Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year-end round up

Been lots going on and nothing going on.

Since my last post I've been working a lot around the old homestead. I also helped Chickenfight Girl butcher a hog - turning it into 172 pounds of delicious sausage. After months of putting it off, I finally killed my rooster, Philosophy, and served him up with pasta to an Alaskan friend,
Hal Gage, who came to visit.

On an cold and icy day, a woman slid off the road and crashed her car into a stand of trees in front of Frankencoop. I just happened to be on my way to check the mail when it happened so I got to be first responder. She ended up in the hospital for two days and the car was totaled.

A photo I submitted to last year was among those chosen to be in their upcoming book. Another photo I posted to the blog a couple years ago
is going to be used in an episode of A&E's new forensic reality show, Bloodwork. Sadly, there's no money in either of these transactions. Just the glory that comes with a credit.

I missed the lunar eclipse but got to have some cool close encounters with hawks and armadillos. The parents came for a short v
isit. One of the cats died. One of the goats delivered two babies a month early - one was stillborn and the second lived for ten minutes.

Grandma Guthrie passed away yesterday. She was 89 years old. Her funeral is tomorrow, New Year's Eve.

I've never really posted a photo of Grandm
a Guthrie - at least not one where you could see her face. But today I will. It was taken this past summer while we were sitting out on her carport.

She was wearing a skateboarding t-shirt that her grandson gave her. I cracked up the first time I saw her wear it and asked "Can I take
a picture of you in your boarding shirt?"

She got all huffy and blurted out "No!" Then she muttered "Besides, I don't even own a bathing suit!"

Once she understood what I meant, she consented to the photo.

Grandma Guthrie 1921-2010

I'm not real big on New Year's resolutions but I resolve to post more in 2011.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The story thus far...

Okay, so Grandma Guthrie went into a nursing home. She's very unhappy about it and I can't say I blame her but neither of us got a vote in the matter.

I was a bit apprehensive about losing such a big percentage of my meager income heading into what's going to be a very lean winter. The garden sucked ass this year, thanks to 4 months of almost no rain. The big freezer is only half full. At least I put in a bunch of extra hours during the two weeks preceding Grandma Guthrie's incarceration so I was able to have all my utility bills paid up before going into a budgetary lockdown.

Fortunately, I snagged another job immediately afterward - picking vegetables at a small organic farm. Unfortunately, I am currently only being paid in food. If I can hang in there for a while, there is some paying work down the road.

I was introduced the the organic farmer at a local Slow Food gathering where I finally met the secret underground group of cool people who live in Randolph County. It took almost four years to find the cool cabal here but I finally did it. I was beginning to think they didn't exist. You'll surely be reading more about them here in the future.

My other assorted odd jobs earn me enough every month to scrape by for about three weeks. Property taxes are due soon. So is the property insurance but that bill will just have to go in the shredder because there is no room for it in the budget. Not to mention (but I will anyway) that my car has been out of commission for what seems like forever.

In a couple of weeks I'll be helping Chickenfight Girl and her husband butcher a couple hogs and will get paid in large quantities of meat. At least I will not starve this winter.

So far, the worst part has been being out of coffee for the last two weeks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The decline of Grandma Guthrie

As I predicted, Grandma Guthrie has gone downhill since the death of her husband almost two months ago. It hasn't helped that she's had quite a few falls in that time. Each fall made her that much weaker and that much more likely to fall again the next time she tried to stand up by herself.

She needs someone to keep an eye on her pretty much 24/7. She won't sit still. Turn your back on her for 5 minutes and she tries to stand up and walk to another room.

I'm proud to say, she's only fallen once on my watch - and that was over a year ago. She wanted to go outside, walk around the yard and look at the summer flowers. Back then, she got around pretty well (if pretty slow) with her walker and I didn't need to shadow her as closely as I do these days. She stumbled over some uneven ground and fell to the ground. She begged me not to tell her children about it for fear they wouldn't allow her to go outside anymore. Since I never did tell them, they actually think my record is spotless.

These days, she falls a lot. Like I said, turn your back on her for 5 minutes and there's a good chance you'll be picking her up off the floor. She needs help getting dressed. She needs help going to the bathroom. She is afraid and so desperately wants you to just sit with her because she doesn't want to be alone.

I talked to my mom in Michigan today and her stories about watching her toddler grandson (my nephew) sounded eerily like my stories of watching 89-year-old Grandma Guthrie - right down to our matching tales about letting them wash dishes because it made them feel useful but re-washing the dishes when they weren't looking so their feelings wouldn't be hurt.

Grandma Guthrie's children are divided on whether or not she should go to a nursing home. Grandma Guthrie has made her feelings very clear on this matter: She does not want to go to a nursing home. I'm with her on that. It'll kill her sooner and create a hell of a lot of paperwork. Also, I'd be out of a job.

I'm putting in a lot of extra hours right now. I used to stay with her about 14 hours a week. This week I'll clock in around 30 hours. Her son and I took her to a doctor's appointment today for the shoulder she injured in a recent fall and she ended up being admitted to the hospital. This was not unexpected. Tomorrow I will spend the day sitting by her hospital bedside. Somebody has to be close by to make sure she doesn't try to get out of bed by herself and to help her go to the bathroom. The hospital staff doesn't do that stuff. That's up to the family.

I don't mean to knock the local hospital. I'm sure they do the best with what they got. But it is a sad, dingy place. My judgment probably has a lot to with the fact that the majority of my hospital experience comes from thirty years of watching General Hospital, so take my opinion with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila). I'm just saying that stains on the walls, dustbunnies under the hospital bed and a fly in the room made me wonder just exactly where and when I was. Sadly, those are the two things Grandma Guthrie wonders about too. At least we both still know who we are.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have you missed me?

Just haven't found the motivation to post anything for a while but I'll be damned if I let an entire month pass without a single post to show for it.

Grandma Guthrie has been extra depressed since her husband died. Her memory is also slipping further away and she knows it which makes her even more depressed. It's getting more and more like babysitting a toddler - except the toddler talks about death a lot.

By all accounts, she was the hardest-workingest woman that ever was. Even at 89, she can't sit still for very long. She's up and down all day, shuffling from room to room. She's not allowed to cook anymore except for the microwave. She's too likely to start frying something and then shuffle off to another room
, completely forgetting anything is on the stove.

She tries to do the dishes but does such an awful job, mainly due to her poor eyesight, that I rewash them when she's not looking. If she catches me rewashing dishes, she either gets mad ("I already washed those! They don't need to be washed twice!") or she gets sad ("I just can't do anything anymore.").

About the only thing she can do without riski
ng bodily harm is laundry. And she does a metric fuckton of laundry. It makes her feel useful and I don't have to pay the electric bill so who am I to stop her? Aside from the one day she put too much soap in the washer and produced an almost sitcom level of soap bubbles, it's a harmless pursuit.

She washes dirty clothes, clean clothes and even unworn clothes with the tags still on them. She washes them, dries them, folds them and puts them in piles in her bedroom or crams them in the overstuffed closet. Sometimes
she has me iron clothes - which I hate to do. I am from the school of unwrinkling clothes by tossing them in the dryer for a few minutes.

I usually do a half-assed job of ironing for her. She'll
never know anyway. The freshly pressed clothes will just get crammed in the closet and washed a week later anyway regardless of whether they're dirty or not.

Anyhoos...If I'm going to get this post in before midnight CST, I'd better wrap this up. Here's a photo I took of a praying mantis eating
a big moth on my livingroom window.

Praying mantis + dirty window + flash = MANTIS IN SPAAAAAAACE!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

So long, Grandpa Guthrie

Grampa Guthrie died a couple days ago. He's the husband of Grandma Guthrie, the little old lady I help take care of.

For a little over a year, Grampa Guthrie has slowly withered away in a nursing home 30 miles from here. He went from being a big, strapping galoot to a frail, bed-ridden shell of a man. I often took Grandma Guthrie to visit him at the nursing home. Sometimes they were sweet and tender. Sometimes they fought. Often during the same visit.

Today is the funeral. I'm trying to whip myself into presentable shape. Scrape the chicken shit off, comb the twigs and leaves from my hair, paint my nails to hide the always-present dirt beneath. The hardest part is deciding what to wear.

Most of my wardrobe came from Alaska with me. The only new clothes I've acquired since arriving in Alabama are shorts, t-shirts, overalls, work boots and flip-flops. There is very little in the closet appropriate for a church funeral on a very hot & humid afternoon. All I know for sure is there's no way in hell I'm wearing pantyhose.

And I can't just duck in and out. I'm sorta "on call" during the funeral. Grandma Guthrie probably won't have the stamina to stay for the complete church and graveside services. When she is ready to go, I'm to swoop in and carry her home where we'll wait together for the others.

This is going to be a trying day. There had better be food.

But rather than leave this post on a downer note, I'll show you these pictures of three baby birds that recently hatched in the old electric meter box on the back of Frankencoop.

I think they're nuthatches. At least that's what the internet told me when I first tried to identify the tiny eggs.

I hope they don't fall out of the nest. The chickens below would probably gobble them up.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

So long, Uncle Ted

Damn. I always thought Ted Stevens was too ornery to die. I was wrong. But then again, I'm wrong about a lot of stuff.

If I was back in Anchorage tonight, I'd head downtown to one of my favorite watering holes and get drunk with friends while swapping Uncle Ted stories. Everybody in Alaska has an Uncle Ted story.

But I'm not in Alaska. I'm in Alabama - in a county with no bars. Nobody here knows who Ted Stevens is which means nobody wants to hear my Uncle Ted story. Instead, I am drinking a strong coffee and watching my tape of the 1996 debate between Ted Stevens and Theresa Obermeyer.

I was surprised to find that I
couldn't find any of the debate posted online. So, in honor of Ted, I'm posting one of my favorite moments. Sorry about the quality. It's an old VHS tape and I'm just recording it off the TV with my digital camera.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Accordion concert

Spent most of the day with Grandma Guthrie. Recently, there have been visits from physical therapists and nurses who lead her through simple exercises and check her blood pressure.

This afternoon, I was present for the physical therapist's visit. He asked her a few general health questions and then had her do some exercises that are probably designed to increase mobility - or at least prevent atrophy. (I don't think they realize just how mobile this little old lady is. She has no off switch.)

The best part though was that he pulled out a gleaming accordion and provided music for her workout. He played Rocky Top, The Tennessee Waltz, Golden Rings, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and - for Grandma Guthrie's rest period - Amazing Grace. Sadly, he knew neither Freebird nor Lady of Spain.

A free accordion concert in the middle of the day is a pretty sweet treat - like finding money in an old coat pocket.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Auction Extravaganza!

Today, Tom and I went a mile or so down the road to watch the giant McMansion get auctioned off to the highest bidder. There are many places that this 13,000 sq. ft. house would fit right in. My neck of the backwoods is not one of them.

I'm not going to use this blog to spread small-town gossip about why this mansion was built in the first place or why it's being sold only a few years later. Gossip like that is better spread in-person over a cup of coffee or a couple beers.

Not many people came out for the auction - maybe 75 at best (and that's including kids in tow). I bet more than half
were looky-loos like myself and most of the rest were thinking about bidding on some of the contents. If you were looking to buy, bargains were to be had.

The only item I would've really liked to have was this little mostly-finished cabin. I could've turned it into the most awesome chicken coop ever. Already on skids and ready to move - a mere mile from my property - it went for $600.

The McMansion itself sold for a little more than a third of the original asking price. Along with 13 acres of land, it went for $450,000.

My entire crappy mobile home might fit on that second floor balcony, but I still have the better view.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

A couple nights ago, clear skies allowed the Talladega Mountains to cast their shadows across the sky at sunset. According to Wikipedia, it's the very tail end of the Blue Ridge Mountains - located about 40 miles to the west. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Cheaha from my place - the highest point in Alabama. (At 2413 feet, the Alaskan in me has trouble calling it a mountain. If trees can grow on top of it, it is not a mountain.)

If you click on the picture for the bigger version, you can see Venus just above and to the right of the new moon in the upper left corner. I took this picture from inside my livingroom. You won't see anything like this from the big McMansion (which is located in the darkness a little above and to the left of the dot of light in the bottom right corner).

After the McMansion had a new owner, we went to my neighbor's place to pick their excess blueberries. We filled a two-gallon bucket before a sudden downpour drove us back to my house.

But the rain stopped as suddenly as it started and we took off back down the hill to the East Alabama Goat and Poultry Auction. Again, neither of us were looking to buy anything but I always enjoy checking out all the different kinds of chickens (and occasional guineas, turkeys, quail, pheasants and even pigs and bunnies).

Here's a little taste of good old-fashioned auctioneering for ya:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A post about something other than chickens

During my time here in Alabama, I have been on the lookout to accumulate authentic rural southern experiences (ARSE). I have butchered hogs, sorted eggs in a factory farm, played dominoes with old men in a shack in the woods, attended cockfights, spent a night in the pokey, traipsed through the woods with my faithful yeller hound dog, eaten boiled okra (the nastiest thing I've ever eaten - far more disgusting than pig lungs or intestines) and, of course, drank my fair share of moonshine.

Well, add a new one to the list because I finally actually got to witness the production of moonshine. Yep, one of the locals trusted me enough to show me his still. Even let me take a picture of it. He went so far as to offer to let me take a picture of him standing next to it but I declined. See, his trust was not misplaced.

In case you don't know how this works, let me give you the basics. The modified beer keg on the right is holding homemade apple wine made last fall. It's heated by propane (the keg is out of frame but you can see the tube leading away from the keg). The alcohol in the wine is the first thing to evaporate and it rises up the copper tubing on top of the keg that leads to the blue barrel full of water. The water cools the alcohol which then condenses back to liquid form, finally dripping out the pipe into the jar on the left.

Notice how the moonshine is blue? At first I thought it was just reflecting the color of the barrel but it was explained to me that the color is actually caused by the corrosive alcohol dissolving the copper, giving the first jar of moonshine a blue tint. The color fades as more alcohol passes through the tubing.

The first jar is also very potent. The alcohol in the jar pictured above is probably around 130 proof. Subsequent jars have lower proofs. When all the jars are mixed together, the final product will hover somewhere around 90 proof. I was told the leftover apple wine still has an alcohol content roughly equal to beer but I didn't think to ask if they drink it or dump it.

I even got to take home a souvenir Mason jar full of moonshine - for display purposes only, of course.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And then there were thirty-five

Sigh...So Mirabel died, though it had nothing to do with the incident that caused her to lose sight in one of her eyes. She ended up dying of heatstroke - the first of my chickens to die of such a thing.

I found her shortly after it happened. I had been in the backyard pen collecting eggs not long before she died and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Since the backyard birds are usually confined to the pen, I always make sure they have shade and water in there. In fact, Mirabel was sitting in the shade when she died, just a few feet from a full water dish.

She'd only been dead a short time before I found her so I was able to salvage the meat. Since I had Couchsurfers last weekend, this meant I was able to provide a tasty meal of chicken curry to my houseguests.

I've been slowly working on integrating the backyard and front yard flocks. The hens all get along fine but the two roosters, Bart and Pasha, still hate eachother. But it's getting better. They now seem to be able to share the hilltop (and hens) without trying to kill eachother. Today will be the real test as I will be gone for most of the day and they will be unsupervised for the first time.

The fact that the hen with the bad leg is still living on the front porch just adds to the chicken chaos (though she usually spend the daylight hours in the grass behind the house).

Of the three chicks born this spring, at least two have turned out to be roosters. The jury's still out on the third, though I suspect/hope that one may be a hen. If so, it will be the very first hen born in Frankencoop. Not counting the very first batch of chickens I hatched and raised by myself over three years ago (of which four remain), every chicken born here has turned out to be a rooster. With three full grown cocks in Frankencoop and two at the house, I don't need anymore roosters. Guess there'll be more chicken curry on the menu this winter.

What might not be on the winter menu is a lot of vegetables. In the last month, I've gotten about half an inch of rain. I've watched plenty of storms pass close by - some dumping rain just a couple miles from my place. Lots of stuff just withered and died. For the second year in a row, the corn is toast. Been working overtime to make sure the tomatoes and hot peppers survive. Even the kudzu is starting to wilt.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the old pear tree. So far, this has been the best year for that tree. It's chock full of hundreds of almost ripe pears. I'm thinking about pear wine...

Gonna be another hot one today. Forecast calls for triple digit temps - not a drop of rain in sight. It's only quarter after eight in the morning and it's already 85 degrees inside the house.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

49 Days

I recently read that factory-farm chickens raised as fryers are ready to send to the slaughterhouse 49 days after they hatch. Fryers are the chickens you buy whole or in pieces at the grocery store. If you bought a package of drumsticks for a BBQ this weekend, those legs came from fryers. Those chickens were roughly seven weeks old when they died.

Today, my baby chicks turned 49 days old. They don't look anywhere near big enough to eat. They've barely passed the kabob stage.

Of course, fryers from the concentration coops are fed a special diet of shit that makes 'em grow real big real fast, unlike my little 49ers who eat real food.

I can't help but think of all those people who shun veal because omg it's baby cows but scarf down dozens of baby chickens. Sure, they're big chickens, but they're still just babies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

By request: Snake Autopsy

Angela asked me to video the retrieval of plastic Easter eggs from the chicken snake I killed yesterday. So I did. Ask and ye shall receive:

Turns out there was only one plastic egg inside the snake - the rest were all real chicken eggs. The snake must have eaten the eggs right before I killed it because the shells weren't crushed when I took those earlier pictures. I wrongly assumed it had eaten four of the brightly colored fake eggs.

The disturbing part is, several plastic Easter eggs are still missing. Where is the snake that ate those?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I've had it with these motherfucking snakes in this motherfucking chicken coop!

Found another chicken snake helping itself to eggs this afternoon. This time, it swallowed four plastic Easter eggs I'd put in some nests to encourage the chickens to lay there. It also ate at least two real eggs. I'll get a more accurate count when I chop it up for tomorrow's kitty breakfast feast (and retrieve my decoy eggs).

I was more than a little impressed with my aim this time. The first shot hit it just below the head, causing it to duck back into the nest on top of an old dresser. I patiently waited for it to raise its head again and, when it did, I shot it right in the face. It raised its head up about a foot high, waving back and forth like a snake charmer was playing a tune. I squeezed the trigger again and managed yet another head shot. This time, the snake collapsed back into the nest.

I fished it out with a broom handle and carried it outside. But, even with a bullet in the brain, it still wasn't dead. I don't like to see anything suffer - even an egg-thieving snake - so when it kept writhing around, I squashed its head to jelly with the heel of my boot. Even then, it refused to give up the ghost.

I thought for sure it was over when it shit. Everything shits and/or pisses itself when it dies. Over the last three and a half years I've seen enough things die up close and personal to know that's the cue to drop the final curtain. So when this snake let out a great spurt of shit two feet into the air - more of an ejaculation really - I was surprised to see it still squirm and twitch for another ten minutes.

Before it finally shuffled off this mortal coil (get it? snake? coil?), it vomited up egg yolk. I found some scars that make me think this wasn't even the first time it had been shot. All in all, this snake wins the award for the longest, most melodramatic death scene. I bet it tastes like ham.

Mirabel gets to keep her eye after all. When the swelling went down, her eyelid opened. But it was all droopy and made her look like a stroke victim - or a stoner. It's almost back to normal but she's now blind in that eye. Her biggest trouble seems to be maneuvering stairs. As she descends, she drifts further and further to her right until she usually drops off the side of one of last steps.

The unnamed chicken with the bad leg is doing better. She can stand on it and walk a little bit but she's nowhere near full recovery. Still no definite word on whether or not she'll be able to join the general population again or be slathered in herbs and spices. She currently lives on the porch a.k.a. the poop deck.

Sometimes I put her in the grass behind the house, next to the pen where I've been keeping the latest refugees and Pasha the rooster. She's safe from roosters back there because Pasha's penned up and Bart won't go behind the house because Pasha's back there. Pasha is content in the pen with the refugee hens but, if he saw Bart, he would move heaven and earth to get out and kick his ass. So Bart has no problem staying on his side of the house.

Took six of the latest refugees down to Frankencoop. One refugee died the other night. Don't know why she died. Factory farm refugees just have a lot of health issues.

That leaves seven birds in the triage coop behind the house - Pasha, five refugees and Mirabel (she likes bossing the newbies around). Bart and six other hens live under the poop deck with full access to the yard. One recovering bird confined to the poop deck. Frankencoop is holding twenty one birds - the six new refugees, three roosters, nine hens and three babies. Thirty six birds in all.

That's a lot of eggs. Even with thieving chicken snakes about.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken Chaos

I still have the 12 new refugees living in a pen on the west side of the house with my rooster, Pasha. Six other hens live on the east side underneath the porch with the newest rooster, Bart. During the day, the porch chickens have free range of the yard. Anywhere between 4 and 5 am, the two roosters start crowing on either side of me while I'm still trying to sleep. Earplugs have made it possible to sleep as late as 6am.

Bart is showing signs of becoming hostile to me. He hasn't fully attacked me yet but has taken a few swipes at me when he thinks I'm not looking. If he keeps this up, he and Pasha will have to trade places again. Too bad because they are otherwise content with the current living arrangements.

But these living arrangements are only temporary anyway because I plan on moving the newest refugees down to Frankencoop soon. Just waiting for the three baby chicks to get a little bit bigger. Plus, I have clean-up work to do at Frankencoop before I move more birds in. Lots of chicken shit to shovel out and spread on the gardens.

I also have to rearrange some stuff in a corner that made it all too easy for this freeloading visitor to hide. I suspect it's the reason why so many eggs were disappearing for almost a week.

Not poisonous but six feet of any kind of snake is the exact opposite of what you want to find in a nest when collecting eggs.

No one is more amazed than I am that I managed to get a head shot. But don't be too impressed. I put a lot more holes in the wall than in the snake.

At least the cats ate good. I chopped the snake up into six-inch sections which, to my surprise, looked very much like unsliced sushi rolls.

So, while all this craziness is going on, the last thing I need is injured chickens. But, sure enough, the universe can always be counted on to send me the last thing I need.

First, one of the older refugee chickens at Frankencoop lost use of her right leg. Have no idea what's wrong. Found her outside the coop, scooting around on the ground with her one good leg. For the last week she's been living on the porch while I wait and see if she gets better or I'm getting chicken curry. She seems to be able to put a little weight on it now so I'm still hopeful she'll pull through.

Then, this afternoon while bringing fresh water to Frankencoop, I found Mirabel hiding in the tall grass. Mirabel is one of the few big white refugee hens that has a name. I have trouble telling most of the white hens apart. Mirabel has a crooked toe (and a tendency to peck at my legs when she wants attention) that makes her easy to identify.

I initially thought she was laying an egg but closer inspection showed she had a little blood on her face. Even closer inspection showed she had a small puncture wound above her left eye. Really close inspection revealed her left eye is completely destroyed. The lid is intact but the eye is deflated. I don't know what happened. Maybe a run-in with one of the cats. So now she is on the porch too. Mixed a little crushed aspirin in with her water. Now I just wait and see.

But how long to wait? That's the murky question. When is it time to throw in the towel and take the hatchet down off the wall? I'd prefer the chickens to be alive and producing eggs - I'm sure they'd prefer it too - so if there's a chance they'll get better, I'll give them that chance. But I certainly don't want to unnecessarily prolong their pain. There comes a time when not only is the chicken unhappy but I'm spending too much effort on the care of a single chicken that would be better spent on other projects.

I'm far too soft to ever be a successful chicken farmer.

But lest you think it's all been bad news, I did make a new friend. A real live normal person who has recently moved to this neck of the backwoods. His name is Tom and he's a retired political science professor fresh off a two-year stint in Iraq with the State Department.

He grew up around here but moved away a long time ago. He's come back to an old piece of family property where he's living in an Airstream trailer until he builds his cabin. You can read all about his new rural Alabama life at his blog: Welch Super Service.

You have no idea how nice it was to hear someone start a sentence with "I was reading this article in The New Yorker..." Hell, it's just nice to know someone who reads.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Five more refugees

The owner of the nearby factory farm dropped off five more hens today. One had eluded capture and fled the warehouse, spending the last couple nights outside where it managed to not get eaten by predators.

The other four had been living beneath the floor slats in the warehouse where they long ago tried to escape their doomed existence as sex slaves - breeders for The Man. This allowed them to keep all their feathers but left them in a position to get shit on alot. To them, I guess it was the lesser of two evils.

Welcome home, sisters.

There are now seven chickens under the front porch and thirteen in the triage coop behind the house. That's twenty total living up at the house - more than are living in Frankencoop right now, which is currently housing fourteen adults and three baby chicks. Thirty seven chickens in all.

I now have a rooster on each side of the house - both under open windows. This is the most effective alarm clock I have ever owned. Sadly, you can't choose the time it goes off nor does it have a snooze button. There is no oversleeping when you sleep with the chickens.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cue the tiny violins

A whole month without a post. Frankly, I just haven't felt like writing - or doing much of anything beyond life's necessities. Been in a deep funk. No one specific reason. Guess it's just a whole lotta shit that's built up. It seems as though it's all I can do just to keep my head above water these days and I have trouble convincing myself that writing about it is going to make me feel any better. And when I'm not writing - whether it's blog entries or anything else - that's just one more thing to feel bad about.

Broken tools and equipment. Manage to fix something and something else breaks. And the shit that does work is inadequate for the task. Car hasn't run in months and there's no money to fix it. Without a car, I have to turn down work that could help pay for the repair. It's probably something so damned minor but I know as much about fixing cars as I know about fixing space shuttles. For every step forward, I get pushed back two.

Some nagging health issues that I'd love to get taken care of but there's no money to fix me either. The closest thing I have to health care is the care package my friend Colleen sent that included a big bottle of OTC pain killers and antibiotic ointment (along with many tasty treats - like a whole quart of capers! - so life ain't all bad. Now if I could get my hands on some gin...).

The job I spend the most time at - taking care of Grandma Guthrie - is so incredibly depressing. Over the last couple weeks I've had to take her to visit her husband in the hospital, visit her dying brother in his final hours and spend a day with her in the emergency room when she was experiencing chest pains. The other day she wanted to go to the cemetery where much of her family is buried - where she too will be buried. There is little comic relief in this job.

Okay, enough pissing and moaning. One of these days I'll do a more in-depth rant about what a day with Grandma Guthrie is like. But for now, let's meet the new chickens:

This is Bart. Check out those fancy feathered feet! Me and a neighbor did a little trading - they got my little rooster, Sophistry, and I got this big black cock. While roosters are still the last thing I need, I just couldn't turn down this stylish dude.

Pasha, the rooster that lives under my front porch, is pissed as hell that I brought Bart up to the house. All he wants to do is kick Bart's ass. Bart is a lover, not a fighter.

Living arrangements for the house chickens are in flux. Currently, Bart is now living under the front porch with six hens and has free range of the yard. Pasha has been confined to a roomy new pen behind the house that he shares with seven new factory farm refugees. Just got them yesterday from a nearby concentration coop. Here are three of them:

I plan to move the new chickens down to Frankencoop in a few weeks. I think it'll be easier on them if they have a bit of an adjustment period before I throw them in the mix. Besides, I'd like the new baby chicks to get a little bigger before I make their environment even more chaotic than it already is.

They're two weeks old now. Mama Graybie took them for their first trip outside today. The next couple weeks will be a dangerous time for the little ones as they explore the grounds. So many things that want to make a snack out of them.

And now for something completely different:

It is spring and love is in the air. Recently caught these two jumping spiders getting it on in the kitchen. Behold! The mating dance of the jumping spiders:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

It's that time of year: Food saved from last year is almost gone but fresh food in the garden is not here yet. Not that I ran out of food - not by a long shot. But the food choices dwindled down to a few measly meal options

Rice and beans? Rice and venison? Beans and venison? Rice and beans with venison? I could cook it in chicken stock - I still have gallons that. Maybe crack an egg over it? Should I use that last bag of summer squash in the freezer or save it for another day? Hot sauce or sweet & sour? Tortillas or frybread?
Wash it down with coffee or lemonade? Ice water?

You wrack your brain to come up with new variations of the same few basic ingredients. After a month of that kinda culinary monotony, you'd kill somebody for a Cobb salad. If you had fresh mushrooms and a jar of Tom Kha Gai seasoning, you might even kill a chicken.

But this gap between seasons is also the same time other people are getting their spring clean on. They're making room, emptying freezers and pantries. And a number of them are bringing their throwaways to me. Much of it is still fit for human consumption but it also makes fine fodder for the chickens, goats and cats. If I won't eat it, someone else here will. I mean, there's just no way I'm going to be able to eat a whole institutional-sized, six-and-a-half pound can of sliced carrots by myself. Nor would I want to. But I will gladly take it off your hands and give you a dozen fresh organic eggs in the bargain. (There are currently enough eggs in the refrigerator to recreate that famous scene from "Cool Hand Luke.")

I also have a pyramid of unlabeled cans in the kitchen. No idea of what's in them. They're not old or out of date - just mysterious containers of mysterious mystery. Like a pile of food lotto cards. Will it be something yummy or will I dump it outside for the cats and chickens to scrap over? Will it be a dream? Or a dud?

One favorite chicken treat is old junk food snack cakes. Chickenfight Girl knows of a place that sells past-date bread by the truckload. For twenty to thirty bucks, she fills the back of her pickup with bread, bagels and rolls that she feeds to her horses. There are always boxes of individually wrapped junk food snack cakes. She considers unwrapping them a major pain in the ass so she gives them all to me. Can a chicken eat Twinkies and still be called organic?

I also scored half a dozen five-gallon buckets with lids. Man, you can never have too many of those! Now if the universe would just see fit to send me a dozen tarps, a can of butane and two back tires for the riding mower.

Another freebie that recently fell into my lap was two new goats. One of my neighbor-cousins knew a guy who had two pet goats that he didn't want anymore. He introduced us and I became the proud owner of two more kudzu-eating machines.

The white one is a nanny named Bella. The brown and white one is her year-old son, Daisy. Daisy was named by a young child who didn't care that Daisy is not a traditional boy's name. I kinda like it in a
Boy Named Sue sorta way so, for now, the name stays.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A visit from BMac

My old friend, BMac, stopped by for a few days on his way to New Orleans. He brought beer, steak and news of the outside world. Sitting around the bonfire with an Alaskan was the recharge I sorely needed.

On a trip south to Chambers County for more beer, we took a side-trip through Roanoke, Randolph County's largest town. BMac wanted to see the deserted and dilapidated buildings that litter the old downtown.

Downtown Roanoke has lots of cool old brick buildings. Sadly, many are not only uninhabited, they are in varying degrees of decay. The place definitely has a ghost town feel.

We peered through storefront windows, ooohing and aahhing over all the great things these buildings could be turned into or the lost opportunities of buildings so far gone they could only be gutted. Of course, most of our ideas had to do with bars, pubs and cute little sidewalk bistros with nice wine lists.

There was a Saturday Night Live sketch with a guy that looked at any kind of container and said "You put your weed in there!" That was Brian and I looking at old buildings: "You put a bar in there!" Since Randolph County inexplicably still clings to its economically crushing status as a Bible-thumping backwater that bans the sale of demon booze (plus me and BMac's lack of necessary capital), they were just silly daydreams.

You could totally put a bar in here.

This place didn't even have glass on the storefront windows anymore.

Notice the light streaming out the doors from the inside? That's because the entire roof has collapsed. If you were to buy this property, you'd essentially be getting just the facade - if that. (As always, you can click on the pictures for a larger version.)

I've been told downtown's decay started when the bypass was built. Not sure when that was - maybe the 70s? 80s? Soon after, ugly boxy stores popped up like zits along the bypass and a lot of downtown died. Now everybody shops at Mall-Wart and eats at McDonalds. Same story as a lot of other towns across the country.

My favorite falling-down Roanoke building is the old Martin Theatre.

Note how you can see blue sky through the windows. That means no roof. If you look closely at the top right of the building, you can see what appear to be bare tree tops.

The mural has to be post 9-11. The fireman is the obvious clue. I'm guessing that flag is supposed to be Afghanistan's. The colors are right anyway - for the Afghanistan of 1992-1996, before the Taliban took over. After we invaded Afghanistan, the pre-Taliban flag was used again for another year before a new flag was introduced. (Afghanistan holds the record for nation going through the most flag design changes.) But Afghanistan's flag didn't have a big bird on it. And I have no idea why the bald eagle is wearing a big gold necklace.

Last but not least, another favorite abandoned building of mine:

I'm guessing the cave motif is from the 50s or 60s. Somewhere along the line, somebody said "Paint an eye on it and it'll look like an elephant!" I'd much rather buy gas at a cave/elephant than at Mall-Wart. People need more whimsy in their day-to-day routines.

Randolph County is poorer for letting such cool architecture crumble to dust.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Say hello to my little friend

All you chicken-killin' critters better listen up: There may not be a new sheriff in town but the sheriff sure as hell has a new deputy.

It was a gift from David. He was appalled to read that I went out in the woods looking for cougar but armed for rabbit. I won't be getting rid of the .22 or anything. It still has its place in Spenardo del Sur's armory: 2nd place, just ahead of my knife and a wooden club with nails sticking out of it.

My nipples get hard just looking at this gun. I think I now have an inkling of what it feels like to have a penis.

Target practice starts this weekend with the arrival of BMac. Gotta learn how to use this thing without spraining my wrist or knocking myself unconscious.

Recently whacked two of the excess roosters. One of the cats, Fetish, stole a head off the chopping block while my back was turned. Aside from a few feathers, she ate the whole thing. Om nom nom nom. That's one skull that Angela won't be getting.

Go ahead, make a pussy/cock joke. I know you want to.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Can this be called progress?

I was talking with one of the locals about the upcoming election for sheriff. The current sheriff is retiring and at least four people are running for his job.

One is "Johnny Law" - mentioned in an earlier post, Spenardo & Chickenfight Girl get Strip Searched Part Two (yeah, I know, I still owe you parts three and four). The local and I both agreed that Johnny Law is a prick and we'd never vote for him in a million years.

Another guy seems to be running on a "throw more druggies in jail" platform. The moldy old jail is already overcrowded and throwing more potheads in there ain't gonna do anything but funnel more funds into the courthouse coffers (and that worthless re-education camp they call the Alabama Court Referral Program).

I didn't know anything about the third guy but the local assured me he was a prick too.

That left one guy. I'd already decided that he was who I was voting for. I'd dealt with him a number of times during my community service and he seemed like a decent person - one of the very few I met during that experience that seemed capable of treating people fairly. I told the local that my mind was made up - I was voting for that guy.

The local replied "That's who I'm voting for too. Even if he is a nigger."


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hot damn! Now I'm cooking with gas!

Actually, I won't be cooking with gas until tomorrow. That's when I'm having 100 gallons of propane delivered. It's been three long weeks of cooking with a toaster oven, taking whore's baths in the sink and having the fireplace as my sole source of heat. I'm looking forward to a long hot shower, a slow-cooked pot of chicken soup and cranking the thermostat back up to 60 degrees (okay, maybe 55).

Had to officially shut down the east wing of Frankencoop last weekend. It's the room that used to be my grandmother's kitchen. The eastern exterior wall is crumbling fast. The sturdiest part of it has to be the door I boarded up three years ago.

See the white area above the door? That's drywall. You know it's bad when the drywall has become a structural element of the building. You can also see where one of the panes of glass fell out of the window. Boarding up the window isn't an option since the surrounding wood is so rotten it probably wouldn't hold a nail. The ceiling leaks really bad in that room too. It was just too nerve-wracking to go in there everyday to collect eggs.

The west wing is still open for business though. All the chickens were already sleeping in that room anyway so the change didn't cause too much of a ruckus. But I will miss the sight of hens laying eggs in grandma's old oven.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Flyover country

As I've mentioned before, Spenardo del Sur lies directly in the flight path of Navy jets on their way from North Carolina to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. In the three years I've been here, I've seen them pass by hundreds of times. Sometimes they fly a little to the east or west of my property but they often fly directly over my place. Sometimes they fly low enough to see me and will tip their wings to me.

I always love it when they appear. It turns me into a little kid for a few seconds. When I hear the approaching roar, I drop what I'm doing and scan the skies for the plane. Today was no different.

Oh wait, yes it was!

I was locking up Frankencoop for the day when I heard the unmistakable sound of a jet. I could tell it was going to be to the west of me. I turned to look and saw it just on the other side of my house. Then something amazing happened.

The plane banked extremely hard to the left. It had abruptly changed course and was coming right at me! T
he jet rotated 90-degrees so that its wings were perpendicular to the ground. For a fraction of a second I wondered if it was going to crash into my chicken coop.

The wings were brought level right as the jet screamed directly over my head, perhaps a mere 200 feet off the ground. I felt like I could've reached out and stroked the belly of the plane.

I raced to the other side of Frankencoop to watch as the jet's wings rotated 90-degrees in the other direction. It was only a couple hundred yards past me when it banked hard to the right and continued it's southerly route to Florida.

In the space of about 2000 feet, the pilot made two 90-degree turns as well as rotating the plane 90-degrees then 180-degrees in what I can only assume was a private airshow just for me.

Thank you, whoever you are. That was fucking awesome!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Three new hens

Got three new hens from a local factory farm - or 'concentration coop' as I now like to call them. I picked that term up from Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. It's a Troma film. Troma makes great films. I love Troma films.

I also got over 200 pounds of leftover feed to go with the hens.

I'm getting pretty used to having the heat off during the cold nights. Woke up this morning and it was 39 degrees inside the house but it felt like 50. Hopefully I can get some more propane next week. I've got less than 15 gallons left. As soon as I get the tank refilled and can run all the hot water I want, I'm butchering me some roosters. The poor hens of Frankencoop are being run ragged by so many roosters. It's cock city down there.

If me and the resident hens are lucky, the new arrivals will offer a little distraction for the younger roosters in the meantime.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spenardo del Sur in the news & on the map

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Yours truly is the feature story in the newest issue of the Anchorage Press. Check out the cover:

Click on the picture for a larger view

The author of the article, David Holthouse, along with his wife, Priscilla, came for a visit last fall with the idea of writing this article. During that weekend, I killed and butchered one of my roosters to provide my guests with a lunch of sweet & sour chicken. That's poor Tweak in the pot. Here's Tweak in better days:

If anyone wants Tweak's dried preserved feet as a memento of this grand occasion, make me an offer. Angela already has all the dried chicken feet she can use right now and I'm still trying to scrape up enough scratch to get my propane tank refilled.

I'm also still in shock
that Google Maps has gotten around to adding my neck of the woods to their street view feature. Below is Frankencoop as seen from the road:

It's not very clear but, if you look just to the left of the building, you can make out a couple white dots. Those are chickens. I'm just glad Google's camera didn't catch me peeing outside.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Again, I say "You read it here first!"

Some of you who've been reading this blog for awhile may remember when I told you about a corrupt county commissioner who was using community service workers as slave labor for his own lawn care business. I wrote about it here and here.

Well, it took a while, but he was finally indicted this week. About fucking time. The wheels of justice move awfully slow in this place when they're running over one of the power structure's own. No surprise either that this is the first I've seen about the subject from any news source anywhere since the one and only article in the Randolph Leader last August. I'm not holding my breath either that he will actually face any punishment or even lose his seat on the county commission. But, man oh man, what I would give to see him in an orange vest picking up trash on the side of the highway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Help support an Iditarod musher

A number of you (the Alaskans anyway) already know that one of my nearest and dearest friends, Emil Churchin, is running his first Iditarod this year. For the rest of you who don't already know: One of my nearest and dearest friends, Emil Churchin, is running his first Iditarod this year.

If you don't know what the Iditarod is, well, all I can do is roll my eyes at you. I mean, c'mon! It's only the roughest, toughest dogsled race in the whole damned world! Almost two weeks of mushing a team of huskies across more than 1,000 miles of the Last Frontier. It doesn't get any more Alaskan than this.

Not only is Emil the only Anchorage entrant in this year's race, he is also the only
National Poetry Slam competitor to ever run the Iditarod. On top of all that, you may also remember him as the guy who spent most of his vacation last fall fixing my leaky water heater.

Running the Iditarod is an extremely expensive venture. Since I am a poor dirt farmer and can't contribute anything but moral support to the fulfillment of his dream, I am appealing to you, dear readers, to help get Emil to Nome.

If you go to his website - - you can read his training blog, see pictures of his dog team and make a donation to help defray the costs of a man's dream.
There are only 16 days left until the Iditarod starts and every dollar helps.

If you saw him at the bar, surely you would buy him a beer or two, wouldn't you? Instead, donate five or ten dollars through his website! If you're an important corporate mucky-muck, give big and get your company name on his parka or even on all the dog vests. How cool would that be? All the info is there at Be sure to tell him Jackie sent you!

There is also a Facebook page dedicated to his quest where you can leave your messages of support and goodwill. Join today!