an emergency


We had just finished breakfast. Mark turned on some music, and we began our “normal” family business for the day. As I’m cleaning up in the kitchen, I think I hear muffled screaming. I go to the hallway; it’s not Olive. I figure it must be our neighbor’s dog who has a howl that resembles a screaming child. I step into the backyard — nope, not the dog, but someone is definitely screaming. “HELP ME! OH GOD — SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME! MY BABY!” Hearing this woman’s distress immediately caused my mind to spin will all sorts of conjured scenarios. And while my heart raced for my throat, I couldn’t seem to move my feet fast enough. I pounded on the window, letting Mark know that something is happening out front. We both ran and opened the front door, where we could now see the rueful woman anxiously pacing a corner of the courtyard across the street wailing and screaming. “OH GOD! PETER, HOW COULD YOU? SHE’S DEAD! MY BA-BY.” Mark looks back at me as he runs across the street, “CALL 911!” And just as he reaches her, she steps out from behind the iron fence…

holding her dead dog.

Now. I love dogs. I can even understand crying, maybe even wailing over a family pet. But, come on, if you’re going to WAIL AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS so that every neighbor for a quarter of a mile can hear you, at least specify my DOG! All she could manage to shrill at us was, “I’m sorry. But it’s MY BA-BY! OHHH GOD!”  I felt like a schmuck for how annoyed I was in that moment.

Speaking of endearing “pets,” we have chickens. Yes, you read correctly — chickens. And as surprised as I am to say/write those very words, I’m more pleasantly surprised by how much I like them. We went in with three other families to share fresh eggs. 5 at our house, 8 at another house. Mark and our friend Danny worked really hard to build their own coops, and last week, we were able to bring the little “ladies” (as we refer to them around here) to their new home. The boys promptly named their hens Henry and Peter. I had to later explain to them that all hens are female. “Not these.” They replied. “Because they’re named Henry and Peter, so they’re boys.” They’ve apparently not quite understood all of our conversations about anatomy. Anyway, everyone was happy until one morning last week when we awoke to find one hen missing and another eviscerated in the coop. That’s right. Murder. It was disgusting. Apparently the uneven terrain of our backyard had left a slight (about 1″) gap at one part of the coop. Enough access for something. That night, I looked outside, after hearing the hens “cheeping” like crazy to see a big, fat possum. Mark was out having a beer with a friend. I didn’t know what to do, so I threw a baseball bat at the possum, hitting him smack on the butt. He looked around, then focused back on the hens. I had to retreat inside, recognizing my defeat and how little I know about these types of over-sized vermin. Unlucky, he left. But, Mark is waiting for his return — with a machete and a ditch blade (seen in the last picture). We’ll save that for another post.


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  1. i am not a pet lover so i agree that you should specify “dog” and not “baby.” definitely NOT the same thing. scott and i have agreed never to have a pet. we have kids and are cleaning up enough poop right now. we, too get fresh eggs. we don’t have chickens out back, but down the street. just remember to wash the eggs before you cook them…ours come fresh with chicken poop and feathers on the… you can get nasty sick!

  2. Nice work on the coop on wheels, Mark! Thanks for posting the pics, B. I was having a hard time imagining the whole deal. And there it is – you have chickens… who want inside! :)
    Great seeing you last weekend! :)

  3. whoa, You guys have all kinds of drama going on over there. Screaming neighbors, dead dogs, throwing baseball bats at animals, dead chickens,etc.

  4. Ha, I love it Bethany! This is awesome. I sure do miss seeing you guys every week :)

  5. This is very locavore of you.

    Are the kids doing most of the work? I like that idea very much.

    That IS a fine looking coop.

    You would probably enjoy reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. In all of your spare time.

    1. Patti, I wouldn’t say they’re doing MOST of the work, but they’re definitely helping and loving it. You’re welcome to bring your kids over anytime you’re up for a trip. As for local eating, we do what we can.

  6. for those of you reading Hamster’s comment — Liam was convinced it was a cobra that attacked our chickens. Funny.

    Pam, I couldn’t imagine you wailing like our neighbor, but if you do, and you choose to do it outside, just be sure to clarify.

    Lex — I have no idea what our neighbors think. honestly, since I have to put up with their cats in our yard (one cat recently gave birth behind our shed), I don’t really care. they’re very quiet now. Mostly they sound like chirping birds. And we clipped their wings, so they won’t be paying the neighbors any visits. And it’s within city code. I’m not worried.

    I’m sure Mark will be flattered about his work on the coop. He really did a great job.

  7. Oh I HATE possums! Or opossums, whatever. I would have retreated inside too! How are your neighbors handling the chickens? Where we live it’s no biggie. Our neighbors have mules. But where you live looks a little more…nice. Anyway, that’s the coolest chicken coop ever!

  8. Fresh eggs, yum. Now as for names, perhaps Henrietta and, well, I don’t know a feminine version of Peter! Got to love Liam and Burke’s assertions.

    Sorry about the wailing woman. I only hope I don’t wail when it is the Queen’s time to go…

    As for possums, they are just really creepy looking to me. Sorry one has been raiding the coop. Mark’s arsenal looks like it should be effective.

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