Friday, October 23, 2009

Do you have a magnet?

While talking on the phone, my uncle walks past my living room window and knocks on the door.

'I have to go. I'll call you later.'

My uncle walks in, 'Do you have a magnet?'

'Sure. Why?'

'I was mowing and my keys fell out of my pocket somewhere in my yard.'

'Well, I'm making lunch, but after I'm done, I'll help you look. I'm not sure where my big magnets are, but I could help you best if I look where you mowed.'

'Sounds good.'

My uncle left the house in his faded, pocket-drooping, teal-blue Dickie pants and I followed him while my macaroni was cooking.

I returned to eat and in a short while, I'll join him to look for the keys.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Pecking Reorder

I open the egg door on my chicken coop and I see Molly gently extracting the yolk from an egg that Whipped Cream lay this morning.

I sigh thinking, 'I was hoping this is why I wasn't getting eggs.'

'It's time.'

I turn to the brooder where my two Americana hens are and I count back the months on my fingers, 'May, June, July, August, September, October...that's 20 weeks. It's time.'

Soon I move the big live trap near the brooder and open the water hatch. The hens know something is happening. I lift the big hatch and they cower near the water.

After I open the live trap door, I take one of the hens and move it to the trap. The door swings shut gently. I grab the other and nestle it, wriggling, near my chest as I put both in the live trap and move it to the chicken run.

Molly, being at the bottom of the pecking order, cowers in the coop unseen.

The two new hens calm down and look. The other hens and rooster move to investigate. Everything is relatively peaceful.


The sun shines brightly on a warm mid-autumn day. I retrieve a can full of chicken feed and pour it over the entire flock. The new hens eat in the live trap, the existing flock pecks and scratches.

'Molly. Where is Molly?' I wonder.

Using a broken shovel handle, I nudge Molly from the perch in the coop. She runs out ready for a melee, but none exists. She stumbles a little and drinks feverishly. She eats. She looks at the new hens.

There's an important stasis in the flock.

It looks like Sisu is molting and the rooster pecks playfully at her. Her golden brown feathers are scattered through the coop and the run and it looks like she just woke and needs to brush her feathers.

After patiently watching, I move the live trap and open the chicken run door. The live trap door opens and the new hens emerge quickly into the flock.


To promote peace, I dump several pounds of chicken feed on the floor of the run. Runt moves to peck at the smaller of the new hens. Molly enjoys freedom and eats voraciously.

The reorder is clear that the smaller, new hen is at the bottom.

After the bird's hunger is satiated, Molly uses her new position and eyes the new hens. I watch her moving towards them, now cowering in the corner of the run.

Crack! Molly grabs for neck feathers and the young hen squwacks loudly! The young hen nestles near her sister.

The rooster investigates and shows little interest, but provides a peck or two at the new hens to establish his presence. Something instinctive inside tells him, I think, to wait for a few days or weeks until they are ready to lay their first eggs.

Molly meanwhile, continues her pursuit as she enjoys her new position. She cracks out and grabs more neck feathers! The new hen escapes and tramples through the water pan.

Bored, Molly pecks at the food on the ground.

The pecking order is a function of deep seated, latent nature and cannot be avoided in a flock of chickens.

But Molly had to stop eating the eggs that I need to eat and she was desperate for relief from the pecking order. So I introduced the pair of new hens a few days early so that Molly could find her natural place and get a chance to thrive.

The new hens will continue to grow and a slower, natural re-ordering will occur. Perhaps Molly will once again be at the bottom, but she'll have status now and will not be banished to the coop.

As I write, I hear the occasional squwack from the coop outside as the pecking re-order continues.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The History of Highbridge Village

'Tim!' My second eldest aunt cries out in the eating area at church, 'I need you!' She giggles, 'I mean I need your help!'

She walks over and shares details of her latest project with me. 'There is not very much history on Highbridge Village in New Ipswich where Ma and Pa's farm used to be. I'm writing a history and I need your help with writing.'

Every time that I see Mildred now, she's smiling and energized with the daunting task of documenting the history of Highbridge Village in New Ipswich, NH.

Her work is a personal history of four Finnish families that moved from Worcester, MA and bought farms in Highbridge Village. Two farms, the Grandfors and Kangas's farm are not technically in Highbridge, but she's including their farms in the story.

A couple of weeks ago, she handed me her latest draft and I finally edited them today. We worked out the type of editing she wanted and she needs a contextual edit that digs deeply into the content, not simply a copy edit for grammar and style.

I marked up the six pages with small corrections and conceptual questions for her to consider. She impressively met each comment with previously thought-out responses. She's fully engaged and I, as editors often are, am along for the ride.

Some of her writing leads to larger topics such as the history of the school system in New Ipswich, but we would laugh a little and giggle as we stayed focused on the task. She would charm me with sayings like, 'This book isn't going to be finished until 2037!'

My grandmother who we called Aiti and I would travel back down memory lane when we talked. Working with my aunt brings back fond memories of my grandmother and it's an honor to help her write.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hunting in Dixie's Corn Field

My new smart phone has a built-in camera and I enjoy playing with the panorama feature.

Dixie's Cornfield in New Ipswich NH

The land in this image isn't technically Dixie's cornfield anymore, because she deeded the land to the Monadnock Conservation Commission.

But we townies will call it Dixie's for years to come.

Mark LeClair plants corn in the field every year and it's good to see this continue even after Dixie deeded the land.

One of my uncles owns the hill in the background and this location is a favorite hunting grounds for my family and friends.

Last fall, someone in my hunting party is watching the far end of the field.

Soon the radio crackles with profanity.

'What? What?' We ask.

'He's walking right towards me!' the voice strains in a hushed, frantic whisper.

'What is it?'


Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Unexpected Coolness of the Explore Page

When I teach photography classes, I reel off some simple ratios that are guidelines for anyone who makes images with a camera.

One or two of a hundred shots you will want to show your friends.

One or two of a thousand shots you might have published somewhere.

One or two of ten thousand shots National Geographic (for example) might consider for a story.

And apparently, one of fifty thousand shots can be the photo of a lifetime.

When I stood on the banks of the Souhegan River a few mornings ago, I wasn't feeling very well. I was facing some seasonal depression. I was brooding over my relationships. And although I saw the beauty, but details nagged at me in the composition. The cold dampness gnawed at my fingers.

Yet I clicked and clicked.

A couple days later after one of the photos was selected for the Flickr Explore page, nearly 2,000 people have looked at the image.

The accolades that I am receiving are interesting (and surely temporary) and soon enough, I expect to be aiming my camera to make images that I alone may love. In fact, it doesn't have to be anything more.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Seasons Change

I have much recent experience with grief, whether it be broken relationships, deaths in my family, changing employment, or other events that lead to change.

Researchers define five stages of grief to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and in the end acceptance. Grief takes a long time to work itself out and unpredictable episodes appear at the most unlikely times.

Right now I am grieving my employment change, but more importantly, I grieve the loss of summer. The air is cool and that makes me look forward to the hunting season, but the gradual seeping cold progresses further inward each day, until we're all bundled under layers of clothes.

If I had more initiative, I would explore a greater topic of 'America in Grief'. Think for a moment how many millions of people are affected in one way or the other by massive unemployment? Time Magazine is dedicating a year-long series to focus on our dying city in Detroit. Imagine the grief there.

However change leads to growth and as someone close to me explained this morning, 'You may not feel great right now, but growth doesn't always feel good.'

The key, I believe, is to remain honest with oneself and loved ones, and grow together.

A small silver lining when we grieve the season's changing in New Hampshire is that our colorful foliage becomes better than television.

I was grateful to capture this image at sunrise today. Enjoy.

Foggy Foliage Sunrise Over the Souhegan River 4