Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Taking the Yellow Crocs on the Road

Pretty soon, we'll be packing up for our annual Pilgrimage to Pinellas County (Florida, that is).

The first time we did this particular drive, our adolescent was less than two months old. THAT trip involved several nights' walking the colicky babe around roadside motels hoping we weren't keeping the whole place up.

Those first few trips involved dog-friendly hotels (For Maggie of course) and many of them. Some years it felt like it took FOR-EV-ER to make it down south.

There were two-baby trips (imagine a toddle with a stomach flu and a looooong fruitless Christmas morning search for a tube of Balmex), three-baby trips with endless Raffi sing-alongs, blizzards in New Jersey, and buckets of plastic toys.

Once we wised up to the beauty of a car-full of sleeping kids, the trips evolved into all night affairs, late afternoon starts and logy 2 AM passes through Washington DC.

I guess you could say miserable-yet-oddly wonderful road trips are now a holiday tradition with us.

It just wouldn't be Christmas if I wasn't waking up in a Cracker Barrel parking lot after an all-night drive, shuttling the kids through the chachkas and into the bathroom to pee and brush their teeth and arguing over how many hot chocolate refills might make up for their hellish night in the car.

If you are traveling with kids this holiday, here are a few things we at Maggie's farm found tremendously helpful:

1. Books on tape. We are finally all old enough to enjoy the same books! Our family currently loves the Septimus Heap series!

2. Books on paper! I visit the library and take out several new books per kid and hide them away until we're on the road. Variety is key here: Guiness Book of World Records, Graphic Novels, Calvin and Hobbes, Science Encyclopedias and many, many new novels keep all three busy.

3. Whiteboards and markers. For some reason, even kids that don't get much into drawing love to doodle and play hangman on these things.

4. Flashlights, blankets and comfy clothes-- make an all-nighter a sort of slumber party.

5. Taking turns. There are five of us and each person gets to choose an auditory option (book or music or-- in case of grown-ups-- the dreaded NPR.

6. Rest areas. Take advantage of these! We play tag or catch or just run around like nutcases, anything to expend a little energy.

7. Snacks. I make gorp and other protein-rich snacks like cheese and crackers, peanut butter and carrot sticks, and also junk the kids don't often see (Bubblicious gum and Tic Tacs are favorites)

8. Board Games. these aren't for the road. But they are mighty handy to have when the kids are jumping bed-to-bed in your motel room with nothing to do. Some of our current favorites are Bananagrams, Settlers of Catan, Blokus, and Poker!

9. A plan for the day after the all-nighter. We make sure to do at least one fun, kid friendly thing on that weary second day. (Did I say we? Um, I am the all-night designated driver, so often I rest up while Dan-- who can and does sleep through anything-- takes the kids to a hotel pool or local playground.)

10. Sense of humor. If you have kids, you know this is no small thing. Dan and usually balance each other out-- we are never in a bad mood at the same time.

11. Oh, just go for it! As frequent readers may know, we at Maggie's Farm are not the look before you leap sort. We are all about jumping in with both feet ... and at the drop of a hat, too. (There-- three cliches in one paragraph. My work here is done.) But, you know, we always get a good story out of the deal, and we never-- as my Grandmother used to say-- think we "woulda shoulda coulda!"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Its been a sort of funny year, 2010. Lots of stark raving good and some pretty serious lousy too. Our family tradition is to make "Thankfulness pictures" to share before dinner, but this year they seemed too... much. We needed a new tradition, one that would sum it all up without the obligation to gush. (Gushing, by the way, is fully appropriate at Thanksgiving. I can do it. I love doing it. But for extended family, gushing just didn't cut it this year)

And so, the Thankfulness Pinata was born. We stuffed it with anonymous notes of thanks. And then bashed it with a baseball bat.
The kids thought this was a lot more fun than obligatory art. And the grown-ups too. And when the bag finally cracked open, all our THANKS spilled out onto the damp fall dirt and the kids rushed them as if they were candy.

All fun aside, here are some things I am truly thankful for:

My husband, the calm in my storm and the true heart of this crazy lifelong enterprise.
The kids, each so much who he/she is it makes me cry sometimes
The extended family and friends that bless our days
Work. Hard, meaningful, often joyous work.
My other work, writing. I am thankful I've been able to carve out the space for my inner space.
The everyday comfort of our hilltown home
Dogs, sheep, chickens etc etc
The luck and hardships that led me here to all of this

Happy (slightly belated) Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Maggie's Farm takes this free-ranging thing seriously. Our 30-some chickens hang out under the porch and on the porch, in the barn and pasture, under the apple trees and, if the kids leave the van door open, IN the vehicles (yes, it's happened. Really). They are happy birds, lucky to be engaging in full-time poultry politics. (Chickens are born politicians. Anyone who's spent any time around the coop can imagine them in little powersuits nodding and "yes-ing", and jockeying for position.)

But they've quit laying eggs.

There was a period of diminishing returns-- 3 or 4 eggs a day in September and now, zero, zilch, bubkus. (I have no idea how to spell bubkus) They have a light in their coop to stave off the afternoon darkness. They have food and fresh air and water. They have lovely nest boxes full of comfy shavings.

But.... Nothing.

Now, many of our hens are elderly. "Fancy Feather" and "Chicklee", "Sandy" and "Rangey" are over 7 years old now. But there are also many younger hens who have no good excuse.

I wonder if the non-egg laying is a silent protest. Our male-to-female poultry ratio is terribly skewed at present. We have about 8 young and cocky roosters, survivors of this summer's fox attacks. As roos are wont to do, they sneak around waiting to catch the biddies away from the flock. Jaguar, our dominant rooster has his hands (wings) full fighting them off.

Now, I'm all for converting these young roos into chicken soup. But my better half has a bit less enthusiasm for this project. He started it a few weeks ago when I was out of town, managed one rooster before he lost his resolve and called it a day....Yes, he's a softy :)

And so, while we lurch through endless "what to do with the roosters" debates, the hens continue their protest

And we go eggless.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This is the Farm... a poem

This is the farm, cozy and still, all hunkered down at the top of the hill.

This is the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm.
This is the yard the chickens destroy as they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy,
watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm
This is the coop where seven roosters crow. They scuffle and tussle, step on each other's toes,
beside the yard the chickens destroy as they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy
watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm
These are the sheep that graze in the sun. Growing fine wool is about all they've done,
under the coop where seven roosters crow. They scuffle and tussle, step on each other's toes,
beside the yard the chickens destroy when they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy, watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm
These are the fences all broken and crashed, when trees topple over, the best ones are dashed freeing the sheep that graze in the sun, growing fine wool is about all they've done,
under the coop where seven roosters crow. They scuffle and tussle, step on each other's toes, beside the yard the chickens destroy when they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy, watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tend and keeps it from harm
And this is the barn where stray poultry roost, strutting and preening and leaving their poo, beside the fences all broken and crashed, when trees topple over, the best ones are dashed freeing the sheep that graze in the sun, growing fine wool is about all they've done,
under the coop where seven roosters crow. They scuffle and tussle and step on each other's toes, beside the yard the chickens destroy when they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy, watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm

These are the apples before the first snow, all spotted and ripe and ready to go
stored in the barn where stray poultry roost, strutting and preening and leaving their poo. beside the fences all broken and crashed, when trees topple over, the best ones are dashed freeing the sheep that graze in the sun, growing fine wool is about all they've done
Under the coop where seven roosters crow. They scuffle and tussle and step on each other's toes, beside the yard the chickens destroy when they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy, watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm

These are the shepherds all weary and maxed, doing their chores as the new moon waxed
heading out to the barn where stray poultry roost, strutting and preening and leaving their poo. beside the fences all broken and crashed, when trees topple over, the best ones are dashed freeing the sheep that graze in the sun, growing fine wool is about all they've done
Under the coop where seven roosters crow. They scuffle and tussle and step on each other's toes, beside the yard the chickens destroy when they scratch and they bask and flutter with joy, watched by the dog who looks after the farm. She crouches and tends and keeps it from harm

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Harvest

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but for us at Maggie's Farm, it can be a little sad. Autumn means the rattle of leaves and slick roads, snow grown thick over the pastures, the coop with a cold white hat of ice. It means water will freeze in the buckets and need to be kicked out and refilled eternally. Kids' mittens go missing (one from each pair) and the snow (avert your eyes if you are squeamish) encases layers of dog turd and toys.

Autumn is also the time of harvest.

We had a pretty good crop of pumpkins this year-- a first! And too many cucumbers (have to learn to pickle them one of these years) and many, many pig-planted tomatoes.

Our apples, unsprayed for two years now, are sorry looking things. But they do provide for a bounty of pies and crumbles.

We also have lamb, or ram anyway. A few weekends ago, we "harvested" Rahm, our Icelandic ram. Rahm was two years old, but with a strange ancientness in his bearing, his slow and careful gait, his propensity to plop himself down under the coop or against the barn and just sit all day like Ferdinand.

Rahm had scurs, the kind that curved straight back towards his skull and needed frequent trimming. Dan and I spent many a Saturday afternoon wrestling poor Rahm to a sitting position (Not easy as he was a complete chub) and going at those thick scurs with a branch trimmer or, when this failed, a hacksaw. Yes, there was blood, lots of it. Also Rahm's hooves grew freakishly fast, requiring even more ram wrangling. Every time we'd do the trimming thing, I'd say something like "Poor Rahm, I feel so bad for him.

We ought to just put him out of his misery and eat him." But, gutless farmers that we are, we left the big guy be.

This year, though, we'd sold all the lambs and most of the sheep, and our freezer was growing kind of light on lamb. We had one ram lamb, Ewok, a beautiful solid black with (so far.... knock on wood) no offending scurs.

We knew that with the turn of the seasons Rahm and Ewok would start up with the ramly-ram posturing and butting and that the three remaining ewes (Copper, Acorn and Penny) just needed one boy around.

We decided that we might as well eat the big, hard-to-care-for, scurs-growing-into-his-head one.

As you might recall, we've tried a few different slaughter methods. Our first ram, Gus, a nasty bugger, was slaughtered and butchered by our barber Dwayne (Yes, it IS that small a town). And the year after that I had a horrible experience with driving a vanful of sheep to a slaughterhouse. Last year, we had a mobile butcher come out to "do" our pigs and sheep more humanely. But the butcher wouldn't come out for one sheep, and Dwayne retired a few years back. What to do? Perhaps it was time to "man up" (Hate that expression) and do the thing ourselves.....

Um, no.

Lucky for us, we have some very kind friends (Thanks you guys!) who are also small farmers with more expertise in butchering and all the tools too. Dan and Adam went down to the barn with the rifle and meat saw and ropes and hooks and all sorts of terrible implements, while I hung out with the kids (Yes, this is pretty much my role when it comes to slaughter). A short while later, I ventured down to watch a bit. A short bit. As the caul fat was pulled from Rahm's gut cavity. (Never thought I'd be doing THAT back in my vegetarian days). Then Adam's wife, Emily, and I took the all kids (6 in all) to a local fundraising event for the high school athletic teams.

Later we had a barbecue (Not sheep,mind you. Definitely too soon for that.) It was, for me anyway, the easiest most pleasant slaughter day yet.

But still, the feel of fall-- endings and lapsings, chill winds and more to come-- lingers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Magical Chicken

I've mentioned the fox that's been lunching on our chickens, yes?

Well, it's been pretty quiet lately, owing to our keeping all of the chickens cooped for a long stretch of the summer. All of the chickens, that is, except for this small white hen who we've named "The Magical Chicken". Here she is:

She doesn't like the coop.. or the barn. She disappears at night, re-appears walking the fence line like a sitting duck (bad poultry metaphor, I know). And-- here's the really remarkable thing-- she hasn't been eaten!

Where does she go? How does she avoid the jaws of our resident predator? I have no idea. Once, I found her high in the rafters on the outside of the barn, once in an open shed that had been home to our trio of pigs, "The Daves". She is a cagey little thing, zig-zagging across open spaces, never drifting to close to the woods.

Our older hens (These girls are six now!) are more sedate and trusting. I've seen them gather into a ruffled little knot and gawk as the fox mows one of their sisters down. Not so with "The Magical Chicken". Long before the fox shows, she is up and out of there!

Perhaps, we have some natural selection going on in the barnyard and before long we'll have a flock of super-smart fox-detecting rafters-roosting chickens.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


If you are a regular reader of this blog, you've probably noticed that things have been a little.... scattered lately. The problem extends beyond blog inattention, I'm afraid. Fences need fixing, nest boxes lapse into poultry trainwrecks, broken eggs and displaced bedding, general ugliness. Sheep have taken to free-ranging

(Here's Rahm on the wrong side of the barn wall...)

And this very barn has been befouled by foul. Not pretty around here these days.


Well, one explanation is busyness. We are working (quite a lot) and have been away. There are, all of a sudden, three elementary school aged kids around the farm with their own social commitments, camps, activities, etc. When do we keep up with chores, exactly?

Another explanation is flagging interest. It's been about 5 years since we started farming and while we love the animals, the somewhat self-sufficiency, the lifestyle aspect, it's not the adventure it once was. The first or second or 15th time we had to trim Rahm's horns or treat a sick ewe or scrounge food for pigs, was exciting. But now we know what to expect.

It might be a sort of general failure. We have not figured out how to make the sheep affordable or how to provide more than our own meat and a few vegetables. (We regularly buy everything from cereal to snack bars to milk, ice cream and bread from the supermarket). The pigs were a success, but Dan (having been part of the slaughter process) is not ready to do another round, and they were a serious time suck. Ditto for the turkeys, minus some of the slaughter issues plus a whole lot more of a mess(!)

Lastly, there's the "itchy feet" factor. Every 5-7 years or so, I get a bad case of "let's pick up and try something totally different". Often, this "different" involves a shiny airstream trailer and a great swath of Wyoming badland, but it can take other forms as well-- 6 month canoe trips, desert islands, etc etc. To compound this state of "itchy-feetness", Dan's work is largely mobile these days... The dream seems within actual reach! (Of course the kids-- as they have often told me-- are TOTALLY NOT INTO this idea, and neither is my charmingly home-happy husband. But still.....

So here we are on Maggie's Farm, the rich summer of 2010 starting to slip from our grasp, the apples (and peaches!) ripening on the trees, our reduced flock happily free ranging, chickens glorying in their dust baths, white faced hornets building a fortress under the eaves, tent caterpillars amassing their downy nests in out front yard trees, the dirt road alternately a dusty mess and a swamp, mint grown out of control in the herb garden

...and a hundred unplanned tomatoes plants offering their hard green fruit in the former pig pasture.

Pumpkins have also sprouted in the fertile land of former pigs...

Everything more or less in a state of wild disrepair.

Not sure what'll be happening around here next, but I'll certainly let you know.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Been away...

I'm sorry I'v neglected this blog so badly the last little bit. We went on a three week long trip (!) to Newfoundland to celebrate my better half's half century birthday.

It was the longest we've been away, well, ever. But we have the most wonderful farm-sitters and so returned to the same number of chickens and sheep and dogs, all healthy and relatively happy. No news on the fox, maybe he also went on vacation!

Anyway, here's the trip-- from the perspective of my footwear:

Western Brook Pond

Sunset at River of Ponds

Rockhounding at Port au Port

Chillin' with the kids

Wading in Flowers Cove

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Out of the Loop

That's me. I didn't realize that blogging custom requires me to post 7 (7?) things about myself that you might not know and also pass the award along to a few other bloggers.

I feel sort of silly, missing that info somewhere along the way.

Anyway, here goes...

7 Unexpected Things About Me:

1. I have another blog. Its a writing blog, totally unrelated to farming (www.lesserapricots.com)

2. I've written two as-yet-unpublished novels (also totally unrelated to farming)

3. I am one course short of a bachelor's degree in Anthropology

4. I spent one awesome summer as a volunteer Archaeologist in Northern Nevada

5. I have never been to Europe

6. I grew up in Florida

7. I once rode across the country on the back of a motorcycle.

Jeesh! That was sort of painful.

Now to the fun part:

I'm passing this award on some other farmy bloggers:

Lisa at Notes from Zone 4 (http://www.mackhillfarm.com/page/2/)

Carol at Red Dirt in my soul

Skepweaver from The Shambles at Highland Butte

Well's Tavern Farm


Monday, July 12, 2010

An Award! (and update)

Look here:

I got this cool award from my friend Ariel over at http://arielswan.blogspot.com/

Ariel is part of my writing life rather than my farming life, but she DOES have some terrific chickens (all with literary names, mind you) and her blog is terrific. You all should check it out!

Anyway, I feel sort of guilty about the award because I haven't had much to say lately....

So, I guess I should use this as an opportunity for an update:

We have moved ahead with our plans to "disperse the flock" sending off two rams (Dodge and Charlie to be herdsires) and four ewes (Leela, Daisy and their ewe lambs) Two more ewes (Elba-- Copper's ewe lamb-- and Diamond) are leaving this weekend.That should bring us down to three ewes, a ram, and a ram lamb.

...And that looks about right for us. For now, anyway.

We'd been planning on sending Acorn to a wonderful farm in central Mass but are having second thoughts. in fact, perhaps we've been a bit too hasty in the "let's get rid of everything!" thing.... In retrospect, the decision had a spring cleaning feel-- also there was the cost (less of an issue with 4 sheep) and the worry (also less of an issue with 4 sheep).

And then there is the Copper factor.

(Sorry about the repeat Pic)

I didn't realize quite how attached I was to our flock until I received an offer for Copper... well for for Copper's lambs with Copper along for the ride. The offer was from a good and forthright farming fried who was clear from the get-go that he was interested in the lambs, not the 9 year old ewe still nursing them. Though it was exactly what I'd wanted, I found I was hemming and hawing about this deal.

And that's when it hit me. Copper was our first ewe. She arrived when our farming dream was in its infancy, a four year old with a lamb at her side. She was the foundation, the sensible, matriarch, the "brains" of the flock as much as our dear lovable, accident prone Acorn was its "heart".

And although it's TOTALLY ridiculous to turn down an offer for her, I did.

And so Copper is staying, along with Penny and probably Acorn, and one ram-- either Rahm, who is so fat and mellow at this point he appears to be sleepwalking

or Ewok, Copper's beautiful black ram lamb, who's rise to herdsire will put the old dame into retirement.

The odd ram out will be ramchops. (Yes, I know it's weird to bemoan someone else eating our ewe and then turn around and casually drop the M-bomb (M as in "Meat") but then, this is one of the great farming ironies.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not so fantastic

Yesterday, I awoke to the muddled screeching of chickens (If you've ever heard a panicked hen, you know exactly what I'm talking about) looked out my bedroom window to find a FOX-- long, lean, surprisingly tiny, angling after Dionysus, one of the non-cooped roosters. An inhuman warning issued from my throat, sort of a growl-bleat-scream, and the fox swiveled its beautiful head, fixed those yellow eyes on the house a moment, and melted into the tall weeds. Gone.

So now-- 30 some chickens later-- we know for sure. Our predator is a fox.

We've considered trapping it but have been told it's likely feeding pups and, being incurable softies, we can't quite fathom displacing a mama. (Yep, I know this says something unfortunate about our farmer-ness as does the fact that we can't slaughter or even sell off our old ewe, Copper, because we've had her so long.)

The other option is keeping the chickens cooped. We've done this for a few days-- the Maggie's Farm version of "Move along folks, nothing to see here." but felt so sorry for the free-ranging flock that we let them out again today.

And guess what? There she was, the not-so-fantastic Mrs. Fox, creeping along beside the back fence. The guinea fowl saw her first, started up a racket as only they can. (Up until now, we hated those %$$#$@ guinea hens, but they've been worth their weight in eggs now that there's something beyond crows and dogwalkers for them to screech about) Dan went to check on the situation and the fox melted away into the weeds again.

"I think," said our 8 year old, "Our chickens are going to go extinct."

Any suggestions?

Friday, June 25, 2010


Ah, Summer. Lazy, sun-dappled days, marble-sized apples waving on deep green, breeze-tossed branches. Summer is finding shapes in high cumulus clouds, cookouts and creamie stands. It's watching those spring babies come into their own.

At least that's what you hope for.

But on Maggie's Farm, summer 2010 is more like a horror movie... a chicken horror movie. Something has been picking off those aforementioned spring babies left and right.

It started with the youngest chicks-- barely past fuzzy stage. We noticed a few of the brood were missing. Okay, we thought, chicks are fragile. Anything could have happened.

Then came a morning when we found the bodies of six young chickens scattered about the barnyard like windblown socks off the line.

We eyed adolescent pup Milo with suspicion. After all, he showed some interest in the fuzzies.... Milo spent a few days on a long leash, the words "NO! LEAVE IT!" raining down when he so much as looked at the birds.

But then the Mama hen, Pearl, disappeared. And, having fled, tail between his legs, from Pearl's defensive onslaughts, Milo wasn't a likely suspect in that particular murder.

Luka, for all her difficult traits, is gentle with the livestock, keeping a protective eye on her flock as any self-respecting sheepdog must.
So she's not a likely candidate. And Maggie-- after the infamous guinea massacre-- has figured out that herding does not generally involve teeth. (You can teach an old dog new tricks after all.)
So the terror was not homegrown.

Once the fuzzies (and mama) were out of the way, the adolescents started disappearing. Nearly full grown, this crowd hung out at the edge of the woods, far from the coop and the mature flock. We'd been offering them up to friends and neighbors there were so many of them!

... and then there weren't.

And now it appears ALL but two or three of them have disappeared. Whatever is taking them it's quick, bold. And super hungry.

We think it might be a hawk-- Dan found a hawk over a few chicken bodies in the woods-- but then today, I made a gristly discovery: a half eaten chicken up against the fence right beside the barn. I'll spare you the gristly details, but I don't think a hawk would hang around long enough to eat THAT much.

Most of the usual suspects-- foxes, racoons, fishers-- are nocturnal. But the massacres seem to occur in daylight, broad daylight. When the guinea hens start up their ear-shattering warning calls, I run out to check but its always too late. Another chick has bitten the dust.

So what the heck is it? And how do we remove it?

I suppose we're lucky it's taken the predators six blissful, free-ranging summers to figure out we had fresh meat on the wing, but this is little consolation.

We have two new hatches today-- brand new fuzzies still in the nest-- and it'd be nice if they could make it through this brutal, blood-drenched chicken-graveyard of a summer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Been an interesting week in Western Mass. We had 20 minute storm that managed to knock out power for much of the area, blow up our water heater (causing a propane gas smell that had the fire department out first thing in the morning), and topple about 15 trees around the place. But we were pretty lucky, some of our neighbors had a tree fall through their roof, squashed cars, sheds, the works.

The power's back now, though, for us, hot water is still lacking....

Here are a few local pictures

Perhaps sensing our storm-induced vulnerability here on the farm, we had a midnight visit by a pack of coyotes. They yodeled along the fence line very close to the flock. The dogs went nuts, of course, barking and lunging at the windows and the pack dissipated.

However, the sheep decided the lower pasture was too close for comfort and busted loose in the night. Morning found them in the yard, the orchard, every which place... all safe and sound. They are now in the upper pasture (more or less...)

In other news...

Marshmallow/Darth Molly has moved to the coop. Here's her introduction to the flock...

And to Luka...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chicks for Free

Some of you might recall the plethora of chicks that our broody hens hatched out when the weather was barely springy. Well, apparently that was just the tip of the poultry iceberg. Since then, two more broodies have produced another 10 chicks which brings the total up into the 30's.

That's a serious lot of chicks.

These newly adolescent chicks roam the barn and yard, establishing an extensive pecking order, scrounging worms and beetles, their mothers have long since abandoned them to fend for themselves. (I will digress for a moment to marvel at the abruptness with which mother hens cut the apron springs. One day they are struggling to warm 15 chicks under their wings and the next, they are up high on the roost, the same chicks huddling below in the cold. It's as if a switch goes off in their birdy brains and that's that.) Anyway, these adolescent chicks remind me bit of the Gashleycrumb Tinies. Every happenstance of fate, apparently, happens to them.

Dan chopped down a tree in the back pasture, and where did it fall? On two of chicks. (This was a somewhat traumatic event for my kids and I won't dwell on it much.) The sheep water buckets which have co-existed uneventfully with our poultry for six years now, have spelled doom for two more of the little dudes. I'm guessing this is a numbers game, natural selection (or perhaps just good old fashioned bad luck) even in the unnaturally selected world of the barnyard.

One little fluffy, however, was extra lucky this year. Here's what happened: Our third broody hen hatched out her 5 chicks and left the nest with her brood. The eggs that remain are either unstarted, dead or contain fully formed chicks that were too weak to make it out of the shells. In this case, a few of the eggs had "peepholes" made by once struggling chicks. Although the hens seem rather coldhearted about this, in my kinder, gentler world it always seems a sad thing to give up on an egg. But it was 40 degrees out and the nest had been abandoned for hours. I sighed and went to get a bucket to collect the carnage.

One of these eggs had a large "window" a bit of wet yellow down and beak showing. When I went to toss it into the bucket, the little beak moved. No sound at all, the chick was too weak for that, just a tiny little chomp. The sensible thing would have been to leave this chick to its fate, but that wasn't my first impulse.

I slipped the egg under our last broody hen and the next day, when she proudly strutted around the barnyard with her brood, I was heartened to see this lucky little chick following along behind her.

Well, following a long ways back.... um, acting sort of clueless...

My joy turned to "uh oh". For a few hours, the kids and I watched the little guy. He didn't duck under his foster mother's feathers for warmth or peck vigorously at the chick starter she called out. Eventually, she left him behind.

It was still bitterly cold out and he was on his way (again) to being a goner.

This is when the kids intervened. They set up a plastic tub on the kitchen table, a heat lamp and all the necessary chick accoutrements. Then Anna and I snatched the little guy up and brought him inside. At first, we didn't think he'd make it. He seemed to have trouble eating and drinking, made an odd sort of gasp now and again and did not seem the slightest bit disturbed to find himself sans mama (Most chicks in this situation would cry incessantly and batter themselves against the tub walls trying to return to the flock). We cautioned each other that he had a 50/50 chance. I must have said "Let's not get too attached to him alright?" about a dozen times that first few hours.

But in a day or two, the little guy was as hearty as his outside siblings. Of course, his mother, having forgotten about him completely, is no longer willing to care for him. So he remains on the table inside.

His (or her) name is either "Darth Molly" or "Marshmallow" depending on which kid you ask. Of course, their interest in the little guy dried up a day after he arrived so I'm doing the chick care. He is sort of cute though:

All this poultry drama and we have 4 more broody hens asetting! Apparently, this is "The year of the chick".