Saturday, August 28, 2010

Our Chickens: A Dilemma, a Tragedy, and Some Confusion Cleared Up

I wrote about our chickens last fall when we first got them. I guess I didn't tell an important story that leads up to recent events.

We got Blackie first, and a few days later picked up Penny and Squawk, who looked almost alike. (Penny is speckled.) The first or second day at our house, they were running around the yard, and wouldn't come out from behind the brush pile when I wanted to put them in the coop in the evening. I finally got Blackie but not the other two. I knew there was a danger that a raccoon would attack them, so I left my shoes and a flashlight ready near the door.

Sure enough, I heard a bunch of squawking in the middle of the night and rushed out. I saw a commotion over by the greenhouse, and thought I'd shine my light on a chicken. Nope, it was the raccoon I saw in my beam. I found Squawk, and two piles of feathers the raccoon had ripped off her. She didn't seem to have any scratches or blood, though, so I hoped she was ok. I put her into the coop, and the next morning Penny showed up, just fine.

I thought we'd had a lucky escape, but Squawk almost never laid proper eggs, and I had to wonder if the trauma of the raccoon attack had messed her up. She usually laid eggs with no shell in the coop, and they'd fall to the metal bottom, looking something like fried eggs. Once in a great while, we'd get proper eggs from her, but the shells would be very rough. We got less than a dozen eggs from her in all these months.

When we came back from our Michigan trip in July, one of the chickens had gotten lighter, but I couldn't tell if it was Penny or Squawk. They both seemed speckled now. We were getting less eggs, and I began to suspect that the chickens were eating their own eggs. (Chickens need lots of calcium to make their eggshells, and feeding them eggshells is a good way to make sure they get it - except that some people fear this will encourage them to eat their eggs. I had been feeding them their own eggshells.) Well, last week I got confirmation when I saw a wet eggshell in their run. So I knew they were eating the eggs, and I couldn't figure out what to do about it. I figured I'd have to do some research when I had a little extra time. I stopped getting any eggs at all, and every day with no eggs, I wondered if there would be any solution...

That's the dilemma I had on my hands. Then we had a tragedy occur. It was exceptionally hot for the Bay Area this past week, and on Tuesday I found one of the chickens lying in the run, dead. (They had all seemed just fine that morning.) I felt guilty for not providing them better shade. The run is near the redwood tree, and is shaded for much of the day, but not all of it. I was so sad, and wondered if the other chickens would be bothered. We didn't know for sure if it was Penny or Squawk who had died. We decided to say it was Squawk, and call the living light-colored chicken Penny.

Not only have the chickens seemed fine, but we're suddenly getting two eggs a day. So it turns out that just one of the chickens was eating the eggs. And this morning I looked at the eggshells and knew. I had eggs from Blackie and Penny in my hands. It was Squawk who'd been eating the eggs, and Squawk who'd died. We are sad about her death, but grateful to be getting eggs again.

This also means the coop will be much easier to clean from now on, without all those raw eggs stuck to the bottom. I'm grateful.

Thank you Squawk for the eggs you gave us. May your next life be a better one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Milestones: My Son is Swimming!

My son was scared of the waves at the Pacific Ocean beaches when we visited those when he was 1 and 2 years old. And he's been wary of the water ever since. At my family's cottage, he's always loved riding in the speedboat, but was never big on playing in the water until this summer. He still was nowhere close to swimming.

We stayed one night at a motel while in Michigan, to visit with close friends. He loved using my goggles in the pool. A family friend then bought him his own facemask. His new school, Homeschool By the Bay, will be held in a home that has access to a pool. School starts next week, but he's been going there for the past few weeks since I started back to work. He's suddenly swimming like wild! I showed him how to use his arms more effectively and the next day he told me I had sort of taught him to swim. :^)

The other day he showed me his summersaults in the water. He decided to try a back summersault. At first, it just wouldn't work. A minute later, he had it. Two minutes later, he was doing three in a row. And his handstands in the water are pretty good. He can only swim about 10 feet so far, but I won't be surprised if he's swimming the length of the pool in a few weeks. (Or maybe it will take a few years, like all the other big advances... I never can predict.)

Amazing how fast they learn, when they're ready!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Woo Hoo! My Poem Got Published (on another blog...) ;^)

Awhile back, while a bunch of us math folks were talking about math poems, I posted my poem, Desire In a Math Class, here on my more personal blog. That math poetry project eventually ended up with me meeting (just through email) JoAnne Growney, who co-edited Strange Attractors, and publishes math-related poems on her blog, Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics.

Today she published my poem on her blog. I am honored! Years ago I tried, to no avail, to get my favorite poem, Tree Spirit, published. Some day I'll work at it again, and get that one into a book. For now, I'm delighted that one of my poems has finally been published, even if it is online and not in a book.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

War Is Criminal: The Money Side

The war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan have both been against civilian populations. (Neither has a government fighting us back.) That's the most criminal aspect of our government's conduct. But here's another criminal aspect. Nathan Yau at Flowing Data shows a graph of the way money in Development Fund for Iraq was spent.

Seems to me this is grounds for prosecution.

I'd like to see some graphs showing how far that money would go (both here and in Iraq) if well-spent.