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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chicken Ranch Update

The chickens are now about five months old, and a lot has happened since we first got that box of baby chicks at our local post office.  I thought I would update everyone on what the chickens are up to......

Chicken Body Count

First a few vital statistics.  I got a grab-bag of chicks to see what would be best for our homestead, and already natural selection has weeded some of them out.  Let's do the numbers, shall we?

1.  We ordered 25 chicks, specifically hens rather than roosters.  The company, Ideal Poultry, has to include a couple of rooster chicks into a large group like that to help keep the chicks warm.  Apparently the roosters are good for something besides fertilizing eggs.  So we expected at least 2 roosters.

2.  One chick did not survive the trip, so we actually started with 24 chicks.

3.  One chick died on day 2 or 3; we could tell right away that it wasn't acting vigorous like the others.  It would just stand alone under the heat lamp, or lie around.  Also, it seemed to be collecting a lot of waste around its rear end.  Now we have 23.

4.  Shortly after transitioning to the outside pen, we lost two chickens.  It happened on a day that I opened the roost before sunrise.  I suspect that a predator may have been around in the waning gloom and may have grabbed them.  More likely is that they got outside of the pen and couldn't get back in, and something got them.  Our neighbor's dog did start to hang around our house for a while, so he may have been the culprit.  Now we have 21.

5.  One morning we found a chicken dead in the roost.  It had blood at its neck.  All the other chickens seemed subdued.  We interrogated all of them separately, buy they all denied seeing anything.  Now we are at 20.

6.  We had one of the chickens, a rooster, get fowl pox.  Here is a video of that rooster in happier times, showing how it can crow like a rooster:

Yes, chicken pox for chickens.  We had started to notice little black lesions on the comb of this rooster.  Over time, more lesions formed on its pox.  One day, while I was near the pen, I suddenly saw this rooster start flopping around.  The other rooster, the black one, immediately set upon it and viciously pecked at its neck.  The poor little rooster looked dead.  I ran in and chased off the black rooster.  I grabbed a shovel and removed the ailing rooster from the rest of the chickens.  I put it in the compost pile, thinking it was dead.  Instead it jumped up and ran off.  It ran for a while, then stopped and keeled over.  Its mouth was gaping open, and it was gasping for breath.  Even worse was its comb.  Usually the comb is a bright red, but as I watched it, it turned to a dusky purple shade.  To me, that indicated hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.  I have seen patients turn that color, and it is because they are starving for oxygen.

There are two types of fowl pox, I have learned.  One consists of lesions on the skin of a chicken, and they are not so bad.  They might cause the chicken to lose part of its comb or claw, but that is all right.  The other kind of fowl pox is far worse.  It affects the lining of the chicken's airway, causing swelling and making it hard for the chicken to breathe.  It is also highly contagious.  It is referred to as a diphtheria type of fowl pox.

I suspected this poor little rooster had the diphtheria type.  There is no cure for it at that point, and I could tell the animal was in extremis.  I don't like to see animals suffering.

The children were all up in arms about my plan.  Some objected to killing the chicken, while a more vocal group were pressing for me to use a shotgun on the poor little bird.  I used one of the large caliber pellet guns.

Now we have 19.

"Dad, the Rooster is Killing the Hens!"

Roosters live a simple life.  They eat, they sleep, and they have two response to anything that moves inside the pen: if it is a hen, they try to mate with it.  If it is not, they try to kill it.

They will even attack hens if they are behaving abnormally.  I already mentioned how the one rooster attacked the dying one.  When the hens have gotten out of the pen, we have had to chase them back inside.  This often results in a hen cornered against the fence, at which time they will flap their wings and 'walk' up the side of the fence.  Usually they run back and forth, clucking like mad before they do this, and it drives the roosters crazy.  On one occasion a hen tried to go under the fence.  She got her head stuck in the fencing, and the rooster on the other side proceeded to peck at her head viciously.  After I shooed him away, I freed the hen and tossed her over the fence.

At this point we were retrieving at least five hens from outside the pen each day.  I did a quick search on YouTube on how to clip the wings of the chickens, and then went out and did it to the flock.  Problem solved - almost.  We still get some over the fence; I suspect they are climbing in the trees and escape that way.

About roosters killing hens:  One day the children told us that the rooster was attacking the hens.  They would squawk and run away, but occasionally the rooster would catch them and sit on them.  We explained to the children that this was the rooster mating with the hens, and that soon we should be getting fertilized eggs.  Nowadays, the hens don't seem to object to this kind of behavior.  We are still waiting for some fertilized eggs, though.


We started getting eggs.  First it was just one small white egg per day.  Then we got a few brown eggs.  Now we collect about 5 or 6 eggs per day.  The children tell me that they can tell when a hen is laying an egg.  The hen will go into the coop, enter one of my ridiculous looking hatching boxes, and then start squawking a lot.  Kaboom!  An egg will appear.  Since I am off this week, I had the opportunity to hear this noise myself.  I swore it sounded like a chicken yelling, "where is my epidural?  I want my epidural!!!!!"  That might be just my imagination....

Carolyn would send me picture of the eggs via her iPhone.  Here is one of the white eggs:

Not much to look at, but for us it is a joy to see these smelly little creatures producing something other that droppings.  Here it is in the frying pan.  It was a double-yolk egg:

 For those of you in my generation, remember this:

Any questions?

Getting More Chicks

Now we have a decision to make about the future of our egg-laying flock.  We would love to raise our own chickens, but we still want to collect eggs.  We also want to have only brown eggs, and so we would like to phase out the white egg-laying hens.  On top of that, we have to do something with the roosters.  Yes, roosters.  Right after I euthanized the one rooster, another one, this one is white, started crowing.  So now we have a white and a black rooster.  I suspect there is at least one more rooster who has not matured.

What I see is the need to determine which chickens lay brown eggs.  Next we have to determine if any of our eggs are fertilized.  That is pretty easy to do with the flashlight app on an iPhone; we use that to 'candle' the eggs.  The other issue is to determine which hens are better brooders.  This can only be done by watching them, and today I think I found a good candidate.

I had just collected an egg from the hatching box when I noticed a chicken outside of it clucking like mad.  As I watched, it hopped into the box and started walking around in a circle inside of it.  I eventually stopped and sat down, sitting on top of one of the plastic Easter eggs we had left in the box.  A friend told us that hens like to lay where there are other eggs, they don't seem to recognize the plastic ones as fake eggs.  Anyway, as I watched, this hen pulled the fake egg under her with her beak.  I set the egg I had back into the box, and she proceeded to pull that one under her as well.   

 I think I found our brooding hen.

I shall write more in the future.  Here is another video of our chickens wandering around me while I film them:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Just Add Water: Making the City of Chicago

Just Add Water: Making the City of Chicago
Renee Kreczmer

Lake Claremont Press

Can anything good come from Chicago?

This variation on a passage in St. John's Gospel is what I first thought when I received Just Add Water: Making the City of Chicago, written by Renee Kreczmer. Ms. Kreczmer is described as a "superstar Chicago history teacher with the Chicago Public Schools" on the back cover of her book, and she proves it with this easy to read book which was designed for grade school children.  Even though grade school for me was during the previous century, I still found the book informative and entertaining.

The book consists of fifteen chapters called 'Investigations,' which Kreczmer starts by proposing a series of questions.  The answers to all these questions are found in that chapter.  This format is similar to that of a textbook; one could see this book used by home schoolers as well as institutionalized students.  She begins with the founding of Chicago as a military and trading post back in the 1600's.  After reading this book, I understand why Chicago is where it is, as Kreczmer discusses the role it played in the fur industry, the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War.

Later chapters discuss the growth of Chicago.  The Chicago Fire and the Chicago World's Fair are presented.  All of the chapters include small biographies of important men and women in the history of Chicago. The challenges of the immigrants groups who settled in the city are also mentioned.  Ms. Kreczmer wrote this book for the third grade level, so there are a lot of pictures to accompany the captivating narrative.  It only took me a few hours to breeze through the book. 

Every chapter ends with Internet links or the addresses of actual places to visit in Chicago. This book would be an excellent guide for someone interested in making a tour of the city. 

The only objection I had to this book was how Ms. Kreczmer described an incident which happened in 1812.  In that year, a group of Potowatomi Indians attacked a detachment of soldiers, women, and children who were evacuating Fort Dearborn, located in what is now downtown Chicago.  The Indians outnumbered the group by a ratio of five to one.  In the fight, two-thirds of the Americans were killed, including more than half of the women and children. The survivors were held as prisoners and eventually ransomed for supplies.  In a footnote, Ms. Kreczmer defines the word massacre and then includes this sentence: "The term massacre is offensive to some, so the Fort Dearborn Massacre is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Fort Dearborn."

I wondered who would consider the term massacre offensive. Certainly the dead would think that, but who else would object to the way history would remember this event?  While she doesn't say it, I think Ms. Kreczmer is referring to the Potowatomi Indian tribe.  I know that many Indian tribes have lately taken offense to how they are portrayed in modern society.  My own Alma mater, Eastern Michigan University, changed the name of its mascot from the ‘Hurons’ to the ‘Eagles’ in deference to a complaint.  But that is a story for another time.  It is sad that Ms. Kreczmer felt the urge to soften the description of one of the less memorable moments in the history of the Potowatomi tribe. 

Every nation, every religion, every tribe on this planet has committed atrocities at some point in their history.  It is part of human nature that we tend to beat up on our fellow man.  In Ireland, surely there were ancestors of mine who fought with Protestants and even the British, but I do not feel any kind of shame for what they did in the past.  I would rather spend my efforts on making sure that my actions and those of my descendants are for the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I would not let this one little objection discourage the reader from buying this book.  Ms. Kreczmer has written a wonderful book which describes the history of one of the most important cities in the United States.  I could see where this book could help instill pride for this city in the hearts of the children of Chicago, while also piquing the interest of the tourist or historian making a visit to this city.

More Kipling Food for Thought

A few days after my last post on Kipling I came across this poem on facebook.  Paul Mitchell, who blogs at Thoughts of a Regular Guy, posted this on his page, and so a hat tip to him for bringing this poem to my attention.

After I read it, I got to thinking that there are a lot of writers who are dead - and in most cases forgotten - who anticipated what is happening to us in the present.  Three come to mind: Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesterton, and Robert Hugh Benson.  Benson wrote a book called Lord of the World back in the early 1900's (I think 1906) which described the appearance of the AntiChrist on Earth.  The similarity between our current president and the AntiChrist in his book was striking.  Chesterton has written a lot on just about every subject, including issues with government.  Just this last weekend I gave a copy of one of his short stories (Queer Feet) to someone who had left the Church years ago.  The short story is about a crime, a death, a conversion, and some peculiar steak knives.  Here is the famous quote from it, which ended up in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited:

"I caught him with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread."

Speaking of steak knives, did anyone see the set of knives Pope Benedict XVI got in Lebanon?

 When my oldest brother got married back in 1985, I gave him a set of steak knives I got for free when I opened a J.C. Penney credit account.  I suspect that these knives are a lot nicer.....

....But I digress.  Here is a poem which should give us all food for thought:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

America Needs to Listen to Rudyard Kipling

Another 'Empty Sky' Note

Today is September 11, 2012.  Eleven years ago today our country was hurt terribly by the death of so many people who had lived their lives in relative peace and prosperity.

I hope everyone spent some time in prayer for the repose of their souls.

Today, we had embassies in Egypt and Libya attacked by folks who treated us with the utmost disrespect.  Israel continues to worry about Iran's development of nuclear weapons, and they are not getting much help from one of their closest allies.  That ally, by the way, is us.  U.S.A.  America.  Our president said he did not have enough time to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he does have enough time to appear on the David Letterman show.

I am so happy our President has his priorities straight.

While swimming in our pool this evening, we heard the deep thwup-thwup of military helicopters off to the south of us.  We saw the lights of three separate aircraft traveling together and low on the horizon.  Nothing else flies like that and sounds like that.

All of this turmoil in the world reminded me of something our current president said four years ago.  He said he would sit down and talk to our enemies, and things would get better after they just got along with one another.  Well, it appears as if his 'conversations' have not worked very well.  I get the feeling that our president is perceived as the geek with the 'KICK ME'  sign taped on his backside, and all of the kids in school are busy connecting their shoes with his rear end.

It is time for a change of leadership.  One can only hope. 

All these little facts running around in my head got to remind me about a story by Rudyard Kipling.  This is a story about what happens when the wrong man is assigned to lead a country.  In this case, this is just part of the country.  I invite you to read it in full; I shall cut and paste as I see fit to make this story fit my argument. 

The Head of the District - find it in its entirety here.

As with most of his stories, Kipling starts with a poem; note the first two lines:

For we must bear our leader's blame,
On us the shame will fall,
If we lift our hand from a fettered land
And the Queen's Peace over all,
Dear boys,
The Queen's Peace over all!

 The story begins with a man named Orde dying by the side of a flooded river.  He is accompanied by his assistant, a man named Tallantire.  Since he is the Head of the District he holds one more meeting with the native tribesmen before dying:

"Men, I'm dying," said Orde quickly, in the vernacular; "and soon there will be no more Orde Sahib to twist your tails and prevent you from raiding cattle."

"God forbid this thing!" broke out the deep bass chorus. "The Sahib is not going to die."

"Yes, he is; and then he will know whether Mahomed speaks truth, or Moses. But you must be good men, when I am not here. Such of you as live in our borders must pay your taxes quietly as before. I have spoken of the villages to be gently treated this year. Such of you as live in the hills must refrain from cattle-lifting, and burn no more thatch, and turn a deaf ear to the voice of the priests, who, not knowing the strength of the Government, would lead you into foolish wars, wherein you will surely die and your crops be eaten by strangers. And you must not sack any caravans, and must leave your arms at the police-post when you come in; as has been your custom, and my order. And Tallantire Sahib will be with you, but I do not know who takes my place. I speak now true talk, for I am as it were already dead, my children,--for though ye be strong men, ye are children."

 Unfortunately Tallantire is not chosen to replace Orde.  Instead a man who appears to have all the qualifications for the job is selected:

The very simplicity of the notion was its charm. What more easy to win a reputation for far-seeing statesmanship, originality, and, above all, deference to the desires of the people, than by appointing a child of the country to the rule of that country?

The man chosen to be the Head of the District was inappropriate for many reasons; the main one was that the people he would oversee had absolutely no respect for him.  Here Tallantire complains about having to deal with this new guy:

"How on earth am I to explain to the district that they are going to be governed by a Bengali? Do you--does the Government, I mean--suppose that the Khusru Kheyl will sit quiet when they once know? What will the Mahomedan heads of villages say? How will the police--Muzbi Sikhs and Pathans--how will THEY work under him? We couldn't say anything if the Government appointed a sweeper; but my people will say a good deal, you know that. It's a piece of cruel folly!"

One of his colleagues advises him to do his best to support the new leader:

"It's grievous enough, God knows, and the Government will know later on; but that's no reason for your sulking. YOU must try to run the district, YOU must stand between him and as much insult as possible; YOU must show him the ropes; YOU must pacify the Khusru Kheyl, and just warn Curbar of the Police to look out for trouble by the way. I'm always at the end of a telegraph-wire, and willing to peril my reputation to hold the district together. You'll lose yours, of course, If you keep things straight, and he isn't actually beaten with a stick when he's on tour, he'll get all the credit. If anything goes wrong, you'll be told that you didn't support him loyally."

Almost immediately the troubles start, and the Head of the District wants to know what the situation is:

"I--I--I insist upon knowing what this means," said the voice of the Deputy Commissioner, who had followed the speakers.

"Oh!" said Curbar, who being in the Police could not understand that fifteen years of education must, on principle, change the Bengali into a Briton. "There has been a fight on the Border, and heaps of men are killed. There's going to be another fight, and heaps more will be killed."

"What for?"

"Because the teeming millions of this district don't exactly approve of you, and think that under your benign rule they are going to have a good time. It strikes me that you had better make arrangements. I act, as you know, by your orders. What do you advise?"
The native tribes had seen that a weak and inappropriate leader had been put in charge, and they took full advantage of it.  In the end, a lot of people lose their lives as the tribesmen started looting and killing in the District.  Eventually they are suppressed, but it comes with the loss of many lives on both sides.  The leader of the tribesmen comes to make peace with Tallantire, who ends up temporarily in charge of the District again:

"Who art thou, seller of dog's flesh," thundered Tallantire, "to speak of terms and treaties? Get hence to the hills--go, and wait there starving, till it shall please the Government to call thy people out for punishment--children and fools that ye be! Count your dead, and be still. Best assured that the Government will send you a MAN!"

"Ay," returned Khoda Dad Khan, "for we also be men."

As he looked Tallantire between the eyes, he added, "And by God, Sahib, may thou be that man!"

While I am not advocating a return of British Imperialism, I am trying to stress that our president has not impressed anyone in the Middle East as being a strong leader.  As a result, we have experienced nothing but diminished power and influence in the area.  I hope that the next president of this country will reverse our course in this area; I fear that the price will be paid by our young men and women in the Armed Forces.  As it says in the poem at the beginning of this story, we must bear our leader's blame.  In this case, probably with our own lives.

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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