Category Archives: news

I muse about the tragedy in Webster, NY

west webster patch

Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, tragedy visited the small town of Webster, NY, when a madman set fire to a house and a car, luring first responders to the scene and then gunning them down in cold blood. What ensued were hours of confusion and chaos as SWAT teams descended on the small spit of land, a two lane road bordered on one side by Irondequoit Bay and the other by Lake Ontario, chasing the gunman, evacuating neighbors, and retrieving the bodies of shooting victims. Firefighters, unable to enter the area to fight the blaze, could only watch from a distance as seven houses burned to the ground and their commrades lay injured or dead.

West Webster volunteer firefighters Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were shot to death and John Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino were seriously injured by gunfire as they arrived on the scene. Jon Ritter, a full time officer with the Greece, NY police, was on his way to work; seeing the fire trucks he followed to offer assistance and was injured by shrapnel when gunfire hit his car.

This happened almost in my backyard, figuratively speaking. Webster, NY is a few miles from my house on the east side of Rochester, NY. My daughter went to Christian high school in Webster for three years; I often walk the beaches to take pictures where this event happened. Webster is part of the larger community of the city of Rochester. It’s a small town just outside of the city, but we’re all neighbors.

When things like this happen in other places, the national news media always reports that “it’s a small town where almost everyone knows someone who was affected.” But you never really understand what that means until it happens in your town.

Yes, I know someone affected. Several someones, in fact. (Click here to continue reading on my blog at

The backyard chicken craze is hot news

Seems like the backyard chicken trend is making the news more and more.

The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon ran a story about the growing urban chicken market, reporting that since 2007 the demand for chickens in urban areas has grown 20 percent annually.

Some say it’s driven by economic fears; in the story, Bud Wood, president of the Iowa-based Murray McMurray Hatchery, says, “Historically, any time the economy has been bad, poultry has always been good.”

For others, like me, it’s a way to connect with their food, a trend fueled by books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

The issue of urban chicken keeping is being considered by city councils from New York City to Racine, WI to Vancouver, British Columbia, and all points coast to coast.

If you’ve been thinking about getting chickens, first call your town or city office and ask about their codes for keeping fowl. In the village where we live, it was pretty easy. I had to get a permit for the number of chickens I was going to keep, and the building inspector had to come out and inspect our coop. Even though it wasn’t required, I kept them in the loop every step of the way; right now I’m the only licensed poulterer in town, and I don’t want to screw it up for anyone else who might be interested in keeping chickens.

Depending on where you live, it might be a good idea to talk to your neighbors. It’s not required, but my thought is that it’s easier to head off a problem if you have good communication with the people who live in close proximity to you and your flock. I talked with the neighbors I knew would have to look at the coop, and made sure they knew I wanted to hear if they had a problem or concern about the birds. And make sure to offer them fresh eggs!

Once you’ve got the OK to go ahead, get yourself a copy of the book, Raising Chickens for Dummies. In it you’ll find everything you need to know about chickens, coops, and raising your birds.

Then visit sites like:
McMurray Hatchery

I personally go right to Joyce at whenever I have a problem. She definitely knows her chickens.

So there you go. Backyard chickens aren’t just for crazy neighbors anymore!

Visit my new blog, Notes From The Funny Farm, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!