The Story of an Unfortunate Grouse, Clever Cat, Skilled Boy, and Brave Mother

I realize my title to this story sounds somewhat like a legend. But then again, who’s to say it won’t be? Well perhaps at least one around our family table.

I also fully realize I labeled myself as “Brave” in these headlines, and that to some my awarding of this title may be misplaced. But being brave isn’t having no fear at all- it’s having a fear and yet doing it anyways. Overcoming. Or so I’ve been told. With this out of the way, I will begin my tale.

It was a bright morning. December 3rd. Snow had finally come covering all in its perfect white. The air had settled from its deep cold temper tantrum- and was pleasantly calm around -1.

The kids plodded in their boots through the fresh snow towards the chicken coop for morning chores. Elise’s nighty poking out of her winter coat, the boys hair standing every-which way from a long sleep, and our sandy-white cat bounding along the trail ahead of them.

Pails swinging, they neared the spot where the youngest had spilt a bucket of feed the week before- covered up as if the accident had never happened. They creaked open the coop and disappeared inside.

They could barely shovel their breakfasts down fast enough that morning. They were outside in their snow suits before I could even suggest school work was waiting. The morning was so charged with their excitement over the snow, I grinned and let them think they were “getting away with it”.

The house was filled with the outsides muffled laughter, kid noises and caring-ons. The yard transformed into sledding runs, snow angels, shovelled trails going every-which way and men made of snow.

Then disrupting the peace came a pounding on the glass and the kids muffled excited voices as they tried to talk to me though the window. One finally got the pane to open, ” Mom! Gus caught a grouse! You HAVE to come see!”

I tromped out to the excited boys, my daughter giving distance behind them, and my proud little fur baby (cat) rubbing between legs all proud of what he brought home.

Upon closer inspection of the bird I realized the cat had only killed it from the neck up. I honestly don’t know what gave me the idea, but out of my mouth popped “Maybe we should ask Dad if we could eat it?”

The boys had been trying to hunt grouse with their slingshots this past summer/ fall but were as of yet unsuccessful. That cat was showing them boys up if you ask me. We all knew how tasty grouse was, and here was a fresh plump one brought right to our door step.

After messaging my husband with the question “so the cat brought us a big decapitated grouse…. can we pluck and eat it?” To which replied “For sure” the next big thought came to mind. How does one pluck a grouse?

Well folks, in this day and age we are blessed with the wisdom and directions of many seasoned hunters.

On YouTube.

School for the morning took a slight survivalist turn. Turns out there is an incredible alternative to plucking grouse called Field dressing a Grouse. In a nut shell- you gab it by the feet, stand on its wings as close to its body as you can…. and pull on the feet with a steady pressure. Everything just pops off.

There is no way it’s gonna be that easy. Jonas, my 11 year old who was going to do the “field dressing”, agreed- but 100% wanted to try. It was decided to give it our best effort. By we, I mean mostly him. Im an Overcoming Squeamish Person. (Like I once was a screamer, seek cover, don’t you dare show me its DEAD- person, but….. life in the country married to a hunter doesn’t really allow for such things.)

As Jonas was yanking backwards we both thought the legs would just detach and he would end up lying in the snow on his back holding rubbery bird feet. At some point I was behind him trying to help yank his arms up without touching the bird as he gripped the feet. But he eventually got it all on his own. With a cracky sound the body slipped away and we stared in shock at the breast meat laying in the snow.

We cheered in our triumph, and my daughter shouted from the other end of the yard “did you do it?!”

Now that it LOOKED like meat, some how I was fine to touch it. I made myself fine. It’s meat woman. I helped with the cutting off of the wings. So proud of my boy and his knife skills. We thought our cat Gus might want some of his bird, so I tossed him the heart and some innards. He sniffed and walked away. The kids called him back to it, pointing and making the kissing sound we make for when we call him for treats. Gus felt like we weren’t quite understanding him, so he proceeded to bury it like a cat turd. I don’t want these stinking guts OK? And the hunter wandered off.

Well we fried that dinner up with butter, garlic and salt and had a small mouth watering feast that night as a family. We were all so pleased with the days turn of events.

One clever cat,

Skilled boy, and

Delicious grouse.

And about that brave mother?…. she later in the winter had to hold a sick rooster while he lost his head/life. And is learning that sometimes it’s not about things being gross or unpleasant. It about having the courage to do what’s necessary.

I want to be more like that. Overcome silly fears, learn new skills, be more capable, and be willing to try.

More like my adventurous go getter son.

Gus

Meet Gus Gus. Our new adorable kitten.

My wonderful husband, much to our dismay, really disliked cats. We were given one shortly after we were married in 2008 and for all the smiles it brought me, it WAS a rather odd cat. It was cow coloured, large and came with the name MOO. I called it once from the porch (in my pregnant state) “Moo! Moo! Moo!” And vowed I would never again call the cat that name. I would not have the neighbors thinking I was a cow. So I named it Lou, as it was close sounding. Without going into great detail, however, the cat earned the name Lucifer from my hubby. And after the birth of my first, we gave the cat away.

And so began 9 years of “No cat”.

Sam could not be moved. Not even in the direction of other pets. In desperation the kids and I found some solstice in naming and caring for our chickens. But loving food and producers of food in that way…. well can be pretty hard. And sad. We knew we shouldn’t give them names and pet them, watch and laugh at their crazy antics… love them. But the children’s little hearts desired so deeply to care for a pet, and I longed to let them care for one.

Well let me tell you something about desires. There is someone who hears them. Someone who specializes in heart changing, the impossible, and the hopeless causes. God.

Yes, the kids and I called in the Big guy. Our friend that hears and does what no pleading can ever do- change Dad’s heart. We started praying.

I had hope. I just didn’t think it could be SO good. I thought maybe God would bring a stray to our door, and maybe Sam would let us keep it if we promised it would stay outside and that it would be no bother- he would barely know it existed.

After a few months went by, on September 28th I read Psalm 37:4 before bed

” Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The next morning when I begged Sam to tell me what he bought our daughter for her birthday the words

“A cat.”

came from his lips.

(I may have said “shut up” and hit him.)

But it was true. He laughed at me in my utter joy and shock.

No stray. He choose us a pet.

I love my Jesus. Listener of little desires and big. He’s no gene- he’s a loving, all-capable,  giver of the great.

And I love my husband. Everything’s about him is an adventure- even the ways he loves. He’s one of the best gifts God blessed me with. And is such an awesome Dad.

So here’s our PET. Gus. He plays and the kids still haven’t grown tired of it. He purs and cuddles and keeps our only daughter company at night.

And daily reminds us just how wonderful Gods gifts are.

 

Top left: Wonder where the cat is?

So it’s Spring- eh?

I’m sitting at the computer with a hot tea having successfully tired out, and bedded, the young-ins. It was truly spring-like today in Quesnel. Warm and sunny. And i freed the gate to my garden! I dug furiously with my garden shovel- a Y shaped pathway- through two feet of untouched damp snow.
I never did see dirt.
There is a shield of ice, a force to be reckoned with, encasing my soggy spring dreams. I was busy as a bee though, carving out chicken trails that led to the hole we have separating the garden from the chicken pen. In triumph I stabbed the shovel into a near–by snow bank and called the feathered ones to venture forth into a new (or just forgotten) land. Widening their borders, giving them something new to do!
Feather brained idiots….
They never even tried it.
One chicken did, only briefly, as i locked her in the garden and chased her through the hole to show her where it was.
Another ate some snow off the path but never even ventured onto it. I sat squatting in the snow watching them.  Their deeply simple chicken minds.
Peck, peck, flap, poop, squawk, peck.
Later sweeping out the SUV i found a stale rice cake. I  took that out to the chickens.
Well that was a lot less work and much more entertaining. It was like Chicken Ultimate Frisbee. The best was when the disc got submerged in mud and all the players are pecking like crazy-till it resurfaced! Andddd off Maple goes with it in her beak with all the hens hot on her heals (?? do they have….? ). Then it’s cracked into pieces. The game divides. Hens get desperate, and with a squawk it’s over and the losers keep pecking at  the mud hoping something turns up.


I don’t always go squat near the coop…
in case your wondering.
In fact I made a point of it today as I needed to find some joy in my Backyard Layers. As of late there has been added work, problems, injuries, things on the coop breaking, death, too many roosters (harming hens), and not enough dry. Period. Everything damp, poopy, muddy and stinky.
But today the sun came out, dried out some areas, and the hens basked in it and tried to clean themselves up a bit. Two of our roosters were brought to a friends farm the other day (you can breath now ladies), and a hen (I could not help) with a bad injury was finally put out of her suffering. Each day as spring makes it’s appearance, things should get better.
Today I also helped make little trenches around the carport and driveway that added into the ones Sam’s made. Drawing water away from places we don’t want it.
And seriously my kids don’t think I play??
It was very addicting, I felt torn away when Silas told me he had to go potty. And I came right back.
I’ve been putting my garden shovel to work doing all kinds of things lately. Even if it isn’t gardening.
I also carved ice steps going to my door, and with the help of Elise, shoveled 4 feet off the deck where my porch window looks out. There is still 2 feet to go- but now i can see my yard! (even if it is covered in white). It was also quite fulfilling because I had tried last week and the snow wouldn’t budge. In defeat, I had leaned on my snow shovel despairing at my grand plans of seeing a view. But with a flicker of hopeful interest realized I was Eye-level with my houses gutters. The snow really was that tall!
So I went ahead and cleaned those babies WITHOUT A LADDER.
You just go ahead and be jealous- snow fortress win for me.
Even though it snowed here on the first day of spring (and the day after) don’t go and pity us. We’ve had warm sunny days where the children sledded in t-shirts. Sandwiches eaten in the fresh air. The roads are mostly bare and make satisfying splashy sounds. (Little Si loves to run through them on his runner bike).  And I’ve been sun basking in my lawn chair (first thing i freed from the porch snow pile), Going for sunny walks with friends, And the kids have been trying out various combinations of their outdoor wardrobe- succeeding in having the time of their lives and bringing the springfull sound of dripping indoors.


There truly is always something to be grateful for.
Sometimes it’s all too easy to be looking at what isn’t-
that you miss what is.
Hope your all enjoying the change of seasons, and have a little Spring in your step.

A Fuzzy Spring

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Spring has come to Quesnel B.C. and with it children, chickens, and chicks roam about my yard.

The lawn has finally stopped talking to me which each step and the mud lakes have receaded to mere puddles.  AND from my lawn chair

I CANT SEE ANY SNOW.

During The Melt our coop which was like an island (Poop Island) was only accessible by boot.
Yep, B.O.O.T
Yet daily I washed a steady flow of stinky soggy socks from the “forgetful”. Those socks worked like toppings- on the mud caked pants that clogged the laundry room.

It felt like things couldn’t possibly melt fast enough, so I attempted to help it along early on in March. Frustrated that the garden gate was frozen shut, I found myself climbing the 8 foot fence, chuckling at my agility, and landing in the garden with my kids snow shovel. I rediscovered my dirt.

I let the chickens in the garden and created pathways for the flock. Then I chipped away at the ice holding my gate captive, and two days later I opened it’s latch. I flung it wide and entered my pad with great satisfaction.

Then it was coop mucking out time.
My Mom happened to visit from the Okanagan. Being the country girl she is, that coop was mucked and freshly chipped before the kettle announced tea. She also rubbed my sore shoulders from my previous attempt. Thanks Mom.

A deck shoveling work party also commenced. Involving all my small people and their neighbor friend. As it turns out, pretending to be construction workers demolishing a great ice wall is a great deal of rewarding fun.
And
The kitchen view was also much improved.

Then it became time to prepare for our April arrivals. Much to my surprise, they ALL arrived that first week of April.

Pepper

Five fuzzy little chicks!
I dared not hoped for a 100% hatch rate. (All those times the Broody hen hopped off the eggs and how cold it was during her setting time!) But the Great Creator built His creation with such intuition in these things. I was baffled and amazed at how our young Chicken Mother, not quite a year old, knew exactly how to hatch chicks. When to pluck her stomach feathers to warm the eggs, when to hop off to eat, drink, and poo, when to hold up on the nest, rotate her eggs, and lastly care for her young in the feathers of her wings.
The children and I had troubles knowing just how many chicks had hatched, as they were all tucked up inside their mothers down. We counted the egg shells she tossed out of the nest, and ooed and awed as little fuzzy heads popped out only to quickly bob back in. Sometimes the mother would move and a chick would fall out from under her. The chick would run a little circle then dive back into its mother like a bird disappearing into a hedge. The last to hatch, Clover, would ride on top of her mothers feet tucked up in the warmth of feathers with only her stick legs poking out.
The kids and I squealed and marveled at their antics.

Elise and Pepper

 

With the sunshine, yellow balls of  breathing fuzz, and my own little fledgling son toddling around the yard in gumboots. Spring danced in. Jonas, Elise and Sammy have also spend nearly as much time in the air as the ground with the excitement of having their trampoline back together. They even drag little Si up on there. I love calling them from the deck to come in for dinner and hearing them laughing and out of breath. Then watching as they dangle their legs from the tramp, feel with their toes, and drop into their boots. I smile as they use teamwork to re-boot their little brother. One kid holding on tight while the other crams on the gumboots.
Then all four run in for dinner.

I love that although I tried to help Spring along with her melting, and the hen with her hatching, and my children with their growing- they all did it anyway
under the watchful care and design

of God.

And me? I get to witness it, marvel at it, touch it, hug it, feel it and thank Him for this abundant Life.

Snowsuits and Chickens

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“It’s a five egg day.” I told my 17 month old as I came out of the coop. I showed him the last egg, a little spotted and creamy brown. He batted at it with his snowsuit arm, because

One cannot do anything in a full-body-snowsuit.

We had just popped over to feed treats to the chickens.
It’s kinda like feeding the ducks at the park;
little people love it.
Some of the birds peck nicely from your hand and others are convinced your flesh is part of the package and try to take some of that too. We’ve figured out which ones are which and try to distract the crazy birds by sprinkling seeds in the snow, then we hand feed our favorites. Silas waddles around in his suit and occasionally squishes a chicken between his outstretched plank arms.
Yesterday Sammy, three, tried to feed a chicken in his snowsuit. He removed his mitts. Tried to squat. Tipped over. And got a poop on his hand. Then wiped it in the snow… and got a poopy snowy hand.
I try my best to maneuver Silas around the fresh poops when we’re in the chicken run, but eventually I have to take him out and close the gate because the odds get worse as the chasing of chickens increases. Besides he’s particularity interested in their little ramp going into coop… and if he crawled in there I’d have to throw out his snowsuit.
We’re trying the “Deep Bedding Method” which in a nutshell is leaving all your chickens crap in the coop over the winter mixing it, and just adding more bedding. It composts and keeps some added heat. You don’t crawl in that.
I gathered up my pail. The chickens had gone back to tucking up one foot into their downy feathers and standing in the snow with the other. Then the quick switch to warm up the other foot; waiting in hope that I might still have more tasty treats in my bucket.
I slid that last warm egg into my wool pocket and started down the path to the house calling Silas.
Looking back I see Silas has wondered off the path and is trying to tread through deep snow. He’s headed to the ditch in the yard…

You don’t land well in full-body-snowsuits either. You kinda just… plop.
Like a forward facing snow-angel.

I jog back and am careful not to crush the egg in my pocket as I direct him back onto the path where he picks up speed. I give him an airlift over the ditch and we progress towards the house until he spots the giant inflated turtle the kids abandoned to a snow-pile. Then he sits.

Now a full-body-snowsuit sits O.K…
Un- sitting is where
things
get
complicated.

You must roll to your belly, go on all fours then walk backwards with your hands till you reach your toes. At which time you stand hoping you don’t have too much momentum which would topple you… back onto your back.
It’s all worth it though-the snowsuit. He’s as warm as toast.
In fact, come inside time, he’s the warmest.

Once indoors I get to do the chasing.
Chasing that toasty-warm-fully-bodied- snow-suited- chubby-bub out of that orange thing.
It’s almost like catching a chicken.