“I’m going to pack this chicken!”



Just in case you were wondering what getting ready for a trip is like when you have kids. 

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Dinosaur-Hearted by Ra Avis

Poetry is not for everyone.

Or is it?I read through this collection of poems about love, and not romantic love, but love of life and children, love of family and friends, love of the frightfully wondrous world we live in and thought through it all…

-Oh! My friend should read this one!

-Oh! My cousin would love this!

-Oh! I should send this to my friends with the new baby!

-Oh!

-Oh!

-Oh!

And so, by the end, after mentally assigning a different person to each bit of poetry, I’ve changed my mind.

Poetry, this poetry, is for everyone.

Would I recommend it? Yes! It’s not only poems either, some of the pieces are longer and maybe one should call them essays but it sounds too stodgy for a book filled with doodles and personal touches that make it crystal clear by the time you reach the end of the book that you, yes you, are loved.

 

Farewell Roosty

Our rooster, “Roosty” has moved on to the big chicken coop in the sky.

He kept track of all his ladies as they free-ranged together for over six years, outlived all the hens and never once used these impressive spurs on a person.

He was a good rooster.

We’ve got a batch of young birds with a few roosters in it and I’ll be crossing my fingers hoping one of them may be worthy of taking Roosty’s place.

Like this old post from 2014 says, he was worth his weight in chicken feed…

Worth His Weight In Chicken Feed

When you have chickens, like we do, and in conversation you mention that you also have a rooster, like we do, one of two things generally happens.

Either, people say something along the lines of, “Of course, because otherwise you wouldn’t get any eggs right?” and then you try not to physically slap your forehead in frustration with the poor biology background of the general populace and go on to give a well rehearsed mini-biology lesson of your own.

Or, they say something along the lines of, “But don’t you worry it’s going to attack your children, kill your cats, run your dogs out of the neighborhood and crow night and day driving you crazy?!?” and then you try not to sigh, because they clearly have had a traumatic rooster incident and now you must gently explain to that, despite the incident that scarred them for life, your rooster is quite well behaved because anything less than stellar behavior would earn him a quick trip to the soup pot.

Rarely someone will nod knowingly, perhaps a fellow poultry person, because they know that a good rooster in a free range flock is worth the chicken feed he eats and more. In fact, I will go so far as to say I would never want to have a flock without one.Roosty with hens

I’m not exactly sure what goes through a hen’s brain as she walks around doing her chickeny things but none of it seems to have to do with awareness of surroundings  and self-preservation. It’s possible the chicken crossed the road because the rooster wasn’t around to tell her it was a dumb idea.  While the hens are happily meandering about, the rooster (the current one goes by name of Roosty) is on guard duty.  A hawk flies overhead and the hens continue to scratch at the ground – until Roosty (yes, the kids named him) spots it. He’ll give an alarm call and quick as a wink the chickens all vanish under bushes and whatever else they can find, and hunker down until it’s gone. While we’ve lost chickens to hawks between roosters, we’ve yet to have them get one since Roosty’s been on the job!

Whenever his guard duties aren’t demanding his immediate attention, Roosty busies himself by searching the ground for extra treats, calling his ladies over to share whatever he finds.  And as his final rooster duty, he has proven himself with an impressive fertility rate on eggs I gave a friend to hatch. Since she lives in town with a cap on chicken numbers and a ban on roosters, the extras were sent back to us. When all was said and done we had seven extra roosters.

Not all roosters are created equal and chances of nastiness seem to increase the more you have.  And this situation was no different. But even though the new roosters were crowing up a storm and starting to do quite a bit of posturing and mini rooster fights amongst themselves, the young boys were, well, scrawny. As we waited for them to get a bit plumper, Roosty had his work cut out for him.Roosty

All the birds would be peacefully roaming around when one of the young (and might I add slightly evil) roosters would spy a lone hen and take off like an arrow through the grass after her. Stretched out, flattened to the ground, running full tilt they’d race across the orchard, joined by any other young rooster that may have caught sight of them. When the youngsters caught the poor girl, the whole group would start in on behavior that would earn them a decent amount of jail time if they were human. Fortunately Roosty was on the job. As soon as he heard the commotion, he’d go running and flapping across the yard and shove himself right into the middle of the chaos. I never saw him fight another rooster, he’d just strut into the middle and the young boys would break it off. Straightening up, they’d slink away as if trying to say “What? I wasn’t doing anything! Besides I was just leaving anyway…” and Roosty would usher the poor hen back toward the rest of the flock.

While watching this show was both entertaining and educational,  it was also very noisy for us humans and looked exhausting for the chickens. We were all sticking it out waiting for the new boys to get just a bit bigger when one of them pecked at Jane. Not only did he peck  her leg but then he stood watching Jane scream with feathers plumped in a threatening manner until I came at a run to give him the boot (literally) and rescue her. Sadly, Roosty’s fierce protective instincts don’t extend to anything without feathers. While I love having a rooster around, we have a one strike rule when it comes to aggression toward humans. Roosty has never so much as looked at us sideways, but this young rooster had crossed the line.

With that single and final strike, it was time for all the roosters to go.Roosty

And just like that we are back to lone rooster status. The crowing has receded to a barely noticeable level, the freezer has a few new packages and Roosty, still on the job, looks just a bit more relaxed without his added duties.

So next time someone tells you they have a rooster, nod your head sagely and smile because now you know. A good rooster is worth that extra chicken feed.

 

Waiting With A Camera

When you have kids you wait.

You wait for babies to wake up, kids to eat, shoes to be found, shoes to be put on, shoes to be discarded, new shoes to be found and new shoes to be put on. You wait for really, really, long stories to be told, one last swing, three hundred million tricks to be performed and kids to fall asleep.

When you have kids you wait.

A lot.

In theory during all this waiting I could focus all my love and attention on my wonderful children. (Three hundred million tricks people!?! I ran out of attention long before we hit 500,000.)

In theory I could practice zen like patience and being calm. (Hello, my name is Jessie, have we met?)

In practice I take pictures.

Taking pictures looks just like focusing all your attention on your children but really it’s the camera that is focused on the kids while your brain focuses on lighting and composition. As an added bonus, with the wonders of digital photography, zen like patience is completely unnecessary as you can just click and click and click some more.

Now pulling out a camera when forced to inactivity is my default mode.

Today I was waiting for Jane.

I wait for Jane all the freakin’ time often. This time I was waiting as she crossed a foot bridge at my parents’ house. The bridge used to be a Billy Goats Gruff bridge.  Now, partially under construction, it’s more like the tightrope at the circus.

Jane was not impressed.

Falling off the bridge would have dropped her a maximum of two feet into shallow water and mud. I was unimpressed by her drama and sat down to wait.

Of course that really meant that I sat down and started taking pictures.

Balancing her way toward me with all the flair and high drama of a real tightrope act, she caught me snapping a photo.

“MOM! THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR PICTURES!”

I’m not sure she was correct on that. It sure seemed like a good time for pictures to me. But it became quite clear that it was most certainly not the time for laughter.

Note: If you are going to laugh at children in the throes of high drama, I highly recommend hiding your face behind a nice large DSLR camera rather than the smallest smart phone on the market. 

Flying Through Summer

I’m flying through summer sort of like this Purple Martin. 

It might not be prudent to fly for too long without looking where you are headed but when there is so much going on around you how do you even have time to look ahead to the next week?

Tonight was the first night in the 16 days the kids have been off school that I’ve had a breather to look around and start picking up the house… and the garage… and the yard… and the trucks…

It was like an archaeological dig.

On top of the couch was the bag of dress clothes I wore to the funeral of a family friend this morning. Hiding under that was the miscellaneous items the kids dropped on their way in the door from the summer solstice party we were at yesterday. The garage was heaped with the camping things from earlier in the week. And under it all was a thick layer of capoeira debris from a solid week of workshops and events. Drum making materials mixed with extra instruments on the mantel, cord dying equipment still on the table, boxes of un-sold shirts by the stove and stinky workout clothes in all the corners. Feed for the new goslings can be found under the camping equipment in the garage. And if you dig deep enough in the truck you can still find the remains of the tools we brought north to build bunk beds at the family cabin. Buried beneath it all on the table was a mountain of papers the girls brought home on the last day of school.

The fridge is mostly devoid of food and the laundry, clean and dirty, is piled high. But the good times have been plentiful and now I’ll have some time to work on the mess we left in our wake…

 

… but first I have two weddings to celebrate…

 

Bike Rider

Jane has been using a scoot bike for the last few years.

A scoot bike, for those of you who are not familiar, is a bike that has no pedals/gears/etc (some people call it a balance bike).  Kids can learn to balance and steer while they push themselves along on their feet Fred Flintstone-style. Jane was a master scoot biker but until this last week was completely unwilling to make the transition to *gasp* *shudder* *panic* …pedals.

But, this week, she, with help of a ridiculous purple Disney princess endowed bike (thank you Grandma Mary) was convinced to give the pedals a try – sans training wheels. There was panicking. There was whining. There was moaning. There were two really unconcerned and unhelpful parents because they had seen her navigate the downhill slope of our terribly rutted gravel driveway on her scoo

t bike and she was going to be fine as soon as she tried it.  Twenty min. later Jane was riding a real bike.

An hour later she called me out to watch.

Personally “Mom, watch me!” inspires feelings of dread and desperate wishes to have something, anything, else to do. But not this time. This time I was excited for her. She was riding a real bike.  With pedals. It’s a big milestone. I willingly went to the driveway to watch.

Foolish, foolish mother…

“Mom, count how many times I can go around the circle.”

(the circle being the small paved area in front of our two-car garage.)

“One!”

Foolish, foolish mother.

….

“Five!”

I was still proud of her.

“Twelve.”

I was still proud but the novelty had worn off.

“Twenty one.”

I sent Clara for a camera so I would have something to do.

“Thirty seven.”

“NO! You didn’t’ say thirty six, this is thirty six.”

“Oh, I just counted in my head.”

“That doesn’t count!”

“… thirty six….”

“forty five…”

Foolish, foolish mother.

“MOM ARE YOU STILL COUNTING?!?!”

“SIXTY EIGHT!”

“Aren’t I good at bike riding?!?!?”

“… seventy… three…. *yawn*”

I started daydreaming about setting time limits. As in, “Yay! You learned something new, I’ll be encouraging that new skill for the next five min and then I’m moving on. Ready… Go!”

“eighty eight”

This is right about when Clara, also bored out of her skull wanted to show off her bike riding skills too. Complete chaos ensued. Bike crashes, screaming, fighting, gravel needed to be brushed out of palms, the whole nine yards.

The dust settled, and there was Jane, still riding her bike and also demanding the entire driveway to herself.

“Fine. You can have the whole driveway but I’m not watching anymore after one hundred.”

My feelings of pride were lessening, the novelty was gone and my encouragement was getting mighty thin.

“ninty nine.”

“one hundred!!!”

Foolish, foolish mother.

“Aren’t you going to keep counting?”

 

Moral of the story: “Watch me” never, ever, ends well for the mother.