Sunday, April 30, 2017

chook smarts

Yesterday I installed a new watering device for the birds, which is not intuitive for them to use but is way better - I connect it to a larger water cooler and the water stays clean.  (The container I have gets tipped over, muddy, etc.)  I tried putting kale and apple pieces on it, I tried modeling, I tried to get one interested - they weren't having it.  So I sighed and thought well, I'll keep the old system now and when I have more time I'll teach them before I have to travel in June. 

Today they were drinking from and I swear they were showing off. They were all: hey, look at us!  We figured it out because we're smart!

Two weeks of owning chickens and I'm here to testify: all those stereotypes of stupid chickens are total bullshit.  These birds are wicked smart. 

No more factory farmed chicken for me. Or Ziggy.  We'll have to figure out better treats for her. 

By the way, the other day I forgot to close the window shade when I left for some errands, which lets Ziggy look out the window and see the chickens.  Since then, she's been much more relaxed about them. I'm still hoping that they become friends, but I also really like having them in the front yard and all the conversations it starts.

Today they trapped me in their yard.  They surrounded me and blocked the exit and watched to see what I'd do.  They weren't interested in the carrot peelings I'd offered them, and I had nothing else.  I can't really tell: was this a shake-down or do they want to befriend me?  They get quite close to me, much more than I'd expected.  But one of them pecked me the first day here (which is much of why Ziggy thinks they're demonic terrorists) and I don't like getting pecked. 

Plus, I don't really want to bond too closely to them. 

A friend is thinking of coming down from Colorado to take care of the dog and chickens while I have to travel in June.  He's just about the only person I'd leave her with for a week - they've never met but he is SO into dogs and he's heard all the tales.  I had planned to take her with me, which is a huge hassle but getting a sitter for her is too hard - and my friends who always watch her, the last time I picked her up she and their dog were getting into fights.  Not serious ones, but he was FED UP with her and she was like FUCKYOU, MR. GRUMPY PANTS.  So to have someone here in the house who will love her (because except for jumping up, she's entirely loveable) would be amazing.  And I trust his judgment - I know he'd go cruising and partying and pick up hot guys, because he is young and that's his way, but he wouldn't neglect Ziggy. 

possible tenants

Despite the awful weather, I'm showing the apartment today.  So far, two appointments, and one more scheduled though I'll be impressed if he makes it here.  We're under tornado watch and the skies are very dark and water is running through the streets.

The first possible tenant, Ziggy just wanted to roughhouse with the boyfriend, who kept throwing toys, which kept getting her worked up.  She was so excited to see a man because woman always want her to be calm.

The second brought her sister and niece and the the niece charmed the socks off Ziggy.  And me.  I generally like most kids, but some kids are really great and this one is. She arrived in full rain gear, appropriately monster-themed, and she was going to tell me all of her impressions about the world.  Ziggy came charging in and WANTED TO LOVE ON THAT CHILD.  I forget how much Ziggy loves children - like the time she figured out that all these kids are getting on the school bus and she wouldn't stop trying to chase after school buses. 

Back to studying. 

The current tenant recommended a co-worker and he came today.  He was an hour late, which neither of us mentioned because it was storming awful. 

He was good with Ziggy.  Wearing jeans, not worried about her jumping.  Petting her and loving on her and saying how happy she is (she's actually considerably more complex than that but we let the illusion slide).

diversity makes the world go round

On Friday I took my truck in for repairs (yay for a functioning tailgate) and stopped at a favorite bakery.  As I pulled up I thought I recognized the daughter of friends, so I made sure to walk past that way and call her by name.  We had a nice conversation and she said she might be willing to come over to meet Ziggy which has long been a goal of mine.

This friend has autism, and her parents always worry about her.  But sometimes I think their worries are in vain. So what if she doesn't like being around other kids?  Soon she'll be an adult and never have to deal with kids again.  Adolescence is hard for EVERYBODY.  I get that they have legitimate concerns about her future, but she has all these strengths.  She's smart and funny and focused.  She makes me think of Temple Grandin - which may be a stereotype, but I think she really helped redefine what it means to be autistic.  This friend is not that high-functioning - right now.  Who knows what her future holds?  Because she also has always had some really serious health issues, and now she's got a load of teenage sass.  She's always been really impatient with her father, but her father deserves it.  He hovers and tries to control.  He does it with love, but I know that *I* get exasperated with how he acts with me, so I sympathize with his daughter.  The mother is much more chill, but part of that is medication and part of it is dealing with so much shit.  Seriously, nobody should have to deal in life with as much shit as that woman has - cancer, a mother with serious dementia, job loss, etc.

I texted her parents and said they need to chauffeur her to visit us, and the mother thanked me for talking with her and asked if the conversation was remotely appropriate because they really want to get her into therapy for learning how to have conversations.  It was totally appropriate.  The child recognized me but didn't remember my name and so she asked.  She told me what was going on, she heard me about Ziggy, she said "maybe" she'd be interested in meeting her - WHICH IS HONEST.  I love her honesty.  I think Ziggy would, too.  I think that this friend's directness about what she wants and doesn't would be really good for Ziggy.

It is super easy for me to not be her parent and so not worry about her, but I also approach this as a teacher.  I was the teacher that the SpEd teachers came to when they wanted to transition their kids to "regular" classes.  In part because of social justice issues - so many black and brown boys shoved into Special Education classes, making them much more likely to drop out of school.  I would transition them to end that pipeline.  One in particular, a boy very dear to me, had been diagnosed with language deficiency.  Four months in my class, and he was writing one of the best essays in the district-wide exam at year's end.  (I fought hard with other teachers from schools with more privileged kids - I noted that my student's use of language was actually MORE complex than theirs because it reflected voices other than a neutral textbook kind of talk.)  His writing ability didn't come from me - I just gave him a platform.  In part because of his gang ties, he was highly respected in the school by other kids, and anytime he wanted to speak or think in class, we all got quiet - me because the way his brain worked was fascinating.

He didn't need differentiated curriculum, but other kids did - and that was my damn job as a teacher so OF COURSE put kids of different needs in different classes and I'd figure it out.  We would figure it out.

What is my point?

Maybe that I see difference as strength and I've never liked cookie cutter expectations.  So what if their kid wants to spend her whole life watching unboxing videos?  That makes as much sense to me as soccer fever.  Why do we keep expecting everyone to be the same? 

Maybe that's why I ended up with a dog with such behavioral challenges. Because I'll figure it out.  The on-line course I've been doing has been quite good, but it's turning into a sort of cult so I'm pulling back.  Once finals are over I'll focus some more on Ziggy training.  She traumatized another dog this morning, though it didn't help that the other dog kept barking at us as we were walking away (Ziggy just barks and pulls toward the dog - which is frightening to them I'm sure because she's very belligerent about this - but it's not like the dog is in any danger and if they stop reacting to her she calms down; as soon as I see another dog we cross the street or turn around - I mitigate as much as I can, but Ziggy is reactive and that's just the way things are).

OK, back to studying.

Three appointments to look at the apartment here today; hopefully one works with Ziggy - who is very worked up today because a very nasty storm is on the horizon.  I haven't even let the chickens out of their run because they didn't want to leave the coop this morning first thing.  I don't want something blowing and hitting or traumatizing them.  The electric fencing that I have up blows around and I picked a lot of trash off it this morning.  It's a doozy of a storm coming in, with a long lead-up.  It's got the dog totally on edge so we'll see how this goes with strangers (all of whom she rejects because they're not her friend, whom she absolutely adores - yesterday tenant opened her door when we were in the backyard; she just wanted to check the weather before she dressed.  Ziggy ran right in and made herself at home, and then as the tenant and I kept talking, Ziggy came out and did "zoomies" - she grabbed a toy and sprinted laps around the yard - for some dogs this is no big deal, but for Ziggy it's very rare and only when she's the happiest of happy - she adores my tenant and doesn't want her to leave). 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

dogs and liminality

This morning a friend messaged and asked if she and husband and stepdaughter can come see my "menagerie."  She asked if Ziggy is good with kids ("it's complicated" is the best answer I have to that) and said her stepdaughter - who is absolutely sweet and adorable - really loves dogs and chickens. 

I now have so many post-finals dates.  This, which is apparently a thing as she said she's bringing booze, and a friend who wants to bring a bottle of wine and sit and watch the chickens with me.  And a co-worker who says he absolutely loves dogs and chickens and gardening.  And an evening where we go get tamales with a friend who just split up with her husband.  And so on.

I've become the person who says: yes I'd love to see you! and then I never show up.  I even skipped this friend's wedding.  And the other one's post-separation party.  And so on.  I keep not showing up. 

And I don't want this to be who I am.  I like to have integrity and strong moral character.  But I live in a culture now where people say things like "bless your heart" when they really mean to be saying something nasty (usually, not always) and all sorts of other fakey-fakeyness, and isn't it nicer if I say I want to do things rather than just say: "actually, you kind of drain me and I've got a dog for that." 

This dog is so relapsing.  Today we went out for short training session and I was trying to show her "middle" and she lunged up and grabbed the treat from my hand.  Total jackass move which she knows not to do, but she's been regressing to like when I first got her.  What stress is causing this?  The chickens?  The camping?  My stress?   I don't know, but this sort of behavior isn't appropriate or acceptable.  AND SHE KNOWS THAT.  But it's like I'm starting back at square one with her.  At least I'm not a novice anymore.  The shit I know about dog psychology now is pretty vast. 

Truth is, a normal dog would probably bore me now.  Oh sure, I'd like it at first.  But after awhile I'd be like - why do you keep doing what I ask of you?  Why don't you have your own agenda?  Why aren't you losing your ability to function when you're stressed? 

My tenant said when she went home for Christmas and saw her dog it was so disorienting because she's so quiet and calm she'd forget she's there.  Let's just say: Ziggy Stardust OWNS any room she's in.  You never forget Ziggy is near.  If I move right now, she will leap up off her dog bed, ready to jump into any fire I may be running to.  p

I've long been best in crisis situations, and it's probably the liminality of it.  In liminal spaces/times, usual social rules are suspended.  THAT is where I am comfortable.  In Berlin when the wall comes down, in Russia during perestroika, in New Orleans post-Katrina, in a refugee camp, in Liberia during civil war reconstruction, in Libya after Qaddafi is killed, in South Sudan as tensions rise - that's my milieu.  That's where I thrive.  In crisis, in liminality.  Not to peace but not in war.  Not recovered but not disaster. 

I don't do so well in established rigid places that thrive on notions of staticness.  I'm not static.  Life isn't static.  People who have deep knowledge of what I've gone through with my job are amazed that I'm still alive and there and I shrug.  Dealing with crises: that I can do. 

It's not that I love adrenaline because I never have.  Reading Victor Turner, the king of symbolic anthropology, on liminality made me realize: it's because social rules are suspended.  THAT is my niche, when intense things happen.  Like falling in love with a warlord.  But so many other things, too. 

But I"m too tired and grumpy for this shit.  And now I have this dog who wants to JUMP INTO THE FUCKING ABYSS.  Seriously, if I were being stalked by a hungry ice-bear, I'd want Ziggy beside me.  If I were in any danger, i'd want Ziggy.  If I were in a brawl, I'd want Ziggy.  She would jump into any fray. 

But kerist dog, we're not in danger.  AND the one time people you didn't know walked into the house, you kindly welcomed them. 

Now I need to read more anthropology.  And go to sleep. 

Oh, also - my chickens are becoming jackasses now too.  They see me and they come rushing to the side of the coop that I'm at and they jostle each other.  The small chickens who get pushed out of the way for feed pellets get sassy and push the big red birds out of the way. It's like paparazzi anytime they see me.  I DON'T NEED THIS KIND OF PRESSURE, BIRDS.  I NEED ZERO MORE JACKASSES IN MY LIFE.  And this one red bird is constantly rushing me - I think it's a guard hen.  And when she's distracting me, the black adventurer is trying to slip out.  THEY ARE IN CAHOOTS AGAINST ME.  They are going to love having more freedom if I can figure out this fucking netting situation.  And I know that chickens are highly trainable and apparently have the intelligence of a 3rd-grader, but all I'm teaching them is to rush me.  I gave them chopped up radishes yesterday and OHMYGOD you'd think I was the best thing ever. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

my dog is just a big bully

A kid came over to see the studio apartment behind my house, and Ziggy was merciless in her hazing of him.  She doesn't just jump, she jumps with purchase.  She terrifies men who think she may cause them permanent damage.  She mauls them like this is her job. 

The kid seemed really delightful - a hard-working young adult.  Very polite and mannerly and positive.  But, he's more of a cat person, and Ziggy challenges even the most resolute dog-lover. 

I know she does it because she's stressed and it could be way worse if she were a growler or biter.  But she's just a jackass.  And she takes kindness as weakness and she will grind weakness to dust.  She's like your worst high school gym teacher, with talons. 


Ziggy Stardust is a sweet, loving, trainable delightful dog.

And then some days the setting of "jackass" gets turned all the way up to 9.5 and good GRIEF.  She's hyper and sassy and thieving and belligerent.  I know it will pass but sheesh.

A monument that was raised in New Orleans in the Jim Crow era that honored racists who attempted to violently overthrow a biracial police force and local government (who later won without violence) was taken down yesterday.  Lots of thoughts, lots of discussions - these are interesting times to be alive.

A woman on a friend's page said: and yet a school two blocks away doesn't have money to feed kids two days a week.  Wait, what?  I do a superficial budget analysis on funding sources (I used to be a whiz on school finance but things have changed) but then the deeper realities exist: we are funding bullshit while making kids suffer.  And I am proud of my city for being a sanctuary city being called out by Racist Sessions, but when our funding dries up we will suffer.  We'll have a new mayor next year and one of the almost-candidates (she hasn't declared yet) I like quite a lot.  I don't know if she'd be a good manager of a city, but I think she gets symbols and unity and such.  I think she has the right priorities and I think she's strong to stand up.

It's Tuesday morning and I'm swamped and overwhelmed.  Drowning here.  I'll be fine but there are just so many things to handle.  The other apartment has a long list like getting a plumber and the HVAC and the termite inspectors and roofer.  And clean and paint and all that.  Little repairs - the refrigerator door, the oven drawer, the kitchen sink, the sticky latch.  It just takes time, and time is in short supply.

And I'm using my brain power on things like chicken waterer and solar-powered poultry netting and other such things.  I wasn't wrong when I wasn't gardening - my friends would tease me about it, and I would say I'm too busy.  Yeah, well, I'm busier now and I'm doing it and while it's not THAT much time, it's still more than I have.  (I'm posting this as I finish my coffee, because I'm starting to spin out about how far behind I am for school and work and home.)  On Saturday, instead of studying I'm spending three hours (plus travel time) making rain barrels.  Why?  Because it's the only chance I saw to get rain barrels at a reasonable price.  They don't know if they'll do it again, blah blah blah - the timing sucks for me but oh well.  

OK, time to slurp the rest of the coffee down and take this wild beast jackass out for a walk.   I know she's acting out in part at least because I haven't been working on training her, but my brain is just so full.  Maybe I'll do some of the easy things.  I'm definitely taking off work early today, and being grateful that I have leave time and schedule flexibility to allow this.  This is why I stick it out - the ability to leave work early.  So many jobs can't allow this, so why not enjoy what I have.  I have an appointment with a young man for the apartment by my house, I have to read a bunch, train my dog and something else I'm forgetting.  Oh, cook.  I need food and I'm too overwhelmed to shop and plan.

It'll all pass and be fine.  I'm just overwhelmed right now, not wanting to drop any balls.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Fingers crossed

I just showed the other apartment and she is friends with the current tenant, who raved about me and the neighborhood (which scares many people off). So the woman wants to put down a deposit to move in. Fingers crossed that all becomes actualized. I like her and think it could be good for all of us. 

And a young man is messaging about the studio by my house. We will have him meet Ziggy because it is up to her. He admits he is more of a cat person. 

To get all these things lined up this week would be nice. 

So much reading to do. Time to sit in the hammock.

She already paid the deposit.  We're set.  I've got a tenant!  In big part probably due to my current tenant speaking so highly of me.  This isn't the ONLY reason to treat people well, but it's certainly one reason.  

Now let's see how this other guy works out.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017


A friend of a friend of a friend just came to get eggs. 

A friend in Minnesota - whom I met through FB, as we had some mutual friends, but then we became friends in real life and his wife and he are quite dear to me and we visit each with each other when they are here or I am there - had posted about cured egg yolks.  This sounds really interesting and I want to try. And I posted about drowning in eggs, and someone posted about wanting some yard-fresh eggs, and she was here within an hours.  She met Ziggy, which is always good for us to practice, and I wouldn't accept money from her.

And it's got me thinking of what else could we barter within our extended networks?  Obviously eggs are a premium commodity for many of us (though friends from whom I wanted banana pups weren't that impressed) and if my tomatoes produce so will those, but what else?  What other goods and services can be exchanged in a system beyond commerce? 

My tenant's friend has asked to see the apartment this afternoon.  If my current tenant finds me a new tenant to be her neighbor, there will be a finder's reward for sure - beyond eggs.  I would probably give her my weedwhacker as it's time for me to upgrade to a non-electric one. 

I'm not good at these things and I just want to give things away because it's uncomfortable to negotiate, but I have to believe that strategy will work for me long-term. 

well that didn't turn out like I'd hoped

The forecast kept changing and by the time we left to go camping there was a 70% chance of thunderstorms in the night.

I called the camping trip at about 9:30 pm, within 7 minutes had the truck loaded and we were out. Ziggy's recall has never been quicker than me calling her to get in the truck and escape thunderstorms.

It didn't actually rain on us by then - I don't mind rain and my tent is pretty good.  But, the sky was lit up with electricity so Ziggy was on edge, and my Thermarest was completely collapsed so I was sleeping on the ground and I was thinking: for what purpose am I killing my back and being exhausted and unable to read for class?  Plus, the forecast kept changing and then it looked like a good chance it would be raining 6 am -10 am and who wants to camp and hike in the rain?  Not Ziggy, and I wanted her to have a good experience, and not me because I hadn't brought my rain jacket.  So, we gave up and came home. 

The drive home had a sky lit up with lightning that looked like it was ripping apart the heavens.  IT was intense.  While the rain wasn't bad, the electricity of the storm was very heavy - no wonder my dog was freaked out.

She tried to be a good dog, she really did.  But camping may not be our thing.  We've now tried two different cabins, one of them two or three times, and she puts up with it and has moments of joyfulness, but it's not really her thing.  Ziggy likes being home.  IT's really not her thing to have to stay in a hot tent with me (I had the rain fly on to be protected, so no ventilation). 

I sent a picture of her hiding under the truck to her godmother who said: poor, scared Ziggy.  Which helped me see how scared she really was.  On the one hand, a little fear of being left behind in the country is a good thing because it means she doesn't wander off - she stays close.  I appreciate that very much.  On the other, I don't want to push her into situations that terrorize her.  Being struck by lightning would do that. (Though let me be honest: my discomfort was the final straw that sent us home.  Wondering if I need to get a new sleeping pad or if REI will replace it ... ) 

So, today will hopefully be productive though I'm still tired since we didn't get home until 11:30.  Then I slept like a stone, which would not have happened had we stayed.  I just have too much going on to have a sleepless night. 

Now poor Ziggy won't let me out of her sight.  I should spend more time away from her on the weekends.  It's hard because I have so much to do at home on the weekends and I don't want to go out because people drain my energy.  But, a few days home with the dog and she gets nervous about me leaving her - so I shouldn't let her get used to me being so available. 

OK, time to unload the truck and read and plan meals for the week and clean the tent and finish fortifying the chicken coop and weed the bed for collards and show the house and train the dog and grocery shop and so on. 

Really need to focus on school, but a friend told me about Leopold benches and suggested that's what I need in my front yard and I agree!  I would make two smallish ones and paint them purple.  But, that has to wait three more weeks and for me to repair the power cord on my circular saw that I cut right through. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

my uncle's niece

My uncle - with whom I share a birthday and who has always been my favorite relative - lives in the rural midwest (nearest big city of 600 people is an hour away - but it has a grocery store) and is a cattle and dry wheat and other things farmer (no irrigation).  He works harder than anyone I've ever met in my life.  We would spend every summer with them and I'd go for walks followed by a herd of cattle (they're such curious animals), roll around in the truck when the wheat was combined, wonder how the hell he could spend so much time under the hot sun. 

He works fucking hard.  He never complained but I'd sometimes see how bone tired he was a lot of the time.  He was the sanest member of my family even though he had reason not to be - two tours of drafted active duty in Vietnam left deep scars. 

He and my aunt (no children) were childhood sweethearts (she told me the story of when the draft notification came, it still vivid in her mind so many years later) and are a good team.  She keeps the house running and makes money with things like Amway and mail order collectibles (she has a trailer full of dolls and things - I don't really understand it).  (Not sure what verb tense to use as they're nearing 70 - I sure hope that they've been able to retire.  Oh, nope - a Google search shows they're still working.)

I don't glamorize their difficult life, the waiting for rain - it's why I'm very fond of my job-with-regular-paycheck-and-sick-time.  I know that they had downtime in the winters, when we were never around, but the summers were so very busy constantly - immediate needs for harvest based on weather.  Actual real needs, not the fake emergencies like at my job - which I've learned to manage much better than I'd ever expect. 

It's a really hard life but also they love it in many ways. 

I was thinking of him this morning and how I'd sometimes see him in the mornings grasping a cup of coffee, staring into the distance.  By that time he would have already done many morning chores and was plotting out the rest of the day in his mind. 

In contrast, I was just struggling to boil some water to make coffee, having just fed the chickens.  I'm bone tired from hauling all that dirt and other chores yesterday, though I'm city-girl tired.  And I was wishing that I had a coffee pot like his, where you just push a button and come back in to some coffee.  My system - which I've used since 1992 - is a single cup drip filter.  A plastic cone that I put a paper filter into, fill with freshly-ground coffee, and boil water and first bloom then brew.  All of it - from putting filtered water in the kettle to putting half and half in the finished product - takes maybe 7 minutes.  I'm usually putting away dishes and such during that time. I just haven't worked out the best system of doing it while feeding chickens, etc.  The normal coffee pots (which I have never owned and refuse to drink coffee from as a general principle because life is short and I refuse to drink bad coffee) are so convenient, especially when loaded up the night before (as my aunt would always do) - if not with a timer, just push a button and off you go and then come back to coffee made. 

Little things that I think about.  Figuring out morning routine with poultry.  And Catahooligan, who is wound up today - she keeps stealing socks and bringing them to me, as though to tell me to put them on and let's go walk already.  Oh, poor dog - no walk for you this morning. 

I would like to leave to go camping in about five and a half hours but I'm still not certain of going.  I'm tired.  I'm stiff and sore.  I think I can shake all that off, but it's a lot of packing and prepping for 24 hours, and I still need to read a bunch. 

Yesterday outside I tanned nicely.  Wasn't even thinking about it.  I rarely put on sunscreen for doing work outside.  I do sunscreen for things like kayaking or hiking long distances.  I don't like to burn, and I can see how tanning is skin damage too - but vitamin D is a very good thing. 

If I start packing up, the dog will get so annoying - she stays underfoot every single step and panics if she loses sight of me, afraid that I'm off on a great grand adventure and I've forgotten her.  I appreciate her enthusiasm but it's logistically annoying.  It was easier at my last house where I could pull the truck into the backyard with the gate closed - and she'd just sit in the truck and refuse to get out. 

I keep thinking that the right tenant will show up for my apartment.  The pictures, which reflect the colors of the walls, appeal to a certain kind of person - nearly all women.  The walls aren't pink, but it's apparently really a woman's space.  Every time a boyfriend moves in, I know the days are numbered before they'll move on.  Though I'm perplexed at how dirty these current tenants have made the walls - filthy dirty, smudges everywhere.  So, the paint is 40% off this weekend so I'm off this morning to buy a few gallons.  While it won't be an exact match with the walls and if I have to paint I'll have to paint a whole plane, it will be close enough to not require exacting detail or a second coat.  I love the color of the walls, and people of good taste do, too.  These are not your landlord's beige walls. 

I may need to paint the studio apartment behind my house - the walls are a saturated turquoise and I don't have a paint match, so they get dinged up.  We'll see.  People have also loved those - the tenant moving out says how much she's loved her little blue apartment.

Both tenants moving out have used the word "wonderful" to describe me and I don't know if they're blowing smoke up my ass to get their deposits back or if they mean it.  OR both. I am a strong believer that business transactions can be win-win, which includes renting property.  I'm not warm and fuzzy, and I will evict when necessary, but I'm not trying to exploit or take advantage of people or situations.  Leverage, yes.  Exploit, no. 

So I need to channel my uncle and move my lazy bones along and head into this day.  If we don't go camping, I'll regret it. 

dirt: moved

I finally finished moving the seven cubic yards of dirt I go some weeks back.  I had used it to fill in garden beds, make mounds to grow squash, etc.  With the rest I wasn't sure what to do so I hauled it all to the back corner of my yard, which had been pretty low, and I plan to cover it with a tarp and hope it stays relatively weed-free.  We'll see what Ziggy says about the tarp - she's claimed this dirt hill as hers and she usually has strong opinions.  She likes to run up it and around it and rest in the coolness of it. 

I have a totally hilarious dog.  Who is obsessed with eating fertilizer, which I'd put into the garden bed in the backyard (the only one back there) and then planted okra and then fenced off with bird netting.  Well, she just moves the netting and snacks.  I can't control the netting, but she can just fine.  Don't know if any okra will grow as her footprints pushed the seeds deeper.  We'll see.  I can replant.

I did a little reading but nearly enough.  I continued work on the chicken coop but didn't finish it - still one side to strengthen.  And probably locks to add. 

As I neared the end of the pile of dirt I took a break to put on another reinforcement panel on the coop, and across the street a mother-daughter called out and asked if they could see the chickens.  COULD THEY?  I've been waiting for them!  We first met when Ziggy broke into their backyard, which the mother says is a story they tell each other all the time.  They're super sweet and I like them a lot.  The little girl is just so inquisitive and the mother is such a cheerleader for her.  They're adorable.  I pointed out right beside the chicken coop that the zucchini seeds are popping up and the little girl said: "Are you a ... lady farmer?" with such excitement as though she was asking if I'm Batman.   I laughed but - wouldn't that be a cool thing to be? 

Some assholes stole my lemon and lime trees from my front yard.  That's disheartening.  It happened at my other house with a crepe myrtle, and this is more aggravating because I did so much planning about their planting and the time was right and they were getting established.  They probably killed the goddamn trees, the mother fuckers. 

And this is why I need to put locks on my coop.  Because there are assholes.  Like the assholes today who followed a woman into her house to rob her at gunpoint.  At fucking 1 pm.

This is why I have my dog, because of shit like this.  She's not 100% effective but she freaks people out.  She's intimidating. 

So, I'll get lemon tree from friends who gave me the chickens.  IT's scraggly and hopefully nobody steals it.  I wonder if I should spraypaint it or something.  Wouldn't want to hurt the tree though.  So, there's that.  Now I just want a lime tree again.  When I was at my other house I pulled some calamondin off the tree which is thriving, and I've really been enjoying it squeezed in water.

Speaking of water, I need to start getting organized for camping!  If I can walk tomorrow (it was a lot of hard labor today), then we're going to go.  Fuck schoolwork.  Well, not really - I'll take it with me.  I can read while camping. What else to do when camping alone once it's too dark to hike. 

Super glad I called in sick to work today. 

These chickens are hilarious - they have such personalities.  Look forward to them having more space (netting to arrive MOnday - and if somebody steals it I will be SO PISSED OFF because it's fucking expensive).  The red who was flying up at me has chilled on that - it was obvious that I didn't like it and I think she's actually quite friendly, not trying to terrorize me.  She stands and watches me very closely even when I'm pounding nails into the coop.  I'd think that would bother them but they're like: meh.  After having a dog who is so overly sensitive to EVERYTHING, having chickens who are pretty damn chill is such a relief. 

Ziggy is obsessed with hard-boiled eggs, which is great because I froze a bunch of eggs accidentally (my top fridge shelf gets too cold) and they cracked so I boiled them for her.  The chickens are obsessed with bolted mizuna and wormy kale, which is also great.  I appear obsessed with their poop, based upon how I clean it out every day and toss it into the composter. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

early to rise

I really need to figure out a way to make myself go to bed earlier.  Any suggestions?

I now need a full eight hours of sleep.  Before I was able to go to bed 10-11ish and wake up 6ish.  But now I need a full two hours of in the morning - let out chickens, drink coffee and check email, walk dog, water garden, shower, make breakfast, drive - and if I get to work late, I have to stay late.  So I need to be up no later than 6 am sharp.  Which means I need to be in bed falling asleep by 10 pm sharp. 

I've tried putting an alarm on my laptop to tell me when it's time to go to bed but I find myself thinking: oh, just one more task.  Last night it was "oh but I just need to vacuum."  The previous night it was: "Oh, I just have to make this list." 

I wish seven hours of sleep per night were enough because 11 pm-6 am would be great.  But I need the full eight or I'm straggling. 

Also, these chickens propel me to getting up earlier - they really want to be up and out of the coop when the sun rises.  They want their water and food and to stretch their wings.

Every week I have class until 9 pm which kind of throws me because it takes time to wind down after getting home.

Well, maybe going out camping will help, even if only one night.  To be away from artificial light -though i'll take my headlamp and stash of batteries to read once the sun goes down.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

calling in well

The weather has been just too fucking nice to sit in an office, so I'm calling in "sick" tomorrow.  Stomach bug, probably. 

I have SO MUCH FUCKING SHIT to do, but I also want to go camping.

The truth of the matter is that I have way too many things to do and work is getting in my way.  So is school.  Tomorrow I need to: move 3 cu yards of dirt, fertilize and plant a bunch of okra, complete making the chicken coop fort Knox, make and install tomato supports, buy paint, and so on.  I may need to show the apartment. 

The other crappy news for me is that my tenant is moving out - the one here at my house.  And she's moving out like 36 hours before I have to leave town for a week, which is really sucky timing for getting a tenant in right away.  She's moving back to Oregon - New Orleans isn't working out like she'd hoped.  Which doesn't surprise me - this is a hard fucking city, and that's why I said she should only do a six-month lease instead of the year that she thought she wanted.  The really bad thing there - on top of the money when my mortgage just got jacked up 50% - is that Ziggy will be utterly bereft.  Ziggy adores her and has loved their time together, and this is going to be really hard on her.  Finding another tenant who loves dogs so much and is so patient - that will be hard. 

So I have TWO apartments coming open soon and ZERO new tenants lined up which is stressful on numerous levels.  Because I have final exams soon and I'm so behind.

Deep breaths. 

After I call in sick, I want to work my ass off, and then Saturday afternoon I want to say "fuck it" and go to the forest.  It's our last chance for a long time and I think sleeping outside is just what I need to refocus and rejuvenate. 

What I want to believe is that things will all work out.  They usually do.  And I can cover a few months without tenants if I have to.  I don't WANT to, but I have a home equity loan to tide me over - it's why I don't keep a nestegg but instead try to vigorously pay down debt, knowing I can tap into that when necessary.  This may be necessary because insurance is coming due soon. 

Does anyone here judge me for calling in sick to work?   It's been a hard thing to come 'round to, and I usually only do it when things are slow and I can be out without undue burden on others.  When I know that if I don't take some time off that either physically or mentally things will get much worse.  It seems to me like I do it a lot, but over 2 and 1/4 year, I've only used up six days?  Wait, how can that be right?  Hm. 

Yeah, I'll definitely be calling in and getting an early start with hauling dirt. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

and also

I know that violence happens everywhere but it's so pervasive here.  IT seems we're back to a murder a day - multiple shootings every day for damn sure. 

Today someone sort of lazily tried to get me to stop my car (standing in the road, waving).  I was not stopping.

I'm tired of living in a place where stopping would easily get me killed.  Carjackings are happening all the time. 

The rough aspects of New Orleans are gorgeous and fucking tough. 

the itch is real

I went to my other house to check that the key I think is for that house is right, and while I love that house and the apartments and all that it has been for me, I've got no desire to move back.  And I realize that part of why I'm itchy with my current situation is that people are moving in.  Lots are getting filled in.  Neighbors built a deck that overlooks my backyard.  More traffic.

I grew up in the wilderness.  I don't know how many acres, but it was completely surrounded by forest.  I'd hike up the creek to more wilderness.  I'd cross the road to the ocean which was a park.  There was so much goddamn wilderness and when I was old enough to drive it was often to drive up mountains and then keep on climbing.  I became friends with a girl whose father owned an island and it was fucking magical to go out there in many ways. 

I like the comforts of cities but good lordy me do I like privacy that vast expanses of land provide.  And it's not just the way that I grew up - it's how we spent the summers, on very large farms far from cities.  I know how to entertain myself. 

I think that I"ve always known that I'd tire of city life and want to go back to my roots.  But if I'm moving to a farm I need to do it before I get too much older. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

answers can be simple

Sugar cane.

Vinyl covered fencing.

Those are my recent simple answers.  I have a corner of my yard - maybe just ten feet - and they built a deck on their house so people are now always staring over into my yard.  I don't like it.  So I thought: replace those fence boards with 8'.  Um, cost and hassle.  Put in some banana trees.  OK, but watering and fertilizing? 

Sugar cane.

I have some at my old house because my awesome neighbor who passed away a year or two ago had brought some from her small Louisiana town when she was homesick and stuck it in the ground and it spread into my yard and now it is kind of a menace how it blocks the backdoor, but I like it.  And I would really like it blocking the view. And it grows FAST, and it's free to me, and no hassle care.  And at least one of my friends really loves to chew on sugar cane. 

Vinyl-coated fencing - I got some to put around the chicken coop in the back, as a kind of second barrier to keep Ziggy away from the chickens and I sprung for the nice stuff because: no rusting and no cutting me.  It's 2" x 3" which is also a great size for many other things.  When I moved the chickens up front, I put it in the corner of the yard to shield them and for zucchini and cucumbers to grow up.  Then I cut pieces and am covering the coop with it - my thinking is: this fencing installed with poultry staples on the outside will stop a critter from being able to remove the 1/4" fencing that is stapled (with a staple gun, so not solid) from the inside.  Two layers, this coop is Fort Knox.  It looks like a chook prison.  But, if it keeps them safe, it's good. 

I'll also use it to make these stakes for tomatoes, to save money on tomato cages.

And then I'll be out.  But it's been so useful, I might just get some more.  Shoulda gone with the 100 feet roll.  Oh well. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

impulse purchases

I am on the verge of purchasing some quite expensive poultry netting with solar-powered electrification. 


1. The chooks would get much more space to roam about.  (While the coop I got was advertised for eight chickens, it's tight with six.)
2.  They would be protected while roaming about.
3.  I would use it to wrap around the coop so there would be greater protection all around.
4.  Their diet would be better with this greater access to grass/weeds/bugs.  (Though: even THEY don't like the grass up front.  I'm telling you, this grass is the wickedest thickest grass I've ever seen.  It's so difficult.  Fantastic for people who want turf and have a heavy-duty lawnmower, but that's not me.)
5.  They would fulfill their primary job for me: removing the grass and fertilizing the ground.  While they don't much like the grass, they will destroy it with time.  (Less than a day on a spot in the backyard and they obliterated all green beneath them.  Not so up front.)
6.  I won't have to keep jerry-rigging up haphazard solutions to the lack of space.  

1.  Cost.  It's literally hundreds of dollars. 

I go back and forth about it.  Yes, of course I can rig up something cheaper, but I don't have much spare time.  (Because I'm using it all by researching my options on-line.)  After school's out in a month i'll have more time but that's too long to wait for space and safety solutions since I put them in the front. 

So here's how I justify it potentially: I got a quote from landscapers to develop my front yard - which was likely just taking a backhoe and removing the sod and dumping new garden soil on top - and it cost more than this netting.  If the chickens do it, it's much better for the soil and I'd end up with much better ground to garden with.  Plus they can help every time the seasons change with clearing the old crops and tilling the soil and eating bugs.  The netting would allow flexibility for me to move it wherever I like.  (Plus: his plans were only exactly what I had thrown out as ideas and he would plant the lime tree too close to the others.  I like him quite a lot but I don't think this front yard was a good project for us to do together.) 

Plus: eggs. I mean, that conversation isn't really happening because I obviously already committed.  The poultry is here.  I don't know if that means I'll get more chickens later or what I"ll do when these chickens stop producing - but I don't have to know.  I'll figure it out.  Like I say, the eggs are lagniappe - what I really want them for is their ground clearing and tilling work.  To have a whole system in place.  And this poultry netting will make that possible. 

YEs, I could get less expensive netting, without electricity.  But I also need the security that it provides.  And it's solar-powered with outlet recharger backup which is all nice.  I've done a ton of research - including extensive chatting with their salespeople - and it's a good product built to last. 

I'm clearly talking myself into this.  I just got my bills all under control and want to live frugally, but ... yeah.

So, yesterday Ziggy was a couch potato.  I think that moving the chickens to the front reduced her stress levels so significantly that she was able to finally exhale and she mostly slept and looked kind of pathetic.  This morning she's raring to go though, already offering toys and indicating a strong preference that we go for a walk right now.  I'll start some laundry, take her out, hang laundry, go meet chicken friend and get their coop (not sure what I'll do with it but I'll figure it out - probably for now just scrub it down and store it), get their worm bin and take to my tenant and check out that she really is handling the yardwork that is her duty that she says she's doing, etc.  Then a lot of reading and I tell you - it's hard as fuck.  The weather is so perfect these days and I hate not being out in it ALL THE TIME. I have a short paper to write.  I need to get caught up on the dog training and work with Ziggy.  I need to cook - a frittata likely.  Because I have a TON of eggs.  And I should plan meals for the week and go shopping and also go to the feed store to get chicken feed.  And list the apartment for rent.  And do more reading.  And secure the coop, and plant collards and chard, and maybe order banana trees.  And put in a fence trellis.  And move dirt, and plant cucumbers and squash to go on the trellis.  Oh, so much dirt to move.  Once I get my weedwhacker back and I can work on clearing that area in the back and move dirt to plant okra. I really want my driveway back so it would be great to finish moving dirt, though highly unlikely this weekend.  Sigh. 

Sheesh, that's more than I can do in the two days I have left with this weekend.  I sure do wish I didn't have to work in an office for a living.  Sigh.  Oh, and I have to cut the grass. 

OH, we did go to agility last week but I don't think we'll do it again.  I liked the woman and Ziggy did very well with her, but Ziggy was WAY over threshold because there is a dog right next to the agility field that was barking aggressively.  How obnoxious.  So Ziggy was way stressed out by that.  Plus the woman was trying to help with training but some of her advice is antiquated - like "make the dog sit before opening the door" and "don't let the dog on the sofa, ever."  No, no, no.  What's important is that she not rush out of doors, which she no longer does.  And that if I ask her to move off the sofa that she do, which she does.  What people don't understand is: Ziggy at home with me is awesome.  She exhibits all sorts of awesome impulse control and she's the best little companion and right-hand dog.  It's the rest of the world stress that sets her off and makes her brain shut down because it's too much adrenaline.  That has nothing to do with whether I let her on the sofa. 

OK, time to face the day.  It's another gorgeous one. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

to the front

The chickens got moved to the front yard.  I just couldn't keep Ziggy on leash any longer.  The coop was fucking heavy and I got help from a 64-year-old friend.  Because middle-aged women can do anything, even chicken magic.  She got eggs as her reward and said: wait, this is a lot of eggs, are you sure? (it was about 9)  I looked at her and scoffed.  These birds are giving me four-six eggs per day.  How many eggs can one person and one dog eat?  (Because yes, Ziggy gets hardboiled eggs, especially those that are slightly cracked.)

The neighbors are awe-struck by these chickens and everytime Ziggy goes crazy I look out and there are people standing and staring at them.  Two conversations: one with my direct neighbor, all in Spanish because she just said screw it to trying in English.  She's from Chiapas and I was so delighted to hear that because: agricultural revolutionaries!  She said she loves the countryside and so does her husband (which I knew from our conversations - and our contest to "who can make their frontyard more country?").  I asked if they'd be willing to take care of the chickens when I have to travel and she was exuberantly agreeable to doing anything I need. 

I'm having the hardest damn time reading for school.  So much to do and the motivation does not exist.  I had a two-hour window yesterday afternoon that I spent in the hammock with my book.  I read two pages, but I sure did enjoy laying in the hammock otherwise.  I don't know how to force myself to read - if I say: "OK, I have to sit here for 30 minutes," then 30 minutes pass with the book in front of me but no reading.  IF I say: "OK, I have to sit here until I read this chapter" then I sit and do nothing until an emergency or a phone call or something else happens to interrupt.  I'm awful. 

I just have so many chores and they distract me.  I need to put wire on the outside of the coop with fasteners that can't be ripped up, to protect them.  And I had this great idea to put up a fence along the edge of the yard as kind of a barrier but also to be used as a trellis for cucumbers and squash.  And now I really need to move that huge pile of dirt because I really need to park in the space where it is.  And I need to replace some fence boards in the back that Ziggy showed me are decayed straight through.  And cook - I have a ton of vegetables to eat but they don't prepare themselves (I want a salad with chinese cabbage and chicken, and I want a frittata with mizuna or green beans).  And work the bed with fertilizer and then plant collards and chard.  And and and and and and and and and ... Maybe my neighbor has a friend from Chiapas who needs a green card and we could marry and he be my farmer buddy.

To be fair, I was really lazy yesterday because of backpain.  I really just wanted to sleep all day because of the pain that was bad enough to induce nausea and general malaise.  I am somewhat better today but still should take it slow. 

I'm on the edge of ordering some electrified poultry netting (with solar charger) to let the gallinas run free and protected.  They could still be there for hawks but I'm more concerned about cats and stray dogs and raccoons - especially as I could just let them have the run when I'm home and paying attention.  I wouldn't be able to save all of them from a hawk attack but they wouldn't be obliterated.  I'm excited about them removing my grass for me. 

Ah, fuck me.  My tenants at my old house are moving out.  They've been there for almost three years (first her, then he moved in later) so I can't complain.  But ... now is not such a great time, especially with short notice and my final exam coming up and such. 

Maybe there's not much to do to repair it.  Maybe it'll just be a matter of a few hours.

Maybe.  Sigh. It's always more work than I expect.

Maybe my neighbor here can do any necessary repairs.  It's just hard with the language barrier and it's awkward because of giving money to neighbors, etc.   I asked him to repair my gate here and he said he'll do it tomorrow so we'll see how that is.  I've seen some of his work so I know he does a good job, but it can be hard.  Today when we were talking about the gate, he told me of things he'd repaired here for the seller of the house and he was told to half-ass it, like caulking rotted soffits.  If things work out well, I may have him take care of all those things since he already knows the issues and it's convenient. 

This may change things with my other tenant - she may need to start sharing the yard.  We'll see what happens. 

I may find things that aren't the tenants' fault at all - like leaking roof or something that they haven't noticed or told me about. So it could be a bigger deal than I'd like.  But, she did tell me last month that they would be looking to move out in the next few months so it's not a surprise, and better to get it done, I guess.  I could charge more rent, too. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

lady problems

I took time off work for a long weekend for two things: yardwork and camping/hiking.  Oh, and carry a chicken coop.

And then my back rebelled.  IT's the L3 of course.  I woke up in some pain and i just got worse throughout the day.  If I stood up straight, my legs were numb and difficult to move.  So I have a magic chiropractor and her staff usually fits me in right away, and because she is amazing we look whole system.  I often get back pain on the first day of my period, which can be managed with manganese and time.   This was different, though.  My L3 - which is connected to the uterus - was so tight that it'd pulled everything else out badly.  And while sometimes when I get this knotted up and twisted it can work itself out, the numb legs were alarming.  And sometimes it gets worse and I am not a fan of when I can't move at all. 

And one of the things that I like about my chiropractor is that I said to her: "So, will I be able to go hiking and camping with my dog tomorrow?" and she said, "Sure."  She never tries to limit me - she will advise things when asked directly* but I think she trusts my good judgment to stop when I hurt.  She also doesn't say: you have to come back twice a week, or anything like that.  We have a very fluid relationship.

Anyway, I feel somewhat better today but definitely not ready to haul heavy gear or sit in a truck two hours or sleep on the ground or any of that. 

Which is actually a good thing because I REALLY need to get read up for class - I've fallen egregiously behind.  So I see a day of sitting in a hammock with my fearless pup. 

I keep coming back to this and I think it needs to happen: chickens in the front yard.  Ziggy is so stressed and worked up about them in the backyard, which even though they don't seem stressed they will be when I let her off-leash and she lunges and barks every time one of them flaps their wings.  I have thoughts of how to beef up security - padlocks on all the gates/door, another layer of fencing attached to the outside and out the sides - and to give them more room (an additional run to hook to the current run, to use when I'm semi-supervising).  I can put up shade for the one side and actually the front yard is easier to control the sun and it is gone in the afternoon which is nice for summer.  The other advantage for me and them is that I'm gardening in the front yard so I can easily toss the caterpillars and greens in their run as I'm checking the garden. 

The downsides?  Well, first, we're illegal.  Only four pets are allowed per household in the city limit, and this would be seven.  But in the slim chance that I get reported and cited, I think I could maybe give three of the chickens to my tenant at my other house and then we're fine.  I don't particularly want to because I'd have to be responsible for their setup, but it's a fall-back plan.  Second, I think they're more exposed to predators up front because Ziggy doesn't have patrolling rights there.  That potentially includes humans who may want to steal them or even just be assholes and let them out (and I say that because I used to hang out with assholes like that and when we'd get drunk and high we'd think things like that were funny).  Third, less interaction with them - I like seeing and watching them.  But, they don't care about me and they won't feel anything's missing.  And I do spend some time in the front with the garden.  And maybe as Ziggy gets adjusted to seeing them in the front she won't see them as such demonic terrorists and we could move them to the back.

I had an email exchange with a soapmaker, a woman here who wrote on backyard chickens and the need for a chicken bunker.  She told me that her couch potato lovable lump beagle killed four chickens which was shocking to all involved.  Well, Ziggy being a chicken killer would surprise exactly no one, so I want to remove that from happening.  There are sometimes loose dogs in the neighborhood so I do need to beef up security but the difference is the random stray dog as opposed to a pretty smart Catahoula who would have 12 hours a day to examine the coop and scheme up ways to invade it.  She's not usually very obsessed with things but that destruction would become her life goal, and she would terrorize them. 

IF I felt that the threat level was high, I could also pretty easily electrify the coop to keep out predators.  I've never seen a raccoon over here, but I'm sure they exist.  Lots of neighborhood cats, etc.  I wouldn't want to put an electric fence up in the backyard because of Ziggy and my understanding of the Catahoula brain.  But stranger danger?  Hell yeah I'll electrocute it. 

So, yeah.  I think the front yard is my answer.  Once my back is better and I have a buddy to help move it.

A trip to Lowe's is in the near future.  After I walk the poor long-suffering Catahooligan who really just wants her yard back but will adapt to a regular walking schedule if she has to. 

Ok, but really: studying.  #1 priority for today. 

*I went to see her first because of my hip flexors.  The doctors all said I'd need surgery to fix them because they're torn.  She said: yeah, I can't help you with torn tissue.  But she told me what to avoid (stairs, ellipticals, that sort of thing) and marveled at how my legs had down workarounds by overcompensating with significant muscle mass to overcome the issue.  And it's been ten years without surgery.  I'm running no marathons, but I'm able to walk still. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

how to eat vegetables

Breakfast: sweet potato shredded and sauteed with one Korean sausage link; 2 eggs cooked on top

Lunch:  leftover lamb and collards (both procured at farmers market)

Dinner: boiled potatoes tossed with mizuna from front yard, roasted chicken

OK, I don't really need the chicken for dinner but I'll have a bite and leave the rest to strip and repurpose.

Oh and dessert after I take my poor suffering beast out for a walk: local strawberries and yogurt.  Yum.  If I can find a good local milk supplier I'll start making my own yogurt again.  My dog loves it and I hear it's good for chickens.  And it does taste better fresh, with some local honey and yum. 

It's also salad time so that would be good with the chicken - maybe a big cucumber salad.  Tomatoes. 

I'd like to be here for the farmers market on Thursday but we may be going out camping.  WE'll see. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

bad news, good news

It will be awhile before I trust Ziggy to be loose in the yard with the chickens.  She's already improved drastically, but their quick moves freak her out.  She's absolutely certain that they are demonic terrorists, and she absolutely loses her shit if we approach.  Tenant was hanging out with us and when she got up to leave she was going to see the chickens and Ziggy absolutely freaked out, so tenant backed up and walked to her apartment and Ziggy spent the whole walk looking at tenant, looking at chickens, and back and forth.  Absolute high alert, sure that we are in grave danger.  If I go anywhere near them, Ziggy is ready to rip apart the fence she's tied to. 

Probably better for her to see them as mortal enemies than as prey, as I can teach her pretty easily to overcome her aversion to things that she's afraid of.  OK, not exactly easy, but we know this drill. 

The good news is: I was worried about our worktrip in June and having her not have access to a yard.  Even before I moved here and put in a dog door, Ziggy basically always had free run of the house and yard when not kept crated.  I wasn't so much worried about her having an accident or anything (since she never has), but just that it would stress her out and that we don't know how to communicate that she needs to go out.  But, today I learned that we do actually.  She whined and I said: you better be telling the truth, and she was absolutely telling the truth and with just a little walking the yard she pooped and then peed.  Which means she can be an apartment dog for a week without any great difficulty.  She's not a wild barnyard beast. 

Wow, I never expected these chickens to be so easy from the beginning.  They put themselves in the coop.  I went out at dusk with some strawberries, expecting there to be drama.  These poor chickens have been through a lot today and they may not recognize a coop for what it is as it's so different.  But when I went out, four of the six were in.  The other two were waiting their turns and would hop in and see it wasn't time for them yet and hop back out.  I encouraged them with words alone and soon everyone was in and I closed the door. 

I guess after taking on the Ziggy Project I deserve easy pets, but these guys are beyond easy.  The only thing I don't much like is how much they stare at me.  They already know I'm the foodbag lady and they come rushing if I talk to them, but they like to watch me across the yard as though waiting for me to tell them what's up.  No wonder they're freaking Ziggy out so bad, with all their staring at us. 

The girls are here

This is one chill flock of chickens.  They seem unperturbed about being moved, losing their rooster, and being in a totally new spot.  I just opened up the dog crate that they traveled in and they said: "hey! let's go!" and they ran into the coop/run.  I'm still working on getting them out of the run and into the coop before they lay eggs on the ground, but I think we'll get it.  (ETA: I've now collected two eggs from the coop and seen most of them up there so I think they'll get it.)

It's a small coop/run but it will work for awhile.  Within 20 minutes they made dirt bath areas and had dirt bath parties.  They're delighted. They're pretty nice birds though one pecked me when I was too slow with the scratch I was trying to lure them into the coop with.  She didn't hurt but started training me.

My dog is completely out of control with all this situation and it's going to be hard for us.  She was already so over threshold with my travel and return and being off the drugs, so now she's just lost it.  Freaking out like an insane beast.  So, slower than I'd hoped, but we'll get there.  She can just be so exhausting. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017


I'm in another town.

Leaving that furry face is hard and gets harder the closer we get.  She loves her friends but was not happy about being left there.  I don't pack in advance because it stresses her out.  She kind of kept it together pretty well today until I zipped up her bag and took it to the door and then she was leaping straight up in the air.  I GET TO GO.  Yeah, I really need to take her camping soon.

I"m in a town that I think I like even though it's sprawly with chain stores.  I just had a fantastic dinner, a hipster foodie place, and I was not disappointed even though they couldn't tell me WHICH mustard greens were in the rice (which was fantastic) and rabbit and broccoli and egg.   The rice was perfectly cooked, with a little crunch, and something left a charred taste and it was just so so good. 

Night 2 and I'm alive.  I'm cranky and exhausted but really my whole new slacker vibe is paying off.  First - I don't hustle.  Other people hustle to do things I used to hustle to do.  I sometimes build up points by doing the hard stuff - like shutting somebody down.  DOWN.  "But - but - but" NO. "Well, I have to call a person who outranks you."  "YOu are welcome to do that."  And then I got a posse of people who outrank THAT person and I was ready for war but she didn't come for me because only an idiot does that more than once.  It makes me think of this time I went out with a Puerto Rican friend and a large Black woman ran into her and spilled drinks.  She started to get all blustery with my friend and causing a ruckus and my friend just got real, real fast.  There was finger wagging and: "I ain't white, bitch.  Don't try to start that shit with me." And there are so many layers of complexity to analyzing that moment that sticks with me always, but for today the lesson that I carry is: don't come for me. Because I will channel my inner Maxine Waters.

Image result for maxine water how to come for me

What else? 

I presented some hard things to people and it could have turned south but I was butterfly-flitting.  I had fancy pretty spreadsheets and I had a plan, and they succumbed to my charms.

A number of people told me how much they appreciate me and what a great job I'm doing.  Suckers.  I'm slacking like a villain.

Oh oh - I happened to run into a woman that was totally bizarre, not related to work, when I was out.  She recognized me.  I didn't recognize her because (a) she used to have the most awesome natural hair and now she has some straightened colored coif, and (b) we hardly knew each other.  Like, maybe we spoke a few times in passing.  She was a government worker with abused children and I was an attorney for the kids.  I generally had a very good relationship with the low-level workers, but their supervisors saw me as a thorn.  There was the time the agency attorney announced that all staff were forbidden from speaking to me - then was when a worker had taken one of my kids and put him basically in a completely inappropriate and restrictive setting across the state and woudln't tell me where he was.  WRONG AND ILLEGAL, and I made them pay.

I loved that job.  I really, really loved it.  I loved mostly making a difference every day in kids' lives and helping them through what is for many kids the absolute worst that their lives can be.  My connection to my clients was really important and it fueled my passion and ferocity.  I was a brand-new lawyer and I was fierce.  I worked with just the best people - amazing opposing counsel who taught me so much and judges who did their very best by kids.  An attorney supervisor who stayed out of my way - I would get frustrated with him for not training or supporting me but letting me learn on my own was the best.

Why don't I call that guy and ask for my old job back? Well, I did.  First, it can't be in New Orleans.  And while I'm culturally ok with that, financially that would be hard since my house is there.  Second, it would cut my pay almost in half.  That seems really irresponsible financially.  Third, it would be going backwards in some ways.  Just because it was the perfect job for me a decade ago doesn't mean it still is.  I've changed.  I now don't want to go to court because i don't want to wear a suit.  I've learned the art of slacking.

For her to remember me though just like that, calling out my whole name when she hasn't seen me in many years - that's impressive.  She was also very happy to see me and said she remembers my good work.  Which is rewarding.  If I could just live with that salary.  Sigh.

I had to arrange a meeting for lunch and so I got to the room to set up and then I went ahead to eat and a man working there said: "Ma'am, you're gonna need some tabasco for that gumbo there."  "But, you dont' have Crystal!  I'm from NEw Orleans, this area!  I need Crystal hot sauce."

Well it turned out that it was fine with the tabasco, and that he is a retired teacher and was a teacher in New Orleans and after Katrina when they fired all the teachers (such an injustice) he stayed in this other part of the state and raised his kids and taught and now retired.   And he just seemed to really enjoy our conversation, and I did too.  No idea why he approached me and thought me approachable but I appreciate men who do, and I know he wanted more time but work called. 

I ended up in conversation with a co-worker and we commiserated about security at our building, how they're always trying to force us to banter with them and share personal secrets.  "I want to be polite, not forced friendliness."  "EXACTLY!  ME TOO!  I thought I was the only one!"  Taht was a bonding experience and she's so sweet and sent me an email about our exchange later.  We were interrupted by a man who KEPT INTERRUPTING and wanting to chat and I kept ignoring him and wanted to talk to my new friend, and then it became clear that he was there to talk to me not her.  Why?  I'm rejecting you. At this point I'm beginning to worry that the very strong "don't approach me" vibes I give off are not working. 

Which makes me laugh to think about when a VIP came over and said: what are y'all laughing at? and I didn't want to say, but: "My dog, but I know how you make fun of me for my dog."  He turns to my co-worker and says: "Look, here's what I'm saying: her dog is medicated.  What does that say?  Your dog is so depressed that you're its owner that you have to give it anti-depressants.  How pathetic of an owner do you have to be?" but he said it so funny I laughed until I cried. 

So, this trip hasn't been awful.  But I'd rather be home.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

flit like a butterfly

While my job is exasperating and ridiculous, I don't hate it right now.  I've adjusted it to me in many ways.  I sometimes know how to tell people "no" in a way that they feel like winners.  I dance around the myriad personalities and opinions to just sneak in what needs to be done.  Like, I was asked to get something signed.  OK, but I had to get FOUR layers of approval first and these are busy people.  Through a series of emails and phone calls, I got it done in record time.  And then the person who should have but hadn't signed it for the past ten years said: well, that was easy.  Easy? No.  STrategically accomplished with minimum drama?  Yes. 

You'd think after over two years that I'd figure things out, but the rules and leadership are constantly changing.  What the previous person always wanted done the new person is opposed to, etc.  It's a constant dance.  The funniest is when the new person says: I want this. And I say well, this other person who approves it won't accept it like that, so let's word it this way.  And he usually now says: that's a great idea. 

He has stopped looping me in on every damn thing which is good and bad - bad if I can't intervene before things become a problem, but good because he doesn't get on my nerves as much.  And he told somebody outside our organization that I do a very good job but that they want to hire my boss instead of promoting me because they want that other person to do something else.  That is something that I can do but I don't want to, so this is fabulous.  NOt as fabulous is that something else is not something we need to do, and actually we need that person to do other things which now apparently will still be on me, but basically: I still won't have to wear a suit.  I may sound ridiculous but I do not like wearing a suit.  At the jobs I've had where I've had to wear suits, I've been constantly aggravated and uncomfortable. 

People say: dress like the job you want to have, and so I dress slovenly.  I dress as poorly as I can get away with.  It's more comfortable, more frugal, and less threatening.  People: I don't ever want to wear heels again.  They're THE WORST.  I prefer cowboy boots and jeans though I'm only allowed that one day per week. 

I had a long conversation with my advisor recently and we found our common ground: we both lack ambition.  We fall into roles with responsibility if things need to be done, but we have no desire to be in charge or upwardly mobile or any of that.  I just want to work my 40 hours per week and then have my life.  I don't want these people bothering me outside that time because I'll be too busy moving chicken manure and growing far more food than I know what to do with. I don't want a PhD because I want to be prestigious - I want it because I'm curious and like to finish things I start.  But I'd rather be cutting pressure-treated 2x4s to frame the chicken coop that I will figure out how to convert to a tractor.  And I want a portable table saw because I'm a menace with my current set-up. I want to grow things in dirt and see what works and what doesn't.  I want to walk and train my dog so she's less of a jackass.  I don't want stress at work, I don't want the drama that comes of being in charge.  

I just want a drama-free life. 

Monday, April 3, 2017


The wife of your lover who died last February messages to say hello and see how you're doing.

The son of your lover who died this January posts on Facebook about missing his daddy, posting a memory of an exchange they had that captures the essence of that man.

Love and loss.  How the world turns. But it still can make me suck my breath in hard.

She and I only met once and it was awkward. They weren't married and she and I knew of each other. He wasn't a dirty cheater or anything like that.  I haven't met the son yet but I assume I will someday. It's a small town, we have mutual friends. We'll both be missing his daddy.

I've seen a lot of photos posted of both of these men and it's even more obvious how much they loved me. How their eyes softened and warmed and danced when I took the picture.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

chickens in six days

What I am most excited about for getting chickens is turning shit to shit, trash to treasure.


I have a lot of things to feed the birds.  I have fantasies of them someday free ranging my backyard and picking bugs and weeds; even until then they will have a bounty of so very many weeds especially if I can rig up a tractor device. 

Every time now that I pick a caterpillar off a plant, pull off some leaves with bug eggs, rip out some weeds, contemplate removing cool weather crops to put in the warm weather ones - I think: soon.  Soon I will have little gremlins to devour these things with delight and to provide me with manure, to make better soil. 

The soil here is ok but what doesn't need compost?  In the dirt to the front of my house that I've now turned twice, having six weeks of cover crops seems to have made quite a difference.  I imagine how rich it will be once some batches of compost are worked in.

I think of planting banana trees and how they're heavy feeders and I think confidently: yeah, give me a little time to collect and age it, and you'll be fine. 

I haven't found a great source of compost here.  It's always far too woody, and I don't toss enough produce to make much (it's been a year with the compost bin I have, and only one side is only 1/3 done.  Though maybe I should switch to the other side and let what I have compost without adding more, if the black soldier flies are on the job.

Anyway, I hauled dirt like a madwoman today and I hurt.  Sore sore sore.  Trying to power through with reading, but, alas. 

Finished the coop with some help from my neighbor on cutting the door - why they would sell a coop without a door makes no sense to me, but oh well.  It's a very secure door, probably too secure so will be a pain in the ass to open and close every day.  It's a first attempt.  It's a pure example of jerry-rigged.  Maybe someday I'll build a real coop. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday snapshots

This morning I headed out the bayou for a wildflower walk.  'Tis the season.  It was really nice - the weather was gorgeous, and I learned new plants.

As I drove back over the Mississippi, I was listening to my very favorite radio show, one done in New Orleans.  The person is a very highly accomplished journalist and has worked all over the world and now she's here in New Orleans interviewing people about music.  It's a wonderful show.  There was a part in her interview today that made me laugh until tears flowed, it was so funny.  And so I Facebooked that and tagged her, because somehow I was able to send her a friend request at some point, and she COMMENTED ON MY POST.  She's my hugest celebrity crush and she references me by name and continues the joke with me. 

Then I went and got a sno-ball at my favorite place and spent the hour in line chatting with a young girl and two men visiting here for a bachelor party.  We anguished over our decisions, I stopped everyone in line for reviews of their choices.  I was utterly shameless in a way that New Orleans encourages. 

And then I saw a tree overloaded with the fruit that my dead lover's son makes into punch and is harvesting across the city, so I posted that on his Facebook wall. 

And now I'm home with a heap of digging and dirt moving and water protecting and construction to do to get ready for garden and chickens.  My trusty Catahoula at my side. 

Ziggy: unfiltered

Taking Ziggy off the Prozac is bringing back her personality and making even more certain that I did the right thing to be adamant about getting her off it.   

Typical scene: me assembling a chicken coop.  Her running loops around the yard and playing vigorously with toys.  Totally out of my hair but ready to jump in any moment I call. 

She's back to sleeping a normal amount, not a zombie-ish 20+ hours per day. 

She's back to putting me to bed and waking me up in the mornings. 

But she's still handling stress like a champ.  This morning we were on a walk passing by a dog barking from the yard, a man she always gives a look to (and used to bark at), and a stranger coming out of the house talking to us.  Three triggers and she assessed them and then looked at me.  Huge progress!  Two days ago we got all buckled up to go out for a walk, I opened the door, and an aggressive Rottweiler from down the street was running free.  I said, "What?" and Ziggy did a "hey" bark.  The Rott walked away and Ziggy sat down and watched it.  Not freaking out, not barking or lunging, just waiting for me to decide what we were going to do (we went to the backyard for frisbee because I wasn't wanting to wrestle that Rott - its people are jerks).