Archive for April, 2012
It wasn’t all that long ago that I used to devise an alternate driving route so as to avoid going past the fairgrounds and keep those boys of mine from seeing the Ferris wheel that signals the start of our annual local Fair.
They always somehow found out anyway, though, and every year the CE or I found ourselves trudging the dusty midway, buying criminally over-priced corn dogs and cotton candy and getting sick just watching the kids go round and round on the Tilt-a-Whirl. The only day that the CE actually ever stayed home sick from work in 20+ years was when he relented and rode that Tilt-a-Whirl with Tina and Angie when they were young. He promptly went green around the gills, came home and went to bed for forty-eight hours.
There’s just something about the fair. Its bright lights hold a promise so deep and shallow at the same time – “Forget all your cares”, “Win a stuffed animal!” that we are somehow convinced to part with significant amounts of money and end up with empty pockets, residual nausea and a potent memory of the sharp-edged visages of the “Carnies” who beckon you closer from every booth.
For all the times we’ve attended the fair, we somehow never made it past the rides and the funnel-cake booths to visit the paddocks where the livestock are kept. So as we drove by the other day (the CE unwisely not having devised that alternate route) I said “I want to go see the chickens!” As it turned out, so did he, so off we went to join the dusty throngs.
First stop, of course, was the poultry exhibit:
It wasn’t exactly a palace of poultry. There weren’t all that many birds on display, and of those that were, most would have had a hard time competing with our own little flock.
It was a lot of fun to see the roosters, whose plumage is always much showier than that of the hens:
Hygiene note: If you ever tour livestock pens at a fair you will notice that there are sinks set up outside the exit. These aren’t simply for the squeamish; if you have birds at home it is imperative that you thoroughly wash your hands after being around the poultry exhibit in order to make sure that you don’t carry any unwelcome microbes home with you. For the same reason it is also advisable to clean your shoes before re-entering your home coop area. There are certain communicable avian diseases that can wipe out an entire flock after even such a casual exposure. This is also why it’s important to quarantine any new flock additions.
After seeing the birds, we decided to poke around a few other exhibits:
The goats were very entertaining. These little guys were getting quite unruly:
But someone tattled, and out came Mom to see what was going on:
It was a very fun visit to the fair, and we almost got away without committing any food crimes. But just as we were leaving, we walked by the Kettle Corn booth. Irresistible.
A clamor has arisen: why does Soho get a birthday party but not Chloe?
And the answer I always give is that Chloe does not need a party because in her world, every day is a party. Chloe is always, always happy. Even when she’s barking her “I think there is a heavily-armed, masked intruder about to break down the front door” bark (this usually just means that our postal carrier is dropping off the mail…) her demeanor tells you that she can hardly wait to greet that masked intruder and offer him milk and cookies.
I know that everyone thinks theirs is the best dog in the universe, but everyone (except maybe for Katherine) is just wrong. Sorry, but the Best Dog in the Universe trophy undisputedly must go to Chloe. No, she has not yet saved us from a burning building nor can she sing and play the piano at the same time. But she could if she wanted to, I am convinced of that.
Chloe, you might say, lives large. And she is a study in the power of positive reinforcement. She hears the words Good Girl! Beautiful Girl! thirty or forty times a day, which completely outweighs the occasional Bad Girl! she hears when she, say, steals a plate of cat food off of a counter top. Just think of how you might look at life if you were told how wonderful and gorgeous you were all day long every day!
She loves everyone:
And Dizzy, who is the most discerning creature we know, has made it clear that his highest affections are reserved for Chloe. And if Dizzy says it’s so, it is so!
She is always a good sport:
And as big as she is, you can always, 100% of the time count on Chloe to be gentle with children. Did I mention that she is a Good Girl!? Here she is, showing off her giant teeth to PJG and a much-younger Evie:
For those inquiring minds that want to know, Chloe will turn six on the 16th of September. She will not have a party and she will not care. But she wouldn’t mind at all if you stopped by with a pizzle stick…
And Saturday belonged to Soho.
I don’t even remember how the tradition got started, but somehow, Soho has managed to throw herself an every-other-year party and a few of her BFF’s braved the fog to help her celebrate her eighth birthday. Here are some pix:
Lots of chicken news in the media this week.
The live birth of a baby chick to a hen in Sri Lanka made international news. Headlines instantly pinged around the globe proclaiming the answer to the age old “which came first” conundrum. What really happened is that the chick developed normally in an egg that was, sadly, retained in the mother hen’s body during the twenty-one day gestation period. The baby chick hatched from the egg and managed to be expelled live from the hen, who subsequently died from injuries sustained as a result of the anomalous birth. The chick, however, is alive, healthy and at least momentarily famous. Perhaps if we stay tuned, it will grow up and reveal to the world the truth about why the chicken crosses the road.
Closer to home, U.S. media has been reporting on a recent FDA announcement regarding the use of antibiotics in commercially-raised livestock. There is so much contradictory information swirling around this subject that it seems nearly impossible to get the straight story, but the topic has become a hot button as consumers become increasingly concerned that the antibiotic-laced animal products they eat are contributing to the rise of “superbugs” or antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
The FDA has ruminated on this issue for a staggering thirty-five years and still, no substantive conclusion has been reached. According to a March 23, 2012 article in the New York Times “In 1977, the F.D.A. announced that it would begin banning some agricultural uses (for antibiotics) . But the House and Senate appropriations committees passed resolutions against the ban, and the agency retreated.” When you’ve got a Clash of the Titans betwixt Big Government, Big Farm and Big Pharma, it’s hard to say who will win, but it seems unlikely that you or I will have much say in the matter.
Antibiotics are routinely administered to commercially-raised cattle, pork and poultry, not just to address disease but to guarantee a more resilient and robust product. A recent study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University found that a banned class of broad-spectrum antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones were found in feather meal, a byproduct of poultry processing which is commonly added to chicken, swine, cattle and fish feed. (So yes, those commercially-raised chickens are unknowingly consuming the remains of their relatives, yuck!) Twelve samples from six U.S. states and China were studied and were found to have 2 to 10 antibiotic residues. Also found in the samples were acetaminophen, the active ingredient of Tylenol, diphenhydramine (the antihistamine found in Benadryl), fluoxetine (the active antidepressant ingredient in Prozac), arsenic, and caffeine.
Caffeine is always an eye-opener, but to think that the chicken on your plate was consuming it (apparently it is used to keep the chickens awake longer so they will eat more and fatten up for slaughter) is a disturbing thought. There doesn’t seem to be any data available on the amounts of these substances found or as to what, if any, threat they pose to humans. As far as antibiotic use, however, I did find this quote from a recent CBS news story: “We think the science is very solid in showing that largely indiscriminate use of antibiotics contributes to resistance,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner MichaeI Taylor. “I don’t think there’s really any question about it.”
The upshot of last week’s FDA announcement is that they are voluntarily requesting that livestock producers gradually pull back on the use of antibiotics identified as significant in the treatment of human diseases and that they are asking drug manufacturers to voluntarily change package labels to reflect a recommendation that antibiotics be used to treat or prevent disease rather than to boost production. My fervent hope is that the IRS will follow the FDA’s polite lead and allow us all to voluntarily decide whether or not we would like to continue paying taxes…
Our girls, by the way, are antibiotic-free, but I’ve promised them a long life free of stew pots and meat cleavers, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for your unadulterated entrees. There are sources for purportedly pure poultry if you check around, including this one in southern California.
March went out like a lion this year…
We tried to get ahead of the goat head crop this year by taking Shubby the Shoobie Doo (aka Cody) in for a haircut. Last year he was so matted that they had to put him under general anesthesia. This time we just dropped him off in the morning and they worked on him a bit at a time throughout the day to achieve his current magnificence.
They said all he did was purr the whole time. That’s our Shoo.
I love the fact that when a few blog-less days go by, people start checking in to ask what’s up. And I do apologize for not slipping in a mid-week post this past week. In general, you can assume one of two things when the blog goes quiet: either Hugh Laurie has whisked me off to the Maldives for a frolic, or I am down for the count with a rotated lumbar spine. And, alas, this week it has been the latter, although I never completely give up hope that Hugh will knock on the door one of these days.
When my hypermobile spine and sacrum go “out”, which literally happens at the drop of a hat if I’m so bold as to actually bend to pick one up, a cascade of bad things happens. There is the obvious biomechanical dysfunction and then the swiftly attendant muscle spasm as the nearby muscle groups rush to manage the situation.
Then there is the Central Nervous System screaming “Mayday!” “Mayday!” and sending torrents of not-so-helpful pain signals to (what’s left of) my brain. After twenty-some years of this torment, it’s not as if I really need all those reminders that something is wrong, but the CNS and its sidekick, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, have, so to speak, a mind of their own. Their long and tortuous road leads directly to the limbic system of the brain, where you get an interesting two-for-one. Since both emotions and pain are processed here, when you experience pain you’ll find your mood worsens and conversely, if your mood dips, you may experience physical symptoms. This is why for some people (unfortunately I am not one of them) taking antidepressants can actually alleviate pain.
Which brings us to Allie Brosh.
A few years back when I was in similarly dire straits, Polloplayer friend Katherine came across Allie’s brilliant blog, Hyperbole and a Half and forwarded me Allie’s mad funny take on the traditional 1-10 pain scale. If laughter were truly the best medicine I would have been instantly cured by her post and I promptly requested and received her permission to re-post it. And then I became one of the thousands of readers who faithfully followed Allie’s blog updates about things like her “simple dog and “helper” dog. In the world of blogging, she would be, say, Tolstoy, while I labor away like a kid writing for the school newspaper. Allie Brosh is crazy talented. There was even an announcement that she’d landed a book deal.
And then she just seemed to disappear.
Her last blog update was back in the fall of 2011 and if her book has been published, I didn’t get the memo. Hope (@hopecutechick) even follows her on Twitter but so far, no updates from @alliebrosh. I did find this interview with her on YouTube, but it’s from way back in 2010.
So here’s the deal, Allie, wherever you are. I’m crazy miserable and in desperate need of a blast of your brilliance to counter all the yuckiness currently lodged in my hippocampus. And I know I am not the only fan who wants you to phone home to cyberspace with some witty splash of cleverness to remind us that the Patron Saintess of the blogging world still reigns supreme. You’re way too young to be interested in Hugh Laurie, so I know you haven’t stolen my place by his side in the Maldives. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I wish you and your dogs all the best.
UPDATE: As usual, Katherine is in the know and she directs us to this discussion on Reddit. Much of it is conjecture and hearsay but Allie’s own posts in the early part of the discussion provide some insight.
Allie, you are in our prayers.
Easter wishes to all from Hope!
Ashleigh set up a beautiful lunch spread for us all in the Chicken Kingdom and we all feasted on quiche and Croque Monsieurs.
After lunch, Evie and Viv dyed some store-bought eggs:
The girls enjoyed some late-afternoon pool time before dinner.
Evie said “I think Chloe missed me.” I think she’s right.
We wish you all a happy and blessed Easter. He is risen!
My email inbox has been buzzing with links to yesterday’s NYT Straight From the Home Coop story. It’s a great article and includes recipes as well as anecdotes from urban and rural flock keepers. While reading it, I was reminded yet again of the mysterious and soothing effect a flock of hens has on the soul.
Those wise little feathered ladies know how to mark the rhythms of the day: rouse with the first light of dawn, preen and peck, then forage in the yard for morning bugs. After that, it’s time to get to work – there are eggs to be laid and egg songs to be sung. Loudly! More bug searches ensue and then, perhaps it’s time to find a sun-lit spot for a relaxing dirt bath. Late afternoon walkabouts to work off all the treats that have been begged that day and finally, time to cluck softly about the day’s events and meander back to the coop as the light fades into the western sky. Good work if you can get it!
Much of what I read in the article was already familiar to me – I’ve seen first hand the uptick in egg-laying as winter passes to spring and daylight hours lengthen – we’ve been spoiled with eggs of late! And I knew that the chocolate-brown eggs from Black Copper Marans like our Tulip were designated by Ian Fleming as James Bond’s favorites.
But I hadn’t heard about the Cream Legbar; a breed that sounds like a yummy confection and lays a pretty blue egg.
The venerable Greenfire Farms, which claims to be the only U.S. source of the breed, provides an informative description of the Cream Legbar’s history on their web site. Developed in England from a cross of the brown leghorn, the barred Plymouth Rock, and the South American Araucana, the Cream Leghorn combines the prolific laying ability of a Leghorn with the colorful egg of the Araucana and makes for a lovely little lady of a hen. I’m guessing the inclusion of Barred Rock makes for a more settled temperament since Leghorns are known to be flighty.
For flock keepers, in addition to the lovely eggs, a major benefit of the Cream Legbar is that they are what is known as an auto-sexing breed, meaning that the pattern and coloring of the newly-hatched chick is different in the male than the female so that the birds can be easily sexed.
I thought I had every chicken breed I wanted, and now along comes the Cream Legbar. Little Luna had better watch out – if she doesn’t decide to lay an egg pretty soon, she could find herself swapped out for better model!