Tuesday, January 31, 2012

chickens chickens chickens

I did something today that I have never done in January. I set up all the chicken breeding pens for the season. That doesn't mean that I built anything or moved coops, it means I caught ALL the birds and decided which females will be spending the next few months with which males. Chickens are pretty open-minded about such things, they don't seem to mind these "arranged" relationships...

Normally I do this no earlier than late February, and "normally" (it varies widely, but if you average out all the years) I have chicks hatching between mid April and mid June.

Since I'm going to need to be moving me and all the birds some time in April, I'd originally thought I would just start hatching after I get all settled in, but it's quite possible the chicken coops might take some extra time to get finished, and I don't want it to suddenly be June without anything hatched yet, because it gets stinkin hot up there in the summer and I never have much luck showing late-hatched birds anyway.

So here I am trying to have the earliest season I've ever had, I even put a light in the chicken coop that will go in a few hours before sunrise, so as to jump start some egg production! If I could be at least mostly done hatching by early April, that would be swell. Let's face it, moving the birds is going to be a giant pain in the asterisk no matter what...

There are FIVE pens of BBReds (told ya that's where I plan to focus!), 1 pen of Black, and 1 pen of Brassy/Blue Brassy. I don't plan to hatch many Blacks or Brassies/Blue Brassies (those two pens also don't have any lighting right now, so I don't expect much out of them yet anyway).

I'm happy with the numbers, I'm down to 33 birds once the rest of them are sold or shipped out. And I'm happy with the configuration, that seemed like the right number of Blacks (7), Brassy Backs (3), and Blue Brassy Backs (3) to keep to continue and preserve the lines but not be the ONLY one raising them.

Anyway, there ya have it. Like a friend of mine said to me the other day, it's going to be a crazy spring no matter how well I think I have it planned out.

Alas I have no pretty pictures for you today!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chicken Spa 101

So, changing gears from the big engraving show last weekend, I have a big poultry show this weekend. A lot of my engraver buddies were unaware of this "chicken thing" in my life, but I think they kinda got the point after thumbing through the 100ish pieces of chicken art in the portfolio... ;-) I answered a lot of chicken questions. All good, I'm used to it... There is always a bit of disbelief regarding the notion of washing chickens. Yup, I really do wash them in preparation for a show. Sometimes they just need a little, sometimes they need a lot. But even more importantly I think is the fact that washing and grooming a bird seems to do wonders for taming it.

Today was chicken-washing day in preparation for taking birds to the show on Friday, thus today I give you "Chicken Spa 101, how to wash a chicken." ;-)

Today I washed 13 birds. Here's my first victim, I mean volunteer. If pictures could talk, he's quite vocally expressing his displeasure. This guy has never been shown, and has not been handled much. They do eventually settle in and seem to like it, but I'll admit it can be chaotic at times. I didn't manage to photograph those moments, I had my hands full!

Scrub a dub dub! I use dog shampoo. Some people use a mild dish soap.

Girls are a little easier to deal with, they're more civilized toward each other so I can put a bunch in the sink at once!

Rinse the soap off!

All clean and wrapped up!

Waiting on the washing machine while I clean up his brother...

Chicken burritos!

The laundry basket is a good way to transport them from one room to another! ;-)

After they've been in the towels for a while, it's time to trim beaks... Oh, I have to share with you something totally cool I learned last weekend from a friend. I seriously thought he was pulling my leg. Sodium Hyaluronate, derived from chicken combs, is some sort of magical goo that's used in some types of eye surgery. I don't know enough about it to explain it, but I had no idea. Now I want to know where the chicken combs come from... I've never heard of the combs being specifically harvested in any sort of poultry industry. Anyway, little tangent there for you to ponder.

Trim the toenails (this can be a little scary if you've never done it before).

And everyone gets a numbered leg band for show.

Normally this time of year it's cold and rainy, and I end up drying birds in the kitchen, where I put them in cages and crank up the space heater.

But it warmed up enough today that I could let them dry out in the sunshine, which is so much better! Look at those guys! Holy tail feathers, Batman!

All those girls, he probably thinks he won the lottery...

Everyone's tucked in for the night. They normally live in big coops, but are spending a couple days in "show cages." These are the types of cages where they are housed during a show, and they settle in much nicer at the show if they have spent some time in these cages beforehand.

There you have it! A day at the chicken spa. Now come on down to the fairgrounds in Stockton on Saturday and say hi!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reno recap

Since 2008 (six months after I started dabbling in scrimshaw), I have attended the yearly Firearms Engravers Guild of America show every January in Reno. I was finally able to exhibit for the first time this year. Glory be! The winds of change had started to blow in the guild the last year or so, and with some internal changes a-happenin' it was finally decided that scrimshaw could be exhibited. That was some supremely awesome news when I heard that last summer. So I had a table this year! How strange not to be a wandering nomad. How nice to be able to show my stuff. :-) A lot of long-time exhibitors stopped by the table and told me how happy they were that I was finally able to show there. That means a whole heck of a lot to me...

I know I've said it every year, but I'll say it again, I love that crowd. That's a lot of good people, and so much fun to be around. I had a great time, though it was a seriously stressful weekend because one of my good buddies had a medical emergency, so I spent 5+ hours of my Saturday night (and into Sunday morning!) in the ER... (he's okay now, whew!)

Business-wise, well... you could hear the crickets chirping sometimes at the show. It was less crowded than other years, I would have to say. There are a number of reasons for that, which is a long topic in itself and not something I have any need to blog about. Again though, the winds of change are blowing, the guild is undergoing some major changes, and I think this show is going to evolve considerably in the next few years. I have already signed up for my table for next year. It will be in Reno, the first weekend in February.

How about some pics?

Here's a view out the window of the bus in the Sierras on Thursday morning. Barely a sprinkling of snow out there, which is quite a contrast from other years. The drive was totally fine that day, and actually no chains were required on the way back either. So yes, I could have driven myself (I waffle about this every year) and I would have taken more "stuff" if I had driven (like my microscope) but considering I slept for half the bus trip, both ways, and it only costs $35/round trip, it's a pretty sweet deal. And there weren't more than about a dozen people on it, so it's pretty nice!

This isn't a great pic because the bus windows are reflecting, but those are some seriously strange clouds I was seeing as the bus approached Reno.

Here's the view out the window of the Nugget on the morning I arrived. It started to snow in the mountains not too long after this. And then there was a huge fire too...

The sunset on Friday, more snow in the mountains that day!

My table, which looks a lot like my table at Blade Show...

Snow! This was Monday late afternoon, taken through the bus window near Boomtown. I fell asleep shortly after crossing the state line, and woke up in Roseville. Yeah... I like the bus. :-)

And I know, just like every other year, you probably think I go to these things just to hang out with a bunch of guys all weekend (pics from last year here). ;-)

John Barraclough, me, Ray Phillips:

Tira Mitchell, Rod Cameron, me:

Tim Wells, me:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

no time for blogging!

There isn't a whole lot to say, and there isn't anything to update. I'm off to Reno for the Firearms Engraver Guild of America show tomorrow... my fifth year in attendance but first time exhibiting. I have more luggage than I know what to do with, and will be taking the bus because I'm a wimp who's never driven in snow, and it looks like it's FINALLY going to snow over the pass this weekend... so this will be an adventure!

Wish me luck! :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

upcoming stuff

January 20-22, 2012: I will be exhibiting (yes, exhibiting! FINALLY! Not just a visitor!) at the Firearms Engravers Guild of America show in Reno, Nevada. It's at the Nugget. Hours are as follows:
Friday noon - 9pm
Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 10am - 5pm
It's $20/day admission, and I have a few guest passes if you have an inclination to come visit me. If you've ever been to a typical "gun show" this is NOTHING like it, these are finely engraved guns at their best... jaw-dropping incredible work that gets handled with white gloves. It's well worth seeing! And besides, how could you not want to come hang out with me for a while? :-)

January 28, 2012: For the first time in several years I'll be showing birds at the PPBA show in Stockton. Usually this show conflicts with FEGA but this year it doesn't. The show is open from 9am til 5pm at the fairgrounds. There will be probably about 3000 birds there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12 work in progress

Ooookay, let's see if I can get back on track with blogging and scrimshawing and everything else.

When I was a kid I had a toy airplane that I recall being quite fond of. It was dark blue shiny metal on top, light blue plastic underneath, had a black and white checkerboard pattern around the nose, and had funny bent wings. Little did I know that my cherished toy was a model of an F4U Corsair. I know that now, and there's a little bit of glee in depicting "my" special airplane (though this one doesn't have the checkerboard pattern).

There is quite a bit of work yet to go on this side. The ocean will be darker and choppy, and the sky will be full of clouds.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

selling birds

Hmm, good thing I didn't make a resolution to be better about blogging, or I'd be seriously failing already... ;-)

I am trying to spread the word about this as much as possible, so I'm posting it here for the chicken folks who read this. I am selling many (most?) of my birds. As much as I would like to continue to raise the four varieties of Rosecombs, it's really not feasible for me to try to take them all with me when I move. None of my current chicken coops can be transported, so I'm going to have to start from scratch (aaaack) and I can't deal with that many birds.

My plan, which is admittedly wishy washy, is to keep the BBRed flock (about 20) plus a handful of Blacks and Brassies for the purpose of crossbreeding with the BBReds as needed. But everything else... most of the Blacks, all the Blues, the extra BBReds, and almost all the Brassies and Blue Brassies... they need to go.

Selling the Brassies and Blue Brassies feels somewhat like cutting off a body part, so if you are under the impression that I really don't want to part with them, you are correct. But if the right person is out there who will continue my 16 years of work with them, I will sell them. Otherwise, I will not. I'm not going to have another Red Pyle incident... where I sold the whole flock and the buyer promptly dropped off the face of the earth, apparently taking the birds with him. I have too much invested in them to let the bloodline disappear. So if there is a serious committed breeder out there who has been admiring them for years and would like to raise them, I will consider offers on the whole flock. Or half the flock. But I will not sell them off one bird at a time.

The whole chicken aspect of the move is really extremely daunting, I keep thinking it would all be pretty easy except for that. But I REALLY want to continue working with the BBReds so I'm determined to make this work somehow. Let me just say, chicken house costs... holy cow. All proceeds from selling birds are going toward a new chicken house.

Anyway, go to my website to see the sale birds.