The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Poultry Pics August 31, 2013

Going to the county fair is one thing; there’s a lot to do, and everything has its charm. But for Elihu, he can hardly give anything his full attention until we’ve spent a good hour in the poultry house first. Only then can we venture off and try other things. But there’s a second visit during our day at the fair, and a third, and maybe even a final look-see as we heard out….  Yup, it takes a lot of visits to the poultry barn to fully appreciate the variety and wonder of these silly creatures. And I have to admit that I myself would rather pass an hour with the chickens than any other farm animal. There’s just so much variety and action. There sure is a lot of entertainment value to be found in these fancy fowl….

County Fair 2013 027It always starts innocently enough…

County Fair 2013 289But before long you’re sucked in. There are just so many birds, so little time….

county fair and cleanout 2013 501There are facts to be learned…

county fair and cleanout 2013 556…and prize winners to be admired.

county fair and cleanout 2013 513You know this fellow and recognize his display…

county fair and cleanout 2013 515Here’s his backside.

county fair and cleanout 2013 521The wife is clearly not impressed with either.

county fair and cleanout 2013 559A ‘Call’ duck. Scientifically proven to be one of the cutest animals on the planet.

county fair and cleanout 2013 567The lovely fantail pigeon.

county fair and cleanout 2013 572Another relative. Such lovely eyes, don’t you think?

county fair and cleanout 2013 582A red golden pheasant. We once had one named Timothy (plus two hens). We eventually gave him to a local pheasant breeder in order to give him the higher quality of life we couldn’t provide for him here in our modest setup.

county fair and cleanout 2013 612Oh dear. It isn’t her fault. ! If only she’d had a say in the creation of her breed.

County Fair 2013 297A handsome pair of banties (miniature chickens).

county fair and cleanout 2013 541Long and lean…

County Fair 2013 243Short and stout.

County Fair 2013 276Handsome in an obvious sort of way….

County Fair 2013 270… and handsome in another sort of way.

County Fair 2013 295

Intrigued…

county fair and cleanout 2013 530… and unamused.

county fair and cleanout 2013 616The judges make their rounds.

county fair and cleanout 2013 600

Elihu could never pick a winner. He loves every last one of them.

County Fair 2013 042But the grand discovery of this year’s fair was definitely the Emus. We spent a lot of time getting to know these bizarre-looking creatures. While passersby all advised not to put fingers anywhere near the fence, Elihu and I spent a lot of time with our arms completely inside the fence while we scratched their necks or sunk our arms up to the wrist in fluffy ostrich-like feathers.

county fair and cleanout 2013 955The hen accepts a smooch on the soft spot under her bill.

county fair and cleanout 2013 951Then she closes her nictitating eyelids – an expression of supreme trust and pleasure in a bird.

county fair and cleanout 2013 713We must have logged a good hour in hands-on contact.

County Fair 2013 018They have very big, amber eyes.

County Fair 2013 026This hen was such a sweetie. As engaged with us as any bird could be.

county fair and cleanout 2013 730Here’s the fellow who raises the Emus. His farm isn’t too far away. We’re going to set a date sometime to come out and take a look at his operation. Not that we’re going into the Emu business anytime soon, but the thought had occurred to us… (We’ve also learned it takes 18 months to raise up an Emu before butchering – we’re a bit concerned that we might end up growing attached in that amount of time. Maybe it’s best we just visit our new friends.)

county fair and cleanout 2013 729The Elsworth family farm is the only one within almost a hundred miles that grows non GMO crops – and they save their seed, too. They only sell what they grow and process themselves. We’re going to buy our chicken feed from them in the future, and we feel very good about that.  We also feel very good about our entire experience this year with the Washington County Fair birds of 2013.  See ya next year!

 

R.I.P. Felix February 29, 2012

I’m so sad, but I can’t cry. We’ve lost so many animals here at the Hillhouse, and now we’ve just lost another. It’s part and parcel of life here with the wilderness just steps beyond our door. Elihu takes it in stride, but this morning my heart is unusually heavy with the loss of our dear little Bantam Silkie Rooster, Felix. I suppose when we finally do lose our beloved Molly one day, then I will cry, but for now I’m merely beset with yet another loss of a creature I’d grown to know and love, yet another irretrievable event out of my control here on our small farm, yet another inevitable tiny heartache.

I think back on a summer morning last year when we awoke to find all sixteen of our young chicks – finally on the doorstep of adulthood – mangled and dead on the floor of their brooder pen. My fault, I knew. I’d not secured the wire over the window very well, and it was an easy entrance for some creature. A creature who did not even eat his spoils. That broke Elihu’s heart more than the deaths themselves. It’s much easier to accept a death when you know it served to feed another needy stomach on the planet. But to see death for no gain – that’s a true heartbreaker.

I’m wrestling with myself this morning. Did I in fact secure the barrier plank against the coop last night?? Did I? It had been knocked over this morning, and that was my first warning something was amiss. Felix, as he’d been rather picked on by the bigger birds, had taken to spending nights under the coop rather than in it, and so I’d made sure to close the perimeter of it, leaving but one entrance point which he used like clockwork to let himself in each evening. In the morning, my routine was to kick his plank down, opening up his ‘door’ and wait for him to emerge, thereby giving him a head start over his larger cousins upstairs. But did I close him in last night? Had I perhaps forgotten? Or was there a highly motivated creature here last night who’d simply knocked the plank down himself? I’m pretty sure it was the latter, but since I can’t be sure my mind goes tormentingly round and round.

In the end, there is nothing I can do so I must let it go. I make one more hopeful look around the property, waiting for that familiar lift my heart always feels when I first see the strutting of his poofy little legs and goofy little silhouette. He is here, he is there, he has always been somewhere about, and to come upon him all at once is always a joy – a tiny bright spot in one’s day. One cannot look upon a silkie and not smile. But his was a lonely life – the only one of his miniature kind, always skirting the edges of the main flock lest his tail feathers be plucked to bleeding by the other birds as they had been many times before. And as his feathers are fluffy rather than tightly zipped up as most birds’ are, he’s unable to fly, making him an easier target still. The irony to me is blunt: Elihu and I had only yesterday decided we’d set out to find him two hens this week, and they were to be Gretchen and Gertrude. It gave us peace to know that soon our dearest little Felix would not be alone, and his way in the world might be lighter.

Well, Felix is no longer in this world, and I’m sure his way is indeed much lighter today. Some other forest creature has satisfied a long empty belly, and Felix’s cares are all ceased. Rest in peace, little rooster. Thanks for the joy you brought us. We’ll miss you.

Post Script: A “bantam” is a miniature breed of chicken, standing about eight inches tall. Silkies have fluffy white feathers – even on their feet! – and dark purple skin with blue combs. They really are pretty adorable. And they’re very soft to the touch. Here is what our Felix looked like:

http://liselfwench.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/800px-silky_bantam.jpg