Thursday, October 9, 2014

Full Moon

My sleep patterns are all out of whack. I blame the full moon. Don't try to rationalize my irrational connection. When I decide to be irrational, that's all there is to it.

In related news, my brother came home from work yesterday with a mind to cut down one of our biggest trees closest to the house. No heads up. No pre-planning. Just home from work and wanted to do it right then. Yesterday, as in the eve of the lunar eclipse / blood moon. Coincidence? I think not.

He wanted to do it right then. With no one else to help but Mom, his wife, and me. Really, just Mom. His wife and I observed and documented, phones ready and '911' keyed in, ready for the "Send" button to be pressed. Mom (wo)manned the Chevy Silverado pick-up, with a cable dog lead (yep, you read that correctly) and a heavy canvas tow strip tied to the tree and the truck's ball hitch. My brother worked the chain saw.

It is here that I should let you know that this is not their first tree felling. They've done this many a time. When trees age and become a threat to the house or are just perfect candidates for winter fire wood, it is good forestry practice to chop them down. It helps save other healthy trees from being accidentally damaged if they were to fall on their own, say, during a rough storm.

This particular tree, a giant maple that I keenly admired, had already dropped a warning limb on us earlier this summer, during just such a storm (picture below). The limb happened to have the girth of many of the adult trees on our property. It also chose to land with its top branches close enough to my bedroom window to give me the heebie jeebies. It may have appeared stately and steadfast to my uneducated eyes, but had been on the family's tree-cutting watch list for several years.

Limb landed too close for comfort.
With a well-placed wedge cut and Mom directing the fall, all went well. I'm sure the heavy praying that was going on helped, too. Part of the tree landed where the truck (and Mom in it) had started out! If the lead hadn't slipped as planned, she might not have been able to move fast enough. We shall not dwell.

Here are the triumphant (though bittersweet because I hate to see a dead tree) pictures. As Anne Shirley says in Anne's House of Dreams, "I couldn't live where there were no trees--something vital in me would starve."

Mom is queen of the stump.

Prior to the tree business, there was chicken drama. Who knew having a chicken coop would be like hosting a resident soap opera? Mom and I found the little black Silkie rooster almost dead in the corner of the coop one day. We'd noticed he was being roughed up by some of the bigger chickens, but hadn't worried (enough).

Note: I must admit that we were aware we had overstepped a rather obvious rule of chicken keeping. There's generally one rooster. We knew we had two. But they seemed to get along swimmingly. It was these two large red-brown hens that were causing an issue. Then we realized that these particular hens crowed.

According to my Mamaw, it is never a good thing when a hen crows.

Long story short. About a month ago, I extracted Silkie and we set him up a private space in the garage. He enjoyed solo forays on the front lawn, still in his large cage, just with the bottom removed. When we decided he was strong enough and his cocky attitude had returned, we popped him back in the big coop. But morale was not good. Egg production was beginning to suffer. Our average of 5 per day was down to 3. With 7 hens and 2 roosters. What were they doing all day? We were beginning to seriously think about cooking recipes.

Then, one day, Mom found blood splatters all over the coop and on some of the birds.

Keep in mind that some of these birds were raised by hand by my brother and sister-in-law, plus we move slowly in the coop and pause to stroke many of them. Usually, it is no big deal if one of the hens escapes by wandering past my legs when I'm slowly bringing in the food, which I do by usually keeping the pail low enough that they graze off the top of it as I come along. The wayward hen usually turns right around and follows me into the coop, as long as I notice her and kindly hold the spring-closing door open for her. On the rare occasion that I've had an actual escape, I simply walk slowly and quietly around her, while she's dumbly trying to figure out why she can't just walk through the wire wall to get back inside. Then I slowly get into position and make my move quick. I pin her wings and hold her close to my chest. No problem. Only got scratched once. Not even a very dirty job.

Well, this Monday, I had already delivered the food and filled one water container for the brood. I was returning with a second jug of water. I unlocked the door and bent down to grab the jug. To my surprise, the door burst open and the big rooster came shooting past me! It was the clearest and most opportunistic jail break I'd ever seen. And that fella had absolutely no intention of being returned to that coop. I tried my slow and easy maneuvers. Nope. Not happening. The whole time he was quiet and intent on keeping his movements directed away from that building, while the hens were making a ruckus like I'd never heard before.

At one time, he had nice fancy tail plumage.
I finally decided that if I chased him too much, he might head into the wooded lot behind the house or mosey on over the ridge. I was home alone, so I had to wait for help to arrive. After the fear of losing him, was that of his meeting his end in the jaws of a fox. I've seen two this year. I love foxes, but this rooster is a beaut and I'd hate for him to go out before his time.

Finally, my brother came home, and with the additional help of neighbors, we cornered the rooster and wrapped him in a sheet. (I'd attempted to throw said sheet over him. Did you know a scared rooster will fly really, really fast?)  While we had him in hand, we took the time to stroke him until his poor heart stopped thumping and check him out. He seemed to be fine, just pissed. But while we were standing there, one of the red/brown hens jumped on one of our more petite and docile hens. My brother decided right then and there to separate them. He popped the rooster back into the coop and we pulled out the two red/brown hens. We placed them into separate cages.

Now. I want you to know that I did not select or purchase these chickens. I have never raised chickens until this summer. My experience is limited to spending my childhood with my grandparents, who raised chickens, and helping them on occasion. I identify roosters by that big red comb that stands up on top of their head. But hens have combs, too. So, it never seemed odd to me or Mom that the two hens who were causing all the trouble had combs. They weren't tall, dorsal-fin combs like the other rooster sported. So we assumed they were hens of the same breed since they shared similar feather coloring. Quite handsome birds really.

I don't even have to say it, do I? That's right. We now think that we've had FOUR roosters this entire time. Which explains why we never had 7 eggs at any one time. We think, after spending some time scouring the Internet for rare chicken breed pictures and learning cool things about comb shapes, that the escape-artist rooster sporting the nice, high comb is a Black Copper Marran. The two "hens," which look remarkably like him, but with different shaped combs, may be Golden Laced Wyandottes. We're not 100% sure, but their being roosters explains a whole lot.

Within two days of removing the troublemakers...production is back up to 5 eggs today!

Meanwhile, I dyed my second skein of yarn, this one 100% Merino.

Here are both of them. I'm pretty excited about my first attempts at acid dyeing!

Can you tell I like purples?
I plan on knitting up a swatch to check out how the colors work with stitches before I try to select projects for them, but I'm fairly sure the fingering weight (blues and purples on top) will be a shawl or wrap, and the DK (purples on bottom) will be a hat.


  1. Oops re. those hens and roosters ... here's hoping that's all problems behind you now. Loving the yarn!

    1. Well, we were rather stupid about it all, but their coloring was so similar and the combs different, so we just assumed...and assuming is really a dangerous hobby!


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