Monday, June 22, 2009

No Lambs in the Chicken House!

The order has been disturbed in the chicken yard. First I introduced the bummer lambs and their new playmate ram lamb. Next I introduced 11 turkey poults. The chickens took most of this in stride as they have been dealing with three roosters ever since we house-raised two supposed hens that turned out not to be. But now things are getting a bit out of hand. Who would have thought to blame the lambs!

Instead of the proverbial fox in the hen house, we now have Piper, Eli, Dusty and Duke barging in at feeding time. The hens go squawking out the door in alarm as the four lambs crowd around the hanging feeder, making it swing wildly from the rafters as they shove their little noses into 2-grain scratch and oyster shell. And, it's not as if there is lots of room for them and me in there in the first place. There are feed bins and hen boxes and roosts that take up half the room, and the dust stirred up by four sets of sheep hooves is making me choke.

I have a method for feeding that is supposed to keep all the different animals separated into their requisite species groups, but the lambs broke ranks and now all the animals think someone else's food must be better than theirs.

I start with the turkey poults. While they don't actually 'think' about anything as far as I can tell, they do jump at me when I have food in the scoop. If I am not careful I get my fingers pinched, which is pretty irritating. And I yell. As much as I try to keep the screen door pulled-to, there is always a chicken or lamb attempting to barge in for turkey food and the poults, in their frenzy to feed, don't even notice.

Next I feed the lambs their bottles because this is a total distraction for them. 30 seconds later (!) I march off to the grain bin and try to convince the little darlings, with their milk mustaches, that rolled corn and molasses covered pellets is the way to get off the powdered milk ...sooner than later (weaning is right around the corner). The chickens come over for a look-see.

Back in the chicken house, I fill my scoop full of scratch and some whole corn and exit out to spread breakfast for our 13 chickens and one goose. There is a pecking order so I make sure to spread some of the grain out of sight, otherwise Peeps, one of our pets, has to rely on bugs and grass for the day. I make a quick dash into the enclosure with the tom turkey and his girlfriend, trying to dump their food before the tom has time to fly off the roost at me. We are definitely not getting along, and he is closer to becoming Thanksgiving dinner than he knows...although I do wonder what a 2-year-old bird tastes like.

I finish up with a handful of whole corn for the peacock, Fred, pacing back and forth on the outside of the yard, the only 'free' bird in the flock. Sometimes he has to fight off our senile dog, Patches, and the neighbor dog, Louis, but at least the pushy lambs are on the other side of the fence.

Which leads me back to the lambs. At this point they have hit everyone's food choice in the yard and are back in the chicken house looking for scraps. I stopped chasing them out the human door once I discovered they had a method for squeezing through the miniature chicken door. Dusty barely fits, but Piper and Eli know how to get down on their knees and wiggle through, scattering chickens as they go. Their only challenge, the goose lying in wait to bite them on the nose when they exit, which he does from time to time. Some might say they deserve it.

Photo: Piper and Eli peek out the door of the chicken coop as if to say, "Who us?" and/or, "Where's that darned goose?"

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Wisteria Outhouse

There are signs on this old farm of life from a distant era, one that feels almost as far away as the Middle Ages. One vestigial piece is the outhouse, wired for light in the 1950s, when electricity finally came to the property but plumbing had not. Pieces of decaying knob and tube hang loose above the entry door.

The second family to live here added a stained glass window. I suppose we are probably the only ones in the area to have one of these, although the tilt of the house has put a crack through the middle of it. Combine this with the trailing Wisteria cathedraling over the small building and the image of the outhouse changes all together.

It's more of a conversation piece these days than a utilitarian feature of our property. I suppose we keep it because you never know when the power might go out for a very long time and we would regret its loss. There is a bucket of lime left over from the last tenants and even some poetry written on one of the walls. The building leans a little more each year and awhile back we (I) decided to re-roof the house to preserve what little of the structure was left. (It was at this point I wondered if we should have started with a more secure foundation!)

This became an opportunity for me to learn the basics of shake roofing. We didn't cut new shingles, but reused those in good shape pulled from the barn. I sat on a ladder with my barn-roofing friend as he tried to remember exactly how to place the shingles for overlap. I am not totally convinced we put the roof on the correct way, but for an unused outhouse it seemed good enough...and better than the bathrooms in our house that now use tarps to stop the winter rains!

What I like most about this outhouse is how it presents in the spring. The young purple flowers of the Wisteria set against the old barn gray wood are easy to capture in a photograph. Every year I take a photo or two, just for the irony of it! I added my own bit of whimsy to the building several years ago when I found a bird house made like a stacked outhouse, one for girls and one for boys. I nailed it to the telephone pole at the back of the building just for kicks... and to see if anyone would ever notice.

I feel a 'moment' coming on. An outhouse ode to spring? A shot at a non-rhyming poem? Here's what I've got so far:

The Wisteria Outhouse

When purple flowers bloom and fall around your weathered wood
And young birds rest upon your wizened roof
As well they should
When creepers trail through cedar seats and wrap along the walls
And light falls brightly through the cracked stained glass
And lands upon the poem in the stall

I marvel at the strangeness of it all...

An outhouse decorated by the spring
To wear a mantle made of leaves until the fall

Photos: top - leaning outhouse; middle - stained glass in the outhouse; bottom - bird houses as outhouses

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones

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