Posted on | May 16, 2013 | 6 Comments
Yeah, I used to be one of those moms.
I was home all day with my kids. Every day. All week. All year.
So holidays and birthdays were big events to me. Actually, anything that broke the monotony and menial labor of full time child care and housecleaning was a big event worth celebrating. But not everyone appreciates a gala in honor of a child making it to the toilet to vomit instead of leaning over your bed in the middle of the night and saying, “Mom, I feel………blechhh.”
But everyone’s up for a birthday party and I spent weeks and weeks preparing for my kids’ parties when they were younger. I even dedicated hours and hours to baking and decorating cupcakes to take to school for them and their little friends.
Despite my time-consuming creations, I never passed judgement on those working moms that settled for dropping off store cupcakes in the school office. And I never pshawed those moms that paid outrageous amounts for special order bakery confections. Well, not a lot. Not out loud.
But before you get mad, you should know that all that judging and pshawing has come back to bite me in my back-to-work-after-Little-started-kindergarten-butt. That with the hours I am working now I’m lucky if I’m home on my kids’ birthdays, never mind making fancy baked goods. That I’ve gone from making a cake for their actual birthday and a cake for their birthday party and cupcakes for their class at school to just hoping and praying that they want to go to dinner at a restaurant that offers a free birthday sundae or has a dessert bar.
So I was taken by surprise when Middle woke up on his birthday and asked me if I needed him to write down his class’s lunch time. And then asked me what kind of cupcakes I was bringing.
There didn’t seem to be a delicate way to ask, “Are we still doing that?” And it seemed like a slim chance that I could arrive with the mixed assortment of store bought cookies and minicupcakes remaining from my contribution to Big’s lacrosse party the day before. I was pretty sure Middle didn’t want to celebrate turning 10 with the lacrosse team’s leftovers. I could have put it all on a platter, added some of my secret stash of Pirouette Pepperidge Farm rolled wafers, and tried it pass it off as birthday fare. But I really hated to share my Pirouettes. ‘Cause they’re the really good chocolate hazelnut ones.
There was nothing left to do except this:
And write down his class lunch time.
Officially, it was my day off. Which meant I was totally available to make cupcakes and bring them to school. Of course, as working moms know, our “day off” is filled with all the house cleaning, meal making, and chores that don’t do themselves while we’re at work. And that, for some reason, no one else manages to get done on their day off. Go figure.
But I had to go into town for garden stakes anyway. I planned to pick up some cupcakes and drop them off at school while I was out.
I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. The WalMart cupcakes were so…..WalMarty.
And the ones at Lowe’s Foods were WalMarty, too. Just with a different label.
I almost convinced myself that it was no big deal. That the kids were going to eat the cupcakes, not bronze them for perpetuity.
Until I saw the price tag.
It’s true that you can’t put a price on a mother’s love. Unless you want $6.50 for 12 WalMarty cupcakes. And then my love is priced out. Which at least saved me a trip to a real bakery. ‘Cause I’m betting 12 cupcakes that were actually baked within the last 24 hours and don’t have frosting made out of whipped Crisco and food coloring cost even more than that.
For under $6 I walked out of the store with cake mix, frosting, cupcake liners, sprinkles, and a special topping. Plus, a plan to get 24 cupcakes made while simultaneously completing the garden and household chores. All in time to be at the school lunch room by 12: 35pm. Well, actually, by 12:25pm. Because Little had lunch before Middle and he didn’t want to miss out on cupcakes. So he made me promise to come early enough to give him a cupcake before he had to leave the lunch room.
Will the special requests never end? Ever?
Which reminds me. I need to ask my dad to take Little to baseball this week. And I want my mom to save me a cutting off her clematis vine.
Huh. I guess it really doesn’t ever end.
In any case, I baked the cupcakes while I finished the milking and mulched the perennial beds. Then I let them cool while I folded laundry. Then I used my years of stay-at-home mom baking experience to quickly frost them. There’s a trick to frosting cupcakes. It’s called “sprinkles.”
Please note the haphazardly arranged frosting. Awful:
Apply sprinkles and voila! Amazing:
But even WalMart can add sprinkles. A homemade cupcake needs something more. Something edible yet extraordinary.
Enter the special topping. Yeah, baby.
Within 45 minutes I had a tray of homemade treats for the birthday boy and his classmates. Although I admit the Oreo packaging slowed me down. I’m not sure why people in product packaging design think this is an improvement. Or “easy.”
Or why they’re so adamant about it. There’s no sneaking around to the end to open the package without being reprimanded. Who would’ve thought a bunch of Oreo engineers could be so authoritarian? Perhaps they need a cookie break?
Although I hope they don’t want the cookies out of the corner.
Because you CANNOT GET THOSE SUCKERS OUT WITHOUT FREAKING OUT AND TEARING APART THE WHOLE PACKAGE!!!!! AAAGGGHHHHHHH!!!! I NEED TO BE AT SCHOOL BY 12:25, PEOPLE!!!!!!
There, that’s better.
I finished those cupcakes with a few minutes to spare. And they weren’t a work of art. But they were homemade. With flair. Now that’s a cupcake.
They were big hit with Middle and his friends at the round table at school.
The round tables are reserved for children whose parents have come to eat with them for the day. Plus any friends that the child chooses to sit with them. Also, the round tables are for the kids who have been naughty and are having “silent” (and solitary) lunch. An odd juxtaposition, I know. There can be a thin line between naughty and nice. And sometime there’s only a chair or two.
Regardless, the cupcakes were perfect. Mama’s still got it, baby!
Of course, “got it” is a relative term. I realize in this picture I should have spent less time cussing the Oreos and left myself a few minutes to do my hair and make up. Eh. Something’s gotta give when you’re a working mom.
At least I changed out of my barn clothes. And put on one of my good bras. Plus, I wore the flip flops with the bows on them.
If the school expects more than that, they’ll have to put the teachers back into slacks and cardigans with apples embroidered on them. Unlike the jeans and tennis shoes they’re all wearing now. Besides, the day wasn’t about me. It was about Middle.
Happy Birthday to Middle! Here’s to 10 years of cupcakes. And many, many more!
Posted on | May 16, 2013 | No Comments
I have several of those things. You know, the ones that have fingernail clippers and bottle openers, scissors and knives, seat belt cutters and tweezers. I keep one in my car.
One in the barn.
And one in my pocket at work.
Which is my favorite one. Because it breaks windows in one quick tap. A very satisfying, shattering, crunching, spider-webbing tap. Which makes up for all the years as children when we were told to stay away from the windows with balls and bats, sticks and posts, rocks and BBs.
After all, we might have broken a window. Which I assumed the adults did not want us children to do because glass is expensive to replace. But I know now they were worried that it might be so satisfying that we’d never be able to stop.
I’m sure you think I’m exaggerating. Please. Probably 1/2 of the firefighters in every department are there so they can break glass and get paid for it. Ditto, with artists who work with mosiacs. Those crash test engineers? Yep. Never mind the new and upcoming field of glass therapy. Breaking glass is gratifying, no exaggeration necessary.
But on the farm there are multi-purpose tools even better than those that break glass. Take the Jumbo Cornish Cross, for example.
The Cornish Cross just moved out of the brooder room. Out of the back pen. Out of the buck pasture. And into the free range chicken coop. Where they have free access to the entire farm. And they are learning free range chicken skills from the rest of the flock.
Like how to drink from the automatic water bucket.
How to catch and eat bugs.
And the joy of dust baths in the coop.
Although they still tend to hover around my feet as if my toes are going to distribute chick crumbles at any moment. (I did mention earlier that I was due for a pedicure, right?)
Even though they don’t stray as far from the coop as the rest of the flock, they are doing a decent job of foraging, keeping their legs strong and healthy and preventing them from laying around on their abdomens in a stupor. In addition, all that movement avoids large unhealthy accumulations of chicken manure. Not that chicken manure doesn’t have its place in the scheme of things.
I took all the used shavings from the brooder room….
and all the wet bedding from the back pen….
and set the piles in front of the greenhouse. Where I had used some leftover pieces of wood to outline a garden bed.
Then my work was done. Because the rest of the free range flock promptly arrived to scratch through the piles, combining the wet and dry ingredients, leveling the piles (there is nothing a chicken finds more offensive than a pile of soil/mulch/leaves/straw/anything scratchable!) and creating a nice new planting area.
Where I intend to grow some lambs’ ear I got in return for farm sitting. And establish some comfrey plants that I hope to beg off of another friend.
By the time I put away the pitchfork and wheelbarrow, carried fresh eggs from the nest boxes down to the garden for the pigs’ lunch, and threw the eggshells into the compost bin for added calcium, I was feeling peckish (hah!) myself. So I headed into the house for the chicken legs basted in spicy seasoning that were leftover from last night’s dinner.
Chickens. Tillers, compost makers, egg layers, and, um…, lunch. The edible mutli-purpose tool.
It doesn’t get any more multi than that.
Posted on | May 13, 2013 | 2 Comments
I started a little early.
With some friends and gelato martinis last week. Because alcohol and ice cream is a win-win.
Then on Friday a friend came over and we spent hours and hours and hours sitting on the deck discussing goats and gardens and gossip. While The Other Half got home from work and hauled the boys to baseball practice. And her husband got home to an empty house. I hope he started on dinner. Because she was probably hungry by the time she finally left here. Read more
Posted on | May 6, 2013 | 5 Comments
There’s no better classroom than real life. My kids started learning genetics in middle school. But they really already knew the basics. They figured out as young as 4 or 5 years old that Snowman the Delaware rooster was a docile, nonthreatening guardian of our mixed breed flock.
And any roosters that the hens hatched that shared his solid white plummage and upright red comb were also calm and orderly. But add in some swaths of brown or black feathers, or change to a rose comb, and we often got a spurring machine ready to chase them across the pasture or thump them from behind as soon as they turned their backs. Although some of our mixed roosters were reliable, the good roosters always wore white. And the kids didn’t need a lesson in Mendel’s principle of segregation or a Punnett square to figure that out.
Once we added a polled buck to our horned herd, though, we did have to break out a pad and pencil. For the first time, we discussed recessive and dominant traits (polled is dominant) and we watched Merlin’s first few offspring carefully. When he produced a mixed batch of polled and horned kids, we knew he must be heterozygous. Which meant fewer disbuddings, overall, but no reason to sell the disbudding iron on craiglist.
And we never kept or added any polled does to the herd. So the whole hermaphrodite issue (which can occur when breeding polled goats to polled goats) was a moot point for us. Because, really, isn’t inspecting for ejaculate during breeding season and discharge during kidding season enough? Looking for a nodule penis within a vulva seems a bit like invasion of privacy to me. Not to mention one more reason for my friends to never ask, “So, what have you been up to lately?”
Adding a blue-eyed buck and a blue-eyed doe to the herd was the next test of our genetic understanding. Blue eyes are also dominant so when blue-eyed Vixen was bred to a brown-eyed buck and produced a brown-eyed kid, we knew she was heterozygous. But our blue-eyed buck, TS, is another matter. So far this season he’s produced 2 kids, both with blue eyes, so there’s a possibility that he is homozygous. Unless he sired Angel’s little brown-eyed buck. Which we’ll never know. Because Angel has no respect for the concept of a control group in science. Way to go, Angel.
So far, our experience with genetics was interesting and enlightening. Polled kids, blue eyes, easy going temperament, broodiness, milk production, aggression—there were a million ways in which we watched the dance of genetics play out on the farm stage. It was exciting and intriguing and then….it wasn’t.
Because last night I went in to check on Tina after dinner and found her calmly eating out of her trough. So calmly that I almost missed the dried and cleaned kid asleep in the hay.
My heart leaped! Not only did Tina successfully kid on her own, she had taken perfect care of her kid, she was already up and eating as if nothing had happened, and she had done it all in the 45 minutes since I checked her last! Ease of kidding is a highly desirable trait in a dairy goat and combined with her full-to-bursting udder that had already been in evidence for weeks, Tina was on her way to earning her spot in the herd.
Pretty rushed out to see the newest arrival and our hearts melted when we saw his beautiful blue eyes.
It was a trimuph. A victory. Until it wasn’t.
Because when the kid was finally roused enough by our ooohing and aaahing to rise and seek a sip of milk, he ”knuckled down” on both front pasterns as he walked. We gasped. It wasn’t exactly the same deformity that Tina had as a kid. Her front legs were characterized by extreme rigidity, a fierce C curve, and an inability to straighten them.
If anything, this kid had weakness from the last joint down to the hoof. And that joint itself seemed enlarged or swollen.
Unlike Tina when she was a kid, he could walk upright, but it was undoubtedly a defect. And there was no more claiming that Tina had been merely positioned wrong en utero. That her leg problems were the result of cramped space causing contracted tendons.
It’s true that leg weakness is one of the most common problems in newborn kids. Joint ill ( or navel ill) can occur if bacteria travels through a wet umbilical cord and affects joints in the legs. White muscle disease from a selenium deficiency can cause leg weakness, too. But this baby was born with weak legs, it didn’t occur after a few days of exposure to bacteria. And Tina (like all our pregnant does) was well-dosed with selenium before she kidded to prevent white muscle disease. The truth is that we’ve never had a kid born with leg problems until Tina arrived.
So there was no denying that this was a genetic defect. One that Tina was born with and that had now passed to her kid.
That’s when genetics is no longer interesting or exciting. That’s when genetics makes you sigh, and give your goat a good chin scratch, and know she’ll never kid again. And her baby will be banded and sold as a pet goat or sold to the local flea market as a meat goat. But he won’t be allowed to breed and he won’t stay here.
That’s when you look at Tina’s mother, Vanilla, and hope the bad genes aren’t carried by her.
That perhaps her next kid will have perfect legs and the cycle of weak legs was all started by a random buck, that lives somewhere else and will never be bred to your does again. Since Vanilla arrived at her first owner’s place already bred, we don’t have any info on the buck that bred her. But we’re hoping he’s the one with gimpy genes. We won’t know anything until Vanilla kids again, sometime at the end of July. Which means she stays at least until then.
And don’t worry, Tina fans! Tina recovered perfectly from kidding and has a lovely udder. She’s made a home for herself here, at the very least until she dries off. Since one of our goats is on her second year of milking through, we expect to do the same thing with Tina and it will be a long time before we have to make any decisions about her. But I doubt she’ll be going anywhere. Lap goats are hard to find, you know.
Almost as hard to find as goat sheep.
Good genes aren’t everything. Sometimes good hearts are enough.
Posted on | April 29, 2013 | 8 Comments
We’ve all been very worried about Tina.
She is due to kid the first week of May. And as that date approaches, she spends more time down on her knees.
I assume it’s the extra weight of her kids and her udder. Also, the production of relaxin loosening her intrauterine ligaments, stimulating mammary development, and causing her wobbly front legs to be even more wobbly.
We’re also worried because it’s her first pregnancy. We don’t know how she’ll handle kidding. And we’re wondering if her kids may have leg deformities or defects, too, that make it difficult to deliver on her own. Read more
Posted on | April 25, 2013 | 6 Comments
1. Soil is everything.
Well, soil is everything until the squash bugs arrive. Then killing squash bugs is everything.
Regardless, your plants need some decent soil in order to get established during the dry spells, flooding, heat waves, and cold snaps of spring. For us that means a trip to the chicken pasture where the chickens have been making compost out of the scraps, bedding straw, manure, and egg shells tossed in there all year long. Don’t worry about leaving holes in the pasture where you scooped out soil. As soon as you leave, the chickens will rush in to excavate for bugs and scratch everything back to normal. Or as soon as you take 2 steps back and put the shovel down.
Posted on | April 23, 2013 | No Comments
Got the barn chores done and the milk strained,
the eggs into cartons,
Posted on | April 15, 2013 | 3 Comments
As of right now. This very minute. All the hoses and automatic waterers are fixed.
No leaks at the hydrant.
Or in the hose.
Posted on | April 14, 2013 | 5 Comments
I’m used to wearing a lot of hats around here. On any given day I’m the mom, the cook, the landscaper, the farmer, the construction worker, the plumber, the veterinarian, the housekeeper, the seamstress, and the accounts payable office. I have barn clothes, business suits, work uniforms, and church dresses in my closet. But this weekend, for the first time, I got to be something entirely new.
That’s right, I stood up in my work partner’s wedding. On his side. With all the other guys. Which The Other Half enjoyed greatly. Because even though I spend as much time with my work partner as I do with The Other Half, now The Other Half knows he really doesn’t have to worry.
“Hah!” said The Other Half when I told him. “All that time you spend together and he doesn’t even know you’re a woman!! Awesome!”
I like to think my femininity shines through the 5.11 tactical pants and combat boots. Probably. Maybe. Eh. Read more
Posted on | April 9, 2013 | 4 Comments
With spring cleaning in full swing, I decided it was time to gather up loose ends. Literally, loose ends.
We have leashes and lead lines….keep looking »