Monday, December 27, 2010

Settling Down for a Long Winter's Blog

So it's been a month and a half since my last post, and I feel terrible about that. I even mentioned the blog in some Christmas cards this year ("keep up with us during the year by checking out the photos and posts at my blog"), but I still haven't updated it in forever. I really should be better about this, shouldn't I?

I had all sorts of thoughts about posts I could have done before Christmas. I was going to write about how we somehow found the most perfect Christmas tree in all of New Jersey. There it was: just one of a bunch of trees cut and leaning against the barn at the tree farm. It took us about 5 minutes to find it. It was the first tree we looked at. It didn't seem right to find the perfect tree so easily, without any suffering or arguing amongst ourselves, that we looked around for a while longer, but there seemed little point. We all knew it was the one. So after we peeled Catgirl away from the family of bunnies in the barn, we loaded it up and took it home.
Finding some free family time to decorate it was harder than finding the tree!
the perfect tree

The months of November and December brought us Mathboy's confirmation. I have pictures of him wearing the red gown that all the boys wore for Confirmation at the church, but he would prefer I not post those here. He did not enjoy wearing the red gown. April and her youngest daughter, and Leslie and Frank came to visit us for Confirmation weekend, which was a nice treat. We also ran a 5K race that weekend--my first race ever, the one that Mathboy and I started training for over the summer. I had to walk a couple of times because I had been sick for the 2 weeks before the race and slacked off on the training. But I still posted a respectable finish time of just under 33 minutes, which I felt was a success. I want to keep running, but the weather has gotten in my way here the past few weeks....

Audrey gave us our first eggs in early November. Audrey is a bantam, so the eggs were very small and cute. You can see how much smaller the yolks from her eggs are compared to one from a store-bought extra-large egg, but they are still yummy!

Bantam egg yolks

Daisy joined Audrey in the nesting boxes after a week or so, and then Jackie. They are both standard chickens, so their eggs are much closer in size to store-bought. The other two banties, Lily and Melanie, just started laying the week before Christmas. By then, Audrey went on a winter break, which was well-deserved considering that she laid 5 or 6 eggs a week for over a month. Regardless, we've had a few days this week when we collected 4 eggs, which is very good. The short days and the cold have made the laying schedule all wonky, I think.

We can tell everyone's eggs apart, which I did not expect. Audrey's are small,and more yellow than brown, Daisy's eggs are big and a warm brown, while Jackie's a pinkish brown.

In December, Rich and I decided that we really wanted to get up to New York to see all the Christmas stuff. We bought tickets for the Rockettes' show at Radio City, because we had never seen that, and made lots of other plans for an epic day in the Big Apple. We caught an early train out of Hamilton, and got to NYC around 8:30 in the morning, on a very cold day. We were very glad we had bundled up with long underwear and warm socks (and lots of handknits!).

Catgirl, Nicki and I started the day at American Girl Place. Nicki got her hair done and her ears pierced, and we had a delicious brunch in the cafe.

We walked around the city, and saw the Christmas sights:

We went up to the top of Rockefeller Center (where it was REALLY cold!):

We saw the tree in Rockefeller Center:

Throughout the day, we really did not have any trouble with crowds. We got to thoroughly explore and enjoy F.A.O. Schwartz and take our time with the windows at Macy's. The worst trouble we had was when we were wandering around Rockefeller Center, killing time before the Rockettes' show. There were so many people in the Lego store there, we had trouble really seeing any of the amazing stuff they had there, and we lost each other at least 3 times. It was the scariest part of the day for me. We decided to go see if we could get into the theater early, and fortunately we could.

I LOVED the Christmas show. That's pretty much all I can say about it. Was it hokey? You bet. A little strange? Absolutely. But the dancers, singers and actors were all wonderful, the staging was wonderful, the production value was wonderful. The living Nativity was breathtaking, and had me tearing up. The only thing that bothered me was the way that half the audience was late, and still finding their seats throughout the first and second scenes.

People. For what these tickets cost, you should have been there on time.

The New York trip really got us ready for Christmas. Next came a weekend of frenzied cookie-baking:
Christmas Cut-out cookies, and
chocolate-dipped Melting Moments.

Christmas itself was lovely. The kids got what they wanted (e.g., new phones and new coats, new golf club and new clothes for the American Girl dolls). We are not sure, but we think we could probably win a contest for the strangest Christmas gifts, for some of the things that were exchanged in our house. Mathboy got a model trebuchet. He put it together and it works! Rich wanted and received a weather vane. (He also wanted and received The Promise boxed set by Bruce Springsteen, which is much more normal and also was much appreciated).

We had planned to have a nice Christmas gathering at my parents' house on the 26th, but the weather threw us for a loop. For several days, the news people talked about a threat of snow on the 26th, but the Channel 6 folks (my favorite) kept saying that they thought it would go out to sea and that we might get an inch of snow, if any. But midday on Christmas day, however, they changed their tune and the forecast now called for about of foot of snow in our part of New Jersey.

We did not want to miss out on the chance to see everyone, so Rich and I pulled the kids out of bed early on the 26th. We threw on some warm clothes, packed up the gifts and got some coffee and toast, and were on the road before 8. We got to spend the morning and then some at my parents' house, and enjoyed a yummy brunch that Mom and Bill threw together very quickly. We had time to talk, look at old pictures, and play a game or two.
Unfortunately, we could not take time with our gifts, because we heard reports that the weather was already getting ugly in New Jersey. By 1 pm, we felt that we really had to get on the road to come back home.

It got very ugly here last night. We were glad we were home. Now we have about 10 to 12 inches on the ground, but it's blowing around a lot in the high winds. There are spots where it is over my knees, and some spots where you can see the grass. I was walking out to the coop this morning, to bring water to the chickens, and I felt like a real farmer...and wishing I could stay in bed. Ah, the price of fresh eggs.

Our favorite neighbor is snow-blowing our driveway as I write. I think I should send him a box of eggs later, hm?

Friday, November 05, 2010

First Egg!

On Wednesday evening, I lifted up the egg collection door for the coop. The nights have been chilly lately, and I wanted to put some insulating tape over a huge crack in the corner of the nesting box ledge. I figured the chickens would appreciate it if I got rid of that draft for them. And then I saw this:
Our first egg!
Someone laid us an egg! We haven't had another one yet, but this is an awesome start. We are not sure who's handiwork this is. It's small, so the kids think it must have come from one of the bantams. But I understand first eggs are usually small. It's brown, so it is most likely from one of the big chickens. Two of the banties are supposed to lay blue eggs, while the third bantam could lay blue or brown.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Stump the Clerk

I tend to be the kind of shopper that ends up with veggies that are rather unusual. Because of this, I often end up playing a kind of game with the check out clerks at the grocery store. Over the years, I have stumped the clerks with all sorts of things. There was one occasion when the teenage girl ringing my order knew almost none of the vegetables I had laid out on the conveyor belt. She had to ask me about every one, and then she had to look each one up on the produce list, and our irritation with each other multiplied with each item she did not know or could not spell:

"What's this?"

"Lemon grass."

"And this?"



"Kale." (through gritted teeth).



[Insert questioning look here, as she silently held up the veggie for me to name it]: "Radicchio. Starts with an R."

The radicchio is a tough one, I know. I've stumped folks with endive as well. But the scallions? Seriously?

On the other hand, sometimes my veggies lead to some interesting discussions. Once, the young man (maybe 20 years old) ringing me up held up the butternut squash, and said, "People keep buying these, but I have no idea what you do with it. Should I try one?" We spent the rest of the time it took for him to ring the order and for me to bag discussing how you cook it and how he can look recipes up on the internet. I felt pretty good about that. I introduced a young guy to a new veggie.

I bring this up today, because I particularly enjoyed today's game of "Stump the Clerk." I was at Wegman's and the lady ringing my order was a trainee. She had a mentor doing the bagging and helping her learn how to use the register. Interestingly, the trainee was older than me, while the mentor was much younger. Perhaps it was a sign of the economy. Anyway, the lady was doing pretty well with my order until she came to this:
She held up the bag, and turned with a helpless pleading look to her mentor. I waited for the mentor to ask me, because she was pretty young. But to my surprise, the mentor immediately recited, "Anise, also known as Fennel. Code 4515. Tastes like black licorice."

Well, she blew me away. That girl knew her stuff.

In the past several years, I have really tried to expand the palates in our family by branching out and using a greater variety of vegetables. Fennel is one of those that I have been surprised to find that I truly enjoy.

I first tried fennel once when we lived in Philadelphia (B.K.: before kids), and I did not like it. I told myself that it was OK not to like it; I don't have to like everything. And I expected not to like it because I really am not a fan of licorice. That was about 15 years ago. Fast forward to 2008, when we participated in the CSA program with the farm from Pennington. With the CSA, we ended up receiving some rather unusual vegetables. It seemed a waste not to use them, so we did try a lot of different things. And I will admit that not everything was a hit with the family, but at least we could say we tried it. For example, we never got excited about eggplant. And the kohlrabi was just too silly.

The week that we got 3 fennel bulbs, I groaned, because I remembered making it in Philly and hating it. But I resolved to try it again. I ended up thinly slicing it up with new potatoes and baking it all into an au gratin dish and you know what? It was AWESOME. I have made it many, many times since then, and I even have found some other recipes that I like as well. And every time I serve it, I am grateful for the CSA that got me to try new things and to give a second chance to some other things that I thought I hated.

So everyone: Try something new today! Find a recipe online that sounds interesting. Go to the store and pick out something unusual. Look at the veggies that are in season. Play Stump the Clerk at your local store. It's fun!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Still Waiting

The chickens are 23 weeks old today. Everything I've read says that they really should be laying eggs by now. But are they? No. I've been starting to think of them as freeloaders. I know they're lots of fun, but they eat very well and they are supposed to be giving me eggs in return.
Catgirl had fantasized that the chickens would lay eggs in time for us to use some in her birthday cake. As her birthday approached in early October, we waited and hoped, but got nothing. On the morning of her birthday, Catgirl went out to the coop to see if there was anything to collect. Imagine her surprise, when she saw these:
Knitted eggs
Yes! The chickens did not lay her any eggs, but apparently, they had decided to knit some for her. :o)

She brought them in and showed them to us, and Mathboy and I cracked up. I tried to say "How did the chickens learn how to knit?" with a straight face, but failed miserably. She said, "You are SO weird, Mom," but she was smiling so it was totally worth it.

Autumn sunrise
Crazy October is over, thank goodness. About weeks ago, Catgirl got her splint off her finger and was able to return to active duty in field hockey. That combined with other activities gave her something to do after school everyday last week. Mathboy was very busy with cross country, religious education and preparing for Doane's Dungeon (the "haunted house" they do at school). Looking at the calendar, it appears that November should be a bit calmer. We have Mathboy's Confirmation and the River Run the weekend of November 12, but that seems to be it. Both kids are done with sports until spring.

Catgirl had a great time trick or treating last night with a couple friends. She and the girl next door designed and created their own iPod Touch costumes, somplete with many apps. It took weeks to make.
happy halloween
It turned out pretty good, although we probably could have planned the "under costume" outfit a little better. They were rushing to get going last night when I grabbed them and made them stand still for a picture. I do wish I had gotten them to pose somewhere other than in front of the powder room. Oh well.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Catching Up

Maybe I should start this post by letting my kids off the hook. Their inability to get up on time was the top story on this blog for nearly a month, which probably isn't fair. They did manage to get on track a few days after my last post, and morning have been going fine for a while now.

Thins have been busy here, which is fairly typical for September at Maison Sydney/Casa de Sydney. There have been the usualy array of school activities, sports, back to school nights, etc. Catgirl did have her schedule change abruptly about two weeks ago, when this happened:
Broken finger
Broken finger. In the last field hockey practice before the games were supposed to start, she got whacked right on the finger with another girl's stick. We spent the next day visiting the pediatrician, the x-ray lab, back to the pediatrician, and then off to the "hand specialist." Who knew that a broken finger was such a big deal? And in the end, all they could do was mold a plastic splint to her finger pad, secure it on her finger with some tape, and say no sports for a month.

Depending on how you look at it, this has either complicated or simplified her life tremendously. She can't play the flute, so she has no band lessons, no flute practice, and I have not had to pay the school band fee yet. Also, she cannot play field hockey, which means that after weeks of practice she doesn't get to be part of the games. But she still wants to attend the games so that she can be part of the team. So she still carries her uniform to school on game days, goes to the game and watches for a while. Then I pick her up and take her home to do homework, which does take a little longer with a splint on her writing hand.

Actually, the weather has not been cooperating for the past week or so, which means that no one has been getting to play any field hockey lately. If the games keep getting pushed back, maybe her finger will be healed by then and she will be able to be part of the team after all!

Meanwhile, Mathboy is doing cross country at his school. With the weather, they have only been able to have one meet so far, way back at the beginning of the school year. He ran his first 5K in 23:36, which we think is pretty good for a guy who just started running in July. Now if it would just stop raining so they could have another meet, he is very hopeful that he can improve his time.

In chicken news, the young-uns are 19 weeks old this week. They are just about at laying age, although they still look a little gawky. Chicken teenagers:



Lily and Audrey:
Lily and Audrey

Daisy the Paranoid:
Daisy the Paranoid

We hope they are getting ready to give us some eggs soon. It really could be at any time now. They're certainly eating enough!

I knitted my first pair of gloves recently. I designed them myself, to take full advantage of some beautiful handpainted yarn I had and to go with a really nice hat I had made from the same yarn.
I always told myself that I would never knit gloves, and that anyone who did had to be crazy. What kind of nutcase would commit to making ten fingers in the round?

Well, apparently me. I had thought about making fingerless mitts, but.... Just how useful are fingerless mitts, anyway? When it's cold enough for mitts, it's cold enough that you want your fingers covered. So then I thought about making mittens. I do love mittens, because they are the best way to keep your fingers warm. Nothing works as well as allowing the fingers to share their warmth with each other. But I got hung up with practicality issues. It's hard to drive in mittens. Believe me, I know. So I just dove in and decided to make gloves. In the end, it wasn't hard, but by the last couple of fingers I was SO ready to be finished.

In wildlife news, we've had some interesting visitors to our house lately. One day, this guy latched onto the front screen door and stayed all day.
Praying Mantis calling
I am still not sure if it's cool or creepy that it turned its head to look right at the camera for this shot. (shiver.)

One really lovely fall day, I had the back patio door open with the screen latched so Rudolph the Annoying could not escape. I heard the strangest noise through the screen--some kind of snuffling sound. I looked out to see this guy, who had come right up to the door and was sniffing the shoes I had left there. He was completely oblivious to the giant white cat who was sniffing at him through the screen.
Young Groundhog visiting
I took this picture and he still didn't notice either me or the cat. Finally, I just yelled at him (Hey, Groundhog!) and he took off really quickly. We are pretty sure he is young, probably the offspring of the groundhog family that lives in a creek bank behind our property. He must have moved out, and gotten his own place, under our shed. He still has not been formally introduced to Rudolph, the predator of the house.

Of course, said predator hasn't had mich time for hunting lately.
Hard working Rudolph
He's been busy. Zzzzzzzz.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Not Quite Back in the Swing

School started yesterday for both Mathboy and Catgirl. Under normal circumstances, this would be a cause for celebration. But not with my kids, it seems. So far, school seems to give me nothing but trouble and has turned me into a NAG.

Just to be clear: I do not like being a nag.

The end of summer vacation means that the summer assigned reading had to be done and the book reports written. Despite having a good 12 weeks of notice that they would have to do these things, and having their mother reminding (nagging?) them about the reading for weeks, both my kids found themselves rushing to finish at the last minute. Catgirl finished typing the book report Tuesday evening at about 8 p.m. Mathboy finished reading the last book on the bus on the way in to school Wednesday morning. Cutting it close, hm?

The end of summer means catching the bus. The kids need to be downstairs, dressed and ready by 7 a.m. so that they have time to eat breakfast and make sure their backpacks are ready to go. Catgirl's bus comes at 7:20 and Mathboy's is supposed to come at 7:35. This morning, Catgirl was not ready for the bus until about 7:22. The bus was long gone at that point. It probably came a couple of minutes early, but it doesn't matter. There was no way she was going to make it even if it had been on time. Mathboy's bus stopped in front of the house and honked the horn at 7:25. Mathboy had not even gotten his breakfast out of the toaster yet, since he had not gotten downstairs until about 7:20 himself.

I was already tired of yelling and nagging by that time, having resigned myself to the inevitability that I was going to have to drive both kids in this morning. Since Doane starts at 8:15 and OLGC starts at 8:30, I decided to drive Mathboy in first and then swing back to Moorestown to drop off Catgirl. I rounded everyone up along with everything they needed for afterschool activities, and loaded us all in the car. We were on the road around 7:40, eating waffles on the way.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the traffic nightmare that Rte. 295 has become. We arrived at Doane at 8:14 (just under the wire). I had to take back roads to get to OLGC because the ramp to get back on 295 in Burlington is currently closed for contruction. I signed Catgirl in at her school at 8:47, almost 20 minutes late for her day.

As we were sitting in traffic, and I was trying really hard not to fume and just accept the lesson of the morning, I asked the kids what we had learned from what happened. I tried not to be a jerk, noting that I learned it might be better to make school lunches the night before rather than in the morning. (I was trying to reduce the sting of the situation by accepting a share of the responsibility, although the immature part of me insists the lunches were not the problem. Said lunches were packed by 6:50 this morning.)

Catgirl was silent, doing her best imitation of a teenager ignoring her mother. To be fair, her attitude may have been exacerbated because she had already lost screen time for 2 days and had been told she could not play or talk to the BFF next door for one day.

Mathboy's answer: "We should listen to Mom."

I was impressed. I didn't realize that Mathboy even knew how to suck up.

In other news, I have acquired the most wonderful household tool, an item that I believe will minimize strife, divisiveness and resentment in the family, and all sorts of problems. I present to you, my new Wonder Tool:
The dishwasher clean/dirty magnet. When you run the dishwasher, you make sure the "clean" side is facing out. After you empty the dishwasher, flip it to make the "dirty" side face out. My dream that there will be no more butter knives in with the clean flatware, no more dirty coffee cups dripping on clean plates, is within my grasp!


I have also finished yet another shawl.
Curatio shawl 1
The Curatio shawl. It's beautiful, it was quick. Perfect vacation knitting.

I love knitting shawls, but I am not so good about actually wearing them. Right now, I have 4 shawls decorating the rocking chair on my side of the bed. It's just silly. I need to figure out a good way to use them if I want to keep knitting them.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Vacation Earl

Our annual (more or less) pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Beach at Ocean City NJ ended a day or so early today, because of the forecasts for heavy winds and rain at the shore for today. It was hard to escape the doom and gloom of the forecasts all week, in fact, which, I do have to admit, put a small damper on our enjoyment of our vacation. Everyday, we kept checking the weather report and wondering if we would have to come home early. In the end, we did leave early, but we got a good amount of fun in before coming home.

We did go do the rides one night. Here are some ferris wheel photos (I take some every time we go to Ocean City, don't I?)

And here are my guys chatting and watching the sunset form the Deauville Inn:
We go to the Deauville Inn for a sunset dinner once every year. It has been a tradition for us since 2001, I think, which was the first year we rented a house in OC. This year, though, may be the last year for that. Dinner on the deck at the Deauville on Wednesday was hot, muggy, windless, and we were hounded by flies. Yuck. This is not a cheap place to eat, either. You'd think they could at least have a fan blowing the flies off the diners or maybe a citronella candle or two? Apparently not.

The ocean was not exactly easy-going this week. On the first day, when we hung out at the boardwalk beach, the lifeguards were adamant that swimmers stay close to the beach and repeatedly called everyone in for beach meetings. They also had to call everyone out of the water at least three times so that they could go help in rescues on other beaches. It set the tone for the week.

New things we did at Ocean City this year:

1. We finally brought some bikes, which was awesome. We could only fit 2 of the bikes on Rich's car, but I think we need to bring all of them next time. Our house this year was at 21st and Asbury, which was practically on the boardwalk, and only 10 blocks from all the fun boardwalk stuff. If we had all had bikes, that would have been fantastic. It would have been so easy to zip on up to the shops and the fun places on the boardwalk, instead of having to drive and worry about finding a parking place. Next time we need all our bikes.

2. Mathboy and I have found that running on the beach is 100 times better than running on suburban roads. Enough said.

3. Going to the boardwalk waterpark with "big" kids means that I can sit in a chair and read and let them go on all the waterslides by themselves. I like that. I like that the kids are smart enough and sensitive enough to stay with each other and watch out for each other and come to check in with their parents enough so we don't get anxious. They're growing up, folks.

4. Parasailing. This is really the only thing I have photos for. This was Rich's idea. I was dubious at first, but I came around. It was something totally new, and everyone wanted to try it.

This is Catgirl and me:

And here go Rich and Mathboy for their turn:

There was 600 feet of rope, but the guys on the boat estimated we were about 350 feet high in the air.
You get to enjoy the view for a while, then they reel you in and give you a quick dip in the ocean. It felt good, since it was about 95 degrees that day.

I couldn't believe how smooth it felt to ride up in the air under the parachute--you were up at the top before you knew it. I was surprised at how quiet it was up there, too. You couldn't hear the waves or the shore birds or the boat engine. It was very peaceful.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Goodbye Harry

It is with much sadness that we bid goodbye to Harry Potter, the best guinea pig a family ever had. He will be missed. In the end, though, he obviously was in a lot of pain, so we are glad that he is free from that now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Attila the...Rooster?

Well, folks, we have found the crowing culprit. We embarked on our campaign to find the crower last night. After the chicks went to sleep, I sneaked out to the coop and chick-napped Audrey, the partridge with the suspiciously erect tail. The chicks sleepily complained a little as I nabbed one of their compatriots, but they were not sufficiently awake to put up much of a fuss.

I carried Audrey to the solitary confinement chamber (aka the old old brooder box) that I had prepared in the garage. She peeped a little on the way to garage, calling for her sisters. Once I put her in the brooder box, she must have fallen back to sleep very quickly, because I did not hear anything from the garage other than the crickets.

This morning, I got up very early to listen at the garage door. Nothing. I tiptoed in to the garage to take a peek. Audrey sat there quietly. I wondered if the cricket commotion might be intimidating her and keeping her quiet. But I can't do anything about the crickets in the garage. I felt terrible for imprisoning Audrey, but it had to be done.

Eventually, I got impatient, and stepped out onto the patio to listen for noises from the coop. I wasn't sure if the residents there were up and about yet, and was about to go closer to take a look, when....


...came from the coop. I ran over to see if I could figure out who it was. Ally was standing there, with Melanie and Lily settled in the dust by her feet. Ally looked straight at me, opened her beak, and said,

"COCK A DOODLE DO!" Again. Right to my face.

"Aha!" I said. "Caught you!"

So we have our culprit, caught him red crowed, so to speak. I went to the garage to release Audrey back into the general population. She was very happy to be back with her friends. We are keeping an eye on them all for any further rooster behavior, but Ally will have to find another home in the next day or two.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The Crime: At 6:51 this morning, a crow was heard in the vicinity of the coop. Upon approaching the coop, Complainant (me) realized that had she been 1 second earlier, she would have caught the crower in the act. As it was, however, she could not tell which of the chickens (who now sat there innocently awaiting their feed and water) had made the forbidden noise. Complainant waited a good ten minutes, delaying the start of her morning run, hoping to hear a repeat of the noise, but was unsuccessful. The suspects (see below) ate, drank, made many innocent sounding peeps, a few clucks, and settled down on the perch.

Further Evidence: On Monday morning, Rich gave testimony that he distinctly heard "rooster-like noises" coming from the coop area. Complainant and children kept a sharp ear all Monday for a repeat of the noise. Nothing was heard until this morning (see above).


#1. Attila the Hen (aka "Ally"):
Ally is a Bantan cochin with barred rock coloring. "She" was the first to feather out in the group, and she is the only one with fully developed comb and wattles already. She has never exhibited any herding or bossy behavior toward her companions. Ally was the first to start making a grown-up kind of chicken noise, letting out a choked bra-GAWK at least 2 weeks before anyone else started making that noise. Complainant has read online that barred rock females feather out much earlier than their male counterparts, therefore, she has always assumed that Ally was indeed a "she." But was all that feathering a carefully planned disguise?

#2. Jackie (aka "The Beast):
Jackie is a standard-size Partridge Cochin. Like Daisy (#3 below), she was acquired separately from the bantams, and spent her first week with another family. She was originally ordered from a mail order hatchery and is supposed to be a female (although I hear mistakes are occasionally made). Although she is the biggest out of the entire group, she is also probably the least bright and definitely the least popular. If chickens had mean girls like the ones in "Heathers," Jackie would be the Martha Dumptruck of the flock. Jackie never bosses anyone around and never leads; she is definitely a follower. But is all that meekness just a cover?

#3. Daisy (aka "Daisy Duck"):
Like Jackie, Daisy is a standard-size, acquired separately from the banties. She is a Buff Orpington, which have a reputation for being gentle and friendly. She is the only non-cochin in the flock, which means she is the only one with feet and legs that aren't feathery. Although she has never been observed to boss others around or even to peck anyone, it did seem as though she was making an early run for the top of the pecking order. She is often out in the front of the flock and others (particularly Audrey, #6 below) follow her around. lately, Daisy has been on the receiving end of pecking, particularly from Melanie (#4), but also from Lily (#5) and even Ally (#1). When she gets pecked, she lets out a loud honking type noise that makes her sound more like a duck or a goose than a chick. If Daisy were a rooster, why would she (he?) let these little bantams peck at her (him?) like that? Or is he (she) just waiting until he (she) is full grown rooster to fight back?

#4. Melanie:
Melanie is a blue cochin bantam, and until recently, was generally believed to be the youngest of the flock because she was much smaller and her feathers took so long to come in. Now she is the same size and her feather development has caught up. Melanie has the fuzziest legs in the flock, making her look like she's wearing gray fuzzy harem pants. She's among the most daring of the group, always willing to come close to the humans and peck a shoe to see if it's edible. Melanie has lovely eyes and does not mind being held. She never showed any bossy behavior until about a week ago, when her apparent campaign to terrorize Daisy began. Recently, she has taken to sneaking up behind Daisy and goosing her in the tail, causing the big yellow bird to jump about a foot and honk and then run away. Is it just innocent pecking order fun, part of a coup d'etat ... or rooster behavior?

#5. Lily:
Lily is a black cochin bantam. At first, she was thought to be Melanie's sister, but they have developed at very different rates so that seems unlikely. She now makes the same bra-GAWK noises as Ally, but is way behind Ally in comb and wattles. She is never the first to go anywhere or to get anything, so she is probably fairly low in the pecking order. She has never shown any aggressive tendencies, although lately she has sometimes participated in Melanie's torture of Daisy. When she was very little, she enjoyed being held in human hands and actually sought out being held on some chilly evenings in early June. Now, she remains one of the easiest to catch and pick up. She has the posture of a female, but her neck feathers are very shiny black and may be pointy like a male's. Is her gentle demeanor just an attempt to throw off our suspicions?

#6. Audrey:
The Complainant is very afraid to report that this chicken is the one she suspects the most, because this one is one of her favorites. This was the chick that she first picked to bring home. The lady at the farm where we got the bantams picked this one up and gave her to Complainant to hold, and Audrey hunkered down and went to sleep in Complainant's hand, melting her heart. Audrey is smart and audacious (according to Mathboy), assertive but not aggressive. She has never shown any herding tendencies. But she does look very different from the rest of the flock, with her feathery cheeks and her upright tail. She is the only chick who has not been heard to do any bra-GAWKing, still peeping like a songbird. Although said farm lady thought Audrey was a partridge, further research has persuaded us that she is an Ameraucana, which is pretty cool. (Go here and click on the picture on the far right in the top row. That's Audrey, all right.)

Investigatory Intentions: Since it seems to be difficult to get out there by the coop early enough to find out who is the culprit, the chicken detectives (us, in case you were wondering), plan to separate one chicken per night and make that one sleep in the brooder box in the garage. The thought is that, eventually, we will find one that greets the dawn with a crow and it should be easy to hear it if it is coming from the garage.
Could Audrey be the one? Is there only one? Stay tuned.