Nov 9, 2008

The Odd Birds Club

It's been a strange week, kids. Wanna hear about it? Good. Thought you might.

I've been off two wheels since the wreck*, and it's withering my soul. Dragging feet between the towing company and the shop where Betty is going to get her estimate, wrangling with insurance companies and the lawyer and the damned Mustang, which loses third gear and reverse when warm. Sounds trivial enough until you pull into a driveway to back out and reverse direction and you realise you have to get out and PUSH the bastard backwards into the street to go back the way you came. Trust me, boys and girls, a 1965 Ford Mustang is ALL STEEL, and therefore about as light at the Thanksgiving dinner we're all going to be gorging ourselves on in a few weeks.

Fought for and successfully won the right to keep my old office at work, which the former DOO forced me out of, and I find my productivity increasing. You know, working in an office shuffling paperwork and making medical records isn't the sort of fulfilling work a person like me needs, though. I'm an odd bird, if you didn't know already. Somewhere along the line I inherited one of those Work Ethic things and I can't seem to shake it. So now, unless I'm raising a barn or tilling a coupla hundred acres on the weekends it shows in my bearing, my mental health and my overall well being. Two-wheeled therapy helps immensely, but lacking wheels that avenue of release is sadly absent. The best weekends seem to occur for me when I can get out and DO something, something physical, something to drain off that energy. Ballooning. Trainspotting. Farming. When I can work I feel marvelous; I never feel so good as when when I feel like I've accomplished something, when I can point at something and say "I did that."

Yesterday was a grey day for me, emotionally. I woke up with back pains (probably from pushing Henry Ford's steel contraption Friday afternoon) and that set the tone--pain pills, a slightly blurry outlook on life and an intense desire to get out and operate heavy machinery, which was foiled by a stiff and insistent north wind. All that plus the morphine worked to destroy my motivation so I was less than fulfilled as a worker bee. Today seems to have made up for that lack, thank my lucky stars and garters.

Oddly enough, chickens helped.

I've not written about them much, but we're in process of raising two more batches of day-old pullets to adulthood, two batches growing up about three weeks apart. That means the back porch has been full of fowlness; poo, wet pine shavings and the unmistakable scent of chickens. I got smart the weekend before last and made a sort of outside room for the first batch of eight, a three foot by four foot enclosure with an open bottom and a hinged top, about a foot and a half tall, wrapped in chicken wire. It got the "high school" birds off the back patio and let us put the kindergardeners into the middle school cage and out of the dog kennel they were in.

The high schoolers loved their new digs--fresh grass to gnaw down to nubs, the feel of terrain under their little claws and the occasional unlucky bug made them happy campers, and the new middle-schoolers were happy to have more room to stretch their little green legs. Since the college kids outgrew their outside dorm about a week ago THEY were ready for a change today, and I was ready for some physical activity, and there being no real grass to cut...

Enter my good friend Manuel Labour, and therapy, and happiness. A feeling of exertion, of having DONE something with my weekend rather than spend it eating and sitting on the couch.

Less than a hour of work with saw and screwdriver and an assortment of scrap wood produced a serviceable A-frame lean-to with a solid back, two narrow strips of 3/4" plywood for perches and with a heat-lamp clipped to the outside shining in and an old towel draped across the front opening about halfway down, suddenly they have a nice eastward facing dormitory. Mrs. I and I rodeoed the adults into one half of the hen yard, closed the gate to the other, set up the new dorm therein and let the young adults have at it. Plenty of fresh mulch to rake around, a variety of interesting seeds and grass and insect life to gnaw at, and within a few hours of adjusting to this huge new world they were roaming and scratching and dust-bathing and learning that they could, in fact, try out their new wings without crashing into the roof.

An odd bird--one of the four Barred Rocks (this is one of the two cockrels) resting a foot.

Hanging out around the dorm.

One of the four Gold Laced Wyandottes

Good fences make for easier transition to the cruel adult world right over there, with it's pecking order.

Watching them learn about the world made me smile, as it usually does. The new nest box condo I built two weekends ago fit nicely into the coop, and now the laying area is three boxes high and between four and six across, giving the ladies fourteen nest boxes to go about their business in, room and more for almost thirty hens. Plus when the two 'mistake' Barred Rock roosters grow old enough there will be enough hens to go around as well, with some left over.

From there the middle schoolers graduated off the patio to the big outside world, to learn about grass and bugs and scratching, and how cold it really CAN get at night. I'd have some shots for you, but my camera has trouble differentiating between chicken wire and chicken. Perhaps soon I can post a few--they have "willow" legs, which is to say the most wonderful shade of willow bark green, very unexpected, a nice lagniappe.

Having the fowl off the back porch meant it could be given a good sweeping and cleaning, and then the cats had their outside sun and fresh air back, a fact which has not been wasted--there's been more pussy on my patio in the last six hours than in the Playboy mansion all week.

Yeah, that was sad.

After that there was time to carry metal T-posts out to the chicken yard to lay out the new expansion area, assembly of which will occur perhaps next weekend. Room to grow, room to expand. Room enough for scads of chickens to roam safely and mostly freely, protected from predation. Come spring when the days grow longer and the hens return to a full laying schedule I'm going to have to put up a honking great sign in the front yard-- "Eggs For $ale!" I don't think I'll be able to bring myself to put "Cheep!" under that, but you never know. Plus the Egg Monies jar will fill even faster, and with Easter coming and the middle school kids being Americaunas we'll have a nice passel of pastel blue- and green-shelled eggs to amaze and astound the marks.

Belle should be home next weekend too, which will be nice. She's been staying with Rita at Aria Kennels, lounging with her mother and Sean and the new puppies and some of the other champions in the warm Fort Worth sunshine. In a few weeks WE'LL be expanding our kennel from one to three! Sherry, a good friend of ours at Brassgate Kennels, a close sister kennel to Aria has a puppy they're willing to let us have, as they've grown too big so we're going to be the happy new home for either Bathsheba or Guinevere (follow the link and scroll down, they're both photoed there,) and Rita is arranging to have another puppy from a new litter of HERS stay over with us for a few months, as two Borzoi puppies have enough energy for each other to learn to grow strong and tough, whereas a single three-year old Belle hasn't nearly the energy requirements nor the patience.

Happy day, this means more construction here at Irrelephant Farms! A new run is being planned even as I write, place for the three to run long and hard without hitting a fence or an azalea bush or a poorly-placed crepe myrtle tree. Room to bounce and roam and learn to be big strong champions, which they're destined to be. Belle is very close now to her own championship, and will be in Oklahoma next weekend at a four-day show, hopefully to return with the rest of her needed points. What does that mean for me? Dog houses to build! Fences to put up! Work. Glorious, sweaty work in the cooling days of winter. Therapy.

Now if I can only get my two wheeler back.
* If you're curious, the Bone Stretcher finished my evals last week and after peering at the (frightening) x-rays he's decided that to fix my wildly out-of-whack spinal cord and neck will require two to three times weekly visits for...wait for it...six to eight months. My head rests about an inch too far forward, adding extra pressure to my shoulders and neck, my neck vertebrae are all out of alignment left to right, exacerbated badly by my landing on them, and my L3 and L4 vertebrae juuuust about touch on their dorsal edges. Yay. Ain't old age wonderful?

I hope they have a massage therapist.


Joan of Argghh! said...

Such tender ministrations for your flock! It's quite touching.

And to refer to them as school children. That seems about right!

They are a bunch of lucky ladies.


meno said...

Yikes about your back/neck/shoulders. But considering, you are pretty lucky.

What a lots of pretty birds you have.

Gordo said...

My God, man. We must have been separated at birth. You have chickens, I have bees. You're out building coops and runs and planning new projects, I spent my weekend cleaning out the workshop and planning more projects there.

Damned work ethic ... LOL

Clowncar said...

Clearly, chicks dig Irrelephant.

Ditto the yikes about your back from Meno. They should just take out your spine and put in a slinky.

Nancy Dancehall said...

Yeah, cute chicks too. Those hens are gorgeous.

Ice and heat, my friend, before and after appointments. You can't have L3 and L4 that close without risking some serious sciatic nerve pain.

Here's to you and Betty reuniting soon!

Stucco said...

So, you are done with bikes?

Irrelephant said...

Joan, they provide us with excellent eggs and the potential for meat just as good--they deserve the best I can do for them. *S*

meno, I like to think that preparedness had a lot to do with it, but yes, had I landed just a little different it could have gone a lot worse than it did. But hell, you gotta go sometime.

Gordo, I think I could do worse for a long-lost brother than you! I just don't feel RIGHT somehow if I'm not busting my arse on the weekends, and building things and tending the critters seems to fit the bill nicely.

Hah! Clever, CC. A Slinky--yeah, I could live with that. I guess for now though I'll have to stick with exercising and hoping. Perhaps when it starts getting bad I can have that Spinalectomy.

Nancy, I'm doing my bestest. *s* I find out today for sure, but the mechanics seem to think Betty is no more, so here's me, looking forward to Black Betty II.

Stucco, I'd no more give up bikes than I'd give up women, even though both often try to kill me. If I had a spare (bike) I'd be riding right now. As it is I can only afford one of each at a time.

Jean said...

ya know... your energy comes through very, very clearly in your writing.

Sometimes I hafta take a nap after I read here *g*

Irrelephant said...

Jean, to be quite honest I guess I'm just now starting to believe it when people tell me I'm a good writer. It's tough for me to believe, I guess.

Don't feel bad, it won't be the first time I've ever put a woman to sleep without meaning to. *lol*

Jean said...

LOL... silly *g*