The Pecking Order.

There’s a pecking order, and I often forget that I’m part of it.

Today I picked up two bantam (“small”) Serama roosters. Unlike Arjuna the Duck, these brothers are very familiar with humans and have displayed zero fear at my presence.

Little Chikki and Rikki, the twin Serama roosters.

Chikki and Rikki—I’ve named them after a variation in my favorite children’s show, Cañticos—were gifted to us by RM. RM, also a mother, met me outside with her daughters. She handed me the little black roosters and wished me luck in our gardening project. “They eat insects,” she said, “not just grasshoppers. Scorpion looking bugs, too.”

RM’s family is new to Lake Los Angeles. They just moved in earlier this year. “You need an address sign,” I said, adjusting the breathable bag holding the roosters. “We had one,” RM told me, “but drunk drivers…”

I nodded. Driving through this part of the Antelope Valley, you get very familiar with all the crosses on the side of the road. Whether it’s a death by drunk driving or reckless speeding, there’s a cross on almost every road. I’ve thought about making a map of the crosses. I’m not sure why—I don’t know anyone who has passed in that way. But it’s so prevalent here. It seems like the right thing to do. A map marking who passed and when, what their life meant to the people who remember them.

Sometimes I see men pulled over in their huge pick-up trucks, drinking a beer while looking at a cross. Occasionally, I see a woman sitting on the bench, wiping her eyes while looking out at the surroundings.

“I’ll bring my daughter next time,” I promised RM. There’s not too many people my age around here, and even less people with kids. It’s true what they say—it’s rare to find other mothers with kids the same age as your own kids, and feel a genuine connection with them.

Arjuna the Duck flapping his wings.

Chikki and Rikki took to the land easily enough. Arjuna was sitting in his small pond when we arrived. He tried several times to get out to investigate them. I realized the water was too low, and made a mental note to get more.

The Serama rooster brothers were respectful of Arjuna, but curious to explore their surroundings. They slipped out of the fence when Arjuna tried to peck them—another mental note to attach the hardware cloth when it gets cooler. They started following me to the bus, which prompted Arjuna to finally follow. I fed them leftover rice, strawberries, and oranges while sitting in the shade, enjoying the cool breeze.

Little M is with her grandmother, today. Tonight, I’m hosting an older couple and their dog at the tent campsite. They donated to Nibbler the One-Eyed Husky’s medical fund, and even volunteered for dog chores. I don’t have the dogs with me since I don’t want any accidents with the birds. But I’m excited to meet them and hear their story—where they’re off to, why they’re traveling, what they’re looking forward to.

It’s actually quite nice to be on this side of the table.

Yesterday, Little M had a blast at the skoolie. I still am trying to figure out why kids just LOVE the bus. My hypothesis is that it feels “proportionate” to kids in a way that a huge house or apartment might not. The ceilings, the drawers, even the stairs are closer to their height than a typical US home. Even other families have commented on how much fun their kids had “sleeping over” on the “cozy clubhouse”—so much so, I’ve taken to advertising the skoolie as a unique family-friendly adventure.

…we’ll see if it works.

Little M took these photos of the bus in the afternoon. I let her use my broken DSLR—the one with the internal mirror hanging out, which is why the bottom of each photograph is shrouded in a black shadow.

I like being reminded of her perspective.

Chikki, Rikki, and Arjuna are hanging outside the bus door. They remind me of the first chickens I had—Shakti and Pearla. Two Barred Rock hens that weren’t afraid of anything, curious and wanting to hang out with people inside the house.

“They’re so friendly,” I remember telling my mom.

“They don’t have good instincts to keep themselves alive,” my mom said. And of course, she was right.

Hanging outside the skoolie.

I’m keeping a close eye on Chikki and Rikki, since they also lack the “fear” instinct, which Arjuna appears to have in spades.

My fear is that stray dogs will come back to the land and eat them while they’re outside free-ranging.

My hope is that they live a very long time.

Arjuna might be establishing himself against the tiny roosters as the leader, but I’ve discovered all I have to do to put him in his place is raise my hand. He side-eyes me and waddles in a half-moon, evading my elongated shadow while Chikki and Rikki stay close to my feet.

There’s a few more hours of sun left. I’ll herd them all into their coop and continue my work in the garden. I’ve shifted away from thinking of all 10-acres of the land, and instead have just focused on the immediate space around the bus. Earlier today, I went around the bus and raked little berms and swales—dips and valleys—between each beneficial plant. It’s a bit too late for the rainy season, but at least it will be established by the next rain. The swales follow the path of the greywater (the dirty water from the sink and shower) beneath the bus. My hope is to one day establish a greywater drip irrigation underground, so that everything filters into a greywater garden bed before irrigating the perimeter plants around the bus.

The AC has been working flawlessly. My phone is still broken, so I was worried about the solar usage since I can’t monitor it and control it on my app. But the bus has been keeping cool, the internet is fast, and I’m enjoying a very rare day where Little M is not by my side.

(I hope she is, too.)

A palo verde, one of my favorite kinds of trees.

Thanks for reading. If you’re new here, my name’s Billimarie. I’m an artist and writer that happens to embody the solarpunk spirit. In the past, my chosen mediums were film, photography, poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and performance art. I’m hoping to return to music this year.

I run a tiny house glampsite here in the desert called the Starry Night Skoolie. It’s part of a greater project—For Every Star, A Tree. For Every Star, A Tree is a nonprofit I founded at the beginning of the year to help with afforestation in the desert on a community level. 100% of proceeds from the skoolie go back to the water and the trees.

I’m a dreamer who loves encouraging people to chase after their pipe dreams. As you might notice, I’ve chased a few in my time. I believe I’ve been shaped by them for the better.

If alternative living and dreaming is your jam, I’m certain we’re singing the same song. I hope you’ll reach out, maybe give me a follow.

Until next time,