Rick Ayers: Education as a Commodity
Link Roundup: Some Reading for the Long Weekend

Nancy Gift: Trying Again

Today's blog post is from Nancy Gift, author of A Weed by Any Other Name: The Virtues of a Messy Lawn, or Learning to Love the Plants We Don't Plant. Gift is an assistant professor of environmental studies and acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and a lawn full of weeds. This post originally appeared at Gift's Weeds and Kids blog.

Book Cover for A Weed by Any Other NameWhatever sense of crazy excitement or optimism August brings, I usually associate this time very strongly with new beginnings, having had an academic-year schedule for at least 32 of my 38 years. So when we were down in Kentucky last week, perhaps we were drawn to the boldness of the idea of another new beginning, this one by choice. Or perhaps we just couldn't resist. But we are, once again, raising chickens.

Giftphoto1At left, you see Emily cuddling with one of the most cuddly chickens I have ever met, one belonging to Louisville garden writer and commentator, Jeneen Wiche. This chicken was practically purring while the girls held her, having been hand-raised by Jeneen's niece. That was Wednesday. Thursday found us at the Kentucky State Fair, looking at chickens of all sorts, plus a few odd pens of chicks, at $3 apiece. I was thinking how I wished we could try again, when Emily came up to tell me "Daddy said we could get a couple of chicks!" Given that it was Brian who witnessed the fox's massacre last time, if he was ready, I could be ready.

Giftphoto2Each girl picked out two, Hazel two black ones - Japanese cochins, the farmer told us; Emily two yellow, with brownish marks, which she hopes are Ameraucana, like her favorite chicken from our last group. I took it as a sign of both remembrance and healing that these choices reflected their favorites from our last batch.

We did not find out the genders, which would have been nice, but a friend, Stacey, who had just ordered 25 hen chicks for her own daughter offered to share a couple with us (see the tall one at right, plus a black one for Hazel), a bit older than ours. So we know now that each daughter has at least one hen. All 6 chicks (say that quickly now) are safely peeping and chirping in our garage pen.

Giftphoto3The best surprise has been the outpouring of cheerful well-wishing support. In addition to Stacey's addition to our brood, a colleague down the hall loaned me a book of chicken coop plans, which the girls and I have drooled through and picked out some likely options. My friend across the hall from my office has offered to help me build one of these coops, hopefully next weekend. Boyd community center's fall offerings include a fall gardening class, which will tell us how to "get the chicken coop ready for the long winter ahead." The girls' friends, some of whom never met our first brood, have come over and enthusiastically introduced themselves, after having heard so much about how much Emily and Hazel loved having chickens before. If we fail in this attempt - our third - it will not be for lack of support. The phrase is now so well used as to be trite, but I have learned it in a fresh context: It takes a village to raise chickens.

I picked up a book today, by Bob Tarte, entitled "Enslaved by Ducks." I could hardly resist, and lamented only briefly that this probably means I can't now write one called "Enslaved by Chickens." I love these silly feathered creatures already.