Monday, July 30, 2007

hey, you know what?

Chicken butt!!!

That was one of my son's favorite jokes last year. I think I almost get it.
Here's a sweet pic of SheDog the Aussie with the two remaining pullets. The container tomatoes I planted are visible, too. I salivate in anticipation of the day we finally get to pick some fresh 'maters.

Meanwhile, it continues to feel like the Avian version of Apocalypse Now around here.
This morning, Angel caught a bird. SheDog chased her (bird guarding has become very serious business to the Aussie since the chicks were little, though she slept right through the coyote incident. Shhhh. We've told her the two missing pullets moved to a nice, big ranch.) Angel dropped the bird. The bird lived. It sat for several minutes in a state of shock, during which I figured it was a goner. Then it took off running, unable to fly because of a broken wing. I spent the better part of an hour trying to catch the thing. Call it a personal demon in need of redemption. This bird is about three inches tall, and I - armed with my sharpest wits and a pillowcase - was completely unable to get close to - much less catch - it.

So, it, too, will no doubt meet its doom here at the Brackett Bird Motel, where "Birds check in, but they don't check out!"

Here's a nice picture of Mothra, finally located after all these years by a neighbor boy in our yard. Who knew she could fly all the way from Japan to Arizona? Though I guess a critter who's able to wipe out Battra can do just about anything.

Here. Check out some Maxfield Parrish clouds I found in the sky outside our window last week:

And here's a shot of the prairie set against a nice, black cloudbank:

Friday, July 27, 2007

and then there were three

Harrowing night last night. I was awakened at about 1:30 a.m. by chicken distress signals - not a pretty sound, in case you haven't ever heard them right outside your window. Of course, by the time I got out there in my nightgown, flashlight in hand, it was too late. The beam shone first on my husband's old gelding who, ears pricked, was staring intently at the chicken coop. Walking out there I passed a great mound of feathers, and my heart sank. I moved the flashlight around a bit, and there they were, right on the other side of the fenceline separating us from the great prairie beyond: a pair of glowing red eyes staring me down until I made enough scary noise to frighten whatever it was away. Coyote or raccoon, I assumed. Whatever it was, it didn't help that my husband was down in Tombstone on business this week (yes, that Tombstone).

When I finally got up the nerve to look in the coop, I found two of the five chickens alive in there - Bootstrap Bill (the rooster), and one of the fluffy yellow Banties. The others were nowhere to be found, though I made a thorough, shaky search, hoping against hope that they were maybe hiding out. But chickens are light-activated, as my husband has always told me. When the sun goes down, they're basically in standby mode. Sitting ducks.

I felt heartsick and stomach-sick. After all, it had been my decision at feeding time yesterday to finally just let the chickens come and go as they pleased and to not lock them up as we always have. They've been doing so well in free-range mode during the day time, after all, as did the Aracona (sp?) hens we owned years ago. But those hens roosted high in tree branches, whereas these do not. It was a foolish decision, a foolish mistake, and a heartwrenching one, considering that two beautiful, sweet pullets had to pay with their lives.

I got back to bed sometime around 2:30, and maybe got two or so hours of restless sleep, during which I dreamed (nightmared) over and over again about telling the children about their Easter chicks when they woke up. It was truly one of those "dark nights of the soul," and I'm not talking about the fullness of the moon.

The kids were okay about it when I told them. They immediately wanted to check out the scene of the crime, so we headed outside to a strange sight: What I thought was the remaining pullet was cruising around, pecking at the ground. I wondered how she'd gotten out of the coop after I'd secured her in there hours earlier, and then I thought, "Could it be?" We raced to the coop and saw the other yellow fluffball in there, just as alive as you please. So, a little miracle came out of the whole thing, especially considering the fact that the Mystery Pullet was running around out there for several hours, completely unprotected. I still don't know where she was hiding to have missed the flashlight beam during my search.

The kids set right to work gathering up memorial service feathers from the feather trail left by the varmint - from the entrance to the coop right out to the prairie. I got online and learned that raccoons and skunks will usually leave a big mess consisting of headless chicken carcasses, etc., whereas coyotes will leave nothing but feathers. I tried track identification this afternoon in vain - whatever it was moved too nimbly, and the ground was too dry, I think, to make an i.d. possible. But when my son looked out the kitchen window at about 11:00 this morning and said, "Hey, Mom. Is that a coyote out there?" I was doubly conviced that we were watching the felon trot casually right past our fenceline in broad daylight. He was a big sucker for a coyote, too, so I immediately implemented an indefinite, No-kids-outside-alone rule. Then I spoke to my neighbor - WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS (lol) - and who mentioned the very real possibility of a local wolf population. So, I guess I can pretty much kiss any fantasy of a good night's sleep goodbye for the foreseeable future.

We'll see how tonight goes. The coop has been relocated, fortified, and hung with a set of lovely wind chimes I was given years ago after judging a horse show. I plan to keep one eye and one ear open, though if I know prairie varmints (and I think I do), they'll work in sneaky, swift silence. There's a lawyer or politician joke in there somewhere, I'm sure, but frankly I'm too fried to tease it out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

as promised

So, there was birthday cake way back in late June (pre-Disneyland).

And then, come July, the birthday boy - the very fruit of my loins - was being used as a projectile with his cousin on the Delta in northern California.

There was this sexy lily:

And this wall. That I climbed. All by myself. Do you see the size of those little itty-bitty people standing next to it? There was a bell at the top for climbers to ring. It was my Oprah moment.

There was a trip to Santa Cruz, where I lived for five years during - and a little after - my undergraduate years. Oh, the stories. Oh, the humanity. (That's my husband on his sweet ride near Natural Bridges State Park. I lived just a couple of blocks from there for a while).

There was a pool, and there were children. Many, many children.

There was one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her talented, pie-baking hands.

There was nautical therapy.
And there was me, doing my thing.

Oh, look. My boy has inherited my freaky E.T. toes.

There was, in fact, MUCH nautical therapy.

And there was the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. Yes, People, there is a factory where those miraculous beans are born. Willy Wonka has nothing on this place, I tell ya.

And then it was back home to Arizona, where there was/is handiwork therapy.

Introducing Bootstrap Bill. Remember when he was just a little fuzzball?

My old dude, Zzari, should need no introduction, but perhaps he does anyway. I love the lighting in the evenings during monsoon season, which is in full swing now.

And that's about it for my summer thus far, folks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

'nuff said

So, I'm not going to go into great detail about how the past month and a half has been one of the most difficult times in my life, mainly because those difficulties involve people who have a right to remain anonymous in every possible way. Suffice it to say I am feeling tired but cleansed from a lot of introspection and tears, and I am feeling renewed by friends and family who came to my aid in various ways and with the kind of love that can make you reel from its power to heal. (Hey, I made a rhyme that time; I'm a poet and don't know it).

There's a moment during childbirth when you enter a phase known as "transition." Every mother reading this right now is probably nodding and grabbing protectively at her nether regions, because "transition," though a benign-enough sounding word, might be more accurately described as "that period of time wherein the Evil One and his minions seem to descend upon your innermost ladybits with their pitchforks of fire."

However, once you're through it (in my experience, and especially if your epidural has not yet worn off) you find that the worst is behind you, and you finally get to push. That's where I am right now, in a non-childbirth-related sense. I'm on the other side of a life-changing trial with much work ahead and, finally, a vague notion of what that work might entail. So, in the spirit of feeling like the worst of this particular trial is behind me, I'd like to share a pictorial of some of the stuff I've been up to since we, Dear Readers, last communed via the Internet ether. Look for the pics in my next post, though, because at this moment I have to get to work.


Okay, okay. Natasha's a little overdone, I know. So sue me.

Can I help it if THIS is applicable to life in so many ways right now?

Crank up the volume, Baby. (And I dig it that she was, for years, a gospel singer).

Oh, yeah. Here's this evening at feeding time...looking up, of course: