Thursday, November 24, 2011


Had my sister, niece, and Ken's kids over for dinner today.  Ken made a wonderful turkey, I did the pies, Brenda brought our family's stuffing, yams, and an apple crisp, and of course we had all the other things.  It was nice to see everyone.  We've all been really busy.  I haven't seen Victoria, Beau, Brenda or Jasmine for months.

Guess I'm tired.  Not a lot to say, just some pictures.  Ken's wonderful turkey, and my "Christmas" cactus in bloom.  It seems to be a month off.

Work has been really busy.  But I got to drive up to Donnelly last Monday.  They had snow on the ground up there already.  It was a long drive but at least it was pretty.  This is snow falling over Cascade Lake (reservoir).  And the Payette River next to Crouch-Lowman highway.  What a difference from how high it was all this summer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Disappearing Chicken Mystery

Our five chickens are gone.  They disappeared two weeks ago, while I was at Asilomar and Ken was out for the evening.  At least that's when we think it happened.  Ken got home late and didn't go out to check on them until early afternoon.

The wire fence is about 4-4.5 feet tall.  We have fencing panels laid on the ground all around it to deter wild animals from digging under.  These hens don't perch in the tree at night like the old flock did.  The silly things don't even use their hutch.  They sleep on a pile of brush in the middle of the open area.  Sitting ducks for predators, so to speak.

After our last experience with 13 dead chickens lying all around the pen after a dog got in, we're pretty certain it wasn't a dog.  But we're not sure it was a wild animal either.  We're not so far into the country that it would be a wolf or a mountain lion, or even a coyote.  Far more likely to be a possum, fox, skunk or badger.  But there was no digging.  No scuffed or scraped areas to show something jumping over the fence.  No sign of forced entry - except one place where the top of the fence was bent over and there are two convenient logs to step on if you want to get over the fence.  Of course, a human could easily unfasten the gate.  It's just 10 feet along on that side of the pen.

The other evidence was feathers.  Lots and lots of feathers.  There were five little circles of larger feathers, as if something had pounced on each hen to take it away.  And lots of under-feathers along the inside of the fence, as if something had chased them around before catching them.  Either that or the wind had blown those feathers away from the other five spots.

There was one place along the outer edge of the fence that looked to me as if footsteps had bent the grass down, and there was a long narrow track of bent grass near the bent place in the fence, like a bicycle had sat there for a while.  It was frosty that night, and the bent grass in the track was more damaged than the grass around it.

You've probably guessed where I'm going with this.  We think it was a human.  Possibly one of our neighbors.  Ken has talked to the people around us, and there are stories of other problems with livestock that don't seem like accidents.  So we reported it to the sheriff deputy who took our report last year when the dog killed our previous hens.  We don't think he'll be out there solving the crime, but we hope it might add something to an accumulation of other incidents.  A bit worrying to think there's someone living nearby who appears to enjoy hurting animals.

So our egg surplus is gradually going away.  I "only" have about six dozen still in the fridge.  We'll be buying eggs at the store by New Years I'm guessing.

We're still considering if we even want to get more chickens this Spring.  We'd have to do something differently for them.  Something to keep them inside at night.  But if you make it so you have to go out twice a day to open or shut the hutch on them, it gets pretty hard to get away for an overnight trip.  It's a puzzle.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Asilomar Dance Weekend & Jury Duty

Carol and I had a great time at Asilomar last weekend.  We flew down Friday morning and spent the middle of the day walking around Cannery Row in Monterey.  We had a nice lunch right over the water, and poked into various shops.  I found a nice Indian cotton hankerchief to cover my neck against sunburn.  I'm not used to having short hair yet.  We looked for t-shirts but didn't see any that really grabbed us.

We arrived at Asilomar around 4-ish and checked in.  We were in Forest this year, rather than Woodside.  It's near Woodside, but much quieter.  Before dinner we went to the Asilomar Gift shop and looked at things.  It was so strange!  The sizes for t-shirts and sweatshirts were waaay off!  It was like being in an alternate universe.  I did buy a zip hoodie, but I got the extra-large, as it was the one that fit.  We both tried on things in our normal sizes and they just did not fit.  Unfortunately we had the same experience with the Asilomar dance workshop shirts.  The sizes were not even close.  My ladies large polo shirt fits much more like a fitted medium.  Hopefully it won't shrink and I can occasionally wear it for dance class. :-(

The weekend starts with Friday's dinner at 6pm, when you see all the dance friends you haven't seen for months - or even since last year.  Then there's a welcome dance and ceilidh.  Saturday was non-stop.  Classes in the morning and afternoon, a quick run to the shop for dance CDs, the Teacher's Reception before dinner, and then the Ball.  The music was by Reel of Seven.  They were recording for a new CD.  I must keep an eye out for it - the music was wonderful.  One of the highlights of my evening was getting through a dance I hadn't done for ages, Swiss Lassie, with Lyle Ramshaw.  Thank-you Lyle for giving the right non-verbal cues when I needed them!  We had a great time.  All day the weather was cooler than usual, but very convenient.  It mostly rained while we were in classes or meals, and not when people were most likely to be outside.

At the afterparty a whole bunch of musicians showed up and they just played tune after tune.  I was really tired, so I went to bed long before most people.

The next morning was the combined class.  This is the chance for many people to dance with folks they didn't get to at the Ball.  I had at least three people tell me they hadn't recognized me right away because my hair is so different.  The teachers taught some fun dances that I want to teach to my class, among them Dunedin Quadrille, Carleton Jig, and Miss Florence Adams from Bk 38.  After lunch we were done.  The workshop just flew by!  Carol and I went down to the beach to soak our feet, hunt for shells, and take photos.  It was a much sunnier day than Saturday, as the storm had blown through by then.

We drove back to San Jose airport and flew home.  Arrived by 10:30-ish.  A looong day on only six hours sleep!

The very next morning I had to report for Jury Duty to the courthouse.  After going through the lawyer's questions they re-arranged our seating order and I was the 4th person after the first 15.  After a wait for the lawyers to decide who to challenge, they called out our numbers.  I was put into a jury!!  By this time it was about 1pm and we were told to have lunch then report back as the trial was going to begin that day!  We were surprised it was so fast.

The verdict came in yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, so I can tell you it was a murder trial.  We were to decided between 2nd degree murder or Voluntary Manslaughter.  They expected the trial to run until next week, so they kept all 15 of us in the courtroom.  We took lots of notes as all of the witnesses for the Prosecution were called up.  It's similar but not the same as what you see on TV.  There were lots of times we were sent out while things went on that we were not supposed to hear, and the Defense attorney did not ask nearly as many questions as I expected.  There was only one witness for the Defense - the Defendant himself.  His word against six others who were there, and all the technical experts.

I won't go into the whole thing here, but it was a very interesting story.  A bit like solving a murder mystery.  And of course we jurors were not allowed to discuss anything until we went into deliberations at the end.  Which was very hard for all of us, as you're just dying to talk about it!  But!!  Just before we were sent into deliberations they drew three numbers for the Alternate jurors.  The Alternates would not deliberate unless one of the regular jurors got sick or had an emergency.  And I was chosen as an Alternate!  ARgh!!!  So I couldn't even talk about the case with my fellow jurors!  I had to wait by the phone until the Bailiff called to either have me come take someone's place or tell me the verdict.

They went into deliberations on Wednesday afternoon and the Bailiff called Thursday to tell me the verdict was Guilty for 2nd degree murder.  I think there was some room to consider Voluntary Manslaughter, but in the end I agreed with them.  It was probably the right call.  Through-out our experience we had an absolutely great Bailiff, Ken.  He was cheerful, helpful, answered all our questions and made the process clear.  And the judge was also very good.  He explained things to us patiently, tried to move things along efficiently, and did not sit upon his dignity.  So in the end I had a good experience and I'd do it again.  But since I've now been on a jury, I won't get called again for 2 years.