Saturday, March 10, 2018

how to invent a problem without really trying

We are close to spring. We have had an abundance of sunshine. There have been no significant glitches in our days. Only small stuff, easily solved. We've been lucky.

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Time to invent a problem, don't you think??

After breakfast, of course. (And it's a sunny, flower-filled breakfast. The best kind!)

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It actually began last week when we spent our entire weekend (or so it seemed) at the Farm and Fleet store. Perhaps you've never had the pleasure of shopping there? It's like a big box for farm-type people. It's the kind of place where you're asked at checkout whether you have the card for an agricultural tax break. New York City Ed (born and raised) truly loves that! Mistaken for a local boy... He's come so far! He'll give a small shake of the head, as if to say -- no, not this time. The jacket he wears year round (and which acts as sweater, rain coat, and Arctic blast protection)? Farm and Fleet. Inner tubes for tractor? Same. Chicken feed? Of course.

Well, we got roped into a chat with one of the employees -- the guy in charge of livestock feed that day -- and there must have been something especially sweet and compelling about his descriptions of his own chicken brood, because when we returned home, Ed turned to me and asked -- should we add a few young chicks to our three?

We have never purchased young chicks. All our cheepers come from Craigslist sales, where people were probably offloading under-producing or in other ways bothersome chickens. We always thought that raising chickens from day one is too much trouble. You need indoor enclosures. You need special lamps. You need to teach them to eat, drink, and enjoy each others company. Forget it.

And yet... We are always tempted to bring animals here. We have the space, the grasses, the trees. We even have a wreck of a structure once called a barn. It seems only right to populate it.

We investigated the dozen breeds of cheeps scheduled to arrive at Farm and Fleet next week and picked ones we thought were perfect, I mean perfect for us! (Never mind that the site that reviews chicken breeds hasn't an unkind word to say about any kind of chicken anywhere on the planet! They're all friendly, good, producing perfect eggs all the time, asking nothing more of you than to give them some cheap food and water and a place to escape from the world's nasty predators.)

We pick our preferred chickens: A Plymouth Barred Rock, a Speckled Sussex and maybe a Partridge Cochin. So beautiful!

And here's our first mistake: we tell Snowdrop. She immediately has names for them! She is excited! And now we are super excited! We are all just a bunch of kids pretending to be grownups.

But now come the particulars: how do we set up the chick home for the months before they can go outside?

There is my approach: we buy the necessary equipment, do as the books say, cross our fingers. We make sure Snowdrop washes her hands before and after touching the chicks. We consider building a bigger coop to house our growing flock. We don't think about the digging up of plants. We think, instead about the joy of watching our cheepers do their silly chicken antics.

Then there is Ed's approach: we buy absolutely nothing except for food and the chicks themselves. We cut up milk cartons for dishes and use old lightbulbs for heat. We more or less follow the stuff some people on the internet might suggest, but it's not like baking a cake: you don't have to be exact! The coop is big enough, so don't even think about getting a bigger one. Besides, they've all taken to falling asleep all over the barn walls, so where they get shoved in for the night hardly matters.

Time to take a pause, to clear the head and lungs, time to walk on this still cool but sunny day.

Ed picks out yet another trail that is close by yet unfamiliar to us -- in and around the Lake Kegonsa State Park.

And it's very pretty. Not exciting perhaps, but a good place to roam for about two hours.

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Pine plantation.

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Melting ice cover over Lake Waubesa...

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Bluejay blue...

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And from there, we drive to Farm and Fleet. We need chick food. We need a lamp clip.

The day of the arrival of the new chicks is awfully near.

Still, he and I just do not approach the new additions in the same way.

Aw heck. It doesn't matter. For the most part, he is the one who cares for the cheepers. Let him construct whatever he wants.

We come home. Ed works endlessly on regulating the heat over the soon to be baby chick home.

Then he goes out to put away the three big girls. And it's the usual these days: reaching for them perched somewhere high in the barn, grabbing them as they squawk, hoping that they stay put as he reaches for the next one.

He returns to the farmhouse and says -- we have it fairly easy now. Should we really rock the boat? Chase after five or six cheepers each night? Let them all scratch your garden?

Wait, you're having second thoughts??
No, not exactly...

To be continued.