Friday, July 3, 2015

Calling Caroline


   So lately I've been feeling an attachment with Caroline Ingalls (mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder), and for several reasons. This all started back in the beginning of May. I'd just found out that I was pregnant, the weather was getting warmer, Dan was gone long hours during the day so it was just me and Carl and I felt like death run over.

  The nausea and exhaustion made me wonder if I was pregnant or perhaps terminally ill. Toiling outside in the heat of the afternoon sun with a two year old made me collapse on the couch at 8 o'clock in the evening (I still do this) with the ceiling fan on high and watching re-runs of Little House on the Prairie.

  I think the first episode I caught was when Charles and Caroline finally have a son but he ends up passing away several months episode I've seen a million times already because, let's face it, my whole life I have watched Little House. Anyhoo, the episode begins with Charles noticing that Caroline hasn't been eating much lately and her telling him that she is expecting again. Instantaneously I felt better about myself. After all, if Caroline Ingalls ate like a bird in the beginning of her pregnancy, then it must be ok that I wasn't eating like I used to either!

  And so began another time period in my life that I became obsessed with the show.

  Sometimes in the evenings we have all sat and watched Little House. Quite frankly, it's a much better quality of show to have on the t.v. for a family setting. Right now I don't want my son to hear about one shooting after another, terrorists, and YES, people changing their gender. I know I can't shelter my kids forever, but for right now by God I'm going to try. They can grow up in a home that shows others learning right from wrong and attending church every Sunday (which makes it into a lot of Little House episodes.)

  On one of these evenings we caught the episode where Caroline becomes pregnant with Grace. In the beginning she's dizzy and needs to sit down. I pointed to the screen and shouted at Dan, "See! Even Caroline Ingalls needs to sit down throughout the day when she's pregnant!" Later in the show Caroline goes off on an emotional rant. I felt better again! Carl pointed to the t.v. and said "What's that?" I told him that she was pregnant and cries a lot too...just like mommy.

  So I swear we don't just watch t.v. in the Shawhan household and I promise this post relates to chickens...I'm getting there.
  What I also love about the Ingalls matriarch is her both her struggle to be a good Christian woman (always turning the other cheek to Mrs. Oleson) but also her egg income. (Here comes the egg part!) What would it be like to get 4 cents a dozen instead of over a dollar? Just like Caroline Ingalls, every so often I run into town with Carl in tow (usually on our way out to the library) and we drop off anywhere from 10 to 16 dozen eggs to a friend of the family. THANKFULLY the family we sell our eggs to is nothing even remotely close to that of Mrs. Oleson and her bratty daughter Nellie. Talk about the difference between night and day!
  My little egg income makes me happy; after all its better than nothing when I'm not out in the workforce and "bringing home the bacon". I like to think Caroline may have felt the same way.
  Some days I can't help but wonder if Caroline ever felt like she was going to lose it. Home all day with small children...doing all the domestics just to wake up and do them all over again the next day. Did she ever lock herself in the outhouse for just five minutes to save her sanity? Did she feel a slight resentment to Charles? Or the woman who worked at the post office? The school teacher because they got to "get out and have a life"? Did her head feel like it was going to explode, yet she still had to change that poopy diaper, fill a bowl full of goldfish and go turn down the burner on the stove so supper wouldn't burn? I'd like to think so...after all we are only human.
  And yet we wouldn't give up or trade our lives for any other in the world. We have good days and we have bad days. Some days are a combination of both. And when you get $20 for two weeks' worth of eggs, it feels pretty darn good appreciating the small stuff.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

R.I.P. Broody Hen!


   I really wish I had happy news to report from here on the Shawhan farm. But, sadly, it's the opposite.

  We had a broody hen who was sitting on a HUGE clutch of eggs...I mean probably like 30 or so eggs...a real over-achiever. She had picked a pretty good place too, well out of the way and pretty hidden in a neglected corner of our barn, so Dan and I just let her be. I've always wanted to catch a sitter during her broody phase and see if she'd hatch out some chicks. We were pretty excited about this because here seemed our perfect chance!

  Every afternoon when Carl and went outside and I checked in on her, I kicked myself for forgetting the camera. I was going to take pictures and announce on here the excitement that was taking place.

 One day I had completely forgotten about her. That night Dan told me the horrible news that he suspected her dead. Multiple eggs had been broken and the cozy nesting nook was covered in lose feathers. If I was kicking myself for forgetting the camera, I was now whooping myself for not moving her to the safety of the empty brooder! (A thought that had crossed my mind multiple times as I watched her be a sitting duck.)

  So now we don't have the excitement of hatching out some homegrown chicks. This little moody broody hen died in the line of duty, being a good little self-sustaining hen.

 Quite frankly, I haven't been a very good chicken momma lately. I happen to be incubating my own little hatchling for the time being, and I was advised to keep a safe distance from my girls for the next 6 my mind has been elsewhere.

  This doesn't excuse our laziness to not move broody hen to a safe place, however. I for one will be regretting that decision for a very long time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Phi Alpha Cluck


  As I have mentioned before, this year has been smooth sailing as far as our chickens accepting the fact that we have gotten new chicks. In years past, there were either threats of egg laying strikes, or the strikes actually happened. This has to be the first year in Shawhan farm recorded history that the presence of a new flock is not affecting the old one!

  I was really beginning to wonder what got into the chickens when one day I spotted a delinquent hen out of the coop and who was out mingling with several newbies, who had somehow escaped their own confinement. Thankfully I was able to stop myself before the urge to run up to the older hen and scold her for showing the young ones bad habits, because I was able to overhear what she was telling them.

  Yes, she was explaining how a chicken can escape the many fences and gates that cage her in and where the best egg hiding places around the barn can be found. But she was also explaining to them rules of some kind.

 Rules? I asked myself. I was slightly confused because most of what I overheard was how to break the rules.

  As it turned out, these "rules" involved organized activity...thankfully not the gang/mob kind...but more like the rules a woman would follow in a society of women. Or in our case, hens. Yes, people, a sorority exists on our farm! After a lot of spying and peeping through the barn cracks and sneaking out late at night, I discovered the sorority is called Phi Alpha Cluck, and that the Shawhan farm chapter is one of twenty in the surrounding Highland County area.
  So we have a designated "house hen" who takes it upon herself to escape Cooptown everyday and prep the rushes who will be accepted into the order of laying hens next month when we intergrade the new chickens into the existing flock. 

  I'm tempted to speed up the process because the rush weeks have been pure H.E. Double Hockey Stick around here, especially at night. In my opinion, the severity of the hazing with Phi Alpha Cluck is a bit too dangerous, as it includes the rushes being out exposed at nighttime. The rushes have been forced to run multiple times across the road, eat potato peelings despite the numerous health risks, and the chanting is enough to drive a person nuts! I have lost hours upon hours of sleep (Dan and Carl have never seemed to notice, but I'm a light sleeper). Even the Amish down the road have been complaining.
  I'm not sure how much more of this I can take!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

'Mother of The Year Award' Goes To...


To all of the wonderful mothers out there (human, chicken, dog, cat, etc. etc.etc....)
From all of us here on the Shawhan Farm!
  My amazing chickens informed me the other day that they have developed a new award. It's the 'Mother of the Year Award' and my heart broke when they presented me with the poop covered envelope stuffed with feathers saying that I was this year's recipient of this prestigious honor.
 In the beginning was I very humbled, but then it dawned on me that it was a joke. The girls were getting back at me in a sarcastic way. I believe I know why...
  A few weeks ago Carl and I were visiting the chicks in their temporary set-up. I wasn't 100% sure how he was going to interact with the young birds, but he quickly quelled my curiosity by running around the pen, chasing the little birds until they were dizzy and nearly catching a few.
 I'm happy to know my child has no fear of our chickens, both young and old, and so I settled back in the corner of the make-shift pen and proceeded to crack up laughing while snapping pictures of my son tormenting the chicks. For a solid 15 to 20 minutes, Carl chased the young flock around and around the brooder. His excited squeals were mixed with the frightened squawks of the birds, and then I would laugh even harder. He stopped only to see if my phone camera was turned around to the selfie mode so he could see his own face on the screen.
  Several thoughts entered my mind during this time: 1.) These little birds would remember this and refuse to lay us any eggs in the future (one Mother of the Year nomination nod). 2.)  My kid is playing in basically a chicken coop and it can't be the most sanitary environment for his little developing body (another nomination nod.) and 3.) I wonder if I could use this tactic as a babysitting opportunity (the last nomination nod).
 When I realized the passive aggressive nature of this "award" I threw the soiled envelope away and decided not to even acknowledge it with the flock. We have exchanged very few words ever since, but I'm still getting a decent amount of eggs every day, so I'm letting the whole incident slide. On a plus note, it seems like this flock of newbies is being accepted much more easily than those of the past.
 I took a lot of pictures that day, but sadly they still came out fuzzy.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A Chronicle Exclusive Interview 'Happy 200th!'

  Good Evening. I'm Jack Kelly of The Manhattan World. Tonight, it is my pleasure to bring you my exclusive interview with the Chicken Lady.
  We begin this evening in a cozy, yet PETA cringe-worthy living room, filled with mounted deer heads and a bear skin rug adorning the walls. A plethora of farm toys and puzzle pieces littler the floor. I sit on the edge of a cream colored easy chair while a redheaded cherub runs around repeating "What's that?"
  The Chicken Lady eases back on the milk-stained sofa and smiles at the continuous question being asked as the toddler learns more and more about the world around him. She looks up at me with an edge to her blue stare. She is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, her trademark black headband holding down stray wisps of hair that match her son's. 
 Chicken Lady: "So are we going to start? He's going to need his dinner soon." (She points to the now engaged child who pushes a small tractor across the floor.)

 Jack Kelly: (Clears throat) "Of course! Uh, it's been awhile now that your blog, Chronicles of a Chicken Lady has been up. In fact, this is your 200th post! How do you feel about that?"

Chicken Lady: (She smiles, her lip gloss sparkling in the overhead light and rivaling Club Monaco's Glaze that Monica Lewinsky wore in her infamous 1999 Barbra Walter's interview.) "I'm very excited. Very proud...of myself. It's been the longest running creative writing project I've ever done. I'm surprised. I didn't know I had some of those stories in me."

 Jack Kelly: "Can you refresh us on how it all began?"

 C.L.: "After we got our first flock of chickens I would update on Facebook how they were doing. Probably the most famously noted, was when Ms. Fluffy Feathers was killed on the road. When I would see people in person they would always ask me how my chickens were's funny because people still do that and I love it! By the time fall rolled around 'blogging' was becoming pretty popular, so I thought, why not dedicate a blog to my chickens? It would give me more space to talk about my chickens, I would have a 'blog' and it would force me to actually sit down and take the time to write. It didn't take long for me to adhere to blogging twice a week."

  J.K.: "Did you write before?"

 C.L.: "Not It had been awhile. I want to be a 'writer' but they say you should write every single day in order to get good at it. I agree with that. I would dabble in it from time to time. I wrote a lot in high school and then again after college."

 J.K.: "Do you write every day now?"

 C.L. (Proudly) "Yes. I blog, journal or work on my "project" every day. Have been now for over a year. It can be hard though with Carl. I try to get something done when he naps, but I only get about an hour. It seems like he wakes up right when I'm getting going."

 J.K.: "Project? Can you elaborate on that?"

 C.L.: "Well it has nothing to do with chickens. And I would be embarrassed if my grandma read it."

At this point in the interview I raise an eyebrow.
 C.L.: "I thought this was about my chickens?"
 J.K.: "You don't like me much do you?" I cringe and instantly regret asking that question. Her sharp eyes catch that.
 C.L.: "Honestly, you annoy me. I'm sick and tired of seeing you snooping around our farm and sticking that stupid microphone in our faces when we experience any kind of tragedy. I think you've covered all the bad stuff that has happened over the years, so yeah. Ask a dumb question and don't be surprised by the answer."
 I feel like she just slapped me as my jaw hits the floor.
  C.L.: "Now what do you want to ask me about my chickens?"
  J.K.: (Clears throat for several minutes.) (Deep breaths too.) "So, uh. Yes. How many varieties of chickens have come through your gates?"
  C.L.: (Ticking them off one by one on her fingers.) "Bantams, Comets, Barred Rocks, Araucanas, Speckled Sussex, Silver-Laced Wyandottes, Australorps, Orpingtons, Jersey Giants Light and Buff Brahmas...I think that's about all. Oh, this year we've got Buckeyes. I'm excited to see what they turn out to be like."
  J.K.: "Do you have a favorite breed?"
  C.L.: "Not really. They are all beautiful to me, especially the Speckled Sussex. We only have one of those left. The Comets are good egg producers."
  J.K.: "What do you do with all the eggs? Surely no one can eat that many eggs."
  C.L.: "Well, Carl loves his scrambled eggs. We always have eggs in the house now, which is nice since I never have to worry if I'm lacking an egg for a recipe or something. Our family and friends take some off our hands. I used to sell the extras out of the driveway, but since Carl was born I don't feel comfortable doing that anymore. Thankfully a friend of ours sells eggs too so I just sell them to him to re-sell."
 J.K.: "Um, speaking of Carl and how things are don't blog as often anymore. You said yourself you used to blog twice a week. How come you don't stick to that discipline anymore?"
 C.L.: "I got out of that habit when he was born, obviously. After I had Carl I was just too exhausted to write the end of some days I had nothing left to give so there was no way I could muster anything creative...I still have days like that. I think people kind of expect a certain level of entertainment now and that's OK! it's just I didn't want to put up a crappy post just for the sake of putting up a post. What I post I want it to be good, or what's the point of even doing it? Plus some days I never made it out to the barn so I was out of the loop as to what was going on. I get a lot of my ideas in that barn. It's just where they come to me. I have learned that it comes easier when it comes from the heart and it's not forced. I'm not sorry I didn't post for awhile though. It's just life. You have a baby and you have to put some things on hold for awhile."
 J.K.: "What made you start blogging again?"
 C.L.: "I almost didn't do it. I almost called it quits after such a long hiatus. One of the reasons was my committing to writing everyday, thanks to Lent. I decided to do something during Lent along with giving something up. The other reason was my grandma."
 J.K.: "Your grandma?"
 C.L.: "Yeah. Grandma told me she was storing my posts because I wasn't doing it anymore. I didn't like that." (She pauses.) "Plus there's just other things I want to pursue creatively too right now in my life."
 J.K.: "Which I want to come back to, but first, how is the war going with the weasels and mink?"
 C.L.: (She shrugs.) "I think I've finally accepted we are just going to lose a few birds every winter to them. It sucks and it's sad, but I'm not sure what else to do. It just seems like it happens every winter when I guess other food is scarce. I think it's just a part of owning chickens in the country."
 J.K.: "Are there still chickens left from Flock 1?"
 C.L.: "There are. I'm not sure how much longer they have to be here though."
 J.K.: "What will happen to them?"
  C.L.: "I don't know. I don't like to think about that. I figure if we don't address that then it might never happen."
 J.K.: "What are your plans for the future?"
 C.L.: "Well, I would LOVE to own the property next door, which is for sale now and I doubt we'll ever get it. It's not in the cards now to go after that. But I think that house would make for an amazing chicken coop! We could let them run in the backyard and have a separate vet room and fed room. I could get so many chickens that way. If that doesn't happen, Dan and I have discussed turning Kennel Bar into the actual coop and Cooptown into a feed/vet room. If we did that we could increase the number of chickens we own. I'm excited for that to happen!"
 J.K.: "Sounds exciting! What about the future of the blog?"
 C.L.: "I guess as long as I get the inspiration, there will be new chronicles. I can't make any promises when we have our next kid, but I like to think I haven't written 200 blog posts for nothing. It would be really cool to have a bunch of the Pioneer Woman or something. I can see how many times a post has been viewed." (She sighs loudly.) "All I want is a book one day. Whether it's this or something else."
 J.K.: "You've submitted chronicle posts to magazines?"
 C.L.: "I have. I don't think publications want entertainment. They want do-it-yourself educational junk. There's nothing wrong with that, but if I wanted to re-word someone else's findings I would be doing that kind of writing. But that's not what I want to do. I like the entertainment factor. I just need to find the right outlet."
 J.K.: "Well, I wish you all kinds of luck in the future. I really do." I really do.
 C.L.: "Thank you. Are we finished?" (As if one cue, Carl stands up and points to the kitchen.)
 J.K.: "Is there anything else you want to say?"
 C.L.: "Just thank you. To all who read my blog and like it and comment on it. I really appreciate you."
 J.K.:  I smile. "I think it only right that I offer you room at the end of this interview to add a sample of this 'project' you refer to. As an apology to all the times I've stuck my microphone in your grill in times of loss."
C.L.: "Um..I don't know..."
 J.K.: "Oh come on. My curiosity is piqued."
 C.L.: "Well, ok. I guess just a little. Just remember nothing may ever come of this..."
 I say my good-byes and l have mixed feelings upon leaving the family to their dinner. So I say good-night and leave you with an excerpt of another of the Chicken Lady's writings. Good night everyone. And God Bless.
1.)  Her world stopped. Her breathing stopped. The Earth literally froze on it's axis, mid-turn, stopping time completely. Music, cars, sounds from the beach and the busy parking lot all turned to silence and there was absolutely nothing else. But him. All the things she had ever heard of or read involving love at first sight had never made any sense.
Until now.
2.) Betsy could hear the guys walk up behind her and she frantically searched the beach for Wendy and Vicky. Wendy saw her first and waved. Betsy lifted her hand and smiled as she reached the stairs that led down to the sand. The wooden boards were damp. As Betsy put her blue heel on the top step, it slipped out from beneath her and she bounced painfully the entire way down the stairs on her bottom. Lotion and towels spilled from her bag; the pages of her magazines went flying in the air, their pages billowing in the breeze like starved gulls circling the dead food they had found in the sand. Worst of all, she lost her grip on her surfboard and it went sliding down beside her, thudding down the steps and banging into the stair railing before the nose rammed into her hip.
  Everyone in the sand within a twenty foot radius looked up at the commotion. One guy burst out laughing and even more people snickered. Betsy immediately felt the sting of tears. Never before had she actually wanted to die until this moment.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Quite Contrary

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all in a row."
  Yesterday was beyond beautiful here on the Shawhan farm! Oh! I almost forgot to let everyone know...we now live in a "gated" community! (Or at least that's what my family has started calling our place.) A few weeks ago we had our front yard fenced in so we no longer have to worry about a certain little boy (who LOVES to be outside) running out into the road. I have to admit that I would fight a certain level of anxiety when I'd take Carl outside with me before the fence was put up. All I felt like I could do was follow him around and try to get things accomplished in the two minute intervals he would give me to get something done. Now thanks to our new fence and gates that can close across the driveway, I can actually turn my back and not have to worry about the fleets of logging trucks that drive by on a daily basis. (I feel like we live on a trucking route now and it literally breaks my heart.)
 So anyhoo, thanks to mass amounts of time that can now be spent outdoors, the mulching is complete (time to make sure no chickens get out!), the bushes around the house have been trimmed and my new raised vegetable bed has been cleaned of grass chunks and rocks.
  This particular new addition to the Shawhan farm is one of Carl's new favorite places to play. Last year when we re-did the steer lot and fencing, we made the fence come square off the barn. This left us with a long and pretty wide strip of "lot" that was no longer part of the steer lot. Dan is going to put rock down on part of it so he can drive the feed mixer up along the fence and fill the stuffer for the steers even if the ground is soft, but we were still left with half of this barren strip and nothing to do with it. We came up with the idea of putting a raised bed on it so that a place can be specially dedicated to strawberries, asparagus and sometimes carrots.
  I am super excited about it's location...and isn't that important when it comes to any kind of real-estate?  Location, location, location...
  Weeding this sucker is going to be snap! Since it's neighbor is the steer lot, I plan on tossing all weeds and grasses right over the fence...the steers and chickens will take care of the rest. Chickens are pretty good at consuming anything green, and the steers are like goats and will eat almost anything...and if not it will all get stomped into the ground and disappear anyway. Yesterday was a preview to how nice this is going to work out for me (I'm rubbing my hands with greed now!) since like I said, Carl and I tossed over grass chunks and rocks that were in the fill dirt, er fill manure/dirt that Dan dumped in the bed a week ago with the skid loader.
 It didn't take us long to get some visitors...
  As much as Carl understands the concept of putting things in the basket, he's also good at emptying the basket...whether you want him to or not!
  So I really didn't know what my next blog post was going to be all know about the chicks and the increase in egg production...thankfully that annoying reporter guy hasn't been here because of a gruesome murder (or two or three). But I needed something to write about. This was an important post because the next one I write will my 200th!!! and I have a special idea planned for that one (I'm already patting myself on the back for my reference to the Clinton administration, and how appropriate is that considering Hillary will be running for office??) But anyway, thankfully my time outside and among all the critters come through for me once again and gave me a burst of inspiration.
  It never fails really.
"Chicken Lady, Chicken Lady,
How does your garden grow?
With garden gloves and lots of love,
And feathered butts all in a row!"
The Real Mothergoose. Checkerboard Press. Yellow Husky Book. New York. Carl's Library.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015



  The chicks have been very busy growing here on the Shawhan farm. It was only 4 short weeks ago that we brought them home (but anyone who has ever had a newborn in the house can tell you how fast time flies!) We are currently feeding them out of the second 50 pound bag of chick starter feed. Our system, be it right or wrong, is to go through 2 bags of chick starter before we began to integrate in our layer ration before putting the newbies on that feed permanently.

 This week we flung open the brooder door and set up the ramps, so now our youngins can begin to spread their wings a bit.

I think this is our bravest flock yet.  Usually it takes a couple of days before the bravest one dares to put her long toe out of the familiar confines of the brooder. This year, however Dan reported several chicks out and scratching about the evening of their first afternoon of partial freedom.

  (You can't give a chicken an inch or they take advantage of your mulch and freshly planted flowers.)

  I am also happy to report that I have yet to hear any rumors circulating the farm of any laying  strikes. Quite the contrary! Our lovely ladies have been very busy, producing an upwards of 18 eggs almost daily! We tied the record of 21 eggs one day. Dan says they are working hard for their job security and know that the replacements are waiting back in the wings. I personally think its the welcome arrival of spring ( and maybe a few bribes on my part from old, unused bread).

 It doesn't help when your sidekick eats it instead of the chickens...

 I don't think that piece had any mold on it. If so, I now know my son has no pencillion allergies. And...

 you never know who is going to stop by and say "Hello!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just Give Him the Egg!

~Just Give Him the Egg!~
One late afternoon, as a family we did gather,
Down in the barn, we discussed how we'd rather.
Be working outside all the long day,
Hoeing and sowing and sweeping up hay.
One important chore was still left to be done,
And we knew a certain someone now considers it fun.
So into the coop he went with his daddy,
(A dedicated farmer and his little red laddie.)
I handed Dan a carton to hold all the eggs,
While Carl climbed on the roost and sat on his legs.
He "ohhed" and he "awed" as the nesting lid was lifted,
At all of the eggs our chickens had gifted.
Carl reached in with such pure childish delight,
Grasped an egg and held on with all his might.
He giggled at holding this delicate treasure,
(A child's fascination is sometimes hard to measure.)
Like a seasoned old pro, he knew just what to do,
He stuck that egg in the carton and reached down amongst the few,
Other eggs so nestled deeply in the straw,
By George! Carl...he collected them all!
The chickens, not knowing what this little creature may be,
They cackled and clucked and huddled close to me.
I told them they better get used to him here,
"He's not very big, you have nothing to fear."
After soothing several frazzled nerves,
I shook my head and rolled my eyes at the birds.
At least they amuse my little toddler child,
If it weren't for them, I fear he'd be wild!
Turning around I heard a familiar vocal noise,
(They say speech comes later with little boys.)
Carl's hands were reached up high as he silently did beg,
and I said, "For Heaven's sake, just give him an egg!"
"I don't want him to break it." Dan began,
As he held out an egg to that little grimy hand.
"Like we're going to miss one?" I asked with a lift of my brow,
Although I was secretly curious how Carl would handle the fowl.
All the way up our gravel drive,
Carl squealed in delight with a light in his eyes.
He was proud and pointing to the thing in his hands,
And my amazement and laughter mingled with Dan's.
High ho! The house! We made it at last,
Oh no! Carl's concentration was waning and fast!
The concrete stairs he loves to climb,
Were calling his name with a tempting chime.
With his egg still in his dimpled clutch,
The stepping and gripping were evidently too much!
He cried out suddenly in the mist of his usual ramble,
(It's a really good thing Carl likes his eggs scrambled!)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Forty Days and Forty Clucks


"The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered." (The Holy Bible New Revised Standard Edition, Gen. 7:18-19)
  On Friday, when the monsoon that dumped all over southern Ohio began, I slopped down to the barn with a load of work on my mind. Stalls were going to need cleaned out, bedding was going to have to be put down, water buckets filled, hay racks, eggs collected, etc. etc., etc.,. Boy was I ever glad that the frozen weather and all it's extra work was FINALLY gone, only to be replaced with the extra work that comes along with monsoon season.
  Anyhoo, as I got closer to my destination, I heard a ruckus coming from the kennel area...none like I've ever heard before. Instead of the usual beqacking, I heard hammers driving nails into boards, hand saws pumping away and a male voice shouting out orders.
  "More nails! Second shift needs more nails! Don't hold the saw that way! You wanna lose a wing?! No! Not like that! Here! I might as well build this whole thing myself!"
  When I went through the barn's doorway I stopped short and my mouth fell open. I rubbed my eyes. I pinched myself. There, laboring away like a bunch of little minions, my chicken flock was constructing an ark in the middle of Kennel Bar!
  "What on earth are you doing?!" I screeched.
  With my surprised interruption, all work ceased. Yellow beaks turned towards me and starred. What remained of each individual flock were all grouped together and obviously working on certain projects. Flock 1 had rolls of blue prints spread before them, Flock 2 was busy sawing away, Flock 3 was frozen in place with hammers suspended up in midair. Goliath's size was being put to good use as a big two by four was on his back and it looked like he was being used to carry boards back and forth. And up on the old feed trough used for roosting in the Kennel area was Chicken Hawk with my Bible laid open in his wings.
 He blinked and looked down at the book then back up at me. "It says here there is going to be a flood. I feel this is it. The big one." His wing feather jabbed at the page.
  "The flood in that book already happened." I told him. A collective "Whhhaaattt?" came from the minions, who all together looked up at Hawk.
   He sputtered for a time (Hawk is not used to insubordination) before he was able to collect himself to form a retort. "But it says, 'For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life.'" Hawk took a shuddering breath before continuing. " 'Everything that is on the earth shall die.' (Gen. 6:17) " He slapped the Bible closed and pointed to the corner of Kennel Bar closest to the coop. "See! It begins already!"
 I followed his wing and cringed. True, the kennel was beginning to flood:

So was the barn aisle way itself, though the pictures don't do it justice:

The back of the barn, since the genius who built it set it at the bottom of a sloping driveway:

I glanced down at my booted feet, feeling them sink in as I stood there.

"Look," I said. "I can see where you might get that impression. Channel 9 says the rain will move out by tomorrow afternoon. And anyway, that flood has already happened. You don't need to worry about it anymore."
  Hawk's face fell. Then, as if mustering up a last ditch effort for a fight he said, "How do you know it won't happen again? Maybe the next flood will be even bigger!" This exclamation made the minions gasp in unison. Goliath let out a scream like a woman and dropped his two by four.
  I snickered in spite of myself. It was a funny noise coming from such a large bird. I cleared my throat. "Chicken Hawk. It's obvious you haven't read that whole story-"
 "How dare you accuse me!"
  "Look!" I shouted, then continued on in a voice I used in the classrooms I subbed in B.C.. "All you birds are old enough to have seen the rainbows we've seen around here! Maybe you should read the rest of that story."
 Again, Hawk sputtered and hopped around, flustered and aggravated as all get out. My big old white biddy from Flock 1 ambled over and ripped the book from his wings.
 She took a deep breath and cleared her gullet. When she spoke her voice was loud and clear. " 'I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.' God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth. (Gen. 9:15-17)'"
  After the reading, you couldn't hear a pin drop in that barn...well, ok we heard the rain pounding on the metal roof, but that was about it.
  "Everything will be fine." I reassured them all, but mainly to Hawk, who stood with his head down and his shoulders slumped. I felt bad that I had made a public display of proving him wrong.
  The next afternoon when the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, me, Dan and Carl ventured outside to burn off the energy of a little boy. I saw Hawk out in the steer lot basking in the glow of the sun. When our eyes met, we just nodded to one another, a silent exchange of respect and went back to our business.
The Holy Bible New Revised Standard Edition.  Nashville: Graded Press, 1990.

Monday, March 9, 2015

New Beginnings

Spring is here!!!!! Oh yeah, and so are our new chicks!
 There are new beginnings all around us. For starters, on Saturday we traveled up to Columbus to meet our new nephew, Andrew. I was amazed at how small he was! Though born at a healthy 7 pounds, I guess in my mind I was expecting to meet someone more Carl's size. (Funny how you get used to what you have...) Dan and I were really expecting some jealous behavior out of Carl when he saw us holding another baby, but I think he's still too young to care. Either that or cousin Rory's toys were more interesting.

  After our long drive home, there was still enough daylight left to enjoy some time outside. We all headed down the driveway to the barn so Dan could get the brooder cleaned out before the chicks' arrival the following day. (I can't tip the brooder over by myself and plus mice live in there over the winter, and I don't deal with those!) As I was standing in the doorway to the barn, I noticed the change in the sunlight streaming in above me and hitting the bales of the straw in the loft. I noticed a change in the air. It was here. Spring. Winter was gone.
  I felt as if I had woken up after having a really bad stomach flu; the type where you go to sleep feeling sick then wake up the next day feeling so much better, your insides finally at peace. Or like when you know a fever has broken. That was what it was. The winter fever was gone. There was warmth behind the breeze, not cold. The heat off the sun was winning the battle!
  The same feelings were with us again yesterday as we went to the feed store and brought home our 20 reinforcements! Yes, 20 new chicks can now call the Shawhan farm home! We got 10 more Golden Comets, 5 Buckeyes (not sure what those will amount to, but I love trying new breeds) and 5 Black Australorps (we had some of these in Flock 1).
  We got the chicks at a new place this year, though it is owned and operated by the feed mill that we always go to get our chicks. I have to be honest and say I was a little disappointed this year. Usually the chicks are in smaller boxes on the floor, not so high that Carl wouldn't be able to look in on his own. I had to hold him and have him peer down in the feed trough. Though he let out a few "OOHHH"s, he mainly struggled in my grasp and I had the walk him around the store while others picked out my birds. I was a little bummed I didn't get to do that myself, but oh well.
  Yesterday afternoon was spent settling in the chicks and wiping a few butts. I'm pretty confident there are few birds who will grow up to hate me. It's not the right foot to start off on for a good business relationship.

   I'm excited to see the new birds grow and to have a little boy's help this year! I'm excited to see winter go and have the door hit it in the butt on the way out! My Easter decorations are up, laundry is drying on the line and I spotted the daffodil and tulip shoots coming up out of the ground yesterday. I have a new nephew and also a new baby cousin. After the doldrums of this past winter, I was in need of some new beginnings.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Terms of Endearment

   Is winter over yet?! One can only think and wish and hope and pray that this last little blast of snow we had this morning will be IT until next year. It feels as if Old Man Winter just cannot release his icy grip on us this year. Thankfully, we have been relieved several times of the cold and snow with teaser days of warmer temperatures, but sometimes I think breaking it up like that makes it even worse. (Kind of like when I was running track; in some workouts we were allowed to walk in between our running for breaks. Those days were always harder than the straight running workouts.)
  Anyhoo, even if the thermometer outside was reading ZERO, I was witness to the heat rising  in Kennel Bar yesterday...
  As it was a Saturday morning on the Shawhan farm yesterday, I was up and at em' long before dawn taking my shift at the in-law's dairy farm. I got back home around seven a.m. and then proceeded to take care of our own critters before going inside to warmth and food. (I'm usually starving by this point!) I dump Jimmy and Charlie's grain outside, then let them out - as they are starving by this time too and like to tell me by kicking at the gates - so while they are stuffing their faces, I take them out some hay too. Next, I climb the ladder to the loft and throw some hay down for the Beefy Boys (we have 8 now), then I let the chickens out.
  Since I was already bundled up and everything up mu nose had already disintegrated into nothing, I take the opportunity to get the days barn work done. This mainly consists of cleaning out the stalls, banging the water buckets on the ground to get all the ice out and restock the hay racks.
  As I was scooping frozen fecal balls from Jimmy's stall, I was surprised when I looked over and saw that some of the chickens had voluntarily left the coop and ventured out into the cold morning air. As my eyes took in the entire kennel area, I noticed one of our roosters, Goliath, standing by the bars with a Comet hen. It was the just the two of them. They were clearly having "a moment". The hen was preening the feathers around Goliath's neck and he was just standing there enjoying himself. Goliath is a huge bird (hence his name) and the difference in the sexes this picture painted was a clear as day. Goliath stood a good two or three inches above the hen's head and his body made hers look like a drop in a bucket. As I stood there watching, the hen kept at him and he kept standing there allowing her to continue her menstruations. During this whole time, no other bird approached them.
  It was a sweet scene...I felt like an intruder watching it and it went on for quite some time. Of course coming from the dairy I didn't have my camera ready to whip out and get all paparazzi on them. Their clear affection for one other during this time made me wonder if chickens have a mating where the male courts the female, or maybe even vice versa. Do hens come into heat? Sure they lay eggs whether there is a rooster in the flock or not, but does that happen during their cycle? Honestly, from what I've seen over the past few years, I'd be surprised if hens with a rooster are allowed to come into heat....usually the roosters are pretty "on top" of that situation (pun indented. They also make 50 Shades of Grey look G-Rated, though I couldn't tell you for 100% sure since I haven't read the book.) Or is all the preening and sweet nothings in the ear just a poultry social custom? Was I so starved by this point that I was hallucinating?
  Perhaps I have some research to do if a certain little boy would ever allow me the time.
  I finished the chores and left the chickens to be themselves touched by the gentle scene that warmed my heart on a cold winter's morning. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Super Easy (and Good!) Sweet and Sour Chicken

  I have a confession to make...or at least I have to state this confession again...I'm a terrible chicken owner! I say this because I love chicken! As much I love my birds; their beauty, humor, creative juices they spark within me, their gossipy chatter, erratic behaviors, the way they drive me insane sometimes and of course, their eggs, I just can't deny how much I love to eat chicken. (Not my own! The already dead ones found frozen solid or pre-packaged in the grocery store.) If someone told me I could only eat either chicken or beef for the rest of my life and I had to choose, I would definitely pick the chicken.
  During my last grocery trip, I stumbled along this package among the Kroger shelves:

They say never to grocery shop hungry, but yours truly didn't heed that advice. The thought of sweet and sour chicken over a bed of rice made my mouth water. Plus the fact this was going to make a super fast and super easy dinner had me sold on the product. I tossed the package in my cart and made a mental note to pick up an extra box of rice.
  There are multiple reasons why I'm posting and bragging on this sauce. One of them is because the only other ingredients you need are the chicken and vegetable oil. (Plus maybe some rice, mushrooms, or any other additions that sound yummy to you.) Personally, I love a meal that doesn't require 100 different ingredients, or that calls for that rare component I'll use only a little bit of and never use again. (I'll let you in on a little secret...we here at Shawhan farm are not adventurous foodies by a long shot! Meat and potatoes please!)
  Anyhoo, if anyone needs a quick and easy meal idea, this is a good one to try! Another reason I really liked this was because the list of ingredients wasn't that long and I could actually pronounce all of them! Because of this, I was going to let Carl try some of it too, though I didn't have high hopes on that front...I was right too. He tried some of it but didn't eat much.
  All you do is heat the oil in the skillet, add the chicken (which, ok, I cheated and bought already cut up chicken breasts!) and cook until the chicken is done.

  While that got going, I put in two bags of Boil-N-A Bag white rice (I'm so healthy, I know) and let those cook for the directed 10 minutes.
  Once the chicken is cooked through, you simply add the package of sauce and let that cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  And Ta-Da! A simple, warm meal for a snowy night!
  I sorta stopped taking pictures at this point...Dan came home, Carl was underfoot and needing things (you can see his half eaten banana above hahaha!) Ahhh dinner at our house is usually a goat rodeo.
 It made enough so we are able to have the leftovers tonight and I saved Carl's bowl hoping me might be more adventurous today than he was yesterday, though I'm not holding my breath.
  At any rate, I'll definably be buying this Campbell's skillet sauce again. It was Chicken Lady approved!