Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Smooshy Cheeks and Duck-Walks

Well, there goes another umbrella. Why I went in to the office today is beyond me, especially because I could have worked from home. I woke up naturally, without an alarm, but it still took me ½ hour to actually get out of bed. I don’t know what I would do without my favorite morning radio show to wake me up.

I looked outside, and it stayed dark even when I hurriedly left the house, late, at 7 AM. It was gloomy and blustery, Hurricane 1-force winds, they said, and pelting rain. Ten minutes to get to the train—was I out of my mind that I thought I could make the 7:09?? I usually left at 6:50 or, at the latest, 6:55. I pulled into the train station parking lot, and saw a train up on the tracks. I thought, well, I’ve missed it. But the train pulled the other way—it was the outbound train. I was in luck—maybe if I hurried, I could get up on the platform in time for the inbound train. I got out of my truck, schlopped my bags together and by that time I could hear the horn of the inbound train, and a glance up revealed its headlights, even. Could I do it? I ran to the bank of parking lot slots and stuffed my $1 daily parking fee in. I could barely see straight, as the wind whipped my hair around my face and into my eyes. My umbrella turned itself in and out violently in the wind several times. The train had just about stopped on the tracks, and I sped up the 25 or so steps and miracle of miracles, made it onto that 7:09 after all.

Good thing I had thought to put my computer and paperwork in huge Ziploc bags before I left home. Last time it rained, I thought my bag was waterproof, and my computer was totally destroyed—the company had to rebuild practically all of it.

I ate my Egg McMuffin at the McDonald’s in the train station, and then ascended up with the other hundreds of cattle in the working stiff’s herd to the exit. I paused under the overhang, as did many others, contemplating at what moment they wanted their hair and umbrellas totally ruined. I extended my already beleaguered umbrella, hoping that the wind might have some mercy. I stepped out, and it really didn’t feel too terrible—a light wind, and the rain had let up. I thought, well this is not too bad after all. As if in retort, a huge gust of wind hit me and instantly bent the handle of my umbrella and broke the joints on several of its braces. Another one bites the dust. Sigh. I tried to hold what was left of my umbrella over my head, but at that point it was useless. I saw others put their umbrellas away, giving up as I eventually did, and let the whippy wind and strong drizzle have its way with my hair. I could have hailed a cab or taken a bus, but I felt more like walking. I realized I did have enough of my brain in gear this morning to remember to put on my ankle-length rubber rain boots. My feet stayed toasty warm and dry!

But walking was a challenge! As I crossed a street, westbound, I felt the wind smush my the skin on my cheeks towards one side of my face. I bet that would have been a funny picture! I sought the shelter of the east sides of building edges to ease the wind as I walked north, but that lasted only sporadically, as when I approached an intersection, the wind once again made itself known in a big way. At that point I was truly past caring.

After six long blocks I was finally at my destination, and I blew into the office, damp and disheveled. I plopped down at my desk and tried to finger-comb my hair into something presentable. It was time to start my workday. Good thing the company-wide meeting this afternoon with our CEO was via phone!

The day proceeded rather uneventfully, and at 5:15 I headed downstairs and out the door, back towards the train station. The wind at first felt as if it had died down some, and then a strong, sustained wind forced itself against the whole front side of me, and it was all I could do to stand up straight and try to walk at some kind of respectable pace representing putting one foot in front of the other and actually covering some ground. It was a real struggle, and at one point I did definitely feel like I was going to get blown down, and so did the woman in front of me, and for a moment we pasted ourselves against a building.

I continued on, but in the next block I had the other problem! The wind this time banged me from the back and made me walk faster and wider than I wanted to. I looked like a duck with my feet spread out to steady the pace.

Finally I gratefully slipped into the warm comfort of the Union Station and appreciated the beautiful interior architecture, the site of many movies, such as My Best Friend's Wedding and Flags of Our Fathers.
The train stood waiting, and I slid into the cushy seat for the blissful train ride home. As usual, Mr. Green Drink was sitting on the upper level, drinking his quarts and quarts of some green gook that he chewed too. I looked away and busied myself getting caught up with the local newspaper and, of course, the Bi-Level:
“...the snarky, snotty observations by Metra’s customers about fellow commuters ... offer some of the
best free entertainment around.”

I can always count on getting a chuckle from this paper. Here is an element from this month’s publication:

Seat hoggers, part 157
What bothers me during rush
hour are people who occupy
seats with their mounds of crap
from knitting supplies to laptops.
Or those who sit with their legs
crossed, blocking aisles or seats
and then look at YOU crazy
when asked to move. Listen peo-
ple… This is a public train NOT
your living room. If you have a
problem with people sitting next
to you – DRIVE. Unless you’ve
bought two tickets you don’t
get to occupy more than one
seat. Why should people have
to ask you to move every single
day when you know the train is
crowded with people going to
work just like you? And to those
people who seem too scared or
timid to ask these people to move
their stuff – you get what you
deserve – to stand!
Now that’s exciting and dis-
respectful! Actually, that’s what
we’ve always said: if you see a
hogger, ask him to move his stuff.

I came home to the animals and was grateful to finally be out of the elements. I will be soaking in a hot bath pretty soon!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better Than TV!

I must confess that I usually keep Oprah and The Price is Right on in the background but today, I missed both shows because of an event that held far more interest for me. Imagine--a 2-hour show that was G-rated, but at the same time full of suspense, learning, and delight!

Around 9:15 AM Espie went up to the nest and began arranging the chips just the way she liked. Qweety positioned herself at the other side of the nest box and watched. About 15 minutes later Buffy hopped up on the observation deck and she and Qweety watched, but kept their distance.

They waited ten minutes, and curiousity and, I think, the desire to take their turns got the best of them, and they inched closer to Espie. Espie began looking dazed, but in deep concentration, and began her whirring noises. Qweety got so curious that she poked her head behind Buffy, craned her neck, and stared at Espie's back end--you can see this in the photo below. Twenty-five minutes after being on the nest, Espie had laid an egg!

I was SO proud of her--I suspected she had laid at least two eggs. This was the first egg I actually SAW her lay. Here are Buffy and Qweety inspecting the egg. Note how they've bunched Espie up against the side of the box--it's as if they are saying, "Step aside, WE wanna see!!".

Then The Symmetry of the Necks took over, and both Espie and Buffy lowered their heads down to egg level, faced each other, and eyed the egg just like this for at least a full minute. It actually looked kind of sculptural to me, almost like the farm version of two swans who were facing each other with their necks arched.

I got a closeup of their inspection session. I wonder what they were thinking? It's almost as if Buffy were saying, "YOU did this? That's pretty good! I want a closer look!"

Buffy waited patiently till Espie was ready step off the nest, and then she took her turn.

Half an hour later, she stood up and laid her egg, and then told the whole world about it. Here she is proclaiming her feat, LOUDLY.

The ruckus brought Qweety around, and Buffy skedaddled out from the nest, leaving Qweety to inspect the work thus far.

She decided to try to contribute to the effort and hunkered her fluffy underside carefully over the eggs.

Forty minutes later, a lovely blue egg!

The final result: three absolutely beautiful eggs from three very special girls! (oops, they are really more accurately called women, now!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fit & Finish

This is my third post in as many days (I think!). Today I came home after work to two eggs--with slight variations. I am pretty much convinced that the bigger, rounder, lighter one came from Buffy, as I've seen her lay lots of eggs like this. Can you believe she's already laid 54 eggs? I still marvel at the miracle every day she lays one.

Notice the other egg--it is pointier than the other one, and smaller, and a bit darker and shinier. I am pretty sure this is Espie's egg, as eggs from beginning layers are usually smaller than chickens who have been laying for awhile.

At this rate I will have to have a brunch party to have help in eating the eggs!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And on the Second Day and Also Second Month, Or So...

We find our Star of the Day!! This is my Blue Egg Layer, Qweety. She started out oh so well on August 6, laying the TWO blue eggs at once. Two days later she laid another nice egg. Then, nothing..........(crickets chirping)..............followed a whole month later by another two tiny, marble-sized eggs laid, one blue and one smaller white one, late at night,,,but they were the consistency of water balloons. Not good.

Yesterday, I noticed her sitting on Buffy's spot. She was there for quite awhile, a couple hours, but no egg. I have been home, let's see, the mornings of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, early Sunday morning, Monday morning (yesterday), and TODAY she finally lays the best egg she's ever laid. Nice hard shell and as big as Buffy's egg next to it! Or, at least I THINK it was Buffy's egg...could be Espie's, as Espie has been spending some time on the nest as well. (this is one hotly contested piece of coop property!) I was sorry I missed the big event, as I had to go downtown for work. I wonder how much jockeying for position there was to use the nest. They grow up so fast!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Decidedly More Than Ten Cents' Worth of Effort!

My black chicken, Espie (on the left), has finally taken a decided interest in spending time on the nest. Buffy, my egg-laying machine (on the right) is trying to deal with this. This was Espie's first real effort on the nest, and she picked the opposite corner from Buffy.

However, the last few days she is moved over to "Buffy's spot", and Buffy does NOT like this. The other day, Espie got up to the nest early (around 8:30 AM). Buffy usually goes up around 9:30 and begins her routine. Espie was carefully arranging the wood chips around her, picking up a few of them in her beak and throwing them on to the top of her back as chickens in a laying mood are wont to do. After a little while, she started making whirring noises, lasting about 5 seconds apiece, one after the other. It almost seemed like her little body was trying and trying to get an egg out, and she was practicing LaMaze breathing or something!

Most of the color had drained from her wattles and comb too. A chicken who is mature enough to lay eggs has a bright red comb, wattles, and face area. Espie's had turned a pale, muted, washed-out pink. I have a theory that the blood was going towards the effort to try to get that egg out.

While she was in such deep concentration, Buffy came along and started attacking Espie by biting her anywhere on the comb, wattles, and face that she could. It was time for Buffy to lay her egg, and there was OBVIOUSLY nowhere else to do so (HIC!). Espie did not fight back; she just turned her head or bowed it so that Buffy could not get at her as easily. Buffy gave up momentarily, and tried to hollow out a nest next to Espie, but for some reason that wasn't satisfactory to Buffy, so Buffy resumed her attack on Espie. After about 20 minutes of this, Espie finally gave up, got up, and Buffy laid her egg about 30 minutes later. Espie never did lay her egg, though I think she did lay one the day before, as that was the only day I got two eggs.

Now, how much is all of that worth to you? How much would you pay a chicken for her labor, anyway? The waiting (Buffy goes up to the nest up to 4 hours ahead of time), the competition for nest space, not to mention the physical effort it takes to lay an egg. I've seen Buffy lay a couple of her eggs, and she stands up to lay an egg, and really does have to push it out. I think that is worth more than the 10 cents or so eggs command at retail. Something to think about at your next breakfast!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shifting Landscapes

My mom and uncle lived in an urban environment, and every summer my grandparents would ship her and my uncle off to "the farm" of her uncle and his mother, about an hour away by today's travel times. The farm was sold out of the family in the 70's, but my mom always took me out there every summer when I was growing up, and as an adult too, and drove past it and told me stories about the draft horses, the fruit orchard, the time she was chased by a huge sow (and managed to scramble over the fence just in time), and how hard "Bobcia" (Polish for grandmother) worked on that farm. I guess my uncle stayed sometimes during at least part of the school year too, because he tells me of riding the blind draft horse to the school a couple miles down the road.

My mom and I would go to the surrounding orchards there and either pick or buy fruit like blueberries, peaches, apples, and tomatoes, and bring it home for a long session of canning, freezing, and connecting as mom and daughter. I learned a lot from her, and now that she has passed, summer is never complete without this tradition of visiting the farm and recalling the stories that my mother told, and picking or buying, canning and freezing produce.

The farm's new owner wasted no time in tearing the house down right after she bought the place. She rented out the land to be farmed. She let the other buildings go to pot, and let the vegetation grow around them. Vandals raided the buildings and left beverage cans and graffiti. This year I was elated to see that a path had been plowed so that you could more easily see and go to the buildings, so my fiance and I took advantage of the opportunity. He snapped most of these pics, because the weekend before when we visited, I came home with a little visitor that I did not find until two days later--a nasty tick! He also got himself full of burrs salvaging a few pieces of character-laden weathered wood from the granary (thank you, honey!). I may see if I get in touch with the owner (or her children, as she might be quite elderly by now) and see if they wouldn't mind if we took some more wood from the buildings. I know who she is, as she lives, or lived, on the farm next door.

My mom's brother, my uncle, made me a map of the different outbuildings recently, and for the life of me I cannot find that map right now. I have posted pictures. The large building with the tree that fell on top of it I believe is the granary. I don't know what the building is with the small door near the ground. The building with the overgrown vines growing up I think was the tack shed. It is a bit eerie for me to imagine my mom and uncle running all around this farm. I wish I had more pictures of what it was like back then.

I look forward to making new memories with my fiance on his farm!

What did I ever do before chickens?

It has occurred to me that my life is more delightful since the girlz arrived. Here is a picture that I call "I'll take all three!" The girlz don't seem to mind being all squashed like this when I pick them up.

My fiance, the handy guy that he is, constructed a "chicken tractor". This is a moveable enclosure you can wheel around on the lawn, in the garden, wherever you want to, and the girlz can peck at whatever they find where they are: bugs, grass, grit in the dirt--and fertilize at the same time! As you can see, my honey is pretty proud of his creation, and I am, too! We even enjoyed a dinner on the lawn with the girlz to celebrate.

Here was the menu:
  • Grilled chicken with paprika, onion, salt, and pepper (still on the grill yet in this picture)
  • Wild rice with lemon and butter
  • Salad with romaine and sweet volunteer grape/cherry tomatoes
  • Gazpacho (cold tomato soup made of tomatoes, sweet green peppers, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, garlic, and salt, and garnished with croutons)