Boys will be a pain in the ass

Tweedle Dum, the turkey jake, is super frustrated.  There’s a trio of wild (okay, dropped in by the neighbor so he can have guided turkey hunts on his property) toms that have been bothering us all day here.  They swoop in and rape my turkey hens, and poor Dummy can’t protect all three girls at once.  My husband first chased them off with a stick, but then he took my .22 revolver out there with bird shot and scared them off.  (.22 bird shot is not going to kill a turkey unless you hold the barrel to its head, so settle down, PETAites.)

So Dummy, who is so terrible at turkey sex the local hooligans have come in to show how much better they are, and outnumbered at turkey fighting, and for some reason, pretty small for a Bourbon Red jake, is spoiling for a fight.  Like a complete ass, he apparently got into it with Azrael, who is now sporting a bloody, lacerated comb and bloody feet.

Jeff wants to shoot Dummy and let the hens go off with the wild ones.  I admit, that would solve a lot of problems.  I’d say I never wanted turkeys in the first place, but that isn’t true.  I did want turkeys, but now that I have them, I don’t.  I’m tired of turkey poop everywhere, I’m frustrated with turkey noise, and now I’m pissed that my handsome, gentle rooster is wounded.

I didn’t have any Blukote, but I went out there and picked Az up and held him while I cleaned him up as much as he would let me.  I put some Neosporin (no -caines of any kind!) on him and let him go.  He closed his eyes for the washing part and gave me squinty sideeye for the salve part.  What a lovely, patient and good rooster he is.  I will invest in some Blukote, though.

And I have to seriously think about whether I’m going to keep these turkeys.

(And for those of you who are screaming, “But what about BAMF?!”, she is just fine.  Seven weeks old and getting feathers in her tail.  They look like nice, straight, stiff ones, too, so we are still hoping for pullet.  I might have pictures tomorrow.)

Growing Pains in the Coop

Bamf is now six and a half weeks old, and pretty much fully feathered.  That means she can regulate her own body temperature now, and doesn’t have to sleep underneath Amy, who has been showing signs of tiring of motherhood.

Jeff and I agreed it was time to let Amy and Bamf out of the brooder pen and back into the flock. The chickens were ready, but the enclosure wasn’t.  The hardcloth openings on the enclosure will keep in a big chicken (and keep out raccoons), but they won’t keep Bamf from slipping through.  We had to go around with chicken wire and reinforce the sides.

Jeff also worked on the door, putting in a barrier to discourage chickens from escaping when I open the door to put in food, water, and treats.  He also reinforced the wires in the door itself, because one of the center wires had popped loose and left an opening large enough for a small chicken like Sera…or one of the cats….to slip through.

Amy did not realize she was free from the brooder right away, but once she did, she spent a lot of time trying to escape Bamf.  It made me terribly sad, but I know that’s how the chicken thing works sometimes.  I knew it was going to be really bad at bedtime, because Amy was going to run off to the roosts with the rest of the chickens and leave Bamf alone.

And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Bamf spent several minutes calling and crying around the enclosure, and Amy ignored her.  Finally, I went in and captured Bamf, who screamed bloody murder and tried to escape–hen raised chicks are not nearly as friendly as human raised ones–and put her in the big coop.  She called and cried and still, Amy ignored her.  I blocked the exit and waited her out.

I did notice that while Amy thought she belonged on the roost with the other chickens, Maalik and Abby disagreed.  They pecked and bit and beat her with their wings.  When I went back to check on Bamf, who had quieted and gone to sleep on one of the lower roosts, Amy had been dumped off by the other girls and was trying to get back up.

It’s my hope that the flock will discipline Amy until she accepts her responsibilities and in the morning, I will find her taking care of Bamf again and helping her to find her place in the flock.

We’re not out of the woods yet.  Bamf doesn’t need Amy to keep her warm enough to stay alive, but she does need her to help her find her place in the flock until she can withstand the pecking order squabbles to find her place herself.

This is all new to me, too.  I am back to seeing Bamf as Schroedinger’s Chick–both alive and dead at the same time until I observe her.

Cross your fingers.

Home with the birds

Today was a lovely Sunday at home with the chickens and turkeys.  Well, the cats, too.  And the husband, Jeff.  Not necessarily in that order.

I let the chickens out of the enclosure. With all the predators around, and having lost some rare breeds to one or all of them (we’ve only seen feathers from one lost bird), the girls and boys only get to come out under supervision.  I check on them from time to time and do head counts.  With the turkeys as an early warning system, too, the birds are better protected.  While the predators decide whether Tweedle Dum, my tom, is worth a fight, enough time can be bought for me to come out with the shotgun and make sure everyone is okay.

So the girls and Azrael, my Rhode Island Red rooster, were out.  A couple of the girls stayed in.  Einstein, my buff Naked Neck, really doesn’t care if she goes outside again.  She’s more than happy to stay in the enclosure and feel safe.  She’s the last of the original four.

Scarlett, on the other hand, the last of the second set of four, is an inquistitive Red Star who likes to be the last one in at night, if she can help it.

Amy, the buff Orpington who is mothering the now nearly five week old chick I’ve named BAMF Snowflake (as a fuck you to fascists everywhere and also because she’s white as urban snow and yes, that stands for what you think it stands for), really wanted to go with them, but she’s not allowed.  Not until BAMF is fully fledged AND big enough to escape a crow.  When BAMF is six and a half weeks old, she and Amy will be released from the brooder pen and allowed to roam the enclosure. Outside time will be negotiated later.

At least, that was the plan.

Until I went to check on the girls and found BAMF running frantically around the outside of the brooder pen.  I called out that I was on the way to rescue her, and wrestled with the baling wire that holds the door shut, got inside….and found BAMF sitting placidly behind Amy in the brooder pen.  So she’s perfectly fine getting in or out on her own, thank you, and doesn’t need my help.

Well, that’s not happening.  I found the exits, two of them, just small enough for a five week old chick to slip through, and I had Jeff round me up some plywood to cover them.  Meanwhile, BAMF escaped again and there was a mad chase all over the enclosure.  I wouldn’t freak out except she’s not fully fledged yet, and it’s very easy for her to get chilled and die.  After five weeks of keeping this baby alive in the snow, rain and ice of North Idaho weather, to have it all go to hell because the little shit is an escape artist would suck.

Finally I caught her, put her back in the brooder pen and sealed off the exits.  Then, since dark was coming, I started letting the girls back in the enclosure.  I have to let them file in one at a time, because the turkeys want to come in, too, and I can’t have them in there knocking everything over and then stepping on poor BAMF.  The girls all try to follow Azrael in if they can, because Az gets really pissed at stragglers.  He and Castiel, the beta rooster (and a gorgeous partridge cochin), will wingslap and nip anyone who slips in the door after everyone else is in.

Naturally, Scarlett got a whooping, as usual.  And I went in the house and sat down to let Twitter depress the hell out of me.  Then I looked up and noticed Mikey, one of the partridge cochins, trying to quietly find a way back in the enclosure.  So back I go, outside, to try to help poor Mikey sneak in without getting wingslapped.  Timing is everything.  We both waited until both roosters had mounted someone else and then I quickly opened the door and Mikey dashed in.  I think she got away clean.

Later on, as I read about more corruption and bullshit and obvious lying, I looked out again and saw that Tweedle Dum, the turkey tom, was trying out his new moves on one of the Bourbon Red hens.  As in, climbing on, splaying the poor girl’s wings on the ground and biting her head.  I don’t ever want to be reincarnated as a turkey hen.  Ever. I said something to Jeff about it, and he came out to watch.  Grimly, he joked, “Yeah, baby, I love it when your wings are all splayed out in the mud and shit.” Dummy held her down a long time, because I’m really sure he has no idea what he’s doing.  I’ve watched him before, and I’ve never seen him get past the girls’ tails, which they cleverly spread on the ground, covering the cloaca. It’s sad, really.

Then I heard meowing from above, and noticed Castor, the nine month old boycat, was on the deck and had no idea how to get down.  I should have left him there, but I knew he’d just cry in front of the slider up there and beg to be let in, rather than find his way down.  He’s not allowed upstairs, so that wasn’t happening.  (Kitties that go upstairs in my mother’s domain get tossed outside.)

I held up the sled for him to run down.  I put it on my shoulder, so that he could run down past me if he liked.  He decided to try it.  First one paw, then another.  Then he picked up one of his back paws and WHOOSH! Flew right past my head, over my shoulder and onto the snow.

He’ll probably never do that again.

Well, now everyone is tucked in for the night.  Kitties are in the house and fed (and staying downstairs.)  BAMF’s under Amy–last I saw her tonight her head was poking up out from under Amy’s wing–and the chickens have all gone in to roost.

The only one still making noise is Dummy, who is upset that one of his hens is missing.  He’s gobbling and fluffing and gobbling and fluffing up there on the roost, and the sneaky little hen is hiding around the corner, roosting quietly on the rack next to my office window.  She keeps looking at me as if to say, “Please!  Don’t rat me out!”

I bet I know which one she is.

Good old invisible illness

When you can’t see a person’s illness, it can be hard to accept that it’s real, or that it’s very serious.  I understand that.

When your loved one has a crushing cold or a sinus infection, it seems very important and obvious that she should have her rest.  If you have depression with sleep disturbance, even deprivation, it is just as important–perhaps more so, because your illness is life-threatening–but it is NOT obvious.  And you can become very ill very quickly, even spiral into a crash, if you do not fight to protect your needs.  This can be difficult and frustrating and even dangerous, when your illness is invisible.

How dangerous?  Well, for starters, the chest pains started a week ago.  The visual disturbance and the beginnings of hallucinations started yesterday.  Yes.  From depression.  From the sleep disturbance and deprivation associated with depression.

It’s not a mood.  It’s not something that can be set aside when someone else has a cold or flu.  “Yes, let’s just put that on hold for a while, until you get better.  Then I can indulge this illness again.”  I am so tired of being expected to do that for people, just because they can’t see or believe in my illness.

If I could choose to set this aside, I would.  Permanently.  I would never go through this again.  I am desperate right now to get my sleep under control so I can then focus on my stress response.  Later, when I have those pillars under me, I can work on the soundtrack in my head.

But as long as I am battling the physical symptoms of my invisible illness, I am vulnerable.

So I fight.  And hope that I do not become so tired of the fight that I give up and let this thing take me.

A place I’ve skated too close to over the last week.

I Want to Know Why

….it’s okay to use taxpayer dollars to keep Melania and Barron in New York instead of the White House, to the tune of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, but not okay to feed hungry children because food stamps are shameful? (Snopes doesn’t have a number yet, so I’m not listing the “double the NEA’s budget” number.  But the question is still valid.)

…it’s okay for Melania to have taken her clothes off for money before she became First Lady but not okay for Michelle Obama to have worn sleeveless dresses when she had the job? (Remember this bullshit?  I so wanted to backhand people.)

…after decades of Cold War, Republicans are not outraged and furious and doing something right now about Trump’s ties to Russia.  Why is this not a priority?  It’s freaking Russia and Republican’s second favorite insult (after “libtard”) is “socialist.”

…it’s okay to hold security briefings in public at dinner time in the Mar-A-Lago, but not to have your emails (which were not classified at the time) on your secure, private server?

…it’s okay to let people take pictures of the guy holding the nuclear football (information that would not be AT ALL useful for spies from ANY hostile nation), but call whistleblowing of misconduct “leaks”?

…no one is freaking out about Stephen Miller telling people that the President’s words are not to be questioned?

If you have an answer that makes sense, and does not just spew namecalling and word salad, I’d like to know.  Because none of that up there is right, or explainable by the fact that the people in power don’t want to do anything about it.

The Recursive Nature of Isolation

Depression is a persistent part of my life.  My depression isn’t just a soup of sadness or a bland numbness gruel–it’s quite frequently a chili spiced with anger, frustration, jealousy and even rage.  It’s a negative emotion gumbo of everything you don’t want to eat all mixed up together. I’m also one of those depressed people with suicidal ideation, and I seem more inclined in that direction when I’m angry than when I’m numb.


Another frequent feature of my depression gumbo is loneliness, which the mentally ill such as myself (yep, depression is a mental illness) like to handle in exactly the opposite way that a well person handles it.

A well person will feel sad or lonely and immediately think that inviting a friend out for drinks, either to talk about the feelings or avoid them altogether, will alleviate the feelings.  And often, they’re right, whether the feelings are addressed or not.

A mentally ill person will want very much to ask someone out for drinks but is afraid it will be a) perceived in the wrong light; b) rejected, because who wants to hang out with a depressed person and talk about feelings or avoid them altogether; c) accepted and then regretted, because how much fun can you have with a depressed person or d) all of the above (which can totally happen all at once in a depressed person’s head).

So the depressed person will double down on the isolation, perhaps with the excuse that introverts need alone time to recover.  And this would be true, if it were an energy and not an emotional recovery.  Introverts also need social interaction, in small doses and safe environments, when they are lonely or sad. We don’t stop being human just because we process energy differently.

Or maybe the doubling down just comes from the fear that the bad feelings will be unwelcome, and let’s face it, in this society of “fake it til you make it,” they often are. Remind me to talk about my mother someday.  Just not now, because I’m already an inch from a Hulk rage.

Or maybe the doubling down comes from knowing that the friend who is your go-to in sad times is a bit of a depressing sad sack herself and the two of you together could create a black hole of depression, swallowing everything in the vicinity.  (If you have been depressed as an adult for more than 10 years, this event has probably happened to you, so it’s not an unreasonable fear.)

So, the depressed person withdraws further into herself.  And, being mentally ill, it’s not an enlightening experience.  It increases the mass of that potential emotional black hole, which makes her more alone, more lonely, more sad (and in my case, more angry, because I know goddamned well I did this to myself, and hey, look, it’s our friend self-hate come to swim in the gumbo!).  The whole thing becomes a bit like those David Hasselhoff gifs where you fall into his underwear forever.

Yes.  That horrifying.

I haven’t figured out a foolproof, surefire way to escape the recursion every time.  (If I did, I would be on late night infomercials every night on TNT.)  I just somehow get out (still here, yes? I got out). It usually takes another person finding joy in something, but sometimes, it’s just a glimpse of bright sun in winter, a particularly beautiful flower, or a friend writing to check on me.

How bad is it right now?  Well, I have two letters here, one I’ve opened and one I have not.  The one I’ve opened, I’ve reacted quite badly to, so I’m afraid to open the other.  Oh, and I hate the kittens.  Yep.  Castor and Polluxia, the what, six month old kittens (maybe?  not sure) that my husband lets cuddle with him all the time, the kittens who lie on my feet and try to follow me into the bathroom.  I hate them.  I hate both of them.  I hate the sight of them.  And I hate myself for hating them.

My counselor had to cancel this week because she’s got the illness going around (the one I had badly for one week around New Year’s and has just annoyingly hung on now, still, today, rasping my voice and burning the inside of my nose), and I won’t see her until next week.

I am lost in David Hasselhoff’s underwear, dude, and I don’t know how to get out.  Any suggestions?

Puritan Rage

Today, JK Rowling smartly slapped her ruler down on the waving hand of a reactionary critic doing my favorite thing:  telling her to shut up and go back to…well, not even writing, because he doesn’t like that, either.

The “Satanesque” stab is a giveaway; this is a person who probably professes Christianity, but would be better described as a Puritan.  The Puritans were (and are) more obsessed with the Old than the New Testament.  They can quote at length from the parts of the Bible they agree with, which are usually confined to the Pentateuch, but go into a slobbering, screaming rage when confronted with the actual words of Christ. Their religion derives less from the Bible, however, than from the writings of John Calvin, a French theologian from the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin is also the source of what we refer to today as “Prosperity Christians.”  Calvin preached predestination–that is, that anyone was who was saved was predestined to be so, and that one of best ways to tell who had Gods’ favor was to see how prosperous they were.  He also preached in God’s absolute sovereignty over man, and thus the clergy’s absolute sovereignty over the populace.  In other words, give yourself over to God and God’s self-proclaimed representatives on Earth.  (But of course, only certain representatives.  The Pope doesn’t count.)

The word “absolute” there is not an exaggeration.  Absolutism colors virtually every facet of the Puritan’s life.  He cannot abide a gradient, so anything that even slightly disagrees with his beliefs must be either strenuously disparaged and discarded, or, if his desires conflict with his beliefs, compartmentalized carefully, much like a child cannot have his potatoes touch his vegetables on his plate, or they are contaminated.  This is how anti-LBGT politicians end up playing footsie in public bathrooms to solicit gay sex. If no one knows about it, it never happened.

This absolutism, this inability to recognize or accept the dirty messiness of life, leads to hypocrisy, as above, with Senator Larry Craig’s scandal, or cruelty, as in the pray (and beat) the gay away reorientation camps to which Puritan parents subject their children.

And all of it, all of it, is infected with rage.  There’s a lot of Puritan rage right now.  Because a Puritan’s worldview is absolute, disagreement is not an option.  By disagreeing, you are insulting and rejecting their God, who will show you, you’ll see.  This sets off the most ridiculous and terrifying spews of language and violence completely at odds with everything Jesus ever said.  Hence, “shiterature,” which is, I think, supposed to be funny, but I’ve never met a Puritan yet who fully grasped the concept of humor beyond a child’s idea that if once is funny, a thousand times must be hilarious.

What is that rage?  Is it really the idea that their God is that offended and helpless that He requires the aid of a human to scream, spit and strike at others?  I doubt it.  I think it has more to do with the idea that Puritans are so terrified of having the wrong answer, that since there can only BE one right answer in their gradient-less worldview, that any hint of wrongness on their part is an indictment of all.  Every part must be defended.  Every absurdity, if part of the belief, must be fortified.  Every challenge must be not merely averted, but destroyed.

Or the whole thing falls, and that is impossible.

It’s the absolutism that is the problem with such Christians, the Seven Mountains proponents, the Dominionists, the Puritans.  It’s their absolutism which has to be broken, in order to reach them.  Until it is, there is no capacity in them for empathy, compassion, kindness or cooperation.  They actually believe they are in a war against anyone not like them.

And I really don’t know how to deal with that.  Because reminding them who Jesus was and what he preached is ignored, since they are now convinced that Jesus is coming back on their side to kill us all.

How do you deal with that?

Parachute journalism and rural America’s revenge — Beth Macy

While everyone was so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, I looked around my rural community and saw a different story. This story. I’m not saying I wasn’t shocked–I was. But I had an inkling things weren’t going to go quite the way everyone said they would. And this is why. (Shared post–I did not write this and the picture isn’t mine, either.)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Below is an essay I first published for The Ochberg Society, a now-defunct grassroots group of journalists who cover trauma, upon the publication of FACTORY MAN in 2014. I’ve been thinking a lot about the people featured in my essay and in that book recently. Last week on Election Day, I traveled back to Bassett, Va., to […]

via Parachute journalism and rural America’s revenge — Beth Macy

Slow rebeginnings

Slow rebeginnings

It’s been a weird year for my garden. The whole attempt to grow seedlings, in or out of the greenhouse, has been a disaster. Of probably 200+ tomato plants i started from seed, I have four I could actually plant.

Everything is growing slowly. Seeds I planted right in the soil are taking forever to germinate, though the soil is moist, the ground is warm and there’s been plenty of sun. I have Jack B Little pumpkins seeds two weeks in the ground and not a single bit of green is peeking up.

Tulip bulbs rotted in the ground this spring. The hosta, columbine and astilbe starts I planted never showed. (It didn’t help that I got chickens, who tore up the ground in that area–no, they don’t have access to the rest of the garden–but the starts were doing nothing for weeks, so I can’t blame the chickens.)

The cilantro seeds never took. Ever.

But the salvia came back on its own and is lush. The snapdragons I put in are growing their leaves, even though there are no flowers yet. The hydrangea I bought in three different colors seems to be thriving.

I just don’t understand.

And why are the lush, double-blossom begonias so hard to find? Everyone’s got the singles, but I don’t want them.

I guess the answer to the rest of it is….time for soil testing!

It’s supposed to be good when you stop!

It's supposed to be good when you stop!

On the last 8 minutes of my run, I suddenly felt like someone grabbed my uterus in both hands and squeezed. Now let’s just say the timing of such an event was off by at least a week. I decided I would breathe and run through the pain, because exercise is actually quite good for cramps, and if my system had decided to go off schedule, this was probably the best thing I could be doing for myself.

The pain just got worse. And worse. And worse, until it felt like someone was not just squeezing, but twisting. I had about a minute and twelve seconds left to go, so I just kept on. It’s like labor. You ride it out. It was going to stop when I stop running, so hang in there and finish the run.

My timer went off and, because stopping dead and standing is not a good idea after a run, I slowed to a walk.

That invisible person inside me decided my uterus was taffy. Squeezing and twisting became pulling, and now wrapping it all around the base of my spine. And yanking.

The pain did not stop after I walked all the way home in near tears, gulping and gasping against it. Finally, after 30 minutes of slow subsiding, the pain quit.

I decided to see if anyone else out there was having the same problem, and if they were, what they were doing about it. What was the cause? More importantly, what was the treatment?

Search “menstrual-like cramps while running” and you’ll find what I found: a lot of women posting the same symptoms, a lot of other women “me too-ing,” and a lot of other people misunderstanding and not offering real help.

It’s not gastrointestinal. I know where my frigging uterus is and I know what it feels like when it hurts. So stop telling me it’s gas or IBS. It’s not menstrual cramps. Though at my age, my cycle is harder to predict, I am pretty damn sure that it’s not coming back after one week.

Why in the world would my uterus be cramping off schedule because I’m running? And why are there lots of women with the same symptoms, but no answers?

Only one of the women posting the question mentioned she had run without eating. That she had gotten up and run before breakfast. Someone else said do not do that–your glycogen stores are depleted and your body will go after less efficient sources of fuel such as fat stores (GOOD!) or muscle groups (BAD!).

As it happens, I had also run before breakfast. I came home and had a V8–what I always drink right after a run–and later, some breakfast.

I’m still kind of sore.

I am good with my uterus, a muscle inside my body–also getting toned, but I’m not good with that kind of pain during and after running. I’ll try eating something before my run Sunday morning and see if that makes a difference. If not, I may need to use my brand spanking new health insurance and go see if everything is in working order.

Any more me-tooers out there? Or anyone with a genuine answer?