Happy Meals

Grayneck with sister hens in garden summer 2016In Memoriam: In honour of our Phoenix hen Grayneck. On Dec. 23, 2016, Grayneck died of natural causes, aged 4 1/2 years. She is survived by her four sisters.

The girls are the first hens I have had since the ones I write about here. This was first posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on June 13, 2010.

Hens and Roosters

I used to keep chickens. Mainly bantams who produce lovely little eggs. They also are very broody, meaning they will easily sit on eggs in order to hatch them. When you have chicks, it’s 50/50 whether Favourite of all roosters Baby Rooster D Stewart photosyou get hens or roosters. Any chicken coop can only handle so many roosters, I found. They get along with each other if they’ve been raised together, so fighting isn’t the problem. Hens and roosters both sort out their place in their pecking order.

Aside from fertilizing eggs and guarding the hens, the roosters don’t do anything productive and they eat just as much as do the hens who lay eggs for their keep. Roosters crow at all hours of the day and most of the night, and they don’t leave the hens alone. They all want to be the “egg-daddy” it seems. So every so often, some roosters have to go.*

One way they can be useful is in the stewpot. I never did the killing. I was the hanging judge: I decided who was going to die.  My then-partner did the actual dispatching, while I went in the house and washed dishes and cried. My tears didn’t make the chosen rooster any happier about his fate but, up to that moment his life had been very good. They had a nice spacious coop, an outdoor run and often they had days out loose in the yard, eating berries and pecking for bugs.

“Ugly Duckling” Chicks

Bantam/Leghorn cross with chicks photo Dorothy AngerWe also raised turkeys, putting fertilized eggs under broody bantams. The hens looked after their “ugly duckling” chicks as well as if they’d been regular bantam chicks. And the great big chicks followed their mothers and slept under their mothers’ wings even when they no longer really fit.

With the turkeys, in the fall we’d feed them lots of berries and nice vegetable scraps. The birds loved them, and it actually made the meat taste sweeter when we ate them at Thanksgiving or Christmas. So we all got a treat.

I think it’s important that the animals I eat have had good lives. I look after my pets’ health and make sure they have fun and exercise and good food because I know it’s important to their well-being. So why should it be any different for farm animals that lay down their lives in order to provide me with a meal? And, beyond the ethical issues of humane treatment of living creatures, you know there are no chemicals, hormone additives or dubious food going into naturally-raised animals. Also the end product simply tastes better.

One of my egg customers, when I had my chickens, paid me double my asking price. He said my little, fresh bantam eggs were so flavourful that he wanted to give me what he’d pay for large supermarket eggs.

Elgin County Farms

We’re lucky in Elgin County to still have a lot of small farms that grow vegetables and rear animals in the traditional way. And, as interest in organic and local foods increases, the number of those farms is also growing.

At the St. Thomas Library, I picked up two pamphlets. One is “Fresh from the Farms in Elgin County”, published by the Elgin Business Resource Centre, and the other is “Local Organic! Farms” by London Area Organic Growers. Both pamphlets list producers and sellers of vegetables and berries, meat, wine and honey in Elgin and London areas. They have the addresses, phone numbers, seasonal hours and what they sell as well as maps showing where each is located. The London one also includes area restaurants that use organic foods. When I started trying to find local sources for good (in all senses of the word) meats, I made up my own list of “happy” animal farms and organic vegetable growers. But these brochures have a lot of places I didn’t know about. Good resources to have!

me with Baby Rooster D Stewart photos* My husband said, after reading this description of roosters, that I’d just summed up at least half  of the North American male culture.

Babyrooster and Babyhen, pictured here, were my first chicks and my pets. Despite his very small size, Babyrooster was vigilant in looking after his hens. After a good long life, he died defending the hens against an attack by dogs.

Corrie Street 25 Dec. 2016

Mary’s son Jude

St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes. And of hope. Mary has a son named Jude. “A nurse called Maureen Nuttall found him on the steps his wife was back homeof St. Jude’s.” The nurse named the foundling after the hospital.

When Mary was 14, she was raped by a family friend, a member of the clergy. She babysat his and his wife’s children, and when driving her home one night he forced himself on her. During her pregnancy Mother hid her in the house, telling people that Mary was visiting an auntie. Mother, presumably, then left the newborn on the hospital steps.

I started getting biggerSitting amid the boxes and tissue paper behind the counter at Preston’s Petals, Mary tells Norris this part of her life. She has told no one before. But finding a lump in her breast made her think of her own mortality. It made her think of her family, especially the son she had seen only one time.

Mary has been trying to find the nurse Maureen Nuttall. Hers is the only full name, and the only link, she has to the child.

Norris asks about her motherThe baby Jude was born 32 years ago, so 1984. At that time, there was no longer such a stigma attached to teenage motherhood and having a baby outside marriage. Hiding pregnant girls, sending them to relatives far away or to Homes for Unwed Mothers had pretty much stopped.

Mary’s story would have been the norm a few decades earlier. But then Mary herself seems from a different era. It is not surprising, then, that her mother too would be.

The story of Jude feels almost Victorian in its cast of characters and she told people I had gone to stay with my auntits evil. A clergyman, trusted member of society and family friend. A mother who feels only the shame that her daughter has brought to their home. So much so that she does not even ask how her teenage daughter feels about being raped, being pregnant, or having her baby disappear. And the child, wrapped in warm blankets and left outside a hospital. Someone will find him quickly there, and care for him. The choice made for relatively compassionate and guilt-free abandonment.

Jude such a lovely nameEven the name of the hospital, St. Jude’s. The saint to whom you pray when you’re hoping for the impossible. When you need a miracle.

Christmas Stable

Their stalls are decorated, the horses snugged in. Wintertime at the stable, and Christmas approaching. Stockings soon will be hung on stall doors.Fletcher in decorated stall photo dorothy stewart

The riding students who decorated the stalls will come to the barn on Christmas Eve, so one told me, to have a Christmas party with the horses. They will fill the horses’ stockings and give them their presents.

Samson aka One Kid CoolOne horse is getting a lot of stuff from his Secret Santa. I know because she told me. Whispered it, actually, so Samson couldn’t hear. And they are practical things that horses need but that he will also enjoy. A lot of thought went into choosing his gifts. (Amazon links below give you a clue)

I’m sure his Secret Santa has made a Christmas wish list for herself. She’s a girl in her early teens and she has a wide range of interests. But the only gifts she has talked about to me are those she is buying for the horses. The special, big presents are for “her” horse but she’s been shopping for small things for all of them. She’s very excited about it, about the shopping for them and the giving to them.

“Her” horse is not actually hers. He belongs to the stable. The other horses being shopped for are the stable’s lesson horses. The details of ownership don’t matter. We all have a special bond with our favourite horse, no matter how many others may ride him or her. The horses feel the same way, I think. They have their favourite riders too.Willie in aisle beside decorated stalls

I don’t know what they think of their decorations. Well, I do know what “my” horse thinks. When I was leading him to the cross ties, he tried to eat the holly off a stall door. So that is his opinion: food!Butternut Stables doors with wreaths

Corrie Street 18 Dec. 2016

Pot Shards

tomato garden story joyreactor.com
Haven’t seen it? Click for larger view.

I didn’t see it coming, although I should have. It has passed through my Facebook newsfeed enough times. How to get the police to dig a garden for you, or chop your firewood.

When Tim spots the pottery urns that Tyrone and Freddie have salvaged, he has an idea. They are props from a local production of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata. Tim offers to buy one of the pots. Freddie breaks it so Tim gets it for 50 pence. Good deal for him, he wanted it broken anyway.

Sally has dreamed up a new project for Tim. He’d like a garden allotment, she has decided. She tells him he will enjoy it. Next year, she tells him, they both will enjoy picnics there with salads dug straight from the garden. He looks thrilled.

So he puts the pottery shards in the garden soil. I thought he was going to try to convince Sally that their allotment was the site of an ancient ruin, and therefore could not be dug up for vegetables. Sally might well for fall it, but it would be very cruel. She is, after all, a city councillor.Tim comes back to see garden fully dug

But Tim’s plan was simpler and less cruel, at least toward Sally. A call to the Weatherfield Amateur Archeologists Society. And presto! On Wednesday, a small army diligently dig up the entire garden plot.amateur archeologists file past Tim to leave

The guy who was heading up the dig didn’t look too pleased when nothing of consequence was found. But perhaps he has learned a valuable lesson: check the “find” before wasting your time. Either the prop person at the theatre is extremely good at his or her job, or these archeology enthusiasts have not yet even reached amateur status.dig leader realizes pot shards were a scam

I am glad the writers thought to throw the word “amateur” in, though. The scene might still have been funny, but it would have been way over the top unbelievable otherwise. Also very funny to see another version of the garden-digging or wood-chopping joke.Tim smiles at his fully dug up garden plot

Dan Patch

Dan Patch was a harness racing horse, a pacer. He was crazy good, they said. 110 years ago, he was the best pacer ever seen. He was a Harness racing Dan Patch Breeder_and_sportsman_mag_1911_wikicommonshuge celebrity in the US, the first multi-million dollar sports superstar.

His story is told in Charles Leerhsen’s 2010 book Crazy Good. You will enjoy it even if you know nothing about harness racing. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, of middle America at the dawn of the automobile age, and of the hucksterism that Americans do so well.

Harness Racing Lineage

Dan Patch was born in Oxford, Indiana in 1896 to Zelica, a mare obscure in Standardbred breeding history. His sire, Joe Patchen, was well known for both his speed and his bad temper.

Crazy Good: The true story of Dan Patch - Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

At birth, Dan Patch’s prospects seemed zero. His left rear leg was misshapen. His owner Dan Messner was advised to put him down. But he didn’t. For the history of harness racing, and for Dan Patch, that was a very wise decision. Dan Patch learned to walk, then run.

Dan was a natural. He loved to race and he loved audiences. As his star rose, other parties became interested in him. With a new owner, he went to the big time. That’s when the hucksterism started. Not by Dan Patch, who simply continued to run the very best he could, but by Marion W. Savage, his new owner. At Savage’s International Stock Food Company farm near Minneapolis, Dan Patch lived out the rest of his days. When he wasn’t travelling the country in his own rail car.

T-Eaton-Co- photo Dan_Patch_wikicommonsDan Patch never lost a race. Horse owners became unwilling to enter their horses against him. So Savage promoted exhibition races with Dan running only against the clock. Dan set a record in September 1906 at the Minnesota State Fair with a mile in 1:55. That time was not officially recognized because a windshield was used. Dan Patch’s official mile record was 1:55:¼ set in Lexington KY in 1905. His unofficial record was not matched until 1938 when Billy Direct paced a mile in 1:55. It wasn’t beaten until 1960.

Dan Patch Two Step (piano sheet music)

Dan Patch coffee can from ctpost.com
from ctpost.com March 22 2012

Savage was an odd man, very successful at selling himself and products. However much he may or may not have known about horses, he knew a lot about marketing. And market Dan Patch, he did. Dan’s image and name were on livestock feed, tobacco, a railway and everything in between. He even gets a mention in The Music Man.

For horse people, Dan Patch didn’t need a front man. His talent spoke for itself. But Savage’s marketing of Dan and racing made both better known to a public much larger than harness racing fans.

Dan Patch died July 11, 1916. Marion W. Savage died one day later. By that time, harness racing had ceased being a major national sport.Dan-Patch-Line-MN-Bachman-farm workers load train car-wikicommons

If, like me, you’d like to do a pilgrimage to the homes of Dan Patch, check Dan Patch Historical Society in Savage MN for places and events. Also look for “Dan Patch Days” in Oxford IN.

Corrie Street 11 Dec. 2016

Tombola

mother was locked in the church hallI had to look it up. A tombola is “a lottery in which tickets are drawn from a revolving drum.” In the case of Mary’s mother at the Scout Jamboree, it was food items in the drum rather than raffle tickets. Lucky for her. Tinned pilchards kept her alive when she was trapped overnight under the tombola.

what does that have to do with pilchardsNorris is wrong to cut Mary off in her storytelling. That was one of her best ones ever. Mother blindly reaching up into the drum, rooting around for a tin, then opening it with her teeth. It’s an image that will stay with me for a long time.

she would reach up into the tombolaA lovely scene, indeed a laugh out loud one. Brian, Norris, Rita and Mary all sat in the Rovers, talking about essentially nothing. What they can do with nothing!

Then they were joined by Ken. A good way to reintroduce him to the community of the street. Old friends. And, for him, a good way to get peter tells ken rovers is better than being homeaway from his lunatic family. It was nice, later, to see what Peter had done and to see Ken acknowledge it. Peter had used Ken’s absence to sort out his siblings about their incessant bickering and find alternate housing for the two new ones. So Adam and Daniel will be roomies in Dev’s flat over the shop. That gets the house back to normal, with only Ken, Tracy and Peter there and makes room for Amy again.

The Front Room

We got an explanation this week of how so many people can get norris leaves table for barsquashed into small houses. The front room. I’d forgotten about it. Ground floor, front of house – sometimes also called the parlour. We saw it in the Barlow house. It was Blanche’s room. When Kevin and Sally lived at No. 13, we occasionally saw the front room when someone wanted more privacy than the kitchen gave.

I can’t think of ever having seen the front room at Eileen’s house. But according to Norris, that is where Sean slept. I’m sure I remember mary, ken and rita listen to norris at barseeing Sean coming up or down the stairs to or from his room. Maybe some of them swapped rooms at some point, I don’t know. But it makes me feel much better, knowing that there is another room that can help accommodate the many people who happen by to spend the night under Eileen’s roof.

norris suggests new housing plan for sean and brianMaybe now we’ll see Emily’s front room and piano. With Sean and Brian in a bidding war, Norris has decided that they can have the two bedrooms. The extra money means he will be perfectly comfortable budged up by the piano.

Four Strong Winds

Ian_and_Sylvia_1968 publicity photo-wikicommonsI’ve been thinking about Ian Tyson lately. With the recent death of Leonard Cohen, the songs and the songwriters of Canada – and an era – have been heard a lot.

One song that often sneaks into my head is Four Strong Winds, the most evocative, and most Canadian of songs. Written by Ian Tyson, recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1963, then by almost everybody else.

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high

Could be any part of Canada. West, east, south or north – strong winds blow; seas, lakes, rivers run high. But it’s Alberta in the song. And, for many people for many years, it’s been Alberta in the reality. Going out west for work. Ranch work. Before oil.

Ian Tyson with_2011_Charles_M._Russell_Heritage_Award-wikicommons-Lee-Gunderson
Ian Tyson, at home, with 2011 Charles M. Russell Heritage Award

It is the reality for Mr. Tyson. He’s owned a working ranch in Alberta for decades. And he’s kept writing and singing songs. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t settle in the States. With many of them, he spent time in California and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Then he came home.

Born in British Columbia, he worked the rodeos. Then the music, and his time with Sylvia (Fricker) Tyson. The years of his Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon and her You Were On My Mind. Many more too but, for those three songs alone, they deserve to be canonized.TCH 1 west road sign in Alberta photo O Ogglesby

Think I’ll go out to Alberta…

Four Strong Winds is about Canada. The distances that make leaving one part of the country for another a big deal. Winters that make you think twice. “And those winds sure can blow cold way out there.” In the song, it’s Alberta’s winds but it could be almost anywhere, in winter.

Ian-Tyson_-Hat-boots-rope-photo-Don-Kennedy-Cdn-Country-music-hall-of-fame.jpg
Ian Tyson display at Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame

There still are ranches in Alberta, there is still a beef industry. There are cowboys, but fewer of them. It is all still part of the mythology of place. But oil took over the reality. The westward drift of labour continued, in search of oil work. The lure of the big bucks. Then, as the economy elsewhere faltered, it was simply the lure of a job – any job. But Stetsons and roper boots come out, at least during the Stampede when everybody’s a cowboy.western heritage statue-2006 Calgary airport photo O Ogglesby

The song is about more too. It’s about the bittersweetness of leaving the familiar for somewhere new. Leaving the beloved, hoping that time and distance can be bridged. Knowing that it can’t, and maybe that’s a good thing. “Our good times are all gone, and I’m bound for moving on.”

So there’s the story of Canada, and the human heart – in two verses and a chorus. Thank you, Ian Tyson.

For the story of the woman he would send the fare, see MacLean’s from 2012. And at American Songwriter, Rick Moore discusses the lyrics and slight changes made by other artists.

Corrie Street 4 Dec 2016

Recycling Czar or Tsar

Brian Packham is back. A question he has for Roy: is it Czar or Tsar? brian explains czar or tsar quandaryRoy is flummoxed, and that’s a rare sight. He’s rarely had occasion to spell it, but thinks either spelling is acceptable. Of course, I googled it. Roy is right, and there are many lengthy discussion threads on the origins and usage of each. (My spellcheck chooses Tsar.)brian-and-roy-at-cafe-table

Brian is back without Julie, but with ambition to take a prominent place in the Weatherfield Council bureaucracy. At the moment he’s the Environmental Health Officer. But his aim is to revolutionize the city’s recycling programmes. Hence his dilemma: should his stationery say Recycling Czar or Tsar?

Prior to discussing the nitty-gritty of his title, Brian was flummoxed roy-with-lipstick-kisswhen he met Cathy. He expected to see Roy still single and grieving Hayley’s death. So he was astounded when a woman emerged from Roy’s flat and planted a kiss on his cheek.

Brian astutely picked up on Roy’s ambivalence about marrying Cathy. He suggested Roy ask himself why he wants to marry. Then he gave some good advice about navigating the wedding itself. It’s cathy-with-wedding-countdown-clockfor the bride, he said, not the groom. So let her have the disco, the pink wedding cake, even the wedding count-down clock – whatever makes her dream day. You focus on the groom’s speech, he told Roy. Ever the teacher, Brian later peeked to see how the assignment was going. Not well, he saw, so he gave suggestions for improvement.

The good and bad elsewhere

The problem with Tuesday’s episode was with the scenes bracketing michael-at-building-site-gateBrian’s. Michael and Anna were doing things that made no sense in terms of character history. Michael going to Phelan’s building site alone to check it out. Foolish, but maybe believable. But Anna asking Phelan to come to her place? Without telling anyone or having backup? It wouldn’t happen, not after the last time she did that. I saw, ok, it’s a way to get to the plot culmination. But clunky! They might not have jarred so much if they anna-lets-phelan-in-doorhadn’t been next to the smoothness of Brian’s scenes.

There were other great moments this week. Tracy and Peter after she says Daniel is just like Ken – a look that says ‘we’re out of the will!’ Vinny’s neighbour lady, played by Jacqueline Pilton. And Phelan watching Michael die, telling him about watching a rabbit slowly die after he had injured it.