Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It's been over two weeks now since Avo's untimely death and I have been distracted by handymen replacing our crumbling and clogged 80 year old pipes. I decided to buck up this afternoon and go out to the sheep pen and visit Finley.

He was very stiff in stance and looked older, less innocent. A small trickle of blood was coming down one of his horns which appeared to have a small puncture wound, like maybe he butted his head against a nail...or perhaps it was part of the unfortunate scenario. (Later Rick and I flushed it out. He had noticed it, but badly needing new glasses, thought it was just a glump of dirt).

I went to the shed and began picking up feathers, making a little bouquet in my hand, tears streaming down my face. As it started to come together and look like a familiar chicken Finley came over. I held it out to him and he sniffed it. Then he lowered his head and used his hoof to make the 'I want' sign and I started weeping.

I want him back, too, Finley.

So whatever happened involving the sheep that ended the life we knew as Avo it was very clear Finley was missing him, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Until Death Do Us Part | Part Two

After coming home from judging UIL Storytelling this evening I found Avo's crumpled and muddy body next to the sheep shed. It appears he was stomped to death by Finley. I had noticed a little aggression recently and the thought that this could happen even briefly ran through my head this morning.

But they had lived together for three years since Finley's birth, and just the other day on our walk Finley was concerned his chicken had fallen behind. I cannot claim to know what goes on in the sheep mind. Avo could fly up and out of the pen if he needed to I told myself. He did it all the time. I wish I had listened to that little voice. I even had the thought since Phoebe's passing that maybe it was time for Avo to live with his own feathered people again. Take up with a nice Ameraucana hen.

Avo is in my blog mast head, and in my lap on the holiday cards yet to print. The card that won't get printed now. He's all over my blog as he loved to be photographed. So much for our peaceable kingdom. I can hardly bear the heaviness this season has already brought. He was the best chicken, and will be in my heart forever. There will never be another chicken like him. I knew this day would be hard, but I never knew it would come so soon or by the hoof of another loved one. I feel like it was my fault for not listening to my intuition. This is a tough one. We just buried him on top of his beloved Phoebe.

I'm going to take a break from blogging for a while.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Macro Monday: Bird Button #3

Thanks for all the kind (and funny!) comments last week regarding the baking of my camera. It certainly was one of those 'gotta laugh to keep from crying' incidences, of which there seem to be many around here. After a cozy night by the fire I am happy to report that Camera is back to normal. Let's just hope none of you will ever need the recipe!

I am not sure what draws me to birds, but there has always been an undeniable connection of the heart. I love bird imagery almost as much, and buttons are easy to collect. The subtle, tinted patina on this one is sublime!

When I was a child my Ruthenian grandmother sent me a pet canary. As I grew up it was followed by a long line of parakeets I hand tamed and dearly loved. As a younger woman I briefly owned a sun conure which terrorized visitors and my other pets, and sadly has been the only animal I've ever had to give away. I did not realize parrots bonded with you like a mate and were extremely jealous of all other beings.

For nearly a decade I organized a national nature festival with a very large birding component. As a botanist I don't own fancy binoculars or keep a life list (too competitive) although I am aware of what birds I've seen and haven't yet seen. I don't travel to exotic places just to add their numbers. Instead I keenly observe those around me and learn their songs, feed them and watch them build their nests in my trees. I would probably photograph them if I had the right lenses.

Still, they figure predominantly in all my artistic endeavors: hand painted scarves, paintings, jewelry, even the advertisements I design for my clients. And, of course, there is my love of chickens!

For more up close and personal views from around the world visit Macro Monday!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sunday Stills: Pets

Happy anniversary Sunday Stills! This week's theme of pets coincides nicely with the designing our holiday greeting card. I've always loved the hand painted cards over at Punkin's Patch showing each of the farm animals and pets and wondered if someday I might do something like that photographically. Only our animals don't tend to get along with each other that well.

So, today I made the attempt. Using our well house as a backdrop and setting up the camera with a time delay on a tripod, I took multiple exposures of the various animals one at a time with us and then I used Photoshop to collage them together. Don't we look like the peaceable kingdom!

 Click to biggify!

Pictured (L-R) are: Wilson, Finley, Topaz, Me with Avo, Starley, Farmer Rick with Millicent, Francisco and Cody. These are the main characters of my blog. We are only missing the other 49 chickens and a couple of wayward kittens. You can even read the label on the pitchfork: Ranch Hand. Sort of a twist on American Gothic.

For more pet pictures visit Sunday Stills!

Infrared Chickens

 Doesn't Otto look mad?

Winter came yesterday bringing us a handful of tiny snowflakes, and temperatures that dipped to 17 degrees last night. That probably doesn't sound that cold to many of you--but remember we spent a summer with three months above 106 degrees, and just a few days ago we were running around in t-shirts and sandals. So for us--and our animals--we might as well be on the Arctic tundra when it gets like this.

We use a small electric heater in our original chicken coop when it gets below freezing, but since there is no electricity across the creek we had to run an electric cord and infrared lamp that kept them at only 27 degrees. This produced an eerie, red glow in the woods coming from the new coop. The chickens looked put-off when I pulled out the camera, as if to say 'this is not a Kodak moment!' Just look at Otto's expression! (And yes, I remembered to bring the camera back with me this time).

We weren't much better off in the cold. Our old farmhouse is about one third single pane glass making it very cold and drafty, and in this kind of weather our heat pump struggles to keep us around 50-60 degrees. So we built a fire in the fireplace and broke out the new heated mattress pad. It seems to be baking us on the lowest setting and I woke up thirsty in the night. Can't imagine using it on a high setting, unless my camera needed it!

Today most of the remaining leaves--seemingly caught unaware--fell off the trees leaving circles of colors around their feet. We took photos for our holiday cards, and I'll be sharing that with you in tomorrow's post, since it's all about our pets and fits nicely with the theme for Sunday Stills.
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