Sunday, December 18, 2011

Strange Happenings

Maybe it's the weather. December is usually cold and wet. This December is not so cold and strangely dry. (Of course, it's not over yet and snow may be coming for Christmas weekend.) One of the odd things around here, perhaps odder than the weather, is, admittedly, me... or odd things I've been doing. Okay, so not all of my faux pas are recent oddities.

Years ago, I foolishly planted invasive English Ivy along Johnny's shop. I know why I did it... that wall is two stories high, ugly yellow metal, and, well, just plain ugly. Thanks to the cuttings I took from the Grand Ronde library ivy (that they try yearly to get rid of), the ugly wall was converted into a lovely ivy-covered wall. But the ivy is not content to stay on the outside of the wall. It has moved through cracks into the inside and is covering Johnny's tools. It has also poked out the roof. And I worry that the berries it is producing will be carried by birds into the forest and choke innocent trees.

So during this oddly rain-free weather I chopped it down. Or tried to. I had hung netting on the wall for the ivy to climb on. That was a stupid thing to do because ivy needs nothing but its own hairy stalks to glue itself to any surface. But the ivy was happy to twine its tendrils through the netting as well. The netting, over the years, buried itself in the dirt under massive ivy roots. It took me two days to cut netting and ivy stalks away from the ground. Pictured is what it looks like now, severed from the ground that it used to cover. There was no bare metal showing on the outside of the shop before my efforts this week. The other photos show what it did and still does look like inside the shop. Having the ivy on the lower part of the wall gone and disconnected from its roots in the ground does not seem to have had any effect whatsoever on the part still hanging inside and out.

Next came the dilemma of what to do with the huge mound of ivy I'd chopped down. I planned to burn it, but the burn pile is in the orchard, near the woods. What if those impossible-to-kill cuttings rooted and crept into our woodland? I decided to make the burn pile in the middle of the goat field where there are no trees anywhere near. So I did. The goats, of course, immediately dashed out to eat the ivy leaves. Then I remembered reading that ivy was poisonous to goats. I raced to the computer to research. Yes! said the first site I found, ivy is poisonous to goats! I raced back outside and tried to cover the ivy with boards and berry vines but that did nothing to deter the goats. Panic-stricken, I raced to the house again and googled for remedies for ivy poisoning, sure I had just killed all my goats. This time I found a site that said "Don't believe everything you read on the internet. You'll find sites that say ivy is poisonous to goats. I've been feeding ivy trimmings to my goats for years. They love them."

So far, my goats are fine.

Two days later came the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count we do each year. This year, thanks to the odd dry weather, we had no snow or rain to struggle through in our mountain sector. That was good. But there were far fewer birds than usual. Why, I have no idea. In spite of the fact that most of the other teams also found few birds in their sectors, the count came up with the highest number of total species it ever had and higher numbers on quite a few of the species than ever before. Of course, some of those "higher numbers" were not very high: 10 (Downy Woodpecker) and 4 (Western Screech Owl). And our total species count (60) was less than half many other counts: our Upper Nestucca count circle is not in prime bird habitat. But it's pretty. Pictured is one of our non-rainy, non-snowy, pretty spots that should have had birds that day but did not.

Oddly enough, Johnny and I discovered on our earlier scouting trip in the count circle that we had cell phone coverage in our sector, which we've never had before. So we planned to bring our cell phones on count day in case we needed to call for help up there in the wilderness. But I forgot mine. That is, I thought I forgot it. I searched my pockets and backpack before Johnny dropped me off at the edge of the circle. He then drove home to do morning chores. I asked him to bring my phone back when he came later to join me.

Hours later, as I sat in a forest clearing eating a snack, my cell phone rang. From somewhere. It had to be in my clothing but darned if I could find it. I frantically dug through coat pockets as the phone rang again after getting no answer the first time. I knew Johnny was calling the number to try to find my phone at home, where I'd said I left it. I began peeling my many layers, each with pockets, trying to find the elusive phone. Didn't. Unpacked my backpack... no phone. So I started over again, feeling each article of clothing for a hidden lump. At last I felt such a lump in the very bottom of my coat. A hole in a pocket had allowed the cell phone to fall through into the lining. I called Johnny and told him the phone was with me.

But the strangest happening of all this week happened at home. I'm not sure when. My exotic Buckeye hen, one of the chicks I bought a year and a half ago, suddenly turned into a rooster. Well, I don't know how suddenly but she has looked like a hen for over a year. A few days ago I thought I heard two roosters, instead of one, crowing in the morning. Yesterday, I saw two roosters and fourteen hens instead of the usual one rooster and fifteen hens. One rooster had a pea comb but was otherwise nearly identical to our original rooster... and it was chasing and mounting and breeding the hens. My exotic Buckeye hen was not there. Well, I think she was there but a he instead of a she. The Buckeye is the only bird I have with a pea comb other than the Americaunas which look totally different. I've heard of some roosters being slow to mature, but a year and a half?? Possibly, Johnny and I are just really unobservant but... Here she is in her former life as a hen. And now, apparently, as a rooster.

I know they don't look alike but I swear it has to be the same bird... unless someone has done a switcheroo on me. Here are the two roosters together, and their heads showing the vastly different comb styles.

Could it be the weather??


  1. This is in my chicken book! You are such a lucky owner of a transgendered chicken!

  2. Wow! Thank you, Ingrid! Now I can stop thinking I've lost my mind. Your URL led me to this article about a Wyandotte bantam hen that turned into a rooster. Amazing!! Turns out it can happen if one ovary is damaged. For some reason, the other ovary starts producing testosterone.

  3. Unfortunately though, this "rooster" is going to be pretty dang useless, unless you just wanted a back up alarm clock. But he looks lovely and I guess that is much of the joy of a rooster in the first place.

  4. And he's a great conversation piece. As if we needed any more around here...