Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Rude Wake-Up

So, last Wednesday morning, 9/17, I thought I got to sleep in a little. I had heard the boys get up, but they do that often so I wasn't worried. Plus they were playing quietly in their room, so I should've known to worry right them and there, shouldn't I?
I went to get them up, walked in, looked around, and promptly walked out and shut the door. I called Justin and told him to come home and help me with this mess.
I had been painting the day before and left painty brushes in a mason jar with soapy water. I had also confiscated some crayola tempera paints from them the day before, and had left them sitting on the kitchen counter. The boys had gotten both.
They had painted the floor, the walls, the closet door, and themselves. I filled the sink with soapy water and rags. I was able to get the paint off of the floor and mural, then get the boys into the tub by the time Justin got home. He got them dressed in our room and got them breakfast while I finished cleaning up and took a shower.
There were too many photos to show them all here, so follow this link:
I've started a whole new collection dedicated to "events" like this. Of course, I don't have photos of the super-glue incident, the scissors incident, the medicine bottles they've gotten into (that were in a medicine cabinet almost 6' off of the ground and had kid-proof lids on them), the jelly beans they got off of the TOP of the fridge, or the "giving-the-fish-a-bubble-bath" by pouring bubble bath into the aquarium. I'll try harder from now on to remember to always have the camera handy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Helter Skelter

I listen to music and watch movies about or from the 60's and the Vietnam War and what was going on in our country around that time. It amazes me how we can have the same feelings, fears and sentiments 40 years later. It amazes me that it was 40 years ago. Then again, I think anytime a country is at war and in a period of upheaval the sentiments and fears are pretty much the same.
I am worried about our economy. Normally you could ask me what my number one "political" (since the election is so close, lets go with that) is and I'd say the environment. And, that still is a high concern, but now it is surpassed by my concern for where the economy is headed.
I don't know the answer. I disagree with the bailout, I don't like government involvement too much, but I do feel that what has been going on has, quite obviously, not been working.
Part of me wishes to see it all crash. Bring it on. The way things have been have been bad and wrong on many levels, so bring it on, let the madness come.
Another part of me is a mom and a wife. Will I be able to take care of my boys and my family? We live a frugal life, and we're lucky for that, as we haven't been affected by the recession as much as others. I study the old ways and we try to live by them, and I think that has been what has helped us out. But even now we're feeling the pinch more and more every day. It scares me.
A mixture of madness & intensity and calmness & breath-holding. I want to blare my music and scream along with the lyrics. I want to be in a dark pub drinking a stout. I want to throw glass and be satisfied with it shattering. I want to bake a loaf of roasted garlic bread. I need a fix because I'm going down. Happiness is a warm body, that I can hold in my arms, and nobody can do me no harm.
Radicalism or pacifism? Is it going to be allright, or is that just something we sing to ourselves over and over as we sing a child a lullaby? I don't know, I don't know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

101 Ways Not to Build a Chicken Tractor ...

Well, the predator issue came to a head. We can't be certain which dog actually broke into the tractor, but we're guessing it was Jomo since he's been the one most curious about the gals.
Sunday morning I went out to check on something, and to my surprise saw some of the chickens very much enjoying their free-ranging in our yard, between an apple tree and the lilac bush. I hollered for Justin, and he, Shannon, and I began trying to catch the girls.
Apparently the brilliant idea I had of using a rubbermaid tote for a nest box was flawed. It had a latch-able lid, and we cut the bottom out, with the bottom facing into the tractor. This allowed us to latch and un-latch the top to check for eggs. We attached it to the frame with screws. The corner of the lid was gnawed on and then unlatched. Birds got out. We found one of our Buff Orpingtons dead within. One of our Dark Brahmas, also inside the tractor, who I thought was just terribly shaken up, apparently was very injured and Justin had to put her down. Apparently the dogs figured out the chickens aren't toys, since the only ones wounded or killed were in the tractor, the ones in the yard were allowed to hang out.
We ran out to Lowe's and picked up some lumbar. Justin built a nice wooden nest box, similar to the one on the coop. We put a nice lock on it so that no curious little pups, racoons, or even biddies can open it to see what is on the other side. They're safe now and back to laying eggs, though we still need to redo the sides to further Jomo-proof the tractor.
To say Sunday was disappointing would be an understatement. We lost two layers, we couldn't even eat the meat. We had to spend money and an afternoon trying to hastily fix the problem. It was disappointing, but all I could think about was a quote from 'National Treasure'. Nicholas Cage says how Edison failed 101 ways before making a working lightbulb. When asked about his invention he said he found 101 ways NOT to make a lightbulb.
This is what true learning is. Learning from your mistakes, learning from your failures. Not letting them get you down too much, to the point where you don't try again, and try something new.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Protecting the Chickens

I originally intended this not as a post, but as a reply to a comment to my last post (by 'anonymous'). Anonymous stated various critters as a concern to having chickens. This is a very real concern!! Friends of ours have lost several chickens to racoons. They would attack when the chickens stretched their heads out the wire to grab grub. Our friends would find headless bodies in the morning.
We've lost one bird by accident. We moved the tractor at night, after the birds were already asleep. It is hard to see how many you've woken up when they're mostly all dark colored and it is dark out. We think we rolled the tractor over one poor bird and killed it.
Our newest "threat" is Jomo. Technically, Jomo Lager (as Shannon won't hesitate to tell you). Jomo is our 6 month old American Bulldog & Bandogge Mastiff mix. A Bandogge Mastiff is, for those of you wondering, a breed created by mixing Mastiffs and Pitbulls, mainly. He's truly a big baby though. At his last vet visit, just last Thursday, he weighed 56lbs!

So, the question is: why is such a big baby a big threat to our little Biddies?? Well, because he is a curious little pup!!
This evening I went out to check and see if we had anymore eggs - we didn't. Instead I find Jomo standing against the tractor's wire "walls." This isn't anything too new, he likes checking the gals out and is jealous of food they get. I yelled at him & instead of getting down the little turkey CLIMBED UP & OVER the tractor!!!
So, new task: fix the tractor. We already have "build a nest box on the tractor" on the list for next weekend. Now we also have "make tractor Jomo-proof" on the list. I'm not really certain how this will go. If anyone has any ideas how to make a chicken-wire, chicken tractor puppy proof, I'd love to hear it! Jomo should turn out to be a good 100 pounds or more, so this is a big issue for us! Ideas?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Surpises & Slow Food

Well, today turned out to be quite a shocker! We had originally planned to go camping this weekend since the game wasn't being televised ~then along came Hannah and much-needed rain. So, no camping. We decided instead to go pick up some chicken feed, as well as some straw, and move the tractor to the coop so that the gals could go inside and (hopefully) use the nest box for laying. We know the gals should begin laying anytime now & this would buy us some time until we build a nest box onto the tractor itself.
We were getting into the car when I heard it: a very faint crowing. As I've stated before, we live in "the City" and no-one nearby has chickens. Which means, if it is crowing it is our chickens. Apparently, what we thought was an Easter Egg hen turned out to be an Easter Egg Rooster!! We ran and got the feed, then came home and took care of the rooster. It was somewhat ironic as this was the only bird I had really named, and it was one of our prettier birds, I thought. Plus, the idea of getting blue & green eggs had really begun to grow on me, so that was a bit of a bummer. On the plus side though, we're now back up to 4 meat birds (since we still have 3 Speckled Sussex we're letting fatten up), and that is good. We cooked it for dinner and it was very tasty!! If you're going to eat meat, pasture raised is the way to go!
As the dinner was cooking, we all went out to begin work on the coop and tractor. Some re-figuring needed to be done, a wall taken out of the garden, and so on. As Justin was getting the hay, I walked over to the tractor to get ready to move it. Imagine my amazement to see a little egg there!! A friend told us that the first time her rooster crowed, the hens began laying the next day -- apparently that is a good indicator!

While we don't believe in "washing" the eggs (they are laid with a protective barrier that is removed when they are washed, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria), this one was pretty darn muddy, so I quickly & gently rinsed it off with my hands.
Shannon was particularly impressed with the whole thing. He has always loved going to get eggs from our friends' coop, and today he even carried a chicken (a Cochin, of course!) from the tractor to the coop! We were able to get him to eat all of his dinner by promising that, if he did, he could go out and look to see if the girls laid anymore eggs this evening. They hadn't, but tomorrow is another day and I am sure we'll be out there quite often!
Speaking of dinner: we were able to have a complete Slow Food meal, most of it local! We had the chicken/rooster (or Eugenie, since that had been it's wrongly-sexed name), some chili that I made with organic dry beans bought at the co-op and tomatoes we got at the Farmer's Market, topped with raw milk garlic-colby cheese!! What a fantastic feast!!

The cheese we bought from a local farmer-friend, but it did have to cross state lines to get here so I suppose it isn't truly local. But, still, raw milk cheese from pasture raised & organic cows!! DELIGHTFUL!
I know to some of you it must seem odd that I can type about killing a named bird and cooking it for dinner (and then show a photo to boot!). While I repsect everyone's right to choose what is right for themselves and their family, we have that right as well. We don't kill what we don't need. We make sure our food, when it was alive, led the type of lives animals were meant to live. With our chickens, we've even taken the step to raise heritage and rare breeds, trying to help ensure that these breeds aren't wiped out.
It is truly the deepest feeling of satisfaction to know the life our food lived, to know that not only were they happy but they're healthier for us to eat and significantly so! To know that I can fix my children a meal made from these things makes me feel like I have succeeded. And, too often, like most parents I assume, I tend to feel like a failure as a parent. To know that the food my kids eat (or a majority of it) is some of the best and healthiest food they can ever possibly hope to eat, well, it is a primal goal that we have accomplished. It leaves me content to the very core of my being.