Friday, April 30, 2004

Horrid Tasty Thing

So this afternoon I was out enjoying the waning of the day...the chickens had been fed and were wandering contentedly about the yard...my daughter was playing happily with the bubbles I was blowing.

Suddenly, one of the young chickens darts across the yard over by the coop in what was clearly the furtive "I've got a really cool goodie" dash with three other birds in hot pursuit. Problem is, I haven't handed out anything and it was clearly a large, tasty something that this chicken had in his beak. Off I go to give chase, wondering what the heck they've gotten into NOW. As I join the chicken parade and we all double-time it in circles around the yard, the Tasty Thing is looking more and more like...a fish.

A smallish fish, to be sure...

Wondering how in the Hell a fish has made it into my landlocked suburban yard, I get serious about getting Tasty Thing away from a very determined bird. By now the rest of the chickens have wisely given up the chase since Phoenix has it, and the Head Hen (me) is obviously showing waaaay too much interest in Tasty Thing.

Except now Tasty Thing is actually looking kinda like a human finger...! A decrepit and rotting finger, but still very fingerlike nonetheless.

At this point I pick up my daughter's toy shovel, intent on getting Horrid Tasty Thing OUT of my pet's beak. Meanwhile, my husband, who throughout this entire time has been on the roof working on the air conditioner and has had a ringside seat to this fiasco, is shouting, "What is it? What IS it?!"

"I dunno!" I yell back, brandishing the toy shovel at Phoenix, who has by now taken refuge under the patio table. NOW here comes my 4 year old daughter to 'help', saints preserve us. I make one last, desperate, blind lunge at the chicken under the table and am rewarded with a loud squawk. To my relief the offended bird runs out from under the other side of the table, sans Horrid Tasty Thing. Oh goodie, now I get to play with it.

"Jesus!" I involuntarily yell when I finally get a good look at it.

"What IS IT?!" Again from the roof, sounding anguished and disturbed.

"Uh...." Ugh, necessity dictates that I now look closely at Horrid Tasty Thing, unwillingly assisted by a half-hearted prod from a handy nearby stick.

"Geez, it's a SNAKE!" I call up to the roof. Actually it's just the head and an inch or two of neck/body and judging by the many beak holes in it, is obviously a discarded snack from the local crows...double ugh...

"Where in the Hell did they get a snake?!" from above in disbelief.

I don't know, but I've learned that where there's one, there's more. By the way, my brain whispers to me...where's the REST of Horrid Tasty Thing? Away to the coop I fly, searching for more bits and pieces. To my relief I don't find any, but this is also worrisome since I now wonder if my preschooler will be next to produce a grisly offering. I return to further inspect the decapitated monster, and decide that what it really is, is a REALLY BIG lizard. Great. Lizards we have in abundance and I welcome them, although I much prefer them alive. Much better.

That poor chicken never did get Horrid Tasty Thing returned to him, but I did slip him a piece of pizza crust to help sooth any ruffled feathers.

Ahh, another sleepy day in suburbia...

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hey, Here's Something New--A Quiz!

OK, everyone else is doing this, so here is mine. Feel free to use it and answer the questions for yourself. :)

1/ Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says: adaithermancy: (n) the quality of being impervious to radiant heat. *G* Dictionaries rock!

2/ Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?: The big, gloriously-ugly 60's ceramic table lamp that my husband hates and I love to distraction. It squats on the desk and takes up far too much room.

3/ What was the last thing you watched on TV?: The news at 5 PM...a CHP officers funeral, which I managed to drive past this morning. It looked like they were mobilizing for Iwo Jima.

4/ WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is: 10:20PM

5/ Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?: 11PM?! *grumbles at crappy internal clock*

6/ With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?: The ceiling fan, the A/C running, the fridge humming to itself.

7/ When did you last step outside? What were you doing?: Just before dark to water plants, feed the animals and play with the kid and chickens.

8/ Ever have a recurring dream? Used to have one where I dreamed that I COULD NOT find a bathroom and I really needed one. I would always wake up before I found one in my dream, thank God! When I realized what was going on I stopped having the dream. Stupid id messing with me...

9/ What was the last thing that made you laugh? The noise my husband made when he accidentally came in contact with daughter's disgusting squishy-rubbery centipede toy thing...I had made the identical noise not 1 hour before when I had accidentally stepped on the thing.

10/ What is on the walls of the room you are in?: Various framed items, clock, a trio of ceramic pheasants from husband's grandmother, a lovely counted cross-stitch piece from my SIL, some wooden wine crate lids from Napa and Sonoma wineries collected on our honeymoon.

11/ Seen anything weird lately?: Everyday, too many to mention...

12/ What is the last book you read?: "Basket Case" by Carl Hiaasen.

13/ If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?: House, then fix up the cars, invest, then the real fun--passing out wads of cash to my family and friends. :)

14/ Tell me something about you that I don't know: I've had a tattoo of a little blue rose on my left shoulder blade since 1981.

15/ If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?: Eliminate people's inner need to fight and hate each other over religion.

16/ Can you dance?: In my opinion or everyone else's? Not well, in either case. Just because you can do something doesn't always mean that you should.

17/ Given the choice of anywhere in the world, where would you love to live?: Either Napa Valley or Yosemite.

18/ If you could wish for an unlimited amount of free time all to yourself, without using things like the phone, TV, etc. and no distractions like work, school or kids; how much time would you like to have and what would you do with it? First I would catch up on my sleep, then all of the one million and six unfinished projects I have going.

19/ Lamest guilty pleasure: 70's pop music, the perkier the better!

20/ Favorite childhood memory: Family gatherings where we all sat at the kitchen table and talked, adults and kids alike.

21/ What do you have as a background for your computer desktop? Any sound?: A family photo slide show, no music.

22/ Describe the view from your front door: The driveway which holds my pet '69 Plymouth Fury convertible, the weed-ridden front lawn and a climbing rose that we have been trying to remove for more than a year. My husband cut through most of the root ball with a Sawzall and nearly yanked the bumper off of his truck trying to dislodge the thing. Now it is healthier than ever.

23/ What was the last Stupid Self-Inflicted Injury you suffered and how did you do it? (stubbed toe, bumped head, etc.): Burned my throat after swallowing a mouthful of scrambled eggs I had reheated in the microwave. My doctor actually laughed at me...I don't blame him...

24/ What is the strangest thing on your desk? Besides big ugly lamp mentioned before, a couple of little plastic chickens perched on the monitor.

25/ What is the worst fad you remember and why do you dislike it? If you lived through the 70's you've seen the worst. I'd have to say pet rocks and the return of butt-ugly 70's clothing colors and styles lately.

26/ What annoying habit do you have that you would like to change? My tendency to start a project and then run out of something and set it aside until I get the needed supplies, then start another project in the meantime...and another....and so on. I leave them all out, too, because I'm still working on them, dang it!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Fun With Chickens

While I'm thinking of it, just a few anecdotal chicken stories...


When our first three hens were 2 months old, they were moved from inside the house to the new coop in the back yard. They adapted well and loved their new surroundings.

Until early one morning we awoke to bloodcurdling, wailing cackling from the backyard. Up we leaped and in record time, visions of dying chickens in our heads, ran out into the back yard…to find that a heavy fog had descended and the chicken coop was hidden from view. Of course we realized instantly that this meant to the chickens, the reverse was true and the house was gone! We laughed and made our way to the coop and let out some very confused chickens. They made their way cautiously around the yard and we earned some dirty looks for laughing at them.

Adventures in Coop Climbing

We are spending a peaceful Saturday afternoon in the house, when suddenly we hear loud, plaintive drawn-out cackling from the yard. We dash out the back door to see who's being murdered. To our surprise, we can't locate the hen making the noise. We finally see her—on the roof (10 feet up!) of the chicken coop, yelling at us to GET...HER...DOWN...!!! She had jumped up on a half wall, from there to the top of the fence, to the top of the coop and then discovered she couldn't get down. J climbed up and rescued her and she got a lecture about hopping up on things to explore the world. She has since stayed sensibly on the ground.

New Foods

Trying to be parents to baby chicks is a weird experience at best. They catch on to normal food and water just fine, but to teach them other new foods involves a tedious lot of calling chick!-chick!-chick!, endless pointing, and repeatedly picking up and dropping the tidbit. Our baby chicks love sauerkraut (go figure!) and mealworms. In fact, we discovered (accidentally!) that the small mealworms look juuuuust like another baby chick's toe

Amid pained chick screams we were able to separate the two. My, but baby chicks hold on to food tightly!

Chickens love table scraps, and we have a lot of fun introducing them to new foods. On one occasion it was cooked spaghetti. The problem was, once the bird started to eat the noodle from one end, when they discovered that after one or two swallows, there was a huge length of noodle still to go they would start to panic. Now they are stuck, because they can't cough it back up and they haven't yet learned to bite or break it off-—the only choice is to grimly keep on swallowing. To their utter relief here comes the other end (finally!) but wait—now THAT end is flailing around and slapping them about the head and chest! Agghh! Horrors! And when they try to get away it follows them! I never knew that chickens could run in reverse.

They have since learned to break things into manageable bites...

What's That?

When our bantam hens were about 1 ½ months old, they were running around on the living room floor with the adult chickens for a surpervised meet & greet before formally joining the flock outside. We've found that this procedure helps smooth the waters.

Our bantam rooster was perched on my husband's leg as he lay on the floor watching TV. Unbeknownst to the rooster, one of our bantam babies, Yin, was approaching the rooster from the rear.

Apparently she spotted the little pink 'button' under his tail.

Now--to a chicken, everything is food until proven otherwise.

The ensuing hearty peck to that roosters' nether region made him leap straight UP with a loud, pained squawk. This startled Yin, who ran off. When the rooster came down he glared at us for laughing, then spent the next two hours trying to sneak up on Yin from behind to return the favor. A simple chase and peck on the head wouldn't do—he was out for exact revenge.

He never did catch up with her, although I don't think he ever forgot the insult.

This is the same roo that once chased me into the bathroom after I laughed at him for falling off of a box he was roosting on the edge of. I had to literally climb through the bathtub to hide behind my husband (who was shaving at the time) while the rooster made little dissapointed noises in his throat at not being able to reach me, and that just made me laugh all the harder.

I still carry a small scar on the back of my hand from when he finally caught up with me. Roosters have a very deep rooted sense of dignity, fair play and justice.

Little Kids And The Way Cool Things They Say And Do...

To quote my hairdresser: "Aren't kids just the bomb?!" This was during a discussion we had way back when my daughter was two years old, and the heart-squeezingly cute things they say and do; just to make us adults melt into little twist-'em-round-your-finger idiots. My daughter is now four, but she still is the cutest damned thing--not that I'm partial or anything. I'm trying to savor these times and do what I can to make it last, both for us and her.

Like the other day, nearing the end of a long, tiring 8 hour road trip. Heading south on Highway 395 out in the desert we were going over a long series of elongated dips in the road. While I'm sure these have some serious, somewhat higher purpose of channeling flash floods or keeping truckers awake, to us it became "The Whee Whee Road" and my kid was thrilled no end. She giggled breathlessly, widened her eyes and raised her hands and feet into the air while Grandpa obligingly sped up to try and get the 4 x 4 airborne. When it was over she turned to me and ACTUALLY SAID, "Mommy, that made my tummy silly!" I thought I'd die of cuteness. It also made me think of when I was a kid and my father would do the same thing for us. There was a road--I don't know where exactly--located somewhere near an airport here in Southern California that had a similar series of dips. We also dubbed it "The Whee Whee Road" and for us held thrills akin to a roller coaster.

Then last night in the bathtub, my daughter was playing with her two newest toys, a pair of big rubber lizards from Target. A bargain at 99 cents for both, they have been The Toy Of The Week around here, The Chosen Ones For Now. Suddenly she dipped both lizards in the tub and raised them up coated with bubbles. The she grinned at me and proclaimed, "Sheep!"

God, kids are just the bomb.

Monday, April 12, 2004

You Can't Go Home Again...?

There's something about going home to the folks house for a visit.

I think it's the snuggly cozy feeling of being away from home but in a secure, unchanging place. The fancy glass jar in the bathroom that has held the cotton balls ever since I was a kid. The family stories that are retold at every gathering. The old, odd decorative plate on the wall depicting one of the California missions--with a huge chip out of one edge but painted in such lovely, softly glowing colors! The fact that I know where everything is. And how things at Mom's house are done...how our family washes dishes, takes walks, does laundry--even argues. There is a comforting, set pattern.

Mom is talking in a very decided manner of selling the place this year for a home on a smaller lot closer to town. Since the current place is nearly an acre and is 25 miles over mountain roads from the nearest grocery store, this makes lots of sense. Driving 50 miles over mountain roads in snow because you need a gallon of milk...well, it sucks. It will also mean that we won't have such a large, gnawing worry at the back of our minds every winter when we think of our elderly mother navigating the icy back steps or waiting breathlessly to hear if this years' wildfire has overtaken the house. To be sure, the worry will still be there; but it will be a more manageable thing, not something the size of a 50 foot Norwegian wharf rat.

As to the old homestead...well, it's certainly old, but not the ancestral home. We moved there during my sophomore year in high school and I moved away two weeks after I graduated. But the place DOES have fond memories and genuine historical value, and I'll certainly miss being able to walk through the old barns and point out the hand-hewn beams and square nail construction to my daughter. Couple that with being able to walk out the back door and take a hike in the Sierras, mostly up to the old can dumps that line the fire roads. The can dumps are where people way back when would simply tote their non-burnable items--glass jars, cans, metal, etc. and dump them. The can dumps therefore are now a treasure trove of old bottles slowly turning purple in the sun, vintage beer cans and bottle caps and many other wonderful things--if you come armed with a shovel and stick and are willing to brave the rattlesnakes that have moved in.

Unfortunately it also means that Mom will be unloading a bunch of stuff in a yard sale in order to avoid having to move it. I'm not sure she realizes that I love that beat up old coffee table and matching end tables. Or how I used to gaze at that chipped old plate on the wall done in those luscious colors. Or as a child, the Christmas ornaments that became my favorites for whatever murky reason, and I now prowl Ebay trying to find for my own tree, to pass along to my own daughter. The dining room table I used to crawl under in the evenings at Christmastime and after taking off my glasses would sit, surrounded by all of my stuffed animals, to gaze at the beautiful out-of-focus, softly glowing Christmas tree lights. So many times the things that kids grow up and hold dear in their hearts are the weirdest damned things! My parents would think nothing of throwing out old junk only to hear one of us wail later, "What?! But I LOVED that!"

Even the dorky, old, cheapo glass cotton ball jar.