Brooding peeps.

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The Cottonwood.  Marana, AZ

While February freezes much of America with it’s tempest fist pounding , providing snow drifts that bury houses and highways that are sheets of ice along the East Coast, Tucson remains one of the most pleasant places to spend the winter.  It’s a balmy 75 degrees most days, and a few with rain are scattered between it’s picture perfection.   I miss the traditional four seasons,  but know that the Sonoran desert has it’s own seasons – warm, warmer, hot, wet and hotter, cooling. You can judge them by smell rather than by sight.  The wind lifts the scents of each season and delivers them perfectly, subtly like a shadow changing shape.   The best thing about this time of year is being able to open up my studio barn doors and face out onto the garden as I work.  It’s a season we love, when the vegetable garden flourishes, and we can be outside without the burden of heat pushing us down.   The birds are nesting, and the chickens are brooding.   Valentines just passed and love is in the air.

As February rolled into sight, we saw our first Silkie rooster doing what roosters do.  Roo-ing  louder and more often, starting off at  2:30am  and using his sexual prowess by attacking the two Silkie hens every 10 minutes of daylight.  I realize now ’50 Shades of Grey’ has nothing on roosters.   Our boy  just turned 5 months old and was coming into his manself, puffing out his chest, he strutted around roo-ing all day long.   We housed him in the penthouse coop/apartment attached to the main coop, because we could lay a thick blanket over it at night and muffle the noise when he was just a young lad,  but as the months passed, the roo-ing got louder and LOUDER and we got grumpier and GRUMPIER until we all agreed his days were numbered.

We noticed one of the Silkies started brooding over her eggs  a few weeks ago.   Refusing to leave the coop to free range in the large dedicated chicken area of the garden,  and laying flat in the box.  I had to check on her – at first I thought she was dead.  This is our first brooder, and it’s almost like a hypnotic state or trance  – she lays perfectly still in the nesting box and fills out to flatten herself as much as she can to cover the eggs, coming out only one time a day to grab a quick bite to eat, drink and poop.  We have decided to let her go through the process of nature, rather than end it.  Since we only have 4 hens, there’s always room for a few more.   We’d raised the first batch of hens from 1 day old hatchlings last spring during my son’s school project ‘Peeporama’, in which we became urban chicken farmers overnight by unintended selection it seemed.  It’s been quite a ride.

We  noticed that the other hens had stopped laying around the same time the brooding happened – or at least we knew that they were probably hiding their eggs somewhere that we couldn’t think of.   We assumed that those hormones where now affecting them all.   It was a complete mystery for a few days.  They were all going into the brooders box in what we thought was an attempt to help ‘Coffee’ keep her eggs warm, and they all suddenly seemed very busy about it – until one morning a few days after the brooding started, I caught a distant view of ‘Freckles’, a 14lb  monster of a hen standing over the brooding Silkie named ‘Coffee’ – and watched Coffee tucking another egg under her wing. A much larger egg than she could possibly lay.    She was sitting on 14 eggs!   ‘Coffee’ is a small Silkie, but somehow she lay and covered every egg.

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 A hard day in the hen house with Coffee and Sugar.

 We decided first and foremost for our own good, and for that of our neighbors, our rooster had to move on.  Fortunately, the feed store where we purchased him take back the boys because they are illegal inside city limits.   I asked no questions on his future, but I know he’s had a dream beginning.  This will be the 2nd rooster to have fired.    Free of roo-ing and sexual escapades, the girls relaxed and carried on – continuing to lay eggs in the nesting box that Coffee never leaves (even though we have 5 boxes).     So we marked the small silkie eggs that had been in there during Roo’s residency with a sharpie , and removed the remaining eggs and let her go at it.

It must be getting close to time now.   I hear it takes 3 weeks for the eggs to hatch, so maybe this week or next we might see a few baby heads poking out from under ‘Coffee’.   ‘Sugar’, her sister has been helping for the past 2 days.   They both spend all day in the box, and we are sure they are hiding eggs that we haven’t seen.  The other girls have settled back to a boring life of eating and pecking.  Trouble has left the urban ranch.  It is peaceful without Roo.  We now sneak in at dusk, as the sun sinks and the hens are at their sleepiest,  and gently we remove the newer laid eggs.  They are delicious!

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Beyond my normal work load, the first project of the year that came out of the blue was the unique offer from a friend to share a small booth at an antique mall here in Tucson.  To be honest,  I could not have been more excited!  There was not a moment of hesitation in accepting her offer to share the 6’x8′ booth.  As an avid collector of ‘stuff’, I’m also an avid purger.   I love new and old, and my idea of a thrill is spent getting something lovely at an estate sale, or getting up early and visiting yard sales.  Point me in the direction to an “off the beaten path” thrift shop, and I’m like a bee to honey.      I have a particular affection for this habit, which leads me into an eclectic muck of decor, and while I dream of a modern uncluttered house full of clean lines and vast windows and space like a beautiful centerfold spread in Dwell Magazine, I continue to surround myself with bits of found saved treasures and treats.  Dust gathers however, and I dislike dusting very much.

There is  also the love to make room for new things, and let go of  the old ‘stuff’ as well,  and here I  have a silent rule for myself that anything that does not fall into heirloom category can stay a while, but not forever.  I move my living room around every three or four months, rearranging furniture in a manic way, getting rid of chairs that the cats have  clawed to shreds, and avidly search Craigslist into the late hours, shopping for the next one.  Half the fun is finding the right piece at the right price.  Now the other half is selling it!  Last year we had a big blowout yard sale comprised of 20 years worth of finds –  that yielded a hefty cash reward.  Yard sales are fun, but it’s so much work and I sold a lot of my worldly treasures for penny’s.  One dealer  later described my yard sale as the event of the decade and it stopped and made me think! Always glad to pass things along, and now my new arrangement provides a better solution for my passion.   My friend and I now have the perfect storage room we wanted because it might actually pay for itself or even make money, and all items are reasonably priced but not for clearance.      What a fantastic arrangement!

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It’s taken a few weeks to put things in order and start to fill the space,  and time to take 60 simply odd purchases and clean, tag and price.  I’ve only cleared out 2 cupboards!  It has made me very aware of the amount of unnecessary clutter, and I am making this a  metamorphic experience!  I’ll be going through more closets, hidden storage, the attic, the kitchen, the tool room and beyond over the next few weeks and months.  No stone unturned.   I’ve made a promise to not to buy anything else until I see my first check from the sales, and that I will only buy inventory with it.    (I’ll exclude the two japanese ceramic birds I scored at the estate sale around the corner this weekend).   Two weeks in.  I took a second load this weekend, I see some of my inventory has sold.    The antique mall does all the daily work.  As a vendor, you set up your booth and they do the selling and report to you monthly with a check less their 10%.   I’m thrilled.   I’ll keep you posted.  If you are ever in Tucson, stop by the www.coppercountryantiques.com and check out booth #800E!

Also out of the closet and on my table in full flow this month is the ‘Giant Sand : 30 Years’ book.   It’s been 5 years in the making and has really taken that long to digitize and grasp the project.   I’m looking at 175 pages of memories, and will be spending the next few months laying it out to launch a crowdfunding campaign to finish it.   It’s a process.  It’s a huge challenge.   With it, I’m having to re-learn my skills on Indesign and book layout. It’s pushing me to educate myself.   This project will be the biggest challenge I face over the course of 2015, and a challenge is always good.

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Other projects completed this month include designing branding and packaging for a beautiful active jewelry line about to launch in Los Angeles.  I’ll share this once it’s on the market because it’s still behind closed doors and I’m not one to spill the beans.   We spent a couple of days shooting photos of the product.   I just wished I had managed to snap a picture of the moment, when I was laying on my stomach in the dried river bed, shooting close-ups of the product on river rock, a coyote came within 5 feet of us, appearing above us to look down from the small ledge above my brother in law’s head.  A jogger came along and the coyote ran off.  It happened in seconds but it was a vivid proximity.  It was the closest to a coyote we both had ever been.

There is Spring Bazaar at the Mercado San Agustin upon my to do list– which is  a wonderful community event being held May 2nd/3rd.   The Mercado San Agustin, a beautiful old style marketplace located in downtown Tucson, hosts a twice a year signature event that we put together-hosting a weekend market filled with young upcoming entrepreneurs, makers and artists.  As it gains more attention, it grows. It takes  three months to put together a juried selection of 50 great vendors to join the already 13 retail tenants on site.  Our focus is finding the best and brightest of young talents to show.

I’m running behind today, and must hurry to finish a long list, but I promised you updates more regularly.  I’ll check back with you on any baby updates as soon as I hear any peeps through my studio wall, as well as more project updates.

There’s life from the garden shed.  It’s kind of broody right now, and there’s not an inch of snow!

More soon.

Nicola

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