Hot Chicks at the Indiana State Museum

Marcus Harshaw, museum program specialist and Scales & Tails Fest facilitation extraordinaire, provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of event programming.

chicks_hatching_060909_03Every year leading up to our Scales and Tails Festival here at the Indiana State Museum, we are fortunate enough to offer our guests a glimpse of the “miracle of agriculture” as two dozen chickens hatch before their very eyes.

The eggs and incubators come to us from the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Office in Johnson County. The office coordinates the Incubators in the Classroom program. Our incubators are placed in the R.B. Annis Naturalist’s Lab in the museum’s first floor galleries, and become a large attraction for visiting summer camp and other groups. The chickens were even filmed as a part of a story on Scales and Tails Fest with WISH-TV 8’s own Julie Patterson.

chicks_hatching_060909_02Annually, each chicken is named after a member of the program facilitation intermittent staff starting with the longest serving to the newest member. Of course, by time you get over six chickens, it is impossible to tell them apart! We each care for the chickens ensuring proper incubator temperature, humidity and cleanliness.

The chicks definitely have personalities. One chicken was busy facilitating the hatching of the other chickens, and another took many naps on his un-hatched siblings. At times the first incubator will be alive with activity while all 12 chickens in the incubator next door were napping, and then they would switch.

Although I have watched most of these chicks hatch, I still cannot decide which came first; the chicken, or the egg?

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Adding Seasoning

“Seasons come and go. Eternal change — but always with their gifts of beauty.”

tc_steele_studio_signSo reads this sign by the studio door quoting T.C. Steele. Recently, I’ve asked myself why I pre-fer spring and fall to summer and winter. Not being a Minnesotan like my sister, the downside of winter seems pretty obvious, but what’s wrong with summer? It’s warm, it’s great for gardening (the only time for tomatoes) and summer means my living space is doubled. (I would rather have my screened-in porch than an extra bedroom.)

The calendar says that summer begins on June 21, but I think it arrived overnight. The woods are suddenly lush and green (but with fewer shades of green). Just last week I didn’t have to leave the porch to watch the birds and squirrels. Now the leaves are so dense I have to guess at what’s rustling around out there.

I think it’s the change of spring and fall that I like so much. Summer and winter are like meat and potatoes — very filling. They fill up the year, but they need spring and fall, however brief, to provide the seasoning. We welcome spring as an end to winter, and enjoy fall bittersweetly — knowing what lies ahead.

Both Selma and T.C. Steele surely appreciated all of the seasons. The artist painted many winter scenes en plein aire — not from the comfort of his studio. They added porches as fast as they enclosed them, to stay close to the natural world around them and more in tune with the changing seasons (and to stay cool in those pre-AC days).

After a few years summering in Brown County, the Steeles made The House of the Singing Winds their year-round home. I wonder if it was so they wouldn’t miss that day in May when spring suddenly turned into summer, long before it was official.

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.