Monday, April 20, 2015

Quail Sprints

So the permanent housing for the quail has not been determined yet, let alone built.  I am trying to balance out the fact that it needs to be easily portable, both for some kind of "quail tractor" as well as the fact that occasionally it might have to move into garage as we can get terribly cold, and yet sturdy enough to survive our local "critter" population.  As a result, they have been in a large cage - or separated a  bit, as the case is now due to 4 males and two females.

Occasionally, like today, I put out on of those low pens one sets up for puppies or rabbits (maybe 3' high) and cover it with a sheet in the garden area.  The quail love to burrow into the dirt and shavings and the top serves as a pretty good block to anyone getting out.  The set-up has worked pretty well.

Until today.

I was out in the front yard cut out little oak seedlings when Nighean Dhonn comes tearing out the front door.  "One of the quail got out Dad, and I think it is between the houses!"  Sure enough, the dog had nosed open the cage (I had failed to attach it with clothes pins like I usually do) and one had slipped out and flew over the fence.

Quail are not great flyers.  Ours can get maybe 7' in the air and go for about 10' - enough to get a quail out of danger but not enough to let them fly away.  But the hops, combined with their sprints, are enough to save their lives.

For a small little bird, quail run quickly.  They are small, so they fit into places that larger birds like chickens cannot - like under bushes or even under fences.  Their lack of size also makes them hard to grab, and learning to corral them as they get ready to fly is an art.

Our quail moved from between the houses to a flight up and almost to the roof next door before coming down back down and then slipping under the neighbor's fence.  The gate was next door and they have always said come in if we needed to get something out of their yard.  We slipped in and found the quail in their garden, hiding between plants.  A couple of quick darts and a grab and the quail was headed back for his pen.

Just in time for Nighean Dhonn to come tell me that a second quail had flown over the fence into the other neighbor's yard.

Got to meet my neighbor finally (I sure this added to my allure - "Hi, I am the guy that practices sword and runs rabbits around in his yard.  My daughter's quail is running in your yard - mind if I hop in and get it?").  The second quail was a bit hard to corral - I have learned that if I can get them under something they are less likely to fly away and, with my neighbor's help, Number two was captured (got to introduce the neighbors to quail) and on his way back to his cage as well.

One of the cardinal rules of weightlifting (one which I consciously break) is that one does not do much cardio (e.g. running) beyond sprints.  Today I got my fill of wind sprints in chasing quail:  back, forth, up, down, short spurts of speed.  For a such a small bird, they are quite the evader.

I shall need to make sure whatever cage design I end up with has no gaps...

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Irritating Moment of Self Honesty

There is nothing more irritating than a sudden piercing moment of self honesty.

Oh, it is certainly a worthwhile thing. Self honesty leads to self awareness and self awareness leads to action.  And that, of course, is a splendid idea.

But it always comes at a price.  And self honesty charges a very high admission fee indeed.

Because to be self honest is to have the willingness to constant assess one's totality - actions, thoughts, emotions, intents - and be willing to call out and accept when one is wrong or misses the mark.  Following on this, one has to have to presence of mind not just to become aware of these facts but to be willing to take action on them - it is not merely enough to know; we need to do.

But these moments of self honesty seldom come at convenient times for us.  In a happy and perfect world they would come when we are relaxed and calm, fluttering into our consciousness like happy little butterflies that softly land on our hands.  Alas, this is seldom the case: instead they more often than not come crashing into our heads like anvils falling from airplanes, catching us unaware as we are in the midst of some crisis or conflict.

I say "irritating" because on one hand that is exactly what I mean:  the moment that such insights come find me seldom grateful for them as I am usually dealing with something else that needs resolution and suddenly realizing where I miss the mark or a personal weakness I had previously not analyzed is hardly what I need at that moment.  And so I am having to train myself to take those moments of self awareness and honesty and embrace them even in the midst of my conflict and chaos, because it is precisely in those moments that I am most in need of the truths that they offer.

Sudden moments of self honesty can be irritating.  The trick is to make sure that the irritation does not keep us from the truth of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


So first of all, a little administrative business:  thank you for your patience while I traveled and I apologize for the short posts.  It is a burdensome for me to travel as I am sure it was to keep reading haikus.

Now on to business:  eggs!

(or rather to start out with, egg).

I got up yesterday morning (after the aforementioned travel) and was rushing around to make sure that all was accomplished prior to leaving for work, including checking in on the mob.  I have a small litter pan in the large quail cage with wood shavings (quail love to give themselves dust baths) and saw what looked like a rather large pile of brown in there.  I thought is was a large pile of bird droppings; I was wrong.  The even better part was that when I got home last night, there were an additional two eggs there as well.

This is fairly exciting.  I had thought that we were not going to get any eggs - after all, we have had the quail since September and nothing.  Turns out (I think) that the two Coturnix quail we have are females - why they started now, perhaps we will never know.

Quail eggs are small - about three of their eggs are the equivalent of a chicken egg - but the size of the egg in relationship to the size of the bird is much more impressive than the size of a chicken egg compared to the chicken - one wonders how those little birds can do it.

We are not going to be setting any egg records, of course - even at two eggs a day for 7 days a week divided by 3 we are getting 4 full chicken eggs or so, which we easily eat in a week.  But the excitement of having something like this happen - good heavens, of having something like this work out once - is very gratifying indeed.  It makes me believe with enough planning and foresight, one could actually approach a higher level of protein generation even within the confines of an urban environment.

Now if I just had an incubator to hatch more quail...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Iai and Life

I received my two things back today:  my hakama and gi and my certificate of the Komei Jyuku:

These are important to me because these things were earned.  They are not a right just by doing Iaijutsu, they are something that is granted when one reaches a certain level of development and proficiency.

These do not (by any stretch of the imagination) represent a stopping place, but rather a recognition that one has now started - truly started - down the path of development of excellence.  Not perfection - we will never achieve that here - but excellence, a continuing growth in how we do that which we do that we may become better in doing it.

I know that many things in my life lack this singularity and clarity of purpose, and I can become greatly bogged down in the minutiae of them.  But in this, is not iai  life?  We only practice a set number of kata but practice them endlessly to become better at them.  This same thinking can - perhaps in my case should - be applied to every area of my life, even the things that I do not think that it applies to - after all, is any job not just the application of the same set of skills day after day, much the same as Iai.  

Iai  is life.  Life is Iai.  It is just that we do not always wield a sword when we practice it.