Thursday, January 27, 2011

Everything I know...

First goats, now chickens. I can truthfully say that any knowledge I have of goats and chickens, I owe to Karen Pannabecker.

Karen was a guest speaker on national radio yesterday - a blogtalk radio show called The Chicken Whisperer. She had a 40-minute spot in which she talked about homesteading. It was terrific! I'd never thought about it before, but she and James are true homesteaders! It's really worth listening to. Go to and click on the January 26 segment.

Anyway, I listened to the whole show this morning. It was quite interesting, and as a result, I will end this day much smarter than I began it. So I want to share a little bit of that new knowledge with my friends.

First, a quiz:  How many cows does it take to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year's supply of footballs?

No, this is not a trick question. I thought footballs were made with pig skin too, but apparently not. The answer is 3000.

No, that's not something Karen said. The radio host told that before Karen's segment came on. But I do have to give Karen credit for everything else I learned today - about chickens. Something she said today triggered an Internet search that led from one thing to another and then another, until I now have a new appreciation for chickens.

Karen mentioned "hen savers" when she was talking about a hawk getting one of her chickens. I had to jot that term down so I could look it up afterwards. I couldn't come close to imagining what a hen saver might be. The name certainly didn't give a clue.

As I learned later, Hen Saver is actually a brand name for a hen apron, also called a chicken saddle. This device is put on hens to protect their backs from roosters during mating. Apparently, during mating, the rooster can really tear up the hen's back. The apron provides protection for the poor hen during this apparently over-zealous encounter.  The hen apron also has the potential for protecting a chicken against a hawk attack by reducing the hawk's ability to grasp the chicken.

Hen aprons come in an assortment of colors, including camouflage. They fit over the chicken like a backpack. You can also get one that has predator eyes - believed to deter a hawk from even thinking about attacking the chicken.

Hmmm, a hen apron with predator eyes. Now that's a tough picture to conjure up in your mind.

The pictures below are from  The site has some great pictures and apparently some great products.  I hope you will visit the site and if you own chickens, purchase a hen apron or two. They look like good quality. Some are even lined with fleece and provide warmth.
The hen apron

The hen apron with predator eyes
I'd never heard of hen aprons until today. Another thing I'd never heard of until today...some people actually keep chickens as indoor house pets.  These indoor pet chickens wear these cute little Hen Holster chicken diapers and  run  free-range around the house. The Hen Holster also doubles as a harness, so when you want to take your pet chicken out for a walk, you just snap on a lease and out the door you go. Makes me look at chickens a little differently.

The Hen Holster Chicken Diaper with Lease Snap
I've never really considered owning a chicken, certainly not for a pet. Bob, though, would have a half-dozen chickens running around our back yard right now if he could.  He'd love to have the eggs. I wouldn't mind having the eggs either, but chickens in the city, in a back yard in a subdivision?  I don't know.
A strange thing happened to me today though, I guess from reading all this chicken stuff. I ran across this great website - - a site to encourage city folk to take the plunge into poultry. There was all this great information about how to keep chickens in the city, information about chicken laws, and dozens of pictures of the most beautiful chickens.  The idea of having a couple of chickens actually started looking pretty good.

I think it was seeing the chicken tractor though that really caused me to entertain the possibility. According to the website, a chicken tractor is basically a bottomless cage or pen that can be rolled from one area of the yard to another. It's bottomless so that the chickens can scratch and eat grass and bugs off the ground, and the chicken manure can go straight onto the ground and fertilize it.

Yes, I could almost imagine a chicken tractor with a couple of chickens like the one in the picture in our back yard. It actually made me a little excited. Excited enough to pick up the phone and call the city. I spoke to the nicest young man. No, he wasn't surprised that I might want a couple of chickens, and No, there is no code prohibiting chickens in the city. The only restriction is that chickens must not be allowed to cross over onto another neighbor's property, and they wouldn't in a chicken tractor.  Why, he even told me we could have a goat if we wanted. One goat per 1/2 acre!

Wait a minute!  What in the world am I doing!!

"Where do you live?" he asked. When I told him, he gave me the saving grace. He told me that while there are no city codes prohibiting chickens and goats in the city, there are, in all probability, deed restrictions that prohibit them in my neighborhood. And that is certainly and most likely true.

Whew!  Thank goodness!  I was about to get a little out of control there.

One thing about it though. It has been a good learning day. The more I learn about chickens and goats, the more I appreciate them. I might even have one of each some day.

Thanks Karen.

Well, Happy New Year! Finally!

Happy New Year everybody!  Can I still say that 26 days into the new year?

I know.  I was not a very consistent blogger in 2010. Meant to do better but found myself spending less and less time on the computer.

Now that's a shocker, even to me. I used to worry that I was addicted to the computer. It was so bad, I often felt embarrassed.  I'd be on the computer when Bob left for work, and still there several hours later when he came home. Some times I'd even jump up and pretend to be doing something else. Now that's bad. Not that Bob ever said anything, so it had to be my own guilt. So I'm actually pleased to find that I can go days at a time without doing much more than simply checking my email. I am sorry though, that I didn't blog more - at least once a month. I actually had several fun things I wanted to blog about.

Soooooooo, I want to play a little catch up here and go back to 2010...

In January last year I went on my first cruise - Western Caribbean, four days. The decision to go was not an easy one for me since I tend to get motion sick in a massage chair. Couple that with the fact I'd had a bad experience once on a fishing boat - went out for the day with a large group - got sick as soon as we got out to sea and stayed sick the entire day. I can attest, a commercial fishing boat will not turn around and head back inland just because someone is deathly ill and puking their head off. So I stayed curled up in a ball on the floor of the deck the entire day, raising my head only to puke overboard. Sea sickness is a sick sick.

Thus, my reluctance to go back out to sea. But, I did great. Went with my husband and several friends - twelve of us. (I’ll speak often of this group. I call them my Friday night group, although we’re as likely to get together on Monday night as we are on Friday night.) We had a blast and I didn't get sick once, even though the weather was bad and the waters extremely rough. After surviving that one, I figured I was good to go on any cruise, anytime, anywhere.

So Bob and I cruised again this past August - went with our son and grandson to the Bahamas. No sea sickness that time either. So now, we're already planning our third cruise – another one with my Friday night group - June.  Hopefully I'll be a better blogger by then and will blog about it while it's still fresh

Just to show you how bad the weather was...this picture was taken in Cozumel in January.

The weather for our August cruise was perfect. This picture was taken in Freeport, Bahamas.

No matter the weather, I enjoyed both cruises very much. I'm so glad I didn't allow a little thing like possibly puking my head off for four days & nights rob me of two wonderful trips.

I  made two visits last year to Pannabecker Mountain to visit Karen and James.  The first was in June with my Friday night group, and the second in October with my friend Zandy.  (Zandy is part of my monthly dinner group, as is Karen.  I should probably also mention that Zandy is my oldest friend.  We've been friends since 1975.)  Anyway, I took my Ninja in October, so don't let me forget to tell you about that.

My Friday night group tries to make a trip to Pannabecker Mountain at least once a year. We've been doing this even before James and Karen officially moved from our small town to Natural Bridge.  We're all envious of their lives and would visit several times a year if we could all get the time off together.  These pictures can say it better than I can...

Our Friday night group

I took my Ninja in October, just so I could show both Karen and Zandy what the fuss was about. (I blogged about the Ninja in October.) I think they were impressed. I know Zandy has since gotten her own Ninja. Not sure if Karen has yet.  It might just take a second visit to fully convince her.

Anyway, the green smoothies were extra special in that the greens came straight out of the Pannabecker garden. I even picked the spinach and kale myself! Of course, James had to tell me which was which. 
This one's spinach, right James?

Of course, Karen & Zandy had to see how the Ninja would do blending cheese...

Since we couldn't lounge around in the river in October, we did the next best thing - visit the Rockbridge Winery.  This next picture is the three of us with Jane, owner of the winery. Jane is a friend of Karen's. We felt really special walking in having the owner take care of us personally. She had cheese and crackers waiting for us, along with some very wonderful wines.  When we left, Jane was a good friend of mine and Zandy's as well!

Here we all are posing with an author who just happened in. She
was in the area to do a book signing ~ a book about wine.
Wish I could remember her name.

And finally, no visit to Pannabecker Mountain is ever complete without music...


It was in October as well that I made my first trip ever to Seagrove!  Now I say that with an exclamation mark because there is a story here.

Seagrove is a little town here in NC just full of potters. My dinner group (Karen included) makes a day trip to Seagrove every year without fail. They wouldn't miss it. They set a trunk dollar amount and then spend the day buying pottery until they reach that amount. Most of group goes. I do not. Until this October, I'd never gone to Seagrove - for a couple of reasons: 1) They always go on Saturday. After working a 50-60 hour week, spending another several hours going from one potter to another was not my idea of a leisure afternoon, and 2) I've always fancied myself a crystal-kind-of-girl.  So pottery? I didn't think so.

Well, was I ever wrong.  I had the opportunity to go to Seagrove this October with another friend of mine from Winston Salem.  She is a potter herself. I did get some flack from my dinner group for going with her and not them, but hey, she was going on a Wednesday.  I now work every Saturday, so I couldn't have gone with them this year if I'd wanted to.

Anyway, Wednesday was a great day to go to Seagrove. It was not busy at all, so we got a lot of one-on-one from the potters. I even videoed one potter as he set at the potter's wheel and turned out 4-5 vases in just about 15 minutes. I was very impressed and came away with a great appreciation for pottery.

You hear that Ladies? Next time I'm going with you guys ~ unless I have to work! 

This is a picture of a wood kiln - the heat and ash actually give the pottery a unique color and design. The potter's wife is explaining to us how the kiln works. She said that after the pottery is fired and the doors open, it's either Christmas or Halloween -  oooohs! or yikes!

Some ooooohs! Some yikes!

 Another Potter at work...

Our last stop for the day was this potter. Things were quiet so he didn't hesitated to sit down at his wheel and demonstrate his craft for this first-time visitor. I don't know if you can tell, but that's a TV in front of him. Ha!  He was actually my favorite of the day!

We visited about eight potters throughout the day and saw some beautiful pieces. It was a great day!


And lastly, a few days after my visit to Seagrove, a couple of friends and I took a 4-hour sculpture class. I just had to get my hands into some clay after seeing all that pottery.

Anyway, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it except to say, if it was offered weekly, I'd sign up. There were five people in the class, including Jean, from my dinner club, and Sue, from my Friday night group. We each made a sleeping moon. It's amazing what you can do with clay!

Our Class: Me in the center; Jean behind me; Sue in the apron
The instructor is in the green shirt

Jean's Sleeping Moon

Sue's Sleeping Moon

My Sleeping Moon

A closer look at my Sleeping Moon - How 'bout that?

So, there you have it - four blogs in one.That should improve my average somewhat. Now if I can just do better in 2011!  I'm really gonna try. It's one of my New Year's resolutions.

Happy New Year everybody!  Finally!