Saturday, July 14, 2012

No more chickens

I don't know what I will say to them.  The last few days when I am alone with my thoughts - usually early in the morning when the sun is up, but I know I don't have to be, I imagine what our next conversation will be like.  Sometimes I pretend that Dick and Helen, our neighbors, are apologetic and bring us kringla cookies because they feel bad about making us get rid of our chickens.  Then I am grand and forgiving.  Sometimes I am rude and angry and I swear at them and tell them about my crying children.  Sometimes, in the twilight between awake and asleep, between dream and imagining, we pass in the street and we say nothing to each other and that breaks my heart too.

Tuesday the Huxley City Council asked us to come to their meeting to discuss renewal of our license to have chickens in the city limits.  Two years ago we went to the city and got a special dispensation to have chickens in the city limits on the conditions that all of our neighbors agreed and that we kept the chickens contained.  I went, dreading the meeting.  I knew that our neighbors across the fence were not happy about it because we had let the chickens roam and they went in their yard.  They are our friends, really, and we had talked about it before.  We were third or fourth on the agenda.  The meeting wasn't going well - Mr Quick was angry about the development the city wasted millions of our tax dollars on.  That is another story.  Dick and Helen were both there when I sat down.  I jokingly asked them if they were there to testify against me. They said they weren't there to testify against anyone, but I knew that wasn't true.

When it was our turn, one of the council members asked why this was on the agenda.  The city clerk said that they had received a letter from Dick and Helen complaining about the chickens and that our yearly permission was up.  Most of the council members were skeptical about us getting chickens the first two times I had been there, but we had covered most of their concerns by having a letter signed by all the neighbors agreeing to have chickens, plans for a fancy coop, and a limit on the number of chickens.  I knew how it was going to end once Helen and Dick started talking.  In their defense, they did say they didn't want to be there, but the clerk had asked them to come.  But, they said they didn't think we should have chickens.  The chickens had got out and come in their yard.  Dick and slipped on the crap.  Helen had expensive hostas.  They chickens have digging feet of hosta death.

I tried to defend the chickens.  I admitted that we had let them out in the evenings, which two city council members were visibly upset about.  We had not said earlier that the chickens would roam free.  Sometimes they went along the fence and five months ago, when I was out of town, they had wandered a number of times into the neighbors yard.

Helen called Leila furious and vowed to call the cops.  Leila called me upset and when I got back I went to talk to Helen.  I told Helen then, if she would apologize that I would kill the chickens.  Helen doesn't believe in apologizing.  No, really.  She doesn't. Leila said she was sorry, but Helen told me, that if she, or anyone, is really sorry, then they wouldn't have done it.  If she was sorry, she wouldn't let the chickens out any more.  We had been irresponsible and she wasn't going to stand for it.  I told Helen that it had really upset Leila, not that the chickens had got out, but how Helen had spoke to her, and that I hoped that she would because they had been our friends.  Helen never apologized.  I didn't kill the chickens, and was careful that the chickens never went in their yard.  That was five months ago.

We discussed it for a half hour.  The same council had spent 5 minutes discussing paying an outside firm for a commercial development plan for 20,000 dollars that we didn't have.  It passed. Don't get me started.  A number of compromises were proposed - building a fence for example.  I said I was happy to build a fence.  Again they were skeptical about why would even want to have chickens.  Again I explained that I liked having them for my kids to have chores to do that were real and that I liked the eggs.  They aren't dogs or cats that love you.  But we were still attached to them.  Finally they voted.  It was unanimous against allowing chickens.

So, we could either ignore the rules, which I think are stupid, or we could abide by them.  I mean, what could the council have done if we had ignored them?  Called us in for another meeting?  A fine?  Have the cops come and take our chickens by force? I didn't want to kill the chickens.  I usually am the chicken butcherer.  I am pretty good at stripping the feathers, gutting and cleaning chicken.  I don't like plucking, so I usually skin the chicken and cut off the wingtips that have those little pin feathers.  But, somehow it is different when I want to kill them.  Leila put an add on Craigslist and 20 people called before lunch.  By four they were out on someone's farm.  I guess that means we would abide by the law/rule.  I don't know if that is the honorable thing to do.  When I comforted my crying daughters it felt weak, like I had backed down to a bully.

I still don't know what I will say to my neighbors.  For now, we haven't talked about it.  Maybe we never will.  I don't think I have forgiven them or the council members, but I am not sure what the right thing to do is.  So instead, I lie awake running scenarios in my head, pretending I know what to say and do to make it right and be the person I imagine myself to be.  

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Fourth of July

Barbecuing on the porch fire pit.  Our cow this year was a fatty one, but had some great steaks. Leila caught me testing which steaks were juiciest.   
It was great having a day off of pollinating in the nursery this week for the fourth.  It has been dry here and I was worried about losing the nursery.  Corn does not like to be thirsty while it is pollinating and will abort kernels if it is too dry.  Luckily we got rain Thursday morning and probably saved all of our hard work.  Iowa is not set up for irrigation, 99% of the time the rains come every week or so.  This year has been hot and dry with unusual weather patterns from the northwest instead of pulling Gulf moisture north until it runs into the Jetstream, releasing the rain.

We had a great meal of barbecue, new potatoes, and roasted cherry tomatoes.
I have spent a lot of time pollinating this year.  In the last few years I have spent more time taking notes and in meetings than in the field, but we are short handed and I have a number of special projects that needed some extra attention and so I cancelled my meetings and strapped on my pollinating apron.  I was a little bitter the first week, but it has been really good.  I forgot how much I liked pollinating.  It makes me tired though and quite a few days I have fallen asleep reading stories to the girls.  Early mornings and working outside all day make me very tired.  That and 100 degree days made me want a haircut and a shave.

I did finally "finish" Kate's birthday present - a play refrigerator to go with the play stove.  I still need to paint them.  I am thinking red and white.
Kate is growing quickly, but still is not potty trained.  As you can see she still wears two diapers. 
Colleen looks skeptical, but ate thirds of the roasted tomatoes.  She is my best tomato eater. 
Aleah still beams at everyone and is still losing teeth. She wishes that Emily's friends wanted to play with her more often.
Emily is bored, but has lots of friends that always want her to come play with them.  But she says she is awesome.  She is turning twelve tomorrow!  I think that means she can do more chores since she is so grown up. (She is reading over my shoulder.) 
We have had continual raccoon visits these last few weeks.  There is a mother and four teenage raccoons living near us .  This one is under our porch, but I have seen them under the street in the storm drain more often.  This one I think had rabies.  The neighbor called the cops after it wouldn't get away from his garage in the middle of the day.  The teenager ones have been on the back porch a number of times and I have chased them away with a hoe.  I hit a couple square, but didn't kill them.  Next time. . .