Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicks A Hatchin'

Our baby chicks started hatching last week. These weren't planned- the last thing I need is more chickens, but since no one collected our chickens eggs when we went to Sacramento last, and that darn rooster likes to keep the eggs fertile, we came back to a bunch of broody hens setting on eggs. Some of the eggs were probably just laid that morning, but others had been there for 4 or 5 days, which is pretty far along in chicken embryo development. It only takes 21 days to get an actual chick, and by 5 days, you have a beating heart. Of course, I wouldn't dream of eating eggs that might in the slightest resemble little chicks, but since they had the potential for heartbeats, we didn't want to toss them either. So, we let nature take it's course. The nests were all in the eggs collecting boxes about 4 feet off the ground in the coop. There at times were 2 and 3 hens piled on top of each other on each nest, even though there were 9 more empty nest boxes they could have sat in. Most of the ladies stopped laying, some seemed to stop eating and drinking. Their combs started getting pale and droopy, and their attitudes were awful. They just went crazy with broodiness. (I have known humans to exhibit similar behavior.)
The first baby hatched about 4 days early- which I think qualifies it as a preemie. I found the poor little thing laying cold next to the hens who were doubled up sitting on top of each other on top of the rest of the eggs. They were all fighting over who sat on the eggs and no one was paying any attention to the actual chick. I brought the poor pathetic thing up to the house, and set up a little chicken intensive care unit for the preemie. It was a pretty sad little thing-just laying there peeping loudly. My daughter named it Peepers McCheepin, and was a wonderful nurse.
Over the next couple of days more chicks started hatching. Leaving them in the coop was not safe for several reasons- they could fall to their death, drown in the water dish, get pecked by the other birds, get eaten by pretty much anything etc. Plus, they had at least 9 psycho hens fighting over them. So, I took a sweet little Banty  hen, who has successfully hatched several batches of chicks, as well as a duckling for me in the past, and moved her to a separate cage with the first 3 babies. I slipped 2 more under her wings in the night and she accepted them into her flock. She's too small physically sit on and keep warm very many babies, so I took a chance with a young Aracauna hen who seemed very determined to set. I moved her into a private suite with the few chicks she hatched. I've slipped a few more each day until she now has 9 babies. She's doing great, and is a very sweet mother. Chickens are hysterical in their confused looks when they wake up with more chicks than they went to sleep with. Most of them seem to just roll with it though, and mother everyone.
The last chick to hatch was under a very “intense” hen called Serious. She has been a good, although strict mother to chicks in the past. While some hens lovingly cluck at their babies if they wander, Serious gives them a good peck upside the head and they come back. She is the “spanking type.” She is also fiercely protective and viciously pecked my hand in 2 places, breaking the skin even, when I was attempting to section off a private area of the coop for her and her baby. I pity the fool who tries to mess with her baby. Unfortunately, she occasionally mows over the poor baby in her attempts to attack the rest of the world, but I think they will both do fine.
Poor Peepers had a rough time. We had 3 separate “OH NO, Peepers is dead!” moments. The first 2 when we picked her up and rubbed her little body in sorrow, she started gasping and breathing again. She even started running around pecking the other chicks between relapses. She ate and drank, but never really seemed to be growing (chicks grow Very Quickly.) Finally, despite all her special care, Peepers passed on. We had a ceremony yesterday.
Now, were up to to 15 living chicks, and our one departed Peepers. The circle of life continues on the Jorrick Family Farm.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Tidbits

I guess it isn't just a holiday to keep the florists and jewelers in business while remembering our mother's. Apparently, there's a lot more to Mother's Day. There are early Egyptian, Roman, Greek and European celebrations that go way back. The first North American Mother’s Day was the idea of Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870, and it had nothing to do with taking your mom out to dinner. Howe called on mother's to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their son's killing other mother's son's. Interestingly, Howe also wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, but apparently had seen enough destruction in the Civil War. Following is her passionate proclamation calling for an international Mother's Day celebrating peace and motherhood:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
"We women of one country Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with Our own.

It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have of ten forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.

Let women now leave all that may be left of home For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.The great and general interests of peace.

I had no idea. There is more interesting history to the modern Mother's Day celebration in America, but I'll have to leave that to another time. This mother is being summoned to read stories.

Friday, May 8, 2009

History Day Is Done At Last

After all the time, stress, and hard work having a child participate in History Day has been, it is finally over (well, the kids are having a few celebratory parties, at which I think they should provide the dedicated parents red wine but I am digressing.) Overall, it was a good experience, although truth be told, we had no idea what we getting into. My daughter chose to do a group performance imagining that the work would be divided with each student taking their areas of strength, and allowing the other kids to focus on their parts. In reality, each decision was labored over painstakingly by three kids, each with their own style, distinct personality and different ideas on how to best tackle the project. There was conflict. There was compromise. There were moments when I wanted to shake them all and holler “Just make a blasted decision so you can move forward, or I drove all the way here and wasted 2 hours for nothing!!!!” But, I didn't, and they did make countless decisions, ending up with a really good piece on the actions and legacy of John James Audubon.

In the process, these kids learned much more than history. They researched, wrote the script, built the set, designed and created the costumes. Most importantly, they learned teamwork, which was probably the hardest part of all. As a fairly relaxed homeschooling family, the required annotated bibliography in MLA format seemed a little intense for an 11 year old (with a slacker mom), as did the competition at the state level in Sacramento. I saw 3 girls in tears, and one actually threw up in her performance. I am not sure if she was otherwise sick, or if it was stress, but at times, the tension was so thick I had to go outside just to breathe. (Disclaimer, I really dislike crowded places anyway.) In bigger counties in southern California, kids first competed at the their school with winners competing at district, then county levels before proceeding to state level. I can honestly say, this bunch of homeschooling kids from Shasta County, who had never been to History Day, let alone completing projects and competing with them, held their own and shined.

The most impressive thing was seeing kids from all over the state full of passion and excitement about their history projects. At one of the speeches during the closing ceremony, someone said “You often hear about all the things wrong with education. What you are seeing here in this room is what's right.” As I looked around at the hundreds of kids who had worked so hard, and accomplished so much I actually got teary eyed for a moment. After briefly pondering when I became a sappy person who gets teary eyed, I went on to feel so very proud of the kids. Of course I am somewhat bias to the Shasta County ones because I've watched many of these kids grow and come so far over the years, but they all truly did amazing work- it's the kind of thing that really makes a person optimistic about the future.