Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No More Four-Door

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my little four-legged miracle chicken. I ended up naming the bird Four-Door Dostoyevsky. I liked referring to the legs as front/rear driver side and front/rear passenger side. But since the parasitic twin (ie. the passenger) was on the bird's left side, that actually made Four-Door a right hand drive chicken. You know, like in England. The car comparison also gave me a delicate way to refer to his pipes.

The official cause of death as ruled by Spenardo del Sur's coroner (a.k.a. me) was pulmonary hypertension. In smaller words: freaky chicken had a bad ticker. It may or may not have had anything to do with the parasitic twin. Pulmonary hypertension is pretty common in factory farm refugees. They grow so big so fast and it can put a great strain on their developing hearts and lungs.

I was holding Four-Door when he died. The moment of death is pretty easily recognizable: pupils dilate, head flops over and they shit themselves. It's pretty much the same for all of us when we die (yep, you're gonna shit yourself when it happens).

My right hand was under his left wing. He didn't have many feathers there yet so my hand rested against bare skin. For almost four full minutes after Four-Door died, I could feel his parasitic twin's heart continue to beat.

It probably would've stopped beating sooner if I hadn't been giving the bird mouth-to-mouth. As long as I was getting any heartbeat, I was holding out hope. I am a crazy chicken lady and that's what crazy chicken ladies do. Me and Four-Door had big plans for this coming spring, dammit!

Of course, there was an autopsy. Of course, there were lots of photographs taken. Of course, I will post a bunch of them here - just not today. The end of the month snuck up on me again and I wanted to be sure November at least had one measly post. For now, I'll post a photo that better represents how I'd like to remember Four-Door (instead of flayed, splayed and filleted on the kitchen counter). Here he lounges on the poop deck in an old pie pan.

You are now thinking of some kind of food joke. Perhaps something about chicken pot pie. This will inevitably lead some of you to wonder if I ate Four-Door Dostoyevsky.

I did not.

Not that there was anything wrong with Four-Door's flesh (though the extra legs had absolutely no meat on them whatsoever - quite literally skin and bones). It's just that several days had passed before I was able to conduct the autopsy so I wound up feeding the meat to the cats. I saved the skeleton though. It will be an awesome souvenir of the time I had that stupid idea about homesteading in rural Alabama.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen!

The universe has heard my cry and given me a distraction from my drudgery.

First it sent Pilgrim.

He's about a year old and is a factory farm refugee. He showed up on his own Saturday. Found him sleeping in a stand of tall grass near the driveway. Looks like he spent a few days traveling the underground chicken railroad before finally reaching Spenardo del Sur.

I don't need another rooster. Pilgrim makes eight. That is a stupid number of roosters. But I'm a sucker for a hard luck story and he seems to be getting along with the three roosters he lives with - Pasha, Bart and Zevon - so he can stay.

The universe sensed that I was not impressed enough with this gift so it sent me another chicken.

An incredible chicken.

A stupendous, fantastical chicken that will amaze and delight kids from one to a hundred. Step right up and take a gander at the most awesome sight you'll see all day. Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to miss this. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you....


It was culled from a commercial chicken farm yesterday. Sentenced to death for the crime of producing twice as many drumsticks as anybody else. What kind of country do we live in where someone is penalized for that? So I have commuted its sentence to life as a happy free range chicken who moonlights as a sideshow freak.

I don't know yet if it's a boy or girl. I certainly don't need a ninth rooster but, if it is a boy, I'm leaning towards the name Sideshow Bob. If it's a girl, I'm thinking Suzi Quatro.

This morning I put it with ten other baby chicks I have behind the house. The four-legged chicken is only a week older than they are. The meeting seemed to go okay. Nobody was openly hostile but they were all very curious about the extra appendages.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Post in which I piss and moan a lot

Gah! This place has robbed me of my will to write! That's the only explanation.

I think a lot about writing. Really, I do. But when I sit down in front of the computer...nada, zilch, kaput.

I'm not just talking about slacking on the blog either. I wish I could say I've been busy writing that novel or working on essays or at least churning out poetry like I did in the golden days of yore. But no. My repertoire seems to consist of nothing but Facebook updates and shopping lists of things I can't afford to buy (fucking socks have been at the top of the list for fucking months).

I think this place feeds on the creativity of its people - some sort of artistic vampire. It sucks the marrow out of any creative bones in their bodies and shits out hymns, humidity and horrendous creepy-crawlies (like the scorpion I killed in the kitchen last night).

Maybe it's just the PMS, but this place is really chafing my ass even more than usual lately. I'm sick of dumb people. I'm sick of nowhere to go and nothing to do. I'm sick of racists. I'm sick of the word nigger. I'm sick of tea baggers. I'm sick of racist teabaggers using the word nigger. I'm sick of people who think Applebees is fine dining. I'm sick of people thinking Boone's Farm is real wine. I'm sick of people thinking drinking is a sin.

Gah! The more I dwell on it, the angrier I get. Angry at the people who think and do these things and angry at myself for ever agreeing to live amongst them.

Sigh. It's not all bad. There are good people here too. Even people I would go so far as to deem cool. I know enough cool people within a thousand square miles that, if they all had the same night off, I could assemble a decent-sized cocktail party without having to import too many people from Atlanta.

Grrrrrr. I know a lot of this is PMS. I get extra angry/sad every month around this time. Just because I made this stupid bed doesn't mean I have to enjoy laying in it. Oh, woe is me. Just ignore this shit, okay?

Look! Here's a picture of me at a party earlier this month:

It's actually a nice picture. I look half-way decent. But you know what? I don't really look like that. It's a Herculean effort to look that civilized. I actually think I'm turning feral in this environment.

You can't tell from that picture how bad my back and right hip hurt damned near every morning. You can't tell that the stupid pipes under my stupid trailer are leaking and I had to shut the water off, turning it back on once a week for scheduled showers and laundry, hauling water inside two gallons at a time the rest of the week. If you saw me now, you'd now I'm overdue for a hosing down. Nor can you tell I whacked myself in the face with a two-by-four this summer and lost a tooth in the process. If I can't afford to buy fucking socks, do you think I can afford to go to a dentist? Don't even get me started on how the car's transmission is at death's door.

Gah! Maybe it's not just the PMS. Maybe this place really does suck ass and I was an idiot to ever leave Spenard. Hmmmmm.....I don't think there's any maybe about that. I am currently inclined to believe that leaving Alaska was the dumbest dumbshit thing I've ever done - and trust me when I say I've done a lot of dumb shit in my life.

Okay, I'm going to go to bed now. Tomorrow is a brand new day, a brand new month even. Perhaps after I wake up and hobble over to the stove to boil water hauled from outside to make a cup of coffee, I might feel a little better. Probably not but, stranger things have happened. It would probably be cathartic to take the shotgun out and blast some shit but, sadly, bullets are also on the shopping list.

I'm really not searching for sympathy here. Honest. It's just the final hours of the last day of the month and I needed to write something. I was just in no mood to write about current chicken events. So, instead, you get this wailing and gnashing of teeth. Sorry 'bout that. I'll make it up to you later with pictures of the new adorable baby chicks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August in a nutshell

I had a birthday in August. I'm now 43. Sometimes feel much older though. If I knew I'd live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.

Went to a hula party. It was my friend Evan's birthday party but it w
as the day before mine so I just celebrated early. That's Evan in the coconut bra.

The Freaky Tiki

Lightning struck Spenardo del Sur again. This time it hit a dead tree next to the goat shed. I'm sure the goats were not pleased since they were in the shed at the time - a mere 30 feet away. I watched the strike from a more comfortable distance of 500 feet.

It wasn't until the next day that I saw the da
mage the blast did to Frankencoop 100 feet away. The east wing of Frankencoop has been closed off for a long time now. The eastern outside wall was in bad shape. I mean bad. The ceiling ain't great either. Got too scary going in there everyday to collect eggs so I sealed it up.

The day after the storm (which only lasted 45 minutes but left an inch of rain and numerous lighting strikes within three Mississippis), I stepped into Frankencoop and noticed that this dress
er was face down on the floor.

The dresser helps block the hole in the drywall that leads to the east wing. (On top of the dresser are old feed boxes salvaged from the barn I tore down, repurposed as nesting boxes.)

When I looked through the uncovered hole, this is what I saw:

The lightning had been the straw that broke the camel's back - or in this case, broke my grandma's kitchen wall. The entire door frame, which I'd boarded up when I first started work on Frankencoop, came crashing down which, in turn, knocked the dresser over. The window which had been next to the door actually had fallen out a co
uple months back. If you click and embiggen the picture, you can actually see the trunk of the stricken tree. It's currently being obscured by the mass of kudzu covering the outside of the wall (or, should I say, where the wall used to be).

I knew the day would come when that wall came down. And that day came in August. I think I really need to finish tearing that old house down this winter while some of the vintage wood can still be salvaged. That means a new chicken coop because the 19 birds currently living there have to go somewhere.

Here's a pic of the tree. It's to the left of the shed. It's just a trunk. It died a few years ago and all the branches had already fallen off. I'm surprised the shed is still standing . The goats have absolutely destroyed it over the last four years.

Celeste and Rosemary mug for the camera.

I was bummed to see that the pine struck back in June is starting to die. I noticed last week that the needles on a number of branches are turning brown. Damn it. I liked that tree.

Other stuff happened in August too but it's late and I have to be up early.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

You either get it or you don't.

Chickenfight Girl's son just graduated college. He cleaned out his apartment in Auburn and dumped all his stuff at his parents' place. She gave me a couple lamps. She pulled a small coffee grinder out of a box. "What's this?"

Me: A coffee grinder. For grinding whole coffee beans.

Chickenfight Girl: Huh. I've
never seen one. I never buy whole coffee beans.

Me: I don't much either anymore. But I prefer whole coffee beans. Just can't always afford it.

Chickenfight Girl: Why is the stuff in here green? That's not coffee.

Me: Let me look at that. (removes lid, scrapes a fingernail across the green powder and takes a whiff) Nope, that's definitely not coffee.

Chickenfight Girl: What is it? It's not coffee.

Me: Uh...well...You can use it to grind other stuff too. I've used mine to grind corn for tortillas. You could technically grind up a lot of different stuff in there. Wheat, rice, beans...

Chickenfight Girl: So it could be, like, wheat germ or something?

Me: Yeah, wheat germ. Or something.

Chickenfight Girl: Do you want it?

Me: Yes. Thank you.

For those of you who didn't really get the above exchange, please enjoy this picture of Lemuel hula-hooping around the bonfire one recent summer evening:

There's something awesome about watching an almost-7-foot farmer bust a move with a hula hoop. Lemuel is really quite good with a hoop. Lemuel and Shadrack actually make and sell hoops. If you're at a farmer's market in East Alabama/West Georgia and you see two dudes spinning hoops and selling okra at the same time, tell 'em Jackie from Spenardo del Sur sent you. You won't get a discount or anything - it would just be a cool thing to do.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Old school from waaaay back

Among the many things I salvaged from my grandmother's old house (before turning it into a chicken coop) were lots of school textbooks from the '30s and '40s.

Here are some of my favorite color illustrations from the 1936 edition of "The Body and Health."
The book credits the illustrators as Mildred Lyon Hetherington, Helen Bilger, Irene Dorcy and Grace G. Mitchell. As always, you can click to embiggen.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It must be the end of the month

Once again, I'm slipping in under the wire, posting at the end of the month simply because I cannot bear to have an empty month in the archives.

So here's some photos of a pine tree that was struck by lightning - only 100 feet or so from the house. One of the few exciting things to happen around here and I wasn't even home to witness it.

I'd always liked this raggedy old pine because it had somehow managed to be the only tree on this open field to survive the kudzu - although the kudzu did kill the bottom branches. I spent many hours removing all the kudzu from the pine in hopes that it would thrive. I doubt it will survive this lightning strike, though I can still hope.

As always, you can click on the photos to embiggen.

Intense heat turned moisture in the tree to steam and blasted off strips of bark up to 30 feet away.

The bottom seven feet of the trunk was scorched black.

You can see the house in the background.

The tree as seen from the poop deck (aka the front porch).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Further encounters with the wild kingdom

For the last two weeks this damned gray fox has been coming to the house at night. Not only was it sniffing around the chickens, it was getting into fights with the cats. In these two weeks I have interrupted three cat/fox fights. The Rat Patrol is currently on Old Yeller watch.

I'm positive this is the same fox I've bee
n seeing over the course of the last six months. I've probably spent an entire box of ammo on just this one fox. I've had way more sightings of this single fox than all my other fox sightings combined - often with no more than 25 feet between us.

Last night I was startled by the sound of a screaming cat just outside the window. I ran to the back door and caught a glimpse of the fox's tail as it ran around the corner of the house. I ran to the front door, grabbing the loaded .22 on the way. I stepped out onto the poop deck and saw the fox stopped on the other side of the driveway at the shadowy border between porch light illumination and the inky black.

I brought the gun down and hesitated just long enough to ask myself Are you sure that's the fox and not one of the cats? A flick of the tail assured me I was in the clear and I fired. Shot it in the head on my first try.

Now before you go thinking I'm some crack shot, I'll fess up and admit that I wasn't even aiming at its head. Didn't want to mess up the skull for Angela.

God help me, I think I'm going to attempt skinning it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spenardo Showdown

It's been chaos with the chickens. Got eight new concentration coop refugees yesterday, one of which is a rooster. I normally don't take roosters but the guy had already brought him here and I didn't have the heart to say no. I knew if I said no the rooster would just be killed and thrown in the incinerator. I'm hoping to find him a new home because I absolutely cannot keep him.

Sad factory rooster

They're all sequestered right now in a coop addition I've
been working on behind my house. It started as a temporary pen to house some refugees last summer and evolved into this third world-looking affair. It's still a work in progress though I don't think it'll be any more impressive when it's completed.

Note the hen on the bottom left. She's laying an egg. Every spring, when they start laying eggs again after the winter, some of the hens will insist on finding their own hiding spots for eggs, no matter how many nice cozy nests I have built for them. Eggs turn up in tufts of grass, cardboard boxes, under the stairs, any random nook or cranny. This is where the Easter egg hunt comes from.

The two roosters who already live at my house are no
t happy about the new guy. Pasha wants to get at him because he lives to kick the ass of any rooster that gets in his way. Bart wants to get at him because he dreams of doing the ass kicking for a change.

The pecking order of the hens had already been in flux sinc
e the recent death of two porch chickens one of which was Murray, the long-time reigning queen of the porch chickens. This comes right on the heels of the demise of Cheepacabra, queen of Frankencoop. Spenardo del Sur has no chicken queens!

One of Bart's hens recently defected over to Pasha's
coop. I didn't want to fight about it so I let her. Tonight, another of Bart's ladies decided she didn't want to sleep under the back stairs anymore either. Instead, she wanted to sleep alone on the porch behind some buckets in the corner.

Normally I wouldn't allow such a thing.
The porch is undefended territory where any critter could just mosey up the steps. But I shrugged and figured it's been a long time since anything other than a cat or chicken has been on the porch. What harm could come of it? It's like a kid asking if he can pitch a tent in the yard and sleep outside for a night. I didn't want to fight about it so I let her.

About an hour after dark, I hear her making a fuss
on the porch. I flip on the light to see her waddling down the stairs. I look in the corner and find a big fat possum sniffing about. I run out the door and scoop her up, taking her around to the back stairs. I explain to her that she's just going to have to sleep with Bart tonight and I'll arrange different accommodations tomorrow if she so desires.

I dart inside through the back door and
make a beeline for the front door, picking up the already loaded .22 on the way. By the time I get back onto the porch, the fat possum is squeezing through a gap that leads to Pasha and his ladies.

Porch chickens aren't nearly as secure at night as Frankencoop chickens. Frankencoop is a fortress compared to my front porch and back stairs which are only kinda sorta secure. But in three years of porch chickens, this is the first time a possum has attempted this maneuver (although the cats do it all the time).

Even though its big fat possum ass is pointed straight at me, I don't really have a good shot at it. We're in pretty close quarters and I hav
e a lot of crap on the porch right now. Instead, I run down the stairs and hope to prevent the possum from making it through the gap.

Too late!

I didn't feel like I could get a good shot without risking hitting something else. You can't see it in the picture, but there's a cat right behind that corner post (you can see her a little better in the next photos). I used that two-by-four on the bottom right a couple times to help "guide" the possum. Rather than let me guide it outside the chicken wire where it could scurry into the dark night, the possum insisted on taking the more perilous route up the porch's south face.

When it finally made it to the top, I took the two-by-four and tried to nudge it off the railing and back onto the porch. When it wouldn't budge, I gave it a good thwack. Possums have one hell of a grip.

I realized that, if I was standing on the other side, I couldn't ask for a better shot at it. I ran back to the top of the stairs and took aim. For a moment, it felt like I was playing one of those carnival arcade games. I imagined the possum with a bulls-eye on its side and, if I hit it, I'd win some dopey prize
like giant sunglasses or a comb.

What I actually got was a bleeding possum that almost took ou
t a tray of tomato seedlings when it fell from the rail.

It huddled in that spot between the buckets with its back to me for several minutes. I could see it was still breathing. After a while, it slowly emerged, bleeding from the mouth. I hadn't shot it in the head. I'd gone for a body shot, hopi
ng to keep the skull intact for Angela.

It left a trail of blood across the porch as it made its way for the st
airs. I figured I'd finish it off when it got on the ground and I could get a clear shot. I didn't feel comfortable shooting at something so close to my feet. Plus, I didn't want to be forever explaining the bullet hole in the stairs.

While the possum traversed the porch, I peered
between the buckets where it had huddled, bleeding, with it's back to me. I wanted to see how much blood had been lost. To my surprise, blood was not all she lost.

Yep, the possum was a she.

It had been a body shot alright. A two-for-one shot. You can see the bullet wound on the baby's right side. It must've been not-so-safely nestled in mama possum's marsupial pouch. If this had been the carnival arcade, I might have won an invisible dog or transistor radio.

But this wasn't the carnival and now I felt like a fucking monster. I looked back to the wounded mama possum. She turned to look at me one last time before lumbering down the stairs, bleeding on each step. My mind searched for a fitting song to play over this dramatic scene: The condemned descending the stairs into the dark night, bleeding,
leaving behind a dead child, a gun pointed at her back. I couldn't think of a song but it would probably be something by Nick Cave or Johnny Cash.

When we were both finally on level ground, I positioned myself for the second shot. The damned cats kept getting in my way and she was moving closer and closer to the shadows beyond the reach of my porch light. I quickly pulled the trigger before it was too late. She bolted and I was able to squeeze off one more round before she melted into the darkness just a few feet away. I might've chanced a third shot if she hadn't been running in the direction of the propane tank.

The grass is high and my flashlight is weak. I have no desire to try and track her through the yard in the dark moonless night. I hope she dies quick. She no doubt had other babies. They will die too. I also hope its quick. I will look for her in the morning. Maybe Angela will get a new skull after all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cheepacabra has left the building

Flown the coop. Bought the farm. Whatever you want to call it. Cheepacabra, Queen of the Chickens, is no more.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet queen,
and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Archaeological find of the day

Walking around Spenardo del Sur after a good rain is sorta like beachcombing. You never know what you'll find.

While piddling around in the garden today, I found this die-cast toy car - a Fiat Abarth. The internet tells me it was made by Tootisetoy in the seventies. I had a bunch of these little metal toy cars when I was a kid. There's a good possibility that this one was mine.

I found this in garden where the old barn used to be. The barn fascinated me as a kid. It was full of all kinds of cool stuff and I wasn't allowed to go in there. "Too dangerous" they told me. "It could fall down any minute." Of course this made me want to go in there even more.

I took this picture of the barn in the early 1980s:

By the time I was finally allowed to go inside, it looked like this:

Of course, just because I wasn't allowed to go in the barn as a kid doesn't mean I stayed out of the barn. Which is why it wouldn't surprise me if this little toy car was dropped by yours truly 35 years ago right smack dab in the middle of the barn.

This is what the barn looks like now:

Except that this photo was taken a year ago and I've since removed those last few boards on the right (but the big pile of rusty tin in the upper left is still there) and I put up a sign that says "NO CHICKENS ALLOWED." Too bad chickens can't read.

It'll look nicer in a month when the veggies and flowers come up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shadrack, Lemuel and Lazarus

These are my friends Shadrack and Lemuel.

Of course, those are not their real names. I let them pick their own names for the blog and they got all biblical on me. That's Shadrack on the left and Lemuel on the right. That's Shadrack's house behind them. Story has it that the oldest part of the house dates back to the 1850s (an addition was made in the 20th century).

Shadrack hates having his picture taken so this will probably b
e the only photo I post of him. Lemuel's okay with photos so you'll probably see more of him. I sometimes work for Lemuel on his farm. He lives in a very tiny home that is only slightly bigger than Shadrack's front porch. Seriously. It's small. And Lemuel is a big guy. You can't tell in the picture because he's slouching but Lemuel is 6 foot 10.

Back to Shadrack's house: Look at the walkway leading up to the front door. It's all made out of big random stones. Looks like it's been there forever. (As always, you can click the pictures to embiggen.)

Look closer though. Notice the really big stone at the bottom of the photo? It doesn't quite look the same as the others.

Hmmm....there appears to be some writing on it. Let's take an even closer look.

Yep. It is the 127-year-old gravestone of Lazarus B. Ware. How it wound up in Shadrack's walkway is a mystery. So apparently is the resting place of old Lazarus' bones. Lucky for me, I like to solve mysteries.

I was able to turn up a little info on Lazarus. He was a white farmer who lived in the same West Georgia town Shadrack lives in. He had a mess of children and still has living descendants in the South. Much to Lemuel's disappointment, Lazarus B. Ware did not have a sister named Betta.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rosemary's babies

My nanny goat, Rosemary, gave birth to two adorable babies on Saturday. They both look just like her.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

In case you haven't heard, a big storm swept across the Southeast. Snow to the north of me. Rain to the south. Freezing ice here in the middle with me.

Spenardo del Sur and surrounding regions h
ave been encased in a candy coating of ice for three days and counting.

(Click to embiggen)

On Monday, traffic halted. State troopers declared all roads in Randolph County and seven others as impassable.

One neighbor took advantage of the empty road and turned Pet Kittle Hill into a monstrous 2500-foot sledding hill. He drove his son up to the four-way stop on his four-wheeler and then let the kid slide 2500 feet back down. He'd follow his son on the four-wheeler and then take him back up to the top again.

I shot some shitty video from the porch. Go ahead and skip to about 30 seconds in. Imagine
Helter Skelter playing in the background.

On Tuesday, one of my neighbor/cousins took matters into his own hands and hooked up the front loader to his tractor and plowed the road himself.

On Wednesday - today - some semi-official looking guys showed up to shovel gravel off the back of a truck.

It's not supposed to get out of the 30s tomorrow so I suspect we'll still be slippin' & slidin' here at Spenardo del Sur for another day or two.

If I squint just right, it kinda looks a little like home.