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Monthly Archives: August 2007

Chicken Pranks

I’ve been scammed! Bamboozled! Made a mockery of! Someone has exploited my innocence!

My mind reals with contemplation of revenge.

This morning I went to do my morning rounds with the animals, and checked the chicken house. There were only two eggs there. I thought, “What the heck. Where’s my windfall?”

Then I went outside and there is Ronnie (who is building our barn with his two sons) grinning at me.  

“I guess Mark didn’t tell you.”

“Tell me what?” I really didn’t want to know. From that smile, I had a good idea of what was coming.

Apparently, he bought a flat of eggs and HE was the gremlin putting them in my chicken house for the last two days. He said after the day at the flea market, he couldn’t resist. I’ve been so “enthusiastic”. (A nice word for “naive”, I’m thinking.) I have been complaining about my chickens not laying, true, which dangled an irresistible opportunity to toy with a city slicker.  

The story he told me about Guineas making chickens lay more was a set up. 

He laughed and said, “I never dreamed you’d really fall for it. You seem a smart girl most of the time . . . for a city gal. You didn’t really believe a game bird would effect the laying of regular chickens, did ya? That don’t make no sense.”  

“Who me think Guineas inspire laying?  Of course not. I’m a chicken expert. I wouldn’t fall for such malarkey.”

What can I say? I fell for it hook line and sinker. And apparently, this amused Ronnie to no end. And Mark, who was in on it, didn’t bother to tell me last night as I went on and on about the eggs I collected that day, even as Neva and I tried guessing which eggs came from which of our beloved chickens. Well, there you have it -I married a rat fink.

Of course I fell for it. My chickens are six months old and they are SUPPOSED to be laying by now. Beside which, it isn’t often you expect outright poultry deceit from a friend WHO IS A PREACHER!

Now, I didn’t just tell you about my eggs. I told everyone I came in contact with yesterday. I was proud, don’t ya know. It was BIG news in Hendryville.

So, I went to the coffee shop to tell Denver the trick Ronnie played. I had boasted quite a bit to her yesterday, and even brought her a half dozen eggs as a celebratory gift.

She thought this a hoot – practically rolled on the floor laughing and said, “Well, I’m glad to see you have a friend who can a little right back at ya.”

So much for daughterly devotion in the form of empathetic outrage over my loss of innocence. I vowed I wouldn’t give HER any more eggs …. especially since I won’t have any to give.

So, if you come to my house, I won’t make you eat eggs. And those eggs I do get are already spoken for. I’m gonna THROW them at Ronnie. 

He said, “I hope you aren’t mad. I was afraid you might get mad.”
“Me mad? Over eggs? Couldn’t happen. But do be afraid Ronnie.” I looked at him out of the sides of my eyes, “……Payback is a bitch.”
“Uh Oh,” he said with a chuckle.

So, I will have to put away my quiche recipes until another time, now that I have egg on my face rather than in my chicken nests. I guess it is all a part of the learning curve….  Speaking of curve, since an egg isn’t exactly round, does that effect aim? 

Eggstravaganza!

Come to my house. Quick. I’ll make you some eggs.
What I really mean is,  I’ll MAKE you eat eggs.


You know how I was complaining that I have bunches of chickens, yet I only get two eggs a day? Then, I got the Guineas and viola, I had seven eggs yesterday. Cool beans! I was pretty excited.

Today, I go to the hen house and find 19 eggs! One chicken was in there laying as I visited. She wouldn’t budge, and had a onery look in her eye, so I left her alone. This doesn’t take into consideration several of my chickens slept outside last night because I got home too late to scoot them into the pen, so all my green egg layers are not included in this quota. They are probably laying under the chicken house with two other chickens who have taken to hiding under there. By the way, none of the eggs collected today are guineas.
 
Um……. I think I’m gonna be getting two dozen  or more eggs a day now until winter when the days get shorter and the hens lay less. And this doesn’t count my Guineas and my six new game chickens and my spastic leghorns who will not be old enough to lay for another six weeks. Then, I’ll be getting 36 eggs a day or so. 

You hungry? 

Quick! I have to run to the mall to get a quiche recipe book. I’m gonna feed the kids Eggs Benedict for dinner tonight, I guess. And a meringue pie for dessert – that uses only the whites, but lots of ’em.
Actually, that won’t use nearly enough to keep up on this windfall.  Humm………..

I think I have to start making lemon curd or some other kind of egg based thing that can be canned and kept as a gourmet treat. Yep, I’m on a quest. Actually, I don’t know if eggs are in lemon curd, I’m only guessing. But I can certainly find something eggish to make.

Of course, there are always alternate uses, like letting them rot and then throwing them at people I don’t like. Better than letting them go to waste, don’t ya know.

All I know is, my dogs are gonna have the dreamiest fur coats, my husband’s cholesterol is going to go through the roof, and I have new kitchen challenges to conquer. And every day now, visiting the henhouse will have an element of thrill.

Gee, chickens are fun.

Ginny’s Guineas



Yesterday, we went with friends to the flea market in Dalton (an hour’s drive). Mark had gone the week before with his good friend, Ronnie, who had let it slip that they had guinea hens for sale for only 4.00 a piece. That is a remarkable price for game hens, so I asked Mark to be sure to buy me some. It rained that day, so very few vendors showed up and alas, no poultry was for sale. Mark came home with 2 1/2 huge flats of strawberries instead, for a grand total of 20.00. This isn’t like Jack in the beanstalk, when the mother sent jack to sell a cow and he brought back beans.  I actually have been wanting a ton of strawberries all summer, if only we could find them for an affordable rate. The strawberry gift eased the disappointment of “no-birds today”. But I was determined to go back later and see for myself if there were birds to be had.
 
I made 4 batches of jam from those strawberries, two different strawberry cordials, and even ended up freezing a few pints for our health smoothies. I already have strawberry wine in the works -(I KNOW that announcement has Boonsfarm quaking in their boots.)  Having exhausted my strawberry exploitation, I was back on the quest for game chickens.

So, we decided to try the flea market again yesterday, and I got lucky. I bought 6 young traditional guineas for a song, and spent a bit more on three additional silver adults (one rooster and two hens – to reproduce).  I took a picture so you know what I’m talking about – above.

Guineas are rather ugly, looking like a vulture in face with a huge round body. They have horns on their head, and what looks like red gills.  They have white faces, like the joker in Batman.  Mark looked over my shoulder as I was downloading my camera and said, “Those pictures don’t do them justice. They are FAR uglier than that.” 

What does he know? I think they are cute. The babies have been pecked so much in their small cages at the market that they are bare on the backside and they look the worse for wear, but what do you expect for 4 bucks? At our feed store, these same birds are $10-20 a pop, and that adds up if you want to buy a half dozen or more. In time, my scraggly babies will feather out and look healthy. I have a way of bringing out the best in animals.

The guineas make a weird sound, like a raspy flute. They are loud- the female makes a two syllabus sound and the males only one.   They lay eggs like a chicken, only the eggs are smaller and pointier and these birds will usually lay in the bushes, so I’ll have to hunt the eggs down if I want to cook them. I’m more interested in the birds reproducing anyway.



Why, you may wonder, do I want ugly birds that make a loud annoying sound? 
Does the fact that I’ve never had a guinea chicken and they are interesting to observe sound reason enough?
I also know that they eat bugs with remarkable efficiency. They say people with guineas don’t ever get lime disease and their dogs come home clean because the birds clear away all the ticks for a mile. Yippee. I already adore my chickens because they spend every day in the pasture eating the fly larvae, and this year I have almost NO flies near the horses. That is amazing! Last year, I couldn’t stand being near the horses in August because the flies were so thick. Fly control alone is reason enough to keep chickens. Guineas will top off the job perfectly.

Guineas also are game birds, so they can stay outside and they will fend for themselves and stay alive despite all the wildlife around hunting my birds as fast as I can raise them. They also make a racket when a dog or other danger comes around, so they are considered “watch birds”. They are hearty, so they can handle the winter well. You can eat the eggs (or the birds, if you are into that kind of thing.) The only problem that I may encounter is if the guineas discover my bee hive, some distance away. Apparently, guineas will park themselves at the entrance of a hive and eat all the bees as they fly home. They can gobble up your entire bee population in a few days if you don’t watch it. I figure winter will soon be here, and my bees will be hibernating. My guineas will not be interested in an inactive hive, and if they ever do wander towards the bees, I can build a fence around the hive or something.  I’ll cross that bridge when (and if) I come to it. 

The point is, I think the guineas are fascinating and as you know, I like learning about new things. I’m set up for a variety of livestock now, why not explore different creatures?

The hardest part about raising guineas is keeping them around after they are let loose. They say it is best to keep them in a pen for a week, then let only one out each day (flock birds want to stay together, and this keeps the loose one close by) Through this process the birds will learn where home is and stay. The way I see it, I spoil animals  so badly with food and treats, few would ever wander far, so I am confident they will hang around when I finally let them go. For now, they are cooped in the chicken pen. I let the chickens out in the day, then put them all back together in the night. They get along famously, although they stare at each other a great deal- it’s fun to watch them interact. 

I also bought 6 game chickens, just because they were available and I was in a chicken buying mood. I didn’t know this, but Ronnie taught me that you can always tell a game chicken because her legs are green. It is odd looking. Sure enough, the top of them looks like a chicken, but down below, it looks like Dr. Seuss had a field day. They are rather ugly as chickens go, sort of lean and wirey and they run fast, but they add diversity to the flock.  I’m all into mixing it up for a lively, interesting show each time I pause to watch them go about the business of chicken living around my barn.

Which reminds me, I promised pictures of the progress – here is the current state of the barn as it is today — the upstairs looks roomy and nice, but I have no stairs to get up there to get all excited about it yet:



   
When we got home from the flea market, Ronnie made arrangements to pick up April, our baby horse. He did decide to buy her and will finish the task of raising and training her. I know she is going to a good home and a great, green pasture (and I can visit her) so I am happy with this arrangement. He anticipted needing some help (and rightly so), because April is young. She was born here and has never been loaded into a trailer. Sure enough, she put up quite a fight. I was heartbroken watching her struggle to remain home with her “herd” – even if that herd is just her mom, Peppy and some reject members, (donkey and two llamas). The fact is, they are a happy group and this is a happy place for an animal to live.   

Ronnie asked a horse trainer/breeder friend help pick her up, and this guy commented that she looked like a great young horse (my heart went pang) and when he found out I was selling Dixie ,he said he could find me a buyer or would take her himself and might be willing to trade if I want to look at a few of his better pintos. (I almost couldn’t take anymore of this horse selling stuff- it was so heart rendering a thought to cold heartedly trade up)
. I told him I’d let him know. True, I am shopping now for a higher-end horse to take the place of the three I’m letting go, but still, I want to make this transition graceful and kind to all the animals involved. This is harder for me than you know.

Anyway, it was a day of big changes. 

The flea market was interesting too, with miles of vendors selling everything you could imagine. They had produce by the buckets going for so reasonably I wanted to buy a car full. I was enthralled – touching everything, asking questions. Most of the vendors were Mexican growers -selling things like cactus leaves and aloe and all kinds of fruits I’ve never seen before – things that look like it grew in Jurassic park. I kept pausing to ask what these different plants were and how to cook them, but because of the language barrier, I couldn’t’ grasp the answers. I am planning to do some research, then go back another weekend to shop for all those things I am totally unfamiliar with. A cooking experiment, so to speak. Ronnie kept laughing at me, saying he will be wary if I bring anything down to feed the boys at the barn (he and his sons are building it for us, and I tend to like to feed unsuspecting people – especially when my family has run screeming from the kitchen.) Ha – I just won’t tell them what it is they are eating. 

I also fell in love with some dwarf goats (and I promised Neva she could get one after we sold the buildings… by the way, we sold the second FLEX building this week. Big, relieved sigh.) so now I’m swaying in that direction.

Anyway, that is the update on animals at the Hendry preserve. One less horse. 8 new guineas and 6 game hens. A goat, maybe, on the way. 5 peacocks in the making. No partridge in a pear tree as yet, but then, it isn’t the season for that yet, now is it?

By the way, the ducks I hatched myself have finally fully feathered out and they are a delightful addition to our creek. Here is what they ended up looking like. Pretty, hun? The white one just got whiter.


Three hours later: 
As I was writing this, I saw someone had pulled up to the driveway. It was the very same fellow who transported our horse yesterday and he knows I am shopping for a new steed. Uh oh. 
He brought me a chicken. He heard me complaining that my chickens just don’t lay much, so he wanted to give me a gift of a good laying chicken. Uh oh.  A bribe.
He took me, Neva and Kent to look at some horses. Just happened to show me some PINTOS – one of which was the sweetest mare I’ve ever seen, a fully registered Pinto Saddlebread with light blue eyes. A very arresting face, and the most personal horse I’ve seen in some time. Uh Oh. out of 20 horses in the field, I pick the one that the trainer was going to buy for himself. What can I say? I fell in love. 

Then, they hit me with the fact that she is probably pregnant because they bred her just three weeks ago, and so I’d be getting a two for one. Uh Oh. (Mark would KILL me – this is supposed to be about getting RID of horses not accumulating more.) They did say they’d purchase the baby back, because it’s father is another high end pinto and it is pretty dang certain the baby will be drop dead gorgeous and I can register it too. They then offered to take Dixie in a trade to make this affordable for me. And if I sold the baby, I’d probably be about even with what I got from selling the others. Convienient. Uh Oh. 

I said I have to sleep on it.
Like I can sleep now.


   


Some Friendships Float on Forever


My best friend, Jody, from Sarasota, has come up to visit. Her eldest son, Lee, moved up to our area when we did – actually sooner. He came up with Mark to help with our dilapidated vacation cabin when we first bought it to help with the remodeling project, then fell love with the area and a girl, and decided to stay. We ended up moving here some time after him when FLEX sold so shockingly fast and we found ourselves with the rug pulled out from under our feet before we knew what was happening (another story).



Lee and his girlfriend have a new baby –convenient for me because it motivates Jody to visit despite her busy life as a single mother/hard working school social worker.  She is my age, yet a grandmother three times over now – and considering we’ve been friends since our sons were two, that is really weird to get used to. When did we get so old?


When Jodi comes, up she stays a night or two with her son, but then moves to our house for the remainder of the trip. She sees her son, grandchild and his family every day when they are not working, but it is more comfortable for her to stay with us, because we have more room, great comfy beds, I cook, have laundry facilities and an unlimited supply of wine (ahem)…. Furthermore, she always comes up with her son, Kyle, and 6 year old grandson, Seby, and three guests are a lot for a young couple just starting out with a new baby. So we end up having a nice casual visit where she can come and go without feeling weird, and yet we can plan some fun for us too.
 
Her son, Kyle has been Kent’s best friend since they were in diapers. I always get such a kick out of seeing them together. They are seventeen and sixteen respectively, but when together, they seem like the same bumbling toddlers they were fifteen years ago, cracking jokes and doing silly, foolish, weird, boy things.  They share a common understanding of the world having had similar experiences growing up, and they share a rich history of friendship and memories. This means there is always something to crack a joke about.



I listen to them talk, their voices growing deeper every year, their bodies getting broad shouldered and muscular, and I’m intrigued. The dynamics of their relationship seems the same as when they were two, and yet they are so obviously becoming men. They are more laid back than ever, and now their conversations occasionally slip towards subjects like college and the things they want to do in life. They will both get their license in the two months, so they also talk of cars. I couldn’t help but think that the next time we are together, these boys will just be able to take off in a car to go whitewater rafting or whatever, seeking innocent (or not so innocent) trouble to amuse themselves. Eeesh.



Mark and I have made some good friends here – couples we enjoy having over for dinner or going out with. But when Jody is around, I realize how starved I am for intimate friendship. You know what I mean…. The kind of friendship that sparks talk about serious things, with someone who asks sincere questions about your world and actually cares about the answers. In most cases the talk between casual or new friends is more polite, with the probing questions inspired by casual curiosity and in hopes to keep a conversation lively.  That is nice, but not the same.



Jody doesn’t ask me how things are going with my reading student and say “Gee, it’s great you do that. She is lucky.”  She asks me how this project has impacted me inside and how I feel changed. She asks questions about the process of teaching an adult to read, and where I think it will go, and what I have learned about literacy and its role in our life. She is curious about how I am preparing to teach the new literacy tutors (I do the training at the college August 19th). She is fascinated that there are so many people who can’t read in the world today, and this springboards our talk to bigger social issues. Shoot me, but I like to talk about issues that stretch beyond the daily personal stuff. 



We talk about books, and I push her to read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” since it has had a profound impact on how I view food. (It has changed how I shop and eat and cook and explains a great deal about how and why I am reinventing my life.) Intrigued, she vows to pick it up, and then tells me all about what she is reading.



We talk about our dreams of retirement, how we will fund those dreams (we both have our sites on a tiny secondary place in Italy to visit regularly) the new business Mark and I are planning to open, my masters experience (she has earned two masters as an adult student, so she really “gets” this. I typed half her term papers, so I know far more about psychology than my little brain can handle) and my current book project (she adored my first book and I had nag to talk her out of giving it to her dad now, since I am rewriting it to make it a better work.) Like all friends, we talk of our children and family and work and the basics. She is curious about what makes me happy and if I am pleased about living here and what I miss. As I talk to her, I see her mind spinning, as if she is contemplating what her life would be like in a quiet rural place like this, even though she has never longed for this kind of lifestyle before.



Of course, I am curious about her world, and I ask questions about her work etc… in return. She is a remarkable person who cares about others on a proufoundly inspirational level.



I can’t tell you how much I miss good “real” conversation. Not that I don’t have some rousing conversations with my donkey, but really, Jody has better responses (and she doesn’t crap and chew while I’m discussing important world issues.) It is very rare to find a friend that you can relate to on a soulful level. You must cherish and preserve that kind of thing if you are ever lucky enough to stumble upon it.



Anyway – the visit was fun. We rented a boat one day and spent the day on Lake Blue Ridge, tubing, swimming and exploring. We tried every combination of people on the tube, the kids alone, then in groups. Kent and Kyle did daredevil stunts looking like Cypress Gardens Ski rejects. It was a crackup. The lake, with green mountains all around and a national forest taking up more than half the banks (assuring no houses or people for miles on end) is such a beautiful area – can’t believe it took us so long to take advantage of it (we’ve stuck mainly to the rivers)– but we will be going out on the lake often now, you can bet.



Thought I’d share a few pictures. Unfortunately, there are none of me (somehow they got deleted while Mark was clearing space in the camera) but Jody took some and will send them to me – so you may get a pix of me as a speed demon mermaid on the tube yet. Yes, I was quite the daredevil, holding on for dear life, my knuckles white, my hair flayed back to show off a sunburnt face, deep in concentration as I sucked up water from the wake (I KNOW Mark was trying to dump me by making sharp turns and heading for wakes, even if he batts his eyes innocently and denies it) I tried to impress my kids with a touch of water ballet by sticking my legs up in the air. That failed miserably, by the way. 







This driving is serious business to the Dad ya know. “Onward, that ‘a way, young captain!”

All my friends MUST share a sense of adventure, or they aren’t any fun.This picture doesn’t do justice – you need sound so you can hear Jody’s squeeling to get the full effect of the moment.

Life is measured in the small moments that count.  

Auctioning my heart and soul? (And it comes cheap.)

Egad! someone is selling my work on e-bay. A friend sent me the link.









http://cgi.ebay.com/Dance-Studio-Teacher-Training-Manual-Syllabus-Ages-3-8_W0QQitemZ160142211907QQihZ006QQcategoryZ2228QQcmdZViewItem
 
I always thought one of these day’s a book I wrote would be featured on Amazon or e-bay. That is the world of commerce and the great frustration for publishers today, and a sign that you are at least still in circulation, but it never occured to me someone would be unloading my dance materials in this way. I guess I thought they would be kept forever like all precious heirloons – considering how valuable a resource they are to anyone teaching dance (Ha – how’s that for humility). At least “greenmuffy” (the current high bidder at this moment) appreciates me. 

Ah well, you know you’re getting obsolete when you are going cheap on e-bay. Pitty. I guess I retired just in time….