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!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The locals don't think I'm crazy

Well, actually the locals do think I'm a little nuts, but not because I claim to have seen a mountain lion over the weekend. A number of them claim to have seen the occasional mountain lion in these parts in recent years. They're not common by any means, but not unheard of.

Just because the Department of Conservation and Natural Resourses says there ain't any don't make it so. People around here probably wouldn't bother calling the state to report one anyway. The state would want proof of one before listing it as an official sighting and the locals are more likely to shoot one with a gun than a camera. Since mountain lions are a protected species in Alabama (how can you protect something that doesn't exist?), the last thing you want to do is tell the government you killed one. Instead, you follow The Three Ss: Shoot, Shovel & Shut Up.

I wandered the woods the following day, looking for any sign of the big-ass cat but found none. I can only hope that it was merely passing through, much like the six-foot rattlesnake I saw next to my driveway last year. While it is amazing to see something that big and scary in your own backyard, one time is more than enough. Not exactly something you want to make a habit out of.

While the snow has melted, the cold temperatures are expected to hang throughout the week. By cold, I mean mid-20s during the night. This is a bit of a problem for me only because I am once again dangerously low on propane. I ran through that last 100 gallons pretty quickly. That's what I get for cranking the thermostat up to 60 degrees.

To put off ordering more propane (at least until I can scrape up the dough for the minimum 100 gallons) I have once again stopped using gas for just about everything except hot water for washing dishes and the occasional whore's bath in the sink. All food is cooked in the microwave or toaster over. Using the coffee pot instead of the superior French press. While this is all well and good for conserving my precious propane, I am not looking forward to my next electric bill.

The heater still kicks on when the inside temp drops below 47 degrees - the lowest setting on the thermostat. No matter how warm the fire heats the house at night, the inside temp drops low enough by morning for the heater to kick on. Last night, I left a bare light bulb burning next to the thermostat to trick into thinking it was warmer than it really was. When I woke up this morning, it was 40 degreees inside.

I don't mind the cold. Hell, just wear a sweater and extra socks. But I do worry about running out of propane. I guess if you actually run out, there's some extra shit that needs to be done when you do finally refill the tank. Not sure exactly what that extra shit is, but it probably costs extra money. I don't have regular money, much less extra money. My only other genuine concern is the pipes freezing up.

I also am expecting a couple CouchSurfers Friday evening so I want to hold onto enough propane so I can splurge on keeping the place reasonably warm enough for one evening/morning, offer a couple hot showers and use the stove to whip up pancakes and eggs for breakfast. (Oh yeah, at least three chickens are now laying eggs. Yay!)

So, the heater has kicked on again - warming the house to almost 46 degrees. It's currently 25 outside and won't start warming up at all for a while (the sun's not even up yet). I have to go watch Gramma Guthrie this morning so I don't want to start the fire back up since I have to leave in a couple hours anyway. Hopefully the sun will warm this drafty trailer up enough to keep the heater off while I'm away. I'll saw up some more old barn rafters when I get home this afternoon and start a fire then.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I am not crazy. I really saw one.

It goes by many names: cougar, mountain lion, puma, panther. Whatever the hell you want to call it, I saw one on my property today.

According to Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the last confirmed mountain lion in Alabama was killed over 60 years ago. "At present, reports of sightings in Alabama are relatively common, but these probably are released captives or cases of mistaken identity."

I don't know where they keep captive mountain lions around here (around 30 game breeders in the state have licenses to keep them) or why they would release one but, trust me, there is no way I saw anything but a mountain lion.

I was sitting at the computer when I glanced out the window. I saw something in the woods and grabbed the binoculars to get a better look. I often use the binoculars to spy on the chickens and goats from inside the house.

I scanned through the trees until I found what I was looking for. I thought perhaps it was one of the goats or maybe even a big dog. As I messed with the focus I clearly saw the unmistakable sight of a long tail swishing behind it. It could be nothing but a cat. A big-ass cat. While I have a horde of domestic cats on the property, there was no way this was one of them. I can't even imagine having noticed one of them 200 yards away in the woods by just glancing out the window. I probably wouldn't have even noticed this big-ass cat if it hadn't been silhouetted against the three inches of fresh snow we got yesterday. Nor was it a bobcat. Bobcats have short, stubby tails. This cat had a loooooong tail.

In retrospect, I should've looked a little harder at the details - not just the of the animal but its location as well. All I knew was it was close to the goat pasture, possibly even inside the fence. I grabbed the gun and ran down the hill. I was out the door within seconds of spotting it through the binoculars.
That's how sure I was.

I walked the perimeter of the goat fence, searching for the mountain lion or it's tracks, finding neither. But I did notice that the baby goat was nowhere to be seen. After walking all the way around the goat fence, I went into the pasture through the gate. All the other goats were on the opposite end of the enclosure and I hoped they'd stay there since my billy goat, Preacher, can sometimes be a bit hostile unless I bring food to distract him.

I was headed to the wooded section of the enclosure but stopped by the shed that the goats use for shelter. It was there I saw the baby goat, laying dead on the dirt floor. He was not killed by a predator. I'm not even sure what killed him. He'd been healthy when I saw him the day before. But there he was, laid out flat on the ground.

If I was to guess, I'd say he perhaps got squashed by the other goats during the night. A guy I know who raises goats had recently told me about how it happened to one of his baby goats last year. During the course of the night, the goats were probably huddled together to keep warm and the little baby got smashed under the pile.

At that point, I forgot about my hunt for the mountain lion and focused on getting the little dead goat out of there. By the time I thought about going back into the woods to look for signs of the big-ass cat, I realized any tracks would be unrecognizable in the rapidly melting snow (it was sunny and 50 degrees).

Perhaps tomorrow morning I'll take a walk in the woods and see if I can spot any fresh tracks. I really hope that I don't find them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Recently took inventory of my remaining winter food supply

It's a damned good thing that I like venison and squash because it looks like that's going to make up most of my diet for the next two months. Only a couple days into February and I've already been able to transfer everything from the big freezer into the one in the refrigerator.

There's still a bit of pork left - including five pounds of liver as well as the heart and lung I'm saving for that Filipino dish (as soon as I can afford tomatoes, onions and rice). A couple gallons of ham stock. Some oatmeal.

Lots of condiments. A few assorted items that don't really do me much good until I get other things to go with them. A bucket of lard. A few pounds of flour and sugar. No yeast though so the only breadstuffs I'll be making are tortillas and frybread.

If the chickens are laying eggs, they're either hiding them or eating them before I find them. There are way too many roosters though so there are definitely some chicken dinners in my future. Out of 23 chickens, 7 of them are roosters. I'm breaking up at least one cockfight a day, sometimes three or four.

I'm taking care of Gramma Guthrie two days a week and part of the deal is I get to help myself to her food so that offers a little variety. That's good since I get paid about the same as a preteen babysitter for taking care of a depressed 88-year-old woman with a slipping mind who asks me questions like "Do you think you go to Hell if you kill yourself?"

Here's hoping this year's gardening goes better than last year. Between the droughts, deluges, late frost, broken equipment and chickens raiding what was left, it's a wonder I was able to save anything at all for winter.

Don't fret, dear readers. I did eat well up through January. A little too well really. I've got a bit of extra insulation to work off, which I've been trying to do now that the weather has warmed up and the days are getting longer. I'm real close to finally removing what remains of the old barn and transforming the site into a large garden spot.

Enough pissing and moaning. Here's something to be happy about: a brand new baby goat!