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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

All the Joys of Pet Ownership

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

All the Joys of Pet Ownership

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alex eek
Today, as I was preparing lunch, I looked out into the backyard, and Alex was pooping. I notice this because I swear that every time I look out into the backyard, one of the dogs is pooping. I also notice because he's having a rough time of it.

Later, Bobby and I are sitting on the patio and Alex is, of course, pooping. And again having a rough time of it. When he came back, he smelled very strongly of ... well, you know. So I checked under his tail and, sure enough, he was a mess back there. So I went into the house for some paper towels and got Bobby to hold him (Bobby is squicked by that sort of thing so anything poop- or vomit-related is a Mommy job) and, upon parting his feathers a bit better, discovered that he had a huge clump of grass hanging out of his arse.

Ummm ... yuck.

So that was fun. Having had dogs all of my life, I've done all manner of gross dog-related tasks (mostly involving poop or vomit because dogs are dogs and, upon encountering something unfamiliar, immediately think, "Hmmm. I don't know what this is. I think I'll eat it.") but this one was a first and, hopefully, a last. I told Alex, "Xan, you're not a herbivore. You can't digest cellulose. So stop eating so much grass that you bind yourself so badly that Mommy has to pull your poop out of your butt for you."

Speaking of animals, the Felagund Family flock is about to get bigger. Literally. Bobby called the town office today and received confirmation that, yes, we can have chickens. Not only that but, apparently, our humble three-quarter-acre residential lot is actually zoned for light agriculture! So we could till up the backyard, plant row crops, and sell them on the roadside if we wanted to. (Actually, after getting over my initial surprise, our zoning made perfect sense since our neighbor across the street does sell organic lettuce and eggs.) We cannot, apparently, have a cow, though, which sucks.

But, as I told Bobby, we were getting chickens no matter what the town said. I was fully prepared to pull a Henry David Thoreau on the Manchester bureaucracy and go all civil disobedient and keep chickens whether they were allowed or not. Two reasons why. Firstly, there are three other houses on our street that I know of with chickens. It's like the time my dad was trying to get a pool permit, and the county tried to deny him, and he pointed out all of the houses on the street that had built pools without permits, while he was trying to go about things legitimately and honestly and give the county their cut in fees. Secondly, sustainability is the closest thing I have to a religion. So there. >:-Þ

While I'm babbling about the town, Bobby and I went to the fire department carnival last Thursday, and I saw five of my students there. I told Bobby that, if I get a job at Manchester Valley, like I hope, when my certification's done, then I will probably know half the kids and parents at the carnival before long.
  • Oh yeah, I know how it is with furkids. They spend most of their time doing "weird things" that usually involve *us* getting messy.

    Maybe a cow is too big -- can you get a goat? Goats are a lot of fun. :)
    • We are allowed to have a goat! Actually, that's on the list, right after the bees. :^P

      Both of my dogs are pros at getting into things they shouldn't. Usually it's Lancelot, but Alex clearly has his moments too! :D
    • My friend bought a farm upstate earlier this year. She already had 4 horses, a dog, a cat, and a parrot. Now she has added 2 more cats and 2 goats to the herd.

      The goats are absolutely adorable!!! She's planning on chickens in the spring. She's hoping that their place will be largely self-sustaining in a couple of years.
      • Wow, I envy your friend! :) The only way I could ever see moving from this house (and this is highly, highly unlikely because I loathe moving and love where we live) is if we were to buy a small farm or a property with more land. Goats are awesome, though. My husband was a bit slow coming around because their sideways pupils kinda freaked him out, but now that he likes them, we may just have one someday! It'll save him from having to mow the lawn!
    • I'm trying to imagine the regulatory rigmarole that would ensue if someone tried to do that over here!

      Although I love dairy products, I don't like plain milk and, aside from tasting a sip of the raw milk my husband bought a while back, haven't tasted it since ... I can't even remember. I apparently spit it out even when I was really small. If ever we end up with a goat (and, at the rate we're going, we probably will), I will definitely try goat's milk and even make an effort to like it! :)
  • (no subject) - olorime001
    • My husband and I are building a coop for them over by our shed, and they will have a portable pen that we will move around the yard so that they can eat bugs without worries that they will themselves be eaten by a hawk. Or a Golden Retriever ...

      This might sound weird, but I'm looking forward to the poop! It's very high in nitrogen and, when composted, makes really good garden fertilizer. We're on the fence about whether or not to get a rooster. My husband says the chickens will do better if we have one, but we do live in a residential neighborhood--even if we're zoned for agriculture!--so I wouldn't want our chickens to be a nuisance for our neighbors. I don't know that I've ever had fertilized eggs, but I know that pasture-fed eggs are infinitely better than the factory-farmed garbage for sale at the supermarket! :)
      • How does your vegetarian-ness feel about eating fertilized eggs? Just curious; I saw cartons of such eggs for sale at a health food store on the North Side, and I kind of wondered, since I happen to know that that particular store's clientele tends to run vegetarian. The clerk had no idea, but said the eggs did sell sometimes.

        We cannot, apparently, have a cow, though, which sucks.

        Hey, man, like, don't have a cow about this.

        • It wouldn't bother me, but I'm a weird vegetarian! :D I'd imagine a lot of vegetarians would be bothered, just because many tend to react on an emotional/sentimental/ideological level rather than logically when it comes to the complexities of human-animal relationships. The way I see it is that eating eggs from happy, pastured chickens is infinitely better than eating eggs from hens crammed six to a battery cage that never see the light of day. I want the animals that provide my food to have as natural a life as possible, which may well mean throwing a rooster in with the hens. (I know the farm where we buy our eggs has roosters, though I don't know what that means about how many eggs are fertilized. Perhaps I'll ask when we go this weekend and satisfy my curiosity! :) Incidentally, since I'm also pro-choice, I would have a serious issue with arguing the rights of a non-sentient and non-viable glob of cells, whether chicken or human. ;) The whole reason I became a vegetarian was out of the hope to prevent as much suffering by sentient beings as possible.

          Hey, man, like, don't have a cow about this.

          I wondered who would pick up on my Bart Simpson moment. I was banking on you or pandemonium_213, and you did not let me down! :D
          • I was banking on you or pandemonium_213, and you did not let me down! :D

            Well, I aim to please!

            The way I see it is that eating eggs from happy, pastured chickens is infinitely better than eating eggs from hens crammed six to a battery cage that never see the light of day.

            That's probably an overall healthier way to look at eating than strict PETA-style vegetarianism. It's also one of the reasons that I shop at the particular grocery store that I do; they make an effort to secure meat, eggs, and dairy products from at least semi-responsible sources.

            Here's another "just curious" question for you: Given your particular views on animal health and happiness, what happens when your chickens get to be old and creaky? Are you going to continue with the vegetarian diet for yourself, or will you subscribe to the "my chickens will only have one bad day in their lives" philosophy and learn to eat chicken stew? Or maybe feed them to the dogs? It also strikes me that you'll start having a source of feathers as well, which you could save up to make pillows. It'd take a while, but it's not like feathers go bad.

            Also, you'll have to let me know how fertilized eggs taste. I'm not sure I'd make them a regular part of my diet, for two reasons: 1) The only store that I'm sure sells them in Chicago is a very long el ride away, and 2) given that I mostly use eggs either in baking or in things like shakshouka where they get drowned in Tabasco sauce, it doesn't seem worth the expense for more highly flavored eggs. But I admit that I'm kind of curious.
  • Because dogs are dogs and, upon encountering something unfamiliar, immediately think, "Hmmm. I don't know what this is. I think I'll eat it."

    My puppyface in a nutshell. He chewed up the internet cable this afternoon and then got sick as...well, a dog.

    But good luck with the chickens!
    • Oh no! Poor little one! (Yeah, I'm all sympathy now but, if it had been one of mine, I would have probably been more like, "Yeah, that'll learn you to eat the Internet cable!" :D)

      I've seen my dogs come across all manner of interesting/disgusting stuff, sniff it, look at it curiously, then eat it. Dogs ...
      • It's not actually the first time; he got a phone cord a few weeks ago. But dachshunds tend to be chewers.

        What can be even more interesting is what they won't eat. Oscar will eat sponges and wires and lord knows what else, but he spits out green beans. XD

        Good song, by the way!
        • Alex eats just about anything. He's eaten mesclun that's dropped on the floor while I'm making salads. Maybe he does think he is a herbivore? :D Lancelot sounds more like your puppy. In his puppyhood, he devoured a pair of my shoes and a whole side of our coffee table, but he turns up his nose even at things dogs are supposed to like. He showed very little interest in the bison marrow bones we bought for them. (Alex devoured his so heartily that he gave himself explosive diarrhea. >.<)

          Good song, by the way!

          The Smashing Pumpkins have been one of my favorite groups since I first stole my sister's copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness when I was 14 and she was 12. (And I still have it--it's on our CD rack right now! :D) Even though my musical tastes have 180ed in the half-lifetime since, SP remains one of my favorite groups.
          • Puppyface is 3 years old and not, strictly speaking, a puppy anymore, but I tend to call my dogs "puppy" no matter how old they are. Should have clarified, my bad.

            Internet twin? Someone gave a copy of Mellon Collie to my brother, and he never showed much interest in it, so I nabbed it a couple years later because the cover art was neat, and never ended up giving it back. They are awesome. :D
  • "Hmmm. I don't know what this is. I think I'll eat it."

    Ah hahahahahahaha! Yes, that's a canine for ya! Of course, dogs also barf very easily. That's evolution's way of keeping that "Hmmmm. I don't know what this is. I think I'll eat it" tactic from killing them. Most of the time.

    Oh, boy, chickens! I like the idea of a nanny goat (I know you will not get a billy). You can make your own goat cheese!
    • Most of the time.

      Alex ate some poisonous berries in the backyard once right after we moved here (we didn't realize they were poisonous at the time and now cut back the bush just as soon as they appear) and exploded from one end of the house to the other. And, unfortunately, this was when Bobby was still with Customs and used to come home first in the afternoon, so he was stuck with the mess. (Poop and barf really gross him out but don't phase me at all.) Finding a little pile of barf in the hallway is par for the course with our two, thanks to their "foraging" out in the yard. (We also used to come home to a pile of diarrhea every month or so from one Lancelot, always at the top of the basement steps, but my being home all day has stopped that!)

      You can make your own goat cheese!

      Yes! :D We were just talking last night about wanting to explore cheese-making!
    • Blessed are the cheese-makers!
    • My aunt used to have a cheese-farm (but they quit running the business and retired), too bad I don't see her that often that I can pass on tips for you.
  • Oh, geez-- I've had to do that with Magic a few times. The things we do for the animals we love...

    Good luck with the chickens!
    • Thanks! :D I'm sure there will be mad picspam when the wee fuzzy cute little peeps arrive!

      Probably illustrative of the direction this conversation has taken, I just type "cute little poops arrive." *headdesk*

      I remember one of the dogs we had when I still lived with my parents, in his former home, used to eat baby socks and have to receive similar treatment from his former owner. I guess it's too much to hope that I won't be doing it again! :D
  • Chickens are an excellent way to deal with those pesky squash bugs!
    • Yes! And it's much easier than me crouching in the garden for a half-hour every afternoon, checking every leaf and dropping squash bugs into a cup of hot, soapy water!

      I wonder if they taste like Jolly Rancher candies too, or if they just smell that way?
      • I wonder if they taste like Jolly Rancher candies too...

        What a revolting thought! I always knew there was a reason I didn't like Jolly Ranchers! :D
  • (no subject) - eli_14
    • Oh no! As an illuminator, that is a particular fear of mine, since I work on vellum, which the dogs probably see as a slightly softer version of a big ol' rawhide bone!

      Please give a hug to Roisin for me! :)
      • (no subject) - eli_14
        • Thanks, Eli. I'll let you be the judge of this, too, but we are holding an SWG birthday celebration and asking members to contribute themes. If Roisin would like to sponsor a theme, please let me know, and I'll get everything set up. She doesn't have to do anything beyond that. I know she has been very active in promoting subgenres of fiction that generally lack attention, like Second Age stories or stories with strong female characters, so putting together a collection of old and new stories about some of her favorite subgenres seems like something she would appreciate. :)

          *hugs* to you both! Bobby and I are thinking of you guys always.
          • (no subject) - eli_14
            • That's a brilliant idea! If I don't hear from you that she wants to sponsor something else, then I will be sure that it is included in the first list of themes that we reveal. Thanks so much! :)
  • Aww poor Alex, cats in that sense (if you forget about vomit and furrballs they hack up) are much cleaner.

    Sooooo, I am beyond curious what names the chickens will get :D Geese are also great watchdogs as well btw.
    • cats in that sense (if you forget about vomit and furrballs they hack up) are much cleaner.

      I know, I wish we could train the Goldens to use a litterbox! As it is, we have to walk the grid every few weeks or the yard becomes unbearable. :^S

      Sooooo, I am beyond curious what names the chickens will get :D

      Bobby tells me that he plans to kill them for meat when they are done laying, so he says it's not a good idea to name them. But you know I'll name them, even if only to myself. ;)

      To continue the trend of naming our house spiders after the House of Fingolfin, maybe I'll name the chickens after Valar! :D
      • Do the boys have a 'pooping' area, I wonder?

        But it will be years before they are done laying, so why not name them? Naming them after the Valar, *giggles*
  • Oh, that's cool that you'll be able to keep chickens and grow your own crops! And there's one of my colleagues who raises goats - our ENT guy keeps goats.

    I'm chuckling at the Thoreau reference because my part of Maine is sometime referred to as Thoreau country. When he decided the area around Walden Pond was just too populated for his liking, he came up here to Maine to study the wildlife. He'd almost certainly be horrified to know that Mt. Kineo (which is just a short ways north of Greenville, a town which has a park named for Thoreau) now has a 9-hole golf course on top of it. ;)
    • I would love to keep a goat! Growing up, my favorite cousins kept--among their many animals--pygmy goats. So far, the progression of animals we hope to have in the House of Felagund is chickens, bees, then the goat. But it's definitely a goal/hope of ours!

      He'd almost certainly be horrified to know that Mt. Kineo (which is just a short ways north of Greenville, a town which has a park named for Thoreau) now has a 9-hole golf course on top of it. ;)

      Eek! Yes, indeed! I'm trying to imagine a musing on the golf course in Walden and just ... can't.
      • It's funny, because it's still really really rural - the only land access to Mt Kineo is on a dirt road coming in from north of Kokadjo ('population = not many' according to their road sign), so the easiest way to get there is by boat (there's a teensy pedestrian only ferry) or in the winter, across the ice on Moosehead Lake - and there's still these wild hiking trails going up and down the mountain - and then perched on its relatively flat top, a nine hole golf course. It's just this bizarre thing!
        • Now I have in my mind all these Thoreau/Whitman types up on a remote mountaintop somewhere, playing a round ... :D
  • Jersey Cow Pictures, Images and Photos

    Get one anyway! Look at those big brown eyes!

    On the chickens, I have never noticed any difference in taste if the egg was fertilised or not, but a big one between those who got to eat greens and grubs and those fed industrialised chicken food...
    • Awwww ... I know! (And Lancer lays his head on Alex's back just like that too ... so cute. *wibble*)

      Pasture-raised chickens produce much better eggs! (Bobby tells me the meat is better too, but I have to take him on his word for that.) I noticed, even, that they make much better custard base for ice cream. It's really no small wonder, considering the misery that industrialized chickens live under. I wouldn't make good eggs either.

      And I don't know what constitutes "chicken food" in the more progressive EU but, over here, it can include everything from manure to other chickens to cement dust. :-Þ Yuck!
      • I also noticed that in industrialised chickens, the yolk is a pale yellow, while free range chickens give your gorgeous violent orange yolks. It's no wonder they make better custards (or cakes or omellettes) because they will actually contain things from nature! ;)

        Yeah, I don't think we are very progressive on that point (I don't know for sure), but I know they stopped feeding cows with bone meal from other cows. Not for the cows' sake but to prevent diseases that could harm the consumers. *headdesk*

        ETA: Bobby is right. Meat from free range chickens is like eating wild game - it actually tastes of something.

        Edited at 2010-07-14 12:52 pm (UTC)
        • Michael Pollan, trying to describe the describe the taste of the pasture-raised chicken he ate while researching for Omnivore's Dilemma describes it as tasting more like chicken. He said there is no better way to describe it. I know that Bobby is hooked on Springfield's chicken, and we've gotten my inlaws hooked as well; they drive up every few weeks to go to the farm with us and buy about $100 worth of meat while they're there!

          I know some European countries (and I'm going back so far now that the EU didn't even exist yet!) had put animal care restrictions on factory farming. We have none of that except, as you point out, those leading to the most egregious examples of public health problems. (Even so, we can't get laws to stop the use of antibiotics--some of them not even FDA-approved--and hormones in animal products, despite the likely devastation that is creating for public health.) But, yeah, factory-farming animals belies feeding them a natural diet, as does cheap meat. (Although Springfield's meat is very reasonable, being as the animals eat mostly freely available grass and bugs! :)

          Lancer just came in and gave me a hug and told me to pass it on to Miss Marie. :)
          • As a child I didn't like pasture-raised chicken meat at all! It wasn't even colourless as chicken "was supposed" to be. ;) I was a very picky eater back then. And I think some people would actually be surprised by how much taste there can be in a chicken if it gets proper food and the time to grow to an eatable size.

            Ugh yeah, the antibiotics and hormones. I mean what the h***!

            Aaawww Lancer bb! If he gets his ball I'll come out and throw it for him!
  • You have to ask your town if you want to have chickens? Why *is confused*?
    • Properties in the U.S. are "zoned" for certain uses, residential, agricultural, commercial, &c. Zoning restricts what you can have on or do with a particular property. In theory, it's a good thing; it keeps a reeking fertilizer factory, for example, from opening in your neighborhood or prevents people from collecting three dozen horses on a half-acre plot. In practice, it's not always so good or commonsense. Because we live (we thought) on a residential property, we weren't sure if we would have to acquire a permit or even if we'd be allowed to have poultry. Chickens are considered livestock, so they aren't allowed in most areas zoned for residential use.

      We live in Carroll County, which is a rural county (though turning increasingly suburban as the blasted developers get a hold of farmland and convert it into endless rows of McMansions), and our county has a Right to Farm Act* that guarantees anyone with more than a half-acre of land (we have 3/4) the right to conduct basic agricultural operations: raising chickens, growing food crops, &c. However, we fall just inside of town limits, so we have to bow to the wishes of the town's governance, not Carroll County, and we weren't sure what their stance on ag was. Thankfully, they allow it--in fact, we're zoned for light agriculture, not residential, as we initially thought! However, the two nearest towns to us--Hampstead and Taneytown--specifically prohibit anyone within their town limits from keeping chickens. Which I think is rather daft in an agricultural county.

      * Right to Farm Acts, incidentally, tend to follow development since the hoi polloi who decide to flee the city (too violent, too Black) for the 'burbs discover that, despite the beautiful pastoral landscapes, farming can be noisy and it can stink. And they raise a ruckus when, for example, the rooster at the small farm next door to the McMansion Reserve, or whatever homogeneous housing community they moved into, cockledoodledoos them away at 5 a.m. every day. So rural areas pass these laws to protect not only farmers but people like Bobby and me who move to places like Carroll County for its agricultural resources.

      That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about zoning laws and agriculture--I hope you're not sorry you asked! ;)
      • Thanks for clearing that up! And that's not more than I wanted to know - I think it's highly interesting and certainly different from Germany. I always find it fascinating to see how different countries (or cultures) handle certain questions.

        I wonder how bees are handled? Forbidden in residental areas? Because I saw this documentary about the bees dying (you know, corn, Monsanto and that kind of stuff), in which they said that nowadays bees actually survive better in big cities. Instead of rural areas, a lot of beekeepers take their bees to cities, because they're in less danger there. Would this be possible in the US then?
        • I find cross-cultural and -national questions fascinating as well! How are these issues handled in Germany? Having grown up being told that, no, I couldn't have a horse because we weren't zoned for one, it's hard to imagine life without worrying over zoning ... or having a different set of worries. :)

          I suppose bees would depend on the zoning laws of a particular area. Every area is different, and it'd be interesting to know if urban zoning codes cover beekeeping or not. Every city has different zoning codes, though. (We keep things as confusing as possible here! :) Here, if I remember correctly, bees are included in Carroll County's Right to Farm Act so, as long as the Town of Manchester doesn't have any particular restrictions on them, we should be able to have them. Bees are our next project after the chickens, actually! Our local extension office offers a beekeeping course over the winter that we plan to take. Even if we're not allowed them by Manchester bylaw, with colony collapse disorder as bad as it is, I would go all Thoreau on any restrictions on bees even more than I would chickens! I see a lot of honeybees out in the yard and garden, but not nearly as many as I remember when I was growing up and they seemed to be everywhere, so much that they were annoying at times. Now, we see one and think, "Thank goodness! There's still a hive somewhere in reach of our plants!"
          • Fascinating. AFAIK there's nothing comparable in Germany. I've had animals all my life (small stuff - cats, dogs, rabbits) - my neighbours to this day have sheep. I'm living in what once was a village, but nowadays we're actually a town. Still, I've never heard of having to ask someone official.

            (But this also means we have a lot of lawsuits of the "my neighbour's chicken are too loud" or "my neighbour's cat it peeing on my lawn" variety - which I find stupid. If I move to a rural area, chicken are pretty much part of the deal. As are frogs, cats, dogs and all kinds of other stuff. Stay on your tenth floor apartment if you can deal with so much nature.)
  • Coming in late but the dog poop topic is irresistible: when Jabon, my pointer was a big puppy, he had a rope toy he loved to play with pulling and tugging and, as we found out too late, chewing. One Sunday evening (never at a time where you can just call the vet) we returned from a day out and we saw that he stood up and sat down and rubbed his ass on the floor, looking very uncomfortable: to make a long story short, he had swallowed a piece of string and he was, well, trying to eliminate it and it, well, had got stuck and hung out. So amid shrieks from the girls, mummy (me) put on some gloves and pulled out until it came out. Just seeing him ran around all happy and relieved made it worth it.
    No more rope toys, of course.

    • So it seems that pulling things out of dogs' arses is totally a "mommy job." :D Lancelot once had something nasty stuck to his bum; our families were over, eating steamed crabs in the backyard, and Lance yelped and came running to ... mommy. Luckily, being vegetarian, I was the only one with my hands clean because Old Bay seasoning has a lot of hot pepper in it, and he would not have been pleased if I had attempted to fix the problem with Old Bay on my hands!

      Coming in late but the dog poop topic is irresistible

      This is why I <3 my flist. ;)
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