5. Chickens

We decided to move out in to the country for a myriad of reasons.

1. Schools: We thought it would be nicer for the children to go to a smaller school. Especially when they got to middle school and kids tend to be hateful to one another. The sad thing is we left at exactly the same time that the city’s public schools were finally adding vegetarian options to their daily lunch menu. It may seem like a little thing, but I felt badly not being there to support it. Just picture the contrast between that and the fact that their new school has children in it whose parents actually slaughter their own food.

2. We run a dog rescue group. The city only allows you to have three dogs at any one time. Currently, I have 14. I doubt any of my previous neighbors would have condoned this.

3. Chickens. My husband, at the time, was a vegan. He very much felt that if he could raise his own chickens humanely it would be okay to consume the eggs. When he looked in to having chickens, in the city, there were too many restrictions to make that possible. Besides, I doubt any of my previous neighbors would have condoned this.

The children, Quinn and Caden, love their new school. Caden loves it mostly, I feel confident, because they have a large television set up in the cafeteria. This televisionshows a steady stream of Scooby Doo. This television blares non-stop through lunch. I think, my husband and I, are the only parents who hate this television. But, after all, we are from the city- where there would be a parental uprising over, not just the fact that educational programs are NOT being shown, but that there is this television in the first place.

Movies are also shown regularly in the place of recess, if the weather is a little bad. In the city, the teacher chooses the movie based on what has been deemed acceptable by the school board  or they simply play games. Here, the children bring movies. Quinn decided to take a 1966 Disney movie called “The Ugly Dachshund”, (If you hadn’t seen it, it is a cute little comedy about Great Dane that thinks he is a doxie.) 5 minutes in to the movie the teacher turned it off and said it wasn’t appropriate. Why? Because the two ADULTS in the movie were celebrating his birthday by drinking a glass of wine. I, being me, was incensed and wanted to drive up to the school and tell that teacher how ludicrous it was that a movie, in which a married couple is depicted sleeping in two separate beds, could ever be called inappropriate. However, my passive aggressive side got the better of me, so silently I fumed.

Our house, at the time of purchase, had a dilapidated chicken coop. I was excited to get it back up and running. Nick, my husband, took much pride in his first, real carpentry job. I didn’t think that the chickens would care if every rafter of their run was spaced perfectly and level. Nick did care though. With the placement of every board I was forced to endure the ritual of walking over to see that the bubble in the level was precisely in the middle. Our chicken palace, is sturdy and strong and above all else… it is straight.

After it’s reconstruction we set forth to find chickens, knowing nothing about chickens. A man, in a neighboring town, was selling some called Red Sex Links. Excitedly, we decided to make the drive. (Let it be said here, that in the country, if you pass the location you are attempting to get to, there is a good chance that it will take you several miles before you really realize it.) We didn’t make it to his house until dark. At that time, we decided that 5 hens and 1 rooster would make a fabulous flock. After all, every country home needs the crow of a rooster to get it started in the morning and 5 eggs a day would be more than enough to feed our family. We brought our chickens home and the first few flew out in a tizzy. Two remained, in the back of the crate, not moving. Nick pronounced them dead and in disbelief we stood staring in to the crate wondering how we could have killed two birds by simply transporting them. He reached his hand in to remove the poor creatures from their plastic tomb, when suddenly they sprang back to life and flew at his face in an attempt to escape. Unbeknownst to us at the time, chickens are heavy sleepers and as soon as the sun goes down so do they.

Chickens, I think, need the largest learning curve of all farm animals. The next morning, after getting them, I stood staring at their creepy, scaly feet, uncertain as to how to care for them. Yes, you can read magazine after magazine, and book after book on the subject but actually looking at a living one versus a picture is quite different. Besides, I had found all the magazines quite depressing from an animal lovers stand point. 1. They always addressed killing and eating them and 2. Chickens can catch a ton of gross diseases.  So, I will admit that I could have gone in to this venture a little bit more knowledgeable. Had I actually read more, I may have also known that winter is the worst time for egg production with chickens. So as Nick was warming up the pan for all of the eggs sandwiches he was planning to eat…. the chickens were only laying 1 egg a week.

We have lost many birds over the past year and a half. It took us a bit to learn about injecting the chickens with antibiotics, or proper worming and who the hell would have known that some chickens would sit on an egg until they were dead from dehydration or starvation?! The chicken farmers at the local market are a wealth of information. Decked in overalls and missing teeth you give the most limited description of what your animal is suffering from and they can quickly spit out a home remedy to fix it. One of our chickens legs was breaking out in bumps, they told us to soak it in vegetable oil and it would clear up. In two days, our little chicken was better. I know they think we are funny. They speak down to us in a way that lets me know that in the same way city people characterize country folks as dumb, they think the same of city people.

Before moving out here, I thought chickens only came in white and red. Those are factory birds and for all I knew the selection was limited to that. I was shocked to see the variety that there is. Our flock has now grown to 30 (give or take). Some of the birds are quite impressive. I don’t stare at them with uncertainty any longer. I love watching them and could sit among them for hours, not moving. The hierarchy among them is fascinating and their days are spent pleasantly clucking and pecking at the dirt. I find it very relaxing watching any living creature that is so content just being.

 

 

 

 

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2. The Chores, The Stores

As a side note, my husband took this picture today while we were waiting in line to pick the kids up from school.

Since that first day of school I have given some thought to the comment made by the woman in the office. The majority of the people out here have only lived in small towns. To them, it is all a matter of perspective. They can’t understand the convenience of 5 different grocery stores, gas stations, movie theaters, or retail shops in a 2 mile radius of their house. They don’t really understand variety or selection. A service man came recently to read the water meter. He told me that his wife wanted to move in to the city but he was happiest in the country. He had grown up in the big city and he never wanted to live there again. When I questioned which city he lived in, he responded Sherman. That “city” as of today has a total of 40,000 people living in it. He was 50ish years old. I can only fathom how many fewer people that “big city” had in his childhood. Like I said, though, it is a matter of perspective.

Once the children were settled in that first day we took off to explore the nearest town of Bonham, Texas. (You have to appreciate a town that feels there is no necessity to make yourself up, in any fashion, in order to go in to it.)  My husband and I used to play a game of going in to Walmart and trying to find someone that looked “normal”.  (Normal meaning someone that looked like they might be a transplant, like us.) I know what you are thinking. 1.  That the retail establishment automatically warrants the oddity of people who frequent it. 2. This sounds like a pretentious game. However, that wasn’t the intent and people in Bonham just have a different look and sound to them. Women seem to wear a superfluous amount of shiny  rhinestoned accessories and their hair always  poofs in odd places. Men all look like they just climbed off a tractor or finished hunting. . Plus,  this Walmart is the ONLY retail store (other than feed stores, hardware stores, or second hand shops) in the area. It is also the ONLY grocery store in miles and miles. It is an excellent gauge of all of the people that live in the vicinity.

On our first trip in to Walmart we saw this-

This man, clad in chaps, spurs, and a nice gray cardigan came jingling down the aisle that we were shopping on. (Take note of not only his apparel but also how short the shelving is in this store. Fewer people in an area obviously mandates less choices.) Angry that he couldn’t find the extra large jar of pickles that he regularly purchased, he took to berating an employee of the store about how the jar he bought always had the word CRISP printed on it. To this, without emotion, she turned the jar around, displaying the word crisp and proceeded to walk on. My husband, at this point, tells the crispy pickle loving cowperson, “All you need now is an extra large jar of mayonnaise to go with that”. (Obviously, a statement that would be amusing to us, because  of  the sheer volume of mayonnaise containers for sale at the store). His response? “I already have one”. Thus was our inauguration in to the area.

We have since lost interest in that game for a myriad of reasons. First being, I try to frequent that store as seldom as possible after hearing a mother and her young daughter screaming profanity at one another on aisle after aisle. It actually became so bad that with every, “fuck you” I found myself reciting gibberish to my children in an effort to distract them. It worked, and instead of hearing the oral assault, my daughter’s belief that I am insane was solidified. SECOND being, we simply became desensitized to it all and people blurting out, “Mmmm, I hadn’t had me no shake-n bake in a long time” didn’t seem so odd.

I didn’t have a clue that shake-n bake was even still around until I moved out to the country.