Ugly Chicken Update

As readers will know, I wrote a while back about my slightly deformed and unfeathered chick, Quasi the Second. At the time, I showed the pictures to expert chicken keepers, among whom the general consensus was that this bird would not be long for this world.

But she kept bopping along despite being ostracized and banned from the henhouse. Despite almost drowning in the duck pond. Despite the massive second wave of red fowl mites that had the husband cleaning out the henhouse in a Hazmat suit wielding a blowtorch.

Take a look at her now:

Okay, so not exactly a beautiful swan, but also no longer the world’s ugliest chicken. And more importantly, still hanging in there.

Speaking of loners and survivors, check out the latest “New infections in the past 14 days” map of Austria.

See the little green speck in the bottom right corner of the country? The only district in the entire country with no new infections? That’s where we are.

Our ears are filled with the crashing sounds of second waves all around us, but, apparently, we’re still hanging in there.

The Last Times Begin

 

On Monday I woke up and officially began the last week of my summer vacation. More shockingly, I began the final week of my last ever summer vacation! Next time this year, my 39-year teaching career will most likely be over. And if you don’t have work, you don’t have vacation, right?  Weird thought.

Of course, I should add here that I am notoriously bad at making predictions, so when I say that I am beginning the last year of my teaching career, you could be forgiven for a tiny bit of skepticism. I am, after all, the person who spent the better part of 2016 telling everyone “there is no Math” that would get Twump to an election victory. I also wrote in early July this year that I had an expanse of lethargic nothingness ahead of me, but now, in retrospect, the summer was full, and it sped by. I had my last week of my cure in Salzburg, followed by an even better cure week at my aunt and uncle’s in Tyrol, followed by a week of golf lessons (the  muscle aches from which I am still feeling!) followed by a week of relaxing and hiking in Carinthia. Here is a random sampling of impressions from those days:

Other activities during my final summer vacation included a lot of home projects (most of which came down to “putting shit away”). I did a six-hour braiding session with younger daughter and attended a performance or two of the older one. I supervised the building of blacksmith shop in my yard. I befriended a barking rat (my name for Chihuahuas). I ate two family-sized bags of Cheetos and then briefly considered immigrating to Australia when I read that the Dominos there is giving out free pizzas to women named “Karen”. I monitored the DNC and the RNP (“P” stands for “Pukefest”). I read two and half books and made two and half new friends. I requested my absentee ballot. I did lots of laundry and no ironing. My dog and I together lost 8 pounds.

 

It’s now Friday, which means I am officially into my last summer vacation weekend before work starts up again on Monday. From here on in, it’s going to be a long string of last times: My last preparation week, getting my last work schedule, my last first day of school, going on my last team-building excursion with the kids, making my last attendance/homework lists and year plans for my four English groups, attending my last “Start Weekend” with all the parents, designing my last chores wheel for my class . . . . And that is all in the coming two weeks. Assuming I resist getting talked into extending my stint, by the end of the year, this list of last times is going to be really long.

And then I will be done. For good.

I predict.

 

Quasimodo Returns (and Just in Time!)

Have you ever wondered at what point a pizza simply becomes too big? I thought that last night while out for dinner in a nice Italian restaurant in Graz. Honestly, the diameter of this thing was about 6 inches longer than that of the plate below it. Needless to say, doggie bags were required.

The reason the hubby and I were in Graz was that my elder daughter was throwing a 20th birthday bash in our house. Once she had received permission to have the party, she proceeded to tell us that we weren’t actually invited, but no worries, we could stay in her apartment that night. That was nice of her, I thought. Well played. Or maybe, not. Everything was spotlessly clean when we arrived there. We trashed the place and drank her vodka.

That was my third trip to Graz this week. On the second one, I finally met up with the sisters-in-law again and handed over the penguin. Based on the reaction, I think he has found a good home.

 

On my first trip to Graz this week, I took my daughter along with one of her friends (a former student of mine!) out for lunch. We negotiated a sort of mini-management deal as this friend has a lot of connections to the art and music scenes, knows a lot about the business side, and wants to help Mitzi promote herself better. Two days later, Mitzi had a one-hour gig at an open stage bar and raked in $80 in pay and another $180 (!) in tips. After hearing this, the husband decided to show up next week with his accordion and see if he can do the same (and then quit his job to be a street musician). As far as I know, he only knows how to play 5 songs and four of them are not suitable for polite company, so I am not sure if this is a good plan.

 

Anyway, back to today. The husband and I returned home again this morning to survey the post-party carnage. What we found was a house looking pretty much the same as when we left it. In fact, the only evidence that a party took place at all was the overflowing glass recycling bin and some half-empties on the kitchen counter. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. This was just further evidence that my children aren’t children anymore. In fact, one of them is no longer even a teenager! Why didn’t anyone warn me that this was going to happen?

Thank goodness I still have one problem child left to worry about.

Remember my four new chicks from spring? Well, there is something seriously wrong with one of them. He is only half the size of his siblings, he seems kind of deformed, and he is not growing feathers. We keep consulting the Backyard Chicken Bible and it tells us not to worry as long as he is running around and eating – which he is. But, still, he is the ugliest piece of poultry I have ever seen. You be the judge:

 

The Anarchy of the Chicken

 

I brought my morning coffee out onto the screen porch today only to look down and see the door to the chicken yard wide open. About half the flock had gone through it and were milling around and looting the vegetable and flower patches – places they had no business being. Still in my bathrobe, I quickly donned my rubber boots and left the house to quell the insurrection. As I came down the garden steps, all the chickens, including the ones who had stayed inside all came running toward me with their sharp beaks and superior numbers. It freaked me out a bit, but I told myself “All they want is their equal rights to food and water.” I had been slow to wake up and was the source of their current hunger. And I could fix it.

They milled around me as I filled a pitcher full of corn kernels and then scattered it inside their yard. Half of the chickens had the sense to run back inside through the open door. I corralled the rest of them in with some careful blocking and quiet shoo-shooing. Once order had been re-established, I surveyed the flock to make sure they were all present and accounted for and that none had been harmed. I was especially happy to see all four chicks doing well.

Of course, I had other options. I could have sicced the cats on them. I could have furiously nabbed the wayward chickens one by one and tossed them back inside. I could have decided to build a bigger, nastier fence to keep them penned in (or out, as the case may be). I could have cowered in the basement in case they made it all the way to the front door of the house while hysterically phoning friends and telling them to reassert my dominance. I could have tweeted angrily, calling them “thugs”. I could have had someone else clear them out brutally and then walked to the henhouse with a copy of “The Backyard Chicken Bible” held upside-down and posed for a picture. I could have proclaimed myself the Law-and-Order Chicken Queen.

 

But it turned out the way of understanding, kindness, and sharing was the better one. I gathered four eggs today and there are surely a lot more to come.

 

 

 

A Motherful Day

 

While on our daily dog walk, Nice Neighbor Lady told me that her son refuses to celebrate Mother’s Day, saying first that every day should be Mother’s Day and second, that it was a Nazi creation. It’s not, but after that, I didn’t have the heart to tell her how wonderful mine was.

It started early with two new flowers for my garden and then a trip to my sister-in-law to pick up a washing machine (along with a whole bunch of other furnishings) for my daughters’ new apartment. From there we went to a (socially distanced) family gathering where I got to see my mother-in-law for the first time in two months. Since the golf courses have reopened, her life is back in order again. We couldn’t stay long, because my daughter had to get back home for a performance. It was a Mother’s Day Concert being livestreamed from the nearby spa featuring local musicians. I don’t want to brag too much, so I won’t say that she stole the show. Instead, I’ll quote a few of the WhatsApp reactions from friends and my sisters in the States:

“Amazing!”

“Wow. wow wow wow. She’s killing it!”

“Oh. My. God. So beautiful.”

 

Right before leaving for the concert, my husband called out to me that my favorite chicken just hatched a new chick. (She actually let the other hens do all the brooding work for 19 days, and then took over for just the last two. Crafty girl!) Right after the concert, my Skype started chiming and I got to spend the next hour with my own mom. And finally, shortly before going to bed, my daughters posted on my Facebook page, including two of my very favorite photos. Here it is – or at least a doctored version with names changed to protect the perps:

What a wonderful day full of momstuff, sisterstuff, daughterstuff, and grandchickendaughterstuff!  To spread the joy, here are two songs from my favorite singer:

 

 

 

Patchwork Hatchlings

 

The chicks have arrived!!

Just yesterday, the husband and I concluded that our brooding hens would probably be unsuccessful. It had been too long with too much shifting around of eggs and hens. The day before we had discovered two of them squished together over one pile of eggs, while the other nest sat exposed and abandoned. But this morning we were proved wrong.

We are fairly sure that these four chicks all have the same rooster papa, but from the looks of them, there may be up to four different biological mamas. The coolest thing about the new additions to the flock is that they are being collectively co-parented by two cooperating adopter hens.

Modern times!  Even in Chicken World!

 

Passing for Poultry

 

I had to make funeral arrangements today. For a chicken. It took me about 15 seconds. I texted my husband, “The Swedish Flower Chicken is lying on the floor of the henhouse. I think she is dead.” We have an unspoken agreement that he is responsible for all bird corpse removals.

This particular hen was one of our original eight, of which there are now only two left, so it WAS slightly sad. It was also poignant that the newest member of our flock – given to the husband at his birthday party on Friday – laid her first egg. And it was green! Cool!

If I am sounding a little cold-hearted to you at the moment, you can blame it on the five or six roosters we have had to get rid of over the past three years. And we seem to be having bad luck again – of the seven chicks we have raised since winter, it looks like 5 are turning out to be roosters. (In the end, there can be only one.) Despite all this, I do love my chickens. And I can prove it.

 

Of all the presents my husband got, this book was my favorite by far.  I have spent hours paging through it.

 

Here’s a small sampling of the contents:

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Now that I think of it, though, I wouldn’t allow a single one of these primadonnas to infiltrate my flock. My hearty Orpingtons and Wyandottes would probably take one look and then beat the crap out of them. With one exception, maybe. This guy might have a chance:

 

 

Devil Cat is Disrespecting the Stay-in-Basket / Social Distancing Policy

 

Question: Have you noticed a change in your pets since the Stay at Home policy began? I ask because my four-legged cohabitants are displaying unusual behaviors. Dog Four runs much farther away than usual on our daily walks. She has also gotten much more aggressive (and successful) in hunting out moles and voles and other disgusting things to eat and then throw up later somewhere in the house. Conversely, the chickens are running right up to us, in between and around our feet, as if begging “Pick me up! Pick me up!” They have also suddenly gone to war with the ducks. The goats are cool.

And then there is Devil Cat. Whenever I am at the laptop, he usually makes two or three attempts to get in my face before resigning himself to the basket. Now it is ten times or more before we eventually reach a compromise:

When cats and chickens want to be nearer to you and dogs want to be farther away – well then something is upside-down in the world.

I suspect they are all jockeying for a better position in the “Who will be eaten first?” list. Dog Four is feeling pretty safe. The chickens? Not so much. But how does this theory explain the cat’s behavior? Name me one civilization in the history of the world that eats/ate cats?

It’s a mystery.

Dog Four Loves Corona

This is the way Dog Four looks when she suspects a walk might be imminent. Alert. Questioning, Waiting for a clear sign and trying hard not to get her hopes up too much. The poor thing gets way too little outside time and exercise – especially for a border collie. And normally she has a lot of alone time while everyone is off at work or school.

But not right now. There are five humans in this house, only one of whom has to leave it five days a week to wander alone through his big empty school. Two others spend the mornings at home in front of computers attending virtual classes. One does a lot of singing upstairs.

The fifth one is often typing on a laptop or taking a lot of pictures to document her life and experiences in these extraordinary, historic days. Pictures of newspaper headlines blaring out bad news: an order to hunker down inside the house or the unbearable stress being put on the social welfare system as thousands of people become suddenly unemployed – herself possibly included. She takes pictures of her hand sanitizer collection and a pile of ads that, curiously, were stuffed in her mailbox that day, despite the fact that the stores holding all these wonderful products have locked their doors. And she takes pictures of today’s egg haul and shares it to her husband in the empty school with the caption “The ducks were in the henhouse again”.  She thinks to herself “What eggy thing can I cook today?”

Lately she has been pacing around the house, cell phone in hand, listening to seven different panicky voices discussing the future of the school. What will we do if the school doesn’t reopen after Easter, or May, or June, or at all? Should we just shut it down right now while there are still unemployment benefits to be had? She doesn’t say much in these discussions. She keeps a running tally going of the number of times someone says “Ich habe Angst . . .”

At some point each day, cabin fever strikes one or the other of these five people. They grab the leash, call Dog Four’s name and take off on a solitary walk, glad they don’t live in a city where a policeman might stop them and ask where they are going or why they are outside.

Dog Four can’t believe her luck. If she could talk, she’d tell you that corona is the best thing since sliced bread and that she’s been sleeping better lately too.

What she doesn’t know is that discussions have been going on in blogworld – if things got really bad, would you or would you not eat your dog? She can rest easy, though. In her case there are twenty chickens, four ducks and three goats ahead of her in line.

My Ghoulish Menagerie

It just occurred to me that I am surrounded by ghoulish pets (and ex-pets).

First there is the black cat in the basket next to my laptop who I have long known to be possessed by the devil. Then there is Dog Four at my feet, who just had a growth removed from her head and now looks a bit like Frankenstein.

 

To my left is my latest crochet project – a recreation of the deformed, quickly deceased chick I hatched in an incubator. His bulging right eye earned him the name Quasimodo. (I made this stuffed animal at the specific request of my sister, who will then give me back the evil bat I made in summer.)

 

And finally, just outside my office door are the three dead and dried out creatures we discovered while cleaning out our basement yesterday.

 

It also just occurred to me that it is October 31st and therefore a good day to share all of this with you.

Happy Halloween, everyone!