“The Chicken Chronicles”–Part X

Well, finally a happy, upbeat chicken story!  The River Rock Family Farm in South Weber (near Ogden) apparently is a great place to be a chicken.  The Radtke family has just been given an award for the humane treatment of animals.  Their chicken and duck farm is the first in Utah to be Animal Welfare Approved (AWA).  Along with the distinction they received a $5000 Good Husbandry grant.  The Animal Welfare Approved program promotes animal welfare by encouraging pasture- and range-based farming.

One of the things that impressed the organization giving the family the award and grant was that they are preserving heritage breeds of chickens and ducks.  Suzie Radtke explains that their breeds are often those headed for extinction and the hens don’t lay more than 280 eggs a year.  She goes on the say that today’s high yield production breeds lay so many eggs that the hens often hurt themselves and break bones.  (I guess chickens are somewhat expendible and replacement is easy.)

The Radtkes spent $1,200 of the grant money on an incubator, as they have to breed their own chicks.  The AWA doesn’t want its approved farmers ordering chicks by mail.  They are also upgrading the brooding house to guard against predators (yes, you guessed it–feral animals) and adding fencing and guard dogs.

In order to be approved a farm must be inspected for compliance to the AWA’s–founded in 2006 in Alexandria, VA–strict standards.

The River Rock Family Farm is a small operation with about 150 laying hens and 30 ducks on their 11 acres plus some alpacas.  The fowl can run freely when the weather permits and are fed high nutrition feed–part of the criteria for an approved farm. 

They boast 14 different breeds of chickens which produce many different color eggs beyond the usual white and brown.  The multi-hued eggs have really caught on and customers are thrilled with the farm’s produce.  Duck eggs are available for folks who are allergic to chicken eggs.  I guess the proteins are different and allergic people can tolerate duck eggs.

Eggs of many colors!

AWA officials hope to expand their program here as other Utah farms apply for approval. 

So, all in all, a positive story with no bickering at city council meetings!

The universal chicken

And then there's....



and the full chart!

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Updates on Gun and Feral Animal Bills

The sub-headline in a paper from last week  read: “Clearfield lawmaker: ‘This is all about animals–dogs, cats, pigeons, pigs.'” 

It seems pigs are now lumped in with the list of possible feral animal candidates! 

Since I shared the situation in my last posting regarding the current gun and animal control bills on the Utah State Legislature floor, I though the latest update would be in order.

As for the gun law to make the Browning revolver (the design of which which Moses Browning sold to a man named Colt and the rest is history) the state firearm, well, it is close to passing (they just have to fiddle with some wording).  So Utah will now the first state in the nation to have an official state gun.  This being a gun-loving, NRA-supporting state, also discussed and close to passing is the change in the law that will allow concealed, but registered, firearms to be carried near schools (currently, it’s illegal).  Forget trying to keep kids safe, if I’m a gunowner, I should be able to carry a gun tucked away on my person on school property if I want, and don’t step on my Second Amendment rights!

John Moses Browning

The animal-cruelty bill is now coming out of committee and the wording has been changed to allowing the humane killing of an animal that threatens a person, property, or livestock.  The word “feral” was removed as was “humane shooting or killing of an animal if the person doing the killing has reasonable belief that the animal is feral.”  Now one has to wait for an animal–not necessarily feral–to make a threatening move, rather than just dispatching what is suspected to be a feral creature. 

Curt Oda (R-Clearfield) is “disappointed” that those lines were removed, but pleased that people can kill an animal if they or livestock is threatened.  (Are pigeons REALLY that dangerous?  Pigs?  It may be all that pigeon poop in a barn….)  Oda feels there is a lot of misunderstanding about this bill–national now–it’s not just about cats, this is about all animals.

Rep. Curt Oda

Feral Pigeon

A representative from the USPCA was present in the House chamber and spoke against the bill while handing out packets with grisley images of you can guess what.  The Humane Society representative said: “‘There are depraved people out there who like to kill animals, and this gives them an open season on dogs and cats'” (don’t forget the pigeons and pigs…).  Out here in rural areas, farmers have been protecting livestock for decades by killing feral animals, but they have run the risk of running afoul of the law and being fined or facing jail time.  This bill was trying to legalize what is already happening.

I’m not sure where I stand on this issue as I don’t own livestock and I’ve never had a run-in with a feral animal that I know of.  (There is a pair of akitas down the street whose owner used to let them relieve themselves on our front lawn and leave the deposit there.  I would have liked to have shot the owner; however, late one night, I tossed an anonymous, dripping-with-sugar, “Dear Neighbor” note on their front walk attached to a knotted plastic bag with the dogs’ deposit and the behavior has ceased.)  I certainly don’t support cruelty to animals, but a trapping and sterilization program costs tax money, so that’s a part of the discussion.  (And just how DOES one sterilize pigeons?)

The animal bill is still in committee and no action has been taken on it yet.  Rep. Oda continues to recieve death threats and the FBI is now investigating.  Stay tuned.

Published in: on February 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Mark Saal on Guns and Cats

There’s a topic that’s been in the news and hotly debated out here recently that I’ve been trying to ignore as a potential blog posting, but now that my favorite newspaper columnist, Mark Saal of the Standard-Examiner, has written about it, I can’t avoid it anymore.  It’s not a pleasant subject and could be upsetting to some of my readers (this is your official alert!), but I know it has gone national (so you’ll hear about it anyway), as there was a letter to the editor in February 2nd’s Standard-Examiner that was in response to comments by someone in Massachusetts.  I have read where it even made it to the Steven Colbert Show and he had his sarcastic way with it. 

So, here it goes: Utah has a feral animal problem, and apparently it’s a BIG one.  Unfortunately, it seems to be mostly cats, but dogs and pigeons (Yes, pigeons are not just a big city issue!) are also a problem.  (I don’t think there are any feral horses or cows….)  With all this open space and pasture land out here, people–and yes, I know it’s unpleasant–discard unwanted litters to fend for themselves; hence, the feral creature population.  A Utah lawmaker has proposed controversial legislation to try to address the problem as it’s costly and out of control. 

Mark Saal has bravely taken on the topic and as I couldn’t put an opinion on this together any better, I again share with you his column from a recent Sunday paper.  (You’ve already been introduced to his style and wit in his column I shared with you about our “blizzard” on 12/1/10.)  Following is what he wrote, pretty much in its entirety along with the letter to the editor regarding the comments from someone in Massachusetts, as it’s a classic!  Also a second letter commenting on the gun bill is included.

 “Hey, lawmakers, while you’re making things official…”

So, it looks like we’re getting an Official State Gun, huh?  And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.  Because it sure would be nice to know what caliber weapon I ought to use on the feral cats in our neighborhood.

Just in case you couldn’t tell by the preceding sentences, the Utah Legislature is back in session.  And among this year’s proposed bills are a couple of real standouts:

* House Bill 219, sponsored by Rep. Carl Wimmer (R), seeks to make the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol the official state gun.  Pundits around the country are having a field day with this one, saying–among other things–that it’s not exactly the most sensitive legislation lawmakers have ever come up with, especially in light of the recent shootings in neighboring Arizona.

* House Bill 210, sponsored by Rep. Curt Oda (R), would allow people to humanely shoot, club, or decapitate suspected feral creatures without running afoul of animal cruelty laws.  Again, outsiders are having a good laugh at our expense over this one.

It all points to what promises to be an extremely productive session of the Utah Legislature–particularly for those of us who earn at least a part of our living poking fun at these misfits.

Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these bills, in numerical order:

House Bill 210

Woot! If this one actually passes, I predict feral-animal hunting will overtake bird-watching as the No. 1 recreational hobby in the state.  After all, shooting or even clubbing animals seems so much more sporting than simply poisoning them, or setting out foothold traps, or rounding them up in burlap sacks and taking them down to the river.

If anything, I’m not sure Rep. Oda’s bill goes far enough.  I mean, sure, feral animals are a problem and all, and declaring open season on them sounds like Fun with a capital F.  [Blogger’s Note: Rep. Oda has since received death threats….]

But what about the other nuisance animals in our lives?  Like the dog that just won’t stop barking … all … night … long.  Or that cat from next door that uses the grandkids’ sandbox as a public toilet.  Or the neighbor’s goldfish, which I swear keeps staring at me, giving me sinister looks every time I go over there.

Shouldn’t we be able to do something about THOSE problem animals, too?

House Bill 219

It’s a nice sentiment and all, honoring firearms pioneer John Browning by declaring one of his most important inventions an official state symbol.  But I think we all know where this is headed.  I mean, if we can have an Official State Gun, how long before we get an Official State Flamethrower?  An Official State Pepper Spray?  An Official State Blunt Force Trauma Weapon?

Look, we’ve already got a State Cooking Pot (the Dutch oven), for crying out loud.  We’ve got a State Folk Dance (the square dance), a State Grass (Indian rice grass), and both a state hymn (“Utah, We Love Thee”) AND a state song (“Utah, This Is the Place”).  [And don’t forget Utah’s state dessert, lime Jell-o.]

We’ve got a State Costume (basically, your Official Utah State [Pioneer] Dress Pattern), a State Star (Dubhe, in the Ursa Major constellation), and even a State Fossil ([US Senator] Bob Bennett).

True, we don’t have a State Dirt like, say, California (the San Joaquin Soil), but we do have a State Rock (coal), a State Mineral (copper) and a State Gem (topaz).

And, not only do we have an Official State Vegetable (Spanish sweet onion), but we also have an Official State Historical Vegetable (sugar beet).

So, what does all this “state symbol” craziness mean?  I’ll tell you what it means.  It means that, with any luck, the next time I write one of these incoherent weekly ramblings, it’ll be as the Official Newspaper Columnist of the State of Utah.

That’s right, people.  I plan on writing my state legislators this week and asking them to co-sponsor a bill that would officially designate me as “State Newspaper Columnist.”

If that’s successful, I further plan on having my duly appointed representatives introduce one final bill this session, singling out their very own legislative body for a state symbol.  (Maybe something like “Official State Disappointment”?)

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a rather sinister-looking feral goldfish to decapitate.


Two spirited letters to the editor in response to the two House bills:

#1–I am completely behind Rep. Curt Oda on this ferel cat issue.  It’s easy for people in Massachusetts to sit back and say we should trap, spay and neuter feral cats rather than humanely shoot them.

They don’t have people dumping kittens in their front yards.  Every year I have several litters of kittens dumped by people who are too irresponsible to spay their cats.  These people should be the felons, not the person who is inundated with feral cats who tries to humanely dispose of the overabundance.

Why should I have to pay to take care of other people’s irresponsible behavior?  The kittens are dumped on the side of the road in front of homes in the country with the misguided belief that the people living there will and can take care of them.  Most are either squished by cars, ripped apart by dogs, or taken by racoons, foxes, or coyotes.  That sounds humane?  Better to be shot and die instantly, I think.

I constantly have feral cats leaving feces in my hay.  This causes a health issue for my horses, which by the way, I care about much more than somebody else’s misbegotten cats.  They [cats] tear up mine and my neighbors’ flower beds and gardens.

These are the people who didn’t ask for or want the cats.  So, because some cat lover in Massachusetts says so, we are supposed to protect these non-native predators?  Other introduced species, i.e. Eurasian collared doves, starlings, etc. aren’t protected because they interfere with the native wildlife.  Cats aren’t native and are devastating to native wildlife.

Get real Utah.  Protect our own.  Tell eastern nutcases to stay home and if they want to protect our feral cats so badly they can pay for the shipping.  I will gladly trap and ship all they can handle to them.  Let’s go after the irresponsible cat owners.  Why do we license dogs and not cats?  We pay more to license dogs that aren’t fixed.  Do the same for cats.  If they don’t have a collar and tag they are feral and should be disposed of, or shipped to Massachusetts.  –L.K., Hooper, UT

#2–The Utah legislature is looking at a bill to name a certain Browning (dedeased Utah inventor) revolver “The State Gun.”  If passed, Utah would be the only state in the nation to have a “state gun.”  If passed, legislators may also want to consider a “state missile” because we have  Thiokol [a missile company].  How about a “state poison” because we have Dugway Proving Ground?  [That recently lost track of  a potent nerve poison, causing a 12 hour lock-down.  It was finally located; it had been mislabeled!]  And…Utah might be mentioned in TIME magazine Milestone section as “State Goofus.”  –T.B.. Ogden, UT

Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

What’s in a Name?

Most geographical regions, including US states (and probably elsewhere in the world) have unusual names for towns, mountains, rivers and other places that require identities.  Often, when the new settlers arrived, their names for landmarks and towns supplanted what the locals–probably first nations or indigenous tribes called the very same spots.  (For my own previously shared example of this about Chimney Rock see “Trip Notes-Part 1”, posted on 7/20/10.)  But sometimes the original names stuck, like many of the named things in New England, the deep south and in the far west, though many western geographic names do have a Spanish influence.  One of my favorite towns in Maine is called Meddybemps, an old Indian name.  If you look around or on a map where you live, you’ll discover lots of unusual nomenclature.  Just across the state line in Arkansas when you cross over the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee you can’t miss Toad Suck (town AND state park).  I’ve always wondered not just how and why that was selected, but what was rejected in favor of that name. 

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m riffing on what people call things–and this can include first names.  Utah is no different with unusual town, mountain, and geographical feature names, as well as the names with which parents saddle their children.  When I taught, I came across my share of unusual first names of students: M’Cherie, Toiletta, Toyota, LaToyota….  In class one day we were discussing names as labels imposed by well-meaning parents and one student shared a name of someone he knew from high school; the boy’s name was (and I’m not making this up–some of you have heard this story) Shithead.  I recall the student offering this information was quick to point out that said boy had changed the pronunciation from the obvious to putting the accent on a created middle syllable, as in Shi-TAY-ed.  But I digress, I’ll return to people’s names later.

So, grab a map and see if you can find the following places or features in the great state of Utah:

Hurricane.  We don’t get hurricanes out here, but somehow the town ended up with that moniker.  The pronunciation is altered a tad, too.  It’s Hurri-ken.

Nephi, Lehi, Moroni, Manti, and a whole host of other place names straight from the Book of Mormon.  Not to mention Moab and Ephraim (biblical).

Tooele (and everyone struggles with that name).  I’ll let you struggle for a while and give you the way to say it a bit farther down.

Parowan, Paragonah, and Panguitch, the three odd P towns.  One sounds like a character from Star Wars, one a STD, and one a sandwich of some sort.

Monticello (a nod to Thomas Jefferson, I guess), Monroe and Roosevelt cover the presidents.  Mexican Hat, and Montezuma Creek are worth mentioning.  We also have the cutlery group: Spanish Fork and American Fork.  (I guess that’s not any odder than King of Prussia, PA). 

We have towns named after the usual animals: Beaver and Bear Valley Junction, but there’s also a town in the south desert called Bullfrog. I don’t know what category Koosharem falls into!  Or Ticaboo, for that matter.

Utah also has some interesting mountain and river names: the Oquirrh Mountains (pronounced Ochre, like the color) and the Uinta Mountains (You-IN-ta).  Oh, and Tooele is pronounced Too-ILL-ah.  And we have a Virgin River that frequently floods and washes out homes in the southern part of the state, known as–you guessed it–Dixie.

But vying for the most interesting names are the current crop of young ‘uns.  A lot of names of older people often come from the Book of Mormon: Hyrum, Lehi, Orren, Orlo, Verl, but it seems that children’s names are, for some reason, either names of cities back east or spelling variations that are creative at best and awkward at the least, not to mention made-up names.  There’s Brooklyn, Camden (I wonder if his parents know that Camden, NJ doesn’t have the best of reputations), and Bronyx.   Then you have Madyson, LuDawna, Kailynne, Aspyn, Dyaunie, Zannah, Jaxson, Judex, Avalon, Llogo, Kirwan, Sunrise and Sunset (twins, don’t you know!), Gauge, Saige, Ashtyn, Riitta, Brock, Braxton, Nautica (I’m not making this one up), Koen, Elveda, Valee, Nubia, and don’t forget Stormy.

No one can say the good folks out here aren’t creative!

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm  Comments (1)