Sunday, December 1, 2013

Update on lake ice...

Lake Wingra froze on November 27th according to the UW AOS website. We went down there on the 28th and the ice near the shore was about 1.5 inches thick but it was gorgeous - clear, dense, and flawless - perfect for skating. Probably strong enough for a dog but definitely not for a human. Now I'm just hoping the snow holds off until the ice gets thick enough to go skating on; since we have another arctic front moving in late this week it could be as earlier as Saturday or Sunday.

As far as Monona and Mendota ice, I'm moving my best estimates back a few days: December 7th to December 12th for Monona and December 13th to December 31st for Mendota. My best guesses for the two lakes are December 8th and December 17th.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Predicting Madison Lake Ice 2013

I made a model to predict when the lakes in Madison, WI would freeze this year. This could be an interesting calculation, particularly if you like ice fishing or ice skating:)

Given current temperatures and weather forecasts I predict Lake Wingra to freeze sometime next week, between Saturday, November 23rd and Thanksgiving (Nov 28th). My range of uncertainty is much greater for Monona (Dec 8- Dec 25th) and for lake Mendota (Dec 15-Jan 11th). My best guess for the three lakes are 11/24, 12/13, and 12/23 respectively.

You can see surface temps of lakes here:

I built the model quickly so my level of confidence is therefore low but it I am pretty confident we can be out fishing about 20 days sooner than last year - freeze dates last year were 12/21, 12/31. and 1/14. I think this years dates will be closer to long term averages.

Figure 1: Red Line - surface water temp, 2013, Blue Line - surface water temp, 2012. Approximations done with calculations based on air temps, not observations.

Lakes act as a thermal mass, and the larger (primarily deeper) the lake the more cold it will require to freeze. Actually it is probably more accurate to think of the lake as heating the air, then the air cooling the lake - but I guess that's more of a philosophical point. In one extreme, a body of water will freeze almost immediately (think of a puddle or a film of water on a cold surface) so a few hours with air temperatures marginally below freezing will suffice. On the other extreme, a large enough body of water in a region where the average annual temperature is above zero would never freeze. Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are examples although even these large bodies of water will freeze on cold years.

The freezing process can be thought of in three phases - the whole lake cooling to 39 degrees, the surface cooling to 32 degrees, and the surface fusion. Cooling only takes about 1.2 % of the energy of fusion (1:80) but the cooling process down to 39 degrees cools the entire lake while the fusion process just freezes the surface. This is because water is most dense at around 39 degrees and so water from the surface of the lake will displace deeper water until the whole lake is at 39 degrees. Thereafter, it is a quick trip down to 32 degrees, and then takes a relatively long time to freeze (fusion).

For deep lakes therefore, the warmth of the summer is an important consideration since it will take longer to get down to 39 degrees. The three Madison lakes are relatively shallow (9 feet, 27 feet, and 41 feet) so the consideration is not great.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Relieving Suffering, Utility Curves of the Rich, and Resource Constraints

There are several concepts in here that I'd like to develop into full-blown posts - I think they are relevant to macro-economic decisions and decisions on the environment and future of humanity. They could also be cast from a "How to Measure Anything" perspective (for example, there might be some common determinants for whether someone is likely to become rich).

The possibility of a low or negative time discount rate could be the most important conceptual problem that we currently face. The implication of a real negative rate but a working real positive rate would be a mis-allocation of resources on a global scale that would result in a major die-off in humans - a sort of Malthusian moment. A negative real interest rate is a conceptual problem because humans are biased toward valuing the present over the future. A self-imposed negative personal discount rate is likely impossible - but we can probably achieve a synthetic negative personal time discount rate by demonstrating that future suffering will be greatly alleviated with low cost decisions made in the present.

Why do we prefer a $ now to a $ in the future?
1.       1) Because there are things I’d like to do with the $ now that will produce a stream of benefits – if I had the  dollar now as opposed to $ a year from now, there would be a year longer of benefits to enjoy.
2.      2) The younger I am, the more acute my senses and so the greater the sense of enjoyment I get.
3.       3)There is a chance I will die before the benefits would come.

If I die, then does the value of a $ drop to zero? Well I think we can safely assume somebody else would receive that $ instead of me – it would come from somewhere so either the entity giving it to me or one of my heirs would receive the $ instead of me, so the value of the dollar doesn’t drop to zero, but it becomes a little bit hard to conceptualize.

So we go from something easy to conceptualize (a $ now versus a $ one year from now) to something difficult to conceptualize ($ now versus $ benefit to the human race/my progeny in the distant future). It might be a little easier to conceptualize if we think of the enjoyment we get from $1,000 – so it would $1,000’s worth of utility now versus $1,000 worth of utility in the future. We could also translate it into some real object – say 10 barrels of oil or 300 gallons of gasoline.

And we might be able to get a sense of utility curves related to after death by asking questions about utility going anonymously to strangers: if nobody was aware of your decision would you rather give $1,000 worth of benefit to 10 strangers or get $1,000 of benefit yourself? What about 100 strangers? What about 1,000 strangers? What about 10,000 strangers? 5 billion strangers? Keep in mind that the $1,000 would probably mean the difference between life and death for some of these strangers.

Additionally we can get some idea of how much people care about giving money to their progeny by comparing $1,000 benefit to self versus $x benefit to children…$x benefit to grandkids…$x benefit to niece/nephew…$ benefit to niece/nephew’s children?
Children = 50% genetic relationship…grandkids = 25% genetic relationship….niece/nephew = 0-50%, BE 25% genetic relationship…niece/nephew kids = 0-25% BE 12.5% genetic relationship

Another interesting experiment would be to see how people changed these answers depending on their perception of who was receiving the $. Are they relieving suffering? Are they increasing suffering? If you give the $1,000 to a self-absorbed consumer addict or a meth addict could you actually be increasing suffering?

And thus I think we arrive at a bit of a problem – there are individuals (self-absorbed consumerist or meth addict) who perhaps increase their suffering by having more resources but who are also the least likely to perceive a value in giving their resources to others who might decrease their suffering with it.

Also, the choice of people to give anonymously to those who are suffering would be surprising unless you consider that people are incorporating how much suffering they are relieving – that is the utility of the recipient into their decision.

One other interesting thought – the rich are often those who can delay gratification, usually through a combination of a lack of consumption and an ability to work hard (i.e. do unpleasant tasks in the present). These are the same people who (generally speaking) would be most likely to intelligently marshal resources, or put another way their marginal propensity to save is high – that is the poor are often those who would immediately increase consumption. In a resource constrained world, a large increase in real spending power for the masses is simply a physical impossibility. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How (not) to Catch Roosters - running to exhaustion is the day we are thinning our chicken flock. We wound up with 8 roosters and 17 hens, and that is about 5 times too many roosters. The roosters had already isolated and terrorized one of their own - a rooster we nicknamed "freedom ranger" as he would hop the electric fence to avoid the other roosters. Poor guy. He also sealed his fate by biting my finger three times - alas because I was kind of fond of the guy. So freedom ranger was the first bird in the cage - partially to keep him from being terrorized by the other roosters, and partially to save our garden since he was happily pecking through our tomato and cucumber crops in his escapades outside the electric fence.

We figured we had to thin an additional 5 roosters, since leaving more than 2 roosters would be cruel to the hens (Rooster = middle school boy, but with unlimited sex drive). So we started noting which roosters gave us attitude (dragging feathers, doing the rooster dance toward us, or mating a hen directly in front of us) and which roosters were good shepherds to the hen - one good shepherd in particular stood out. It is hard to mark a rooster though because you have to catch it and these roosters are fast (note that they are well known for their mousing abilities). So it is really akin to trying to catch a cat on a 1/8 acre course. So, well, we only got paint on one of the remaining 7 - a particularly offensive and aggressive rooster.

We decided we would shut the chickens up in their mobile coop/roost last night and that would make it easier to get the roosters in the morning. So the big morning arrived and we trooped down there as a family to catch the remaining roosters. Unfortunately, we only were able to get 2 of the remaining 7 roosters coming out of their house! Somehow 5 roosters managed to get by 2 humans even though the opening from the coop is only about 18'' by 24''. So this meant we still needed to catch 3 more roosters.

Catching the remaining 3 roosters was a challenge - and among the three we wanted to catch was the attitude laden chicken, Mr. paint tail, who was essentially an Olympic chicken athlete. We struggled for 30-45 minutes chasing the chickens in vain as our kids got increasingly bored and agitated. Finally, I remembered that an essential strategy that humans have historically used with game including big game like deer was to run them to exhaustion. So, picking one rooster I began to focus on just keeping him running for as long as I could. It worked! After 5-6 minutes he cornered himself, exhausted, under our turkey box. In the process I had exhausted myself, but we now had a working strategy. Emily and I then tag-teamed the remaining 2 roosters - taking 1 minute turns keeping the chosen rooster running. Invariably they would become exhausted in 3-6 minutes, although mr. green tail was truly impressive in both his speed and stamina.

So, I think this is really how not to catch roosters. The only advantage this strategy had was that it allowed us to interact with the roosters and pick the best behaved ones - but next time I think I'll just catch them at night when they are sleepy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hugelbed and Biochar bed, Part 1

I've been working on a Hugelbed, otherwise known as a woody bed - the basic idea is to put a layer of wood underneath the soil which leads to a carbon rich, aerated, microbial-rich, and hydrophilic garden bed. Traditionally the beds were built with fallen woods that were too soft or punky for other uses. The beds are given a woody core with soil piled on top - with the bed traditionally reaching as much as 6-8 feet high at its center.
These beds have recently become more popular in the United States - with a common variation of first excavating out some soil so that part of the wood is below grade and the final bed only a couple of feet high. The bed I've created is a mixture of the two - I excavated roughly 1-2.5 feet below grade but am building the bed up relatively high so that its center will be 3-5 feet above grade when complete.
This shows the site after excavation but prior to starting construction. Some of the materials (the excavated dirt, wood pile and a good start on the wood chips) are stacked on the upslope
This hugelbed is constructed on contour, meaning the West lip of the bed is a good 12 inches lower than the East lip. The bed is 8-10' wide and about 65 feet long. This hugelbed has the following layers - first, the area below grade is filled with wood chips to the lip of the lower (West) edge. Second, the wood core is stacked on top of the wood chips. Third, a layer of sod is piled on top of the wood. Fourth a layer of old cow manure, old hay and straw, and more wood chips are spread over the sod. Fifth, a layer of hot (fresh) cow manure. And lastly, the soil that was originally excavated from the bed is piled on top.
Here you see the excavated site on the left side oft he picture with the materials piled up on the right side of the picture
Here you see my faithful golden retriever eager to help - for scale, the lip of the West side of the trench is roughly 30 inches high.

Some of the features of the bed are: First, the wood-chips and decaying wood will act as a sponge for water eliminating the need to irrigate the bed even in a dry summer. Since the bed is on a decent slope and is constructed on contour it should also capture some of the water that would otherwise run off the pasture. Second, as the wood decomposes, it will naturally aerate the soil as this wood is less than 1/2 the density of soil - this eliminates the need to till the soil. Third, the wood is a natural host of Mycorrhizal activity. From Wikipedia: Mycorrhizas form a mutualistic relationship with the roots of most plant species. While only a small proportion of all species has been examined, 95% of those plant families are predominantly mycorrhizal.[3] They are named after their presence in the plant's rhizosphere (root system). More on mycorrhizal benefits below.

Before woodchips...
And after woodchips - we got about 70 yards (2000 cubic feet) of wood mulch from nearby municipality. They delivered it to my driveway for $200. This is a truly monstrous pile of woodchips - we used about 800-1000 cubic feet of them to fill in the base of the bed.

Sugar-water/mineral exchange 

This mutualistic association provides the fungus with relatively constant and direct access to carbohydrates, such as glucose and sucrose. The carbohydrates are translocated from their source (usually leaves) to root tissue and on to the plant's fungal partners. In return, the plant gains the benefits of the mycelium's higher absorptive capacity for water and mineral nutrients due to the comparatively large surface area of mycelium: root ratio, thus improving the plant's mineral absorption capabilities.

Plant roots alone may be incapable of taking up phosphate ions that are demineralized in soils with a basic pH. The mycelium of the mycorrhizal fungus can, however, access these phosphorus sources, and make them available to the plants they colonize. Nature, according to C.Michael Hogan, has adapted to this critical role of phosphate, by allowing many plants to recycle phosphate, without using soil as an intermediary. For example, in some dystrophic forests large amounts of phosphate are taken up by mycorrhizal hyphae acting directly on leaf litter, bypassing the need for soil uptake. Inga alley cropping, proposed as an alternative to slash and burn rainforest destruction, relies upon Mycorrhiza within the Inga Tree root system to prevent the rain from washing phosphorus out of the soil. In some cases, the transport of water, carbon, and nutrients could be done directly from plant to plant trough mycorrhizal networks that are underground hyphal networks created by mycorrhizal fungi that connect individual plants together.
Suillus tomentosus, a fungus, produces specialized structures, known as tuberculate ectomycorrhizae, with its plant host lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia). These structures have in turn been shown to host nitrogen fixing bacteria which contribute a significant amount of nitrogen and allow the pines to colonize nutrient-poor sites.

View of the Hugelbed from the north, after wood-chips. At the far end of the bed we have stacked wood on top of pallets to start a bonfire - we are going to try  to turn the south-most 12 feet of the bed into "biochar."

View of the south end of the bed, with the wood stacked and ready to burn.

View from the South end of the bed looking North.

View of the Hugelbed from the West (downslope) after the wooden core is stacked in the center of the bed.

Now for the fun...

...particularly if you are a pyromaniac

After starting to smother the biochar. We made a crucial mistake of starting to smother it with wood-chips and THEN dirt. That, combined with the fire laying on another pile of wood-chips led to a rather significant problem...

On day 5 the fire is still smoldering. As the burning wood collapses, it creates large air holes, making it very difficult to keep the fire smothered.

By day 7, it is clear the smoldering fire will consume my entire bed - it has already spread an additional 5 feet north of my original plan. I am forced to dig out all of the woodchips and fill it with dirt to create a fire break.

Digging down 2.5 feet next to a smoldering fire is smelly and uncomfortable work. I'm glad when I'm done.

Fire seems to finally be out on day 16. We have now also covered the entire core of the bed with  sod, hay, and straw. View from the South looking North. Note the firebreak about 15-20 feet down the bed.

Now, the bed has been covered by a good layer of old cow manure with lots of hay and straw mixed in which we got from our neighbor.

The next stage will be to add a thick layer (8-12'') of fresh cow manure (from last winter) gathered from our neighbors barn. I will also begin to plant fruit trees into the north side of the bed.

I'm hoping that the Nitrogen from the cow manure will soak into the wood core and wood-chips so that we get even more Nitrogen stored up for future years. I don't have much hope for plantings this summer - but we'll try some vine crops, peas, and otherwise will just do a cover crop like Hairy Vetch.

A pictorial celebration of one of the coldest March/Aprils in the past 100 years in SW Wisconsin. First shot is taken at the beginning of March with 2' snow on the ground, and throughout i'm standing on our well head.  The last shot is ~April 15th after our last dusting of snow of the season.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raised Bed

We put in a raised bed a couple of weekends ago, and then planted some herb starts in it last weekend.

The purpose of this garden is for kitchen herbs and salad greens and it is about 15' from our back door. We're going to have three garden areas - the main one further back in our yard and about 600 square feet - the small kitchen garden of about 30 square feet - and another garden for vine plants like pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and watermelons of about 250 square feet. We're also going to try growing some corn and sunflowers in rows in a different area.

For the raised bed kitchen garden we used cedar 1x10 planks -dimensions 8.5' by 3.5'. I connected the corners with little metal corner brackets, and then just bounded some 20 inch 1x2 pine into the ground to hold in the middles of the long planks.

For the soil, I started with cardboard to kill the grass, then a layer of wood mulch, wood chips, and chicken droppings, a layer of old horse poop, a layer of soil that had been below the horse poop and compost area, and then an area of soil we dug out of our yard.

Here are some pics:

Cardboard and chicken wood chips down.

After layer of wood mulch is down

After the horse poop and soil are down - layer of wood chips around the sides of the bed for later use. Bed is basically complete.

It rained a lot the week after I built this, so I wound up putting down another load of soil since it had already settled. We then planted some herbs in the soil. However, it has been so rainy and cold, I don't have a lot of hope for these herbs. We'll replant some more starts if they die over the next few days.

Buckeye Cockerels and Pullets

We think we've got mostly pullets although we aren't sure if we are using the right signs to make a determination. We think we've got 18 hens and 7 cockerels, although that would be a pretty lucky straight run. We think the hens have bigger bushier tails and wing feathers - there are about 7 of the little ones who have noticeably smaller tails - almost no tail at all really. The only thing that is a little confusing to us is that about 4 of 7 of what we think are the cockerels are noticeably smaller than the rest of the birds. There is one small tail who is also quite large and we're pretty confident its a rooster.

Without further ado, here are the latest pictures:

We think the chick with its head down in the feed is a rooster, and the one to his left is a hen.

This is kind of a cool picture - the hen/pullet with her eye closed has a worm that I just stuck in there. The chicken to her left is trying to steal it. The worms caused quite a ruckus that lasted for about 10 minutes.
Decent picture of one of the pullets - notice how developed her wing and tail feathers are getting!
Another picture of a hen.
A hen taking flight off the cinder block.
And finally, the chick in the middle we think is a cockerel, the one on the right is a hen.

It is surprisingly difficult to get a good picture of a chicken, particularly now that they have a roosting house (which I made out of a big dog house). The large cockerel in particular didn't want to be photographed at all. 
It is pretty cool how fast the chickens are growing now - the weather is still a little too cold and windy to let them outside.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Silver hits $22

Silver has quickly moved to $22 which I think is an excellent place to increase exposure to this versatile metal. It has been about 2 years since it peaked at $50, and has had ample time now to correct and shake out weak hands and short term speculators.

While I've marked the $21.30-$24 zone as an excellent area for buying back exposure to silver, now that we are here I have to admit it seems a bit frightening. In spite of that, I'm planning to add exposure. The bottom line is to buy low and sell high, and the fact that many people are negative on silver does not change the validity of this strategy. One should never sell because everybody else is selling nor buy because everybody else is buying but all too often we can let this primal psychological power influence us into making a poor decision.

The main influence on this price of silver is its relationship to gold and quantities of money, and that hasn't changed much in the past few weeks.

Is it possible that silver drops to $15 or even $5? Yes. Is it probable? no, not at all - just as it was possible silver would go straight from $100 from $50 but wasn't probable.

People are spooked because China looks weak and the global economy in general looks like it is slowing down - but is that justification for silver dropping more than 25% in the past 6 weeks or so? Not fact if things are really that bearish, then the place to be negative at this point is the S&P 500 or another American stock index.

More likely in my mind is that this weakness is temporary and that commodities will bounce starting tomorrow or the next few trading days.

Just my opinion...

Executive Summary:

I'm writing this on Friday, April 12th 2013, and gold and silver have just broken to new 12+ month low prices. I've been looking at the $21.50-$24 range for silver and the $1250-$1385 range for gold for quite some time now as a good place to buy. Since these markets can move fast when they want to, I expect the low in PMs could come as early as the next few weeks. I also have elevated my risk of catastrophic developed market bond market carnage to 20% in the next 6 months.

I'm not making any buying or selling recommendations here, and everyone must make their own investing decisions. Also, the most important aspects of financial prep are getting rid of debt and having a diverse array of investments from emergency preps such as cash to a diversified portfolio that can weather any storm. That being said, I am looking personally at the next days/weeks/months as a good place to buy some precious metals, and expect markets to get quite volatile for reasons I explain below.

The details:

Price falls in future markets can be exacerbated in two ways: future holders getting margin calls and having to abandon positions, and option hedging from large market participants. The option hedging is especially relevant right now because implied volatility has been so low, that there is a lot of gamma/delta hedging necessary. Delta hedging refers to selling futures to square up an option position so that the option player isn't long or short, and gamma hedging means squaring up an option position so that the option player isn't long or short volatility more than they mean to be.

When banks and other market makers sell options they wind up being short gamma which is the fancy word for volatility. This means that if prices stay more or less the same, they'll make money but if prices start moving quickly in one direction they lose money.

These options market makers don't usually want a directional position meaning they don't want to be long or short most of the time - they just want to be long or short (usually short) volatility. When prices start moving significantly in one direction, the "delta" of the options start to change - which essentially means that by virtue of selling a bunch of options they wind up also being net long if a market starts falling quickly or short in a quickly rising market. Since they don't actually want a directional position, they are forced to sell in quickly falling markets which exacerbates the move. Ultimately, they can get blown out of their position - which means in this case they would be buying puts into the teeth of a quickly falling market.

The fastest part of the fall then comes often just as they are buying puts - in order to find a willing seller (someone willing to take over the risk of selling these options they are trying to unload) they need to pay a huge premium. You can see this because implied volatility spikes in the markets just before the end of a selling wave. Once the big option sellers have unloaded their positions, the pressure from delta hedging is removed and the downward pressure on price stops. At some point you also have bargain hunters moving in to buy on the other side.

Long story short - we're in a liquidation phase right now so prices could move quite quickly down (as they did today) in an essentially forced move in the paper markets...BUT there is also tremendous interest in physical metals, particularly from Asian Central Banks so I would imagine there will be some massive support at some point - and it could get quite difficult to obtain physical metal (just like in 2008).

Just a heads up for everybody out there - don't be surprised if wait times for physical start getting ridiculous. You might consider buying from local sources where you can physically leave the store with the goods. I know the premium you pay tends to be ridiculous at brick and mortar shops but you might save a lot of heartburn - my guess is that well run places will just stop selling (because they won't have it) and dodgier places will continue to sell but with long delays (which is where the heartburn would come in).

Finally, I wouldn't be surprised if all market movements start getting a bit more discontinuous for two reasons related to the bond markets:

first, the Japanese bond market is looking very vulnerable - if JGBs (Japanese government bonds) go belly up then all of the dominoes start to fall.
second, Cyprus has destabilized the Euro-zone banking system and the jig could well be up there as well.

Both of these events have about a 10% chance of creating havoc in the next 6 months, so I'd put about a 20% chance on things getting out of hand before the end of the year. If either of these events occurred I seriously doubt the US could avoid the fallout because in both cases you would have a disaster in developed economy bond markets - and it would inevitably pop our own bloated and obviously untenable debt situation.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chicks, Pastures, and Galinstan Thermometer

The chicks are doing well. Their pasty butt has cleared up - we gave them some yogurt mixed in with chick feed and sprinkled some pro-biotics on it and gave them some boiled egg yolk.

They have new wings sprouting out of their shoulders.

One big problem we have run into is that they constantly foul and kick wood chips into their water. Each day it seemed to get worse to the point that their water feeder would be completely clogged with wood chips within 2 hours or so. Well...we came up with a solution - we stuck their waterer on a piece of cardboard - simple but effective! After 4 hours only 1 or 2 wood-chips.
We've ordered a 125 watt heat bulb - the 250 watt bulb is overkill at this point.

Notice the tail feather have started to come in nicely on the females. We think that the females and males are pretty well distinguished at this point, but could be totally wrong. We've read that females get tail and wing feathers sooner, and their is a clear difference between the chicks at this point.

I'm putting up some pictures of our pasture to show how denuded it is. Obviously, I'm not really that upset about the fact that our previous owners were carrying out a frickin' scorched earth policy on the pasture with their 4 horses- means we get to rehab it and have cool before/after pictures :)

In this picture you see gravelly soil in the foreground with nothing growing in it, and some woody weeds growing in the background - don't know what species the weed is.
 You can see the extent to which the grass has been decimated in this photo - there is essentially no grass above the surface here, although I think there still are some root systems going on so there is hope.
 Some strange white spidery fuzz clings to some of the pasture.
 Anybody recognize this plant?
 Again you see the denuded nature of the pasture...very little grass and lots of unknown weeds - this weed has these strange fruits that look like little tomatoes.

Finally, notice the moss growing in this picture. You're not supposed to have moss in a pasture. LOL

I have a video of the pasture but I'm not going to post it because it is shaky as heck and 650 MB..that's big isn't it?

Finally, I bought some Galinstan thermometers that are like the old mercury thermometers...very accurate but take quite a bit of shaking down.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chicks are 6 days old


The chicks are  doing quite well! They are chasing each other around their enclosure fighting over little pieces of pine chips and the occasional dead fly. I think it is their version of playing. They really are incredibly cute - at night they quiet down and if I am careful I can sneak up to watch them without disturbing them. They lie together in clumps - usually a main clump with little side groups of 3 and 4. One of them usually notices that I'm watching them and gives me the "chicken eye." y'all know what that is don't you?

Their wing feathers are growing out noticeably after just a few days...and man they are active and energetic. We've named one Clydesdale since it scratches with such ferocity and can usually scratch out an area that 5 chicks will then peck around in.

We lost one chick on the second night :(

Here are some pictures. I put some feed on this paper towel so they're all on it pecking away
 Here's a little guy/gal...really didn't want to be held, but notice those wing feathers coming in!