Our Arc Afloat

autumn color

from our front porch in a rare (for this week) moment of clear skies

We don’t usually get a lot of rain here. We live in Idaho’s “high desert” climate, where it gets really cold in winter and really hot in summer, but we seldom get even an inch of precipitation in a month. Which makes the last few days unusual—we’ve had more than an inch of rain this week.

I do love Idaho autumn, though–despite the inescapable fact that winter will be following close on its heels. I don’t like the cold. Give me barefoot-weather any day! Still… The oversized old trees around us are ablaze with rusty colors, and there IS some satisfaction in snuggling under our down comforter when our windows are icing over…

Keoni and I have been joking that perhaps this week’s rain is not coincidental, given how closely our home is coming to resemble the infamous Arc of Old Testament story…

stacking firewood

Christian stacking firewood… Ready or not, here comes Winter!

For quite a while we didn’t have any animals (unless you count kids, which might not be a misclassification), but a year and a half back we rather unexpectedly ended up adopting my Grandpa’s cat. I had flown to Colorado with my mom to visit my grandparents, who had recently moved into assisted living, and discovered that the Big Family Question was what to do with Grandpa’s kitty, Suzy. Keoni had always declared himself “NOT a cat person,” but I called him from Colorado to feel him out on the topic of Suzy—which is how I came to find myself navigating the security checks at Denver International Airport with a stoned cat as carry-on luggage.

roosting hen

one of “The Girls” roosting out of the rain

Mr. Non-Cat-Guy fell under Suzy’s spell from Day One, and submits to her whiskery whims without even a pro forma protest. She has trained him to perform a number of Human Tricks—my favorite being the one where she cries for food when her bowl is still full. She’ll carry on until he goes to her bowl and rattles his fingers through her kibble, at which point she’ll settle in for a contented meal. He’ll get out of bed to do that, knowing full well that she’s not out of food.

dwarf egg

our first (dwarf) egg

So Suzy has been family for a while… And then, along came the chickens! (Or, as Suzy prefers to refer to them: “Kitty Television“…) The chicken-house gradually took shape over the course of the summer—the work of Keoni and our 11-year-old, Christian, who had put in the original chicken requisition last spring.

“The Girls,” as we call them, have turned out to be charming and entertaining—and they do a fantastic job of cleaning out all the kitchen scraps that used to end up in the trash. No waste in this household! And although we’re supplementing with commercial pellets to ensure they’re getting everything they need, it’s nice to note that the bought feed will stretch a long way while they’re eating scraps.

chickens eating watermelon

Chickens love watermelon! And pretty much every kitchen scrap…

One by one they have been earning names, beginning with Ku’okoa (tagged with the Hawai’ian word for “freedom”), who regularly asserts her independence by running around our yard outside the chicken-fence. When we go to feed the Girls in the morning, we just leave the gate ajar and she comes scuttling back into the enclosure to make sure and get her share.

The first hen to start laying earned herself the moniker of “Fertile Myrtle.” She started off by presenting us with an absurdly miniature egg, but she has followed up with a nice big brown one almost every afternoon since. (I always thought hens laid their eggs first thing in the morning! I still don’t know if that were a misconception on my part, or if we just have a confused chicken…) Whatever the case may be, we’re enjoying her output.

breakfast in bed

breakfast in bed—made with OUR eggs!

Saturday morning the kids climbed into bed with me, we queued up a rainy-day movie, and Keoni brought us all breakfast in bed! Crepes for Christian, pancakes for Elena Grace, and biscuits & gravy for me—all prepared with eggs from our chickens. How cool is that?

We did run into one hiccup when we brought the chickens home. Elena Grace had been excited by the idea of chickens, but when she came face to face with them, she didn’t want to chase them, catch them, or… well… touch them. In pretty short order, she felt left out—and started wondering aloud about a pet of her own.

girl with mouse

Elena Grace with Nibbles

First she floated the idea of a bird, but I confess (despite my mom’s amusing stories of a childhood parakeet with some embarrassing catch-phrases and a habit of riding around the house on the dog) that I’m not wild about the idea of an indoor avian. I suggested something of the mammalian persuasion instead—maybe a gerbil?—and promised that if she would do the research about gerbil-care, we could build a gerbil cage and get one. She proceeded to fill a small journal with gerbil-notes from her online research—she’s nothing if not thorough!

Keoni had noticed some likely building materials in a scrap-pile belonging to our neighbor Chuck, a disabled vet whose lawn Keoni has been caring for all summer. When he asked Chuck about them and explained the proposed project, Chuck told him to hang on a moment, disappeared into his shed, and wheeled out a moment later with a cage! Elena Grace wrote him an illustrated thank-you, and off we went to the pet store… Where both kids fell in love with the mice.

Christian with Whiskers

Welcome to the family: Nibbles, Whiskers, Climber, and Frogger (the jumping mouse). Suzy’s Kitty Television now had two channels: Chickens and Mice!

But guess what? We’re not done. Evidently on a roll, Christian proposed a ferret. And promptly found a guy on Craigslist whose landlord had ordered him to offload his ferret in 24 hours—so Christian counted up his saved allowance and got a crazy cut-rate deal on a ferret, a cage (more like a condo!), and a box full of ferret-care goodies.

And just for good measure, we had a surprise on our front porch when we arrived home: a hexagonal fish tank with a note from Chuck, who thought the kids might like this as well… Research is once again underway.

ferret in the couch cushions!

Allow me to pause here and observe one small irony about this growing menagerie. Our current custody schedule has the kids with us for just two weekends a month during the school year. (We’re on the verge of filing for a change, but that’s another story for another time.) So as the schedule stands, Keoni and I are the sole zookeepers for 24 of every 28 days. And we have zero regrets.

Last weekend the kids played with their pets for hours. I’m not a fan of mice in the kitchen cupboards, but in the kids’ hands they’re awfully sweet. And Niele the ferret (named with the Hawai’ian word for a nosy busybody) has enchanted all of us. She’s clumsy and playful and scampers around the house nosing into everything and chirping like the chickens, then collapses curled up in her hammock to recover from her exhausting adventures… She’s absolutely adorable.

ferret and shark

Niele the ferret meets Mano the shark (the family’s ‘aumakua or totem) on the dashboard of our van

We hope we won’t be floating away on a flood (despite all the recent rain, and despite our location on an island of the Boise River)… But a menagerie-count of five people, one cat, four mice, seven chickens, and a ferret would have been a good start even for Noah.

About these ads

About Kana Tyler

I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a minister, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a cartographer, a joyful wife, a mom (and Granny), an island-girl at heart... a list-maker! :) View all posts by Kana Tyler

17 responses to “Our Arc Afloat

  • Jennifer Vidal, an unedited writer

    I can imagine the tons of fun the kids have with their animals. :)

  • valeriedavies

    I think it all sounds just lovely… wish my children were little again, instead of nearly fifty and forty-eight! What lovely memories your children are going to have…

  • Chatter Master

    I was in an elderly person’s home doing an “investigation” and as I sat on the couch I felt something nibbling on my ankle. Though inside I had horrible visions of what it might have been I sat stoic and calmly looked down (kudos to me for not screaming like a girl and running through the door-not out-but through it). There sat a ferret nibbling on me. Not to hurt me. When I looked the home owner looked and very casually and much too late in my opinion told me they had 2 of them running around. :) That’s my best ferret story. Well, my only one. I love what you do for your kids.

  • lesliehobson

    I am glad to hear about the wonderful personality of your ferret. Up until now, this had been my only exposure to them:

  • Pat

    I’ve been wondering how the chicken were doing. They look happy and content. I’ll bet the eggs are wonderful. I’ve had mice as pets and found that they are very sweet and really nice to each other. Suzy must never have a bored moment!

  • Beth Parker

    Your kids are so lucky to have you! You’re building some wonderful memories.

  • Widdershins

    In’it wonderful how our animal companions arrive on our doorsteps when and how they’re supposed to!

    Kudos to Christian for a very impressive stack of firewood!

  • Squirrel Circus

    So excited for you, that you had breakfast in bed, from your OWN chickens — that’s amazing!

    So excited for the kids and their new pets, and that you and Keoni are such willing zookeepers. :)

  • Diana Douglas

    Your kids are going to have the best memories! I think you’re doing a wonderful job.

  • jannatwrites

    Looks like you just need a partridge in a pear tree :) (Yeah, I’m one to talk…we have more animals than people in our house!) I think pets are good for children. They teach responsibility, give them satisfaction of knowing they can care for another being, and they are great companionship. Sometimes childhood is hard and people aren’t that easy to talk to – animals are.

  • Norma Beishir

    Autumn is my favorite time of year…in any part of the country. We’ve had a drought this year and our fall colors aren’t lasting very long, but I still love this time of year!

  • Shez

    A great start for your “petting” zoo. We also housed a menagerie of critters as our children grew. At times lots and lots of assorted critters, dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, ducks, chickens, geese, assorted fish, a turtle and a crawdad. I will say that with that many pets to care for the kids quickly learned that mom and dad took over the care and cleaning because they would “forget.” Me thinks the pets trained the parents. :D

  • drawandshoot

    Aw, I used to have a little rabbit named Nibbles.

  • judithatwood

    Kana, what a sweet post! I am so happy for your family — nothing is like living with animals. I’ve had a cat all my life, until this apartment, and I am can’t get used to it. Good for you.

    I was wondering — does Keoni have any brothers who are single and also know how to make biscuits and gravy? My very favorite breakfast.

  • eof737

    I do hope you never float away… ;-)

  • Rosewynde

    Menageries are fun, especially when your family loves animals ; ) For a while we had two cats, two dogs, two fish, two rabbits, and two hamsters, so I totally understand. Of course being a stay at home mom, I’m typically the one that has to remind the kids or do the feeding/care taking myself. Were down to the dogs, fish and rabbits now, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it ; D The hamsters passed on to hamster heaven a while ago (they have a short lifespan) and our cats have been with us for 17 years and recently passed on due to old age too. I miss them, but at least i know they had good long lives.

Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,629 other followers

%d bloggers like this: