Feeding Chickens

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In March, I asked readers to walk through a ranch project with me. The first part of the project followed a progression of sedums from sprout to bloom. The project concluded by transplanting sedums to a spot on the ranch — Dad’s Cactus Ridge — where no sedums grow.

This post shares the transplanting story and much more. 

The post, Saturday Sedum Watch at the Lost Madrone Ranch: March 4, 2017, outlined the process of transplanting sedums.

  1. Lift the plants by the handful as easy as picking up food off a plate.
  2. Throw the sedums in an empty feed bag and let them fall into individual strands.
  3. Head to the location for spreading sedums.
  4. Scatter the sedum strands as if feeding chickens.

When I described scattering sedums as if feeding chickens, I had never actually fed chickens. The description was merely an image I thought illustrated what flinging sedums looked like.

But, guess what?

Now, we have chickens!

Remember the #1 rule from my post on Longhorns?

(click here to read How an 1800lb Animal Can Comfort Your Life)

No naming the Longhorns or they would be pets.

Within the hour our first Longhorns arrived, they all had names, and we had pet longhorns.

Meet our pet chickens.

Hei Hei.

Hei Hei is named after the crazy chicken in the Disney movie Moana.

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Of course, this chicken was named by Alexandra, an ardent Disney fan. Her high school yearbook says it all:  “Most likely to be a Disney Princess.”

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Hamilton.

Hamilton was also named by Alexandra.

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We call the musical Hamilton Alexandra’s grown up version of the Lion King — her favorite Disney movie. Just as she memorized every word in the Lion King by age 4, she knows every one of the 20,520 words in the musical Hamilton. On July 27th, Alexandra and Jim will be in New York to see Hamilton on Broadway as her college graduation present.

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Jefferson.

Again, Alexandra named Jefferson.

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She says it is a nod to me, being a University of Virginia alumni and Mr. Jefferson fan, but I think she just wanted to name another chicken after another character in Hamilton.

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Kung Pao.

Because it is funny. At least when you say “chicken” after it.

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I am convinced Kung Pao is a rooster.

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Fresh eggs are the purpose for us having chickens so this would not be helpful to the endeavor. When I pronounce this claim of having a rooster in the mix, Jim just responds, “and you are a chicken expert?” We will find out in the coming months.

Patty.

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What else would true Spurs fans name an Australian chicken? Patty is an Australian Australorp. For those not from San Antonio, Spurs point guard, Patty Mills, hails from Australia.

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When we first came home with chicks, they lived in Ranger’s old dog crate because they needed a cozy space with a heat lamp and constant care.

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They explored the yard under our careful watch,

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until they were ready for their new home.

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Now, they live at the ranch full time in their super chicken coop next to our garden and shed.

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Jim selected the location and built the coop over several trips to the ranch.

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It sits in front of a tree for shade, and behind is a beautiful view of the Texas Hill Country.

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The coop is tricked-out on the inside,

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and we’re praying it is predator proof from the outside.

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They are a funny flock to watch.

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They follow each other around as a group,

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and Hamilton and Jefferson are inseparable.

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They have neighbors along the back screen of their coop.

Look closer and find the Titmouse perched next to its nest.

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And, they have a resident Charlotte watching over them.

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Our chickens aren’t ready to free range during the day, so I still haven’t scattered chicken feed using the flinging method, but I did fling sedums a few weeks ago.

As the peak bloom period for the sedums was ending, I grabbed an empty feed bag and headed to the back corner of the property.

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As outlined above, transplanting is simple.

The first steps are to lift and toss in the bag.

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With a full feed bag of sedums in hand, I headed to Dad’s Cactus Ridge.

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The ridge is a narrow stretch of land, with a ranch road along one side

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and expansive views of the western hilltops and canyons on the other.

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So, why is it called Dad’s Cactus Ridge?

Here is the story.

My father loved to visit the ranch, and during one of his visits, the lace cacti were blooming.

He marveled at their beauty as everyone does.

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We were driving along the ridge when he saw one of the bright pink flowers, and he called for me to stop so he could get out and take a photo.

Mom and I stayed in the vehicle, not paying attention as he wandered across the rocky ridge.

After a few minutes passed, we turned around, and my mom laughed out loud.

Dad was down on the ground taking pictures of a cactus up close.

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A former Baylor football player, my Dad was physically big and strong. A courageous leader in his profession, he commanded the impression of being fearless. But, when it came to the spiders and bugs at the ranch, he was a chicken.

Knowing this, my mom could not stop laughing at my Dad hunched over on the ground among cacti and critters.

I jumped out of the Mule and snapped a picture of him taking pictures.

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We laughed about the story over time, and that is how the ridge got the name, Dad’s Cactus Ridge.

My father was my teacher to always look closer — to “see” deeper, not only things but issues and people.

I didn’t know at the time how much I would cherish the photo that marked the spot where Dad was taking pictures.

Several years later, the first time I was back at the ranch following my father’s funeral, I was driving around the ranch alone, reflecting in the spring sunshine.

As I rode along the ridge, a pop of pink caught my eye. There was the cactus Dad was photographing in full bloom.

I walked out to it, not sure what to make of the experience, as it was the only lace cactus blooming on the entire ranch.

I don’t fully understand moments of meaningful coincidence, but I cherish them as special in some unknowable way.

Dad’s cactus died a few years later, but the decaying spines are still there.

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Not using my transplant method of tossing sedums, I figured I would purposefully plant a few sedum clumps near that spot.

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As I lifted rocks to place the clumps, I noticed new baby lace cacti starting to grow near Dad’s cactus.

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That made me smile.

To transplant the remainder of the ridge, I used the feeding chickens method.

I split open the bag, reached in,

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and tossed.

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It was a breezy day on the ridge, so the wind broke apart the roots bound by clods of dirt and spread the sedums further than my throwing.

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It surprised me how much area one feed bag full of sedums covered.

When the bag was empty, a noticeable smattering of sedums lay along the ridge.

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The ridge is lovely without sedums,

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but the ridge with hints of yellow is a bit brighter.

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In the years to come, I look forward to a large swath of yellow shining from Dad’s Cactus Ridge.

My father fed people through his ministry and daily life, and he made the world more beautiful for many. The splendor on the ridge will remind me of Dad’s brilliant light in the world.

And, I will think of the children’s book I referenced in my first sedum story, Miss Rumphius, and more importantly, the challenge presented in it.

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The main character, Alice, fulfilled her childhood dreams to go to faraway places and live by the sea, but she also followed her grandfather’s advice to do a third thing — “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” She ordered bushels of seeds and spent the summer wandering the fields and highways, flinging handfuls of lupine seeds, like feeding chickens.

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Year after year there were more and more lupine flowers, and Alice had made the world more beautiful.

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As an old lady, Alice visits with her great-niece and her niece’s friends who want to hear Alice’s stories of faraway places.

At the end of the book, Alice tells her niece that she too must do something to make the world more beautiful.

“All right,” says little Alice. “But I do not know yet what that can be.”

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There are a lot of days when I think like little Alice.

“All right.”

“But I do not know yet what that can be.”

The sermon at my church this past week spoke to me on this subject. The pastor preached of finding our path forward, growing in moral courage, strengthening our volunteer service as a contribution of goodness, and being a leader who serves.

For those who know me, you know I’ve traveled the volunteering path, working with mentors and friends to promote voluntarism in our community and signing up when I can to serve.

This set of napkins given to me by a friend says it well.

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But, what or who am I serving? Is it enough? What else?

This is a conversation I wrestle with.

A few years ago, I wrote a story I shared with friends and family where my mind went on a whirlwind on this very topic. I asked whether my energies were focused in the right direction, how do I prioritize what is important, how do I choose where I will make a difference? I love and believe in the causes I have worked for, but is there another something I should spend my life supporting?

These were the conversations I would have with my father when I shared the burning inside that called me to do something important and make a difference. I could never conclude what the important something was, and I envied the people who knew their entire lives what they wanted to do and ended up happy doing it.

My father would tell me I would figure it out and that is part of the journey. He would often say I was doing something important at that particular time by being the best mother I could be, and he would reassure me in my choice to put parental responsibilities on top of my priorities.

Being a Mom has been my most important life’s work.

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For now. What else? What next?

On the same day that my mind went on a whirlwind about priorities, I wrote about visiting my mom and reflected on walking through the door of my mother’s “home.” The door is a portal to a different world, one filled with important people who did important things and made a world of difference in a world they can no longer remember. It is a world filled with challenges in meeting needs. Caregiving is a contribution made in love — for the tasks that need tending to require it for a job well done. A promise I made to my father, caregiving for my mom is on my current path forward.

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For now. What else? What next?

I believe there is more for me to do. But, like little Alice, I do not know yet what that can be.

Watching and spreading sedums drives me to think. The ridge will be more beautiful with bright spots of yellow, but more importantly, how can I be a light? Who will I feed? Where and how far can I scatter?

Do you ask these same questions? Where do you find answers?

Thanks for walking with me through my ranch stories as nature inspires me to think.

The journey continues.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Feeding Chickens

  1. Your words and photos met me this morning when I opened my email. Thanks for sharing your journey with candor and creativity. Inspiring way for me to start this day.

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  2. Karen,
    I, too, am volunteering and spending time with my mom, and, like you and the fictional Alice, I am trying to figure out my “next chapter”. I love your dad’s insight that figuring things out is part of the journey!
    –Alethea

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  3. Still crying afree 2 hours rea ding your blog…… oh how you touch lives…. your perspective is so heart felt. How I wish I could hug ya and have a cup of coffee with all of you at the ranch. To see your daddy… I can see him on the ground in my mind many times seeking the story. Last night I watched The 4th at the Capitol…1976..the 200th Birthday of the USA. ..we all sat on the lawn watching the fireworks the 7 of you and ..Scott and I were there visiting for a week +. Your mom is priceless.. hugging you both..so glad your daddy has you now to keep his bride safe and loved. ..

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    1. I remember 1976 on the mall watching fireworks for the 200th birthday! I love Texas but miss the 4th of July in Washington! Growing up I spent every 4th at the Washington monument and Capitol grounds and there is no celebration like it! Plan a trip to Texas and we will go to the ranch and have that coffee! Thanks.

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