Chicken Chronicles- Day 14

The chicklets are two weeks old now. They are putting on weight and starting to look plump. I’ll post a photo tomorrow. I’m able to raise the heat lamp for them as their metabolism is ramping up. I bought 50 pounds of feed yesterday from Marshall Grain. It is a lot less expensive than getting it from the Tractor Supply Co. and the folks at the Grain elevator are very nice. (Not that the folks at TSC aren’t but they really don’t seem to be very engaged in what they do. Stands to reason, they’re employed by a big corporation with all that entails.) In any event, work on Versailles de Poulet is progressing. I’ve drawn up plans and now have to figue out the fewest cuts in the lumber I need in order to fit the wood in Ethan’s Blazer. It is 1$ a cut so I’m trying for the minimum. I’ve got a table saw to cut the rest. I really do need a pickup truck. Sigh.


Chicken Chronicles

Chicks arrived August 8 at one day old.  
I’m so excited. They are so cute. They are also very messy. Meet little “au Vin”, “Marengo”, “Paprikash”, “Quesadilla”, and “Fricassee” and their cousins.
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Aug 9, 2012
Chicken Chronicles, Day Two. The Chicklets survived the night. I think I may need a second heat lamp in there. They make the most amazing little peep sounds. Storey’s Chicken Book says to scatter grain for them (as well as what is in the feeder) so I did so. Sure enough, they all started pecking and hunting. Little balls of yellow fluff rushing around the brooder. I may have to move my porch chair out there just to watch them.

August 10, 2012
The Chicken Chronicles- Day 3. All the little ones still pecking around. They really love to have feed scattered on the floor of the brooder so they can peck and hunt. Just two days and they all rush over to the edge of the cage to watch when I approach in anticipation of the grain rain. 
They are a little taller today. 
There is an East wind blowing this morning so we’ll leave the garage door shut for them. An entire summer of 90 degree weather, I get my chickens, which need about 95 degrees their first week, and the temp drops about 15 degrees. 
I’ll start working on their permanent home next week.

August 11, 2012
Chicken Chronicles- Day 4
I am in Kentucky, chickens are in Michigan. Spousal and filial units are chick sitting. I hope the little blighters are okay (the chicks, not the guys; the guys seem to be able to take care of themselves.)

August 13, 2012
The Chicken Chronicles- Day 6
My apologies for missing day 5 but the guys were at the fairgrounds yesterday so I wasn’t able to get an update until I got home late last night. The chicklets are trying to fly, well, fly as much as chickens come. I’m worried because Marengo keeps popping up under the heat lamp. I could end up with a bald chicken if he hits the lamp. I wonder if it is hot enough 
to singe his feathers? They are getting bigger. Tall and leggy. It is amazing to me how fast they grow. A couple of them are developing “personalities” enough so that they stand out in the crowd. They are the ones that walk over to the chicken wire and watch me when I open the door to feed them, check the temp, etc. They will get closer to me when I talk to them as well. Most of them just hang out with one another in one area or another and pretend I don’t exist until the grain rain occurs but these 6 seem curious. I have discovered that they like the Beatles. (What can I say, I sing when I work.) I wonder how they would like Metallica. I’ll have to try “Sad but True” tomorrow.

August 14, 2012
Chicken Chronicles- Day 6
The chicklets are ructious today. Kiev keeps sticking his head through the wire trying to get out. I think it is because it is sunnier today than it has been for a while. They are getting taller by the minute and they are certainly feeling their grain. I put some grass into the brooder for them. At first all of them ran as far as they could from that weird stuff but 
pretty soon the braver ones started pecking and scratching at it. 
They all seem healthy (fingers crossed) and at the rate they are growing I better decide on the chicken tractor design today. I can’t decide whether to just do a rectangular design with a flat roof or whether I should go with a triangular silhouette. The triangular would be less mass and it would be easier to “roof” part of it to give them shelter. But that means math to figure out the angles I’ll have to cut on the roof supports. The flat one is pretty easy, no angles to cut.

August 16, 2012
Chicken Chronicles-Day 8
Missed writing yesterday, missed the chicklets too. We are at fair so most of my time is spent sweeping, shoveling, and watching kids ride. The chicks are growing like crazy! They are three times the size they were when I got them. I will post a picture tomorrow. 
I have aplan for the chicken tracto now. Lee F. helped me design it. It slopes, I can “roof” it and it 
will be portable so the chicks can enjoy the grass, etc. Yay. I’ll buy lumber this weekend.
For now, rain coming down, horses upset because the stall shutters are down, kids hyper because thy are all inside and can’t run around. On the up-side, the kids can sweep and scoop…after all, the horses are theirs.

August 17, 2012 
Chicken Chronicles- Day 9
The chicklets are starting to look like chickens, tall, skinny, funny feathered chickens. Have to clean the cage today. Probably won’t happen until late, after fair tonight. They are getting very curious about the outside world and they now associate me with the handfuls of grass I’ve been throwing in there. They all mobbed the lone clover flower this morning, pulled it apart in seconds.

August 19, 2012
Chicken chronicles- Day 11
I cleaned the cage. They were not happy but suddenly the god-of-grass-clippings showered them with with green goodness, their food was replenished, grain was scattered, water flowed like justice, and all was once more right with the world. http://instagr.am/p/OhZYhYLMtS/
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August 20, 2012
Chicken Chronicles- Day 12
Herb day for the chicklets. I cut the flowering tops of the herbs in my citrus herb garden and tossed them into the Palais. The herbs smell so good, the chicks mobbed them. Some of them are trying to fly around now. They hustle and bustle. 
I’ll pick up the wood to build Versailles de Poulet today. They have more time in the Palais but I want to get it done before school starts next week.

August 21, 2012
Chicken Chronicles- Day 13
The chicks now associate the opening of the garage door with food (and light?) As soon as the creaking begins the cheeping begins. They start flapping around and cheeping and running and look at me with great disapprobation if I show up without some form of munchy stuff. They definitely like the clover best. They go for the little yellow flowers first. I love watching them, I know it sounds silly, they are not particularly bright, but they are so antic. The ultimate adhd animal “Oh, look, bright, shiny” and they crack me up. And no, don’t worry, I will have no problem with their transformation into dinner. I guess it is more like dinner theater, just a really long show.


Memorial Day

Memorial and Veterans’ Day have always meant a lot to me. Perhaps it is because of my Dad’s unabashed patriotism, nothing flashy, but my Dad was always clear that he saw his career in the military (Army Air Force then Air Force) as being more than about a good way to make a paycheck. He felt that he was helping to keep the United States of America free. Even when the protests of the Vietnam War era became more and more common, when the military was reviled, he felt that his work was important. He supported my protests against the government because he felt that that was a crucial part of what America is all about. He told me he thought I was nuts, but that he could understand that I had my reasons for challenging the government. He only demanded civility, not mindless acquiescence. He couldn’t understand where my liberal streak came from but accepted that I saw things differently.
I have long wondered where my perspective came from. My siblings’ political views tend towards the conservative side of the continuum, much like my parents’ views were. Given that I like thinking about thinking , over time, I have come to focus on a particular period in my life, and a particular cluster of events as being seminal in the direction my politics took.
We lived in France in the early sixties, first near Metz then in Chambley. We traveled widely and took advantage of the opportunity to learn about another country and culture. We had numerous “lessons” in how to be careful when we hiked or went into fields. We were all made aware that the area of France in which we lived had been a battleground for time immemorial. World Wars I and II were only the most recent wars that had raged through the area. When we lived in Chambley a local farmer plowed up the remains of a soldier from the Franco-Prussian war. We had to be aware that there was still unexploded ordnance hidden under the soil and we learned how to behave and who to call if we found anything suspicious. We visited Verdun where every visitor is warned not to walk off the marked trails because of the unexploded ordnance. I was transfixed by the trench with bayonets. I was told that the trench contained the bodies of French Soldiers who had been killed and buried by bombs exploding around them, that their bayonets were left as their grave markers.
I was a Girl Scout (and proud of it) and participated in every activity offered. It was fun and I liked the uniform, especially the Cadette uniform, tailored green skirt, pressed white blouse, white gloves, and my sash. I had the privilege to to be part of the honor guard for Memorial Day rituals at American Military Cemeteries near Metz.
St. Mihiel cemetery is a U.S. cemetery for soldiers of WWI. It is one of many located through Europe and it is the resting place of around 4,000 Americans who died in fighting in the area. It is not the only American Cemetery in the Alsace Lorraine region. I stood at attention and at parade rest looking out over 4000 crosses. Each cross represented someone’s father, son, brother.
I also served in an honor guard at the Ossuary of Douaumont where the bones of over 100,000 soldiers lie jumbled together. The bones are literally jumbled together, not stacked neatly. All those bones fill the ossuary, all those bones were soldiers.
My family visited military cemeteries all over Europe. The cemetery in Luxembourg, where Patton still leads his troops is beautiful and sad.
Those visits were part of the history lessons my Dad “taught” us. I don’t know if the lesson I learned was the one Dad wanted to convey, but my 10, 11, 12 year old selves took away the knowledge that war is costly, more expensive than anything I could think of, and that if one engages in war, then it must be only to protect that which is worth even more. As time went on and I grew older, I realized that one of the tragedies of war is that we sometimes don’t know the worth of that being protected until after the fact.
I guess questioning the worth of what we fought for in Vietnam became a part of my world view. My questions begat more questions and I didn’t agree that we were fighting for freedom and democracy and I couldn’t support the war. But I recognized that my Dad and my friends’ Dads, and all those other soldiers were engaged in something in which they believed, supporting the Constitution of the United States. They weren’t mindless automatons, they were not ignorant of the cost, they supported something they believed transcended the machinations of politics. My argument was with the policy makers and Johnson’s “military industrial complex”, not with the men and women who put their lives on the line for what they believed was right.
My heart cries when I realize that there are more crosses, Stars of David, Crescent Moons, Pentacles, being added every day to our military cemeteries. I see my students take breaks in their studies when they are deployed to Afghanistan, Iran, the border between the United States and Mexico. They don’t have a choice, they can’t refuse service because this deployment furthers an unjust cause and accept service because that is a just war. They go. I see my students falter when their spouse, sibling or child is deployed. They can’t keep them home because this deployment furthers an unjust cause and accept their deployment because that is a just war. They have to let them go.
Memorial Day is so important. It is so much more than a day off. It is a day to reflect on those who have given their lives for something more and a day to reflect on whether that “something more” is worth the price we have asked them to pay, that we all pay.
Thank you for your service, all you warriors past and present. Nos momento et honorare te.


Anne McCaffrey has gone between

Anne McCaffrey died on November 22, 2011 at her home in Ireland. The first book I ever read of hers was the first in the Harper Hall series, Dragonsong. I fell in love with the book and went out and bought everything of hers that I could find. I didn’t discover her until 1976 but I made up for lost time. I’m a fast reader and was so happy to have several books available in order to catch up. I’ve read just about everything she has written and my bookcases will attest to that claim. I got the first Dragonriders books (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon) in an omnibus from the Science Fiction Book Club sometime in 1978 (I think.) It finally fell apart a year ago, 2010 and I bought a new copy. I’ve read all her books, especially any relating to Pern so many times that, well, the books fell apart. I cried when Robinton died (All the Weyrs of Pern, 1991) and was happy when Menolly walked the tables in Dragonsinger (1977) and wished I could be a Dolphineer along with either the first settlers (The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, 1993 and The Dolphins of Pern, 1994)
McCaffrey also wrote about a future world where those with psychic ability were integrated in various ways into the fabric of society and in The Ship who Sang created a future where those born with quick minds but bodies unable to sustain them found life as “brains”, attached to cities, space stations, and best of all, space ships, that could travel to the Horsehead Nebula and back. She wrote the first brainship story herself and co-authored or authorized several more. In my dreams I partnered a brainship and became what I truly wanted to be, the first archaeologist on Mars.
One of McCaffrey’s books stumped me at first. Restoree featured a young woman who had been gleaned from New York by roving harvesters, the “Mil”. She managed to avoid become dinner and was instead “restored” to a beauty she had not previously possessed. (She had been flayed preparatory to becoming dinner.) She saves “the guy”, defeats the Mil, and helps solve the problems of the planet on which she has landed. She was not your usual SciFi heroine. The book was subversive and a lot of fun and the fact that it seemed to follow the old “formula” flipping it on its head. McCaffrey followed it up much later with a series that followed the premise, the Catteni series, but I didn’t enjoy that series quite as much.
McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer series is one of my favorites as well. It illustrated the choices we make and why we make them, and the events that transpire thereafter.
McCaffrey also dealt with the problems of time travel, the Generation Warriors and Ireta series) and of intergalactic politics (Doona) I told my son the story of the Decision at Doona. He was taken by Todd’s wearing a fake tale and decided to start wearing a belt as a tail so he could be a dinosaur.
McCaffrey paired up with another of my favorite authors (Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Healer’s War) to create the PeeTay Bee and the Barque Cats series. The PeeTayBee series feature selkies. What more is there to say.
Anne McCaffrey’s son Todd is continuing her work in Pern. He is taking a time between the beginning and the end and making it his own. He is true to his mother’s vision but is infusing his own sight into the series. I enjoy his work, it isn’t exactly the same but it is different/good.
Books about human/seals and cats, dragons, unicorns, ships who sing and excavate alien sites, psychics who save the galaxy, pirates and crystal singers…Anne McCaffrey gave me worlds away, places to play. She knew people, she knew how we are and she saw how we could be. I’ll miss her and I’m not alone.


Victoria Thompson’s “Murder on Sisters’ Row”

I sometimes think the hardest thing for a writer of historical mysteries, particularly when the protagonist is a woman, is to give the woman the freedom and ability to get out and garner information in order to solve the crime du livre. Victoria Thompson’s Murder on Sisters’ Row, makes use of the social and cultural restrictions on men and women in the Gaslight period to facilitate her characters sleuthing.
Sarah Brandt, the amateur detective in Thompson’s series is a midwife in New York City. She was born to an elite family but married “down” and learned the trade of midwifery. She is a widow with a daughter she adopted after her husband’s death and a nanny who stands in the stead of a daughter as well (Murder on Mulberry Bend.) Her job takes her all over New York and introduces her into the lives of people spanning the economic spectrum. She is a liminal character. She belongs in no place but is everyplace. She is associated with numerous classes by dint of birth and connection and employment. Her gender restricts her from personally engaging in certain actions but her relationships with various male characters allows her to use them vicariously to get to where she needs to be.
In Murder on Sisters’ Row, Sarah delivers a baby for a young woman in a brothel. The young woman asks for help in leaving the brothel and Sarah complies, contacting a rescue group whose mission is assisting prostitutes who are trying to escape “the life.” The mystery appears at first to be the young woman’s behavior. She is on one hand apparently terrified of the life she in in and on the other, well, a spoiled brat. Sarah is duly mystified but not engaged until later when the founder of the rescue group is murdered.
Victoria Thompson has a good handle on what women could and couldn’t do during this time period. In this book, Sarah’s detecting introduces us to the contradictory attitudes held at this period by women and men about women and their roles, women and their abilities, women and their morals, and, women and poverty. She introduces some of the contradictory attitudes about the causes of poverty and prostitution as well as the competing perspectives on remediation of those problems. Thompson uses socio-cultural forces to impel the murder in this book, social pressure that alienates and destroys and really has little to with a prostitute giving birth.
As a type A personality, I have to justify my “fun”. I think that is why I love reading historical mysteries, (or mysteries that teach me how to fix my house or brew my tea.) I learn from them while actually enjoying myself. Murder on Sisters’ Row provided me with food for thought regarding how we consider women and sexuality and whether “now” is really different from “then”. It has also made me consider the blame attributed, and damage done, to innocent bystanders associated with one who has done harm to others.
I recommend Murder on Sisters’ Row, it is well written, you’ll enjoy figuring out “who dun it”, and, if you so desire, you can get some mental exercise at the same time.


Dead Reckoning keeps Sookie on the right path

Years ago I read something that mentioned a series about a blonde, telepathic waitress who was involved with vampires. The idea intrigued me and I found a copy of Charlaine Harris’ “Dead Until Dark”. I laughed myself silly as I read and I proceeded to get a copy of everything Harris had published as of that time. I focused on the Sookie Stackhouse series first and read “Dead Until Dark”, “Living Dead in Dallas” and “Club Dead”. Then I had to wait for the Sookie saga to continue. In the meantime I found Lily Bard and Aurora Teagarden. I fell in love with Lily Bard and would love to talk movies with Aurora but I waited patiently in the between times for the next Sookie Stackhouse book. The Harper Connelly stories have been so welcome; a terrific story line and I love watching Harper’s character develop but still…
My copy of “Dead Reckoning” came in the mail yesterday. I had papers to grade and a lecture to prepare so I could only get so far into the book then, but tonight, I started reading and miraculously, about three hours later, I had discovered more family secrets, connived at an assassination, witnessed the end of one of Sookie’s bète noire and attended a baby shower.
I wondered, when Sookie’s world began to encompass more than vampires and the two natured, whether Ms Harris would be able to maintain the quality of her story line. One of my favorite aspects about Sookie’s story is the sense of fun, the humor that Harris brings into the improbability that is Merlottes and Bon Temps. She has. “Dead Reckoning” incorporates all the interesting characters that inhabit Vampiric Louisiana. Sookie’s blood relations get expanded, she learns more about her fae ancestry and Harris intimates the possibility of more interesting events in the future. Elves are on the scene, at least one of them is, and he is definitely not Legolas. By the end of the book, relationships are shifted and shifting and Dermot is remodeling the attic. One of my favorite characters, Mr. Cataliades is on the run, literally (as a recovering lawyer, I have a fondness for him.) Harris finishes with one of her best cliff-hanging endings ever and, “Fiddle dee dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow” has now been replaced in my canon with “Dangerous Creatures for two hundred, anyone?”
Now, I wait, again… but no, summer’s coming. I could start at the beginning and read the series all the way through once more!


The Archer by Betty Sullivan LaPierre

The Archer is the 13th in Betty Sullivan LaPierre’s “Hawkman” series.  The Hawkman is Tom Casey, private investigator.  His nom de guerre comes from his avocation as a falconer.

Laura King stumbles into the Hawkman’s office one afternoon.  She is being stalked and she doesn’t know who is doing it.  She keeps getting disturbing, almost pornographic, cell phone calls and she doesn’t know why.  Tom Casey is intrigued and takes on her case and with his entry into the matter, the situation escalates.  Someone starts taking shots at Tom with  bow and arrow, with a very serious bow, a compound bow.

Tom seeks out local arrow enthusiasts and correlates them with those Laura is involved with.  Laura is a nice girl, rather shy with little social life so the cause of the  malevolence focused on her is as much a part of the mystery as who the perpetrator is.

Tom utilizes modern technology and good old fashioned investigative technique to winnow away the multiple possibilities.  The answer to the questions of why and who are rooted in the age old reason of envy, greed and selfishness.

This story is a bit mannered, a little old fashioned, but in a way that enhances the character of the Hawkman.  LaPierre’s characters are of the times but Tom Casey’s relationships are just a little out of sync with modern sensibilities.  Casey’s character is informed by the back-story (this is the 13th in the series) but LaPierre manages to convey that back-story without slowing down the pace of this adventure. In LaPierre’s world bad acts do have consequences, whether those acts are mischievous or murderous.

The Archer is comfortable, almost cozy.  The characters are likable and knowable.  The story is not predictable and LaPierre manages to maintain tension until the very end of the tale,  where the good guys win.  This is a good book for a cup of tea and a rainy day… or whenever you want to just have a nice read.


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