Love, Laughter and Life Lessons

Oh my, this has been a rollercoaster of a weekend.  My weekend starts Thursdays as I only work 3 days a week at Grandma’s house.  So this weekend’s events occurred over the course of 4 days from Thursday through Sunday.  It included illness, loss, family traditions and even a big accomplishment.

I start with Wednesday when the inklings of a cold virus began the battle to take up residency in my body.  Knowing I had a jam packed Saturday and Sunday with no place for a cold I started in with the cold shortening products and tried to take it easy.  Thursday I chauffeured Mom, Stepdad and my other gram to Beverly Hills for Grandma’s doctor appointment.  This was a family trip so Mom could hear what the doctor had to say, I drove since that is my roll and I know the route and how city drivers drive, Mom and Stepdad live in a small town where people are polite and calm when driving.  Driving in LA is something akin to driving in a foreign country to them nowadays.  The other reason we all headed into the city was the promise of dining at an incredible 100% vegan restaurant, Veggie Grill. The parents are living the vegan life for health reasons and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to order anything off the menu knowing it was all vegan, no modifications or searching out a vegan or vegetarian friendly option.  Having reverted back to the omnivore life I still enjoy dining at this resturaunt. The franchise has not made it out of the valley yet and driving into Beverly Hills to dine is far from practical so doctor appointment days every 4 months come with the promise of this treat. 

By the time we got back near home, picked up the Kiddo from school, dropped Grandma off at her place, returned the parents to the RV park where they are staying and finally returning home, that nasty cold bug hit me like a semi truck hitting a wall at 60 mph.  Ugh. I changed into my jammies, crawled into bed and stayed there trying to ride it out. Congestion, chills, fever, aches, I had it all and I was miserable. 8pm found me taking my nighttime cold medicine and falling asleep until Friday morning around 7am.

Thankfully the Hubby took the kiddo to school for me so I could get as much rest as possible. At 7am I slid out of bed, fed and medicated the dogs, let the chickens out of the chicken yard to free range and ate a little something. By 10am I crawled back into bed. I awoke to my phone ringing with a call from my Handsome Hubby at 12:45. He was just checking in to see how I was feeling. Thank goodness for that call, I had to get up, get dressed and head out to pick Midge up from school shortly after and I may have slept right past it. I was so light headed and groggy. I headed out to soak up a little sunshine and check on the chickens. I knew I needed to get them back into the chicken yard before heading out, as I walked into their yard they followed in hopes I had some tasty treat in hand for them, which I should have. I had 6 out of the 7 in and just stood there hoping the 7th would venture in. Instead 2 others headed back out. The clock was ticking and I was not functioning at full capacity and ultimately went against my cardinal rule. I told myself they would be fine left out for one hour while I ran out to get the kiddo. I have read it time and time again that your own dogs are your flocks worst enemy. Our animals free range together all the time, the dogs, cats, rabbit and chickens. The dogs have NEVER shown even the slightest interest in any of our smaller animals. I have also said that I would never leave the chickens and dogs loose together when we aren’t home with them, I didn’t want to put the dogs in a position to be predators. And yet, here I was doing just that.

So I leave, head out to do the loop to pick up Midge. Upon returning our shepherd mix, Foxy Roxy greets us and heads into the house when I open the back door. Our boy, the boxer Bronson, no where to be seen. In fact I see the feathers before I find him. Then I find the chicken, laying in a heap in the middle of the backyard and the dog laying at the back of the yard with a look I can only begin to describe as unremorseful. The chicken is one of our Easter Eggers, Cluck, and at first glance she looks dead as she is just a pile of half feathers, half plucked chicken on the ground. As I approach her I am socked in the gut with the knowledge of what has occurred and seeing that she is still alive but so far damaged that there is only one choice to be made. The Kiddo and I quickly set to work to put her out of her misery as quickly and humanely as possible. Once we have handled this task we start the flock check and head count. We come up short. There is one chicken unaccounted for, so we set out scouring the yard, nothing. We pull out the ladder and look over into all our neighbors yards, nothing. We start looking at all the feathers, they all appear to have come out of Cluck. The chicken missing is our green egg laying Easter Egger, Swainson. I had planned to crawl back into bed after picking the Kiddo up from school, but after making such an exceptionally bad choice, I was left so unsettled that all I could do was keep busy with housework and dinner prep.

Sorry Cluck

The rest of the afternoon finds Midge and I wandering back out from time to time to look for our missing chicken. I had hope she had just flown the coop and would return at dusk to roost. By night fall she is still missing and hope is waning. As 8pm approached I headed for the nighttime cold medicine as I had worn myself down pretty far with everything of the afternoon. Shortly after, the Hubs came in and in a somber voice informed the Kiddo and I that he had found our missing bird. We rushed out to see where she had been found over 6 hours after “the incident” had occurred. She had found her way behind a box on the patio, had wedged herself in to a spot that Bronson obviously couldn’t get to her and that is where she had stayed for all that time. We thought she was dead, until Midge pulled the box away from her, when she moved for what must have been the first time since stuffing herself into that spot, she cried something awful, it was the same cry Cluck had cried when we had held her. It was the sound that told us we had lost her as well.

I had such a hard time losing Swainson, she was my favorite, especially since she laid such lovely minty green eggs, but also because she was such a pretty bird who loved to peck the Kiddo, they had a love/hate relationship that cracked me up. Initially I didn’t want to be the one to put her out. But it was my fault, my lack of judgment, that had led to this. Therefore it was my responsibility to release her from the extended suffering. So I stepped up and as the Kiddo held her, I finished what I started. That one hurt.

Poor Swainson.

I understand that with the future we are working toward this is likely to be just one of the first of many hard lessons we will learn along the way. Does it make me rethink our dreams of life on a mini farm, raising our own food? Not even for a second. What it has done is made me see that not every animal is well suited for that lifestyle and that as much as I love the Boxer breed, Bronson will likely be our last boxer. This is not a breed designed for farm life, they are not Livestock Guardian Dogs or herding dogs. Boxers are great for companion dogs, family dogs of city dwellers, they are great with kids, I have never had an issue with boxers and cats or even house bunnies. But I have learned the hard way they are not to be trusted around a flock of chickens.
Mr. Guilty

So now our flock consists of Raven the Silver Laced Wyandotte, Freddy and Ricky the two Barred Rocks and Ginger and Chiquita the two Easter Egger pullets who have yet to lay. Maybe Chiquita will surprise us and be a green egger and hopefully Ginger will be a blue egger.

I have an order in for 2 Blue Copper Marans pullets that should be ready for pick up around the end of February, beginning of March
Blue Copper Hen
this is a Blue Copper Marans
cocoa egg
These are Blue Copper Marans Eggs

I also have a promise of adding 2 Olive Egger pullets next fall.
olive egger
this is an olive egger, a cross between a blue or green egg layer and a chocolate egg layer. Not much to look apt, per se but….

olive egg
They lay some of the prettiest olive green eggs.

But I think there may be visit to the local hatchery for the purchase of a couple 4-5 month old pullets in our near future too.

You know that Chicken Math

Saturday is where the weekend finally took a turn for the better. I started to feel more like myself as the cold virus’ grip started to loosen on me and it was family day Christmas decorating, tree shopping and dinner. What a way to mend a rough patch. The Hubby and Kiddo were up earlier than normal for a weekend morning which allowed us plenty of day to start our Christmas decorating. This time last year we had just gotten moved in to our new place and after unpacking all our belongings, the last thing I wanted to do was unpack the gobs of Christmas decorations we typically put out. This year I have had the itch to decorate since shortly before Thanksgiving, but as I am a firm believer of one holiday at a time, we have waited until now to get started. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and the rain began to fall just as we set out to pull the Holiday boxes from the shed. Though the rain slowed us down it was unable to thwart our efforts completely and actually helped make it feel even more like winter.

Mom, Stepdad and Grandma arrived shortly before noon with lunch and snacks in tow. Filling the house with warmth, laughter and love. We put the finishing touches on the indoor decorations just as the rain subsided. So off we headed to the market for a few items for dinner and then over to the home improvement store for a few supplies and to select our Christmas tree. I am rather picky when it comes to the centerpiece of our Holiday decorations, ok, really picky, super type A about it. But we all, Mom, Stepdad, Hubby, Kiddo, Grandma and me, have to agree it is the perfect tree before I am happy. This can be quite the process, that requires the inspection of many trees. Some years we go through too many to count as we search and search for “The One”, so The Handsome Hubs suggests we head out to start looking while he finished with the purchase in the store.

This being the first Saturday of December found the tree lot full of customers and slim on trees. We headed to the corral with the 5′-6′ Noble Firs only to find 5 trees. To top it off, the back lot where they hold the surplus of trees was completely empty and the truck with the fresh load of trees was still waiting to be unloaded. This was not looking very promising.

Mom, Midge and I just decided to see what the options were since we had to wait on the guys and Grandma to join us anyway. You know how they have those trees bound up in the plastic twine? I got to looking at it and saw the ends just tucked up in it, fished them out and with mom holding the top of the tree I pulled on the twine and sent the tree twirling around like a top until the twine had all but come off. That sent us into fits of giggles seeing that tree spinning around as Mom struggled to keep it upright. What unfolded from under that twine turned out to be the perfect tree for the focal point of our Christmas display. You read that right, the very first tree we picked up was perfect and once the Hubs joined us, we made the purchase, and brought it home. I love when it happens like that.

(Borrowed this image from the internet as we were too busy building and eating to stop for pictures)

The day wound down with a wonderful family style Spring Roll dinner with shrimp and smoked salmon fillings Mom and Stepdad caught in Alaska this spring and fresh produce and herbs from my garden. Oh and Mom makes the best spicy peanut sauce, Yum! The Hubby’s good friend stopped in for a visit, stayed for dinner and helped him get the tree cut and in the stand. I strung the lights and then Mom and Midge filled the tree with all our beautiful ornaments. Saturday was a flawless day.

To round out this crazy weekend I had planned a group bicycle ride to the beach. I had started planning this ride about a month ago, when the weather was still in the 70’s and warm. Of course Mother Nature would throw us a curve ball with some of the coldest temps So. Cal. ever sees. We are talking frost advisories and strong winds in the lower elevations. Burr. Canceling was not an option, though a few people did opt out, we still had a great group of friends and family who were game for the 35+ mile ride down the San Gabriel River Trail to PCH in Long Beach where we veered off and ended at a restaurant for food, drinks and stories of our adventures with those who had graciously offered to pick us up.
Beach Ride 2013
Here we are just before 9am at the starting point of our ride.

Mom and Stepdad were even game and managed 20 of the 35 miles before tapping out and calling for a ride to the finish line. So proud of how far they made it. The Kiddo pushed through and hit her wall as we reached PCH. I turned to stress the importance of staying single file on PCH as she says she’s done, she’s not riding. Um, not an option, we are .4 miles from the end of the ride, you have to ride it in now. And she did, we all did. Oh my goodness were we sore, tired and cold. After getting bikes loaded into and onto vehicles, some riders headed straight home to thaw out and recuperate while the rest of us shuffled into a restaurant to refuel and try to recharge a bit before making the drive home. I think Sunday found everyone dragging themselves into bed early.

This weekend was packed full of highs and lows, lessons learned of strength and perseverance, family and friends and lots of love and laughter. Of course I would eagerly undo the dumb mistake of Friday afternoon and happily have opted out of the cold bug. But if those were the prices I had to pay for the gifts of Saturday and Sunday, I guess they are a small price for the incredible memories that were created, the time spent with some of my loved ones, new bonds created with old friends and the great sense of accomplishment that comes from it all, even the lows.


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