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The chicken who sleeps in the kitchen

It’s been a rough old Summer for this manky bird.

This is Mapp, the ginger chicken. She laid her first eggs this Spring. Three or four of them, then promptly went broody.

It took me almost two and a half months to snap her out of it, but it happened overnight. I put her by herself in a wire cage with a box to sleep in but, daft bird that she is, she preferred to sleep in the open. Later that night, Miz Fox showed up and gave it the old college try. That did it.

Scared straight, as it were.

So she moulted. Lucia, Mapp’s clutch mate, had by this time become thoroughly accustomed to having the perch to herself of an evening, and she damn well liked it. To register her displeasure at the return of the old arrangement, she tweaked all the feathers off the back of Mapp’s neck and head in a sort of reverse mohawk. Plucked her bald.

So now every evening just before Chicken Bed Time, there’s a flutter and a thump and we find Mapp perched on the kitchen stool with a look that says, “no, no…don’t worry about me. Um, I’ll be fine right here.” I have to wait until dark and Lucia is fast asleep to tiptoe out and put Mapp in the henhouse.

Our first mistake was naming these crazy peckerheads.

August 31, 2011 — 11:19 pm
Comments: 20


Can I have a ferret? Can I have a ferret? PLEEEEEEEEEEEEASE can I have a ferret? I swear I’ll feed it and clean up after it and not let it devour the chickens.

Okay, this may be a hard one to work into our active chicken lifestyle, but I’ve been dying for a ferret for, like, forever.

This saucy fellow was at a whole ‘nother church fête, along with a dozen of his mates, representing a local ferret club. That’s me holding him (I had to black out the background because my ginormous grinning face filled it right up). I haven’t been so happy since I discovered the big red bucket o’ weasels.

In the next few weeks, one of the local ferret rescues is having a thing. I’m going to talk to them about taking an overflow ferret next time they get full up, so I can try it out but it isn’t tragedy if I can’t work it out.

A trial ferret. A rent-a-weasel, as it were.

I’m hoping I can arrange it so daytime belongs to the chooks, and ferret playtime is after dark. We keep very late hours, so that’s a long stretch for the fuzzball, especially in the Winter. (Any ferret-keeping peeps want to chime in, I’d be grateful).

Phun Pherret Phact: albino is the ‘original’ color. The Romans domesticated an albino variant of the wild polecat, so that their hunting birds could distinguish between the rabbits popping out of the warren and the not-to-be-slaughtered ferrets. I have *no* idea if that’s true; it’s what the ferret people told me.

August 30, 2011 — 10:07 pm
Comments: 34


Look, it’s me! Holding a owl!

There’s an owl rescue around here that turns up at some of the village fêtes and for a couple of quid donation they will let you hold an owl. So I did.

This pretty boy was taken from his mother on the day he hatched (she killed the first one to break shell), so he has no bleeding idea he’s an owl. You can stroke him and give him smoochies and he won’t rip the nose off your face and eat it right in front of you.

More than I could say for at least two of my chickens.

We have our end-of-Summer long weekend now, and I think we’ve just done the last of the fêtes.

Actually, the last fêtes are the flower festivals. These are peculiar little spectacles. They’re flower arrangements + tableaux, all around a village church.

So, next to the altar, there’s a flower arrangement, a golf ball, a hockey stick and an old sneaker: A Tribute to Sport. Under the stained glass window, a flower arrangement, some model cars, a set of car keys and an L plate: Passing Your Driving Test. (I am not making these up; I really saw them).

You walk around and gawp at them (there’s a program so you can keep them straight), then everyone has a cup of tea and a slice of cake and goes home.

Every Freaking Day of my life is a Monty Python sketch.

August 29, 2011 — 9:33 pm
Comments: 29

Bad news from home

You’ve probably read the news that the Gibson factories in Nashville and Memphis were raided today by armed federal agents of the, errrrr…Fish and Wildlife Service?

Yup. The Lacey Act is a law so old, William McKinley signed it. It was intended to prevent trapping endangered animals for sale across state lines. You know, in 1900, when endangered animals were endangered-endangered and not just pretend endangered because there aren’t very many of them in Oklahoma while there were still tons in Texas.

Anyhow, the law was recently beefed up to require that all materials be painstakingly and accurately described coming into the country, and here’s where the mischief comes in.

Now, the trade in materials like poached ivory and Madagascar ebony is an evil trade…and evil trades often launder themselves through the East. So in theory — in theory — I don’t object to some additional scrutiny of incoming raw materials. But in practice…give a bureaucrat a gun and a regulation to enforce, and he’ll be looking for somebody to wave them at.

Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson’s CEO, claims the issue this time is wood from India that would be legal if finished in India, but the US government says violates some Indian law the Indians certainly aren’t complaining about if finished in the US (watch his press conference here). Gibson is still litigating a similar government raid from three years ago, so it’s hard not to see this as harassment (Juszkiewicz is a notoriously difficult man; perhaps he stepped on a sacred toe).

But it’s broader than Gibson. Regulators aren’t making an exception for vintage instruments. Bring a guitar into the country, and you have to declare the origin of every bit of wood, bone, ivory, pearl or abalone, and the feds don’t give a shit if it was built by a cowboy when Victoria was a lass. Get it wrong, and they’ll take the instrument, fine you and maybe even put you in jail.

The Journal article describes the state of musicians and instrument dealers as “anxious” about the law. And that’s about right…there haven’t been many incidents yet and nobody knows how it’ll play out. But if you’re thinking to yourself, “naw, the government couldn’t possibly be this retarded,” then you, sir, are a banana.

I can tell you for certain, anxiety about the potential retardedness of the US government is already impacting the movement of vintage instruments between the UK and the US. AKA depressing trade.

Oh, and check out the little snark at the end of the Journal article about selfish musicians being reluctant to switch over to plastics. If you are a lover of fine instruments, that will make you want to whip out your slappin’ hand.

Have a good weekend, folks. Today’s post was going to be a delightful story of The Chicken That Insisted On Sleeping in the Kitchen, but the damn fool bird didn’t do it tonight and I don’t have a picture.

Thanks to Alice for the kick in the butt: SCOAMF merchandise.

August 26, 2011 — 8:34 pm
Comments: 38

Okay, this is a weird one

Erdstall. “Earth stall.” Very old tunnels. At least 700 of them in Bavaria, 500 in Austria. Some in Germany, France, Scotland and Ireland, right across Europe. Nobody has a fucking clue what they were for. Probably 90% haven’t been discovered yet.

Here’s what they do know. Though some believe they were made in the Stone Age, the few bits of wood and charcoal found inside consistently date from early Medieval times. They were dug by people who knew what they were doing, people who kneeled and dug with two-handed wedges. Every few yards, there’s a little cavity in the wall for an oil lamp. They’re mostly 20-50 yards long (the longest one in Germany is 125 yards long).

Long portions of the tunnels snake back and forth to reduce pressure from the soil overhead, so that planking wasn’t needed. Dead end tunnels branch off at times. The smallest passages are only about 16″ wide. Most are too small to walk comfortably. They don’t widen out into chambers. There aren’t multiple entrance/exits. Explorers often run low on oxygen while exploring them. Some fill with water.

They sometimes start near churches or cemeteries, or the kitchens of old farmhouses, or out in the woods, but they don’t end anywhere. There’s seldom anything at all in them. There’s not a single written record of an erdstall being built. Around 1200, they were blocked up with rubble (including easily datable bits of porcelain).

There’s been very little archeological interest in them, so study has largely been left to amateurs. With theories.

Practical: escape tunnels. Hiding places. Storage tunnels. Prisons.

Religious: late Druid places of worship. Early Christian places of worship.

Out there: Elves. Goblins. Some stupid hippie shit about healing and vaginas and souls or something.

“Erdstall” is a highly Googlable word that doesn’t appear to have other meanings, so I highly recommend you do that thing. Google it, I mean. The pictures alone are worth it.

August 25, 2011 — 10:42 pm
Comments: 15

Speaking of earthquakes…

Meet my favorite doomsday scenario, the New Madrid fault. It runs along the border between Missouri and Tennessee. The chart compares the relative impact of the Northridge earthquake of 1994 to a quake along the New Madrid fault in 1895.

But 1895 wasn’t a biggie for New Madrid. Oh, dear me, no. We’re coming up to the 200th anniversary of the biggest seismological event in recorded history.

Between December of 1811 and March of 1812, thousands of quakes shook along the NM fault, including four spectacularly large ones. Church bells rang in Boston. The Mississippi River ran backwards for hours. An Indian village was swallowed whole. Reelfoot Lake, essentially a huge pothole, just appeared. Tens of thousands of acres of forest were flattened.

I’ve never heard an estimated death toll for these quakes. Many people just disappeared (along with their houses, in some cases — some cracks in the earth were five miles long). But that part of the country was very, very sparsely populated in 1811.

If it happened today? You could kiss Memphis goodbye, for a start.

August 24, 2011 — 8:27 pm
Comments: 27


Huh. I didn’t know they were working on a Martin Luther King memorial on the Mall in DC. But they were, and here it is. Opened yesterday.

As a piece of civic monumental art, I really, really like this thing. It’s beautifully modeled. And — because beautiful is not enough for the modern artard — it’s also conceptually neat.

From the Dream speech, it’s a play on the line, “out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” You can see there’s a sort of mountain of granite in the background, and King’s rock is flying forward out of it, and he is emerging from the rock.


It isn’t often that I like modern civic art. Most of it is long on concept and short on art.

The really astonishing thing? The commission was given to a Chinese artist, Lei Yixin. I am totally not going to rag on them about that; I think it was a surprisingly mature decision from an area of civic life not known for mature decisions (O, the contemporary angst that Lady Liberty was a frog).

As the committee head put it:

“We chose him because we really believe that Dr. King’s message is true that you should not judge a person by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character,” said Johnson. “In these terms, we are thinking artistic character.”


Oh, there was drama. Lots of it coming from disappointed American artists, especially ones of color, but none of them had experience in stone work at this scale.

Oh, and the design was firmly rejected by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Yeah. There’s a U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Who knew? Seven white dudes, apparently.

Still. There is something slightly…ornamental around the eyes, isn’t there?

August 23, 2011 — 8:12 pm
Comments: 35

Tone deaf

Oh, no. Oh, HELLS, no! Did you see this thing? Obama’s weekly address this week?

It was all about how “some people” in Congress are putting party ahead of enacting the glorious Obama agenda, blah blah blah. But — get this — he had himself photographed sitting in front of a shelf of jam jars and a sack of potatoes in some general store in flyover country. Oh, just read:

Hello from the Country Corner Farm in Alpha, Illinois! For the past few days, I’ve been traveling to small towns and farm towns here in the heartland of this country. I sat down with small business owners in Gutenberg, Iowa; and ranchers and farmers in Peosta. I had lunch with veterans in Cannon Falls, Minnesota; and talked to plant workers at a seed distributor in Atkinson, Illinois. And to the girls volleyball team at Maquoketa High School, let me just say one thing: Go Cardinals.

He said “Go Cardinals” with all the enthusiasm of “dose of clap.”

Saying words like “Peosta” and “Cannon Falls” and whatever other goofy-ass placenames you sister-fucking hayseeds call your hopeless, tragic dead-end cowtowns, automagically transforms him into Populist Man. Can’t you feel it?

Country Corner. Small towns. Farm towns. Heartland. Small business owners. Ranchers. Farmer. Veterans. Plant workers. Seed distributor. Dang, there’s more ersatz cornpone stuffed into that one paragraph than a whole fucking season of Hee Haw.

Oh, but this is the best bit: they released the video on the 20th, two days after he jetted away to his $50,000 a week getaway home at Martha’s Vineyard. You know, the vacation everybody’s talking about.


By the way, he managed to sound fairly upbeat, but somehow every screengrab I took, he looked like he was sucking a lemon.

August 22, 2011 — 10:37 pm
Comments: 39

The three chickens of the apocalypse

They mowed the field behind the house today (making hay while the sun shines — Summer is officially over at Badger House). The chickens took great exception to this and decided to drive the intruder away.

I’ve never seen more than one of them at a time do the alarm call. I had THREE of them at it, and one stalking along for the ride. They stand up very straight, goosestep slowly toward the threat, and scream bk-bk-bk-be-GAAK-bk-bk at it. In this case, a giant harvester.

Three of them. I almost busted something laughing. Something important in the internal organ department.

The illustration — just noodling around with a program called Manga Studio. With a name like that, you can guess it’s intended for comic creation, but it’s actually a very good pen-and-ink simulator. I got an email today offering me the high end version at a very deep discount, but the offer doesn’t seem to be on their website. Maybe it’s for registered users only. Anyhow, if any of you arty types badly want a copy, shoot me an email and I’ll forward you the offer (maybe it’ll be honored, maybe it won’t. Worth a shot).

Good weekend, everyone!

August 19, 2011 — 11:22 pm
Comments: 47

Okay, I may have added the tassels



This is the shot Drudge is going with today. Consensus among the commenters at Ace‘s is that it’s a picture from last Summer’s Vineyard vacation.

I think that must be true. Because it’s already all over Google Images, and his daughter (cropped, I forget which one she is) is a good deal older now.

Also, not even President Dorkulus would be caught on camera a second time wearing a dork helmet and riding a girl’s bike.


p.s. I don’t really know anything about this guy yet, but I like the contrast.





August 18, 2011 — 8:20 pm
Comments: 48