True stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals -- and other critters.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Beautiful Lines: How to Make a Quill !

Long, long ago
before there were Sharpies,
folks wrote and drew with these.

I do love the line quality I get with my pen and inks, but I've been thinking that I would like to try drawing with a real quill.

Coincidentally, Lil'White and Jenny have been dropping feathers willy-nilly all over the yard. So I collected a few and brought them inside.
On each feather shaft, I first gave a hasty slash with an Exacto knife
and then made a little slice down the center of the tip.

Could it really be that easy?

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

I went straight to the studio to give it a try.
 Lil'White's flimsy fluff feather was pretty useless as a tool.
But Jenny's sturdy wing feather
provided for some interesting mark-making,
scratches and spatters.

That afternoon, I found a turkey tail feather in the woods.
Jackpot!  Best quill yet!

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

Basic and beautiful.
Here are some lines for your inspiration:
 Qur'an:  you don't even need to understand the language to appreciate these rhythmic lines.

Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes:  yes, his stories are entertaining. But his lines are astounding.

Saul Steinberg:  line and wit in perfect balance. --- you can see the original image here at the Library of Congress CartoonAmerica exhibit.

Experiment and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

Plan B

(continued from the previous post,  FREEZING PHOEBE )

So. The ice-pack trick had no effect on Phoebe's perpetual broodiness.  

I planted a glacier of ice packs in the nest box and she found her way around it, squeezing onto a tiny bit of bedding that remained in the corner.  So I rearranged the ice packs and then she scratched and tore them and the ice melted and dripped out and that was fine with Phoebe, who sat blissfully upon the whole soggy mess.

So I moved on to  Plan B:  The Broody Pen.

As it was suggested by several chicken-friends, I fashioned a little pen for Phoebe just outside the run.  She had water, food and safety, but she had no nest box to sit in. 

This appeared to be a comfortable setup, but for Phoebe it was a heinous torture chamber. She paced and fluffed and ranted and panicked.

In response to her distress, all of the ladies stood beside her at the edge of the run, and there they remained, compassionately close to the little jailbird. Because a flock is a flock, even if one member is doing hard time.

At night, I placed her back into the nest box, under house arrest until morning when I took her right back to the correctional facility. 
It took only three days to rehabilitate this little gal from 
On that third day, she stepped out of the nest box, stood up straight, and returned to her esteemed position at the very bottom of the pecking order. 
When I opened the gate that morning, Phoebe accepted a peck on the head from each of her friends, and then tore out across the yard to trash my garden with her team.  
Everyone was happy to have Phoebe back.  

Well, almost everyone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Freezing Phoebe

O.k. I just can't take it anymore.  
Little Phoebe is wasting her entire summer hiding in the nest box all puffed up and insanely broody. She has barely seen the light of day since late May. Her beady eyes are getting beadier, and every day she looks less like a respectable Speckled Sussex and more like a cupcake. 
It's time for an intervention. 

So last night I froze several gallon-zipper-bags full of water, and right now I'm heading to the coop to implement this diabolical plan.

Come out and seize the day, my little lunatic chicken! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I didn’t think about Dorrie’s wandering because the ladies do like to scratch in those leaves at the shady edge of the yard.

But a few hours later, back at the coop, I found Dorrie standing hunched in the corner.  She was barely awake, and she was drooling.    
This was especially odd.

It didn’t take long for me to guess what was wrong.  
My wild foxgloves were in glorious bloom.   
Dorrie must have eaten some of this highly toxic plant.

I left her in the care of her flock while I went to do a bit of quick research.  Back in the kitchen I Googled madly. I found some good info.  
It was interesting that the human symptoms of foxglove poisoning matched Dorrie’s symptoms.  Perhaps the treatment would be the same as well?   
I contacted some Facebook chicken-fanatic friends for advice.

Activated Charcoal was the consensus -- the same treatment as for humans.  Of course I didn’t have any activated charcoal lying around. I didn’t even know what it was, and by that time it was way too late at night to hop into the car and go hunting for it.

In desperation I brought Dorrie into the house and fed her a watery swill of ground-up charcoal from my fireplace.   I had no problem getting it down her throat as she was virtually catatonic.   

I put her to bed in the kitchen and hoped for the best.

The next morning Dorrie was no better.  The plain charcoal had had no effect.  I needed to find activated charcoal, quick.

My dear friend Beth, who normally sleeps in on Saturdays, actually answered her phone when I called at 7am, god-bless-her.   And, yes, as a matter of fact, she did have a packet of activated charcoal. 

I fetched the precious remedy from Beth, brought it back and mixed up the potion.

I squeezed about three tablespoons of the stuff into Dorrie.  
That seemed like a good amount to me.

We took a quick little selfie together,
and then I returned her to the coop.  

The flock gathered around Dorrie where she stood hunched, drowsy and drooling.
Now all we could do was wait.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 
But we didn’t wait long!

In only three hours, Dorrie was honest-to-goodness back from the dead, flitting around with the flock like nothing had ever happened!

Don’t you just love a miraculously happy ending? 

I let the girls out for some celebratory free-ranging.
This time, we stayed on the right side of the yard.  Plenty of weeds, none of them poisonous.
 .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
And now I’m at the kitchen table eyeing this precious little packet of activated charcoal, this magical elixir…
Maybe I’ll sprinkle some on my toast. 
I wonder how it would taste in my coffee…..

Friday, December 19, 2014


Lucy was a special-needs hen.

At the age of six months, she was stricken with Marek's disease. She survived, but her legs and her stamina were permanently affected. 

Lucy needed me, so she invited me into her life. 

For six and a half years Lucy and I shared a beautiful trusting friendship. She taught me what it's like to be a chicken.  And she taught me what it means to be alive. 

This October Lucy fell ill. I recognized her symptoms at once, and made a confident decision on her behalf.  I called Rosario, the wonderful vet who I wrote about in my book, and she met Sarah and me in our backyard the next day. Together we gave Lucy a comfortable ending while I held this beautiful hen my arms. 

It has been an honor to share Lucy with the world. I continue to be amazed at the way she touches people's lives in my book, Once Upon a Flock, in my blog stories, and on Facebook. 

Lucy's flock mourned her passing.  And now her flock guides me in moving forward.  Because the sun is shining, and it's a beautiful day. 

If you, too, aspire to attain the wisdom of a chicken, here are a few pointers:

Thank you for following my stories, and stay tuned for more tales of a soulful flock!

Friday, August 8, 2014


.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

While I dilly-dallied in my garden yesterday, mesmerized by a clean arc of sparkling water flowing from the hose nozzle, I was startled by a very small hummingbird who darted around my head and then hovered above the stream of water.

I held completely still, hoping that it would stay for a moment.  
It was exquisite, and especially tiny, even for a hummingbird. When I spied three shimmering red feathers on its chin, I knew it was a young male Ruby Throated.

I guessed he had come to take a sip, so I held the stream steady while he whizzed around it.
He examined the water from all angles, but he didn't touch it with his  beak. 
Instead, he extended his tiny talons and carefully lowered himself onto this beautiful shiny perch.
For a moment, even I believed it might work.

He raised himself above the flow and tried from another angle.   
His toes were so small there was hardly a splash.

He made a few more attempts to stand on water,

and then he retreated to a more substantial perch in the forsythia bush. 

To ponder physics, no doubt.