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!"