Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fun with Chickens

The chicken coop, back in May

                                                                  The chicken coop now
A sign on the door that says "Welcome to the Coop" that my eldest gave me for Mothers' Day, and another round tin sign above the window that says "Lay or Bust.
This guy below is the one rooster who managed to avoid being caught when I gathered up the other 5 roos and sent them to a farm in the country where they will probably be dinner. I'm now glad he didn't go, too, as I have decided I really like him. He's pretty quiet and unassuming for a rooster, but takes good care of his girls.

 Copper Marans girl... they lay dark brown eggs, and are very gentle and sweet. They should all start laying any day now... can't wait!

"The one in the forefront is the one who always escapes the run, somehow, but then waits for me to pick her up and put her back in the coop at night. She's a snuggler, nestling down in my arms and letting me hold her and hug her and sing to her before tucking her back in the coop.

THIS is my current coop work-in-progress... the small driveway coop.

Unfortunately, my younger son decided to replace the transmission and engine in his truck, in the driveway, right now, next to where I am trying to wrestle this coop into shape for the Swedish Flower Hens that need to move in there.

It's not pretty at the moment, but it WILL be. I will be finished with that one shortly, and will post another picture. These silly SFH's really NEED to get out of this tub. My porch smells, and they are NOT HAPPY with the lack of room.  I don't blame them a bit.
 No idea how many hens or roos yet, but still just thrilled to pieces that we were able to get these to hatch, and that they are so healthy. 10 out of 12 fertile eggs hatched, and 9 out of 10 lived and are super healthy. You can start to see their unusual spotting coming through. I have some beautiful colors in the bunch, and I'm just so darn excited to finally own some of these birds. When I first discovered them at Greenfire Farms, in Florida, a few years ago, they were SO rare in the US that a breeding pair was $250.00. OUCH. Out of my price league. I happened to look this spring, and a single day old is now down to $20.00, making a breeding pair now only $40.00.  But then, a dozen eggs was $50.00, and I ended up with 9, so I'm beyond pleased.
Can't wait to watch these babies grow! 

Monday, June 30, 2014

"I'll Buy You a Cone..."


     The simple post would be, "I love ice cream. Blue Moon is my favorite flavor."  But, that's not true, and I can never just say anything simply, can I. Well, it's true that I DO love ice cream. Blue Moon is not my favorite kind, however. But it does bring back a lot of memories, which is why I found myself eating a medium sized cone of it the other night on the way home from a trip to Olean to celebrate our 27th anniversary.  (We actually went to Tractor Supply first, so I could get chick feed and dog food and chicken wire to fix my coop, then to Home Depot to order a new floor, and then to Walmart for flowers for the log in front of my chicken coop. Finally, we went and ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant that didn't even serve margaritas!  And that's how you celebrate 27 years of marriage, our style...) 
     So, the ice cream cone.  My dad, who passed away more than 5 years ago, never missed an opportunity in his travels to say to me, as a kid, to my mother when there were no kids left at home, and to me as an adult, "I'll buy you a cone..."  I used to just think that was the BEST. THING. EVER. about my dad when I was little, and it wasn't until MANY years later I realized that he wasn't just being generous and thoughtful to me, or to my mom. It was code for "I love ice cream and never miss an occasion to stop and get myself a cone, but if I offer to buy YOU one, maybe you won't think about how much I love ice cream myself!"  Well, it worked for many years! (I also tried to be that kind of parent to my kids when they were growing up - I wanted them to remember that mom never said no to an ice cream cone - just because...)
     When I was growing up, much like now, still, the place we went most often to eat or shop was Olean, about 30 miles from home. On the back road (now the back road - then, the only road) between Hinsdale and Olean, there was/is still Crosby's Dairy  -one of my dad's favorite places to get us a cone. And, for whatever reason, they always carried Blue Moon ice cream, which was my favorite kind to get in a cone when I was a kid. It's the only kind I ever got when I was growing up, if they had it. Blue Moon is not really all that exciting a flavor - it is truly only orange-pineapple ice cream with little pieces of pineapple in it. And apparently, lots of blue food dye. But I'm sure the name itself is what appealed most to me back then -  and, still a little bit now, truth be told. Much like the name Moose Tracks. I happen to think that's a really cool name for an ice cream flavor. Much more exciting than "chocolate peanut butter" or the like. I guess, given that I love words and their connotations so much, and did even while growing up, it isn't really any surprise that I'm a sucker for a cool name.. even for an ice cream.
     I went that way a couple of weeks ago, and thought about stopping at Crosby's to see if they still had Blue Moon and to get a cone if they did,  because I was thinking strongly of my dad that day. But, I'm also continuing to try to eat as "clean" as I can, and most of the time, that means dairy and sugar free. So I talked myself out of it. It's a little too easy for me to succumb to ice cream, if I don't work hard to avoid it. But after eating Mexican the other night, which is not very "clean eating," I figured, "hey, if you're already off the wagon for tonight, AND it's your anniversary, this is as good an opportunity to get an ice cream cone, if ever there was one, and then get back to healthy eating tomorrow..."  so, stuffed full of enchiladas and refried beans and guacamole and sour cream as I was, I turned to my hubby and said, "Go home the back road through Hinsdale."  He raised his eyebrows questioningly at me, and I said, "I'll buy you a cone..."
     And what do you know? They still carry Blue Moon ice cream, after all these years. We both got one. They were good. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Clean Like You're Dying

     I am nearly done with school now, just one more day. The kids finished yesterday at 11, so for the rest of the afternoon, I hauled stuff out of the old-fashioned "cloak-room" attached to my classroom. It's my storage closet, and it has become a gigantic mess over the course of the year. I have to turn in so many weird forms and papers now, at the end of the year, I'm terrified of throwing out papers during the year that I might need in June. So, I hauled everything out into the middle of my classroom floor. Yesterday the pile looked pretty daunting, but the closet looked great!  That's as far as I got by about 4 yesterday, when I went home.
     Today I had all day to work in my room, and I filled two HUGE janitorial industrial sized garbage containers on wheels with papers and junk. I am now down to a smallish pile of papers that I need to file into labeled file folders tomorrow. That will take me about an hour. Then, I have to file another bunch of papers into a binder to turn in to prove that I taught the new Common Core modules this year. That will maybe take another hour. And, just because I always underestimate the time it takes me to do anything, let's just say I think I have a good shot at being done and out the door by 3:00 tomorrow, which is the earliest official time anyone can leave.
   If so, that will be a new record for me. There have been so many years that I have had to come back in on Friday, the day when almost NO ONE is still there, to finish. Or, I've piled the rest into boxes to sort when school begins again, something which doesn't ever really happen. I end up just throwing out the whole box after a year or two of kicking it around.
     But the reason I have gotten it done so quickly, and have thrown out so much,  is because I have a weird attitude this year. I describe it as cleaning as though I might die over the summer. I have this really strong feeling that I do not want someone else to have to come into my classroom and sort through all my piddly or personal stuff, or to realize that during the year I am an unorganized hoarder of papers. I also still need to hoe out the book cupboards in my room, but those don't show, and right now I can't get at them because I'm still currently sharing my room with another teacher. I will be able to do those in August, and I will likely fill another huge waste can.  Cleaning out and throwing things away is good. Really, once all my binders and such have been turned in, there's no real reason to keep things anymore. But it's more than that. It's a purging that is bordering upon psycho. And, it is affecting my summer plans for home, too.
     Since I'm not going to Alaska this summer and am planning to spend most of my summer right here in this house, I have decided it is time to clean and throw out here the same way. I do not want to die and leave all my junk for someone else to have to clean up. I feel like I "have the summer" to get my act together, to get the house pared down to just the basic necessities. I feel like I NEED to do this, I need to have this sense of organization in my life, both at work and at home, and then, once it's done, I feel like I WON"T die. But I feel like if I don't do it, I might. Weird, I know. I think it might be caused by the realization that I have had several friends recently diagnosed with cancer, and have lost several friends way too young to cancer recently, and by the sudden death of a woman just a couple years older than me in a freak accident recently. She went out for a walk after dinner, and never once thought she wouldn't be home to do the dishes that night, I'm sure. What if that happened to me? Who would want to have to sort through all my stuff here? What would they do with my box of spelling stories from 5th grade, or my notebooks full of (bad) song lyrics for guitar, and angsty teen age poetry?  What would they do with the bag full of tshirts in my closet that I was saving to maybe someday make a quilt from?  Better that I take care of these things as much as I can than to just continue to accumulate and add to it.  If I live another 40 years, at least my spelling stories will not be a part of what they need to decide on. Maybe I should write my own obituary while I'm at it?
I don't know. I just know I'm in a cleaning kind of mood, and if nothing else, Lord willing it is nothing else, I'm at least going to have a clean, uncluttered classroom to work in next year, and a super clean and organized house to come home to at day's end. As end goals, that's not bad!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Recommendation

Just finished this book this morning, after starting it about a week ago. I've had to fit my reading of the 400 page book in and around "real life" still - work, correcting papers, cooking dinner, etc. It's not summer vacation yet, when I can consume a whole book in a day. It's been a week of doing the bare minimum so that I could read as much as possible. It's pretty much all I've done when I wasn't working. It's a book I could NOT put down, a book I gave up needed hours of sleep to keep reading "just one more chapter," and a book I got up early to read in the morning for an hour before work. It is THAT GOOD. And, it surprises me that I found it to be so good. It's the non-fiction account of one man who was a POW in a Japanese camp during WWII, not something that would immediately grab my attention as a definite interest-keeper. I'm so glad I gave it go. It was truly one of the best books I've read in years. It will stay with me and haunt me and encourage me for years to come. I read hundreds of books a year, and seldom do I bother to give one another thought, when I finish. I put it down and immediately go on to the next. This book is different. I want EVERYONE to read it. It's THAT GOOD!!!!  If you've already read it, or choose to do so at some future point before the movie comes out at Christmas, let me know what you think,  I already know I will not be going to the movie. I don't like movies much anyway, and I know I would not be able to take the level of physical violence that will be shown between human beings. But as a book..... truly, truly a good, good book.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


     Have you ever just wanted to sit down and have a good cry? A really long, deep and tearing cry? Yeah, me either. Not really. I'm not much of a crier.
     For someone who is normally an extreme optimist, and also very introspective, though, it is frustrating to be feeling as sad and anxious as I have the past two days, without being able to pinpoint why. I DO want to cry. I just feel like collapsing into a little heap and crying my heart out. But, I have no idea why. And I'm anxious. I'm worried and fretting, but have no idea over what.
     I keep thinking, "maybe it's the end of the school year stress" or "maybe it's that I am back at school and routine after an awesome trip to Maine last weekend" or "maybe I'm just tired"  and then, finally, I've come to "maybe it's everything combined...all of the above." But, it doesn't really seem likely. Like I said, I'm a bit of an optimist, forever aware of my blessings and full of gratitude and happiness at the good, good life I live. So, to be feeling THIS sad and THIS anxious over who knows what is just not like me.  It's an odd feeling, to be feeling this way AND not to know why. I don't like it much.
     I'm not worried - it's not like some deep, awful depression or anything. The fact that for the past four days camping in Maine I could not have been any happier is reassurance that there is really nothing too deeply wrong. Perhaps it IS just having to come back to reality. Perhaps it IS that my house is totally all torn up awaiting carpeting and flooring and that I don't function well mentally when there is a mess around me. Perhaps after next week, when I have had my end of the year evaluation on my stupid binder at school I will feel much less stressed and will realize that that really IS what is weighing me down at the moment, even though I don't think so.
     In the meantime, I think I'll go to bed early again tonight. Whatever it is that is making me want to bawl like a baby can't be hurt any by some extra sleep. And, as my mom always said, tomorrow's a new day. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Whole Lot of Chicken Love... and lots of chicken poop as well

I am not likely going to be making my summer trip to AK this year, and because, deep down, that makes me a little (ok, a LOT) sad, I've been trying to throw myself into other projects and ideas for summer to keep me from falling apart that I can't go "home" this summer. 
Several things I've decided to do revolve around my chickens. I guess, if you can't take care of dogs, a kennel full of dogs, the next best thing is a coop full of chickens? 
So last weekend, I cleaned out the small barn coop where I had moved them to when they outgrew the giant plastic tub brooders in my basement.
They had all been in the barn coop for probably about a month, and were now large enough that they need more room, AND, my younger son's apartment is upstairs, over the barn, and he was complaining violently about the smell. ("Mom, I can't even bring GIRLS up there because it stinks so bad."  And THIS is a reason for me to move my chickens? Really? You thought that would be incentive for me?  Ha ha ha ha ha..... son, you don't know much about moms yet, do you?) 

 So, last weekend, I cleaned out this coop.

I also had to thoroughly clean out the bigger, outdoor coop, since the last time I kept chickens in it, a year or two ago, I never cleaned it out the final time. Eww. Note to self: ALWAYS clean a chicken coop IMMEDIATELY after finishing with it.   So, Saturday I cleaned and scrubbed, and then Sunday, I whitewashed the inside, and laid down a piece of linoleum, as it will be tons easier to clean with a linoleum floor, rather than wood. I knew that when we first built the coop, but didn't bother to do it then, and have wished all along I had. So, this time, I took the time to do it right. I also covered the nesting boxes, because I read that if you keep them covered until they start laying, they won't use them for sleeping and pooping, and they will stay much cleaner. Hope so.

This is currently the outside of the coop and run. I have a TON of ideas for sprucing this up and making an awesome looking chicken coop. It's been "functional" for a few years, but now I want to make it outstanding. By the end of the summer, it will be. I'm excited to do the work on it to get it to the place I envision.  Just wait!

I also am going to be starting a new venture this summer with chickens that I'm pretty excited about. Just finishing the details on getting that going, so, even though I will not get to spend my days with my sled dog babies in Alaska this summer, I WILL, at least, have lots of chicken love. Not anywhere near as good, but, life is what you make it. So, I will do my best to make it a good summer, and more importantly, a super productive summer, both inside and outside the house, regardless. Looking forward to summer, and the work, so that's the important thing.