Saturday, October 30, 2010

December 10-12, 1972, Winterland: Grateful Dead/High Country (10)/Sons Of Champlin (11)/Rowan Brothers (12) (opening acts)

The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers, both pillars of late 60s improvisational music, met in Piedmont Park in Atlanta on July 6, 1969. The bands were booked together at the Fillmore East on February 11 and 13-14, 1970, when the Allmans were still unknown enough not to headline, and they had an epic jam on February 11. Even after the tragic death of Duane Allman in a motorcycle accident, the groups remained close, but it was difficult for working bands to play together. Although the Dead and the Allmans managed to guest at each others shows on July 16 and 17, 1972 (Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley at the Dead's Hartford, CT show on July 16, and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir with the Allmans in the Bronx on July 17), they had long dreamed of playing together. Finally, Bill Graham announced the double booking for three nights in Winterland on December 10-12, 1972, and Joel Selvin mentioned it as an upcoming show in his Sunday Lively Arts column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Even at the time, it seemed surprising that the two headline acts would play Winterland together. Both the Dead and the Allmans had headlined Winterland in the past, and both bands were bigger than ever. The Allman Brothers 1971 Live At Fillmore East album was a huge hit, and their current album Eat A Peach was even more popular. The Grateful Dead had released three popular albums in a row (Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and "Skull and Roses"). Their new triple live album Europe '72 was about to be released, and Warner Brothers had high hopes that this too would be a hit. However, the three shows were booked for Sunday through Tuesday, nights when Winterland was usually dark, and when most bands didn't perform, so they were effectively "extra" paydays for both the promoter and the bands. Thus the bands would be free to indulge themselves musically without interfering with any regular activity. The Dead did not have any conflicts on the weekend of December 8-9, but Bill Graham did and the Allman Brothers did as well (see below).

It was not to be. On November 11, 1972, Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accident, and all Allman Brothers activities were put on hold again. For obvious business reasons, the Grateful Dead and Bill Graham kept the booking, and the Dead headlined Winterland by themselves. The Dead had headlined Winterland by themselves before, but never for three nights, and three school nights at that. For whatever reasons, Bill Graham chose to have opening acts all three nights. These shows were the last regular, indoor Grateful Dead shows in the Bay Area for many years that had opening acts (New Year's Eve and the occasional benefit excepted). The choices of the opening acts are actually quite interesting, and its plain that the Dead--and probably mainly Jerry Garcia--chose the acts.

Winterland Background
Winterland, at the corner of Post and Steiner, just two blocks from the original Fillmore (at 1805 Geary), had been used by BGP since 1966 for acts that were too big for the Fillmore or Fillmore West. By late 1971, with the Fillmore West closed, Winterland became Bill Graham's main venue. Most Winterland shows had three acts, like the Fillmore West. However, bands that played a particularly long time, like the Dead, often had only one opening act. Part of the economics of Winterland was that BGP sold a lot of popcorn, soda and beer (in the upstairs bar), so the earlier people came and the longer people stayed, the more profitable the evening was.

The Grateful Dead had headlined a show at Winterland on October 9, 1972, a benefit of sorts for their road crew (so they could buy a house, apparently). The New Riders had apparently opened the show. The band had headlined another benefit on March 5, 1972, supported by The Sons Of Champlin. The Dead had also headlined New Year's Eve 1971/72, supported by The New Riders and Yogi Phlegm (as The Sons Of Champlin were known at the time). They had also headlined a weekend in May 1971, supported by The New Riders, James And The Good Brothers and RJ Fox (the Friday May 28 show was canceled since Garcia was ill, and the Dead ended up playing May 29-30).

Although the Grateful Dead were popular in the Bay Area, they had played so regularly that there was little urgency for tickets. When the Dead played a seated venue, like Berkeley Community Theater, there was tremendous pressure to get good seats, but for general admission venues like Winterland, the shows generally took a while to sell out. That's not to say they didn't sell out, as they mostly did, but tickets would typically be available for many days. Thus three shows on a weeknight was untested territory for both BGP and The Dead. While the three opening acts would have added little to ticket sales, they would have encouraged people to arrive early, and there may have been some concern on BGP's part that the Dead could not have sold out all three nights. As it happened, advance copies of Europe '72 was being played on FM radio stations the week before the show, and all three shows seemed to have sold out. Other than New Years Eve, no opening act ever appeared again with the Grateful Dead at Winterland.

Sunday, December 10, 1972: Grateful Dead/High Country
High Country was a bluegrass band formed in Berkeley in Fall 1968. Leader and mandolinist Butch Waller was an old friend of Garcia's. In the early 1960s Waller and banjoist Herb Pedersen had been in a group called The Westport Singers who played the same folk circuit as Garcia. Later, Waller and Pedersen were in a group called The Pine Valley Boys with David Nelson (there's even a picture).

Bay Area bluegrass was a lonely enterprise in the late 60s, and numerous people went in and out of High Country. David Nelson was at least a part-time member in late 1968 and early 1969, and remarkably enough Jerry Garcia filled in on banjo at least once. A tape from a performance at The Matrix survives, usually dated as February 19, 1969. We know for a fact that this date must be wrong, as the Grateful Dead were playing Fillmore West that night, and I believe the date to be February 24, 25 or 26 (I have discussed the dating of Jerry Garcia and High Country at The Matrix at length elsewhere).

High Country continued to perform, however, and by 1972 they had an album on Raccoon, a Warner Brothers imprint controlled by The Youngbloods. High Country was still a traditional bluegrass band, however, and playing acoustic music for a rowdy Winterland crowd must have been daunting indeed. Of the few comments online about this show, no one seems to recall High Country playing. There's no question in my mind, however, that Butch Waller's friendship with Garcia got the band this high profile gig. In any case, it doesn't seemed to have harmed them, as High Country has stayed together over the decades, playing Berkeley's Freight and Salvage almost every New Year's Eve.

December 11, 1972: Grateful Dead/Sons Of Champlin
The Sons Of Champlin had as long a history performing at the Fillmore and The Avalon as The Grateful Dead. The Sons had released three fine albums on Capitol, and they were widely regarded by fellow musicians as one of the most creative and adept bands. However, little success had come their way, and they broke up in 1970. Later in 1970. they had gotten back together under the name Yogi Phlegm, playing an advanced mixture of fusion jazz and soulful rock. By late 1972 the group had bowed to the obvious and begun calling themselves The Sons Of Champlin again.

The Sons were the Dead's Marin neighbors and peers, even though they lacked the Dead's success. When The Sons had opened for the Dead at Winterland on March 5, 1972, a few members (guitarist Terry Haggerty and bassist David Schallock) had gotten stuck in traffic, and Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh had filled in for some opening blues numbers. This unique occurrence was a clear indicator of The Sons' personal and professional status with the Dead (update: I should add that for much of the 70-72 period, Bill Vitt drummed for both Jerry Garcia and The Sons. I think by December 1972 The Sons had replaced Vitt with Jim Preston, but it was another important musical connection between the groups).

December 12, 1972: Grateful Dead/The Rowan Brothers
Chris and Lorin Rowan were singer/songwriters from Massachusetts, the younger brother of Sea Train guitarist Peter Rowan. The pair had been signed to Columbia Records by Clive Davis, and David Grisman ended up producing their debut album. Among The Rowan Brothers very few early performances had been opening for the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West on July 2, 1971. For that show, Jerry Garcia had played pedal steel guitar and David Grisman had played mandolin, in itself a unique pairing (Bill Kreuzmann had played drums and Bill Wolf had played bass that night). However, Garcia did not perform live with them again as a regular band member, although JGMF points out that Garcia played pedal steel for two numbers when the Rowan Brothers had opened for Hot Tuna and The New Riders the previous month (November 3, 1972).

By late 1972, The Rowan Brothers' debut album had finally been released on Columbia. Columbia was (rather unfortunately) pushing the LP with a qoute from Jerry Garcia where he said, essentially "these guys could be the next Beatles." The quote was taken out of context, and it assured that the Rowan Brothers could never live up to their hype. The album was produced by Bill Wolf and "David Diadem," the name Grisman used for the record (Bill Wolf would be the sound engineer for the "Last Five Nights" at Winterland in October 1974). On stage, the two Rowans wore spangly Nudie-type jackets. John Douglas played drums, while Wolf played bass. Grisman played keyboards, strangely enough, but he came out from behind his organ to play an electric mandolin solo. I suspect few people had any idea that this was the guy who had played on American Beauty.

The night of December 12, 1972 was not only my first Grateful Dead concert, but the first rock concert I had ever gone to. I can thus say with certainty that by 8:00 pm on Tuesday, December 12, The Rowan Brothers were the best rock band I had ever seen. When the Dead came on shortly afterwards, with Garcia and Weir wearing spangly Nudie suits, like C&W stars, I just assumed that all bands did that, since the Rowan Brothers had also. What did I know? Maybe all keyboard players took mandolin solos--I had nothing else to go on.

After these shows, it was clear that the Dead could not only sell out Winterland by themselves on a weeknight, but that the shows were long enough that opening acts did not add to the experience. Certainly the Dead in the 1970s were so overwhelming on stage that it was hard to even remember what had happened before they came on, and I can't say I missed having opening acts. Still, it was interesting to see a unique situation where Garcia and the Dead were apparently asked which of their friends they wanted to invite to open their shows, and to see which old friends were put on the bill.

Appendix: December 8-9 conflicts
I presume the Dead/Allmans Winterland extravaganza was scheduled for December 10-12 because of other weekend conflicts. The Allman Brothers had a whole tour scheduled, and they were booked at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI on Saturday, December 9. In fact, the Allman Brothers played this show, their first without Berry Oakley, replaced by new bassist Lamar Williams. However, it must have simply been too daunting to plan to fly to San Francisco afterwards, so that must be why the Allmans had to back out.

Bill Graham Presents had other shows booked for the weekend at Winterland, as he did almost every weekend. Friday December 8 featured J. Geils Band/Loggins & Messsina/Tranquility, and Saturday December 9 featured Quicksilver. Quicksilver in fact canceled, and I believe Winterland was dark that night--very rare for a Saturday--but I assume it was too late to consider adding another Dead date. Knowing how big the Dead were about to become, it seems obvious that a Saturday night should have been added, but that can hardly have been self-evident at the time.

The Dark Side of a Chicken's Nature

by Meredith Chilson

My feathered ladies appear to be gentle souls. They are wonderful mothers, and to listen to them chat as they settle down for the evening or visit as they investigate garden clippings, one would never suspect that they have a dark side to their nature.

If you’ve been around chickens much, you’ll know that they aren’t always nice to each other. There’s a “pecking order” in a flock, which often truly involves pecking at the “lower” members of the order to make sure they know their place. Chickens will also chase new members of the flock, keep them from feeding until all others have eaten, and I’ve even seen them bump their feathered sisters right off a roost as they are settling in for the night. Worst of all, pecking can become cannibalism.

In my early days of this chicken adventure, I had an enthusiastic young rooster named Gregory Peck. So enthusiastic was Gregory, in fact, that many of my hens lost most of the feathers on their backs. One day, I noticed that two of my hens had deep scratch marks on their sides. These scratches were drawing the attention of all the others in the yard. Attention! Pecking, and tearing and … the two unlucky hens were even pecking at each other and themselves! I separated the two chickens from the others, created a “hospital wing” and tried to heal the wounds.

I resorted to my three favorite choices for information on chickens: books, the Internet and my dad. My “go-to” book is Jay Rossier’s Living With Chickens (Lyons Press, 2002/2004). Rossier mentions several reasons why chickens may pick at each other, but doesn’t give much healing advice. One suggestion from my Internet search was a liquid spray called Hot Pick,” available from Thomas Labs. Hot Pick is a combination of herbs and spices specifically formulated for cannibalism in pet and exotic birds. I ordered a bottle, but by the time it arrived one of my chickens had already succumbed to its wounds. I used it later with one of my Rhode Island Reds, Mavis.

Mavis likes privacy at night. At the top of my nesting boxes, there was a narrow opening, and Mavis scooted in there to sleep. Because the space was so narrow, the feathers on Mavis’ wings scrubbed off, and eventually, one morning, looked like they were brush burned. There must have been some blood, because by afternoon, the other hens were chasing Mavis, picking at her wing and opening up a wound. I used the Hot Pick spray on her wing. I think it may have stung, but it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference in the picking. I put the Hot Pick at the back of the shelf, and listened to my dad’s suggestion!

My dad was a farmer for many years, and he has practical advice for nearly any occasion. His advice for chickens that pick at each other? The same thing he uses for cracked fingers and cattle injuries. I found at my local feed store a small container of Dr. Naylor’s Udder Balm, and smeared it on my hen’s deep scratches (and later on Mavis’ wing). It was greasy and sticky, and had a pungent aroma of … cloves, I think. The hen didn’t seem to mind it, and by morning I could tell that she had not been picking at herself. After a few days, there was definite improvement. The scratches were healing! I left her separated from the others until the wounds were completely healed, and reintroduced her to the flock. Since that time, I have used the udder balm at the first sign of picking.

One other time I noticed this occurring in my flock was in the early spring. My hen house is unheated, and there are a few nights in the winter when the temperature dips way down — sometimes to 15 degrees below zero. My chickens grow fluffy under down that helps keeps them warm, and they tuck their feet under their feathers. Nestled in close to one another on a roost on those frigid nights, they share body heat. Their combs, however, sometimes freeze on the edges. Eventually, the frozen tips thaw and become raw looking. I rub some udder balm on the raw areas as soon as I notice them, and there’s been no picking. The chickens seem to like the personal attention and “comb grooming,” too!

So, this is what I do when my chickens pick at each other, but I really try to learn from my experiences. What could I have done differently? What causes chickens to pick at each other? What can I do to prevent it from happening?

What could I do differently? In the Case of the Enthusiastic Rooster, I tried several things to keep him from hurting the ladies. My Living With Chickens book suggested clipping his nails. I couldn’t quite figure out how to do that. Should I tuck his head under my arm and use the dog’s nail clippers? The Internet suggested “Hen Saver” aprons, which are pieces of heavy-duty fabric with elastic bands that go under the chickens’ wings. I bought several of these (in a variety of colors, in case the hens were fashion conscious). The hens reacted in one of two ways to wearing aprons: They either faced into a corner and held perfectly still for hours, or they jumped. If you can imagine trying to jump out of a shirt when you have no arms, you will appreciate what was happening. Needless to say, the aprons didn’t work. After much thought on my part, Gregory Peck went to live with another family. Problem solved and this case closed.

Mavis’ case was simpler to solve. I blocked the opening, and now she climbs into a nest box at night. She has her privacy and there’s plenty of room. And frozen combs? I’m not going to be able to heat my henhouse, so I’m just going to have to hope that there are not too many cold, cold nights.

What causes chickens to pick? There’s discussion about this, both in books and on the Internet, but I think it’s partly instinct and partly boredom. Chickens are omnivorous: They like a nice bug or an earthworm to go along with their grain and vegetables. I suppose it’s possible that a lack of protein in their diets could cause them to pick at each other, but I tend to think it’s … well, for lack of anything nicer to say … tasty. And chickens are curious. They like to take a peck at bright, shiny colors … like painted toenails peeping out of a sandal in the summer … so why not at a spot of bright red blood on their sister’s tail?

How can picking be prevented? Well, there’s not much that can be done if picking is instinctive … just be vigilant and watch your flock carefully. If picking is also partially caused by boredom, however, I have a few suggestions. Try hanging a cabbage or a stem of overgrown Brussels sprouts from a rafter in your coop. Hang it just high enough that the chickens will have to stretch to reach it. Or, take them the Sunday newspapers. They might not be able to read them, but they will have an afternoon of fun trying to scratch the letters off the paper. I read somewhere that a hay bale maze gives chickens something different to do. If you have enough room (and enough hay bales) make pathways for them to walk down and around. Another suggestion is to hang wind chimes or sun catchers in the coop where the breezes or afternoon sunshine can cause them to shimmer and twirl. I haven’t tried this myself, but I think I might. It would be important to hang them high enough that the chickens wouldn’t be able to reach them. And finally, this time of year my chickens really like a big bag of leaves dumped right in the middle of their yard. They remind me of my kids when they were small: They’ll leap right into the middle of them! It’s an autumn afternoon’s fun.

If you have been around chickens, you may already know that they aren’t always gentle with one another. They can turn on a flock-mate, one that may have roosted next to them the night before, and peck at a small sore until she’s bleeding profusely … and then they’ll peck some more. It’s a fact of the hen yard. It may be instinct, boredom, a combination of the two, or something not yet learned. Watch your flock carefully; remove the victims if necessary, and the culprits if necessary, as well. And, give your chickens something different to do. Prevent the problem before it occurs, and maybe you will never have to be exposed to the Dark Side of Chicken Nature.

Friday, October 29, 2010

November 9-16, 1970 New York: Action House, 46th Street Rock Palace, Fillmore East (November 1970 Itinerary)

(scan of the ad for The Action House in Long Island, from the Village Voice of November 5, 1970)

The Grateful Dead had an East Coast road trip in November 1970 that has captured the imaginations of Deadheads over the years, primarily due to some amazing tapes that have memorialized those events. However, there are a few other shows that have little or no taped evidence that shed some interesting light on the Dead's rising but still shaky professional status at the time. While not unknown, the week of shows from Monday, November 9 through Monday November 16 are largely overlooked events. If only because I have found ads for some of the events (thanks to the fantastic Its All The Streets You Crossed So Long Ago blog about New York rock prosopography), some of these less remembered events deserve a second look.

Itinerary Overview
The Eastern leg of the Dead's Fall 1970 tour was:
Very briefly, fine tapes of the four Stony Brook shows, most of the Capitol shows, the Palestra (Nov 20) and one of the New York City shows (originally circulated as Nov 23 but more likely Nov 16) have circulated widely for many years. This run of shows is memorable for great performances, unexpected material and special guests (Jorma Kaukonen, Steve Winwood and so on). Other blogs analyze the tapes better than me, so I will not dwell on them here. I am interested in the week of November 9-16, and the complex financial dynamics underlying the Grateful Dead's touring at the time.

Grateful Dead Finances
In March 1970, the Grateful Dead had been forced to fire manager Lenny Hart, since he was stealing from them. He had taken something like $155,000 from them, a lot of money back then, effectively bankrupting the band. They had no choice but to tour relentlessly to retire the various debts they had accrued. Amazingly, they had recorded an album that was receiving huge airplay on FM radio, but Workingman's Dead had only been released in June 1970. Although the album was a big success, the nature of the record business was that the band would see little or no money from the record for some time, since it would initially just retire the substantial debts the group had accrued in the previous 3 years of recording for Warner Brothers.

With the help of their new road manager Sam Cutler, the Dead streamlined and normalized their touring, crisscrossing the country in an orderly fashion, trying to work every weekend and as many nights as possible in between. The group was making money on a cash flow basis, but they still had substantial obligations, and thus no choice but to maximize their touring revenue. In 1970, almost all rock concerts had two, three or four acts. One advantage for the Dead for touring with the New Riders of The Purple Sage was that by providing their own opening act, the band could ask for more money. No one had heard of the New Riders, of course, but the main purpose of opening acts was to encourage people to come early so that they would buy popcorn and soda.

As the 1970s and 80s wore on, both Bill Graham and the Grateful Dead were heavily invested in the idea that they had been partners since the early days of the San Francisco underground, but that isn't really borne out by the facts. While I think that the members of the Grateful Dead genuinely liked Bill Graham personally, they did not hesitate to compete with him by opening the Carousel in 1968, and Graham in turn snatched the Carousel away from them to start the Fillmore West (admittedly, it was losing money under the Dead's management). Professionally, the Dead understood that while Graham paid his bands--not true of every promoter--he had a business to run that did not always stand to favor the Grateful Dead. Thus when the Dead obtained bookings from promoters competing with Graham, the band did not hesitate to take them. The Dead always needed the money, and they had few illusions about Graham's willingness to use them to profit himself, if fairly enough.

New York City, Fall 1970
New York City has always been America's live entertainment capital, and of course live rock and roll has been popular in New York since the days of Alan Freed in the 1950s. Nonetheless, when Graham opened the Fillmore East in Greenwich Village in March, 1968, he imported the San Francisco notion that live rock music was Art, just like Jazz, Ballet and the Symphony. The Fillmore East was more like a Broadway theater (in an East Village kind of way) than a dingy dance hall, and it made rock music Serious Business.

By 1970, however, Graham's approach to rock music was the coming industry standard, and well capitalized competitors were coming into the New York market. The Fillmore East was the prestige booking in town, but it was not particularly large, so by 1970 Graham wasn't guaranteed to get every rock band who came to New York. New York's great public transit allowed teenagers from all over the Tri-State Area to come into the Village to see shows at Fillmore East (at least the early show, assuming their parents were compliant or ignorant). However, New York City suburbs themselves were the source of a lot of rock fans, and promoters were starting to see that shows could be promoted in the suburbs, as there was already a huge rock audience there.

Howard Stein's Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York was one of Bill Graham's fiercest competitors. Port Chester is about 35 miles Northeast of Manhattan--about 90 minutes driving in traffic--on the Northeast side of Long Island Sound, right near the Connecticut border. Numerous teenage rock fans who could not or would not be able to come into Greenwich Village, particularly for a late night event, suddenly found major rock acts accessible in Port Chester. The Dead, like many other groups, played both the Capitol and the Fillmore East, but there was overlap in the bookings and Graham and promoter Howard Stein were rivals for the Dead's East Coast appearances.

The Dead's Halloween booking at SUNY Stony Brook was in Long Island, far by road from Manhattan and all but inaccessible to Port Chester. In any case, SUNY students would have been a big part of the Stony Brook audience. In the week between Halloween and the Capitol, Jerry Garcia and probably the rest of the Grateful Dead appear to have flown back to San Francisco for Janis Joplin's wake, and the band probably even played (NRPS may have played a show too). When the Dead returned for the Capitol show on Thursday, November 5, however, they began a brief frenzy of shows that has remained largely unnoticed.

Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY November 5-8, 1970 (Thursday thru Sunday)
The Dead's four night stand at Port Chester has been fairly well analyzed, thanks to some fine audience tapes that have endured, so I will not belabor it here. Suffice to say that instead of playing two shows each night, the band played one long show each night, opened by the New Riders. Port Chester seemed to have little concern about curfew, and the shows were famously long.

The Action House, Island Park, NY: November 9-10, 1970 (Monday and Tuesday)
The Action House shows seem to have been almost under the radar, but they definitely happened. Only some fragmentary tapes survive, some of which appear to from other dates altogether, but advertisements for the show confirm the existence of these two shows.

The Action House, near the Southern shore of Long Island, was essentially a discoteque with live bands, a common 60s configuration. The Action House had played a big role in the 60s rock scene in New York, particularly in the Summers when it would be open most nights of the week. The house band in 1966-67 had been The Pigeons, who became the very successful Vanilla Fudge. As The Fudge moved up the ladder, they were replaced by The Vagrants (from Queens) who featured guitarist Leslie West, who became famous in Mountain (surely you recall the great "Mississippi Queen"?). For a look at some of the interesting acts who played The Action House, see Its All The Streets You Crossed.

The Voice ad listed up top is from November 5, the first day of the Capitol booking, and Island Park (on the Southern shore of Long Island) is a long way from Port Chester. My guess is that the promoter's agreement with the Dead was that the shows would not be publicized until shortly before. This would insure that the Capitol shows would do well with advance sales. Also, the Village Voice ad (up top) only promotes a show on Tuesday, November 10. However, we know from the ad from Deadlists (above) that there were two shows. I have to assume that both shows were always scheduled, and first one (Tuesday Nov 10) and then the other (Monday Nov 9) were added as ticket sales warranted.

In the Fall, I doubt the Action House was open most weeknights. However, it would make business sense if a headline act was willing to play. Although the Dead's motives for playing weeknight gigs are plain--they needed the money--it might seem surprising that the promoters of both the Capitol Theater and the Brooklyn venue would not contractually prevent a weeknight booking in Long Island by their headline act. Of course, those who read widely know that Action House owner Phil Basile appears in (non-fiction) books like Wise Guy (the Nicholas Pileggi book that was the basis for the Ray Liotta/Joe Pesci Goodfellas movie). His business associates were not friendly people, and perhaps Basile had leverage where other promoters did not. In any case, it does seem that the Dead played two nights at a disco in Long Island between weekend engagements, but I'm not aware of a lot of eyewitness accounts.

46th Street Rock Palace, Brooklyn, NY: November 11-14, 1970 (Wednesday thru Sunday)
The 46th Street Rock Palace (at 46th and New Utrecht, near Borough Park) seems to have been a brief but substantial effort to compete directly with the Fillmore East. Brooklyn is accessible via Subway just like the East Village, so it presented a direct threat to Bill Graham. The Capitol Theater in Port Chester encroached on Graham's territory, leaving room enough to co-exist, but a converted movie theater in Brooklyn was a direct assault. However history has been smoothed over, the Dead could hardly have been in Graham's pocket if they signed up to do shows for his biggest potential threat. I can't imagine this went over well with Bill.

A tape only endures from the first night (Wednesday Nov 11). We know surprisingly little about the other nights, besides fragmentary reports of some setlist highlights. The same suspects who attended Fillmore East shows must have seen these shows, but we know almost nothing. Its another sign of how much we depend on surviving tapes, and how skinny are information is without them.

The Armory, Albany, NY: November 15, 1970 (Sunday)
The Grateful Dead and the Buddy Miles Express were booked to play a Sunday night concert in Albany. During the show, a bomb threat was phoned in, and the police cleared the building. The Grateful Dead did not return to the arena, however, and Buddy Miles announced from the stage that the Dead were no longer present, much to the audience dismay. I have written elsewhere about the Dead's curious departure, and the Comment thread has some interesting (if unprovable) speculation.

Fillmore East, New York, NY: November 16, 1970 (Monday)
Given the  competition going on between Bill Graham and his rivals, how did the Grateful Dead come to play the Fillmore East on Monday, November 16? First, it should be noted that the Fillmore East was never open on Mondays. The fact of a Monday night show in itself raises a flag of interest.

The Monday night show appears in no ad or handbill that I am aware of. During the Mothers Of Invention concert at Fillmore East on Saturday, November 14, a very pregnant Grace Slick came on stage and announced that the Dead and the Airplane would be playing Fillmore East on Monday night (the evening was hardly over--John Lennon came out to jam later in the show). Intriguingly, a flyer exists advertising Jefferson Airplane at the 46th Street Rock Palace on Monday, November 16. A careful look at the ad from the Village Voice (from October 15, 1970) shows the odd text "due to circumstances beyond our control, all shows cannot be publicized call theater for listings."

Since the Airplane were booked at Fillmore East on November 25-27, I think that their booking at 46th Street violated their contract with Graham. Graham asserted himself by taking the Airplane back from his competitors. He booked the Dead as well, probably just to show that he still had some pull with them, and knowing they could not turn down a paid gig. As it happened, Grace's pregnancy prevented her from performing, and Hot Tuna took over the Airplane's part of the Fillmore East show. What evidence exists suggests that Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Papa John Creach played with the Dead in the first set.

In the second set, it appears that Steve Winwood and Ramblin Jack Elliott and possibly others (like Will Scarlett) performed with the Dead as well. Traffic was in town to play Fillmore East (starting Wednesday Nov 18), so it made for an amazing night. Although I am no expert on tape provenance, a tape that circulated for years as "Anderson Theater Nov 23" appears to actually have been from Monday November 16 (a mis-dated but fantastic Traffic tape was actually from Nov 18 rather than Nov 23).

The Grateful Dead appear to have played ten out of twelve nights from November 5 through 16, and I think there must be many great memories and insights from those missing days, even if tapes never surface.

Aftermath: November 20-29, 1970
November 20, 1970: The Palestra, Rochester, NY (Friday)
This rightly famous night is well documented, with Jorma Kaukonen sitting in for an entire set, and John Dawson stepping up to sing a song as well.

November 21, 1970: Sargent's Gym, Boston, MA (Saturday)
Ned Lagin sat in with the Dead for the first time this night. Meanwhile, the Allman Brothers were playing the Boston Tea Party across time. Early on the morning of the 22nd, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir drop by WBCN-fm in Boston and play a little acoustic music over the air (the shy Pigpen demurs). Even more strangely, the opener for the Dead and the Riders was a trained Chimpanzee act. Apparently, the poor chimps were very upset with the firecrackers and noise of the rowdy Boston rock crowd.

November 22, 1970: Middlesex Community College, Edison, NJ (Sunday)
This show is unknown save for the date itself. It has always fascinated me. Of course, it fascinated me mainly because I lived in Middlesex County for some time, and I would see signs for the Community College (now County College) on Route 1 or I-95 as I went through Edison, and I would think "the Dead played here in 1970?"

The Dead simply needed money, and adding a modestly paying night in what was probably a Community College gym was worth it, a clear sign of their dire financial situation. If anyone knows anything at all about this show, or would just like to speculate about the Dead in Middlesex in 1970, please Comment.

November 23, 1970: Anderson Theater, New York, NY (Monday)
The Grateful Dead and The New Riders played a Hells Angels party on their last Monday night on the East Coast. The Dead had a Friday show in Chicago, so they would have had to finance their trip to the Midwest, and playing an Angels party was probably fairly lucrative. The Anderson was a former Yiddish Theater in Greenwich Village, not far from the Fillmore East. Whereas the Fillmore East had gotten fixed up and become a rock palace, however, the Anderson was still fairly run down. As such, however, it was easy to rent. The show would not have been advertised, except in the most casual sort of way, so the existing handbills were suitably vague.

The interesting consideration about The Anderson, however, is how our assumptions about the show have been upended. For many years the event was generally known as a "Hells Angels Benefit" (itself a misnomer), and some great tapes circulated of Traffic and the Grateful Dead, with Steve Winwood and others sitting in. It sounded like a fantastic Greenwich Village party, and most knowledgeable heads contemplated the event in their minds as they listened to the tapes.

I'm sure it was an interesting night, but none of the things we imagine were necessarily the case. The Traffic tape that circulates (with Ric Grech on bass--great stuff) was actually from Fillmore East on November 18. The Dead tape was finally determined to be from Fillmore East on November 16. What happened on Monday, November 23? No eyewitness actually seems to know, or recall. Suburban kids wouldn't have come on a Monday night and perhaps a lot of regular Heads took a pass on a Hells Angels party, but the Village Voice did review it (thanks to JGMF for uncovering this). It seems that Traffic didn't play at all, and a mime (Joe McCord?) opened for the Dead and the Riders. Does anyone really know anything else about the November 23 show that isn't misrepresented from some other date (usually Nov 16)?

November 27, 1970: The Syndrome, Chicago, IL (Friday)
The Dead played The Syndrome in Chicago on a Friday night. It seems odd that there the Dead had no Saturday night show booked anywhere. I have to think that some event was canceled.

November 29, 1970: Club Agora, Columbus, OH (Sunday)
There was a Club Agora in Cleveland, so I assume this was an affiliated venue. I don't think the Cleveland venue was that large. This seems like another show that the Dead took on to make Sunday a paying night, perhaps to make up for a canceled show (somewhere) the night before. The surviving tape suggests that it was long, but not a marathon, appropriate for a college town on the last night of Thanksgiving weekend.

Predator Summer

by Sandi Hopper

I live out in the country. I’m talking “country” here as in the closest traffic light is 20 miles away and the electricity is almost as reliable as Christmas mail service. I can see the next door neighbor’s house only through binoculars and animal control has been defined to me by the local law as “if it’s not wearing a collar, it’s a coyote.”

All of our two-legged and four-legged livestock have freedom to roam the farm within reason. They’re a comfort to us, happier themselves, and a delight for visitors. But that also makes predator control more challenging. This was a particularly rough summer for unwanted attentions from the local wildlife. We have had a lot of traffic by hawks, dogs, coyotes, fox, raccoons, snakes, and even a bobcat.

I’ve arrived on my front porch in time to watch foxes run by three times in 45 minutes – from different directions! I’ve watched a hawk drop delicately, not swoop, down to the ground, walk around, and pretend to be just another chicken. Then it waited until the chickens’ backs were turned to make its move. I’ve had raccoons entice young turkeys (not real bright sticks, those turkeys) to come over to a chicken wire fence, then polish them off right there through the wire.


I have learned a couple of diversionary tactics to discourage these unwanted raiding parties. Most effective has been the obvious: inside at night for lights out. Even the ducks have been trained to come in at night. They can play on the pond or roam the pasture all day but they return to a lit building at dark to be closed in ’til morning.

The chickens, when first trained to return to their coops at night usually have to have at least one object lesson before conforming to the regimen. Any chicken found hiding or roosting outside after dark gets carried into their coop by the feet. They’re usually disoriented for a moment and lay on the floor, trying to focus on the bright light and the gathering circle of curious roommates.

Chickens don’t like to be humiliated by their peers and everyone present gets the message as the offender stands up, shakes off, and runs to a dark corner to sulk. By the second or third night, there are no more laggers.

Habitat Camouflaging

Safe zones and avenues of escape are important tools for outsmarting country chicken chasers. Like the field fencing that has smaller openings at the bottom perfect for chickens but a little tight for mammals in a hurry. The chickens an d ducks can scoot through that like little Marines, leaving their pursuers at least slowed down if not all wet from having to ford the creek between the pasture and the subject fence.

Feeding stations, when used outdoors, are always under cover of raised buildings or leafy trees and within reach of our house. Even our large lawn by the house is discreetly dotted with structures, bushes, arbors and such that make views of roaming chickens difficult from the hills around the farm or even from the sky.

For protection from snakes, we clear not only brush but large rocks from the edge of the pond and the popular parts of the creek banks so the chickens have a better chance of avoiding danger. The chickens choose the cleared spots to travel to water and the snakes tend to seek out rockier and less busy parts of the waterways to sun themselves.

Mixing the Species

My favorite means of protecting our poultry from marauders is by keeping the birds amidst and comfortable with our other larger animals. Predators depend on stealth and anonymity.

Fox will readily hunt by day but they’re not excited to mix with cows or goats. Our mule has an aversion to anything canine (except our own dogs) and will go after trespassers in a flash. And her pasture is between the chickens and the woods.

Speaking of dogs, our two labs enjoy the pond almost as much as o ur ducks. So when the ducks head over th ere, the dogs usually go with. What predator w o uld chance getting in the middle of that? Our cats patrol the backyard and can often be seen dust bathing with the chickens.

Even the guineas have saved many chickens right from the mouths of foxes by emitting their shrill alarms. When they go off, house doors start slamming and birds of every size dive under bushes.

None of this is foolproof and we have had losses occasionally. But every loss has given us new information with which we can better protect the population. And everyone is so much happier with more freedom. Who knew?

Save Lewisham's libraries march

If you want to get your marching feet in practice ready for the evening's parade in Deptford, there is a cheerful event with a very serious message taking place from Crofton Park to Lewisham on Saturday lunchtime. Click on the picture for more details.

Deptford carnival procession Saturday 30th

This Saturday sees the MADCAP MARCH OF MAYHEM AND  MISCHIEF - described as 'an inter-cultural, end of summer extravaganza bringing together the work of local schools, artists, volunteers, dancers, makers and shakers in a frenzy of glitter, sparkles and a smidgen of approaching winter darkness....'

The march, which is organised by the Madcap Coalition, will start at the Albany at 6pm and will travel via Ferranti Park to the Laban Centre where there will be 'music, games, fire, food and much more!'

It should certainly be a colourful event - volunteers have been working on costumes for weeks and there will be musicians, banners, flags and so on.

Paddy Power licence granted

Depressingly predictably the council's licensing committee this week granted a gaming licence for the John Evelyn pub for Paddy Power.

Despite the very vocal objections of local businesses and residents, as well as the blatant over-saturation of Deptford by such establishments, the council found no grounds on which to reject the application.

With the Halifax due to vacate its premises in the next couple of weeks, I shudder at the thought of the possibilities this raises.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buy Chickens, Not Prozac: Can Technology Bring us Back to a Simpler Time?

by Jennifer Sartell

Hi there, my name is Jennifer Sartell and it is a pleasure to begin this new adventure in blog writing for Community Cluckers. My husband, Zach, and I run a small hobby farm where we raise Angora Goats, Angora Rabbits and, of course, chickens. We call it Iron Oak Farm. "Iron" because Zach is a blacksmith and "Oak" because we live in the woods of Oakland County, Michigan, where the dominant tree is the oak.

I wanted to start this post by telling you a little about how we approach this world of chicken raising. Perhaps there’s no better way for you to get to know us, than through a story that in a sense, explains where we’re coming from and why we raise chickens.

Zach and I visited Greenfield Village this past summer. It is an amazing historic attraction in Michigan, our home state. They have live demonstrations like blacksmithing, glass blowing, weaving, etc. There are small working farms with sheep, horses and of course my favorite, chickens. It is a glimpse into this country’s past and helps us to see where we’ve come from, and reflect on where we are going. To a couple like us, with a standing motto of “live simple,” this small wonderland brings you back in time where the romantic, “Laura Ingalls” side of me longs to have lived (the more logical side appreciates modern conveniences like indoor plumbing).

We wandered into the Thomas Edison building, where a man in historic clothing explained the wonders behind Edison’s discoveries and inventions. I was enjoying the demonstration when an ironic thing happened. I looked to the left of me to see a small boy holding the latest hand-held video game. This young man was miles away from the small clapboard building where the light bulb was invented. The curator who explained the inventions of Thomas Edison was no doubt a faint mumbling, resembling the muffled voice of the teacher in Charlie Brown. This boy was more interested in collecting pixilated coins and getting to the next level in his game than learning the very source as to where the invention of games like he was holding came from.

I tell you this story not as a tragic commentary on today’s parenting skills, but to bring up an issue that I struggle with everyday; where does technology fit into a simple life? This question is at the heart of the very reason why I raise chickens.

I’m not the only one who is trying to choose a side in this lucrative argument. There is much discussion nowadays, which leads me to think about where we are headed as a society. In a world where technology is moving forward at lightning speed and everyone is racing to get the next best device that makes an already fast-paced world even faster, I feel as though I am tripping over my own feet to catch up. As the speed and convenience of technology becomes available to us, it also becomes expected and ingrained in our daily lives. We’ve been taught that we can’t live without it. Juxtaposing this, we also have a giant movement that is taking people back to simpler times. There are community gardens sprouting up everywhere, co-op farming, farmers markets, whole foods movements, and home schooling is on the rise. “Nationally, the United States Department of Education says the number has swelled to more than a million kids,” according to

Among these movements is the backyard chicken movement. I’ve witnessed this increase firsthand. When I first got chickens about 15 years ago, I would tell people and they would look at me like I had a third eye coming out of my forehead. “Chickens? Like REAL chickens?” But it’s come a long way, just this past spring, six of our close friends happily added flocks of backyard chickens to their family.

So how does this all flush out? How can we be moving forward and backward at the same time? I look to my husband as a person who encompasses this entire argument in a single being. He is irony at its best! By day he is an IT Provisioning Analyst, by night, a blacksmith, and not just any blacksmith, but one who dresses in turn-of-the-century clothing and gives demonstrations with his “pioneering wife” (that would be me), bonnet and all. We’ve had people approach us and ask if we are Amish. I have to admit that it’s sort of satisfying that our attempt to be authentic is well received, but I can’t help feeling a little bit guilty. You see, I have a secret. It’s called the Internet. Where did I get my “bonny bonnet”? It sure as heck wasn’t Walmart. I found a website that sells pioneering clothing. Where did Zach buy his antique drill press? Craigslist. How did we learn how to shear our Angora Goats? YouTube. And it doesn’t end there.

I’ve raised chickens with and without the Internet, and let me tell you, I’m sure that our current flock is very happy that we have a computer. Raising chickens, though it’s gaining recognition, isn’t exactly common yet, and the physical literature that goes along with this venture is far and few between. I’ve had chickens since I was about 15. I was not raised on a farm, or in a farming community for that matter, I wasn’t in 4-H, my parents were not farmers. In fact, sometimes I think they think I’m the mailman’s child. I grew up in the woods, the scattered remnant acres of dense old growth deciduous forest, where it’s hard to get a blade of grass to grow, let alone rows of corn. My fascination with chickens came from the books I read as a child, and I took this fascination one step further one day when my dad and I went to the local feed store to get bird seed and they just happened to have a bin of broilers for sale. I begged and pleaded, and whined and with MUCH hesitation my dad let me get 4 chicks. The only advice we got from the shopkeeper was, “Don’t feed them too much, because they’ll outgrow their legs.” Hmm ... ok ...very helpful.

The excitement I felt that day is not any different from the excitement I get now when I bring chicks home, or even better, when we hatch them ourselves. I pictured myself rising each morning to the rooster’s crow, gathering eggs in an egg basket and the joy that comes in the everyday care of these quaint little creatures. But oh, the things I’ve learned!

My first flock was raised on corn. Corn because that’s what my dad said he thought they ate, and there was no one to tell me different. Once they feathered over, we kept them in an empty dog kennel. They lived three nights before a weasel crawled through the cyclone fence and with harsh realization, we suddenly understood why “chicken wire” was so aptly named. Over the summer we built a respectable coop and using the phone book (you remember the phone book, right?) I had found a small store close by that got in all sorts of different types of chickens. At this point, I didn’t even know there were different types of chickens. We were informed that there was, in fact, a “chicken food” called crumbles and that the list of chicken breeds seemed endless. We picked up an assortment of chicks, Polish, Silkies and a Bantam rooster that ended up being a Mille Fleur. I set it in my head that I was going to do right by these chickens. Collect as much knowledge as I could and have the happiest flock around. Granted, at the time, I had the only flock around, but nevertheless ... I went to our local library only to find that most of the chicken raising books were from the late 1960s and were more or less conversion charts that explained the costs of feed to meat production, not exactly what I was looking for.

It was right about this time when the Internet started rolling through households. We’ve always been a little behind on the technology wagon anyway, but in due time, we signed up for dial-up and the world of chicken raising opened up for me. I could suddenly look up breeds and colors, feed suggestions, symptoms and cures, disease prevention, the information was endless.

Mille Fleur
As I’ve gotten older and more knowledgeable I feel bad for the first trial and error flocks of chickens I raised. I’ve realized SO many things I did wrong. Needless to say, the information that I gathered before we had the Internet crawled along. For a stamp collector, maybe that’s not such an issue, but to someone who “collects” live animals, the information on the web is priceless not only for the reassurance and pleasure of the farmer, but for the well-being of the animal. We are blessed to have the technology at our fingertips even if we use it to do “simpler time” things. My husband and I raise chickens. It is not just a hobby, it is a way of life. It brings us simple pleasures. There is nothing more relaxing than listening to the quiet cooing of our pair of bantam cochins. Or the joy it brings when one of our chickens finds that special something, whether it be a bit of leaf, a moth, or an acorn cap and runs around with it in its mouth with a trail of chickens behind trying to find out what they’ve found. Talk about “lol”!

Bantam Cochin
The Internet has opened our eyes to so many different aspects of chicken raising, once again it has struck a tone of irony on our own farm. After finding the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website, we’ve been changing our focus and concentrating on raising some of the Heritage Breeds. The Internet opened our eyes to these rare breeds of “old tyme” chickens and without the advancements in technology, we wouldn’t have known that there was a need to step back and re-look at these diminishing breeds.

So, does it annoy me that they’ve installed televisions at gas pumps so that we can be entertained in the five minutes it takes to pump a tank-full of gas? Yes. But maybe this is a small hurdle in the process of turning our lives for the better. Maybe the lighting speed that technology is moving is transporting us, in a sense, back in time. Anyway you look at it, there is a balance that must be struck. Moderation is the key. If you're considering getting a flock of your own, chickens are amazingly simple and easy to care for, but it’s important that you know what you’re doing. There is so much to learn about these fascinating little birds. And much pleasure to have from raising them. We are blessed to live in a time where technology gives us the freedom to choose, and the knowledge to bring hobbyists together and learn from each other and how to do best by our animals.

Visit Jennifer Sartell's website at Iron Oak Farm.


by Candice

There's been an unsettling mystery here at Blue Feather Hollow for the past week. Our turkeys 7 adults, 7 "teenagers" (just over 2 months old), and the 9 new poults with Mama Swan (yes, we have a turkey named Swan a story for another day) reside in a two-story shed with a front room, where the adults hang out and a back room sectioned off: part for Mama Swan and her poults, and the other for the "teens" (who have proven to be a rowdy bunch).

We've had marauders days in a row, I would go out in late morning or early afternoon and find the front room of the barn trashed! The first time I walked in and found the mess, my heart dropped right to my feet and lay there quivering in terror. The gate that separated the front from the back of the barn was upended, and the doorway was wide open. Not my babies! Where were my new babies? Where were the teens! I burst through the door to find Mama Swan was settled nicely in her spot, and tiny faces popped up from various spots beneath her wings. Whew she looked totally calm. But ... the teens were gone!

Out the door and into the yard and pasture, giving my "I've got a treat for you" call, I had grown turkeys and layers surrounding me in a few seconds. No teens. I started looking, followed by a number of disappointed poultry clucking, "Where's the treat?"

After several frantic moments, I found them, wandering around, exploring the yard, without a care in the world. No one looked injured, no blood ... I took a deep breath and returned to the shed.

Everything was overturned, upended big stuff, like the gate, a 3-gallon waterer, the feeder. A neighborhood dog? We're pretty well fenced here, and after several owners paid increasingly large fines after their pets got into our birds, we haven't had a problem.

The following days, I found much the same the shed a mess, no one injured ... and the feeders were empty. This made my blood run cold. Could we have raccoons out in the daytime? If so, they were much more likely to be rabid or otherwise ill. We became increasingly worried that we were on the brink of disaster, and not a clue what was going on. We put the shotgun on a high, high shelf by the back door and waited.

Our protective Mama, "Swan"
We let Mama Swan and the poults out on a fine sunny afternoon while we were going to be out and about working. That night, when we tried to herd the adult turkeys in for the night, Mama went ballistic! She chased and carried on until we finally got her and her brood safe in their spot and put the gate up. Ahh! It must have been Swan all along maybe she wanted the shed to herself and had caused all the chaos when the adult birds would come in to eat. We decided to move her into another shed the next morning problem solved! Just a case of overprotective motherhood. How sweet!

Next day, Hubby heard a horrible ruckus from the turkey barn and raced up from the pasture - and caught the marauders in the act! The back door slammed and he rushed into the kitchen, slightly out of breath from his race up the hill. "You'll never guess who I just found in the turkey barn."

"Raccoons?" I ventured, then realized he hadn't grabbed the gun.

Wryly smiling, he said, "Nope! Sheep!" Seems our two new ewes decided that turkey feed made a tasty late morning snack. They're new to our place, so they're still a little skittish, and we suspect much of the chaos resulted from them making a quick getaway when the turkeys would return and complain about the thievery.

Our ba-a-a-d ewes!
Since we feed all-natural feeds, the only victim of this crime was my pocketbook. At $26 a hundred pounds, turkey feed comes dear around here. Fortunately, since we now know their "modus operandi," we've put an end to the thievery.

The mystery was solved in quite a sheepish manner. :-)
Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!

Welcome to Blue Feather Hollow

by Candice

Welcome to the window on Blue Feather Hollow, which you could call a number of things (e.g., a hobby farm, an organic farm, a wild idea that got out of hand ...), but never, ever, could you call it boring.

As soon as we moved out of town, Child No. 1 wanted an animal – a horse, to be exact. We thought that might be a bit much for a 9-year-old (not to mention us!), so we compromised, or so we say, on a rabbit. One Angora rabbit, to be exact, by the name of Tinkerbell. Cute little thing, violet eyes, fluffy white fur with gray ears, tail and paws. She went to the fair as a 4-H project and came home with a trophy. Of course, Child No. 1 looked around the fairgrounds and saw LOTS of other animals. ... Meanwhile, Child No. 2 thought the whole thing looked like a lot of fun, and he was a little guy, so we got another rabbit. A darling little Holland Lop named Peter, Peter Pan, of course. He was later nicknamed Houdini, but that's another story.

This was where things began to get interesting. We KNEW rabbits were prolific, but we never expected they could reproduce other species. But sure enough, over the next few years a Jersey heifer appeared, followed closely by hogs, turkeys, sheep, ducks, more Jerseys, geese ... Turned out 4-H animal and broiler chicken sales were a great way to put aside college cash, and so the animals arrived to be loved and/or milked and/or eaten.

We did all this (on 2 1/2 acres!) with a Mother Earth News in one hand and Carla Emery's book open on the counter. Along the way, we were helped out by countless, selfless 4-H people and country folk, who were polite enough not to snicker (at least in our presence) at our absolute ignorance.

As the children went to college and then moved away, so did the animals, until there was just Hubby, Me and the chickens. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't gag down a store egg, so there were always a few layers wandering around. A grandchild arrived, so the garden got larger again to help provide organic food, and a few more hens joined the flock, this time heritage breeds. Since we had heritage chickens, it seemed only natural to have heritage turkeys. ... Recently, the hair sheep, Ewe One and Ewe Two, arrived. Poor Hubby still wonders how all this happened, he never had a CLUE I was a wanna-be farmer when he was dating the bookish girl with long hair who lived on an acre of lawn in a completely modern house!

Our current census consists of Blue Slate turkeys from 3 years to not quite 3 weeks old, a pair of Bourbon Reds that we are hoping will reproduce in the spring, a couple dozen assorted Australorps, Orphingtons and Rhode Island Reds, and a handful of baby Araucana chicks – I've always lusted over those blue eggs! So here we are, 25 years from Tinkerbell, wondering just what kind of fairy dust that bunny sprinkled around these few acres, always amazed, never bored at Blue Feather Hollow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Feather Picking and Pinless Peepers

by Karla T.

I’m sharing my experience here because it took me a while and a lot of worrying before I found this product.  I hope this will be helpful to others in the same predicament.
Chickens will sometimes pluck each other’s feathers out.  There are many theories regarding why chickens do this.  Some of the suggested reasons are not enough protein in their diet, stress, boredom, and cramped quarters.  Apparently some breeds are more likely to pick then others.  In our case we believe the picking was caused by boredom from being cooped up during a very cold winter and the breed of half of our chickens (Rhode Island Red). 
By the time Spring rolled around my chickens were bare!  They had no feathers on their backs, tails or rears.  They looked awful and I felt awful about it.  I tried different remedies that I read about and nothing worked.  Then I heard about Pinless Peepers and I felt that it might be the answer to my problem.
They are basically little blinders that keep a chicken from looking straight ahead.  The chicken can still look down to eat, to the sides, and up to fly to its roost but it doesn’t see the tantalizing chicken feathers right in front of its eyes.  The blinders are made of plastic and attached to the chicken by two small prongs that enter the chicken’s nostrils. 
The Pinless Peepers are available for sale online.  I tried local feed and farm supply stores but was not able to find any in stock.  There are also special pliers available to help attach them.  The pliers were a bit pricey and are not strictly necessary.  Other types of pliers can be purchased for much less that will work as well.  Some people place them without tools but I have not tried that. My husband had some pliers on hand so we were all set.
Application was definitely a two person job.  We went out at night in the hopes that the chickens would be less excitable.  That worked fairly well but since we had to use a flashlight to see, I don’t think the trade off was worth it.  I picked up and held each bird under one arm and held its head with my other hand.  My husband used the special pliers to spread each blinder apart and place it on the bird’s beak.  Then we released the bird and moved on to the next.  Their reaction was fairly mild.  They squawked and shook their heads for a minute then hopped up on their roosts and went back to sleep. 
The best news is that it worked!  The chickens quickly began regrowing their feathers and within about 3 to 4 weeks were fully feathered.  I was hugely relieved and the chickens seemed to enjoy having fluffy butts again. : )
Please leave a comment if you have any questions.  I’ll do my best to answer them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Introduction to Chickens

by Patsy Melton

I love chickens. I didn't know I loved chickens till I cobbled together a dog kennel around a chicken coop given to me by a dear friend (whose daughter had used it for 4-H chicken projects). It took me quite a bit of time to get it ready for chickens. It looked as in the photo below when I finished with it.

First, the pen needed to be topped with chicken wire to protect the birds from flying predators. I stretched chicken wire across and secured it with plastic cable ties. Yeah, I know, they're not gonna last forever. But I tend to be a Scarlett O'Hara – I'll think about that tomorrow. ...

Next, I put a tarp over the back half of the pen because ... the chickens I chose to raise and keep would not go up the little ladder and into the chicken coop. They were hatched and spent their first days in a ground coop and had no idea of how to go upstairs to the bedroom. So I made them nesting boxes out of cardboard and put lots of straw down. They roosted on the ground by perching on the sides of the cardboard boxes. I know, because I took a flashlight and investigated them after dark to see just what they were up to. They spent a month or two like this.

I got my chickens in March of this year. Bear in mind, this hobby is brand new to me. Never done anything like this before. I was really enjoying getting to know my "brood." They were my little sisters of the Convent of St. Patsy. St. Patsy catered to their every need. St. Patsy gave them layer crumbles, cracked corn, fresh greens (well, semi-fresh, at least). Then, it happened. I feed them fresh food and water in the morning before work and then freshen their water again in the afternoon after work. I came home from work and found one of my girls with her head removed. Seems they like to peck at the grass on the other side of the dog kennel fence. A predator (I don't know exactly what) came by and killed her while she was pecking with her head through the fence. I was devastated. I promptly got more chicken wire and more plastic cable ties and went round the kennel, hoping to keep the chicken heads firmly attached to the bodies.

The little sisters needed help. They didn't know they needed help. As the abbess of this convent, I was determined to keep them safe from all harm. Once I got the chicken wire all around the dog kennel, I felt that they were going to be all right. My friend from church gave me another silkie hen to replace the one I lost.

We went along with our routine. The sisters were laying eggs and I had enough to give eggs away to family and friends.

About this time one of the hens started crowing (gasp!). Aha, a rooster has infiltrated the convent. Bless his heart, he was so young, he didn't know how to crow when he came here. That is until he heard the call of another rooster who lives on a neighboring property. When he first started crowing, it sounded like he was strangling and needed a Ricola. He sounded sort of like the duck on the Aflac commercial. He soon had his vocal chords toned and trim, because it is the most shrill, nerve-shattering cockle-doodle-do that ever has been! I knew this particular bird was growing bigger than the others. I should have known this bird was male because he began to develop this red, wrinkled, tumor-like thing on the front of his head. I kept hearing the line from Kindergarten Cop in my head – It's notta tumah!

Silkies, I find, are very nurturing, very mothering hens. They want to set on eggs and hatch them. One day I was pleased to find that one of the hens continued to sit in the nesting box. I figured she was trying to "go broody." I left her alone. She was so focused on hatching the eggs, nothing distracted her – not the crowing rooster, not the other hens pecking and scratching, eating bugs and cackling and talking to each other. I started counting the days – 21 – till the eggs should hatch. Every day I'd check on her. It was like she was frozen in time, in suspended animation, awaiting the arrival of the mothership, er, babyship!

During this period I got no eggs. It seems that all eggs laid went under the little hen. A nice lady on another blog that I follow told me I should have marked the eggs because the silkie would try to hatch all the eggs. Another learning experience, folks. And one egg hatched. A baby chick who with his mother went into the penthouse apartment because he was small enough to go through the chicken wire.

Who knew I would have so much fun keeping a few chickens? What a great pastime. ... I know what people mean when they say they watch "farm TV."

Union Cycle Works

I had heard a tip-off some weeks ago that a new cycle workshop was setting up in one of the arches of the old carriage ramp at the station, but since then nothing.

Happily it seems that Union Cycle Works is now established and on the case, working to give disadvantaged people the skills to turn old bikes into new ones.

East London Lines has got an interview with Jo Harrington about the new venture here.

brooke fraser

here are a few photographs i took of the amazing brooke fraser for her newest album 'flags' and single 'something in the water' (which is now #3 on the australian charts!). we spent a few colourful days exploring l.a and shooting. we went on a road trip to joshua tree, listening to loud music on the way, windows down and eating cookies. when we arrived it was sunburnt desert as far as you could see and howling wind in naked branches.
every time i hear her on the radio i remember the way i felt those days, and i just want to melt back into them.

brooke fraser. styling/makeup by jules sebastian.