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Diary #562

One of the many benefits of having chickens is never having to go out and buy eggs to color for Easter.  Of course, sometimes friends ask for them too, and Jae has been on a quiche kick for the past few months, and I recently culled my laying hens, and the pullets won’t start laying until summer, and some henhouse doofus broke an egg Sunday morning.  That means right now, there are actually only four fresh eggs in my kitchen, which is a pretty rare occurrence.  Of course, we have a whole basket of boiled eggs and a jar of pickled ones in the fridge, and I’m getting 3-4 a day from the four adult layers currently in the coop, so it won’t be long before we start building up again; I never want to have to buy those pathetic, undersized, weeks-old store eggs with pale yellow yolks ever again.  As I have aged, some things that in my youth I barely even thought about have become important parts of my self-care, and having a plentiful supply of fresh eggs is one of them.

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Upgrade

Some of you may have noticed that the address of this blog has changed; it’s now my own domain instead of a WordPress subdomain.  I’ve owned the domain for a while, but it used to point toward my escort site (whose address is subtly different), and now it points here.  It’s probably a move I should’ve made six or seven years ago, but some of you may have also noticed that I’m pathologically change-averse and rarely do anything like that unless I’m forced to.  Well, I was finally forced to.  Like most internet companies, WordPress employs a small army of programmers, and like most US employers it demands they stay busy; the result is a steady trickle of “improvements” that aren’t.  For several years now, the company has been trying to push its new “block editor”; I took one look and realized it was far less useful than the so-called “classic” editor (take a look at some sample one-star reviews, which outnumber all other reviews of the block editor by a factor of > 2 to 1).  But they kept pushing it, and sometime last year changed the site to default to it.  The “classic” editor was still available, but harder to get to, so I had to create several workarounds to keep going.  Then on the morning of March 17th, I awoke to discover that the company had removed the “classic” editor entirely; Google helped me discover that it was now only availble as a plugin, and plugins only work on upgraded sites, so here we are.  The change introduced some back-end problems (they only affected my view of the site, not readers’) which were solved with the help of WordPress tech support, and one gremlin seemed to have escaped into my android phone via Chrome and had to be exterminated separately.  But as of this writing, things seem fully functional again.

Other than the new, shorter address, another change is coming:  after all these years, I’m going to start taking advertising.  Since I’m now semi-retired and I don’t have nearly as much subscription income as I’d like, I definitely need to monetize the tremendous amount of work I’ve put into this site for over a decade and continue to put in on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean I’m throwing all of my standards out the window; I don’t like blinking, flashing, jumping, moving, distracting or otherwise annoying ads on other sites and I’m not going to allow them on mine if I can help it (that goes double for popups).  But since I’m not at all familiar with how the sytem works, it’s possible that such ads may get in without my permission via whatever delivery system I use, so it’s important y’all let me know if something like that appears (I may add a “report annoying ad” button or the like).  And if anyone wants to buy an ad from me, obviously we can talk.  The change will probably be slow as I feel things out and decide exactly what works for me, but I thought it only fair to let y’all know that it’s on the way.

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Diary #561

Whenever a person expresses surprise upon discovering that I’m a colossal nerd, I have to wonder if they’ve actually been paying attention for the past decade.  I mean, it isn’t like I’ve made any effort to hide it; I made a Star Trek reference in my very first column, and I have frequently mentioned sci-fi stories and TV shows, comic books, horror movies, Dungeons and Dragons, and many other nerdy things here, on Twitter, and in real life (this column was inspired by my glancing up at the tiny Dalek atop my desk).  And really, it’s important that I and other “out” sex workers not hide our nerdiness (or academic brilliance, or any other trait not generally associated with hot chicks), because showing the world what we’re really like makes it harder for prohibitionists to depict us as two-dimensional victims, vixens, or villains.  Social media does a lot more for sex workers than act as a vehicle for marketing; it allows people who might never have thought much about sex worker rights to recognize us as real, complex human beings like themelves, worthy of rights and respect.  And if Maggie Fucking McNeill can admit to owning enough stuffed animals to fill a good-sized display case, I doubt it will hurt your business to ‘fess up to writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic.

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Diary #560

My new pullets are three weeks old, and that means they’ve moved from the cradle to the playpen; I’ve got an area in the henhouse screened off with chicken wire, so the adult hens will be able to see, hear, and smell them for the next three weeks and thereby get used to them without being able to get at them.  This is necessary because chickens are the Fowl of Satan and will peck weaker specimens to death.  But years ago I discovered that if they have time to get used to the pullets first, they won’t peck as much (sometimes not at all) when I eventually let the little ones out.  The Sunday after Easter, I’ll start opening their pen in the morning and closing it after sunset so they can come and go during the day, yet not be trapped among much larger hens in the confined henhouse space at night.  That will go on for four more weeks, then finally at the ten-week mark (May 9th this year) they’ll just be treated like the rest of the flock.  Around July they’ll start laying, and next year they’ll be adult hens I need to protect the new chicks from.  As I explained last week, I’m starting to alternate colors to make it easier to cull the old hens each year; I’m rather pleased with myself this time because all the layers I kept are averaging an egg a day, which means I successfully located the slackers.  And after next year, I’ll just be able to do it by color.

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Diary #559

I’ve never seen chicks grow and develop as quickly as this batch. In only two weeks they’ve not only grown quite large and filled out with a generous display of feathers, but also developed strong enough wings to flit about their enclosure; just a little before snapping this picture one actually flew to the top of the little wall.  When cleaning their litter on Saturday I doubled the size of the enclosure, and it’s in the bathroom with the door kept closed, so even if one escapes she won’t get far.  On Sunday I’ll be moving them out into the henhouse; I’ve got a chicken-wire enclosure there to protect them from the adult hens until they’re a bit bigger, and they’ll spend three weeks confined in there before I open it to let them move in and out.  Meanwhile, I’ve culled three of the currently-adult hens who are poor layers; it’s not worth the trouble to kill and prepare them for the small amount of tough meat they carry, so I just took them down the road and let them go in front of a farm which has a very large free-ranging flock (Jae refers to this as “chicken trafficking”).  To make the process easier, I plan to alternate colors so in any given year, I can easily tell which are the old ones who need to be rotated out.  Yes, I have a system for just about everything; it’s part of the charm of OCD.

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Diary #558

Saturday was a sad day at Sunset. Orville didn’t respond when I called him for dinner, so I went to the barn to see if he might not be incapacitated again, as happened in mid-January; I found him in his usual nest, but unfortunately quite dead.  He was cold but not stiff, so it had apparently happened sometime late morning or early afternoon, and there were no indications of what might’ve happened except a little bloody discharge from his snout.  He hasn’t shown any kind of symptoms; the picture below was taken only a week ago today, and he appeared perfectly normal.  I haven’t noticed anything unusual about his stools (eg parasites or blood), and other than the incident in January and a chronic limp which seems to have been caused by the rough hog-tying his previous owners inflicted on him when they dumped him, he’s always been an apparently healthy animal.  I even asked our helpful neighbor (who keeps pigs himself) if had any clue, and he had none; he was as surprised as I was.  The internet seems to point toward a respiratory infection called actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP) which can “cause sudden death in all ages of swine…it is common to see pigs that have recently died with blood coming from the nose“.  Grace did not take the news well; she loves animals in general and was quite attached to her “little piggy”.  The only consolation is that he was a happy pig, and any suffering must have been very short-lived because he was in good spirits and had a healthy appetite just the day before.  And in the end, for pigs as well as people, the important thing is not when we die, but how we live.

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Diary #557

When I heard the chicks had arrived at our local Tractor Supply store, I pulled my chick gear out ofthe storage closet and got everything ready, including running everything through the dishwasher to be sure it was completely sanitary.  Unfortunately, I found for the second year in a row that this store never carries very many varieties of pullets; last year it was only hybrid leghorns and Ameraucanas, and this year Ameraucanas and a breed I was unfamiliar with, Sapphire Gem.  But they’re attractive birds and the advertising says they’re good layers (average 290 eggs/year), and the most important thing is to have hens that are easily distinguished from last year’s so I can tell the generations apart once these are full grown (next year I’ll probably get some Rhode Island Reds or a similar breed).  For the next three weeks, I’ll be able to enjoy their silly antics as they run around their enclosure in the bathroom; it’s the best place to start them because we keep the door closed, thereby protecting them from the cats and dogs.  We also keep a small radiator on low in there, so it’s the warmest room in the house.  At three weeks we’ll move them to a caged area inside the henhouse until they’re ten weeks old; for the last four weeks of that period they get to roam around the chicken yard in the daytime and are shut in at night to protect them from being pecked to death by the adult hens.  Over the years, I’ve found this strategy works best; it lets the adult hens get used to their smell and presence before being able to get near them, and that results in fewer lost chicks.  It’s a shame they’re only cute for such a short time, but once they’re grown up it’s worth the minimal effort needed to keep them for the deliciousness of fresh eggs.

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Diary #556

When Annie first arrived, it took her a while to fit in; Trip would crowd her away from the food, and since there were no cats at Winnie’s she wasn’t quite sure what to make of them.  And cats being cats, they took advantage of her uncertainty.  Not Aeryn, of course; she’ll be 19 in a few weeks so she is unimpressed by anything or anybody (including strangers and vacuum cleaners) and everyone knows better than to fuck with her despite her tiny size (note they give her the choice spot where the heating pad is).  But Spec wanted nothing to do with her, and neither did Chekhov’s cat Coco or the barn cat, Rocky; for a few weeks after she arrived, they’d hiss at her every time they saw her, and she started barking in reply.  But that soon stopped, and Spec slowly warmed up to her (they don’t cuddle yet, but I’ve seen them closer together than they are in this photo).  Coco now lives in Chekhov’s cottage, and even though Rocky still swats at her whenever she passes him, it seems a bit perfunctory now, as though he were merely doing it on principle.  As for the humans (including me), we’ve really become quite fond of her; at first I was just taking her as a favor to Winnie, but I quickly learned what an intelligent, affectionate animal she is.  She’s also an exceptional communicator; her tail displays her feelings perfectly, and she’s also good at responding to commands and attracting my attention when she wants something.  And in the evening, she likes to curl up next to me when I watch TV (in the spot occupied by Aeryn in this shot) while stoned.

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Diary #555

I’m glad I was out at Sunset for this snowstorm (the deepest Seattle has seen since 1969, though not as severe out here on the coast), because as I’ve observed before, “when [Seattle gets snow] everything basically stops and absurdist-theater levels of hysteria ensue, complete with ridiculous terms like ‘Snowmageddon’ for a few inches of accumulation“.  By the time I drove back into town yesterday, the snow was all melted and with it all the extra-stupid driving (leaving only the ordinarily-stupid driving), but I can only imagine what it was like on Saturday, given that this is what it looked like out back at Sunset that morning (as you can see, the animals were active out there before I dragged myself outside).  The extra accumulation we had that night resulted in the shitty awning over the hot tub sagging badly, but as we’re planning to tear it down as soon as that part of the roof is in place, I hardly think it matters.  Since I have a proper rural pantry rather than something designed by authoritarian sociopaths, there was no need to go any farther than the barn and henhouse to take care of the animals.  And when one doesn’t have to go out in it, a moderate snowfall is actually kinda pretty. 

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Diary #554

Why do cats dislike having their picture taken while doing something cute? Every time I see one of our cats doing something that would make an interesting picture, by the time I grab my phone and point, they’re already doing something else.  Case in point Rocky, our barn cat; he showed up practically as soon as we started moving things in, and quickly decided Sunset was his territory.  Grace and Chekhov named him “Rocky” because one of his eyes was swollen shut and they presumed he had lost it in a fight, but when they took him to the vet it turned out to only be a severe case of conjunctivitis, which we took care of (I think “Popeye” would’ve been a better name, but he’d already been named by the time I knew he even existed, so there you are).  Anyhow, the other day I found him perching regally atop this post (which will be part of the railing once we get to that point), but no sooner did I grab my phone from my jacket pocket than he crouched down and…well, see for yourself.  He’s a good mouser; despite Chekhov feeding him far too often, he often leaves little presents by the front door, and he also keeps away the black-and-white cat which I sometimes see skulking around the chicken coop and barn.  I’m not sure whether I’m going to allow him bathhouse privileges once the walls go up; we plan to allow the indoor cats out there, and I don’t want a territorial cat with claws and a bladder near my furniture.  But I guess I’ll figure it out when we reach that point, probably this summer.  And just in case you’re concerned about him being outside in the cold, I can assure you that A) it doesn’t actually get that cold here, though a light freeze is predicted every night this week and we expect snow on Thursday; B) he’s incredibly fluffy, and about half of his visible bulk is fur; C) he knows how to get into the shop; and D) Grace made him a hutch which sits by the back door and contains a pad that automatically turns on when he sits on it.  Yet despite C and D, he can usually be found sitting by the front door; I guess curiosity outweighs warmth unless it’s really nasty outside.  And he eventually even learned that no matter how cute he looks, I’m not letting him in.

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