Curious Chickens


Chickens are as curious as cats which are as curious as dogs which are as curious as ? Curiosity is universal. Researchers have identified many parts of the brain such as the anterior cortices, the striatum, the hippocampus and dentate gyrus, the parahippocampal gyrus, the amygdala, the anterior pituitary, the nucleus accumbens, the precuneus, and caudate nucleus as being involved in curiosity.

So when Miasa and her 11 week old chicks come running to see what we’ve brought home in the truck, their brains are firing away on all cylinders, as are the brains of many of the other chickens. They’ll keep investigating what we’ve brought until their curiosity is satisfied.


Our Solar System Goes Live


On a frosty morning, the new solar system looks like a piece of art. This morning, the installers put in the production meter to tie the system to our electric system. With sunlight streaming down, I watched our meter stop incrementing until late afternoon. Early in the afternoon, the state electric inspector arrived, inspected the system, and gave the OK for our local utility company to come and install a new meter. The current meter isn’t capable of subtracting usage from our account. The new meter will count backwards when we are generating more power than we are using.


Even the sun celebrated this evening by painting the evening clouds.


Only Here


No matter where you are, there is something that happens or exists only there. For starters, wherever you are, it’s the only place someone can find you. Today is egg delivery day, and as I pedal through the valley to Edison, I pass the Chuckanut Mountains. These graceful mountains are the only place where the Cascade Mountains, stretching some 700 miles from northern California into southern British Columbia, tumble into the sea. For a mere 10 miles, the Cascades brush against the gentle waves of Puget Sound.

When the sun is out, this is what I see when I deliver eggs. On cloudy days, the tops of the mountains are often hidden. At times, wisps of fog skirt them. Occasionally, the mountains will sparkle with fresh snow. This is a very special, only here, kind of place.


Pygmy Tragedy


Bicycling home from an errand today, I came upon a pygmy tragedy on the side of the road. A northern pygmy owl lay dead. Not too long ago a vehicle hit it, and it died. It’s very sad, but the owl was so beautiful, I couldn’t let it just lie on the side of the road. I brought it home to give it a proper burial.


Northern pygmy owls have fake eyes on their back to make it appear that they are looking at predators who sneak up from behind.

Tens of millions of birds are killed by vehicles every year. A USDA Forest Service paper, estimates that automobiles kill 80 million birds a year in the USA. I haven’t found a study on how many birds bicycles kill every year, but I would guess that it might be a handful at most. Ride your bicycle, save a bird.


The Seasons Change


On a warm, sunny day like today, winter already seems like a memory. I must keep in mind that the last frost date here is around April 15, so there is always a chance for a cold spell or two. It’s a good time to plan this year’s crops and order seeds and dream of rows of verdant greens.

The nearly daily bike ride to the post office and back is a good time to ponder what to grow and where. On clear days, Mt. Baker can see all the way down to where the road winds through the valley floor. It’s comforting to know that if I can see the mountain, the mountain can see me.


Chickens Can Solve Problems Too


It’s breakfast time and the chickens are crowding around the feeders.


Instead of huddling with the other chickens around the feeder, this hen has learned that she can have the whole feeder to herself by flying to the top of it and sticking her head into it. Which goes to show that chickens have some ability to look at a situation and figure out a solution that works best for them.


Having a Dog Is Like Being Married


You can be married to someone for a long time and still learn something new about them. It’s no different with a dog. We’ve had BB for nine years, and I had no idea he liked squash. I guess I had never baked one the way he liked.

A week ago, I tossed a squash which was starting to rot into this month’s compost pile. The pile has been cooking at around 120º for a while and I thought the squash would quickly decompose. Today when BB was helping me turn the compost pile, he spotted the squash which has been slowly cooking all week, and he couldn’t get enough of it. He kept coming back and scarfing down chunks of it until it was all gone.


What else would taste good after cooking for a week in a compost pile?

Two Faces


No matter how many chickens you look at, each one has a unique face. Missa above has a short comb which leans to the right side of her head. She has a cream colored beak, and compact wattles.

Nancy has a long comb which leans to the left side of her head. It’s so long, it nearly covers her eye. Her beak is black, and her wattles hang down. She also has distinctive, white ear lobes.

Compare the faces of any chickens, and you’ll find many differences.


Up It Goes


The crew came this morning to finish installing the solar panels on the roof of the garage. By mid afternoon, all the panels were installed. The next step is for the state to inspect and approve the installation. After that, our local utility company will install a meter to record the amount of electricity the system is generating, and to connect it to our electric system so that we can start using the power it generates.


City Greens and the Pursuit of Freshness


You don’t have to live in the country on acreage to enjoy fresh greens. It doesn’t take a lot of space to grow vegetables. We were in Seattle yesterday to enjoy one last meal at The Kingfish Cafe with a friend before the cafe closes this coming Sunday, January 25, 2015. On our way to the cafe, we walked by a series of raised vegetable beds in a yard and on a parking strip.

Whoever lived in that house, had a steady supply of kale through the winter. Twenty to forty kale plants, can supply a family with fresh greens all winter long. You can’t beat freshly picked greens.


I often wonder why it is that freshness is not a high priority in the USA. It’s a mystery. I saw a clip on Japanese news yesterday about strawberries. Strawberries are an important winter fruit in Japan, and different regions compete to produce the sweetest, largest berries. The clip was about a new variety of strawberry called Skyberry produced in Tochigi. Growers of this variety of strawberry are wanting to export them to France, but were running into a serious problem. Within Japan, they can get their berries into stores within two days of picking. But when they ship them to France, it takes four days from picking until they are on store shelves. And for the strawberry growers, this was a major concern, as strawberries are fragile, and if they are bruised at all during shipment, they will no longer be salable after four days.

FreshellWatching the news clip, I wondered if US growers of strawberries gnashed their teeth at the thought of it taking more than two days to get their strawberries onto store shelves. To deliver these Skyberry strawberries to France without damaging them, an agricultural research company developed special packaging which envelopes each strawberry in a protective shell they call a freshell. None of this is cheap. Each freshell costs $2 and the Skyberries will sell for $12 to $14 each in France. In Japan they retail for around $20 a pound. A luxury item for sure, but I wonder why freshness is sought after in Japan and is barely an afterthought in the USA.

Home, after a wonderful meal and company, I found mother and daughter in a nest when I went to collect eggs. A few more months, and if the daughter insists on staying with her mother, the two will be laying eggs together.