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.