Wednesday, April 26, 2006

with chicken

Sarah has given me and Doug chicks. We have 9. They hatched last Friday, April 21, and arrived in a cardboard box in NH Monday afternoon. By the time I reached Shaker Village, many of them had been named (it's day camp this week at the village) and Sarah had bonded with the smallest, most speckled one. But there were plenty waiting to peep their way into my heart.

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I have three that look a good deal like the Aruaucanas did last spring (now living with Sarah at Shaker Village). Actually, none of them look like anything in particular; of mine, one

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has a topknot that makes her look like this. Well, with darker eyes and a weaker chin. Two have the first stirrings toward fluffy feet,

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which might be a good adaptation for New England winters. One of them looks like a penguin (and refuses to take a good picture).

Actually, they seem not to care much about my heart; it is eerie to see such a fully-equipped bunch of tiny birds. They seem to think that they are entirely ready to go out there and be chickens. They walk and eat and drink and even flap; they preen, they assault one another, and one of them was beating the daylights out of a tuft of seeds in the hay. At least two of them (probably roosters) have given me the Look that translates as "We're Onto You, Missy," or "What're YOU Lookin' At?" I have previously received this look from adult English sparrows, who can be very protective of the locations of their nests. I don't expect it from infants. But then these chicks are well past the imprinting-onto-Momma window.

I have a theory (mammal-biassed)that the more comes genetically packaged with an animal, the less the animal is likely to learn later. It suggests that these chickies are already as full of themselves as they will ever get. I hope it's enough. I hope most of them are female, I want the eggs.

The cats are pretty much ignoring the chicks, either as a clever ploy or more likely because they cannot be bothered. Chicks don't look enough like cat treats. A good omen.

(it's now a couple days later ; I was having trouble getting the pictures up. They are still very small but now they are noticeably larger very small dinosaurs. Several more of them are sprouting real feathers, mostly wingtips. Goldilocks is working on a tail.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

But choice

It was a very small party, but none the less pleasant for that. I think this may be the worst possible time of year to have a party, except possibly the week before Christmas (although then you get the seriously stressed-out coming to unwind. Well, you might.)

I think February might be a better time if you aren't going to be outside dipping yarn in the dyepots and gloriously fit, tanned bodies in the hot tub (I am sure I know some people with bodies like that. Or you can wait till dark.)--

but most years in February there's a problem with finding the driveway and getting the huskies down to bring up the guests and their stash and spinning wheels from the base camp.

It has now rained, and that is good, and it may rain more, which would still be good, but it was 35 last night just after dark and I don't know whether the salamanders were able to party or not. (For the record, it was over 80 on Friday afternoon. I know New Hampshire has bipolar weather but it's confusing.)

The house is noticeably tidier. The Loom Room, if you were keeping score-- not done yet, in that Paul the contractor and a professional gas person connected the fake-woodstove and every time they lit it, it was great, and then they closed the front of the stove and the flame went out. Every time. Still a few bugs in the system... but I do give Paul credit for REALLY TRYING to get it hooked up in time for the party. It will stay tidy much longer if it's unheated. If I can still conceal the stash in boxes behind the sofa I must not have too much, right?


I did spin yesterday for the first time in a while, and it had been too long. Because really, I should have realized that the reason the plying (not many yards) was so very odd was that I was plying clockwise just like I had been overspinning the singles. After I sorted that out I did much better.

Today we hope to sort out the chick-nursery, as they may arrive at any moment. They left Iowa yesterday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Big Tom

I was sitting in the garden in the late afternoon sun, with a cup of tea and a book by Henry Mitchell and a cat or so, which is as close to the good life as anyone need get, when I noticed that for once I had not frightened away the turkeys in the front yard. Just to the side on the seep-field was a completely disdainful hen, who took off across the driveway to her friends, and a large, gorgeous tom. I had had a good look at him when I drove in: his head and neck were the kind of garish red and blue you might expect on a supporter of college football, his body feathers were a rich greenish brown with lots of plain brown and black and he looked _fine_.

I expected him to follow the hen across the driveway, since turkeys usually assume I am coming up fast with an axe or a shotgun. Sometimes they retreat with a deliberate but surprisingly quick turkey trot, and sometimes they lose it entirely and FLY, which makes as much fuss as you might expect when something roughly the size of a Norwegian elkhound takes to the air. Seeing them manage to stay in the air is almost as surprising as if they were Norwegian elkhounds; they don't fly as if they were any more used to it.

This guy, however, watched me pretend not to watch him, and paraded back and forth. Every time he spread his tail--a very sudden action faster than if similar to one of those push-button umbrellas--it made the same kind of noise a large fan makes, a good-sized Chinese one with strong paper glued onto decent slats. Then he would puff his double-breasted chest up and drag his wing tips and strut, making sure watchers could see all sides and wonder at the perfectly arranged pinions of his tail-fan.

It was quite impressive. After a while I quit pretending not to be watching him, and he still didn't take off. Instead he started coming a few feet closer - he was maybe 50 feet away--and displaying at me, the first time in ages anyone has bothered to flirt. SWAP! went the fan up, or down -- he deflated in between watching me and the hens -- and then I noticed that the chest puffing had a sound of its own, rather like the one you might make as your father-in-law starts to explain why it would be a good idea to invade Iran. Sort of a choked-off inhale, and probably the turkey was doing something just like that to get his chest right out there.

Asian peacocks, once the fan is up, don't drag their wings, but they do very gently shake the whole tail and quill assemblage and make a soft hissing noise like a box full of soda straws, and I had wondered if turkeys also did. I did not see or hear any shaking, but the inhales and the fan noises were not bad. I wanted to get the camera but when I came back, the whole troop was departing behind me into the woods, making an unholy racket kicking in the dead leaves.

The cats showed no inclination to go anywhere near them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

We interrupt this fit of perseveration

and liver-chewing, muttering, and very occasional fits of tidying to say

The tadpoles have hatched!

I have seen a green frog around, and I hope it won't munch all the tadpoles up. I think they are mildly poisonous, anyway.

This is one of my favorite times of year. In Concord,there are definitely tiny leaves and flowering tree. 17 miles outside the metropolis (okay, just polis then) we are about a week behind, and my star magnolia has just popped a few buds open. The trees are in heavy bud, and I like looking at them and seeing a kind of ghostly veil preview of their autumn colors, or a faint green cloud. One year in Canterbury in England in the 70's the weather stuck just so and we had, it seemed, six weeks of little green pearls and big yellow daffodils and clouds of bluebells, so thick I actually mistook one patch for a pond reflecting the sky.

Here it has been warm during the day and barely above freezing at night and just bug-free and lovely. Perfect weather. I haven't been taking proper advantage of it (in fact, I have been in a snit) but it was beautiful, even in my fog of evil intent and gloom. I wish we could have a summer of such low humidity...except the environment here is not adapted for that. All my wildlife is based, really, on a mosquito diet and we need moisture for them and to keep the daffodils blooming.

It was 81 this afternoon, which is going to push everything along fast. I hope it cools off again. It is supposed to rain, FINALLY, on Saturday and Sunday. Wasn't I having a party on Saturday? Why yes... I suppose if that's what it takes to break the drought so the amphibians of the area can go have wild salamander sex I can hardly complain.

How about the blackflies being a month early?

But still. The tadpoles in my puddle have made it this far and the large noisy animal we have seen lately has been a thoroughly delightful porcupine. Whether or not it is a big party, I am assured the people who can make it will be witty and charming and they will have tasty and interesting food, even if the house is less, um, restrained than I would like.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Last warning

I am having a fiber party here this Saturday. Come after 10 a.m. and stay for a while. The mosquitoes have not yet arrived, but there may be frogs; there will be birds, trees, daffodils, a couple of cats, and roving. There will be food -- I am thinking salady things and a spiral-sliced ham and bread and cheese and chips and something sticky. We intend to have an indigo pot and some other dyeing going on, and if the weather is nice it will take place on the porch near the Hot Tub. Which works, and people may use it.

If the weather is not nice we'll stay inside, with fireplace.

Email me for directions (lauraejATTtdsDOTnet) we're about 25 minutes off of 93 just south of Concord, NH.

Although I have mentioned this party earlier, I have not made enough effort to get RSVPs, so I have no real idea if anyone is coming, which is partly my own fault. I always like the idea of a party, and I usually enjoy them in the reality, but there's something that happens in the middle that leaves me feeling like the sky has fallen. Into the living areas of my house, except the sky is not usually so obviously full of messy things (meteoric junk mail and laundry would explain a lot, though).

But inside or out we have plenty of places to sit and spin or knit.

In other news, the bear was around last night while I was still up. It is very well camouflaged for darkness and I was mostly aware that something larger than a chickadee was checking out the window-feeder (curiously, already empty). I am all for wilderness, but it shouldn't bigger than say, a large raccoon. I would probably be equally surprised to see the (even larger) moose that I know wanders around here, but moose are not omnivores and on the whole, I hope the bear leaves here disappointed. Or just leaves here. I swear it was trying the doorknobs.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Continuing to spring

The chipper shredder arrived yesterday.

One of my mother's happiest memories of the early days of her marriage is of finding my father in the kitchen, putting the leftover spaghetti into the dispoal one strand at a time.

It's like that, only much more violent. A very eager machine. Who would have thought that pile of spindly trees had so little sawdust in them? It sure does get rid of of things. It's also noisy enough I think it un-neighborly to run it more than an hour or so at a time, since I would want to hunt me down with a shotgun if I were someone else.

I still plan to make piles of of sticks, brushpiles, for small animals to live in, but not too close to the house. Right now NO WHERE looks tidy, inside the house or out, except possibly the computer screen, and everywhere also wants the investment of time and ideally money. it is quite satisfying to make some of the visual noise disappear. In a cloud of aural noise, but memory of that fades.

The egg mass is doing fine; the little black spheres are turning into commas, and the eggs are getting cloudy (I read that it's an algae and perfectly normal). This may be their father:

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This is probably not their father, but it's good to see my frog puddle populated (Frogulated? ranified?) again.

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We have a few very local peepers here, too, so they must think my puddle passes muster.

Doug and I and Mena walked up the hill in back to find out if the the colonial-era foundation way up there was a good vernal pond. It is; there were at least four egg masses, and great places for a cat to look cool:

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Small Big Night, anyway

It is Big Night, when all the mole salamanders get out to their nearest vernal pool and Party, when a) it's raining, and b) it's over 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Last night it stopped raining, but there were, as noted, some amphibian activities. And probably at least two wood frogs had a private party of their own: my frog puddle is pregnant.

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The native peacock

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And the women, as usual, don't seem to care.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hoppy (and slithery) spring

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Gray treefrog.

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Red-Backed salamander

It stopped raining too early for the big salamanders to come out (last year it was April 8), but the smaller amphibians are coming out. There's a peeper advertising my frog puddle.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pretty well

So last week I left work--

and a boss who was experiencing all the stages of grief upon being informed that the person previous to me had not distinguished between "Pastors" (the CEO of a church) and what she called "Clergy" (deacons, priests and bishops,
but she used it to to mean 'anyone who works or has worked for a church, including nuns and directors of religious education and the associate minister whom everyone likes because he/she is so much more FUN than the pastor, who is wondering when God will provide for, say, the elecric bill). These are not the same thing, when the boss is intending to send out a mass mailing to people with some power over the churches' budgets.

This week we are having fun trying to get a mailing list sorted by zip code of all these clerical types (dropping out some of the obviously-not-pastors and anyone who has given us money lately) when a) half the entries are home addresses and half are work addresses; thus, there are two possible zipcode fields, and my computer is not that intelligent, and b) the database has a hissy fit because about half the (800+) entries say "United States of America" and the other half just assume it. Almost everywhere in New Hampshire can be assumed to be part of the US. But sometime, maybe after 9-11, she found it necessary to say so.

I cannot help but think he ought to have hired someone who was better at office computing than I am--

you might say I left work_with relief_, and drove to Grafton Fibers, in Vermont by way of the areas in SW NH flood-ravaged last October. And they still are.

And Saxton's River is much farther out of the way if you take the NH back roads (with Highland cattle, though) than if you go out of your way on 91 from Brattleboro.

It was a warm and lovely day and I picked up a dozen beautiful spindles and drove another hour to Northampton, MA, and stopped on the way to Smith to get Chinese food for myself and my daughter and another person stuck behind the registration desk of ConBust, a small but tasty science fiction convention that almost no one from Smith attends except for the women who put it together. About 150 people in all.

I had eleven people in my workshop, which was free, but cost the price of the spindle if you wanted to take it home (I charged my cost because I wanted to Enable people). The goody bag of roving came out of stash, roving that I had no memory of-- what it was, where I'd obtained it. (And I still have a lot of roving...) Six people bought their spindles and I sold one to the woman who couldn't leave the vendors' room during the workshop; she (and a passerby) had lessons the next day. The one-hour workshop ended up lasting two, and almost everyone had enough yarn to be shown how to make a plying bracelet. At least one person (as reported by her roommate) who was up to her neck in running the convention, got up Sunday morning and said, "I have five minutes, I can spin!" Which was very satisfying. For both of us.

Since there are only six or seven people in the world, the male fan who came in and stated chatting about Elizabeth Wayland Barber turned out to be the ex- (but still cordial) boyfriend of the only other spinner I have encountered in archaeology field school. And he and the vendor may both come to this year's field school, which would be most amusing.

It was, however, the hottest day of the year -- a stuffy, humid near-80 Fahrenheit-- and my feet swelled up and everyone was pole-axed tired. Then the front came through, though no rain. Sunday was crisp and lovely and I was still exhausted. I spent idle moments sitting by the registration desk spinning and people watching. it was a fine weekend, though too soon over.