Thursday, May 17, 2012

On the Life of a Chicken

So among all the fun and games of the last month (don't ask. Just... don't...), on monday this week I had to take Lottie, one of our Silky chickens, to the vet.

And, trust me, you haven't lived until you've sat in the waiting room of your local veterinary hospital, holding a box with a fluffy looking chicken in it on your lap, surrounded by sniggering dog and cat owners.

Lottie was our biggest, fattest, oldest chicken. Though not that old - she was only about 10 weeks when we got her, a couple of months ago. She was the first to start laying, and had been contentiously producing 6 eggs per week for the last three weeks or so. Until last Thursday, when she went off the lay, and started spending all day flopped in her nesting box. Which was decidedly unlike her.*

My first thought was that she was egg-bound, though the symptoms didn't quite fit. Either way, on Saturday I took her to the vet, who had a look, found no egg, and said to keep an eye on her and bring her back on Monday morning if she didn't come good.

And, sadly, she didn't.

So monday morning, bright and early, I popped her back in her box and we toddled back over to the vet, who gave poor Lottie another good going over, and again found no evidence of an egg. What she did find, sadly, was a large tumor growing in Lottie's abdomen. Apparently it's a problem that this particular breed are genetically disposed to. We didn't know that at the time.

So there was, sadly, nothing for it. Lottie didn't come home from the vet.

Which, as you can imagine, was quite upsetting for all of us. Mainly because we're one of those silly families who does things like giving their chickens names and treating them like pets. Still, you have to be pragmatic about these things. That's life, after all.

And, short though it was, Lottie did at least have a good life. She wandered freely around the yard with her sisters, tormenting our dog on her running lead and stripping bare our corn crop. She picked aphids off the roses, fertilised the garden beds (and the path, and the back steps...), and gave me an excuse to buy myself new gumboots.

And, importantly, she reminded Min and I about the value of food. It's been good, owning chickens, and seeing them as real animals. It's made us re-assess our spending habits when it comes to meat, and think a lot more closely about the ethics of what we use and what we waste. It's connected us a little more closely some of the realities of life that modern life can make us forget or overlook.

When I was 19, I was convinced that by the time I turned 40, I'd be living somewhere like London or New York. I'd be wealthy. I'd be setting the world on fire.

As it turned out, I spent the last day of my 30's,  a week or so back, here in Canberra cleaning out the chicken coop, and then driving out with my wife and son to the Collector Pumpkin Festival. And, to be honest, it was the perfect end to my third decade. I wouldn't have had it any other way. It turns out that, for me, the best way to turn 40 was to do it with chickens. And pumpkins. Sure, it's not where I imagined myself when I was in my 20's - it's so much better. And Lottie and her three siblings are part of that.

Later this year, we're going to get a replacement chicken. We're thinking of calling her Lottie 2.

That's for later, though.

Have a good week, everyone.

*Yes. Chickens have personalities. I was surprised to learn it, too.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What I did on My Weekend.

Busy busy... blah blah blah... busy.... no time to post... sorry... blah blah*

So last year for his birthday, Min and I bought her brother, my awesome BIL a half day stunt driving course as his present. I was very jealous. So for Christmas, Min got the same thing for me.

Then we were both very excited. We picked a date. We booked ourselves in. We talked about it. A lot.

Then, three days before we were due to drive up to Sydney for the experience, the NSW Traffic Police shut down the operation, apparently on the basis that the Eastern Creek Raceway qualifies as a public road, and that we were therefore obligated to drive according to the road rules. Which don't allow for driving on two wheels, jumping over ramps, or doing high speed handbrake turns. More's the pity**

Luckily, we'd purchased our experiences through Redballoon, who have a great returns policy, so we decided to cast around for something else.

Then we found this.

Now, I'm something of an aviation junkie. I might have mentioned this before. My dad was a pilot, and worked for the Civil Aviation Authority so I grew up on airports and around planes. I like planes. A lot. When I'm rich and famous***, I'm going to actually get my pilot's license.

In the meantime, I've also spent more than a few hours playing with Microsoft Flight Simulator****

So this was ideal. And a couple of weeks ago, we drove up to Bankstown airport for the afternoon, and spent two hours pretending to be pilots. And despite a few technical issues with the simulator (having to fly it from the co-pilot's seat, for example) it was awesome fun. I won't bore you with the entire 2 hour, 20 minute video (though I can, if you're interested...) but here we are flying the short hop from the new Hong Kong airport across to the old one - which had one of the more difficult and spectacular landings anywhere in the world. I'm off camera in the (co) Pilot's seat, with my BIL right in front of camera. Excuse the dodgy takeoff, too (and the language!) - the simulator's rudder pedals were a little... awkward.

... and who says grown-ups shouldn't play with toys?

*You've heard all this before, so I've decided to condense. 
** Not really. I'm actually a big fan of road rules.
*** Clearly not in the foreseeable future.
**** Though sadly, not for the last couple of years, owing to lack of suitable computer, and lack of suitable time.


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