Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mabel Out, Mabel In

Maybe it was all the talk about moving to a farm, or maybe it was some sort of avian sixth sense. But this morning, the day our friend Richard was to take him to the farm, Mabel-the-rooster got his crow 5:55 a.m. And he kept it up for 20-full minutes. And just in case anyone missed it, he did an encore 90-minutes later.

Richard took Mabel to give him a new home - and new name, Mack - on his farm in Green River. He also brought us one of his hens in trade.

Now having had a rooster named Mabel, I thought a hen named Dave would be hysterical. But, the boys don't share my sense of humor. Nor did they go for my suggestion of Stravoula (to go with Eleni and Yiayia Peeps). No, the boys decided the new hen would be named...Mabel Two.

Unlike the Mabel for whom she is named, however, Mabel Two is an honest-to-goodness hen. She proved it by laying a (likely fertilized) blue egg in the nest this afternoon. The boys are delighted!

Bidding adieu to Mabel the rooster

Welcoming Mabel Two

The fruit of Mabel Two's labor

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mabel Moves On

I suppose for every farmer having to say goodbye to an animal is hard - I bet that's why farm kids are discouraged from naming lambs and calves and the such. But when it's your favorite animal, I'd wager saying goodbye is even harder. Nonetheless, I need to say goodbye to my chicken, Mabel.

Named for a colleague of mine as an example of a proper chicken name to counter the Greek names the boys bestowed on the first two chicks, Mabel immediately stood out from her sisters: bossing them around, and showing a keen intellect by being the first to figure out how to dig her way to freedom.

But those aren't the talents that led to Mabel's demise. Last week, Mabel displayed another trait that her sisters didn't share: she crowed. Yes, folks, Mabel is actually a rooster!

The funny thing is, early on I noticed that Mabel's comb seemed more pronounced than that of Yia Yia Peeps or Eleni. But it wasn't until last week that we woke to a strange sound - not unlike a dying car alarm - that we realized it was one of the birds trying out a nascent cock-a-doodle-do. I knew immediately that my suspicions about Mabel had come true.

The thing is, we can't have roosters. No one wants roosters: they're noisy, they're mean, and God help me if I ever missed harvesting a fertilized egg and cracked a half-formed chick into my bowl!

When we purchased the chicks, the folks at IFA informed us that every effort is made to manipulate the incubated eggs to become hens. In fact, the chances are 97% the birds are female. Mabel is a 3%-wonder.

Now although I find being woken just before 6:00 a.m. by the gargling sound of a young rooster just finding his voice rather charming, I can't imagine my dear neighbors will share in the delight when Mabel gets his full crow on. So I immediately set out on a quest to find Mabel a new home.

IFA had mentioned if, on the outside chance, we somehow did end up with a rooster, we could bring it back. They wouldn't refund our $3, but he'd be off our hands...and into someone's frying pan. I couldn't do that to my dear Mabel.

I called Wheeler Farm - they didn't take animals, but provided me the name of someone at a bird sanctuary. He was beyond capacity with roosters (a side effect of the growing number of backyard chickens). I called Thanksgiving Point, who was looking for a rooster - but a very specific breed, of which Mabel isn't a member. (I was told any spare chickens that find their way to Thanksgiving Point end up on someone's dinner plate!) And This Is The Place never returned my call.

Then I had an idea - a long shot, maybe - but an idea. My friend Rick from high school owns a farm in Green River, Utah. I don't know if he could read the desperation in my instant message or not, but Rick said he'd be glad to have Mabel move to the farm! Rick's a lifesaver - literally!

So next Sunday Rick will be coming to Salt Lake, and he'll take Mabel back to a life on a farm. He's even offered to bring us one of his many hens in exchange. And although I miss my favorite girl, I'm glad he's landing on his feet!

Oh, when Niko heard Mabel crow for the first time, his eyes lit up and he said, "Oh my gosh! I need to tell Gus: Mabel's a boy now!"

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sentimental Journey

Yesterday we got an old trunk from my uncle's kaleevi. It'd been down there, under the stairs, for as long as I can remember. He told me that I could have the trunk and whatever was in it.

I don't know the last time I'd been under the stairs in that house, but growing up I used to love to play there. It was cool and smelled of spices. Plus, they kept the Clover Club potato chips in there!

When we unpacked the trunk, I found a couple dozen doilies my yiayia had crocheted, along with some blankets that had come from Greece when I was a kid (I think my Theia Eleni may have sent them to Yia yia when my Theia Sophie was there in the early 1970s, but I may have made up that provenance), and some frankly unattractive wall hangings.

Keeping the blankets was a no brainer - I'd loved them as a kid. I remember them folded neatly in the hallway closet, my Theia Mimi occasionally allowing me to run my hands over them, telling me how they were too nice (and heavy) to actually use.

We also kept one of the kitschy wall hangings as well - it's of George Washington on his horse, pointing toward the Statue of Liberty (who's holding her torch in the wrong hand!). I mean, come on, who wouldn't want it? As it turns out, my mom who insisted we keep it.

But it was the large pile of doilies - maybe a few dozen - that proved to offer me the most difficult choices. We're not what you'd call "doily guys." But each one of them that I pulled out was a connection back over the years to my yia yia. I remember the doilies around her house were annually bleached, starched and pinned into the carpet to dry. I remember watching her take a small metal hook to repair any damage. With a few delft knots they were good as new.

To be honest, these are amazing pieces of folk art - with a personal connection for me.

I narrowed the pile down to those I thought I might like to keep. I paraded them to Kelly, trying to elicit an opinion on each. The fact of the matter was he couldn't have cared less. But he also wasn't going to prevent me from keeping all of them if I'd wanted.

Kelly understands: I'm horribly sentimental.

The only advice he offered was to remind me that one day I would be gone and the boys would be left with a bunch of doilies.

That sealed the deal. I chose a couple of favorite pieces and sent the rest back to my mom.

Left to my own devices, I suppose I would have kept everything. Kelly's gentle reminder was a wake up call. My connection to the past may be strong, but my connection to the future is stronger. In (hopefully) 40 or 50 years do I really want the boys and their spouses or children to hold up a bunch of doilies and ask, "Do you want these or should we send them to Good Will?"

Yesterday I answered that question: unequivocally no.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tour de Fontaine Bleu!

When I was a kid, I had this amazingly cool bike - it had a banana seat and was painted safety-vest orange. Nevertheless, I called it Silver.

Today Niko got his first bike. And he loves it. The best part of Niko's bike? The power of persuasion. Gus forgot he'd convinced himself he wasn't able to ride without training wheels, and he started to ride.

Our new problem is now getting the boys off their bikes!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens

I thought I'd give everyone a quick update on the chickens: Yiayia Peeps, Eleni and Mabel.

The girls are now about 3 months old and living in their snazzy coop / run that Kelly has built for them. Along with chicken feed and an occasional dried grub, they're contentedly scratching away for all sorts of creepy crawlies under the giant pine.

They've feathered out - Eleni and Yiayia brownish with gray and black accents respectively, while Mabel is stunning in white and black.

We've also learned the axiom "go to bed with the chickens" is rather apt. I don't think 8:00 o'clock has chimed without finding the girls safely tucked in to their nesting area snoring away.

By the way, the boys love to go in the coop to hang with the chickens, and the chickens seem to enjoy the boys' company as well!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Taking it One Hike at a Time

That's me checking my Blackberry while we were hiking at Willow Lake a few weeks ago. Kelly made a point of labeling the photo before sending it out to our friends.

So I'm here to tell you all something. Hi, my name is Christopher, and I have a Blackberry addiction.

It is true that I need to be connected for work - I've had situations arise at just about every hour of the day. And, well, since I need it on my hip for work, I might as well use it to text my friends and family, right?

Well, last week I resolved that when we go hiking I will exclusively enjoy my family and nature. I don't need to text constantly and read every email that arrives. I can be in the moment.

I am pleased with my progress. Last weekend's hike was completely Crackberry free. Today's only had one text - and that was actually only to get an address.

Hi, I'm Christopher, and I'm a Blackberry addict. But I'm trying.