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chicken problems


Not original. I pinched this off one of the many chicken groups of which I am an unashamed member.

I think all the eggs I’m getting from the new girls are coming from Jenny. She’s the only one I ever see on the nest. But damn, she churns one out almost every day. She’s the one that looks most like Lucia, too, so it’s no surprise she’s a superstar.

All my little peckerheads are doing well and loving the Summer.

Another weekend of good stuff lined up. I’ll report back next week. Have a good one!

August 12, 2016 — 8:33 pm
Comments: 3



Perseid meteor showers peak tonight; they’re my favorite! It’s supposed to be an especially good one this year. I can’t stay out for long, though — we’ve got skeeters the size of buzzards at the moment. Uncle B is a lumpy mess.

British skeeters don’t appear to have much of a taste for weasel, happy to say.

You know, I’m sure I’ve posted this exact picture before. But I’ve looked through the last four Augusts, and no. Anyway, Google Images identifies this as a picture from 2015, so it must be a different but similar diagram. Maybe from that meteor shower in December that I never see because it’s too freaking cold. Geminids. That’s it.

Hey ho, forget the celestial pageantry — I got thirty comments out of you people for a question about eating out of tiny cardboard cereal boxes.

August 11, 2016 — 9:08 pm
Comments: 15

I’m super cereal


I had a silly day today. I was going to stay home and do some chores, but I got a call that the phone was out at work. This is bad because the phone is tied to the security system, so I had to go in (so I could look up the customer number from our last bill) and navigate the help system of British Telecom. The hardest part of that is finding a live human. They’d rather open a vein than give you a phone number.

Anyway. Boring.

As today was screwed, we decided to get the weekly shop out of the way. Aldi had a special on a block of those little miniature cereals, so we bought one for nostalgia. And then the clash of cultures began.

I’m like, “these aren’t scored in the middle so you can use them as a bowl.”
And he’s like, “What?”
And I go, “you used to open them up and fold the sides back and the cereal was in a wax paper bag so you could pour the milk right in.”
And he goes, “didn’t you have bowls where you grew up?”
And I say, “sure, but these were for camping and, like, being in the woods and stuff.”

Long story short, he doesn’t believe me. Do you remember this? Was it really a thing? All I could find was that one picture, from a long-defunct breakfast blog.

August 10, 2016 — 7:36 pm
Comments: 35

Mister, Kipling


Nice day. Field trip!

We went to Burwash, to Rudyard Kipling’s house, Bateman’s, the farthest away of our regular National Trust jaunts. We’ve been there many times before (in fact, we first signed up to the National Trust there). Big, big Kipling fans, us.

It’s a desperately cool Jacobean house but, even better, his daughter left the whole thing — furniture, knick-knacks and all — to the Trust. So it’s as near exactly the way it was in Kipling’s lifetime, including all the shit on the desk and his trash can full of first drafts. The latter was emptied twice a day by a housemaid, who burned the contents. He was very, very controlling of his work and image.

Today, unexpectedly, they had a Kipling historian who was lucky enough to look a bit like Kipling (probably not a coincidence, that) giving a one-man show in the garden, telling the story of Kipling’s life. It was very well done.

It was full of fun Kipling facts. Like, he was born nine months after his parents took an enjoyable holiday at Rudyard Lake, Staffordshire. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

He was a kind of a pre-movie movie star. Before he moved to the country, a local pub landlord organized tours past his house. He wrote three times to complain about it before he learned the landlord was selling his complaint letters for cash.

In fact, toward the end of his life, tradesmen stopped cashing his checks (cheques here) — the autograph on it was worth more than the amount written.

We hope to do more of this, now it’s warmed up a bit. But it’s still very cold at night, like in the low fifties. It’s been such a miserable, cold Summer, even one of our dimmer acquaintances was heard to say, “I know they say the earth is warming, but…”

August 9, 2016 — 8:26 pm
Comments: 13

Whoo whoo!


Good lord, that was a huge steam rally! All traction engines (steam vehicles that don’t run on tracks, for you non steam geeks). We’ve not been to this one before.

I wouldn’t like to say how many engines were there. Thirty? Fifty? I like the two in the picture because the size difference. The one in the back is a German engine. Probably the biggest one at the show, but it was broken down for the whole day. Poor bastards; I don’t know how they’re going to move it out of there if they can’t get it going.

The one in front isn’t anything like the smallest, though.

There were so many of them zooming around, I’m amazed nobody got squashed. At the end, they tried to gather them all together in the arena. It was a sight to behold, but completely unphotographable.

At least, with the little camera I took with me. I’m holding out hope Uncle B’s came out better.

Happy Monday – here we go!

August 8, 2016 — 9:57 pm
Comments: 9

‘Merica intensifies


Yes, that’s a bald eagle. No, I don’t suppose most falconers are allowed to keep one, but these guys breed all kinds of endangered hunting birds. Though I’m happy to report that old baldy is no longer endangered.

Another pic from the fete over the weekend; a falconry exhibit. Cool stuff, but I realize these things are repetitious. That’s partly what I like about them; they’re the same every year.

This was the fete that has the miniature horses and the guy who herds Indian runner ducks with border collies. If that rings a bell, this one always happens on the same day as the one with the really good boot sale (read: flea market) and we dash to get to both of them.

It was followed on Sunday by a music festival we’ve never been to, and we haven’t been to it again. We got there and the whole village was full up. No place to park.

This weekend we have a steam rally and an event in aid of the RNLI. Can I take the pace? Good weekend, all!

August 5, 2016 — 9:36 pm
Comments: 10

Getting gay with the Freemasons


Oh, way to secret society, you guys.

Yeah, the Freemasons had a booth at a fete we went to this weekend. You can’t tell, but their logo is rainbow handprints, turned outward like a flower. Somebody done gayed up the Masons.

The slogan in the panel on the left says “honesty, kindness, respect, compassion, tolerance, benevolence, family.” Those five things in the middle are mighty close to the same thing, aren’t they? According to their English website, “Members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.” Huh. Since when?

I mean, “secret handshake” came from these guys.

I did not know this. Wikipedia says, “While the number is not accurately known, it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were killed under the Nazi regime. Masonic concentration camp inmates were graded as political prisoners and wore an inverted red triangle.” But ‘pedia doesn’t say when they stepped out of the shadows.

Anyway, I know all the old societies and clubs are having a hell of a time maintaining any kind of membership. Several of our retired neighbors are Rotarians, whom we’ve had to rebuff (noooo thank yoooo). It’s just weird seeing the Masons hand out flyers.

They better not have jettisoned all that secret symbolic shit, or they’ll be just another boring wasteful charitable organization.

August 4, 2016 — 9:36 pm
Comments: 12

I can’t stop saying Spong


A “Spong mincer” sounds like a particularly unpleasant homosexual. Or a serial killer with a fetish for one very particular body part.

I bought a Spong over the weekend, and it is neither. It’s a mincer, but unlike the one I have already (and the Spong in the picture), it doesn’t clamp to a table edge, it just stands on the surface. Much easier to set up, then clean.

I like to take leftover pork roast or the ass-end of a ham and grind them into ham salad.

Spong was a brand to be reckoned with. Have a look at an eBay search. Mine is a Fifties model in green enamel. But the old black ones with gold accents are really beautiful.

James Osborn Spong was born in 1839. Yes, yes…it’s one of those remarkable Victorian stories. He founded Spong and Co. at the age of 16, and made heaps of domestic shit. The company wasn’t 100% completely wound up until 1985 and the retirement of the last Spong (a great-grandson).

Oddly enough, there isn’t a Wikipedia entry for Spong. Damned Americans. Though ‘pedia informed me that Spong is a surname in multiple Germanic-speaking cultures. In England, it is an archaic term for a narrow strip of land.

The place I found out more about Spong is my gift to you this day: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History.

Grace’s Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 118,799 pages of information and 172,070 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

If you like to read about industrial history — and, let’s face it, who doesn’t? — you’re welcome.

August 3, 2016 — 7:04 pm
Comments: 23

I got to see Jack’s rage-face


Jack got into a cat fight the other night. This is unprecedented as a) Jack’s generally a cheerful, easygoing little chap and b) at the moment, there aren’t any other cats in the neighborhood.

Not counting Charlotte. They fight, or rather ‘fight’ — he gets too close, she hisses and wallops him one. Fight over.

But this was a proper screaming cat set-to. Charlotte was in the house, so we knew it was an intruder of some kind — from the horrible shrieking, possibly a fox. Or a werefox. Or a cat being skinned alive slowly. By a werefox.

But no, it was the typical cat thing: Jack and the stranger were ten feet apart, shouting at each other. The other guy was a big ginger and white fluffy boy. Twice Jack’s size. Don’t know if he’s new in the neighborhood or has come a long distance. He ran off into the hedge and I didn’t think more of it.

Hours passed, though, and we didn’t see Jack. This is highly unusual, so we went looking. Found him under a bush, staring into the gap in the hedge where the stranger fled.

I bent down to speak to him and he flipped his shit, shrieking and hissing and drooling so hard his chin was dripping. I honest to god thought he had rabies or a mortal injury or something.

Then I realized I had shone a flashlight in his eyes, blinding him. He had probably been on a knife edge, waiting for the intruder by the gap for hours, then suddenly blinded. I turned the flashlight onto my face and talked him down, got him into the house. Once he composed himself, he’s been super sweet and needy ever since.

Jack naturally has the crazy-eye — his eyes are slightly asymmetrical, out of focus. Makes him look unsettling. But holy shit I’ve never seen a cat as scary as Jack’s rage-face. For a terrible minute, I was frightened what he might do.

It’s always the little ‘uns.

August 2, 2016 — 6:49 pm
Comments: 16



Huh. Well, tompfrompv wasn’t kidding with the link: chicken glasses were a thing. You can tell from the tone of the article at right that they were always a subject of fun.

They sold millions of them, though, under several patents. One of them had rose-tinted lenses on a hinge, so when the chicken looked down, the lenses swung away and her vision was normal, but when she raised her head the tinted ones fell into place. A complex solution to a simple problem.

Not pecking each other’s eyes out. Jesus. I never heard of such a thing.

Feather pecking and cannibalism. Chickens go a little coocoo at the sight of blood and can peck at a wounded chook, sometimes unto death. These days, you either separate the injured bird until it’s all better again, or you spray an antiseptic on the wound that also hides the color.

As for feather pecking, that’s an odd one. They taught me in Chikken School that feather pecking is never a hostile act, it’s a displacement activity. If a chicken can’t scratch and forage, it’ll peck at the feathers of other chickens instead.

But that’s a problem of big factory flocks in overcrowded barns, and that’s a phenomenon that began in the Fifties. Back when these things were invented — the patent in the article is from 1903 — all chickens were more or less free range. So I dunno.

They fight feather pecking with beak trimming these days. Beaks aren’t quite like toenails; they do have a blood supply and feeling. Some of the methods used in the past to trim beaks were pretty ghastly. These days, at least in Britain, trained chikken technicians swiftly run a laser across the end of their beaks when the birds are quite tiny. This kills the blood vessels, painlessly they think, and the tip of the beak just falls off later. Losing the pointy end is enough to discourage bad beak behavior.

Brits are so soft about animals, I’m happy to say, I really did feel much better about commercial chicken practices after learning more. Even the big cage operations aren’t as awful as you might think from that YouTube your cousin linked you to on FaceBook.

And to expand on my announcement below, Jenny has indeed laid her first egg. And then angrily attacked it. It frightened her. I think it’s a case of this weird object just came out of my bottom and it hurt. None of the little girls like being handled, but she let me pick her up and stroke her for a while after this most upsetting experience.

And then she did it again today. Two days, two eggs. I guess we know who the superstar is going to be.

August 1, 2016 — 8:27 pm
Comments: 11