Saturday, December 5, 2009

In which the coop door resembles the merge lane on the 520 bridge

The Swampland region boasts several of what outsiders call "marvels of engineering" and locals call "a pain in the patoot."

Notable among these is the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge , (recently officially renamed the Governer Albert B. Rosellini Bridge) which is essentially a freeway built onto a barge nearly a mile and a half long, stretching between Seattle and Bellevue, over a bit of Lake Washington.

Locals don't use either of the official handles for the bridge. We call it "the 520 bridge", and if we don't cuss while talking about it, we will at least spit while discussing the traffic on it.

The 520 bridge was designed to carry a whomping 65,000 vehicles per day, which everyone in 1963 thought was an outrageous number that would never happen. However, on an average weekday in 2009 the bridge carries about 115,000 vehicles--nearly twice the number expected by the designers.

All those cars.

They ... move ... very ... slowly ...

... because there isn't actually room for all of them to get through the merge lanes.

So it is with the doorway to the chicken's Winter Palace around bedtime each evening:
The door was designed for a long line of chickens to enter the coop, one at a time.

Alas, chickens can't--or won't--read the design sheets. At rush hour (i.e. bedtime), they all try to merge into the coop at once.

Just as on the 520 bridge, the coop door is subject to what traffic reporters call "blocking incidents." These can last for quite a while as the hens perch in the doorway and fall asleep, corking up the entrance.
Meanwhile, outside in the dark (it usually IS dark--I had to use my flash to get these photos), the other hens wait for traffic to clear.

Finally, some chicken or other appoints herself as battering ram, and throws herself at the cork chickens. This clears the jam momentarily, and a few more hens enter. Then another blocking incident occurs, and the whole thing repeats until, at last...

...all then hens are safely indoors for the night.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

In which the farrier is a "morning person", so I greet sunrise

My farrier is an older gentleman who prefers to get all of the day's work done by noon. You would think that would indicate that he'd grown up in the South, or even in Mexico, where smart people siesta during the heat of the day.

In reality, he was born about 15 miles from here, and has spent most of his life in the Northern Swamplands. He's just a morning person, I guess. Bah.
In December, the sky is light, but the sun hasn't quite cleared the trees on top of Ebey Mountain yet, and the frost is still thick on the ground when he arrives at 8am with his tools.

(A NOTE ABOUT EBEY MOUNTAIN: by local standards, it's a hill. It's not prone to volcanic eruptions and doesn't have snow on it most of the year. Therefore, it's a hill. However, the first white settlers to the region weren't from here, and it looked really big to them. That's why the rocky outcropping to the east of our house, which rises 1600 feet above sea level at the highest point, is called a mountain on all the maps. It sounds much more impressive than it really is)
By 8:30am, the mares' feet were trimmed up and pronounced "beautiful", and the sun was almost up.

And, hooray: no rain in the forcast for today and most of tomorrow! A good opportunity to walk around the yard with the camera.These poor roses didn't time their bloom very well. The rest of the plant has died back, but these little flowers decided that a rose in December might still squeak through....

The last of the apples, knocked down and only partially eaten by the local deer.

It doesn't matter how many hours I spend raking leaves around here, the bigleaf maple in the front yard always has more to throw around. They are pretty in the frost, though.

Down in the pasture, the sun is up at last--it must be time to go riding!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In which this post is just a quote, which is really a haiku poem!

"You keep saying that
word. I do not think it means
what you think it means...."

Monday, November 30, 2009

In which I spend a lot of time with my dear Minerva Louises

The chickens' Winter Palace is mostly finished now. We erected this amazingly ugly orange net (uh, it was free) over the roof-parts of the garden to keep chickens IN and predatory birds OUT. So far, so good...
however, the hens have shown a preference for roosting in the net at night rather than in the henhouse. I go out in the evenings and shoo them into the house to sleep--it's warmer there, ladies, and winter is coming!

They have also shown a decided reluctance to lay eggs in the beautiful nesting boxes that Jim built inside the coop. In fact, despite brightly-colored "helper" eggs in the nest boxes, the hens sleep in the boxes and lay eggs in a little corner of the coop, near the back door. I must say: it's certainly more convenient to collect them there!

Some of the hens are quite friendly, and will follow me around the enclosure while I take pictures. They even like to be scratched on the shoulder blades, between the wings. Huh. I never would have guessed that.
Most of my photos from the Palace grounds are of chicken bums. Even when I think I'm going to get a lovely shot of a beautiful hen looking around with something vaguely resembling comprehension, when the lens actually clicks it's almost always full of tail feathers.


And then there's this hen:
She's very, uh, handsome, isn't she?

Sorta. Uhm. Well. Kinda, um. Masculine?

I admit that I don't know a bunch about chickens, and I know even less about roosters.

Technically, I realize that a rooster is a male chicken. Since we keep our hens for egg production only, and not "additional chicken production", we have no use for a rooster.

(Ahem. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster anywhere nearby, just as human ladies will ovulate with no men around. That was tactful, wasn't it? This is a FARM BLOG, after all)

It is, however, really difficult to discern roosters from hens when they are young, and even at this stage of adulthood, they look pretty much alike. I've always know that you can tell Barred Rock roosters from hens because the roosters are the ones who

a.) attack you
b.) cock-a-doodle-doo

Jim says that if she's a he, he won't admit it because when they were little, he would sing to the flock "cock-a-doodle-doo, make me into stew". Apparently he still sings that, because if that lady is a man, she's not telling anybody about it!

This hen is definitely a hen. I watched her lay an egg this morning. Isn't she pretty?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In which I have been writing for thirty long days and now it's bed-time

For a whole month I
frantically wrote this thing:
Fifty thousand words!