Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chicken of the Sea

Bryan and I have discussed, at length, how much I enjoy writing...specifically this blog. So why is it that there are now GIANT lapses of time between posts? Well I blame it on 2 things: 1. HORRIBLY SLOW TERRIBLE INTERNET OPTIONS in rural areas  and 2. My recent nuptials.  And this all therefore results in very long blog posts, for which I apologize.

Bryan and I were married on June 8th at what turned out be a perfect evening at our homestead.  The chickens were out, the dogs were out...and in classic Milton-style, he was right on top of of us for every single moment of it.  Complete with wildlife and fireworks, it was a beautiful night and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect wedding.  I am so thankful we were able to share it with our family and a few close friends. 

The day after our wedding we departed for our Honeymoon in Nor Carolina.  Farmer Bryan had not taken a vacation in a very long time...and I believe that vacation was Sturgis so...yeah. 

Vacationing with Farmer Bryan was a lot more fun than one would imagine.  He never complained about anything and was willing to do whatever activity I had planned.  Lucky for Bryan I am quite possibly the best vacation-planner there is.  Correction: 2nd best- my mother is probably the best vacation planner.  I learned from her.  Additionally, Bryan was extremely social on vacation.  He was stopping strangers on the trail in Chimney Rock Park and talking to them. He stopped Park Rangers and asked them how the complicated stairs system up to Chimney Rock was constructed. He talked to maintenance people at the Beach Resort about it's construction.  basically Bryan is a big fan of asking "How" and "Why"  while on vacation. I suspect this will come in handy when Annabelle  is about four years old.

While on our honeymoon we traveled through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was so beautiful. Amazingly enough it was only 50 degrees there. Leave it to us to plan a trip and find a place to stop where it is actually colder there in June than it is in Wisconsin.  But it was lovely. 

In that state park (I believe on the Tennessee side but am not sure) they have a mock up of a working farm in what I kept referring to as "pioneer times" which may or not be historically correct.  We, in the mountain rain, wandered around this mocked up farm and I could see in Bryan's eyes that somehow he was dropped into the wrong time period.  As his eyes scanned all the "old-timey" tools I could tell that he would be much happier if that's how our life was right now.  There was a display case of farm implements and he was able to identify and explain each one to me without looking at the notes along side of them.  For a moment I wondered what our life would be like if we did live in earlier times.

Mostly I was contemplating how I well I would do as a Pioneer farm wife..and it just didn't look good.  It seemed like there would have been a lot of walking and sweating, and a very distinct absence of makeup and skin care products.  Basically I might have been OK in the 1950's, but not the 1900's.

Of course, as you may suspect, they had a mock-up of an old timey chicken coop on that farm we visited and we were both very pleased to see that it looked just like our chicken coop.  The classics never die.

It is here I do have to interject a bit of parental judgement. I try to never do this because I believe people must parent to their own families needs and beliefs.  I also maintain that what we see other people doing is just a snapshot, you can never know what another person's circumstances are.  However...

While in the old-timey farm museum in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park there was a girl probably around 10 years old intently studying some old-timey medical and dental tools and reading the cards for each one.  And while she was reading her father walked over (from the gift shop) and said "Come one we have to go, your mom's waiting for you.  And she said "Dad, this was used for pulling teeth in-" and he didn't even let her finish her sentence and said "come on, let's go."

Here was a very rare instance where a child actually was taking an interest in something educational and with some sort of historical value.  She was very deliberately reading every single descriptive word and sentence for these items and her parent didn't even listen to what she was saying and dragged her out. And while I acknowledge that kids definitely dawdle and "fart around" a lot and eventually you do have to just drag them out, I also acknowledge that from what I saw on my trip...most kids do not give a rat's ass about reading all the signs and placards in a historical site or museum.  Give the kid 5 minutes to read it if she's interested in it.  Then you can drag her back to your minivan and put her movie on for the rest of the drive. I write this I am feeding my baby yogurt and baby MumMum while she is in the Johnny Jump-Up...outside. I would imagine it's like trying to eat a bowl of Soup while on the teacups at Walt Disney World. End of parental judgement. 

After spending some time in the mountains we made our way to the beach.  I am a lover of the sea.  I have no idea how I ended up landlocked in the Midwest because every time I smell the salty air of the Atlantic I believe it is where I belong. I always think that I should own a beach house where I can sit on my porch writing my novel while listening to the waves against the shoreline.  Instead I live on a farm and sell engines for a living.  I'm not really certain where I took a wrong turn, but life is funny that way.

I was very concerned that Bryan wouldn't share my love of the sea.  Thankfully I was wrong.  I have a few girlfriends who have traveled with me to the beach and know that I.Love.Swimming.  I can't be in the water enough, and unfortunately I am in the minority when it comes to beach-going. Most people will take a cool dip between lengthy sun-bathing sessions, but not me. I would spend the majority of my time getting knocked over by salty waves.  I have finally found my swimming partner.  I could not get Bryan out of the water. And if I ever had any doubt that I found the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life and raise a family with, any trace of doubt in existence was completely obliterated by this one act:

Now in preparation for going to the beach I gave Bryan only one rule. It is my cardinal rule of beach going: DO NOT FEED THE SEAGULLS.  Seagulls have adapted to beach goers pretty quickly and if you so much as give them a crumb, you will have a flock stalking you for the entire day.  And knowing how Bryan is with wildlife, I knew his first act on the beach would be feeding the seagulls. So I made it very clear that he was, under NO circumstances to feed a seagull.  And here's how that turned out:

I'm not sure what angered me more about this, that he was had a blatant disregard for the rules of the sea, or that he was wasting perfectly good Pringles on stupid seagulls!  I suppose I should have known this would happen. Even in the water he was attempting to "pet" a pelican.  He swore if he had more time he would have been able to catch it.  I'm not sure that pelicans are able to peacefully coexist with chickens.
But Bryan continued to feed the seagulls and said he had to, that they were his sea chickens.  He even went so far as to name one.  This little fellow which Bryan so cleverly named "Blackhead." Though I'm not surprised at this because he named our friendliest chicken at home DB Sweeney, because she has a dark beak. So naturally her name would be Dark Beak Sweeney, or DB Sweeney.

So even though  the rules of the beach were not respected, I was relieved that Bryan was not only enjoying himself, but was also remaining himself.  He was comfortable enough at the beach to act like a jackass, just as he does at home with our own birds.

Sadly, we had to return home (though I was relieved to be reunited with our sweet Annabelle) to our own wildlife. Aunt Jodi was kind enough to take care of the dogs and chickens while we were away, which we were very grateful for.  I suspect she may not be volunteering again so soon, but perhaps by next summer she will be ready for another farm adventure.  I don't know what the going rate is for chicken-sitters these days.

Sadly, upon returning home we were greeted with tragedy.  As we neared our drive way we saw some of our chickens in the road investigating (i.e. snacking on) something. As we got closer I saw two yellow feet in the air.  One of our beloved dark brown hens had been hit by a car.   I was devastated. In fact, I was much more upset about it than I expected to be. I suppose it was because it wasn't an act of nature or at our hand.  As we parked the car and got out to investigate, I couldn't help but wonder "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Any animal that is not a pet, but is wildlife perishes on our property they receive a proper cremation.  Now, I'm not sure if it was because I was so upset, or because it was 95 degrees that day,  but Bryan buried our beloved hen.  Soon we are going to run out of room to bury animals.  I am sure what happened next will be no shock to anyone, and while it was not shocking to me, it didn't make it any less unfortunate. 

The next day, which was also a 95 degree day, Annabelle's babysitter commented that Milton smelled bad. Fearing the worst, I immediately ran to the window to check the burial site and saw that it remained in tact.  Relived, I assumed he just rolled in something as usual.  Later than evening I was putting laundry away and heard Bryan yelling some very serious bad words, so I came running to find bryan yelling and hurling the dogs dishes out into the yard.  I asked him why he was throwing the dogs dishes and he informed me that  Milton had, of course, dug up our beloved hen's remains.  Who wouldn't throw things upon discovering that on the hottest day of the year your dog had scattered chicken remains all over the yard for all God's creatures to snack on.  I told Bryan "If you expect me to eat those chickens, or their eggs you best go collect that carcass so her brothers and sisters stop snacking on it."

It is times like this when I wonder what kind of childhood Annabelle is going to have. I like to think that we are providing her with he best life a child could have. At 9 months she has seen and done more than many grade-schoolers I know, but I wonder if occasionally we cross a line.  Perhaps when we allow this to go on without interfering (WARNING: Grammie, you may not want to look at this!) a line has been crossed:

I can't really justify this other than to say say that perhaps this will help give her some sort of antibodies to farm and livestock allergies. And to be honest....she seems to really like doggie kisses (even if they are of the French variety).  Somewhere a parent who hastily yanked their child away from an educational farm display is reading this in disgust and wondering what parent allows their dog to put his tongue in their baby's mouth.

I used to get very nervous about stuff like this, about the dogs French kissing my baby, and her handling farm kittens and chickens, and letting her crawl around in the grass occasionally eating grass that may or may not have chicken poop on it.  But with Bryan's encouragement, I've really kind of gotten over it.  I know my daughter will most likely always be the one with dirt on her face and under her fingernails and perhaps never wearing shoes or socks.  But my daughter will also be the one who has pet chickens, cows, dogs, kittens, horses, ridden in tractors, and planted and picked vegetables that she grew herself in her very own garden.  At Halloween when everyone is carving pumpkins they had to drive 20 miles to pick, Annabelle can say that she grew her pumpkins herself at home.   So I guess it's those thoughts that allow me to let my dogs French kiss my baby.

So it was back to reality this week. Back to work, back to daycare, back to laundry, and back to keeping Annabelle from eating fistfuls of dog hair and gravel. Instead of feeding Pringles to the sea chickens, we fed Cheerios to the chicken chickens.And even though I often feel like I belong at the beach,  my heart is here in the Midwest with my husband, daughter, dogs, and chickens and despite my rhetoric..I wouldn't have it any other way.

This post is dedicated to dark brown hen. You will be missed.