Monday, January 31, 2011

The Great Chicken Experiment

Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along. ~Hugh Allen
Opportunity is often difficult to recognize; we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards.  ~William Arthur Ward

When I think about writing in this blog, I believe I am required to illustrate the post as I have in the past, but can't think of a piece of art I haven't shown before, so I don't write.  It occurred to me tonight that such "shoulds" and "haftas" have always dogged my life; I can be governed by rigid thinking patterns.  Who writes the rules for me anyway?  Moi.
I remember a story about a dog we had named Ginger.  My husband and I bought 5 acres of dirt in western Oklahoma, with  great expectations of it being a nice little farm. I never worked so hard in my whole life with so little results .  We planted a huge garden but it was wrecked by drought and a grasshopper plague; the only thing that survived was okra.  We ate it stewed, fried and pickled.  I hate okra.
We also launched the Great Chicken Experiment.  We decided we were going to raise chickens to butcher and sell.  Actually my husband decided, and I go "oh, OK."  So we had a garage full of baby chicks, which immediately fell prey to raccoons.  Raccoons may look cute but they can be mean when you try to take away their dinner. We put the half-grown hens in the chicken house with a sturdy fence to keep the varmints out and kept the light going all night, but we were still were mysteriously losing chickens, until I discovered owls were flying over the fence into the coop for a midnight snack. I sat up one night with a shotgun scaring the birds off.  The next day we had to modify the pen.  We finally did manage raise some chicks to pullet size and sold some, and ate some, but we didn't come close to breaking even; I hated the chicken business--specially the butchering part.  Chicken don't like to turn loose of their feathers.
Ginger was a wired-haired terrier--a wonderful dog.  That little farm was her personal responsibility and she watched out for the kids, the cats and Ahab the goat. When the goat got into stuff he shouldn't or started pulling clothes off the line, Ginger would alert me with her barking.  Ahab couldn't get away with anything. 
We started letting the surviving chickens out to scratch and at first they didn't know they were free and stayed huddled in the pen.  But when a hen started to venture out, Ginger chased her back in, then another would leave the pen, or two or three, only to be pushed back in by the dog.  Ginger spent a whole day herding chickens until she wore herself out and had to be satisfied with lying on a rise watching over the hens outside the pen.

I am trying to break free of old ideas--rules I have set down for myself in the past that don't have anything to do with reality--just rules. And sometimes I still feel very married and sometimes I let well-meaning people tell me what I "should" do.  I am free, and I am single and I can do what I want.  I know there are owls and raccoons out there. And wolves and sharks. (I have already encountered a few wolves but I came out unscathed and very much wiser. :o) I know I will make mistakes, but there is also freedom for me in the wide open spaces and opportunities if I am not too scared to try.

Writing this blog has been a way of sneaking out of the pen.  In fact, if you google me you will find me.  Not only this blog, but in my Face Book art page, and at Deviant Art.

I have gone dancing--I even danced with a cane before the surgery.  (Dance like nobody's watching...)  And bowling (maybe I should bowl like nobody's watching. :o) And I rode a snowmobile.  I not exactly ready to bungee jump, but I want to be alert to opportunities outside that chicken pen--chances to have fun, try new things and to be creative.  Maybe I'll try karaoke--the dog doesn't howl when I sing. :o)

I actually did find a drawing I haven't posted before.  I titled it Emily's House.  It is the Victoria home of Emily Carr, (1871-1945) a Canadian artist and writer who lived and worked in B. C.  She lived a non-traditional life for a woman of her time; she explored and recorded the world around her.  She made it out of the chicken pen.


  1. Wow Maxie! You have put it all together so well. I think I still have a couple of irrelevant 'rules' I have to break free of. I hope you're out of the pen totally...enjoy!

  2. What a well-crafted and thought-provokng post!

    Thanks, Maxie!


  3. You are a special person, Maxie -- an exquisite painter with the writing hand of a novelist. There is no life experience that you have not absorbed into your artist's soul and that you cannot recount in the most natural, completely unmannered style, be it in picture or words. What a treat your blog is!

  4. Thank you my friends. I am touched by your comments.