Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

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.

 

Phew! and other relieved noises…

Had a terrifying moment of and then there were three settle in this morning. Boychild reported the headcount last night when he put the Ladies to bed, and one of the hens was missing.

They’ve done this before. Barred Rock hens tend to be very adventuresome, so on occasion they might split up. That’s…unusual for hens. I’d always thought they’d just be running around each other all the time, lost in their little chicken brains without all being present at once, like a Borg collective member being cut off from the hive mind. At the very least, they tend to wander in pairs. The first time one really wandered off, she made it into the dog run, which…did not end well for Lady Rogue. (That’s what we called her, “Rogue,” because she was the first one out in the morning, the only one to figure out that she could fly to the top of the fence and escape the hen yard.)

It’s a dangerous thing, having dogs first and then getting livestock. The dogs are not used to the chickens or the sheep, and as an aside, it’s a damned sight better to have two yards than one. We wouldn’t even have the yard next door had I not insisted that it was a good investment (which, on the whole, makes this whole chicken and sheep thing…my fault? Oh, boy. I just can’t parse that right now…).

This would be Merlin. His previous owner once said, upon seeing him after a long absence, "What are you feeding him, cows?!"

This would be Merlin. His previous owner once said, upon seeing him after a long absence, “What are you feeding him, cows?!”

Anyway, the dogs did not grow up around stock of any kind. It’s taken them years to get used to the cats, and the cats were here first. But then take into consideration that we rescued Lucy as a stray with absolutely no clue as to her early background.  I have caught her in the act of terrorizing a chicken, though, so we are on point when it comes to her.  Her offspring Dexter is a massive, hairy coward of a Wookiee , so I think he’d probably run away if a chicken so much as bocked in his direction. Blossom is as laid back as they come, but I don’t know that she’d sit idly by if she had actual access to the chickens. What amuses me no end–and I’ve been trying to get a picture since I first saw it, believe me–is the fact that Merlin, our massive black longhaired cat, will lie down in the grass in the middle of the chickens while they scratch for bugs. It’s the most fantastic image, primarily because he’s the only cat in the yard big enough to take down a chicken if he wanted to. But I think he likes them.

When I do get that snapshot, I’m going to caption it, “We get along–what’s your excuse?”

At any rate, I got out to the hen yard after my walk, fully expecting to see Mz. Thang waiting at the door to the henhouse. She wasn’t. For an irrational moment, I hoped the boychild had miscounted, or just not seen one of the hens when he put them up last night. That, too, was not the case. I opened the door to three Ladies and five chicks.

So I started calling.

You know, the instant we got these things, the chicken call came right back to me from my teenage years. The inflection, the speed, the tone…My nerdy writer and gamer friends would laugh their butts off to hear me out in the yard yelling CHIIIIICKchickchickchick. But yell, I did.

No dice.

Crap, I thought. Lost another one. So I fed the babies, watered the babies, put the hens out, fed the sheep. Called some more, but by this point it was a little despairing, and then my morning routine was done; #4 Lady did not come.

I gathered yesterday’s eggs and made for the gate–and then, like the lover running down the airport terminal for a tearful reunion in a stupid rom-com, here she came. She’d been in the front yard, and, well, you’ve seen chicken feet. They only move so fast. But boy, she was hauling little chicken butt for me, and I’ll tell you what, I was bloody overjoyed. I let her in the gate and watched her reunite with the others, but that was a little anticlimactic after watching her book it for her usual corner of yard.

The sheep watched, too, with some consternation, but they watch everything, all the time, with some consternation. It’s their state of being. It must really, really suck to be them.

In other news, what is THIS below? Abandoned chickens? The horror!

NBC blames hipsters, news at 11.

Quickie Post: Not So Great, Actually

The other day, a predator of some kind (I suspect a fox) got three of our silkies and injured a fourth. The fourth is doing okay–that is, she’s very skittish and moving very slowly, but she’s keeping hydrated and well-fed, which is a good sign. There is a problem with her right eye and her neck, and she stays huddled up. However, chickens don’t do well with stress, and the fact that she’s made it this long is very encouraging.

StegaRiddle

I’d ask what they’re good for, but I don’t want them taking on a large predator, either.

I’d suspect cats, but whatever the animal was, it was got into the henhouse and out again without leaving any detritus behind (see how politely I put that?), and none has been spotted in the yard, either. This was a thief.

Have no fear. While we were sad and rattled, the henhouse has now been reinforced six ways from Sunday, and the Ladies and other babies are doing okay.

It has been suggested that we need a goose, to which I say no. No.

Don’t make me get the squirt bottle.

Eggs! And a tomato.

Farming, even on a small scale, is work–and I’m not even talking about the “up before sunrise to milk the cows” kind of work. Granted, I’m a lucky woman with a husband who, since this was his idea, does most of it. He does the repairs and improvements on the chicken house. He handles all of the aquaponics; I have no idea about any of it beyond “Ooh! Fishies!” and “Can I pick that yet?” If a fence needs to be fixed, a new watering system invented, that’s him. By and large, he does it with stuff he has lying around, too, on the cheap. He’s so thrifty and handy that way, whereas I…well, I go outside and step into the sunlight and am immediately hissing, “It burns us, preciousss!

Observe: the waterer is a Christmas tree stand with a carboy upended into it.

Observe: the waterer is a Christmas tree stand with a carboy upended into it.

I digress. Tomato.

From the aquaponics garden…

Let me digress some more. Aquaponics.

For the uninitiated, aquaponics  is a system that is very similar to hydroponics. However, where hydroponics uses water with chemical nutrients to fertilize the plants, aquaponics uses the effluvia that is pumped up from a fish tank.

Effluvia is a great word, isn’t it? Effluvium, singular, is “an unpleasant or harmful odor, secretion, or discharge.” Yes, kids. Fish poop.

From the Internet, here is an aquaponics diagram that tells it like it is. The fish live their lives. They eat. They “produce effluvia.” The water is pumped out into a grow bed in which plants are supported and growing in smooth gravel. Just gravel! That’s it. The plants filter out the bad stuff like nitrates and ammonia, and beneficial bacteria do their thing to assist the process; the newly-cleaned water drains into a tank and is then pumped back in for the fish. It’s ingenious, really, and is something like 96% water efficient, far more so than conventional farming. Successful aquaponics farms can produce thousands of pounds of food and fish a year, completely organically.

And oh, my goodness, the produce. I’ve mentioned my insanely fat mint plants. Rob’s grown basil that continued to yield long after the season was over. He’s also done a lot of experimenting with heirlooms and that kind of thing, and so now we have tomatoes. When he first started playing around with this, we noticed an asparagus plant growing something like four inches over a 24-hour period. It’s crazy. But when the plant has to produce fruit rather than just stalks and leaves, that takes a little more time, and of course it depends on the type of  tomato.

Look at all that mint. That'd go great in Leilani's mojitos.

Look at all that mint. That’d go great in Leilani’s mojitos.

The eggs are bigger than the tomatoes. That amuses the hell out of me. But that’s okay, because small tomatoes pack a lot of big flavor. These particular plants produce a lovely, compact tomato that’s red and green in color, oddly enough, when perfectly ripe. We have exactly two of them right now. Naturally, something had to be done with tomatoes and eggs.

egg_tomato

Lovely.

When you have a new, novel thing, like cute chickens that produce lovely eggs or a lonely, lovely tomato plant, you value that food like gold. A good friend said something along the lines of, “You don’t put farm-fresh eggs in stuff. You eat them basted in butter.” And that is a damned fine rule of thumb. You treat those single-celled organisms of deliciousness with the reverence that they deserve, and only when you have an abundance do you put them in stuff. Not to say you should be any less reverent when making pancakes with your eggs, or using an egg to bind a meatloaf, but you take my meaning. We are still working on stockpiling an abundance (because we’re too busy eating them basted in butter, I guess), so for the most part, each egg is handled like the lockless, lidless treasure that it is. Ditto the tomatoes. So where I would have gone with some kind of Italian egg tart involving the basil from last year (I’ll take a food dehydrator for the win, Alex), eggs, fresh parmesan and tomatoes, I didn’t quite have enough tomato to do what I wanted, which would be something like a layered garlic and cheese tart bound together with eggs. So I went simpler.

I have a few specialties that I excel at. At which I excel. One of them is a really, really nice shepherd’s pie. I can’t wait to do that with lamb, I am just dying for it. Another is lasagna. It’s an event when I make lasagna, and it always produces about ten pounds of leftovers, or “food of the future,” as Rob says. But the daily special, as it were, is a fried egg sandwich with bacon and cheese. American cheese, to be precise. Don’t you judge me; it’s classic, it’s comfort food, and it’s breakfast, and all bets are off when it’s breakfast. Creamy, melty, crunchy, with juuuust enough of the yolk left soft. Yum. And only I can do them. If he so much as spreads the mayonnaise (Hellmann’s, thank you very much), it’s not the same.

tomato_slices2

Beautiful slices of tomato.

Now, I had to incorporate that beautiful tomato. I hate to say “elevated” when it comes to food; it’s a meaningless term. I mean, I get the implication, but I hear it so much that I have to interject my own mental image of food going up on an elevator that you’re desperately trying to catch. “Hold the door!” you yell as your snobby, pretentious food sneers at you.

So this is not an “elevated” egg sandwich. It’s just a different one. I wouldn’t be in the mood for it every day, and I don’t think it’s really any more pretentious than a regular egg sandwich. But it came together beautifully: crisp toast,creamy and savory mayo, rich egg yolk, tangy cheddar, sweet tomatoes, crunchy, smoky bacon. It was a thing of beauty.

The next time you have a beautiful tomato, try this. I promise you won’t regret it.

Have you ever found a fantastic way to use one lovely, precious piece of farm-fresh produce? What did you do?

(Trying out a new feature: those are not inserted ads; I hand-picked those two blog posts in case anyone wants to read more.)

More history, and some current chicken events.

This would be an album cover.

Now that you’ve had the “How the hell does this happen to Hilary the Wonder-Nerd?” story, let’s give you a little idea of the makeup of this geeky farming situation. I went into this under protest, but let me assure you it’s not because I don’t love animals. I do. I adore them. We have…well, I’ll just say a lot of cats, who will be named as they come up in our adventures together. We have three dogs, who are Lucy (because when Rob found her one day wandering the disc golf park, he thought she looked like a Lucy, and she took to it), Blossom (named for a Power Puff Girl when the kids were little), and Dexter (named for the great, hulking, four-armed cook in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, who was probably the best bit of acting we saw in the whole prequel trilogy). We have a pet fish in the house (a betta who is named Mr. Fishy, because…well, I don’t know) and we have several tilapia outside in the storm cellar underneath my husband’s aquaponics system. That, my friends, is a whole ‘nother blog post, but let me tell you what, I am drowning in the biggest mint plants I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen mint take over a garden. Aquaponics is the wave of the future, right up there with Google Glass.

We have four adult Barred Rock hens (those were the ones who came software-bundle style with the sheep) and eight silkie adolescents. I call the hens “the Ladies,” and yes, the “L” is capitalized. I call the silkies “the chicks,” even though technically they’re in between chicks and chickens. I still call our pushing-11-year-old dog Lucy “PUPPY!!” Though the cats, they are cats. I don’t know. You can examine the psychology behind my naming conventions another day, if you want.

Imagine my joy--and skepticism--when I heard "No shearing."

Imagine my joy–and skepticism–when I heard “No shearing.”

I call the sheep the b– well. Not the Ladies.

Why the animosity? Well, I suppose I just can’t quite get over it. I have sheep. I mean, when I sold my last lamb at the county fair and hied myself off to become a soldier, the great thing about it was I’d never have to take care of sheep again. I’d never have to clean chicken coops. I’d never have to haul five-gallon buckets of water, milk a goat, assist the birthing of an animal in the snow in the middle of the night. Yeah. That one was a fun one. But the sheep…I am, and have been for about 25 years, completely over the sheep.

The thing is, the sheep I dealt with were primarily Suffolks (this one you’re looking at, if you clicked on the link, is a HUGE example of a show Suffolk, either some kind of gargantuan spring lamb or a very tall breeder adult) and Hampshires. Suffolks have white wool but their legs and faces are black. Hamps tend to be white (or at least the ones I raised were), but they’re often cross-bred with Suffolks and end up with fuzzy gray faces and legs.

Not unlike the lack of association between chickens and bad smells, there also seems to be a lack of association between sheep and training. Yes. You have to train the creature that, if introduced to something new and tasty, will eat until it dies. This is not what we tend to call a smart animal. Yet this creature must be instructed in the way of the bridle (which really is as it sounds; like a horse, the sheep can wear a kind of harness setup that goes onto its muzzle and around the back of the head), the grooming table (which bridles the sheep’s chin into a device that holds her steady for detail clipping, wool-shaping and things like painting of hooves and coat forshow), walking with the trainer (for showing, whether it’s for display or sale), and positioning (ideally, the sheep must stand with its feet positioned in a perfect rectangle so the judges can adequately discern shape, muscle tone and quality when it comes time to rank the sheep for sale). If you Google “show sheep” or something like it, you will be gifted with many many images of young 4H and FFA members squaring off the stance of their lambs, gripping them under the jaw just right so that the lamb can’t helpbut allow itself to be tugged around the ring, strapping them onto those tables…

Can you believe how huge she is? Nobody's strapping her anywhere.

Can you believe how huge she is? Nobody’s strapping her anywhere.

Really, it’s barbaric. I mean, those poor kids.

Now. It’s not as though I have to do all of these things with the current b– sheep, or even most of them. I want the sheep bridle-trained because that makes them easier to get to the vet if something goes wrong. Otherwise, they’re so skittish that I’d have to hit them with a tranq gun before I could get close enough for an examination. I want the sheep to be comfortable walking beside me. I don’t want to have to grab the white one by the horns and drag her into the truck (as they did the day we brought her home). I certainly don’t want to have to upend the brown one (called Sarsaparilla, because she’s the color of the root beer Rob makes) and two-man carry her by the legs to throw her in the truck (as, yes, they did the day we brought her home).

The reason for the animosity is that when we got them home, I was a little excited. Believe it or not, it’s true. Oh, sure, I was grumbly, but I’m an optimist. I kept telling myself it could be fun. “It’ll be a few days before they warm up,” Terry of Slowpoke Farm warned. “They need to get used to you.” Okay, I thought gamely, I can wait a few days for animal nuzzles, for surely, they will nuzzle.

But they remain skittish, and it’s now been a couple of months. Why won’t they love me?? I go out there, I rattle the food, I make it clear that I’m the one providing the tasties, and the closest I can get is about five feet away. If I move wrong, they’re darting to the back of the yard again.

That’s disappointing for an animal lover, isn’t it? People who love cute things want to pet all the cute things. It’s in our nature to want to snuggle them, a biological imperative. And yet these sheep, they remain unconvinced despite my offerings of food and calm.

I think this is why my guilty pleasure is Farmville 2. Those Katahdins aren’t rude.

And this does concern me a little, because Sarsaparilla is about five feet wide. Seriously, it could be any day now, and I think she must be carrying twins. I don’t want her running off when we try to help her care for the lambs. I don’t want her conveying to the lambs, in whatever slow-witted mindspeak sheep use, that the two-legged food providers with the flat, disgusting eyes-front faces are not okay.

HenInGrass

Bock!

But the chickens…they don’t do that. Not to me, anyway. I say “Good morning, Ladies,” and here they all come, trotting on their little hen feet to see what I’m sprinkling.  They will also eat vegetable scraps, day-old bread, old eggshells (don’t make that face; the calcium is good for them). I love it when I feed a thing my garbage and it feeds me back.

In reading about chickens, I’m discovering that there is an actual psychology behind their actions. Color me stunned, because look at that head-to-body ratio. Their brains are about the size of a peanut.

To my horror, one day I caught two of the hens picking on one of the silkies. They were plucking feathers out of his back, and s/he was making awful, distressed noises (as would I!). I shooed them away and fretted a good while. Why on earth would they do that? How are we going to prevent it? That’s terrible! Is that one male? Are they going to attack all the males? Is it because that one’s the biggest? How horrible!

Well, Rob found a way to separate the hens and the chicks as well as keep the chicks away from the cats. And in my research, I discovered that it is a thing. They do that. Sometimes, on a whim, a hen will just decide she don’t like yo chick face and will come after you. Chickens have been known to harbor these feelings of dislike for years. Is it shade? Gender? Size? Could be none, could be all. Maybe he smells different. But she might never get over the urge to attack him. I’m wondering if it’s some kind of old-lady “Hey, you punk! Get offa my lawn!”

Who couldn't love that face? Rather, those feathers.

Who couldn’t love that face? Rather, those feathers.

There. The dark underbelly of farm life. See? That’s another reason I’m better off programming computers. My keystrokes don’t randomly decide that they hate each other.

But my keystrokes are also not cuddly. Oh, the conundrum.

Just so you know…

This was the facebook post that started it all. Once I got the idea in my head, I couldn’t shake it.

Morning routine:
6:40: Hit snooze.
6:50: Consider hitting snooze, decide against it no matter how much I hate that this hour even exists.
6:52-53: Drowse cautiously, afraid I’ll fall back asleep; seriously consider calling Priscilla to tell her no walking today. Decide that’s a one-way ticket to slovenliness, roll out of bed to get dressed.
7:00ish: Pris shows up; wrangle the dog, drive to park where the 1/3 mile track is.
7:05-7:10ish: Get out of the car, wrangle the dog some more, leash the dog, wait while he does his first pee, set our Runtastic apps.
7:10-7:55ish: Walk our two miles. It’s amazing we have anything left to talk about. Wrangle the dog some more. Now there are other people on the track, which is sometimes pleasant and sometimes just…oversocial for me. They’re all nice people, but. It’s morning, and I’m me.
7:50ish: Pris drives me home. Get out of car, go straight to chickens. If I ever start a blog about my unwilling journey back into farm territory, that’s what I’ll call it: “Straight to Chickens.” Remind me of that in case I forget. Anyway:
7:52ish: Open the gate, open the henhouse, check the water, spread the scratch, spread the pellets that they don’t like, check the silkie chicks, wash and replace the silkie water dispenser, shake out and replace the food dispenser.
8:00ish: Glower balefully at sheep. Scoop pellets into buckets, alternately lamenting that they don’t love me like the chickens do and cuss that they can just go hang. Plop food buckets unceremoniously next to water bucket; walk away. I’ve long since stopped trying to woo them to the Light Side of the Force. Khan can have them.
8:10ish: Begin clumsily subversive maneuvers on facebook to get everybody down with my agenda.

 

Inaugural post in which I ask, “How, exactly, is this my life?”

Let me explain a few things, give you a little backstory, just so you know exactly what you’re about to read.

I’m a geek. I always have been, even since before “geek” was really used to describe anyone who becomes a bigger fan of something than is strictly necessary. I read voraciously because, in the before-times when the Internet didn’t exist, “geek” translated to “bookworm.” I wrote madly. I never had a date; my boyfriend was my pencil and a fresh, enticing stack of three-hole notebook paper. I daydreamed. I was an inside girl. I loved my space, my radio, my books. I loved my history classes. My library. I was a scholarly person, an intellectual.

Besides, there were bugs outside.

We lived in the country in my middle teen years; we moved to the California foothills and into a little town called Angels Camp. We settled onto an unimproved lot (read: no electricity or running water) on Bear Mountain with a camper trailer and a shed. I guess the idea was that it was an adventure, a brand new place, and we’d be building a brand new house, but fall was a lousy time to build because of the rain, and then, you know, construction code in California meant getting anything inspected and passed and registered with the county took forever, and then there was the finding of contractors and dealing with more rain, so, you know. An extended camping trip!

For two. Long. Years.

Trust me when I tell you that joining the Army at seventeen felt, at least for a little while, like signing on with a spa. That first shower was incredible.

We had animals. Lots and lots of animals. Goats, chickens, peacocks, guinea hens, cats, dogs, two horses, and lambs that I raised for FFA. My American sense of entitlement dictates that bookworms shouldn’t be expected to do these things, and let me tell you, I did not love it. I learned to do things on that hobby farm that I was sure I could go my whole life without needing. Who, in the citified world in which I desperately wanted to live, needs to know how to milk a goat? Currycomb a horse? Trim lambs’ hooves (and then paint them–yes, paint the hooves) for show?

I will never forget the scent of compressed and extruded alfalfa pellets. Of the sheep barn at fair time. Or, most prominently, of chicken poop. People don’t think of chickens as having a smell, but they do. Oh, they do. I spent years telling my husband that I was not having chickens, that hell would freeze first. Then I spent years grunting that if he wanted chickens, he could go on with his bad self, but I wasn’t having anything to do with it.

Suddenly he was a chef, and being the borderline hippies that we are, we found ourselves investigating the natural, local, organic food movement.

And he met a farmer. Who had chickens. For sale.

“Fine,” I muttered, “but if you think for one second I’m cleaning up chicken sh–”

“You won’t!” he assured me. “You won’t.”

But just as I had warmed and finally acquiesced to the idea of having fresh, fat eggs with beautiful orange yolks every day, he uttered accursed, foul words into my ears:

“Slowpoke Farms has a coupla sheep for sale.”

My assertions hit a brick wall. “Sheep are stupid. They will eat themselves to death.”

He insisted that they wouldn’t; these sheep are “different.” I asked him if he remembered the last time he put a hose down a sheep’s throat with a funnel and poured in peanut oil to relieve the gas bubbles that happen when the sheep tries to eat itself to death? Because I remember.

“Have you ever been stepped on by a sheep? It hurts. It hurts a lot.”

No dice.

“Shearing sucks!”

“Oh,” he said cheerfully, and I could feel my stomach falling, “these, you don’t shear. They grow a thick coat in the winter and then rub it off in the spring. They don’t ever need shearing.”

Fine. “Their tails have to be docked. Sheeps’ tails aren’t like dogs’ or horses’, they have to be removed.”

“Not these,” he countered. “These have tails like goats.”

By this point, I’m wondering what the hell kind of sorcery this is. Cut to me scrambling to prevent this this profane exchange from occurring: “We have too many projects going on,” I said, and he grunted in response over the weeks that yeah, he got that, and yeah, sheep were probably not a great idea. But it came up again. “We can’t do this right now,” I added, casting about for a definitive way to put the kibosh on his nefarious line of thinking. He’d agree and nod and probably feel at least a little silly about it because he knew that it was maybe not a great idea. As the days slid by, I went on: “There’s too much work to do that we already don’t have time for. There’s the property next door, and my school, and your work, and I always swore I’d never live under construction like this, and my pot rack still isn’t even up in the kitchen. 1982’s wallpaper still haunts me in there.” Despite everything, I could feel my doom drawing inexorably nearer, like the rope you madly pull against while it drags you toward the precipice. “Maybe not a great idea” turned into “I don’t know, I think we could do it” turned into “I’m seriously considering getting them.”

And yet one Sunday afternoon I found myself in the truck with him, heading for the farm. Somewhere along the line, I’d given in. I knew how badly he wanted these sheep, and I knew how much I enjoyed fresh eggs, but still…I’d spent so long resisting, it was as though it was all I really understood. No sheep. No sheep. No sheep.

To think that in my last desperate attempt to threaten him out of it, I insisted, “I’m not doing it.” And you may feel free to insert whatever irritable muttering swear words you find suitable here, because guess who’s doing it?

And why? because he’s the one with the full-time work thing. Stupid job, keeping a man from his sworn duty to prevent the wife from having to sheepsit. Seriously, a bookworm-turned-computer-programming internet-junkie gamer/writer nerd should not be expected to do these things!

So here’s what this blog is not:

I’m not a culinary genius. I’d love to tell you I can hack it alongside Ree Drummond, that I’m exactly as great with a camera and also as inventive and dependable as she is in the kitchen–or even as downright sensible as Alton Brown. I’d love to be as downright sensible as Alton Brown. I’m not. I’m a hot foodie mess. I love food, but this is not really a food blog. That said, I might throw the occasional recipe up. It’ll probably involve eggs.

Or mutton.

I’m not a power gamer. You’ll see me reference World of Warcraft from time to time, maybe Mass Effect or Dragon Age, but I’m not going to be able to tell you the fastest way to level your paladin or how to outfit your rogue. I can, however, tell you a good deal about your little farm in Pandaria. Oh, the irony.

I’m not even a power writer. My ideas, my muses, are sporadically loud and soft, prolific and then gone. I have no long-standing history of publication, nor do I have enough attention span to be writing the Great American Novel. I’m a hobby writer, no matter how often friends and loved ones say “You should write ___________!” All the hobby writers out there feel me, I know it. So please bear with me while I get my feet under me.

I’m a geek-of-all-trades. I’m just politically aware enough to be angry about the big things, but sometimes the details escape me. I’m an amateur foodie and a pretty good cook. I’m an all-around gamer, and I’ll own that up front. I’m a grammarian who knows that some correct phrasing is awkward to read, so I will deliberately go the incorrect route to make a sentence something the reader feels more comfortable with. Something with which the reader feels more comfortable. I’m a teacher. A mom. A wife. A student who is about to be a computer programmer. I’d like to specialize in systems analysis and design. I want to build the interfaces that enable people to do their jobs.

Their air-conditioned, ergonomic-chair-and-mousepad jobs.

So how is this my life? How did I end up going from foodie gamer programmer geek to chickens? I mean, I just wrote it all down for you, but in the back of my lizard brain I am very, very confused. I want to make it perfectly clear, though, that I’m not threatening to flay my husband in his sleep or anything like that. It’s just the sheep I would cheerfully divorce. I mean, surely you’ve all had similar experiences, right? A friend or loved one wears on you like a sea pounding a rock face until you’re shifting through his or her fingers like finely ground-down sand? Oh, please tell me I’m not alone.

When I called home and asked my dad, “Guess what we have?” he had himself a pretty good chuckle.

Insert more cussing here.