The sad side of things…

Ri-Ri is missing, and we lost the chicks to the cold. Some people would say “they’re only chickens,” and I know that when you involve yourself in any kind of animal husbandry on any scope, you will lose stock. But it just plain makes me sad, and the speculation on what happened to Ri-Ri is killing me. Rob said a minute ago, “I hope he just turns up out of nowhere.” We’ve seen far too many stray dogs in the area.

We are reinforcing the fencing soon.

Damn, I love those chickens.


Another chick image




Sweet chicks

And not the kind you go to a bar to see.





We have new chicks! Two of them. Our lovely silkie hen has been taking very good care of them, and Rob speculates that we  have a male and a female.

Here is one of the two sweeties.


I saw this little bebe flap wee wings today, trying to keep balance. ADORABLE.



Ri-Ri, when we first met him and thought he was a girl.

Hello! It’s been a long, long time, hasn’t it? There is much news to be had from the Little Farm by the Cemetery. Since I have officially graduated (though not walked,

because our graduation ceremony was canceled in Icepocalypse ’13), I have had to descend down the emotional job-hunting tiers from “a computer science professional who is anticipating and expectantly qualified to begin at entry level” to “an over-educated hack, despairing and ready to go throw in at McDonald’s.” I’m serious, people. If I had known it would be this bad, I would have done a year ago what I’m doing now and just signed on with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I would have saved myself a year of school and stress (and about $12,000). Alas, computer programming jobs around here are highly competitive. There are networking jobs galore, however. Go figure. I have two degrees, my loves, and neither my over-grammarian self nor my over-geeky computer-talking self is appreciated. I keep telling myself if I get hired on at Texas State Technical College as an advisor or the assistant to the financial aid department (which could still be a thing, who knows?), I will go back to school as a networker. Then I could have THREE degrees that are useless to me.

But that’s the way of things, right? You make your road, and sometimes you hitch a ride and things are smooth and swift, and

Look at that proud comb.

And Ri-Ri now. I can’t believe it, either.

sometimes there’s a fork in it, and yet other times the horse picks up a rock in its shoe, and you have to stop and dig it out. Yes, in my analogy, we’re in a buggy and not a car; just go with it. I’m reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes right now.

Naturally, there are also the times when the earthquake splits the land in half, and you end up going way off course into the brambles just so you can get to the road on the other side of the divide.

And that’s what I’ve done. And I’m still not sure I’ve found the road yet, or maybe I wasn’t meant to be on one. What was supposed to end in a lucrative computer science job with one of the three software developers in the area has ended in me scrambling to throw my resume at everything from the odd receptionist position to administrative assistant jobs. I am currently hired, pending the formality of a drug screen and background check, at Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I have, in the past, used the word “just” to describe such positions, as in “Just an administrative assistant.” Let me tell you what: when there’s nothing to be found and your dreams of a decent working wage are flying up the chimney like so much burning ash, there is no “just” about it.  You learn to slough off professional pride like a snake changes skin in summer. So what if you’re above and beyond educated and qualified? So is everyone else.

Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Apparently my literary brain has no idea what season it really is.

I have chalked it up to the fact that I’m not supposed to have a job. That’s right. “Can’t do it,” says the universe. After all, I am getting into the groove of homeschooling my 15-year-old son, and that requires brainspace of its own. We’re feeling our way along, and it’s a challenge when most of the big, popular sites suggest something akin to school-school, just…at your kitchen table and using a lot of stuff you have to pay for. If I wanted that, well, it surely is cheaper to do it the regular way, even if the high school wants $10 for something every time I turn around. So we’re going more of an unschool/hybrid approach as I prepare him for the new GED test. We’re shooting for April of 2015. He’ll be 17. And he’s definitely going to be a happier kid because of it.

Today I started teaching him how to write code. If you’d said to me ten months ago, “Hilary, you’re going to teach your kid computer programming,” I’d have kindly asked you to put down the pipe.

We’ve also gone gluten-free, since he and I suffer a rollercoaster ride of mild to severe varied symptoms I won’t bore you with. With which I won’t bore you. So I, the reluctant grammar-nut chicken lady with the chef husband, have had to relearn to cook. Sheesh, if I had a JOB on top of everything, I’d be losing my mind. Oh, wait…

What does all of that mean for Straight to Chickens? I’m not sure yet. You may see ever so much more of me as the stress of not having work clears up in the dubious joy of mandatory overtime, or you may see this blog dissolve in a swirling maelstrom of the writer’s block that comes of having too much else inhabiting the brainspace. We’ll see.

But yeah…the universe isn’t going to give me more than I can handle, right? That is, it’s not going to drop a bigger Grand piano on me than will allow me to walk away accordion-style, birds cheeping over my head in woozy little circles, right? I know you’re seeing Wile E. Coyote right now; it’s okay.

Rhode Island Red tweens

Rhode Island Red tweens

But put all that away. Grand pianos and swirling maelstroms aside, we have new chickens! We have a half-dozen sleek little Rhode Island Reds. They’re about six to eight inches tall, and they’re just lovely. They’re quick little buggers, but a little less standoffish than the silkies were. Rob has rigged up some…rather fascinating structures out there, among them a thing meant to a) use up leftover brew store paraphernalia, and b) make feeding and watering a breeze ™.  Trust me when I say the former is going better than the latter, if by “use up,” you actually mean “construct a monstrosity that almost looks like it could come alive in a postmodern Hayao Miyazaki flick as some sort of chicken…feeding…golem.” I don’t even know.

Anyway, if you observe said monstrosity below, the red “nipples” down beneath it are actually blocked with T-shaped plugs that the chickens can push up to get dribbles of water, the concept being similar to the ball bearing at the end of a rodent bottle. The white PVC pipe delivers food but apparently needs work, as evidenced by the lack of food supply from the top of it. I’m…okay, I’ll say it. I appreciate hubby’s hard, hard work on the chicken-feeding-and-watering-golem-future-overlord, but they’re birds! They eat off the ground. When he gets it working properly, I might have to start convincing it that I’m its friend, and that just sounds like too much effort.

The older ladies are getting the water concept–that is, when it doesn’t freeze solid–and at least one of them has the food concept, as I saw her pecking mash from the end of the pipe (in its prototype hours, when it actually, you know, had food). The chicks are still sort of scratching around on the ground confusedly, going, “I smell food, I think.”

A large construction of PVC and metal with a water supply up top.

All your feed are belong to me.

In other news, one of the silkies is brooding. She has two Barred Rock eggs and two silkie eggs under her. She’s very serious about it, only leaving the eggs to eat, drink, and, on sunny days, bathe in whatever warm dust she can find. This is why hubby wanted silkies. They will apparently brood anything. Currently she is cozy in the henhouse with a radiant heater, what with it being face-numbingly cold outside in West Texas. Her job is sitting on those eggs, and she does it well.

What else? The sheep are growing day by day, and I can’t remember if the lambs are meant to go in February or March, but I’m ready. They’re big and fat and fuzzy and expensive to feed, now that there’s no grass to be had.  We’ve known for a while that one of them is male and the other is female, and I’m not sure what that means for us. Stud the male out? Eat him? Train him to pull a cart?

What is it with me and carts today?

I don’t know, kids. I just don’t know. I’m hanging in there. Job starts February 17th. Meanwhile, I’m off to go cook…hamburger? Chicken? Something without flour.

Pork chops.

Whatever your beliefs…

…no one can resist a chicken and a dog playing happily.

Big images, little sheep

My apologies for the hiatus. Things have been a little hectic. I’m in my final semester of computer science. Because I basically did my degree inside out, right now I’m taking the intro classes (which are mostly easy, thank goodness, though I might have to rekindle my love for Bucky, the computer genius YouTuber, to get past C++). I’ve also been making a lot of soap. My specialty seems to be grapefruit lavender, and it’s been going like gangbusters to the ladies at work. They, however, mostly seem to be buying it for their husbands. Funny, that, because that’s how I got into soapmaking: hubby wanted fancy-schmancy soaps, but we didn’t want to spend $5 a bar. And that price is from years ago. So…new hobby-turned-part-time-job.

I have a new camera! This means I can give you much nicer images of the lambs. They are getting large, let me assure you. When I show up out there, they do their creepy Japanese ghost thing in which they’re across the yard and then very suddenly in my face for green kibble. Here they are, watching me very intently. What is it with them giving me these album-cover poses? All we really lack to make a band is for the white one to be looking disinterestedly off to the left.

“Baaaand on the run.” …You’re welcome.

Come at me, bro!

Come at me, bro!

But really, ladies and gents, there’s not much to tell. I can give you some lovely shots of the sheep and one of Shadow’s butt. He’s very good at showing me his south side, with a few notable exceptions. In this particular shot, I think he actually meant to attack my camera.  Yes, I’m giving you this shot in all its blurry glory just to show you what I go through to provide you with images. Chicken attacks are not to be taken lightly, friends. One in some number of people endures–or knows someone who has endured–rooster rage.

So, check out his little wattles and comb. What you’re seeing is his head tipped downward, and that red thing above his beak is his comb, though it’s still small and not fully formed. Shadow is a little under a foot tall now. Goldie, to the left, is considerably smaller. We’re still trying to look up under their little skirts to figure out who’s a rooster, but I think Shadow and Kuzco are our manly men.

This shot highlights the chaotic darkness and speed of chicken butt. Note the frenzied background and lack of composition, which displays the juxtaposition of the--oh, I have no idea what I'm talking about. It's blurry chicken butt.

This shot highlights the chaotic darkness and speed of chicken butt.

Here, we have Shadow against a backdrop of chickens, scratching for morning bugs. Note the frenzied background and lack of composition, which displays the juxtaposition of the–oh, I have no idea what I’m even making up right now. It’s blurry chicken butt.

At any rate, the new camera is so much better. It has a wide screen for viewing shots, so I can hold it down near the ground and get pics that I am otherwise not willing to get for you people. I mean, this morning my toes got wet. That’s a sacrifice! It was all dewy and brisk out there, and you gotta remember, I think the whole “outside” thing is highly overrated.

Below are the lambs. They’re beginning to get their winter hair. Remember, these don’t get woolly, they just grow longer fur, and then in the spring they’ll rub it off against trees or make the chain link fence look all gross and hairy. Shudder. That’s something to look forward to.

Well, anyway. Happy Saturday! If I were a real blogger I’d come up with some catchy little daily thing like “Snazzy Saturday” or “Super Sunday” or “Frowdown Friday.” I don’t know. Blame recovery from C++ homework.

Things 1 and 2 with green kibble.

Things 1 and 2 with green kibble.


This is a happy little farm.

The chickens won't eat much, but...

The chickens won’t eat much, but…

The cats are a little affronted.

The cats are a little affronted.