Holy schnikes I’ve got a lot to post! Life has been coming at me, good and bad (mostly good), and I’ve just been doing my best to keep up. Ok… where to begin?
Ok, time away number one:
Right after my last post, I took another trip to CA to work on wedding stuff and to play pretty pretty princess. Monday morning (July 27th), my mom and I had a meeting with the planner to work on wedding design (colors, linens, flowers, etc). That afternoon, as we left the planner’s place, we got a call from Brian – “it’s 105 in the coop!” HOLY COW THAT’S HOT. At that point, it was mid-afternoon and he wasn’t sure how long it had been that hot because he’d been inside, working, in the air conditioning. Well, so we brainstormed and he gave them some cold yogurt with frozen peas, propped open the people-doors on the other side of the coop to aid in cross-ventilation, and proceeded to run around town looking for any remaining fans for sale. He found two small ones at the second store he checked, ran an extension cord out to the coop, turned the fans on, one fell and broke almost immediately, and then hopped online to get more advice from chicken people about what to do for hot chickens.
One thing he read was to freeze bottles of water and place them in front of the fan to cool and moisten the air. He also brought them ice water and spent the rest of the day bringing them periodic cold treats of yogurt and frozen veggies.The next morning, I headed back up to Sonoma for my hair and makeup trial (pretty pretty princess). Fifteen minutes into my drive, I got a dejected call from Brian – “Lisa, :::sigh:::, I have some bad news. It seems two of the chickens are dead. I feel like a bad parent.” Dang. “You’re not a bad parent! You did your best! Who died?” ::pause:: “Well, I think one of them is Lady B. The other one is an Orpington. I’m sorry, Lisa! I killed your favorite chicken!”
“Are you sure it’s Lady B? There are three of them that look a lot alike.”
“Yeah. I’m pretty sure. None of them are friendly enough to be Lady B.”
“OK, well this happens. We’ve been ready to lose some chickens at some point. That’s just nature. I bet the Orpington is Dorothy – she always had such a hard time with the heat.”
I have to admit, I was a little heartbroken over Lady B. She was my girl. The star of the coop, the star of this blog, our best egg-layer and friendliest, smartest, snuggliest chicken. I couldn’t help but reflect during my drive… her hopping onto my knee for a nap, her greeting me at the door each time I entered the coop, her standing on the back of the bench and playing with my hair and tickling my ear… the first tiny blue egg… her remarkable recovery from the hawk attack. I could hardly believe she was gone. She seemed so hardy. How could the others have made it if the heat was too much for her?
Anyway… I digress. The loss of two chickens put Brian into chicken-mommy overdrive. He scoured the internet for more advice, plus he kept tabs on a thread I had started on BYC from my laptop. He rigged up everything possible… as you can see, he added the tarp on the run for extra shade (though the chickens mostly refused to go outside at all in the heat), and also put a large, folding plastic table in there for a double layer of shade. Under that, he put a shallow plastic tub with water in it for them to splash in and cool their feet. He continued to bring them ice water, cold treats, and frozen bottles every hour and he lost sleep worrying about them at night. The second day peaked at 111 degrees Farenheit outside. Brian kept a running spreadsheet of outside and inside temperatures. After the first day, where it remained hotter in the coop than it was outside, no matter what he did, Brian managed to keep the coop a few degrees cooler than the outside temp. The next two days hit 105 and 107. It was insane.
On the fourth day of the heatwave, I returned home to help in the fight, but the worst was over. Brian had saved the rest! Poor Brian, I feel so badly that he was stuck with this mess while I was gone. But, really he did an amazing job and worked so hard to save the rest. And the best news of all?
I had held onto a tiny sliver of hope that Brian really couldn’t tell them apart and that Lady B. was actually alive and well. When I got home and rushed into the coop, there she was! Happy, fluffy, and alive as ever!
She peeped at me, shook herself off, and hopped onto my lap for a snuggle. SHE MADE IT!!! OUR GIRL IS ALIVE!!! HOORAY!!!!
So, after I got past my happy delirium, I took stock of our remaining flock members. As I had guessed, it was indeed Dorothy who had not made it. And the one who Brian thought was Lady B was actually Maggie. For a couple of days before I left, she had started sneezing quite a lot and I could hear a little whistle/wheeze with her normal breathing. That seemed bad to me, but she was running around, foraging, eating, playing, flying, etc, and had no other symptoms (no nasal discharge, weightloss, etc). So, I didn’t worry too much. I guess I should have. Anyway, I hate to play favorites, but Lady B. is my girl and I’m so glad to still have her, and at least our two losses made sense to me. Dorothy had struggled for a while. Maybe it was the suggested heart defect (someone on BYC said it sounded like a heart defect and that she would probably just drop dead one day). And Maggie clearly has some sort of respitory issue. If it had been Lady B, I would not have understood.
Time Away Number Two:
So I was back about a week and in that time, I had more wedding planning, work as always, tons of garden and yard work, two sets of houseguests, a doctor’s appointment that killed a whole day, and preparation for another trip. What I’m saying is… I meant to post during that week, but I just never found the time. Don’t hate me! This next trip took major preparation because it was going to be the first time in over a year that both Brian and I would be gone and no one would be staying at our house. We booked the dogs at their favorite canine camp, the neighbors offered to feed and water the chickens and collect eggs, and I ran around like a crazy person trying to get nursery plants out of their pots and into the ground so they wouldn’t die, and setting up soaker hoses and automatic timers to water said plants along with the garden, roses, raspberries, and fruit trees. Oh, and the catch? We’d have absolutly no means of communication with the world during our trip… so I couldn’t even check to see how things were going.
The result of my panicked rushing was that I had nightmares the entire trip that my chickens were dead or gone, and I came home to a coop full of rotten eggs and no chickens, and my gardens were all dead. But that was while I was sleeping. Let me now share with you a little of the waking portion of the trip.
My family invited us on this trip that was listed by National Geographic as one of “50 trips of a Lifetime.” A total of 12 of us, all close friends and family, stayed on this charter boat, the Catalyst, for six nights and seven days while touring Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage. The boat is a 1932 fishing vessel that has been revamped into a small passenger vessel and sleeps a total of 16 people, including the captain, chef, engineer, and naturalist. We met the boat in Juneau, the state’s Capital, and slowly worked our way down to Petersburg, a small fishing town. Along the way we had some unforgettable experiences.
The first day was cold and shrouded in heavy mist and light rain. It was dark and mysterious as we motored toward our first glacier. Here the water was very cold (in the 40s) and we floated past blue icebergs and fog-covered mountains.
At one point, the fog was so heavy and so low, it looked like we were headed into a vast, white, nothingness. Very cool.
But, have no fear! My cousin, Michaela, was on the lookout for us!
After we broke through the fog barrier, the sun came out and the scenery was breathtaking.
Just around that bend was our first glacier, and as we headed toward it, more icebergs appeared, and the water got colder (into the 30s), cloudier, and bluer.
The color and opacity of the water is from the glacial silt content, which is finely-ground rock that is spit out by the glacier at the end of its journey into the sea.
When we arrived, we hopped into the skiff with the naturalist and headed over ot shore for a hike up the rocks to get closer to the glacier. Glaciers are actually considered bodies of water even though they are made of solid ice, and the are actively flowing all the time, just like rivers. They have currents, eddies, waves, and whirlpools… and at their ends, they are constantly “calving,” that is – dropping huge chunks of ice off their ends into the ocean or onto land. Therefore, it is very dangerous to get too close to one in a boat. The falling ice is a real hazard.
We bushwacked through masses of very determined alder, then made our way along a rock ridgeline to a incredible vantage point.
Perspective is a tough thing in a place where everything is so huge. The face of that glacier is about 300 feet high. That’s 30 stories. We were much further away than it seemed. That’s Dawes’ Glacier, but from this same spot, we could also seem another glacier… one that ends on land, rather than into the sea.
A constant stream of water runs off glaciers, generally at below 32 degrees, and it only doesn’t freeze because it’s moving. Amazing. Also from here, we could see our little boat…
And we got to see some great calving.
Brian enjoyed the show.
That night, we anchored in a little cove and then we were up early for a beautiful hike during another misty morning.
By the time we reached our destination, the mist was just clearning off the mountains, but clung to the sea.
Every inch of everywhere was stunningly beautiful.
On the way back down, we got to play on a stranded iceberg.
The next few days were filled with kayaking and hiking, countless bald eagles, seals, sea lions, and many bear-seeking expeditions, as we headed out of glacier territory and into the temperate rainforest that characterizes this area and runs up from the California coast, through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Southeastern Alaska. Every day was glorious.
Then came the grand finale. On our last full day, the captain headed to an area where he thought we might see whales. We had seen a few a couple of days earlier and it was fantastic. All humpbacks. The first time we saw them, they were all feeding agressively and were only periodically coming up for air and then diving again. On our last day, we were hoping for a better show. Maybe some breaching.
That morning, my dad woke me up early – “The captain sees whale spouts ahead. I didn’t think you’d want to miss it.” And of course, he was right. I stumbled out of bed, tossed on long underwear under my pjs, threw my fleece jacket over the whole ensemble, and climbed out onto deck in my slippers. You could just make out the spouts, straight ahead, in the distance. But then, as I sat there, looking around, I noticed some more spouts to the starboard. And then some to the port. At tweleve o’clock, three o’clock, nine o’clock, there were spouts. One, two, three…. groups as large as six… and in every direction. Before long, I could count at least 6 groups of whales, each consisting of 2-6 or more individuals. Holy moly, we were surrounded! My Uncle Tony came out and asked if I saw the breach, out at about two o’clock. I hadn’t. By then, the captain had slowed the boat and we were just crawling along, looking for a good place to stop and watch a while. As we moved, I counted more and more. Finally, there were whales at just about all the o’clocks that I could see… some in more than one layer… one group closer, and another further away in the same direction. I’d never seen anything like it. At that point the captain decided to stop. This place was as good as any. We had a 360 degree view. And besides, there is a 100 yard law. You are not allowed to intentionally drive a boat any closer to a whale than 100 yards. If they approach you, that’s fine. But you can’t chase them. So, we stopped.
And then the magic happened.
My aunt and I were sitting on the bow, taking it all in, when there was a sudden explosion of sound. The exhale of a whale. RIGHT THERE. We jumped, startled, and then we looked.
There she was. Right next to the boat. Not six feet away. She came out of nowhere. Incredible. But that’s not all. Not only did she come… but she stayed. For nearly an hour, the humpback whale hung out with our boat. She was using it as as scratching post. She’d come up on one side, breathe, and then turn around and go underneath, rub on the bow, sometimes flipping upside down, and then come up on the other side. We all just watched, stunned. The entire lot of us ran back and forth from side to side of the boat so much in unison that we actually set it to rocking. And she stayed and stayed.
And then she started poking the end of her mouth out of the water toward us sitting there momentarily before moving and then doing it again. I have no idea what she was doing.
She did it a bunch. Please keep in mind that most of the time this was going on, I was out of my mind with hapiness and excitement and taking pictures wasn’t high on my priority list. So, I only have a few. Pictures really couldn’t have captured it anyway. Anyway, after her lip-poking, she moved onto a different behavior. She started floating on the surface and then rolling onto her side and LOOKING AT US. That’s right. She popped her eye right out of the water several times and just hung there, blinking at us. That one really knocked my socks off. I got exactly one mediocre picture of it. I was no longer functioning at that point.
That’s her eye, there, at the back of the picture, and it’s closed. It’s the only shot I’ve got. Someone else from the group probably got better ones, but I couldn’t remember to take pictures. I was too busy staring and stupidly waving at her and telling her she was pretty.
And then, to sum it up, she moved on to perhaps the most baffling behavior of all. From what we all could tell, once she was done eyeballing us, she went to sleep. That’s right she nodded off right there, floating at the surface, up against our boat. And she just hung there. There are no words. Long ago, the captain had turned off the engine and the depth sounder so that it would be totally quiet and comfortable for her… and comfortable, I guess she was! So, after about an hour total of interaction, the last 10 or 15 minutes spent “sleeping” (or whatever she was doing), she woke up and slowly mosied off. We then waved goodbye and went to eat our breakfast which was long since ready and cold, and not one of us cared.
After we all regathered our wits, we motored out of the mgical whale bay and anchored in a secluded cove and finished up the day and our trip with a hike to the face of a glacier. It was incredible, of course. The next morning, we arrived in Petersburg and departed the boat. An uneventful 24 hours later, we headed to the tiny airport and flew back home… Petersberg to Juneau, Juneau to Seattle, Seattle to Portland, and back to reality.
And that, folks, is the end of my story for tonight. I will leave you with the fact that we came back and everything is good. The world kept spinning again, while we were away, but this time it spun only in a good way. The chickies are good, and the gardens are suddenly exploding and overflowing. But that is another post. It is now midnight and time for me to hit the hay. I will try to post about the gardens and chickies tomorrow as I am again leaving for California on Wednesday. Wedding planning never ends, I guess. Good night!