Friday, November 21, 2014


You can try for a smooth sail, for a clean day, a lovely day, a move-forward-with-your-projects day, but in the end, you have to be prepared to step back into the demands of regular old life, which always gives you plenty of mixups and puzzlers and annoying little rigamaroles and whosiewhatsies to deal with.


First thing to note -- bring out the whistles and confetti! We caught another (no.11) mouse! This one is as tubby as they come, leading me to ask if it is maybe a rat. (It's not.) Hurrah! We had had a lull in our captures and I worried that they were all outsmarting us now. Not so. We're still in business.

Then, on the amusing rather than annoying side of things, there was the sudden need to give Ed a haircut. I'd been offering, he'd been declining and I've been secretly happy, as I like the wild long hair that never behaves and that he allowes me sometimes to untangle with my hairbrush. But today, before he left for his techie meetings, he finally asked for a trim and so here he is, trimmed and buffed, at breakfast:


A hurried breakfast, after a hurried trim (you can tell it was very lawn-mowerish in the execution). Hurry, hurry. You can imagine how much I like THAT approach to any day!

Ed then goes off to his day long meeting of the mechanically inclined and I begin my activities with a visit to the cheeper hangout. It's gorgeously sunny and not too cold --  a decent 20F/-7C maybe -- and so they are out of the barn, tentatively surveying the landscape. Not too far from shelter, in case, just in case the heavens come down.

Worrying that perhaps any laid eggs would freeze with a whole series of single digit F lows, Ed came up with the clever idea of weaving a pipe warmer under the wood shavings in the coop. It doesn't emit that much heat and has no dangers associated with it. Indeed, it did raise the temps a few degrees inside. Very clever.

But as I chatted to the cheepers...


...and cleaned their coop, I saw to my great horror that one of the eggs in the roost was destroyed (another was fine). Crashed into smithereens. And truly, I am not imagining it -- Scotch, the layer of said egg (hers are the only brown ones) was to the side of the barn, wailing. I mean, really wailing.

Now, Scotch is our vocal girl. She jabbers and makes sounds and we love this about her! Always has something clever (if indecipherable) to say! But a wail?!

So I pull out the warming band that Ed had installed, fearing that maybe someone (an intruder? or worse -- one of the brood?) mistook this egg for something you should eat, it being nice and warm and special, or maybe they were trying to nuzzle the warm chord and accidentally crunched the egg -- whatever the explanation, my impulse was to take out what had just been put in.

And then I left to do ten days' worth of grocery shopping, which was tremendously expensive and tiresome because I never make a grocery list and I can only think in terms of seven days in advance and we're talking about ten here.

I was very glad to return to the farmette.


Though I can't say that it was smooth sailing thereafter. I went back to my big manuscript to think deeply about the first ten pages. You know the prevailing wisdom: you need to write the perfect first ten to crack and enter the refined world of published authors. So I studied. And considered further repairs.  I changed a comma or two. I have reworked these initial sentences so much over the years that I cannot see beyond the shadows the letters make on the screen before me.

Evening comes. (It always does, doesn't it?) The mouse trap is set again, the cheepers are tucked  in the coop. Supper dishes are put away, a glass of wine still lingers on my computer table. Time to write an Ocean post.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


No, really, I have not become a chicken farmer! (For one thing, that would be one tough job: working 'round the clock to make many chickens happy.) But my visual orbit remains small and without question, the most colorful, playful, indeed social minutes are going to be ones I spend looking in on our foursome.

I am again the one who opens the coop in the morning. (Wait a minute, Ed! Is this becoming a pattern??)


It's cold, but we know how relative it all is out there. 15F/-9C feels a lot friendlier than what's coming tonight, for example.

In any case, the brood steps out and I can tell they, too, feel like the day is going to do them the favor of producing some warmer moments!


Well okay! I like the sunshine too!


It becomes a rather irregular day for us: both Ed and I lose ourselves in our various projects and before you know it, it's after 11 and we have yet to eat breakfast! That is a marker of a good day -- when we are that distracted!


And the afternoon is no different. I revisit not one, but four separate writing projects, all in various stages of completion. I am really full of words all day long.

When the sensor bell rings, announcing someone at the front door, I almost cannot believe my eyes! Two of the hens have made it all the way across our frozen paths, recalling the many happy treats they used to get from me here at the farmhouse in warmer times.

I remind them that it's barely 20F/-7C outside, but they do not seem to mind today. It's the sunshine I tell you!


I usher them back to the barn area, where the others are tentatively poking about.

And they all hang out by the sheep shed and it all seems so retro, so "of another era!"


(I choose not to tell them that tonight will be the coldest yet. Let's just enjoy this afternoon of sunshine and great hope for a better future!)

We are so distracted today, that I put up my hand and select this evening as the one this week when I do not cook dinner. Take out pizza may not sound terrifically exciting to you, but with a homemade salad (we're getting Wisconsin winter spinach now and it is sublime!), it really is a fantastic meal. And a good cap to a full day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

in its grip

The Arctic blast continues its grip on our state. I know the rest of the country is suffering as well, but I just want to note that yesterday, the lowest reported temperatures in the continental US were in Wisconsin. I feel this gives me credibility here, on Ocean as I continue to take note of the cold.

There was a two part reprieve today: first, in the morning, we climbed, for a precious few hours, right into the twenties F. Who would have thought just a few weeks ago that this would be cause for celebration?! We always want to do just a little better than where we are right now and our "right now" is so poor that any incremental upswing is going to be well regarded.

And so when I went to let the cheepers out, I felt like winter was my friend again.

Breakfast was joyful, but then it always is that.


And shortly after, we got our second pleasant surprise -- a set of hours with sunshine.


Enough to bring the cheepers out again. Well, only the hens. Oreo was not cool with the  fact that the barn roof kept dripping chunks of snow and water onto the path right by the entrance.


I think Ed and I will have to come up with something clever to keep the snows from sliding off right on top of a cheeper when the storms pile heavier stuff onto the barn roof.

There is never a dull moment with cheepers.

My work progresses. These November days offer a last taste of a very gentle period in my life and though it leads to Ocean posts that seem a bit like a stream of water, slowly meandering along an ever flat landscape, I can't help loving the pace. By contrast, December will be a blur, January -- full of novelty. But right now, I am the small leaf floating with the current of that stream and everything, even the humble views before me, of emptied fields and naked trees are sheer magic.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

the way things work

It was a brutal night. The temps hit the single digits (that would be minus teens in Celsius). I imagined frozen chicken thighs and wings in the coop and I nudged Ed several times at night to remind him that it was probably a really tough night for our cheepers. (We go back and forth on whether to get them a small radiant heating unit. I think we'll break down if this January repeats last year's cycle of bitter cold.)

The sun broke the horizon just after 7 a.m. and I volunteered to free the birds.



For once they were not clamoring by the door. No wonder. Their bodies generate good heat when they are up in the roost together. The three girls upped the thermometer there by ten degrees -- all the way to a nearly tropical 19 F/-7C for the night.

But, they came down slowly and once again I felt grateful that Ed hadn't ripped the crumbling barn out the year he moved to the farmette. The cheepers are fairly protected from the wind in nooks and corners of the old structure.

Breakfast is utterly brilliant. It's always so sublime to have sunshine on your table on a cold winter's day!


And then I sit down (figure of speech there -- I actually stand at my stand-up addition to the table) to take stock. I have very many projects that are just getting hatched and of course that is both exciting and energizing, but the way things work in these fields where there are many players and few of them with satisfactory outcomes (I'm thinking: writers, or very serious amateur photographers) is that you can leave too much of it to the stars and before you know it, you're sitting on your hands and puzzling over why nothing came of any of them.

What to do?

My first response nearly always is to get organized. To set up record keeping for future tax issues that will surely emerge whether or not I make a single other dollar with this stuff. To clean out my Word files (I know, so "important," right? Like cleaning your desk when you're a kid -- it makes you feel like you accomplished something even as you've accomplished nothing at all). And finally to organize in my head what the next steps should be.

Subject to change.

Of course.

I then sit down and write a draft of a children's story just because I have never done that before and I wanted to see what it would be like.

(Admission: great fun!)

And by now it's afternoon and it is still beastly cold, though the thermometer says something inspiring like 15F/-9C and I look up from the kitchen table (you surely don't think I use the standing desk all day long?!) and what do I see? A red comb way in the distance! A cheeper is standing in the barn doorway!

I'm out like a flash. With bread bits and seeds in my hand and a big grin on my face, like a mom who is happy that her kids are finally getting some Vitamin D from the winter sun (I doubt the cheepers get or need vitamin D from the sun, but you see my point).

I chat them up and slowly, tentatively, they all try to step out for a bit, one clawed foot at a time.



But only Butter has the utter audacity to strut all the way to the sheep shed door. I fling it open and ask Ed -- do you have anything, anything to give her for her efforts? 
Just cat food...
Forget it. Let me tell you right now that there isn't a cat food on the market that doesn't have some bits of chicken in it.


For a minute, Butter felt the warm air coming from the sheep shed, but then she recalled her loyalties and trudged back to the barn.

It was good to see them all enjoy a touch of sunshine! The farmette land will be theirs again, I can see spring already on their horizon!

Though the way things work with this polar vortex is that we have another bitter night ahead of us. Even as I know our cheepers will survive. They've got it in them! I can tell!

Monday, November 17, 2014


Ocean readers are an endless source of clever ideas and this morning I woke up to another one, coming at me all the way from Australia.

And so early in the day, I go out for just a breath of crispy cold air...


(some birds appear not to mind the snow that much)

... bracing enough to make me just so happy to be sitting down to a warm breakfast,


... and we talk about the chickens and how damn cold it must be in the barn (our outdoor thermometer is registering 10 F, or -12 C). We listen to the winds pick up outside and instinctively, I button up my super warm sweater -- maybe you knitting buffs will remember it? Purchased in June, on the Isle of Islay. Here it is:


... and after tidying up (can you work surrounded by clutter? I cannot), I sit down and explore a website suggested by a commenter --, where selling your art is easy breezy. Well, perhaps not that breezy. It takes me many hours to understand my photo editing software (Lightroom5) enough to be able to export stuff to another website and then more hours to understand the little details of how redbubble works. But I did it. With only a little bit of help from YouTube and Ed. You can find me there by typing in my name.

I have to say, I am not a masterful photographer. I say this in my profile on that redbubble website: I am merely a very serious amateur. There was a time when Ed urged me to sell an occasional photo and if you go back far enough on Ocean, you'll see remaining tags on photos -- tags that right now lead to nowhere, but once led to my old website where I did make a good effort to sell pictures. And I did sell a few, every now and then, but when you do anything every now and then, you just don't get very good at it and after a while, the effort was so huge and the gain so small that I closed shop.

If I'm back in business again, it's only because I no longer have to be involved in the sale itself. And you should know that I'm not really looking to make money off of anything that I do here (Ed, quit cringing -- I am who I am). It's a question of having a presence and frankly, it's the backdrop to what I really love most of all -- writing. My photos help my writing on a daily basis and I hope will keep on doing that in years to come. And in the meantime, if you do want anything (for whatever whimsical reason) that appears here on Ocean, send me an email and with one click, I can fly it off to redbubble and they'll take over the transacting of it.

In the meantime, you should know that I did pick out what I think are the best 13 cheeper photos (or at least they're my favorites) and I put them into a calendar form. Here's a sample page:


Purchase it, or simply enjoy looking at the whole thing here. (I also posted 15 individual photos of cheepers which people can purchase in a number of clever and somewhat goofy shapes, sizes, forms, etc.)

In other news, I have a mouse update for you: the masterfully constructed appendage to the trap flew off as Ed carried it (after a release) on his motorcycle and so for the time being, we are without a effective trap. But, we do have an old, unmodified one. Last night we loaded it and then went upstairs to bed and immediately heard mouse noises from below. Ed ran down, but it was too late. He told me the mouse had gone inside and eaten the treat and left. He reloaded it for God knows what reason. We must be wanting to feed the entire local mouse family, down to the most distant relative.

This morning, Ed went down at dawn to release the cheepers and of course, found the trap to be  again missing the cracker. With no mouse inside.

Later, when I finally toddle down to breakfast, I look halfheartedly at the trap and lo! There is a mouse! Call her Ms. Clueless. Why enter an empty trap? Or is it that she felt bad that she had gone in, eaten the treats and not paid her dues? Sort of like the guy who turns himself in for a crime, even as the police can't quite catch him?

So, we have mouse number 10, bravely released by Ed, off his motorcycle again. How anyone can ride 55 mph in an open motorcycle in this weather is beyond me. Ed and I are very different.

Late in the afternoon, I walk over to the barn...


... to visit with the cheepers. There is a band of sunlight pushing in through the narrow doorway and they are huddled in it, looking out as if so wanting to venture forth but not daring to do so. I sprinkle seeds and pour some more hot water into their bowl and say comforting words.


And I thank them for "A Year of Chickens." It's their images that I played with all morning long and I'm hoping they will make it to at least one home of someone who will find beauty in their quirky cheeperish manners and habits.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

not there

So that's it? No more chickens running to the farmhouse door, in the hope of getting me to come out and sprinkle a few seeds outside? No line of cheepers parading by the porch, heading toward the great lilac where, eventually, all four will plomp down and rest? And no more sensor chimes ringing again and again to tell us they're there, waiting for us?

Wow. I miss them. A lot.

Why this sudden disappearance? One reason and one reason only: we woke up to snow. Not even a deep one -- I'd guess two inches.


I go out to let the cheepers out and they are there, waiting, patiently and I open their latched door and out they go-- into the depth of the old barn.


And they do not come out the whole day long.

(this is as close to the outside as any of them will get today)

(even though at one point, we had a few rays of sunshine -- a cardinal takes advantage of it!)

The literature tells us that as long as they have things to do, space to move in (so they don't destroy each other out of boredom), they should be left alone. None of this enticement to come out and play in the snow. They don't like it and they don't need it.

I did go to them with the seeds and they were happy to get them, but they did not follow me out afterwards. Had I stayed in the farmhouse, I would have had, for the first time,  a day without a single cheeper crossing my field of vision.

And so I have to wonder -- will they not come out for the entire winter? Sigh... The farmette landscape is bleak without them.

Perhaps for this reason (and for other more practical ones too), I spent the entire day organizing cheeper photos and farmette photos for the year. 100 in each file, to use later on in any number of ways, as various projects demand.

And the only clever addition to this Sunday was the evening dinner with my daughter and her husband.


Outside, the temps plummeted, but the comfort food (gnocchi) was comforting and the lights twinkled on the porch and for a few minutes I could forget about how cold it must be in the barn and, too, in the chicken coop.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

grit and determination


How stubborn are you in chasing down something you really want?

I'm sitting at the farmhouse kitchen table and thinking about how different we are in going after things that matter. Ed is insanely patient. I put my entire being into something, but if it looks like it's a no go, I jump off and find another path. Isie boy has a little of both: he will sit and watch me cook, eying my every move, waiting for me to bend down and deliver a morsel, but if I continue to ignore him, he'll meow incessantly until someone gives in. If that doesn't work -- forget it. He'll go upstairs and sleep off his effort.

Then there is the farmhouse mouse.

After a brilliant week of capture (eight mice in as many days, released very far, so there is no chance that they would find their way back), we hit on a mouse who's smarter than the trap.

At first, she is caught, but she bounces around inside the plastic box until the trap flips to the side and door swings open.

The next night, after we put a book on top to hold it down, she manages to stretch herself to get the peanut butter cracker without slamming the plastic door behind.

Then, the night after, when I push the treat all the way to the back, she becomes cautiously deliberative. One night, she licks the initial bait at the entrance -- a dab of the peanut butter -- and goes away. Retrieving the big fish is not worth her risk.

But in the end, the nights are cold and that cracker is just too much richness to pass by, so she goes after it. The door swings shut. Is it the end? Oh, not at all. She spends the night chewing the bottom of the plastic flap - just enough so that she can swing it back open. Maybe with her paw, maybe with her snout. And she gets out.

Ed is so intrigued by her cleverness that he wants to set up my camera on a time release, so that we can catch her in the act. I convince him that a shot every 15 seconds (all night long) will do no good. We'd likely miss the moment of cleverness. Besides, we would need to purchase an app for the camera. At ten bucks, it would be five times the cost of a new trap.

But what good is a new trap anyway? Ed argues that it would only take her a day to figure the next "fool proof" gizmo out. And so he sets out to redesign the one we have, the one with the chewed off bottom where she inserted her paw (snout?) to swing it open.

He puts a piece of putty and a magnet on the bottom and on the door. Even if she tried to push it open from inside, the magnet would be too much for her.

But the next morning, we find that she had gone in, eaten the cracker and chewed enough of the putty off that she could hurl her body against the door and get it to open. Cracker gone, magnet off, mouse is victorious.

And so after the first blush of success, we have had a week of failure. Eight regular old mice, disposed of, but now we have come across miss Einstein herself. And she keeps winning.

The thing is -- how is it that she keeps coming back for the challenge? I mean, surely at some point we would wear her down?

Well of course, eventually, she does lose. Last night. Ed redesigned the magnet bit so that she could not push it off. This morning, we have a deflated in spirit mouse.

It's a shame to let such talent out into the wilderness, but mice are not good for us nor for the farmhouse.

And so late in the morning, Ed releases our genius mouse and we load the trap again. We're thinking -- she may have prodigious progeny. We may not be done yet...


It was a very cold night. As I looked at the thermometer just before dawn, I noted 12 F (that's -11 C, for all you non Americans).

Because Ed had been up half the night learning camera technology for his (unused in the end) time release set up, I let the poor man sleep and go out myself to release the cheepers. It is a touch early...

(view toward the old barn and Ed's sheep shed) sun yet.


The fields are covered by a beautiful layer of hoar frost.

(looking out the barn door)

The cheepers are ready to roll! Even though again, their orbit is, initially, very small.

I return to the warm farmhouse and get in a little more time under the quilt.


Still, the light eventually draws the cheepers out of the barn and I have to say, I admire them for it. So cold! And a frozen ground cover!

And when they see that the activity today is all in the farmhouse (they can tell if Ed's in the sheep shed working), they come right over, despite the unseasonable blast of frigid air. (Of course, they don't know it's unseasonable. But I find myself apologizing to them anyway, again and again: they do not deserve such an early winter! Surely their down isn't fully formed yet!)

We eat breakfast (with a tiny touch of guilt on my part) in the warm and sunny sun room. Just the three of us.


It is a perfect morning for hot oatmeal!


And the cheepers? They find comfort in the warm water I pour for them just outside. (I'm imagining it's like steamy warm chocolate... it's hard for me not to anthropomorphize...) Did you ever see a chicken drink? She'll tilt her head back to let it go down!


I look at the girls around the water dish. It's almost as if they are gathering to have a morning cup of something together.


I wish I could tell them that in a day or so, this cold air will pass. That would be lying. For now, all we can do is throw their favorite treats at them (like the mouse, they love bits of bread and roasted nuts) and make sure they have unfrozen water. And lots of hay around the coop to keep the drafts away.

Yep, we, like most of the states, are still working our way through the polar vortex! Can you tell that it's snowing outside tonight?


Friday, November 14, 2014


 the law and you, revisited

Yesterday, in my Ocean post, I tested your commitment to a lawful existence. Are you maybe less law abiding than you think? I wrote about common infractions -- such as crossing the street on a red light. Several of you pushed back, claiming that you didn't even go that far: you walked when the little green man told you to walk. One person noted that it may be a cultural thing. People in Japan or Denmark (rather than the the ruggedly individualistic U.S.) have a culture of obeying traffic laws. But I think it hits beyond culture. I'll never forget an early trip  with my girls to New York. Having lived in Madison, their experience with pedestrian traffic signals was minimal. And on trips to Chicago, we always obeyed the signals. Traffic moves swiftly and rather recklessly in that city. Enter Manhattan: do pedestrians ever pay attention to traffic lights there?  I mean, geez, when you're on 54th and 2nd, you can practically see the movement of cars in Chinatown! Nothing is careening down the avenue? Cross! Indeed, if you walk along the avenues and wait for street lights along the cross streets to change, I swear, you're going to hold up the whole rhythm of the city! So, naturally, I crossed. With the girls. On red lights.

They were properly horrified! And they refused to go along! My little girls stood at the street corner, holding hands, waiting for the light, even as hoards of people passed by. Now that's a firm position on obeying the law! (Or maybe they were staging a mini rebellion against mom's know-it-all-ness?)

But I'll take you to another infraction now -- you obedient types out there! If, until the 2003 Supreme Court decision (Lawrence v. Texas), fornication (i.e. sex without or outside of marriage) was illegal in your state, were you, perhaps violating a law there? Because if not, according to the numbers, that puts you in the minority. And so are we back with the position that some laws are best left ignored?

I breathe a sigh of relief. My future stays at (illegal) AirBnBs are secured!

who's who on the Internet

Here's a pattern: I plunge into a new social media forum, then (and only then) I learn the rules. And one rule I learned is that your name is yours to use, from the moment of birth til the day you die -- except when you venture forth into the brave new world of the internet.

True, on Face Book, you can only participate if you use your real name. Are you Judy Schultz in real life? Well then, Judy Schultz you must remain for the purposes of your FB account. I know several people who do not follow this, possibly not having read every last detail of the contract between themselves and Face Book. But most people obey: your real name, or bust.

In blogging, writers are all over the place. Mostly they take on names that match their blog content. A gardening blog might be written by the "wild rose of texas." Parenting of infants may have something like "tired and cranky" as a pen name. My night with a screaming baby. By Tired and Cranky.  When I began blogging in January of 2004, I assumed that I would have to stand behind my words so I chose the very exciting blogger name of Nina Camic. Which happened to be my real name. Creative, no?

In twitter, I again used my real name. I mean, I blog with Nina Camic. I Face Book with Nina Camic. Why would I be different in this forum? But now I'm learning that if you're a nobody, often you play with names there as well. Though "wild rose of texas" would be suboptimal. Too many letters. Choose short and sweet and often nonsensical. Now, if you're famous -- say you're the Queen of England, you put your twitter name right out there. But if you are that famous, someone else will most likely be writing your tweets for you. So if you see a name on Twitter that you recognize, don't get too excited. A paid staffer may be tweeting.

In the end, I'm glad I stuck with the same name in all circumstances, for all purposes. When I run into people who recognize me from Ocean, they don't say "Hi, wild rose of texas!" They say "hi Nina!" It feels personal and warm.


And speaking of warm, here's another update on the Polar Vortex and the cheepers.

After breakfast, in the front room of the farmhouse...


...but before leaving for the weekly trip to The Store (grocery day is a big deal if you live in the country), I peek in on the brood.

You have to check for eggs frequently or they'll freeze, crack, explode, or do who knows what. In other words, you may have yourself a wasted egg (except if you're Ed, who insists on eating it even if it freezes, cracks, explodes or otherwise looks weird). And, besides the egg check, I have this great fear that one of the hens will freeze while standing around waiting for spring to come and so I want to check on them a lot, to nudge them forward in case they forget to move.

They do a lot of standing on one leg and gazing south. I think their brains are working overtime, trying to figure out how to escape the cold. (They stand on one foot to warm the other.)


The chickens are fine. Off I go to shop. Which takes a while.

I come back and look toward the barn. They're still within its orbit. As if fearing that a walk away from this relatively safe haven will plunge them into another unpleasant environment. After all, they don't know that winter is as bad as it gets. They don't follow our calendar. I don't think.

I call them up for a treat. This is the time to bond with the hens, to placate Oreo, to feel like I am really tied to the farmette land, flora and the animal kingdom that passes through.



And then I lead them back to the barn area.


It's such a simple existence for them! So very lovely! But right now, I keep thinking -- so very cold.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

thoughts on hardy stock and breaking the law

Would you break the law if you knew that everyone was doing it? What if you knew, too, that you wouldn't incur consequences?

Most anyone I know would say -- not me! Maybe to save the life of another, or unwittingly, or in tiny ways, but for personal gain? Not me!

This is where I want to tick off all the ways where we routinely go against the rules, big and small. My favorite is crossing the street on a red light when there is no traffic. I'll never forget this scene: it was in Fukuoka, Japan, some dozen years ago. I was standing with a small group at a corner, at night and there was absolutely no vehicular traffic. Nonetheless, everyone waited for the light to change. My customary impulse to break that rule was so strong that I could not, could not resist the pull to place my foot on the street before the light turned green! Not only do I appear to violate this rule of the road routinely, it seems I can't NOT violate it, even when there's social pressure to obey.

There are no traffic lights around the rural roads that twist and dip around the farmette where I live and when I go out for a walk, I make a point of walking into the traffic, like I know the law requires. But there is another little area of rule violations that I dabble in and as I step deeper into the fray with this particular activity, I'm just a touch surprised how seemingly indifferent I am to the fact that here again, there is a law and I am either breaking it, or at the very least, participating in someone else's lawlessness. Sort of like an accomplice to a crime.

I'm referring to renting through AirBnB. I've stayed in rooms or apartments rented under the table, so to speak, in a number of places -- Berkeley, Dublin, New York, Paris, Warsaw -- the list is not short! I know the rule on when it's legal in Ireland, because an AirBnB person there explained it to me (but I didn't check if she was right or if she followed it). I pretty much can guess that in the other places the rentals were in violation of local ordinance.

But everyone is doing it!

Well now, there's an answer! Truth is, though I think the laws should be adjusted to permit some form of space sharing, for the most part, I understand the reasons behind the rules and in any case, it's not up to me to decide if the rules are good or bad. Is it? Or maybe it is? By massive violations, we are making a statement that change is needed, no?

Phew. I feel better. This still doesn't explain my feverish desire to cross a street in Fukuoka on a red light, but at least in the case of AirBnB -- I'm making a statement! (Of sorts.)

I write about this as I tidy up my plans for a trip in a few weeks (AirBnb, yet again) and, too, as I consider the possibility that in the years to come, AirBnB will play a huge role in my travels across the ocean.

And you know that it must be a gray day, here in Wisconsin, because thoughts of travel are with me from the minute I wake up this morning.

Gray and cold. I push Ed out of bed.  
Your turn to let the cheepers out. I make that up. We don't take turns. Ever since I agreed to let Oreo, (the batty rooster that's Ed's beloved pal), remain at the farmette, I laid this condition: you let them out in the mornings! I don't want Oreo to attack me at sunrise! Of course,  Oreo has, for now, settled down and frankly, none of the chickens are especially energetic at sunrise or otherwise. An attack would require a lot of running and flapping on his part. He hardly seems geared for that since the weather turned cold.

Ed dutifully gets up and stumbles out toward the barn, half asleep going out, still half asleep coming back inside.

Okay. Time for us all to move this day forward. I get up, look out the window...
Oh! You didn't tell me there was a bit of snow on the ground!
That deserves and receives a grunt. I can get the guy to open the coop at the break of dawn, but this is not the time to look for dialogue.

I go out, with my camera, because you know, those first dustings of snow are always so special!


The cheepers don't share my enthusiasm for it. They're out of the coop, but they absolutely show no interest in leaving the barn. Drafty as it is, at least the barn doesn't have snow on the ground.

Chickens hate snow.

And yet, they need exercise. I take out grains to entice them out. One stumbles to look, pecks once, retreats, as if to say -- not worth it.


I nearly give up on them. At breakfast (in the kitchen today), I tell Ed -- they're stuck for the season in the crappy old barn! 


But as we look out the window, we see that they are moving toward us. Perhaps they spotted the light in the kitchen window. Tentatively, gingerly, they are making their way to the farmhouse.


Bravely, so bravely, they step along the half frozen path (we are now at the beginning of a two week spell of complete, bone chilling cold). I go to the farmhouse door to greet them.


I feed them raisins and seeds and nuts and they peck away, but still oh so tentatively. As if their carefree life has been blasted out from under their feet and they have to figure out afresh what's what.

(Butter pecks at the potted mums  -- is there anything that's living left in this world?)

But here's the amazing part: whereas all chicken people I know by now have given up on regular egg collection (you can force hens to lay with lights in the winter, but we're not going to do that), our girls are still going strong. Against all odds, breaking all rules, so to speak, they're giving us three eggs every single day.

Hardy stock. We've got a lot of that floating around the farmette these days.

(note Isie boy behind the glass door: he's still a little intimidated by the whole cheeper deal)

And that's a good thing.

P.S. to the NYTimes piece from yesterday: I really enjoyed your comments here and, too, the comments of NYT readers after the piece itself. I especially recommend those to my demographic: if you're thinking you may be a grandparent soon, go back to the article and find out what young parents are saying about the whole grandparent schtick.