Sunday, July 22, 2012

Empty Nest. Literally.

Yes, Ray and I rigged up an emergency incubator using a styrofoam cooler, clamp light, 40-watt bulb and several dishtowels. Yes, we are incubating 5 peacock eggs. Yes, we will turn the eggs 3-5 times a day, keep the temp at 100-103 degrees, and provide at least 60% humidity. And no, we have no idea what what we’ll do if they hatch.

It isn’t really my fault. Due to a genetic anomaly (see, I cannot leave the wise & gracious Universe to her own devices. So after a particularly brutal season for our peafowl flock, my heart broken, I stepped in.

The brutality started in early spring, when we lost several peacocks to various predators—at least one to a raptor, a couple to what appeared to be mink or weasel, and several more to something much larger, large enough to rip apart an adult peahen, drag it around, and leave chunks of it lying about. I figured word had finally gotten out that the Row was a veritable peacock buffet.

But this past week, the brutality escalated beyond our comprehension when, in a single day, 8 adult peas (2 males and 6 hens) went MIA. We have walked the property, and there is nary a fluff of down, no sign of what happened or where they went. I have theories, some of which involve human predators, adding to my post-Aurora, CO stupification at the human capacity for cruelty.

(Weird side note: Got a text from my son the morning the peas went missing, before I knew they were gone, asking if the peas were okay. He said he’d dreamed the peas were hanging on a neighbor’s barn. He fought with the neighbor to get them back, somehow tore off the neighbor’s face, and discovered the neighbor had an iPhone brain. I texted back that he should avoid burritos at bedtime. Still, spooky prophetic, and I did cruise the neighborhood once I discovered the peas were AWOL.)

I called the Big City zoo to tell them to keep an eye out for folks wanting to sell peacocks. I left a message with the county game warden. I warned our neighbors to be on the lookout for hooligans with guns, and to gauge their reaction, like some crazy Criminal Minds investigator. I figured I’d done about everything I could do. And then, when I called yesterday to alert the only other folks in the region I know have peacocks, they told me they were about to throw out a clutch of eggs their hen had just laid – they don’t want any more peacocks – and did I want the eggs? Every fiber of my being pushed me, slapped me, jabbed me to say no thank you. So of course, I said, “Absolutely.”

Here’s the trick: Peafowl are not like chickens. Peachicks do not come out of the egg knowing how to eat & drink & roost. Peachicks must be taught. They spend the first 2-3 weeks of their lives sleeping 15 feet off the ground, tucked up under their mother’s wings. For a couple of months or more, they follow their mother everywhere, watching her peck at the ground and listening for her back-of-the-throat cluck that means, “This is okay to eat.” Those are some enormous 4-toed shoes to fill.

Yes, I should have said no. But my heart was broken. I’d been pretty stoic until Day 3, when it finally hit me that our peas weren’t coming back (one of our two white peahens, Ike, had been with us a long time and was named for my son’s friend who’d committed suicide—both white hens are gone). I was attached to those peabrains, dammit. 

So, thanks to my aching heart and my hereditary HHN-i, I said yes. And I am enormously grateful for Saint Ray, who knows, loves, and fears me enough not to get in the way of my Panic Mothering. If by some miracle these eggs hatch, I will figure this thing out. And I have at least 18 days to grow some feathers…

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Summer Blur

My granddaughter, the Butterfly Whisperer
Lately, I’ve been contemplating (while on the run) the human inability to remain still. My long summer to-do list, which includes writing, daily meditation, long stretches of contemplative silence, writing, Xtreme relaxation, self-reflection and re-centering, and writing, remains on my fridge with nary an item checked off. Instead, summer has been a blur of perpetual motion…

1. As soon as Semester uncurled its fist and let me loose, we headed to Milwaukee, where Ray and Little Henry played a wedding dance for the daughter of one of the geetar players. It was a beautiful, joyous occasion. And how cool is it for the bride to have her dad rock the house at her wedding, then for the bride and her sister to sit in with the band? Very cool.

Three Graces
2. Next stop, Madison, where we visited my two dear friends, Emma and Ruby, and their families. It was a 24-hour whirlwind of garden tours, knitting shop & food co-op runs, an incredible lasagna dinner, wine & philosophy, and smiling till my face hurt.

3. When we got back from WI, Mom and I headed to the Black Hills to hear my oldest son, Ryan Kickland ( play a gig. The music was stellar, with special guests Jami Lynn and Josh Hilpert, and it was wonderful to see so many former Little Town friends show up to support Ryan.

Ryan and Jami Lynn
4. In early June, four of us took off for our WAC-y (Women’s Annual Campout) getaway. This year, we went to Kansas, west of Topeka, to my brother’s lake cabin. We spent several glorious days drinking coffee on the patio and wine on the dock, playing in the water, reading, overanalyzing our lives, learning to speak Great Blue Heron and, with 4 geetars along, serenading the neighbors.

5. On our last WAC-y evening, we got the news of our friend’s suicide back home. He was a local legend and a larger-than-life character—waist-length rattail he refused to cut, silver star embedded in a front tooth—who sometimes went about town in a tux & spats. He was a talented songwriter, musician and artist, and a person who rarely compromised. He was also gravely ill and facing a steady downward spiral. We went to his memorial, a sweet celebration of his life. And I know some people feel suicide is selfish, but I quickly realized my anger at his choice was really about my own pain in missing him—I was the selfish one. So now I’m simply wishing him freedom, peace, and great love in his next adventure.

WAC-y Women
5. Then the grandkids came to stay at the farm for a few days. This, too, was a whirlwind that included soccer games, a day at the beach, and a day in the Big City, shopping, visiting the Butterfly House, and hanging out at the skatepark.

6. In between trips, we’ve been scrambling to save our little peaflock. Between last summer and this one, we lost 18 peacocks to predation (and 1 to fast cars on I-29). Judging from the killer MO’s, we’re dealing with more than one kind of varmint – raptors, weasels/minks, coyotes, and possibly a badger. So for Father’s Day this year, the kids got Ray a rifle they dubbed “The Farm Protector.” I’m very conflicted, as we’ve never had guns on the premises, and I’m a devout peacenik, treehugging, varmint-sweater-knitting hyper-nurturer. But after discovering the most recent (possibly badger) kill site, which looked like a scene in a low-budget slasher flick, I might be mad enough to sit up in a lawn chair all night in my jammies and headlamp, rifle at the ready.

Howard Jones. So, so cool.
7. My next road trip was back down to KS to leave Mom at the cabin for some well-earned lake R & R. I stayed for a couple days, and we sunned, floated, toured local towns, and prissied up the cabin with solar lights and hanging petunias. Then back home, a 7-8-our drive.

8. Soon after getting home, Ray and I headed out again to Minneapolis, to visit the oldest Remund kid, hear Howard Jones at the Varsity Theatre, and catch a Twins/White Sox game. Howard was—and yes, I hate this word too—awesome! And driving around the Cities always reminds me: You can take the city out of the girl, but…you can’t put it back.

9. Next, we drove to Omaha to rendezvous with my brother and bring Mom home. Omaha is my hometown, but in spite of my thrill over shopping at the Asian Market and Whole Foods, I was glad to get back on the road the same day and head back to the farm.

Uncle Don at Linoma Beach
10. This past weekend we learned of my uncle’s death. He was my dad’s brother, making my dad the last of three siblings, and he’d been in a nursing home for a while. He was another larger-than-life character, a sometimes rude, crude, arse-pinching, cussing Bohunk. He was also an old-school family doctor who treated folks whether or not they could pay, and who doctored for free a passel of cousins, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, etc., often at his kitchen table. He pierced my ears, stitched me up after a car wreck, delivered my first baby, and set that baby’s broken arm four years later. So, we’re off to Omaha again this week to bid my uncle farewell.

At this point, I feel like I’ve spent the summer in the car, and we still have my Big Fat Bohunk Family Reunion coming up in late July, an 8+-hour road trip each way. All four of our kids are going for the first time ever, and our giant extended family (65-ish of us last year) will be honoring my dad’s 80th birthday and taking into the Giant Family Fold the two babies born since last summer.

We humans come and go. Literally. Figuratively. So before I pack for the next trip, I’m going outside in the yard. I will hold aloft the peacock egg I found on the front steps. Ray will softly play his congas in the background. I will sing several choruses of “The Circle of Life.”'re scoffing now. But you’ll come around. Literally. Figuratively.