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Back Talk


  • Geoff Hansen
chicken big Forget about dogs and cats. For Vershire author Jay Rossier, Living with Chickens is where it’s at. His new book, subtitled Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock, promotes the pleasures of small-scale poultry farming. Published by the Connecticut-based Lyons Press, it’s full of practical advice — “before you get started, make sure that there are no local zoning laws that might end your career in chicken husbandry before it even begins” — and handy diagrams of coops and killing cones used for slaughter. The goal of growing your own, after all, is to guarantee a steady supply of fresh eggs and meat. But even non-farmer types will appreciate the photographs. The book is full of fowl in four-color glory, including but not limited to Bearded White Silkies, Black Australorps and Silver-Laced Wyandottes. The Dark Brahma hen looks like she’s outfitted in a herringbone suit. “It’s a hybrid how-to and picture book,” says Valley News photographer Geoff Hansen, who manages to make hens, chicks, eggs, roosters — even egg cartons — look sumptuous. His subjects, snapped in and around Tunbridge, get full credit in captions that are as entertaining as they are informative. One reads, “A rooster holds down a hen while performing the sex act at Tom Powers’ chicken house. Powers said sex between chickens is ‘short and not sweet.’” Hansen’s last book of animal images, My Life as a Dog, focused on his beagle Lucy. “I didn’t think much about chickens until I started doing the pictures,” he confesses. This pretty new book leaves you with birds on the brain.

pet on a pedestal Animal outings abound this summer — so get your pooch off the porch and into the public eye. The poshest parade is at the Shelburne Museum. Along with American folk art and French Impressionist paintings, Electra Havemeyer Webb apparently collected canines. Her animal interests inspired “Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs” last summer — a four-hour festival that doubled as the founder’s dog-friendly birthday party. The fur will fly again this year — on Thursday, August 15, from 4 to 8 p.m. — when hundreds of dogs and their owners converge on the museum grounds for a dog masquerade parade and demonstrations by pet masseuses, channelers and silhouette artists. Competition among the canines? A bag of poop gets you entered in a raffle, and various contests allow dogs to distinguish themselves as “best kisser,” “best catcher” and “best lap dog over 50 pounds” . . . Pooches and other pets with real talent have another option: upcoming auditions for the “Stupid Human and Pet Tricks” segment of “The Late Show with David Letterman.” The Humane Society of Chittenden County is hosting the tryouts this Saturday. “We got a call from the trickmaster himself,” director Susan O’Kane says of the show’s Darren Demeterio. “He said he was looking for animals from the New England area.” She has great hopes for one Pavlovian pup who fetches a Kleenex every time her mistress sneezes. The only catch in this celebrity search: No walk-ins are permitted. You have to call 1-800-PET-TRIK first to make Fido or Fifi famous . . . Looking for other opportunities to parade your pet? On July 27, a Mutt Strutt in Stowe raises money for the North Country Animal League, which runs a “no kill” shelter in Morrisville. The next weekend, Burlington is unleashing support for animals with a parade on Church Street. Smokejacks is sponsoring a companion 10-kilometer road race Sunday morning that raises money for the Humane Society.

people pictures His subjects are humans, not pets, from Vermont to the Great Plains. Come November, the U.S. views of Peter Miller will be on permanent display in Kenya. The Waterbury photographer recently shipped off 32, to the reconstructed U.S. embassy in Nairobi — the old one was bombed by terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden. London-based Dale Richardson, who has also curated the art for embassies in Bangladesh, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Israel and Tanzania, chose Miller’s work for his portrayals of rural life and people. In an April e-mail she explained, “The idea is to show guests that we have similar landscape as Kenya — plains, plains, plains, with some mountains thrown in for good measure — and, like them, plenty of humble people and small village stores. We’re not all McDonald’s and A&Ps.” Miller’s shots of volunteer firemen, welders, hunters and farmers will hang alongside works by Edward Curtis, Gus Foster, Chris Burkett and Ansel Adams. Good company.