Monday, June 25, 2012

& then there were 18

Yesterday, during a MONSOON, we relocated our remaining 18 chickens to W*****'s henhouse next door.  For those who have not had the misfortune to speak to me directly in the past week, we have gone from 27 to 18 hens; something small & vicious has been getting into the henhouse. 

First, I thought the count seemed "light", but as the ladies had not been out (our henhouse is plenty large enough for them to never leave it & be quite healthy, I swear) I figured someone was behind something or I missed someone...  Then I realized I could only find one Lakenvelder; there should have been two.  I thought maybe one of them had not come back in from the previous day's outing & I had somehow miscounted, counting one twice.  Then I couldn't find Teensie the one&only Sumatran & I knew there was a problem.

I went through that henhouse as best I could.  Any opening I found larger than my fist (& I have rather small hands) I stitched up, or rather darned, using a lighter gauge wire.   Friday morning, there were 2 dead birds still in the henhouse.  That afternoon, A came home from being in CA most of the week.  He dug around the exterior, found an opening behind & below the feeders at the back where the wooden wall had rotted away.  The next morning, there was no doubt something had tried to dig in at that point.  Whatever it was, it had managed to get in somewhere else: two more dead hens.

Saturday we took everything out & examined the four exterior walls from the inside.  We added a layer of chicken wire over the existing layer of wire on the two side walls.  We added extra wire in the corners at the roof line.  Sunday morning: another dead bird & that made nine gone.  Another bird had most of her neck feathers ripped out, but looks to be otherwise healthy.

Our best theory is that whatever it is is small enough to fit in the channel of the corrugated roof.  We packed up the live birds (we used the dead one to bait a live trap) & brought them next door, where they are all a bit cramped, but at least they survived the night.  Nothing came for the dead bird, but Tropical Storm Debby was grinding herself for hours right on top of us most of the night.  The rain was so loud, we had trouble having a conversation in any room with many windows, forget the room with a skylight.  We could not even hear the tv, sitting less then 6 feet away in a room with surround sound. 

Soooo, we don't know was the dead bird not temptation enough?  Did whatever it is just not try because of the weather? Did it maybe (hopefully) drown where ever it was holed up?  We plan to leave the trap baited another night & check back again tomorrow.  No mater what the result, the birds are at W*****'s until Thursday or maybe even the weekend, because of course A is leaving town again tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My first near miss dog attack

I have been running for, well, weeks now.  I don't know how long exactly.  Since between April & May bookclub, like that clears it up.  Mostly it sucks.  But overall it sucks less than it did; I do not imagine there will ever be a time when it sucks not at all.

One thing that does not suck is my route.  It is mostly well shaded, mostly on dirt road, over all scenic & pleasant.  There is not much traffic except during melon or berry harvest & even then I am a familiar enough sight that most of the drivers slow down so as not to bury me in sand (I still come home, brush my teeth & spit sand out, but that is like on a dirt road during a drought; that would happen whether I ran the route or just weeded the roses in the front yard).

Recently I added a bit more distance & as it happens this takes me not even 1/4 mile down a paved road, past 1/2 a dozen ordinary neighborhood houses.  Yesterday in front of one of these houses I almost got much too close to a very fit, very well cared for, very well trained Doberman Pinscher.

I was running past the house.  I was in the street (there is no sidewalk & I only go up on to the grass when there is a car coming towards me or the water level is over the tops of my sneakers).  I do not run with ear buds.  I did not have either of my "dangerous breed" dogs on a lead with me.  I heard a small yappy dog, turned my head & saw a white west highland looking terrier type coming across the lawn & maybe 4 feet away, getting into a crouch position was a garden variety doberman.  It was not particularly large, but it was less than two full bounds away.

I screamed "Hey Hey" & ran backwards towards the center of the road & the lady of the house came either around the side of the house or out of the open garage (you can imagine what I was looking at & believe I was not scanning the background for people).  She called the dog by name, both dogs IMMEDIATELY stood down & walked back towards her.  After she had them she kept calling "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry" as I continued my run around the corner & away.

& that was the whole thing, attack-wise.  The scariest part is of course the complete silence of the attack dog.  Funnily enough, I run past (twice actually as this part of the route is a double back) another house with a doberman & a different breed (bigger breed) of very vocal sidekick every single run.  That dobie is also the strong silent type, mostly hangs back but occasionally lopes to the fence.  That's right, those people have 5 foot high fence.  All of us, me the dogs, we are all clear what side of the fence we belong on & I am sure that makes all the difference.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What would Phil do?

Very few of  the regular readers of this blog will even know that the Phil in the title is Philip Lamason, never mind have the vaguest idea who he was.  You have not forgotten, you never knew.

Phil Lamason was shot down over France this day in 1944.  He was recovered in good health by the French Resistance, but was ultimately betrayed by a NAZI infiltrator & turned over to the Gestapo.  After interrogation, he & 167 other airmen were sent to Buchenwald.  Buchenwald should be a bit more familiar; after the war when so many ordinary Germans said they had no idea the concentration camps existed they were presented over & over with Buchenwald.  Although not technically a death camp, no ovens for the gassing of undesirables, just a well run crematorium for those who happened to drop dead, Buchwald was plenty horrific.  More to the point, the prison workforce routinely worked outside the camp, in plain view of anyone who cared to look.

Enter Phil Lamason.  Maybe I should back up a bit.  He was born on a farm in New Zealand into a family of farmers.  He came to the RAF through the RNZAF.  It was unusual for a prisoner of war to be sent to a place like Buchenwald, but through a series of special circumstances (one of them being caught wearing civilian clothing), certain POWs were given this special treatment, specifically the treatment accorded spies & traitors.  So, you know, not good.  Imagine what passes for the Not Good Treatment in a concentration camp.   & into 160+ other airmen captured under similar circumstances was dropped Phil Lamason.

On his first day he made a big announcement to his fellow Not Goodies & began to organize them laying out a system for stonewalling the guards en masse, ideally without them catching on (amazingly enough, this worked at least some of the time), mostly by avoiding them & working within their own smaller units.  Then Lamason began his own negotiations with the camp officials for better treatment for all of them.  He refused to give the order for the men to work in war production despite being told he would just be killed & then his men would be forced (the commandant ultimately backed down).

The airmen continued in complete isolation, from others at the camp, from any prisoner of war inspections until Lamason made contact with the Luftwaffe.  That's right, he got better treatment for his men by contacting the airial warfare branch of the German armed forces.  He was sure they would not want their shot-down airmen treated this way & his was right.  So much more happened, if you really want to know, read the book.

After the the airmen were liberated, different governments kept trying to get him to help pilot on the pacific front, but New Zealand decided against being part of that whole Hiroshima thing.  After the war, he turned down other offers because...& I love this....his family really needed him on the farm.

So, I've been thinking a lot about PLamason lately.  We read a book about his part of the world for bookclub, I am avidly following the WWII tweets &, after I had started composing this post, he died (on May 19th).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Running, so far

Sometime after the second Tuesday in April & before the second Tuesday in May, I started running.   Kind of like Forrest Gump, I just started.   I did however have a particular reason:  & I didn't just start running, I started one minute intervals.  Eight of them, which took me not quite a 3/4 of a mile, but since I went in one direction for 1/2 a mile, I ended up walking back whatever was left over after the 8th run.

After a couple weeks, I went to the end of the dirt road, just a shave under one mile, & then back, still one minute running, one minute walking.  Then I started pushing some of the sets to two minutes (the running sets, not the walking ones), then added another 1/2 mile to the loop.

That is more or less where I am right now.  I have also gained 4 pounds since I started; if I lose another pound I will be where I was when I started running.  The sloooooooow scale up means no shin splints or post-running pain of any kind (except mild muscle soreness, I mean c'mon). 

My goal is to run a local 5k in October & so far, so good.  I don't care if I am dead last, but I want to finish.  I need to add a third mile by the end of June, & a fourth by the end of July while pushing the running from one to two to three etc. minutes at a stretch. 

As for the running itself?  I mostly hate it.  I ran right after tropical depression Beryl, on a dirt road when a good bit of my route was under water well over the tops of my sneakers; this run was not significantly worse than any of the others.   Actually, the rain pouring down my face, behind my glasses, while not exactly fun, was kind of cooling.  What I like is the pain I used to have in my hip when I sat for a long time is gone.  Also, I feel free to eat anything I want (little window into how I am gaining weight & why I say IF I lose another pound).  yesterday I had a KitKat for breakfast.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Natalicio de Jefferson Davis

Last month (a month ago tomorrow, actually), I was ranting about how I think all holidays are made up (I still do) & how over time, not even so much time, we morph holidays until the event originally represented is often twisted all the way back on itself.  Today I give you one of my favorite holidays:  Jefferson Davis Birthday OR as it is marked on so many calendars here in Fladidah -where it is a state holiday- Natalicio de Jefferson Davis.  Let's take a closer look.

When my brother was a freshman at a university south of the Mason-Dixon, he got into a conversation about what wars had the US lost.  He was astonished to learn that the locals considered the Civil War a loss.  Since then, I have met individuals who consider the county I live in to be occupied territory & a good chunk of the population to be carpetbaggers. That Jefferson Davis, First President of the Confederate States of America would still be a notable figure & his birthday worth a holiday is really not a shock.   Oddly enough, it isn't a holiday in the state where my brother learned the US actually lost the Civil War.  Go figure.

Okay, imagine we are proud sons (& daughters) of the Confederacy, & even though we lost the war we are going to celebrate the birth of our president.  But only one state celebrates on his actual birthday, every time.  It happens to be the state I am in right now, but lets take a look at the others that observe his birthday as an official, no school, no open state offices holiday  They would be....Alabama & Mississippi.  Alabama celebrates Jefferson Davis Birthday on the first Monday in June & actually closes things.  Alabama also has something called King/Lee Day, moshing the federal observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day into the state holiday honoring Robert E. Lee.  When I was in elementary/middle school, we put on mini pageants & presentations in class about the upcoming holidays; I desperately want to see a King/Lee day pageant in person. Mississippi piggybacks Jefferson Davis Birthday on Memorial Day, moving it a week or a month backwards, depending on how you count.

States that do not officially observe Jefferson Davis Birthday include:   Kentucky (the state in which Jefferson Davis was born),  Louisiana (the state in which he died & was first buried), & Virginia (the state in which he was reburied).  In fact, last September, Virginia removed his name from the portion of highway that passes the Pentagon; it had been called Old Jeff Davis Highway for over 100 years.

Which brings us to Fladidah.  Fladidah observes Jefferson Davis Birthday on the actual day & closes nothing, which does not matter this year as it fell on a Sunday anyhow.   Unlike many other UStates, Fladidah has a large, influential spanish speaking, cuban leaning population.  The operative word here is influential.  As a result everything & I do mean everything that the state publishes, it publishes in both english & spanish. 

This means that school children in the largest school district in Jefferson Davis territory, in fact the fourth largest school district in the whole USofA, would be observing Natalicio de Jefferson Davis...if it weren't on a Sunday.  C'mon, it is a little bit funny.

When we (me, my brother, etc.) were in school, a USHistory unit, north or south I imagine, would have included the names of the bigwigs on both sides.  I am fairly confident they don't anymore but here is a challenge: can you name one other member of the Confederate Cabinet?  I can, but I confess its only because the Vice President of the Confederacy was what my mother would call Quite An Odd Duck.  Also, his first 2 names have been made famous in USHistory by a completely different person of no relation whatsoever (one is not even named for the other, its all just a coincidence), but still making his name very easy to remember.  During the civil war he was considered the real threat by the union becasue he was so much more on the ball than anyone else; sadly for the confederacy he was plagued with ill health most of adult life & did a good chunk of his job(s) from his bed.  Even better, after the Civil War he served more than 4 terms in the House of Representatives (which I only learned recently) & as Governor of his home state (which I did know from jr. high history).  There is no state even contemplating a celebration of his birthday.