Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pecking Order: Our First Flock of Chickens

The sheer number of phrases describing human interaction in chicken terms indicates the closeness and longevity of human domestication of chickens.  Even if you have never seen a live chicken, you surely recognize, and perhaps even use, terms such as “all cooped up,”  “walking on egg shells,” “pecking order,” “cock of the walk,” and even “bird brained.”


The first domesticated chickens evolved from jungle fowl in Southeast Asia.  The earliest dates  vary, according to advocates for one country or another, but at least 2500 BCE.  Surprisingly (to me), it was the fighting roosters, or cocks, that moved the practice of semi-domestication to India, and then, along the silk roads, to the Middle East, and then Rome, decades and even centuries before egg laying hens seemed like a good an idea!


The coop, the run, and the 6 chickens. Predator wire in front
We raised chickens for the first time this summer and loved it.  Their beauty and distinctive personalities made our six chickens fun pets, and their ravenous appetite for weeds, bugs, and garbage rendered them productive and valuable yard workers, as well.  Alas, we experienced with them a tragedy and some other surprises, too.  Below is a short version of our experience and a recommendation to others to consider raising chickens, if your neighborhood allow it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life with and without Plumbing

(I welcome your comments and questions through the "comments" option below any entry. --Laura)

Have you ever thought about how much water you use in a shower, dishwasher load, or washing machine?  What is it like living in a place where you have to think and plan and ration and filter water?  Below is our experience far from electrical and plumbing grids to get water and get ourselves hydrated and clean during Alaska's summer and winter (which offer very different water experiences). 


We don't have a well, so from May through October, we rely on lake water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking.  This involves lowered expectations, high and low technology, patience, and effort. I am now much more respectful of every woman who ventured out on a covered wagon ... or who didn't and ran a home in a fifth floor walk up on Mulberry Street, NYC, as well as many contemporaries around the world who cleverly live without plumbing today.

The first summer the cabin was built, we had sitting and sleeping furniture but not much of a kitchen.  The propane and wood stoves were in place, but the rest of the kitchen was just a plywood counter on top of two saw horses.  Washing dishes (and clothes, and ourselves) was done outside, in  two deep utility sinks on the (uncovered) back porch.  By hefting 8 gallon jugs of cold water and occasional pots of stove heated water into the sink, we got by with rather greasy dishes and hair and laundry.  We drained the gray water down into a pit we filled with rocks and a perforated 55 gallon drum. This got very old, very fast, particularly on cold and rainy days, particularly since I hadn't brought any paper plates that year!