Monday, January 30, 2012

Visitors in the Garden

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

The Chicken or the Blog? Part IX

Unbeknownst to me, the perceived placidity of the first winter months was merely a delay in the formation of the adjoining link in this chain reaction that had been set off from the moment we had made up our minds to open our hearts and home to these fowl friends.  I had allowed myself to be lulled by the thought of eight quiet weeks before the next string of guests would make their way into our home, only to have been brutally awakened one February afternoon by signs of another missing chicken.

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.
JANUARY2012 005

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Chicken or the Blog? Part VIII

And what’s behind door number three?  A new car, of course! 

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 Chicken or the Blog? Part VII

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.