The weather conspired with some well-placed publicity to make the second annual Backyard Chicken Coop Bicycle Tour (or the "Tour de Coop") a stunning success.
If you measure success by talking for almost four hours straight to a parade of people in your yard.
I had tried to get to coop #1 before mine, figuring I could be in the opening cohort of bikers and so just stop at my house. Last year, we'd all ridden together, while this year we knew we needed to split bikers into groups. However, as I rode to the first house, I passed people on bikes going the other way. Some of them had papers in their hands.
"Uh-oh," I thought, and sure enough, when I stopped long enough to grab my own map, I realized that Eric was going to be Mr. Chicken Coop and he hadn't signed up for that.
I'd worked some over the weekend to make the yard as presentable as it can be. Hadn't gotten the mulch down, nor finished the dratted brick patio, but it was cleaner than it had been. I'd even painted the coop and the storage cabinets by the patio, reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of primer-white in the yard. Put up a little teepee in front, with a sign on it, and some flowers, so folks on bikes could see this was the stop. I'd even clipped the bushes on the side so people wouldn't feel as though they needed a machete to get in back.
I'd considered making an "in" and "out" aisle for the yard, figuring there would be a need for crowd control. Eric poo-pooed that notion, so I took the path of least resistance. There were some signs up, though, that hopefully would answer some of the most frequent questions people might have -- I couldn't talk to everyone, I guessed.
Oh. My. Goodness.
By the time I got there, the first few people were leaving. I practically had to shove my way into the yard, where there was a crowd that didn't dissipate significantly for the next three and a half hours. According to the folks with the sign-up sheets, about 400 people signed up, with a few declining, and a few just picked up along the route.
It's hard to remember a lot of it. I answered lots and lots of questions about chickens, and how we rear them, and what my daily routine with them is, and why I don't have a predator-proof coop, and what we do with them when they're old, and the garden, and the bees, and the chickens' reactions to the bees, and about a thousand other things.
I generally don't mind talking to people at all.
As you can probably tell.
I did have to ask one of my children for a glass of water, and thought about taking pictures, but realized I couldn't take pictures if I was talking to people, and hugging friends who were stopping by, and answering more questions, and selling out of honey, because people asked, and finding a home for the rooster I'd taken off someone's hands for soup last week (too little for us to kill, but unfortunately old enough to crow) and talking talking talking.
Even Cat got into the act, answering lots of questions about the meat bunnies currently living in our yard. She's pretty matter-of-fact, but apparently some visitors are still shocked at the connection between dead animals and food.
They were a huge hit with the Girl Scout troop doing their own badge in Backyard Poultry.
I kind of wished the garden looked more Sweet-Peaish and less "kale going to seed," but hey, this is what one blogger called "delicious mess." I like pretty yards, but my first priority is food, so beds and irrigation come before landscaping. In a few years, when I figure out how to store the PVC pipes somewhere else, it will look nicer.
Next year, I would label plants in the garden more carefully just for this event. More visitors than I'd expected wanted to know when I'd planted some of the items. Because of my oh-so-fancy labels, I could tell them. I'd also include information about the watering system, and how the neighbors feel, and the story of the first beehive. (Partly I'm writing this down so I don't forget!) The more it would be a self-guided tour, the more I could just host.
Talk talk talk talk talk.
Out front, Eric was fielding questions about anything from rabbits as people left, to would he do it again (of course, that would necessitate him reevaluating his entire life with me), to would he watch the bikes, and telling people where to go, this side, not that side, and the neighbor yelling at him. Until yesterday, she's only yelled at me. . .
He's not what you'd call "a people person," so this was a severe stretch. Especially when I wasn't there yet. However, he rose gracefully to the situation and I only wish I could have watched him in action. However, I was talking.
Notice how close people are standing to the hives? They're on the ground behind the apricot tree. No one got bothered by them at all. I was head-buzzed a few times, and an adorable woman with really short hair had a persistent bee around her head, but she said it didn't bother her. And it didn't, it just buzzed around and around. People were remarkably cool, although I worried what kind of panic a sting would set off.
See the (sometimes unread) signs?
Signs! Right here.
A lot of people wanted to just talk. It was kind of sweet.
Access was something of a problem. Because of the beds, folks ended up sort of lining up. Some pushed past the apricot tree, but a couple of 'cots got knocked off in that process. Better pruning and me standing elsewhere might have helped.
The only negative moment in the whole day was a run-in with the woman who owns the next-door apartment complex. It's visible behind the fruit trees and hives. Apparently (and I wasn't there, since Eric was in the front) folks were laying their bikes down all over out there -- on the sidewalk, the street, and on her lawn in front of the apartments. She fussed at Eric, and then said, "I'm just going to go turn on the sprinklers." So she did, and Eric announced out back that people would want to move their bikes, and that was that. Bad karma for her.
I thought it was really sad. Here people, in record numbers, are out doing something kind of cool, on bikes, for goodness' sake, and you're ticked off because they put their bikes on your yard? It's not as though they were building firepits. Anyhow. . .
At the close of the day, I was pretty shaky. I don't know if I'd eaten, but near the end, our housemate came and told me that she was making dinner. I wanted to hug her or burst into tears, but I think I was still saying, "Yes, we do eat them. No, I don't let them out, you see, they'd destroy the garden. No, I don't notice much smell. They only take a few minutes a day, really. Oh that? That's garlic, these are onions."
Dinner was great.