You Can’t Take the Things

A few months ago, Chicken, one of our chickens, died. You’re thinking she suffered a stuffing-and-fruit-relish-related fate, but no. Our big hen went limp and, a day later, joined The Choir Invisible. I hope she can sing. Other Chicken, with the coop and the run to herself, became depressed. She also became Chicken by default, so we’ve taken to calling her Cat. She stayed inside the coop and barely ate. Andie and I hatched a plan.

Peep! Peep!

This is our baby. You can’t tell here because she’s the only visible chicken, but she is tiny and makes baby chick peep-peep sounds. She’s totally cute!

Joining us two weeks ago were two juveniles and a young mature hen. Pete asked me, “What are their names?” I said, “Patty, Maxene and LaVerne.” The woman who gave them to us advised us to introduce the new chickens to Cat the Chicken by letting them all wake up in the same coop together. I let everyone fall asleep, then put three squawking new chickens into a dark coop in which Cat the Chicken bock-bock-bocked menacingly, like it was a fowl horror film, and I may still have some guilt. Within days, the little chickens adapted and Cat the Chicken rebounded. She’s demanding treats, chasing the other chickens and spending all her time supervising the run. Yesterday, Andie opened the run door and Cat the Chicken jumped out, which was her way of declaring she was ready to scratch in the tiny yard again. We were overjoyed.

Things are looking up, by which I mean: don’t look up. We have tiny chickens in high places.

 

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Out For Black And White

This morning, I skipped down the backyard stairs at 6:50 a.m. and saw an unfamiliar bird chickening outside the lines. My feet felt flat. I didn’t believe my eyes. I turned toward our chicken run and didn’t see anything unusual. The gate was closed. The roof was tacked down. I looked around the fence corner and there was still a chicken I didn’t recognize running next to the maple tree at the back of the yard. I walked around the tree and there was a second unfamiliar chicken running away from me. Now I am either having two separate chicken-based hallucinations or –

Suspicious chicken is suspicious.

We’re very close, by which I mean near, especially when I’m holding food.

I spun around toward the chicken coop in the neighbors’ yard. The door was open. We’ve had trash cans turned over, so Pete and I know there’s a raccoon in the neighborhood. I did not want to see any of the chickens tartared across the lawn, so I turned back to our coop and called for the chicken we now call Cat, or the Artist Formerly Known As Other Chicken, either way. After a few seconds, she climbed down out of the coop and I poured cantaloupe guts where she likes to nosh. She complained briefly about the inferior service in this joint, but that was somewhat reassuring. I shooed the unfamiliar chickens through a rose bush back to their own yard. Inside the house, I fretted.

Yes, I chased them around a tree.

These hens are not my friends.

Tata: Hey, the door to the coop of the People of the Chickens is open and the chickens are running loose. Are you in contact with any of those people?

Pete: Nooooo. I hate them!

Tata: Do you think I should tell them about their loose chickens?

Pete: Absolutely!

At 7 a.m., I found myself standing at the one breach of our fence between the two yards. Unfortunately, there was no breach in their chicken wire and overgrown pokeweed beyond the edge of their garden, and in the corner, only a composter would provide me any support. For a minute, I stood there, wishing like mad there was some other way to alert the sleepy people, but there wasn’t. My Heroic! plan was to knock on the back door until someone answered and rescued the clamoring chickens, who were at that moment gleefully tearing up the lawn. At least they were happy! I briefly considered my dignity, remembered I didn’t have any and climbed over the fence, leaning on the composter.

My feet landed in someone else’s garden bed. I hopped in circles between rows and toward the edge of the garden bed. Suddenly, I saw the very old, very deaf dog asleep on the back porch. I like that dog. She barks all day at falling leaves. But she was a dog and I was invading her turf. So I marched a quiet, careful path down the driveway and up the front steps. I knocked and nothing happened. I knocked. Knocked. Knocked. I could see lights. These people have a baby that cries all the time so they weren’t asleep, but they didn’t answer. I rang the doorbell, knocked some more and admitted defeat. I abandoned my Heroic! plan, walked around the block, up my back steps and went to work, where my co-workers expressed surprise that I might still be able to hop a fence. It’s a gift, I told them, like knowing when to leave a party or which Senator is lying, as in all of them.

This afternoon, all the chickens of the People of the Chickens are safely behind bars, and I am glad because I am not climbing that fence again without dog treats in my pocket and a better plan.

Who Had Tried To Calm

For the first time in my illustrious career, Central New Jersey has had daytime temps in the sixties in February. This is not normal. Also not normal: garlic shoots.

Plants, walking like Egyptians.

Garlics, making cameo appearances.

Maybe this is what our winters will be like now. I can’t say, but the chance to spend an afternoon in my garden at a time when I expect to be cooped up in the house was a peculiar delight. The chickens were pleased to have company. They told me so themselves!

I Sing In Silent Harmony

Annual report time, Poor Impulsives! I am reporting, most annually, and only somewhat timely-ly! Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been stitching as fast as my tiny hands could crochet, so my annual report is somewhat tardy.

Let us report:

This started out as the Cat Blanket Project. The Lovely Georg, Ceiling Cat Remember Her With Fishy Treats, asked friends to knit or crochet blankets for animal shelters, which I did. But then people from all over – possibly including you – sent me yarn in large boxes, and agencies/organizations ask for yarny help. So! You trusted me with art supplies. This is what I did with them in 2014, and last year:

cat blankets These go to Georg or to a shelter with which Georg is in contact.

baby blankets A hospital near me has a baby blanket project. A friend coordinates. I try to make blankets early in the year or if I have a long car trip or a lengthy illness. You know: if I’m sitting, I’m knitting and I buy special yarn for this.

scarves There are a number of projects that ask for scarves. I send or deliver them all over the place. Mostly, I buy yarn for this that I think will be fun and soft to wear.

hats Several agencies ask for hats for infants, children and adults. Infant hats are quick to crochet, but I’m still learning adult hats. Mine are still a little odd.

lap blankets There’s a chemo facility nearby that asks for lap blankets for patients. I send these through a friend. She feels they are greatly appreciated.

In 2016, 50 blankets went to one cat shelter and 4 to a local animal rescue. Once I switched from knitting to crocheting, this went a lot faster, but took up more yarn. Crocheting does!

Surely You’re Not Saying We

Jacqui the organic farmer gave me a sourdough starter as a pet. As you know, I adore a new pet! But I knew less about taking care of sourdough starter than I did about feeding giant pandas. Did you know you can learn anything on YouTube?

Jar full of yeast is yeasty.

It is…ALIVE!

The procedure is this: you dump out about half your sourdough starter, feed it with a water and flour mix. I had some trouble with this. The mix ratio is 1:1 water to flour by weight or 1:2 water to flour by volume. You can use almost any kind of flour you like. I’m using whole wheat.

There are variables. If you keep the starter on the kitchen counter, it bubbles and grows. You have to dump out and feed quite often. If you keep the starter in the fridge, it sleeps. You have to pick a feeding schedule, say once a week. When you get up in the morning, take the starter out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature, feed it in the afternoon, then put it back in the fridge before midnight. It sounds complicated, but that’s because it’s so easy.

It's not like the chickens can go out for McMuffins.

When life gives you sourdough goop, get yourself going on some pancakes.

Once I’d worked out how to care for my new pet, I was left with one more problem. Each time I fed my pet, I would be pouring out some otherwise useful goo, which I could not bring myself to do. I looked out in the backyard and realized I also had chickens to feed.

Discarded goo makes a good basis for pancake batter. Add it to your favorite pancake batter and feed pancakes to your chickens – or my chickens. My chickens are very nice people with an excellent sense of humor, but every morning, they’re going to want breakfast.