Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Mini-Barn for My Mini-Farm for my Mini-Family....wait, that's not right....

I have 25 chickens, 7 ducks, and 7 guineas coming. I already have 6 meat rabbits. I need to start building the mini-barn.

Prep work always takes so much more time than I expect it will. Part of the problem is me; I enjoy the doing but not the "getting ready to do." So I wait till there is some time pressure and let adrenaline and stress carry me through, usually in the nick of time. It is not a good habit to have.

However, I do believe our space of land is ready. I have a building plan. I have a supplies list, complete with price comparisons and coupons. I believe I should be able to build a 10x20 barn frame with a metal roof and put a large fenced run around it for less than $650, leaving the rest of the money ($400) for animals and upgrades and miscellany. I say "leaving" $400, but some of that has been spent on the rabbits and ordered chickens already.

Meet the Meat! (actually no, these are the breeders, so just the meat makers)

 This is Misty, a 12 week old Silver Fox doe.

 Smokey, 18 week Champagne d'Argent doe

Stormy, 12 week Champagne d'Argent doe

 Snowy, 10 month old New Zealand doe (hopefully pregnant!)

 Cloud, 9 month old New Zealand/California buck
 Asher, 10 week old Champagne d'argent buck

Here's where the barn will be built.

Here is the barn plan, drawn up by my very talented friend Megan.

(Well, here is where it will be as soon as I figure out why my computer stopped recognizing my scanner.)

I have big plans for my animals and this new barn, plans that stress my husband out and excite my children, but I will endeavor to do this smart and right and slow. I'm just so excited I still have this opportunity. Thank y'all.

(By December of 2015, I see me having laying chickens, meat chickens, geese, ducks, quail, tilapia or catfish in tanks as part of an aquaponics system that grows salad greens and fodder for the poultry and rabbits, a worm farm under the rabbits in their poo which will feed the fish, a livestock guardian dog, and maybe even two dairy goats. And a garden about twice the size of this years. That might be a bit ambitious, but I dream big and plan small, so we'll see what happens.)

In other news, my husband is now working 1st shift (YAY!!!!) and is in school for the next two years. This will make everything in our lives better except our bank account, so we are busy shaving off what little excess we have, down to the wire. Right now the biggest concerns are our one single vehicle and our well. The station wagon is fine except for a short in the dashboard lights, but it has over 325,000 miles on it and if it breaks down, we're pretty much screwed. The well only wants to deliver water 65% of the time we ask for it. We aren't sure why but it will be looked at today, and hopefully fixed. We are praying that it isn't the pump or not enough water in the well. Update: well is fixed; cost us $30. Yay!

Homeschooling is going well. I love Teaching Textbooks for math, and everything else is plugging along quite nicely. We do school every day except Sunday, and we aren't on a schedule as far as what times per day we do what, but it is getting done mostly well with a minimum of bad attitude, so I count that as a success. It will be a little more regular once the weather is less pleasant to play outside in.

I'm approximately 17 weeks pregnant and packing on the weight at a terrific rate. :p
Everything seems to be going okay. I have a midwife appointment on the 19th so we'll see if I can hear the heartbeat then. I'm going to go make an ultrasound appointment right now.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life (with chickens)

In 33 hours, the indiegogo campaign my friend started for me will be over. The goal was $1000. Right now it has $1150.

It's purpose was to raise funds to replace my coop, run, and chickens. When he and his wife told me they wanted to do this, I was embarrassed and I thought they were nuts. Raising money for chickens? For an unnecessary hobby? For me? Who in the world would want to contribute to that?

Well, at least 31 people did. Jenna Woginrich, who has more than enough of her own troubles and joys and has never even met me, promoted it on her blog. Most donations were anonymous. Most of the ones which weren't were from someone I didn't know. My friends shared the link on their facebook walls and sent it to other friends of theirs. People gave. Out of their own wallets, earned with their own sweat, they gave their own money so I could replace my chickens.

Not so I could buy food or clothes or school supplies or pay my mortgage or power bill. I have received that kind of charity before and I am very thankful for it. But this is something different, somehow. This is for chickens, for heaven's sake!!

Charity is the King James Bible word for Love. Today it largely means a voluntary gift to someone in need. A gift that is given out of love. These gifts, all 31 of them, or 1,150 of them if you want to count dollars, were certainly made out of love. The gift of the fundraiser, put together unasked for, was from love. The gift of sharing, friends and strangers who emailed the link or put it on their facebook page, that was out of love. Jenna posting on her facebook and her blog, which gets a whole lot more traffic than this one for sure, that was out of love.

My friends love my family and me, for whatever reason. This fundraiser is kinda a big deal, but it's not out of character for them. They have been there for me consistently through joy and pain, in little things and in big things, and I am blessed by them on a very regular basis. I do not take this for granted. I only try to keep up in return.

The campaign was started for me by homesteading friends who know me, but JennaWoginrich has never met me, and neither have a lot of the contributors. Their love is for this lifestyle of farming, homesteading, whatever you call it. It's full of wonder and work and fun and beauty and joy and muck and sweat and life...and death. It doesn't let you go on out of town vacations and it doesn't let you stay in bed and it doesn't let you forget miracles happen daily. It's not for everyone but those who love it wouldn't give it up for anything. I was just learning that when a raccoon and at least one dog introduced me to the harder side of this life. I thought about quitting. Everywhere I looked there were other chicken owners and homesteaders with similar stories. What was the point?

I can't tell you. I meant to, I wrote the whole blog post to say thank you and to get to this point....but now I don't know what to write. What is the point?

The answer isn't here on my computer in my living room. It's out there, in my yard, in my torn down run and empty coop. In the space where I'm planning on putting my new coop and fence. In my memories of eggs hatching and fuzzy clumsy chicks. In the mosquito-bitten mornings watching half-grown chickens peck at my toes and go berzerk over the horn worm from my garden. In the community of friends and strangers who wouldn't let me lose all that.

I guess that's love. I guess that is the point.

It's pretty overwhelming. These monetary gifts, from friends and strangers, I can't pay back or forward right now. The love, well I will do my best. I'll love the chickens and get them a great coop and run. I'll love my family, both my blood family and my chosen family here in South Carolina. I'll love this lifestyle and the community that comes along with it.

To you, my people, I will never ever forget what ya'll have done for us. I'll see it every time I look out my window or go outside and I'll taste it in every one of my very own eggs. I'll teach it to my kids and plant it in my garden. I'll pass it on every chance I get. I can't wait to post photos of my new coop and chickens.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

End of a Dream?

I was smart. I didn't think of my chickens as pets. They were livestock. I wanted them to have the best possible long and healthy, and PRODUCTIVE, life I could give them. We didn't even name all of them. I didn't spend a lot of time snuggling or trying to tame them. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures of them.
This is a good picture, though.

But oh, I sure did love having them.

They were better than tv. My very favorite thing to do in the morning was go outside and open the coop door, and watch their mad fluttering rush for the open air. I liked sitting and watching them, in all their multicolored nervously tame interactions and explorations. No longer fluffly little chicks, I could tell most of them apart by both coloring and personality. I was pretty sure I knew which ones were roosters and which were hens. Only two and a half more months and we'd be getting our first eggs. Sitting out there, watching them so content in their homemade coop and run, eating, drinking, getting larger, was the only peaceful and yet exciting part of my day.
A couple of weeks ago

Did you notice that was all past tense? Yeah.

I knew we had raccoons in the area. I made my coop raccoon-proof, I thought. I knew we had unleashed neighbor dogs. They didn't come over much, and could be chased away and they couldn't get into the coop. I locked my chickens up at night. I thought we were pretty safe. I thought, if we were going to have a predator problem, we'd have some sort of warning. Like just one or two chickens missing or dead in the morning. That would be sad and bad but fixable. Somehow, though, I was stupid (yes, stupid...I knew better. Plenty of blogs and books told me so.) and I thought it was unlikely.
not safe

It only took a couple of hours in one night. I locked up the fourteen chickens and 4 guineas myself. Shut the coop door firmly. Three of my little five week olds had ended up missing over the past week so instead of trusting the loose latches I added a bit of wire and tied the door shut tight. I wonder if I hadn't, if the next morning there would have been just one more missing and that was all. Probably not?

My daughters were awake when they shouldn't have been, night owls they are, but it didn't help. They only heard one scream from a guinea. They investigated, and then crashed into my room at 1 am screaming and crying. I dressed as quickly as I could and ran outside.

It was a massacre. All over my run, chicken corpses. Their coop door was still shut tight; I had to look carefully to find the little place in the raccoon-proof pvc coated chicken wire, where the carefully placed patch over a small rip had been torn off. The run, made from hardware cloth, zip ties and T-posts was torn completely down in three places. I checked a dead body...this was Aeryn Sun, our oldest, largest hen. Was so ugly at one point growing up I teased my husband that we were raising a turkey vulture and he looked at her and believed me. She'd gotten handsome lately. She didn't look so good with her head twisted and backward. Her body was still warm. So were several of the others, but others were stone cold. There were 9 bodies in the run. All whole and bloodless, and very dead. We found two other bodies nearby, Daylight and Moonlight. My pale yellow Brahma mix without a speck of darker color on her, and her best friend Moonlight, mostly a shiny black with a few white sprinkles. They were almost always together, and here they were again, but Moonlight's head was about 5 feet away from the rest of her body. That was the only injury we found that night. The only live birds we could find were my five very freaked out 5 week olds, still wired up tight, three guineas, and one Amerucana. 9 birds out of 23. We later found another body far across the yard, and one wing. The next night my single Lavender guinea, named Chiana, was taken.
Aeryn Sun, still in her awkward phase

I think I can patch the coop with what I have. I'm a little worried, though, because I thought it was solid before. Now I want to patch any spot that could possibly maybe be an access point to anything stronger than a grasshopper. My coop is made out of a lot of old salvaged materials stapled and nailed to an old rickety shed. I'm not sure I can make it raccoon/dog/snake proof. I'm scared to try and fail again.

Even  if I did fix up my coop, my run needs a complete overhaul. Hardware cloth and T-stakes held together with zip ties aren't going to cut it. I feel stupid for ever thinking they would. If I'm going to keep these kind of predators out, I'll need a real fence. Something that will keep dogs out. I don't have the materials for that, I don't have the know-how for that.

Even if I could and did, I can't afford to replace the chickens. To replace them with similar chickens of the same age, would cost a minimum of $165. I don't really want to start from eggs or day-olds again. I can't imagine enjoying it at this point.

Obviously I'm being negative. That's not my norm. I should patch that coop, scavenge craiglist and the old fallen down privacy fence on my land and design and build a new better fence, and then keep an eye out for free/cheap chickens on craigslist. Start small and take my time. Do it right.
Doin' it right.

I thought I did it right last time. My heart just isn't in "trying again" right now. I'll get my heart back, I think. I usually do. Obviously, this isn't the first time following a dream has gotten me a kick in the teeth. The person I try to be grins bloodily and keeps moving forward. The person I am...I need a breather right now.

Anyway, if anyone local would like a 14 week old Amerucana hen (named Lucki) and 5 five week old chicks (three Rhode Island Reds, one Barred Rock, and one Ideal 236), plus a mostly full 50 lb bag of Purina starter/grower feed for $50, let me know. I don't have anywhere safe to keep them at the moment.

All dead now.
Edited to add: My hero is Jenna Woginrich. This is her blog: This is the blog post she wrote for ME!!! Keep Raising Chickens I'm feeling a little better now. A little. I might go outside, take a look-see at the coop, figure out where I need to start. Still though, if you want my birds, let me know. It would be awful to have them slaughtered by some other animal while I'm still trying to fix their place.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sleeping in late ruins my day

I watched a lot of tv yesterday. Television is not one of my favorite things, but it is one of the most effective ways of shutting off my brain...if not the only way. I can't think of another right now, but hey, my brain was shut off for hours yesterday. It's still rebooting.

The worst thing about taking a day off from life, is that life goes on without you and it takes another two days just to catch up. My older kids were awesome and checked off almost everything on their chore list yesterday. My younger kids, who obviously need a lot more help and supervision, did not. Neither did I. My chore chart, in fact, is the worst looking one on the wall. (Yes, I have my own posted chore chart. Don't you?) The house is pretty clean, even with the refrigerator sitting in the middle of the kitchen, but my garden needs attention and my kids summer school and planning this upcoming year's school and of course, the one and only worst thing about having a large family: the laundry.

I truly hate laundry. If I ever win the lottery I will continue to be a stay-at-home mom and cook meals and clean house but the laundry will be sent out to be done by someone else and brought back all nice and clean and folded, AND this same service will make sure the clothes actually get put in the proper drawers and closets. Oh yeah.

So, after watching a whole lot of tv yesterday, I know am sore from not moving and have a headache and don't really want to do anything to catch up. So I'm blogging. Yay me!

My older children have gotten to the point where they keep the house mostly picked up and clean-ish on their own. They do the dishes and vacuuming and their own laundry and their bathroom, and that is a HUGE HUGE HUGE blessing. They'll take care of the dog, cat, and chickens, too. But it certainly doesn't mean that there isn't anything for me to do. One of the most important chores I am currently avoiding is planning school for next year. We school year round, but we still start in August, 'cause that really makes things easier. We are mostly wrapped up for last year. The older kids are finishing up math and I'm working on getting my little boys reading. My nine year old can't read yet. I'm not worried because he is a lot like his older sister, who I worked with for years and she couldn't read and couldn't read and couldn't and wouldn't read until all of a sudden I caught her reading. At age 10. I'm still not quite sure how that happened...

Warrior-boy HATED when I tried to teach him to read. So Right Hand Girl tried it. He goofed off too much. So finally, despite it's success with three of my older children, I ditched Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and replaced it with The Reading Lesson Book. We've only done it 3 days so far but he seems to like it much better. So do Sweetheart and Little Big Boy, though the latter keeps insisting on adding a whole lot of other consonants whenever we try to blend the letters. Octavia just wants to eat it.

There are a lot of different ways to homeschool. I am eclectic with leanings toward Charlotte Mason and unschooling, very literature based and I also want my kids to be familiar with the classics and have lots of hands on opportunities. Basically, I want to do it all. Timberdoodle is my all time favorite homeschool store. If they have it, I want it. I LOVE their curriculum packages, especially how flexible they are. (They aren't paying me to say this; in fact I doubt they have any knowledge at all of this piddly little blog.) If I tried to get a basic curriculum package for each of my kids, even with those in the same grade sharing, it would cost me $1315. That's not even counting anything for Octavia, or any literature or electives. Or the things I would have to double up for more than one kid. I am not ragging on Timberdoodle's prices. They are actually really great. It's just expensive to use brand-new stuff for each of 8 children. Duh. The good thing is I don't need to have a fresh curriculum package every year for every kid. This year I am using Timberdoodle 8th grade as a guide to purchase used books for my two oldests, and getting Five in a Row and Beyond Five in a Row for the others, along with Life of Fred and Teaching Textbooks for math. That's the plan, anyhow. I'm hoping I can find all that I need under $600, so all I have to do is come up with about that much money. I don't have to get it all at once; I can work on it from August to December.

Meanwhile, I need to set up the course descriptions, attendance sheets, assignment sheets, and everything else in 5 binders, one for me and each of the four oldest. has a lot of great free printables, and I'm using several of them, but I am enough of a control freak that I have to make my own pages so that they will be JUST right. Which is what I should be doing right now. Or painting the other chair in my garden, or making a supper meal plan, or thinning out our laundry (ptooie!), or exercising, or fixing the knobs on my kitchen cabinets, or doing the reading lessons with the boys, or letting one of the kids use the computer for math...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Due date

5 months ago, I knew what I would be doing today.

I would be resting, in bed or on the couch, reading the newest Dresden file book, breastfeeding my brand-new daughter. I don't have the book yet, though I suppose I will get it someday. My daughter is in the front yard, buried under a sick apple tree. It has a fungus or something.

Her first and second name together means Divine Stranger. Could we have named her better? Her name was picked out before we knew she was dead. It was some chromosomal issue, the kind of thing that just happens and can't be prevented or helped. That's what I was told, anyhow.

She was conceived on October 22nd, the day we closed on this house and our 14th wedding anniversary. I knew the very moment, and I knew she was a girl. The first is somewhat normal for me, knowing the gender isn't, but I had no doubt. We were so happy, this baby, number 9, was the symbol of our success. The Ninja Time Lord had a good job, one with benefits and a future. We had a house, a house we owned, with LAND we could mess with and improve and play around on. Our kids were all happy and healthy and so were we. The future would be bright and easy, at least comparatively. Pretty silly, I know, but it felt that way, even if this is the first time I tried to put that feeling into words.

We didn't tell people right away. We knew some would disapprove, and we were tired of dealing with that, and we ashamed in some stupid way to tell our friends and family who were dealing with infertility and miscarriages. We knew they would be happy for us, it just felt uncomfortable somehow to point out that we were having number 9 while they were having difficulties themselves. So the news broke unevenly and awkwardly, and I wish it hadn't, because the one thing I didn't want anyone to think, not for a minute, is that she wasn't wanted. She was wanted from the moment I knew we had made her. There was no regret or sighing over adding another couple of years to our diaper time or homeschooling years or anything. We didn't wish her away for even a second.

My pregnancies have, for the most part, been non-eventful. As such, I felt no urge to make a midwife's appointment. My first one was in late February. I was almost 5 months along, about 19 weeks. I looked pregnant and I'd felt her move once or twice, but not much. It had been a weird pregnancy, a fact which I discussed at length with my midwife before she went looking for, and couldn't find, the heartbeat. It had felt different, my mood was different, but I had no real cause for concern. I mentioned that I'd put on a lot of weight very fast after having lost a bit before October. She said it was normal for someone working out and losing weight to put it all back on fast after getting pregnant...the body tells you that you must stop starving yourself and fatten up for the baby's sake. Oh well. Then she looked for the heartbeat. I asked her how long the trying should go before I got nervous.

The next morning, first thing, I had an ultrasound. My husbad went with me. The technician was a very kind 6 foot tall lady named Kelly. I told her that my oldest daughter was expected to be so tall. We were able to watch the picture on a computer screen placed up in the ceiling corner. She didn't have to give us the news. There was definitely a baby. And there was definitely no life. That was February 27th. I took my daughters to Joann's to pick out material to make a tiny blanket and pillow for the casket. We bought pink, even though I had no confirmation she was a girl.

Blanket knitted by my Right Hand Girl, pillow made by Intensity, baptismal cross, and a braid of my husband's and my hair.
The next day we went to the doctor to hear what we were supposed to do. I had some silly idea of outright refusing a D&C. What if they, we, everyone, was wrong? And even if they weren't, I didn't want to go through that. I didn't want my baby to go through that, even if she wouldn't know. I was sent to the hospital for an induction. I should go straight there, so to be sure to have a "non-hostile to midwives" ob on call. That's what the doctor said. If I waited a day or so, I'd have an ob who disapproved of midwives. We went straight there, mostly...we went by the house for some stuff and then by Joy of Tokyo to eat first. It'd been a while since I had a baby in the hospital, but I clearly remembered how they don't let you eat.

I waited almost an hour after being given the medication to actually take it. Taking that tiny pill was one of the  hardest things I've ever done. Nothing happened for a long time. My husband works third shift, so he mostly slept on the couch. I watched one of my favorite tv shows, Leverage, which was marathon-ing on tv and fiddled with my laptop till it broke. My priest visited and we discussed the technical meaning of the word "hoohah" and how amused I was by dried seaweed sticks being one of the medical options listed on the paperwork. After my computer broke, around 9:30 pm, one of my best friends and godmother sat with me and we talked and laughed (and listened to a very talkative nurse) till 12:30 am, when she left to go to bed. I woke my husband and took a bath, my first one since moving into my house with no bathtub. After I got out, my husband went down the hall to use the restroom, as he didn't want to stink up my room. While he was gone I bled on the bed, and the nurses wanted to change the sheets immediately, so I ended up having my daughter sitting in a chair.

It was fast. I didn't have time to catch her, but she didn't go far, and I held her while the nurses finished the bed. My husband came back in as I was moving back to the bed. The doctor and the nurses checked us out...she measured 20 weeks but the doctor wrote down 18 weeks on the paperwork so I would have no issues taking her with us when we left the hospital. They looked at the placenta and the cord to make sure everything was there, and doctor went digging inside me to make sure all was out. That was the most physically painful part. The cord and placenta were strong, whole, and healthy. My body hadn't stopped trying to keep her alive till those pills made it. The nurses brought us saline solution and a container to keep her in until her burial. Then they left.

You know those pictures of they are strange and alien looking, and you are surprised they end up looking human? It's because they don't photograph well. She looked human. Tiny and unfinished, most definitely a girl, and you could tell her head didn't have quite the skull or brain it was supposed to looked a little like a tiny water balloon, but her face, ears, fingers, toes, elbows, knees, eyebrows....all perfect and perfectly human. She even resembled her siblings. She had her dad's monkey toes. I didn't like putting her in the cold saltwater and sticking her in the fridge, but it's not like I could hold her while I slept. She was born on March 1st. We aren't sure when she died.

Her service was March 4th, a Tuesday. My husband and Firstborn dug the grave in our front yard. My godfather made the casket. All of my children contributed something to put in it. Tavi looked at her and said "Baby," the first time she ever said that. A friend with a great camera and some skill came and took pictures over the weekend and at the service, so we have pictures of her. It was a nice service. A lot of people came for a morning weekday service, including my parents, who drove from Memphis. Everyone was very nice.

And then it was over. The pregnancy, the birth, the service, the plans and expectations.

We planted an apple tree over her a week later. It promptly caught cedar rust and has been looking poorly, but surviving, ever since. I've planted a few flowers under, but right now it looks like a bunch of lush weeds. There is a little crooked white picket fence around it.

We want a marker but haven't been able to afford it yet, so maybe on her birthday. My kids talk to her sometimes, especially my Right Hand Girl and Big Little Boy. Big Little Boy still asks me when God is going to make her back alive. We'll never stop missing her.

I wish she were here, with me now, enjoying this beautiful cool-for-South-Carolina-in-July weather and the chirping of the chickens. I wonder how my garden and chickens would be different if I had done all this while pregnant, or if I even would have. God is still good, life is still good, even if it isn't all bright and easy. This past month and a half has been really hard for many reasons, and I don't expect anything to become easy anytime soon. But I have an expectation of joy. I still have a wonderful husband and 8 healthy happy wonderful kids, and in February, 1 week exactly before my Divine Stranger's birthday, baby #10 is due.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Picture dump

I feel like I'm more tired than I ought to be. Every day, it seems like, I am planning to NOT go anywhere and just do the stuff I want to do around the home and farm, and every day I have to go somewhere for some reason. I really hate it. It's funny though, because I never used to be such a homebody. Something about having your own home?

I have written a whole lot of blog posts over the past several days, all in my head, while working. None of them made it here. Right now, of course, I have no blog post in my head, so I am going to dump a bunch of photos on you. Okay?

Tavi, for whatever reason, loves lying in Percival's crate and playing with his chewing bone.

Finished coop door, before being hung or painted. I'll have to go get more pics of it now.

Happy Face showing off our chicks in their tractor. The nesting boxes are on top; both the chicks and the nesting boxes are in the coop now. The tractor and nesting boxes were given to me by a dear lady who was excited about helping me get started with chickens.

Inside the coop. I have now added several roosts.

One day's harvest of zucchini. So far all together we have picked 22 of these, and they are still coming. They actually don't look as good in this pic as they do in real life. The smallest one is about 9 inches long. I recently read that they should be picked smaller so that the plants don't think the season is over. Hmmm.

This is a picture of me, at 9 am, after working in the garden for 2 hours.  I thought the dirt and sweat would show up more. I also thought I was smiling. I certainly am feeling good. This is when I was doing the celery. I have a bunch of pictures of how I planted it. I will put them in a post soon, because I am so excited that they are growing! Despite having been dug up by our dog twice.

I am behind...tomorrow I will get more pictures, and then soon tell what I am doing with the celery and show the painted and finished coop. I might even talk about my kids some. They are the ones, btw, largely keeping the house together while I work outside. They seem to prefer it, even the ones who claim they want to be farmers. But tomorrow...tomorrow I am starting work on the fall garden, and they are going to help me do that. Because that is going to involve digging in my hard as rock clay, that is full of actual rocks, and they will help me. I also have to paint the coop door, and then in the afternoon I work cleaning an office with my friend. So, despite that it is only 9 o'clock and the sun has only just set and I am a major night-owl, I am going to bed. My older kids will stay up about an hour reading or drawing, and my youngers are playing quietly in their room.I am sooo far behind on my tv's a good thing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Late Night Silliness

You know how your brain writes your best stuff in the middle of the night, when you don't want to get up and put it down, so you just pray you'll remember it and then you never do?
I actually got up and wrote it down. It probably won't seem as awesome in the morning, but it sure was a fun and surprisingly easy.

I'm not getting up in the morning, I'm gonna stay in bed.
The alarm can ring all it wants to, the pillow will cover my head.
The sun can shine warm and brightly, the kids' smiles can do that too,
I'm staying in bed in the morning, 'cause there's too many dishes to do. There's too many dishes and too many clothes,
diapers to change and beans up the nose.
There's toys on the floor and games in the hall,
more books than shelves to hold them all.
I'm tired and sore, don't want to get dressed,
I'm staying in bed and ignoring this mess.
There's only so many things I can do, and as far as today went, it was just building the coo....p.
That was enough, I think, to earn me a break.
I'll stay in my bed and I'll eat me some cake.
I meant to end this poem changing my mind,
but the bed feels too good
So maybe next time!

Too Tired

It's too late and I'm too tired to post much, but I didn't want anyone thinking I was disappearing. Again. I have lots to say and a whole lot of pictures to post. I finished the coop today, except for the painting, so there's that. It's the worst looking coop you ever saw, but I'm going to paint it wacky colors and call it Suessian. You know my 7th kid was named after Dr. Suess? Well, now you do. Which is why his online nickname is Suess from now on. I just decided.

It is 11:44 pm and I am exhausted. I made it church this morning finally, which was wonderful. I love our church. Someday I'll have to talk about why.

As soon as I came home I got back to work on patching all the holes in the coop (a new one every time I looked, I swear. I think we used about as much wood patching it up as it took to build in the first place) and finishing the door. I thought yesterday I had about an hour of work left. But not only did I underestimate the work it would still take, I also overestimated the kids' enthusiasm to help this time. I worked alone for several hours, because I didn't feel like dragging reluctant kids out in the heat only to have slow grudging help. This is probably a sign of bad parenting. On the other hand, when I finally did tell them it was time to put the door up and I couldn't do it alone, I had between 3 and 6 out there cheerfully offering to hammer nails in all sort of unnecessary places, yanking on the chicken wire, losing screws, and helping me move the heavy ruggedly sturdy door back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and yes, still more back and forth, as we figured out how to actually attach it in such a way that it would open and close with a minimum of gaps. I am not great at planning ahead, and if the door is an ugly patchwork of random bits, attaching it in place was a whole 'nother adventure in "making do." Get this: the chicken door I lovingly made, probably the best looking piece of the door, wouldn't open because it bumped the side of the coop just the barest amount. Did I grab sand paper or a wood plane? Nope, don't have those. I attacked the side of the door with a machete. I can hear the gasps of horror. I know. But I was going to finish that dad-blamed thing tonight!! After a while of swinging the machete and getting only a little ways along, I started using it as a chisel with my hammer. That worked slightly better. And you know what? That chicken door opens great. Take that, you "right tool for the job" people. I'll show you a picture tomorrow. You perfectionist will have nightmares. Did I mentioned my saw horse is stacked cinder blocks? My kids absolutely forbid me to jury-rig their bikes into a wheelbarrow. Hm. Jury-rigged Farm. Maybe that would work.

My hands are torn up because I'm a weird sado-masochist who doesn't believe in gloves. I'm proud of the blisters and can't wait for the callouses, but I have to buy a finger-nail brush. I'm the tannest I've ever been in my whole life, I think, along with touches of sunburn, and since I'm living in tank tops and workout shorts it's not even a farmer's tan. I may have to scrub my feet with steel wool if I ever want them to be clean again. I have mosquito bites all over, whole lots of them. My roots are over a inch long, I think,  but I still can't find any gray in them. I'm still about 50 pounds overweight, but I've lost an inch or two. I think I will let farming be my workout for a while, maybe forever. I'd love to look "good" but I'm pretty pleased with what my body is doing for me right now, and I think that is transferring to what I see in the mirror a bit. I'm down to 31 chickens and 5 guineas, but what I have seems healthy and vigorous. All the weaklings but one have either died off or gotten strong enough to not be noticed anymore. No more goat, but plenty of plans for more animals. Later, later. I have enough new stuff going on at the moment. My garden is awesome and I'm about to make it awesomer, but since this is only supposed to be a short picture-less post I'm going to go to sleep now and put it all out there tomorrow. Good night!!

Tomorrow I'll talk about this, and why I'm not so happy with our dog right now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I wrote a really great blog post last night, in my head, at 2 am

It was about different types of guilt and failure and expectations and responsibility....

This is not it.

I know having your best ideas in the middle of the night is normal. Is it also normal to have your best ideas while driving and don't have anything to write on? I don't have a smartphone, but if I did, could I use it as a voice recorder? If so I might suddenly want one.

Oh well.

Yesterday I also finally built an ugly but sturdy door for my chicken coop. Now all I have to do is attach it to the coop and add the little flap to cover the chicken hole, and I'll have a fully functional coop! Yay!
Ugly homemade chicken coop door

The guineas, at least, are ready to move into it. I wonder how long I will have these guineas, since yesterday, the day before their one month birthday, one mysteriously escaped and hasn't been seen since. It may or may not still be has plenty of places to go and hide and the weather isn't bad enough to kill it, but my cat or dog or the neighbors' cats and dogs probably would. Or a hawk. It can somewhat sorta fly, and we have lots of trees and thick brush. I was rather hoping that I would find it cheeping outside of the pen all its flock is in this morning, but no such luck. They say guineas like to come back home to their family (other guineas, not humans.) I think I'm just going to assume it is dead, tell the kids to assume it is living the high life out there somewhere, and be happily surprised if it shows up. The really sad thing is I have no idea how it got out. I'm pretty sure it's too big to just squeeze through, but I've been wrong before.

 I'm going to regrow celery. Have you seen that pin on Pinterest?  My husband eats celery daily to control his gout, and my children often have it as well. I will occasionally stick a stalk or two in my smoothies, but while the flavor is fine I can't stand the fibrous texture, so I don't eat it a lot. I should have it more, celery is surprisingly good for you. It's good for inflammation and blood pressure and more. Anyhow, we buy it weekly, and obviously I would much rather grow it for free, so we'll see how it works. I will update here. Right now I have two celery bottoms soaking in a pie dish. To keep up with our consumption I believe I'll need to have at least twenty bunches going at all times.

We are apparently getting rid of our goat.
Bill Grogan and Ki checking out the coop door.
It's a good thing. He has done for us all and more than we were hoping for, both as a brush clear-er and as an intro to farm animal care. He's awesome and friendly, but lonely and scared most of the time. We don't have our fence up yet (now THAT is going to be quite the chore) and so he is tethered, and he just doesn't like it. We found someone on craigslist with a large fenced pasture that has a lonely donkey in it. The man just likes to have the animals for entertainment and love; I think poor Grogan would be happier with him. He's even willing to have us come visit. We probably won't, but it makes us feel better about giving him to a stranger.

I bought a small bag of organic red potatoes from Walmart for $2 so I'm sending the boys out to dig a patch of yard to plant them in. These will be the first things planted directly in my soil; everything else is container grown in store bought soil and compost. My plan, that I really need to work on, is to make long mulch-on-top-of-cardboard piles in my yard, stir compost in and plant ground cover crops on them so that next year I have good soil to turn into garden beds. I have enough cardboard to probably layer my entire acres and almost half, but I need to actually pick up the phone and call tree chipping places till I find one willing to dump their mess in my yard. I HATE talking on the phone. HATE IT.

Wondering what's going on with the Ninja Time Lord while I yammer on about farm stuff? He's...better? In that he no longer has a fever and can go a full hour without making a beeline for the toilet. His stomach still hurts and he feels weak. He went to a minor medical center this morning where they were supremely unhelpful, but did at least provide a doctor's note so he won't get in trouble with his work. He plans on going back to work tonight.

He works too much. He thinks we need more money than we do and that's my fault, because I always manage to spend as much as makes. We are both enablers when it comes to spending money on stupid stuff. We don't buy big expensive stupid stuff, we don't go on vacations, we don't have fancy appliances or electronics, and the only nice things in the house are the items my parent's have bought us, and yet and yet and yet....we could do much better. I don't need to buy every geeky shirt I come across that is awesome. I should probably stop checking TeeFury everyday. (As soon as I do that, they will have an awesome Farscape or Stargate shirt, I just know it.) We certainly don't need to eat as many "treat" foods. I probably don't need any much more homeschool supplies. I should use the library more. I should be less wasteful with the things we already have. I should go less places and save gas. NTL asked me how much money I thought he would need to make per month next year after I have laying chickens, meat birds and rabbits, and a larger garden, and when I figured it out and told him, he enjoyed the laugh quite a lot. I was probably underestimating a little bit, but it would cut his hours by more than a third. I must learn to do with less and make better use of what I have. It's the type of person I want to be anyway. It shouldn't be so hard, you'd think.

I also need to figure out another way to blog than just stream-of-consciousness...

PS: I am giving all family members nicknames, and going back and changing names used earlier on the blog. Just 'cause. If you know me, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out who is who, and I may add a picture key to the blog. But that would be later, because this has taken too long already.

PSS: and the goat is gone. The man and his family who came seemed very nice and good with Grogan. We had him exactly one month and boy, did he teach us a lot. I hope he has an excellent and long life.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More Emergency Room fun

So two months ago I took Ki to the emergency room for swallowing magnets. It was an all night affair with x-rays and laxatives and everything, but he's okay. Two weeks ago I took him back for a nasty gash below his eyebrow that was trying to let all of the inside of his eyelid out. That was an all day affair with surgery and everything, but he's okay.
Tomorrow, finally, another member of the family gets his turn: my poor husband, the Ninja Time Lord. He has had a fever of over 100 degrees for more than 36 hours now, and unless he makes a miraculous recovery overnight I'm dragging him to the hospital tomorrow. He's missed three days of work now and I don't remember the last time that's happened. I don't actually remember that ever happening. 

I'm also supposed to get a new driver's license and a dog kennel and water the church's flowers, but if my previous experiences with the E.R. hold true I won't be doing anything but taking care of the NTL tomorrow. I hope he's okay.

It's been an stressful Father's Day. Our air conditioning broke last night too. Which reminds me, I need to cancel the appointment I made to get it fixed tomorrow. A wonderful man, husband to a wonderful woman from my homeschool co-op, drove 45 minutes on Father's Day to come fix our air conditioning at a ridiculously low price. It was a short in the wire and low freon, so we need to arrange to get our leak fixed. Something to do tomor....Tuesday, I guess.

Our chicks and our goat are doing well. The kids are all healthy, even if Tavi thinks the best way to communicate is to angrily scream all day.

Anyone play World of Warcraft? The girls are dragging me kicking and screaming into it. A good mom develops interests to help her bond with her kids, right? First time I haven't been able to just get one interested in my interests instead. I have no sense of time on the best of days, WoW certainly doesn't help.

I talked to my dad this evening like I should, but his gift won't arrive for another couple of weeks. I extend the holidays, yes I do.

I don't really have anything to say right now. I'm tired and my feet still hurt and I'm worried, which isn't adding a single hour to my life but is taking hours out of my sleep, so I'm just going to remember that God is good and I am blessed and go to bed now.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Good day but OUCH!

I had an awesome morning, but I may not stand up for a few days. But first! I want to introduce you to the breeds are currently have growing up here. I know I know, I'm obsessed with these chickens. I need to remember my goat and my other animals and oh yeah the kids! and my poor sick husband....

Anyhow, back to the chickens!

I currently own: 6 guinea keets, 4 weeks old. It's hard to tell for sure what colors they will finally be, but I believe I have three pearls, one porcelain, one brown, and one royal purple. What are those colors actually? Here. Of course, it could change. Take a look at those pics of the keets. They all look just the same, pretty much.

I have 8 Ameraucana, and yes, they are real actual light blue egg laying Ameraucanas, not Easter Eggers, for those who know enough to be suspicious. I bought these straight run, and at the moment I am thinking 4 pullets (females) and 4 roos (short for rooster, so yah, I shouldn't have to tell you they're males). But I'm really new at this so they could surprise me yet. They were about 4 weeks old when I bought them from the lady who sells us our farm fresh eggs, for a few more months at least. They are almost 8 weeks old now.

Last Sunday? I think it was Sunday, I got 6  two week old mixed breed chicks from my homeschooling friend, 5 pullets and one roo. Those pullets are guaranteed, which means if one turns out to have boy parts she give me another girl hen. She's pretty confident in her sexing abilities. That is, telling the gender of chicks apart. Don't think I meant anything else. They could be some sort of Australorp/Ameraucana/Brahma/Rhode mix or something, but they all come from good layers.

And then, finally, I picked 15 pullets from the post office that I ordered from Ideal Poultry. I already said this, I got 10 assorted and 5 Ideal 236s. But thanks to the sharp eyes of my friend, I now know what my assorted are! (She saw where is was written on the paper that came with them.) I have two of each: New Hampshire Red, Black Sex Link, Silver Spangled Hamburg, Ancona, and Barred Rock.

Tuesday my poor mistreated eggs hatched. Let me tell you people, there are good reasons for those very specific temperature requirements. I'm not using this incubator again, at least not without upgrading it to have an automatic egg turner and putting it up high in my bedroom where no one can mess with it. It's not the incubators fault, exactly, but it doesn't make the job easy on you. Especially when you have kids who mess with it. It only takes once. Out of 48 eggs 6 hatched, and that was 6 more than I expected. I was happy at first but what I didn't realize but know now is...if chicks survive mishandling of their eggs, there will often be something wrong with them. Three chicks hatched with their yolk sacks outside of their bodies, and two of those had curled toes. The three hatched healthy are fine, I have one Barred Rock like above and two Rhode Island Reds. One other Rhode Island Red is still alive. Her yolk sac was drawn into her body but it doesn't like her tummy completely closed up. There is a large scab there now. We are applying triple antibiotic ointment and keeping her separate for the moment. She is doing well, but is lonely and chirps loudly when no one is holding her. If she lives, she will be the tamest chicken in history, as she pretty much lives on my children.

Out of my 33 chicks, 20 are guaranteed pullets, and I think I have at least 4 more. That leaves me with 9 roos, of which I want to keep two. So, 7 will either be given away or eaten. I'm good either way. I only want 20 hens at this point, so if all my chicks survive to 8 weeks I will have four to sell or give away. They are worth a lot more at that age because they are so hard to get there.

Bored yet? Sorry.

Today was a good day, though, because I met my friend Megan and her two friends (they share an awesome homesteading blog, check it out! Homesteading Housewives) downtown at the Greenville Farmers' Market. I bought 4 dozen eggs. I'm pathetic, I've lived in the Greenville area 10 years and this is the first time I've been there. I've been to other farmers markets around here though! Megan is a friend from church who is really into homesteading, and she introduced me to her two friends also into homesteading. I really liked them and I think they liked me okay too. We are going to do turkeys and meat chickens together! I am very excited.

I wore the wrong shoes though. I developed a blister on the back of one heal, so I took off my shoes to walk from the cupcake shop (shhh, my kids think I just went to the market) all the way down Main St to my car. It didn't hurt till I got in the car. I'm barefoot all the time around the house and farm, from carpet floors with legos all over to a gravel drive way to my nettle-filled yard, and yet it did not prepare me for half a mile of rough hot concrete. I have blisters all over the bottoms of my feet. Pity me. So much for finishing my coop door. I swear that thing is becoming the bane of my existence.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. Don't forget. I am doing my typical "extending the holiday" since my dad won't be getting his gift for another week or two, but I will call him. My husband already received his gifts, trying to make him feel better since he came down with a 101 degree fever yesterday. Pity him more than me, it wasn't his fault.

May not go to church, since he is sick and it's Father's Day and my feet hurt so much, but it's my teams turn for coffee hour, so I'd at least have to go clean up. Plus I missed last week and I hate missing church. I have the best church.

Now I'm just rambling so I'll go. I wanted to put pictures in this post but I don't have any at the moment, unless you want to see my blistered feet. No? Okay, I'll spare you.

Happy Fathers' Day fathers everywhere!

7:52 pm
Oh yeah, new word to consider working into a possible name for this place: Ramshackle. I like it. Yep, still trying to come up with a name. :p

Thursday, June 12, 2014

So tired.

I got to bed about 4:30 am last night. When baby is sick, mommy doesn't get to sleep. She seems fine now. I would pull my own eye teeth for a chance to go back to bed.

We received 15 chicks from Ideal Poultry today. I went to the post office to pick them up, and wasn't I the bell of the ball for a few minutes, despite wearing pajama pants and no make up and my hair pulled back into a greasy ponytail. No one saw me, they were all fixated on the chirping box in my arms.

I piked up 5 Ideal 236 pullets and 10 assorted pullets. Not knowing what they are is kind of exciting! Of those 10 assorted two of those are identical to the barred rocks I've hatched here, so I'm assuming more barred rocks, which I am happy about. I have no idea what the others are.
Chicks are more fun when they are colorful.

The reddish with black stripes on the right is a Rhode Island Red from my incubated eggs.

What's this? I have no idea.

The one in the back is the barred rock I hatched here. The one in front is from Ideal Poultry.
If anyone would like to guess please do! The Ideals are the lemon yellow ones. They are supposed to be ridiculously prolific layers. I'm looking forward to finding out for myself! The hatchery chicks are almost exactly the same size as the ones we hatched yesterday, so they are all in together.

So far I have 6 chicks out of my own eggs, I have two blacks and 4 strawberry blondes, which are barred rocks and rhode island reds, respectively. Of course it will be a few weeks before I know which are pullets and which are roos. One rock and one red each have unabsorbed yolk sacs which are worrying, despite being told not to worry. I was told they would be absorbed if I just left them alone, but it doesn't look like that is happening...instead they have turned from tight little balloons against their belly into long jelly ribbons. But supposedly there is nothing I can do but keep them safe and clean and wait. We'll see. The other eggs, well, no signs of life from them, but I'm giving them till Friday night. 6 out of 48 is not great, but it's 6 more than I expected to get. I won't be incubating any eggs again for quite some time, but when I do I will have an automatic turner and keep them high up away from kids.

So all together I have 6 keets and 35 chicks. I am DONE. Well, at least until these are fully grown and I know how many hens vs roos I have, as well as how many survive that long. Mortality rates among chicks are high, unfortunately. My goal is about 20 hens and 2 roos. I think I should get that out of this mess, and if I have too many the hens are easy to sell and the roos are yummy.

If the rock with the yolk sac lives I get to make him pipe cleaner casts for his curled toes. How fun is that? :p

Meanwhile, over the past couple of days I have neglected my children for my chicks, and that needs to stop. They've enjoyed the break from school and housework, but wow, do we need to get back to it! We have friends coming over tomorrow! Both brooders need cleaned and I must finish the coop door and run before Monday. I'm supposed to go pick up free tires from craigslist today and I work cleaning an office this evening. My squash and tomatoes need their cages made and put on them pretty much right now.

So can I go to bed now?

Update 10:39
Got back from work half an hour ago. Both chicks with yolk sacs are dead. Others seem fine. Finally going to bed now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

And now it's June

Not great at updating, am I? Yep, I'm one of THOSE bloggers. Well, what I'm doing now is so exciting (to me) I'm posting just a couple of sentences every hour on Facebook, and that makes me one of THOSE friends. So here's to trying to fix both of those issues. I'll just up date my blog every hour. One post per day/edited every time I want to post something farm related on Facebook. I'm using my blog like a Twitter feed/Instagram? Ok. I'd rather do that than add those to yet another online way of socializing.

So quick update: we are still at our new wonderful home, and now I have a garden,

a dog, a cat (plus two other cats we occasionally see keeping our yard pest free), an albino snake somewhere in the house if it's still alive,  
a goat (!)

 6 guineas I hatched from eggs in an incubator (!!),

8 ameraucana chicks about 5 weeks old I bought from my eating egg lady,

6 mixed breed 2 week old chicks I bought from a homeschooling friend, and 4 brand new hatched TODAY chicks (2 barred rock and 2 rhode island red),
and a whole lot of eggs still waiting to see if they will hatch today or tomorrow.
Oh, and my oldest daughter owns two pure bred French Angora bunnies, one of which is pregnant. 

These are the Facebook posts I've made over the last week:

June 4

Got home from church to find the neighbors' dogs attacked our goat. Thankfully First Born Son was home sick and rescued him, but his wound, which had looked so close to healed, is ripped back open and won't stop slowly bleeding. He is also favoring one leg. Ironically, this is the same neighbor who knocked on my door last month at 12:30 AM (yes, I was asleep) to let me know our dog had chewed up his rubber boots and stolen a baseball cap. Percival (the dog) has since been on a chain but his dogs weren't. He and his girlfriend are a young couple with a week old baby, and dogs that have the same ability to sneak out doors and slip off chains our dog had. I feel bad for them, and our goat, but mostly I'm worried about our future livestock. I hope this gets worked out with no hard feelings and no dead animals. — feeling worried.

June 8

Lost another chick this evening. I have no idea what happened. He seemed fine this morning, just like all of them, they spent the afternoon outside and before we moved him back into the brooder he was lethargic and had really watery poo. Kept him separate from the others for a bit and gave him vitamin water, then he started twisting his neck weird and stiffening his legs and losing balance and shaking. Died about 3 hours after we noticed he wasn't doing well. 

Well, those started out depressing, huh? It gets better.

17 hours ago

My eggs are chirping! My eggs are chirping! I'm going to have zombie chicks!
(I'd thought all my eggs were dead for sure...the temperature had NOT stayed steady.)

13 hours ago
Chick number 1 has emerged! It's a Barred Rock!

6 hours ago

Getting up this morning a Rhode Island Red has joined my Barred Rock in the incubator, and a third one is almost out! Two Rhode Islands Red! I have two of each now and at least 3 more working their way out! I have 9 hens at least out of the other chicks so far, and if these are 50/50 I'll have another 2 or 3 at least, depending if more hatch. Then, of course, we'll have to see how many actually survive.

5 hours ago

These red heat lamps aren't kidding around.

4 hours ago

Y'all are going to be so sick of my chicken posts, so here's a chicken/child post. Tavi is being sooo good, she is leaning over and cooing at them, and gently reaching in with one finger to pet them. I haven't had to stop her once yet. Well, not since last week. That's awesome for a not-yet-two year old.

And the one I just resisted adding to Facebook:

2 pm

Newest chick has a large unabsorbed yolk sac. :( I have placed him on a small saucer in the incubator with a damp paper towel to keep him clean and safe. Hopefully it will reabsorb and not start bleeding everywhere.

3:11 pm

It looks like the yolk sac has been absorbed. I'm going to put Neosporin on his belly and then try to fix his toes. They are all curled up. Supposed to be an easy fix, I think I've heard.

4:59 pm

I'm not sure what to do now. I don't have vetwrap, we are out of pipe cleaners, the yolk sac won't absorb, and the chick is not interested in just laying down and dying. :(