Chicken Blog by Natalie

17~ Coming Soon! - Thu, 08/17/2017 - 09:43
Not Just Another Yoga Studio

Where we live there is at least one yoga studio per 42 residents... it's in the city's charter. But, by popular request, we are opening the first goat and yoga studio in town. Actually, this is only part of my empire scheme. The final vision is for an all inclusive California suburban experience. Bird House Goats & Yoga will have seminars on Meditation Through Laundry, Zen and the Art of Cosplay. We are developing a Tai Chi class, led entirely by chickens. We hope to include weekend workshops on felting cat hair, cutting your own wheatgrass, cosmic alignment of raking a hen house, chanting with goats. Exclusively, during Santa Ana season, we will be offering Hot Yoga, with Goats and All Night Sweat Lodging in our barn. Consider Goat Massage... that's deep tissue, and it's breathtaking. Ungulate hooves can pinpoint the spots where you are most susceptible to bruising and tendon tears, opening you up to seek alternative healing, restoration. If we can pass the food handler's licensing test, we may add a fro-yo shop with fresh goat's milk frozen yogurt and boba. Can you see it? 3D print your own yoga mat! Buy my Totes My Goats Tote... to carry your bottle of kombucha, flip-flops, and knitting. Drum circles! This won't be just another yoga studio. This will be the Ultimate Ungulate Universal Yoga and Spa Sensation. Reserve your space now!

Namaste, to all the friends on FB who tagged me and posted goat yoga videos on my wall. And a big and loving thanks to Geoff, William, and Max, who helped me demolish the old goat shed, and build this awesome new shelter for our dear goaters.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

16~ Picking Up - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 09:38
This is the book we started in Maine, last Fall. We would leave our little nest of a home in Portland to explore the coast, and find adventures, then by nightfall we were back in the cozy spot where this book awaited us. Now, we are picking it up, again, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.... maybe because it rained all day, maybe because we were all together and enjoying our fireplace, eating the last of our homegrown apples. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for the warmth and serenity of family time, of soft light, comforts, and a good book, for a moment's relief from the news, the weight of hate, fear, disquiet. Grant us peace, all, and the loving kindness to share comforts, and light.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

15~ "Love casts out fear..." - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 11:14
“Don't try to make me grow up before my time…”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

14~ Something New - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 11:04

Chickens and goats were sent out into the garden, while Geoff and William got to work on the new shelter for Ada and Tasha. After taking a good look at, and making an honest assessment of, the little cottages we put up for chickens and goats four years ago, it's clear those original structures are overdue for an overhaul. The new goat house is raised, so they can stay out of mud and rising rain water. On dry days, the hens will love the shaded space beneath, where they can have dust baths, and probably make their renegade laying nests. It will have a pitched, tin roof, and three solid walls, with an open area, where they can watch events, follow the comings and goings of Bird House days. While the walls went up, the hens enjoyed the bamboo... they love to scratch and snack in this sheltered spot. And the goats... the goats "tried" to stay out of the way, but were most insistent are being helpful, which is not at all helpful. Even with goats butting in, a lot of progress was made.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

13~ Slow Sunday - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 11:51
Summer is a slow Sunday, windows open, and laughter from the night before still resonating through the house.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

12~ A Very Good Idea - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 15:13

Alicia Paulson had a good idea for dinner, and she shared it on Instagram. The idea... shortcake and strawberries for dinner. And who would judge that with anything but appreciation? We took the inspiration, and the recipe, for our own dinner. It was a very good idea.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

11~ Twilight - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 22:00
The misty blue, in their twilight.

It's hard to separate wonder and gratitude for all of the good things in our lives from the political climate, headlines, angst, and Tweeted drama of this new age. The dark bits, the hateful spewing, and rhetoric seep into our daily lives, and how can we look away? It's news. It's the daily message, tone, policy. And it is a new age. Our familiar, if imperfect, ideas of America, of engagement, presence, and values, are eroding, deteriorating, at such a rapid fire pace, one scarcely recognizes the landscape of our society and discourse from what it was a year ago. I am not idealizing our country, or sweeping our shortcomings under a rug... we are flawed, and always have been, but I did appreciate the effort to promote peace, to maintain civility, to foster respect, to value intellect, expertise, science, education, our environment, civil rights, justice, morality, truth. Those are good goals, good standards. When did truth become so blatantly eschewed? Why is kindness equated with weak-kneed liberalism, or spineless inaction? I think I know, but it's hard to get a decent discussion on the subject... I am astounded at how ferociously the new age is defended, excused, 'rationalized,' or simply accepted in exchange for one piece of moralizing legislation, or favor. I have been admonished for even trying to express my concerns so that I am, frankly, scared to speak, reluctant to voice opposition. Thankfully, there are still eloquent, bolder voices, speaking aloud, questioning, and holding us accountable. Would you believe... I miss old Republicans, the sort that held conservative values, and saw another way around a problem... we didn't always agree, but I'd like to go back to heated debate, mild banter, even a little moral outrage, instead of what passes for "leadership," the locked and loaded, abuse suspects, grab 'em where you may brand of government.

It's hard to sleep, to sit quietly with my thoughts, because the news, and social media, are infused with hate, with acrimony, threats, blustering, greed, and oppression. I don't feel safe, nor powerful. I don't feel great, or even like I am part of something that espouses greatness. In case you're wondering, I choose love.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

10~ Just Goats and a Hen - Thu, 08/10/2017 - 15:08

Everything good is better shared, especially our planet, and loving kindness.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

9~ One Planet - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 11:19
It's one planet, this home, and garden, spinning through space. We share it, however difficult it may be... we have to go on, sharing, and making our best efforts to live peacefully, constructively, lovingly, together. I can only hope that what begins at home is good, is increased and shared, raises our thoughts, drives our actions.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

8~ Siempre - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 11:07
Eunice V. V., Mexico City, 1953~
Eunice, with Delia and Rebecca, today~
At 95, and as lovely as can be.
Her kindness and gentle manners, her beauty, grace, and faithful outlook on life, her stamina, and resolve, her intelligence, practical skills, her sweet company, and her wisdom have inspired me for as long as I can recall, and always will. Happy Birthday, Grandma. Eres una bendición, un tesoro, y te quiero, siempre.

(Thank you, Mommy, for sharing today's Picture a Day photographs. I wish I could have been there, celebrating, too.)

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

7~ Patchwork Companion - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 19:00

At long last I am repairing the bedspread that tore coming out of our old dryer. I've put this job off for years. But, now it's started, I am glad, and happy it's coming along so nicely. It's slow work, hand sewing, and my poor finger, the one that pushes the sharp quilting needle through is so-so tender! But just look at the sweet company I keep. What else could make a job nicer, than sharing the load with a little friend?

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

6~ Zinnia Elegans - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 09:58
Summer and Zinnias, some of my earliest memories are of these.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

5~ Bird House & Barn, A Farm Report - Sat, 08/05/2017 - 22:00

It's been quite sometime since I publish a Farm Report, in the format and style that I used to do quite regularly. I still post about goats and chickens. And goats. And chickens. About the garden, the cats, weather, harvests. And sometimes, I share practical advice, or... sad news. This time I have something to share that I do not want to share, because I am angry with myself about it, grieving, and ashamed.

I call myself a "chickenblogger." And some may read that as a declaration of expertise, or authority, but I mostly think of it in a self-aware way... I am a scaredy-shy-anxious person, who blogs... the chicken blogger. And being that I don't profess to be an expert, I feel compelled to admit something awful I've done, with horrible consequences. Not for the pity, not for any attention, really, but because I feel a responsibility to be transparent about the good and the bad of keeping chickens, so that others can learn from my experiences, from the ideas that have helped me, and the mistakes that have broken my heart.

In the afternoons I let the hens free-range. Our yard is mostly safe, and I know there are risks... we get hawks, and even the occasional daylight bobcat has been seen. But, when I'm home, it's a nice choice to make for the chickens, and the goats, to have time and space to explore a larger area. The key is to get them in and secured before it gets dark. If I don't... the run can be attacked by owls, opossums, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, weasels, snakes, and the hens would be mostly helpless to defend themselves.

Saturday morning, I awoke to Chango staring so intently out our window, onto the backyard, that I actually asked a cat, "Chango, what's wrong? What do you see?" It took my eyes a few scans to focus, to see what he saw. It was carnage. Geoff woke up to my distressed gasp, and all I could utter, as I ran out of the room was, "Chickens." Down the stairs, out the door, I tried to revisit the night before... and I knew. I knew, with self-loathing shame, I forgot to close and secure the run. Not one hen clucked or stirred. The goats were silent, and the mess spread across the entire lawn. Feathers. Wings. Bits, terror, loss.

It looked, it felt, like I'd lost all eleven hens, like it was a complete wipe-out. And I thought about my favorite hens, about how stupid and irresponsible I am, about their fear, pain, suffering. I thought, I can't be a farmer, play at this. I've failed them. I say, often, "If it's 'easy to do,' like locking up a chicken run, then it's 'easy to forget.'" But that's no consolation when facing dead pets. And no excuse for not insuring that I don't make that mistake. I used to have an alarm on my phone... every day, at dusk, it went off, and whether I needed the reminder, or not, I would think about the chickens, and double check myself. For some reason, that alarm had stopped going off... new phone, user error? I hadn't even noticed. No excuse. There has to be a system, a back-up plan, for making sure pets, farm animals, loved ones, are not forgotten.

Geoff, and Alex joined me, and we found nine hens, as they came out of hiding. Amazing. I saw Mako, and Fiona, there was Liberty, and those mean sisters, Pepper and Pippi, we had Koa, Tricia McMillan, Tamsyn, and Emma Thompson. We lost Mama Tompson, who was broody, an easy catch, since she never left her nest. Poor dear. We lost Ginger. She roosted on top of the nest box, above Mama Tompson. The goats looked distressed, so did the cats. They'd seen it all, I'm sure.

We cannot be sure what it was... we suspect weasels or skunks. Their was a whiff of musk in the air. It was a messy, ravaging event. I only think about it in hopes of knowing what we are up against. But really, 'what we are up against' is human error. No excuse. There has to be a system, a back-up plan, for making sure pets, farm animals, loved ones, are not forgotten. My alarm is activated, again. Geoff added an alarm to his phone, too. Nothing in life is fail-safe. I get that. And playing at being a farmer is no game. I get that, too. Most of the time, in many ways, having chickens and goats is as easy, and fun, whimsical and cute, as all of the blogs, and Instagram pages depict it. I have shared my concerns about publications that make chicken keeping seem a little too easy. And I've shared all I have learned about what I have found necessary for keeping them healthy and safe. We have learned plenty, the hard way, and we have worked hard to make as safe a home as we can for our farm pets. We've been, mostly, successful, and fortunate.

The cute cottages we assembled and installed, four years ago, are falling down, and basically expired. Max demolished the goat's cottage... or he finished demolishing what they have been working at taking down, all along. Goats! We are building them a new shelter, with a sturdy and raised floor, and plenty of rain cover. When that's complete, I will get started on a new shelter and roosts for our hens. We have to do this, I see, keep doing our best, adjusting our sails, and trying to make things better.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

4~ A Blanket For a Sail - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:30

I see, it's not actually a sail. It's a shade. But the notion fixed itself in my thoughts, and I can't let it go. I'd be tempted to paint the little boat pea-green (Is it a skiff? Sometimes a term or expression comes to mind, from a book I've read, a song I've heard, and I pause to reflect on memory, recall and fallibility.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes... sailing away, in a pea-green boat.

But wait... back to fallibility. I always thought the line in Harry Nilsson's song was "use your heart as a compass, but it turns out the heart is both a rudder, and a blanket. Either I have been rudderless, or Nilsson was paddling his boat up mixed metaphors.

The important thing is... I really love that blanket, for a sail, or for a shade. And I like the little boat. I'll tell you an idea we discussed... to construct a swing, or a zip-line, suspending a boat above the yard, for rides, and laughs.

I've been thinking of returning to patchwork and quilt making. I don't know why I have to ponder, muse, contemplate, day-dream, imagine, and calculate, sometimes for months, even years, before I do something. Is it the same as procrastination? Because I want to quilt. I'd like to quilt. Other things get stalled, too, this same way. And I just seem to wait for an intangible sign, a push from somewhere or something, I don't know what, before taking on the task in mind. Adaliza's patchwork kit is waiting for me. Maybe I don't feel worthy of those pretty prints, or capable of making something from a pattern, but I am eager to begin. I am preparing, in my mind. It feels close... the doing. But! Oh dear... just look at the sad state I left my last quilt project in: Total confusion.

Well. Now, my rudderless heart feels like crying.

Sometimes, I fall in love with ideas. I shop for them, collect them like threads, or spices in a cupboard, knowing that some day they'll come in handy for something practical, or flavorful, or wonderful. Ideas, and inspiration. I love those. But, possibly, I have too many, too much, and instead of reclining in imaginary hammocks, pondering the feasibility of riding in a boat above our lawn, I ought to be clearing out the cupboards, and using up those spices, and threads.

Am I paddling up a creek of mixed metaphors? It's 'heart for a rudder, faith as compass, a blanket for a sail.' In the song, anyway, and I must say, I was happier with that song when my memory was fallible and I had the lyrics mixed up. Geoff suggests I bring out a GPS, take the train. Naturally, this only inspires a whole new orbit of ideas, and compass directions.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

2~ August on the Little Bird House Farm - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:52

Don't tell anyone I said so, but this summer has been quite mellow, as far as weather has been concerned. I'm afraid I'll jinx the whole thing, and we'll finally be hit with a heat wave that reaches to the coast, or brings even greater masses of visitors, seeking cooler temperatures, to fill the beaches and roads. There have been hot days, for sure, and the humidity gets pretty heavy, but I know it can be worse. Much worse, and I dread that. In the meantime, I keep relishing the warm, but not scorching weather, and loving those Summer Clouds. Here, on the coast, we get low clouds, and fog, but the real clouds, the thunder heads, cumulus clouds, with projecting heads, churning and climbing into the sky... they are east. They make a spectacular show, from afar, and up close, they're majestic and powerful, portentous. Yesterday, the thunderheads seemed to build so tall that it was as though they were collapsing under their own mass, and the clouds toppled and spilled west, threatening rain, and flood. The air was heavy with the chance of a deluge. We waited. Hoped.

All is well on our little farm. Well enough. I could admit that the goat's and chicken's cottages are in desperate need of renovations, or maybe, honestly, it's time to tear them down and begin anew. Didn't we just build that? The run, the shelters, all of it? Okay... if I ever said that "cute cottages are ideal housing for goats and chickens," I was in a delusional haze. Naive. Dreaming. Chickens should be in concrete bunkers that can be hosed out, and goats probably could use the same. They need industrial strength construction, with any surface that can take power washing. Lately, I have been pining for upper body strength, engineering knowledge, and power-tool skills, all of which I would apply to basic, sturdy, easy to clean shelters for goats and chickens.

Just the same, all is well on our little farm. We get lots of eggs, and lots of cucumbers, and lots of teeny tiny tomatoes, and so much passionfruit is on the fence, that I could open a passionfruit fruit stand, and stay in business all summer. The flowers I planted have had mixed success. None of the lobelia made it, but we have little zinnias, and bright cosmos. We brought home some more zinnias, taller ones, too. Mako Hen approves. It's time to take out the basil... in spite of my deadheading efforts, which were valiant, it's still going to seed. The bees approve, and I like that.

We could feel the weather, the restless weight of those heavy clouds, and we waited for rain. It did not come. Not here, anyway.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

3~ In August - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:50
How often does my family hear me exclaim, catching my breath, "That sky," then reaffirm my affection for the August clouds? Often. Yesterday, in fact. The clouds in August are a show, a panorama of nature's prowess and majesty. The thunderheads are like distant beacons, over the foothills and mountains, captivating from afar, and to stand beneath them... riveting, terrifying, wonderful. It's almost enough to recall, or imagine, standing in a summer storm. It's better still to follow those beacons, and be there, again, where the air is impassioned, and water drops heavily, loosened from a torn sky, making dusty sage and buckwheat smell sweet and smoky, like hot honey. Oh, yes. I love that August sky.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.