Category Archives: animals

Squire, In Memoriam

Squire, my 11-plus-year-old rooster, died yesterday, Saturday, September 17, 2022.
S. Squire Rooster, Attorney, for the Law of the Land
This photo, taken September, 2016, shows Squire at his most dramatic, crowing joyfully, but in celebration of Toozie's death and release from earthly struggles.

I hope my Squire-wire feels a similar joyful release.  He leaves a sad but relieved human being behind.

I've watched Squire decline for almost a year, since Brownie died last October.  Although he continued to watch out for Tweety, spar with Speckles, and ascend to the top of the shower stall of a morning, if I didn't catch him first, he has been losing weight, and his crow was beginning to crack, as though he no longer had the wind or vocal dexterity to finish his five notes.

Tweety and Speckles are adapting, but they seem sad, too, as I am, because Squire is no longer there to guard and to crow and spar.

We all have to die sometime.  As I enter my 70s, I feel more acutely than ever the impending personal transition.  

Squire left lots of memories behind, memories I share, in part, with Tweety and Specs.  I see his memory in every situation.

I love you, Squire, and will never forget how you brightened up my life.  May you rest in peace.

Where’s Tweety?

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Miss Tweety Pie, my 2-year-old hen, has a variety of nicknames.  My favorite is "Miss Nemesis," for the goddess of divine retribution.

I only have three chickens, but this follows a 14-year history of chicken-keeping, and the asociated challenges that come with the territory.

In all, 20 chickens have passed through my life, but Speckles and his father, Squire, are troopers, over ten years old.

Animals make great gurus, says Seth (of the Jane Roberts series).  Whether pets or wildlife, animals have a wisdom that awes me.  
After the rainstorm today, which dumped a couple of inches in an hour, the sun came out, and I watched my six deer (mine because I feed them) frolic on the lawn.  Birds flocked to the feeder.  The stray cat I feed showed up for supper, and Coooney the racoon was looking to steal whatever food I might not be watching.

Miss Nemesis has no fear, but Squire watches out for both of them--when he's not sparring through the gate with Speckles. 

I don't have the words or the space to describe the joy Nature exhibits after a storm. Soon a gorgeous sunset, with brilliant orange sky, appeared and vanished while I was getting chickens settled and watching over the cat while he ate his supper. I saw the racoons--at least two of them and maybe more--scouring the deck for spilled bird seed and chicken scratch grains and other treats the ants hadn't finished.

Squire's tail drags when it's raining, but all the chickens love getting outside after the rain stops, just as the other animals, mosquitoes and biting sandflies do.

Ain't Mother Nature grand?  We human beings have the gift of the drama provided by all these actors, and we don't have to leave home to enjoy it.
Squire on his soapbox kco 2017

Drenched

Monday, September 5, 2022-- We had another torrential downpour in the wee hours this morning, but I was awake, resting from yesterday's relentless but individually petty demands on time, attention and patience.

The animals I care for and about survived the day, but I was worried about Speckles, alone in the coop, especially when the storm started, and Specs had no warming or drying light.

So I collected the basics of rain protection and trudged barefooted with flashlight through the deep mud puddles the 100 feet to the coop, to turn on Speckles' light.

But the rain was so heavy that I wanted to stay with him and wait out the worst of it.

Speckles, my first-born chicken, is a trooper.  He has had a traumatic life for most of his ten-plus years.  He will be eleven years old in late November.

Speckles with Toozie, my second and last- born, taking dirt baths, March, 2012, kco2012
Speckles with Brownie in the coop, 2017, kco2017
Speckles crowing, kco2015
I call him "The Screamer," because he has such a powerful and relentless crow, but he is also a cuddler, having endured my medical interventions repeatedly over our long relationship.  The worst was when scale mites ravaged his feather/scale junction so badly that the resultant ulcers were making it hard for him to walk.

I developed unanticipated veterinary skill in soaking and debriding the wounds, including holding Specs almost upside down to see the edges of the wounds and clean them.

Specs spent several winter nights on the floor of the coop while healing, and his consort, Brownie,  guarded him from her perch on the high shelf.

But Brownie died last October, at ten years, ten months old, and Speckles has had only Squire, Tweety, and me, to keep him from getting too lonely. 

Today, Speckles took advantage of the marginally sunny skies, by taking a long dirt bath under the guest house attached to the coop, while I spiffed up his quarters, in time for hurricane season and winter.

From Damp to Saturated

Highest tide on record, Savannah, GA, October 27, 2015

August 29, 2022– My property is sinking into the marsh. The roof leaks in so many places that I’e lost count, but my head knows how to find the drips, just as my feet know how to find chicken poop that my eyes don’t see.

Still, the county government believes my property is worth taxing twice as much as it charged a mere ten years ago. The county knows what it’s worth to them. Chatham flies its spy planes over my house on a regular basis, but the planes don’t see the roof leaks. The planes do know I live in a flood zone, because the local government has notified me I must obtain flood insurance, to protect my valuable piece of mud.

It’s enough to make me want to walk or float away, provided I can get through the swamps, maybe with an ark to carry my chickens and me. Let the county extort its taxes from the river.

Nature’s art. A stump in the Okefenokee Swamp, Southeast GA, 2000

My Life is Damp

Heat and humidity. The Now competes with my desire for comfort, for myself and my precious little darlins: Tweety (ladies first), Squire (now my senior chicken, who had a re-birthday August 25.) I brought him home from a central Georgia auction 11 years ago for Squiggles, who had gone “broody” and was starving herself for lack of a guy.

Speckes, son of Freckles and Squire, adopted as an egg by Squig and raised by her until Squire ran him into the jaws of a fox when he was six months old. Speckles lost all but three of his tail feathers in that encounter, but survived to put out his father’s right eye before succumbing to scale mites, loss of both spurs in attacking me, and becoming companion to Brownie, who finally died last October. Speckles will be 11 years old late November, my first-born, and a Sagittarius.

This is history. Now, Tweety is the queen, and Tweety has everyone wrapped around her mean little beak. Beware anyone who approaches any food she wants, or attempts gardening in her territory, or who tries to pick her up until she’s good and ready to cuddle on her terms.

Tweety has no fear of cats or racoons. She likes the roosters, and they like her. She has adopted Brownie’s habit of standing in the water dish on hot days, which may protect her from mites.

Mites, insects, rats, racoons, squirrels, mold, and mildew are thriving, too,and everything that can rot is rotting, or becoming brittle, like plastic, in this humid, salty, almost tropical, flat setting. And there’s the rust and corrosion on everything metal.

Climate change? Where is the climate not changing? Live long enough, and you may experience it all.

Flood. Ocean rising or land sinking? kco2019
Speckles (the Screamer) and Brownie in the mist kco 2016
Johnston Street flood. Savannah, GA. June, 1999 kco 0699

Yesteryear

Rocky the Racoon, kco2020

Brownie and Speckles on the porch, kco2019

Folk art, Telluride, Colorado, kco 2003
The Squire-wire and Speckles sparring through the cove grate, kco2019
S. Squire Rooster, Attorney for the Law of the Land, making his position perfectly clear. Above it all.

Squire atop the shower stall, kco2015

In the Now

Balance of opposites. Each contains the seed of the other.

The ten-year span from August, 2012 until now, August, 2022, has brought many changes, but events continue to evolve and exert their effects in multi-dimensional patterns.

As a plant grows from within, lives grow from the inside out, governed by an individualistic blueprint that may adapt but not change its fundamental nature.

Thus with my life. As I note my 70th birthday this month, I read my personal journal from August, 2012 and feel the continuity of my individuality, even though circumstances have changed.

My introduction to chicken-keeping in 2008 represents the beginning of an exploration into previously unimagined worlds. Each day brings new insights gathered from the Now as it relates to the Then, and to the imagined.

Together, they create a pattern of timeless associations, just as any emotionally significant experience does.

In August, 2012, I turned 60, by the calendar, and this month, August, 2022, I’ve turned 70. I’m now a septagenarian, having lived longer than both my parents.

I’ve also outlived others in my chronological “cohort” and mourn the passing of people, pets, and conditions that held significance for me.

Re-reading my journal for that time stirs emotions akin to what I felt then, but these now have the depth of memories accumulated over the past ten years, the sorrows, regrets, and the longing for what once was but will never be again.

I have the Now and choose to appreciate the gifts it offers. At the moment, peace and quiet, with my three chickens safely roosting in their preferred spots, and the stray cat I feed having eaten a decent supper before Cooney ran him off and stole his food dish. Cooney is one of an apparent family of racoons who have found that I am a reliable source of food, for as long as I can keep it up.

This evening, I learned that Cooney may be trainable, since he allowed Squire and Tweety to finish their evening treats after I ran him off the porch. He came back later, all wet and muddy from a swim in the river, so I let him steal the remainder of Lollipop’s cat food. The cat is skittish, but he seems willing to share food with the coon, and he is particularly deferential to Tweety, who is not afraid of cat or coon.

In the Now, we are all enjoying this break in the heat wave that has made days miserable for everyone except blood-sucking insects and other vermin. The rats and ants are thriving, as well as the chicken mites, termites, mosquitoes, and flies.

The torrential downpours we have had the last few days have cooled things off and are good for the mosquitoes and sand gnats but hard on my Goodwill shoes, floors and rugs.

I was actually glad to hear and see the Malathion Man’s helicopter the other day, as he sprayed the marsh in a futile attempt to control the mosquito population.

The Now is loaded with inspiration, for those who are awake.

CDC/FDA Boundary Creep

squire0515

The Center for Disease Prevention (CDC) is raising national alarms about salmonella in backyard flocks of chickens.  It advises a washing hands every time you touch your chickens, and not keeping them in your house or around food.  The CDC goes beyond reasonable with some of its other recommendations, suggesting the bureaucrats who wrote the guidelines know nothing about keeping live chickens.  Salmonellosis is generally a self-limited case of diarrhea that lasts from four to seven days without complications, except in special cases.  Pig ears that are used as dog chew toys are also suspected.

This flies all over me, because the CDC meanwhile is advertising measles vaccines for children, within the same Yahoo article.  The CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/backyardpoultry-05-19/index.html gives the CDC’s version of the salmonella story.

I know something about chickens, having kept them for over 11 years, and I know something about salmonella, having gone to medical school, where I learned it is rampant in the environment.  My medical texts say there are over 1000 strains of salmonella.  It says “salmonellosis” is caused by inadequately cooked food, especially meat, poultry, and eggs.  Fruits and vegetables which are fertilized with animal manure are also implicated.  What the medical texts say that the government agencies don’t tell you, is that processed food is also a source, because the bacteria survives drying.  Incidentally, a dried taco seasoning distributed by Walmart and others has recently been recalled because it is suspected of containing salmonella-contaminated cumin, a spice.

I’ve also been tracking the FDA and its food scares since the E. coli in the spinach scare in 2006.  E. coli usually is considered “normal flora,” in the human gut and aids in digestion.  It only becomes pathological when natural barriers break down.  Antibiotic therapy, which is widely used, not only in human but in animal diseases and as a preventative, wipes out bacteria indiscriminately, but it never completely eliminates the pathogens, giving rise to antibiotic-resistant strains that then proliferate, with nothing able to curb them.  That’s why hospital germs are the most dangerous of all.  Methacillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) is a universally recognized strain of Staph aureus that requires extreme measures to control, and it can be fatal.

Meanwhile, the CDC is busy promoting the measles vaccine, as a new “epidemic” of measles is sweeping he world, with pockets of outbreaks, we are told, among un-vaccinated children.  The controversy over vaccines comes in tandem with the explosion of patented, prescription vaccines for everything from flu to Zika virus, but the controversy is political, not medical or scientific.  While the medical or scientific institutions take pro-or-con stands, there is little in the news or from “educated” sources giving both pros and cons, and few (maybe none) who understand or want to understand the larger picture.  Or, it may be too early to tell what the ramifications are.

We are all caught in context, and predictions abound, but the past gives more information because we have a sense of the outcomes.  The bubonic plague, which wiped out a third of Europe in the 1340s and 1350s, was blamed on God’s wrath and witchcraft back then, but was later discovered to be carried by fleas on the rats that infested the cities and ships.  We still have rats and fleas, but we don’t hear much about bubonic plague anymore, partly because sanitation and nutrition have improved and partly because centuries if exposure have produced varying degrees of resistance.  Even HIV, which was identified in 1983, has evolved from carrying a quick death sentence to becoming more of a chronic disease.  While the advances of modern medicine have contributed to the long-term survival of HIV and AIDS patients, it’s also possible that the disease itself goes through cycles of infectivity and potency.

The media publishes federal agency press releases as though they are news stories, without question, investigation, or suspicion that they are anything less than gospel.  But federal agencies like the CDC and FDA are increasingly guilty of “boundary creep” by taking on more and greater advocacy roles for patented vaccines and other drugs, or alternatively, against small, independent food producers.  In the years I’ve been monitoring the FDA, it has initiated food scares over spinach, peanuts, eggs, cantaloupes, poultry, and pet foods, to name a few, yet while the scares make national news, precipitate food recalls, and have forced some companies into bankruptcy, the scares generally are hyped-up bluster over limited illness and almost no mortality.

About this salmonella outbreak that has killed two people and hospitalized over 122 in multiple states so far, any discriminating reader, especially one with a medical background, might naturally question how the CDC arrived at this reported chain of events.  How did they know the salmonella outbreak was “caused” by chickens or pig ears?  How do they know the hospitalized cases are even the result of salmonella toxicity?  The processes involved to isolate a pathogen are time, labor, and financially intensive.  Most cases of infectious disease are treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics.  Salmonella is so widespread in the environment that anyone with low resistance—as from poor nutrition, bad sanitation, antibiotic use (which reduces normal, protective flora), or pre-existing illness–might be susceptible.

If the CDC is truly interested in public health, it might do more to educate the public about the broader aspects of health, instead of pushing the panic button over speculative claims and unverified reports.

In my eleven years of hugging and kissing my chickens—they are very affectionate—I have developed some health problems, but salmonella has never been one of them.  I have minor scars on both arms from being scratched, but the worst is the deformed left wrist, which I broke when I fell chasing the fox that was chasing my Squire.

When I picked Squire up with my dangling left wrist, it was the sweetest, most healing hug I’ve ever experienced.  I didn’t stop to clean the mud off my arm, and neither the “health care professional” who wrapped it, nor the one who set it in a cast, bothered to clean it , either.

This is the institutionalized version of “health care” today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Dog’s Life

bulldog

What is it about dogs?  In my long life, I have lived in too-close proximity to barking dogs, biting dogs, dogs that get in the trash cans, and dogs that poop and dig holes in the yard.  A dog killed my chicken, and another dog killed my cat.

I have been known to drive up a neighbor’s driveway at 3 a.m., blowing my horn and banging on the door until the dog owner answered.  I have yelled loud enough to be heard over the still-barking dog, which had a habit of keeping me awake for hours every night.  Those neighbors soon moved away, but in karmic retaliation, new neurotic neighbors with two barking dogs moved in.  The Yapper and the Woofer have prompted this complaint.

There are advantages to having neighbors who believe you are crazy.  Being crazy is easier than calling the police.  If I called, and police came at all, I imagine they would keep me awake even longer asking questions and filling out forms, and finally, not solving the problem.  No.  Police are worse than useless in situations like this.

From my perspective, there is nothing good about dogs, but other people like them, and they are legal, unlike my roosters.  Before I got roosters who like to crow, I was more likely to call neighbors to complain about their barking dogs.  Now, I have to play nicer, because the roosters are sort of illegal, meaning the county has decided not to enforce the anti-rooster ordinance unless neighbors object.

So, I’ve visited neighbors and asked them to let me know first if the roosters bother them.  Most don’t hear anything.  Those who do say they like the countrified sound of roosters crowing, so we are safe for now, as long as I keep the dogs away.

specscrows0515
Speckles crowing

My most effective dog-control strategy so far has been to bypass dog owners and develop a relationship with the dogs themselves.  When barking has continued too long, I start commiserating, telling the dogs how sorry I feel for them.  Their owners must really hate them, I yell, and I can understand why.  There is nothing good about dogs.  They are obnoxious and have no life.  I’ll bet their owners don’t feed them or give them water.  They are mean, neurotic people.  Poor dogs.

This has been known to quiet the dogs a few minutes.  Then I praise them, saying they are capable of learning something, after all.  They have at least one redeeming feature.  “Good dogs,” I say.  This gets them barking, again, but the barking doesn’t last long.

Then the roosters start crowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Birdie Told Me

birdscreen050917

I rescued a bird today, a little fella that crashed into the picture window behind the bird feeders.  I saw it happen and ran outside to find him lying on his side on the deck.  He was still alive, panting.  He was identical to the bird that did the same thing yesterday, only yesterday’s bird didn’t survive the crash.  I found him later in the day, dead on the deck.

Today, though, I gathered the little bird in my hands, where he stood, apparently in shock.  He didn’t seem badly hurt.  Eyes were bright, but the left kept closing.  I checked my quickie, laminated bird identifier, then The Sibley Guide to Birds, but couldn’t identify him.  He was about five inches long, with plain greenish-brown body and a yellowish breast with brown spots.  Beak was long, like a warbler.

He sat in my hands for about 15 minutes, slowly becoming more alert, then took off and flew away.

This has happened before.  I’ve rescued other birds.  Most eventually revived, just as this one did.  Others have not been so lucky.  Today, though, I decided this hazard is too dangerous.  The window is so reflective and the feeders so popular that the juxtaposition presents a cruel trap.

So I created a bird safety net.  It consists of two panels of screen material that I made awhile back to hang from doors in warm weather, to keep insects out.  Two of three panels covering a sliding glass door got converted to a screen over the plate glass.  Hopefully it will reduce reflectivity and cushion any birds that fly into it.  It may even dilute the hot summer sun that turns the living room into an oven.

I spend most of the morning on this project, grateful for the tool room that provided the screwdriver, hooks and string necessary for this innovative bird-protective technology.

The experience made me think, once again, about how unpredictable life is.  Who could have anticipated I would have spent the morning making a safety net for birds?

squirebirdscreen050917