew up into the pine tree - I think that's the best place for them to roost. If they're going to continue to be free-range roosters I think I'll have to teach them to go into the barn - years ago a wonderful rooster used to live in the rafters. It would be fun to have five roosters living in the rafters.

I almost started hooking tonight, but the energy to go outside one more time, to get my hooking bag out of the motorhome, just seemed to escape me. I had already run in and out a lot while cooking my dinner in the campfire (pork chops do not need to stay in the coals as long as baked potatoes - even though they are double thick and stuffed.) This was my Majong afternoon at the library, then I went for a walk in the woods to gather some firewood to cook my dinner, and my legs were worn out. So, maybe I'll take my hooking to the quilting group tomorrow, if I wake up early enough - but my knitting bag is all set up and less trouble. I would like to have some ATCs started so I can hook them at Thrums and Chums on Saturday.

I'm very upset that bullying has occurred blatantly in my old school district - when I taught there we would have nipped that kind of nastiness in the bud. I can't figure out how teachers have so much less control these days. A fourteen year old girl was horribly harrassed while waiting to testify about being raped by an 18 year old classmate and neighbor. Maybe teachers are so concerned about being sued they are afraid to say anything to the kids - so a young girl is dead and the school district is a likely target for a wrongful death suit. Something is really wrong in a society that lets any of these things happen. I feel like all my years of teaching kids right from wrong were just wasted.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rooster Increase

After turning the roosters into free-range critters and seeing how happy the hens are to be able to leave their roosts and come out of hiding, I thought I would never acquire another rooster - until I got a call from my dentist today.

I drove out to the small town of Gregory to get my hair cut by my favorite barber and on the way home stopped in another town, Pinckney, to visit a laundromat. A friend told me it was much nicer than the one closer to the farm. While putting my clothes in a dryer, I got a phone call from my dentist's office with a "strange request". Since I had just been there for most of Monday afternoon, having a new crown fitted, I thought there must be something wrong with my teeth, but it turned out they were having chicken problems.

A pair of chickens, a hen and a rooster, had recently appeared in their parking lot. The children from the daycare that shares the building were having fun watching the chickens but the adults were worried about the children getting pecked. So, their strange request was, would I come and take the chickens away. Well, I need another rooster like a hole in the head, but I agreed to take them.

After the first hour, all I had learned was that the hen was really leery and very fast and the rooster was less fearful and not easily tricked. I tried to lure them into a box with the Cheerios the daycare children had provided, but they were smart enough to get close and eat all the Cheerios they could reach without going into the box. After the next hour of unsuccessful stalking I thought I'd have to wait until sundown when the chickens would try to roost, but three people volunteered to help and the daycare provided us with some blankets. The rooster was eventually trapped by the playground fence and a blanket was tossed over him while two people did belly flops trying to grab him. We put him into a box and then went in serious earnest after the hen.

The hen was very clever about going into bushes and clumps of branches, and then she started going up into the branches - and that was the beginning of the end. She jumped up to about our head height while her bushy brushpile was surrounded by the four of us. I yelled that she was about to go higher and Duane jumped up onto a loose clump of dead branches. As the hen took off to fly higher, Duane caught her by one foot. She struggled, but he hung on and got both legs in his hand. I couldn't believe he could get down safely and still hold on to her, but he did.

I took the box of chickens home and let them lose inside the chicken yard. The hen jumped out almost immediately, but the rooster stayed in the box while he listened to the free-range roosters doing their nightly crowing. I think he was intimidated until he realized they were fenced out while he was fenced in. I turned the heat lamp on and spent a few minutes building a roost for the Barred Rock rooster who seems to be too heavy to fly like the Americaunas - some of which are roosting on top of the chicken house and one is up quite high in a pine tree. When I went back to see how the new ones were doing, they were both inside the hen house and the rooster was balancing on the edge of a nest box - looking very content. My old rooster, with the injured head, was on a corner roost, hiding his head behind a hen - he doesn't look like he feels well at all.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Roosters on the Loose

I now have half a dozen free-range roosters. For several days, my two year old Aracauna rooster and my favorite hen have been hiding in between a tarp and the back wall of a large dog kennel/cage in the middle of the chicken run. The hens have been roosting day and night in the nesting area, and the roosters have been patrolling the whole yard like a marauding army. I have been putting some food at the back of the cage hoping the two innocents would eat and today I tried to get some water to them - then I decided it was just stupid to let some roosters I never wanted destroy the whole flock, so I started letting them out into the yard. It didn't take long before they all followed each other out into the free world - with the cats. Some of the cats looked the roosters over pretty well, but the roosters ignored the cats.

I had to get scissors to free the rooster and the red hen. Once they could get out, they moved so fast I didn't even see them fly all the way around the chicken yard over to the food dish. The rooster has some pretty serious pecking injuries to his head, but I'm hoping he'll be okay. I watched the free-range roosters for a long time, but I didn't stay with them when the sun was going down. I didn't want to feel sorry for them when they couldn't return to their old roosts. I don't know where they're roosting. Too bad they weren't hens like they were supposed to be.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Gibby's in Trouble

Today was a surprisingly busy day, although it started out as a "no-plan, nothing-to-do" kind of day. I decided to ignore all the farm work and house work waiting for me and count this weekend as part of my vacation, so I started the day with a good book (the new one by Dan Brown) at the Burger King. When I left the BK, I remembered I needed to visit my bank, but I had to stop at my store to pick up some paperwork first. When I drove into the village, I remembered the little church across the street from my store was having it's annual rummage sale - a soup and salad lunch and a bagful of ten cent books later, I was again on my way to the bank. The bank is inside my favorite grocery store, so I had some nut, taco, humus, salsa, and teriyaki chicken samples while I walked around the store before doing my banking. The banking business took quite a while, but at least this bank has comfortable chairs and nice privacy booths. With both a church lunch and a store sample run literally under my belt, I made a quick visit to a new gift shop. I'm always amazed when people start up new businesses in this economy. I wasn't in the market for gifts, but the store had some cute things, things I could give as small gifts if a reason arises. Then back to the farm. I called some friends and agreed to meet them for an early dinner, but I had a little time before time to leave, so I finally got some paper and scissors and made a cut-out of the pattern I'd like to use for my Artist Trading Cards. I'll have to hook some before I know how viable the pattern is - I'm hoping to hook it in a 6, but I may have to go smaller.

Dinner was a surprise, we went to a Japanese restaurant in Brighton. I haven't been in downtown Brighton for several years and found that the stores I knew are all gone, replaced by upscale artsy stores (one store has only lollipops and hard candy made on the premises). I ordered a boring, but safe, chicken teriyaki, but was able to sample some more adventurous suchi and octopus - interesting, but I found that most of the flavors were in the sauces.

We went back to my friend's home for dessert and a dice game, then I headed back to the farm. The cats met me at the gate and then the dogs barked me into the house. First thing inside, I fed the dogs, and immediately Blue and Gibby fought over their food - I yelled and swung a light-weight little broom at them, since it looked like Gibby was really going to hurt Blue - and I fell flat on my face. I don't know if I tripped over something or just fell for no reason, but I landed pretty hard - starting in the kitchen and ending up sprawled in the dining room. There was a while when I thought I wouldn't be able to get up and I used that time to tell Gibby was an irritating and foolish dog he is - he hid behind the quilt that blocks the door into the room he runs through to go outside. This is not the first time Gibby has attacked Blue and he's gone after George quite a few times, but this is the first time I ended up on the floor looking up at him - seeing the last flash of his agression leave his face. This kind of behavior has to end, one way or another.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Starting at the Beginning

Many years ago, my mother and I worked in the same school district. I was a classroom teacher and she was a much respected school social worker. We had long discussions about students with problems and one of our discussions lasted for many months - it was about helping children learn to read by taking them back to the beginning, the beginning of their learning - teaching them to crawl all over again. The idea was new and quite popular for a while, but I haven't heard anyone mention it in years - however, I think that's what I'm doing with my housekeeping - I'm starting back at the beginning - living the primitive way people lived here back in the beginning. For the last two nights, I cooked my dinner in the coals of a fire in my backyard - sort of like being on a camping trip. Last night, it was only a sweet potato, but what a delicious treat - it was so well cooked it was almost like it was melted. Tonight, I made a "Girl Scout Stew" - chopped up potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onion, and ground beef - enough to share with the dogs and have for dinner again tomorrow. I've cleaned up most of the sticks and twigs laying around in the yard and I've burned all of the smaller pieces of wood that were dredged out of my basement before the new wall was built, so I'm going to have to start gathering firewood if I'm going to continue to have my primitive meals. Since I originally learned to cook over campfires, I'm repeating the beginning, learning to crawl again.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day

I love to vote in my township. When I first started voting here, a couple generations ago, we had only our townhall building for a polling place. The townhall looked just like a white frame one room school house, and it probably started it's life as a schoolhouse. It was so small that only the people actively voting could fit inside, so everyone else stood in a long line down the wooden steps and out into the dirt road. Often, we waited a long time in rain and snow. Some kind neighbors often brought cookies or cider and doughnuts and passed them down the line. It was the one chance each year to meet and greet new neighbors - and in those days we counted people as neighbors even if they lived a couple miles apart. About ten years ago, the old townhall was retired and moved into a little village of historic buildings, on property purchased from a wonderful horsewoman and artist named May Mast, who lived into her late nineties. When she was in her eighties, she was still painting giant murals on the sides of her barns and every building on her farm, including the little cabins that had housed children when she ran a summer camp. The historic village has been built in the pasture where May kept two old horses, a leopard spotted Appaloosa and a big fat shiny black Tennessee Walker. The new town hall was built in the adjoining pasture. Now, we have grown so much we have three precincts, all voting in the new town hall. When I fill out my name and address and hand over the slip with my driver's license, I do it at a table where half a dozen women do the paper work - and all of them have last names that are the same as road names in our township. I pass through to a voting booth in minutes, no long line or doughnuts anymore, but I always look for the old cigar box. For a moment today, I thought it was missing, then I spotted it on the floor behind one of the poll workers. It's an old tin cigar box, with old blue and gold paint. When it's open for access to the pens and pencils inside, the lid shows the five cent cigar price in Victorian gold letters. That cigar box has been present at every election since I started voting in Webster Township back in 1972. With all of the other changes, that cigar box represents a permanence to me, a permanence of rural values, which include neighborliness and the right to choose the people who run our government.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Freedom at Last!

From one house,

To another

After six months of mourning, pain, and loss, I have finally moved on - and moved back - back to my farm, my home of homes. It will take quite a while to recover my home within the old farmhouse, but this work will be pure selfish pleasure compared to the job I have just finished at my mother's house. I never consciously realized how full Mother's house was - full of physical content and full of warm, generous memories. For the last month, I spent each day with thoughts and memories of my mother, my father, and my grandmother- all people who deserve to be remembered with love. I found a rug that was made by my grandmother, probably about sixty years ago, and another rug made by my mother, probably about thirty years ago. Neither of them are hooked rugs, but they will have places of honor with my hooked rug collection.

Next week, starting Sunday, we go off of Daylight Savings Time - back to days that are dark in the morning and dark in the evening. I'm going to limit my work on the house to daylight hours, so I should then be able to get back to working on my Sauder Village rug. I'm also planning a pattern to use for my ATCs (Artist Trading Cards)- I'm anxious to get those started.

Ah, it's so nice to be able to plan my own days - free at last, free at last!