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Life and Death on the Farm


That little unexpected lamb died, after he caught a chill. Zanimal and I spent about eight hours trying to warm him up the next day, but he died, anyway. We were all very sad about it.

If only the weather weren’t so cold, but what can you do? We weren’t expecting a lamb at all.

And then we got some cute little chicks!


Being newly sensitive to the dangers of young animals getting cold, I noticed right away when this little guy was shivering, and a stuck him in the oven for a bit! Then I put him in my pocket to carry him back out to the farm. Now, he’s doing fine.

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Dr. H’s Moby-Dick

“Call me Ishmael,” he said. “It’s not my name, but call me Ishmael! Bwa ha!” He tooted the last part, a silly little laugh. He was a smallish guy. He looked like a cute little rat. Cute little middle aged chain smoking coffee drinking slightly perverted but clearly adorable, absurdly intelligent rat. The kind of rat you would want in your pocket while you presented your PhD dissertation, even though he would make you giggle at the wrong times. 

That was the first day of class. It was summer school, so there were about twelve students, ten of whom were bronze, mostly naked off-season snowboard girls. I went to an obscure, third rate college, high in the mountains of Colorado. The summer school uniform was a sports bra and running shorts. The only jewelry allowed was toe rings. 

One of the mostly naked amazonians with a toe-ringed foot sitting on the seat in front of her said,

“This syllabus is all Moby-Dick. I thought this was American Lit?” 

“Moby-Dick is American literature. Herman Melville was an American.”

“Yeah, but…”

“So! Bwa ha! Page one. ‘Call me Ishmael.’,  best opening line of any book ever. But let’s go back to the title: ‘Moby-Dick or The Whale.’” 

Somehow, Dr. H. made the title dirty. I guess it wasn’t such a stretch- with a name like Moby-Dick. But every time he said it, it seemed to have an extra emphasis on the Dick. And yet, he was so charming about it. With his little laugh, Bwa Ha! 

“This is basically a novel about sex, posing as a fishing novel, bwa ha!” 

That summer, we went through every page of Moby-Dick, coming up with endless sexual allusions, metaphors and innuendos. And then there was the occasional Jesus Christ allusion. And then back to sex.

Sometimes, you would see him outside of class. He was like a broken man, hunched over his coffee, cigarette in hand. Oh, poor Dr. H, one might think. Them you would see him again, Monday morning, a new man! Refreshed! 

“Moby-Dick! Bwa ha!”

Summer school classes were four days a week, Monday thru Thursday. It was full sperm whale immersion. 

The best part about Moby-Dick with Dr. H was that Moby-Dick was basically incomprehensible long-winded tuttle fuddy. The whale doesn’t even appear for the first fourteen billion pages! But, once you heard Dr. H’s amazing explanations of each and every page, it was the most fascinating thing ever written. 

In the end, I learned five things from Dr. H:

1. Moby-Dick is full of metaphors, most of them sexual.

2. It’s okay, even great, to laugh at your own jokes.

3. The more you learn about some things, the more interesting they become.

4. Moby-Dick is the best book ever written. (I believed that for a month.)

5. Sometimes, a rubber chicken makes everything better.

It happened two and a half years later. I was in Senior Thesis. It was held in a conference room. We sat around a large table. Dark. It was a darkly held conference room. Squinting, we contemplated primary sources. 

“Blah blah blah blah,” were the professor’s exact words. The professor was not Dr. H. Suddenly, the door burst open and a life-sized rubber chicken flew through the doorway and landed in the center of our conference table. The door slammed shut. We heard a laugh,

“Bwa ha!” And the pitter-patter of cute rat-like feet running down the hallway. 

A long-forgotten joy welled within me. Mysteries of land and sea, life and death, opened up once again. The winter ice around my heart was melting. A large rubber chicken lay in the middle of a conference room table, like a great, white sperm whale. 


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Giant Chickens Across the Globe

This week, the muse was speaking to me in strange ways. I painted six paintings of a giant, fire-breathing Rooster, traveling the world. 

I was sick. I get sort of air headed when I’m sick. I think this rooster wants me to tell his story. 

So, why did not the Giant, Fire Breathing Rooster burn down the Eiffel Tower? No one knows. Perhaps he appreciated its beauty. Perhaps he had a sore throat. Perhaps he knew that, being made of metal, it wouldn’t burn.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe the bridge was in his way? It’s difficult to say why a giant, fire breathing rooster does what he does.

I don’t know why the Giant, Flame Breathing Rooster burned the Hollywood sign to the ground. It was just in his nature, I guess.

Overcome with the beauty of nature, the Giant, Fire-Breathing Rooster chooses not to destroy it.

The Giant, Flame Breathing Rooster took a ship across the ocean.

What did the Giant, Flame-Breathing Rooster have against the Sydney Opera House? Nothing. It was simply in his nature to burn it down. It was nothing personal.

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Whose feet are in your trash?

This is not a post for vegetarians. 

We took a few rams to the butcher on Tuesday. (Tuesday is their “exotic animal”day— but I disagree that sheep are exotic.) Zanimal (formerly Big Z, and before that Little Z) said we shouldn’t tell them where we were going. “Just tell them they’re going to Spanish lessons!” She said. So, we did. And now “Spanish lessons” will forever be a euphemism for “getting butchered” in our house.

After we dropped them off, I went home and cleaned out the freezer to make room for lamb meat. There were dozens of chicken feet in the freezer, which I had heard once were edible, but I decided that really, I’m not eating a chicken foot unless I’m starving to death! So I threw all of the chicken feet into the trash, and then there was plenty of room for lamb. 
Then, I went back to the butcher and picked up the pelts from the sheep. We usually cure them, have them tanned, and make beautiful sheepskin throws out of them. As I was stretching them to dry them out, I noticed something really weird. Whoever butchered them had left the bony front legs on the pelts, and the hoofs. I prefer my blankets to be hoof and bone free, so I cut off the bony, furry lamb legs, hoofs and all. I threw the sheep legs and feet into the trash with all of the chicken feet.

And then I thought, man, do I have some funky weird trash.

How many feet are in your trash?

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Free Range Freezing

This is today’s weather:

It’s the warmest day we’ve had in a while. We have an automatic chicken door that opens when the sun comes up and closes when the sun goes down. I normally turn it off to “closed all the time” when it gets down in the single digits, and I put a heat lamp in the chicken coop. This week, though, one of our barn cats is gone. He’s feral so it isn’t surprising, but I really wanted him to come home and not freeze to death, so I left the automatic door on. I didn’t think the chickens would go outside when they had a heat lamp inside, but I was totally wrong. This is them today (and every other day this week):

I think we have thirty-four chickens, and three are in the coop right now. There’s even a chicken with a hurt leg who hopped outside on one foot. I guess chickens really like their sunshine, regardless of the temperature.

The chickens aren’t the only people here in Wisconsin who don’t feel the cold. When it first gets down to single digits, everyone is like, “Ufda! That’s cold out there!” But then by day three, the guy carrying your groceries out is just wearing two long-sleeved shirts. And you notice that a lady driving around Mount Horeb has her backseat window open, so her dog can stick his head out and feel that refreshing breeze. And you look at your car thermometer, and it’s 2. Fahrenheit.

I don’t know this woman, but I know her, you know?

I love Wisconsin.