Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Too impatient to walk my way down the hill and around, the children and I ran for the car, swerved out with intention and parked ourselves in front of the said house.
A polite older man answered the door in his bath towel and slippers, only making the fact that I was there to inquire about a missing chicken that extra bit more awkward. Before I could apologize and explain myself, the children ran off about the bird and he immediately called his wife to the door.
The woman explained how Clio had appeared in their yard the previous evening chased by a fluffy dog, and that the home's Dachshund had been confined to the garage in order to preserve the well-being of our chicken, which had spent the day in the garden foraging for earthworms and chewing on the vegetation, perfectly content.
After thanking her profusely for her kindness, we were off to restore the last of our flock to her rightful place.
A dinner party was still in the making, but with our chickens safely home and the sun mellowing behind the eucalyptus, there was serenity in the household. As I gathered up some eggs to drop off for our helpful neighbors, I wondered how I had ever gotten myself into such a predicament.
Monday, June 18, 2012
At first, I wondered what might be the cause for such drama, but on my way to rescue the forsaken teenager, I bumped right into my artful proclamation and immediately realized what had triggered such a reaction. All I could do was rush in after my daughter to deliver the great news that "We got Teri back", which did little to improve her emotional state.
My husband whisked me away to the symphony and we agreed not to concern ourselves with Clio's survival or lack thereof until morning.
Of course, I managed a call to the police department to ask what one does in the case of a missing chicken. The officer could hardly maintain his composure, but I appreciated the painstaking effort he put into answering all of my questions with all the sincerity he could muster. I told him it was OK to laugh, and he did, heartily, as he instructed me to take up my matter with the local SPCA.
The morning brought a flurry of activity with farmer's market, board meetings and preparations for the dinner party we were to host that evening. I spent the early parts of the morning questioning neighbors and knocking on doors. Most folks were entertained by my story, but nobody had any information.
I fidgeted my way through my board meeting and rushed down to the SPCA to post my missing chicken. Half the day had passed and left me with little hope of finding Clio. Discouraged, I turned the key to the front door. The moment I stepped inside, the children were simultaneously and incoherently attempting to reach me with the news.
As it turned out, one of our neighbors was walking her dogs when she ran into another neighbor with a dog. The lady mentioned that she had found a chicken in her yard the previous evening, only after her dog had a bark-off with a l i t t l e w h i t e b a l l o f f l u f f . A child had come around looking for the dog, but did not claim the chicken. Little, white and fluffy sure did sound familiar!
Monday, February 6, 2012
Take me away [insert name of favorite bubble bath or bath salts here]!
Yes, it was one of those moments, although the Napoleon XIV song of the 1960s more closely conjures my mood. When I pulled myself together, I made it up to my kitchen to prepare dinner for the kids and continue with perpetual cleaning and tidying. I clearly recall scrubbing pots and pans and taking a moment to look out the window over the sink in hopes that taking in the natural border of cypress trees, the redwoods clumped on the neighboring hills, the giant eucalyptus that brought welcome shade to our garden and the flittering blue jays might calm my nerves.
Only, as my eyes soaked up the landscape, something odd caught my attention in the meticulously pruned citrus grove of the property below. It was as though viewing a diorama of a cow grazing in a pasture among the oak trees, only the oaks had been replaced by an orchard of dwarf fruit trees and the cow by something white and feathered, yet grazing.
“Teri! Teri” I screamed and rushed downstairs. In no time, I was at the bottom of the property climbing the fence and calling to my neighbor below (I learned then that his command of English is… poor). “My chicken! You have my chicken”! He nodded but looked at me baffled. I think he was trying to ask if chickens respond to hearing their names, much like dogs, because he doubted whether he could catch her. At least, I think that was the cause of his concern, so I explained that he need only stay behind the chicken and cajole while I did the calling. I only needed his help in getting her over the fence. How she ever got past two wooden fences I could not figure.
The scene was between ridiculous and hilarious. Once Teri got close to the fence line, I saw the old man open a little door on his side. She slid into the space between the fences and flapped her way up to my fence. The secret doorway remains a mystery.
To have retrieved one of our flock seemed a significant victory. But what of Clio*? Could I leave my girl aimlessly roaming the streets at night with predators lurking?
*Clio is the chicken. She is not my teenage daughter.
Monday, January 30, 2012
This weekend I read an article about a squirrel that got fat on bird feed. I couldn’t help but laugh, as I know first hand what it’s like to have the unwelcome gluttonous guest in my garden.
Cute as they may be, the squirrels in our part of town will stop at nothing. They dig out bulbs, tear down unripe fruit (sometimes they manage to pick off an entire persimmon or fig tree in a matter of a couple of hours) and eat their way through plastic bins we use for storing chicken feed. Once, they even tore into my son’s backpack, pulled out his lunchbox, tore open the zipper and made their way through the food pyramid!
Fortunately, my husband is the founder of the Squirrel Relocation Program. He traps them, holds them in their cell overnight and transports them to a new location very far away the following morning. I only worry they might confuse the trunk for the… facilities.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Once again, I found nothing but a trail of feathers. The predator had attacked in broad daylight, leading me to believe it must have been a hearty neighborhood cat playing chase with our chickens. Upset as we all were, we chalked it up to the fate of any prey in a predatory territory. Only a couple of weeks later, the chain of events seemed to be building itself into a full set of shackles. Instead of a peaceful evening of cooking and getting ready for the symphony, I was greeted with a “two down” at the door.
There was no urgency in my steps as my feet dragged down the customary path in disbelief, defeated. Again the same signs, again no chickens and again I seemed delusional for discerning the muddled calls of Teri and Clio in the distance.
“No more. No more chickens”, I let my husband know in no uncertain terms. I could not possibly put up with tending to living things only to see them disappear without notice and in spite of so much effort in arranging for their safety. This time, it was really over. My oldest had gone down to check for eggs and close shop, but somehow got sidetracked and not only forgot to lock down, but had propped up the back door of the coop so as to have it appear an open invitation to all passersby. That degree of carelessness was beyond anything I could handle in that particular moment. My husband’s repeated reminders that these were “just birds” left me exasperated.
In what may not be my proudest parenting moment, I grabbed an old IKEA frame that happened to be standing next to the washer, removed the paper liner and wrote in colored whiteboard markers “CONGRATS! TODAY YOU KILLED TERI AND CLIO”, fitted it back into the frame and propped it up on the easel, which I placed strategically in the center of the hallway. This would ensure that the children would be greeted by this sign as they walked in from their evening activities.
Interestingly enough, I seem to have hidden this signage behind the easel for nearly a year now, which allows for a staging of the above described and the picture below.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
The months that followed the Marans acquisition were uneventful in regards to our flock, but the extreme opposite in respect to my extremity. I went from the blue cast to surgery, with a guarantee that I would not be driving my old trusty 4Runner for a good year, so we opted for a fully loaded hybrid automatic. It was the only good thing, if you disregard the required monthly payments, that had happened to us in months.
In the meantime, I was not adjusting well to relying on others. I slowly slipped into a state of borderline OCD, one from which my husband and children had spent so many years pulling me. The disorderly hanging of clean shirts in non-color-coordinated order without the decency of being arranged at least progressively by sleeve length and, worse, at times facing the wrong way, would see me undone. How could anyone not understand my system? The fine details of daily life seemed out of my control and instead of being grateful for the help at hand, I found myself huffing and puffing like a spoiled child, only I was gracious enough to do it in my head. The shirts, the floors, the bathrooms, the pots and pans and just about anything not executed according to my specifications added to my frustration.
Thankfully, my equally obsessive mom came for the holidays, and I found comfort in the fact that someone found it completely reasonable to be bothered by such things. Of course she, being a rational person like myself, caught on to my systems immediately! Her visit seemed short, and though I faced my internal guilt for not having spent enough time with her, we enjoyed the holidays as a family greatly. Before I knew it, I could drive my new automatic and my parents were off, leaving us to adjust to a hopefully less adventuresome New Year.
Friday, January 6, 2012
The Saga Continues…An orange blaze shot from the Japanese maple, a sure sign that Autumn had finally planted itself in our garden, and the young settlers who had pioneered their way from the dining room to the coop welcomed the season with new adventures that would leave us unsettled.
Privy to all this drama was my father who, upon barely having returned from his transatlantic vacation, we summoned for emergency support. My appointment for a second opinion regarding my hand had lead to my leaving the orthopedist’s office with a big blue cast that slid my hand off the gear shift of my giant 4Runner. I needed a manny, and fast! Dad was happy to drive the children everywhere, and even to help me tend to our flock. He cursed at the insanity of this household and at the fact that his daughter was doing the work of ten people, or more, but soon became eager to take over the coop operation entirely, leaving me to wonder whether I might bare him some resemblance in character. Apart from my indescribable frustration with having to rely on others to get anything done, all was running smoothly.
An early morning text message flashed on my cell phone as I made my way to our trusty Vibiemme. “Count the chickens”, it read. I dashed down and around and into the garden, grazed past the sage and down to the coop, only to discover a trail of feathers that clearly marked our two missing chickens. It was decided that the offenders were likely raccoons as well as our two youngest, for they had left the coop unlocked the night before, and the verdict that those responsible would pay out of their savings, should they desire to replace their chickens.
The following morning, the children each picked a beautiful Cuckoo Marans hen from the feed store. They named one Jo-Jo (after the cream-filled chocolate Trader Joe’s cookies) and the other Marge (because her hoarse voice resembled that of Marge Simpson). They were nearly fully grown and a pair, so we introduced them to the coop. It seemed everything was finally in order.