Sunday, November 30, 2008

We Can Rebuild It-- We Have the Technology

Recent events call for a re-build of both the chicken coop and the backyard itself. While I truly appreciate all of the "it's not your fault!" comments, in a way it is. There will always be predators after chickens. Whether they are dogs belonging to someone else, stray dogs, foxes, raccoons, cats, or hawks, it is the chicken keeper's job to protect her birds. We did a lousy job, not because we were lazy or cheap, but because we just didn't know enough yet. Now we do, and we're fixing several things before trying to obtain more birds.

First off, we're replacing the temporary wire gate with a real one, the kind that has pressure-treated posts sunk into concrete, heavy-duty hinges and latches. Nothing but a human will be able to get through this thing, and with the double-latch system that Don is putting together, quite a few people would be baffled as well. It had always been the plan to make a permanent gate at some point, but there were always more pressing projects at hand, primarily fixing the hole in the downstairs apartment before the weather got to freezing. What we had was working "well enough"... until last week.

The rest of the fence is fairly secure: it's 48" woven wire with sturdy metal posts. The only weak spot in the fence is this one section that comes up against the neighbor's front-yard retaining wall: their yard is raised about three feet from the level of our back yard, so the fence is only about a foot tall on the "outside", if that makes any sense, while still being four feet tall "inside". It would be very easy for a medium-sized dog to jump into the yard from the retaining wall at that point, and not be able to get back out. For that section of fence, we're going to make it double-height so that it will stand four feet high on the neighboring side, and be almost eight feet tall measuring from our ground up. Our neighbors to that side are elderly and both are sight-impaired, so I'm hoping they don't notice how weird it's going to look, although hopefully if they say anything I can explain about predators and they'll get it.

Don has explained that electric fencing really won't deter the dogs at all, and is not worth putting in; it was just a vindictive idea on his part. He had also come up with many cruel booby traps for anything going after the chickens, but decided against them on the grounds that they'd be more likely to get me, him, or our animals than the intended victims-- and also because they were downright inhumane. Also considered and dismissed: getting a rooster to protect the flock (he'd be more likely to run at the dogs and scare them, than to run away and entice them), or getting any of the following to do the same: a goat, a gander, a male swan, or an ostrich. Essentially, we decided against a guard creature of any kind. For one thing, being downtown severely limits what animals we can maintain; for another, our 1/8th acre wouldn't sustain much more than chickens, and lastly I don't want anything that would attack me. (I'm scared of swans, to be honest. They're beautiful from a distance, but up close and personal those things are powerful and mean.) It's too bad that we can't use our own dog to guard the chickens, but she would go after them just as these dogs did. Alice is a bird-dog at heart.

Building the gate and reinforcing that one area of fence should make the yard reasonably secure. Our long-term plan involves planting shrubby, thorny bushes around the fences to create a bigger barrier; we're putting raspberry brambles along one edge this spring. The more important thing is to make the coop itself as secure as possible, which really means, completely secure. Don and I both agreed that if the coop itself had held up against the dogs, the girls could have just hidden out in there until the dogs got bored and left. It was the coop being breached, more than the yard, that was the real problem. The "run" half of the coop seems to have held up just fine, ironic since it's just a frame with wire mesh while the "coop" half is heavy-duty lumber and plywood. Don spent yesterday making small changes to it anyway, that make it sturdier and will let it connect with the coop more securely. The latch on the coop's back doors was just not strong enough; it only latched one door to the other to hold them both closed. Don is fixing them so that one door will latch to the house itself, and a two-by-four brace will wrap across both doors and be dead-bolted on the side. I can't exactly picture it, but he bought a lock set for the coop that is better than anything we have on the house. (He feels more than a little guilt about all of this since he built the coop, even though he did the best job he could; we just didn't know.) I pointed out that I will still need to open the back of the coop at least once daily to feed, water, and gather eggs; he asked whether my convenience was more important than the birds' safety. Something tells me that my morning routine just got more complicated.

Once we've finished all of this, I will try to find more chickens, although this is exactly the wrong time of year. If I can find three grown or mostly-grown birds in any of the breeds that I'm interested in, then we will start again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Neighbor's dogs killed all my chickens.

... I'm devastated and I don't know what to do. My girls were doing so well, everything was going so great with them. Now, just like that, they're gone. My poor babies, what a terrible way to die.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fat-bottomed Girls...

Taking a dust bath:

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Simple Test:

The bank statement arrives in the mail every month. Does it have your name at the top of every page? If it does not, then stop trying to come into the bank to access that account: it is not yours to query, withdraw from, or transfer out of. If you are listed as "PoD" on an account, that means that you can access it once the other person is deceased. "PoD" stands for"payable on death" and does not give you any rights to the account prior to that day. Nobody can open a bank account "for" you: ridiculous concept. Here's another quick test: were you present when the account was opened? Did you present your driver's license, a second form of identification, your address, social security number, and date of birth? Did you have to sign certain documents that simultaneously show your proof of consent to open an account and make a record of your signature, should the bank ever need it? If you have no recollection of going through that process, chances are about 100% that you are not a signer on said account. The only way somebody can open an account in your name is if they have PoA for you, power of attorney. And if that was the case, it is highly unlikely that your able-bodied, able-minded self is going to wander into the bank to use said account. Power of attorney is given when people no longer have the capacity to act on their own behalf: I've never personally seen it apply to a college student. Generally it's used by middle-aged daughters of ailing, aging parents. Here's a third test: look at the debit card that you are trying to present. Is the name printed across the bottom in those raised, metallic letters your name? If there is a photo, is it a picture of you? If the answer to either of those is no, then you are making a grave, grave mistake in trying to present it to a bank teller as your own. Now I'm going to assume that this is not really your mistake so much as your boneheaded parent's. Some idiots will open an account in their name and hand the debit card and pin to their kid to use. Why? Search me. It could be they want total control over the account, but opening a joint account would give them the same level of access, and--hey!-- not be illegal at the same time. Or maybe said parent is just too confused by the fact that at 17 or 18, their little Cindy-Lou is old enough to have legal rights over a bank account. Either way, do NOT come into the bank with your parent's debit card, complaining that the ATM is out of order, that your PIN stopped working, or what have you. Because if you are a 6-foot tall college freshman with a beard and the card is issued to a one Linda X born in 1960, then we have a major problem on our hands. The teller is not "being mean" to you, or being "rude". What you are trying to do is flagrantly illegal, your parents are idiots, and what you are trying to do would get a bank teller fired. Give your mama's debit card back to her, say "thanks but no thanks, Ma", open your own damn bank account like the legal adult that you are, and get a shiny new debit card with your own name on it. It ain't rocket science, folks.

And one more thing. Do not ever, ever, write a check for funds that are not currently in your account. Do not think, "If I write Friday's date on the check, they won't be able to cash it until I get paid!", or "It should take at least three days for them to get this check in the mail, I should have money by then." It just doesn't work that way. Once you give someone a check, s/he can cash it at any point, regardless of what date you wrote. Also: writing "do not cash until: x" on the memo line doesn't do a thing. For some reason when I mail my doctor's bills, the checks get cashed within two days, even though they're being sent to another state. My Netflix sure don't come that fast, and they're only coming from Richmond, an hour and a half away. Go figure. Here's the bald fact: if you don't have the money in your account when you write the check, then you are writing a bad check. And you have absolutely no recourse if and when that check bounces. Now everybody writes bad checks on occasion (at least most of us-- thank God for overdraft protection), but usually it's a mistake, some bad math, an oops. It's only the people who are knowingly, consciously, intentionally writing a bad check and think it's OK that drive me nuts. I had a kid come in awhile back who had run out of checks. I made the usual suggestion: let's order you some checks for future use and make you a money order for whatever check you need to present immediately. (Because nobody ever orders checks until they need to write one.) Problem was, he didn't have the money in his account to make the money order: he had planned on writing a check and post-dating it for when he'd have the funds. And he didn't understand why we couldn't make him a money order with the same concept: can't the bank give me a money order now and just wait until my account has money in it to charge me? Uh, NO.

This is why I grind my teeth in my sleep, honestly.

Friday, November 14, 2008


When I was young, my mom used to make chicken soup from scratch: homemade chicken stock, fresh (frozen) vegetables, fat egg noodles, identifiable chunks of chicken or turkey. Campbell's or Progresso, it wasn't. The problem with that kind of thing is that it spoils you for the rest of your life, making it neccessary to either develop those skills yourself, or marry someone who has them. Now Don is very good to me when I'm sick, he'll bring me soup, water, crackers, tea, run me hot baths and refill the vaporizer, but he can't make homemade soup. He might think it's a waste of time and space that I always make stock from our leftover chicken carcasses, since it takes all day and lots of valuable freezer space. But it is all worth it when I am as pathetically sick with the flu as I am today, and can make myself homemade soup in just a few minutes that's as good as my mom's. What was funny is that I tried to go in to work and got sent right back home (oops), so I went straight back to bed and woke up a few hours later completely forgetting about the whole went-to-work bit and thinking that I'd massively overslept and was hours late for work-- why hasn't anyone called me?!-- only to look down and see that I am still wearing my work clothes and not pajamas. The rest of the morning came back to me then. I think the fever is affecting my ability for rational thought, honestly. I'll probably come back and look as this entry and wonder what the heck I was on. (Chicken soup. I'm on chicken soup. hahahahaha) OK time to go back to bed now.

Except: has anyone else seen that Progresso commercial, where a guy is sitting down to what is clearly a bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle, when his wife replaces it with a bowl of Progresso and says, "the kids are gone, honey, it's time for the good stuff"? What is she implying, that it's ok to feed your kids crap and save the good stuff for yourself? It just seems so selfish... I mean she's talking about real food, not Halloween candy or something.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

MORE chicken blathering

I've been stealing bagged leaves from the curb in front of my neighbors' house. I think it's OK because they're just waiting to be picked up by the city anyway; I don't know if they're composted or just added to the dump. It still feels a little weird, though, to scurry across the street and surreptitiously grab a huge bag of leaves. I'm stealing them for my compost heaps, to balance out the bounty of chicken manure in there. I got the birds for essentially two reasons, the eggs and the manure... if they turn out to be as good at producing eggs as they are at shit, then I've really struck gold. I'm not expecting eggs for another six weeks at least, and not really much until spring (because they don't lay in the short, dark days of winter), so we'll see when the time comes.

We've had the girls for a month now, but somehow it seems so normal to have chickens that it feels like we've had them a lot longer. They just fit right into our lives and our backyard: we have a solid routine now, letting them out in the morning, back in at night, moving the whole contraption twice a week, mucking out the inside every weekend. I'm learning a lot about them. Today, for example, I learned that my toes look exactly like tasty, fat white grubs or something similar, and that my Birkenstocks are REALLY not the best footwear when working around the birdies. I thought chickens make more noise than they do; they're really quiet. Maybe when they get older and start laying? Right now they don't cackle or crow, just make little chirping noises. There's so much discussion in some quarters as to whether chickens are all right as urban, backyard pets (banned in a lot of cities, for instance) that I figured that they had to be more troublesome somehow, loud or smelly. But they're completely unobjectionable! Even cleaned only once a week, their house doesn't stink; the cat's litter box is much worse. It might be because they've got plenty of space, inside and outside; when people talk about chickens being smelly they're probably thinking about over-crowded chickens.

Sorry about writing about nothing but the chickens, but that's what's going on around here; everything else is business as usual. Work equals blech. Economy equals double-blech... if Don loses his job we're absolutely screwed. (Not that I think that will happen, it's just my main economic worry.) He's making good progress on the downstairs unit; the hole in the wall is gone. I'm hoping to have it ready to rent for January, especially considering that having rental income was a big part of the can-we-afford-this discussion when we bought the house and we've already made three mortgage payments without that. One thing at a time, though, right?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Boy, I wish I had something thoughtful and productive to say, but I'm way too busy running in circles, yelling YAYYYYY!!!!, occasionally punching the air with a "WOOT!!!" and poking people reminding them that WE WON WE WON WE WON!!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Kingsley Shacklebolt for Minister of Magic!

I mean, wait. That's not what I mean.

Go, go, Gryffindors! Gryffindors for the Cup!

No. Crap.


Ha. That's what I was trying to say!

You people in Texas think you're all fancy with your early voting. Sure, I had to wait until today to cast my ballot, Virginia being ass-backwards in this respect, but did YOU get a free cup of Starbucks for wearing your "I voted" sticker? I think not! hahahahahaha Also I'm in a swing state and you're not, nyah nyah nyah

It may not have been my first cup today either.