Chicken Blog by Natalie

Come on, New Year! :: Three Hundred Sixty Five - Sat, 12/31/2016 - 17:37
We've all heard it... this year, 2016, has been awful (mean, cruel, a mess, tragic, the worst.) Just, like... well, you know. One hardly can stand to list the losses, and crushing disappointments. And I know perfectly well, it's no good making 2016 a scapegoat for all of our grief and frustration. 2017 will have its challenges, too, I am sure... yeah, pretty darn sure. Sigh.

Anyway. We thought we were about to suffer one more heartache, one more wth?? Cairo got very sick, and we spent the whole day waiting to find out whether he was going to have to go through major exploratory surgery. And. It sucked. We cancelled our Happy New Year plans, and fumbled through our day feeling sad and lost and utterly stressed out, because kitties are sweet innocent furry muffins of love and should never spend new year's eve in a clinic, enduring needles and procedures. And then we got a happy ending (pricey, but happy.) He's ok. No surgery. He might have eaten a bad spider? We don't know. But he's alive, and that's great.

Ooph, 2016, you have been something. Good, and bad, and frankly surreal. Good-bye, good-night, and good riddance. Thank you for leaving us with our furry muffins of love, and for 99 more good things. We loved our trips, our friends, the good food, and all the making we did. We are grateful for each of the many great things that did not go wrong, truly. But, let's end this year, now. And start over. Let's move forward.

Happy New Year, friends... and best wishes! Wishes for good health, laughter, kindness, inspiration, time, resources, support, courage, bright ideas, tasty food, bodacious gardens, glitter, glue, new shoes, and a picture a day that you take with your heart and keep in your mind, in joy.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Starry Night :: Three Hundred Sixty Four - Thu, 12/29/2016 - 17:04
The best gift? Leisure time. And resources... in this case craft paints, brushes and tiny canvasses. I am a fortunate person, I know. I feel so thankful for the time I've had, and taken, to enjoy my blessings, to sit quietly, to cook, to dance around the kitchen, to talk to my chickens, to see friends, wrap gifts, and to play at being an artist.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Tiny Hen :: Three Hundred Sixty Three - Wed, 12/28/2016 - 08:43
On a tiny canvas, a tiny hen. In her nest.

Somewhere along the way, in this Picture a Day project, I must have miscounted. I recall starting a few days into the new year, and so I thought I would reach #365 the second day of January, not December 30. Weird. I could, in an alternate universe, go back and count every picture, each post, but: NO. I stuck with it, had some fun, and now it's nearly done, so that's fine.

My favorite parts of this challenge were playing along with my friend, Jennifer, and creating a visual representation of our year... it doesn't show everything, but it's surprisingly good at recalling special moments, and occasions, things I am not so sure I would remember if I hadn't saved a picture.

Thank you, some of you that left comments... comments, engagement, are a real gift to anyone that's blogging, or painting, sharing something of themselves, and I cannot deny that the connections made all the difference to me.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Hen Pecked :: Three Hundred Sixty Two - Tue, 12/27/2016 - 11:35
Emma Thompson is keeping an eye on Pippi and Pepper, the two silver-laced wyandotte hens. Pippi and Pepper are pretty. Pippi and Pepper are mean. They rule the roost, but tyrannically, cruelly. They peck, they pull feathers, they torment, they are greedy and selfish, and calculating. And they are particularly abusive of my dear Mako, who is a mild and sociable hen. Pecking orders, and being hen-pecked... these are natural aspects of chicken life and I've seen enough flocks and known enough hens and roosters to know what's up. However, some hens can rule a roost with grace and discipline, with intelligence, mercy, decorum. I've kept roosters who gave their all for their flock, without overstepping their authority. A mean hen, or rooster, spoils the fun.

Be certain, you mean hens, that I have got both eyes on you, too. No one is interested in enduring your fiendish ways, and sharp beaks.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Dear Friend :: Three Hundred Sixty One - Mon, 12/26/2016 - 11:59
A visit from Friend, the western scrub jay... it's always a pleasure.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

With Warmth, Welcome Winter - Mon, 12/26/2016 - 11:39
Well! We did it again! And once again, I think opening the doors for Solstice may be one of my favorite nights of the year.

The first time, was 2012, and we were just trying to survive the Mayan calendar calamity! Apparently, the secret to overcoming the end of the world, was to make eight trays of enchiladas and share them with friends!

In 2013 we just figured why not make this a tradition? A brilliant idea!

We had to settle down and recover in in 2014, but good things happen, even when you least expect it!

Last year was epic! Viking epic. By this time we were already confirmed for this year, 2016!

Mark is making pies! Cream pies. This one is coconut, and it was most happily enjoyed, so were Stacy's bars, Leslie's Turkish delight, the pecan pie, the brownies, the hot chocolate!

Our "theme:" Pasta, and virtual reality, with some MTG, robot and Lego action. Honestly, anytime you ask friends to come with food, to play... you've got a party!

Huge props to James for bringing the virtual reality set. Unreal! But, like, totally real!

With the controls we were drawing in 3D space, making snow, teleporting, intense stuff. The visuals were stunning. James made a lot of people really happy with this experience.

We like Hugs Reality, too. It's real.

Leo, Carol, and Grace~

Kelly and Natalie~

Kelly and Paul~

Here we have a bot crew, Ido, Geoff, and Darrahl, tinkering, developing, making, and playing.

Ido is programming in Scratch, to operate a Lego robot through a tablet. He's working on making low cost learning projects with Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Love this.

Throughout the evening this little robot evolved and developed, as everyone took turns modifying and experimenting.

Avram, Coram, and Sanjana getting into the Vive.



Coram, and Amira, and our feast!

Anna B and me~

I remember being totally impressed at the powers of concentration Corey, Alex J, and Max have... playing Magic the Gathering in the midst of all of this!

Gordon and Bambi~

Paul and Leslie~

{Every time I write down these names, I have this compulsion to add little hearts. If you can, just picture me smiling, and thinking We know such wonderful people! *hearts*}

Bobbie and Darrahl~ *hearts*

Simon, Bambi, Alex, Grant, and Paul~


Ido and Geoff, and lights~


Celine, Kaleb, Paul, Grant, and Clark~


Tim and Lisa~

Gordon taking his turn with the Vive.

Ido and Leslie~

Kaleb~ He built a boat that carries a motorcycle.


Bambi and Alex~

Celine and Camille, Alex R, and Leslie~

Simon, Leo, Spencer, Bex, and Maria~

Grace's tree. *hearts*

Alex R, Leslie, and Spencer... who is about to get his turn!

It's snowing!

The Anagram Sisters, Maria and Amira~

And room for a new sister, Bex~

James and Celine~


All Day Joy :: Three Hundred Sixty - Sun, 12/25/2016 - 20:00
As though we were snowed-in, as though there was nothing beyond the walls of our cozy Bird House... we played, and played, and rejoiced, and napped, and played some more. There was plenty... of laughter, of reflection, of gratitude, of hot chocolate, and generosity, love, and joy. We called family, we made a beautiful dinner, and we made new plans. Maria's favorite gift? My new pens! And then she listed just about everything else, too, and looked newly delighted with Christmas joy. We want for nothing but the hope that light, love, and joy came to your homes, as well.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Christmas Eve :: Three Hundred Fifty Nine - Sat, 12/24/2016 - 22:00
From eve to morning, looking back on a beautiful day...

It was merry bright.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

The Gift of Rain :: Three Hundred Fifty Eight - Fri, 12/23/2016 - 17:59
Everyday I find something happy in these holidays... from seeing a house lit for Christmas, to tying bows, I deliberately make or take cheer. Our Solstice party really puts me in a grateful and celebratory mood... I love the full house, the engagement. Gathering with my friends reminds me, in the happiest ways, that we have everything we need, and plenty to share, and that makes me feel euphoric, thankful, humble. Nothing is perfect. There is a great deal that is wrong, and trying, in the world, in daily life, in the challenges that come up at any time of the year... and I am not immune to the weight and pull of sorrow, fear, disappointment. I often find, in even my happiest moments, I'm tearful and crushed, because of what I miss, what I wish could be portioned out for everyone, how difficult it can be to hold on to hope, to courage, to love... the verb. I don't take action because I am so optimistic and confident, because of some over-idealized world view I possess. I make or take cheer to give me the courage, the motivation, the will, to keep moving forward. I believe in love, kindness, empathy, compassion, learning, growing, and sharing. I believe the rain has been a wonderful gift, the gray clouds a soft pallet to calm my angst and frustration, the wind a shake-up to strengthen my resolve and gratitude. Merry Christmas, friends. Happy Chanukah, dear ones. Be of good cheer, all. I wish you love, kindness, compassion, and shared light, every day of the New Year.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

No Yard Waste :: Three Hundred Fifty Seven - Thu, 12/22/2016 - 11:00
The yard where the chickens and goats live is hard-packed, decomposed granite. It doesn't do a great job of absorbing rainfall, and we've had a considerable amount of rain this week. Yesterday, with some dread, I went out to see how everyone was faring. The chickens don't mind rain, but the mud and muck isn't great for their health and happiness. The goats definitely have a zero tolerance policy for any water... drips, sprays, standing, falling! And they avoid mud, puddles, soggy ground, too. Honestly, no one wants to muddle through.

These leaves, and the barrel full of pine needles, are what save the day when I need to give the chickens and goats dry ground. We don't recycle our yard waste at the curb any more. Now it's collected in covered bins, and I use it to fill their shelter, and lay over puddles and the muckiest mud. The dried leaves smell good, so do the pine needles. Everything gets a generous layer of dry, clean clippings, prunings, and fallen leaves. I don't even do much to spread it around. If left in heaps, the goats love to forage through it, and the chickens delight in scratching and pecking. In no time, it will all be spread about.

Cozy, and tasty, that's what the goats say! They looked so relieved when I filled their shelter. No more damp corners, no more sloshy ground. And in a few weeks, on a sunny day, we can rake everything out, and add it to a compost heap. Everything will be well broken down and exceptionally ideal for going back to the yard as mulch, or in time, great, organic gardening soil.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

It's Warm in the Kitchen :: Three Hundred Fifty Six - Wed, 12/21/2016 - 16:28
The oven is preheating for the bread. We made chocolate chip cookies. We might bake brownies, or those cranberry-pecan bars I mentioned. I roasted chicken, with almonds on top. And that chicken on the stove is seasoned and spiced for tamales, but I have flour tortillas, and sometimes it's too hard to wait for tamales, when those burritos will taste delicious, too.

Yes, I am cooking a lot. Too much. It's almost compulsory, this time of year, isn't it? It's a heady mix of habit, tradition, and hiraeth. Oh woe, lachrymose me, with my ineffable emotions, nostalgia, and sentimentality.

It's warm in the kitchen, and blustery outside. I count my blessings, but cannot quell the murmur in my heart that wishes family were nearer, and time moved more gently. Maybe all of these pots and pans, spices and nourishment are a recipe to conjure comfort, summon solace.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Whiskers on Kittens :: Three Hundred Fifty Five - Tue, 12/20/2016 - 21:00
Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Baking, and sewing, and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Janece, you're right! I do live a good life.

Mister Foo was so intent on following me as I prepared some dough for Dutch oven bread. What better way to spend the eve of Solstice, than to get ready to have bread baking the first day of winter? And Foo was there, too, when I flipped through recipes, choosing a few for winter baking. Cranberry-pecan bars. Our recipe for chocolate chip cookies. A few more of our favorite things. William, Maria, and I watched the first half of the Sound of Music, and it was as beautiful as ever. We have rain today, it's cold... perfect for finishing the bread, starting on those cookies, and enjoying the second half of a good movie, then maybe start another.

Happy winter, dear friends, and I wish you all good lives, too, full of favorite things, and reasons to sing.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Making Joy :: Three Hundred Fifty Four - Mon, 12/19/2016 - 21:00
Geoff posted, from work, a link to a podcast... of Neil Gaiman reading A Christmas Carol. It's not just a favorite author reading a classic tale; there is an introduction, with remarks and backstory, to this unique edition of the Dickens' telling. Even before Geoff shared the link, I had popped corn, and set some aside with the idea that maybe we would string popcorn. I haven't done that in sixteen years, or more. William was about to warm up a pot of wassail... Trader Joe's is selling a spiced juice for the season, and it's lovely. Alex had started a fire. It turned out to be an impromptu, yet rather idyllic evening.

Neil Gaiman reads well, with just the right tone, and a compelling voice. The story, told from Charles Dickens' very familiar work, has a fresh tone, because, apparently, Dickens' had this prompt annotated especially for reading aloud, so it's sprinkled with details, and phrasing not heard in the original. Maria and I strung the popcorn in the soft light. Max, Alex, William, Maria and I shared the story time by the fire, and I was aware that this was a good time, a time of making some joy. Lately, I'm more aware than ever before, that we cannot take good times for granted, that life brings heartache, and pleasures... it helps to savor the blessings.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

A Good Morning :: Three Hundred Fifty Three - Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:32
Another party, another mess reminder that we live in an amazing community, are blessed with plenty of everything, and want for nothing. Thank you, friends who joined us in welcoming winter, in celebrating light, community, creativity, and joy. I love the day after a good party, because my head and heart are full of great memories, and I find evidence of all we have to appreciate, wherever I look.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

The Best of Times :: Three Hundred Fifty Two - Sat, 12/17/2016 - 23:00
Friends, lights, food, music, a few robots, some Lego bricks... it doesn't get any better than a full house when you want to feel love and joy, peace and light. The night we welcome Solstice... it's one of my favorite nights of the year.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Priority Foo :: Three Hundred Fifty One - Fri, 12/16/2016 - 10:06
This is a holiday tradition... Mister Washburn Foo watches for packages, and other special deliveries. He oversees the opening, watches the tissue, sniffs out the contents, then waits. When we've emptied his box, he claims his prize.

This priority delivery came all the way from Great Grandma Nancy, in Wisconsin, and it was full of her always anticipated and eagerly consumed holiday confections. With love, she sends us her Chex mix, cookies, yogurt covered pretzels, good stuff. I love the holidays, traditions, cats in boxes, the love and thoughtfulness.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Their Ancestors at Plimouth - Thu, 12/15/2016 - 10:02
William and Maria, before we boarded the Mayflower.

One day, on our trip to Massachusetts, we went back in time, to the lands of the Wampanoag, to the Mayflower (II), to the living history museum, Plimouth Plantation. Then we finished the day by stopping in Duxbury, to see the Myles Standish Burial Ground, and the resting place of John Alden, and his wife, Priscilla Mullins Alden. William and Maria, Max and Alex, too, are decedents of John and Priscilla Alden. This is on their father's side. It's certainly an interesting distinction and it made our visit to Plymouth and the all of the historic places more meaningful, but given that John and Priscilla had ten children, and those children had more, still... well, it's not improbable that many are descendants of the Aldens! (And after skimming the Wikipedia links, I am curious... which Alden is their cousin Longfellow descended from?) History and family ties are fascinating. I didn't mean to delve in so, but maybe our grandchildren, or great-great-greats will stumble across these notes, and be amused, or chagrinned!

Beside the statue of Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy, at the time of the Mayflower's arrival at Plymouth. He is credited with saving the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony.

Actually, this is attraction is possibly no less dignified than the rock that is Plymouth Rock.

Never mind.

Let's visit a living history museum. I love a good living history museum, and the one for Plimouth Plantation is very good. We enjoyed the details of daily living in both the Wampanoag village, as well as the Pilgrim's settlement. Their were knowledgable people there, in period dress and effect, and they gave fine examples and demonstrations of crafts, chores, and daily living.

All of my life, the stories of the Pilgrims, of a harvest feast, of early settlers, colonists, the Wampanoag, all of it, was textbook material, novels and poems, movies, imagination, sentimentalized through Thanksgiving, and taken with reserve and sorrow because of the actual plight of the Indigenous people. I find seeing real places, for myself, to be a profound and moving experience. I wanted to see the same kinds of trees, the same riverbanks, the Cape, the shoreline, the horizon, the terrain, where all of these events transpired, where men and women from far lands, met people in their homelands, where they struggled to find common ground, where the early history of this country played out. There were good moments, and good intentions. There were also struggles, failures, betrayal, and heartache. I think we still feel the repercussions and influence of these places, people, and events. I hardly intended to explain, defend, or preach on the whole sordid history of the colonization of the Americas, but I feel remiss in not acknowledging that I know it's a mess, as I also happen to love Thanksgiving, and have a fascination for re-enactment, living-history museums, and the culture heritages of all people.

One thing I love about living-history museums, particularly in the Americas, is how much I recognize... not just in a historic context, but in my own life experience. I have slept in earth and clay rooms, by open fires, and helped my grandmother grind corn for dinner, I have enjoyed the experience of washing clothes by hand, from water drawn from a well, feeding livestock, heating water to cook, to bathe, to clean, and living in a village that you can walk through, on dirt roads, in half an hour, stopping to greet countless familiar faces. Dirt floors, rustic furnishings, cooking over a fire, small rooms, close living with neighbors and nature, self-reliance, and making your own amusements, in these places, like the missions and old towns of California, I always get a bit of homesickness, nostalgia.

We visited the reproduction of the summering village of the Wampanoag. Then walked on to the Pilgrim village...

The fort is at the top, and entrance, of the village. Jennifer and Ken were such great guides, and enthusiastic companions. Nothing beats visiting new places with local folk!

Every house represented the home of an actual passenger on the Mayflower. And the village is full of people carrying on with the typical activities, and daily lives of the Pilgrims.

Since William has made a few reproduction firearms, we were particularly interested in seeing these muskets. And, the clothes, too, for that matter. William sews, and we both had our sights fixed on plackets, hand sewn button holes, top stitching, and waistcoats.

The opportunities to see village life, to communicate with residents, and even to participate in activities make the visit to Plimouth Plantation exceptional. And muskets are very loud!

Really impressive? The lessons and training Ken and William stepped up for, with pikes. I thought it would be a cute photo-opportunity, where they would carry the pike, and learn a few facts and trivia. But this guy put them through a rigorous, thorough drilling, complete with chants, marching, and formations. It was actually quite comprehensive.

This makes me especially happy... seeing my daughter and friend, recalling what a beautiful day it was, how smoothly each hour of our visit went. We were so lucky with the weather, with enjoying off-season quiet, no crowds. And too, just how easy and uncomplicated everything was between us, as though we have been meeting and traveling together hundreds of times, over many years. Kindred spirits. Such a rich fortune of goodness in finding your kindred spirits.

We had lunch at the Museum, and yes, I ordered the Thanksgiving sandwich, which I still feel giddy and indescribably linked to history about, because I am odd. Then we visited the Grist Mill, which was cool, and I want to build a doll house model of a grist mill, because I am odd.

Our last stop of the day was in Duxbury, at the Miles Standish Burying Ground. Only our second cemetery visit of the trip, but probably one of the more solemn ones, as we were seeing family. And truly, every cemetery visit was solemn, though not somber or grim. We found a kind of comfort and familiarity in these places, where we admired the craftsmanship, appreciated the history, acknowledged the long lives, and felt pangs of grief for the sad stories suggested by dates, and names, etched and weathered, in cold stone.

Maria, tending her great-many-great-x grandmother's memorial. She made little twig and stone hearts, one for Priscilla Alden, one for John Alden.

I remember, at the end of this day, after Jennifer's delicious ratatouille and polenta dinner, after visiting and chatting, Maria and I snuggled into bed, and were recounting the day, and we agreed, that even on just this third day of our trip we already felt like we had seen enough and enjoyed ourselves so much, we could feel like we'd had a worthwhile and complete experience, and then we giggled happily in anticipation of how much more we still had to look forward to.

Totes Our Goats :: Three Hundred Fifty - Thu, 12/15/2016 - 10:01
Tasha Tudor Goat and Ada Lovelace Goat. They want to play with you, obviously. Sometimes I forget, and then I laugh when I remember... we totally have goats!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

In Step With the Chicas :: Three Hundred Forty Nine - Thu, 12/15/2016 - 08:53
The worst of their molting seems to have passed. We haven't had a single egg in what feels like a month! Poor chicas, though. They've really been through a rough spell. One thing that never changes... chicken feet. Someone's always gotta step into the breakfast! Fiona, it's chicken "feed," not chicken "feet."

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wishes :: Three Hundred Forty Eight - Wed, 12/14/2016 - 08:47
Every morning their teacher poses a new question for the sixth graders. They can answer anonymously. Maria didn't sign her name, but I know, without a doubt, which one is hers. Alex's not-so-subtle Scotland Campaign is deeply-seated and firmly fixed. I love it.

My wish: That all children were safe and comfortable enough to make happy, carefree wishes, with joyful abandon. My prayer: Some Peace on Earth, for all.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.