Thursday, September 28, 2006


After a summer of Dada pretending to pedal a bicycle at the pool and elsewhere and after minutes of pleading at the dinner table ("I want a bicyple. I want to buy one. Now"), Julie and I discussed it and decided that it was in fact time to look at bicycles for the child.

So off we went to Academy (local big-box sporting goods chain) to look at bicycles. Interestingly, of the four models of 12" bicycle, one was Disney Princess branded and two did not have brakes, leaving only the with-brakes Dora The Explora-branded bike, which was also twice the price of the others (for the brakes and little bag I assume). However, the Dora bike was also the best constructed (not that it can possibly matter for a a bike this size--it's not like she's going to be doing extreme BMX with it or anything, at least not for a while). All had training wheels.

She rode it around in the store, not entirely clear on the whole peddaling concept (no surprise as she had never ridden anything with pedals as far as I know). She kept peddaling backwards and putting on the brakes (maybe that's why they make 12-inchers without brakes?) but by the time we made our decision and started riding toward the front she was starting to get the idea.

We went home (by way of Amy's Ice Cream for a little treat) and got the bicycle out in the driveway. Dada put on her helmet and started riding up and down the driveway.

She did remarkably well, able to pedal for two or three revolutions before hitting the brakes. Going up the driveway, which has a slight but noticable incline, required a little help from Mom. Going down the driveway she was pretty good at using the brakes to slow down (which is why we went with the model with brakes).

She did take a spill coming down the driveway for the first time, turning too sharply and falling over sideways. She wasn't scraped at all but did hurt her lip just a little. She cried for about as long as it took to get her into the light of the front porch but then she was fine and right back on the bike. Tough kid.

I don't think she's quite ready for fully unattended riding yet (limited to the driveway of course) as there's a lot to coordinate between the pedaling and the steering and the braking, but I suspect she'll get it before too long.

Other than that, nothing too momentus to report. She's been going through a growth spurt and her sleep pattern was a little chaotic this week, going to be late, waking up early, insisting that we stay in her room, wanting a light on (she has until now slept in a completely dark room). It seems to be seems to be settling out now, thank goodness.

She's still enjoying gymnastics class and starting to be a little more confident about things like forward and backward rolls.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chicken Update: Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

We must sadly report that we lost three of our four chickens to predators. It started with a daylight attack on one of our Barred Plymouth Rocks, which Julie found dead in the back corner of the yard, inside the chicken enclosure. We didn't know what did it but we suspected it was a possum that the dogs were barking at the night before (at least we think they were barking at a possum).

We were surprised that a chicken was attacked in daylight and disappointed that the dogs had not kept it away (but where it attacked was a place where dogs could not go--it had apparently cornered the chicken in a corner of the fence inside the chicken run behind the garage).

This was on a Friday while Dada and I were at the pool.

We were sort of at a loss as to what do--we couldn't really confine the chickens to their cage (it's too small) so we put them in the garage and kept a closer watch on them.

On Saturday we let them out to run in the yard and keep an eye on them. Dada and I went to the pool again and while we were there Julie sent me a text message to tell me that the second Barred Rock had been killed. This was very distressing to Julie and me, especially to Julie who had now found two dead chickens in two days. We were feeling rather helpless to protect the two remaining chickens, although we observed that it had been the Rocks that were attacked, not the Brown Leghorns, suggesting that the Leghorns were better able to avoid predators.

On Sunday we decided that the best thing would be to build a new enclosure closer to the house with an electrified barrier that would repel both vermin and the dogs (we had put the chickens behind the garage both because we thought at the time that the law required chickens be 50 feet from your own house and to keep them separated from the dogs, who had the run of the rest of the back yard).

So we went to Callahan's General Store and got a little electified wire fence kit and went to Home Depot and bought some fence stakes and more chicken wire. I got to work making a bigger enclosure behind the house. To make this enclosure I had to disassemble the existing fence in order to use the wire in the new enclosure.

While I was doing this one of the two remaining chickens was in the back part of the yard as was Lucy, one of our two Bassett Hounds. While my attention as focused on the construction, Lucy attacked the chicken and killed it (in the same spot behind the garage where I couldn't see). We couldn't blame Lucy for being a dog but we did blame ourselves for not being more careful to keep the dogs away from the chickens.

This was very distressing. We caught the lone surviving Leghorn and got her into the cage.

That afternoon we placed the remaining Leghorn, Dusy, with our friend Joanna, who has a flock of her own. Unfortunately, Dusty is a flier and kept getting into the neighbor's yard, so we placed her with our friend Mindy who lives out the in the country and has her own flock with more room to roam.

It took us a while to process these traumatic events (it's surprising how much emotion a few birds can trigger, but we did raise them from chicks and we were responsible for their care and wellbeing), but we have decided to try again with chickens. Our plan is to build a full enclosure that is as vermin-proof as we can make it, with a proper chicken house. We will get another batch of chicks and raise them over the winter, which will have them at laying age in the early spring. But we really miss having the chickens around. We have also gotten approval from our neighbors to get a rooster, which should help keep predators at bay.

We now think that the chickens may have been killed by the ferral cats that roam the yard--since our neighbor across the creek (the one who also had chickens) moved away, nobody has been feeding the cats (which were obviously being fed before) and there is no flock of chickens closer to the creek. We think the cats may have gotten desperate enough to go after the chickens. It's also possible that the drought and hot weather has stressed the normal vermin population enough to motivate daylight attacks.

We feel very bad about having allowed the chickens to be attacked but I just couldn't bring myself to have the chickens confined all the time--they clearly enjoyed roaming so much it just seemed wrong to cage them.

Their new enclosure will be big enough to give them some room and we'll have an entry that opens into the unfenced yard rather than into the back yard where they can be trapped in the corner of the fence. This will allow us to let them roam in the mornings or evenings when we can supervise them.

Daddy's Takin' Us To the Zoo Tommorrow

We were in Houston last weekend because I had to make a sales call on a company that happened to be about 10 minutes from Grandma Boo's house on Monday, so we took the excuse to spend the weekend in Houston. Houston has a nice little zoo and on the drive down we mentioned that we might go to the zoo.

Big mistake.

From that point on it was "Zoo. Go zoo now. I want to go to the zoo, now".

We did make it to the zoo on Sunday and had a nice time. We got to see the monkeys, which Dada enjoys very much, a kimodo dragon (largest of the lizards), giraffes--they have a barn with these very tall thin doors that gives it a sort of Seusian aspect, a sleepy tiger, some lions, and an elephant.

We also got to ride the Herman Park train, which is one of those miniature trains--Dada loves the train. Pretty much as soon as we were inside the Zoo she was asking to ride the train. Kids.

I spent most of the trip working as I was scheduled to be in Norwalk, Connecticut on Monday evening so that I could give a demo to a prospective client at 8:30 Tuesday morning. I had had about two weeks to prepare this demo, which was critical to our chances of landing the account and for which two weeks was not enough time. This is why I haven't been blogging--I had been a bit obsessed with getting this demo implemented (I also made it clear to our V.P. of Sales that I wouldn't do that again--that level of effort is not sustainable).

Anyway, this week Gran Judy (aka "Nei Nei" [which should really be Nai Nai but things were a little confused back in China when we were working on the Mandarin terms for the different grand parents]) is here to visit Dada and watch her while Julie and I attend the Austin City Limits music festival for the next three days. I've taken this week and off and actually got to rest a little bit.

Dada is back in her Mother's Day Out program three days a week, so things will be a little more normal around here. Dada is loving gymnastics class--it's pretty much all she talks about ("I want to go to gymnastics class now"). I wish we could take her every day....