Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Wilting Mind

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I received my call to be listed during national organ and tissue donor awareness week!!!!!

I'm sure most of you signed up to be donors that week, if you hadn't already, right??

So I'm realizing that I'm definitely losing my mind. Here are 3 recent examples:

1. I am sitting in the wheelchair with Griffin on my lap. My head spins around and I blurt out frantically "Where's Griffin?"

2. I talked to Shay today on the computer (she's 8) and I say, "Why aren't you in school?" It's summer.

3. I have consistently thought throughout the day that it's Sunday. Even though Sunday was only 2 days ago.

I've decided that it's official and I will commence the search for my intelligence. If you find it, I will give you 1 tall blonde with hazelnut and 15 red skittles. 

Today I was reminded of how precious life is. We are all lucky to have lived for as long as we have. We all will be extremely lucky to live another day, another week, another month, etc. Life is too short for regret and hate, too short for what if's and I wish I would have's.

Make sure if you haven't told someone you loved them, do it right now...I'll wait.

If you've been too scared to speak up for yourself, do it. Your coolness will go up a level.

And if you've always dreamed of dressing up like a donkey and running up and down the streets - don't wait. Do it today.

I will not lie. The truth is, I'm not scared of the surgery, but what I am scared of is all the scarey stuff that can happen surrounding lung transplants. I am 98.9% positive that everything will be fine, but there are moments when I think of what can go wrong and of some online blogs/journals I've read that didn't end well. 

And then I remember that I'm invincible and nothing can stop me. I'll unleash my crazy mixed martial arts skills (I learned these in a dream once) and "pound and ground" any bacteria/viruses/other complications standing in my way.

I would expect you to do the same. Here is how:



I tried to clean today without wearing oxygen. The tubing can get in the way and wrap itself around absolutely everything in it's path. Good times. However, as soon as I started I realized there was no way I would accomplish anything without it. For some reason cleaning, breathing like Darth Vader and then my head smashing into the floor doesn't sound like a fun Sunday...ahem...Tuesday.

I'm very good at procrastinating, which is great as it allows me to go at a pathetically slow pace and save lung power. For example, as I was cleaning, I was also talking to my fantastical friend Jackie.

Jacks, do you realize we talked for over an hour??!!

I forgot to tell a park story from yesterday! Holy mother. Okay, so we are all standing around (me sitting) talking, when a man walked up to our group and asked for money. This is not abnormal in Toronto, but what happened next was shocking.

The man was smoking. John asked the man to please move away as I was sitting there with oxygen. Smoking guy grunted and turned away to leave. All of a sudden he turns back and flicks the cigarette in my direction.

I caught on fire, exploded and burned to the ground. Then I magically reappeared with brand new lungs.

That, or Hilda stomped the cigarette out.

I'd like to go with the former.

Tonight:




 =


We're going to go back to the theatre as it's $5 Tuesdays! We really know how to live life on the edge.

Comfrey and Chickens--A Good Idea?

by Meredith Chilson Some years ago, we had a lovely neighbor who could grow anything.  I would take my babies to visit with her, and we would come home with the back of the car filled with cuttings and clippings of various herbs and pots and buckets of perennials.  I think of her every spring when my English violets and white forget-me-nots bloom, and again when I harvest borage, mints and comfrey.  The herb teas steeping beside the fragrant little bouquet sitting on my table bring back special memories and reminders of stories and advice imparted by my old friend.

One summer afternoon I was admiring the beautiful leafy plants growing along my neighbor’s back pasture…many of which she had been pulling up and stuffing in garbage bags for compost.   She told me it was comfrey, “a nuisance, but wonderful for making poultices to treat bruises and sprains”, and “if I had a cow, I could feed the stuff to her.”  I believed I had just the place for a plant, so I was given a tiny piece of root and told to plant it where it could spread—and not to tell anyone where I had gotten it, since she didn’t want to be blamed!  My friend and neighbor is gone now, so I suppose I needn’t keep it a secret, but—the plants that have grown from that first tiny root truly have established themselves in corners of my garden where not much else will grow!

Prickly stems 
Until I began raising chickens, most of my interaction with comfrey was limited to trimming it back in the summer, hauling it out after the autumn frost, and relegating it to the compost pile.  I knew to wear gloves when I worked with it, because the prickly little hairs on the stems made me itch, but I always admired the beautiful large green leaves. After chickens became part of my life, however, and I was on the look out for leafy greens to add to their diet, I remembered my old friend’s comment about using comfrey for cow feed and decided to investigate the possibility of using the herb for the chickens.

I have a wonderful resource book, Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.  Armed with this book and the Internet, I began my research. 

Rodale’s section on comfrey (Symphytum officinale) begins this way:

“Throughout history comfrey has been acclaimed a great healer.  In the last 100 years, it has been seen—in addition—by a few visionaries as a crop to feed the world’s hungry.”

Well, how about that?  At just about the same time, I discovered a that a book had been written in the 1950’s by a man named Lawrence Hills, promoting the use of comfrey: Russian Comfrey: A Hundred Tons an Acre of Stock feed or Compost for Farm, Garden or Smallholding.

Sounds like a terrific idea, right?  Reading further in the Rodale Encyclopedia, however, I found, “….fairly recent scientific studies indicated that comfrey might be carcinogenic, and this herb fell from grace.  Now it stands caught in the crossfire of opposing opinions.”

SUSPECTED CARCINOGEN.  That’s right at the top of the “Comfrey” page.

 I needed to know more, so from the beginning:

Historically since the early Greeks, various healers have used comfrey.  The rhizomes contain a slippery substance that, when heated, becomes sticky and glue like.  Healers felt that teas, poultices or compresses made from this substance ought to help heal broken bones, wounds, even diarrhea.  The large shredded leaves were used in teas and salads; dried and given to pigs and cattle.

leafy greens!
As far as I can tell, comfrey was used in and on animals and humans for hundreds of years.  In the mid-20th century, Lawrence Hills wrote his book, and it seems there was some definite interest in growing large amounts of comfrey for use as livestock feed.  In 1974, Mother Earth News printed two articles explaining the ease of cultivation and the possibilities of use.  And then, at nearly the same time, some research was done on rats that showed a possible connection between eating dried comfrey and development of liver tumors.  The fields of comfrey were left to go wild, and I wasn’t able to find much that has been written recently about the herb. (I wasn’t able to find who did the research, either.)

The substance in question, which comfrey contains, is allantoin. If you look this up, you’ll find that it affects tissue and cell growth.  It is found also in parts of a fetal placenta and in breast milk, and a synthetic allantoin is used in the production of face creams and lotions.  Because of the regenerative properties of comfrey, it can speed healing of wounds and burns, and if you take all this a step further, it would stand to reason that it could accelerate cancerous cell growth as well.

Comfrey has been deemed safe to handle and to use externally.  Internal use is not advised.

Do I want to feed this to my chickens?

 To be honest, I have been feeding comfrey to my chickens.  There’s a large patch of it right near the chicken run, and they often snip off pieces of those leaves.  And, once or twice a summer, I’ve hung a bunch of those nice leaves from a cross arm over the run and let them pick and peck.  I’ve not noticed any adverse effects, but I really don’t know how much comfrey might have caused problems in those rats, or if those lab rats were fed only comfrey.  Any comfrey that my hens have eaten they’ve shared with the whole flock---and they are eating commercial laying feed, too.

Will I continue giving bunches of comfrey to my chickens?

Well…maybe. I wondered if, other than ease of cultivation, there might be some healthful reason farmers had used and recommended comfrey as a livestock feed for so many years. Yes, the leaves are lovely, green and leafy. 

In doing further research, I discovered that dried comfrey is nearly one-quarter crude protein.  It has been used for pigs and poultry because it has less fiber than most grasses.  Lawrence Hill’s book suggests that lower fiber greens, like comfrey, are more easily digested by chickens, and we chicken-farmers know that to be a fact. 

This is still not much of a recommendation for steady feeding of comfrey.  Cabbage also has less fiber than grasses. 


Rather than directly feeding comfrey to my chickens, I intend to feed it to my human family---indirectly. I believe I can do this in a safe, yet healthful way--a way that was also suggested to me by my old gardening friend and neighbor.  Comfrey makes wonderful compost, and I use compost in my gardens to grow lovely, green and leafy vegetables! 

Guess who's back, with an EPL Transfer Update:





Hello and welcome to my first EPL Update in over a week.... Wow. It feels weird, but I MUST continue.


This will be a VERY long update, because a lot has happened over the last 10 days, including the official start of the London 2012 Olympics and some more EPL transfer activity, not to mention lots of football friendly action at the men's Olympic toournament has started.


So, without further ado, let me begin:

Chelsea have confirmed the £25million signing of Sao Paulo midfielder Oscar.

Promising startlet: Brazillian International Oscar has joined Chelsea for £25million.

American club New York Red Bulls have announced the signing of Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, subject to international clearance. 

It's official: Everton midfielder Tim Cahill has moved to New York Red Bulls for an undisclosed fee.
I'm here: Cahill talks the walk out into the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Interesting or what?: Tim Cahill has not ruled out a move back to Everton (on-loan)
Cahill said this on the club website:
'I am very happy to start a new chapter of my career with the New York Red Bulls'
'As we have seen over the past few years, MLS has developed into a very competitive league with many talented players.' 
'I am impressed with what the Red Bulls are trying to accomplish in MLS and within American soccer and I am looking forward to this new challenge. I will do everything I can to help bring New York its first MLS Cup'





Does anyone remember the news article that I had last post about Lens winger Thorgan Hazard?


Well, he has signed for Chelsea now, and will link-up with his brother next season.

It's official: Winger Thorgan Hazard will join Chelsea next season.

He will slide into the U21 squad, and may be loaned out for some first-team experience..


Interesting transfer done deal here: 


QPR have signed Blackburn Rovers winger Junior Holiett after agreeing a four-year contract deal.

Back to the EPL: He will fit into the way QPR play football, and will be their star player next season.



He wants to play EPL football next season, so you cannot blame him for wanting to move from a relegated club Blackburn.
He will be their young gem, and could score a lot of goals next season.

The following video proves that he has a lots of potential in the future and his talent from this video:

EPL Transfer Rumours:
Fulham forward Clint Dempsey has dropped a big hint fore his future, after missing The Cottagers pre-season trip to Switzerland. He has been linked with a move to Liverpool as he looks to play CL football before the end of his career.
Not surpirsing: Clint Dempsey may NOT play for Fulham next season, as he tries to force his way into a CL club.
Newcastle have made a £4milllion bid for FC Twente defender Douglas Texeira.
FC Twente may accept the offer, considering the fact that he only has one year left on his contract and he can leave next season on a free transfer.
England bound, surely? Newcastle have made a £4million bid for FC Twente defender Douglas Texeira (right).
Liverpool have rejected a £13million bid from Manchester City for defender Daniel Agger, who are looking to bolster their defence.
Hard decision: Defender Daniel Agger could be on his way out of Liverpool, to move to City or Barcelona.
Chelsea are ready to sign Wigan winger Victor Moses for £7.5million now after having being rejected twice already. 
Sunderland are looking to replace Asamoah Gyan with a decent striker who can give them a mid-table finish next season. 
They have had a £12million bid rejected from Wolves for Steven Fletcher.
If I was Wolves, I would accept the bid, because for a Championship club £12million is a lot and they want to return to the PL next season. They should be able to replace him anyway.
Liverpool reportedly have made a £12.5million bid for Swansea midfielder Joe Allen.
Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay says that the club are still in the transfer market for a few more signings.
Tottenham are considering a £7million bid for Liverpool's 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling. 
Wanted: 17-year-old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling is wanted by Tottenham Hotspur.
There is just over 2 weeks left until the start of the EPL 2012-13 season begins. It would not be fitting to start the season without a montage of the last, so please watch this 4 minute video to remind you of why this is the best league in the world.  
Everton have completed the signing of Tottenham midfielder Steven Pienaar for £4.5million on a four-year contract deal.
Guess who's back again: Midfielder Steven Pienaar re-joins Everton for his 4th spell at the club.
He will be Everton's talisman along with Nikica Jelavic after the departures of Mikel Arteta and now Tim Cahill in recent seasons.
He joined Spurs 18 months ago, but was not given a chance to shine and only started 5 matches.  Everton signed him up on a season-long loan in January where he scored 4 important goals.  
EPL Poll:  
Goal of the EPL Season:    
A: Papiss Cisse vs Chelsea: B: Fraizer Campbell vs Norwich CityC: Peter Crouch vs Stoke CityD: Robin Van Persie vs E: Stilyan Petrov vs EvertonF: Hatem Ben Arfa vs Bolton       ALL THE GOALS ARE ON THE FOLLOWING VIDEO BELOW:
   
Friendlies and The Olympics: 
Arsenal 0 Manchester City 2, in Beijing - July 27th
Midfielder Yaya Toure and defender Pablo Zabaleta both scored for City as they beat Arsenal by 2 goals to nil. 
Promising start: Midfielder Yaya Toure slots the ball out of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski's reach into the net.
EPL Champions City celebrate Yaya Toure's 45th minute goal to give them a 2-0 lead against Arsenal in China.
Arsenal's brick wall: Defensive midfielder Alex Song prevents Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez from scoring.
Do not be fooled by the scoreline though because:
Arsenal played better football throughout the match, and had all of their youngsters on. Much fitter than City and passed the ball better.
They look very promising for the next season.
Arsenal 2 Kitchee 2, Hong Kong - July 29th
Arsenal continued their pre-season preparations with a 2-2 draw in Hong Kong against Kitchee.
Midfielder Thomas Eisfeld who joined the club for £450,000 in January from Borussia Dortmund equalised with 12 minutes to go of the match.
Forward Theo Walcott who has been subject to transfer speculation also scored for The Gunners.
Make it seem easy: Theo Walcott cooly slots the ball into the net to give Arsenal a goal against Kitchee.
MLS All Stars 3 Chelsea 2, Pennslyvania(USA) - July 25th
Chelsea suffered their first pre-season defeat in their America tour against the MLS All Stars.
Happy faces: Chelsea defender John Terry shakes LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham's hand before the match.
Defender John Terry and Midfielder Frank Lampard both scored for The Blues, but it was not enough for them to win the match. 
Thank you very much: Midfielder Frank Lampard has played over 560 matches for Chelsea.
Notable faces for the All Stars included Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and David Beckham.
Chelsea 0 AC Milan 1, Sun Life Stadium, Miami(USA) - July 28th
Midfielder Urby Emmanuelson scored the only goal of the match for AC Milan as they beat Chelsea 1-0.
Notable faces including Fernando Torres returned to the Chelsea side but were not able to prevent The Blues from losing against the Italian giants.  Manchester United 1 Shangai Shenhua 0, Shangai Stadium - July 25th United continued to send a message to local rivals City that they would challenge to regain their EPL title next season.This time, £17million signing Shinji Kagawa stole all of the headlines against a Chinese club who snapped up both Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba from Chelsea over the past year.
Raring to go: Manchester United winger Shinji Kagawa scores his first goal for the club against Shangai Shenhua.
Golden Boy: Kagawa is mobbed by his team-mates after a great start to his United career.
EPL, Here I come: The Japanese winger could be United's secret weapon in the next few seasons.
He scored the only goal of the match, and fitted in well playing for United. Looks promising for the future, and could even dominate the EPL.Watch this space.
 
London 2012 Men's Football Olympics:
Team GB's Results:
Great Britain 1 Senegal 1 - July 26th at Old Trafford
Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy scored the only goal of the match for Team GB as they drew against African side Senegal.
19-year-old Pape Moussa Konate equalised for Senegal in the 81st minute to give them 1 point.
Great Britain 3 UAE 1 - July 29th at Wembley Stadium
Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge, Swansea winger Scott Sinclair and Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs were all of the scoresheet for Team GB as they cruised to a 3-1 win against United Arab Emirates.
Golden Oldie: Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs heads Team GB into the lead against UAE after 16 minutes.
 FACT: Ryan Giggs has become the oldest football player to score at the Olympics.
Deadlock broken: Ryan Giggs does the trademark fist pump as he celebrates his goal.
'Flying like a Swan': Swansea forward Scott Sinclair celebrates make it 2-1 to Team GB in the 73rd minute.
Recovered: Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge recovered from meningitis to score for Team GB with a delightful chip to make it 3-1.
Other Groups News:
Spain have been knocked out of the Men's Olympics Football Tournament after 2 losses against Honduras and Japan. 
Japan and Brazil and the first two teams to go through to the Quarter-Finals. 
Thank you for reading my EPL Blog.
Please spread the word to your family and friends (who like soccer/football!). 
I truly appreciate all the support from daily views and my followers. If you like what you are reading, then do nto forget to follow me for updates when I post.
I will speak to you all very soon for my next update.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Slice of Life - The Color Run


 Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers.

This past weekend I experienced an event like no other, The Color Run. Some friends and I trekked to Indianapolis to participate in the happiest 5K on the planet.  Since returning home I’ve been thinking a lot about the race, expectations and what I can take away from this experience.

See, another friend had ran the same race the week before in a different city. After she ran we texted back and forth. While she enjoyed it she had been a little disappointed. She went into it thinking she was running a race – she had been training for some time and was eager to improve over her last 5K. Her city’s Color Run was so packed she didn’t run more than 30 seconds at a time until the last mile where she really tried to run the entire thing. (But came to a halt several times as people stopped to take photos on the route.) After talking to my friend I immediately messaged all of my friends running with me. I explained that maybe we should think of this as a giant party and not so much as a race. We shifted our thinking (and some of us were relieved, injuries abounded in our group). We decided to celebrate the weekend as a girls’ weekend and see what happened.

We drove the two-hour drive to Indianapolis on Friday, picking up packets and squeezing in some shopping. One of our friends met us there with her family. They were returning from a family vacation in South Carolina and drove back via Indy so she could join us. We had dinner, caught up, and talked about the race.

Saturday dawned super early. We dressed in our outfits, sparkly skirts were out in force, and made our way to the start line. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people. The race began, and ended, in a beautiful park along a river. We took photos, met other friends of mine from grad school, and made our way to the start line. 

The start of the race took forever! They let off groups at a time and while the race began at 8 am, we didn’t actually start until 8:55. Once we began I was surprised, we were running! Every “K” you went through a color station where people squirted different colors at you. They are a powder that comes out almost like a dust. (No issues with my eyes or breathing, just an FYI.) At the color stations you did slow to a walk but otherwise there was plenty of room to run.

Throughout the race route we were able to run at a normal pace until the last “K” where we went from a road to a sidewalk. There we squeezed in and really had to walk. Wanting to finish, and impressed with my time so far, we moved over to the grass and were able to run the rest of it until the finish line where we kind-of moved like a herd of cattle through the gates.

After the finish the party really began. Our group met up by the stage where the music was playing. Every 20 minutes or so would be a color “toss” and the air would be alive with more color. We took photos, danced, sang, and had a great time. Finally we were blasted by the leaf blowers to get some of the color off and walked back to our hotel for a shower. It was an amazing experience.

So what was different with my friend’s run and ours? How can I use this knowledge in my classroom? Our expectations were different for the run for sure, and mine were lower because of her experience. The group I was with was all on the same page – wanting this to be almost like a huge party. I’m not sure about her group because I didn’t get to talk about that. I think I had a lot more information going in than she did because she had been there first and shared her knowledge. How this can help my students? I need to be upfront with new experiences, make sure we are all on the same page, so that we can be successful. And maybe I’ll toss a little color at them to make learning fun. (I kid, I kid.) Overall, I highly recommend The Color Run. If you’ve ever participated in one, let me know what you thought! 


Real Life Returns


I feel sooo bad. Brad and I went out with our friends Kayla and Jim on Saturday and I was absolutely the worst company in the history of people who are other people's company. I was still pretty out of it, but of course hate staying home doing nothing.

Thankfully Brad talked enough for the two of us so I could sit there in an (elegant, I'm sure) stupor.

We went to the distillery district, as that's one spot we hadn't checked out before. It was pretty cool; lots of interesting shops (but shops that sell jewelry and other stuff for more money than this girl can afford) and just a beautiful place overall.

There were a total of 4 wedding groups taking photos while we were there. Gorgeous dresses. We contemplated throwing ourselves into the pictures, but thought we'd outshine the bride with all of our fantasticness.

I believe a few of you will also enjoy the name of this coffee shop
We spent most of Sunday relaxing, but did hit the movie "Ted". There is an older theatre close by that eagerly swiped up our money. But we showed them - we bought a "combo", thereby saving about $2. Suckers.

Today I had my picc removed. Turns out it wasn't removed due to risk of infection. It was because the financing isn't in place from NS to do home health care. It's all good with me as my arm was starting to hurt. Weird, but true. I've never had a picc hurt before and I've had a quite a few of them. However, they've always gone in the first try. This one took 5 and I can prove it:
Really hawt colouring at this stage
They still hadn't figured out the billing for the vancomycin, so we were told to come back. As we wheeled toward the elevator a fellow wheelchair-ee smiled at me as though she knew me. Since this happens all the time, I didn't think twice and just gave her a huge one back.

I press the button and I hear her ask Brad, "Is she the girl from tv?"

For some reason she thought I was Hèlene Campbell. (I think people often forget that Hèlene is now post-transplant, therefore not requiring oxygen or a wheelchair.)

So I said yes, signed some autographs and will appear on all the major networks tomorrow night for an interview...with some woman named Oprah??

I went back to physio today. I had to do some crazy preparation of my inner self as I knew there would be a lot of green-eyes, otherwise known as envy.

Jealousy is ugly my friends.
I managed to do everything and not pass out or cause any massive disruptions. As you can see from the above photo I really should be in London.

I stumbled across the following celebrity snippets that I have to share:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/q-and-a-everlast-sees-the-ungrateful-living-all-around-him/

and OMG!!!!

Zac Galifianakis TWEETED about Cystic Fibrosis 68 days ago!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was his tweet:

Cystic fibrosis ends lives too soon: http://t.co/GxeuP9f3

It's a link to the US site, but CF affects us all...for some strange reason it doesn't care what country you live in, your skin colour, your religion (if any) nor if you have cool red sneakers.

I will, however, remind you to feel free to visit Canada's CF site @ http://www.cysticfibrosis.ca/en/index.php

& a really informative article on organ donation from Canadian Living: http://www.canadianliving.com/health/prevention/organ_donation_what_you_need_to_know.php

Click on both and I will give you 5 minutes in my sneakers.

A Playground for Chickens

by Jennifer Burcke

Earlier this summer, I shared with you Five Features To Incorporate Into Your Coop.   It was easy for me to decide which features I would be sure to include in the design of a new chicken coop if I ever found myself constructing one.  While I don't have any plans to build a new chicken coop, the memory of our coop building project two years ago is fresh in my mind.  It seems only fair that I would also share an integral component of our original design that was an epic failure.

When we were designing our coop, we had several features that we worked hard to incorporate.  We wanted to use many of the leftover building materials that we had on hand.  We also decided to build a ramp for our hens that would lead to a fully enclosed open air run underneath the coop. 

We had seen several examples of this type of construction.  As we were planning our coop, we pored over photos and diagrams of coops in books, magazines, and online forums like Community Chickens.  We decided that using a stacked design for the chicken run and coop would allow us to maximize the living and playing space for our hens while minimizing the footprint of the space taken away from our vegetable garden.
We went to great lengths to incorporate the first floor run into our coop design.  We designed a ramp that led from the main floor of the chicken coop to the run below.  This element included a pulley system that allowed the ramp to be raised or lowered while standing outside of the coop.   

I decided to fully enclose the run to protect our flock from predators.  While we live in a suburban area, we have plenty of wildlife living near our farm.  In fact, my husband and I came too close for comfort with a fisher cat while out in the garden a few summers ago.  I didn’t have any intention of inviting it back to have a feast of heritage hens in our farmyard.

In order to make our run as predator proof as possible, I spent many hours crouched beneath the coop.  I used galvanized wire to join the strips of hardware cloth that we used to build the run.  I overlapped the pieces of hardware cloth and then used the wire, weaving it in each tiny square to ensure that it was secure.  In the process, I made countless wounds on my hands and ended each work day with more bandages on my fingers than I had started the morning with.

I forged ahead, confident that my hard work and literal blood, sweat, and tears would pay off.  When our chickens happily spent time in their wonderful, safe run I would enjoy the satisfaction of a difficult job well done.  Even after a trip to the emergency room for a gash too big for a bandage, I remained confident that my hard work would be rewarded.

Once the pen was finished, we filled it with six bags of playground sand.  The sand would provide our hens with an opportunity to scratch  and bathe to their heart’s content.  They would also have access to all the grit they could possibly want. I couldn’t wait to see our hens playing in the sand.

Our chicks arrived late that September and finally graduated to coop living in November.  Soon after, a brutally cold New England winter settled in for a long visit.  We made the decision to keep the chicks in the coop during their first winter months living at 1840 Farm.  We worried that they wouldn’t be able to keep warm if the ramp was open and allowing frigid air to enter the coop all day long.

As soon as longer days and warmer spring-like temperatures arrived, we decided to open the run and allow the now juvenile pullets access to their safe and secure run.  It was an exciting moment when I stood outside the coop and carefully lowered the ramp from the coop to the run.  It was memorable for a very important reason:  the chickens refused to go down the ramp into the run.

At first, I made rational excuses for this behavior.  I reasoned that they were unsure of walking down a ramp into an unknown world below the coop.  I thought that allowing them time to familiarize themselves with their new found freedom would help.  I hoped that their natural curiosity would compel them to travel down the ramp to investigate the space below.

Over a period of days, I waited and watched as they refused to use the ramp.  I got desperate and decided to take matters into my own hands.  I have found that our flock is akin to a toddler play group in that I can get them to do almost anything for a handful of dry cereal.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to put this theory to the test.

I carefully showered a handful of dry cereal over the descending ramp.  Some pieces landed on the sand’s surface below.  Others perched along the length of the ramp.  I was sure that this was just the incentive our hens needed to be encouraged to make their way down the ramp.  I stood back and waited for them to begin their trek down the ramp.

It took a few moments of peering over the edge for our Black Australorp to decide that the promise of a food reward was worth the risk.  Hedwig cautiously made her way to the top of the ramp and then slowly walked to the run below, stopping at each piece of cereal to enjoy her reward.  She reached the ground, ate the morsels of cereal awaiting her arrival, and then proceeded to sprint back up the ramp into the coop.

I continued to try and entice our hens to use the ramp and visit the run beneath their coop.  No matter what we tried, they were unwilling to spend any time there.  They weren't intimidated by the new sights and sounds they experienced when they spent a moment in the pen gobbling treats before returning to their coop.  Instead, they were simply  uninterested in expending the effort necessary to visit the outdoors.  They just didn’t seem to understand why they would want to make the journey down the ramp when they were comfortable and content on the main floor of the coop.

Eventually, I gave up on my dream of seeing our hens happily enjoying their safe and secure run underneath our coop.  Then I did the next logical thing:  I decided that they needed a new outdoor space to spend their days in.  Now I just had to figure out what type of pen they would deem worthy of their attention.

While we planned the permanent structure, there was a temporary pen fashioned from a dog run covered in chicken wire.  It worked admirably while we determined what type of run we wanted to build ourselves.  It allowed our hens to enjoy being outside all summer, eating fresh clippings from the garden and Japanese water beetles from the raspberry patch.

While using the temporary run, we repurposed the ramp from inside the coop.  The hens never had a problem using the ramp to go outside.  From the first moment the access door opened, they were ready and willing to walk down the ramp and enter the sunny world awaiting them.  Clearly the ramp hadn't been the issue.

Last fall, we designed and constructed a permanent arched outdoor pen that has made both the chickens and chicken keepers happy.  Ironically, we designed it with the original run in mind.  I was determined that our chickens would use that space at least occasionally.  I hoped that if they had access to the original run that they might decide to make use of the space that we had so carefully planned for them.

It was odd to be using wire cutters to cut a hole in the hardware cloth of the pen that I had worked so hard to fully enclose.  I cut it away and secured the ends from inside the run.  This time, I am glad to say that I did not end up needing bandages or a trip to the emergency room. 

When I had finished, there was a wide open doorway into the pen underneath the coop.  I slid a natural tree branch into the opening to join the new pen with the old.  The branch had been felled by Hurricane Irene, leaving us without power for five full days. 

Using that branch to entice our hens to the original pen seemed like announcing to world that I wasn’t going down without a fight.  I wasn’t willing to give up on our hens using the pen under their coop any more than I was willing to give in to a hurricane.  Somehow, it just felt right.  Now all I could do was stand back and watch our hens to see how they would react.

I didn’t have to wait long.  One by one, the hens hopped up onto the branch and marched directly into the old run.  They immediately began to scratch at the sandy surface and take dust baths in the loose sand.  If I hadn’t witnessed it firsthand, I would have found it hard to believe that they had been so willing to visit the space that they had never shown any interest in before.

Ironically, the sandy pen is now our flock’s favorite place to spend the day.  They spend so much time in there that we have nicknamed it “The Playground” due to its sandbox like construction and their unwillingness to leave even when it’s time to come in for the night.  Sometimes they refuse to exit the playground even when cereal is offered as a reward for returning to the coop.  For our hens, that is the most sincere form of flattery.

I still don’t fully understand why they have had such a change of heart.  It is clear that they were not afraid of the ramp or being outside of their coop.  I guess that they are just more like me than I would care to admit:  they like what they like whether it makes logical sense or not.  Clearly, what they like is having a sandbox that they can play in whenever they want and a run that isn't underneath their coop.

Do you have a story to share about your flock and their unwillingness to use something that you carefully built for them?  I would love to hear all about it in the comments section or on the Community Chickens page on Facebook.

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