Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Rock Bottom.

Posted on | February 28, 2015 | 1 Comment

Well, the massive forced housecleaning killed a day.  And put an end to the sibling bickering for 8 hours.  Because nothing unites children like a common enemy: Mom.  Which was fine.  Since I ended up with clean windows and sills, sparkling bathrooms, fresh sheets on every bed in the house, and every last picture frame and knick knack dusted.  I’m not saying that I didn’t have to send them back 3 4 8 a few times to do the job right.  Or that I didn’t have to go behind them and touch up some of it.  But once the chores were finished, there was blessed quiet for the rest of the day.  Amen.

Then the snow arrived and sibling rivalry was left behind in the excitement, alliances were again forged in the creative process, friendships rekindled over the snow fire pit.  But with the power out, the wet laundry piled up, slushy mud spread across the floors, dirty dishes filled the sink, and electronic appliances lost their charge.  The generator roared into life and The Other Half alternated between yelling at us for opening the fridge door (letting the cold out) and yelling at us for opening the front door without immediately closing it behind us (letting the cold in).  I made lots of loud heavy sighs as wet boots traipsed through the family room and loud angry tsk tsk’s whenever I found a melted pile of muddy water upstairs in the den or on the staircase.

Roads were snowy, then cleared, then icy, then cleared, then snow was forecast again.  And school was delayed.  Then canceled.  Then make-up days were scheduled.  Then canceled.

Oh mah gawd.

Thank goodness I am a morning person because the only calm existed in the 2 hours that I took to sip my coffee, clear the counters, sweep the floor, and ignore the barn chores while the kids slept in.  Eventually the kids rolled downstairs, hungover from staying up all hours of the night after a dinner of Ramen noodles, cinnamon squares cereal, and Food Lion brand Munchie mix, each child grumpier than the next.  I quickly headed outside, trying to stretch out my remaining minutes of tranquility.  But before I even opened the deck door and stepped back inside I could hear the rumblings of discontent.  By “rumblings” I mean the sounds of kids rolling around on the floor in the den trying snatch out each other’s hair or manage a successful solar plexus kick.

With the generator running, we could cook and with The Other Half gone to work we could open the fridge to get at the food we stocked up on before the storm.  But we made a trip to town anyway.  Because the roads were perfectly clear.  Because we had to get out of the house.  Because we were running low on….um,….let’s see….we really needed…. um,….birdseed, yeah, birdseed, and so we went to WalMart for some more.  The birdseed shelves were almost empty, people.  Empty.  I stood staring at the only remaining choice for bird seed, $15 bags of Pennington Ultra Waste Free (yeah, right) blend.  I took heart in that empty aisle.

We’re not the only ones, I thought.  All over town, parents were obviously making a birdseed run in order to keep their children from killing each other.  Or keep themselves from killing their children.  Whichever.

I was not alone.

A few hours after we got home, a man in a coveralls braved our slew of barking dogs, smirked at our snow mermaid (Mermaids are innocent creatures of the sea, people.  Innocent, I say.), and knocked on the door to let us know we could turn off the generator.  The power was finally restored.  The kids immediately immersed themselves in the DVD players scattered throughout the house and I began the arduous process of restoring order to the piles of dirty laundry and overflowing sink.  But peace was not restored along with the power.  The kids circled through silence amidst the raging of the television to “Stop touching me!”/”Get away from me!”/ “I was watching that!” to the grunts and thuds of wrestling and all-out physical war fare.  The girl took to her room with her laptop.  I would have joined her, but she locked the door.  Between trips to the dishwasher, the washer and dryer, and over the roar of the vacuum I shouted randomly, “KNOCK IT OFF!!!!!”  After 15 years of parenting and 2 weeks of snow days, that’s all I could summon.  I didn’t have a craft, a card game, or a consoling word left in me.

I was huddled in the mud room, with my uniform and boots in my hands, whispering to myself, “I get to go to work tomorrow.  I get to go to work tomorrow.  I get to….” when the phone rang.  It was the county parks & rec department.  They were calling to notify us that the U12 boys semi-finals basketball tournament would go on as scheduled that night.  Huh.  The county felt that cleared roads and sunny skies were unsafe for school but black ice after dark was just fine for basketball.  Sports are important, people.  School is just, you know….school.

I rallied.  Middle would need a healthy dinner before his game.  I could do this.  Probably.  Maybe.  Eh.  I checked the fridge, but leftovers that had been warmed and cooled for 2 days seemed iffy.  I pulled hot dogs out of the freezer and emptied the fruit drawer.  Half-healthy would have to do.  We didn’t have any hot dog buns and I didn’t want to make another trip to WalMart.  As a matter of fact I didn’t want to make a trip anywhere before changing out of my cleaning clothes and having a nice, hot shower.  But this was important.  This was sports, people.  Sports!   I threw on a pair of flip flops with my bleach-stained capris and mustard yellow sweatshirt with a big black stain over the left breast.  I did put on a bra.  Because not wearing a bra while driving in town is like begging the Fates to shove your car into a ditch right in front of the church.  I dug some cash out of the bottom of my purse, loaded Middle and Little into the car, and made a speedy trip to the country grocery store.

If you live in the country, you may still have one of these grocery stores in your area.  Ours is an old brick building with a few gas pumps out front and a slew of cigarette signs covering the front windows.  Inside, the products still have price stickers on them.  Price stickers, changed by hand, not UPCs.  There are local vegetables, hoop cheese, and cuts of meat like hogs feet and chitlins.  Signs for deer processing hang in the butcher department.  The aisles are short and the national brand choices are limited, but they definitely have hot dog buns.  And there’s an extra bonus.  The country grocery store is the type of place where you can keep your flip flops and cleaning clothes butt in the car, send in a 10 year old and 12 year old with a handful of cash for 2 packs of hot dog buns, and no one bats an eye or cocks a concerned eyebrow.  No one calls child protective services or asks the child, “Where’s your mommy and is she on crack?”  No Code Adam.  No disapproving stares.

As a matter of fact, as the boys exited with their bags of buns I noticed another mother sitting in the driver’s seat of the car next to me.  She smiled and nodded.  I’m not sure what she sent her kid in to buy.  But I’m pretty sure she wasn’t wearing a bra.  Brave woman.  Brave, brave woman.

As we drove home, Little asked what we were having with the hot dogs.

“Fruit,”  I said.  “We’ve got grapes and apples in the fridge.”

“Oh,” he said wistfully, ” I sure wish we could have fruit salad.  You know, where you cut up the apples and grapes and add those mandarin oranges.  I sure do love that fruit salad.”

Is there no end? No end at all?! I mean, I took them out for birdseed!  We are going to the basketball tournament!  I am making a kind of, sort of, halfway healthy dinner!  Now the fruit needs to be cut up and made into a fruit salad??!!  Why don’t you kids just suck my spirit dry and hang my husk out for the vultures??!!!

I didn’t make the fruit salad just because it was Little that asked me.  He doesn’t get special treatment around here because he’s the baby.  Not at all.  It wasn’t the sweet, yearning look on his witty, bitty adorable baby face.  Not really.  No, it’s just that I have been cutting up fruit for so many, many years.  72.6% of parenting is cutting up fruit for your children.  I sighed as I began slicing the apples.  I have hit rock bottom, I thought.  When making fruit salad to go with boiled hot dogs saps the last of my parenting energy, I have really hit rock bottom.  Also, I should invest in canned fruit cocktail.  Just in case of emergency.  Or 3 weeks of snow days.

I turned on the news to remind myself that cutting up fresh fruit during a snowstorm is a First World problem.  And I stopped dead.  Because the meteorologist was forecasting a day in the 60’s next week.  Maybe up to 70 degrees.  One day in the 60’s sandwiched between sleet and rain and freezing night time temperatures.  But still.  Maybe up to 70 degrees.  There might be one day of school next week.

We’re going to make it, people.  We’re going to make it.

And after a rousing, well-played game of basketball, Middle’s team moved on the finals.  Excellent work, Middle!  The finals will be probably be held next week regardless of sleet, rain, or freezing temperatures.  Because, I mean, really.  Basketball.

Plus, after the basketball game the kids went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house so that tomorrow, after doing the barn chores at 4am, I can go to work.  I am going to work!  Without my kids!  For 24 hours!!!!

It just goes to show you.  It’s true what they say.  Once you hit rock bottom, there’s no place to go but up.


Posted on | February 27, 2015 | 3 Comments

I love the big barn.  Unlike most barns, it originally housed up to 300 ducks at a time.  So it was built with a wooden frame and only enclosed with hardware cloth.  Ducks are messy and smelly and the best way to keep their living conditions sanitary is to allow lots of sunlight and fresh air.

Ducklings returning to the barn, wet and dirty from a swim in the pond

Even then it’s a challenge.

Ducks "gargle" with their food in their water trough. Enough said.

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According To Plan.

Posted on | February 21, 2015 | 3 Comments

The Great Backyard Bird Count was a bust.  Sure, the blue jay arrived to hit up the the peanuts.

But most of the little birds were absent because a mockingbird arrived, too.  And that mockingbird spent all his time guarding the feeders, swooping on any bird that attempted to get to the seed.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Posted on | February 5, 2015 | 3 Comments

Well, I’m not really sure.

Oh, the usual suspects are here.  Cardinals, sparrows,  juncos, titmouse (Titmouses? Titmice?  Why are tits even involved in this bird’s name?), finches, chickadees, wrens, and mourning doves.

We have several types of woodpeckers that visit our area.  We see a giant pileated woodpecker in the woods but never eating birdseed or suet.

Adult male

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Posted on | February 1, 2015 | 5 Comments

So I was at the local elementary school for Middle’s basketball practice.  When I went to the use the bathroom I discovered that kids are still writing on the bathroom stall doors.  Take that, social media!  The pen is still mightier than the smartphone.

But even more enjoyable than the triumph of old school graffiti over cyber-insults was the content of the comment:

“Ms. J—– is stuped!”

I laughed out loud.  Ms. J—– was probably making some poor kid double up on her spelling words.  Obviously, for good reason.

Although I did consider some kid testing out her skills of ironic humor.  Kids are more sophisticated nowadays.  Don’t think “Ms. J—– is stuped” qualifies as irony?  Well, The Oatmeal thinks it does, so there.

But the following week I was back at the elementary school for another occasion.  And I realized those words might have been written for an entirely different reason. Read more

I’m Cold.

Posted on | January 30, 2015 | 3 Comments

Winter arrived and it got cold.  Because that’s how that works.  I realize many of you live in areas of the country with much colder winter temperatures than we have here.  But I’ve heard that living in the South makes our blood thinner, so that we are more susceptible to cold.  I’ve also heard that we are just a bunch of weenies.  Hard to say for sure, but since this winter the schools decided to open 2 hours late due to temperatures in the 20’s it might be the latter.  In our defense, there was a wind chill.  Wind chill means it feels colder than it actually is because we are too inexperienced to cover the exposed surfaces of our skin.  I think.  Probably.  Maybe.

Luckily, we replaced our old leaky, broken, wood stove in November so we were prepared for the 20 degree nights.  Sort of.

The old wood stove was made of cast iron, which heated the house through radiant heat.  I mean, I didn’t know it was called radiant heat.  That was something I probably knew in fourth grade but forgot because I had to make room in my brain for the difference between igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic rock.  Which I forgot in order to learn the roles of apical bud, petiole, and node.  Which I forgot in order to understand the life cycle of a frog.  Which I still remember because the kids raise tadpoles on the deck almost very summer.  Sometimes the tadpoles grow up and hop out and sometimes the birds notice the aquarium and help themselves to a froglet buffet.

Anyway. Read more


Posted on | January 26, 2015 | 1 Comment

It’s still raining.  Which is better than all the snow they are forecasting for up north.  So I won’t complain.  Especially since The Other Half and Middle scrubbed the bathrooms this weekend, leaving me with just the usual vacuum and mop for today.  Obviously I won’t get to cutting back the asparagus ferns, weeding the creeping phlox, or cleaning under Harvey’s bunny cage on the deck.  Not in the pouring rain.  Good thing my house is loaded with unfinished projects.

I had 2 bags of carded fleece that I was saving to make these felted owls from Woolbuddy. Although I want to make mine with mostly natural colors and just a few bright touches.

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Three Sunny Days.

Posted on | January 23, 2015 | 4 Comments

Day One:  Are You Kidding Me?

I was shocked when I saw the sun.

But I wasn’t going to stand around waiting for it to disappear.  As soon as the morning cleaning was done, I hit the garden.  For weeks I haven’t made it to garden before dark.  Instead I show up with a flashlight, rummaging under the frost covers for kale, spinach, green onions, broccoli, or chard.  You know, all the ingredients I meant to pick before the sun set and before I started making dinner, but that I forgot until the olive oil was already sizzling in the pan, the soup was simmering and needed a bit of green to freshen it up, or I needed a side dish that didn’t come out of a box with a packet of powdered cheese.  Blindly cutting greens in the freezing dark is not really so bad.  Touching the slugs that you can’t see in the dark is bad.  Very bad. Read more

Fan Club.

Posted on | January 17, 2015 | 6 Comments

Look who stopped by.

That’s right.  One of my good friends left her 3 year old son, Luke, with me while she took care of some business in town.  Luckily, I still have one closet shelf and one drawer filled with toys for the Under 5 crowd.  The pickings were slim but even though the Rescue Heroes only got a quizzical glance, Thomas the Tank Engine and his cronies were instantly recognized.

“Got more Thomas?” Luke asked sweetly, pulling 3 little engines from the drawer.

I refrained from mentioning how the insipid Thomas the Tank Engine videos made me want to drive off a bridge and the merchandising made me want to either burn down the Mattel executive offices or just fill their every inch of workable space with expensive train tables covered with non-interchangeable track systems.

“No, honey, just those ones,” I said.  We burned the rest of them at the stake. Read more

Be Careful.

Posted on | January 8, 2015 | 1 Comment

I know the news anchors tell you to make sure your pets are taken care of during cold temperatures.  And they encourage you to bring pets, including dogs, inside when it’s below freezing.

Be careful.  Very, very careful.

Because your pet may just decide to nap in the sunny spot in front of the wood stove.

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