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May 28, 2008

I have to start hustling on Rob's new coop. He crowed for the first time this morning. For such a defective rooster, there is nothing wrong with his cock-a-doodle-doo. It was like an air horn blasting in my ear at 5:45 this morning. He continued to crow for a solid ten minutes until I took him out of the cage and put him outside.

There's no such thing as sleeping in when there's a rooster in the house.

 

 

 

May 26, 2008

Ah...nothing quite makes you feel white trash like keeping a chicken in your trailer.

I took Robot Rooster 3000 (a.k.a. Rob) out of Frankencoop a couple days ago. He's the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of roosters. He's undersized, walks funny, has digestive problems and is an all-round defective rooster.

 

A real farmer would've culled him by now but I've got a terrible soft-spot for underdogs - or underchickens, as the case may be.

Rob first came to my attention this spring when he developed a limp. I separated him from the flock and brought him up to the house where I could keep a closer eye on him. During the day, he wandered around my yard and I kept him in a cage inside the house at night.

At the time, I was unsure of Rob's sex. If I'd known he was a rooster, I would've killed and eaten him right away since I already had a surplus of roosters. By the time his gender became apparent, I'd already grown fond of the little guy. It's kinda hard to nurse an animal back to health only to fry it up in a skillet.

Shortly before my camping trip to Florida, I reintegrated Rob back into the main flock. That made it much easier on the person who was taking care of the animals while I was gone. But it was awfully hard on Rob.

He never really fit back in. He immediately became low man on the totem pole and stayed there. He was frequently picked on by the other young roosters (though my alpha-male, Gimpy, was not among the bullies). The final straw was when I caught the largest of the roosters trying to fuck him, despite Rob's loud protests that he did not swing that way.

The next morning I took Rob out of the coop permanently. I've started building him a little bachelor apartment coop next to Lemon's coop - essentially turning it into a duplex. Even though Lemon's coop would easily hold two birds, she absolutely refuses to share it. Until the new coop is finished, Rob spends his nights in a cage in the kitchen.

 

The last thing I really need right now is another project. The garden is only half planted (it's twice as big as last year's), the peacock coop is still unfinished and Frankencoop is an ongoing work-in-progress. More baby chicks should be hatching in a week, baby goats are due mid-summer and the slut barn cat just popped out another litter of kittens. The war against kudzu rages on but I have to pick my battles carefully for the next couple weeks because I'm broke as hell and gas is almost $4 a gallon.

I'm almost out of sugar. Hell, I'm even running low on ramen noodles. The garden is still weeks away from adding fresh fruit and vegetables to my diet. But I still have lots of rice, all the eggs I can eat and a freshly butchered chicken in the fridge. Enough flour, yeast and baking powder remain that I can make a multitude of bread products. I also have plenty of the makings for sweet and sour sauce as well as Hollandaise sauce. If I have learned anything during this chapter in my life, it is the importance of condiments. Life ain't all bad if you're eating Hollandaise sauce every day.

A double yolker!

The chicken in my fridge was a young rooster that sustained a serious injury in a cockfight. He had a huge wound on his thigh where the skin had ripped open, exposing a large area of muscle.

 

As a surplus rooster, he was already on death row. No sense trying to nurse him back to health if I was just going to eat him later. If I didn't butcher him right away, infection could set in and render the meat inedible. And like I said, I'm poor and the cupboards are looking a bit bare.

 

 

The chicken-thieving fox remains on the loose. All I've caught in the trap is two possums, one of my cats (twice) and a hound dog. The chickens are still under lockdown, though I try to give them at least one supervised free-range outing per day.

Deer have ravaged two of the four apple trees planted last year. Apparently, Fujis have the best-tasting branches. Oh well, none of them seemed to be producing any apples yet anyway. Two of the three peach trees have fruit on them. The old pear tree looks like it's having a banner year. I gave it a good pruning this winter - the first one its had in over fifteen years. Well, half a good pruning anyway. The tree is about 25 feet tall and, even with the  ladder, I could only reach the bottom half.

 

 

May 18, 2008

I have a new weapon in my fight against the kudzu:

 

Up until now, my main weapon in this battle has been a regular push mower. Many of my neighbor-cousins have rolled their eyes and snickered at the sight of this city slicker pushing a little mower around this big hill. Most of them have huge tractors with gigantic mowing attachments. They are absolutely gobsmacked when I tell them I've cleared about 4 acres of kudzu vines by hand with a box cutter. But they all admit that I've done an amazing job with the meager tools I've had at my disposal.

But now I have a riding mower. Oh, this will make my life so much easier! All I need to do now is outfit it with a shade umbrella and drink holder and I will be mowing my humongous yard in style!

I made a trade for it with some of my neighbor-cousins. A few nights a week, I spend the night at their elderly mother's house. She's in ill health and, while not entirely bedridden, needs a little help.  After getting my animals taken care of for the night, I head over to her place around sundown. We chat a little and maybe share a snack before she goes to sleep. In the morning, I fix breakfast and eat with her before heading back home to tend to all my critters. Her family gets a little peace of mind knowing she's being taken care of and I get a little money in my pocket.

Last week, they offered me a deal: I give them one night a week free for six weeks and they give me the woman's idle riding mower. They even sharpened the blades and gave it a tune up before dropping it off at my place yesterday.

While I'll miss the money, I really need this mower. I'll be eating lots of frybread & peanut butter for the next few weeks until the garden starts producing, but it will be worth it.

If anyone needs me, I'll be tooling around in the back field.

 

 

 

May 13, 2008

I fixed the possum video in yesterday's post. I made half a dozen attempts to upload it to YouTube but it inexplicably failed every time. So I put it on Google instead.

The trap was empty this morning but I still saw another possum. It crossed my driveway and ran into the old barn around 9 am. I was surprised that it was out and about in broad daylight. Up until a few days ago, I'd never seen a possum that wasn't roadkill. Now I've seen three - though today's might have been one of the two released from the trap.

Maybe I do have a possum problem after all...

 

 

 

May 12, 2008

Saw the fox again last week - just as B.J. Boomhauer and I were taking a live trap down the back road to the chicken coop. Even if I would've had my gun with me, I'd have never gotten a shot off. The fox ran across the road in one leaping bound - taking no more than a half second before disappearing into the trees.

I set the trap in the same exact spot where the bastard ate my favorite rooster, Barabajagal. I've been baiting it with bits of the last couple chickens I've butchered (the parts I'd usually feed to the cats). So far I've only managed to catch one of my cats and two possums.

It was actually the first time I'd ever seen a possum that hadn't been squashed in the middle of a road. Little buggers are actually kinda cute.

While opossums have been known to kill chickens, I personally have never had a problem with them. As these were not the droids I was looking for, I let both of them go.

 

Another first was I got my first tick yesterday. I'm surprised that it took a year and a half to get one, considering how much time I spend out in the brush.

Luckily, it was somewhere I could easily reach and I plucked it out with a pair of tweezers. After making sure I pulled the head out (and didn't leave it buried beneath my skin), I dropped it in a shot glass full of rubbing alcohol. Ticks are impossibly hardy and still take up to ten minutes to die after complete immersion in rubbing alcohol.

 

As you may remember, in my last post I mentioned my neighbor who is both a stereotype and a one-of-a-kind. Since I have a feeling he'll be popping up in this blog from time to time, I have given him the pseudonym Bocephus Boomhauer.

Bocephus showed up here yesterday to show me the young rattlesnake he killed next to his front porch. It was a small one but no less dangerous than a larger snake.

He'd blown its head away with a .38 and cut off the rattle. He threw the rest on his tailgate and drove over to show me.

 

On a lighter note, here's a short video of one of the young roosters. He has recently started to crow. The sound reminds me of a young boy's voice cracking. You can compare his crowing with that of Gimpy who can be heard off-camera.

 

I also forgot to mention a very important fact about my trip to Florida. I wanted to be sure to give proper credit to BMac and Dani for sponsoring my vacation. They not only paid for the food, beer, hotel and campsite, they also paid for the two full tanks of gas it took me to drive to Florida and back.

Without their sponsorship, I would've never been able to afford it. I'm currently bringing in an average of $100 a week and do not receive any sort of government assistance. I can make $100 a week go pretty far - but not all the way to beach.

Thanks again to BMac & Dani for a much needed break.

 

 

 

 

 

May 2, 2008

Just got back Wednesday night from my Florida camping trip with BMac & Dani. Pulled in shortly before the sun went down. Had to cut the trip a day short because BMac had an early a.m. call Thursday for JazzFest.

Had a fantabulous time! It was so nice to be with my own kind again.

It was especially nice to go to a bar - something I haven't done since January 2007 when I was in Arizona. For the last 20 years, the longest I've gone without bellying up to a bar somewhere is maybe two weeks.

We chose the Red Bar in Santa Rosa Beach as our meeting point. It was kinda like Chair 5 without the hippies.  We chowed down on smoked tuna dip, chicken and crawfish, washing it all down with cold beer.

Early in the evening, BMac drove down to the nearby campground where we'd planned to stay. Much to our surprise, the place required reservations. We didn't expect the place to be full on a Monday in April. Since it was already sundown, we searched tourist pamphlets for a nearby hotel. We found a place in the city of Destin and spent the evening drinking beer and catching up on the last year.

 

The next morning, Dani made a round of calls to local campgrounds in search of an available campsite. Sadly, many of the Florida panhandle campgrounds do not allow tent camping - or "primitive camping" as it was sometimes referred to.

Primitive camping? We weren't going to be wearing fur loincloths and catching squirrels for dinner. We were civilized people. We had a coffee maker. We had laptops. We were not primitive.

Dani finally found a site at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park that was available and allowed our primitive style of tent camping. Even though we were not the only tent campers in the park, most campsites were occupied by RVs that looked more like rock star tour buses. Even all the camping adverts we saw featured RVs instead of tents.

   

BMac's first task at the campsite was to make sure the beer stayed cold.

 

After setting up camp, we headed towards the beach. We made a few stops along the way, the best being Elmore's Landing - the gallery and studio of artist Joe Elmore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent quite a while browsing through the hundreds of pieces on display, oohing and ahhing over everything. If I ever win the lottery, I will decorate my shabby trailer with his works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

But the beach was calling us. We were in need of sand between our toes. And for the next few hours, our lives were transformed into a Corona commercial - except that we were drinking Abita.

 

Grayton Beach was wonderfully uncrowded. We gazed at waves, drank beer and let the birds entertain us.

  

                          Laughing gulls                                                        Great Blue Heron

 

A bull shark even made a couple brief passes through the shallow water, just a few feet from shore, swimming  exactly where this man and boy played in the surf five minutes earlier.

             

da DUM...da DUM...

 

Back at the campsite, we finished setting up our site and Dani cooked the chicken I brought for the occasion. I'd butchered the chicken on Sunday, choosing another excess rooster that needed to be culled.

Except that I made a mistake. It wasn't a rooster - it was a hen. All the birds in that particular group look the same to me. I thought I'd finally reached a point where I could be sure about their gender, but I was wrong. Sigh...I still have so much to learn about chickens.

I realized my mistake when I opened the body cavity and found a mass of unhatched yolks. It's bad enough that I lost one laying hen to illness and two to that damned fox in the last month (as well as my favorite rooster), but now I'd killed one myself.

There was also a lot of fat on the bird. Made me realize that I had not seen chicken with fat on it for many years. I remember fat was commonplace on supermarket chicken when I was a kid. Now when you buy meat at the store, it's often in chunks devoid of fat, bones and skin. It's so far removed from the living, breathing animal it once was. I think when vat-grown lab-meat becomes commercially available, it will look just like that and most American consumers won't even notice the difference.

The next day, we spent a leisurely morning at the campsite. Dani fixed up breakfast and we slowly got our stuff packed up. We all had long drives ahead of us and hit the road at noon sharp, leaving the Redneck Riviera behind us. BMac & Dani headed west while I pointed my truck north.

 

I got home just in time to check in on all the animals. Everybody was present and accounted for. I called the neighbor-cousin who'd been feeding them while I was gone to tell her I'd returned early. Turns out she saw the chicken-theiving fox on Monday afternoon.

I have a feeling the fox has babies in the woods and won't be leaving anytime soon. Since I absolutely hate keeping the chickens under lockdown, I have no choice but to go fox hunting.

 

A much more welcome member of the wild kingdom has recently taken up residence here at Spenardo del Sur. This spring, a pileated woodpecker moved into the woods next to my house. I first saw it a couple weeks ago when it flew about 15 feet in front of me - as big as a crow. When it pecks on a tree, the sound is similar to a motor starting up - very loud. Its laugh-like call sounds like a jungle monkey is loose in the forest. Best of all, the woodpecker has no desire to eat my chickens. The woodpecker will make a fine neighbor.

Not so sure about one of my human neighbors. I don't know him very well. He's only been out of prison for five months. We get along fine and all - even if he is/was a KKK member (current status unknown), complete with a prominent tattoo that (I think) identifies his specific group within the Klan. He's no threat to me - not in the least. Not only are we family (well, second cousins once removed) but he's about 70 years old and I could probably take him in a fair fight. But I just had to roll my eyes and shake my head today when I saw that he'd raised a large Confederate flag in front of his house.

I wish I could tell you more about this guy. He's a walking, talking stereotype of the Southern redneck good ol' boy. But everything about him is so damned unique that if any local ever stumbled across this blog, they'd know exactly who I was talking about.

He even has the most melodious Southern name. Goddamned poetry, I tells ya. But if half the rumours I've heard are true, I think he'd make a far better fictional character than next-door neighbor.

 

But he's a far cry better than this guy must be. I've never met him, but he lives a couple miles from here. At the end of his driveway is a chest freezer that serves as his trash dumpster:

"If it good do it"

 

Now, the story I heard was that he originally used an old non-working chest freezer as his dumpster. But then somebody hit it with their car. The guy made the insurance company pay for a brand-new working chest freezer.

I don't know if that's true or not, but it's a beautiful story. Since truth=beauty, I hereby claim it's a true story.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments? Questions? Spare change? 

Send it to Jackie at RanchoSpenardo.com

 

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