Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Feast or Famine (updated)

It seems that I'm either posting twice a day or I'm not posting at all. I don't even know what my excuse is - I guess I can only post when I'm inspired to do so. I just can't force it.

The outside chickens are really looking like grown-up birds. They're even starting to cluck a bit, although they still just mainly peep. They don't especially like to be caught, but they're pretty calm once we've got hold of them. Sarah and I clipped their left wings last week.

Here are the boys with their pet "raptors:"

Ummm, guys? You do realize they walk around in their own poop all day, right?

Brian's surprisingly fond of "his" chickens.

Two orange ones got out of their enclosure last week, but they didn't go far - they only went across the yard, and came running as soon as Conor went out to feed them. That was a relief, since there is a busy street out front. I was hoping that they'd stay largely in the yard.

The wild chicken went broody last month, but she's back to laying and we're collecting one little white egg a day. They're tasty, too.

Here she is, taking a dirt bath behind the onions. This is her favorite hangout.

She thinks we can't see her.

In our makeshift chicken coop, I put an old metal folding table support in the house for a roost. Actually, Brian and I constructed a wooden roost, and I was using the table support to clip a light for warmth on the colder nights. But then the nights got warmer and I found out they were jumping up to the highest rung anyway. I didn't know that they wanted to roost at the highest point possible. Huh. Live and learn.

At first only five chickens could fit, and it was usually Bad Luck Cluck who was left alone on the low roost. I nudged things around a little bit tonight, and now all six can fit on the roost. It's so cool - once the sun starts to go down and it's almost twilight, the hens don't want anything else to eat. They start making their way inside and jockeying for the best roost position.

There are really six on the roost, but the white ones are crammed together so closely that you can't tell.

The three orange ones are Ben, Fluffybutt, and Bad Luck Cluck. Fluffybutt is my favorite - she's so pretty! She's the biggest of the orange ones, and looks like she's wearing a ruffled petticoat under her feathers. I haven't gotten a good picture of her yet - it's too difficult through the netting.

The three white ones don't have names yet, because it's too hard to tell them apart yet. They're going to be called Link, Zelda and Ganendorf, but we don't know which is which.

The younger batch stayed in a brooder in our kitchen for two-and-a-half weeks, but the smell was so awful that I moved them out to the garage for the nights, and into a makeshift mini-pen adjacent to the ghetto for the daylight hours. Chick poop smells so much worse than chicken manure, even using sawdust for bedding.

Old meets new. The older ones largely avoid or ignore the chicks, but they will peck at them if the chicks poke their heads through the gate.
The new enclosure barriers are comprised of a 6-ft. porch swing and rubbermaid tub. There's also a baby bathtub in there, inverted for shade. It's where they huddle after the sun goes down.

The black ones are Barred Rock pullets, the brown striped one is a Partridge Chantecler pullet, and the rest are the packing peanuts - the male Buff Brahmas.

Partridge Chantecler pullet - such exquisite feathers!
The two Partridges are Chip and Dale.

Buff Chantecler pullet
The two Buffs are Holly and Yellowy.

A male Buff Brahma chick. They aren't named, since we'll probably be eating them.
Natalie calls one of them her "Grayey."

Hmmm. I guess it might be time to put a roof on the enclosure.

Yesterday was my 42nd birthday. Instead of cake, I made myself a Cappuccino Mousse Trifle. So pretty and so delicious!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Today, Brian...

...woke up at 6:00 to help me get the RV and everybody ready for a field trip

...stoked the woodstove so everybody would be able to come down to a toasty living room (it was in the 40s in PA this morning)

...helped his little sister go potty (#2) on the road while I drove

...showed great sportsmanship during a track meet with homeschooled kids he'd never met before

...was complimented by two other mothers about what a fine boy he is, saying they wish we lived closer so he could be a friend to their sons (what a nice thing to hear about your kid!)

...singlehandedly managed dumping the waste water from the RV for the first time

...after a full day at the track meet, went for an hour of weight training with the football team

...after weight training, came home, filled the RV's water tank, cleaned out the inside, and climbed up on the top to clean all the dead leaves out of the overhead vents

Wait a minute...

...is that Natalie up there with him, 15 feet off the ground?!?!

Never mind, I take back all the nice things I said about him - =8-O

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Secret Suitor

Moving to our new house was a blessing in every imaginable way...more bedrooms, more space, more garden, fewer neighbors - just a very, very few of the reasons we are happier here.

When we moved, I had only one tiny twinge of regret - that I would have to leave my oriole behind. He used to sing to me from a large tree one street over from our old house, and his loud, clear song was a high point of my mornings. I can't help it - I have a thing for birds, almost an obsession.

In fact, silly as it may seem, it was an oriole that convinced me that this was the place for us. While we sat out back, talking with the owner about the potential sale, I heard an oriole in the woods, and I just knew that everything would be complete, that this was where we were supposed to be.

The oriole returned this spring, and made our yard part of his territory. He's pretty elusive and shy, keeping to the treetops as he makes the large circles around his perimeter. I had to do quite a bit of waiting before I could snap his photo.

Isn't he gorgeous?

Singing his heart out, just for me...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Scott's Prom 2010

Chicken Ghetto

We still don't have a chicken coop, and we haven't even started to build one. Time is running out. The nights have been warm enough that the first batch of chicks have been outside full time for two weeks, and the new batch of chicks will be inside for another month at least. Until we get a permanent home set up, this is our makeshift substitution:

a Little Tykes Playhouse

an adjustable baby gate

stacks of lumber and firewood
stumps for roosting

an old rabbit hutch and a broom for a perch

and yards and yards of chicken netting.

Sarah calls it the "chicken ghetto."

Welcome to the projects, baby.

It doesn't look that bad in person. The chicks are loving all the room to run and flap, plus there's a rotting stump that is chock full of insects.

You're still ugly. Grow some real feathers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Opening Day at Knoebel's

Woo-hoo! Spring is back, and even though rain was in the forecast, opening day at Knoebel's was gorgeous.

Girls on a mission! Out of our way! The cotton candy awaits...

These kid-powered carts are always a favorite.

Cotton candy. The undisputed high point of the day.

Caught without my camera...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

OMG Chickens

I posted about our six chicks a little while ago. What I didn't mention is that after doing some web research, I chose two more breeds and ordered 8 more pullets, 4 each of Barred Rocks and Chanteclers, chosen for their gentle temperament and egg production.

We received the email two days ago that our chicks were on the way, and the post office called early this morning to say that we could come pick them up! We quickly got the brooder ready and prepared to head to the post office, but before we could leave, the postman drove around the corner. Since we're early on his route, he decided to do us a favor and bring them out to us!

The box is here! We're so excited!

Wait a minute...that doesn't look like 8 chicks...

Let me check the invoice...what's this? Males included for warmth?
You mean we have 9 females and 15 males?

Baby roosters??? What in the world are we going to do with 15 roosters?

This brings our *little* backyard flock to a total of 30. =8-O

I don't know how I feel about the way they use male chicks as live "packing peanuts." With laying breeds, everybody orders the females, so most male chicks are unwanted. Sometimes the male chicks are dropped into an incinerator as soon as they are sorted by sex.

Just look at this sweet little fluffball.

Incidentally, when we opened the box and started to take the chicks out one by one to dip their beaks in water (dehydration is a big danger during shipping), they started peeping so loudly that the wild chicken was attracted by all the noise. She usually stays away from us and consequently, from the house, but she came right up to the door when she heard the peeping.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chalk Zone

Sidewalk chalk was one of the girls' prizes at last weekend's family reunion/Easter egg hunt.

Aside from the two-foot-tall chocolate bunnies, the chalk was the hands-down favorite.

This picture is typical of the difference in their hairlines.
Natalie's hair always falls smoothly off the sides of her face.
Noelle's hair is always in her face.

This picture also illustrates the difference in temperament. Natalie is always twinkling and grinning, and Noelle is more serious, almost somber sometimes.

You have chalk on your face. Do I have chalk on my face?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Epic Fail

I'm sad tonight. I don't know why. And as it often happens, when I'm sad, I tend to dredge up bad memories and dwell on them. The bigger my share of guilt, all the better. Here's tonight's:

Let me clarify something first, because this is the reason that everything went bad on this particular night. The older my children get, the less tolerant they become with the younger ones. It doesn't matter what kind of little angels or terrors the first two were. In their memories, they were perfect children, and since then, I have given birth to a bunch of unsocialized hooligans. The older ones judge the younger ones by a yardstick that is too grown-up, and naturally the little ones are always found wanting. The older ones don't want to let the younger ones act like children.

To me, their censure of the younger children's behavior is completely intolerant and uncharitable, and by extension, they are also judging me as a parent. I am extremely sensitive to their criticism of their younger siblings, because I feel it's really me they're criticizing. At any rate, this sensitivity plays a major role in my choices.

It's almost been a year since Sarah, our firstborn, graduated from high school. The graduation ceremony was packed, as usual, but an entire row of seats was reserved for both sets of grandparents and our large family. The twins were 2 and Theresa was 5. Some might argue that they were a little young to be quiet for that long. I didn't think they were bad during the ceremony, although about halfway through they started to get antsy and got out of their seats and down on the floor.

The problem was that the videographer was sitting near our row. Scott, the oldest son, was getting very agitated because the kids were making noise near the videographer, and though I kept them as quiet as possible, I was becoming defensive about it.

After the ceremony, when my daughter, the graduate, made her way back in for pictures with us, first she demonstrated impatience when asked to pose for a picture with one of her grandparents. Granted, this grandparent can be demanding, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime event and pictures meant a great deal. A little forebearance was in order for the occasion, and I felt her impatience was quite selfish and immature. It wasn't as if every single one of her classmates wasn't also posing with family at that exact moment.

Then she made a bitter remark to me about "how bad" the kids were. Okay, I thought. She doesn't want to bother taking pictures with us, and the younger children are an embarrassment. I gathered up my dignity and my hooligans and quietly shepherded them out to the van. I didn't do it in a huff, I didn't do it for spite, or to hurt anyone. I just didn't want to stay where they were not, and by extension, I was not wanted. My eyes were full of tears and my feelings were wounded, but not for a moment did I do it with an "I'll-show-her" spirit. I really thought she didn't want them around, and guess what? Where they go, I go. They're so little, that's just how it has to be.

It took us a while to get across the parking lot, and I became aware that people were asking where Sarah was. I just figured she was taking pictures with friends, and I headed home. We had food prepared because we were expecting people to come by after graduation, and I wanted to get things ready.

It was a good hour later that I found out what happened. Sarah had disappeared, not with friends, but into the band room, crying because I left her graduation. She didn't get any pictures with any friends. We didn't have a party at our house. She just came home alone and cried some more.

And there was nothing I could say to make it better. I ruined her graduation night.

I have had some glaring moments of parenting failure, but this one stands out below the rest, at least so far. We haven't talked about it all in the year since. I'm actually hoping that somehow it will magically disappear from the family annals. I don't have a single picture of her high school graduation. I will never be able to make her see how sorry I am, and I will probably cry every time I think of that night for the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fast Track to Salmonellosis

Six chicks joined our entourage during Easter week. They were NOT an impulsive Easter gift; in fact, we've been planning for a long time to get some laying hens. This was just my way of forcing my husband's hand.

Three are White Leghorns, three are Golden Comets.

They were cute and fluffy for a while.

Now they're gangly, scrawny, half-grown chickens.

You're not pretty.

Well, you're kind of pretty.

Mom, can I hold my chick?

You've gotta catch it first.

You can't hide in there forever, you know...

Oh, yes we can...

Dozing in the sunshine

Okay, now this is just ridiculous...