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And two that got away


January of 1998, Tamworth pigs were being unloaded at a slaughterhouse in Wiltshire, when two shot off to one side, wriggled through a hole in the fence and escaped into the wild. The Tamworth Two became a sensation. No, really.

It was the most important story of the week – by far […] It had become impossible to avoid the story. A contributor to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day mused over them; the editor of The Independent, Andrew Marr, wrote about them in his letter to the readers. They even featured in an editorial in The Guardian.

Almost 100 reporters from all over the world turned up. The Times got the story going, but the Daily Mail (in true Daily Mail fashion) played it like a fiddle. They put some muscle into it, naming the pigs Butch and Sundance (they were sister and brother, but w/e) and sending their best out pig catching.

The two were located in someone’s back garden after a week of freedom and eventually captured, Sundance first and then Butch. None the worse for wear. The Mail bought them for an undisclosed sum and they lived out their lives in the Ashford Rare Breeds Centre.

Yes, the picture is posed by pig actors. They made a made for TV movie about it.

Turns out one or both of them had a wild boar for a daddy, so there’s that.

So. I do understand this, but I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed to admit I posted a tribute to my dead chicken yesterday and then tucked into a bowl of Chinese chicken and rice. One day, mark my words, I’ll end up a vegetarian. Or dead at the bottom of a huge karma pile.

March 21, 2017 — 8:50 pm
Comments: 15

In Memoriam


Alas, no. Violence didn’t make it through the weekend.

Happy first day of Spring. Let me tell you about Violence Chicken.

Her name was originally Violet, for Violet Trefusis (her nest mate is named Vita). And because she was technically a lavender. Lavender is one of the possible things that happens when you breed black to white; you get a white bird with a distinctly purplish cast. But, to be honest, she was a terrible lavender — basically a white chicken with a bit of dirty yellow (though she looks pretty magnificent here, with the sun behind her lighting up her fine alpha comb).

The year we got her, I was determined to have a gold partridge. So I found a farm that had them, and got one and that’s Vita. But every chicken needs a buddy, so the farmer said, “which one?” and Uncle B said, “oh, how about that little white one?” and the farmer grabbed her and stuck her in his hands. The look on B’s face!

She was the only chicken I’ve ever had that didn’t mind being picked up and cuddled. But that’s not because she was a nice bird. Oh, no. She was filled with rage. Hence Violence. When I opened the henhouse to check on them at night, all the other chickens would be huddled on the perch as far as from her as they could get, because she was a peck beast. When she was in a mood, she wouldn’t just peck at my hand, she’d grab a piece of skin at the web of my thumb and worry it like a terrier.

I have seen that bird run the entire length of the garden just give my foot a good peck, because I guess I needed a pecking. She would stomp her feet in rage until she actually traveled in a small circle. She was my littlest chicken, but (after Lucia) she was bosslady. And how.

We used to amuse ourselves greeting her with, “hello, Violence — have you solved anything?” And, “I’m sorry, Violence, but you are not the answer.” Because we are easily amused.

She will be missed. Though, I suppose the other chickens will sleep easier at night. Seems poetic justice somehow that I got the first egg of the season on the day we buried her in Chicken Cemetery.

And speaking of mortality — DEAD POOL! Bikeboy has won it with Chuck Berry. This was mighty unfair on dissent, who had David Rockefeller. Death can be so cruel. Back here Friday for Dead Pool Round 96!

March 20, 2017 — 7:17 pm
Comments: 16

Still with us


Violence is still in chicken hospital. I’m a little mystified – whatever it is should either have killed her by now, or she should be getting better, but she’s muddling along about the same. Puffed up, lethargic and sleeping all the time.

She eats. I’m holding onto that as a good sign. A creature that eats hasn’t given up.

I’ve been resisting taking her to the vet. She’s not a very old chicken, but she’s not a young bird, and our local practice doesn’t have an avian specialist. They are not hugely useful with chickens.

I didn’t think of sour crop. I don’t think her crop feels funny, but tomorrow I’ll take her out in the garden and try to make her throw up. Joy.

Truth is, though I’ve been keeping chickens seven years now, I’ve only had nine in total. I’m not really a very experienced chicken keeper.

Have a good weekend, everyone. And as they say here, keep your pecker up.

Yeah, they really say that here. It’s all I can do not to lose it.

March 17, 2017 — 7:26 pm
Comments: 12

We will not forget you, Space Bat


Eight years ago today, at a launch of the space shuttle Discovery, a little brown bat flew onto the shuttle’s fuel tank during countdown and hung on for all he was worth. Experts who analyzed the footage afterwards (bat experts, natch) think he had a broken wing and dislocated shoulder or wrist.

Wrist. On a bat. Flying mammals are confusing.

They thought surely he would drop off, but he didn’t. Periodically, he shifted position, but hung on for as long as the shuttle was in sight. He died quickly in the cold and airless upper atmosphere. Or incinerated. Probably. But what a sendoff!

Space Bat, you will live forever in our hearts.

March 15, 2017 — 9:48 pm
Comments: 14

Sick chick


No, it’s not bird flu. Symptoms don’t match. That was the first thing I checked.

Violence is an unhappy bird, though. She’s all miserable and lethargic and fluffed up. I looked it up and it could literally be hundreds of different things, but I started her right away on a wormer (they’re all due) and a tonic and scrambled her an egg (I know it sounds wrong, and it’s probably illegal here these days, but it’s the first thing anyone does with a sick chook). She’s currently in Chicken Hospital (a dog crate in the corner of the room).

She’s been sick for a couple of days and I do believe she’s perking up a bit. Might be the wormer starting to work. But today she’s started flicking her head, and that’s another clue. It might be lice or mites of some kind. So when I’ve posted this, I’ll pop a sleepy chick on top of the box and have a good look with the flashlight. At her vent, which is where they congregate. Joy! And then tomorrow lucky weasel gets to soak a chicken in a bucket of warm water.

If you think it’s undignified for me, imagine how the chicken feels.

March 14, 2017 — 8:19 pm
Comments: 16

Let the cock jokes commence


I got a bit jammed up tonight, so here’s a lady shopping at Home Depot with her rooster. As you do.

I belong to a Facebook group called “Crazy House Chicken Lady and Friends” — and, yes, it’s about people who keep pet chooks in the house. And you thought I was nuts about chikkens.

Although, you know, my favorite chicken turns seven this year. If she starts to look doddery…

March 9, 2017 — 10:45 pm
Comments: 9

Let’s end the week on a dog


Lookit that face! He’s a healthy dog, apparently. Just has a nasty congenital jaw deformity. I confess: I only love this story because of this dog’s name.

Picasso. His name is Picasso.

Abandoned by his breeder, he went onto the euthanasia list right away. Duh. Somebody dumped his (normal looking) brother off, too, and they sat on Death Row together.

Then some guy put him on Instagram and now he’s one of the most-requested adoptees in California. Feelgood story ugly mutt.

It’s going to rain all weekend here, so I’m’onna paint. I need a beret and one of those big white smocks with the bow. Good weekend, everyone!

March 3, 2017 — 9:23 pm
Comments: 15

Wednesday is the New Saturday


So, my work schedule is slightly amended: I don’t go in at all on Wednesdays. This means sleeping late and (I’ve decided) painting. You know, like art.

I am determined to get some work in at least one show this year.

That shouldn’t be too tough, considering I’ve just joined an amateur art society with a requirement to show two pieces in their annual. That is, the judging shouldn’t be tough. I still have to paint some shit.

When I first moved here, surrounded as I am by sheep, I thought they’d be a natural. Turns out, they’re really fun to draw and harder’n hell to paint.

It’s the fleece. Use cool colors (blues) and they look dead, use warm colors (browns) and they look dirty.

So, chickens it is!

I don’t suppose I can make a whole career out of chicken painting. I’m discovering they only have one facial expression — pent-up rage. Seriously, chickens have the most awful ‘resting bitch faces.’ It’s the downturned beak. And the glarey eyes.

Chicken painter. Sixteen-year-old me would be so humiliated.

March 1, 2017 — 10:01 pm
Comments: 16

News you can use


Someone is killing the famous Swimming Pigs of the Bahamas. Yes, there is apparently a herd of feral but friendly pigs that like to swim with the tourists. Mostly because the tourists have delicious food, and pigs is pigs.

Only, they think maybe someone is giving them booze, because about half the herd of twenty have floated to shore dead. Honestly, they could wait for the autopsy.

Mystery pigs. Not native to the Bahamas and nobody really knows where and when they arrived. Possibly with sailors hoping to come back for them.

Donald Trump Jr. took a snapshot of his family with the pigs last Summer. I’m surprised nobody’s blamed his dad yet.

February 27, 2017 — 7:27 pm
Comments: 10

If it’s not one cat, it’s another


Jack didn’t come home last night. This is a big deal because, tomcat though he is, he never disappears for more than a couple of hours.

Mr and Mrs Numpty here were out at Stupid O’ Clock in the morning with flashlights yelling “heeeeeere kittykittykitty” into the hedges and under cars. I went to work feeling like death warmed over. We’ve had to call the neighbors to apologize today, in case anyone caught the performance.

He turned up this morning unsteady on his feet, with junk in his fur and a limp. We reckon he fell out of a tree or something. He’s slept all day. No blood on him and nothing seems broken, but he is definitely dazed and shocky. We’re going to watch him for twenty four hours before we decide on the vet.

I am Tired. And I would Like A Drink Now. Have a good weekend, everyone, and look out for your assorted fuzzbutts and furbags!

February 3, 2017 — 9:40 pm
Comments: 25