Musings · Nature · Painting · Watercolors

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Tulips are my favorite flower. I especially like them dark, enigmatic, orphic.  Though often gorgeous in delicate tones, as I painted this particular arrangement, it materialized in these amazing colors that speak to the bold side of the spirit of the tulip.

chickens · Country Living · Farming · mothers · Nature · Parenting · Photography · Relationships · Single parenting

New Mama

chickens

We call her Naked Neck. Everyone that sees her says, “What’s wrong with that one?”

I have nine chickens and she is the smartest of them all. One of my huge white chickens, Big Mama, was sitting on a pile of 6 eggs for about a week. Next time I went to the coop, Naked Neck was sitting on the eggs. I don’t know how she worked her way into this position. Big Mama was sitting on 2 eggs in the next box. Trickery? Negotiation? Did I say she was smart? No bird-brain here. It seemed this faithful little mama never moved. Every time I was in the coop she was in the same position, night or day.

I was borrowing the space where my chickens were living and I had to move them to my own coop when it was ready. Big Mama had her 2 chicks. I moved the rest and saved Naked Neck and Big Mama for last, not wanting to stress them and the babies out. The moving deadline was fast approaching. I moved Big Mama with the 2 chicks and she took a licking, even though it was just a few days since all the hens were one happy family before being separated, and she’d been high in the pecking order. I was nervous about moving Naked Neck, suspecting the other chickens would attack her and that she would be more vulnerable while defending her chicks or eggs.

Not only was I  unsure how Naked Neck would take to sitting on her eggs in a new location, my mother’s intuition told me they would hatch any day. The final day came and I had to do the dastardly deed. At that point I didn’t even know how long she’d been sitting on that pile. Seemed like 6 months to me. Chicks hatch in 3 weeks. I’m the genius that had no idea when my own babies’ conception or due dates were. I’d looked at the calendar and made very wild guesses. They came sooner or later, though I could swear one was way over-cooked. I’m not saying which one.

The Rancher and I wondered if the eggs were duds and she was just wasting her time. So he judiciously grabbed one of the eggs and cracked it open. Dag-nab-it! There sat a fully developed chick ready to hatch any time. I wanted to kick rocks but there were none in sight. So painful, too late.

He gently picked mama up despite her protests. There, under her, were 8 eggs and the tiniest chick I ever saw!

No sooner did we settle her into the new coop than she scattered her eggs all over the place and proceeded to follow her meandering baby around. It was a frigid morning so El Ranchero collected the eggs and promptly set them in an incubator to maintain their temperature and hopefully bring them to term. 2 days later, a loud little peep-squeak hopped out of its shell in the incubator, stuck her head way up in an attempted stand and yelled, “Are you my mama?” She flopped over right away. Now what were we going to do? I wasn’t going to have chicks in my house again after last spring.

HE had set them up in MY closet claiming it was their best chance at making it. MY closet. In no time, they stunk to high heaven. I mean odious. In MY closet. I decided there and then not to get attached to the little loud tyke as his chances of a long fulfilling life were nil if it had anything to do with my closet.

The Rancher came to the rescue again. He took the little thing and set it under Naked Neck. Mama walked away and hunkered down on the first chick. The Rancher set the newbie under her again. And again. He’s a stubborn one and she’s a smart one so she let the little squatter in after a few more tries. They were a happy little family.

2 days ago, another little dinosaur hatched. Man they are loud. It was a mini-naked neck and the cutest thing ever!

No closet!

I knew we were pushing our luck with the little yellow guy since it had been several days but I marched it to the coop. I hoped mum would recognize herself in it till I realized she probably had never seen herself. Hmm. The new chick instantly started following Big White Mama.

Big Mama was having none of it. She pecked hard at the chick which was the size of her own head. I shooed her away, indignant, and she flew across the coop. Little Naked took off after her. This wasn’t good. I scooped her up and followed Naked Neck. Mhhh… How to approach? Was this going to be a rear or front entry? I thought rear would be safer for me. Mama scooted away with her two babies in tow. She then hunkered down and I ushered Naked Necklet in. Mama scooted away again. Oh dear. This was a creature only a mother could love and here was mama rejecting her own ugly likeness.

5 tries later, Necklet marched right in and did whatever they do under there. Success!

Later in the day I paid them a courtesy call to see how things were going. I took the picture above – and look, there’s Big Foot in the background in his typical pose, except he’s normally going the other way! Necklet is all fluffy and happy on the left, she is saying, “I found my mama!” She keeps casting longing glances at Big Mama but I suspect that will abate with time. Maybe she can have aunty time down the road.

I have six more eggs in the incubator. I don’t know how much more of this Naked Neck with tolerate but I’ll keep trying. She is being awfully gracious considering I don’t know what I would have done if people kept sneaking me new-born infants just because I had just had one and was in the mode.

If all else fails, I hear there is a recipe out there for fully developed chicks in the egg. Hmm…

 

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This guy was hatched this morning!

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/frigid/

Cairns · Nature · Photography · Poetry · R&R · Rivers

Churn Baby Churn

My husband loves to build cairns on the banks of the Little Santiam River. It’s fun to help him fetch just the right rocks and watch him VERY patiently build these phenomenal structures. It still boggles me that they stand. He is not done until they are stable enough to dance around.

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To make this precarious cairn

Be patient with steady concern

The waters  around it will churn

With a whirl and a twirl and a turn.

 

The waves will swirl on the grass and the fern

while the dragonflies dance with the cedar-bound tern.

The sun feels divine, too much more and I’ll burn.

It’s a balancing act, I am starting to learn.

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/churn/

 

chickens · Ducks · Farming · Humor · Nature · Neighbors · Relationships

Ugly Ducklings

We all know not to count our chickens before they hatch.

A neighbor visited and chatted with my husband about wanting to incubate a batch of ducklings. She’d found a brand new incubator at an estate sale but didn’t know how to use it and was leaving for an extended period of time. They discussed the timeline and agreed to do it. I’ll call her Gabby because I inevitably find myself backing out of a room once she starts talking. It’s all pleasant chitchat, I just get the distinct sense that not only is my input is not required in these “conversations”, but worse, that she might NEVER stop talking.

My work day was interrupted later in the week by Garrulous Gabby dropped in carrying 16 fertilized eggs. They were carefully wrapped in a worn yellow towel, a situation so precarious she was literally biting her tongue and staring at the eggs. Her head was leaning so far forward as she walked that I was afraid she would break into a trot or fall on her face on the eggs. As soon as I took them from her she exhaled deeply and immediately took up a line of thought I didn’t follow, sucking up all the air in the room. She made endless trips to her car for the incubator and its various parts, talking the whole time, while I impertinently prepared a spot for the 2 foot square contraption in my dining room.

I am a reluctant farmer’s wife so gall rises within me whenever I enter these situations. How do I get reined into them? “Isn’t it wonderful?” The farmer cajoles over-enthusiastically.

“No!” I say. I am the one that ends up with stinky chicks in my closet for  weeks on end. I am the one that ends up shaving years off my life scaling fences while running away from mad-cow infested beasts. I am the one that has to listen to interminable conversations about ducks despite my attempts to stay out of his dealings with her. “It is not wonderful!”

She checked in frequently while she was away, yakkity voicemails to boot, “I can’t find your husband’s number… I know there are 21 more days to go. Ducks incubate a week longer than chickens, you know…. We are having a great time. I just don’t want you to feel like I abandoned my project on you.”

With a week left, the farmer starts preparation for the arrival of the ducklings. Humidity in the incubator must be adjusted. Temperature too. He’s starting to get excited. I’m staying out of it. I’d just like the space in my dining room back from its barn status.

We wake up in the morning to very loud peeping. No critters in the incubator but boy those eggs are rocking back and forth. That can’t be right. He looks at his calendar again. Hmm. Sure enough they start hatching and we are all befuddled. Not only are they very early, but there are no bills, and no webbed feet. They are all chicks!

It makes for great laughs with everyone that’s come through, curious about the operation. Gabby hasn’t checked in and I’m not about to initiate contact. This is going to be good.

A few hatch and the farmer brings in a massive cage with feeders, waterers, poop catchers, warming lights, receiving blankets, the works. I might as well set the dining chairs on the table and move it into the kitchen. The nesting boxes and barn doors can go right here.

Some eggs haven’t hatched and we leave them in the incubator. Maybe it was a mixed batch and the ducklings will hatch in a few days. By the next Saturday, I’m tired of dust and ridiculously loud cheeping. I declare the rest of the eggs are duds. I text her, unable to contain the surprise any more, “Your ducks are ready for you to come pick up.”

“What?!” She screams, calling back immediately. I put her on speakerphone. This is going to be really good. “That is terrible. They are not supposed to be ducks! I thought they were chickens!”

All six people in the room fall over laughing. We’d all heard, repeatedly, that they were duck eggs. The farmers wife shakes her head in dismay.

Don’t predestine your ducklings before they hatch.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/identity/

Brothers · culture · Family · Humor · language · Nature · Relationships · Teasing

I’m Not a Fan of Yellow

My friend Shawn is a lovable, flavorful character. A mouthful sometimes. A potentially annoying mouthful.

He’d traveled to Namibia to visit his in-laws whom he only got to see every few years. Several women were in the kitchen wrapping up dinner – there’s nothing quite like a kitchen full of African women. Kwaito music was bumping rhythmically in the background and they occasionally paused their stirring to join in a catchy refrain or sway their hips in choreographed harmony, then burst into laughter, omwikos flailing boiling stew in the air.

Shawn sat in a small living room with 7 other guys at his brother-in-law’s new house. The overstuffed, extra firm couch was almost completely covered with colorful handmade doilies that kept falling to the floor and having to be retrieved. They were arguing loudly about politics, talking over each other, and laughing. Any tentative statements made were promptly challenged and severely scrutinized.

Shawn, a rather verbose character, was the only American in the room, surrounded by locals. Shawn talks. A lot. He has few verbal filters and is bold beyond belief. Admittedly, he had been on good behavior, afraid of being the ugly American. The men kept asking his opinions and he was careful, as his wife had tutored him,  not to take center stage and pontificate, which is his preferred mode. Topics flitted from one to the next and he presently got distracted. If he wasn’t the center of attention, he got distracted.

He was looking around the stark room in the house whose construction was almost complete. He could still smell the cement and the single coat of pale yellow paint on the wall, painted at the last minute to impress the guests.  He thought long and hard about this set up and didn’t notice the entourage of women walking into the room bearing food. He proclaimed absently, studying the walls, “I’m not a fan of yellow.”

His words fell like a giant catfish jumping out of murky waters and flopping onto a muddy beach with a splat. Everybody gasped and swallowed hard in unison. Eyes grew to the size of small plates, extremely embarrassed, and in utter disbelief. Hearts sank and no one dared to look at Mike, the heretofore proud home owner.

The strained, stunned silence in the room was pierced by Joe slamming his bottle onto the glass table as he choked over spewing beer. He had  warm beer coming out his nose and eyes. He didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He had argued for days with his brother Mike to not paint the room and just yesterday, Mike had spent what felt like hours at the local hardware store deliberating over what color of paint to buy. Never mind they only had 6 selections. Like a keDecember Boss, Mike had ridden his bike proudly toting 2 gallons of “Egg-yolk Yellow,” dodging muddy pot-holes, garbage, and mangy dogs on his 30 minute ride home.

Shawn’s wife Maureen narrowed her eyes and inhaled deeply and then her distressed, heavy chest sank in slow motion and just kept sinking. Her eyes told his that he had erred greatly and that he was a dead man sitting. If she wasn’t holding a tray of food she would have hurled her high heels at him and clocked him right on the bridge of his crooked nose. She shook her head slowly and narrowed those eyes further. Her lips began to furl tightly, controlled by an unseen drawstring, and to quiver with rage.

No one in that room will forget those moments till the day they die. There was no recovering from this one, even for my astute friend who can normally extricate himself from just about any situation with his oratory skills. It changed the mood of the entire rest of the vacation and the trajectory of Shawn’s life.

Fast forward 3 years and her family is bursting out of the vehicle after travelling across the world to visit Shawn and Maureen in the States. It was a glorious fall afternoon and the foliage was stunning to behold. Joe was the first guest to get out of the car. He yawned dramatically and inhaled the crisp air, then shivered in the cold breeze. “You guys said it wasn’t cold!  You mean it’ll get colder than this? Mxm!” He exclaimed. His brothers shuddered in agreement as they streamed out of the car and stretched their cramped legs. Along with the others, Joe hastily grabbed a random suitcase from the trunk, flicking a stray welcoming leaf from his shoulder. They all raced into the house, certain a blizzard would sweep through at any minute.

No sooner had they stampeded indoors and dropped the suitcases in a tall pile, than Mike blurted, “Etche muntu! I thought you are not a fan of yellow, man!”  He held his arms out defiantly circling the yellow room. Everyone else, rubbing their arms vigorously to warm themselves, burst into laughter.

“What are you talking about?” Shawn asked, cocking his head curiously.

“What is he talking about?”, choked Joe incredulously.

“What is he talking about?”, gawked Maureen.

That set the tone for the rest of this visit, and my poor friend Shawn spent a pouty fall feeling picked on; while Maureen juggled the fine line between letting him face the consequences of his often tactless speech and helping him preserve some semblance of dignity among his in-laws.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/leaf/

Aging · Caregiving · Death · Faith · Family · Health · Nature · Poetry · Relationships · sad · Spiritual

Ash Tuesday

This is a tribute to one of the most dignified people I have ever had the privilege of caring for. He and his family impacted my life deeply for almost 2 years. Some people grow deep roots into our hearts in no time…

Our beloved Gorge flares in a fury of flames and ash

Started by thoughtless fun and games

Fueled by bone dry underbrush,

By cowards who then skinked away and hid. No names.

Blazing,

Devouring,

Devastating.

 

On this Ash Tuesday

Another inferno has ran its course.

“I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”

His was a life lived deliberately

With honor, honesty, & humor. No remorse.

 

Simple and humble, hilarious, approachable.

A diligent, brilliant, outstanding human being

With  warmth blazing through bright blue eyes

Fed by a fire in his belly, seemingly all-seeing.

 

His was a no nonsense, kick your ass to the floor, tell-it-like-it-is kind of warmth.

It was fueled by Polish pride and delivered with New Jersey precision.

Fiery and feisty,

Then glowing,

Smoldering,

Simmering.

Spent…

 

Coach.

The man.

The myth.

The legend.

Forever in our hearts, till we meet again.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/crescendo/

Family · Nature · Poetry · travel

Splattered on my Windshield

Giant windmills by the Columbia

Slowly doing the breaststroke,

Over rolling buff hills that are sunning

Past town after town and its townsfolk.

Truck trailers, travel trailers,

Zipping past chugging railers.

Dams and rest stops, hot springs and buttes,

Punctuate stories of curses and Aslan

Tumnus, and horses and wardrobes of fur

Grip us, spellbound, unfolding The Plan.

Truck trailers, travel trailers,

Zipping past chugging railers.

Travel mug is choke full of husks

Of sunflower seeds the driver ate.

Smeared across my once clear windshield

Many a bug has met its fate.

Truck trailers, travel trailers,

Zipping past chugging railers.

Mile after mile till you’re numb at the hip

Book two is over, it’s time for a flip

Day-dreaming, mindlessly eating my dip

What a fantastic Memorial Day trip. splatterhttps://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/buff/