We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to bring you this special, late-breaking announcement.
MY BOOK IS LIVE! AT HOME ON THE KAZAKH STEPPE has launched, left the doorsill, flown the coop, left the nest. (are there others?)
A Book Launch Party — for those of you in the area, and any others who’d care to travel — is set for my local Danville, VT library on Sunday, August 17. RSVP to my FB invite if you can join us.
After hearing me talk about this book for the past year and a half, you can finally access it at Amazon here. Paperback, eBook, and Large Print books are available.
Apple iBooks and B&N are good to go too.
I’ll be updating my At Home on the Kazakh Steppe website page over the next week and adding more pictures to the slide show already there. Do stop over and take a look.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
CHICKENS, RUN (my apologies to John Updike)
We lost four of our layer chickens over the past week. But THE GOOD NEWS is:
It is NOT our dog.
As a puppy, Sasha was quite bad with the ducks we raised then. Not aggressive, but just as dangerous in her playful, “I’ll show you who’s boss” assertive, domineering, and (yes, sometimes) downright in-your-face annoying way. When we brought two-month-old Sasha home, the ducks were full-size, gloriously statuesque adults, and they had roamed freely around the property for two years, conscientiously attending to their bug-patrol duties.
But Sasha was determined to dominate them and, not knowing her own strength, drew blood.
We built a pen.
For the ducks.
Sasha’s assertiveness quickly became a boon to us. Over the years, she’s succeeded in scaring away from our property meandering bear, moose, deer, wild turkey, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. All with equal ferocity. We don’t see much wildlife anymore. Hummingbirds still come.
With the bear, I must add, she had one quite different behavior. She would hop up in the air, as she charged forward, barking furiously and making herself bigger. She was impressive. Her first try was with a mama bear and her two cubs. The cubs ran off into the woods and the mama turned toward the approaching noisy dog and watched her for a bit. We held our breath, aware there was nothing we could do if the bear decided to knock off Sasha. Finally, just before Sasha reached her, the mama bear turned and ambled off into the woods after her cubs. Sasha stopped at the woods edge, then came running home when we called her. We were impressed.
The last of our ducks moved on to greener hills last fall and this spring we brought home thirty two-day-old chicks.
Sasha, now a mature four-year-old, met them slowly, carefully, and gingerly. She was curious. I was determined. But, as the days and weeks went by, I felt confident that we had reached détente.
We understood each other, Sasha and I. She knows the tone of my voice and I read her body language well. She’s rarely away from my side.
Once the miniature dinosaurs lost their chick feathers (at about one month) ten white meat birds, ten black and white Barred Rock layers, and ten brown and white Golden Comet layers showed themselves.
The meat birds got their own inside pen, so I can control their feed. The layers, eventually, finally got used to going outside, and earning their keep (eating bugs), as I wrote about in an earlier post, Sitting on the Doorsill.
As they did so, I ignored the two gates on the outdoor pen, expecting, by leaving them open, that the chicks would feast on an ever-widening menu. I gave Sasha free roaming privileges too.
And, I got complacent.
Last week, one of the Barred Rocks didn’t come back when I closed them in for the night. We chalked it up to the hole we’d found in the fencing and the thunderstorm that rolled through that night. We patched the hole.
Then, Saturday, during dinner with my stepson and his friend, my husband noticed Sasha inside the pen, poking at something with her nose, as though perhaps eating it. The next thing I saw was Woody walking back up the hill from the pen, with a dead Golden Comet dangling in his hand by her feet. That’s what Sasha had been poking at.
“And there are Barred Rock feathers all around down there too.” Woody reported.
Self-reproach ran high. How could I have been so foolish? My little experiment in peaceful coexistence, mutual understanding (dare I say “across cultural borders?”) wasn’t going to change thousands of years of instinct.
That night, as I rounded up the remaining layers for the night, I counted only sixteen: two more Barred Rocks were gone. Two! Now Sasha was looking greedy.
I had been so sure of Sasha. How could I have been so wrong?
“It could be a fox,” Woody offered, trying to soothe me.
“Wishful thinking,” I countered. We should have known better.
With Sasha as the problem, the solution was simple: shut the two gates. Limit the chickens’ grazing area.
Sunday morning, letting my chickens out again, still chastising myself for trusting too readily, I watched as Sasha made another of her mad dashes chasing some wildlife I’d stopped trying to see. This time though, I saw the fluffy tale and long narrow body of a red fox just before it dashed into the safety of the woods.
No farmer was ever so glad to see a fox!
Sasha was reprieved.
But now that the fox is the problem, the solution is a bit more problematic. We can’t sell these layers until they start laying — November probably. And, I don’t have the stomach to keep them confined inside the barn for the next three months.
It’s not so much the projecting onto my chickens how I’d feel cooped up inside a barn for three months, it’s the increased need for new bedding and feed that would turn my profit making agricultural experiment into a mere hobby.
Until I figure out a solution, I sit inside the pen, doing as much work as I can at the picnic table we’ve moved inside there.
Sasha is still not allowed inside the pen. The gates are closed and fastened tight. I want her out there chasing the fox. So, as I work inside the pen with my bug-eating chickens, Sasha lies down just a few yards away, eyes and ears alert. Ever faithful. All forgiving.
How about you? Have you ever jumped to the wrong conclusion about something or someone? How did you make amends?