Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Oh, really?

Posted on | January 24, 2016 | No Comments

There was football today?  Really?  I didn’t notice at first.

Because I took advantage of the snow day to dig out my owl box.  I’ve been collecting recycling and metal odds and ends for a long time  because I wanted to make some of these owls for the garden.

I spread out all the supplies I’ve been saving and got started.

And by the time I used up all my epoxy I had made a big dent in the box o’ stuff.

This is my favorite, but I can’t wait to start wiring all of them to the garden fence.

I wanted to risk the icy roads for more epoxy but I didn’t want to be one of those people in the roadside ditch.  Just because I wanted epoxy.  For garden ornaments.

I decided to finish another project that was waiting in the craft closet.  I got out my last birdhouse gourd and finished the painting.

But I didn’t have any more clear sealer.  Which really, really, made me want to risk the icy roads for sealer.  And epoxy.

I was thrilled when one of the kids came down and drank the last of the milk.  Becuase we were out of epoxy, sealer, and milk!  We had to go out to the store!  But then he promptly went to the farm fridge and got out another gallon.  Damn.

So I dragged the kids into crafting, too.  I already had everything I needed for this batik t-shirt project.  Big made the symbol for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And that’s when I should have figured out the whole football game thing.  Because the boys worked diligently on the project….

….and both of them made batik t-shirts for their favorite football teams.

Of course.  Sunday.  Football.

But the kids didn’t make it to the end of the Panthers game.  After the first half they headed outside to play football in the snow.  They’re running around out there in the dark and will be until much later tonight.  Because there’s still ice on the roads and schools are closed again tomorrow.

Surely the craft stores will be open, right?  Right?

Not To Scale.

Posted on | January 22, 2016 | 12 Comments

Not too long ago I sat in a continuing education class about drug addiction.  The speaker, a recovering addict, told us that on a happiness scale most people live at about a 5 or 6 out of 10 on a daily basis.  He mentioned that we generally only experience a 10 out of 10 for very special occasions—-like our wedding day or the birth of a child.  I find these to be typical examples for a man because men get to just show up at a wedding while a woman spends an entire year planning the darn thing.  And childbirth is a wondrous occasion—it’s just the 9 months of pregnancy and 6 week 8 week 12 week cesarean recovery time for the woman that drags childbirth down on the scale.  The speaker went on to say that when a drug user gets high, he gets to experience a 15 out of 10 on the happiness scale.  Pretty much euphoria.  And letting go of that 15 out of 10 in order to live at a 5 or 6 is really, really hard to do.

I checked my classmates’ expressions in my peripheral but no one seemed particularly surprised by the speaker’s happiness scale.  On break I mentioned to a co-worker that I didn’t think we all really lived at a 5 or 6 and that just reading a good book could be a 10 out of 10.  He looked at me like I was crazy and said drolly, “I’d like to read that book.”  (He can pull off droll.  He’s English.)

I was shocked.  Who has never read a book that was so good that it made you laugh out loud, cheer for the characters’ triumphs, and weep over their disappointments?!  A book so good that you couldn’t put it down but never wanted it to end?!  Isn’t that a 10?  Isn’t it? Read more

This Is Why We Clean.

Posted on | January 13, 2016 | 1 Comment

I spend a lot of mornings around the kitchen sink.  It’s where I wash the breakfast dishes, where I cut and rinse fruit and veggies for lunchboxes, where I stand and watch the birds on the feeder while waiting for coffee to brew.  Above the sink I have a row of plants on the windowsill to keep me company.  It includes a peace lily, some aloe, a Christmas cactus, and my lucky bamboo.

Tuesdays are the day set aside for bleaching the kitchen counters, table, and sink, plus wiping down all the cabinet surfaces, and cleaning out the fridge and farm fridge.  I always do the bleaching because my family sets everything on the kitchen counters and they wash their filthy hands in the kitchen sink.  Even though those are actually food prep areas—not places to put your disgusting backpack or wash your disgusting hands.  I always clean the fridges because the chickens feast on the old, crusty leftovers that I find and so I save on chicken feed.  I usually wipe down the cabinet surfaces because otherwise the attached range hood gets so dirty I have to avert my eyes when stirring pots on the stove.  But I don’t always get to bleaching and wiping the windowsill and dusting the plant leaves by spritzing them with the water sprayer.  It’s just not that dirty or that important.  A lot of times I just make sure the plants have sufficient water and then move on. Read more

Winter Duck.

Posted on | January 9, 2016 | 1 Comment

There are lots of ways to know when winter has finally arrived.  We don’t use snow or ice as an indicator around here because that is usually a surprise attack that occurs just as the season is on its way out.  And cold temperatures aren’t enough because we are lucky enough to have 70 degree days sprinkled liberally throughout November, December, and January.  For me there are 3 main signs that winter is here and the chores need to be adjusted accordingly.

First, all the leaves are finally off the trees in the winter.  During fall I spend every free afternoon attacking the leaves falling in the front and back yard.  I can’t wait until all the leaves are down to rake because the grass will get smothered long before that time.  This, of course, raises the question of why I planted grass in the woods, but I try not to think about that while I work.  Years ago I insisted The Other Half spend a lot of time and money taking down huge established hardwoods so that I could grow grass.  And I’ve been planting trees and bushes and making perennial beds to cover the grassy space ever since I discovered that grass has to raked, mowed, and seeded every year.  Luckily, the fall leaves are helpful for mulching those trees, bushes, and  perennial beds.

Now you might think that as soon as the last leaf is piled into the perennial beds I can put the rake away until next year.  Not so.  Raking the grass is a fall chore.  Raking the perennial beds is a winter chore.  Because once winter sets in, the foraging for the chickens gets a little thin and they head to the mulched trees, bushes, and perennial beds to dig up yummy worms and bugs.  So each day, as I go to the barn for feeding, I am greeted by happy, healthy free range chickens and the nicely raked mulch scattered all over the grass.  It’s hard to say if re-raking the leaves is as annoying as feeding chickens that are barely laying eggs.  It’s kind of like the grass thing.  I try not to think about it too much.

The second way I know it is winter is when I cannot put off the garden housekeeping anymore.  As night temperatures get too cold for some of the crops and as it gets so wet and rainy that the slugs advance into the crops covered by row covers, I gradually abandon the garden.  Lettuce, spinach and chard will limp along but pickings are slim and the ground really needs a rest before early spring crops go in by February.  So in winter it’s finally time to take down the remains of the summer garden and start covering the rows to smother the chickweed and henbit that want to take over.  This year I chose a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 40’s.  Which was cold enough for gloves for my fingers but warm enough for flip flops for my toes.  Perfect. Read more

Day Two.

Posted on | January 2, 2016 | 4 Comments

It’s the time of year for resolutions.  So I resolved to finish planning our trip out west this summer.  By “finish”  I mean get started and get finished.  All in one fell swoop.  Apparently the National Park rangers like to be notified that you’re coming at least 6 months in advance or they won’t hold a cabin for you.  The only problem is that if you live on the east coast and you are visiting a national park on the west coast, it’s hard to know when you might actually arrive at that National Park.   But with the Frommer’s and Fodor’s I’ve been collecting from the $1 used book store, the help of TripAdvisor, and a lot of Google maps, I made a plan.

Unfortunately, I’m starting out the New Year as a liar.  I originally told the kids that on the first summer we’d drive 1/2 way across the country, see the sights, and then come home.  Then on our second summer of travel, we’d fly to the midway point (Kansas?  Nebraska?), rent an RV to drive the rest of the way to the Pacific ocean seeing sights, and then fly home.  I’m not sure how much I thought 6 plane tickets across the country and 3 weeks of RV rental cost, but I obviously underestimated it.  By about 5 or 6 (maybe even 10) thousand dollars.  Bummer.  I hate it when I forget that I’m not rich. Read more

Spinning By Hand.

Posted on | December 20, 2015 | 3 Comments

One of the reason I sold my dairy goats was to spend more time with my sheep.  Specifically with all their wool that is piling up in the craft closet.  Last winter I felted 2 entire fleeces into balls in the washing machine because I needed to make room in that closet for more wool.  Last spring’s fleece is still in the barn waiting to be washed and carded and this spring’s wool is only a few months away.  The pressure is on but the problem is not with the will to spin but with the way to spin.  Because I sat through a couple classes on spinning.  And I watched some youtube videos.  And I borrowed some books from the library.  And I was still completely mystified when I sat at the spinning wheel or held a spindle.

Part of the problem is being left-handed.  Right handed people are never sure whether they should try to teach me how to do it the right-handed way or whether they should try to teach me upside down and backwards, which is the way us lefties are used to living.   Also, there’s a bit of room for personal preference—-ask 3 different spinners and you might be shown 3 methods that are just the teeniest bit different.  And that teeny bit is very confusing.  Throw in the terminology (draft, ply, slub, whorl, Z or S twist) that is thrown around during teaching and it’s all very baffling.  Besides, I have found that my hands are better learners than my brain.  Which results in even more problems.

For example, when I learned to card wool I had the same difficulties.  This part was not hard.

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Sick Day.

Posted on | December 19, 2015 | No Comments

It started with Netflix.  Which my parents got us for my mother’s birthday.  Yeah, you read that right.  We got it from my dad for my mom’s birthday because he was getting it for her and she wanted us to have it, too.  The Other Half never says to my face that he thinks I am spoiled but he eye rolls it a lot.  Anyway, with the arrival of Netflix my former beach room was co-opted for watching television.  Generally, it was only used for playing Wii (when the kids weren’t on Wii restriction) or knitting or reading quietly.  But now we were all wanting to sit there with our feet up, with snacks and drinks and pillows and blankets, for hours of television shows that the rest of you saw about 12 years ago.

I had to move the plant boxes that I kept on the rail behind the sofa in the beach room.  They used to hold air plants but the kids killed those years ago by constantly knocking the boxes down the stairs while playing ball in the house.  Also, with each fall, the handles cracked off the boxes until they were nothing but dilapidated rectangles that I left on the rail out of sheer, worthless defiance.  But even I realized they couldn’t stand up to all of us on the couch, readjusting pillows and blankets, and otherwise jostling about.  So I filled them with offshoots of Uncle Rodney’s prolific aloe plant and moved them to the top of the stairs on the DVD/video cabinet.  Where the plants are quite pleased with the filtered light from the window and the plant boxes at least stand a chance against indoor hoops.

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Posted on | December 9, 2015 | 1 Comment

When I was growing up, you actually had to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to explore Middle-earth.  I mean, the entire 1,000,000 pages.  There were no movies and no online discussion forums.  Now that I am in my forties I realize I could have skipped all the novels and just waited until I had kids in elementary school, middle school, and high school all at the same time to experience that bizarre and fantastical area stuck between two worlds.  A place of shifting alliances, constantly passing between light and darkness, where the unexpected is always around the corner.  An epic journey that leaves everyone older, wiser, and, hopefully, appreciative of the hobbit-hole called home.

During the past week I took Big, Pretty, and Middle to their first rock concert.  And I do mean, rock concert.  While my first concert was sitting across the arena from my parents at a Neil Diamond show, my kids enjoyed The Struts, New Politics, Bastille, Awolnation, and Fall Out Boy together at an event just outside Washington, D.C.

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Southern Problems.

Posted on | November 28, 2015 | 1 Comment

I know some of you already had snow.  And I feel for you.  I really do.

But today, after ignoring my garden for weeks (months?), I decided to stop by and pay it a visit.  Because after gorging ourselves on holiday food I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a few low-cal garden-fresh meals.

So I headed down there with a plan to pick a pail of  snaps peas to send in with the kids’ lunches this week.  Also to gather a bunch of lettuce to make a nice dinner salad.  Plus to dig up a few potatoes to have with parsley and chives from the herb bed.  And broccoli for a simple steamed side dish.  Voila!  An easy and healthy dinner.

We’ve had a few night time temperatures just below 30 degrees.  But the sensitive lettuces were under row covers.  The herb bed is in a sheltered spot that lets it thrive later than most other areas.  And even though the tops of the potatoes died off, the spuds themselves can stay in the ground all winter and just be harvested as needed.  The rest of the fall crops enjoy crisp temperatures and are sometimes even sweeter after a frost.

But frost wasn’t actually the problem.

Turns out the warm sunny days were too warm to counter the cooler nighttime temperatures.  And several bunches of broccoli had already gone to flower.

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Posted on | October 28, 2015 | 3 Comments

Have you heard about this?  Trigger warnings are all the rage.  Or not. Apparently, trigger etiquette is up for grabs.  I used to find the whole concept very confusing.  After all, my life might be interesting enough for an occasional blog post, but not interesting enough to result in trauma.  Or at least not the kind of trauma that can’t be fixed by meeting a friend for a hike.  Or a chocolate bar library.

Which isn’t to say I don’t have any experience with triggering events.  To me, a trigger represents the event that clearly sets another event in motion.  Sometimes, like Newton said, it is an equal and opposite reaction.  Sometimes it’s more like Karma.  Which is this:

Image result for karma

Either way, it leaves you looking back and thinking, “Uh-oh.”

For example, the kids all had well visits with their pediatrician this past summer.  I made the appointments because I am a concerned and caring parent that stays on top of her kids’ medical health.  Also, because I signed up for accident and critical illness insurance at work.  Which is usually a waste of insurance premiums.  Except, in this case, the accident and critical illness insurance provider pays out $50 for an annual well visit for each covered member.  For my family of 6 that translates into a $300 payout.  Since the accident and critical illness insurance only costs a $294.17 a year, our coverage turns to be free.  As long as we get our well visits.  Which are covered for free under our regular health insurance.  That proves there is an advantage to having 4 kids.  I’ll try not to spend my $5.83 all in one place. Read more

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