Holiday greetings 2020

Well, it’s been a bit of a year for everyone… We have all been working or schooling from home by Zoom since March. In August when the fires hit the Bay Area we moved ourselves and the Zoo up to our weekend cottage in Mendocino, on the California north coast. We’ve been based here since then. We were planning to write a regular end-of-year letter, but everyone was so busy that this got delegated down the chain of command until it reached the pets who, frankly, don’t have anything better to do. So this year’s letter is written and produced by them. 

— The human Pritchards.

Jack (Dog): I’ve gotta say, I love being in Mendocino. I usually sleep with Lucy or with the parents, which is pretty sweet. I get up, and then Simon feeds me, which is totally awesome. It’s my fave time of the day, although sometimes I get so excited that I dance and spin around, and Simon has to be very stern with me. He’s right though. Sometimes I knock my water over, and that’s not good. 

Then I have to go out and feed the chickens. They’re alright, and definitely fun to chase, though I get yelled at for that sometimes. After that, Simon and Lucy have to get to their Zoom school. They work SO hard. They are doing school and homework all day long, practically til dinner. Sometimes I just lie in front of the fire, or I sit on Lucy’s bed. That’s pretty nice. Maybe we go for a walk, like, to the waterfall before dinner. Sometimes I try to eat the kitty litter. Really bad habit but it tastes great. Did I mention dinner?  Yeah, Lucy feeds me, and that’s awesome. I love dinner. That’s the other best time of the day. Lucy lets me jump around a lot when I’m waiting, so I do that, and sometimes I knock over the waterbowl. My Bad. I go out one last time before bed (oh god, Sammy’s a jerk, and I keep on getting these terrible baths). Then bedtime. What a great life it is!!

George (senior cat): We get rations 3x per day. First when Simon gets up, then Lucy at dinner time, then Dad before bed. Simon’s hella stingy with the food; he’s always talking about my “weight”. Don’t know what he’s talking about. Dad’s more generous.  But it’s just not enough for a cat to live on, so I have to troll around on the counter when they aren’t looking, and sometimes I can find good quality food up there. Once I ate the top off every single one of an entire batch of muffins. That was 2 years ago, and Lucy still brings it up. Helloooo! Anybody ever hear about a statute of limitations???

I’m so malnourished I have to spend most of my day resting. I like to sous vide by the fire, or sometimes I go sit in Lucy’s room and watch her playing Minecraft or watching Youtube videos. But I don’t usually go in there if the dog’s there. Jack’s pretty much an idiot, but most of the time everyone just ignores him.

Charlie (junior cat): My favorite things about Mendocino: (1) sleeping by the fireplace and getting very very hot; (2) sleeping on Lucy’s bed while she plays video games when she’s supposed to be doing homework; (3) watching the birds out the window–we get a lot of jays, different kinds of sparrows, towhees… and the Cali quail are just super cute. I’d love to catch one. A couple of times Me and George managed to escape from the house. We prowl around outside for a bit, but it’s not really my thing. I spent time on the run before I got caught by the Cat Shelter and shipped off to these guys, but I’m mostly retired from the rough life now. George likes the life of crime more than I do, but as he always tells me: “Chazzie, never escape on an empty stomach”.

Fiona (snake): I’ve mostly been under my rock since we moved up to Mendo. I can see everyone’s feet walking by. The unfrozen mice taste pretty much the same here.

Fluff (chicken #1): Here’s my day.

0730: Hen house door opens. Four chickens hop out quickly.  ChickenPea dawdles.Basic breakfast rations. Peck around for a while. 

1000: Lucy opens coop door. Good girl. Free range 90 minutes. Peck Peck. ChickenPea dawdles in the most irresponsible way and doesn’t follow my group.

10:30: Idiot dog gets let out into the garden and chases us around. I should have expected better control of the pets from Mum, who is otherwise fairly competent. 

1130: Mum brings plate of cut up vegetables or melons. We go back in coop to eat. ChickenPea gets left behind and has to be shooed in from under the rhododendron. 

1135: Realize that the coop door is closed and now we’re stuck in here for the rest of the day. Peck around.

1300: Lay egg. Some of the girls show inconsistent egg-laying, unlike myself, and of course ChickenPea never even bothers at all.

1800: Jump into the hen house. Get on roost. Others follow, some rather languidly, I have to say.

1815: Lucy locks henhouse door.

Sunny (chicken #2): Simey says I’m the best chicken. I’ve got such great plumage. I lay eggs, and I’m pretty chubby so I could probably be a fryer if I wasn’t such a great layer — not like goody-two-shoes Fluff. ChickenPea is neither layer nor fryer. She’s the dumb one. Can’t keep up, doesn’t lay, and frankly a bit skinny. Not a nice thing to say, but I keep expecting the fox to finish the job on that one. Sometimes I distract her when it’s time to go in, and we do a little dance around the rhodies, just to entertain mum a bit. Maybe ChickenPea will get left behind one day.

Pepper: peck peck peck

Harpy: peck peck peck

ChickenPea (chicken #5): People think, just because I’m distracted, that I’m dumb. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m currently developing mathematical theory to understand the instantaneous rate of change of curves, as well as theory to compute areas under curves. I think this will be extremely useful for chickenkind when I have this complete. My biggest concern is how to communicate this to the larger world of poultry, given the utter lack of interest shown by my birdbrained flockmates. What ill fate paired me with these numskulls?

Sammy (skunk): The Pritchards have been up here all fall, which is pretty nice. I’ve got my loop. Every evening when it’s getting dark, I roll across their back deck. I check out the bird feeder — see if anything spilled there. Then I go over to the chicken coop. Every day they plug my hole under the fence with rocks, so I have to dig out the hole to get in there. That’s just our little game. Then I roll off to do the rest of my loop. Sometimes the dumb dog sees me. He comes charging over with that silly grin on his face–omg have you EVER seen such a moron? I just swing around, give him a little squirt, and boy-oh-boy does that ever do the trick!!! Lesson: Don’t mess with Sammy. 

The human Pritchards again: Well, I hope that clears things up for you. Lucy (13) is in 8th grade and enjoys Minecraft and misses her friends; Simon (16) is in 11th grade and enjoys watching John Oliver and hopes to be back in school for his senior year; Jonathan is keeping his lab going from a distance, while enjoying the chance to do trail running and paddleboarding; Lianne (50 last month!) has her hands full with teaching, directing the Human Biology major at Stanford, as well as continued research, and walking/running/biking here in Mendo. 

One parting gift – Lucy’s sketch imagining Fluff and Sammy getting married! Happy holidays, all. Stay safe.

Credit: Jonathan (writing), and Lucy (for the lovely sketches).

Published by Lianne Kurina

I am an epidemiologist, the proud director of the Program in Human Biology at Stanford University, and a very keen horsewoman.

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