Archive for the ‘Farmer Nyel’ Category

Huckleberries! A Labor of Love!

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Nyel’s Secret

Nyel “disappeared” for a couple of hours the other day.  I thought he was down communing with the chickens and, as it turned out, that was part of it.  But, mostly, he was picking huckleberries — the little blue kind.  They are his favorite.

It took about two-and-a-half hours for him to halfway fill a large yogurt container.   “Between their size and my arthritic fingers…” he said.  It is definitely a measure of how much he favors huckleberries!  I, for one, have neither the interest nor the patience.

2-1/2 Hours Steady Picking

Nyel, on the other hand, has been watching and encouraging this little bush (if you can encourage a bush) since it first volunteered itself down near the chicken coop.  Year before last he got a few berries — just enough to whet his appetite.  Last year, however, he was “otherwise occupied” recovering from St. Vincent’s Hell and I doubt that those huckleberries even crossed his mind.  So, by this year, the bush and he were both ready!

Ready for the Freezer

He’s picked two “batches” so far.  Both have gone immediately into the freezer and he tells me there will be more.  Meanwhile, there would be an even greater number if he could stand up long enough to pick them or (heaven forbid!) if I would pick at least some of the ones he can’t reach from his wheelchair.  I’m thinking about it… Maybe if he had a plan for those little morsels I’d be more willing.  But, so far, he’s just waiting patiently to see how many he can accumulate.

I don’t know if he can train the chickens to help him.  That could be easier than counting on me.

Another Rooster? Please God, No!!!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

The last time we took a mean rooster to the Poultry Auction in Chehalis we both said, “Never again!”  So why, you might ask, is it that a young rooster is coming to join our flock today at three o’clock?  Why indeed?

It started five or six months ago with a conversation with our friend Nancy Allen.  Nancy has had chickens — hens only — for several years now.  I’m always interested (and gobsmacked) by her chicken stories — five snacks a day including cottage cheese and meal worms, baby chicks roaming her kitchen etc. Her chicken philosophy is the polar opposite of Farmer Nyel’s.  I find her chickens-as-pets approach fascinating and appalling at the same time.

So when she called to say that she had acquired four Rhode Island Red chicks but Phil said she could only keep two and she offered the other two to us, I was reluctant.  For starters, since Nyel has become incapacitated mobility-wise,  I now have 100% care of our little flock.  I am not an enthusiastic farmer, chicken or otherwise, and I find the daily coop duties more than I can handle.  In my mind, the philosophy around here is “attrition is good.”  Getting two more girls and coddled ones at that did not have much appeal.

Beautiful but Mean

But… Farmer Nyel looked at me with big eyes and… we said, “okay.”  Nancy said she’d like to wait until the hens were laying successfully so it would be a few months.  We said, “okay.”   But a month or six weeks ago, Nancy called to say that one of the hens was quite a bit larger than the others and she was suspicious.  “No roosters!” I said.   “Well, we’ll watch her and see…” was the response.  Last week the word was, “He’s definitely a rooster.  He’s begun to crow.  But he’s very sweet…”  “No roosters!” said I.

Nancy was persistent.  “He’s very very well behaved,” she said.  “Not at all aggressive.  Won’t you come and meet him and see for yourself?”  Meanwhile… Farmer Nyel was looking at me with big eyes.  So… I went to meet Mr. Rooster yesterday and learned that 1) Nancy wanted to bring him to Oysterville that very afternoon and 2) that the hens were not laying yet so it would be a while before the hen could join our flock.  “Laying those first few eggs can be traumatic,” Nancy said.  Gobsmacked, I said nothing.

We finally agreed that the rooster would come at three o’clock this afternoon but only if accompanied by one of the hens.  “Could we fix up the coop so they can see the others but be separate from them for a while?  They say that’s the best way to introduce new members to the flock…”  I said I’d see what we could do.  I didn’t mention that the last time we did the slow (five day) introduction trick, one of the new hens was pecked to death the first day of togetherness.  My hope is that the Mr. Rooster will protect his lady friend…

But the greater hope is that there will be no pecking at others at all — especially at me.  I do not have a good history with roosters.  And I don’t have a Plan B.  Stay tuned…



Waiting for Wednesday

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Nyel on the Move

Day before yesterday it was sunny in the afternoon here in Oysterville.  It was a Wednesday.  Yesterday it rained.  Today it is raining.  And the forecast says it will be raining until next Wednesday.

We are waiting for the sun breaks, whether they only come on Wednesdays or not.  That’s when Nyel can go outside and commune with his chickens and other garden denizens.  He could probably get outside on rainy days, too, although his “all terrain” wheelchair is electric and getting it wet is not recommended.   Not that communing with wet  chickens sounds particularly appealing, anyway.

When Nyel headed outside with his book  Wednesday, his plan was to sit in the sun and read.  He invited me to join him in the south garden and so out we went.  We were only halfway there when the girls spied us and trailed along behind.  Shyly.  We think the wheelchair is a little overwhelming for them, but they made it clear that they wanted to say “hello” to Farmer Nyel.

Farmer Nyel and His Girls

We thought an offering of food might help — chickens can’t resist a tasty morsel or two — so I went to get the can of scratch.  Sure enough, as soon a Nyel rattled it, all their shyness evaporated and they were eating out of his hand in no time.

Next Wednesday maybe he’ll see if one or two of them would like to ride around the yard with him.  It will make quite a picture, don’t you think?  “Man in Wheelchair with Chickens” we’ll call the portrait.  Could be one of a kind!

Farmer Nyel is back on duty!

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Nyel Approaches The Coop

Yesterday, Nyel completed a trip that he began on February 28th.  That was the evening (my birthday!) that he fell on the way out to the chicken coop to collect the day’s eggs and say goodnight to the girls.  It was the evening he fractured his hip which ultimately led to several surgeries, many weeks in the hospital, and, ultimately, to no hip at all.

This time, it was broad daylight and he approached the coop from his regal position on his new electric all-terrain wheelchair.  He had gone out the garage door, up the middle of the street (well, it’s Oysterville!), through the gates that barricade the cannon, and over the expanse of abnormally mole-ridden lawn!  He had done it with the singular nonchalance and aplomb that I associate with the bearing of kings!

Farmer Nyel Back On Duty!

An electric wheelchair!!!  Can you imagine?  We certainly couldn’t — not in our wildest dreams.  And then, for reasons that will probably always remain mysterious, we were handed a huge check from unknown benefactors.  They must be people we know — why else would anyone just give money to a little old couple from Oysterville?  To say we were gobsmacked — both of us — doesn’t begin to describe it.

And then… how to honor this gift in the best possible way?  Weeks before, we had briefly considered getting Nyel a sturdy electric wheelchair so that he could safely resume his rightful place on the property as “Farmer Nyel.”  But we had discarded that thought almost immediately.  Too spendy and, perhaps, not really necessary.

But, now?  The more we talked, the more it seemed like the perfect idea.  And so. yesterday, Farmer Nyel was back on chicken duty!  And rhododendron-trimming duty.  And if he’s not careful, mail-fetching and even grocery-shopping duty!  (I jest, but the batteries — two of them — will take him twelve miles before they need to be recharged.  I’m sure Jack’s is only about five miles away…)

We are SO grateful for the generosity of whoever you are out there!  You have no idea how the atmosphere in and out of the coop has changed!  Overnight!  The girls and I are ever-grateful, to say nothing of Farmer Nyel.

It’s not easy outsmarting a chicken…

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Somewhere we have (or had) a big roll of black netting.  I’m not sure why Nyel got it, but it occurs to me that I can put it around the plants and over the dirt in our geranium pots and that might discourage those naughty girls from making a mess on the porch.  It’s another of those “when I have time…” things.

For today, I’m hoping that,  by leaving the sprinkler on in the south garden, I can discourage them from doing their dastardly pot pecking at least for today.  I’d like the porch to be fairly dirt-free for Nyel’s homecoming.   I can’t do much abouot the swallows, though.  Nyel will not be happy to see them (or their mess) and I’m sure the feeling will be mutual.


On the other hand, it would be great if the ladies would come greet him when he arrives.  His plan is to walk the length of the porch with his walker (rather than in his wheelchair) as he can manage the step up onto the porch and the second one into the house that way.  He told me yesterday that he’s been practicing going up and down stairs during his therapy sessions!

Another session with practicality in mind was in the “kitchen area” of the gym at the Seaside facility.  Yesterday the therapist had him stand with the kitchen counters as support while he got dishes and silverware  out of cupboards and drawers.  “So I can help you in the kitchen,” he said with a twinkle.  Obviously, he hadn’t told the therapist who is the head chef in this household.  “Help, hell!” was my response.  And we both laughed out loud.

I haven’t actually asked him what his goals will be once he gets home.  But I suspect that returning to his cooking duties will be one of them.  I plan to talk about that on our way home today.  I can still hear the pride in his voice when he told me Friday that he had met all of his goals at rehab.  “And more besides!” thought I!

As for arranging for Nyel to be met by his girls… That’s my immediate goal and I think I have a plan that will work.  Stay tuned…

…and maybe a little sunshine, please?

Monday, June 17th, 2019

 At The Oysterville Church

The Shasta daisies in front of the church have been out in all their glory for several weeks now.  They are spectacular — a fact that I have repeatedly told our own Shastas which are right across the street.   However, ours are still tightly in bud and, in this gray and misty-moisty weather, are probably intending to stay that way for a bit.  Maybe they are a different variety.  I suspect, though, that they are just stubborn.

Farmer Nyel planted them along our south porch years ago and they come back every Spring to brighten our days and to draw the eye away from other garden imperfections.  We eagerly await their arrival each year and I had hoped that this year, especially, they would burst forth a little early.  I thought they would make a suitable setting for Nyel’s homecoming tomorrow.

At Our House

But,  it turns out that daisies are a lot like chickens.  You can’t really count on them and they certainly turn a deaf ear to suggested behaviors.  Oh well…  I know that just being back at home in Oysterville will be excitement enough for all of us here on the homefront — daisies, chickens, and me!  To say nothing of Farmer Nyel, himself!

It’s Chicken Tetherball Season!

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

The ladies have been laying to beat all records — five hens and five eggs a day for many, many days in a row.  It’s as if they hope a good report to Farmer Nyel will bring him home  more quickly.  Don’t I wish…

He is proud of them, though, and I told them so this morning as I hung up a new regulation tetherball-for-fine-feathered-athletes.  They were on it like the tournament had already started.  If you haven’t seen a game of Chicken Tetherball in the flesh (or feather), you have missed quite a treat.  The ball, of course, is a head of cabbage, and the girls seem to the manner born.  Without any introductory explanations or special encouragement, the  play begins as soon as the referee (that would be me) gets out of the way.  I did tell them that the equipment was according to Farmer Nyel’s specifications and they seemed extraordinarily pleased about that.

The internet is full of suggestions for games for chickens.  Some are complex — like filling a remote toy pickup truck with scratch and then releasing the chickens  to chase after the truckful of treats.  The online video was with turkeys and was hysterical.  They run flat out after that pickup and if you’ve never seen racing turkeys (or chickens) you just haven’t spent enough time on the farm.

However, I’m more inclined to try the spaghetti game.  I haven’t seen this done, but apparently you hang a strand (or many) on the fence and then watch the fun…  I can’t quite imagine what that “fun” is exactly,  but I’m willing to share next time I have a pasta dinner so I can find out.  Whatever transpires is supposed to be hysterical.

Farmer Nyel is more interested in chicken tricks — like getting them to jump through hoops.  Fortunately he has more patience than I and I’m thinking that getting his ladies to do a simple circus act or two might be a pleasant summer pastime for all of them once he gets home.  Stay tuned…


Where there’s a will…

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Wheelchair Gardener

The sunshine began calling early yesterday morning.  By noon, Nyel had positioned himself (in his wheelchair) in the kitchen so that the sun was beaming through the window right onto his face.  There he sat, smiling and reveling in the warmth and the light.

“Let’s get you outside,” I said at lunch.  “I think we can do it – between your walker and the wheelchair, I think we can manage the step from house to porch and from porch to lawn.  Don’t you?”  He did and so off we went.  It all worked like a charm!

“And, while you’re here…” I suggested.  And before you could say fuchsias and geraniums, Nyel was equipped with a tarp in his lap and a pair of garden snippers in his hand.  I carried each of the hanging baskets and each of the geranium pots, one by one, and Farmer Nyel worked his pruning magic.  While he pruned, I worked in the west garden bed, weeding and planting nasturtium seeds (even though I think it’s too early for them.)

The Tendr Touch

We were outside for about two hours.  Maybe more.  There was a steady stream of visitors who, seeing the “Temporarily Closed” sign on the church, read the bronze plaque in the churchyard instead, and tried to figure out how to pronounce the “Tsako-te-hahsh-eetl” sign over our gate.  Neighbors Mark and Sandra came by on their walk and hung over the fence to visit a bit. A duck or two flew overhead.  The roosters crowed every now and then and the hummingbirds came by to say “thank you” for refilling their feeder.  It was all absolutely perfect.

Maybe we’ll do it again today – at least the getting outside part.  I’m trying to dream up another garden chore that can be done from a wheelchair…  But reading a good book and Clapping and Cheering for me occasionally will work, too!  I need all that C&C I can get! (It’s right up there with R&R!)

Reunited At Last!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Coopward Bound!

Yesterday, with very little fanfare, Nyel mounted his Knee Scooter and headed east.  Through the south garden, over our scraggly winter lawn and down to the chicken coop.  The girls and boys, ever attuned to goings-on beyond the coop, gathered at the hog-wire fencing and watched his approach.  They were quiet – perhaps awe struck – as they tried to figure out what was coming their way.

I thought briefly of the rabbits in Watership Down and their fear of motor vehicles which they called hrududil (plural for hrududu.)  I wondered what chickens would call a knee scooter and if they even recognized that it was Farmer Nyel who was propelling it.  As always, it’s hard to tell with chickens.  It was even hard to tell with Farmer Nyel – I don’t know if he was expecting a little more fluff and flurry after his three-and-a-half-month absence.

Waiting for Farmer Nyel

Perhaps of greater importance to the flock was their release from confinement.  As soon as I was safely back in the house and out of harm’s way from that killer rooster, Farmer Nyel opened the gate and let them into the yard – also a first in three-and-a-half months.  He reports that they were initially a bit tentative but, with the enticement of some scratch, they were soon off and pecking – Backyard Chickens once more, ‘just as God intended” as our friend Ti would say.

Nyel spent an hour or more doing his Farmer due diligence – cleaning the coop, putting fresh cedar shavings on the floor and in the nest boxes and, generally checking things out. As requested, he called from his cell phone when he was ready to head back to the house.  I wanted a picture of Farmer and Flock and was willing to brave a confrontation with you-know-who to document this big red-letter day.


But, no worries.  When Farmer Nyel paused in his homeward trek, all seven chickens gathered round for the offered treats with ‘nary a glance at me.  The little red hen even ate from his hand just as she had done in the past.  Who knew there was enough memory space in that teeny-tiny brain to remember that trick!  Nyel didn’t let on but I’m pretty sure he was pleased.  As for the chickens… I’d wager they were, too.