Hail, South Dakota

I have South Dakota etched in my brain. For the past several weeks I’ve had a compulsion to drive to South Dakota. It’s not as if I’ve turned into the Richard Dreyfus character from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (besides, he was obsessed about Devil’s Tower which is in Wyoming and not South Dakota…although Devil’s Tower is pretty darn close to the South Dakota/Wyoming border), but I think it about it a lot. I’ve been thinking about it so much and have had such a strong compulsion that I actually ordered the South Dakota Vacation Guide from their official tourism website. And it arrived in the mail yesterday. Yay!

State Facts

Capital: Pierre (pronounced “peer”)
Dessert: Kuchen
Animal: Coyote
Fish: Walleye
Insect: Honey Bee
Song: Hail, South Dakota

The state population is 754,844. That’s probably the population of my neighborhood here in Chicago. (Well, maybe it would be the population of this neighborhood plus it’s immediate surrounding neighborhoods, too.)

Besides having kuchen and walleye (both quite yummy) and honey bees (presumably producing honey to flavor the kuchen), the big attractions are calling to me: The Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills. These are the things I want to experience. (And the Mitchell Corn Palace should probably be visited, too.)

But why this seemingly sudden strong urge to visit a state with the motto “Under God, the People Rule?” It is the epitome of a red state and I’m a very blue state kind of person. I think this deep desire is not just to visit a state with bigger than life monuments, it’s that I’ve somehow tapped back into my most cherished childhood memories of the “road trip vacation.”

When I was a kid, we took driving vacations every year. These weren’t just jaunts to the Wisconsin Dells or Springfield, these were long road trips to places like Florida and Texas. (Actually, they were always about Florida or Texas for some reason.) These trips usually involved camping, first in our pop-up trailer and later in our mini-motor home. Even though we had the short attention spans typical of most kids and everything didn’t always go right (a flat tire in Alabama and a hood malfunction at high speeds were quite memorable), I remember these trips very fondly.

It was fun to whiz down the expressway at 75 mph (that was the speed limit for the most part back then) with the windows open, playing games that involved car license plates and signage. There were kitschy road side attractions and Stuckey’s every few miles to keep us from getting too bored.

Lookout Mountain? Been there. Okefenokee Swamp? Yep, been there, too. (And I have a really funny story about a raccoon encounter in Okefenokee, too.) Also, amusement parks were visited. Six Flags over Georgia, Six Flags over Texas, and the ultimate amusement park: Disney World. In fact, we visited Disney World every year for seven years in a row. We were Disney World pros and developed our own system for visiting the park with minimal waiting in line and minimal cost.

Back then you didn’t pay an all-inclusive price, you purchased books of tickets. There were A, B, C, D, and E tickets. E tickets were used on the high end rides like the Haunted House and Space Mountain. Hence the expression “that was an E ticket experience!” The lower cost ticket books had relatively few E tickets, so they were very a precious commodity. We would go to the park in the morning, then stay at the park until lunch time. Then we’d head back to our camp site to eat lunch, swim, nap, etc. and finally eat an early dinner. At around 6 PM we were back at the park and hanging around the entrance. Families often left at this time, too tapped out from the high cost of lunch and trinkets to spring for dinner at the park, too. So we would often get offered — or even ask — for leftover tickets and then head back inside and stay until the park closed at 10 PM. We were thrilled when we copped ticket books with unused E tickets! It was a brilliant system.

So I think that’s what I’m really craving: the joy of the unexplored, open road. The promise of a thrilling E ticket experience at the ultimate destination just a few more hours away. And the camaraderie of a good road trip, too. Because of course I don’t want to do this alone, either.

A pair of fine days

I’ve been going through my share of physical challenges lately, but the past day-and-a-half have been really good ones. I started an increased dosage of my Armour yesterday and was feeling well enough to tackle some outdoor chores before the heat built up.

Clean chicken coops? Check. Pick up dog waste in the yard? Check. Mow the lawn? Check. I was so happy that I could get through all of that and still have time to sit on the porch and enjoy the relatively cooler weather, too.

B came over about mid-afternoon and seemed disappointed that the lawn was already mowed. He offered to do it when we talked Friday night and I had gratefully accepted the offer. But it kept looking like it may rain throughout the morning and I was feeling so good that I just went ahead and did it myself.

Today I slept in quite late (well, technically I was up early for chores, but then went back to bed), had a light breakfast and then decided to do some cooking. I defrosted two small ducks, put them in the slow cooker and started a loaf of bread in the bread machine before heading out for a late lunch/early dinner with B. (Real deli flood at The Bagel in Skokie…mmmm!)

When I got home, I cleaned out the entire refrigerator, washing all of the shelves and drawers and tidying up things a bit.

Such productivity makes me really happy. Let’s face it: I hate being idle. Even when “resting” I feel the need to be reading something, knitting something, or…well, just plain doing something. During comfortable summer days on the weekends, I love to sit on my back porch, sipping a cool beverage and enjoying the fresh air. But I find that I can only sit still for a short period of time. I need to get up very 20 or 30 minutes to pull some weeds, prune something, or mess around in the compost.

Ah, well. At least no one can call me lazy.


Betty the hen has been very productive lately, too. I was worried about her last month. Neither she or Selma were eating much and I was getting no eggs at all for at least 3 weeks. Betty is quite thin under all her feathers, although Selma seems well fleshed out. Selma very rarely lays an egg,  while Betty was one of the heavier layers. I think that is why Betty is so much thinner.

Laying eggs takes a lot of energy and doing so very frequently seems to make the hen thinner fleshed and finer boned. So when Betty seemed to be eating very little, I got worried. She wasn’t interested in her normal feed nor was she interested in the weeds and greens I offer them from the yard. Frankly I was concerned that I’d have to be burying another hen soon.

During that time we were also having a lot of heat and humidity, but the hens have lived through a few hot and humid summers without their eating slowing down so much. Eventually I started trying to feed them a few different things. In the freezer I found a loaf of stale “health” bread one of my neighbors had left for the hens to eat. (I had put it in the freezer as there were too many other breads to feed them at the time, and it’s not good to give them a lot of bread anyway.) I defrosted the stuff and found that it was one of those heavy, dense, brick-like “health” breads.

I broke off a chunk and offered it to the hens, but it was so dense they couldn’t peck much from it. So, I crumbled up a portion in a dish with some water and let it sit to get soft. I also mixed in some oyster shell and some food grade diotomaceous earth (DE), which is supposed to be good for helping to eliminate intestinal parasites when ingested. I offered the hens this “mush” and they eagerly ate it down. They got a serving of this “mush” over the course of several days and always dug right in.

Next, I found some dried soybeans in my pantry that I’d had sitting around for several years. I soaked them overnight and then cooked them plain the next day. I offered these beans to the hens and they gobbled them down, too. After that they started back on their regular feed quite eagerly and Betty resumed laying again. I’m not sure if it was the DE, the oyster shell, or just the temporary change in diet, but it seemed to work. Betty has laid an egg every day for the past 6 days, and she’s eager to eat up any of the weeds I offer her. There’s been quite a bit of wild amaranth popping up here and there and that seems to be one of her favorites.


Having a 2 good days under my belt is very good, but I know better than to start pushing myself too hard too soon. If I can have another 2 or 3 days like this, then I’ll try going back to the gym and doing a short work out. Until then, I have work to do for my job and odds and ends to do here at home that will keep me productive and occupied.

But it sure feels great to be perky again. 🙂


It’s baaa-aaa-ck!

Well, it may not be the same one, but there’s a raccoon messing with the hens again. This time, I’m not too concerned since I lock them securely in their Eglu at night. I’m sure it’s stressful for the hens, though.

Really, I wonder what it’s like: hearing “the beast” attacking your shelter at night and knowing you’re just *that close* to being torn apart. *shudder* I guess when our way-distant ancestors first descended from the trees they had similar experiences. But we’ve been predators and up near the top of the food chain for so long that we really don’t have to worry about such things. Unless we live in an unstable urban area or a war zone, that is.

Well, that was quite a digression!

Anyway, I’m really only assuming it’s a raccoon visiting at night since I haven’t actually seen it. But what else could be messing up the run cover every night for the past  3 nights? I’ve even figured out where it’s getting into the uber-run (as I call my large run in which the Eglus rest), and frankly there’s not much I can do about it.

As long as the hens keep inside the Eglu coop at night and don’t try to wander out into the attached Eglu run area they are safe. I could close the door to the Eglu coop and take away this option entirely, but then the hens would be stuck without food or water until I rolled out of bed an hour or two after sunrise to let them out. It’s summer and with the shorter nights I’d have to be out there at about 5 or 5:30 AM every day to beat or meet the sunrise.

I’m down to 2 chickens now and I’m actually thinking I may bring them to my mom’s farm this fall and go without hens for the winter. It would give me a bit of a break and allow me to plan a better coop and run layout, perhaps. After all, as anyone with chickens will admit, you always contemplate ways to improve your set up .

In the meantime, I wonder how much longer the raccoon will keep trying to get at a hen until it finally gives up and leaves for good. Or at least for another few months until the morning light comes later.