Monday, April 27, 2009

The New Chicks On The Block

Isn't she cute! She is a Partridge Cochin.

I was cutting up carrots to put in the crock pot for the chicken noodle soup we would have for lunch after church and the phone rang. 'Who would be calling me at 5:50 am on a Sunday morning', I wondered? As I reached for the phone, a feeling of panic flowed through me,'Was this a family emergency?' I worried. 'No', I told myself, 'probably just someone calling to ask for help in a difficult birth of their animal'. 'It is after all spring'. What puzzled me was that I didn't recognize the voice on the other end of the phone. It ended up being a postal worker from Gillette forty miles away. My chicks were in and did I want to come and get them or since she would be getting off at ten am and headed my way would I like to meet her. "Yes!" I replied as I thought of all I had to do that morning before nine am; milk three goats; bottle feed five goat kids and one bum calf; hay and water the dairy goats, horse and heifer; and care for the hens; then, prepare a meal for company arriving at noon; shower and dress for church where I direct the music for the main meeting then teach children three to eleven years old gospel songs in an entertaining manner, (for which I still had to gather my visual aids). Now adding on top of that I had to set up cages and heat lamps for chicks since I hadn't expected their arrival until two days from now. 'How would I get it all done?', my mind whirled in panic. My husband was sick in bed. He had the flu but seeing the wild look in my eyes displayed his sweet nature and despite how lousy he felt, helped me with the livestock chores and volunteered to meet the postal worker at eleven.

Precisely at nine o'clock, I stepped through the door of the church and saw the look of relief in the organists eyes that was replaced with a questioning gaze as she saw my sopping wet hair. I smiled back and thought, 'Okay, not my best look, but hey, I'm here and this morning that deserves a star on my forehead.' I laughed to myself as I remembered the stickers we would receive as children when we behaved appropriately at church.
Hurrying home after three hours of church meetings, I tossed in some home-made noodles into the crock pot, and ran downstairs to check on the chicks. The cats, Reginald and Bregetta followed sitting beside me as I perched on a small stool to survey the new arrivals. It doesn't matter how many years we've raised chickens, the thrill of bird watching or chick vision as I call it has not decreased. The red heat lamps that are suspended from the ceiling over the enclosures radiate a warm, yellow light that is inviting. The cats, and I peer engaged as some chicks sprawl out to sleep; others scratch, with their feet the newspaper that lines their cages; a couple others dip their beak into the water then tip back their head to allow the droplets to run down their throat; and a few peck at the crumbled brown chick starter. Staring at the markings on the birds, I tried to guess which ones are what breed as they don't start out the same color as they end up. 'The black and yellow chicks are Austrolorps', I decided. 'No, there's too many of them.' I thought as I counted the chicks. 'Two of them must be Barred Rocks and two have to be Wyadottes. Or... maybe not. Oh, I give up.' I flustered as my over taxed brain refused to compute the number of chicks before me and my memory failed to recall just exactly what chickens I had ordered. 'When their adult feathers come in the mystery will unfold for sure', I reasoned and decided I had better set the table before our dinner guest arrived.

Later after our company had left, the cats and I returned to our former position and I wondered, 'What are these brown ones with stripes on their backs and the black ones with white stripes on theirs that remind me of a skunk.' I went upstairs to get the catalogue but found it failed to show the chicks at all angles so who knows except I knew the two brown chicks with feathers all over their legs were Partridge Cochins. That was a duh! And, I was pretty sure
the one with the puffy yellow marshmallow looking tuft on its head must be a White Crested Black Polish. I didn't order him. He's a freeby from the hatchery and I know its a rooster because the freeby chick is always a rooster.I determined that my poor brain didn't need to be taxed any more today than necessary and I should just enjoy the view. Most of the chicks settled down and fell asleep as all babies do a great deal of that. But their rest was short as inevitably a wondering chick would tromp over the top of a sleeping one causing a disgruntled, squashed cheep. It's as if the chicks delight in obstacles courses and they've never heard of detours. That will change when they grow older and larger as the little slumbering humps become large heaps.
Bridgette, our old cat, moved over against the side of one of the cages to bask in the warmth that radiates from the sides where we have old sheets stretched around the cages to hold in the warmth. The heat lamps raise the temperature within the enclosures to ninety degrees. A level that would cause me to swelter but is comfy for the chicks. As the little ones grow, their thermostats kick into higher gears, the lamps are raised, thus lowering the cage's temperature. Some people use thermometers to carefully monitor the heat the chicks are exposed to and lower the temperature precisely each week. I haven't done that in years. The chicks tell me what they need. When their cold they huddle, when their hot they line the edges of the cage trying to avoid the heat, and when the warmth is just right, they spread out evenly. Since the only place we can keep the chicks safe and warm is in the basement, I check on them regularly. I dream of the day we will live in the country with a barn but until them we lay plastic under the cages to contain the mess and line the insides with newspaper that I change daily. I've learned that chicks don't exactly suffer in silence. Loud cheeping can be heard if they run out of food, or are too cold. Thus, silence is golden and I try to keep it that way.
But for now, I'll just sit. The tension that has built up from a morning filled to over flowing with activity melts away as I too bask in the heat from the lamps and enjoy the chick vision.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is This For Real

'Okay girl, are you in labor this time or is this braxton hicks again', I wondered as I stared at Pudge, our chubby Saanen-Boer cross.She was moaning, contorting her head to the side, and pawing the ground, but then she did that Saturday too. As I moved around to check her backside for signs of labor, honking drew my attention to the sky and I watched, soaking in the sight as three Canadian geese flew over the goat shed. There is something comforting and calming about the spring and fall ritual, like the sun rising and setting, steady and unchanging. The geese moved out of sight and my attention returned to whether or not this is the real deal or just prepatory labor. One glance show me the mucous plug and I figured I'd just stick around a while. In all the years we've had Pudge, I've never once been there when she kidded. So grabbing the scoup shovel, I headed to the manure pile to shovel it into the truck for the garden while I waited.

The truck was full, my stomach was rumbling from missing breakfast, and I was feeling rather light headed, but still no little hooves were sticking out from Pudges hind-end and the water bag hadn't even appeared yet. Confident that when I returned from eating my belated breakfast she would be nursing several little ones, I left, but not before I threatened her with, "I'll be back in an hour and if you haven't had them by then I'm going in after them."

When I pulled up to the pen she was laying against the gate exhausted but no closer to delivery. I washed up in the water hydrant and then grabbed her collar with my left hand and reached inside with my right. My fingers met an amniotic sack and inside pushed up against her birth canal was a little butt. Ripping my way in through the sack of fluid, I worked first one leg and then the other until they were protruding out the exit in order to pull the kid free. He gagged, coughed, and sputtered unable to fill his lungs with air as fluid from being delivered breach blocked the air flow. To solve the problem, I whirled around in a circle clinging to his hind legs as his body extended out para;lel in front of me. The centrifical force expelled the fluid from his lungs but as I tried to stop spinning and walk back to the goat shed I started swaying like a drunken sailor running into the fence. It took two more times to completely clear his lungs and when he was breathing normally I washed up and went in after the next kid. To my amazement he was in the same position, butt first. I repeated my swinging performance glad to deliver a second live kid. There was no way she could have had them on her own and would have died in the process of trying. Eyeing her swollen sides, I determined she had one more inside and in I went way down low. Once again it was in a breach position and I grabbed hold of its behind and lifted it upwards to where I could get ahold of its legs. 'Wow, will wonders never cease', I thought, I've never had triplets all in the breach position before.That evening as I watched the kids play in the barnyard, my favorite orchestra seranaded me.
The frogs croak creating a background noise, the geese on the pond honk quietly as if singing a lullaby, and out on the prairie the Meadow Larks called to each other while the song birds sang goodnight. It doesn't get better than this.Wild onions sprouting in the barnyard. It is definitely spring.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Babies Babies!

Born just after midnight on Monday morning.
half Saanen - half Boar
a buck( boy) and a doe (girl)

Bull Calf arrived Saturday
Pedro loves his new home
And yes, Wayne did comment about my not bringing the hot pink sheep blanket.
I have a blue one but the day was plenty warm and it wasn't needed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Days!

"Yes!" I exclaimed, then as my feet did a merry jig my voice trilled,

"Zippity-do-daw, Zippity a..., my oh my what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine coming my way, Zippity-do-daw, Zippity a..."

I couldn't contain myself.
Since February, I had been praying we'd receive the news that Wayne, a rancher, would have an orphan calf for us to raise and my hope had become a reality. As I went to look at the calendar for an available time to pick up the calf, another tune popped into my head and I modified the seven dwarves' words,

"Hi ho, Hi ho, its off to the ranch we go... to pi...ick up a baby calf, hi ho..., hi ho... ,

Calming down just a little my mind wondered to last year when we picked up Tinker Bell. It was February and cold and I was afraid the little black angus, heifer would catch pneumonia on the trip home, so I came prepared. Wedging her between my legs to hold her still, I'd slipped a skin tight, hot pink, market lamb show blanket on her and then, buckled a loose fitting canvas sheep blanket over that. As Wayne watched a smile played on his lips, "You've moved up to first on our calling list when we have a bum.", he commented. I didn't have to ask why.

I know about ranchers, my father managed a cattle and sheep spread before he retired and he shakes his head and laughs at my fussy mothering. That's okay, someone has to be the entertainment and besides, when an orphan needs a large dose of T.L.C., I know who they'll call - me. Straightening up I could see the twinkle in Waynes eyes and I had to ask, "I'm going to be the talk of the dinner table tonight, aren't I?" He didn't reply but, the answer was evident in his smile.

"Happy days are here again. The sun is shining here again... Happy days are here agai...n!",
my voice trailed off as it chirped out yet another merry tune. My exuberance was bubbling forth into song once again but what else could you expect from me as; the goats are due to kid; three packages of bees are coming in a week and a half; then a few days after that, the baby chicks will arrive in the mail. It's almost more that this baby lover can stand. But, enough of that, I'd better get my chores done, and get to town, so I can buy some milk replacer for the calf. It isn't the best substitute for cow's milk but we've yet to finalize arrangements on a new milking doe and until she arrives and takes over the milk supply demand it will have to do as our own goats won't be able to contribute as they've their own kids to feed.

Buttoned Up Memories

'Wow!' I thought as I stared at two opened plastic storage containers sitting on the bed in front of me. Where did all these come from? My fingers trailed through the blue, pink, and yellow buttons as my brain scrambled to remember buying them all. Then I realized - I hadn't. Most of these were passed down to me almost six years ago when my mother-in-law passed away.

The years since that day were filled with our three children in their early twenties moving out and then home and then out and home again as college and jobs shifted their lives. Sometimes, we had one child at home and other times two but with each return they had a larger load of belongings that accompanied them. Our possessions were shoved to one location then another as we made room for theirs and after a while we had no idea where our things were buried. With our tools in hiding, many of our past-times were set aside and, so it was, with much of the sewing and knitting I'd once done. But, two months ago our son moved out, we became empty-nesters, and our belongings began to surface. With them came my desire to sew something besides baby quilts and I longed to use my knitting machine for sweaters.

As I pulled the two boxes down to put away my button purchases from Shuttles Spindles & Skeins, I discovered intermingled amongst mine were my mother-in-law's buttons. Hidden under the lids were memories and they flooded my thoughts.

So...So what? Sew buttons on your underwear, popped into my head and I laughed as in my mind, her voice recited the silly saying. Had she still been alive she would have just celebrated her birthday and at this moment, I missed her desperately. Her voice continued, Thirty days half septober, octember, and nomember, the rest have peanut brittle except for my grandma who has a little red wagon., and I imagined her cuddling not our children, but her three little great granddaughters she never had the chance to meet, while they begged her to tell them another bit of nonsense.

My thoughts strayed to my own grandmother and her button tin. She never could figure out why her grandchildren loved to sift through its contents. But, encased in its round metal walls were treasures from another era, an anchor perched on one button; while sparkling black beads bejeweled another; a few had scenes painted on them; and some were in the shape of a rose or an animal; still others were brightly colored with metal accents. As we, grandchildren, looked at them it was fun to guess what apparel they must have fastened together, blouses, suits, or dresses.

The buttons that lay before me were bland in comparison, just a plain color and I was glad for the metal buttons I'd just bought that were embellished with a swan, a leaf, pine cones, and a daisy. Still, I longed for my grandma's button tin to dump in on the floor again and examine its contents. I wondered, would it be as intriguing now as it was then and someday, would my own granddaughters want to go through my button boxes?

I didn't want to leave the warmth of the memories so, I continued to sit on my bed and sort the buttons into sets. Then, string them onto a heavy thread, tying them off into a ring so when I needed them, I'd know just how many buttons their were in each style. The single odd balls, I just couldn't bring myself to throw away for perhaps, my granddaughters may wish to string them on a heavy thread and make a necklace when they are older.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Organizing Band-aid

'Three thirty. Oh, man' I thought as I stared alertly at the clock, 'What am I doing awake. I've had only five hours of sleep and I've got to get more rest than this.', but four fifteen came and I wasn't any more drowsy than when I'd awoke from my dream. To be aroused from a nightmare was understandable, but, this was just the old common, garden variety dream and the fact I'd awoken from such an innocent scene was a bad sign. It meant stress had taken over my subconscious and my body had posted a do not disturb sign. That included the sand man so I might as well get up. But, what can I do? I can't start the dishwasher or the clothes washer, or sew or anything else that I could think of that needed done because it would wake my husband. Disturbing Kirk this early just wouldn't be fair. He had to get up in an hour anyway as he leaves for work at ten to six, but, he wouldn't be home until eight pm from his twelve hour shift at the coal mine. I figured he needed all the rest he could get.

Maybe, chores weren't the answer. It wouldn't relieve my stress level as they would just need done again tomorrow. I knew what would - I'd organize. Several tasks came to mind but what I really needed was a spit in your eye kind of job. One that makes me feel that I've reinstated the fact that life doesn't control me - but I control life. Something that right now doesn't have to be done but that I choose to do.

Quite often, stress nearly paralyzes me and I simply shut down and can't make myself do the half-to projects. An additional assignment for church or a few appointments on top of chores needing done at home will do it. I've Autism and low cortisol levels to thank for that, but sometimes, I can wiggle my way out of shackling mind set by organizing. It isn't a cure but the band-aide makes me feel better. During holiday weeks like this one, I have to pick a small project like a cupboard or maybe I can get away with just doing a shelf. A whole room would really do the trick but I've learned that its not a stressed day project but a mildly depressed day activity because altogether avoiding the things that cause me to shut down isn't an option.

This need to organize is not to be mistaken for the same thing as the need to schedule everything. The most productive pattern of life for me revolves around the weather and the seasons as I decide what my tentative plans are for the week ahead by the forecast for temperatures and wind speed. On a day when the wind is blowing thirty or forty miles an hour, I'm not cleaning the goat shed or the chicken coop as from head to toe I will be dusted with a fine layer of manure and on a cold frigid day baking is a good idea especially, if I'm low on cookies and muffins for my husband's lunch box. In the winter, quilting and knitting become a more common past-time. Where as in the summer, the garden and caring for you livestock such as a bum calf or baby chicks takes up a majority of my day. This flexible schedule is soothing but time restraints of - do this, hurry hurry do that, you're running late - are nearly more than I can stand because my bread doesn't rise on any such restrictive time frame and canning tomatoes from the garden takes as long as it takes, just like a myriad of other chores I do each day.

My children say I can't tell the difference between work and play and maybe they're right, since cleaning a cupboard is classified as fun in my book. That's why the kids tease me that Monday is Mom's holiday. Not like Memorial Day or Labor Day but as in Garbage Day when the sanitation department picks up our small garbage dumpster. How much I'm allowed to organize depends on the amount of room left in the container, for there's always lots to throw away.

This week, with Easter, church assignments, and appointments on top of that, I'm needing a large organizational band-aid. When I was with our oldest daughter last weekend, her DVD storage system caught my eye and convinced me to adopt it. So, when I awoke far earlier than necessary and couldn't begin my morning chores, I crept into the living room and removed my DVD's from their containers and stored them in a CDs, DVDs or video game electronics case. The one I bought on our mother daughter weekend holds two hundred and eight. Into the garbage went the original containers. Aw...! I'm feeling a little better but not quite well yet. Let's see what else needs put in order?

Monday, April 6, 2009


Button, button who's got the button? Me! Since, my oldest daughter and I went to the Shuttles Spindles & Skeins store in Boulder, Colorado this past Friday. As we browsed through the yarns, we became enrapt peering at a rainbow of scintillating purples, pinks, reds, and earthy browns, and greens. The kaleidoscope
of colors and textures from shimmering
silks to warm woolens sprouted images in our minds of sweaters, mittens, hats, and socks.

Then, I spied tucked amongst the woolen treasures buttons ... lots of buttons. My eyes quickly passed over the plastic variety and fixated on the metal designs,

oak leaves with acorns,
pine cones on a bed of pine needles,
maple leaves,
a dragon fly on a lily pad,
and swans their wings raised as if preparing to take flight.

I thought I'd found heaven. As my mind raced through my stash of alpaca, wool, and mohair that just awaited the whirl of my spinning wheel, I imagined the sweaters I could create for these buttons to adorn. The temptation was irresistible and I did succumb to buying nearly ninety dollars worth. Somehow, I felt justified. I'd searched the Internet off and on for years for just such creations and found only a few I really liked. And, here before, me lay a treasure trove. Whether I would ever again see such a collection was questionable, so, I did buy, and buy, and buy.

My husband just laughed when I told him. I knew where his brain had gone. Most women come home with an armload of clothes from a shopping trip. His wife came home with buttons. As the laughter left his lips a mild panic passed through his eyes as I outlined my plans for his knife handle supply. "Wouldn't mammoth ivory buttons be cool and India stag horn buttons, and you have some beautiful woods ...." I told him. My mind had found a track and was off and running. He knew better than to try and derail it, but just maybe, he could direct its path, and so he made me promise not to go through his stash of handle material until he got home from work the next night. I assured him I'd only be using scraps that he had discarded. He still looked a little worried but true to the wonderful man that he is, when I asked about borrowing his small lathe, he helped me figure out ways it could be used to make grooves in mammoth ivory and sculpt wood. As I looked into his eyes and felt his love, I forgot for a moment about the buttons and gave thanks for the real treasure I'd found thirty-one years ago, my wonderful husband.