Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Becomes Normal

When husband leaves for work, he calls home to check in on all of us. How's wife, how's Buddy, how are the chickens? It's sweet, and I'm sure most spouses do as such when traveling.

There's a new set of questions now that the chickens are laying. Did you collect eggs? How many today, what color were they?

And then my favorite (careful, not exactly appropriate for young children):

Did you sex 'em up good?

Yes, husband asks me that about the chickens. Because now that they are of laying age, they are also of mating age, and they instinctively crouch down to "accept" a rooster when we come into the coop. Silly me, I had kinda thought that they were just being friendly and suddenly very generously allowing us to pet them, but no. They are just being proper hens looking for their male counterpart.

Glennie, um, offers herself
Brendon takes it upon himself to not only pet them, but to kinda grab them and wiggle them a bit. He thinks that this will trigger something in their chicken psyches equivalent to mating fulfillment and thereby translate to more regular (and perhaps satisfying?) eggs production.

Who am I to argue? Am I any more chicken expert than he? So yes, I do it too. I mean, good heavens, I don't want frustrated chickens! And I was the one who gave away both of their roosters.

Admittedly I never expected to be crouched down in a chicken coop, roughing up a little hen according to my husband's wish that I sex 'em up good. Once again I find that we are making up a very strange set of rules by which we make our lives in this house, in this neighborhood, with these animals.

Does she look irritated to you that I am not Brendon? I don't think I'm imagining this.

So not exactly the idyllic image I had of a little backyard mini country farm. Our hound doesn't herd the chickens but rather tries to eat their eggs (he can tell how much we like them, so he likes them too). Our chickens don't come to us to be petted because they adore us. And we shake their little chicken rumps because we think it will stimulate egg production.

He could at least not drool when he looks into the coop, come on now

Yeah. Disney's not going to adopt this as a script anytime soon.

And the thing is, it doesn't even phase me when he asks. I just reply yes or no, depending on whether any of the hens were feeling, um, frisky enough to let me. Like the rest of the things we've done with the animals and the house, it's been a combination of what we think we should do with them and what actually works in reality.

So. It's normal for us to ask this question. And when I'm actually doing it, I look up at their warming red light in the roost and think, at least that's appropriate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


It's finally happened.

After eight months of feathers and feeding and cleaning, after five months of searching the coop every day, we have been graced with some sort of tangible return.

An egg. A tiny, oval, brown egg.

I was just getting up to walk out of the coop this morning. I usually crouch down with the girls while they eat. Today, as the cold rain fell, I had picked up Lemon to pet her wet feathers. She has been wandering close to me lately, then crouching down like she's asking me to pick her up.

It's kind of a funny pattern: sidle up to me, stand very still, then squat until I pick her up. Not that the rest of the girls don't have their own patterns. Glennie still walks up behind me and pecks at my rear. Gertie still keeps her distance but talks up a storm. And Ruby just follows her twin and kinda does what she does.

Only now, there's a new element to the pattern. Lemon lays eggs.

Why do I think it was Lemon? Well, it was brown, so that means it was one of the twins. And I just think Lemon's putting back into the karma of our relationship. I propped her up and bandaged her legs for two weeks in an attempt to save her little chickie life, and now I'm certain she's giving us eggs and asking to be picked up in order to give us some sort of satisfaction in caring for her.

Or maybe chickens don't get karma and simply make eggs when they're good and ready. Due to, you know, nature and stuff. Less romantic reasoning, but perhaps more likely.

All I know is, I had a crazy dream two nights ago that our coop was teaming with eggs. Eggs AND chickens. In my dream, there were eggs of all colors everywhere and chickens were hatching from them and flying around.

Clearly some kind of omen. Because as I performed my daily peek into their little roosting box, there it was. The red light Brendon installed inside for these cold winter months illuminated it, like some kind of crimson spotlight. But there wasn't any other fanfare. I squealed at the girls, but none of them admitted ownership. Someone had just dropped that sucker and then walked down the gangplank for some breakfast.

I ran out of the coop, not too swiftly in my jammies, rubber boots, and rain jacket, and around to the outside of their roosting box. Brendon had built it especially for this function--so we could access eggs from the outside of the coop. Buddy could sense my excitement and jumped around. Probably because I was looking at him and shouting, "Budbud, we have AN EGG!"

I took it out and rushed it into the kitchen. I don't know why, but I was afraid it might break or just dissolve without my being able to document it. Buddy certainly tried to eat it. He was highly aware that there was something seriously awesome in my hand.

And now here it is. Our first egg. Oh man, I never thought it would be this exciting.

And yes, I know that sounds a little lame, and yes, I'm not ashamed at all. An egg just came out of our little Clark Ranch. This experiment with chicken ownership--heck, with home ownership--is not the utter epic failure I've been fearing. Perhaps we CAN raise critters. Perhaps we CAN make this funky little family and funky little home a functional one. I am renewed in my pioneering spirit! Brendon and I have made our mark upon this little chunk of earth we call ours, and in turn we have...ha ha, in turn we have THIS:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cleanup, Aisle 7

Shopping at Walmart is an experience. Shall we go on to describe that experience? Yes, oh please yes.

I should probably start with calling it normal. Who doesn't shop at Walmart? Even in crazy flaky more-typically-liberal Austin, there are Walmarts, and people shop there.

The Big W managed to open a location in our hippie/yuppie area of Allendale/Crestview, and did so with the grudgingly admirable adaptability and persistence that it's known for: it barely shows from the street, is nestled among many locally-owned storefronts, and has thoughtfully planted trees and paths throughout the parking lot.

So it's a normal experience. I know few people who have never shopped there. I know several who have claimed they never would, only to be ultimately faced with a situation where the convenience of everything in one place or the appeal of extreme cheapness lured them through a blue-aproned greeter's sliding doors.

It was in fact this very combination of reasons that brought me to our neighborhood Wally World this past week. The menu Kelly and I had concocted for the upcoming baby shower called for all sorts of ingredients I wasn't used to buying. Where does one go to buy every form of white spreadable condiment known to man, large food storage containers, cornstarch, etc? That's right: Walmart.

My list was long, and the items slightly foreign to me, at least where purchasing is concerned. Yes, I'm a lazy shopper. Husband is delightfully thorough about grocery shopping when he's home, and I just can't be bothered to go when he's gone. I kid you not--I am happy to eat beans out of cans in his absence. And if I do muster up the strength for a run to HEB, I often return with yet more canned beans, perhaps spiced up with--gasp--canned tuna. Frozen peas if I'm feeling particularly festive, and yes, always baby carrots.

People comment on my food at the office, often in critical tones about how healthy it is. I let them, figuring it is nice to let my shopping apathy translate to setting some sort of good nutritional example. How are they to know that I eat boiled eggs because it's the height of my cooking prowess? Nay, fellow cube-dwellers, I bring these hard-boiled lumps of pre-chicken to combat the daily worship of the office's golden calf, the vending machine. Tempting purveyor of Fritos and scary pre-packaged cinnamon buns; it's unholy how it makes its contents look delicious in the middle of a long workday afternoon.

Anyway, so I went to Walmart because I needed a lot of stuff that I wasn't used to buying. I knew Walmart could deliver, and I was right. Mayo, cream cheese, white bread, sour cream, peanut butter...

Wait a minute. I stood in front of the peanut butter, doing that thing that so often turns me off of shopping: reading the label.

Wait just a dang Walmart minute. I thought they weren't allowed to hydrogenate oils anymore. I picked up another jar and waded into its long list of ingredients. A man strolled by and dropped some Peter Pan into his basket, unruffled by partial hydrogenation and seemingly happier for it.

Why couldn't I be like him? I had accumulated my cart of white strangeness thus far without a glitch. I stared at the Helmann's. Perhaps because I hadn't bothered to read the ingredients of the mayonnaise? I had assumed it was frightening but knew that I needed it, so into the cart it had gone without a label glance at all. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is something very familiar and dear to me, so I had unwittingly turned it around for a quick perusal of its makeup.

Well. With the backdrop of a basket of sliced white bread and sour cream, getting choosy about peanut butter felt silly. I had a full cart of low priced-items, and I was being offered the chance to cross everything off my baby shower list. This is what shopping at the W-M is all about, Shannon. Put your Muffy loafers away and slip on your Crocs, you chose to come here. This is normal; you are not, you lazy label-reading canned-bean-eater.

With a sigh (or maybe a shudder) I dropped the peanut butter into the cart. Onward to the meat!

Ruh roh.

Why did I consume all that silly media? The Omnivore's Dilemma..."Food, Inc"...."Supersize Me"...curses. The shrink-wrapped blobs of chicken and big reminded me of the aerial shots of the huge cow factories in the movies and lines of the book, along with all their gross details.

Again, no one else looked upset. I was so close to crossing everything off the list, too. Ugh. And really, would anyone at the shower even eat a mini-quiche made with duck eggs and humanely euthanized venison? Probably not, Muffy my dear.

A pound of ham was tossed into the basket, and as much of my soul was left in exchange.

Oh, don't be so dramatic. Shopping at Walmart is a normal experience, we have established that. But still, I felt like I needed to page someone to bring a mop and bucket to wipe up the drips of my feelings of ick. Maybe that was the feeling of totally casting Muffy aside and embracing my creamy, gooey, casein-ridden cart. Or maybe the rbst hormone really does require a little bit of your soul.

Whatever the case, I accomplished my goal of buying everything I needed in one place without having to take out a loan, though I think I had to leave a little bit of Shannon (or was it Muffy) behind, and surely someone at Walmart had to mop it up.

Undoubtedly I am the oddball here. I picture myself in a huge kitchen with a crisp linen apron creating gourmet loveliness, but the reality is not so Summer Home in the Hamptons.

It's Shannon microwaving peas and carrots and feeling proud of the addition of dill as she eats standing up in a pair of sweat pants. Other people are out there raising kids by working long hours and grocery shopping and creatively making ends meet. Shopping at Walmart is a normal experience, and you with the beans and the stand-up dinners and the reading of labels are weird. You may think that other people desire the Muffy experience of hormone-free organics the way you do, but in reality everyone is just trying to do the best they can with what they have.

Oops, don't get too serious, Shannon, this is a blog for Pete's sake. Just go back to boiled eggs and calling the can opener a cooking utensil. Brendon will be home soon. I can always go to Central Market and just stand next to the $10 olives for a few minutes to recharge my fancy feelings of Muffydom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bye Bye, Birdie

Peepsie's gone.

Thanks to the amazing powers of Craigslist, we had no trouble finding "her" a new home. Is Craigslist not incredible? A very basic free forum exists, and now seemingly random needs of buyers and sellers can be met in one simple space. I've been floored before at the kinds of things available on this site; now we too have participated in the trade of something strange--a rooster.

It was like I'd put up the Bat Signal or something. Er, Rooster Signal? Within an hour I'd heard from a pecan ranch out in Hutto that had a great need for a crowing rooster. One post to that amazing buy/sell/trade site of endless stuff, and within a day our coop was free of testosterone.

Well, free except for that of the rancher and his eager dog.

Husband is an eager an adept rancher. He boldly works the land and tends to the critters with a fearless confidence that makes his ranchess wife quite pleased on a very deep, biological level.

He smokes green chiles and whole chickens on his grill out back--right by the coop--consequently not only making dinner but also forcing everyone to think really hard about the circle of life.

He runs water spigots to locations convenient to the morning critter/plant-watering routine of the ranchess, cleverly encasing exposed pipes in concrete to prevent freeze damage.

No longer does the ranchess have to drag the single hose all over the yard, and no longer does any hose get entangled in the stumps of the old trees the rancher felled earlier in the year. For the rancher also rented a stump grinder and ground those suckers up.

So yes, even though the coop is free of roosters, there is still testosterone in abundance around here. Power equipment usage, the outdoor cooking of animal flesh, and bonding time between Man and Critter all still occur here at the Clark Ranch.

And unfortunately, I find that my more feminine way of doing things is sometimes at odds with the tendencies of the boys.

Take the chickens. Both Brendon and Buddy like to approach the chickens head-on--kind of get in their little chickie faces. Granted they probably have different motivations for doing this; I know for sure that Brendon performs the chicken dance in order to hold them on a regular basis. He wants them to be tame like the other chickens we've seen around the neighborhood, to be used to being touched and handled.

Run, ladies, RUN!

I'm fairly certain that Buddy just wants to eat them.

Regardless of motive, both boys go after the girls every day, Buddy from the other side of the coop fence and Brendon from within. Both approach with a stealthy creep. And both leap in suddenly, causing birds to squawk, feathers to fly, and a variety of end results. Eventually Brendon ends up holding a bird and poor Buddy just stands opposite the chicken wire, watching the girls eye him with an overt irritation I thought only capable in cats.

This is not my method. While it is rewarding to eventually hold one of the girls, I dislike the chase. It actually hurts my feelings when they glare at me once I get them into my terrible grasp.

So when Hubby leaves to go offshore again, I slowly regain the girls' trust. The first couple of days they are notably suspicious. I enter the coop at least twice a day, and they stay well away.

But I fancy myself a Jane Goodall of this flock, so I just crouch down by the feed and remain still as their hunger eventually overrides their concern over what I might do with my hands.

Primates: perhaps slightly more endearing than fowl?

After a couple of days, we're back to our usual routine--chickens walking around me, under me, next to me. They brush up against me, peck at my freckles and my ring, and stand up really straight to look at me, clucking expressively. Lemon and Ruby resume eating from my hands again, and they tolerate the occasional petting. This is a coop situation I can love.

The thing is, I don't believe I have the heart to dissuade The Rancher from his chicken-chasing practice when he returns to our flock again. While I am skeptical as to its results, it makes him very happy to champion over the girls' amazing escape-artist skills and get to slowly pet the subdued bird. So while I love to hear the sweet sound of their trusting and contented clucking when I approach the coop, Rancher's contented clucking is ultimately a sweeter sound.

Plus I'm not entirely certain of my own skepticism. I'm not sure that chasing down the girls and holding them will ever override the antisocial tendencies of their breed, but then I wasn't exactly sure that Husband's recent endeavor in the kitchen was going to be successful, either.

How wrong I was.

Yes, he did it. That Which Is Most Amazing. That installation that has enabled me to break with a particularly overwhelming habit--the Topo Chico habit.

Thanks to the brilliant discovery by dear Nichole, Husband found the inspiration to install the apparatus that now gives us fizzy water on demand. With just a press of the valve and a good shaking, I suddenly have a liter of beautifully carbonated water. These tiny bubbles rival those of Topo Chico, and I can honestly say that I don't miss all those glass bottles one little bit.

And while I casually suggested to Brendon that he put together this ingenious system, ("This is what you should do if you're looking for a really great birthday present, dear!") I still didn't really believe it would be able to fully replace the perfection that is a Topo Chico. What other water achieves that level of carbonation?

I'll tell you--Clark Water does. He turned the pressure up, experimented for a few days, and then he just had it: perfect water. I was made to believe. I am a convert.

Yet again I am shown that he has a kind of handy prowess that surprises me. So while my method with the chickens is to go quietly out there and squat among them, perhaps I shouldn't question his big burly man ways.

I mean, I've been wrong before.

After all, quite recently I was expecting eggs...from a rooster.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ha. Not a Peep? Not Likely.


Why why why?

Little Peepsie, sweet Peepers, I nursed you back from what seemed like certain death. You grew and overcame and even assumed the role of apparent coop bully.

And then you woke me up this morning with your crowing.

I just don't think I can say anything more about this at the moment. Regress to 8-year-old Shannon: boys are dumb :(

Most Extreme Elimination Challenge

Oh how I enjoy this show. Not that I ever watched it with regularity, but the crazy game setups and silly dubbed commentary really get me giggling. Undoubtedly our TV programs also get folks in other cultures laughing; there is no pretense of pride or superiority when it comes to television programming.

Such extremes...and I come before you to offer my own laughable qualities of hyperbole. I tend to like thing in extremes, too. For example: carbonated water.

The Topo Chico trend in Austin is booming, so in my defense, I'm not the only one who seems to love it from the bottle. Those perfect bubbles, the strange attraction of the ice-cold glass vessel from whence it pours--it's the combination that seems to have me and a lot of the rest of Austin totally hooked. Oh, also the fact that it's just water seems to make it attractive. Yay, it's healthy!

Except for the results. Is this healthy? Really? Yes, we recycle those bottles. But last week I noted that our recycle bin probably exceeded the required 135 lbs weight limit.

And I felt forced to consider that thing, that Unknown Territory in personal improvement: Moderation.

My sweet niece sat at dinner the other night with a cup of chocolate mousse. As the only desert on the table, it was beeping loudly on my "YUMMY!" radar. She happily, slowly ate it, getting some on her face and rarely putting anything more than the tiniest lick in her 6-year-old mouth. Swinging her legs back and forth, she seemed to give that mousse the most cavalier of attitudes: I could take you or leave you, mousse, ha ha! And when she abruptly put her spoon down, barely a quarter of the desert gone, the rest of us Desert Vultures attacked.

She was ready to go back to doodling in her notebook. I was internally screaming for a chilled bite of creamy and crunchy chocolate and heath bar. No way I would have walked from that table with anything left in that cup.

What has become of me? Why do I want to drink 5 Topo Chicos when I get home from work? Why do I want a gallon at Amy's Ice Cream? Why do I choose to run a freakin' marathon when I decide to start running again?
Really? Did we have to order all of that at Junior's? Probably not.

Why always so extreme? Yes, I can go a year without buying new clothes, I can do a spin class, I can quit eating sugar.

But can I finally conquer that most elusive thing--the moderation? Can I really do smaller portions, less cups of coffee, just moderate exercise? Can I walk a little bit every day, can I read a little every day, can I do a few small kindnesses on a regular basis?

It would mean less waste for sure. Those piling bottles of Topo Chico in the recycle bin are just silly. It would probably mean better choices for the environment. Do I really need the water on in the shower when I shave my legs? Ugh. Probably not. And it would definitely mean better health. There's no reason I should get the gigantic ice cream at Amy's. Shorting myself on sleep during the week with the promise of catching up later isn't really a good plan.

Really? Every desert offered at Thanksgiving? Probably not necessary. Save some for the cute nieces.
I'd go so far as to say that this strange impulse--to want the whole bag of chips, to exercise for an hour and a half at a time--is part of my personality. It's a little of what makes Shannon the woman we all know as Shannon. And it probably doesn't have to be.

So for now, I'd like to see if I can identify the moments where I seem to be engaged in blind over-consumption. Um, the recycle bin is a pretty easy one. So is the empty little carton of Ben and Jerry's from last night.

I'm both embarrassed and intrigued. Husband is clearly quite good at it; moderation has helped him lose 30 lbs over 3 years and adjust his spending habits enough to be able to buy a house. What mental somersaults would I have to do to just stick with one beer, to always bring my own shopping bags to the store, to boil one egg and not two?

It's about time. Let's find out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

Shamelessly overt displays of testosterone abound here at the Clark Ranch.

Would you like some examples? Oh, I will gladly provide. 

For my first example I give you our rooster. What could possibly exhibit more testosterone, a cock? (Please, I must be allowed to make this pun at least once!)

And how about the male dominance that is asserted through that classic number we all know as the Chicken Dance? No, not the one played at the roller rinks of our 1980s childhoods. I mean this one--where Brendon, my patient and studly husband--attempts to corral one of our fowl in order to pick it up and pet it. 

He claims that he does this because he wants them to remember his scent while he's away offshore for weeks at a time. But I wonder if perhaps he doesn't like to assert his alpha-male-ness just a little, even in our chicken coop.

And finally there's the endless flirting. No, not by my husband (except with me. Yes, he may be 6 feet 4 inches of lean ex-Navy muscle, but he seems to only have eyes for this often-sweaty redhead in a dirty apron. Go figure.)

Brendon's flirting with me...Buddy's flirting with everyone.

No, the flirting is committed by none other than our little Cassanova of a dog. Yes, Buddy is is the coquette of the Clark household, and he's totally living it up. When I turn from feeding him to tend to the chickens, he leaps and dances across the yard in a wild attempt to provoke some sort of response. 

Today I looked up and he had managed to wrap a towel he'd been chewing on around his head like a bonnet. He stared at me, the ends of the towel in his mouth, as if to say, "What, this? I had no idea it would be humorous and adorable! No, really, you don't have to rush over and pet me at all."

It's not just with us, either. He actually stops traffic while we're on our neighborhood walks. And that's both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Folks are constantly squealing and exclaiming something about a beautiful puppy, and this evening a white Honda slowed down to a crawl next to us while the little old lady in the passenger seat pressed her face against the window and waved at him. 

As usual, Buddy wagged his (apparently totally attractive) tail and slobbered back.

So what does one do when overrun with manliness in her own home? Well, she starts by relocating her rooster. Especially when her neighbors have begun to pointedly ask her whether there are chickens in her back yard (because EVERYONE can hear Floyd crowing in the mornings).

Thank you, coworker. See Floyd down in the bottom right? Who rules the roost now!?

Luckily, my dear coworker has room in her flock for a rooster. She lives out of town a little ways and has 5 beautiful acres where she, her family, her chickens, horses, and dogs all live quite happily. 

Floyd-in-a-box, in the passenger seat. Luckily there was no en route escape. I don't think I'd be a good driver with an angry rooster flying around the Yaris.

So Tuesday evening I went out into our coop, performed the Chicken Dance, and boxed Floyd up to drive him out to his new home.

Three days later, I hear he is settling in quite nicely among the other chickens. 

And at least for the moment, it doesn't feel quite so utterly male-dominated around here. Now let's just hope that Peepsie doesn't decide to crow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Roo the Day

Well, so yesterday morning was momentous.  Floss walked up to the top of the gangplank behind me while I was setting out the feed. And crowed.

I whirled around and our eyes met. She looked right at me and crowed again. 

He, rather. He looked at me directly while he let out that squeaky, pre-pubescent, yet unmistakable crow. I laughed to myself, wishing there was someone else around at 7 AM to have witnessed this chicken clearing up my burning hen-v-rooster question.

Now all those little things I was noticing--his brighter coloring, his erect stature, his red comb--seem like clear signs of his chickie manhood. Poor little guy had to actually crow at me to set me straight.

This is Gertie--a definite female. The difference is quite obvious to me now.

And luckily my chicken-raising coworker is open to adding another rooster to her flock. Living in a more rural situation, she can have the noisier roosters without upsetting neighbors.

I don't want to separate anyone from my flock, but I also don't want a loud bird in the back that will wake the neighbors. My coworkers wisely instructed me that it won't be a problem as far as the eggs are concerned--apparently those who eat farmer's market eggs often eat fertilized huevos. It's simply a matter of collecting the eggs before the hens go "broody" and decide they want to sit on them to hatch 'em.

Still, I can't be that neighbor who wakes everyone up at the crack of dawn with a cock-a-doodle-doo. Not a great way to make friends on the street.

So Floss, who is now a Floyd, will find a new home. And now I anxiously watch Peepsie and Glennie's combs for signs of super redness. Theirs are bigger than those of the other girls. I'm sure they'll have to crow at me to make me know for sure, so I'm waiting. I've got my fingers crossed for girls!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ladies, Please

The Girls(?) enjoy some watermelon
We're all led to believe that the age-old question has to do with the order of chickens and eggs. I disagree.

Don't ask, "Which came first?"

Rather, let's ask, "Are you a hen or a rooster?"

Supposedly the folks that sell the chicks are knowledgeable in this area. Good. I want them to be.

But to err is human, and I don't think that Callahan's has robots for chickie-rear-checking employees yet. So it's possible that we could have gotten a rooster among our little flock. And now I'm concerned.

You see, one of our sweet little chickens is developing much faster than the others. While all of our girls will eventually grow a comb (floppy part on top of the chicken's head), it is very noticeable that one chicken is growing hers with...with more gusto than the rest.

Can you SEE that thing? It's huge!

Floss, is your already-prominent pink comb a sign that you are actually a rooster? Please, no!

(A little science lesson: like human females, hens produce eggs regularly that will only result in babies if a male is around to fertilize them. Roosters are not a part of our backyard plan. If Floss is a rooster we'll have to donate her to a farm.)

There are plenty of websites explaining the finer aspects of sexing your chickens. Frankly I'm not interested in careful examination of their little chickie rears, especially since I don't yet have an eye for what I'd be seeing. It just sounds like an uncomfortable--for all parties--waste of time.

They say that how your chicken behaves and how its tail looks can also indicate hen/rooster-ness. Again, this ranchess sees everything with brand-new eyes and is untrained. I see that Glendora is extremely bossy and protective as if she were a rooster, and I have noticed that Peepsie has yet to grow herself a proper tail.

But Glennie has always been pushy, and Peepsie is still quite behind the rest of the girls in development. She still has some of her chickie fluff.
Sweet, semi-unattractive (right now) Peepsie
So all I can do is continue with my routine of feeding and watering them and watching them be silly chickens. I delight in the fact that they now eat scraps of people food (maybe we won't have to buy a garbage disposal after all!)

I do not delight in the fact that Peepsie likes to stand very very close to me and poop. Open-toed shoes in a chicken coop are a poor choice for a ranchess.

While I am taking this photo Peepsie is creeping closer to my toes...ew, stop it!
I also should admit that I can't always tell them apart. As their feathers have come in, I've had to perform little tests to see who was who among the flock. I used to tell Gertie and Floss apart by their looks, and again the same with Ruby and Lemon.

One day I simply couldn't distinguish between them--all of their colors suddenly seemed different. But Floss was always the one who'd peck at my ring, and Lemon without fail will step up into my hands when I hold out feed. It was kind of sweet to be able to offer my hands out and identify them by their signature pecking and stepping.

And now I'm watching Floss with even closer eyes. Her pink comb and new feathers are lovely, but I just have to make sure she doesn't start getting, well, cocky.

Is this the face of a dude? Gosh I hope not.

Friday, July 1, 2011

He's a Buddy

So I never thought I'd be crazy about plastic grocery bags. Never, that is, until we got a dog.

Honestly, I never thought I'd be crazy about a dog.

Here it is, my true and probably not-so-surprising confession: I am not a dog person.

I'll concede that there are dog people and then there are Dog People. Shall we say people just love dogs, all dogs. But Dog People love their dogs, who are in fact small furry people who speak to them and have a dresser full of outfits and have prescriptions that need filling courtesy of their Doggie Therapist.

As a new convert to the world of wet-nosed appreciation, I do not mock any of these people--non-dog people, dog people, or Dog People. (Well. Okay, maybe I'll snicker about the Doggie Therapists. I'm trying to be open-minded, I swear.) Having recently had drastic changes in my feelings toward these creatures, I should grant that everyone's feelings toward dogs must be in some way well-founded.

Slobber. Still gross.
And here were and are mine. I used to not like how dogs smell, how their wet noses leave those gross marks on your clothes, the feel of their slobber, the itchiness of their fur all over the furniture, and their propensity to chew/pee/poop on your property.

And I still don't like those things. Yet...when I come home and Buddy almost pees himself for all the excitement he feels at the site of me, I am...happy.

When I run with him in the mornings and he occasionally (and yeah, kind of stupidly) looks up to confirm that it is still Shannon who is running next to him, I am content.

When he does that joyful leap into the futon at night to go to sleep out in the other building, I am thrilled to know that I am integral to his favorite daytime routine.

What happened? He licks my face sometimes and I actually have to remind myself that that is also his butt-licking tongue. How did dog ownership so quickly get me to a place where I must cue myself on getting grossed out?

How did I suddenly become obsessive about having enough plastic bags to comfortably and regularly pick up my own dog's fresh piles of poo every morning? And I am...satisfied every time he promptly makes this pile at the stop sign on our street. Happy to have the bags, happy that his little body is working as expected, happy to be cleaning up that stink.

This is not the Shannon I used to know.

It's got to be the tongue. That stupid tongue, always hanging out of a mouth that seems to be smiling. The tongue that laps up water in his baby pool while he lounges in it, the tongue that drops the squeaky ball in the water before returning it to me during fetch--as if he is washing it off for me before I throw it for him again.

Or maybe the eyes. The rolled eyes that show the whites and turn him into our "Demon Dog" in the evenings as he squirms on the bedtime futon. The eyes that stare up under his furrowed brow in that freakishly human look of sweet expectation.

Hello, Demon Dog
I just don't know. Am baffled at this change of heart. I put on my "dog clothes" when I come home from work and am fine with getting hot and muddy as we cavort around the backyard. My favorite time of day is also when we sit down before he goes to bed. I pet him while he converts from Demon Dog to Sweet Sleeping Puppy. I giggle as he suddenly remembers that he's thirsty, just puts 2 feet on the ground, and streeeeetches to drink his water without fully descending from the couch.

He follows both Brendon and me everywhere. He doesn't try to run off or chase things. He just wants to be where we are, whether we're taking the trash to the street or building a chicken coop in the backyard or discovering the volunteer sunflowers around the property.

Like a little shadow, he's just a buddy.

So blame Buddy for this sappy confession of conversion. WoMan's Best Friend has brought me to the other side, and I feel it's appropriate to explain the change.