As spring shies to show her pretty face yet another week, it’s been slow times in the Fleck household.
Sabra is using the extra indoor period to cross stitch a rooster. To date I’d estimate she has 200 hours in the project. She’s a near perfect picture of tranquility as she sits motionless on the sofa except for the well-practiced strokes of her hand pushing the needle and thread. The Zen-like trance breaks occasionally, however, as she realizes the stitch in row 42,307, column 12,005, is vivid rose instead of vibrant mandarin. Then all hell breaks loose, making the critters and me head for cover. She can go from stone cold calm to furious fuming faster than you can say, “Fuchsia! Fuchsia! Fuchsia!”
The critters, of course, are our dog Pearl and cats Meow and Conan. The cats sit on the back of the sofa, one on each side of Sabra, facades of feline aloofness. Pearl perches on the floor Sphinx-like, paws tucked under body and head facing straight ahead at Sabra. With each of the endless series of needle swipes, she gets just a little more anxious at the prospect of dinner being served. In other words, Sabra sits silently stitching swiftly while Pearl pleads for Purina, the couch cats curl completely careless to cause and concern, and I idly alliterate.
Missing from the Rockwellesque scene is houseguest Lexi, a Jack Russell Terrier. Lexi is fifteen-years-old and has escaped death by several diseases thanks to the wonders of modern veterinary science. Despite having a very comfortable bed in front of the fireplace, she chooses to spend her day on the rug in the bathroom, rising only for dinner and nature’s call. I feed her in the morning and have to gently prod her to wake from her deep slumber and start the day. After five minutes of feeding, getting her medicine and a quick jaunt outside, she returns to her rug. Then the disinterested dog dozes doing diddly until dinner and another do-do.
Outside, the chickens mill about in their coop with both the people door and the chicken door closed against the cold weather. While designing the coop I wanted to add a couple of auxiliary doors to provide a variety of options of egress plus cross-ventilation. I was shot down by Sabra, however, who pointed out that if the coop had four doors then it would have to be a chicken sedan.
Actually, as the temperature nears thirty degrees, the birds head outside for a little fowl fun, frolic and physical fitness. On days when Sabra goes to her job at the veterinary clinic, it’s my chore to check on them in the morning and collect eggs. The girls have laid eggs all winter and production has picked up recently with the lengthening of the day. Many chickens stop laying in the winter, but ours keep ovulating away thanks to a large ration of high calorie feed called scratch. Generic chicken feed is notoriously inexpensive, hence the term chicken feed for something budget priced. Scratch is quite a bit more expensive, especially when you consider we augment it with dried mealworms. A three-ounce package of the worms, which are really beetle larvae, costs about $10, or $50 a pound. Even though I forgo eating steak because it’s too expensive, the hens have heavenly-priced hors d’oeuvre.
Normally, the scratch is given to the chickens in a special trough in their coop, but the other day I lured them outside by throwing it on the ground. The chickens went into their usual feeding frenzy when one of them, Hensolo, gobbled up a hunk of straw with a dead bug. The straw stuck in her craw, and the bird began bashing about like, well, a chicken with her head cut off except for she was making a gasping/choking cluck. I was considering my options for remedying the situation when the bird gave a mighty cough and ejected the offending clump.
Thank God I didn’t have to perform the Henlick maneuver.