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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chicken Phrases in Our Speech

Chicken behavior permeates what we say and when we say it. I didn't fully appreciate how much chicken culture has influenced human culture until we began to raise hens this year. I found myself describing the behavior of the chickens by using literal phrases that I'd only used figuratively before.

Jo is our smallest hen. She was a straight-run chick so we had to wait until she began maturing before finding out whether she was a rooster or hen. A beautiful, multi-color, Easter-Egger, she began laying small white eggs and our questions ceased. After only a month of laying she suddenly stopped. That change coincided with the loss of some of her long, black tail feathers in a round patch on her back; it revealed bare skin and an apparent increase in her stress level.

Jo's feathers are beginning to grow back

I guessed that she got too close to the fence and a fox nipped her. That was until I saw Lucy, the big Rhode Island Red hen, pecking at the bare spot. It was instantly obvious that Jo was "henpecked".

I knew chickens establish a hierarchy of dominance, but wasn't aware of how it was functioning in our coop. Obviously, big, red Lucy "ruled the roost".

Lucy is the boss

This was confirmed later when I put some yellow squash from my garden into their chicken run. They all ran to the delicious vegetable, but only Lucy began pecking at it. When the other hens stuck their beaks in, Lucy pushed them away. There was a definite "pecking order" and Lucy was number one.

As the other chickens backed away quickly, frustrated and flustered, it was apparent that Lucy had "ruffled their feathers" and "got their hackles up".


Lucy gets first peck

Those chicken-based phrases are ones I've used and are commonly heard describing human interactions. A timid husband is henpecked because his wife rules the roost. When the kids go for a car ride the oldest gets shotgun because of their pecking order. If Aunt Helen gets stuck in the back it ruffles her feathers.

There are many other phrases we use to describe ourselves. Chickens prefer light spaces and familiar areas to sleep. When the sun goes down they’re “chicken” about the dark as they enter the coop and "come home to roost". That being said, they don't like being "cooped up" for long periods of time and often will "fly the coop" if given the chance.

The hens are anxious to get outside each day

The hens we have typically won't sit on eggs for long periods expecting them to hatch. After Jo's feathers grew back, she began laying eggs again. Unexpectedly one day she sat on her "nest egg" for nearly 30 hours straight. I couldn't get her out of the nest box. She "brooded over" that egg. It was almost as though she was acting like a "mother hen". My wife was finally able to coax her out with special chicken treats.

It wasn't long before her tail feathers began to disappear again along with a regular supply of little white eggs. We were left with an "empty nest" with those eggs gone.

No eggs in an empty nest

We have just a few hens and have had few problems when collecting eggs. We haven't worried about "putting all of our eggs in the same basket". We've never dropped an egg and haven't had to worry about "walking on eggshells". And of course we've never had "egg on our face".

All of these phrases have obvious origins. And their transference to human actions are easily understood. When you see the bare dirt of a chicken run it's easy to understand why bad handwriting looks like "chicken scratch". Chickens are relatively inexpensive to raise; after all, the cost of their food is just "chicken feed".

We don't have a rooster so we don't have to worry about "counting our chickens before they hatch". We use the eggs regularly so we know that "you have to break eggs to make an omelet". And we know that a "good egg" is home-raised.

Many other animal actions have factored into human speech, but I have to believe that chickens have had the most impact. I can think of no other animal that formed the basis of so many common English phrases. Obviously with that much influence, chickens "have something to crow about".

Chicken behavior permeates what we say and when we say it. I didn't fully appreciate how much chicken culture has influenced human culture until we began to raise hens this year. I found myself describing the behavior of the chickens by using literal phrases that I'd only used figuratively before.

Jo is our smallest hen. She was a straight-run chick so we had to wait until she began maturing before finding out whether she was a rooster or hen. A beautiful, multi-color, Easter-Egger, she began laying small white eggs and our questions ceased. After only a month of laying she suddenly stopped. That change coincided with the loss of some of her long, black tail feathers in a round patch on her back; it revealed bare skin and an apparent increase in her stress level.

Jo's feathers are beginning to grow back

I guessed that she got too close to the fence and a fox nipped her. That was until I saw Lucy, the big Rhode Island Red hen, pecking at the bare spot. It was instantly obvious that Jo was "henpecked".

I knew chickens establish a hierarchy of dominance, but wasn't aware of how it was functioning in our coop. Obviously, big, red Lucy "ruled the roost".

Lucy is the boss

This was confirmed later when I put some yellow squash from my garden into their chicken run. They all ran to the delicious vegetable, but only Lucy began pecking at it. When the other hens stuck their beaks in, Lucy pushed them away. There was a definite "pecking order" and Lucy was number one.

As the other chickens backed away quickly, frustrated and flustered, it was apparent that Lucy had "ruffled their feathers" and "got their hackles up".


Lucy gets first peck

Those chicken-based phrases are ones I've used and are commonly heard describing human interactions. A timid husband is henpecked because his wife rules the roost. When the kids go for a car ride the oldest gets shotgun because of their pecking order. If Aunt Helen gets stuck in the back it ruffles her feathers.

There are many other phrases we use to describe ourselves. Chickens prefer light spaces and familiar areas to sleep. When the sun goes down they’re “chicken” about the dark as they enter the coop and "come home to roost". That being said, they don't like being "cooped up" for long periods of time and often will "fly the coop" if given the chance.

The hens are anxious to get outside each day

The hens we have typically won't sit on eggs for long periods expecting them to hatch. After Jo's feathers grew back, she began laying eggs again. Unexpectedly one day she sat on her "nest egg" for nearly 30 hours straight. I couldn't get her out of the nest box. She "brooded over" that egg. It was almost as though she was acting like a "mother hen". My wife was finally able to coax her out with special chicken treats.

It wasn't long before her tail feathers began to disappear again along with a regular supply of little white eggs. We were left with an "empty nest" with those eggs gone.

No eggs in an empty nest

We have just a few hens and have had few problems when collecting eggs. We haven't worried about "putting all of our eggs in the same basket". We've never dropped an egg and haven't had to worry about "walking on eggshells". And of course we've never had "egg on our face".

All of these phrases have obvious origins. And their transference to human actions are easily understood. When you see the bare dirt of a chicken run it's easy to understand why bad handwriting looks like "chicken scratch". Chickens are relatively inexpensive to raise; after all, the cost of their food is just "chicken feed".

We don't have a rooster so we don't have to worry about "counting our chickens before they hatch". We use the eggs regularly so we know that "you have to break eggs to make an omelet". And we know that a "good egg" is home-raised.

Many other animal actions have factored into human speech, but I have to believe that chickens have had the most impact. I can think of no other animal that formed the basis of so many common English phrases. Obviously with that much influence, chickens "have something to crow about".

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Gifts for Gardeners

Gardeners are a giving group. As the growing season progresses, we're more than willing to share our flowers, produce, seeds, and advice to anyone willing to partake. We give our time, labor, and effort to build gardens and grow plants of every type. After giving so much during the growing season, it's nice to receive thoughtful gifts during the holiday season.

In my previous article I discussed some of the simple items and tools that many gardeners might like to receive. There are many other potential gifts for the gardener in your life and today I propose a few more.

Two gift ideas top the list and are quite obvious, as I was reminded when the last article was published. Plants and seeds are the basic ingredients that make what we do possible. They're the foundation of the garden and few gardeners would refuse them. The hardest part is trying to figure out what to give.

The easiest way to do give green is with a gift card or gift certificate from a local nursery. Many gardeners go over budget at planting time because there's always another plant they'd like to try. Being able to make those purchases without budgetary concerns is a great gift.

While I'm not a fan of gift cards normally, I recommend this method because gardeners can be picky about their plants. A plant given with the best intention may not be appropriate for our specific gardens. While orchids are beautiful, I don't have the facilities to grow them properly and while the gift of a live plant would be appreciated, the plant would begin a lingering death as soon as I touched it. Many other plants that can be purchased from catalogs won't survive my dry, hot summers or harsh winters. For gardeners like me a gift certificate makes more sense.

Seeds are a better option than live plants at Christmas because there are many more to choose from and they won't die before it's time to sow. I recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) and Territorial Seed Company (www.territorialseed.com) as good online sources. Take the time to determine if the plant that comes from the seed will survive in your region before buying. For the best success, select seeds that you know your gardener already grows.

There are many sources for ordering seeds and plants

Another basic, yet great, gift is a book about gardening. I have a pretty substantial gardening library, but there are always new books coming out with new ideas and techniques and I'm always willing to learn more. If your gardener has expressed interest in a particular type of gardening, find a book on that subject. Lasagna gardening, square-foot gardening, hydroponic gardening, roof gardening, container gardening, and bio-dynamic gardening are just a few of the topics that would be new to even experienced gardeners.

There are many great reference books that should be part of every gardener's library. Here are a few: "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants" from the American Horticultural Society; "National Garden Book" from Sunset Magazine; "The Practical Gardener's Encyclopedia" from Fog City Press; Reader's Digest "Illustrated Guide to Gardening". These are just a few of the books that I reference regularly.

For a flower gardener interested in beginning to grow vegetables, buy a book on vegetable gardening. For a vegetable gardener buy a book about flowers. For all gardeners, buy a thorough book on composting. I'd suggest you take a look at the books they already read and enjoy for an idea of appropriate subjects, and so you don't duplicate any.

Magazine subscriptions are another nice option for readers. I subscribe to eight different magazines and go to the library to regularly read the ones I don't get. I prefer sitting in my own chair, in my own house, when I settle in to read and look at the great garden photos so a subscription is better for me. One of my favorites is "Garden Gate"; it's well written and always has information appropriate to my gardens. Another good mag is "Horticulture"; the photos are amazing, though most of the articles are written for gardeners who don't live in the mountains. For Western gardeners, "Sunset" focuses their gardening articles to regional specifics, though gardening is just one part of the magazine that also includes sections on travel and cooking.

"Gardening How-To" magazine is a nice resource for gardeners, particularly new gardeners. It is written for the entire U.S. with some region-specific information. It's produced by the National Home Gardening Club, of which I am a lifetime member. Membership in the club includes the magazine and access to their very informative website. The gift of membership might be a good idea. Check them out at www.gardeningclub.com.

While I proposed garden art in the last article I neglected to mention the most basic decorative garden component. Pots and planters are readily available year-round and easily used by gardeners. A pot that is brightly-colored, uniquely-crafted, or over-sized can look great as a garden focal point. Pots can be moved around by the gardener until they find the proper home and there are always enough plants to fill them. Even if your gift ends up in a hidden garden corner you can expect that it will be used.

The pot is what makes this garden art unique

If your gardener is a social animal or you would prefer they leave the house occasionally, consider giving the gift of club membership. Many cities have gardening clubs and they usually have a membership fee. Sign your gardener up. Locally we have an Iris Society, a Rose Society, and a Horticultural Arts Society. There are neighborhood garden groups. There are volunteer gardening groups for schools and churches. Do a little research and see if there's a group, club, or society that matches your gardeners strengths.

While I could spend a great deal of time listing the great power tools that I'd love to own or the large structures I'd love to build, every gardener is different and my desires may not be ideal when it comes to your gift purchases. Take a look at your gardener for the best gift ideas. If he's always complaining about his torn jeans, buy him a new pair. If she keeps harping about the weeds or an area that needs to be cleared to make a garden bed, give the gift of your time in the garden.

The best gardening gifts are the ones that come from the heart. Taking a little time to ensure your gift matches what your gardener needs will make your efforts memorable and welcomed. While the tools are nice, the books are good, and the seeds will grow, it truly is the thought that counts.

Link to:

National Home Gardening Club
Baker Creek heirloom Seeds
Territorial Seed Company
Gardeners are a giving group. As the growing season progresses, we're more than willing to share our flowers, produce, seeds, and advice to anyone willing to partake. We give our time, labor, and effort to build gardens and grow plants of every type. After giving so much during the growing season, it's nice to receive thoughtful gifts during the holiday season.

In my previous article I discussed some of the simple items and tools that many gardeners might like to receive. There are many other potential gifts for the gardener in your life and today I propose a few more.

Two gift ideas top the list and are quite obvious, as I was reminded when the last article was published. Plants and seeds are the basic ingredients that make what we do possible. They're the foundation of the garden and few gardeners would refuse them. The hardest part is trying to figure out what to give.

The easiest way to do give green is with a gift card or gift certificate from a local nursery. Many gardeners go over budget at planting time because there's always another plant they'd like to try. Being able to make those purchases without budgetary concerns is a great gift.

While I'm not a fan of gift cards normally, I recommend this method because gardeners can be picky about their plants. A plant given with the best intention may not be appropriate for our specific gardens. While orchids are beautiful, I don't have the facilities to grow them properly and while the gift of a live plant would be appreciated, the plant would begin a lingering death as soon as I touched it. Many other plants that can be purchased from catalogs won't survive my dry, hot summers or harsh winters. For gardeners like me a gift certificate makes more sense.

Seeds are a better option than live plants at Christmas because there are many more to choose from and they won't die before it's time to sow. I recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) and Territorial Seed Company (www.territorialseed.com) as good online sources. Take the time to determine if the plant that comes from the seed will survive in your region before buying. For the best success, select seeds that you know your gardener already grows.

There are many sources for ordering seeds and plants

Another basic, yet great, gift is a book about gardening. I have a pretty substantial gardening library, but there are always new books coming out with new ideas and techniques and I'm always willing to learn more. If your gardener has expressed interest in a particular type of gardening, find a book on that subject. Lasagna gardening, square-foot gardening, hydroponic gardening, roof gardening, container gardening, and bio-dynamic gardening are just a few of the topics that would be new to even experienced gardeners.

There are many great reference books that should be part of every gardener's library. Here are a few: "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants" from the American Horticultural Society; "National Garden Book" from Sunset Magazine; "The Practical Gardener's Encyclopedia" from Fog City Press; Reader's Digest "Illustrated Guide to Gardening". These are just a few of the books that I reference regularly.

For a flower gardener interested in beginning to grow vegetables, buy a book on vegetable gardening. For a vegetable gardener buy a book about flowers. For all gardeners, buy a thorough book on composting. I'd suggest you take a look at the books they already read and enjoy for an idea of appropriate subjects, and so you don't duplicate any.

Magazine subscriptions are another nice option for readers. I subscribe to eight different magazines and go to the library to regularly read the ones I don't get. I prefer sitting in my own chair, in my own house, when I settle in to read and look at the great garden photos so a subscription is better for me. One of my favorites is "Garden Gate"; it's well written and always has information appropriate to my gardens. Another good mag is "Horticulture"; the photos are amazing, though most of the articles are written for gardeners who don't live in the mountains. For Western gardeners, "Sunset" focuses their gardening articles to regional specifics, though gardening is just one part of the magazine that also includes sections on travel and cooking.

"Gardening How-To" magazine is a nice resource for gardeners, particularly new gardeners. It is written for the entire U.S. with some region-specific information. It's produced by the National Home Gardening Club, of which I am a lifetime member. Membership in the club includes the magazine and access to their very informative website. The gift of membership might be a good idea. Check them out at www.gardeningclub.com.

While I proposed garden art in the last article I neglected to mention the most basic decorative garden component. Pots and planters are readily available year-round and easily used by gardeners. A pot that is brightly-colored, uniquely-crafted, or over-sized can look great as a garden focal point. Pots can be moved around by the gardener until they find the proper home and there are always enough plants to fill them. Even if your gift ends up in a hidden garden corner you can expect that it will be used.

The pot is what makes this garden art unique

If your gardener is a social animal or you would prefer they leave the house occasionally, consider giving the gift of club membership. Many cities have gardening clubs and they usually have a membership fee. Sign your gardener up. Locally we have an Iris Society, a Rose Society, and a Horticultural Arts Society. There are neighborhood garden groups. There are volunteer gardening groups for schools and churches. Do a little research and see if there's a group, club, or society that matches your gardeners strengths.

While I could spend a great deal of time listing the great power tools that I'd love to own or the large structures I'd love to build, every gardener is different and my desires may not be ideal when it comes to your gift purchases. Take a look at your gardener for the best gift ideas. If he's always complaining about his torn jeans, buy him a new pair. If she keeps harping about the weeds or an area that needs to be cleared to make a garden bed, give the gift of your time in the garden.

The best gardening gifts are the ones that come from the heart. Taking a little time to ensure your gift matches what your gardener needs will make your efforts memorable and welcomed. While the tools are nice, the books are good, and the seeds will grow, it truly is the thought that counts.

Link to:

National Home Gardening Club
Baker Creek heirloom Seeds
Territorial Seed Company