Thursday, December 4, 2014


Looking over my blog, I realize that have been living and breathing chickens for the last couple months, but I should alert you all that I do have other interests. One, in particular, is another animal who has taken up residence on Friley Road.

lucky kittie
Way back in July, I was with a friend at her family's cabin situated on a beautiful lake northeast of St. Paul. We were not vacationing, but had just made a quick trip north to slap down a coat of asphalt to a leaky section of the cabin roof. Having finished this goopy chore, I was carefully peeling away my sticky clothes for a change into something less sticky when I heard my phone ring from the back seat of the car. And then I heard a message come through. As I was cleaning my hands, there was a text being delivered. And then another round of ringing.  And more voicemail. Once I was creosote-free, I dug for the phone and saw that it was my daughter who had called. Looking at the number of attempts displayed onscreen, it looked serious. Imagining the worse, I punched the call button.

Tess answered immediately, breathless, but assured me she was all right And then her story tumbled out about how she had just rescued a kitten from the middle of a busy, four-lane highway. At first glance, Tess saw what she thought was a chunk of rubber in the road and attempted to drive around it. When it moved, she realized it was a kitten. Knowing time was of the essence, she decided that a heroic effort was needed. She saw an opening in the traffic, so she pulled a u-turn, parked the Mini on the shoulder, and bounded across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic. Tess says she doesn't remember the bounding so much as the "stop, look both ways, and listen" and then the scooping up of a terrified animal. Once she made it back to her car, she wrapped the howling furball in an old work shirt, counted her blessings, and then headed to the local animal shelter.

Over the course of the next week, we learned that this little mutt was a farm cat that most likely climbed up into the engine compartment of a family car and then made the harrowing 40-mile road trip to Ames. The kitten was "released" onto the road when the car exited off the interstate and onto Highway 30. Long story short. That baby cat had just used up four of his nine lives: #1-cavorting with a running motor; #2-traveling at excessive speeds on the open road; #3-jumping from a moving vehicle; and #4-lying in the middle of a well-traveled highway.

Having rescued the kitten from what would have been a gruesome end, Tess decided to adopt the critter. How could she not???  Her father and I were on board with the adoption, knowing full well that we would be raising this kitten once Tess headed back to school within the month. We couldn't say no to her, or to this tiny creature separated far too early from mom and his litter mates. We also knew that for the short time he was at the shelter, he barely ate or drank; he just sat forlornly in his cage. The staff at the shelter called it "failure to thrive", so Tess was allowed to bring him home as his foster parent with the hope that her one-on-one care would bring him around.

And 'round he came! This kitten never looked back. He hit the kitchen floor running, stopped long enough to gobble down his food, and then settled into the loving arms of a very special young woman who brought him home to live on Friley Road.
Today is December 4th. Do something wild next!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chicky Cam in the Winter Coop

Four for Four

I just went out to lock up the chickens and I found another egg. That is the fourth egg today. All the hens are now laying. Hooray! Hooray!

The Local Line-Up

About 4 weeks ago when the garden was winding down for the season, I decided to let the chickens out into the yard to free-range for the first time. After some initial trepidation about leaving the security of the chicken yard, they ventured forth, and then never looked back! They gossiped among themselves as they strutted and scratched, finding grubs and bugs like no one's business. Every once in a while, one of the hens would fan her wings, set off running, and then take flight. Never mind the low altitude and short distance. They were free and they loved it.

It has snowed twice since the hens have been free to roam the back yard. Boy, were they bewildered by that first snow. They gingerly stepped from the coop, and then stopped in their tracks. Unsure on how to proceed, they either ran or flew to the Adirondack chairs where they roosted off the frozen ground and its icy covering. After about an hour, I couldn't bear watching any longer--they were huddled en masse and covered with snow. I donned my boots and trudged out to the clump of snowy feathers. One by one, I carried each confused bird back to the covered chicken run, where the flock spent the entire day self-confined, but protected from the NW wind and blowing snow.

By the following morning, the winds had died down, but it was still close to zero degrees. However, the sun was out and it was a new day. When I opened the coop, the hens hopped down, checked out their new landscape, and waded out into the snow. Before long, they were dancing their two-step--scratch, scratch, dip; scratch, scratch, dip. With the snow pushed aside, there was grass to nibble, along with fallen safflower seeds from the bird feeder. These happy birds even found the pumpkins left for them on the terrace where they had a go at the stringy flesh and seeds from the sagging jack-o-lanterns.

So here is the line-up:

Nettie Zook, a Silver-laced Wyandotte

Olive Batman, a Black Australorp

Cora Stenges, a Buff Orpington
Ida Grove, a Barred Rock

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An egg a day.....

Nutty Nettie Zook; Olive's backside
The hens, as of yet, have not been earning their keep. Every morning when I open their coop door and they hop out, I remind them...."Lay an egg, Ida." "Olive, please lay an egg." "Cora, it is time." And "Nettie, today is your day." I wait and watch, and then I spend another $3.69 on a dozen eggs at the store.

Last summer for my birthday, my husband installed a video camera in the chicken coop. I can access a live feed via the Internet to see what the hens are up to if they enter the coop. The camera is motion sensitive, so it captures any movement throughout the day.  Last Wednesday, Cora tripped the camera--at 9 am, then 11 am, and then again at 3:17 pm. She entered the coop, proceeded to the nesting box where she fluffed the hay and settled in. But only for a moment. She immediately hopped out of the nest, gave the camera the stink eye, and then strutted out of view.

I was sure she was going to be the first to lay an egg, but there has been nothing...until today.  Well, by golly, Ida was the one who listened to me today. I went out to the chicken yard about 5 to throw them some fresh sweet potato ends and she was nowhere to be found. The others came running, but Ida was not with them. When I peeked into the nesting box, Ida was in the nest.  I retreated to leave her to her business and when I went out again at 6 to check, there was an egg, albeit a yolk apart from the soft, gooey shell.

I figure this egg is worth approximately $893. That is about how much I have invested in their food, their shelter, and other accessories for the chicken yard. The payback period will be a very long time at $3.69 per dozen, but I don't care. I finally gathered my first egg today. Cackle on,sisters!
Cora (L), Ida (M), Nettie's head (R)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Moving Day

The young chickens in the "chix truck" with Dewey looking on.
Four chix arrived on the 6th of May and took up residence in our main floor bathtub. After 3 weeks, I decided to move them down to the basement to a larger brood pen. They acclimated to their new digs fairly quickly, so last week on a particularly warm day, I decided to let them experience the great outdoors. I wheeled the "chix truck" out into the yard and, one by one, carried each squawking bird to their pen-on-wheels. They acted stunned at first, but soon came to life. They loved pecking around in the fresh grass, where they strutted like, well, real chickens. And the dog loved watching them. They provided him with endless entertainment.

The new coop and run in the chicken yard.
The chickens were out again today--scratching for bugs, flapping their wings, and quietly conversing among themselves.  They were out for almost six hours and after watching them so thoroughly command their new environment, I decided that it was time for their last big move. Outside. Permanently.

Next week, they will be 6+ weeks old.  They are now the size of small footballs. They have lost all their innocent chick down and sprouted feathers. Their distinguishing markings have emerged to reveal their individual breeds. The coop (retro-fitted with a green roof) and the run (expanded and roofed) stand ready for their arrival. These chickens are ready to fly!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014


On a recent stop at my favorite junque shop, I sat for one treasured hour going through old B&W photographs that the shop's proprietor had recently nabbed. Her husband's hometown newspaper office was cleaning out files and this mountain of photos was going into the garbage!

I am so thankful that Brenda intervened; I did not leave the shop empty-handed. I found many of my yards with farmers, tractors, and farm animals; old couple gardeners; relatives gathered on the front porch; exterior shots of beautiful old houses--and their interiors with furnishings and appliances of the day. I even found several shots of a funeral -- from one photo that captured the pall-bearers carrying the casket out of the small church to the last photo that was snapped graveside.

My favorite  is the above photograph. One of the shop clerks came over to check out the piles of images that I had set aside. I happened to have this one in my hand. I had been studying the sofa and the chairs set around the room; the man's overalls and stocking feet; and the darkness on the other side of the sheers. Just then she leaned in and said, "He is so waiting for his daughter to get home."

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Tonight when I checked my horoscope, I found an entry for the week of February 6th titled Almost. Rob Brezsney's "Freewill Horoscope" is not too far off the mark these days. It does seem like my life is composed of thousands of these small almosts--almost home, almost happy, almost changed. Almost, but not quite there.

However, I have been assured that in the next 14 to 16 weeks I will "graduate from the endless and omnipresent almost" and rise up to some "bold measure of completeness from out of the ever-shifting flow."  According to Brezsney's prediction, it kicks into high gear now. So how am I kicking it into high gear? How am I rising up to some "bold measure of completeness"? How about with chickens?

Two years ago I thought about getting some chickens, but then I accepted a teaching assignment where I would be on the road for six weeks during the semester. Tess had just left for college and my husband was traveling with his work, so I let the idea slide. Then last spring, I decided to go for it. I liked the idea of chickens scratching around in the back garden; they would add another dimension to the home landscape. As luck would have it, a pair of Cooper's hawks decided to build a nest in our honey locust. I almost had my chickens, but decided to put my plans on hold--again--until next spring.

And now "next spring" is almost here. It is almost time for chickens!  The coop and the run are in the garage ready for assembly; the feeders and waterers are in the basement workshop washed and ready to fill. Plans and sketches for the layout of the chicken yard in a fenced section of the veggie garden have been drawn and seem reasonable. Even the neighbors have been notified (and they're excited); my mother-in-law is eagerly awaiting the chicks' arrival. "Let me know, so I can come babysit," she says.

My horoscope reads that it all kicks into high gear now, but still, I must wait. For the bitter cold and deep snow to abate. For the eggs to hatch at the nursery. For the arrival of the those little peeps who will be my salvation from the omnipresent almost to a bold measure of completeness....with chickens.