Wednesday, February 29, 2012

They're Not Hatched, but I'm Counting Them Anyway

Annabelle's chickens have been ordered, and in just a few weeks the chicks will be here. Since the inspiration of this blog is based on chickens, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to share each step of our chicken journey. Because, as my previous post The Little Match Rooster taught us...there is simply a lot about chickens I didn't know so I'm certain I'm not alone.

DISCLAIMER: I am not pretending to be a chicken expert.  Any chicken stories, input, advice, knowledge, etc. that I share is strictly from the point of view of a novice (aka moron) and is by no means instructional.  So if you know more than I do about chickens and raising chickens, please do not get upset with me. If this was an educational blog about chickens who would want to read it? That's no fun.  This is the blog of a woman who has no business doing HALF the things I do...and sharing it with a small group of curious people.

 If anyone reading this blog thinks any of the content is "How To" then they are most definitely in real trouble.

So begins the adventure that will be Annabelle's Chickens...
Let's pretend the first step in chicken ownership is selecting a breed. I do not know if that is really  the first step, but that was OUR first step. I'm guessing smarter people probably decide how many chickens they want and then actually make sure they have a functioning brooder and coop before actually purchasing chickens, but that's not how Bryan and I do things.  So....the first step is selecting a breed.

We knew we wanted laying hens (for eggs), and we wanted brown eggs.  We preferred they also be tasty in the event we have to thin out our flock, and we knew we wanted chickens with a good temperament so Annabelle can play with them (and so they do not peck out my eyes when I feed them which has started to make me a little anxious).  Because we live in Wisconsin, we also needed birds that were cold-hardy.  So after much research in my chicken book, the internet, and our spring edition of Chickens magazine we arrived at two breeds: Buff Orpington and Black Sex Link (or Black Star..or as I call it Black Sexter or as my mom calls it Black Sexy).

Buff Orpington
According to our
hatchery's website: Orpingtons are fluffy, sweet chickens. The Buff is a gorgeous, rich, golden color. Buff Orpingtons are excellent dual purpose chickens, as they will grow to a good, heavy table weight, but are also productive egg layers. You can expect between 175 and 200 eggs per year from one Buff Orpington hen. Orpingtons are known to be docile, sweet birds. Aside from their practical aspects, they make good pets.
Due to their weight, Orpingtons do not tend to be flighty and are easily contained. And, because of their feathering, they can withstand cold weather. There are many reasons for the Orpingtons’ continued popularity, both here and across the world.
Average Mature Weight: 5-8 pounds

Black Sex Link / Black Star
Also from our chicken supplier: Black Sex-Links are produced using a Barred Rock as the mother and Rhode Island Red Males.The Laying ability of this cross is phenomenal, you can expect to see eggs as early as 15 weeks of age. They are planned crosses, which are hardier and more productive than their parents' respective breeds. The Sex Link Hybrid is the result of crossing two purebred standard breeds. This hybrid makes for very vigorous chicks, rugged brown egg laying hens and good cockerel fryers.

So while there is a crazy amount of chicken breeds, we decided on Buff Orpingtons and Black Sexters.  Choosing the breed was the easy part.  You also have to decide if you want them "sexed" or not.

Chicken sexing was a lengthy conversation Bryan and I had  a few months ago in early chicken discussions. I don't really know where to begin with sexing, or how much info on chicken sexing is too much.  Basically determining a chick's gender is called sexing.  Bryan went into great detail how chickens are sexed, and all I will say about that is that it is worth the extra money you have to pay to get the gender of your choice.  So we deiced to get a "straight run" of Black Sex Links which means we get what we get..boys and girls.  I asked Bryan if he has to sex them, and he said no.  He claims that in a few weeks you can tell by looking at them who the boys are and who the girls are. Just add "chicken sexing" to the list of things I never thought I would be talking about.

There are some other things to consider when purchasing chickens.  When you order chicks from hatchery they ship them to you via the US Mail.  There are, of course, places you can purchase live chicks but we found this to have the best selection, best pricing, and best live delivery guarantee.  Now you may be asking yourself  "What's a 'live delivery guarantee?'" and I am here to inform you it is exactly as it sounds.  They guarantee that you will receive 90% of your order...alive. I hope Mrs. Church is reading this because not only did she have a number of chicken questions, we are about to get into a serious mathematical equation and since she was my 6th grade math teacher, I will need her to check my math.

We ordered 27 chickens.  The hatchery guarantees 90% of our order will arrive alive.  10% of 27 = 2.7.   That means if more than 2.7 chickens are D.O.A., we get a refund for the dead chicks. Right? WRONG.  It is a LIVE delivery guarantee.  So you have to count the number of live chickens you receive. As it turns out, they toss in a few extra chicks expecting that some will not survive the trip. So you have to count the number of live chickens you have, because you are actually getting more chickens than you ordered.  So, let's start again.  

We ordered 27 chickens. 90% of our order will arrive alive. That means we need to have 24.3 chickens alive in the box when it arrives.  What I would like to know is how do I determine if .7 of a chicken is living or dead?  If only 24 are alive, doesn't that mean that I am entitled to a refund of .7 of a chicken?  I don't know.

Really all of this math is irrelevant because what it means is that in a a couple of weeks there is a good chance I will come home to a box containing up to 2.7 dead chickens in it and that is moderately disturbing.  Sadly, I am learning this is all part of "farm living."  27 chickens is a lot of chickens (and most assuredly a lot of eggs), but Bryan is planning for a 30% mortality rate.  We expect some to perish in our homemade brooder due to chick disease (of which there are plenty), the cold weather may take a rooster (or at least part of their combs), and while I am embarrassed to admit it...we expect Milton to be responsible for some chicken deaths as well. Obviously every effort will be made to prevent such a massacre's Milton. What can I say?

I spent a good portion of my evening last night reading up on chick care and how to properly raise your chicks (Bryan has extensive chicken knowledge,but I feel I should be educated as well) and I am still convinced that caring for an infant is easier than caring for a puppy or chickens.  Milton was far more challenging than Annabelle is, and now these chicks seem to require a great deal of care and attention.  For example, did you know that when you approach your brooder full of chicks you shouldn't approach from the top???  This is how predators swoop down on baby birds, so it is traumatic to baby chicks for me to come stomping in from above.  Stress is responsible for many chick deaths.  According to my chicken book the "polite" thing to do when approaching your brooder is to sing or hum to let them know you are coming.  These are things I did not count on when I suggested we get chickens.

 When I expressed my concerns to Bryan about our ability to properly care for these chicks for 4-5 weeks his response was "Honey, it's not that big of a deal. Chicks are really loud though, they're going to drive you nuts."  Apparently he thinks I am going to be bothered by the noise chicks make. What kind of monster is bothered by the sweet chirping and cheeping of baby chicks???  It's not like they're going to be in the bed with us. It certainly cannot  be worse than Milton's toenails scrambling across the floor when Bryan puts his boots on. And for someone who has to construct both a brooder AND an entire chicken coop this weekend, he is being awfully cavalier about the responsibility of owning chickens.

I told Bryan we need to go on a vacation because I am SO excited about these damn chickens it is all I can think about. Last night we had a beer to celebrate "Chicken Order Day" and it has been all I've been able to think or talk about (aside from Annabelle's teething which only permitted 4 hours of sleep last night, that has crossed my mind a time or two as well). That reminds me...if we go on vacation we now need someone to fill the woodstove, take care of the dogs, and now...feed the chickens. Crap. I really didn't think this through.  At any rate, I am so excited for our chickens to arrive.  And I can't lie, I get slightly emotional when I think that spring is just around the corner and we've already ordered the chicks. It seems like it was just a couple days ago when I was on maternity leave (God, I miss being on maternity leave), sitting in my brand new kitchen, surrounded by boxes, while preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and planning for Annabelle's Chickens.  She's almost 6 months old already and the chickens will be here soon. I can't believe it. I'm so excited for eggs and I'm excited to hear our very own roosters crowing in the morning.

But...always remember what my Grandma DeSalvo said about roosters, you have to watch out because they have those hard little peckers.

Annabelle's Avocado Plant - Day 9

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Orange you glad I didn't say Avocado?

Clearly I have been unable to keep up with the demands of life and my blossoming writing career this week. In an attempt to make up for it, I am hoping to post twice today. Once during morning coffee, and once before bed. The second post will be dependent upon my ability to remain awake past 9:00pm. I don't want to combine the happenings of the last two weeks with the weekend outings and fun because, well... how much longer can these posts get before people lose interest completely?

Illness visited the farm over the last two weeks. Annabelle got her first cold, which I think we all handled very well. There was some confusion in the wee hours of the morning two Saturdays ago as to whether or not she had a fever.  I have decided that my thoughts on taking a baby's temperature are very similar to my thoughts on laundering, folding, storing, and putting on of baby socks.  The whole process needs improvement and accuracy is often sacrificed for my own sanity.

While I was certain Annabelle had a fever, I later realized the 101.3 temperature I believed she had was most likely due to operator error and was probably the reading from MY temperature from my last week of pregnancy.  Either way, a little Children's Tylenol wasn't going to kill her.  All I know is that there are many ways to take a baby's temperature but there is then a series of complicated to mathematical equations to arrive at her "true temperature."  So we put all the thermometers away and decided she had a cold and would most likely live.

Unfortunately Annabelle shared her cold with Bryan and I. Poor Bryan.  Since I have known Bryan, he has almost never gotten sick.  And after Annabelle and I joined him out here on the farm, he's been sick frequently.  I told him that Annabelle and I are like the Europeans discovering the New World and introducing disease to the American Indians.

Annabelle's cold lingered for about a week and a half. She does seem to be more aware of the world around her now. Annabelle HATES having her nose and face wiped.  The most traumatic part of her cold for her was having me constantly running after her with a Kleenex or washcloth to wipe her nose and face. She would scream and behave as though I was wiping her face with a gasoline-soaked rag.  So when I would blow my nose she would stare at me in utter amazement of the fact that I was not only tolerating the Kleenex on my face, but that I seemed relieved it was there.  Let the life lessons begin for Annabelle.

Along the lines of sickness, Bryan and I took ill as well. On top of our horrible colds, last Sunday we were the victims of food-poisoning.  Now I am told there is also a stomach flu circulating, and I suppose it is possible that was our affliction.  All I know is that last Sunday night Bryan made a wonderful dinner of grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, and wild rice. One hour and forty three minutes after finishing our dinner Bryan looked over at me and said "You look purple. Are you okay?" and I said "Well...I think so." knowing that I did NOT feel okay but did not want to hurt his feelings.  And then he asked again and I admitted that I did not feel so great and Bryan said "Neither do I." Two hours after that conversation that we were both scrambling for the one bathroom in our home...which is where both of us spend the next 12-16 hours. And after all of the violence of our illness ended we were left weak and dehydrated, unable to move...taking turns moaning and caring for our sweet Annabelle who remained unaffected by whatever was slowly killing her parents.

What no one tells you when you have a baby is that when you are sick you still have to take care of your baby. She will not go lay quietly in her room and read a novel while you lie on the bathroom floor begging your loved one to go get the .45 and put you out of your misery.

Another thing no one tells you is that when you are sick and the very idea of food makes you scramble for the bathroom (insert dog toenails on hardwood floor sound here) to heave into the toilet until your eyes are black and blue, you still have to feed your baby pureed Rutabagas.  I am lucky to have Bryan, he is much better in combat than I am, and he fed Annabelle her breakfast in the morning when we were still the the throws of the illness.  Later though, when it was my turn, and I grabbed that little frozen cube of took 3 seconds for me to say "No Rutabagas tonight, Annabelle. You're getting Pears."

I was  not so lucky either when I drew the short straw and had to go the nearest grocery store when we ran out of baby formula that night. I got in my car after spending hours throwing up, not bathing, no food or water for over 15 hours and drove my vehicle, delirious, to the nearest grocery store to get baby formula.  I pointed out to Bryan that if we lived in the city  the CVS pharmacy was 4 blocks away and I had friends that lived within minutes who would have helped us.  He wasn't interested in this information...and I still had to go to the store. Once I got to the store I had to go to the service counter where they keep the formula locked up. By the time I figured this out (actually I didn't figure out until after I grabbed a young stock boy by the elbow and sputtered "Baby Formula?" and he shakily pointed to the counter) I had passed the deli twice and was now dripping with sweat trying to keep myself from gagging and heaving while I asked for one can of formula.

When the manager handed it to me slowly, mostly likely trying to ascertain if I was a heroin addict attempting to steal formula to sell on the streets for drug money, I realized that Bryan bought the fish at this store.  So there I stood, dripping with sweat, braless, stinking of sick and God knows what else, in an orange sweatshirt that said CLINTONVILLE with the neck cut out of it (ala Flashdance), black yoga pants, Ugg slippers, and for good measure...fingerless gloves.  "Excuse me, I think you should know I look like this because my husband and I got food poisoning from salmon we bought from your store 2 nights ago."  The narration was met with a blank stare and silence.  This shrewd businesswoman was employing a sales tactic I learned early in my career.  Silence. People will always want to fill silence, so what did I do ? I kept talking.  "I mean, I think you should probably go check what is left and make sure no on else gets sick."  The woman smiled and said "Well I've never heard of such a  thing, what did you put it in?"  I couldn't begin to understand what she was talking about. "The Grill," I was incredulous, "We put it on the grill."  and she was still confused "But what did you cook it in?"  I lost my patience at this point. I was sick, sweating, and fed up with this country bumpkin not knowing what grilled salmon was. "Salmon. Grilled Salmon. Haven't you ever heard of grilled salmon?" I snapped.  She smiled and started giggling, "Oh, I thought you said CINNAMON."  it was at that point I sighed, took my receipt and my can of formula and left the Piggly Wiggly so I could return home to the couch.

The next day I was still unable to function normally and still hadn't eaten. But on the counter I had 3 ripened Avocados that was intended for Annabelle's dinner that day.  I personally do not care for avocados, or guacamole.  But I have made it my mission to make sure Annabelle tries a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, especially ones I don't like.  And avacados have a number of health benefits. 

Since I don't like them, I have no idea how to prepare them or what they are supposed to look like.  We tried to make her avacados a few days earlier and could barely cut it open, nor could we we mash it with a fork which everyone said you could do.  I did some googling and still couldn't figure out what the hell this thing was supposed to look like.  So, thankfully, I have a good friend and coworker who I knew would not make fun of me for being avocado-stupid.  And I still give myself credit for not just chucking it in the garbage and saying she didn't need avacados.  I packed it up along wit a knife and a container and brought my avocado to work.  I left it on the desk of a coworker and sent her an email that simply said "When you have time..."

She immediately informed me that my avocado was nowhere near ripe and that I needed to put it in a paper bag on the counter for a few days. I told her I had been keeping them in the fridge and she said they are like bananas and they won't ripen in the fridge.  I explained that I had these avocados in my possession for two weeks already and couldn't believe it wasn't ripe yet. I also couldn't believe that as a grown woman with a college education and a baby and had no idea what a ripe Avocado was supposed to look like.

As an interesting side note, the next day Bryan and I happened to watch an episode of "Good Eats" called  Apple Family Values which was all about apples.  We learned that apples give off more gas (pectin) than other fruits, so if you ever want to quickly ripen your other fruits or vegetables, you just place them in a bag with an apple, or place them near and apple and they will speed ripen.  And as it turns works and the avocados were ripe...just in time for me to prepare them while recovering from food poisoning.

Basically, I attempted to fork mash the avocados in advance, early in the morning so they would be ready for Annabelle's dinner that night.  Had I been able to add a little formula (or breastmilk) to them I think things would have been ok.  But I couldn't do that in advance, so I decided to puree the avocados in the blender like I do with her other foods and then just store them in the fridge. 

I happen to have a high-end commercial grade blender.  It cost more than one of my car payments and I purchased it from QVC while I was 8 months pregnant and hormonal deciding it would be the perfect appliance to make her babyfood with. As it turns out, I was right, but this blender is very loud and scary and sounds like a fighter plane landing in the kitchen.  I scraped the avocados in and switched it on...only to watch it fling the 3 avocados to the sides of the blender.  To remedy this problem I added liquid. I used some of the steamer water from the peaches I just made for her.  It seemed to help, so I continued to add more liquid.  By the time I was done and satisfied with the consistency of these avocados, I had successfully made avocado whipped topping for Annabelle.  I have no idea what happened, but these 3 avocados were the consistency of cool whip when I was done.

Again, I do not care for avacado.  And while they do not have a particularly strong fragrance, there is something very wrong about seeing them in cool whip form.  I grabbed a spatula and started to scrape them into her little containers and felt the bile start to rise in my throat.  "You can do this." I told myself.  I was determined that Annabelle will like all the foods I do not like.   But I was not convinced a whipped avocados were a good first food for Annabelle.  I decided I would let her daddy decide when he got home.  if he couldn't stomach them, well then they would go in the garbage chalked up to another lesson I learned that week.

When Bryan surveyed the avocado whip he determined the constinacey was probably not ideal for her new little mouth just yet. But of course, me being me, I left them in the fridge just in case. I learned that avocados are similar to bananas in two ways, they need to be left out to ripen...and they will turn brown if you leave them out too long.  Needless to say Annabelle did not get to try her avacados last week, and it will be a while before I try them again.

Before I leave you with you I will share one more positive outcome of the avacado and two weeks of sickness.  My friend and coworker who helped me understand how avocados work told me that when she was in college she and her roommate would use the avocado pit to grow a plant.  I was disappointed to learn that they will not in fact yield and avacado, but it will grow a nice plant.  So that is exactly what I decided to do.  I'm not a plant person and I'm not an avacado person, but here is day one of Annabelle's avocado plant.
Day 1

Sunday, February 5, 2012

When Good Cows Go Bad: Tales of Winter Boredom

It's been a busy week.  The activities and corresponding exhaustion have been endless.  We've been very lucky for a number for a number of reasons, mostly for an unseasonably warm winter here in Wisconsin.  I love that it has been 45-50 degrees and I don't care if the impending apocalypse is causing this climate change, I will sign up for 45 degree winters any day. 

I have learned this week what types of things I can do to entertain guests out here in the country.  I am hoping the warmer spring and summer months will attract more visitors, but I am fortunate enough to have a small handful of friends who wanted to make the trip out here in the winter. Last weekend my best friend Emily and her fiance Barry came to visit for the weekend.  Luckily they are easy to please and were not at all bothered by the random activities we planned. Friday night we simply grilled pizzas and the boys watched Emily and I drink two bottles of wine, easily the most alcohol I have consumed in the last year.   Daytime activities proved to be more of a challenge.

Emily and I bundled Annabelle up and took her in the stroller to the outlet mall to do a little walking and shopping.  Upon returning we learned the boys had the guns out and were shooting clay pigeons.  Not one to be left out of the action, I was given my chance to shoot as well.  For those who are not a fan of firearms, I believe it would be irresponsible for me to live in a house where weapons are kept and to not understand how they operate and how to use them.  That is a component of responsible gun ownership, which I support...obviously.

So after Annabelle went down for her afternoon nap Emily, Barry, and Bryan watched me do a little target shooting. Someone asked me if it bothered me that I revealed so much in my blog about our personal life, and aren't I worried about someone knowing where we live and so much about us? The answer is no.  Because, as it turns out, I am a very good shot with the .45.

Though hard to see, I did hit my target
almost dead center.

Emily chose not to take a turn, but was a good enough friend to stick around to see what kind of skills I have. Doesn't everyone do this when they have friends come visit for the weekend?

Saturday night we decided to go out to dinner, something Bryan and I rarely do now that we have Annabelle.  Our choices for dining are limited not only because of where we live, but the radius we are willing to ravel when we leave Annabelle with someone.  The place we chose seemed fine, however their nightly special seemed very bizarre, and I was alarmed when Barry ordered it.  It was an 18 ounce Chipotle Rubbed Prime Rib, with Pear Chutney and a port wine sauce.  That is a lot happening to a Prime Rib, which historically stands alone.  I was even more concerned when I discovered my Fillet Mignon had barbecue sauce on it.  I mean, that's simply not done.  Perhaps this is why when we returned home at 9:30, instead of playing board games, we all retired to bed.  Welcome to being a grown up.  I think regardless of the entertainment (or lack of) we had a nice visit and I was happy to see my friends.

Tuesday brought its own measure of excitement.  While getting ready for a work at 5:15a.m. I was certain I smelled skunk while I was in the bathroom. I chose to ignore it because anytime I think I smell something in this house, its better to ignore than task where it originates from.   And quite honestly, how much can you really care about something at five o'clock in the morning?   But while I was upstairs getting Annabelle dressed Bryan called up the stairs "Do you smell skunk?"  and I had no choice but to admit the truth.  I didn't need to wait for Bryan to go outside and investigate to know where the smell was coming from. That's right...the smell was coming from Milton.  Milton had been outside for less than 5                     minutes before locating and getting sprayed by a skunk.  I did what I do best. I finished getting ready kissed Bryan goodbye and said "I'm sure you'll have that taken care of before I get home, right?"  and he said yes.

In my defense I did assist with Milton's Silkwood Shower.  In case any of your pets ever get sprayed by a skunk, don't jump for the Tomato juice.  It doesn't work.  The recipe for skunk smell removal is  1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap combined in an mixed open container.  Apply liberally to your sad sack of a dog who LOVES to swim in muddy retention ponds and creeks, but will do anything to escape the bathtub.  The only negative aspect to the de-skunking solution is that you can't get it in the dog's eyes, so you can't apply it to his face.  And I'm sure Milton was nose deep in that skunk when he sprayed, so we're just patiently waiting for the smell to wear off his face in good time.

I was also fortunate that this Friday a good friend of mine wanted to drive the 60 miles outside of the city on a Friday night to visit Annabelle, Bryan, and I when I'm sure there were a number of better ways she could have spent her time.  Because it was going to be dark when she drove out here I was very concerned about her getting lost.  If only there was some large landmark I could have given her to help find the house...

Oh wait! I do have one. A giant poo-covered semi! Why didn't I think of that?  Perhaps that will help narrow down which house is ours.  I supposed I need to quit getting anxious about various pieces of farm equipment, machinery, and vehicles in the yard. That's going to just be a part of life.  And there could be worse things to have in one's front yard. I once found a condom (I did not get close enough to investigate if it was new or used) in my yard in Milwaukee, so perhaps I should just count my blessings.

My visit with my friend on Friday night was fun, a much needed "girls night" for me as they are now somewhat sparse.  I do feel bad for her because while my night consisted of beer, wine, snacks, and girl talk, I have a feeling hers consisted of drinking in moderation, watching "Dance Moms" and "Toddlers & Tiaras" while trying to look the other way while I clumsily nursed Annabelle with a blanket over us that Annabelle repeatedly just pulled off me.  And the evening was rounded out by watching Bryan and I fall asleep on the couch at 10:30.  She's a good friend.

Yesterday brought another day of gorgeous weather so I couldn't just sit in the house another moment. I bundled Annabelle up, snapped her securely (or somewhat securely) into the stroller and decided to take our first walk in the country since moving out here.  I decided to head to the north because I drive to the south every day and wanted a change of scenery.  I was so excited.  Annabelle was getting fresh air and sunshine and I was doing some much needed physical activity and personal reflection. 

Now I debated whether or not to share this story, because it does somewhat diminish me as a hearty country woman.  It makes me seem very citified...and stupid. My mother and sister and both attest to the fact that I literally grew up with cows in our backyard, so I have no idea  why I reacted in such a way.

To begin, while walking on a road with no sidewalk and no shoulder, you need to walk in the road but facing oncoming traffic to prevent getting run over by farm implements (or cars).  For some reason I could not for the life of me figure out which side I was supposed to be walking on!  It was as though if I wasn't in a car I had no idea which side of the road traffic was supposed to be on.  So basically I ran a zigzag pattern back and forth and waited for a car to come by to help me figure out where to walk.

Annabelle and I walked about a half mile down the road when I decided she would love to look at the cows in the pasture.  I saw that there were two cows by the fenceline so Annabelle and I walked toward the fenceline so I could show her.  She had by this time fallen asleep so it was somewhat pointless. But I still went through the motions "Look Annabelle, do you see the cows? What do cows say? Moo.  That's right, Moo."  I heard myself acting like an idiot, but I'm learning that's what parenting is. Just acting like an idiot each and every day hoping the law of averages allows you to occasionally get something right. 

Now perhaps I was shouting because I had my iPod on and maybe that is what set her off.  But while I was talking I realized that one of the cows was aggressively approaching the fence.  I stopped talking and could hear my heart pounding in my chest as I found myself face to face with this grizzly beast:
After snapping this picture I found myself paralyzed with fear. Every time I took a step, she took a step. And I realized that I had now challenged her by looking her in the eye.  I started to walk a little faster and she ran toward the fence. I was trying to think of ways I could prevent Annabelle from being trampled when this cow decided to charge us.  I kept walking and tried to remember anything I learned from Steve Irwin when he was challenged by a Croc.  I could remember nothing, and could feel the adrenaline coursing through my heart.  I quickened my pace only to see (out of the corner of my eye) that the cow was GALLOPING toward the fence. I thought about running but was afraid it would spook the cow and, well...let's be serious, I am not much of a runner and it would most likely result in further incident.  

I did a u-turn and crossed the road and debated yelling for Bryan.  But we were a half a mile from the house and he was most likely running machinery and would be unable to hear my cries for help.  The cow also turned around and followed us back the way we came from.  I kept walking and waiting for her to break through the wire fencing and trample me me to death, certain I could fling annabelle into the weeds, hopefully sparing her young life.

As the cow got to the end of the pasture she lost interested and returned up the hill to the barn. I walked quickly back to the house where I had to explain to Bryan why I had returned after only being gone a short time.  To his credit, he did not laugh at me immediately when I explained that Annabelle and I had been charged by a cow.  He didn't even try to convince me that I was stupid or over-dramatized the events.  He very kindly said that she was curious, and perhaps she had just had a calf because they do get protective when they have calves. 

The conversation quickly got stupid because I told him I was upset that I was scared of a cow, so he asked me if I wanted to bring the gun with next time.  I said no because I needed a license, to which he replied "you need a license to shoot a cow?" and then he slowly started to make fun of me.  We agreed that I would simply have to try it again, perhaps when I didn't have Annabelle with and could maybe keep my wits about me.

The only downside of this week is that Bryan claims to have woken up this morning with no ability to hear out of his left ear.  While I want badly to feel sorry for him, it is mostly just annoying me. He now has an excuse to ignore me and pretend he did not hear.  He also has said that if his hearing isn't better tomorrow he wants to be put down, which is very possible now that I know how to safely and effectively operate the .45. He also has the lost the ability to control the volume of his own voice and keeps shouting things like "A German grenade went off right here."  and then points to his ear, or he plugs the good ear and yells "Nothing. I can't hear anything."  This may be his last day on Earth.

Other than being charged by a cow, and Bryan's recent disability, I think it was a good week. As usual all these events just remind me to be thankful.  I'm thankful to my friends who still want be my friend despite my present geographical restrictions, and I'm thankful to Bryan who not only wants to keep his family safe (from intruders and Holsteins alike), but is also willing to put up with my daily antics.

I am also thankful for owning a mop and broom as the warm winter also means perpetually muddy dogs.