The Almost Chicken Massacre or Terror on the Farm

zach's dogs2I am still staying with Christian and Zach at First Lady Farms. As I’ve already written, earlier in my stay I set off the security alarm 3 times in 3 days. (I’ve tackled that skill, thank you very much!) I’ve tried to compensate for that stupidity by getting all other rules and practices exactly right. Yesterday I got home before either Zach or Christian (I was dog and chicken sitting only for the weekend). The three dogs greet the first adult home as if the messiah herself has arrived!

One of the rules of this urban farm is to check the back yard to make sure there are none of the 13 chickens out of the chicken yard before you let the dogs out. As part of my orientation, I was told that the dogs would eat any chickens that they found loose in the yard. I have EVERY TIME checked the back yard for loose chickens before I let the raucous dogs out. Since there had never been any chickens out when I checked and the dogs were especially wild last night, I just let them out without checking. Then as I turned the corner from the back door, following the dogs, I saw the yard—LITTERED WITH CHICKENS. And the dogs were running wildly toward them!!

chickens2I cannot adequately express the sheer panic that I felt. I mean, the visions that started flashing through my brain were horror-movie worthy. I literally expected to watch the equivalent of the Chainsaw Massacre. I envisioned blood and feathers and squawking and screaming (me the screamer)! The envisioned magnitude of the potential slaughter was incomprehensible in those moments. All of these animals are referred to as the owners’ “babies.” My mind even imagined the devastation and anguish when Zach and Christian returned home to the scene of such carnage. Life seemed to go by in slow motion. I wondered how fast I could pack up my things and travel to another state. I didn’t know how I could face my friends—all because I broke one of the rules, all because the dogs seemed extra feisty that day. I had to do something, but what?!

The dogs, of course, were all peeing. I HAD to get them back into the house. I started immediately calling them to come to me. The smallest boxer came immediately and ran into the house. No time to celebrate yet. I went back to entice the big dogs. They were still peeing…such loo-oo-ong pees. The chickens in the meantime were acting as if their lives were not in grave danger. La-dee-dah! One continued to sit in the planter that the dogs ran past to get to the yard. Others just pecked around in the yard as if doomsday had not just arrived. Meanwhile the second dog finished peeing and I enticed him into the back door as well! Oh.My.God! I was 2/3 of the way to redemption. Please Holy Ones, let this final dog come to me when he finishes peeing. I called, he came. OH! MY! GOD! When I opened the door to let the third one in, the other two pushed past him and ran back out the door.

NOOOOooooooOOOO! Panic replaced the hope that I had started to feel. Time to put on a show! I acted as if the best thing that ever happened to them was waiting IN the house. The feigned excitement in my voice did the trick: the two came back in.

Next I had to herd the chickens back into their own yard. Some went in, some didn’t want to. After I shooed some in and went for others, the first ones came back out. It seriously could have been a scene from a comedy routine. Eventually I had all the chickens ensconced in their chicken yard and the dogs in the house. (I didn’t know that the guys sometimes leave the chickens out during weekdays and this was the first time that I had gotten home before them.)

beesI hope that I never again feel the horror of thinking I was going to watch such a massacre (and one possibly of my own making). After I calmed down, I had a glass of homemade mead (made from Zach and Christian’s own honey) which is literally on tap in the dining room. See? All’s well that ends well.  Especially when you have a little bit of mead to ease the pain away.

First Lady Farms Alarms

The excitement of this adventure of mine comes into play as I travel from one house to the next with all of the items I need for living in the back of my car. I’ve winnowed my essentials down a lot, but it’s still a bit difficult to lug the few tubs of clothes and electronics and food up and down stairways. The physical transition is the worst part of this plan. But compared to mowing a lawn and raking leaves and cleaning up basement floods and weeding gardens and fixing broken appliances, carrying some tubs every week is nothing.

So, back to traveling to each new house–this is where the adventure of this ridiculous plan of mine comes into play. The last house I stayed in was with close friends as I didn’t have a pet-sitting gig. This couple’s adorable house is meticulously clean and clutter-free. Each item in the house has a place. I made sure I put dirty dishes immediately into the dishwasher. I hung my towel up straight. I loved spending time with them, but I made sure I left no trail.

Again, this journey really allows me to experience how other people live and what they prioritize and how they manage their households. This is true whether the owners are there or not. I’ve always loved learning about people and seeing the world through different sets of eyes. So when I got into my car last Wednesday night, I took note that I felt light…almost free. Maybe like a bird or a wild animal. I was completely on my own, without encumbrances, for those 20 minutes between two completely different existences.

My next arrival at my friends’ downtown house started with a huge bit of excitement. When I rang the doorbell on Wednesday evening at 9:15pm, the three Boxers starting barking and came through some invisible barrier (motion detector?) and set off the house alarm. OOoowah, oooohwah, oooohwah screaming through the neighborhood. I didn’t yet have a key, so I stood helplessly on the front porch. Fortunately, a few minutes later, the owners came home through the back door and were able to turn off the alarm and talk to the tiny person in the box, explaining that the location of the dog cages to the ‘barrier’ needed to be changed. I was saved and no police officers arrived (even though I had done nothing but ring the door bell this time).

chickens1While tending to chickens and dogs would seem kinda easy…it might be for people with memories. But for me there are just a lot of details to remember so I came two days early to learn all the rules and household and animal routines. I always write the instructions down. It’s 3pm on Saturday and every one of the animals is still as raucous as ever. Rooster Jack is still crowing, the First Lady chickens are still clucking and the sugar-sweet dogs are still humping. (There are also three bee hives, but there are no duties there except to eat the tasty honey in the kitchen!) So far, so good.

Zach's dogsI have not been as lucky with the alarm system, however. I set it off the very next time I came through the door coming home from work on Thursday. Sigh. OOowah, ooowah, ooowah. So embarrassing. This time I had to tell the woman in the box that I was a doofus so that she didn’t send the police. (This house is downtown and the system does provide some peace of mind.) When Zach came home later that evening, he shared that he had gotten to watch me on video (from his phone) frantically pushing buttons to make the alarm stop howling while he was at the Mayor’s Forum. Sigh. SO embarrassing.

This morning, (remember this is only Saturday) I’m the only adult here. Within 5 minutes of getting out of bed, I set the alarm off AGAIN. Zach and Christian forgot to tell me (!!!!) that the alarm at the FRONT door has to be disarmed before I can let the dogs out the BACK door. Ooowah, ooowah, ooowah. Yes, woman in the box, we have already confirmed that I am the doofus who keeps setting off the alarm. This time I turned around and waved at Zach while he is in San Francisco receiving a national award. I’m now afraid to leave the house–from the front door OR the back door.

So many people tell me that they could never do what I am doing. I ask you, does this not sound fun? Switching realities on a dime? Adjusting to new environments with a 20-minute driving break in between? Learning new household rules every few days? Ok, after writing those last few sentences, I see what you mean: It doesn’t sound like fun. But I assure you, I am having a blast! Jyoti’s Great Adventure continues!!