...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)



Probably the most amazing re-use efforts I have ever seen...!


chicken... saddles

So what exactly is a chicken saddle?
I wondered the same thing myself...
The first mental image that I conjured up when I heard
"chicken" and "saddle" together
was a whimsical little world 
where a charming field mouse 
with a great personality
(let's call him Mr. Perkins)
was riding a chicken to get somewhere.
"Giddy-up, Hen Betty!"
Mr. Perkins would be going somewhere important, of course.
And Hen Betty and Mr. Perkins would be wonderful friends.  

Alas, the reality is far less interesting,
and born out of utter practicality. 

So who's riding the chickens, you ask?
Well, the damn rooster is riding the chickens.

And with only two girls currently in his little flock, they're getting a lot of action.
And to make matters worse, he has a very clear favorite.

Betty, our white plymouth rock,
 is a spunky little thing who is fast on her feet and does her own thing.
She manages to escape his "amorous" advances.  
 Goldie, our gold-laced wyandotte, on the other hand, 
is not fast or spunky at all.
  And she is the unlucky favorite of Emmaline,
as evidenced by her damaged back/wing feathers and her semi-bald head.

 Poor Goldie.

We really hate it.

We would give Emmaline to a more farmy farm any day of the week,
but the reality is that we keep seeing very hungry Cooper's hawks circling overhead.
Like multiple times daily.

This has been a hard winter on birds of prey.
They took two of our precious girls in late fall / early winter.

 Right above the entrance to our chicken yard.

Rest in Peace, Wellie.

Rest in Peace, Buttercup.
(Buttercup was a real hoot -- she only ever laid a few times, 
but she liked to go lay on top of this bag of pine shavings!)


So, short of keeping The Littles all cooped up in their very tiny coop,
we've decided to keep Emmaline the lascivious rough ridin' rooster around...
in order to be their bodyguard. 

Emmaline seems to do a good job of watching after them.
 You should see the way he stands around, posturing and flapping his big wings.
He takes his job quite seriously.

 He's constantly standing watch, and scanning the skies and surroundings for predators.

When he finds a food source, he makes a specific call to alert the girls that he's found food.
He always let's them eat first.  He can actually be a real gentleman in some ways, 
if you ignore his rough love pecks.  

Emmaline never lets either of the girls in his care stray far, 
especially not his beloved Goldie.

She can't get very far from him before he starts stalking after her.

 He does this funny thing with his wing, where he drops one wing to the ground
and makes some staccato movements and sounds.
At first we thought it was a pre-mounting routine, but it doesn't seem to be.
It seems to be when he's "herding" her, trying to get her to stay in a certain area. 
"Sh!t b!tch!  Stay up here! Don't go too far from the coop!"

 She tried to tell him about personal space, but he just doesn't get it.
He's part chivalrous knight and part caveman.  
"Me rooster."
  "Space dangerous."  
"You no get no space."

So back to the whole chicken saddle thing.

The saddle is to protect the chickens from Emmaline's advances.
It covers their back and provides some protection where he mounts and "treads" on them.

Boo made some saddles the other day after getting upset about how damaged Goldie's feathers were.
She made them in a flash...  She's amazing like that!
She found a template online and stitched them right up.

The saddles don't impede the girls' ability to flap their wings or fly up onto a perch 
or anything of the sort.
They just provide a little covering. 

As time goes on, I imagine we'll have a variety of fashions that the girls can sport, 
but for now, they have two great saddles that are doing the trick.
Boo even thought to make some felt "eyes" to sew on the saddles
 after reading that those big eyes can deter aerial predators.

Hawks have such amazing vision 
I can't imagine they'd be fooled, 
but whatever... it can't hurt!

Some websites even say that a good saddle can make it harder for a hawk to kill a hen.
Well, that would certainly be nice.

Hawks are expert killers, so I can't imagine a little fabric would deter them all that much.
But hey, let's just hope it *could* work.
We love our hens so much we want to know we did everything possible 
to give them the best life and the best chance of survival.

It's a tough balance to strike, but we keep working at it.

 We can already see room for some saddle improvements.
It would be wise to use a sturdier fabric - even canvas,
especially because Emmaline's talons are quite sharp.
So is his beak. 

I've been pecked several times by Emmaline and unlike a hen, who will peck and retract,
roosters seem to give a very sharp peck and then lock their beak on.
It's painful!  Emmaline has even drawn blood on my hand.
After one long latch-on to the skin on the top of my hand,
I was about ready to turn him into coque au vin!

But every time I see those hawks circling overhead, 
or the red fox 
or the resident mink
or various other predator tracks who loves to eat chickens
like raccoons, coyotes,
or even our neighbors disobedient dog 
who runs through their electric fence all the time
coming over to sniff things out...

I'm thankful for Emmaline.
Emmaline has an important job.

I do think that if a hawk swooped down,
Emmaline would come between the hawk and the hens.
And in the mean time, 
I think the saddles will help keep the peace between us, Emmaline, and the hens.
At the very least, it'll keep some feathers in tact,
and it won't ruffle ours quite so much.

So there you have it.
The story of chicken saddles.

Now we just need to figure out how to make a helmet for Goldie's poor little head!

 Boo is toying around with the idea of a tall collar 
that would come up off the back of the neck of the saddle, 
and cover the head if the hen is mounted or attacked.

Either that or Goldie needs a chain maille helmet!



musical playfulness

I'm behind on blogging and oh-so-many-other-things right now,
so I thought I'd just do some quickies. 

Here's some fun musical playing around for a Sunday afternoon.

Bald Eagle Live Cam

Live bird nest cams are starting to stream again...!
Check out this bald eagle nest in Hanover, PA.
I couldn't figure out a way to embed it here on my blog,
but just click the link and you can watch!


the accordion...+ remembering my grandmother

My grandmother had this big plain looking box 
that I always thought was just a suitcase...

Until one day she opened it up for me
and inside
was a sparkly gold-embellished accordion!

 It was seriously schnazzy.
Probably the only fancy thing she had. 
And what a treasure it was!  

She got her hands around it, lifted it up, 
and in seconds she was making music...!

It seemed like magic to me.

When she played it,
it looked to me like she was a bird,
only instead of opening her beak,
she would open and close
her bellowed and glittery wings,
and music would float up around her.

It was half as big as she was,
but still she managed to sway gracefully
about her little living room
like we had been transported to
the Rue du Belleville and were 
dancing outside of Aux Folies.


So, you may have guessed it.
I totally have a soft spot for the accordion.

I wish I could remember what my grandmother played.
I'm sure she played some mean polkas,
and I bet she also just made stuff up,
since she could play by ear.

She just played.

Tunes.  Ditties.
Numbers.  Pieces.

Whatever you want to call them.

Whatever they were,
they were the sorts of things that
made me feel happy and lively
and gave my body an itch to move about.

She was an amazing lady.
I was only 12 when I had to say good-bye to her.

Sometimes I like to imagine what I would do
if I could be given one perfect day with my grandmother now.
Even if we did nothing but be together
and share each others' company, that would be so wonderful.

But if I could pack a beautiful (summer!) day with an itinerary,
there's a whole list of things that I would want to do with her. 

Of course a day would leave me wanting so many more days,
and there are questions still up for grabs:

Would I be a child again? 
Would I go back to her house?
Or would I be my adult self, and show her my life / family / town?

Or would we go on a road trip together,
taking delight in the wide open world?

While I'd like to do all of those things and more,
if I really only had one day,
I would choose to revisit and expand
my favorite childhood memories with her.
It'd be a day full of music, nature, food, and stories.


I'd watch her hands dance overs the keys of her organ
while she'd play some boogie woogie,
half-dancing with the rest of her body,
scootching around the bench,
pumping pedals with her feet.

I'd watch her hands knitting
while she rested in her recliner,
and I would ask her all of the questions I have now
that I couldn't have thought of as a child.

I'd want to learn about her as a person
and not just a grandmother.

I'd want to hear her laugh her big big laugh
so I could memorize it.

We'd have a snack and play a game of cards.

We'd go look in her birdhouses
 to see if anyone made a nest.

We'd sit on the porch
while she'd whistle and warble
with her feathered friends.
(I swear she could speak bird!)

I'd ask her to show me all of her flowers
(or posies, as she called them)
and tell me about them.

 I'd hug her and hold her hand
and look into her soft brown eyes
so I could be sure she would know
how special she is to me.

(will always be to me.)

We would go for a walk through farmer Joe's fields,
and maybe end up down at my great-grandmother's farmhouse.
or even walk all the way down to Blackwell to go swimming,
and call someone to give us a ride back up the hill.
We'd pick something fresh from the garden to eat for dinner,
maybe snapping peas or green beans
into a bucket.

(while we were at it,
we'd also pick a bunch of dandelions
so Pap could make wine with them.)

Since everything she made was delicious,
(from scratch, from memory)
maybe she would teach me
her best best BEST recipes.

And we would definitely eat pie,
at her tiny kitchen table,
next to the old porcelain drainboard sink
and the bowl of fake fruit.

We'd stay up late talking
and then decide to have a camp-out
out in the pop-up camper.
(the one that had a little teeny tiny refrigerator
that I loved to look inside to see if there was anything in there)
we'd carry out blankets and pillows and flashlights
and we'd fall asleep telling stories
with the sound of the peepers in the background.

She would fall asleep before me,
and I would giggle quietly
at her snoring sounds
and then soon the cadence of the peepers
and the steady sounds of her snores
would send me
into my own dreams.


What would you do if you could spend a whole day
with someone you love and miss?


Since this started out being about accordions,
here's an accordion piece I really like.