Wednesday, 11 September 2013



The final chapter of Cleo-poultra has yet to be written – so far her life has been preserved.

Cleo can walk without faltering, flap wings to perch on the deck railing and peck seeds from the ground from a standing position. Great accomplishments for an animal that was lying on its side, paralyzed wings and legs with seizure-like spasms which propelled it about in circles.

Seventy days ago, that was she. Beth and Bill started providing palliative care. They put her in a box, placed food and water within beak-reach and kept her bedding clean. Her remarkable chicken-neck flexibility put her head into a horizontal position.

A sling over the top of a box through which her legs could be put was devised. Her bum feathers were clipped to make personal hygiene simpler (chicken shit is very, very sticky). At first she was “diapered” because she was too unstable to be held upright but as she became stronger, a hole was cut through which her waste could fall onto plastic below – sort of a “chicken biffy”. Erin put a mirror in front of her so that she wouldn't feel as though she was all alone.

For two weeks in July, her legs were in cardboard splints and removed only for sessions of “chicken leg physiotherapy”. By 21 days post-illness, the splints were discarded and by the end of July she had to be restrained by sling across her back behind her wings because she could spasm right out of the sling. She could not control herself to walk.

On July 29th, she took her shaky steps. She never used her sling again during the day. She was directionally challenged – her feet did not seem to take her in any kind of controlled direction. She had to work very hard to get back to her food and water. A week later, the sling was retired and she graduated to a cat carrier chicken coop with shavings in the bottom. She was able to find her way back to it in the evening. Concern for her warmth resulted in a small rug cover over the cat carrier.

Re-integration has so far met with failure. She gets severely pecked – she is smaller than all the others. The rooster, on the other hand, knows that there is a chicken up at the house and comes to the house to try to seduce her. So far, she is having none of that and her objections bring Sylvan, the dog, to chase him into the trees.

What future does Cleo have? Will she lay eggs?  Will she become lunch someday?  Be a pet chicken for the rest of her life? (Given the alternatives for a chicken, that's not too bad.)

But do we want a pet chicken?

We have learned that chickens aren't all that stupid.  They might even have personalities!  We find it truly amazing how accurately Cleo can peck a tidbit off the tip of a finger – or hidden in a half-folded palm - when her eyes are on either side of her head.  I guess we could learn more.......

Sunday, 8 September 2013

No Military Intervention in Syria - or anywhere!

Interviewer:  What made you decide to join this action?

Bill and I have long been opposed to military action anywhere.  Call us "old peaceniks".  In April and October 1967, Bill marched in New York City and in Washington, DC  in opposition to the Vietnam war.  The enormous toll of war was apparent:  the environmental destruction, the waste of petroleum products, the re-building of lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.  When the peace movement influenced the US to pull out of Vietnam, many of us thought the world had reached an intolerance of war.  We raised families and developed professional careers.  

In the 1980's, the world accumulation of 67,000 nuclear weapons, enough to destroy ourselves many times over, spurred us to action again.  We were involved with International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War  (IPPNW) - it brought Reagan and Gorbachev to the negotiating table, the numbers were reduced to 23,000 and we thought the reductions would continue.  We were wrong. 

This year Obama devoted more than $80 million dollars to update nuclear weapons.  We don't know what he is truly thinking when he claims that he had have a "limited military action".  The Prime Minister of Russia has said, "Russia will regard such an action as an 'act of aggression'"?

Both sides have nuclear weapons and a measure of immaturity!  No military action in Syria.

Interviewer:  What do you think should be done?

Taking military action is will give in to the enormous military-industrial lobby, which will wring its hands all the way to the bank.   Whether it is power or oil or the banks, the beneficiaries will not be the people.  As the Mafia says, "Follow the money." 

"Occupy Wall Street" was right!  The economic system is intrinsically dependent upon both the petroleum industry (and other extractive industries) and upon the arms industry.  It is an entirely artificial, human-made system.  War and redirection of the world's resources into the military - the single greatest consumer of petroleum products and hence contributor to greenhouse gasses – is its product.

"Idle No More" sprang up to offer impetus to justice for Indigenous People and expanded to recognize the inclusion of opposition to extractive industries  and preservation of the environment.  It, too, will spur us towards the tipping point, the point where the human race changes direction. 

Do we "go where no man thought" (Carl Sagan), develop an economic system dependent upon sustainability (David Korton), accept the sacrifices (Naomi Klein) and create the world of the United Nations mission statement, a vision of peace and cooperation amongst people.  Or do we choose death - either by nuclear weapons  (nuclear winter – Carl Sagan, Ira Helfund) or by environmental destruction (global warming, increasing carbon)? 

Let us choose neither and start with Syria.  No military intervention. 

Let's:  choke the flow of arms into the country – identify the profiteers on both sides.  Pinpoint the manufacturers of weapons of mass destruction.  Remove international provocateurs.  Provide lots of work for undercover agents and journalists!

Start talking at every level of government, start teaching non-violent conflict resolution – not just in Syria but everywhere, start dealing with the already overwhelming numbers of refugees from Syria (but also all over the Middle East) and the personal traumas of survivors, including soldiers. 

Take it slow and take it patiently.  Real change does take some time.  Let Syria not slide into another violent Western-created quagmire like Iraq or Libya.

Interviewer:  Do you have hope for the future?

Yes.  The choices are clear and it is clear that many of us are making a choice to live and to create a world for future generations.  The human race has no alternative but to do it – and do it quickly!!! 



Hope in our Hearts

What a wonderful day in Regina!

It was quite an effort to arrange - revising the chicken coop to make it impenetrable from the outside for four-legged carnivores and from the inside from scratching imprisoned chickens, picking the corn, zucchinis and cucumbers to take to the city, organizing our travel bags with "things to return or drop off", recreational items like yoga mat and bathing suit (just in case the opportunity arises)  and the shopping list (like good fairtrade coffee, woman's work gloves, a special spatula, etc. - we always look in Wynyard first).

We successfully dropped off everything - book to Jan, toilet seat to Shayna and garden goodies in the evening.  We managed to get most of the essentials - didn't get to David's Tea or to visit the museum; I did yoga in the Balkwall park but Bill didn't get a swim.

We participated in the short march from City Hall to Victoria Park in opposition to military action in Syria, made some new friends and met some old friends, carried a sign (If I can learn how to post pictures to my blog, I'll show you.) heard some good speakers (who knew how to make a point briefly), and was interviewed by some excellent young journalists.

Part of my Spiel at the interviews:  In the 1960's we in the peace movement thought that we had more or less "won the war" against war - Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement was founded on principles of non-violence and they had prevailed over legislative racism.  In the 1980's we thought that we had turned the tide and the world would disarm itself of nuclear weapons - and eventually all weapons - this was not a utopian dream, it is the view of the founding nation-states of the United Nations, it was the view of the United States in the late 1920's when, tired of death and destruction, it passed a motion not to engage in wars of aggression anywhere!  It is not utopian, in fact, it is the only way the world will survive.

Military action to "punish" the use of a banned weapon is so exquisitely childish but action is needed.  The manufacturers of banned weapons must be identified.  The flow of arms into the conflict areas must stop and negotiations must begin. Do it now or do it after more infrastructure is destroyed?  May as well show the maturity to do it now.

We capped off the evening at the Briarpatch 40th Anniversary Party.  We  were delighted and proud to discover that our daughter, Beth, was the MC although we knew that she was the event organizer.  An incredible amount of volunteer time must have gone into the historic slide show!  The audience was engaged throughout.  And the audience!  What a wonderful mix of people of all ages and backgrounds!  Again, we renewed old friendships, and met many whose paths we will pass again!  The energy in that room will "change the world - it is the only thing that every has"!

When we pulled into the yard, the chickens had all put themselves to bed safely and the dog was pleased to be let out to mark his territory, have a barking fit and check for invaders.

We slept a satisfying sleep.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

What to do about Syria?

Get out and protest unilateral military action!  Twitter, facebook and phone congressmen, MPs, and the Whitehouse!  Take on Prime Minister Harper.

It doesn't work, you say? 

Peaceful protest ended the Vietnam war, segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa.  The Danes turned back Hitler in World War II by non-cooperation and protesting.  Regimes have been changed and dictators brought down by non-violent protest.

The “Arab Spring” in Syria was brutally squashed, apparently by President Assad's security forces, making room for multi-faceted sectarian violence, so-called revolutionary forces that come from a multitude of backgrounds.  Not even the government opposition supports their actions!

A gas attack on civilians is egregious but bombing the government or Assad's own fortress will not accomplish any good.  It could unleash a cascade of harm.

Obama knows that it could spiral out of control.  The United States is evacuating its embassy in Lebanon “as a safety measure”.  President Putin of Russia says that Russia would regard a military strike as an aggression against Russia.  Harper is saying that Russia shouldn't have a veto in the UN – but this isn't going to the UN.  Obama says he'll wait only for Congress to support him – and it is not clear whether he'll order an attack if he doesn't have their support.

Just a minute.  The United States and Russia both have enough nuclear weapons to plunge this world into a “nuclear winter” - in fact less than 1/10 of either countries arsenal would do it.  Volcanoes have done it in the past – the 1815 “year without summer” in Europe was the result of an eruption in Indonesia.

Who would press the button first?  Russia is dependent upon North American wheat so a failure of agriculture on this side of the Atlantic would have enormous “blowback” consequences for them.  The United States through President Bush has threatened the use of nuclear weapons “if necessary”.  But the end result would be roughly the same for the entire world.

Let's step back from military action while we can!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Bugged by Bites

Almost the end of bug season....

Flies, ants and spiders bite too.

Horse flies, deer flies and black flies are vicious. Did you know that their mouthparts are shaped like razors? – and they cut through the skin to create a wound from which they suck up blood if we let them sit long enough! Like mosquitoes and ticks, their saliva contains a blood thinner to prevent clotting while they work.

The saliva is a potential vector for several diseases, mostly for farm animals but may include Lyme disease. Because the flies leave small open wounds, the bite site has potential for local infection, especially if scratched. While most people will develop a welt from black fly bites, only a few people will be allergic to the saliva of horse or deer flies, a sensitivity that increases with repeated bites. Black flies are daytime feeders although the long twilight hours of the North means that they can be looking for a meal long into the evening.

Ants bite in defence – they aren't actively seeking humans for food. Their mouthparts dig into the skin and then release. People experience pain and rarely much of a reaction. If caught under our clothing, an ant will leave a series of bites creating a “family” of small welts.

Spiders on the prairies are rarely the cause of skin reactions. Most are completely uninterested in humans. Although the “brown recluse spider” is not supposed to be in Saskatchewan, I have seen a few people with reactions that resemble their bites. The bite is practically unnoticeable but the result is attention-grabbing. A red spot or blister usually develops some time after the bite followed by a shallow ulcer that takes up to six weeks to resolve. Antibiotics have no effect upon healing.


Horse and deer flies are largely visual creatures and apparently are drawn movement, dark colours, and the colour blue; carbon dioxide may also attract them to a lesser degree. So stop moving, wear light-coloured clothing and stop breathing – there are only two out of three choices. Unfortunately, they are not deterred by regular insect repellants although aggressive use of highly concentrated DEET may prevent them from biting.

A number of fly traps have been on the market including patches that were put on the backs of baseball caps – all have limited value but if you were planning an outdoor barbecue during fly season, they might decrease the menace.

Ants are best avoided – don't stand on an ant hill! Spiders? Like tick prevention, long pants stuck into high socks are be the best prevention.

One of the best things about cold weather is that all of these biting insects disappear! Unfortunately, we won't have long to wait.

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