Archive for ‘Laughing at Life’

April 8, 2013

Groundhog Day

I’ve figured it out.

Punxsutawney Phil was kidnapped! Seriously, people. How could we be so blind? Someone took him and replaced him with an imposter on Groundhog Day. We are all so totally gullible and self-absorbed that we didn’t notice or even care because the imposter told us winter was over.

Now we are in trouble. It’s been over two months. He could be anywhere!

But it’s a little late to do much about it, isn’t it? I can’t believe we were so gullible. But why else would we be sitting here on April 8th watching a ridiculous storm sweep across the upper mid-west dumping snow?

Yep, as I sit and type, we kind, but gullible folks in Minnesota, are under a winter storm watch for the next three days! It’s April, people! Isn’t anyone else concerned about this? And it’s going to be bad. Depending on which meteorologist you listen to, we will get up to 6 inches, just an hour away will get a foot and others say it’s foolish to even attempt to forecast volume based on what’s coming.

I’ll tell you what, if we had been paying attention, and noticed that we had a Punxsutawney Phil imposter this never would have happened. Okay, the storm may have happened, but we would have been prepared. We wouldn’t all be sitting here expecting spring in April but getting blasted by winter. No sir, we would be perfectly content with winter hanging on for months on end. Because we would have known because Phil would have told us.

But we didn’t. We believed the imposter and here we are… miserable, caught off-guard and missing Phil.

Oh, Phil, I’m so sorry. Wherever you are….



January 8, 2013

Oh, poop! (How to Give a Chicken a Bath)

Ahhhhhh, yeah. The girl whose top fear about getting chickens was dealing with poop, has met her nemesis. Chicken poop.

Before getting chickens, I’d heard they poop a lot. And they definitely do, but not as much as my imagination had led me to believe. I envisioned chicken poop everywhere, on every surface in the coop, in the run, in the nest box, on the roosting bar, in their food, in their water, on the walls, in my hair, on my clothes, in-between my toes… Somehow, through all of that, I failed to imagine poop sticking to their feathers. Seriously? How did I not think of this one?

So a couple of days ago I went out to the coop to have one of my daily visits with the girls, as I sat perched on the edge of the door frame we chatted away. I asked how their day was going, told them about mine and they mm-bawwk-bawwk-baaaaawwwkked in return. We had quite a nice conversation while they dined on the apple core treats I’d brought for them. When they were finished and our conversation was winding down they turned to get into a single file line and march back up their ladder into their coop for a little rest. I always love watching them walk away because, frankly, chickens have really cute butts.

Zydeco (the hawk looking chicken) has very cool tail feathers and Billina and Jolene have the cutest fluffy butts, or at least they normally do. That day, Zydeco went first, marching her way up the ladder with her tail feathers following at attention, followed by Jolene, strutting in the fancy-pants way that she does. Then Billina whipped around to follow, only something was following her… something was stuck to her fluffy butt. “What on earth?!” I thought to myself, “What the…. Oh,no!” You can imagine the horror I felt when I realized that Billina had big glob of poop stuck to her feathers. “No! No, no, no. That can’t be. Uh, uh. No…”

“Great. Now what?” I remember reading that baby chicks will occasionally have that happen and all you have to do is get a wet paper towel and wipe it off. But baby chicks are little and this chicken and her poop are not. Much as I hoped it would, I knew no wet paper towel was going to fix this mess. So I watched the girls go into the coop, then turned away and walked back to the house, trying to pretend I never saw it, but I couldn’t.

“Maybe she’ll clean it up herself.” I thought to myself, knowing full well that would be nearly impossible. “Maybe it will fall off.” Sure, it’s 10 degrees outside, that’s not going to “just fall off” any time soon. Nope. In my gut I knew I was going to have to deal with it. The rest of the day I couldn’t get it out of my head. That afternoon, my son went out to check for eggs. He came running back into the house and said, “Mom…. This isn’t good…” I know he expected me to be surprised, but unfortunately I already knew what was coming. “…Billina has a big bunch of poop stuck to her butt.” “Uh, yep, honey. I know.” was all I could muster up in response. He started drilling me with questions as to how we were going to get it off. “I have no idea.” I mumbled.

Then it dawned on me. “Can you give a chicken a bath?” I mean chickens usually give themselves dust baths, and I’ve never seen a chicken swim. I wasn’t even sure if they were supposed to get wet. Everything I’d heard told me water and chickens don’t mix and coops need to be dry. So I did what any other good Chicken-Mom would do. I Googled it… “how to clean poo off a hen’s bottom in winter”.

Much to my relief (and disappointment) I found it! Sure enough. You can give a chicken a bath! (And someone had posted detailed instructions as to how to go about doing it here.) Okay, that was solved. I need to give Billina a bath. That should be fun. So I waited another day, okay maybe it was two or three. I kept hoping and praying this problem would take care of itself (I’d read that it could), but instead things just kept piling up on her rear end.

Oh, poop!

Oh, poop!

Then I panicked, my thoughts running a muck. “What if she can’t lay eggs?!? None of them laid eggs today! They do EVERYTHING out of the same spot (the vent). What if I don’t take care of this? She could get all clogged up and DIE and it would be all my fault!” Thankfully, she laid an egg about an hour after my chicken-death thought so I still had time to plan. After stalling long enough, I knew it wasn’t going to resolve itself and finally got up the nerve to give the girl a bath.

According to Tilly’s Nest it’s supposed to go pretty smoothly. Here’s how it went for me:

Tilly’s Nest: Create a washing station.

  • Me: Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Once you catch the chicken, while holding your hands over the wings, loosely wrap their head and upper body in a dry towel.

Ready for her bath!

Ready for her bath!

Me: Go out to coop with a bath towel and pick-up chicken by holding her wings in. Proudly come back to house with towel over her back and tail leaving her head and neck fully exposed. But I got her. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Place the chicken in the bin with soapy water. Cup some water with your hand and wet the soiled area. Yes, there really are not too many feathers there once wet. You will then be able to loosen to poop off the affected feathers by rubbing each feather between your fingers. Be careful not to pull the feathers. Also, clean the feathers very well around the vent. This may take some time. Once satisfied, transfer the chicken to the rinsing bowl and try to remove as much soapy water and remaining poop from your bird.

Washing feathers

Washing feathers

  • Me: Attempt to remove the worst of the poo with a paper towel and realize it’s a frozen glob. Place chicken in the wash tub with soapy water. Cup water with hand and splash at chicken’s butt. Stare at poop, willing it to fall off into the water. When that doesn’t happen, splash more water at chicken’s butt. Repeat 25 times so you don’t have to touch poop. Give up and grab scrub brush to “gently loosen poop from feathers” without ripping them out of her butt. Once all signs of poop are gone, run fingers through feathers to make sure they are clean. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Once rinsed, squeeze the excess water out with your hands and then towel dry your chicken.

  • Me: Completely forget about squeezing excess water. Beg for assistance to take soaking wet towel off of chicken and put dry towel on. Make sure she’s still alive. She’s too quiet. Husband swaps towels and chicken is alive. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Now, move over to the drying station. On the lowest heat setting and speed begin to dry your chicken. Keep the dryer constantly moving and continually fluff the feathers as you dry with your free hand. After about 5 minutes, poof, your chicken’s beautiful fluffy butt will return.

Getting a blow dry!

Getting a blow dry!

Fluffy butt returns!

Finally – Her fluffy butt returns!

  • Me: Move to drying station (towel on floor with hairdryer nearby). Have husband hold chicken while fluffing feathers with one hand and holding hairdryer with the other. Question how many hands “Tilly” has. After about 45 minutes, poof, Billina’s fluffy butt returns! Be in pure amazement as to how “good” she was and how much she must have liked it. Check.
Happy chicken...

Clean, dry, happy chicken…

  • Carry chicken upstairs to give her a treat. As she snubs pears and acts like she can’t see them, panic briefly thinking you got soap in her eyes and made her go blind. Realize she’s not blind and wasn’t being “good”, she was terrified…
Three fluffy butts!

Three fluffy butts!

  • Return chicken to her coop to be with the other girls. Pat yourself on the back for giving a chicken a bath. Go in and wash out sink. Wash hands five times. Check and check.

So there you have it. One of my worst fears about chickens came true and I not only survived, but did just fine.

Conquer another fear. Check.


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December 10, 2012

A Gift to Calm The Christmas Stress

Snowy Lantern

The tree isn’t decorated.  The Christmas Train has been derailed.

Christmas cards aren’t even purchased, much less mailed.

The mantle is cluttered, with a mix of Christmas and fall decor.

The JOY stocking holders, anxiously awaiting more.

Everywhere I turn I see another project started, gone astray.

The house is a disaster and each morning is one closer to Christmas Day.

So as I sat there stressing, looking for a star to guide me on my way,

I happened upon a post from another blogger, a gift, you might say.

She wrote of her troubles and struggles of today.  It was like looking in a mirror in a slightly different way.

Do What You Can” she says.  Look inside, not out.  She reminds us that the guilt comes when we’re looking at others instead of at ourselves.

Ahhh… so simple, but how easily I forget.  Stop comparing myself to others, and there will be no regrets.

And while their tree might be perfect, or appear so from my view, I need to remind myself “there’s only one of them, and one of you”.

So as we continue on our journey making the most of the Christmas season, remember to keep the focus and… do what you can, within reason.

I promise if you try this, if you follow it this way, you’ll be given a gift of calm, and the Merriest Christmas Day.


November 13, 2012

Facing Our Fears Part II: Chickens

As you probably already know, I have been contemplating getting chickens for a while.  Then, when I decided that chickens might be a good idea I planted the seed with my son (easy target) and husband (surprisingly easy target).  I expected at least a little resistance, I got nothing.  Then came the chicken class… a success!  I wanted to get started right away.  Then reality set in and I realized that next spring would be better.  That would give us enough time to select a coop design, get the parts and pieces, build it, wire it, critter-proof it.  We could ask for chicken stuff (lights, waterers, heaters, etc.) as gifts for birthdays and Christmas and finally, next spring, we could bring in baby chicks.

Then a curve ball.  A friend-of-a-friend of my Dad’s has chickens needing a home.  He asked if we’d be interested.  Sure, why not?  (I’m a sucker for taking in animals that need a home.)  We went and met the chickens.  They were cool. We saw their current coop and knew that while the coop worked great in their current location, it wouldn’t work so well in our yard.  Backing up to the nature center means everything short of lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!).  So, after going on the Twin Cities Chicken Coop Tour and scouring the web for coop designs we decided on this one, except ours will be blue and a mirror image (so we can see the chickens from the house) and got to building.  That, was a month ago.  We’re still building.  Speaking of which, did you know that you can end a drought by simply building a chicken coop?  It’s true!  We literally were in a drought.  Hadn’t had a drop of rain for months… until the day we started building the coop.  Then the sky opened up and the rain started coming.  And, it hasn’t stopped since.  Okay, actually it has, on the days we are not building the coop.  That aside, we’re getting there.  And hopefully very soon (I don’t want to say when for fear of jinxing us again) we will actually have the chickens.

Back to my fears.   As you may or may not have read in the first installment, Facing Our Fears, my first fear to face was writing.  Now that I’ve worked through that, my fear is chickens.  I outlined a few of my chicken fears in U is for Urban Farm (a.k.a. Contemplating Chickens), but there’s more.  So why on earth would I want to build a chicken coop and get chickens?  Well, okay, it’s not the chickens I fear.  It’s the stuff that goes along with chickens.

I hate winter.  Period.  I love the snow.  I think it’s beautiful.  Beyond that, I avoid going outside on cold days.  I hate cold fingers, cold toes, cold ears, cold noses… Although it is kind of cool when it’s so cold out, that when you sniff, your nostrils stick together.  Oh, that and frosty eyelashes are kind of cool too… but other than that I hate cold bodies, cold cars and cold seats (car and toilet)!  So what better plan to get over hating winter than to get chickens, right?  Yea, I know.  I’m not sure about that either, but I’m hoping it will help.  If I have someone or in this case, chickens, to care for, I’m hoping I will come to ignore the rain, snow, sleet and cold and just enjoy the chickens.  At least I’ll get to hold a warm egg in my hands, right?

Bird poop.  I hate bird poop.  I fear bird poop.  As a kid, while in Seattle visiting my Aunts and Uncles, I was sitting with my feet up, stretched across to another chair and a flock of sea gulls, or was it pigeons, flew overhead and a moment later, I felt the warm splattering gush of goo in-between my toes.  Um, yea, I cried.  And then, one morning at the bus stop,  a couple of years ago, I was chatting with a couple of other Mom’s on the block.  It was a clear morning, not a cloud or a bird in the sky, we were busy chatting when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge blast of bird poop hit my arm.  It splattered not only all over my entire forearm, but my clothes and all over my friends too.  Talk about gross!  We all scrambled, checking our pockets for a napkin, Kleenex, anything, to wipe it up.  A friend of mine found a receipt in her pocket.  I’ve never been so grateful for a receipt, ever.  That, and my second shower of the morning.  Anyway, I’ve got this fear of bird poop.  So, you might ask, why would I even consider chickens? After all, they are poop factories, right?  Right!  But their poop is good stuff!  Their poop will be combined with my compost, making my compost cook faster and make my garden soil even richer!  So I’m hoping to get past my fear of bird poop for the good of the garden.

My other chicken fears?  Chicken death.  Chicken death-by-dog, death-by-fox, death-by-raccoon, death-by-hawk, death-by-eagle, death-by-owl and death-by-weasel.  Until recently I wasn’t afraid of death-by-weasel, but my nephew just told me of chickens getting killed by weasels.  I don’t even know if we have weasels here because I’ve never seen one, but I added death-by-weasel to the list because now it’s in the back of my mind.  Thanks, Jeff. 😉  Hopefully our coop design will fend off all of these death-by-critter fears, and I will no longer need to fear chicken death, but time will tell.

Death-by-weather.  Living in Minnesota you can’t help but worry about how the chickens are going to hold up in the cold.  We are going to be getting cold-hardy chickens (I know, I didn’t know there was such a thing as cold hardy chickens either) so hopefully any mistakes we make will be offset by their hardy genes.  Cold weather means making sure their drinking water doesn’t freeze, making sure they don’t freeze and did you know if they roost on too narrow of a board they can get frost bite on their feet!?  I think I’ll make them recycled sweater mittens for their feet.  Recycled sweater chicken booties. 🙂 Oh, and then there’s the heat.  When it’s not too cold, it’s too hot and chickens don’t sweat.  Like dogs, if they get too hot, they pant.  Panting = chicken death.  Not good.  If anyone has a Barbie window a/c unit about 4 inches by 4 inches, let me know.  We’re getting a Thermo Cube too, which is a temperature controlled outlet, so hopefully that will take some of the thinking and worry out of the of the death-by-weather scenarios.

Okay, all my fears aside, I’m hoping for a bond.  The chickens we’ll be getting are over a year old, already producing eggs (bonus!).  They haven’t been handled a lot, so I’m hoping my wanting to hold them won’t be offensive.  I’ve heard that chickens LOVE kids.  I’ve heard that they will follow them around and treat them like their own (which should be humorous).  I’ve heard of them snuggling and watching TV, although we WON’T be having chickens inside the house.  At least not yet. 😉  I’ve heard chickens are guaranteed entertainment.  I’ve heard that you can train them to do tricks and that they like to be petted.  I’ve heard that even on our worst days just watching them can make us laugh and smile.

Long term, I’m hoping to love the chickens.  I love that they’ll be eating our kitchen scraps and converting it to good stuff for the garden.  I’m looking forward to having fresh eggs and making custard pies.  I’m looking forward to the challenges and fun the chickens will bring.

I’m also looking for a pair of rubber boots to wear in the coop.