Flying with Birds

I tried to fly with the birds this year. I really did. I tried four different times to cash in a GROUPON North Carolina Mountain balloon ride. The photo here is my very first balloon ride.  It was a present to myself to celebrate my 50th year.. That’s me on the right side in the blue jacket. It was a grand ride. I listened to Andrea Botticelli w/ my ear buds. Getting back to this year, three of us, Julie Bass Ransom and Natalie Aicha Mahr all bought tickets together. Gifted women, sweet friends…now that I think about it, this was my very first Groupon purchase last spring! It was exciting! Getting anything for half off excites me!  Cashing in the coupon and actually doing it, well, it was an exhilarating process and down right frustrating. On all four attempts to fly with the birds, unsafe winds and funky weather kept us from going up. Next spring when the tulips and dogwood are blooming we’ll try again. The next Groupon purchase I snapped up is for a flying lesson. Which leads me to wondering. Have I told you lately how truly grateful and happy I am about my life these days?

Speaking of happy, the other thing that is “alive” for me (my friend Steve Torma taught me that expression), is I am noticing a deepening compassion for all bird friends…Lately I’ve been obsessing about crows. How do I know? A week or so ago I purchased a old crone crow doll pattern. Isn’t she beautiful?Art that features birds flying or in trees fascinate me. Plus I’ve been Googling about wildlife rehabing. I want a crow friend.


Mother Hen’s Chicken School-Sundays, 2 p.m.- 3:30 p.m., Sept. 11-Oct.2

The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces,

or at least not try to defy them. ~ Paul Hawken

Fall, the time to plan for raising your own flock next spring. If you are concerned that factory farming is harmful to the environment, that the egg industry engages in and promotes cruelty to animals or that Big Ag commercial farming practices put us all at risk for salmonella contaminated food and contributes to antibiotic-resistant infections, this class is for you.

These are two young girls, Bridgett and Catherine, I helped mentor for their TEDx Asheville talk on factory farming.

The joy and satisfaction of being a good steward to the environment and to all animals is at the heart and soul of Mother Hen’s Chicken School. The curriculum is designed to teach others to become Confident, Compassionate and Organically-minded CHicKenERs. Mother Hen, aka Cathy Williams, presents four comprehensive and successive classes that also includes a mini coop tour, including hers! Attendees receive a discount coupon for a private half hour site consultation. Students will also  receive a discount coupon for a Mother Hen Beginner CHicKeNer Kit. Handouts include Mother Hen’s favorite products, web sites and books will be available.

The school curriculum includes how to optimally place the coop and run for maximum utility and efficiency that align with a chicken’s natural behaviors.  Do you know if your coop will be legal?  Compliance with city ordinances will be addressed. For eighteen months Mother Hen and a handful of others worked to convince Asheville lawmakers to relax the laws. She knows the law!

At a recent class touting local author, Ashley English’s, excellent book.

In the session on health and wellness, students will learn how to recognize basic chicken maladies and provide treatment, organically where possible. Cathy shares her favorite homemade inexpensive immune-system-boosting recipes. And let’s face it, all the start-up costs can add up. In Mother Hen’s Chicken School you’ll get tips on learning how, where and what to buy cheaply and what not to buy at all, despite what others say. Breed selections for our mountain area will be discussed and how best to keep your birds healthy and happy. You might discover some surprisingly counter-intuitive facts for optimal hen health. Another plus, you’ll get feedback from other chicken folks. On the coop tour, seasoned CHicKenERs share some of their challenges and successes.

Cathy is passionate about teaching others about the joys of back yard chickens and has been an invited speaker on numerous occasions and presented over thirty free public talks on Compassionate CHicKenInG, via She applies her appreciation for laughter and lightness in her presentations. Here’s what recent attendees had to say about their experience:

April 2011 monthly group meeting. The delightful Libby McDougall shared her expertise on vermiculture, growing our own worms. She is seated front row, second from the left.

“This was perhaps the most fun meetup I have ever attended. All the personal stories I heard about “the Girls” from everyone in attendance were so informative and loving. I also learned that caring for chickens is far more complicated than I ever imagined, but worth it for the company they provide. This is a really fun and personal group. I love it.” ~Neill

“A fun meetup as always! Can’t wait for the next one!” ~Angie

“Way fun Cathy! As always, a great time…”Ellen

“Learned a lot of new things. Always a great place to get answers to your own particular issues.” ~Mike and Susan

“Thanks for all the pertinent information. I am one stop closer to getting my girls.” ~Sebette

Register here by September 1, tuition is $69.  Thereafter, tuition is $75. Chicken School students will receive six hours of instruction for a fraction of Cathy’s normal consulting rate. Mother Hen Consulting fees begin at $50 per hour.  Here’s the great news: The rate of tuition for all classes and field trips is the equivalent of paying a consulting fee of $10 per hour–$.16 a minute! That’s $17.25 per class to learn and avoid mistakes you don’t and won’t have to make.  Honestly, for the money, you won’t find a better value. If you do, let me know. And lastly, students will receive a bonus discount coupon for upcoming single event workshops. At a recent monthly gathering, I asked seasoned Chickeners to share their list of the Top Five things they wish they had known before they started. You’ll get that list on the first night of class.  I hope to share how back yard chickening brought new joy and satisfaction in my life. I hope you’ll come and see what it’s all about.

Via con Huevos.

Giving thanks

What if this year was the first year your family chose not to participate in factory farming of turkeys? How would that go over? Who in your family would object? What fun way could you create a symbolic turkey to commemorate the holiday and simultaneously help put an end to factory turkey farming? Want to help put an end to rampant viruses? If a member of your family were to get sick from eating tainted turkey, wouldn’t you want the doctors to be able to administer the most powerful drug available to cure them? Who would you blame if the drugs are worthless? Talk with your family. Make an alternate menu this year.

Let this one act be your way to contribute to the solution instead of being part of the problem of mutant viruses. By NOT buying a grocery store turkey — that is how you can help.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s LA Times article, “More than 70 people in 26 states have fallen ill and one Californian has died. Officials say the strain of salmonella is resistant to antibiotics.”  Think of going green this year!

Flearoy Still Lays

My friend James Atkinson posted on facebook that while playing their first gig in Asheville, these guys, all five of them needed a room for the night. I live in a big older home near downtown Asheville. Long ago this single family home was divided into four apartments. I live downstairs in one, rent out two of them and keep the other apartment for friends, family and occasional passers by. So, I gave it some thought and said, why not. Sure, the band can stay in the guest apartment overnight.

A little risky you say? Well, life is a lot more fun when you tip toe out to the edge every now and then. But wait, there’s more

Friends and Gypsy Coops

Is there such a thing as too many coops? My friend Diane and I often choose to catch up with one another at a local bookstore. We each get a stack of magazines and sit and talk as we leaf through the pages. This little gypsy coop was in one of the magazines. Who wants one just like it?

Mother Hen’s Coop School begins in September

When I first began to think about really raising chickens, I mean really doing it…commiting to the initial investment in designing and building a coop, acquiring supplies, feed and choosing my preferred breeds,I didn’t know anyone who could be a teacher/mentor for the kind of chickening I wanted to do. I did know I wanted my experience and care of my chickens to be guided by principles of humane treatment. I didn’t want to feed my girls just anything, like rotten food scraps, moldy bread or GMO corn or soy based feed, for that matter. I wanted to provide good nutrition, just like I would for any other pet. I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate their sweet chicken ways with plenty of dirt scratching area, provide opportunities for them to eat juicy bits from the grass in my backyard and create an environment filled with variety.

After a while, when it was apparent I wouldn’t find such a teacher/mentor, I set out to become one. I studied and scoured everything I could from outdated Agriculture Extension Service phamplets to almost every poultry book on Amazon I could buy within my budget to homesteading magazines like Grit and Mother Earth News and a slew of urban chicken websites.

With all that book learning, still, the most effective instruction for me was actually visiting and seeing someone else’s set up, see how they chickened, when they did what and why. I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual learner. When I ask for directions and someone verbally tells me how to get to from point A to B, my brain flips a tiny little switch and it immediately goes into say-what-now mode. I still function but it takes me a while before the toggle switch flips back to “normal mode”. As a result when I ask for directions I ask for them in the form of a quick map sketch so I can “see” it. And that’s what I’m ready to do now with Mother Hen’s Coop School. Through Coop School, I personally want to draw you a visual map on how to “chicken” with compassion and as organically as possible.

Whether you are raising chickens in or out of the city limits, But wait, there’s more

Chicken Club meets every second Monday of the Month

Good Second Monday of the Month,
Here we are, another month into summer. How are your girls faring so far? Are they panting and holding their wings away from their bodies? Tonight’s June CHicKeN CLuB meeting is another great opportunity to CHICKEN and discover new strategies to keep your girls healthy and happy. Our invited guest this month is a representative of the Asheville Animal Service Department of the police department. We’ll discuss the city animal ordinance and how their department functions as our ally to keep hens safe and neighbor relations positive. Officer Sears will go over the licensing process and how to properly fill out the permit application. Hope to see you tonight! go to to register. The event is free but registration is required.
Today I made a Coop Call for a young family in West Asheville.  They have five 10 week old hens and I stopped in to provide a Triple HHH Evaluation of their new coop and set up. The 3H Evaluation is a half hour look see to evaluate whether your coop is at it’s best to provide good coop practices for Healthy Happy Hens. If your goal is to create an environment conducive to healthy and happy girls, I would be happy to make a coop call for you! Via con Huevos (hopefully organic!)