Country Living Series

Friday, January 19, 2018

Q&A: Jersey Giant chickens

Question from a reader:

I've been wanting to buy some Jersey Giant chickens for a while now. When I saw you got them I was thrilled. Could you tell me how they are doing? How do they deal with Idaho winters, their temper, how many eggs. Are they overall a healthy chicken? Would love some feedback on that. Thanks!

We've Jersey Giants for almost three years now. So far we've been very satisfied with them as a breed.

The females aren't especially large -- the same size as our one Black Australorp hen -- but the roosters are very big. At the moment we have way too many roosters -- five -- two of whom are our "herd sires" and the other three of whom we're waiting to reach their full size to butcher. We haven't butchered any of our own birds yet, but these boys look like they'll dress out at about ten pounds or a bit under. Jersey Giants take about nine months to reach their full growth, but unlike the fast-growing Cornish Crosses, they stay healthy instead of having their bodies fall apart.

We have not found the roosters to be at all aggressive to people; which, considering their size, is a durn good thing. The roosters tend to fight with each other, so one of our future projects is a rooster house where we can raise young roosters away from the older boys (and the hens) until they're of butchering weight.

The hens lay brown eggs, sometimes faintly speckled, of regular size (not especially big). They're just as good layers as any other breed of hen we've ever had.

One advantage of the ladies is they go broody at the drop of a hat, which is why I've taken to calling Jersey Giants the triple-purpose breed: meat, eggs, broodiness. Having hens so willing to hatch and rear their own chicks is a great contributor toward a sustainable chicken venture, IMHO.

While this winter has been fairly mild so far, last winter was quite bad: Lots of snow, lots of cold. The chicken coop is not heated, and the birds all did fine.

They're a healthy breed and we haven't noticed any problems with how they grow or mature. Overall I've been quite pleased with Jersey Giants, and I'm sure we'll be even more so when we get into full meat production (hopefully this year).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Q&A session?

A reader just posted the following:

Patrice, this is off subject but would you ever consider a post that just answers questions? We are about to head up to Idaho for our fourth time in as many months and planning a move. But as you wrote that you were driving a 2k car, we are completely ignorant as to what vehicle we need in Northern Idaho. I was assuming a heavy 4 wheel drive but it doesn't sound like that is what you drive. Many other people probably have questions also. Thanks.

Hmmm. This might be an interesting idea. Does anyone have questions they'd like me to answer, to the best of my ability? (I reserve the right not the answer anything I don't want to, LOL. You can't have our bank account number, for example.)

To answer this gentleman's question: We live 1.5 miles off-road, meaning we can easily get snowed in during wintry weather (until some hardworking neighbors team up to plow everyone out). We've always used smallish vehicles that are high-clearance, four-wheel drive, and hatchback (the better for loading chicken feed or wood). Until it died, we had a Hundai Tucson that was the toughest little beast you ever saw. Armed with studded tires and chains, it handled all kinds of hairy road conditions. That said, we also know when to stay home.

While a beefy pickup truck has its uses -- and we have one -- it's impractical for day-to-day driving. My auto preference is for a high-clearance vehicle as opposed to, say, a low-slung sedan. We currently have two inexpensive vehicles, both costing $2000 from used-car lots: a Hundai Santa Fe (technically Younger Daughter's vehicle) and a 2000 Dodge Durango.

Hope this helps.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What do you DO with all that money?

An article came out a few days ago on how Jeff Bezos, the founder of, is now one of the richest persons on the planet with a fortune of $106 billion.

Putting aside his ethics and morals and other human considerations, this article leads to an interesting question: What do you DO with that much money?

I mean really, what? I realize at some level wealth starts to beget wealth, but at what point is it too much? You could purchase the most expensive houses on the planet, the most expensive vehicles, the most expensive electronics -- and then what? There comes a point where additional purchases make no sense.

Wealth acquisition and distribution is an interesting study. According to Quora:
If you were to redistribute all the wealth in the world equally to everyone, it will eventually come back to the current distribution. And believe it or not, that is not a global conspiracy, but a natural distribution. It was discovered by Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto.

The Pareto Distribution and its evolving variations: the 80/20, which becomes 90/10, continuing to 95/5 and eventually 99/1. This is a universal distribution system and thus also applying to wealth distribution.

The gap is actually getting wider because the wealth mentality creates a positive leverage and an increased upward momentum, while the poverty mentality creates a negative leverage and a increased downward momentum.

In other words the two worlds move apart from each other, as more wealth (growth) is created. This trend is clearly apparent in the evolution of the universal distribution model.
That's nice, but again: What do you DO with all that money?

ThinkAdvisor puts the spending of the richest Americans into 14 categories: Home improvement, household staff, education, gambling, collectibles, clothing, jewelry, automobiles, boats, entertainment, vacation or leisure travel, club memberships, charitable contributions, and political contributions. (More ridiculous examples are found here.)

But once all those things are purchased, are they worth it? I'm sure you've heard this story:
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

The businessman was astonished. “Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?”

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled. “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
The topic of wealth came up a few days ago between Don and I when he told me an acquaintance of ours -- who is not struggling financially -- had won $80,000 at a casino and promptly bought a new car.

"That's funny," I said (at the time, we were driving to church in our $2000 car). "A new car is about the last thing I'd spend money on."

Our discussion then turned to what we would do if we had a sudden $80,000 windfall. We grew very quiet for a few moments as we both struggled to come up with something.

"Pay off the mortgage," we both concluded, followed by making a few cosmetic improvements to the house. Beyond that, sock it away for our retirement.

We have no desire or need for household staff, additional education, gambling, collectibles, clothing, jewelry, cars, boats, fancy entertainment, club memberships, or political contributions. It would be nice to do some leisure traveling and have more money for charitable contributions, but that's about it.

Which is probably why we're not rich, either. We simply don't desire it.

Of course, by every yardstick out there, we're really really rich in everything else that matters.

And I'm willing to bet Jeff Bezos doesn't get sunsets as pretty as ours.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The eagle has landed

Over the years, I've tried to make it a policy never to step foot outside without my camera in my pocket. This is because I never know what kind of interesting or exciting thing might suddenly happen, such as the cows playing tag with a magpie.

Well the other morning I couldn't find my camera, so I shrugged and went about my usual barn chores. Then -- wouldn't you know it -- while I was standing in the corral filling the water tank, a bald eagle flew right over my head and landed on a tall pine next to the barn. And I didn't have my camera. It would have been a perfect shot.

I was kicking myself for missing that photo, and once again promised myself to take my camera every time I step foot outside. Which is how, while driving to town yesterday, I happened to see another bald eagle swoop in and land on a tree overlooking the road. This time I was ready.

My usual procedure when faced with situations like this is not to worry about distance, blurriness, or shooting through the car's windshield (as I was doing). It's just to point and shoot at first, then later try to improve the situation and get better photos. That way, if (in this case) the eagle flew away before I could get closer, at least I had a long-distance blurry photo through the car's windshield.

But the eagle stayed put as I got onto the highway, so I stopped on the shoulder nearer the tree.

I took a few photos, more or less identical, then proceeded into town to do my errands. But on the way back, the eagle was still there.

Feeling satisfied I at last got my eagle photo, I went on my way. I got barely a hundred yards down the road when yet another eagle swooped in and landed on a tree across the road.

Y'know, I really love living in Idaho.

And it sure helps having a camera.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The aging, sagging fruits of feminism

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled "The Aging, Sagging Fruits of Feminism."

As often happens with my WND columns, I received an email from my long-time ├╝ber-liberal reader Robert (all spelling in the original) in which he drags in all kinds of weird offbeat issues I never addressed in the column:
Hello Patrice ! You know, you’re absolutely right . In order to make women happy again, we need to go back to the good old days when women knew their place , stayed at home, raised the children , did all the housework and were not allowed to go to college, graduate, law and medical school,

were their husband’s chattel, couldn’t vote , couldn’t own property , and the only jobs they could get were schoolteachers and nurses . We mustn’t allow uppity women to get divorced, even if their husbands are beating them and their children , and we must allow men to rape their own

wives if they don’t want to have sex .

We must get rid of all women doctors, lawyers, politicians, businesswomen , entrepreneurs , scientists etc . And if they’re not married , we must force husbands on them by law . And all lesbian women must be put in jail for life , or God will punish America !

We must make abortion illegal again, and also contraceptives, because we don’t want women to have sex for pleasure, do we ! And we must also make sex before marriage illegal, especially for women, but not men . In order to keep women from having abortions, we must make it mandatory

to keep every woman and girl of childbearing age under surveillance 24/7 to make sure they’re not having illegal sex . And once a woman or girl is found to be pregnant, we must keep her in a pregnancy center 24/7 under constant surveillance just to make sure she’s not seeking an abortion .

But once she gives birth , she’s on her own. If she can’t provide decent food, shelter, housing and medical care for that baby, tough noogies . At least she didn’t ave an abortion .

We need to create an anti-abortion police to keep every inch of US territory under constant surveillance just to make sure no women are having illegal abortions, and this force must be made of men only . We must secure the borders of Mexico and Canada just in case some woman or girl might be seeking

an illegal abortion abroad . And all women of childbearing age must be examined for pregnancy if planning to fly to any foreign country . At the airports .

Once we do this, all women in America will;l be so happy and filled with joy ! And we must keep every home in America under constant surveillance just to make sure women aren’t masturbating. If they do, they should be given a mandatory ten year prison sentence !

USA,USA, USA !!! Now America will be the freest and happiest country on earth ! No more rights for blacks either . We must return to slavery . No more rights for Jews, either . Or Hispanics, or Muslims etc . From now on, only white, heterosexual Christian males who are land owners

allowed to vote etc . All homosexuals and trans people are to report immediately to government execution centers for immediate liquidation ! No more welfare, food stamps , government health care ! No financial aid for college, graduate, medical or law school !

If you cannot afford health care , tough noogies . If you cannot afford to send your children to college or beyond, tough noogies ! This is the only way America can avoid socialism, which invariably leads to the tyranny of communism !

If you are not a rich, white , heterosexual Christian male , you are now a second class citizen ! Orders of president Donald Trump . Heil Trump ! Sieg Heil !

Your friend, Robert
Shortly after this first email, he followed up with another:
Hello Patrice ! Here is an addition to the last email I sent you about your condemnation of feminism . I found it on Facebook some time ago , and it's a perfect description of just how horribly
primitive and regressive the GOP has become .

Dear Republican Party :Please take away our right to choose what we can or can't do with our bodies .

Please tell us when and how to have sex and what we should do about contraceptives .

If we have sex contrary to your wishes , please make us feel ashamed and guilty about it .

Please celebrate the most ignorant among us and continue to use us against ourselves , because

Sarah Palin speaks for us all .

Please take away our rights, our health care , and our ability to think .

Also, can you please tell us how to dress and limit our pay

and take away education for our children .

Sincerely yours, Republican women .

Why do so many women in America continue to vote GOP (gross old perverts ) ?

They are shooting themselves sin the foot ! And this includes YOU , my dear !

Gosh, Robert is SO persuasive. That's it, he's convinced me of the error of my ways. Forget all this conservative Christian stuff. I'm gonna become a feminist atheist and vote for Hillary next time.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

It's so quiet around here

I imagine many of you have been wondering if I fell off the face of the earth. My apologies for being so quiet on the blog!

As you can imagine, it was busy here in the Lewis household over Christmas and New Year's -- but now it's quiet. Maybe too quiet? Both our daughters are now back in their respective jobs: Older Daughter in New Jersey, Younger Daughter in Illinois.

Having the girls home was wonderful. We didn't do anything special, but they were just so gloriously there, if you know what I mean. They were both able to recharge their batteries and head back to their respective jobs refreshed and ready to tackle the new year.

Mr. Darcy, of course, thought it was absolutely bliss having new playmates at home. He learned all kinds of new tricks we'll have to train him out of.

We took Older Daughter back to the airport on January 1. We took Younger Daughter back yesterday. No matter how festive they make the airport, it's hard to watch one's children fly away.

Don and I are used to a quiet household. After all, when Younger Daughter departed for boot camp last fall, we were by ourselves for three months. We adapted to being empty nesters quickly, in part because we're so busy.

But when the girls left this time, little things jolted me. Older Daughter sat in this chair with her laptop on the table. When she left, the chair was still pushed back. Jolt!

Younger Daughter left a pair of favorite ratty shoes in the living room. Jolt!

The tea strainers both girls use when they're home were left in the dish rack. Jolt!

Younger Daughter and I left the house at 4:30 am yesterday morning to get her to the airport in time for her flight. Then yesterday evening we had 20+ neighbors here for our weekly potluck. It's not like we have no friends around. But still, we miss our girls. I'm just glad they're doing so well in their respective careers.