Trouble at the Walmart

i went to town because i needed snacks for cramming for an exam. I needed a bag of chips…something i could just be mindlessly shoveling into my mouth one by one so that i was always chewing while i was memorizing. It helped the information stick in my memory and the tasty food kept me happy so that i wasn’t upset i had to cram for 6 to 8 hours straight. However, the kind of chips with 40 percent less fat were sold in town, not at the gas station where i lived. It was a thirty minute drive there and another thirty minute drive back. It had to be done. I didn’t want to go to the grocery i worked at because originally i was supposed to work today but my comrade took my shift so i could study for this exam. I felt it would be disrespectful to her to show up now as a customer when she’d sacrificed so i could be at home. So i went to walmart. I gathered a couple snacks and headed for the checkout. I wasn’t sure if the self checkout was on at the other side of the store. I couldn’t see that far without my glasses. I had parked at the other side of the store so i contemplated walking over there to check out on the other end, but i didn’t. I went to the self checkout in front of me. There was a man ranting at the walmart attendant standing near the self checkout. He was talking about how walmart didnt want to spend the money to put more registers in the self checkout even though there was room for one more because they were so cheap they were saving money. At first i thought he was just a disgruntled customer being an ass. I figured he probably tried to checkout and the registers were full and he was mad he had to wait in line….but there were several registers available. He was shouting and every muscle in his body was tensed. He was very animated and wired. He was babbling on about random things, switching from one topic to another without warning and throwing his hands in the air as he spoke. I quickly recognized narcotics were likely at play here. The city nearest my town was known for drugs. Nearly everyone i knew had had a problem at one point in the past. They were easily obtainable in an area that made and sold a wide variety of stimulants. So here he was on a likely drug fueled rant throwing his arms in the air and dancing around the walmart self checkout area shouting in what i’m sure he thought was an indoor voice in the state he was in. His clothes were faded and had dirt and sweat stains on them. His hair was disheveled. I recognized that it was time for me to go. I was disappointed with walmart’s response to the situation. Had we been in the grocery i worked at, we were all trained monthly in what to do in a situation such as this. The employee nearest to him would remain and try to pull the man over to the side, hear what he had to say, empathize with him, put some distance between him and the other customers, try to validate his feelings and defuse the situation. The employee would signal discretely to the employee nearest him or her to call the manager. in order to refrain from further upsetting the animated person causing a scene, the employee attending to him or her would not be the one to make the call. The manager would arrive and offer to speak with the customer privately and represent that the store valued them as a customer and wanted above all else to come to a resolution that would benefit all and ensure that the customer was a continued customer. The animated customer would be further shuttled away from the other customers bit by bit. Either the manager would be able to defuse the situation and bring about resolution or the customer would be spoken with by the manager until the police arrived to further handle the situation. Walmart employees apparently did not receive this same training. The attendant stood still and tried her best to ignore him. When she became uncomfortable she crossed the checkout area and stood on the other side for a bit before returning to her post but nobody was called. The customers were on their own when he began interacting with them. Void of all weapons i made a decision to check out quick and get to my car. In my opinion the man was on a stimulant…rash behavior, copious amounts of energy, and an artificially high tolerance for pain could be expected. I wanted no piece of this.

Out of the corner of my eye i noted an elderly gentleman in suspenders assisting his wife on her scooter to ring items up. She appeared to have some cognitive difficulties but he was still letting her scan the items. He put them in her hand one by one and motioned as she followed his gesture and slid the item across the metal platform to be scanned. He had turned around and said to the animated man, “why don’t you just calm down a bit okay?” I cringed. I wanted to help the elderly man but i wasn’t willing to take on a 6 foot man on stimulants without any weapons at my disposal. I wished the man hadn’t said that. In all honesty, i wasn’t sure what i was going to do. I wasn’t sure if i would be able to stand by and watch him harm the old man. I might have to get involved. As i turned around to face the situation i was hearing the young man shout at the elderly man as he bounced on his feet, “you wanna go? Come on lets go! You’re a yankee, i already know it! I can feel it! You’re a yankee, you wanna run your mouth, let’s go!” The elderly man waved his hand in the air, “no, no, i don’t want any trouble.” The younger man said, “well then maybe you should shut up!” The elderly man, in a voice full of complete and utter defeat said, “you’re right. You’re right.” The young man bounced back to the walmart attendant who was standing stoic next to a pole, “i know i’m right! At least i hope i’m right. You think i’m right?!” The woman in the walmart vest nodded her head that she agreed. i was heart broken for the elderly man. I understood what had just happened. In his day he would have smashed the younger man’s face in or at least pinned him to the ground until the cops arrived to cuff him; depending on how many drugs he had done, maybe just given him a good fight…but now, hunched over in his frail state, with his wife depending on him for cognitive function, he had neither the means nor the luxury of taking on this unruly young man. He was reminded of that by the pompous drug crazed idiot and he had to hang his head and admit that he couldn’t take him at this stage in his life. I knew from my years spent treating the elderly that this was a knife wound far deeper than any physical object could inflict. My female patients always envisioned themselves being crotchety old grandmas giving everybody heck and doting on grand babies in their golden years. My male patients somehow always envisioned they’d remain 20 forever, even when they knew they were in their 40s. They still felt and thought they were 20 year old men. I could see that it had taken all the wind out of the old man in suspenders and he was ashamed that he had no choice but to back down. In his day he would have said something different. I wanted desperately to right the situation, to punish the guy for the hurt he’d caused the old man. However, i was not going to take the guy on myself. If you want to fight somebody, just for your knowledge, picking someone on stimulants is not the right way to go. They develop super human strength and they feel no pain. You could literally break a chair over their head and they’d keep coming like it was a gentle breeze that barely registered. I gathered my groceries and left for the car as i heard a middle aged woman telling her earpiece to her phone that there was a crazy man on drugs flipping out in the walmart self checkout.

A Psychedelic Experience

I saw the storm approaching on the radar around 11. I heard the thunder in the distance. It looked like we were going to get hit hard. There was a thin line of storms on the radar but it was all red with an outline of yellow. I immediately ran around the room unplugging everything that could possibly call the attention of lightening. The dog fence was deactivated. The internet was disconnected. I placed the lantern next to my bed. I knew i’d need it shortly and i wished to save myself the trouble of finding it in the dark. I didn’t even brush my teeth. I knew it would be a doozy and it would probably be pretty hard to sleep if it sounded like the house might come down, so i figured i had better try to get a good thirty minutes of shut eye before it arrived. Cashew heard the thunder in the distance and was panicking now. I ushered her reluctantly into her crate. Sili waited impatiently for the invitation and then climbed into my bed, tucking her tail and hiding in the covers as i zipped her in the mosquito net tent. I held Sili and stroked her fur while telling Cashew, “you’re okay. Everything’s unplugged. You’re fine. It’s okay.” This worked while i was awake but when i drifted off to sleep Cashew stopped hearing my voice and began whining and barking. I managed to get about 40 minutes of sleep before the storm woke me. I could hear the refrigerator and a/c unit running and see the clock lit up on the oven so i knew the power was still on. The rain was hitting the roof and the side of the house. There was a lot of lightening. There was also a fair amount of wind whipping the rain against the side of the house and rattling the windows with each gust. At 12:40 am i heard the refrigerator motor click off and all went quiet. The clock on the oven was no longer visible. The power was out. It was pouring outside and had been with merciless intensity for the entirety of the storm. The wind was whipping the rain sideways and i could hear the water trickling into the house around the edges of the window unit. I wanted to go place paper towels in the problem spots and see how bad the situation was but the sheer amount of lightening stopped me. The hairs on my arms stood on end and i had the feeling that we were some place we weren’t supposed to be. There was so much lightening it hurt to keep my eyes open. It was as if i was living in a strobe light or an eternal red carpet experience where the paparazzi call to celebrities “over here, over here” while flashing bright lights thousands of times in their faces. Cashew was absolutely howling and turning round in her crate repeatedly. Sili was burying her nose under my arm and hiding in the blankets. I hadn’t seen this behavior from her and i found it intriguing. She was normally the brave one in storms. I entertained the idea that the lightening just may have been too prolific for her. She seemed to want a break from the strobe effect. She pushed her head under my arm and then under my torso and tried to hide beneath the comforter. I covered her head with the blanket and tucked her against me, “you’re okay.” I could hear the water coming in the house, the walls creaking, the windows rattling with each gust of wind, and i heard a bucket being tossed across the yard. I wouldn’t realize until the morning that the tub we used as a mailbox was also being tossed across the yard and would be found 50 feet from where it should have been, upside down and covered in mud. All of these things were concerning to me and yet, i remained glued to my bed. The lightening had become so frequent and so rapid that i was having some sort of psychedelic experience. I could see everything in my tiny house. The lightening was lighting the room, only taking a break for a brief fraction of a second before returning. I could see where everything was and also was losing sight of everything for a nanosecond each fraction of a second. It felt as if we were stuck inside a rave party of lightening. The flashes were in such rapid succession that i could no longer make sense of the fact that we had no power and were in darkness, because we weren’t in darkness. For about twenty minutes the lightening was so prolific that i don’t think there was ever 1 full second of darkness. I tried to check by counting “1 Mississippi” but i never made it to “ippi”. I didn’t move from where i lay in the bed and i prayed. I prayed to the Lord to protect the homestead from lightening, fires, tornados, high winds, hail, and especially lightening. I prayed continuously until the lightening became more evenly spaced; a flash here, a flash there. Sili tucked her head in my armpit and breathed a sigh of relief. I checked the radar on my phone and saw that the storm was now moving away from us and we had been through the worst of it. I drifted off to sleep while stroking Sili’s ear.

At 3 am my alarm went off and i awoke to darkness and silence. The storm was gone but the damage had been done. The power was still off. I pushed the button on the lantern and navigated to the kitchen for meds. After i took my morning meds i went to brush my teeth. I had forgotten to put the potatoes in the fridge and noted this was a good thing considering i wouldn’t be able to open the fridge door to retrieve food until they turned the power back on. I was thinking about how i was going to make sure i got everything clean with the floss and toothbrush, not being able to see what i was doing in the mirror, when the lights cut on, the a/c unit roared to life, and then cut off again. Within the next 2 minutes there was this type of false start two more times. On – off, power up – power down. The lights flicked on again and this time they stayed on. I brushed my teeth and charged my phone. I went back to sleep a couple hours and woke up again. I spent a couple hours showering, putting my uniform on, doing my hair and makeup, packing a lunch, readying the homestead for my departure, putting tea tree oil on my feet and donning my work shoes…my team leader called and said they were cutting hours and i could have the day off. My brain didn’t immediately process what was happening. I continued to get ready for work after hanging up the phone. Then i stopped and took everything off, laying my clothes and socks and shoes out to be used for the next day of work. I put my pajamas back on, wiped off my makeup, took the clips out of my hair, let the dogs into the dog run with a bowl of water, and sat down in the rocking chair to write this and focus on school work on my computer. It was a strange time of day to start school work; noon, but, that was just the way the cookie crumbled. I thought back to the night before. It felt like Sili and i had gone through some psychedelic light experience. At one point i looked at her and noticed she was looking at me. We were both watching each other, made visible only by the lightening. It felt like our bed was a boat in an ocean of electricity and i was sure that we ought not leave it but wasn’t positive we were safe within it. It was a trippy night.

Pop Up Storms

One of the problems with pop up storms is it is often hard to get information on them, as weather announcers like to just blanket statement whatever will probably form. It is not as if they can observe a weather system’s behavior while it is heading towards an area. When the weather is ripe for it, the storms create themselves right where they are and the radar suddenly explodes with color where previously there was none. The sentence i had ahead of time was “isolated severe storms possible late Monday across the area.” Around 7 pm i heard one rumble of thunder. The dogs heard it too. It was clearly thunder. There was no mistaking it for a vehicle engine. It was close enough that it was definitively heard. I wondered why it hadn’t announced itself earlier and when i checked the radar i got my answer. It was a baby. It was just building, from a tiny yellow dot on the screen, to a blip with orange in the middle. Five minutes later the blip with orange now had 2 red spots surrounded by orange and then yellow. It was growing. It was exploding in the hot summer air. It was to the north east of us and headed in our direction once it spawned. I kicked myself for not getting the chores done earlier. I gave the dogs dinner and hurried them into the dog run for a chance to potty. Cashew didn’t want to go. She could hear the thunder and she didn’t want to be outside. I didn’t immediately see the system when i was doing the chores. It hadn’t come into view yet, but i could hear it. I hurried to the shed and got the trash can. I ran about the house collecting the trash and putting it in the can. I collected the trash from the car and added that in. Then i drug the trash can to the intersection. All the while it was thundering and Cashew was crying like a tortured banshee. I told her it was okay repeatedly while i fed the chickens and watered the plants, just in case it missed us. You never can tell with pop up storms. Sometimes they go right under or over you and miss you completely. The chickens did not have any eggs for me. I don’t know if that’s because they ate them or they just didn’t lay any. I didn’t really have time to wonder. I hurried the dogs in the house, having retrieved laundry soap and a dryer sheet from the shed. I also got more water from the well to have in the house for the night. I unplugged the internet, the electric dog fence; anything i could think of that had contact with the ground outside. I made sure both green lights were on when i glanced at the surge protector on the utility pole outside. I put a load of laundry in, in case we did lose power, so i didn’t have to worry about when it would come on again. Worst case scenario i could dry it on the laundry line and still have a clean work shirt for my next shift. Then, with thunder rumbling and the storm suddenly visible through the window, lightening ripping across the sky, i hopped in the shower. If we lost power the pump wouldn’t work to draw the well water, so i thought i better get clean now so i would be presentable for my zoom call for an exam no matter what. As i stood in the shower listening to the thunder i realized that it was the first scorching hot shower of the year. 98 degrees at 9:20 am meant that the water in the ground was now hot. When one turned on the tap, the water that came out was hot. One had to run the water a while until the well drew water from deeper in the ground to get cold water. What was already sitting in the pipes was hot. So, for the first time this year, i turned the shower dial half way rather than all the way to the “hot” side. I also had ten straight minutes of pleasant water; 8 hot and 2 very warm. I stepped out of the shower just in time to photograph the storm as it arrived. It was now a long stretch of red on the radar. The rain started immediately and obstructed my view. As i stared out the window i realized that the wind had picked up to an alarming speed. I knew what 60, 70 mph winds looked like and this was more. The laundry line tree stood at a 90 degree angle. The mimosa tree laid down against the ground and did not appear to be getting up any time soon. The rain collection buckets rolled and bounced across the property and headed for the fence. I threw the door open against my better judgment and went after them. I retrieved them before they made it to the intersection and drug them back where i braced them against the side of the house. Later i would find them on their side on the opposite side of the house so it was all for not. When i made it back into the house the sky was lit up with flashes. I checked the weather app and it stated that the nearest lightening strike was .1 miles from my location. The wind whipped the rain sideways and it began coming in under the front door and at the window unit. The spigot cover for the well house blew across the porch. It was at this moment that my phone refused to connect with internet using the phone data. It said an error had occurred and to try again later. I called my mother to see if it was just wind or a tornado warning. There were no tornados, no hail; just high winds. The lightening was touching down across the street and i began to fear it would set trees on fire. It lit up the sky and was incredibly noisy. The rain was being blown sideways into the windows and they began to quiver with each gust. The sound of the rain was loud and menacing as it hit the windows sideways. The dogs began to get antsy. Cashew began screaming and barking. I let them out of their crates and huddled them in the middle of the room, away from the windows, while the wind whipped the rain into the windows. It was quite the storm. There was a lot of wind and a lot of lightening, but we never lost power. Unfortunately, we didnt manage to collect very much of the rain water. The containers kept blowing away. I went out in the lightening twice to retrieve them but to no avail. Once the storm system had gone another developed behind it and pelted us some more. Storms were popping up on the radar all around us but they were moving away from us. When all was said and done it was 10 pm. I was thankful it had been a relatively uneventful storm. The dogs finally calmed down.

Update: i think i must have been right about the high winds. The cylindrical metal wire fencing was pulled up and over the fruit trees to end up lying on the ground. The zip ties holding the metal “no trespassing” signs on the property fence were snapped in half. The rope that was stapled to the piece of wood where i painted the property address number was ripped out from under one of the staples. It lay on the ground in front of the gate. I used dental floss and a zip tie to repair it. The property is mostly put back together but that was some wind. Not even the microburst of last year snapped the zip ties in half. The good thing was that a number of big grasshoppers died in the storm. I’m not sure how. I fed them to the chickens.

Summer Heat

It was 9:20 in the morning. The thermometer already read 98 degrees. I let the dogs out for about an hour. They spent most of the time in the shade of the cedar trees in the dog run. They drank a fair amount of water. An hour later i decided they had been given enough time to potty and brought them inside. They were panting heavily. They each drank water and then dripped it all over the floor, too busy panting to worry about keeping it in their mouths. I explained to them that they would be spending the day indoors due to the weather. Neither of them seemed to mind. They stretched out on the floor and panted some more. The window unit was a blessing. It didn’t limp along like our previous system had. It roared to life every few minutes and cooled the house effectively regardless of what was going on outside. That meant i could use the stove even though it was the middle of the day. I cooked food for the week and hid indoors save for a trip to feed the chickens melon rinds and seeds and strawberry tops. The dogs regained their strength once cool and began to wrestle on the floor of the tiny house. I didn’t have a problem with it as long as they didn’t break anything. Sili did her best to steer Cashew away from all the furniture, trying to remain in the center of the room. Cashew was her usual rowdy bull in a china shop self. They didn’t break anything but that’s mostly due to the fact that Sili lost every match as she was more focused on herding Cashew to the center of the room than winning. I opened the coconut i had bought during the grocery trip and poured the liquid into a cup. I would make the coconut noodles another day but the weather was so hot and dry it felt like the sun started to bake my skin the moment i stepped off the porch. I thought an ice cold cup of coconut water would be so good on this particular day. It was.

Scorpion Season

It was 1 am. I was sitting in the rocking chair trying to talk myself out of insomnia when i saw movement on the floor to my left. Because the scorpions coloring often blends in with the pattern of the floor boards i have become extremely sensitive to movement in my peripheral vision. The moment i detected this movement i knew it was not a fly or a spider. It was a large object and advancing steadily. As i turned to investigate i realized that sure enough it was a scorpion; a big one. It was walking down the middle of the floor with its pinchers out and its tail curled high above its head. I dont know why but the scorpions never just walk around the house. They are always already in a fight stance, looking for trouble. So, of course, i had to kill it before it made it over to the dogs. However, i messed up and dropped the lawn mower battery charging station i was going to smash it with. As it hit the floor, the vibration and noise spooked the scorpion who abandoned its threatening stance and ran underneath my rocking chair. I had only one more chance before it scurried away to hide in the walls only to pop out of the drain or drop from the ceiling into the shower at a later date in time. I rocked the chair back and forth. I seemed to have caught a few of its legs underneath the rocking chair and as it struggled to free itself i exited the chair, repositioned it quickly overtop the scorpion and pressed my weight down on it as i rocked it over the scorpion, smushing it. It twitched for a bit and then it was still with one single pincher open and outstretched. Thus, the first scorpion in the house during 2021 was killed.

I just had a feeling that there was more than one. I knew there was another. The temperature had reached 100 degrees and it hadn’t rained. That meant they were looking for relief. The holes surrounding the plumbing beneath the sinks and the holes around the old a/c unit in the wall were the vulnerable areas where they seemed to be making entry. The pvc pipe plumbing needed fiddling with so often that i wasn’t willing to seal anything up beneath the sinks. I kept an eye out but i didn’t see any more movement. Then, as i was brushing my teeth in the bathroom a tiny scorpion with outstretched pinchers sprinted across the floor and underneath a box serving as a table with many things precariously balanced on top of it. Unwilling to move the box to chase it i decided to finish brushing my teeth in the rocking chair. While sitting in the rocking chair i felt something land on my head. I had my hair pinned up. My immediate thought was, “no, no way. No way that this happened. It could not…”. I reached up and sure enough, there was something moving and bumpy on my head. I made contact and then ripped my hand away. I wasn’t sure if it was still in my hair so i then ripped the clip out of my hair and feverishly combed my fingers through, unsure of whether i wanted to protect my hands or my head. As it turned out, it had flung to the ground when i ripped my hand away. It was also a little scorpion. Outnumbered and over it, i hurried the dogs to bed and climbed into the mosquito net tent around my bed. It was actually purchased to keep scorpions, rather than mosquitos, out of the bed. I feel this is God’s way of solving my insomnia.

City Slicker

I began this day leaving my car in the middle of a highway to rescue a turtle. I ended the day waiting in a parking lot on hold with a car insurance company for an hour and a half before giving up on them, having drained my phone battery nearly completely, and pursuing other avenues. As it turns out, i could have walked to autozone. It was .3 miles away. My friend’s husband came and jumped my car and refused to take any payment for it. I drove it to autozone and left it running while i went in to inquire as to whether they had a battery for my suv. They had 1 battery for my type of suv. I bought it. They installed it. I was finally on my way home at 8 pm. There are several reasons i was a city slicker today. 1. I did not know how to jump my car. 2. I did not carry jumper cables in my car. 3. I did not have the appropriate tools in my car to switch out a battery. 4. My first instinct was to call roadside assistance instead of a buddy with a working car. It was just one of those days. There are a lot of things that i know how to do. I have to admit, cars aren’t one of them. I can change a tire, touch up paint scratches, dig tires out of mud, and put gas in it, but that’s the extent of my skill in the car department. One day i’d like to know how to change my own oil, switch out the battery, and how to jump a car. However, right now, i have to make dinner, put the chickens up, study for my exam, and get up for work tomorrow. New skills will have to wait just a bit. For today, i’ll admit, my skills are lacking. Thank God for good friends, their devoted husbands, and the broad operating hours of auto zone.

Turtle Crossing

i was driving down the highway headed to work when i had to swerve into the other lane to avoid…a big old turtle! It wasn’t one of those little baby ones that lives in the creek up the road from my property. It was a big old turtle. I wondered if it was wild or somebody’s pet that had escaped. It just wasn’t every day that i saw a turtle bigger than the cute little creek ones. As i drove past i realized cars were coming behind me and thought better. I made a u-turn and went back. I parked the car in the turn lane and put on my hazards as a sedan drove right over it with the turtle dead-center between the wheels. As soon as the sedan passed over it i jumped out of my car and ran to where the turtle lay tucked in its shell on the highway. I grabbed it on either side of its wide shell and ran across as two more cars came around the bend and zoomed past us. The turtle was heavier than i thought it would be. I was impressed with its size and wanted it to live. It kicked and flailed its arms and legs as i ran with it. I set it down in the grass about eight feet from the highway, facing away from the road. I let some cars pass before running across the highway and jumping back into my suv. I turned, did another u-turn, and turned again to enter the highway once more. As i drove to work i hoped the turtle would head back to the wilderness and stay away from the road. Its shell was bumpy and warm beneath my hands, baked by the summer sun.

The Disappearing Poo

I have noticed for a while now that Cashew is no longer eating her turds. She poops and runs off rather than turning and eating it. I was thrilled by this and wanted her to keep it up so i didn’t call any attention to the change and pretended i didn’t notice. I expected that i would encounter a lot of dog poop in the dog run when i mowed the grass but there was barely one pile of turds and it appeared to be freshly laid within the hour. My heart sank and i wondered if Cashew had gone back to consuming her own turds. One thing bothered me though. Cashew had eaten her own turds since puppyhood, but as an adult, for some reason, she wouldn’t touch her sister’s. She would eat deer poop, rabbit poop, coyote poop; the whole gamut, but she would not touch her sister’s turds. I could not find a single one of Sili’s turds. The freshly laid pile was Cashew’s. They were different sized dogs. They made different sized poops. Something was taking the dog poops out of the dog run and it wasn’t Cashew because she wouldn’t have eaten Sili’s and left her own. I was glad i didn’t have to step in it when mowing the lawn but i didn’t know what to make of the mystery. How could so much poop disappear?

One morning i encountered a couple of dung beetles working hard to get a perfectly round sphere of dog poop rolled under the porch steps. They were very dedicated and had a stellar work ethic. I was surprised by how quickly they moved the rather large ball of poop and i suddenly realized that the dung beetles must have single handedly cleaned the dog run for me.

Nature is amazing isn’t it? The mosquitos breed in the chicken water tank and then fly around in the chicken pen. As soon as night falls the toads emerge from the dirt and hop into the chicken pen to eat the mosquitos. The dogs poop. The dung beetles dismantle it and roll it away. Nature has all these beautiful systems in place. Its a shame humans disrupt so many of them.

The Story of Ellis and Oakley

Where do i begin? The first chicken to begin displaying broody behavior was Petunia. She began “incubating” the unfertilized and ceramic eggs in the nesting boxes. With relentless enthusiasm and patience, she sat on those eggs day and night. She skipped the commotion of the feeding frenzy when i arrived each day with scraps from the kitchen. She did not emerge with the others when i opened the door to the hen house each morning. The only way i could get her to eat was by placing a handful of feed in the nesting box before her sisters ate it all. She’s still alive, so i assume she left the eggs at some point to visit the water tank in the pen. She seemed so focused. She had one singular purpose, and that was to incubate babies. I began to feel sorry for her. I had taken the rooster away. No matter how hard she incubated those eggs, they were never going to hatch, partly because most of them were clay. I remembered my own struggles with fertility and how painful the years of longing and cautious hope were. I didn’t want to be cruel to Petunia. If she wanted to be a mother; if her instincts told her it was time to be a mother, i felt i should let her. I was not going to be purchasing another rooster. That was out of the question. I would not be borrowing one either. No roosters. I decided on a different route to get Petunia the experience her hormones told her she needed. I drove to the feed store and bought a single week old chick. I brought it home that morning and snuck it carefully underneath Petunia amongst the eggs. The chick knew exactly what to do. It nestled in underneath Petunia’s feathers and enjoyed her warmth. It was tucked in there so good that i couldn’t see it at all and none of the chickens noticed it. I stayed in the hen house with the chickens, petting them and just hanging out because i knew the chickens hadn’t discovered her yet. They were young chickens. They had never been moms. I wasn’t sure if they would know what to do with it. I wasn’t sure if they would accept it. I was pretty sure the other chickens who were not broody would try to peck it to death, as was the chicken way. Peck everything. It was more a matter of whether Petunia would feel broody enough to protect it from the other adult chickens and fend them off. About 10 minutes into this little experiment the chick began peeping. The noise startled Petunia and she swung her head around and lifted her bum off the eggs a little to see what was going on under there. She was met with a fluffy little face and a tiny beak sticking out from beneath her bum. I exclaimed, “Look Petunia, you had a baby.” As if that was going to convince her that one of the eggs had hatched and miraculously produced a week old chick in the ten minutes i had been squatting in the hen house with them. She cocked her head and stared at the chick. The other hens gathered near to examine the chick as well. All was going swimmingly until the chick moved. It took a step, emerging from beneath Petunia about half way. At this point all the chickens panicked. Buttercup ran out of the hen house squawking bloody murder. Lily and Rosie flew about the hen house, bumping into the walls and the roosting bars, sending feathers flying everywhere. petunia immediately set to pecking the tiny chick in the head forcefully and repeatedly. Daisy, seeing Petunia’s idea of how to handle the situation, stepped forward and also began pecking the chick in the head. I reached in and grabbed the chick, lifting it out of the commotion and tucking it into my shirt. I exited the hen house. Daisy followed me. She was going to make sure it was dead. I swept her carefully to the side with my shin and opened the door to exit the pen. Once standing safely on the outside of the pen, Daisy on the other side of the door, eyes locked on the poor traumatized chick, i breathed a sigh, “Well, i guess i’m raising a chick.” She had been so dedicated to the incubation of the eggs, i hadn’t even formulated a plan for if she decided she did not in fact want to be a mother badly enough to adopt. She had been rolling the other chickens eggs onto the shavings on the floor of the hen house and then pushing them up the wall and into the nesting box her others were in so that she could sit on them all at once. She had been doing this for weeks. No matter what box i put the ceramic eggs in each morning, by the evening, they were all in the box by the window and she was sitting on them. Some eggs went to the dogs because during this little ritual of hers, she would crack lily’s eggs which were always somehow more brittle and thin shelled than the others. It had not occurred to me that she would go from broody to homicidal at the prospect of adoption. She seemed rather willing to adopt her sisters eggs. Perhaps she just had an instinct to incubate and nothing more. I wasn’t sure, but one thing i knew was that Daisy, the bossy pants of the group, was having none of it. If i put the chick back in there she would likely kill it dead within the first few minutes of its stay. She had often tried to claw her sisters in the face because i had held them in my lap and that was HER spot and HERS ALONE! Though she was super cuddly and as a result my favorite, she could be quite aggressive when she felt she’d been wronged. I examined the poor chick. She had taken three good solid pecks to the head before i swooped in and lifted her to safety. I wondered if she would have brain damage. I wondered how durable a week old chick could possibly be. I kept her warm against the skin of my chest while i walked about the yard, visiting various sheds to collect supplies from last year. I dug out the chick lamp and luckily the bulb in it was not dead. It still had some life left in it. I grabbed the bathtub and fashioned a lid out of the window screen i had removed to install the window a/c unit. I drug a bag of wood shavings to the house and gathered the old chick water and feed dispensers. Once i finally got everything plugged in and set up it hit me that i’d doomed myself to the same experience as last year. I’d effectively lost my bathroom for the next few months. What did i do?

I watched the little chick explore her new surroundings. She took a few sips of water but didn’t touch the chick feed. Instead, she began peeping incessantly and turning her head to look at me through the window screen. I lifted her out of the tub and placed her against my chest. I sat in the rocking chair and tried to make sense of what just happened. She tucked herself into the crook of my neck and folded her head against her body. In the camera app of my cell phone i could see that her eyes were closing gradually. She had stopped peeping incessantly. Instead, she began to snore. She made a soft little snorty noise every time she breathed out and slept happily against my neck under my chin. I decided to call her Ellis.

Ellis did not appear to be brain damaged from the attack. She was, however, lonely and became increasingly needy. As much as i grew to adore her, i had so much school work to do and i was exhausted from all the hours of sprinting at work, and i began to resent her for the incessant overbearing noise that she made every time i put her down. How could so much sound come out of something so little? She cried all night unless i removed her and put her on my chest and then she pooped on me. I was running out of towels to wear. Finally, i made a decision. I drove to the feed store and bought another of the chicks that had been in the week old cage. They were now 2 weeks old. This chick was a little more wild and a lot less interested in me. She bonded with Ellis immediately and Ellis focused on the other chick and stopped crying for me. I named the other chick Oakley. She ended up being the dominant of the two and hogged the chick feeder, thus gaining weight faster than little Ellis. Occasionally she would pick on her because she was bigger and because she could, but they still slept against each other during nap time. Ellis was a lighter tan and Oakley was a bit darker. I imagined that Oakley would lay brown eggs like Rosie and Ellis would likely produce cream colored eggs like Lily and Buttercup. So, that is the story of how i came to have 7 chickens on a homestead where the hen house supported a maximum of 6.

The chicks were at an age where they ate, pooped, and slept a lot. I would place them on my chest and rock them in the rocking chair while wearing a towel (to catch the poop) and they would sleep on me while i listened to the recorded lectures for my online classes.

They were super cute but as they grew i started trying to find one of the chickens a home. I was trying to rehome Buttercup or Oakley. My sweet little Ellis was so attached to me, i really wanted to keep her. However, a friend of a friend was willing ti take two chickens. She wouldn’t take one because a flock would bully a new lone chicken. She would only take two, so the pair would have a shot at successful integration. I agreed to let go of both babies and keep Buttercup, my sneaky hen with a history of pecking legs and stealing articles of clothing and paper plates right off of your person. I continued to socialize the chicks, trying to make them as sweet as possible in preparation for their new owner.

They hit the teenage phase and began looking kind of scraggly with their half unfurled feathers.

As you can see, Oakley got quite a bit bigger than poor Ellis.

Though she picked on her at times, Oakley always slept against Ellis and when i removed her from the tub she would call to her and look for her until i placed her back in the tub with Oakley.

I was going to miss Ellis. By now she knew her name and would come when called. She would cock her head and search for me if she could hear my voice. Her favorite thing to do was cuddle and she would hunker down and nap on me whenever possible. Oakley was a bit more feral. I got her to like petting, but she still wasn’t down with being held.

They were getting to be big chickens. They didn’t fit in the tub anymore. They had their feathers, were off the heat lamp, and ready for their new home.

The night before i gave the both of them away i spent some extra time with Ellis and said goodbye. She will make a very good laying hen/pet for Sara.

Update: Petunia is back to her regular rambunctious self. Now Daisy is broody. She sits in the box all day every day and pecks at anything that comes near her treasures, puffing herself up to look as big as possible in an effort to intimidate me while i’m collecting eggs. I promptly informed her that we’re all going to die childless old spinsters together. It is what i’ve decreed because i’m not falling for that again. I’ve removed all the ceramic eggs from the nesting boxes. We’re done raising chicks in the bathroom. I told Daisy, “That’s a lot of work you know, but you wouldn’t know because your first instinct was (‘kill it! Kill it dead!’)” sigh.

Prune Feet

I checked the forecast before i left the house. Rain. Lots of it. I made sure to take my hat. However, i didn’t own a rain coat. I had boots but none that were fitted to my feet and would last an 8 hour shift without rubbing blisters. The company provided us with extra large banana-yellow ponchos that were so big you could barely get your arms through the sleeves to hold the smart phones. This of course was so that they could fit the largest people. It was a one size fits all situation. (That’s a lie, by the way. Even with socks, when it says “one size fits all” it means it fits large people snuggly and it fits small people in a stretchy manner with extra fabric where it is not needed).

The rain began shortly after i arrived. The skies opened up and it poured. The parking lot quickly became a lake. We all donned the yellow ponchos but the water was not only falling from the sky…it was seeping into our shoes. There was an inch to an inch and a half of water standing in the parking lot at all times during the next 3 hours. During my second order delivery, the water ran into my shoes through the breathable mesh on the sides. It just soaked in. It was cold and thorough. I stood there loading the groceries into the customers car and telling her to have a good day, all the while knowing i was doomed. I trudged back to the building, more water entering my shoes with each step. As i walked, the water traveled from the bottoms of my pants legs in an upward motion until my jeans were soaked halfway to my knees. It was cold and wet. The sensation felt wrong, as if i’d gone swimming in my clothes.

The others waited until the intensity of the rain had lessened, a couple hours, and then they called their mothers or boyfriends to bring them a new pair of shoes. However, i lived alone and had no family in the area. There wasn’t anyone who had a key to my house besides me. My house was an hour round trip. I knew there would be no heading there to fetch dry clothes and there would be no calling anyone to bring any either. Once my comrades were all in dry shoes i sighed and settled in for a long shift. My socks were soaked. My shoes were full of water, and my pants were sticking to my legs. My toes went numb after the first couple hours of my shift. The smart phones tracked everything we did and we were timed throughout all of it. The poncho sleeves extended over my hands and prevented my ability to hold the smart phone, pushed bag handles away when i tried to grab them, and got hung on everything in sight. The ends of the poncho kept getting caught under my shoes and tripping me as i attempted to run. My shoes were leaking water with every step so i was hesitant to sprint because i had multiple things working against me in the “staying upright” department. It was a giant mess. I was dealing with that. Others were opening and closing umbrellas with each order and loading the groceries with one hand while they held the decorative mini lightening rod above the basket. I knew our time scores would be atrocious but i felt they would have to put themselves in our shoes. We were drowning. There was no way we could move faster in these conditions. We were doing alright just to maintain ability to speak and keep the water off our glasses and smart phones. The customers were all very nice to us that day. I was surprised and made a remark about it. A coworker told me it was because they felt sorry for us having to work in the rain. I hadn’t thought about it and assumed they were all just in really good moods at the time. Half way through the shift my team leader began asking me to do shopping runs in the store. That meant i would need to get twelve orders done in under an hour to maintain my time scores. I would have mere seconds to grab each item, with soaking wet socks, shoes, and pants. I dutifully obeyed. However, i did not want to lose my shopping time scores. So, i put my physical sensation out of my mind and ran like the wind, sprinting up and down the aisles like usual, raw and pruned feet rubbing against the wet socks within my shoes with every step. I finished all my shopping runs with good times and the runs took longer than deliveries, taking my mind off the progression of the shift. Finally, it was near time for me to go home. I had 5 minutes left in my shift. They put me back on parking lot deliveries for the remainder of the shift. I expected i’d only deliver an order or two before heading home but the end of my shift came and went and my team leader did not release me. I picked up order after order, waiting to hear the words, but she still did not release me. We were in the middle of a rush and short staffed so i figured they had decided to keep me until the rush died down. This is in fact what ended up happening. When the rush finally died down the team leader checked the phone to see who was due for a break. I was not listed as “on shift” as according to the smart phone i had already gone home. It turned out they had just forgotten to release me in the chaos. I was given the verbal notification that i was good to go and thanked for staying through the rush. I managed to clock out and gather my items. I walked through the building and scanned my badge at the door. I walked to my car and stepped in. As soon as the weight was off my feet and i allowed myself to focus on something other than the task at hand the waves of different pain hit me. My feet felt warm and there was a burning and tingling sensation shooting through the middle of them. All of my toe nails seemed to be digging into the wet swollen skin i had been running on for 8.5 hours. All of the joints in my toes ached in an unbearable way. This kind of dynamic pain came in waves with the shooting pains, burning tingles, the sharp toe nail pain, and the aching joints all working in tandem to make it very difficult for me to drive the car fast enough to match the speed limit. I cried “oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” throughout the whole 30 minute drive and i begged God to give me a better ability to shoulder the pain. When i arrived home the pain was lessening and only the joint aches were left. I did the evening chores quickly and put the dogs in the house for the night. Only then did i take off my socks, pants, and shoes. As i peeled the first sock away from my foot i saw that the bottom of my foot had become a field of blisters. I peeled the skin away from my foot at each little puffed up pocket. I made a little pile by the chair. I placed my raw peeled feet on the little folded towel i used as a bath mat in the bathroom and tried to soothe them by finally getting them dry. It took a good 15 hours for the blisters to close up and dry out completely. I babied my feet through the next day and wore memory foam boots and loose cotton socks. I bought knee high rain boots online and had them set to deliver to the tractor supply in town. The ponchos often dripped water from the edges onto pants or into shoes. They also drug on the ground and collected the water there. My thought was that knee high boots would eliminate this problem. Next time, i will be dry. I may still be catching the sleeves on everything in sight and the smart phone will probably be wet but i will be dry. No more 8.5 hour shifts with prune feet.

It’s raining again, but this time i am ready. Off to work!

Well, the boots arrived at tractor supply. They were not quite as long as they appeared in the example picture. However, i think they are still tall enough that the ponchos won’t be able to drip into them when its raining buckets.