forgive any typos, i dictated it and it was typed with a beak

Hoquiam City Council
Hoquiam City Hall
609 8th Street
Hoquiam, WA 98550

Kelly Hogaboom
2323 Sumner Avenue
Hoquiam, WA 98550

May 15, 2009

Council,

I was saddened to read there is an ordinance discussed prohibiting domestic fowl for residences in Hoquiam, apparently based off a small number of residents who are keeping these birds irresponsibly.

Hoquiam has an opportunity to make its mark as a progressive community that promotes environmentally-sound pest control, food self sufficiency and security, a healthier food source, and a tighter-knit community.

In part this is a cultural issue: dogs and cats are allowed inside and outside our homes in this City, and that will never change. We tolerate the occasional (and sometimes upsetting) problems in communities regarding odors, noise, defecation, and disagreements between neighbors. We do not ban dogs and cats. I believe many of those who have an initial reaction against domestic fowl are not seeing the many benefits these birds bring us.

Our laying hens are happy birds who eat our garden scraps, live without pesticides and by-rote antibiotics, de-bug our vegetable beds, and enrich our lives both through eggs and their fascinating behavior. My husband has brought our chicks to my son’s preschool where the students could integrate the knowledge from books they’d been reading regarding eggs and reproduction, with real baby birds of their classmates’. Our birds have entertained many children of the neighborhood, and my children have learned how to help clean up, care for, and take responsibility for their food source in a more self-sustaining lifestyle. Any eggs our hens do not provide we purchase from the Grays Harbor Public Market.

A couple of weeks ago a neighbor of mine allowed her dogs loose and they twice got in my yard, badly savaging our birds (we now have a padlocked coop). I love my birds, just as I imagine my neighbor loves her dogs. After this incident – and after our vet visits – I walked over to my neighbor’s house and invited her and her children to visit our home to meet the birds. We discussed solutions to the problem at hand. The situation was a stressful one for both of us. However, in my view when there is a problem among neighbors this is the way things should be done; talking to one another first and brainstorming solutions before an official broad-brush ordinance or a legalistic solution is invoked. My neighbor has – thus far – kept her dogs from roaming. My birds are healing due to a lot of TLC and the wonderful assistance of Brady Veterinary Hospital.

Broad-stroke ordinances should not be put in place based on the misbehavior of a few irresponsible pet or fowl owners.

My family and I are saving to buy a home in Hoquiam and this proposed ordinance will make a big difference in our decision.

Kelly Hogaboom
Hoquiam, WA

Cc: The Daily World

the beak that stalks at midnight

Today started out blowy and icky but developed into lovely sunshine. The day was spent outside: first a visit to the college for a festival, then doing the various and sundry outdoor chores at my home. We tidied the greenhouse and watered the tomatoes (sure to develop into Audrey II-level insatiable plants), cleaned the chicken coops, and my favorite: put the seven chickens out into their tractor where they immediately went crazy eating clover, searching for bugs, and ruffling feathers in exorbitant-looking dirt-baths.

The younger five birds haven’t spent much time with the older laying hens. Things seemed to go well at first. Then, looking out from my kitchen window I saw Sophie – the hen most badly injured in the dog attack – her neck ruff out, head up, aggressively messing with one of the (suspected) cockerels – who probably started it, knowing that little dude. My first emotion is one of gladness – my girls have fully recovered. Then I’m thinking – pain in the ass. The birds will have to take their fresh air in shifts.

“Sophie! [ the child ],” I call. “Come help me. We’ve got to take Sophie and Bluster out of the tractor.”

“Why?” The kids come running from outside where they had been playing some game in the car, Nels resplendent in a teal-green formal gown, his shoes shed as soon as we’d reached home the hour earlier.

“The older ones are messing with the younger ones.”

The kids join me in the yard. They know chicken behavior and understand the group dynamics. I carefully lift an edge of the tractor to cull one of the older ones. Bluster emerges first. “Aw mom, she’s the hardest one to catch!” Sophie complains. Sure enough, the little devil races around the yard, looking hilariously streamlined and speedy. Nels directs us and we finally trap her near the fence corner. She, then her aggressive cohort, are returned to their own coop with fresh water and food.

Our job finished, my daughter says, “OK, I’m going to go back to living in the car,” and grabs a bottle of water.

“Wash your hands first. You carried a chicken.”

“How come I have to wash my hands?”

“You could get a chicken disease.”

“What happens if you do?”

I’m not entirely sure. “You can get terrible diarrhea. And … um, bad abdominal cramps.”*

“What else?” Sophie asks.

“And then you have to go to the doctor to get shots.” (safe bet)

“Does anything… chickeny happen?” she asks.

“You mean do you act like a chicken if you get a disease from a chicken?”

“Yes,” she says.

“No,” I respond, trying not to laugh.

Were-chicken!

* I’m remembering a story a girlhood friend told me about her father who supposedly developed a Salmonella infection and had intestinal problems so horrid they later cleaned the upholstery he sat on. I still see this man and serve him lunch at the Deli and I always think of this story.

all’s well that squawks well

I’ve had many friends ask via email, IM and tweet: how are my chickens?

The answer is – doing well! Bluster seems to have made a full recovery, and is growing new and healthy feathers over her scarred, unsightly mauled chicken-ass. She has been laying an egg a day.

Sophie is a different case: injured much worse, she has been slower to recover and is not yet laying. She also acts minorly “stroke”-y – seems to have bad vision on one side, and even looks less groomed on the same side of her head. WTF, girl? She is, however, up and about (sans shirt) and seems cheerful. She and Bluster both look forward to their time with Ralph, who hand-feeds them and gives them love.

We are still keeping the ladies in their indoor coop (garage) at night. Right now they are outside my sewing room door, safe in their chicken tractor making happy chicken sounds and avidly feeding in fresh air and sunlight.

Thank you, so very much, all of you who’ve written and expressed concern. Our birds are a part of our family.

With exceptions. Two of our five chicks seem to be turning into dudes. Bad choice, guys. Any locals want a rooster?

you know, i am realizing my posts are not always that fun to read

I probably shouldn’t have had the two glasses of wine at tonight’s preschool fundraising auction (which was, by all accounts, a resounding success). The drinks’ effects of temporary well-being and laughter were appreciated at the time and made the evening repast all the smoother. Now, a few hours later, I worry about potential depressive effects. I am already sad in that kind of way that can keep you up at night; upset about something that I can’t solve nor, in these few minutes any way, finish working through.

I am speaking of course of the grave injuries to our two laying hens by neighbor dogs – one attack occurring Tuesday, and the other early this morning (by the same dogs)*. Both hens were savaged but intact enough for the veterinarian to advise treatment and rehabilitation (as opposed to euthanasia). The vet bill would be almost comical for me to recount here (and may in fact increase before all is said and done) – suffice to say that should these hens survive, these will be very special eggs we will be enjoying. Currently we have two separate avian hospital cubicles set up in the steady warmth of my sewing room. We are cooking up oatmeal and yogurt, delivering injections (this takes getting used to), and providing fresh water and lots of rest for our girls.

Our sad little episode has gone out to the world at large and I’ve received a number of loving messages and well-wishes. The vast number of comments have been supportive and sweet; a very few have been rather unhelpful or just plain depressing to recount. Yes, I expected something bad might happen to the animals under my care. No animal lover brings a creature into the home expecting the animal will outlive the owner – exotic parrots and large tortoises notwithstanding. I am reminded of little Peeperton 1, the chick who died only a few days after my father succumbed to cancer. I cried off and on for a full day, feeling as though the loss of this tiny ounce of fluff was more than I could stand. I remember little Baby, the silly black and white kitten we had for only a few short months before she succumbed to a mysterious degenerative nerve disorder (we also spent hundreds on her in attempting to diagnose, treat, and care for her; these dollars neither Ralph nor I regretting in the slightest). After letting this sweet little kitten get the death needle in the vet’s office, and stroking her fur while she stopped breathing, Ralph and I half-stumbled outside with our hands empty. He and I sat in my little red pickup truck and cried together, sagging in our seats next to one another. A week later we received a card from the vet, handwritten and conveying sympathies. I remember how very touched we were this veterinarian – who’d presumably seen a lot of death and loss – would reach out to us.

Our hens are still with us. They may indeed live. It is hard for me to see their injuries and be unsure of their survival. Bluster seems to be out of the woods (although she won’t be winning any prizes at the Fair this year with her bare-plucked ass and scars!). Sophie, injured early this morning, looks far worse. But even this evening she seems more herself. I wonder if chickens, like so many other creatures, have a will to live (or lack thereof) that is far more relevant than the medicines prescribed or the physiology of the wounds. If our birds are affected at all by the love and devotion of others, they are experiencing our concern, our love, and our prayers – and from what I can tell, those of many others.

I appreciate the caring words and the kindhearted thoughts more than I can fully express. I feel so blessed I have so many friends – those close, those not-so-close, some who barely know me – who take the time to read, or respond, or just send compassion my way. I have experienced this kind of care in so many of the losses and difficult times in my life and it is as appreciated as anything else I’ve ever received.

* Yes, I know which dogs, and yes, I have initiated contact with both the neighbors and local Animal Control. Unhelpful comments include what actions I should or shouldn’t take regarding these dogs, and what kinds of people allow dogs to roam, etc. etc.

muy delicioso, in so many ways

Biking Alley-Style
Today was a great day. The weather was exhilarating; alternating hail, bright sunshine, and wind. After taking Nels to school Sophie and I came back and she thrilled me by choosing to set up her snack, reading, and sewing in the sewing room with me where we companionably spent some time mostly silent. When Nels got home from preschool the kids spent a few hours outside riding bikes and (in Nels’ case) scrumping for parts to make a leprechaun trap.

After alleyway shenanigans Sophie instructed me how to move the chicknz from their greenhouse to the pen outside. While moving them Bluster (the least intelligent one we still call a “he” for some reason) got away from my daughter and she chased him about the yard in that 3/4 stoop one reserves for pursuing things under two feet tall. Even though the situation could have become a bad one (chickn escaping into alley) I was laughing so hard it was difficult to experience worry. Sophie and the chicken had identical exclamation marks above their heads, cartoon-style. Of course my daughter prevailed. Later when it began hailing we rushed back out and put them back inside. I was proud of my daughter and how quickly she pulled on boots to rescue the animals, who were not at all hurt but very dismayed.

I Wish He Wore Hats More Often
Last season’s coat of Nels’ is getting small; I’m sewing him a new one that is so much fun it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.

Sewn By Mama
Taken in the kitchen this morning. The kids had just finished picking out today’s dinner menu – pasta with edamame, broccoli, and pinenuts; ratatouille – both from Moosewood Restaurant’s Simple Suppers. Lots of garlic and olive oil – good kids!

eat, bike, eat, sleep. work in cuddles and a ridiculous film.

Another beautiful day dawns sunny and bright. Last night I had promised my daughter I would not set foot inside my sewing room, devoting my time to her alone. This proves harder than I’d thought; but I keep not only my body but my mind sew-abstinent, as promised.
After taking my son to school my daughter is given the choice of where to go for our date; she picks, not surprisingly, our favorite diner. It’s busier than usual at 1 PM. For my help in running delivery and ringing out a few customers I am comped a delicious lunch: a beer-baked brat, potato skins, bacon and avo salad, mocha breve; my daughter a hot dog and watermelon Italian soda. Delicious, but a little filling considering I am getting on the bike right now to go across town.
Back home and geared up on our two wheels to pick up Nels. I am traveling against a headwind which does not feel nice, but I am consoled knowing I will have its help on the way back. (Note: if you take too much time in Aberdeen, the wind can switch directions on Cherry so you’re battling it both ways. My dad used to do a run on this backroad and testified to the switching).
Halfway down the strip another biking mama and intersect. She has a cute outerwear coat, a girlie bike with plastic basket and a trailer that doesn’t look secondhand. She smiles and says, “Hey!” in that way that tells me she thinks I’m someone else (isn’t it amazing how we can read tone and body language?). No; we don’t know one another, and the mistake passes with a good-natured laugh. But as we pass I introduce myself and ask for her name. There are, I don’t know, five of us in the bike “scene” around here. So I have secured more info in order to stalk her (first stop: Terry’s).
In order to be warm enough on the trip I have to put enough layers on I end up unhappily sweaty – there’s something about having a cold face and hands and hot neck and body that does not appeal. I have forseen this event so have also donned an absorbent cotton bra, etc, so I can strip the layers off when I get home. After picking up the kids (and talking chicknz with another mama) I take my kids to the park and try not to puke watching them on the merry-go-round (I have been prone to motion sickness ever since conceiving children, funnily enough).
My little bike contraption still gets a lot of looks. And mostly smiles and compliments. Sophie does me the honor of hopping off at the hill and jogging alongside, much to my amusement. I love time alone with her; it brings out the best in both of us. As we pass the alley behind the tobacconist’s she pipes up with, “Well there’s a beautiful couch!”, indicating a forlorn piece of furniture stacked up on a decrepit washing machine, out in a back yard. “There’s one cushion missing,” she adds, lest I should become swept up in envious desire.

these eggs have the curious taste of triumph

I find our pets (currently: two cats, two chickens) immensely amusing; I’m aware that I can only do so in part because A. they’re healthy and B. I feel good about the care we’re giving them. Most of my time with them I’m laughing at their sheer joy of living, their ease of life; companions in our world, benefiting from my husband’s income and the TLC the family bestows on them.

So this morning when my daughter came in from egg-gathering and reported that our laying hen had a “block of wood” in her eye my heart sank. I thought, These are Ralph’s chickens! Why am I going to have to deal with this? It was a grievous injury indeed – closer to a “block” then a splinter, the piece of wood had pierced the fowl’s lower eyelid and was barbed like a fish hook, set deep in the flesh (I know – ew!). My daughter and I attempted to remove the item but it was impossible.

An “emergency” call-in and afternoon trip out to the doctor (I hope the chicken likes listening to Abba as much as my kids do) and a half hour later the heroic vet had removed the wood and told us by a small miracle the eye itself had not been damaged. So – that’s great news.

The real amazing part of the story was my daughter, who not only daily takes it upon herself to check on the fowl and bring in eggs, but who this morning discovered the injury and assisted me in our attempts to remedy the situation. She was calm and assertive with the distressed bird; I told her later this is a most important quality for caring for pets. “It’s okay, girl…” she said softly as she carefully but firmly tugged on the wood splinter (a job I did not envy; I was the chickn-holder for this venture). At one point I urged her in a particular operation and she said in a perfectly adult tone, “Mom, I’m not a chicken expert.” (It turned out the “experts” needed two people, ten minutes, and doctors’ tools to complete the job.)

I am just so immensely proud of her. She takes after her dad in the Chickn Care department.

Sophie & Sophie
Sophie. & Sophie.

taking care of business, indeed

Ah yes, today – that day of the year we ladies so look forward to, something we eagerly await on the calendar:

The yearly exam.*

Today I met my new “Ladies Doctor”, by which I mean “gynie”, by which I mean doctor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, by which I mean the single other person besides my husband who gets to fiddle around with my lady-parts. Sophie accompanied me – the kids usually come to all our doctor’s appointments. I’d been prepared for an arrogant young male doctor and instead got a very friendly, very nice male doctor. A good first impression.

And lo and behold – due to a recent series of medical complications it was determined I would not have the exam today, but rather wait on the results of another little battery of tests at the hospital. Dodged the bullet! Shaved my legs for my own purposes! Did not have to have my breasts handled by a stranger nor be forced to don the “scary paper dress that scratches your tits” (to quote the illustrious Eve Ensler). I did, however, have my weight, blood pressure, pulse, heart and lungs examined, which Sophie that night journalled about.

Today I also accomplished: schoolwork for Suse, purchasing, assembling, and delivering an Emergency Pack for Nels, printing and delivering the monthly newsletter, picking up and delivering a t-shirt order, meeting with Suse’s teacher, picking up groceries (including insoluble fiber and fish oil – yum!), ferrying kids about, doing yet more schoolwork with Sophie, and playing catch-up on my novel.

Today I forgot: to get chicknz feed!

Oh well – no one’s perfect.

* For some super-lucky fillies, the frequency is a little higher; like my friend who, because she has diabetes, gets volunteered for a pap smear about every four months.

the pet update, because i know you’re on the edge of your seat.

I’m not sure what was more silly: the decadent sleep-poses I was able to pry my cat into (upside down on my lap, paws in the air) or the fact Ralph, my mother, and my brother would lean forward and watch avidly for each position change.

Our other little cat, Blackie, appears to be sick. She has a cold and seems even smaller and bonier than usual. Well, and more to the point – she’s been out and out asking for affection constantly. We set up a vet appointment for her ASAP. I could stand to see her gain some weight but I don’t mind the lovey-ness.

My mom attempted to get me interested in watching a German Shepherd for a town acquaintance. This is the dog I want in my life, someday. And I would jump at if it weren’t for certain future living arrangements. In our future. Yes, I said future twice. I like to think about the future. I have declined to consider babysitting a dog for fear of succumbing, idiotically, to overwhelming temptation.

Our chicknz are almost four months old. Ralph is a proud papa of fluffy, squawky twins.

He still wants a goat. Nope.

And finally: Sophie is going to do some research and, if she plays her cards right (in fact what should I ask for in exchange? I really have her over the barrell on this one) she will get an anole for the new year.