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Filtering by Tag: chickens

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I stood looking out the kitchen window as I washed our breakfast dishes. It was that time of morning when the sun is just about come up. Every thing was tinted dark and cast in shadows, like looking through sunglasses. I noticed one of the chickens poke her head out of the coop. She tentatively stepped out onto the ramp. It was Marguerite. I watched her as she pecked at the snow that rested on the ramp to the coop. A few seconds later, Foghorn peaked her head out the coop door and looked around. She carefully stepped forward to stand behind Marguerite. Neither of them ventured further than the first few rungs of the ramp and did not stay out long. The two of them carefully turned around and made their way back inside the coop. I assume they are nestled on their perch inside the coop. The four of them packed in there on the perch puts off enough warmth to keep them comfortable.

We’ve had the chickens for almost three years now. Technically, this might be our last year of eggs. They haven’t laid an egg since late September I think. That’s the time of year they all molt and lose their feathers. The chicken run and coop become littered with an array of colored feathers and the chickens take on a patchy Kramer-esc look. Bed head. They roll out of the coop in the mornings with bed head. Michael and I talk about what to do with one of the chickens when they die. We can’t bury them in the back yard. We might be able to put in a chicken graveyard in the front yard. Michael’s afraid he’s going to just have to put the dead chicken in a bag and put it in the dumpster, the same thing we do with the dead things Albus brings home. (Most common sentence in our house starts with “There’s a dead squirrel…”)

We also talk a lot about a new chicken coop. This chicken coop, along with the chickens, has been sort of like our first pancake for chicken raising. Our coop is difficult to access, making it hard to give them water. They recently decided to start laying their eggs inside the coop, but away from the nesting box. I cannot reach eggs that they lay outside of the nesting box. Michael has to reach his long arm into the coop and retrieve the eggs. There’s not a door to the run section and so it has to be lifted up to change out their water. I finally figured out a way to do this on my own, but all the chickens escape when this happens and I’m left with trying to figure out how to get them back in the coop. Josephine does a fairly decent job of herding, but it also looks like she’s attacking more than herding. The chickens end up fleeing to the safety of their coop. We talk about leaving the door open to the coop during the day and just letting the chickens roam free during the day, outside the safety of their chicken run. This has just been talk because secretly we both fear that something bad will happen to them.

Our original plan was to get three chickens. At the last minute, I picked up a chick and cradled her in my hands and said “Maybe we should get four in case one dies.” We took four chicks home and they have all survived. Each one has their own personality. They are not lovey dovey chickens. They barely tolerate being held and they have to be chased. They don’t come up to willingly. Matilda will bite you. But we love them. We love them enough to talk about doing it all over again when we lose these four.

FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE

Cindy Maddera

Saturday evening late, I was out back with Josephine when all of a sudden I heard a loud thunk from the chicken coop. The next thing I saw was Foghorn, rolling down the ramp like she'd been shot out of a cannon and then landing with a flop at the bottom of the ramp. Then she just laid there all limp. I ran over to the coop while yelling "Foghorn! Foghorn! Are you OK?" because I think my chickens can talk. When I got to the coop, Foghorn popped her head up so I knew she was still alive. I opened the nesting box door to check on the others, but all the commotion had them making their way outside to see what was going on. The whole time, I'm talking to the chickens and asking them if they're all OK. Meanwhile, Josephine is barking her head off at something in the back corner of the yard. 

The chickens never did answer me, but they all looked OK. Even Foghorn was now up and walking around. I grabbed the three eggs that where in the nesting box and closed the lid being sure to secure the latch. I got inside and told Michael everything. Josephine was still barking in the backyard. Michael grabbed the flashlight and went to investigate. He ended up moving the chicken coop so now it faces the opposite way and there are zero gaps under the frame. He found evidence that something had been digging, trying to get under the coop. It could very well be Josephine, but I want to think it is not her. We never saw what it was that had Josephine so riled up. It could have been a possum or a raccoon. We've seen those around. I've seen a few stray cats too. Yesterday I noticed that Albus is sporting a scratch across the top of his nose, but I don't suspect him of trying to dig under the coop. 

I am sure that Josephine desperately wants to play with the chickens. She is usually hanging out in the shade of their nesting box or sitting on top of their run. I don't think she's the one trying to get to them though because her stance and demeanor when she's around the coop are more protective than predatory. I think Josephine really is trying to protect those birds. But something is trying to get them. I told Katrina this story and she said we might have to put an electric fence around the coop and then remember to turn it off when we went out to feed and collect eggs. I replied "or not and let the Cabbage feed them." (I would never) Katrina laughed and said that sounded like something J would do. It is totally something J would have done. I can see him now, holding a beer and standing next to Spencer. He would nudge Spencer with his elbow and say "hey, watch this." Then he'd tell Jr to go check for eggs and he and Spencer would laugh and laugh. 

I miss that. 

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

I think it was the day after Thanksgiving. I walked outside to feed the chickens and pulled one light brown egg from the coop. That was the last egg. The weather turned cold and the days grew short. I would see the girls briefly in the mornings and be home in time in the evenings to see them walk up their plank into the coop. As soon as it's dark, they are on their perch and nestled down for the evening. In some ways, this makes it easier to change out their feeder because they aren't crowding me to hurry up. Did I mention that Matilda's a biter? It doesn't hurt, but it's a little unnerving to have her peck at your fingers. 

We knew this would happen. Not the pecking thing. That was a given. No...we knew that the hens would probably stop laying during the winter. We'd read it in all the books. Chickens that lay eggs year round are kept warm and inside during the winter. This also shortens their life span. Don't get me started on those commercial egg farms. Just imagining the inside of one of those barns makes me teary. Still, even though we knew, going out to the coop and not finding an egg or two has been a little deflating. Those days of egg collecting never grew old. Every time we'd pluck an egg out of the coop, we'd holler with joy. I'd ooh and awe over each egg and speculate based on egg color which chicken was laying what. We've decided that when we finally renovate the kitchen, we'll use the same colors as the eggs the hens lay. Beautiful taupe, light blue-green and an almost white.

It is yet another example of how Winter steals joy. And it's been cold here. We still have snow and ice on the ground from the storm system that moved through last week. Monday, I parked the car in the driveway, got out and walked up onto the front porch to unlock the door. Before I opened the front door, I reached over to fish the mail out of the mailbox. That's when I heard this odd scraping sound. I looked over to see my car sliding down the driveway. It stopped sliding long enough for me to hop back in it, but it took me two parking attempts to get it situated in a spot where it wouldn't slide. Yesterday we woke up to a fresh new layer of slushy wet snow. It looks like the front yard (that never sees the sun) is going to be coated with snow and ice until Spring, which is when I expect to see our next egg.

Except.

There were two eggs in the coop on Sunday and one on Tuesday and another one on Wednesday. I'm taking back the joy Winter steals one egg at a time. 

Happy Love Thursday! 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Recently, when one of us goes out to check for eggs, we have to move Foghorn out of the nesting box. She is our brooder and the one laying the pinkish white eggs. Every evening we have found her hunkered down over the two golf balls we put out there to trick them into laying in the nesting box and whatever eggs have been laid that day. The number ranges from zero to three. "How many eggs today?" has trumped "How was your day?" in this house. We noticed Foghorn getting serious about the brooding sometime last week. I went out there to check for eggs and there she was. I stroked her back and asked her to move over, which she dismissed with a throaty humming sound. I finally just had to gently lift her up to get to the three eggs under her. I marveled at how warm the eggs were as I carried them to the kitchen. I've decided that should be a spa treatment of some sorts, holding incubated eggs in the palms of your hands while lounging in a lavender blanket with cucumber slices on your eyes.  

Foghorn is a very good brooder. I've gone out there to find her with zero eggs under her, just the golf balls. She's never really that upset when I make her move. In fact I think she seems a little relieved. The idea of sitting there until that golf ball hatches is such a huge responsibility. It could also be that she feels like she's protecting the eggs for us. I can relate to Foghorn's broodyness. Often there are times when I feel like I am sitting on my own eggs of creativity. I'm just sitting on them, keeping them warm until one of those eggs hatches. Unlike Foghorn's eggs, I know that eventually one of those eggs will hatch or go sour. I've got some eggs that I need to hatch now. I just need to sit on them for a little bit longer.

So, this is what my Fall evenings are starting to look like. I get home, put away the bike or scooter, I scoop up a puppy who is so excited to see me and can't believe I've been gone all day, and I walk out to the chicken coop to check for eggs. After dinner I sit and brood on my own egg thoughts. I am thankful for those creativity eggs. They give me a sense of purpose, but I am also thankful for the time I spend brooding on them. It gives me time to plan out and speculate about what kind of creative little chicks they'll be once they hatch. I am thankful for the reminder that it's OK to brood. I am thankful for good sleeping nights and silly puppies. I am thankful for productive days of work where I leave at the end of the day with a brain full of science. I am thankful for those friends celebrating birthdays this week (you know who you are). I am thankful for colored eggs and I am thankful for you.

Here's to a weekend full of baseball, movies and vampire pumpkins. And here's to a truly Thankful Friday.

EGG HUNT

Cindy Maddera

The most common question that we  have been asked in the last two months has been "Are the chickens laying eggs yet?" and every time we shake our heads with a frown and reply "no." Michael goes out there almost every day and tells the chickens to lay some damn eggs. The girls just look at him and move to the other end of the coop. We figured that we'd start seeing eggs in late July or early August. When July ended and there was zero sign of eggs, I started to think that they needed a better nesting area. The whole reason they were not laying eggs is because they didn't have a sleep number mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets to lay them on. This was my way of thinking. Of course, I am thinking all of this right in the middle of me travelling and Michael starting school, right when we are at our busiest. I might also add that ever since Josephine brought me a piece of our kitchen floor, we've been discussing a kitchen remodel and we bought a bunch of picture frames that need to be hung. 

Michael suggested that maybe Randy would have some idea on how to modify the coop with proper nesting boxes. So Randy and Katrina loaded up their little two-seater convertible and the small trailer they pull behind it and came up here over the weekend to help us do all of that. They were bribed with visits to the Farmers' Market and IKEA. Well...Katrina was bribed with those things to drag Randy up here. Also, Katrina and I made the most delicious pesto that was used to make pizzas and those pizzas were the yummiest pizzas. Randy and Michael went out to work on the coop while Katrina and I harvested basil for pesto. Then Michael decided we should clean the coop before doing anything. He turned the whole thing over so that it was partially on it's side and the chickens could get out. Then he walked into the run area to get the water jugs and there was an egg. Then we noticed another egg right behind Michael's foot and we all started screaming "DON'T MOVE!" Two eggs were discovered in the chicken run that day. 

The next morning, I went out to put a golf ball in the nesting boxes and check for any eggs. There was one egg sitting at the bottom of their ramp into the coop. I checked the coop and nesting box about five more times through out the day, but there were no more eggs. This leads me to believe that only one of the chickens is laying eggs so far. We have an idea of who is doing the egg laying, but for the most part, the chickens are pulling a page from Danielle Steel's Lace. The eggs are brown, so it's either Matilda or Dorothy. My money's on Dorothy. She's very interested in the new nesting area. This morning I found her scratching around in the nesting box. Dorothy has also gotten a little bit more docile. She's let me pet her twice now. The only time I get to hug and pet the chickens is when we've let them out in the yard and we have to catch them to put them back in the coop. But twice now, Dorothy has not moved away from my hand reaching into the coop or pecked me. I don't know why, but I just think that maybe the act of laying eggs makes a chicken more relaxed and loving. 

So far (we think) we have one chicken laying one egg a day. No eggs had been laid this morning before I left for work, though one of the chickens did make a very loud buhcawk sound that I thought for sure was chicken speak for "I HAVE LAID AN EGG!" It was not. I checked. I checked the coop twice before leaving for work and I'm sure I would have checked the coop four or five times by now if I were at home. I'm really hoping that when I get home today, I will find an egg in the actual nesting box area and not laying around in some random spot in the chicken run. 

It's all very exciting. I washed and placed our three eggs into a half empty carton of eggs purchased from the store in the fridge. They are small compared to the store bought eggs, but they are ours. They came from our backyard. Those eggs came from our chickens. 

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I have been discussing clipping the chickens' wings for some time, but both of us have been really kind of scared of the idea of doing it. Contrary to popular belief, chickens can fly. I mean, they can't fly far and I would say that they can't fly too high, but someone told me about coming home to a chicken on their roof once. So they can at least fly up as high as a house. We've been leery of letting the chickens roam the yard for fear of one them flying up over a fence and into danger. We've seen them literally fly out of their coop in the mornings. We needed to clip some wings.

Monday evening, after a day of bike riding, I suggested that we clean out the coop and maybe clip some wings. The weather has been just like everyone else's here in the Midwest, rainy and damp and soggy. We've only been able to do the minimum required maintenance for the chickens. Finally we had a nice warm evening between rain storms to pull everything out and give it all a good scrub. We also decided that this would be a good time to clip wings. First, we watched a YouTube video on how to clip wings. They made it look really simple and not traumatic at all and we looked at each other and said "we can totally do this!" And we did this in four easy steps. 

Step 1: Catch the chicken. The chickens do not come when they are called and pretty much turn and run the other way when they see your hand coming into the coop. Michael designed the coop so that the back end opens completely. This allows us easy access for cleaning and the (one day) collection of eggs. This is also a way to let the chickens out to wander and peck around the yard. We used this to our advantage by waiting at the ready for one of the chickens as they tried to hop out the door. Dorothy was the only one who didn't make it all the way out of the coop before being captured. The other three had a grand time being chased around the swamp of our backyard. 

Step 2: Hold the chicken. When you first catch the chicken, there is a moment of struggle where the chicken tries to get away. Flapping of wings and squawking sounds. Marguerite, Matilda, and Dorothy calm down relatively quickly once they are held snug against my body. Foghorn wants none of it. She squawked and flapped like she was being caught for dinner. We spent a few extra minutes reassuring her that no one was going to eat her.

Step 3: Cut the wings. More specifically, you cut the flight wings on the left. We used kitchen shears because Michael said "they're made to cut chicken." I held the bird tucked up against me with on hand and covered their eyes with my other hand so they couldn't see what was happening, while Michael very carefully cut the flight feathers. I think it's important to make soothing cooing sounds to your chicken while this happens even though it doesn't hurt them to cut these wings. It's like clipping your toenails. 

Step 4: Release the chicken! This really isn't a step. I just thought this whole process needed a bit more dramatic flair. It sounds a lot like "Release the Kraken!" It also sounds like once the chicken is free and no longer has flight wings on her left wing, she might do something silly. Like flap around in half flight in a circle. This does not happen. Once the chicken is placed on the ground, she just goes about her business of pecking around the yard. This is exactly just what we let them do while we cleaned out their coop. 

When all of the wings had been clipped, Michael declared that we were farmers, which made me smile. Later on that evening after we'd cleaned ourselves up from chasing chickens in the mud, I sat outside watching them with Josephine. I heard them making real honest to God grown-up chickens sounds with clucks and buk-coks and everything. I imagined that they were talking to each other. I said as much to Michael and he said that they were probably discussing their new haircuts. "Y'all, just what do ya think of my new do?" That would be Matilda. She's bold and Southern and the only chicken that wants to have anything to do with Josephine.  "Es tres chic. I would know, since I was ze first to have it." Marguerite, of course, speaks with a French accent. She is still the smallest of the four, but has turned into a very pretty little petite chicken.  I suspect that Foghorn is our Rosalind Russell Auntie Mame with her penchant for drama, wile Dorothy is more Charlene Frazier. She's a bit silly. I've seen her bump her head a few times.  We have an interesting cast of characters in our backyard. 

I long for the days when things dry out enough to have the chickens out more. I'd like to get Josephine used to the idea of sharing the backyard with them without her trying to play with them to death or eat them. I saw the first firefly of the season a few evenings ago and it gave me hope that dryer days are coming. Soon there will be lazy warm Saturday evenings spent lounging in the hammock with a dog under my feet and chickens pecking around the yard. 

Happy Love Thursday!

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Monday, I rushed home after work to meet the plumber (yes, again, and I don't really want to talk about it because if I don't talk about it everything will be OK). There's been family drama and while the plumber worked in the basement and I paced the floor, I took turns with Katrina in calming my sister down. Tuesday I rushed home after work to take Josephine to the vet for her last shot of the year. Wednesday, I stayed late for yoga class. Thursday evening, I went home and did yard work. Later that night, Michael made an emergency trip to the drug store for Benedryl and Calamine lotion to treat the patch of poison ivy that's appeared on my shin. All of this sounds like a week for which I am thankful is over. But....

The family drama has been somewhat resolved. Everyone is safe and unharmed and alive. Josephine was the most behaved puppy while getting a shot and then getting her nails trimmed. This earned her a pigs ear that she has been obsessing over all week. Oh, to chew or to hide?!?  That is her Shakespearean question. We came home to find Michael cleaning out the chicken coop. He opened the large back door of the coop to let the chickens roam the yard while he cleaned. I was soon recruited to keep an eye on the chickens because Michael was having a hard time keeping track of four chickens while trying to clean. Also, they fly. Not high, but high enough to fly up and over a fence. So I happily sat on the garden ledge and watched chickens peck and scratch in the brush that's grown up around one of the old logs form that tree fall years back.  I took pictures and marveled at how much they've grown and how their  feathers have turned mostly to feathers with only a little bit of down left on their necks. Marguerite's feathers around her neck have started to turn gold, like she's wearing a fancy choker.  I picked up each one and told them I loved them. 

Wednesday I had lunch with an old friend from high school. Kristina and I used to carpool to the Tulsa Community College our senior year because we both took college courses instead of sitting around doing nothing. She lived with in walking distance of our house and she has always been a serious girl with strong convictions but a ready smile and laugh. We sat at lunch talking about our nows and not to much of our thens. Our conversation was like stepping into a comfortable shoe. We hadn't seen each other in years (probably 10), but it was like we'd just seen each other yesterday. I wish we'd had more time. In fact I really wish we'd had time for a slumber party because Kristina is the type of girl you can do that with. Also, I would have liked to have felt up all the fiber and yarn she'd just made at yarn school. Her duffle bag was FULL. 

I got all of the backyard weedeated before the battery gave out on the weedeater and all of the hedges trimmed. The few times on my yoga mat this week have been glorious practices. I've made all of the step goals and sleep goals. The parts of this week that were unpleasant take up a tiny paragraph of this entry, but the good things? Wow! Would you look at all the good things I have to be thankful for?! A long time ago, Thankful Friday was just a list. A simple list of things that I was grateful for in my week. I started those lists to remind myself that yes, there some crappy things that happen, but tucked in between are some truly amazing things. I am thankful for this practice and I'm ending the week with a reward. It's First Friday here! Art galleries are open and food trucks are out. The high for today is 75. Our evening will be an evening of scooters and food trucks. 

Here's to a treat of a weekend and an awesome Thankful Friday!

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

Wednesday morning I stood at the kitchen sink, looking out the window into the backyard while I washed my dishes from breakfast. I could see Josephine running around, chasing the birds who had made the mistake of landing in our yard. Then I looked over at the chicken coop just in time to see the chickens walk down the ramp one at a time and into their run to peck around the grass in the morning sun. And I sighed with contentment. Now I realize that the topic of the chickens and all things chickens is going to grow old fairly quickly. Just stay with me for now. The chickens are like a shiny new penny and right now in this moment I am transfixed with that shiny shiny penny.  I promise that, in time, my entries will return to non-chicken entries all the dang time. This is a Love Thursday entry though, so today I'm gushing about the chickens. 

Many years ago I decided that I wanted chickens. I don't even know how the idea got into my head. I wanted chickens in my backyard and I wanted to live in a city that was cool with all of that. It became something that I wanted so much, that I put it on my Life List. I knew nothing of chickens. We may have lived in rural Oklahoma, but we never raised any kind of farm animals. I just assumed that chickens would be the best ever animal to have in your backyard. It wasn't even about the eggs. Sure fresh eggs are great (or will be), but that was never the selling factor for getting chickens. I just thought chickens would be the most zen creature to have hanging around, which doesn't make sense because of all the chirp chirp chirp and cheep cheep cheep. Also, I have a vivid memory of being hustled into the home of one of the ladies mom would leave me with sometimes when I was little. I was bundled under Mom's coat, head and all, while she steered me to the door because these people had the most terrifying rooster. I am not even kidding. This rooster gave me nightmares. I loved that woman dearly. Patsy Stenson. She painted china, like old school painted china, and she was everything you would have thought Mrs Santa Clause was, but that rooster was the most awful. 

The chickens are the exact opposite of the most awful. In fact they are like having a community of Buddhist monks living in my backyard. I go out and meditate with the chickens on a daily basis. As soon as I start talking to our girls, Josephine steps up and places herself between me and the chicken coop and I have to scratch her back while I talk to our chickens. This is exactly what I was doing Tuesday evening when Michael came home. He walked out to the backyard without stopping to change out of his work clothes, to see me crouched down next to the coop cooing to the chickens and petting the dog. This weekend Michael is building a door to the run so I can actually crawl in there with them. He realized quickly that it wasn't enough to just be able to open the back of the roosting area and we need to be able to sit inside the run with them. The chickens bring a peace and calm to everything. They are more than I ever even expected. I am surprised by their different personalities. I am dazzled by their ever changing feathers. I am soothed by their constant chatter. 

I just love them, which makes them perfect for Love Thursday.

 

GARDEN DIARIES. NOW WITH CHICKENS!

Cindy Maddera

'Tis the season for gardening and it's that time of year when I start taking pictures of dirt with teeny tiny sprouts poking up out of the ground. The first of the sprouts have arrived. A mix of lettuces and spinach and kale have begun to stick their heads up and soon we will have more greens than we can eat. Last weekend Michael took his truck and filled the bed with a cubic yard of garden soil and then we took turns hauling dirt out to the new garden boxes. I planted all of the seeds, leaving space for tomato plants and herb plants that I'll buy next month. Next we'll be constructing a chicken wire fence around it to keep critters out. And by critters, I mean Josephine. She's decided that there's nothing more fun than digging and prancing around in the mud. She came in one day with mud so squished up between her toes that there was no other option but to dunk her in the tub. The threat of a bath does not seem to be a deterrent.

Which brings me to the rain. April showers indeed. Our backyard squishes and there have been more days of rain than days without. This has made it difficult for Michael to finish the chicken coop. He took Friday off so he could get it finished and ready for the girls and to get the yard mowed. When I got home from work he was ready to put the chickens in the coop so they could spend their first night in their new home. Matilda was the first to walk out the door and then fly down to the ground. Foghorn and Dorothy followed soon after, exploring their new home one at a time. Marguerite has gone only as far as the ramp. She's the most timid of the girls. Michael had to go out around eleven that night and coax her from her perch on the ramp to the warmth of the roosting box. 

Saturday night Michael and I watched To Make a Farm, a documentary about five young people who have chosen to become small scale farmers. One young man was starting his farm from scratch, living basically out of a tent. He'd built himself a lean-too for his kitchen out of salvaged material. There was one young couple who had worked on an organic farm for a few years before venturing out to buy their own. Then there was a young woman who had thought she was going to be an environmentalist when she left college, but ended up a farmer. She has the help of her husband who also works from home as a computer animator. Each farm was different and none of them came from a family of farmers. Some people may scoff "Oh those silly hipsters.", but watching them work so hard and struggle to succeed, you can't help but respect them for their vision. The young environmentalist raised sheep, pigs, chickens and turkeys as well as produce. One of her sheep delivered twins and there was a moment when the vet believed they may have a bacterial infection and would have to be put down. I cried with her as she stood at the fence watching her flock. Heck, I cried with her on slaughter day when it was time to load her pigs up. 

Each one of these people talked about the romanticism associated with the idea of farming and each one them rolled their eyes at the idea of someone doing this for that very reason. What you see from this documentary is that farming is fucking hard work. It is constantly worrying about getting enough rain or getting too much rain. There is heartbreak when plants come down with blight and a whole crop has to be removed. There is even the strain of isolation. After watching the documentary, Michael and I both agreed that we were happy with the little urban farm we've got going. 

It rained all day on Saturday, the first full day for the chickens to be out in their new home. They didn't poke their heads out the door until later that evening when the rain had finally stopped. We had yet to see them all out in their run doing the things that most chickens do. The sun didn't really come out on Sunday, but the sky lightened up enough for the girls to come out. We looked out the kitchen window and all four of them, even shy Marguerite, were out scratching around and pecking at the ground. We're constantly looking at each other with big stupid grins on our faces and saying "We've got chickens!" Then we just sit and watch them. They've become the best new TV show. 

Even Josephine thinks so. 

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

The Carpenter's Christmas Waltz has been running in a loop in my head these days. Yes, I know it's a Christmas song and Karen's singing about frosted window pains, candles, candy canes and Santa being on his way with lots of goodies on his sleigh. It's the second chorus of that song that I keep humming. "It's that time of year when the world falls in love." In fact, that's the only line of the song that just seems to be set on perpetual repeat in my brain. This sounds like a particularly annoying ear worm situation, but I am not in the least bothered by it.

When I stepped outside yesterday to walk across to the other building for yoga class, I almost started skipping. Most of the tulips in the circle drive have bloomed into a lovely circle of pinks, yellows, orange and whites. The sun was on my face and the breeze lifted up the tiny petals from the Bradford Pair tree blossoms so that the swirled around in that magical way you only see in cartoons. You see, it really is that time of year when the world falls in love. 

I had about half an entry going already before I erased it all and started again. It was about how much I love the chickens (of course). I've always been attracted to those gardens with the bubbling fountains. I really like the little garden fountain that has the chimes floating around that ding when they occasionally bump into each other. There have been moments while walking through such a garden where I have felt myself be truly still. The chickens have become my babbling chiming fountain. They bring to me the same kind of peace and calm. The chickens are an easy Love Thursday entry, but then there was that moment yesterday when I stepped outside. I remembered that every season has that moment when the world falls in love. 

In the winter there is the magic of that first falling snow flake. The Fall brings the beauty of the changing leaves and all the trees are painted red and gold. Summer is that first cannon ball into the pool. Spring is special. It is the season of beginnings. New tulips. New leaves on the trees. It is the start of the cycle of things, the beginning of the loop of seasonal change. I wrote recently about the first day of Spring and not having any energy for it. I realize now that I'm like those tulips in the circle drive. It started out with one bloom. For many days that one tulip stood alone, but one by one more started to open up. It just took time. Things are clicking into place like a giant Rude Goldberg machine. Seeds for this year have been sorted. The new garden boxes have arrived. There are chickens in our basement. And Karen Caprenter is singing about the world falling in love. 

Happy Love Thursday!

MEET THE CHICKENS

Cindy Maddera

Michael called a few places on Friday about chickens and when we headed out Saturday morning we were not really sure we'd be coming home with any chickens. Apparently egg layers sell out fast. I suggested we try the Family Farm Center in Harrisonville first. Michael had forgotten about that place and hadn't called there. So we were really excited when we walked into the store and could hear chirping. We followed the sound of chirps and peeps to several water troughs converted into chick corals near the middle of the store.

Right away I noticed they were out of Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons, both breeds that I had been thinking about because I'd read good things about them. Both of these breeds also happen to be very popular for urban backyard chickens. It sounds a little negative to say that we picked from the breeds they had left, but that's what we ended up doing. I couldn't be more pleased with the breeds that we ended up with though. All of them are going to grow into beautiful birds with wonderful colorful eggs. In fact a couple of our chicks were breeds that I had read about and loved, but didn't think I'd have access to locally. I thought these were special order birds and I was really happy to see them at the Family Farm Center. 

This is Matilda. Matilda is a Gold Laced Wyandotte and will lay brown eggs.  I saw an adult Gold Laced when we took the Cabbage to the pumpkin patch in October last year and was entranced by the beautiful pattern of her feathers. I can't wait for Matilda to grow into a mature chicken. She is going to be dazzling. 

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Next up is Foghorn. Michael named her. He considered several names, but in the end said that Foghorn is the best name. She's an Austra White and will lay whitish colored eggs.  The description for the Austra White, which is a cross between a White Leghorn and Black Australorp, is said to be docile and less flighty than the Leghorn. Foghorn is pretty laid back and very sweet.

Marguerite is our Araucana. This breed is also called Easter Eggers because they lay green or blue eggs. I know I'm not supposed to have a favorite, but Marguerite is my favorite. I love her puffy little cheeks and her squinty eyes. She is so calm and reserved. I think she looks sophisticated, like she should be wearing a fancy hat or scarf or just knows very wise things about how to put on lipstick and eyeliner. 

Last  but not least, we have Dorothy (like the Wizard of Oz). Dorothy was no name for a few days because we thought we'd save this one for the Cabbage to name. Dorothy is a Black Sex Link and will lay brown eggs. She's a cross between a Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock. This cross makes them sexable by color. All black chicks are hens so that makes it a sure thing you're not getting a rooster. She's really very funny and lively. She's the only one in the bunch that I've seen flap her wings in distress. She did that when I picked her up to take her picture. She stands up tall and I think she may be thinking she's head chicken. We'll see how that plays out.

Several weeks ago Chad posted this picture on Instagram of a basket full of different colored eggs. Naturally colored, not died with Easter egg dyes. It was such a beautiful display of diversity. I am so excited that I am going to have egg cartons filled with a very similar selection of colors. We are all, with maybe the exception of Josephine, in love with the chickens. Josephine has seen them and know they exist. She has not had enough time with them to form an opinion. Right now she's a little leery. I'm sure they'll all be best friends by summer. 

Holy Goats you guys. There are chickens in our basement right now. Real live little baby chickens that go "chirp chirp chirp" and "peep peep peep". Michael and I go down and check on them and talk to them. I found out recently that if you sing gently to them, they all get quiet and when I hold Marguerite and sing to her, she sings back. At bedtime we go down and say goodnight to the chickens. I tell them how pretty they are and Michael tells them to hurry up and grow big and strong and lay some eggs. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Gratitude. It's come to that time in the week where I sit down and reflect on things that I am grateful for during the week. Really, the first thing that comes to mind is that I'm kind of thankful this week is winding to an end. I'm not the type that likes to do that sort of thing. It sounds too whiny and the week hasn't been terrible. It has just been long and constant and busy. I'm looking forward to a weekend where I have zero plans except for a haircut on Sunday. There has been talk of cleaning up the back yard and maybe even having a fire pit night. I was thinking about that this morning as I washed my breakfast dishes. It is a Cabbage weekend. Visions of roasting hot dogs (tofu dogs) and marshmallows popped into my head. Then I thought "why stop there? Let's get out the tent and sleep in the backyard!" 

So, I guess, it's the weather that I am really grateful for this week. I've ridden the scooter to work every day except for Monday. The starting temps that day where just a little too cold. I  slept with the windows open last night and when I left for work this morning you could smell the ground thawing. Which reminds me. I have got to order seeds this weekend. For real this time. I noticed the mint peeking up through the dirt yesterday. Obviously mint is the plant that can convince any one that they are master gardeners or really bad at keeping their garden weed free. Even the dog is happy. Yesterday Josephine found a stick and stretched her legs out behind her with her belly on the warm grass and chewed and chewed. I am thankful to be able to step outside without wincing in discomfort from feeling the cold sting my bones. I am thankful for a weekend that promises to be nice enough to spend so much time outside. 

Michael starts his spring break this week. He has grand plans for his time off and one of those plans include building a chicken coop. He said to me this morning "this time next week we may very well have our own chickens." I gave him a questionable look and he said "I'm building a coop next week!" He's a city boy. Still, I'm sure he knows that building a coop does not mean building chickens. He's just very excited. I'm coming home to little wooden chickens aren't I? Any way. I'm super thankful that he gets to have this week off to tinker and do whatever. I bet if I play my cards right, I will not have to make dinner at all next week. I am thankful for the simple evenings we've had this week. I am thankful for walks with the dog. I am thankful that we only have four more episodes of House of Cards left because it is such a time suck. And as always, I am thankful for you. 

Hope your weekend is full of sunshine and you have the most thankful of Thankful Fridays.

IS IT SPRING YET?

Cindy Maddera

A couple of weeks ago, my Baker Creek seed catalog showed up in the mail box. As Michael reached to pull the mail out of the mailbox, he looked at me and said "You know, you really shouldn't get your porn in the mail." I squealed, hugged the catalog tight to my chest, shut myself in my room and plopped down on my bed to flip through it. The scene was very much like a tween flipping through her latest Bop magazine, laying on my belly, propped up on my elbows, feet kicking in the air. It didn't last long, because the Cabbage came in and started talking (had she ever stopped talking? I can't remember) and I had to set the catalog aside for some special quiet time. Since then I have made brief flip throughs, but I have plans to circle items and dog-ear some pages before we head to Oklahoma for Christmas. I'll take the catalog with me so Mom, Janell and Katrina can also circle the items they want and we'll just put in one giant seed order. Then we trade seeds. It's great fun. I'm considering Amaranth for next year. 

There was so much talk of buying a new house and moving that I didn't really give a flip about the garden. I took what remaining seeds I had and tossed them out into the not so well turned beds. I ate a lot of lettuce. We all did. Then there were collard greens. Lots and lots of collard greens. I have yet to figure out that balance of growing the right amounts of things that we actually eat. That's OK because we're adding two more boxes to the garden. You heard me! We're giving a flip about the garden next year. And then some. Michael says he's building us a chicken coop over his Spring break. My job has been to decide what kind of coop I want so he can start planning. There's a lot of planning going on right at this moment. Baker Creek has a Spring Planting Festival in May that we're planning on going to. I've been planning what breeds of chickens to get. Now I'm planning what seeds to buy. 

While Spring and Fall may be planting seasons, winter is the season for planning. It makes sense that the season of hibernation is also the season for dreaming. This is the time of year we all sit down and reflect for the things we want in the new year. I feel like my wants for 2015 are huge. I want a lot. Not a lot of things. Actually I want less things. I want a lot to happen, a lot of expectations for myself. When I start thinking about it now, it all starts to roll away from me like a snowball rolling down the hill, the further down the hill, the bigger and faster the snowball. One want leads into another want. I want 2015 to be full. At the end of next year I want to be exhausted. Not from grief. Not from being worn down from set back after set back. I want to be exhausted from spending a year doing and being. I want to be so worn out from pairing down all of my things. I want my arms to be heavy from too much kayaking. I want a full belly from just things we've grown in the garden and at the end of the day I want to nap with the chickens and maybe a new dog. I want to feel that weighted exhaustion you get after lifting heavy weights except mine will come from doing all of the things. By this time next year I don't want my couch to even recognize my ass. 

I will bide my time for now just planning. I'll take what is left of 2014 to be a list maker, to organize those wants. I don't even care about needs. My whole life I've been conscious of wants versus needs. I'm making 2015 the year of not necessarily want, but of getting what I want. And eating my cake too.