the six-month saga of chickens

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life as a chicken parent hasn't been easy.

I started off last May with 11 fuzzy babies: Two Araucanas and nine Brahmas (three each of the light, dark and buff varieties).

In non-chicken-nerd terms, this means: Two chickens with green legs and nine that look like they're wearing pants. (Kate, do not mock the pants! Not only are they fashionable, they provide protection from the elements! You know, since it gets so frigid in California.)

Within a week of arrival, two of the Brahma chicks -- a buff and a dark -- died. Not sure what happened -- they just got very lethargic and started breathing heavily. And then they were gone.

But the rest grew. And grew. And eventually, they got too big for their box, so they went outside. And since the coop at my house wasn't quite ready yet, they stayed in a friend's backyard.

Only they didn't exactly "stay" where they were supposed to.

I can't tell you how many times we found them wandering around in the front yard or at the neighbor's place. (Dear chickies: It was like you wanted something awful to happen to you. Do you have any idea how much stress you caused?) We ended up losing one of the white Brahmas -- she just disappeared without a trace. We went door-to-door looking for her, but no luck.

So we clipped the chickens' wings. And all was fine (well, except for the diarrhea incident when the chickens had to go on antibiotics for awhile), until we realized one of girls was really a boy.

And even though Bob was a lovely, well-mannered young man, he had to find a new home -- my landlord absolutely did not want a rooster around. So Bob and his favorite hen (affectionately known as Chicken Shit -- yes, I'm a horrible person) went to live on a farm in Bennett Valley. Last I heard, it's been happily ever after for the two of them -- Bob has quite a harem now, and Chicken Shit developed faster than the rest of her sisters and started laying eggs before Christmas. (Damn her.)

Meanwhile, the coop was completed in November ...

... and inspected by the resident Cat Princess (nothing happens around here without feline approval). And the six remaining hens finally came home to my house, where they subsequently drove me crazy by flying over the fence all the time. And I would chase them around and eventually catch them and put them back in their pen, only to have to chase them around again two hours later.

And not a single one of them was laying eggs. All they did was poo everywhere and eat a bunch of food and fly away. I clipped their wings and started lecturing them, accusing them of "low ROI" (you know you have issues when you start using corporate jargon with your backyard fowl). Huge amounts of frustration. Huge!

And just when I thought it couldn't get worse, General Tso, the smartest and prettiest hen, got killed by a neighbor's dog. This photo was taken just a few days before the incident:

So then I found myself filing complaints with Animal Control and basically living an episode of one of those shows on Animal Planet. And I also learned how to pluck and gut a chicken, so it can be transformed into this:

Yes, folks, I ate General Tso. Maybe that makes me an extra-horrible person, but I thought it would be best not to let her life go to waste. And hey, if you're going to preach farm to table, you might as well go all the way. (Perhaps this is TMI, but I even ate her brain. It tasted like really, really gamey pâté. I probably won't go there again.)

And still the nightmare continued: Earlier this month, the same dog returned to my yard and killed the other Araucana, Colonel Sanders. (OK, I guess with names like these, maybe I was kind of asking for it.) I ate her, too, although she didn't taste quite as good as the General.

So more calls to Animal Control were made. And more reports filed. And every day I'm sort of afraid of picking up the phone because I don't want to hear that another hen has been killed.

Four girls remain, all Brahmas: Repeep (far left), McNugget, Peep and Hot Wings.

And I don't let them free-range in their yard like I used to because I'm afraid the dog is going to come back. I hate seeing them enclosed like this, but until the dog issue is resolved, this is the best way to protect them. I give them my table scraps so they don't just eat feed all the time, but they're funny -- they won't eat the vegetables. They seem to only want to eat bread and tortillas. (Apparently chickens like to carbo-load?)

But despite six months of chicken drama, I finally have good news: I found eggs yesterday!

Repeep has started laying! Aren't her eggs gorgeous? And ginormous for a pullet? I'm so proud of her. I found two more this morning. (Way to boost that ROI, Repeep!) So now I'm less frustrated. And will actually consider buying these for my girls once they start molting.

Because they already have pants, so why not get them a fun top to match?

(Problems, I know.)

warm fuzzies

Monday, January 28, 2013

You know the feeling. Like finishing a really good book. Or taking a sip of broth from that perfectly salty-savory bowl of ramen. Or waking up to this face:

Sort of happy-glowy. And totally content. And optimistic that things are going to be OK. (Insert satisfied sigh here.)

I was all kinds of warm-fuzziness after yesterday's 53-mile ride (yes, 53!), thanks to two fantastic cycling buddies, Karen (who is my very favorite person to ride with) and Kimra (who is also wonderful and is training for Vineman). We rode from Windsor to Healdsburg to Geyserville and back. And it felt like nothing. Just chatty times admiring the scenery and enjoying the sunshine. And you know, waving at llamas (yes, there were llamas) and pointing at goats and talking about frolicking in fields full of mustard flowers (yes, the word "frolicking" was actually used).

Clearly, this was a very serious training ride.

It was so serious that at about 12 miles in, we stopped for awesome Mexican food at Estrella's Market.

Because if you're going to refuel, you might as well have incredible rice and beans.

And then we stopped at J for a little bubbly. It was on the way, so why not, right?

By the way, never in my life did I ever think I'd go out in public dressed like a highlighter with helmet hair. And now I do it on a regular basis. Go figure.

Then we stopped at a vineyard in Dry Creek Valley to take photos of this gorgeous hillside. (Imagine three girls in blinding neon, pulled over on the side of the road, holding iPhones. This is what serious cycling looks like, folks!)

And then there was the stop at Coppola. Where we found a teepee and couldn't resist playing in it.

Me to the guy who was working there: "Why is there a teepee?"

The guy: "Francis loves teepees!"

Well, of course. Because what's not to love, right?

And it would've been downright sinful if we didn't take advantage of Coppola's pool and lounge chairs. (All we needed were margaritas and cabana boys.)

Amazing ride. And though it may not look like it, it wasn't all goofing off -- we climbed Canyon and did the rollers on Chiquita. And we held a pretty strong pace on the way back. (That Muppet can fly -- I actually saw a 20 on my Garmin while riding a straightaway. That has never happened in my history of cycling!)

Granted, I still pulled a few stupid maneuvers -- there was one slow-motion fall where I unclipped at a stop sign and leaned the wrong way, treating Karen and Kimra to a chorus of: "Shitshitshitshitshit!" And then at one point, I tried to put my helmet on backwards. (And this was even before the bubbly -- I'm just that awesome.) But I guess that's to be expected from the World's Clumsiest Cyclist.

I'm looking forward to the next ride with the girls. This time, we're thinking about exploring Marin. And of course, possibly stopping at some cheese factories along the way.

food, glorious food.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Yet another reason why I'm a terrible person and should never be your role model: I ate about a quarter of the salad I ordered for lunch, and then I fed it to the chickens.

And then I ate this instead:

With ranch dressing, of course. (Because really, is there any other way?)

And on that note, may I present my New Year's Resolutions, a.k.a. The Annual List of Restaurants/Food Purveyors/Drinking Holes I'd Like to Go to in 2013. (For reference, last year's list can be found here. And I only actually made it to four of the 10 places in 2012. But whatever. It's not a contest.)

Ramen Shop (Oakland): Three friends from Chez Panisse open a ramen shop featuring locally-sourced ingredients and sides like wild nettle fried rice? How come I am not already living in their kitchen?!

The Casino Bar & Grill (Bodega): A holdover from last year. Can't believe I still haven't eaten there. I look at their Facebook page pretty much daily and drool over the ever-changing menu.

The Parish Cafe (Healdsburg): Supposedly, all kinds of Cajun awesomeness. I tried to go for lunch one day, but the restaurant is so small that if you don't get there right when it opens, there's a long-ass wait.

Social Club (Petaluma): I've heard mixed reviews -- some of my friends love it, and some think it's overrated. I want to make my own decisions -- and possibly try some of the duck confit hash that's on the brunch menu.

Betty's Fish and Chips (Santa Rosa): You know those times when you drive past a restaurant and think, That looks intriguing -- I wonder what it's like? That's exactly how I feel about Betty's. Also, I like fried food.

Alexander Valley Bar (Healdsburg): Did you know Medlock Ames has a secret bar in the back of its tasting room? This makes me insanely jealous. Dear wineries I work for: Why do you not have secret bars?!

Bergamot Alley (Healdsburg): The wine bar to trump all wine bars in Sonoma County. Or so say the geekiest of the wine geeks. I say, "Bring on the nerdiness!"

Savor Spice Shop (Santa Rosa): Another one I didn't make it to last year. And I have no excuses this time around, especially since I just borrowed this book from the library and now need to hunt down obscure spices.

Bear Korean Restaurant (Cotati): Confession: I am a total Korean food newbie. The only Korean food I've ever had is from Tov Tofu, and I've been told there's more to the Korean food world out there.

St. George Spirits (Alameda): Because I am completely and totally obsessed with gin. And I absolutely love their Botanivore.

And now excuse me while I double over in pain due to a French fry binge-induced stomache.

fitness faux pas

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I'd like to think that one day, I will get through an indoor trainer session without being overcome by nausea. I actually had to stop mid-workout Tuesday, get off my bike and go to the bathroom because I really thought I was going to puke and/or shit my pants.

Note to self: Next time, make sure the bathroom you've chosen for refuge actually has toilet paper.


In other ridiculous news, yesterday I went for a run in the rain. And I thought I was a bad-ass -- that's right, people, the weather doesn't bother me! -- until I got back to the gym and looked in the mirror and realized my shirt was see-through. And I was also apparently really cold.


Did you know sitting is a death trap? My Pilates teacher asked me to make copies of this article and post it all over my office. Maybe I should also tiptoe up to my co-workers as they're hunched over their desks and whisper: I'm watching you die right now. Because that wouldn't get me fired or anything.


I don't really have a photo to go with this post. (Don't be sad. If you re-read the above paragraphs, you'll realize this is a very good thing.) Instead, here's some cat porn:

You're welcome.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Confession: Whenever I start a training cycle, I feel like crap -- like I'm out of shape and doughy and basically just huge and slow and jiggly and waistless. And I look at old photos of myself ...

... and wonder what the hell happened and why I don't look like that anymore. And yes, I know the answer is obvious: That photo was taken last July, just days before Vineman, when I was at the peak of my fitness. And I can remind myself of that over and over again, but it still doesn't make me feel any better or less like a fat-ass. Getting back into training mode is always difficult.

The situation isn't helped by the fact that I seem to lack any sort of willpower. I was in Portland this weekend for a short vacation. I had big plans to work out while I was there. I brought two sets of running gear and some yoga clothes. I even talked about hiking.

But then this got in the way:

And this too:

Followed by some of this:

Yes, folks, that's an English muffin overflowing with a fried egg and Spam. Spam. Seriously, it was just plain slutty and spectacular. My lips were greasy for hours afterward.

And if that weren't sin enough, there was also my very first poutine experience ever:

This was pretty much an orgy of fries and gravy and cheese curds. And I was totally sober when I ate it, which probably makes me a really bad person.

And of course, I had to also try this:

And then when it came time to run, it was 20-something degrees out and all of the bridges were icy, which slowed my scared, accident-prone ass to a walk.

And I never looked up the yoga schedule. And the only hiking I did was from one bar to the next. 


And I wonder why I'm a fat-ass.

more than a spin

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Major goal for 2013: Suck less on the cycling leg. (In other words, go faster, get stronger and stay upright.)

So when Thai suggested we sign up for the seven-week StrikLee coaching session at NorCal, I agreed.

Talk about an ass-kicking. When the coach said we should be doing an "easy 22- to 25-mph pace" between intervals, I would've started laughing hysterically, except that if I had opened my mouth, puke would've come gushing out.

But I survived. And in the end, it was fine and I had fun and there was no vomit.

And I'm planning to do it all again next week.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Perhaps you'll recall that time, oh so long ago, when I mentioned I was getting a new bike.

She arrived in October -- small and sleek and barely weighing anything at all. I named her Muppet, after Chrissie Wellington (who is famously clumsy -- like me! -- and also shits her pants during races and still goes on to become Ironman World Champion -- maybe pooing yourself is not such a bad thing). And I took Muppet out for a spin down the rural roads behind the office and couldn't believe how she flew.

And then I left her in the garage and went into marathon mode, which was followed by recovery mode, then flu mode, then holiday fat-kid mode and then my-job-is-crazy-nonstop-travel mode. So poor Muppet just sat there.

Until yesterday.

My friend Karen and I met for a ride. We had no idea how far we were going to go -- it was ridiculously cold (morning temperatures were in the 20s, and it never got warmer than 50), and both of us were, ahem, "recovering" from a little holiday excess. So we kept it slow and easy -- just enjoying the sights.

That's right: Enjoying. When was the last time I did that on a ride? All of the cycling I've done has been about getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, hitting a certain mileage target or working on a specific goal. And because of that, I've gotten stressed out and frustrated since I'm not as strong of a rider as many of my friends. (It feels pretty crappy when you get dropped on a group ride.)

But yesterday was completely different. We had no plans. We stopped when we felt like stopping, like at this old train depot in Kenwood.

We circled back to look at things on the side of the road. We pointed out cottages tucked away under trees, sprawling gardens, funny-looking mailboxes, cute dogs. And without even really noticing it, we ended up riding to Glen Ellen and back -- 33 miles!

Yes, even the tiniest hill made us huff and puff. Yes, we took a detour looking for Jack London's writing cottage and ended up encountering a scary man I thought might kill us. (Imagine a plaid shirt and a knit cap, inching ever closer, uttering: "Guuuuurls, this is a private road ... ") And yes, a key highlight of the ride was the hot lentil soup break.

Not exactly the most athletic endeavor, but man, it was the most fun I've had on a bike in awhile.

We're already planning our next ride. We'll be choosing the route based on where we want to eat. I think I may have found the perfect cycling buddy.

where's the ... ?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Been traveling in Southern California since Monday with three winemakers on a Cabernet-focused tour.

In other words, I've been living out of a suitcase and eating a ridiculous amount of beef. And I mean an absolute a shit-ton of it -- four days' worth of red meat.

Dear god, someone get me a salad and an enema.

Out of all of the beef gluttony, the most educational was a comparative tasting of grass-fed beef (left) vs. corn-finished (right) and what kind of Cabernet pairs best with each. Answer: Older and/or more delicate Cabs go well with the grass-fed, while bigger wines go with the fattier, more marbled corn-finished. (Side note: I am kind of embarrassed to admit that when it came to tasting the steaks on their own, I liked the corn-finished better, even though I'm an advocate for grass-fed. Great, huh? Not only am I constipated, I'm a hypocrite.)

After about 48 hours of this beef diet, I started to wonder if my employer was secretly trying to fatten me up, as though I were a goose, and they were planning to turn me into some kind of human, beef-fed version of foie gras and then try to pair me with Cabernet.

(Have I mentioned I've also gotten very little sleep on this trip?) 

I won't say what that carrot above reminds me of.

I think it's going to be a very long time before I eat beef again.

perhaps this is tmi

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Let's just say that tonight I learned the origin of the phrase "copy cat."

so far, so good

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

After toasting the start of 2013 with a little bit of this ...

... I woke up this morning, laced up my Ravennas and ran the Empire Runners Resolution Run 5K.

Confession: I didn't want to. Bed sounded so much better. (Just for the record, I wasn't hungover, just feeling extremely lazy.) And when I finally dragged myself to the starting line, I told everyone I knew that my race was probably going to suck since I was still recovering from the flu. (True story. See the complete absence of blogging in the past few weeks for proof.) 

But here's the thing about running: It's always worth it. I finished in 27:46 (so much better than I thought I would), came in ninth in my age group (30 to 39 -- a wider age range than normal) and beat two personal rivals (yes).

And the day got even better. I found the wishbone in my chicken at lunch -- and won the wishbone pull. And tonight I got an e-mail from one of my favorite restaurants that my name was chosen for a $50 gift card. (I had randomly dropped my business card in their fish bowl yesterday.)

Dear 2013: So far, I'm a huge fan. 
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