Alabama, Chickens and the Apocalypse

Dad had a “boatshed” where he built three sailboats from lumber off the property. It was equipped with some of the most amazing tools and equipment. Besides all his electronic “stuff” he had the place filled with tools for building furniture and boats. (The big picture below is after we’d sold the big equipment, but you can see the size of the building.)dad's inventory 130dad's inventory 134IMG_0139

I would have liked to have kept more of his tools but when dad died I gave them to my nephew as I knew he’d make good use of them and because he had been very helpful caring for the place when dad could not. We would later sell the “farm” as well.  

We had made lots of memories there. Grandpa’s huge old barn with all it’s treasures from the past, the old fishin’ hole where my kid’s learned to put a worm on a hook for fish so small it was hardly worth the bother but so much fun. My girls rode their first pony there. Then, there was the time, not but minutes after we’d arrived,  my two year old grand-daughter gave us the scare of our life when she wandered off. How one of the kids had sense enough to call 911, I don’t know but they did and how amazed we were that despite it’s remote location, the volunteer firemen were there in an instant (daddy said they were all cousins). When we didn’t know what else to do, I went out to the center of the pasture and methodically checked the tree line and finally spotted her little blue outfit just as she was about to disappear into the dense woods. Since she didn’t speak yet, it was what we feared most.

IMG_0137

Dad and his wife, Rita had built the place with their own hands.  It wasn’t a big place, but as dad said, “it was paid for” and even though it was only supposed to be temporary until they got around to building a proper home up the hill a ways, that never happened. When Rita was dying, she looked up at me sadly and said,
“I never got my home.  Your daddy built three boats, but I never got my home” My heart broke for her.IMG_0131

It was true. Daddy’s priorities were self serving, but it wasn’t a bad house.

When we visited we all fought to sleep on the porch anyway. It had a queen size bed reserved for guests.

As you can see the boat shed on the left is certainly bigger than their little one bedroom. The kitchen was a one butt kitchen, yet Rita canned their winter meals from their harvest in it and sometimes large batches she’d do in the boat-shed, hence the stove there. She made do.

IMG_0136

When she passed, he regretted not having given her her house. He had always taken her for granted and now he missed her and after awhile I sensed he was losing his own spirit in despondency, so when I mentioned this to Russ, we packed up our life in Colorado, away from my kids and grand-kids to go be with him. He was 82. 

When I had been there last I had mentioned to one of dad’s friends how I’d always wanted chickens. Well, unbeknownst to us, she purchased thirteen chicks, now waiting in a box  for me at dad’s place when we got there. And…because chicks grow at an incredible rate, we had to scramble to make them suitable housing. Right quick, in the heat! Ugh! Until then, I temporarily housed them under the house.

With dad’s help we built our own first chicken coop and it was pretty cool. We decorated with old license plates and it was quite a celebration of our toils.

IMG_0135

Believe it or not, the coop is on the left side of this picture, but just a few months after we’d left, it was overgrown with vines and bushes and no longer visible. Frequently in the south, whole houses, if not cared for, would get swallowed up by vegetation in short order, such was the case of our coop.

When we first moved there it was the year of Katrina. It was hot and humid and so unlike Colorado, which is dry, dry, dry. What a shock to our systems. Russ and I would go through 7 or 8 shirts in one day!

Russ and I had the most fun when we lived at dad’s “farm”. It was only two acres surrounded by my cousin’s property which was 360 acres. It was a beautiful piece of land with a stream running through it and a waterfall where I remember my mom saying she wanted a house built near. In those days, my grandparents still owned the land but soon after the divorce, dad left us and mom in California and moved back there, then got into a tiff with grandpa and grandpa made a deal with his brother and it was gone. The land we thought we’d inherit was gone. Dad was bitter about it. According to him there had been some questionable finagling on the part of my uncle in the transaction which created “bad blood” between dad’s uncle and him.

Fortunately, my cousins didn’t hold any animosity toward dad for being bitter but they knew and we got to use the land like it was ours as much as we wanted which wasn’t much. When dad got ill, my cousins would check on him when we couldn’t. Good people.


IMG_0130

So here we are, in the middle of nowhere (even my cousins didn’t live there, they just grazed cattle on it), we had to build a coop for the growing chicks. Dad, being a jerk made fun of Russ for not knowing how to do “guy” things, like building stuff. Fortunately, Russ was quick to tell him, (and dad could tell he was pissed) “Look Gil, I’ve never done anything like this before. Instead of making fun of me, show me what to do! ”

Inside, I was cheering Russ for kindly putting daddy in his place, but I certainly couldn’t gloat about it. No way.  Even though I was too old to get back handed, I could see him doing that and I could also see Russ and him getting into an irreversible tussle. Daddy was smart, but he was still a red neck.

Growing our own food was hard work but very rewarding.  There’s nothing like fresh laid eggs, fresh veggies, greens and home grown corn.

Once we got the coop built, we built this huge pen around it for them to scratch around in, but soon found that to be faulty. Although it may have kept coyotes out, there was more it didn’t.
We never killed our chickens, the local predators did their fair share of that. Between the hawks, coons, coyotes, possums and snakes, it was all I could do to keep them alive.
When we discovered hawks swooping in from above we got netting to cover the top. Unfortunately, I left one little area open around a tree thinking it wouldn’t be a problem. Well, I was wrong.
Have you ever been into a Lowe’s or Home Depot and seen birds frantically flying about and how it seems they can never  find their way out?  That’s because they don’t have sense enough to go down and out the door. Weeeelll, a hawk is not like that.  They are far more clever.  We saw one as it was exiting after having found it’s way through that little gap, snatch a chick and head straight back up the hole and fly out with no chance of us stopping it. Russ yelled to no avail and I quickly covered the hole.
One time Russ was at an auction when I heard a commotion in the coop, so I went running up there with a flashlight and a ‘possum had ripped my beautiful black Cochin’s tail right out of him trying to get him. I was so pissed I ran back to the house and got daddy’s rifle.  I didn’t know how to work it, but I wasn’t going to let that damn thing get my chickens! I’d shot bigger rifles before but didn’t know a thing about this little 22.  When I got back to the pen, the possum had moved further away so now it was on top of the fence on it’s way out. When I shined the light on it, it froze, it’s beady little pink eyes reflecting back at me.  As long as the light was on it, it didn’t move but when I fumbled with the rifle it moved again. Giving up, I called Russ and he said he was just finishing up.  I told him to hurry before the possum got away. He was outside of Birmingham about 45 minutes away. I stayed out there the whole time, mosquito’s gnawing on me while I kept that light on the possum.  When I looked down to make the call I lost him momentarily, so I waved the flashlight around a bit until I found the pink reflection again. The opossum had scooted up a tree, but I found him and this time I didn’t move.  Finally Russ made it back.  He took the rifle from me and because daddy had old ammo and probably hadn’t cleaned the rifle in like forever, it misfired, so Russ put in another shell. This one worked. Not being a sportsman he missed the first couple of times. When he (the possum) finally fell out of the tree, which was a “fer piece” away, we ran over to it.  Russ nudged it and said “he’s dead”. My comment? Practically shouting I said, “Shoot it again! Haven’t you heard of “playin’ possum?!” So my sweet husband did as he was told.
Link to a picture of what my beautiful black Cochin bantam looked like:  http://www.topshelfbantams.ca/images/2013_black_cochin_cockerel.jpg
BTW I am actually a pretty good shot, or at least I have a pretty good aim, but that’s just it, I have to really take my time to aim  and shoot to hit my mark. The problem is, even though I can shoot, I’m not real confident handling weapons and I don’t know how to clean, load and all that other stuff which is just as important.  I know how to put a clip in though. Hehe  You should see my daughter A, she’s a dang Annie Oakley!   Of course my Marine son knows how to handle lots of weaponry and my daughter T, not bad.  I don’t think my son “I” would want to touch one. LOL
Did I like living in the south?  Absolutely!  It’s a great place to live. Think about it.
In an apocalyptic situation, what a place to be. You could easily be self sustainable. Homes and land are affordable, you don’t have to worry about water rationing, Daddy’s place had it’s own well, so nothing got shipped or piped in. Of course, you’d want to install a hand pump, his was electric.  A gas tank if used sparingly, could last a few years. On even a small patch of land you can grow enough for several people and what you don’t grow yourself, those around are more than willing to share or trade. People in the south are extremely generous.
Of course, in an apocalypse, that could change.
I do follow the “Walking Dead” and now “Fear the Walking Dead”. (Smile).
What surprised me about myself was how content I was there, hardly ever seeing a soul and seldom going into town. I actually enjoyed the peace and tranquility of being so remote.  Surprisingly, too much.
 After awhile, I forced myself to get a job because I could see myself settling into hermit-dom forever.
Now, in California, I am just as isolated. It’s funny how you can get lost in a crowd.
Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Alabama, Chickens and the Apocalypse

      1. No, They are not a bunch of rednecks. They are awesome people with a lot more to them than what they are portrayed as. They are loving generous, people and in my opinion less racist than the majority of the population. The biggest stigma they have to overcome is everyone lumping them into a preconceived idea of who they are as you just did. (frown)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love this post and the pictures! I live in the South (well, the northernmost part of the south- Virginia) and in the country, and I love it here. I desperately want chickens but don’t know how to begin. And I also love Walking Dead and now Fear of the Walking Dead and day dream about being self-sufficient during the apocalypse. Thanks for that glimpse into your life and your dad’s life- very nice!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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