Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Green & Blue Honey?



According to France 24 International News, bees from a dozen apiaries in the Alsace region of France have been indulging in the waste from a M & M waste processing plant, which has resulted in their honey turning from golden yellow into some of M & M's favorite colors: green and blue. The honey has been deemed unsaleable even though it still tastes like honey.

The parent company, Mars, has not released any comment but the waste-processing plant, Agrivalor, said it will now keep the M & M waste in covered containers.

I wonder what color chicken eggs would turn if they had the same pool of candied water to indulge in? Would their eggs melt in your mouth and not in your hands?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Finding a New Home After Hurricane Sandy...for Chickens




Peg's Wyandotte                           Photo credit: Shobe Biz Communications
Hurricane Sandy Update:


Yesterday's Huffington Post article, Hurricane Sandy's NYC Death Toll Rises to 43; Northeast Still Cleaning Up After Devastation, stated that Hurricane Sandy killed a total of 121 people and caused an estimated  $50 billion in property damages and economic losses.

Four hours ago, CNN reported that some are still without power because internal equipment in their homes needs to be repaired first.

The New York Times reported that even though relocating the displaced has begun, tens of thousands of people are going to need homes.

Hurricane Sandy wreaked vast devastation to people and property, including devastation to chickens. Yes, chickens.

Yesterday's article in the New York Times, A Home for Them, And Their Chickens, reports about a couple, Hannah Kirshner and her boyfriend, Hiroshi Kumagai, who have been looking for a new home post Hurricane Sandy  for themselves and their four hens: Chicki Minaj, Hillary Chicken, Black Betty and Salt Hen Peppa aka Cookie Dough. They recognize that they may not be able to place their hens in a new home with them but that is their dream.

Read about the rescue of their hens through chest-high waters by a restaurateur and her partner and the hens' cohabitation with their seven cats!


Don't forget to "Like" Chicken Women on Facebook!





Monday, November 5, 2012

How The Chicken Conquered the World - Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian.com                                      Tim O'Brien
Chickens aren't chicken "little", that's for sure. In this enlightening articleHow the Chicken Conquered the WorldJerry Adler and Andrew Lawler discuss the importance of chickens throughout history. Although the article topically swerves around the page a bit, the writers included a vast amount of information. Chicken history is so long and entertaining that it must have been difficult to cull out and lineally represent its many facets.

Here is a recap of some of the highlights of the article:

-   According to archaeologists, chickens were first domesticated for cockfighting, not eating.

-  The chicken has inspired culture, art, cuisine, science and religion for over 1,000 years.

-  The hen is a symbol of nurturance and fertility.

-  Eggs hung in Egyptian temples were supposed to insure a "bountiful river flood."

- The rooster is a sign of virility and is considered to be a heralder of the turning point
   between darkness and light. (See Chicken Women's former post, Harbingers of the Sun).

-  Chickens accompanied Roman troops during wartime and were considered fortunetellers.
    A chicken's good appetite before battle foretold a likely victory.

-  Pope Nicholas I decreed that a rooster figure should be placed on every church roof as a
   reminder of Peter denying Jesus "before the cock crows." That's why many churches have
   rooster-shaped weather vanes on their roofs.

-  An artistic rendering in a first century A.D. mosaic in a house in Pompeii depicts a
   cockfight.

-  The chicken came from the Gallus gallus or Red Junglefowl, as theorized by Charles
   Darwin and recently proven by DNA analysis.

-  In 2004, the complete genome of the chicken was mapped by international geneticists.

- The chicken was the first domesticated animal, first bird, and first descendant of the
  dinosaur. It probably began in the Indus Valley. (See Chicken Women's former
  post, The Distinction of Extinction.)

- Egyptians mastered the art of artificial chicken incubation.

- Chickens were a Roman delicacy, including mashed chicken brains.

- A Roman law in 161B.C. limited chicken consumption to one (1) per day.

- Roman cooks discovered that castrated roosters became fat--thus, the capon.

- European chicken status collapsed with the fall of the Roman Empire.

- Some archaeologists believe that Polynesians brought chickens to the Pacific coast of the
  New World.

- Greenfire Farms in Florida sells very exotic and heritage breeds.

- Since 1987 when Kentucky Fried Chicken opened the first KFC in Beijing, 3,000 KFC's
  have been founded in China. KFC is now more profitable in China than the United States.

All these yummy facts are making me hungry, for eggs that is, not chicken. Although after looking at the Greenfire Farms website, I may just have to order another chick or two.





Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Autumn Revolt: The Molt

Zazouse's chicken on Backyard Chickens.com Wins the Worst Chicken Molt Picture


Oh. Oh. It's like the Hans Christen Andersen's children's story, The Emperor's New Clothes. Is anyone going to tell this chicken that she's naked?

It's that time of year when some of our chickens (none of mine, yet, because it's been warm here) are starting to lose their feathers. This picture by Zazouse on Backyard Chickens won the prize for the worst molt.  

Cuba: Where Chickens Run Wild in the Streets

Copyright Mallory on Travel

Photographer, adventure traveler, and blogger Iain Mallory wrote blog article, Cuba in Black-and-White: A Portrait, about his travels to Cuba. His photographs and accompanying text tell a compelling story of Cuba. Mallory also mentions that chickens run wild in the streets of Cuba. He says that "Women purchase their shopping from small roadside counters, carrying live chickens home, grasped tightly in small but work roughened hands, the birds hanging by their feet." 

Friday, October 19, 2012

inmod Egg Chair



I'm not exactly a modern girl. I like my furnishings to have the patina of love and time. When someone walks into my house, I like nothing more than if they flip off their shoes and sink onto the sofa, plop onto a floor pillow, or twirl contentedly around in the stool at my kitchen bar. Absolutely everyone who walks into my home has license to open up the refrigerator door, pull out a snack or two, and cook up a quick dinner. Perhaps it's my Midwestern roots, but mi casa es su casa hangs intangibly above my every door.

Antique stores, thrift stores, grandma's garages, and friend's attics--I love them all for ferreting out furnishings for my home. The seeking out of great things can be almost addictive in nature. I've found that there's always another great knick-knack to be found behind the next door.

But, as much as I love the old, I also love the new. And, perhaps that's where my "other style" comes in. I can't stand clutter. I love clean lines. Symmetry? Well, how I could not love that? It's so darn easy on the eye.

Which leads me, in my inner interior designer desires, to crave having a home furnished with modern decor. There's something so refreshingly new, sterile, and untouched about it. The lines are simplistic and clean. And, it makes you feel young and contemporary.

I'm torn that way. It must the Libra in me. I love old-fashioned rural living with a wrap-around porch and the sound of an owl hooting me to sleep at night. But, I also believe I could live in the city, in an urban highrise, a  loft with sky-high ceilings and furnishings that are simple and clean and like...well, like the inmod's Egg Chair. Just check it out. Can't you just imagine kicking off your shoes after a long day's work and slipping into this egg? And, best yet, you can load up some tunes on iTunes and relax to the sounds of your fav band. Van Morrison, The Animals, or Snow Patrol in the egg? Nothing greets you better after a long day.

If you've ever been to The Standard in downtown Los Angeles and imbibed in a drink on its rooftop, you know what I mean. (And, if you haven't, I highly recommend it.) The Standard's decor is very modern, very clean, so L.A. If you can pull yourself away from the bar and The Standard's mighty drinks,  walk poolside and grab one of the giant shell pods that are filled with water cushions (up to four can fit inside). Just be careful, because after a drink or two, a decidely unlady-like position ensues in order to extricate yourself from the undulating water pod.

Besides the awkward position, you don't quite know whether to lie down or sit, there's something about its style that works perfectly with the egg chair.  The Standard's pod is a whole egg and the inmod's chair is a half egg. Whether whole or half, they both evoke urban chic.

Or, maybe that's urban chick.

And, if I'm honest, that is the only way I would migrate to the city--if zoning laws allowed me to bring my flock along.  After all, "home" for me doesn't require ruby slippers. It only needs my hens, a backyard coop and a house filled with family, friends, and good food. . .

and maybe an inmod chair. Now where would I put it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chickens Offer Support to Children with Autism and Aspergers

Peg's Buff Orpington                    c Shobe Biz Communications

For us chicken owners, we already know how chickens affect our lives. We can be in the lousiest of moods and all we need to do is head to the coop or walk to where the chickens are free ranging, and we will soon erupt in smiles and giggles. Chickens really do some of the zaniest things. They light up our lives with their antics.

It wasn't until recently that I heard of therapy chickens. Oh, sure. I've met therapy dogs and even a rabbit or two, but therapy chickens? I first heard about them while I was interviewing Ruth Haldeman, the creator of chicken diapers, who sells her product via chickendiapers.com.  Ruth said that she receives orders for chicken diapers for therapy chickens so that the hens may be brought into institutions and homes without any mishaps.

Are therapy chickens becoming a trend? Perhaps so. The Missoulian posted a video clip on their website about Jana Clairmont who takes her two chickens, Alex and Carlita, to seniors at the Poison Health and Rehabilitative Center. The chickens let the seniors pet them, talk with them and receive comfort from them.

The Chicken Whisperer has a Therapy Chicken Facebook page that supports comments about therapy chickens. One woman wrote in that a bipolar woman used to rely on her chickens for comfort, that was until they were taken away. Another woman says that her seven-year old autistic daughter has a hen as her best friend.

In fact, chickens helping children with autism and Aspergers seems to be growing. In a report in the Examiner, a two-year old autistic boy in Florida was learning socialization and eye contact through his hens, that was until the city cited the family for having chickens in their backyard. The family fought the restriction by noting that the chickens were helping their autistic child as well as providing an organic food source for their child. The city was reviewing their ordinance when the chickens were brutally slaughtered. Now, the community is flocking together to bring the family new chickens.

According to PetChicken.com, chickens serve a very real purpose for autistic children or children with Aspergers. "An autistic or Aspergers individual inherently needs to be assisted away from over fixation on the inner self. This encouragement to outward awareness and not to fear it can be found in the antics and curious jerky head motions that catch the eye made by all chickens. It is so captivating and funny. They will insatiable draw the autistic into attention to and care for the chickens in a way that will be a mutual bond that will last...Chickens, as with most pets, will coax a special needs child to innately accept that there is fascinating 'chaos' in life and that unpredictable things will occur with fun result."

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released that 1 in every 88 American children has an autism spectrum disorder. This number is a ten-fold increase over the last 40 years with improving diagnosis being only one of the reasons that this statistic has increased so much. With these staggering autism numbers, it seems that therapy chickens may have to be on the rise.

How do you raise a therapy chicken? There isn't much information on this but Hope Farm Projects Therapeutic Farm  (Elizabeth, CO), a 105-acre farm owned by Teri Allen, is doing what it can to support the raising and training of therapeutic chickens. It also has a therapeutic riding program; a job skills training program for people with disabilities; an animal rescue; therapy horses; and other small therapy animals like pigs, goats, llamas and ducks.

If you have more information about therapy chickens, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Eggshell Sculptor



As a child, I always dreamed of crafting the perfect Ukrainian egg. Dying Easter eggs American-style had. . .well, it had no style. Throw a little dye into vinegar and water and dip the egg into the concoction and viola, you have a single colored egg. Sure, I got creative by dipping each end into different colors and creating stripes. I also used wax crayon to draw pictures on the eggs before dying them.  I even boiled down onion skins and beets until they were a soft yellow and purple for more natural-looking dyed eggs. They were pretty, but nothing awe inspiring. Dying Easter eggs was ho-hum boring.

That was until I got turned onto Ukrainian eggs. Now, those are beautiful eggs, with the artistry and the refined movements it takes to create them. I bought the "how-to" Ukrainian egg design kit, of course, with its myriad of implements and complicated directions. I spent a small fortune on it. The problem was that I never got around to using it. I only ever got around to blowing the eggs out of their shells, opening the implement box, reading the directions, and then tucking it all back inside and putting it back into the closet.  I kept that kit for years, trying to convince myself that I would create a Ukrainian egg. No such thing happened. One day I decided to throw out the kit--delusion over. I decided I needed to stick to visiting the Faberge egg collections at museums.

My interest in egg design was reignited when a person recently sent me the link to and photo of the Eggshell Sculptor, Gary LeMaster. Gary's a native New Zealander, now Iowa City resident, who has mastered the art of sculpting eggs. His art is so unique and interesting that it even earned him recognition and a short segment on the History Channel.

Through the use of dental tools for fine drilling, LeMaster crafts exquisite eggshell art.  Although his career started off in another direction, it was the success of his one-man art show at the University of Iowa's Hospitals and Clinics that proved to him he needed to stay focused on his eggshell art.

In an article written by Tony Leather on Environmental Graffiti, LeMaster is quoted as saying, "My goal was to create pieces that displayed artistic emotion and reflected my love of Oriental art with its delicate balance between the Yin and the Yang - the shell cut away and the shell that remained. During the many years of my journey, I relied on trial-and-error to learn how to carve, engrave, etch and sculpt eggshells." LeMaster uses real chicken, turkey, ostrich, emus, rheas, and other eggshells. 

On LeMaster's website, he states that he has slowly "built a small business providing other people around the world with supplies, an instructional magazine, classes, and soon - training videos." If you view his artist page, you can watch the You Tube video of the segment on the History Channel (it was unavailable for embedding).

A quick glance through LeMaster's website made me appreciate the intricate beauty of this very specialized and unique art form. It also as struck me as ironic that Gary's last name is LeMaster. In the world of eggshell sculpture, he's truly The Master.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Weekend's Over. . .




The weekend's over.  It's time to stop horsing around! Have a great week!

(Anyone remember how we used to spend all weekend getting ready for the week and now we spend all week getting ready for the weekend?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken Diapers--What???

What? A Chicken Diaper?         photo: Shobe Biz Communications

When you ask analytic chemist Ruth Haldeman why she invented her business Chicken Diapers in 2002, she said, "Necessity is the mother of invention. I had two 'little ones' in the house. They were making such a mess."

Haldeman works as a lab manager at Layne, a global water management, construction and drilling company, in Kansas during the weekday and sews chicken diapers on the weekend.  
It's an onerous task, the making of chicken diapers, and production is handled entirely by herself.

"It's difficult integrating the business with full-time work and family. I don't sleep much," confessed Haldeman, " But, my family understands how important it is to me and, for that, I am very thankful."

The chicken stories that really touch Haldeman's heart are those concerning injured chickens that need diapers so they can be kept inside for rehabilitation and therapy birds that need diapers in order to take them to hospitals. And, of course, there are those tales about nonprofit rescue birds that require diapers until they are adopted.

She also hears tales about people trying to beat oncoming bad weather by getting their chickens inside. "Those events are a major source of frustration for me," she admitted. "When a storm is coming, people really want to get their diapers. I can't always beat the weather."

If chicken diapers seem like somewhat of an oddity, perhaps Ruth's Chicken Diapers website says it best, "So, you are looking for something to catch the recycled food coming out of the backside of a chicken? You're afraid your friends and relatives think you have a screw loose? Well, fear no more! You are in the company of a steadily growing number of people who have discovered the joys of birdy companionship outside AND inside your home. With so many of us, we can't all be wrong."

Designing the diapers required a bit of trail and error for Haldeman.  "I had an idea and originally constructed the diapers that way. And, then, problems started popping up. I knew I had to re-design them to make them work," said Haldeman.

Haldeman points out that there are special requirements to be able to diaper a bird. A bird needs to have a tail knob and stiff tail feathers. Usually a bird doesn't acquire these until he or she is four weeks old.

She also talks about the Chicken Diaper design, how it helps keep the bird's feathers clean and channels droppings away from the bird with the diaper's containment pouch. She notes that the diapers don't bother the daily life of the chicken in any way. The chickens can still access their oil gland, sit and walk about. 

The mostly woven cotton-blend diapers come in a variety of colors. They are washable, quick drying, and have adjustable elastic straps that allow for the chicken comfort and movement. The diapers are also disposable if used without the plastic liner.

The design for the diapers was originally posted online but then Haldeman kept receiving requests for already sewn diapers. That was when her business was born.

Haldeman's brilliant invention has stiff competition from businesses like MyPetChicken.com. When asked about her competitors, Haldeman said, "I'm not concerned because I am not in it for the money. My prices are very low compared to other sites." In fact, Chicken Diapers sells their diapers in a variety of 18 colors ranging from $9 to $14 depending on the size of the birds. For birds over 16", a special price is given. Competitor MyPetChicken.com diapers are available in five colors and sell for $28 per diaper.

"I don't do a big volume of business," said Haldeman, even though orders come in from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. "I did receive an order from Italy once. It was very complicated because they wrote it in Italian. I'm sure the instructions were all garbled because I used an online translator," she said with a laugh.

Haldeman's love for chickens is evident in the tone of her voice and the words she chooses. When asked about her company and its future growth she said, "It's not about the money. This company I am doing for my soul."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feeling Down or a Little Stuck? Saddle Up. . .



In riding a horse we borrow freedom.
-Helen Thomson


You don't have to literally ride a horse. 

But, if you're feeling stuck, saddle up and do something different. 

Haven't been on a vacation for awhile? What are you waiting for? 

Haven't been to your favorite movie? Time's a ticking--the next show's about to start. 

Haven't contacted a long lost friend? Chances are they're waiting by the phone.

Haven't realized one of your hoped-for goals? It could change your life.

Put your butt in the saddle, grab the reins, and start galloping toward YOUR freedom. 

You know what it is. You know what you're yearning for. 

As Winston Churchill once said,


"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle."

So, saddle up! You can live your dream!




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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Larger the Comb...

The bigger the comb, the better the layer.               c. Shobe Biz Communication



Did you know that the larger a hen's comb, the better a layer she is? Read about it on Phys Org.

Did you know that a hen will sometimes reject a socially subordinate rooster's sperm? Read about it on Phys Org.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kidnapped Rooster Gets Funeral

In Celebration of our Chickens          c. Shobe Biz Communications

In the article, A Beloved Kidnapped Chicken Gets Funeral in Brazilian TownStephen Messenger for Tree Hugger tells the story of Rafhina, the rooster, who was raised in Patos, Brazil by a retiree and her daughter. One night a perpetrator kidnapped Rafhina from his home to sell him in exchange for drugs. The retiree and her daughter were devastated because Rafhina was a beloved pet. So, what did they do? They hosted a funeral procession in which over 2,000 people came, including the Mayor. I wonder if they had an aerial salute?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Run, Forrest, Run: Eggs are Excellent for Runners

Chicken on the Run       c. Shobe Biz Communications


Today, I had my first day of Boot Camp. No, I'm not talking about military bootcamp. I'm talking about kick-your-butt, get-yourself-back-in-shape bootcamp.

Jenny, a seemingly Barbie doll princess of the party scene, runs the bootcamp.  At 8:30 a.m., she kicked off the morning's "festivities" with a run. I almost vacated on the spot.  No one told me about this part of the bootcamp. I've worked with trainers before and only had to shuffle my feet on a treadmill. Jenny wanted me to run on the streets?

Holy Toledo.

Am I the only one who dreads running, I thought? Granted. I was in the shuttle relay when I was in fifth grade and placed in the Junior Olympics. But, running as an adult? The minute I move my feet from a trot to a canter, my asthma kicks in and my mind starts ranting "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this" with ever step.

"Have a positive attitude," I heard Jenny yell. "You can do this." Thank goodness she was yelling it to everyone because for a moment I wondered if she could read my mind or at least the grimace on my face.

Hmmm, I thought. I could muster up a positive attitude. After all, I"m a Pollyanna of a million things--just not running. And, then, Forrest Gump popped into my head. "Run, Forrest, Run."  If Forrest could do it, I could. Who cares if Forrest was a fictional character?

I ran around the plaza and halfway down the street. Then, I fast walked a bit. And, then I began running again until I ran around the corner and realized that everyone was ahead of me and I was dead last.

Dead last -- a blow to my competitive spirit.

I looked down at the grass to avoid everyone's eyes and wove my way through the maze of sweaty bodies already working on the next exercise. Be nice to yourself, I thought. It's okay  because you're award-winning in other arenas, Some consolation, I thought. I settled down onto my mat to finish the class. And, as I was squatting and push-upping through the final exercise, I wracked my brain. Surely there was something I could do to prepare myself better for the next class? Perhaps eating breakfast before?

On Monday, before class, I decided that I will eat one of my delicious hen's eggs for breakfast. The latest research shows that eggs are the ideal food for runners. One egg meets 10%-13% of daily protein needs and 30% of Vitamin K needs. The April 2012 issue of Runners World reported that eggs are good for runners because they are supposed to:

1.  Help you slim down. Egg protein is easy for the body to absorb.
2.  Minimize heart attacks
3.  Fight inflammation because of their choline; which also helps with Alzheimer's and
     diabetes.
4.  Help maintain bone strength because one egg provides 10% of necessary daily
     Vitamin D.
5.  Help prevent macular degeneration due to the lutein in yolks.
6.  Provide Omega 3's. One yolk equals the same amount of Omega-3s that are in one ounce
     of salmon.

According to the Lazy Runner (a magazine title that works for me), body builders eat up to 20 eggs a day without increasing their bad cholesterol count. And, a small egg has 37 calories and an extra large has 85--not bad for the protein they offer.

In the February 8, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research showed that eggs are lower in cholesterol and higher in vitamin D than previously believed. Reports showed that  "the average large egg contained 185 milligrams of cholesterol (14% less than prior measures) and 41 IU of vitamin D (64% more)" a difference believed to be due to the chicken feed.

I was thinking about downing two hard boiled for Monday's breakfast until I discovered yet one more article about eggs. (This is precisely what I hate about research.)  The Los Angeles Times reported in the August 14, 2012 issue that if you are over 40, eating the whole egg can be almost as dangerous to your arteries as smoking. What????

According to the article, "for those who did not smoke, or who rarely consumed egg yolks, carotid wall thickness increased after 40, but at a slow-steady rate. For those whose consumption of whole eggs was in the highest 20%, the narrowing of the carotid artery was on average about two-thirds that of the study's heaviest smokers."

The National Heart Blood and Lung Institute  guidelines recommend no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day (one egg yolk has 200 mg) and no more than four whole eggs weekly, including those in baked and other goods. For those who already have health problems, cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg day.

Oh, my...what's a girl supposed to do with this conflicting research?

Stick to my plan, I decided.

Even though I raise 15 hens, I eat only about two to three hardboiled eggs a week, including their yolk interiors.  It's just enough to get the good benefits of the eggs without getting too much of the bad, I figure. I'll ask Jenny how she feels about eating eggs on Monday. In the meantime, it looks like I have two more days to boil some. Maybe I'll even sneak one in between--an egg that is, not a run!

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!


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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kung Fu Rooster and Black Cat

There is no way that a black cat is crossing this rooster's path!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Tiniest Eggs in the World

Cleopatra - My Silver Phoenix                  c. Shobe Biz Communications

I guess my Silver Phoenix, Cleopatra, didn't get the text.

Her breed is an ancient Japanese breed that traces its heritage to over 1,000 years ago. People were smaller then and miniscule eggs were fine. But, now? 

They don't fit in the egg carton and they don't fit in the hardboiled steamer that I recently bought. But, as Mako, a friend of mine said, they make the perfect egg popper!

What can you do with small eggs? My Chicken Women Facebook page friends overwhelming said to pickle them. Melissa even posted a recipe for pickling quail eggs. Even though these are chicken eggs, I'm sure they'll taste just the same. I haven't tried the recipe yet. But, once I have a dozen or so, I think I'll pop them into the vinegar and see what happens!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cracking the Shell and Exposing the Heart

Lucia, the Sicilian Buttercup, Looks for the Heart in the Matter.    c. Shobe Biz Communications


About six months ago, I discovered the magazine Lucky Peach at the checkout counter of my favorite deli while I was paying for lunch.

"You have to get this magazine," said Anne, the deli owner. "It's the best foodie magazine I've ever seen."

I trust Anne. She's careful about the products she sells. She imports many of her foods from the finest purveyors in Italy and Greece. Her passion for providing top-notch cuisine is evidenced by the crowds that flock to her deli for breakfast and lunch.

"I've never seen this magazine before," I confessed. As a magazine junky, I'm pretty aware of what's out there. But, this was something new, something fresh, something deliciously different.

I lifted Lucky Peach up out of its acrylic rack and began flipping through the pages. It had tantalizing graphic pages and the writing was great. Lucky Peach was like taking a eye-candy walk through a gourmet food park.

"The magazine's not cheap," Anne confessed, "but it's worth every penny."

So, I bought the first edition and devoured it. Every article was deliciously good.

Recently, I purchased the fourth edition, spurred on by the title of an article inside, On Eggs, by Harold McGee (illustrations by Tony Millionaire). Harold McGee is an American culinary writer who writes about the chemistry of food and cooking. He's also a published author noted for his books On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.

In On Egg, McGee talks about the art of the easy peel hard boiled egg. As chicken owners, most of us know that the fresher the egg, the harder it is to peel. But, do we know why? I didn't until McGee shed some light.

McGee stated, "Freshly laid eggs slowly lose moisture and carbon dioxide through their porous shells, and the loss of carbon dioxide causes their whites to become more alkaline. The pH of the egg white of the freshly laid egg starts out at a slightly alkaline 7.5. Food scientists have found that when the pH rises above 9, the egg becomes easy to peel. Apparently, the change in pH makes the egg-white proteins adhere less strongly to the thin, tough membrane attached to the inner surface of the shell, but we still don't know how or why."

McGee further stated that the required change in pH takes only a couple of days at room temperature but it takes two weeks or longer to happen in the refrigerator.

In essence, colder temperatures means it takes longer to properly peel an egg.

Isn't the same thing true for people?

The colder the people with whom we surround ourselves the longer it takes for us to reveal ourselves?

Over the last two weeks, I have had the good fortune to participate in a nonprofit retreat and a writers workshop. Both served as reminders that it takes genuine warmth and tender care for people to shed their shells . When people feel safe, they'll open up. And, when they open up, the energy of the group shifts and changes. The weighty hardness of life magically dissipates into a lightness of being. It's as if everyone in the room can finally breathe.

Wounds create heaviness; love creates lightness.

In all forms of spirituality, no matter what religion, there is a huge emphasis on the heart. In Sanskrit, the heart is represented as the fourth chakra and the colors of pink or green. The fourth chakra governs the heart, circulatory system, blood, lungs, rib cate, diaphragm, thymus, breasts, esophagus, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Perhaps this is why we our when our heart's broken, our chest physically hurts.

My father-in-law was a witty man, the kind who could command the attention of nearly everyone in the room with his intellect and humor. He was also difficult and demanding. His brilliant wit could turn acerbic in a twist of minute.

He and I were close. I reveled in his word play. He in mine. He also looked like the dashing Jimmy Stewart, an actor who I adored in the movie It's a Wonderful Life. I felt easy around my father-in-law. I felt light.

He lived to a ripe old age, as commanding of the Earth's time as he was of people's attention. And, he had the good fortune to meet his demise surrounded by the love of his wife, family and friends.

As Jack lay dying on his bed, I carried on a conversation with him, one consisting of touch more than words. I stroked his arms and held his hands. I watched as the lack of circulation advanced from his extremities to his core. I heard the death breath rattle in his chest. I thanked him for being a decent and caring man and told him that all was well and he could move on. I kissed his cheek and said goodbye.

As his breath grew shallower, so did mine.

My chest heaved with asthmatic breaths, as if a thousand chickens roosted on it.  I had never experienced anything like it before. I called my doctor and she rushed me in. "Your severely asthmatic," she warned, "And, moments away from getting checked in to the hospital." She prescribed an inhaler, antibiotics and bed rest. My breath only slightly improved during the following weeks--grief still rested heavily upon me.

My love for him and the loss of him had cracked my shell. It had opened me up to the pain of having to say goodbye. His death instilled in me a greater appreciation for love and understanding of life.

I was reminded of this, again, in a mystical way, when many years later, my father passed.

Throughout my life, I've been "Daddy's little girl", a role I reveled in. I always looked to my Dad as my wise Buddha, a sage who taught me the many meanings of life. He coached me as a leader would but loved me as only a father could. He let me fail and let me win. And, he taught me the the meaning of authenticity.  "Every morning when you get up, make sure you can look at yourself in the mirror," he used to say.

My father had a long illness that gave us plenty of time to say our loving goodbyes.  On the actual day he passed away, I was at home 2,000 miles away, watching TV, a TV that sat on the marbled top of an antique chest. On either side of the long chest, were two beveled doors that opened to shelves inside. The doors were always closed because I had no reason to open them. The chest's shelves were bare.

On the night my father died, before I had received my Mother's call, I noticed that one of the doors of the chest was ajar. I turned to my partner and said, "Were you looking for something in the chest?" He said no, that he hadn't been near it and asked me why. I said, "Because the side door's open and it's never been open before." I got up from the couch, went to the chest and pushed the door closed. Then, I sat back down on the couch. A few minutes later, the door popped open, again. I turned to my partner and said, "That's so weird. There's nothing inside. I wonder why the door keeps popping open."

The phone rang. It was my Mother. "Dad just passed away," she said. We cried together as she recounted his last moments.  I remember looking at the clock. 9:35 p.m. My father-- my wise and loving father who I adored -- was dead. I would no longer see the twinkle of his blue eyes or hear the sweet melody of his voice calling out my name. The warmth of his hug was dead to me. His spirit was in me, but the sight, sound and feel of him was no more. Life would never be the same.

I sat on the couch and cried and cried. My partner held me close and comforted me. He sat with me in my silence as my memories of my father hung from my mind like ornaments on a Christmas tree. My partner gifted me silence to bask in my grief.

Before he and I rose to go to bed, I went to the chest and tried to push the door closed again. It wouldn't close all the way. I bent down to look inside.There was a tip of a red heart poking into the door. What is that, I wondered? I opened the door all of the way and discovered a big heart-shaped box filled with chocolates. It was seven months past Valentines Day. What was a full box of chocolates doing on the always empty shelf?

I asked my partner if he had left the box there. He said he had no idea why that box was there. I didn't have any memory of putting that heart-shaped box of chocolates in the chest. And, if I had months before, why hadn't it prevented the door from closing until just now?

I sat on the floor, gripping the heart-shaped box of chocolates to my chest and cried. My Dad had sent his final message, stay in your heart.

The heart-shaped box still resides on the shelf of the antique chest. It's a reminder to me to stay true to my heart. And, it's a reminder to me to be courageous in giving my heart.  Because it is only by creating a warm and loving environment for those around us--and for ourselves--that we can crack the hard shells of life's wounds and be authentically true and real. And, what a lightness to life that brings.

Harold McGee, the food writer, may have said it best when he wrote in his article, "I realized that the shell is the main obstacle to changing the chemical environment within."

Perhaps it's time to crack open your shell and gift your heart?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Separating from the Flock


Zen, The Black Silkie                      copyright Shobe Biz Communications


Last Sunday was a steamy summer Sunday, so hot and humid it erased the coming of autumn from my mind.

I filled a plastic storage tub on the patio with cool water for the dog. Then, I walked up to coop for a "chicken check." Chickens have a difficult time in heat and die quickly without water. I needed to see if I should put out a shallow pan of water out for chickens to walk in or needed to make a quick run to the grocery store for some watermelon for them to peck at.
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At the door to the coop, the chickens had gathered, some scratching their beaks back-and-forth against the avian-wired door. I opened the door and they jail-broke, each one of them skedaddling their tail feathers down the long path away from the coop. 

Except for one--my black Silkie, Zen. For some reason, Zen, in her densely-feathered body with overly-feathered feet, did not race for the door. She held back from the others. Silkies are a more timid breed, and this timidity often separates her from the flock. Sir Lancelot, the black-crested white polish rooster, protects her like a older brother—when he sees her standing alone, he prances over to her side and lets her walk in his shadow.

I waited until Sir Lancelot came back for Zen and then went inside the coop. 

The water fount was brimming with water but I still decided to freshen it up a bit. There was no obvious signs of heat exhaustion in the chickens; in fact, they seemed rather spunky. All was well. I walked back down the hill to begin my busy day.

My oldest brother and his fiancĂ©e were coming to town from my home state in the Midwest and joining us for dinner. I was excited because I hadn’t seen my brother for two years and I was looking forward to the time to get to know his fiancee even better.

I had a list longer than ticker tape of things to do. I had to clean up the puppy’s diggings that had blackened the patio. I had to scrub the house from a week’s use. And, I had to prepare something for dinner. I guessed doggy treats simply wouldn’t do.

I mentally calculated my tasks and the time I had left. There was only five hours—not much time to pull it together. I chastised myself for procrastinating and swore that I would move fast, despite the broiling heat.

I had just finished my tasks and slipped into my summer's dress when my brother and his impending wife knocked at the front door. Everyone made their greetings doused in a lot of good humor and laughter. For the first time in awhile, my house overflowed with the warm feeling of family.

I love being around my brother, always have. As a child, he brought me to his baseball games and would let me tag-along with his friends. I learned a lot about the way boys and young men move in the world by hanging out with him. At his high school graduation party, I was the only non-high schoolgirl allowed into the “den” where his friends gathered. He never even uttered a word when I developed a schoolgirl crush on some of his friends.

My oldest brother is my rooster. He has saved me more than a few times—from hurt feelings, from attacks from other kids, and, once, when I was five, when I fell under the ice of a backyard pond. It was my brother's fierce grip that pulled me from the depths of the freezing waters.

We were all sitting down to dinner when a large ruckus of hen noise began on the hill. My daughter asked me, “Mom, do the chickens always make that much noise?”

I shook my head “no,” and waited, silently, listening for other signs.

The squawking continued, getting more desperate and louder than before. It was a kind of noise I've never heard.

Knowing that chickens have different sounds for different predators, I ran from the patio and up the hill, taking the steps two at a time. As I moved down the long path toward the coop, I saw that almost all of the hens had taken roost inside. But not the little black Silkie, Zen. She was stranded outside with my cat, Sequoia, barricading the door. Sequoia’s tail was swishing back-and-forth, his lips smacking. 

I ran into the coop, reprimanding Sequoia and gathering him in my arms. I figured grabbing him was the safer bet, because if I tried to grab Zen and missed, her ensuing flight would make her a target. With Sequoia tucked in my arms, Zen waddled by me, flew on the roost, and joined the flock. The hens quieted down. I secured the coop.

We all settled back into dinner. Family stories danced on the table under the evening stars merry light.

It became the hour when it was time to go. We hugged and said our goodbyes.

I stood at the front door and waved as my brother and his fiancee pulled out of the driveway and drove down the street.  And, then I walked inside, shut the front door, and leaned up against it, tears welling in my eyes.

My mind flooded with memories of childhood. Good memories, sad memories, difficult memories and funny memories, too. My mind was a well of deep moments into which I could always dip my bucket.

One memory really held me, prompted my the sight of my brother driving off. I was standing by my parents in the driveway of my Midwestern childhood home, next to my car with its big sign penned by my sister in my car's side window that read, "California or Bust."  I was bubbling with excitement about my move to the West Coast, nervous, too. I gave my Mom and Dad each a warm hug, said "goodbye", and then opened my car, sat down in the driver's seat, put my key in the ignition, and started the engine. As I backed down the driveway just a few feet away, I stopped for a moment to look at my Dad's face. There was an indescribable sadness etched into his usually merry blue eyes. It's a look I'll never forget.

I was separating from my flock, and for my parents and me, it would never be the same.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Concrete Jungles

Banana Tree                                     copyright Shobe Biz Communications

Figs, strawberries, clematis and heliotrope all grow in a sixty-six square feet of outdoor space in an urban garden in Brooklyn. Penelope Green wrote about it in the New York Times story, Tiny Concrete Jungles.

It doesn't matter how small the space, beauty and relaxation can be found anywhere. Challenge yourself to create your own special space, a space that makes the world seem good, even if it's a corner in a room. And, if it's outdoors, add in some chickens, if you feel you can be a responsible owner. Chickens add such a liveliness to a backyard. No matter what your mood, a half hour with the chickens will have you giggling.

If you missed my former blog about the inviting urban space built in downtown Chicago by a friend of mine and her husband, its pretty incredible what they did "between highrises." They even raised chickens in the space. Read about it on Chi-Town Chickens

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Striking A Chord With. . .Caterpillars?

Little Sprouts Visit Doodle Doo Farmette      
When I received the email from my friend, "May I bring my grandsons for a visit?" I was so excited that I could barely contain my enthusiasm. "Of course," I responded and scheduled a time.

The only people who have visited Chicken Women's coop to date have been adults. Don't get me wrong. I love adults, but I love children even more. Everything is so new and fresh for them. Their worlds are filled with "firsts"--first tooth, first day of school, first bike ride, first win.

Knowing the kids were suburban kids, I figured this was probably the boys first time seeing live chickens. I decided it was my responsibility to make sure their "first" experience with chickens was good. 

But, how was I going to do that?

I started with the standard thing: tidying up the coop. I raked out the shavings and spread a new, poop-free layer. I even added in a topping of  hay-grass to give the coop that "authentic farm" look.

Then, I went to the local home improvement store and purchased two metal buckets with handles. I found some Easter basket straw (the miracle of this is not to be underestimated) and lined the buckets with it. 

On Monday morning, about an hour before they all arrived, I took 10 freshly-laid eggs out from the  refrigerator, wiped off the condensation on them, and put them in the nesting box. Because only one of my hens is currently laying, I didn't want the boys to be disappointed if there were no eggs or, heaven forbid, just one in the box. (When there're two children, you have to make sure everything's even.)

When the boys arrived, they were wide-eyed and ready to go. They grabbed their metal buckets and began tromping up the hill. (That was, after a quick look in the box holding the newbie chicks.)  I asked the boys if one of them would like to open the coop's door, but they both said "no". I explained that every morning I had to let the chickens out, fill their water fount and top off their food pellets. They listened attentively and then jumped aside as the hens skedaddled their little rear ends out of the coop and right past them.

I gave the boys each a scoop of scratch and seeds and had them throw it downhill. The hens were overjoyed. The boys' faces held curious looks that seemed to say "well, this is different and it might be fun."

Then, I took them inside the coop and told them they could look for eggs. They soon filled up their baskets with the "planted" eggs and then headed out the door. "The Coolest of Cool" (according to his t-shirt) decided that if you could throw scratch and seeds downhill, then the bucket of eggs, too, might be best thrown over. His nimble mother caught the bucket handle just before the eggs went tumbling.

Only a few eggs cracked from impact before we made it down the hill.

We ended up on my backyard patio, where the hens were soon forgotten because a yellow jacket was flying around and swallowtail caterpillars were eating passionfruit leaves. The boys examined the leaves, mesmerized by the caterpillars' colors, their legs, and the fact they soon would be turning into butterflies. 

Their fascination prompted me to punch holes in a mason jar and add in some passion fruit leaves and one very large swallowtail caterpillar. The jar was sent home with the boys. When the visit was finished, I think there was no doubt the caterpillars won out over the chickens.

But, isn't that how it goes with children? We never know what's going to strike a chord. As adults, our job is to keep offering children a wide variety of "firsts." The kids? They'll figure out how to take it from there.

P.S. I want to thank my friend, her daughter, and her adorable grandsons for coming over. What a gorgeous and gracious family. And, what a beautiful start it was to my week.








Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Chick, The Buddha and The Hummingbird

Sicilian Buttercup Chooses An Interesting Roost         c. Shobe Biz Communications


Lucia, my Sicilian Buttercup, chose an interesting roost today. She roosted long enough for me to capture it.

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Last night, as I was searching for a tool in the garage, I heard the whir of a hummingbird. The bird was trapped by the darkness, futilely seeking light. I couldn't find a way to release it. It had to find its own way. So, I left the door open hoping that, at morning light, it would find its way to freedom.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chagall's Bride and Groom and the Rooster

The Bride and Groom of the Eiffel Tower            Marc Chagall 1939


For much of my life, I have been an admirer of Marc Chagall's work. The mystical movement that he captures on canvas is so poetic in nature that his paintings seem to dance to the rhythm of a musical score.

Many of his paintings seem like representations of my own fanciful dreams, dreams to which I am prone but cannot manifest artfully onto canvas.

Poet and critic Guilluame Appollinaire once said that Chagall's work is "supernatural." Here. Here. I couldn't agree more. For this reason, Chagall's paintings move me to my core.

The Bride and The Groom of the Eiffel Tower recently caught my eye because Chagall painted a rooster behind the bride and the groom. It's as if the newly-wedded couple is riding upon the rooster's wings--like a magic carpet ride, the rooster lifts them into the sky and toward the heavens. The bride and groom's feet are no longer firmly planted on the ground. Instead, they are drawn into flight.

According to Art Revived, the cow that turns into the fiddle in the upper right of the painting is supposed to represent the nursery rhyme about the cat with the fiddle and the cow jumping over the moon. The rooster is supposed to come from another unnamed nursery rhyme.

Unnamed nursery rhyme? Personally, I wonder if Chagall wasn't referencing the ancient Greek meaning of rooster as a harbinger of the sun.  In Chagall's painting, there are two suns:  the actual sun in the upper left corner and the rooster carrying the couple. Marriages are new beginnings, a time where the "light" shines doubly-bright.  A marriage of love brings connection; hope, and a kind of warmth and security that spawns growth.

The Eiffel Tower is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The wedded couple stands in front of the Eiffel Tower. Chagall lived much of his life in France, so that could be the reason for the Eiffel Tower. But, the Eiffel Tower could also represent the structure of marriage--the stretching of love to its tallest point, reaching high for the sky and the stars while resting on a strong, solid, and wide base of supportive family and friends.

When I visited the Eiffel Tower years ago, I laid on my back on the cement underneath the tower and aimed my camera up into the tower's "belly". I shot photo after photo after photo until I ran out of film. I was fascinated by the tower's divine webbing, how its interlaced metal joined together to create a piece of art that was as intriguing as it was entertaining. It was like lying under the Great Pyramid and feeling the energy of the many hands that went into its building.

The suns, the fiddles, the wedded couple and the Eiffel Tower--Chagall understood that love is a gentle dance played by fiddlers under the glow of two suns. He knew that upon a rooster's back, a perspective is gained of the heaven and skies that only a couple with courage to fly can see. And, perhaps, he knew, instinctively or not, that marriage, and the duration of it, is the eighth wonder of the modern world.



What I love best about art is that it has different meanings for each person. Does Chagall speak to you?


For more information on the ancient meanings of the rooster, check out my previous blog post, Harbingers of the Sun.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Bottoms Up!

Bottoms Up                     copyright; Shobe Biz Communications


Ah...the start of another beautiful summer weekend. Bottoms Up!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Revolt of the Molt



Coachie, the Giant Partridge Cochin, has begun to molt                                 copyright Shobe Biz Communications
My young hen, Coachie, lost her boa. Her brown and amber necklace went missing.

When I first discovered Coachie's feathers were gone, I eyed the rest of the hens with suspicion. Which little aggressive bugger had pecked her feathers out?

Was it Diamond? No, Diamond would never do such a thing. She and Coachie have been best buds from the beginning.

Could it be the pullets?  Probably not. They're a bit young for alpha behavior.

As a chicken detective, I was running out of clues. I decided to take a step back to review the case.

Fact #1:  Coachie's egg production had been slowly diminishing. For seven of the eight months of her life, Coachie had laid an egg every day. During the last two weeks, she "popped" an egg every three days. Bottom line: Coachie's production is down.

Fact #2:  Molting is supposed to happen once a year, especially when daylight and temperature decreases. Well, that wasn't applicable. The days are longer and hotter than ever before. Bottom line: There must be some other clue.

Fact #3:  Molting happens due to hormonal fluctuations. Well, that makes sense. With all the new births around here, there's certainly been a surge of estrogen. And, with the placement of the new chicks in the coop, there's probably been a lot of stress. Bottom line: This could be the reason. . .

(FYI, if a molt begins, it is recommended the chickens be removed from any stress. Remember that guys--if your woman's going through hormonal fluctuations, you might want to remove her stress!)

Fact #4:  According to Molting 101, molting happens in this order: head, neck, body, wings and tail. (For some twisted reason, this order reminds me of the song Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes but that's probably because I've been singing nursery rhymes for a good part of the day.) Coachie's head still sports feathers. And, so does her body, wings, and tail, too. Hmmm...this is becoming a case for Inspector Clouseau not a neophyte chicken lover.

Fact #5:  Temporary feed and water shortages can cause a partial molt. The food is aplenty and the water is ever-flowing. Bottom line: Fact #5 is not a problem.

In the midst of investigating the cause for the molt, a friend called and asked if she could come see my chickens.

"Um," I said, a brilliant reply to a straightforward question. "I don't think so, at least not today."

"How about tomorrow?"

"No. . .," I sighed, "Not tomorrow either."

Silence clouded the phone.

"Can I come see the chickens, some time?" she asked.

"Well, I'm kind of busy. Let me email you when they're good."

Good? My last word lingered like a dragonfly in the air. How was I supposed to tell her that one of my beautiful chickens had turned into an ugly duckling? That Coachie simply wasn't ready for her debut? And, why did it matter to me, I wondered. They're only chickens. They don't need to be perfect.

Perfectionism,

a nasty word that keeps us going 100 miles per hour on a circular hamster wheel. Is there ever a true ending to perfection? Is there even a tangible definition for this word?

Why was I embarrassed by my chicken? So, what if her raw pink decolletage was showing through. Did it really matter?

Julia Cameron's quote about perfection says it best:
   
     "Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part   
      that tells us nothing we do will ever be good enough--that we should try again."

That was it. Coachie's early molt made me worried that I had done something wrong--that I hadn't been the perfect Chicken Woman; that my friend would notice my ugly chicken and look askance at me.

Perfectionism is fear-based. It's a negative belief that something better exists than what is.  It's a word of the head, not of the heart. Perfectionism is an ethereal flawlessness.

The Japanese word wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, and incompletion. Japanese artists often make a small mistake in their work as a gentle reminder that nothing's perfect.


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There's a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
             -Leonard Cohen

Nothing is perfect -- even the looks of my once-beautiful chicken.

Upon further research, I discovered that Cochins often go into a mini-molt around seven months. Afterwards, their feathers grow in thicker and their eggs are larger. Molting has its rewards--even though there's incredible ugliness in between.

Looks like I have a call to make. It's time to invite my friend over.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Speed Dating: Integrating Puppy with New Chicks


I admit it. I'm not the world's best photoshopper, but I am determined to have Mango, my English Doodle, fall in love with the chicks. Why? To save lives, the hens lives.

I did discover Mango in the coop one day and no hens were slaughtered. Now, if I can get her used to the chicks.

It's kind of like speed dating. She gets only a few seconds with them and I hang on to her collar. (Disclaimer: No chicks were sacrificed to make this photo.) What I found is that it's not her mouth that I need to worry about but her giant, fluffy paws. She looks like she wants to toss the chicks about with her "mitts."

Hug a Cowboy or Cowgirl In Honor of National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the Cowboy                  credit: Shobe Biz Communications

Who settled the West wasn't businessmen in Armani suits driving red Porsches (not that there's anything wrong with that, but just saying...) It was men and women with a sense of adventure and a physicality that could tame the rugged lands.

And, it was men and women who understood the unwritten code of behavior called the "Code of the West." Cowboys and cowgirls could be outlaws (I happen to be related to one) but they had to play by the code's rules. If they decided to ignore them, they would be  shunned as outcasts.

The Code of the West came down to 10 simple rules, rules that pertain to all of us whether we drive cattle with our hands on the reins or drive corporations with our steel fists:

          1.  Live each day with courage.

          2.  Take pride in your work.

          3.  Always finish what you start.

          4.  Do what has to be done.

          5.  Be tough, but fair.

          6.  When you make a promise, keep it.

          7.  Ride for the brand.

          8.  Talk less and say more.

          9.  Remember that some things aren't for sale.

         10. Know where to draw the line.

There's a National Day of the Cowboy organization that is dedicated to recognizing the cowboys and cowgirls of this land. Learn more about it at National Day of the Cowboy.

There's also a marvelous book about the code written by James P. Owen, Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West. (Stunning photographs by David Stoecklein accompany the text.) I interviewed Mr. Owen several years ago. He's a learned and successful businessman with a dedicated mission to ethical business leadership. Check out his foundation at Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership.

For breathtaking photographs depicting cowboys and cowgirls in their natural environments, view photo artist Adam Jahiels' work at http://www.adamjahiel.com/.

Today, tomorrow, or even the next, go out and hug a cowboy and/or cowgirl. Tell them "thanks" for all of their hard work. And, if ranchers don't reside nearby, hug someone who best represents the 10 values of the Code of the West.

These are the people who work the land and the land works them. It's time we recognize this and honor them.