Which came first, the chicken or the cage?

On January 1, 2015 California law will require that chickens raised in cages commercially must have room to turn around and spread their wings! Almost every egg laying chicken in the US is raised in a “battery cage”.

Chickens are cramed into these cages. Each has approximately 67 square inches of floor space. An 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper is 94 square inches. That means you can raise three chickens on two pieces of paper side by side!

Chickens packed into battery cage.

Chickens packed into battery cage.

The average life span for each chicken is two years. Two years couped in these horrible conditions in cages stacked in barns without windows. During that time most develop calcium defienciecies that deterioate their leg and spine bones so they cannot even stand up. Many die in the cage from dehydration, they can’t get to the water.

For ten years I had an organic farm. We raised chickens for eggs and meat. They free ranged outside during the day and spent nights in a coupe. No cages. They lived about five years and were happy. Today I eat organic eggs which are free ranged. Yes, they cost more. But what price do we pay to raise food the absolute cheapest without any regard for the animal.

Chickens, like most birds, are highly inteligent. If you have spent time with chickens you know they have individual personalities.

How big will the new cages be? Most growers are pushing for the European standard of 116 square inches per chicken. That still seems small to me.

Washington and Oregon are passing similar laws, yet six other states are suing California to get the law invalidated because their battery cage raised chickens cannot be imported into California.

Raising chickens for food under these conditions is not only unethical, it’s spiritually wrong. We should treat our fellow beings with more respect and give thanks for the gift of their meat.

Human nature amazingly incorrect…

Expressing Gratitude to the Earth

I listened to a Christmas Eve podcast of NPR’s “On Point”. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, was discussing the positive benefits of expressing gratitude.

New research is validating an old wisdom. Money, power and station in life cannot buy happiness. In fact, the pursuit of material possessions can increase stress, anxiety and affect health adversely.

The antidote to materialism is to shift your mindset and express gratitude for the things you have. Perhaps what you already have is enough to provide contentment. There is a difference between need and want. Most of us want so much, but actually need so little.

Studies of the neuroscience of positive emotions conclude that activities that benefit your pro-social nervous system result in a happier attitude, healthier immune system and better sleep patterns.

These activities include experiences in beauty and awe. Where better to find experiences of beauty and awe than in our own natural world.

Instead of acquiring a never ending mound of consumer goods, why not pursue experiences in nature. Spend some of that money on a wilderness trip, an outdoor hiking adventure or rafting down a white water river. The opportunities are endless. Studies have proven that experiences have a  longer lasting positive memory than the purchase of yet another consumer item. An experience can last a life time. The newness of a new consumer item seldom lasts longer than a few days.

Gratitude is the social glue that holds communities together. Being grateful for the gifts you have and the folks you know is good for your soul. People have a large capacity to express gratitude in situations of crisis.

The earth is entering an era of climatic and ecological crisis. It is time to express gratitude to our home, the earth. We should be grateful for the gifts the earth has provided and show that gratitude in our relationship to nature. We can give back by being good stewards and conserving our natural resources.

Most important we can express our love for the earth and the natural world in which we live. The diversity of animals and plants are a special gift, a sacred gift to be cherished, not plundered.

Get out there and be amazed…

Winter solstice reflections

Shortest day of the year, but what a lovely start.

Solstice sunrise

Solstice sunrise

You can’t take a warm and sunny day for granted this time of year. Our destination was the marshy confluence where the Okanogan River flows into the Columbia River in north central Washington. There is a great walk along the dike that separates the river from the marsh.

A perfect day to stroll along the dike and enjoy being in nature. Bald eagles where hanging out near a Cormorant rookery.

Eagles in Cormorant rookery

Eagles in Cormorant rookery

This adult had been hunting ducks and was drying its wings in the sun after getting them wet in the river. The eagle then took a short test flight to make sure his/her wings were dry.

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A kingfisher successfully hunted a small fish.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Ring-necked and Bufflehead ducks lazily floated on the water that had been frozen at Thanksgiving.

Ring-necked ducks

Ring-necked ducks

Goldeneye duck

Bufflehead duck

Hundreds of coots were rafting together in the water. An eagle flew out to hunt the stray birds on the edge. The coots saw the eagle and as if of one mind formed a very tight circular ball, protecting everyone from an individual eagle strike. The eagle gave up and returned to shore.

Coots rafting

Coots rafting

The sun sailed across the southern sky as if in a hurry to give way to night. Late in the evening returning home, we happened upon an old abandoned homestead. It was at the end of life, just like this year. As 2014 gives way to 2015, a new year is born.

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I hope everyone has a happy, healthy and successful new year.

Get out there and be amazed…

Birding at 60

Not age, miles per hour!

A reported sighting of  Pine Grosbeaks sent us on a birding adventure throughout the Methow Valley. Eighty miles in five hours harvested a great list of sightings.

Driving down the highway at 60 mph looking for birds is tricky, so the passenger is the spotter. Any bird that appears out of the ordinary prompts a pull over for further investigation. Binoculars are a must, a good spotting scope comes in very handy.

The usual inhabitants garnish a comment not a pullover. In the Methow these would be crows, ravens, magpies, juncos, quail and flickers. And on our 80 mile romp, we saw many of each. With practice your eye instantly pattern matches bird silhouettes to ones you know and ones that are different. It’s the different ones you stop to check out.

We saw many Bald Eagles, both adults and subadults, Red-tailed Hawks and Kestrels. Often we stop for these diurnal raptors. They are our specialty and we never tire of observing their behavior. Some were hunting from power poles, feasting on road kill deer, and perched along the river

The talk is about the bird you would like to see. We were chatting about the Northern Shrike and amazingly we saw two. Scattered among the Red-tailed Hawk sightings were two beautiful Rough-legged Hawks.

Right at the reported spot, we sighted a dozen Pine Grosbeaks. Males, females and juveniles, all hanging out in a big cottonwood tree. We do not see them often and they were quite the treat.

But the fun was not over. A funny shape perched on the top of a branch got our attention. Northern Pygmy Owl!

Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl

The dogs were getting bored so we stopped for a hike. Another Northern Pygmy Owl sighting. We were flabbergasted at seeing two of these tiny owls in one trip. Clinging to a fir-tree was a White Breasted Nuthatch. Cute beyond cute. We heard a pounding noise and just around the bend was a Hairy Woodpecker working an Aspen tree for bugs.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

On the return trip home we spotted a flock of three dozen wild turkeys and two Cooper Hawks. One was a juvenile female and the second was an adult male. Both hunting orchard mice from fence posts.

Even as I write this story, the adventure has not ended. Cindy calls out from the living room “What are those birds in the service berry bush?” I didn’t believe it, turns out they were … Pine Grosbeaks.

Pine Grossbeaks

Pine Grossbeaks

Get out there and be amazed…

Dripping Springs “oasis in the winter”

The road leading to the parking lot of the Big Valley Ranch trail located in the Methow Valley is named Dripping Springs Road. Cindy and I never made the connection until the dogs lead us on a side trail down to the Methow River.

Methow River

Methow River

At the base of a log pile we noticed watercress growing in a spring flowing into the river. The spring water was much warmer than the river and created an oasis for water plants. Even when the river ices over, there will be drinking water for animals.

Watercress

Watercress

We traced the spring back to its source, flowing right out of the ground at the base a bank.

Dripping Springs source

Dripping Springs source

A wonderful discovery on a wintery December day.

Get out there and be amazed…

Goeduck water squirt

We went to Edmonds, WA for a walk along the scenic waterfront in search of a reported Snowy Owl. Wind was brisk and the owl was not to be seen.

We did notice a boat arriving after a day of geoduck harvesting.

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Meeting the boat at the dock was a buyer and his two sons, who immediately went for a goeduck each.

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The kids were fascinated with them and so were we.

Get out there and Be Amazed…

Cold Snap this Thanksgiving

Its been a cold Thanksgiving in North Central Washington. First it snowed and then frigid cold settled over the region. Temperatures are in the single digits at night and way below freezing during the day.

After the wildfires this summer very little habitat was left intact for the wildlife. Its going to be a long hard winter for the deer, birds and coyotes.

We went to Winthrop the Saturday after Thanksgiving for the “End of the Road” festival. Fireworks were spectacular.

Of course you can’t keep dogs inside all day. They love to run and play. Carl loves to hunt rabbit, but this snow bunny below had him stumped.

Get out there and Be Amazed…