Friday, May 30, 2008

Free Bird Identified!!

When you order chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery, the minimum order is 25. With this they send a free, exotic bird. Only, they don't tell you which bird is your free bird, so unless you are adept at telling chicks apart, or got all of one type so that the free one really stands out, it can be hard to figure out which chick IS the free one!! It can be even more of a trick to figure out which breed your free bird is.
Till now we had thought she (we're pretty certain it is a hen) was possibly a Silver Laced Wyandotte or a Silver Penciled Rock. Then, as you can see in the photo, she started growing a lot of reddish brown feathers, meaning she wasn't either of those breeds. So, back to the catalogue we went to try and figure out just what she was and ... TADA - we know!!! She is an Araucana/Americana .. also known as an "Easter Egg Chicken." Why are they called this you may ask - well, because they lay eggs ranging from turquoise to deep olive to shades of brown in color!! Talk about being excited to see some eggs!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A moment to pause and reflect

I have just had the splendid luck of finding yet another glorious blog: While I was perusing her blog I noticed her post about an Attitude of Gratitude. You'll now see this button on this page too.
So, since my little ones are currently down for their naps, or quiet times, as the kid may be, I thought I ought to take the moment and share the things I am grateful for.
I am grateful to have such strong-willed children. Even if it means they drive me up the wall and test me in ways I didn't even know I could be tested, I am glad they are so strong-willed, it will take them far in life. That characteristic also forces me to "think outside the box" in methods of parenting, and for that I am grateful.
I am grateful for our home and every weed that needs to be trimmed, for our yard is full of diversity and has no intentions of conforming into anyone else's standards. I love our uneven walls - for they show actual hand-made craftsmanship. What one person can do with their own two hands and how that can stand the test of time.
I am grateful for family and friends. They have taught me the importance of being true to yourself, and what being there for someone really means. They have proven to me that even when we feel all alone in this world, we aren't.
I am grateful for my husband. He is supportive and always there for me, standing by me. He doesn't condemn me for needing him, and he loves me unconditionally.
And finally, even though part of me wants to cringe at stating this: I am grateful for the internet. Growing up "different" from the pack was lonesome and scary. Without access to the web I wouldn't have gotten to see and know so many people who are more like-minded. I get to see the world through so many people's eyes, and it is glorious. I am able to find the affirmations I need, and I am so, so, so very grateful for that.
What are you grateful for?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Surprise in Lavender

For those of you who don't know, our front yard seems to be absolutely wonderful for growing lavender. We have two bushes that were first bought as tiny little things and now are about 4 or 5 feet across and, when in bloom, reach chest height (and we aren't short people!!). I was trimming the dead parts out of the center of one of the bushes the other day and came upon what, I think, is a Sparrow's nest. Thought I would share the photo.
It was quite a delight to find. Shannon in particular was thrilled to see this. He's had a hard time understanding that he can't really mess with the nest, or even look at it too much, as it will cause Mama-Bird to abandon the nest. A big concept for 4 year olds I suppose.
We've seen mama-bird fly off a couple times now since the finding. I can't wait to hear the babies cheeping. This isn't something I've had the pleasure to experience since I was little and I am really eager to be able to share it with my own kids now. Plus, who wouldn't love to be born in a bed of lavender?!?!?!

Another Busy Weekend

Today we worked around the yard: Justin clearing out the weeds that have taken over most of the garden, since we hadn't had a chance to plant everything yet, both boys helping him plant seeds, and then me planting things in the side garden as well as up front in the front beds. We made nice progress, though Justin got a really nice sunburn on his back again. OUCH!!! We plucked the apples that have been growing on the Gala Apple tree off, as they are too young to really reach maturity and are merely weighing down the branches. It was a sad thing to have to do, but needed. On a good note though, we've been able to harvest our first strawberries this year. Last year we had one or two grow, but something else got them before we did - this year we've gotten 3 (yes, only 3, but it is a start!) so far. Justin ate the first and Shannon has gotten the chance to pick the other two off of the vine and eat them immediately. The delight in watching him getting to do this, knowing we grew them is amazing. These photos are of Shannon getting to pick his first, homegrown strawberry, then eating it!!

To say he loved this was an understatement!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Wild Day

The chickens have been outgrowing their home in the dining room, so today they moved outside. Justin fixed up the tractor for them, hung their waterer in there, and there they went. So far, they seem to really be loving their new digs. They were quiet and content, flapping about a little bit playing. The only time they started squawking was when they were tired of looking for their own food and wanted to be fed.
They've been calling for rain though, so we put their "nesting box" in there: an old doghouse claimed from the side of the road. They wouldn't go in there on their own, so last night as they were sleeping I had to crawl in through the front & toss them into it. Not the sweetest moment of their night I'm sure, but they needed to know where shelter was.
This first photo is one of our Buff Orpington pullets. A pullet is a hen who is less than a year old. Our chicks were hatched on 4/4/08. The Buff Orpingtons are quickly becoming favorites: their feathers are remaining silky to the touch, they are extremely gentle (they never seem to mind being picked up, and will even relax while being held), and are very quiet.
This next photo is one of our Partridge Cochin pullets. We got the two of them because friends of ours had a much loved Buff Cochin, and we were hoping to breed. Sadly, we just got the news that their Buff Cochin has "taken off" into the woods, never to return home. That was the sweetest damn bird and this news truly is saddening.
Justin has also been working like a mad-man this weekend to build the chickens their coop. He is making fantastic progress, and has two walls now completed. It is turning out to be much tinier than I had anticipated it to be, but in all honesty, we really don't need a huge coop since we don't plan to keep more than 6 or 7 chickens permanantely. I have several photos of it, and several more photos of the chickens in their tractor. I will work on uploading a slideshow of the photos taken this weekend of the progress on the coop, as well as of the chicks in the tractor.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A New Look

As I'm sure you've noticed, there is a new look to this page. I hope to keep "sprucing" it up some in the near future. I want this blog to be more than just an online diary for me, or just a window into our lives. I would like it to be more fun to see, more informative, more interactive.
So please don't be shy, tell me what you think. What would you like to see? What do you hate seeing? :) I promise to listen.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Solar Power goes to the Dogs

I've been wanting a pond for a while, no big secret there, and the other week we stumbled upon one being sold at our neighbor's yard sale!! Liner & pump, only $25 = SOLD!!! We finally have gotten it in the ground and ordered a solar pump to go with it. We decided that any new "additions" needed to be green ones. I know this photo doesn't show the pond full, or even the pump in there, or even the other flowers we've added around it, but it gives you an idea. We're now eagerly looking forward to adding some water plants and some fish.
One thing that we knew we needed to be a little concerned about though was the dogs. We have an 8 year old Chocolate Lab and a 9 week old American Bulldog/Bandogge Mastiff mix. This isn't intended as a swimming pool for them!! So, we were annoyed but not surprised when we walked out the other day only to find that they had been playing (read "digging") in the mulch and un-dug most of the front of the pond. Ok, put it all back, and now we have a little fence up around that area - going from the rosemary bush across the front of the pond, to the flowers.
Yesterday we come out and they've gone around the new flowers, dug up most of the irises, the coreopsis, and the solar panel. We fixed it all, put them back in the ground (plants, not the dogs), and added some more things to block them from getting in.
Today, I noticed that the solar panel has been broken off of the little spike it rested atop. I'm praying it still works - it is cloudy and overcast, so none of our solar fountains are currently running. I replanted another dug-up iris and put up more barricades that will hopefully hold until we get more fencing up.
I knew solar power can be an expensive alternative - I just didn't think it would come in the form of "because our dogs keep destroying it!"