#6for30: Chicken Project and the Fear of Fowl

“The only thing to fear is fear itself” -FDR

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was gone for a summer, and somewhere during that summer, she got a phone call from a very excited Julia: “Oh by the way, Ken, Deborah and I have a new project-we decided to hatch a bunch of chickens.” And had Kendra realized how this decision would mark her next several years, she would’ve been even more alarmed. In fact, I think Julia and Deborah would’ve had scrambled eggs for breakfast had they had any clue. But we don’t see the future. Squawk and Chirp began their reign of terror.


photo by Sarah Witmer

My fear of fowl actually started years before. I’m not really sure when- but I remember a weekend assignment of checking the neighbor’s heavy weight tom turkeys. Mother grew up with free range turkeys and she was ready for duty. I, on the other hand, didn’t really know what I was up against. I thought I was going to be fine, but somehow I didn’t hear anything he said after the opening line “I don’t know this for sure, but I think these things would kill a small child”I  realized, at that point I was not that big of a child, and this was quite likely my last job assignment. My life flashed before my eyes and the farewell note that I left in their egg room has amused visitors ever since “These birds with their razor sharp beaks, long claws and their wings capable of beating at hurricane wind speed could seriously alter your life in a minute…” And as much as I hate to admit it- I truly was afraid. Petrified.

So anyhow the fact that my sister’s chicken project only produced 2 roosters seemed like a red flag to me- but they were so infatuated by the time I returned home- what could be done? I thought the problem would correct itself.

Instead it snowballed. These roosters hypnotized my dad. Soon he was dragging them all over the world in his pickup. They loved him. He loved them.

They shared mutual feelings with me too. We agreed to hate each other.

I don’t know how many hours we spent at the barn. These evil roosters and I, but I became an expert at combat. I’d back everywhere to try to avoid an attack. I carried a shovel at all times. We’d square off in the feed room. Squawk would dive in for the kill and I’d reroute the attack. I’d hit him with all my strength- but when a rooster is in mid air- all that power just sends him off course. He’d be right back at me again. And then he’d crow his head off and I’d hate my life. lol

Except it really wasn’t funny. I’m not used to being scared of things. Especially not a bird who’s brain is the size of a pea.


photo credit- Sarah Witmer

The only bright spot to this reign of terror, is the hysterical stories that emerged from this time. Like when Shen Valley Custom was here emptying our pit and Father had the one rooster “riding” on the pump tractor with him, and somehow the  bird got bored and left- and was soon spotted floating on a small island in our pit…

Or when Father was showing us a new trick he’d taught Squawk and the bird whipped his head around faster than you can say “Dumb Rooster” and tore a huge piece of skin off of Father’s upper lip…

But the truth is- more than the hilarity- my fear was like a storm cloud that continues to shows up from time to time.

Chickens show up randomly. I decided that I really did need to face my fears after two escapee chickens circled my van at a rest stop- and I could hardly get up the nerve to get in my vehicle… ok- that’s it! Time to take this in hand.


So here I am, the proud owner of 8 not so bright chickens. They arrived about 3 weeks ago and Mother graciously took care of them for me while I was away. Is it impossible to tame a chicken? They are as wild as a March hare. I tried to befriend them, but all visions of having a chicken friend have flown out the window. Like the roosters before- they hate me. But the difference is, I want to like them. So while you shouldn’t expect to see any pics of me cuddling with a feathered fowl, I’m discovering something with my little flock: They are scared to death of this big mean human with the loud voice that says “Good morning, chickens” every day and brings all you can eat chicken food. Maybe that was the problem all along- Maybe I misread the sheer terror of me, as pure meanness, and my dad’s roosters really were just scared big chickens.

Who am I kidding.They were horrid. But still…


What are your fears? Maybe if you explore them- you’ll discover that things aren’t quite the way you see them. One of my little stupid chicks even had the nerve to peck me- and shockingly- I didn’t lose the use of my hand, and I didn’t die. I’m pleasantly surprised. 🙂

May you find that it’s really not that big of a deal.



Bonus Pics:

I travelled last week. First we stopped by the Finger Lakes and enjoyed watching the snow fly on Sunday. What a beautiful farming area!  Am I the only one that thinks occasionally signs insult our intelligence? I drove down a very steep road to the public access at Lake Seneca. This sign heroically pointed out the difference in land and sea, I guess.



Canada… Definitely the highlight was spending a bit of time with the Diefenbachers. And I’ll be the first to admit- Canada is more beautiful than I gave it credit for. 🙂



Happy Limerick Day

“I know my face ain’t no star

There’s others much prettier by far,

But I don’t mind it,

Cause I’m behind it.

It’s folks out front get the jar.

If my dad has quoted this once- I’ve heard it a thousand times. Seriously. This happens to be his favorite limerick. He’s not an enthusiastic poet like my mother, but somehow this limerick sticks with him.

I remember in 6th grade, I discovered limericks during a creative writing class. And I’ll confess- I love limericks. They show up randomly- like when I’m attempting to write a poem for my voicemail…

A limerick is a humorous poem that consists of five lines. The first, second and fifth lines rhyme, as do lines two and three ( rhyming sceme AABBA)

Anyhow, I have this 7 day encouragement card obsession… Maybe you heard me mention them before- but it’s “Secret Pal in Fast Forward” where you don’t know who’s sending you the cards until day 7.


There are different options- Nature, Chango (the Nicaraguan Sock Monkey) and Animals. (Spend any time with me at all, and I’ll probably bore you with a story or two about this project. I am really excited about them) It so happens that the animal set includes limericks… So in celebration of the day…

Happy Limerick Day,


There once was a little brown cow

Who lives in the our pasture now

She makes chocolate milk

As smooth as silk

But I don’t know exactly how


 In the Valley there once lived a pony

“Ride bareback- she’s not too bony”

For a split second I sat there

Then I sailed through the air

“Well trained” is regretfully phony


There once was a fish named Barter

Who lived in the cool deep water

Until hungry he got

Ate my worm on the spot

And now he’s smothered in butter


One more and then I’ll stop- this may be my favorite from the set 😉

I’ll admit it confuses me when

My manners, I hear Mom reprimand:

“You are much too big

To act like a pig!

Keep your room as neat as a pen!”


My Epitaph

There is an old graveyard on our farm here on Paradise Lane. An OLD graveyard. There may be a few graves from the early 1900s but as best as we can read- the majority of the graves are from the 1800s. No one cares for the place. The previous farmer had cows who broke over a lot of stones, and while a few brave trees guard the area, it just stands in the middle of one of our fields.

When we were girls, we were fascinated with the place. We’d spend hours trudging through the field to the site. We’d carefully unearth each stone and trace the mossy face with our fingers, trying to read what it said. We’d envision relieving the trees of their duty as watchmen, and cleared as many of the branches away as we could. We had high hopes of grooming the small area and mowing it. I think most of us- Julia especially- dreamed of being buried there. Then we’d rush back to the house with the latest collection of cockle-burrs in our hair (much to Mother’s chagrin) The place was so mystic. What was the story of the people who sleep there. Most of them died in their 20s. Did the Indians get them? (A quick reference to local history would not have Indian raids in the mid to late 1800s, but try to convince imaginative 8 and 10 year old girls of that)


Paradise Mountain Graveyard

Earlier this spring, I had a bit of down time in the town of Bridgewater while my van was getting new tires, so I hiked over to visit a friend. A shortcut took me through the graveyard there right off of Main Street, and I couldn’t help but read the stones as I meandered along. Wow. So much representation of dreams and goals, of accomplishments and experiences, all summed up in a word or two on the back of the stone:

  • a young child “gone too soon”, I wondered what the story was here. I thought about how brokenhearted the family must’ve been to follow that small casket to the cemetery, and how long ago that was and I questioned if anyone even knows that the child existed, other than a line in the history books and one small gravestone.
  • the grave of a WWI vet and I thought about what he had experienced and wondered how it affected the rest of his life.
  • the couple whose stone proudly stated “Our children” and listed all six of them. I wonder if their children really did make them proud.

And I’m pretty sure that the further I went, the more clouds blocked the sunshine and the grayer the sky became. All these people, who struggled through life; dealing with different challenges, making some wise choices, and some not so wise. Did they change the world? “Gone but not Forgotten” seemed rather like a satire, really. Who remembers?  So rapidly the world moves on and people who thought they were so necessary aren’t even a distant memory.


Mole Hill at Sunset

This weekend, Calvary Christian Academy put together a presentation on the life of Christian Good. Because Christian Good was my Grandma’s Great Granddad, and one of my favorite families in the whole world- had 3 children with parts in the play, I went the first night and was so challenged- I went back for the matinée. I love local history and this was a smorgasbord.

Christian Good was a young man during the Civil War and was required to serve with the Confederate Army. He had promised his widowed mother that he would never shoot at or participate in taking the life of another human. The scenes moved quickly. Christian eventually was allowed an exemption if he paid the $504 fine. Quite a number of the local Conservative men ended up serving time in prison. They faced the extreme ridicule of their neighbors,and one of the elders was actually shot by an irrate neighbor. Christian and his bride lived on Mole Hill and he fled there with their livestock while the entire Valley was ransacked and barns were burned.

I learned so much, and the students did a wonderful job at articulating emotion. How would you feel if a General interrupted your church service to demand that all men 18-45 report to duty? How could you watch soldiers come in and burn your barn to the ground? How do you graciously navigate the waters of 3 marriages and a leadership positon of the church when it split so treacherously and caused a major divide within your own house.

I can not imagine how dark some of the days were for this Great Great Great Granddad of mine, and yet, just like that, it’s a story or two in the history books and a few tales of folk lore and it’s over. All the heartache, the uncertianty, the excitement, the sunshiny days are over. And we really know very little about them.

Which brings me to me. What will people say about me when I’m gone? Will they be able to say that I kept my word and that I lived out my life valiantly? Will they say that there was no question, but that I was faithful to the end? Will they say that I made the most of every opportunity that presented itself? That I loved the life that God has given me? Will they say that I- though obviously human- did the best I could to serve my Lord all the days of my life?

And it doesn’t really matter what “they say” It doesn’t really matter if in 100 years the only thing that’s left of my legacy is a mossy stone tucked in a graveyard somewhere. What matters is, when I come to the end of the road, that I hear those words “well done, my faithful servant…”

I do hope I have a few more years- I have so much to do… Please, Lord, find me Faithful…


Bonus Pics:


Mrs Killdeer built a nest on the corner of our lane. She tried so bravely to protect it. Mother and I put up a little flag to help with the efforts. It rained so hard tho, it’s a wonder she didn’t get washed away!


I love the expression on this barrel full of monkeys wagon full of puppies. (Especially the poor guy on the right-lol)  They are 5 weeks old and so much fun! If your life needs a German Shepherd, I know where you could get one 🙂



The Quick Test of the Farm Manager’s intellegence

“An intelligent dog has a bump on his head and a black mouth” The man patted my head and I tried to look nonchalant but as Kendra got that gleam in her eye- I knew I was sunk.

There are few things I hate- one is medicine of any kind. I don’t care if I’m on deaths door- I would rather pass onto the eternal hunting grounds than swallow a pill. The womenfolk around here think they are so sneaky- they hide pills in bread or peanut butter or all sorts of things. And –hehe- I have discovered with careful investigation- the tongue is a powerful tool that can sort out the wheat from the chaff and the pill from the peanut butter. Sometimes they attempt to force feed me- usually I can sense what they are up too and I hightail it to the far corner of the earth… But every once in a while…


Head of Ranch Security slowing stretching as he takes in his entire surroundings

Anyhow, earlier this week, I’ll admit- the kid life mrisis- I mean the mid life crisis bit was getting to me. And I needed a little bit of affirmation, so I snuck over to Kendra and took my one paw and gently tapped.

“Hey ol pal, whats up?” We chatted for awhile and then suddenly, just as I was feeling so much better about everything, she did it. She pried open my mouth and discovered that incredible secret that I’d been keeping for years. Of course my mouth is black. How in the world did she expect an unintelligent dog to manage this place around her? I was thoroughly shocked and offended. My dignity was completely jeopardized. And not to mention all those” forced pill feeding” feelings came rushing back. My feet were in high gear before the command from my brain even made it to the control station. Forget this!

And on top of that, she and Emily started singing “Happy Birthday” at the top of their lungs. I closed my ears and hit the dusty trail. Hello people was that the sort of thing that makes a sorely offended dog redeem his self esteem? ummm . And guess what else: all of Eastern Rockingham County knew it was my birthday last week- did you see the smoke from all my candles? (Some blamed it on a forest fire… but…) Get your facts straight before you sing!

DSCF4767Back before the Farm realized the Head of Ranch Security had arrived April 2011

Anyhow- So I’ve been an ever faithful servant here for five years. A dog learns a lot in a few years time. The responsibility of running this place is ever before me. This week was amazing tho. I oversaw not only the chopping of the neighbor’s rye, but the mowing, merging and chopping process here. Mainly I stayed in at the bunker, I had an opportunity to ride with Kendra whenever the Lady Joyce and I were delivering food to the crew. The Lady did.not. think it was safe. So with a sinking heart, I followed her back to observe from a safe distance. Later I had another opportunity to ride. And –hehe- may or may not have seized the opportunity. That however is not up for discussion. Case closed.


Then this weekend, the Main Manager and my heartthrob- the Lady Joyce- left things in my capable paws. Well, me and my assistants. Rolo and Benilli were all exhausted from chasing rabbits during chopping- so they weren’t much help. Kendra was marginally better- but we’ll leave that there. Anyhow, while the Main Spokes were gone, Shen Valley Custom rolled in with rigs of every size and were here slaving away most of the night. I spent a lot of time out surveying the scene. “Woa Woa Woa- slow that pump down faster- remember that tanker only holds 5250 not 5252.. Sigh- you’d think after about 100 loads she’d figure that out…”


And these are my assistants 😕

And there were soybeans that needed to be planted… I had my work cut out. All this on top of all my other responsibilities- I sure am thankful for a day of rest.

So today as the rain dripped slowly off the metal roof and I took my time before heading out into the drizzle to survey the farm, My heart swelled a little bit. (Don’t tell Kendra, but a swelled heart is a sign of a happy dog) It is the best feeling in the world to have so much accomplished before the rain comes.


I hope if I hit a mid life crisis and decide I need a career change, that I come to my senses and return to being Farm Manager- what a beautiful life…

Ever the Faithful Servant,

-Detroit Snappenbarker Mendoza

Bonus Pics:

The Water at Windy Hollow Farm