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Loose Ends and Housekeeping

If you are (ahem) old enough to recall the Ed Sullivan Show, then if I mention the words “Italian acrobats with spinning plates”, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. For the less ‘elderly’ among Aunt Toby’s readers, suffice it to say that this family group had a hilarious act whereby they set up poles with plates spinning at the tops and they ran about the stage, back and forth, making sure the plates were spinning and not falling to smash on the floor. The big finale was their all picking up the poles and catching the plates. Voila!!

Well, sometimes, Aunt Toby feels that way about KCE. I have to make sure to keep some of the ongoing things up in the air and revisiting them from time to time before they..well, they won’t go smash on the floor, but the story may not be fresh or interesting any longer and all of my little buggers might lose interest.

So, this post is a bit of a catch up.

Chicks: Well, as we saw last time, they stopped being chicks a very long time ago and are now pullets and cockerels and are now behaving a lot more chicken-y. The cockerels are getting quite annoying for the pullets now, and by the end of July, the pullets will have turned, magically, into hens and will start laying eggs, which means that they need places to lay those eggs IN..nesting boxes.

The DH, having gone through the experience of building the first chicken ‘tractor’ felt that he’d worked out the bugs from that and was now ready to build a ‘new and improved’ tractor complete with nesting boxes. No white wall tires, electric windows or automatic watering devices. In any case, no matter what, we would have two tractors and could theoretically pick and choose our way through our little flock to find the boys and the girls so that we could for sure get the girls into the ‘condo’ with the best roosters and leave the rest of the boys in the first tractor. You would think that knowing a boy chicken from a girl chicken would be the easiest thing going, and for the most aggressive and sexually mature cockerels, it is pretty easy: they are the biggest ones with the combs and wattles. It is a lot harder to select out the least mature cockerels, whose combs have not really started to develop and who do NOT have wattles. But we had to do it, if only for the space factor. There are all sorts of types of combs; our chickens because they were bred for cold northern winters, have what’s called a ‘pea comb’ which is teeny and lays close to the head. In the photograph, you have what people think of as a rooster with a comb – the farther south the chickens are, the better it is for them to have a big upstanding comb like this one because..combs radiate heat out of a chicken’s body. Those red things under the rooster’s chin are what are called ‘wattles’ and I have no idea what their function is, if anything.

As lonely as that sounds, it is not a whole lot of fun to be the cockerel who is NOT the biggest or best because that means that you are constantly being picked on, being shouldered away from the food, and being pecked. You are, as the saying goes, at the bottom of the ‘pecking order’. The ‘last guy’ as it were, is really in tough shape. So, by taking out the biggest (which turns out to be the most aggressive, most sexually mature, nastiest and so on) roosters out of the flock to put in with the pullets, it was as if we had completely reshuffled the deck for the rest of the roosters. They immediately got a lot more room than they had been able to occupy before, had less competition for the food, and a whole new pecking order had to be established. This did not, however, help the little guy at the bottom of the heap; frankly, he is still at the bottom of the heap but he will be able to avoid being pecked a bit more, be able to get a bit more food and will grow a little better and a little bit faster now.

It will also mean that he will probably be the last to go ‘a la Pepperoniville’ as we say at Chez Siberia. But I’m sure that being the last to ‘turn off the lights’ is not going to be much of a compensation for a lifetime of being the guy at the bottom of the totem pole.

The Garden: One of the things about gardening here in Upstate New York is the telescoping nature of time. We really do not get a very long spring, so keeping up with harvesting early things like lettuce and spinach becomes a race against the plants’ bolding as the days get longer and warmer. Needless to say, we have eaten spinach in as many permutations and combinations as I can think of, though I think I might just blanch and freeze the rest to use during the winter when I make my own pasta.

Pick Your Own: Aunt Toby and Elder Daughter will be returning tomorrow to the strawberry farm to pick…snap peas, actually. They are rushing in and are still nice and flat and not woody. My plan is to pick several pounds, blanch a little bit and freeze them in seal-a-meal pouches for use in asian dishes this winter.

The Economy: I don’t care what the pundits are saying – it’s still stinko.
And that is all you need to know.

Anyone who has a child who graduated from college this spring (as we did at Chez Siberia)knows that the overwhelming majority of these kids (unless they are engineers, computer programmers or accountants) are unemployed at the moment. My son’s estimate (backed up by a college intern we have at our office) is that only 1 of his friends had a job by the time he left school and that most of his friends opted to try to get into graduate school to sit out the recession. The Boy has a job for the summer but is looking…and competing with people with much more experience than he has.

We have assured him that Chez Siberia will not be going into the boarding house business any time soon and that he still has his bed to sleep in. However, by the end of the summer, we will no longer be able to cover him with our health insurance (hey people; write your Congressional Reps and Senators and DEMAND health care reform with a public offering). Luckily, New York State has a program that will allow him to buy his own insurance coverage at a not horrible rate.

If you have a child who graduated and is not going on to graduate school, you will need to check out what is available in your state to keep your kid covered — they are only covered for 90 days after their date of graduation. Trust me – for some reason, they can go through an entire four years of college with no more problems than an attack of acne…and as soon as their coverage lapses, something will happen and they will need major healthcare or dental work.

(rooster photo courtesy of nal in miami Juggler photo courtesy of Robbie Veldwijk)

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