Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oh, THIS Should Be Fun...

The kid brought home another school project to work on, this time it's on the American Revolution. She drew James Madison--she has to do both a written, and memorized oral report.

They get bonus points for costumes. The more imaginative, the better.


Sunday, April 25, 2010


...has left us. Peacefully and quietly in J.'s arms this morning. She was very old and we had known that it was going to happen soon, as she was getting slower and weaker. We've had her in the house every night for the last two weeks because we didn't want her to have to push and shove for a roosting spot with the other chickens. She had gotten more and more weak and frail.

Juliette came from a 'Chicken Hell' feed store back in 2002, and she was at least 1-2 years old then--so that would have made her somewhere between 8-10 years old--not bad for a tiny bantam. She was terrified of people and very wild for several years, screaming horribly whenever we had to catch her for anything or would attempt to touch her. Then in the last year she had suddenly mellowed, and had begun hanging out with us, even coming into the house on her own, accepting goodies from our hands and allowing us to pet her and pick her up. She even decided that 'This is GREAT' and would come in and hang out with us as we sat at our computers, sitting in our lap and being petted for long periods of time. It was quite rewarding seeing an abused animal forgive and find peace like that.

I hope we at least gave her a good life and maybe attoned for what she had suffered to make her hate and fear people so. Juliette was the tiniest chicken I'd ever seen and was a special girl.

A lot of our hens are getting quite old, so this year and next I expect we'll have another round of the aging girls passing away.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This gets funnier when I imagine that it is how my daughter's 5th grade teacher spends his day, trying to get the students to answer his questions:


My kid's teacher would actually leap at the chance to dress up like this and teach. It would probably work, too!

The next is my daughter's math book--
Remember that this school textbook was written by someone(s), reviewed and approved by MORE someones, and finally is today being used in the classroom.

I kept looking at this, re-reading it, thinking it MUST be some kind of 'New Math' change in terminology, a trick question, ANYTHING other than a basic Geometery FAIL. But no, they are calling a cube a rectangular prism. My fingers itch to correct things like this in books, but that feeling is overpowered by my basic tenant not to write in books.

Even funnier because it bears the heading 'Do You Know HOW?' like it's a plea for help, because THEY obviously DON'T.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is That A Chicken In Your Pocket, Or...

The people doing the Spring pictures at school today have made a fatal mistake: they said that the kids may pose with a 'prop' if they want to. Specifically the paperwork chirped cheerfully, 'Bring your own props!'

Oh, dear. Unfortunately for them, they do not make any exclusions.

My Inner Smart Ass ran rampant. Hmmm...what'll it be...bloodstained ax? Voodoo or Satanic-looking paraphenalia? The mind boggled.

Also: they did not rule out 'alive'.

So hey, live chicken it is! Now...which one?

Smuggling a live chicken into an elementary school without causing a complete uproar and generalized chaos is problematic at best.  Even as an adult I have no desire to be sent to the principal's office.  So that ruled the larger, more rambunctios girls and roos out.

Millie the bantam Belgian d'Uccle hen, however, is perfect.

Plus she fits nicely into a tote bag.

They were bringing the kids in by classrooms.  Most of the 'props' the kids brought were things like basketballs, etc.

Strangely enough, no one else had a live chicken.  Dammit, my kid did!

Everyone loved Millie, who behaved herself beautifully.  One of the kid's friends wanted to jump in this shot, too.

After the kids had a chance to visit with Millie I split, not wanted to piss off the photographers and screw up their schedule.

Mission accomplished!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yar, Thrift Store Treasure Found!

Yeah baby, scored three skirts at the thrift store acceptable for kids' Renaissance Faire costume use: One pale pink, one black and one dove gray with pewter buttons, perfect for a fancy overskirt that can be opened or closed. It's really overcast today so the colors aren't true in the pictures.

The buttons aren't strictly correct, but look so pretty they may stay. Also found a pale dusty green corduroy jacket to recut and add to existing faded purple corduroy bodice when I alter it...also got a lovely oriental brocade/embroidered piece to cut up and repurpose into pouches (one for the kid, one for my chicken drum) and elements for the kid's bodice. This fabric is cool because one side is deep blue with gold, the reverse is a greeny-gold with blue accents. Haven't decided which way I'll use it yet.

Pretty pleased with our haul, it really pays to dig through thrift store stuff!

It'll be a chance for N. to help with the construction of her own costume and learn a bit about sewing. It drizzled on us a bit on the way home, so it'll be nice to have a project to work on tonight and tomorrow when the house is all buttoned up and cozy and it's raining.

Hunting And Gathering...

Yesterday was only partially successful. Took Mini Me and went to look for somewhere that carries colored plastic straws in bulk to try and make her lampshade...easier said than done! Smart & Final had ONE box of 600--I need something on the order of 1500--and the colors were a bit disappointing. Online searches revealed either individuals selling cute lil' boxes of 25 or nameless, shapeless terrifing Chinese overseas suppliers with web pages in Chinese. Even ebay failed me. I'll have to undertake further digging.

The Renaissance Faire costumes came out of the closet yesterday for inspection--mine has a bit of unraveled, but still there, gimp cord on the bodice that I need to reweave and sew back into place, but other than that looks OK, as does J's.

I also had the kid try on her Renaissance Faire costume. What a hoot.

*sigh*...my old chemise that I'd taken in and secured by basting a few years ago, and which had also served as one of her underskirts, had the basting stiches removed so she can just wear it as a top. That was the ONLY part of her costume that isn't going to be a major undertaking. She needs three new skirts (hello, thrift stores my old friends, I've come to shop with you again...), and her existing overskirt/bodice I'm going to have to entirely take apart and redesign. I can recut and crenellate the bottom and recut and reshape the bodice to look more like a 17th century bodice. The sides of the bodice, top of the shoulder and front of the bodice all need to be slashed and grommets installed so they'll lace up. Once I do all that it should last her a couple of more years, which I like because the faded purple corduroy it's made of looks charming on her and is just getting that comfortable 'worn-in' look & feel to it. I also like keeping and reusing elements of her very first Ren Faire costume in it. :) Besides, Faire costumes only look good if they look like REAL, worn-in clothing, even better if they look like nice hand-me-downs since it better fits the 'middle class' look we're going for. That's why the 'lovely but a bit faded & worn' look works so well.

So off to Michaels yesterday for leather lacing (pretty faded sage green) and grommets. No gimp cord found for the bodice, but then again we don't have ANY fabric stores in our area, which is stupid.

Today will be foraging in the thrift stores for skirts, pieces I can take apart and repurpose for her costume and any random bits that may work into our costumes as-is.

We're aiming for going to the Faire maybe next weekend, hopefully it won't be raining!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another One Is Making A Graceful Exit...

This time it's Juliette. Here she is in 2002, the day we first got her. 

She was a bit skinny, but filled out nicely to a glowingly healthy little girl. Here she is again, three years later.

Juliette is a VERY tiny, Old English Bantam hen that we rescued back in 2002, along with Houdini (who passed away recently) from a feed store that was a Hell for chickens. We'd stopped by the place in the middle of a week-long, 100 degree heat wave and found ALL of the chickens there with empty food and water dishes at 1PM--and the water dishes were hours old, bone dry. The lone teenage clerk was chatting on the phone, so we grabbed a couple of the bottled waters they were selling at $1.00 a pop and went around with them ourselves, filling up the chickens' water dishes. The poor birds were scrambling to GUZZLE the water out of the bottles before it even hit the dishes, poor things. We came home with Juliette and Houdini that day, and reported the feed store. Both she and Houdini were adults at that time, so Juliette is at least 9 years old, possibly more. Both of them were VERY wild and hated humans, so we had our work cut out for us--over the years, if we had to grab them for some reason, they would struggle and scream like they were dying. Juliette was especially bad.

About a year ago Juliette suddenly decided that she really LIKED us, and would hang out by the house, even allowing me to lean down and pet her! She'd talk and chirp happily the whole time, making no attempt at all to walk away. She would even calmly walk into the house to tool around for a bit and visit. It's like she just suddenly decided that we were OK after all.

When chickens get very old but are healthy, what usually happens is that their internal organs begin to fail. When I opened the coop this morning, Juliette was the last one out, waddling tiredly out to stand next to me at the door. I picked her up and felt the tell-tale abdominal bulge that meant she was retaining fluid, and knew her liver must be failing. The same thing happened to Houdini towards the end of last year, and our vet confirmed it and put her on Lasix to help her pass the fluid and be more comfortable until she went. It worked quite well and Houdini passed quietly on New Year's Eve.

So we brought Juliette in and gave her a dose of Lasix (we were lucky enough to have a few pills on hand) and a bunch of mealworms. She appreciated the bugs but not the icky pill.

We put her back outside with her flock, but J. brought her in this afternoon--she had gone off into a corner of the yard but chirped at him in such a way that sounded like she was scared. So he brought her in to hold her and keep her company, petting her and offering her tidbits that she didn't have to compete for with the other chickens. We're going to keep her in overnight so she doesn't have to compete for a roosting spot or have to jump up onto a roost.

So right now she's dozing in a sunny spot by the back door, and she's got a little chicken buffet thing going with chicken food, water, corn on the cob kernels, mashed strawberry and hard boiled egg yolk. When dusk falls we'll make her a comfy littke chicken bed and place her in the living room so she can watch TV and have company.

We don't know how much longer she'll be with us--heck, it could be anywhere from hours to months. But we'll do our best to make her happy and try to make up for her time in Chicken Hell at the hands of humans.

Nadine, Our Little Feathery Oracle

Nadine started yelling her 'danger' call again non-stop tonight, so I knew we were in for another earthquake of size somewhere. She started in around 1AM and kept it up until about 20 minutes or so after the earthquake had passed around 2:10AM, a 5.1 about two hundred miles south of us. I was up anyway (got me a double dose of pain/insomnia the last few days) but in the other room, and when I had gone out to check on her around 1:45AM or so the baby chicks were also alert, standing around being still like they were all listening for something. Normally they are asleep at that time, or are in varying stages of eat/play/sleep. Not this time, they were ALL standing & listening. Creepy.

I stuck my head out the front door, listening for any bark/howling dogs (THEY had been going off around Midnight to 1AM) but everything was quiet. Except for our local mockingbird who was barking HIS 'danger' call along with Nadine. It was that eerie, too-quiet thing, too.

So far Nadine has pre-warned us of at least three bigger earthquakes--she's 4 years old this month and ignores smaller ones, only seeming to click in on either 4.3+ quakes that are right under us, or larger quakes farther away. Jake and Scout also react, but in a lesser way, not as vocal. Nadine also yelled about the 7.2 quake in Mexico on Easter Sunday, but that day she yelled for a longer time, about 2 hours beforehand--maybe Pwaves start happening earlier for bigger quakes, or are bigger and more easily sensed for bigger quakes...? She also had a strong, dramatic reaction for about 2 hours beforehand to the 4.3 earthquake March 17th that was centered right under us. I've never read up on P-waves, so I dunno.

It's pretty cool seeing the 'animals sense P-waves' thing in action, but I wish the damned earthquakes would have the common courtesy to not happen in the wee hours of the morning!

edit: Earthquake count for the week for CA/NV currently at 2,956, we're closing in on the big 3,000 mark!

Because I Don't Have Enough Projects...

Here's the latest one for the kids' room, a hanging lamp with a shade made from colored plastic drinking straws!

Only the one I want to make will be round. It will be made with standard lamp parts, with the straws far enough away from the light bulb to prevent any melting/fire hazards, so no worries there.

I'm going to cruise the local thrift stores for old lampshade parts to revamp, but the wiring will be brand new--you DON'T want to take chances with THAT part. I'll be sure to take pictures!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I'm Not The Only One!

OK, people are acting and driving today like they've been pithed. Behind the wheel they are distracted, and when in motion are driving like they are being chased by the cops--reckless and not paying attention, and ALL in a big hurry.

Ditto for people NOT driving. Pedestrians are crossing streets at high speed without looking, we even saw a homeless couple having a walking screaming arguement right down the middle of a busy 6 lane major street, weaving in and around cars, throwing things and waving their arms. Everyone seems on edge.

Dunno if people are tensed up and waiting, maybe reacting to the P-waves of the earthquakes? Whatever it is, I'm glad to be home again from the grocery store and AWAY from it. Criminy.

Oh, and silly me, worrying about the local earthquake count nearing 2000.

It's just broken the 2,400 mark.


Yeah...don't like the larger earthquake clusters forming all around us at ALL. The saying of, 'When you have more earthquakes, you have more earthquakes' is whispering in my ear...

I thinking it's time for southern Californians to grin at each other and hold on. My animals seem to agree and are nervous and squirrely. Just for comparison this map, on any given day, normally shows about 340-360 earthquakes.

Today it's closing in on 2000.

As Long As I'm Telling Stories...

I'm reminded of the one about the pigeons.

One day my husband and I were sitting in the living room watching TV, and heard this HUGE feathery 'Thump!' off our front plate glass window. We went out and found a pretty, but stunned, tan and white pigeon lying on the ground after he'd flown into the window full speed. Lots of young kids and cats around, so we relocated him to the back little patio garden of our apartment so he can recover his wits (if any) and fly away. Well, he didn't, and as night was falling and rain was expected, we relocated him and tucked him up onto the curved part of the rain gutter downspout, conveniently protected up under the eaves of the building. We figured he'd be gone in the morning.

He wasn't. He just calmly looked at us, so my husband gently took him down and set him on the patio, where the bird started tooling around, looking for food. He didn't seem broken, but obviously didn't want to fly, so we set out some water and a dish of bird seed before we left for work. That night when we came home he was still there, so at dusk we again placed him up in his roosting spot. The next morning we put him on the ground again with the food and water.

Well, when we got home from work that day he was gone, so we figured our good deed was done and he'd flown away. We took in the food and water and forgot about him...until about 4-5 days later, when we wake one Saturday morning to find our pigeon buddy and about 10 of his BFFs wandering around on our patio.

"Oh my God," my husband said, "Wow. Look at that. He's told his friends."

So we do the decent thing and scatter a handfull of seed out there since we have guests. They happily eat it. We figured there was no way they'd stay around and tolerate us walking out there, so my husband carefully went out...the pigeons stayed, merely milling around his feet as he walked among them like some kind of weird Pigeon God.

"Damn, these guys are tame!" Pigeon God observes.

"Weird." I agree. He looks at me, then smoothly bends and scoops one up in one fluid motion. It does not even struggle. I'm dumbfounded.

Pigeon God just beams at me, cradling the bird against his body with one hand while petting it with the other. Pigeon God has the awesome power to instantly tame anima--

Then I see IT.

IT appears from under one wing and scurries about. Pigeon is not alone.

IT has at LEAST 6 legs, is black and BIG--about the size of a fucking dime.
It's a goddamned louse.

Meanwhile, Pigeon God is cheerfully oblivious to the pigeon-with-a-bonus.


Then HE sees IT, too, and hastily puts down his new friend, all the while making the most interesting faces...

After that he beat it back inside and scrubbed his hands very thoroughly. The Pigeon Death Louse Delivery Crew hung out for a bit and then left. They showed up for a few days after, but we wisely decided against feeding them anymore or encouraging the budding friendship, and they soon split for parts unknown.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

On The Verge Of Easter Morning...And Oh Goodie, A Story!

...and I have the trademark multicolor fingertips, made moreso by the Paas company doing an awesome job of CRUSHING the green dye tablet and packaging that sonofabitch in with the others anyway. Yay, green dye on ALL the tablets! Let's play, 'What The Hell IS The REAL Color?' by striping your damp fingertips with the dye tablet! It's fun, and allows you to practice your under-your-breath cussing!

But anyway, eggs are dyed. Even the one that got forgotten somehow in the 'purple' dye vat for an hour but came out a truly awesome color. Like Radioactive Purple Death. Also just for added fun, a HUGE Hummingbird Moth (the white-striped kind) buzzed in through the open sliding glass door like a freakin' B-52, cruising at eye level around the kitchen and circling perilously close to the dye cups. He finally settled in an angry buzz-fest next to the coffee maker and was quickly escorted out the front door, in hopes that he would not make an encore appearance. In a final act of defiance he pooped on J., who was less than enchanted and did not take kindly to my suggestion that maybe it was good luck...maybe?

Now we just await dawn to hide the eggs.

Every Easter I'm reminded of the year that Anthracite, our crow that we raised from a fallen nestling and released (he hung around, making our yard his headquarters, he's here still and is Nadine's father) carefully watched the family Easter Bunny hide eggs early one Easter morning...

After his mission, EB reenters house, grinning. "Done!"

I'm making coffee. "Great. She isn't up yet though, hope they don't get wet or anything..." The child actually sleeps for another half hour, then on rising is too taken with exploring her Easter basket to think of anything else. Meanwhile EB and I relax with our fuzzy slippers and coffee as a lazy half hour goes by. I've got the front curtains open and it's a beautiful, bright, sunny, glorious day. True to form, I see Anthracite and his mate & offspring zipping around the neighborhood, busy with their little crow things...

I nod in his direction. "Wow, they're really happy this morning."

EB glances up from watching the child. "Yeah, And when I was out back earlier he was around, sitting up on the garage and just watching me." He says offhandedly, going back to fondly watching his child.

I continue to gaze outside. Anthi now has something blue. Looks like a food wrapper, I think to myself as I watch him carefully tuck it under a leaf on the front lawn and then fly away (crows love to hide food). Then...horrified realization dawns on me and I get a sick feeling. "He was WATCHING YOU?!" I turn to EB, but he hasn't caught on yet.

But he's quick. He leaps to his feet. "Yeah, HE WAS!"

We both rush out into the back yard, where we startle Anthi's mate and 2 of his kids, who ALL fly off with pretty Easter eggs in their beaks. ARRGGHHH!!!

Final score: Crows 12, kid 12. The blue thing Anthi hid proved to be part of a blue egg. We got to watch crows fly around clutching and merrily feasting on eggs for the rest of the morning...I think we started something in the neighborhood. We have since learned to break open an Easter egg or two and toss them on the sidewalk out FRONT if Anthracite is around, THEN hide eggs while he is busy with those. Tithe the crows, as it were.

Oh, and have the egg hunt pretty much immediately thereafter.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More Stuff...

The Plymouth has gleefully decided that it isn't going to let anyone enter on the passenger side anymore, thank you. Damned stubborn car. The push button on the outside of the door has been getting stickier and sticker, and today just made a very final-sounding, horrible grinding sound when I opened the door. It DID open, with much cussing, teeth-gritting and two-armed heaving on the door on my part. I think I bullied it into submission. Not easy to do with a 41 year old chunk of Detroit steel, but I did it.

But obviously, tomorrow's project: take apart the passenger door on the Fury and see what the heck is up in there, and fix it if I can. Not looking forward to taking the inner door panel off, when I removed them before to refinish the panels the plastic clips that keep them on were showing their age...I need to add 'replacement clips' to my never-ending list of impossible classic car parts to find/repair.

The kid managed to pull off the Spaghetti tree harvest trick on both a friend at school, her cousin, AND her grandmother today. *sniff* I'm so proud... I just made sure I took my little Chicken Drum (makes a VERY authentic chicken sound) around today, making it sound in inappropriate places and then carefully assuming a blank look when people started whipping around looking for a chicken at their feet. Great fun.

Went out tonight to drop off the kids' overnight stuff at grandma's since she's spending the night there, stopped at El Pollo Loco on the way back and narrowly escaped a HUGE blockade by the local police department--they had a major street blocked off for who-knows-what was going down. It looked like a major accident involving a whole slew of cars, though. Come to think of it, I also got to see one of my neighbors over by my daughter's elementary school being arrested first thing this morning when I was taking her in, too. He did NOT look happy.

On the way home tonight it was amusing to experience the mixture of Spring scents with people cranking up their fireplaces due to the cold snap we're having...

*Driving along with the top down, cold weather be damned*
*aroma of fajitas grilling*
'Orange blossoms...'
*fresh-cut grass smell*
'Ooooh, Night Blooming Jasmine!' (the scent of which is like sex and just melts me, thank you)

Yeah, really jarring when you are just floating along in a convertible enjoying a Spring evening.