Day of Progress

Day of Progress

Whew. This has been a day. After a shaky start for both of us (see Sick-Abed, Sigh) we arose shortly after noon and began our day. It was a windy, mild spring day with rainshowers in the middle of sunshine and fresh air all around. It was a day of unplanned visits with neighbors, bubble blowing, keyboard moving, coop building, planting, cooking of dinner, whipping of cream, bed making and more. I am plumb exhausted. But what a lovely day we had.

After a short drive through the countryside to call on some friends we settled in to our homesteading. Elihu corralled his chickens in a densely packed flock and spoke to them softly as I began to construct the new room for our chicks. As they cannot be mixed in with the adults yet we need to build a separate, outdoor living space for them. I divided the run with a wall of fence and netting last week, and today set out to build the small room within the garage where they will live for the next few months. Hoping that perhaps the extra labor might not be truly necessary, and that  the hens would accept the youngsters (their own children), we brought the chicks out last week and put one hen in with them. Within minutes she had attacked several rather violently, requiring our intervention. It was confirmed; I had another project yet before me.

Thanks to craigslist and some very kind people in my area I have collected some nice, free pieces of lumber. Assembling these pieces to make a makeshift coop became a bit more challenging than I would have thought. No two pieces are quite the same, some are warped, some have screws or nails still in them. They’ve all been used before. Plus, due to a mid-winter meltdown of our coop heat lamp all the outlets in the garage no longer work (no, it’s not a fuse) and so I must run a super long extension cord from the house to the garage in order to do any work. Not un-doable, it just required a bit more resolve from me to get the silly project underway. It took three long extension cords and a few minutes of setup, but not only did I get underway, but I finished the task. Thanks to some beautiful sheets of 4×8 plywood I was able to create walls in fairly short order. And thanks to the pheasant re-population program in Ithaca, New York I am stocked with a good amount of nylon netting (a kind man there gave me a bag of extra netting when I told him my plans on our visit last summer) which made a fine roof for the small room. I have no idea what Elihu said to his chickens for the hour and a half it took me to construct the room, but he was content to wait it out with their gentle company.

Tonight we test it out. I caught raccoons red-handed in the garage last night, raiding the feed bins as I went to close the coop up for the night. A close call. If it weren’t for the food available to them I’m not sure if my chickens would have all been there waiting. A bin of grain is an easier meal than a feisty hen. (And I have seen bloody evidence of the good fight my hens can put up when challenged!) So tonight, I’ve closed the garage as best I can, and I’ve left the lid to the feed bin loose, so that if a raccoon should be snooping about, the lid will be moved when I go out in the morning. We’ll see. I’m feeling pretty good about my security, yet not good enough to be entirely smug. One can never be smug out here. There’s always a new story to be made at the expense of one’s naivete. So I am confident, yet cautious.

Now it’s bath time and I must drag my son away from his beloved birds.¬† Elihu has been doing nothing but talking to his chicks all the time that I’ve been here writing. I can hear him in the basement, the one sided conversation mixed with tweets and chirping sounds. Tiny, fuzzy things just four weeks ago, they are now gangly teenagers. They’re not exactly cute, nor do they look entirely like true chickens. They’re in an awkward, in-between sort of stage. They are, however, not chicks anymore. They are young chickens, and they are fast becoming very stinky. It’s amazing how much food they consume. Tomorrow, if we pass our raccoon test, those teenagers are getting their own apartment. I can’t wait.

To bath, to bed. To be continued…

Sick-Abed, Sigh

Sick-Abed, Sigh

This may not be the best time to make a new post, but I’m caught in a netherworld right now in which I can find no comfort from any single position, nor food or drink, and I don’t have any ability to do much but sit and shift in my seat to find relief. I will write in order to pass some time and take my mind off of the discomfort. I have, I can only guess based on past experience, been bitten by some insect in the early morning which has begun the process of the now-familiar anaphylactic attack. This is the fourth time I’ve experienced this; now I know the signs and so wasted little time today finding the benadryl pills stashed in the refrigerator door for just such an occasion. The last time this happened I writhed in agony on my parents’ floor for several hours before at last an ambulance was called. I know that these events, while miserable affairs, die down after about six hours and so I had been rather bummed that my trip to the ER had resulted in little relief but landed me a huge bill for the expensive taxi service.

I’m not the only one feeling out of sorts; Elihu experienced an episode of asthma last night the likes of which he hasn’t had in months. Perhaps our visit to grandma and grandpa’s five-cat household last night triggered it. We’ve also been lax in his asthma prevention routine lately, and I’m feeling like a negligent mother today. It is a horrible feeling to watch a young child struggle for breath in his sleep. You want to wake them, to administer something that might help, yet you want them to experience the relief of sleep, and so all you can do is look over them as they labor to breathe, the little chest puffing in and out so rapidly it’s exhausting just to watch. And so this is how the night passed.

Finally, this morning he was able to sit up and use his nebulizer. Now his breathing is somewhat more relaxed, although still raspy and shallow. As he took a break from inhaling the medicine from that noisy machine, he looked at me and said “Your face is red”. I’d been noticing in the past half hour that my face was getting very hot, and now the palms of my hands were itching and tingling. I was surprised my face was that noticeable. As my heart began to race and my gut began to feel as if I had some intestinal bug, I realized that I was not merely feeling a little off; something had bitten me and my body was kicking into gear. That’s when I understood that if I was to remain a viable parent right now, I needed to find the magic pills quickly.

So now we’re both doped up. As Elihu finished his round of nebulizer, he weakly jabbed his finger towards the ceiling. “You’re feeling high?” I asked. He smiled and nodded groggily. It’s not a good high mind you – from what Elihu tells me it feels strange; his whole body tingles and he feels a little disconnected. He doesn’t like it, yet he doesn’t hate it as it signals relief – and perhaps sleep – to come. A few minutes have passed and now he’s out, and I too am feeling I’m on the way. Geez. And it is the first saturday of our long weekend. The weather had started out fine today. We’d so much planned; we were to move our fifteen large chicks from the basement to the coop today. It was to have been a big day. Now it will be a sleepy, bed-ridden day instead.

It’s starting to get cloudy and looks like rain. Maybe this isn’t such a bad day to be in bed. Off to nap. I hope when we wake we will find ourselves restored and ready for our homestead chores.