Guess what…

Uh, huh. Go ahead…just what you’d hear from your 10 year old…chicken butt!!!!

Oh, geez, I never would have thought that keeping chickens would result in such things, but I had to wash Maisy’s butt today. Here’s Maisy, last year just before she started laying:

Maisy as a pullet

Maisy as a pullet

Once she started laying last year (on September 8, 2007 to be exact) she has been my most reliable layer, producing one large, delicious egg a day. So, I have to cut her some slack today when she “misfired” and apparently laid an egg without the hard, outer shell. Unfortunately, she also somehow squished it in the nestbox, making quite a mess of it and herself.

So, this morning when I figured out what had happened, I quickly changed out the dried leaves in the nest box for some new ones, cleaning out the drippy mess she’d made. But I had to wait until later this afternoon to clean her up. She was a mess: the feathers on her back side were matted with egg residue, and quite gunked up. I didn’t want to just leave her that way; after all, I know baby chicks can get “pasted up” and be in trouble, and didn’t want to run the risk of a similar thing happening with my best laying hen.

When I finally had a break in my relentless schedule of conference calls today, I prepped the laundry room sink with a basin of warm, soapy water, some clean towels, and the blow dryer. I went into the yard, picked Maisy out of the run, and quickly brought her inside. The other chickens were quite flustered to see her leave; after all, Maisy is not just the top layer, she is the top hen in my little flock. So, to see their queen whisked away was quite a disturbing thing to them.

The bath itself wasn’t so bad. Maisy struggled a bit after I plopped her into the basin of soapy water, but she eventually just gave in to the experience. I’ve never had cause to bathe my chickens before, and frankly I don’t really want to repeat the experience. I only washed the parts on her that were mucked up, as I didn’t want to get her too dripping wet considering the cool weather.

The blow drying was brief, too. I only have one of those dryers that is hot and fast or hot and slow, with no cool setting at all. Since I didn’t want to overheat her, I only briefly blasted the wet areas with the dryer.

I returned her to the run about 10-15 minutes after stealing her away, and everyone seemed happy with that. Maisy seemed unaffected, which is the best result I could hope for. So, now that I’ve tended to the bums of both a baby chick and a full grown hen, I have to say that the baby chick experience was definitely less wacky.

Ahhh…the things we do for our pets…

Back to the real world…

I had to return to the city and the stress and the family stuff I’ve been dealing with much too soon. Such is life, I guess.

One of the things I’m trying to do to reduce the amount of crap I’m dealing with is to re-home our cat. Fiona has been with us since she was a wee kitten, but our lives together are not working out. The dogs treat her like the lowest in their pack: they steal and destroy her toys, they interrupt play, and they snap at her when she tries to join us in bed at night. As a result, we have a cat that really is not getting the stimulation she needs, so she gets into lots of trouble.

Lately, this has manifested itself in her uncanny ability to dash outside when you open a door. You may think she’s nowhere near, but before that door is completely shut, she’s dashed out from a hiding place at rocket-like speed and has made it outside. Once out, she is impossible to catch unless she wants to go back in. The other day, she badly bit my friend Adrienne as she attempted to pick her up and bring her inside. On the day I returned to the city, I had a message from a neighbor complaining that Fiona had stationed herself on this woman’s porch and attacked my neighbor when she walked outside.

So, I wrote to a few no-kill shelters yesterday seeking their help. I sent each shelter the same message. It was short and to the point, and it did note that the cat had bitten a couple people. Here it is.

My message seeking help

My message seeking help

Note my automatic signature line at the end of my email, as it does have some significance in this situation. It’s a quote from Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire.

I received a response very quickly from a small, volunteer-run shelter. It was a doozy.

The first rude response from animal shelter volunteer

The first rude response from animal shelter volunteer

I was floored by this rude response. I found it shocking that a person who supposedly has some compassion (after all, she is working for an animal shelter) could be so condemning in her response. I’m not sure why, but I thought maybe she just needed a nudge from me that, hey, you’re being nasty and need to tone it down. Hence, my response to her.

My response to the rudeness

My response to the rudeness

Of course, she had to shoot back and try to get in the last word.

Final rude response

Final rude response

I had thought to send her yet another response saying “Last word.” and then blocking her email address. But that would have been petty. I had already given her a chance to snap out of whatever crappy mood she was in.

There is a lot that went wrong here. I understand it is difficult to find good people who are willing to give their precious time and energy for no pay. They really do have to be committed to the cause. But even if they are not being paid, they are representing the organization for which they volunteer. They need to be good ambassadors.

Not once did this woman offer me any real advice or try to help me — and, by extension, help my cat. Instead, she railed at me and tried to shame me. That’s really bad PR for an organization. I tried to find a list of officers or board members or something so I could clue them in about how this person needs to be brought in line, but there was nothing on their website. There are ways to look this info up, though. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the state will have tax forms on file and open to the public where board and officer information is listed, too. Mark says he will look it up and send a note to the board of the organization.

I had written to several shelters yesterday and this is the only inappropriate response I got. Every other one responded kindly and provided links or attachments with information on how to address the situation. While they were all full, they did try to help me and my cat.

The world is full of too much grief and strain already. I just don’t understand why people seek to perpetuate it.


In this place and time, it is impossible not to find extraordinary beauty all around you.

A glimpse of the Au Sable River at Iargo Springs

A glimpse of the Au Sable River at Iargo Springs

The weather promises to continue being perfect, too. I just don’t know what to say, frankly. “Having a wonderful time” sounds so vapid, even if it is true. (There are lots more photos like this in my Flickr set. I kind of went crazy with the camera yesterday.)

Yesterday we went to Iargo Springs and braved the many, many stairs to get to the banks of the Au Sable River and just…be there. The views were spectacular, even the one straight up. I lay down on a bench for a little while to just soak it all in and watched as a couple spiders parachuted from the trees across the blue, blue sky.

From there we headed out to one of the hiking trails in Huron National Forest. We didn’t stay out on the Corsair trail very long as we were getting hungry for lunch. Despite our hunger, we knew enough to stay away from this:

The highly poisonous fly asparic mushroom

Fly Asparic mushroom

Rachael’s stepfather, Mark, arrived at the cottage last night and offered to take us out mushroom hunting. He knows better than to pick something like this, although he did admire the photo.

Well, despite the fact that the lake is still covered with fog, the sky up above is very blue and the sun is fully risen now. Time to begin another lovely day.

Into the woods

Morning at Chain Lake

Morning at Chain Lake

It’s a peaceful morning here at Chain Lake where the day starts with the calls of birds, the scurrying of squirrels through the fallen leaves (they have the kind that have beautiful black pelts here), and the occasional gunshot from a hunter. Well, I assume the shots I heard this morning were from hunters at least. I’m not sure what they’re hunting. Likely birds of some kind as I know it is not yet deer season for those with guns.

The bow hunters are already around, though. As we drove in on the progressively smaller roads it seemed that every small town had the same bright orange banner hanging: an image of a deer’s head with the words “Welcome hunters!” in strong black letters. As we stopped for re-fueling and lingered for a quick browse through the “Up North” store, there was also this:

Scats and Tracks, a compelling read

Scats and Tracks, a compelling read

This same filling station had huge sacks of deer bait, too: giant carrots, dried corn on the cob, and enormous sugar beets. I always thought it was illegal to bait for deer, but guess it’s OK during bow hunting season.

I’m not sure what it is about this state, but they seem compelled to make heaps of gargantuan vegetables, even in town. As we stopped in Frankenmuth for a late lunch and a quick WiFi connection, we encountered this in the parking lot.

Mound of squash

Mound of squash

Welcome to fall in Michigan.

On the road

I know the posts have been few and far between these days, but the reasons are a bit complex and very personal. As I don’t typically use this blog to go into deeply personal matters, I’m not going to go into any of the gory details here. My close friends are aware of the challenges I’ve been facing recently, anyway (and no, it’s not health issues this time, thanks for asking).

But, here I am on the road to what I hope will be a respite where I can safely recharge and do some thinking. My friend Rachael invited me along to her parent’s vacation home in northern Michigan, and we are on the way. So far, we’ve made it through the awful Chicago rush hour traffic, the oppressive Skyway tolls, and are a mere 2 hours away from the haven we seek.

We’ve taken a brief stop and dipped our toes back into the “crazy life” so Rachael can respond to some emergency at work. While this has meant we had to find a place with WiFi during our travels, it hasn’t been much of a hardship for me. We’ve stopped in the quaint (nearly to the point of being nauseous) town of Frankenmuth, Michigan where we visited Zielinger’s Wool Mill and ended up in Tiffany’s to partake of some lunch and the free WiFi. And a beer or two for me. ‘Cause I’m not driving, and I deserve the the break.

So, coming up in the next post should be some of the photos I’ve taken today at the wool mill and more of the beauty of the north woods.

Stay tuned…