Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Gift

One year ago, a woman passed, and she left me a great gift. I never met her, but I'm told that I would have liked her, and she probably would have liked me. I'm told that we had some things in common, including the fact that we both were determined to be nurses since childhood, and we both loved it from day one. I'm told that she was an amazingly funny person, and that she didn't take any crap off of anyone. She spoke her mind when she needed to, but she loved pople, and they loved her.

I'm told that she was sometimes a bit of a fashionista.  She had a thing for shoes, and left dozens of shoes behind, in size 8 1/2, just like I wear. I'm told that she switched purses with the seasons, and probably more. She did some time as a Mary Kay lady, and would do her "Mary Kay" face for special occasions, but not every day. She liked to cook, and made nut rolls en masse at Christmas time, not only as gifts for friends, but also to maintain the family tradition. Her calendar still hangs in her house -- with scenic photos accompanied by scripture verses, with dates including handwritten notes of birthdays and anniversaries, sometimes accompanied by hearts, carefully written in beautiful script. She was a detail person.

She was a breast cancer survivor, and the Race For the Cure was something of a family tradition. She wore a pink boa, and her family grinned alongside her in photos. She was a lifelong Lutheran. She loved her retirement job as a parish nurse, and organized blood drives at her church that likely saved dozens of lives.

It was that same church that was packed a year ago for her funeral service. She hadn't been sick for long, but she knew that she was dying. Still, her death came as a surprise when it happened -- much sooner than anyone was prepared for. It devastated those who knew her, not just because of how suddenly it happened, but by the sheer fact that she wouldn't be here anymore, with her wicked sense of humor, and her shoulder to cry on. The pastor gave a beautiful eulogy, but truthfully, words are probably inadequate for describing a person who impacted so many lives, isn't it?

I believe that things happen for a reason, and sometimes things, or people, are sent our way for reasons we can't comprehend. Those people are sent by God, or angels, our departed loved ones, or some mystical spirit that knows better than we do what it is that we need at that place and time. And so it was that she sent me a gift. His name is Jim, and he has changed my life. He is a gift and for that reason, I will be totally forever indebted to a not-so-complete stranger whose death broke so many hearts, but healed one.

Rest in peace, dear one.  Rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Know What's Funny?

Watching a chicken eat a lemon.

Several friends are saving their table scrap fruits and veggies for the chickens.  I have found that they will eat cantaloupe down to a rind so thin you can almost see through it.  They will grab and entire tomato and run off with it like it's a Faberge egg.  I haven't figured out whether they like lemons or not, but after watching them today, I think not.

In the past, I usually just dump a bunch of stuff in at the same time, and let them pick out what they want.  I find some leftovers later on:  onion peels, the aforementioned cantaloupe rind, and citrus peels.  OK, so they aren't crazy about the peels, and that's ok.  I've seen them picking at the innards at times, so I knew they weren't absolutely averse to them.  But a friend of mind made two gallons of homemade lemonade for his granddaughter's birthday party.  (Now, that is love.  Or a total lie.  I'm still threatening to check his trash for the Corona bottles...)  I was the happy recipient of the leftover lemons, and you know what they say -- when life gives you lemons, give 'em to the chickens.

I tossed some into the pen with Shawna and Beyonce today.  They're the two bad girls, so they are out in the pen most of the day, to keep them from eating eggs.  We had just moved the coop the other day, and I cleaned it out of all of the leftover yucky stuff, so I wasn't jumping at the chance to add the peels and have to do the whole thing all over again.  I stayed around to watch, curious to see what the reaction to the lemons really was.  It was hilarious.

I threw a couple down, and they landed upside down.  The chickens sniffed them and then turned up their noses.  From past experience, I figured it was that they didn't want the peels, so I flipped them over so they could get to the guts, then added a couple more.  The girls wandered over, looked over the situation (probably sniffing it, but I couldn't tell), then gave a tentative peck.  Their heads immediately shuddered, then they backed up, put their heads to the ground and started wiping their face on the ground, first one side, then the other.  Vigorously.

Picture a chicken shuddering and madly wiping its face on the ground.  It's free entertainment that guarantees a laugh, trust me.  So yeah, I spend my time after work watching chickens doing stupid things, but trust me, it's a great bonding experience for me and the girls.

Even if Shawna is definitely headed for the chopper.  Beyonce?  I'm not quite sure yet.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stay of Execution

So, I have chickens.  I got six back on Palm Saturday.  One went to chicken heaven a couple of weeks later, leaving me with five.  They are White Rocks, and they are very sweet.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to add a couple more, so I got two Red Star Sex Links and a Barred Rock, plus two baby Easter Eggers.  The Red Star (Thelma and Louise) and the Barred Rock (Mabel) were already laying, so we have been having a nice little influx of eggs.  At least one of the White Rocks (as yet unnamed, but keep reading) is laying now, so we get to have eggs a lot. 

The only problem is that two of the White Rocks are chicken stalkers.  As soon as one of the laying girls goes up into the coop, the two stalkers follow them up.  As soon as the egg hits the coop, you can hear peck, peck, peck, and those two bad girls eat the eggs.  BAD girls, I tell you.

Now, I have read all of the solutions to this problem, and they are few.  I put a couple of Easter eggs in the coop with them, and they rolled one of them right down the ramp, just to let me know that they knew it was fake.  Add to it that the girls don't lay early like the books say they should.  They lay between 11 and 2, which makes it impossible for me to stalk the coop to grab the eggs during the day.  It's been a challenge.

I had built a little pen for the girls to free range in during the day, but they fly out, so the past couple of days, I hung a sheet over the top to keep them in, till I could figure something better out.  This, while reading up on how to butcher a chicken, just to keep my options open.  But every time I put the girls into the pen, one of them flies out, and sometimes two.  I sat out there for a couple of hours this morning -- it's really quite relaxing to watch them -- and watched as the same silly bird kept escaping.  And yep, she was one with egg yolk all over her.  Busted!  So I quarantined her to the garage.  Then another one kept doing the same thing.  One with even more egg yolk on her than the first.  ERRRGH!  So I threw her into the garage as well, and figured I would deal with her after church this evening.

Seth had been gone all day to GENCON, so when I got home, he was back, and one of his buddies was here.  I yelled down the stairs and asked if they wanted to help me execute a couple of chickens.  Seth said now, very quickly followed by his buddy yelling "I want to."  They came flying up the stairs.  Seth asked how I wanted it done.  I told him I'd been doing a lot of research, and couldn't decide.

The quickest way to do it would be to use my stun gun, but at a million volts, I'd be afraid that she'd explode, and what kind of bloody mess would that be?  Seth's jaw dropped.  Nick thought it was a cool idea, then silently picked up a hammer that was sitting on the kitchen counter and looked at me with an eyebrow raised.  "That's another option," I said.  "Yeah, or we could hit them on the head with a baseball bat," Nick said.  At this point, I told him he might be a little too enthusiastic, and if he ends up being a serial killer, I am not taking responsibility for it.  So he started coming up with other interesting ways to send the girls to their demise.  This included dropping the garage door on them -- which would work, since I have an old garage door that doesn't stop if anything is under it.  Seth said no way, because that was just plain freaking him out.  I told them it would be too hard to hold the chicken down so that it worked, and that it was cruel.  I suggested the old bop 'em on the head, wring their necks, or the broomstick trick.

I think it was at this point that Nick suggested burying them alive, and Seth pronounced that that was one of his nightmare ways of dying:  being buried alive, or drowning.  I added dying in a fire, which Seth said wasn't as bad, because "at some point your nerves would die, and it would stop hurting."  No comfort, man.  No comfort.  Nick said that it would be even worse if some good Samaritan decided to rescue you.  "Hey man, my eyes got burned off, I'm missing four fingers, but hey, thanks."  

Meantime, Seth and I were still sitting there holding the chickens. 

His argument was that we'd raised them since they were babies, and we just couldn't kill them.  To him, that was even more true since they aren't fat enough to eat.  He said if we were gonna eat them, it would be different, so I said we could kill 'em but it would be too much work for the little amount of meat it would give us.  He said we needed to eat their bones, or we couldn't do it at all.  Nick decided at this point that he couldn't kill them, rendering his future as a serial killer useless.  And meantime, we are still sitting there holding the stalker chickens.

I told them that we could try clipping their wings so that they couldn't fly out of the pen, and try leaving them out during the day while the other girls laid their eggs, and see what happened, but if they kept causing problems, they have to go.  They agreed to this, but we couldn't tell these girls from the other White Rocks, so I grabbed some nail polish and some scissors.  We clipped their wings and painted their legs and a stripe on their heads, then tossed them into the pen.

The two stalkers have been named Beyonce (because her nail polish is blue, like Ivy Blue) and Shawna (and if you don't know why, don't ask, but Seth said he wouldn't have as much of a problem killing Shawna).  Meantime, the patio looks like a chicken massacre, because you know what?  Feathers aren't easy to sweep up.  And the girls are back in the coop with a stay of execution that will last only as long as it takes before they eat an egg.

And we still haven't decided how to do it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some Things Are Never Outdated.

My mother-in-law, God rest her soul, and I had a little game we played.  Whenever I was at the in-law's house, I would do two things:  count the number of sour cream containers in the fridge and, at least once a year, check the medicine cabinet to find the most outdated item.

This was an interesting game, because though they averaged three sour cream containers, I once found five.  Granted, there was some Polish in their lineage, but five containers is a LOT of sour cream.  Seth apparently got the sour cream gene, because he enjoys it on most anything.  That, and honey mustard.

The medicine cabinet was a bit more tricky.  The first time I cleaned it out, I found meds that were nine years past the expiration date.  This means that after that, I should never have found anything that was expired more than a year, right?  Wrong.  Somehow, I would always find something that was five or six years gone.  I never understood it, but was always interested to see what was gonna show up from year to year.

And so it was that today, the mother in law came to mind.  Mind you, I will probably always refer to her as my mother in law, despite the fact that her son is now the ex, because she was my mother in law when she passed away and, quite frankly, would probably roll over in her grave at the events of the past two years.  We had a special bond, because we both faced the special challenges of being married to an Utter man.  She alternatively drove me nuts and made me laugh, but she was the Utter Mother, and understood some of the challenges I faced.

So tonight, my boo was making dinner (I tried, I really did, but the man likes to cook, and I like to clean up.  It works.).  I was setting the counter (we were eating in the kitchen), and pulled out the tartar sauce.  Now, I knew that I had a brand new container, but thought maybe we'd finish up the old one.  My boo has a thing about not wanting to scrape the bottom of the barrel to finish stuff, where I will use the last tiny bit of the contents of the container.  I figured I would check before he said something, and maybe get rid of it, because I knew the container had been around for a long time. 

The label said "use before 28 Oct 2009."  I pulled out the new one.

It wasn't till I was cleaning up after dinner that I realized that today was the mother in law's birthday.  And so it is that I'd like to think that somewhere out there, Yvonne is laughing, thinking I have taken over the game, and that someday, my own daughter in law will play along with me.

RIP Yvonne. And just so you know, I have two containers of sour cream in my fridge.