Monday, May 31, 2010

Where Oh Where...

Noella mentioned that she missed me at Cummington this weekend in the comments. Unfortunately, due to the craziness on the farm that sometimes happens in spring, Barb Parry was not able to attend either the NHS&W or Cummington, so I was unable to sign. I debated attending and just roaming, but then the farm asserted itself here as well, and wisdom seemed to advise staying home and working.

I've had a bit of sore throat for the past few days, and had a bunch of chaos here between times. I will admit to taking advantage of the opportunity to stick close to home. There's been a lot of non-chicken related drama here too, and I am worn out, more or less. Maybe more. Besides. Wouldn't you take a day to hang here?
I wrote the first two books on a 13 inch MacBook I bought for 2-at-a-Time Socks, from a relatively comfortable recliner chair I inherited from my Great Aunt Blanche after her death, or from my Ikea Poang chair. I like the recliner better, sorry Ikea. It's a tiny thing and I fit in it properly. Not many chairs fit me. I am short, and my spine resembles a corkscrew more than anything else. I loved the portability of the laptop. When I was working on Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks it was winter. Not a fan of the cold, the ability to move my entire workspace to six inches from the woodstove made me a very happy girl.
The book I am working on now doesn't allow the sort of laid-back slacker attitude in writing location. No laptop this time - instead a 22" monitor screen with a smaller 13" beside it. And a new keyboard. And it's not a Mac. So, the day after the book launch I set up the new PC in my office. In a normal office chair. Any notes I had made for this new book were safely stashed in my Macbook. I spent a couple of days just trying to transfer files, with a deadline over my head and malfunctioning USB devices, and you get the picture? There was swearing, there was whining (a LOT of whining) about the chair, my back, my shoulder, the stupidity of computers, the difficulty of adjusting to a new keyboard, a newer version of Word and the mental blocks that accompany writing projects. This thing happens where I just sit and stare at the screen as if I have forgotten American English, and then all of a sudden words come flying out of my fingers and poof, 7,600 of them appear as if by magic. Then I have to edit, sort, rearrange, fuss over and fix until at last I can shoot them off to an editor and patiently wait their return.
I am still not adjusted to this keyboard, really. I have got to get used to this thing. And the mouse. And the whole PC thing in general. I have not touched a PC for more than five minutes in about four years. When my office machine turned into a brick there was no point. But now, one capital investment later, I have to touch, have to remember, have to be the old dog luckily just relearning old tricks. Close the window on the right. Expect little warnings popping up. Don't delete anything with a .dll extension. And so on.
Today is Memorial Day, which always makes me pause and consider the sacrifice of the women and men who've died giving birth to and defending our freedom. Although there have been many active servicemen (yes, all men) in my family, none has been lost in the line of duty. God willing none ever will be. My son just joined the Army, and leaves for Basic training and AIT in September, I believe to Fort Jackson. This wasn't a sudden decision. It has been on his radar and in discussion for about five years now, maybe longer. Knowing that it wasn't an abrupt decision makes it feel alright somehow. Not great mind you. This is my only son, and the Army is not exactly known for keeping it's members out of harm's way. But then he could get killed crossing a street, or maimed with rogue fireworks, or who knows what. I am a fatalist, if you want to call it that, although really it's more a function of my spiritual beliefs. I believe we all have a time, and then yours is up, it's up. Joining or not joining the Army will not make that time come earlier or later. It's easier to live fearlessly if you believe this. It's how I get on airplanes. If God wants me down, then the sucker is coming down and there's not a darn thing I can do about it. If I don't get on the plane, he can just as easily take me out on the drive home.
Besides, maybe Daniel's duty post will be someplace terrifying for mothers, like Germany. All that beer and bratwurst. Scary times. Regardless of where he goes or how this all turns out, I am exceedingly proud of him. This is something I do not say enough to my kids, that I am proud of them. I am proud of who they are, of who they are becoming. I am proud to say I had a hand in their rearing. I am mostly proud that although I at times disagree with what they are doing (this is not one of those times, I am simply stating this as a point of reference) I am always and forever proud that they follow their hearts and their dreams. I like to think they get that from me.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One Month and Not Much to Say Except Buk-AWWK!

It has been super busy here. It is spring and spring is always crazy. Chickens, gardens, project, and some work now and then as well. First, 95 baby chickens came from Sandhill Preservation. I ordered 50, but got very lucky and instead of a refund for the excess shipping I paid, I got bonus baby chickens instead. I'd ordered meat birds and layers. Man do I have meat birds and layers.
There they are, still in their shipping box. Sometimes people are amazed when I explain how they come. They come in the mail. I pay extra for express shipping but you can use priority, too. I like them to spend as little time in transit as possible. Now, I wasn't exactly prepared for so many, and I spent a quick morning running around gathering supplies, assuming I had 36 hours before they arrived. Wrong. The call confirming shipment was at around 7pm. They arrived the next day at 11am. We had no power as a result of a kicking spring storm. The babies were cold. They needed to be warm. 90-95 degrees warm, which is usually accomplished with a heat lamp.
Instead we pulled the stock tank I use for brooding babies in front of the woodstove and fired it up. I don't think this house has ever been so hot. We managed to keep them around 80-85 degrees. It's where they should have been, but it had to be close enough. As we headed into evening, still with no power, I became anxious for them. Really anxious. And the launch of Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks was the next day. The idea of spending the night with an alarm clock every hour or so to wake me so I could check chicks and stuff the stove had no appeal. In the eleventh hour, just as the sun was setting and the temperature in the house was dropping, and I was beginning to berate myself and Poor Gene for not forging ahead sooner with the solar panels, the power came back on. I set the babies up in the mudroom with their lamp and headed for bed.
I needed to be rested for my party at Webs! Kathy gave me an wonderful introduction that made me get a little bleary.
My father would say this is genetic. We cry at everything. Hangnails, kleenex commercials, birthday parties, you name it. I talked for a while, a little about chickens and a little more about knitting. I sipped some champagne, and I signed some books.
Oh look. A rare image of me with my MOUTH OPEN. How surprising (sensing sarcasm? You'd be right). It was a wonderful evening. Friends were there, which always makes happiness, and knitters too! One friend brought me two of these:
Coolest. Chicken feeders. EVER. Now we're all stylin' with our vintage kit! I love the feeders. They are super heavy duty, and big. I am going to need big feeders around here. I have a lot of chickens. 140 I think. It's hard to count. They move so fast. And they grow so fast. Fluffy little babies change into little kids...
there they are at two weeks old, feathers popping out all over. The only way to get pictures is to corner them and snap away.
Or scare them by putting them on a child. That is my granddaughter April, for whom a pair of socks in the new book are named. Everyone say "Awww!!". Tack on a "My Gosh, Melissa, she's beautiful!" for extra points. Not that I am biased or anything. Tell me either of the grand kids are beautiful or handsome or amazing or brilliant and you've got me. The chicks sit still when terrified or small human fingers, for a minute anyway. It's effective.
There's a lot of them. And more even now, because somewhere in there I agreed to give hatching eggs to a local elementary school's first grade class. I had this great plan to separate a rooster and some hens specifically for meat birds, but time got away from me so in the end I sent along 18 random eggs from the previous day's batch. 21 incubating days went by like a shot, and in the end nine more babies were added to the farm a week or so ago. I know that they have one of four fathers. I know that they have one of 28 mothers. Beyond that, no clue what they'll look like. They'll lay if they're girls, and will go down well if they're boys. That's all I know.
I have completely lost track at this point of how old who is and so on. I think these guys are now two weeks old. I call them the gang of nine. Today we finished the last chicken room in the barn. It was clean for about five minutes before I started moving babies in.

MMmmm! I love laying down in it when it's like this. It never stays this clean for long. Eventually feathered people move in, and things change. Poop flies. Food gets scattered.
Feather dust fills the air. But for a moment it's heavenly. I love that they have this whole huge space now and all they want to do is lay in the sun. They're very funny. I don't know how many are in this room now. I lost count. The only time to really count them is at night.
I tried counting them while I was moving them, but some jumped out of the can after being counted and others jumped in, so I just filled the can and moved them. No counting. The purple tail is a bird who's been nipping excessively at it's own butt as the big feathers grow in. It's itchy. Grown up feathers are not like baby pin feathers.
There are just so many of them. I think I am slightly unhinged at times, considering this. 140 is a really lot of chickens. They're everywhere. And they've grown. Now just a month old, these are the same baby chicks from the picture at the top of the post, the sweet fuzzy babies in a cardboard box. Now they're gawky teenagers. Now plucking order is established. Bullies come to the fore. Adorableness occurs in new ways.
The environment is fully explored. Boys begin to act a bit more like boys. Girls begin to be a bit more retiring and shy. Nothing is set in stone until someone crows. But I begin to notice things.
The gang of nine has been mixed in with some of the smaller 4-week old chicks. I separated them by size - bigger birds in the big new room. Smaller guys in the small room. It works. The integration went very well. I had concerns. One of the little guys, named Meatball by the first graders, will not shut up about the change but everyone else is pleased. Meatball may be, possibly, a bit of a whiner. He'll get sorted soon enough.
This is Celia, in a rare appearance out from behind the nest boxes. Celia is an old girl, about ten. She's a Silkie hen that Meg got somewhere along the line. Although Silkies are known for making great pets, Celia is a complete and utter freak. She lives by the rule "Always Flight". No fight or flight for her. RUN. PANIC! Note the 4x4 I put down to ensure she has access to food during the day while the big chickens are out on range. We worry about her a lot. If she gets out, she sometimes will not come in. I occasionally use her as an Auntie for chicks who are too young to go out yet. If nothing else, I know she's safe inside for a while. She makes a great auntie. I keep saying I am going to give her some eggs someday and let her hatch them.
Well, that's it for now from the farm side of things. There's also been a lot of planting, watching of hives and there has even been some knitting, and a whole lot of writing about knitting. I may be able to post some projects in a couple of days that aren't related to any book, and therefore can make an appearance. I get into baby things between projects. One might even say obsessed with baby things. They're like socks; a palate cleanser, portable, fast. I am not knitting any socks right now - crazy, huh? - because I have three sock projects in the works that are "work". Time for more of that on Tuesday! For now, I will enjoy the day as it passes by planting more things and checking in on my 140 feathered charges and the 100,000 winged ones. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!