Hello from the Coop

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One of my favorite things about keeping chickens:  the booty beauty.  Fluffy bottoms abound!  They look like feathery pantaloons or skirts, and I just love ‘em.  I wish I could teach them the Virginia Reel.

This little pillow of chickeny goodness is my very favorite.  She’s so docile and friendly– she’s the one who would always hop on my shoulder when she was smaller.  Now, she lets me pet her like a dog!  I lerv her.

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Chickens are curious creatures.  Especially if there’s a chance you may have a treat for them.  This girl always cracks me up with the tufts around her face, and the feathers parted neatly around her comb..

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Roosters have scary reputations, I’ll give you that.  And honestly, they do cut quite an imposing figure.  But Nemo is very well behaved.  He is a handsome young fella, and his is constantly on patrol.  It’s fun to watch.  And really, when I look at Nemo now, this is what I remember:

Awww…. He was such a runt back then.  Very bottom of the order, but he’s worked his way up.  He will probably never be the big boss though, Prissy has that firmly in hand.  Speaking of Prissy,
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Hasn’t she turned out pretty?  She is fat and happy and lays lotsa eggs.  Good chicken.  She keeps the flock in line.

 

And this girl, visiting the nesting box.  I’m trying to decide if she’s going broody on me!  She’s been in the nesting box for a gooooood long while today.  She’s already fussed at me once for getting her out.  Broodiness can be bad if you don’t want to hatch chicks.  They may accidentally break eggs, which can then be eaten, and start up a bad habit of egg eating hens!  Also, a broody hen can cause other hens to go broody as well.  They won’t get up to eat or drink, they get all drama queen on you.  So we’ll see.  I’ll check again in a little while.

This shy girl is the smallest, meekest of the chickens.  She’s on the very bottom of the pecking order, which means she has to eat last, take the worst roosting positions, and basically yield whatever to the other chickens.  I do try to sneak her secret bites of food and attention when the others aren’t looking. She’s very timid but I love her sweet expressions and quiet personality.

And lastly, guess what?
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More chicken butt.  :)

So there ya have it.  A little chicken for your day.

I Will Tell You a Story

Prologue

Once upon a time, there was a girl who couldn’t remember her name.

Though she had all else she could desire, a warm hearth to eat food, a soft place to lay her head, strong walls to protect against the night, she was bereft.  She sought out the elders of her village, and the wise woman at the meadow’s edge, and the wild men of the forest, but none could tell her who she was or how she had come to be.  Sorrow hollowed out her heart, and just as she had lost her name, she began to lose the simple comforts of a living soul.  Food became tasteless, and the flames of the fire ceased to warm her.  Sleep fled before her tired eyes, and the rising sun did not quicken her spirit.  She was alone, unknown to herself and all living creatures.

With each passing moment, she faded more and more, until one day, her steps began to lose their sound.  Light passed through her, as if she were a pane of glass.  With fearful hands, she touched the world, and felt nothing.  Nameless and forgotten, she slipped away from herself.  With none to see her, or know her, or call her name, she became invisible as the wind.  Like the whisper of a breeze, she blew through the empty halls, hardly stirring even the motes of dust.  She was a ghost of a girl, held together only by the faintest of will.

The wind knows no measure of time.  It simply is, until it isn’t.  It blows, and then it doesn’t.  And so it may have been for the girl, who existed as barely a breath for countless ages.

Except for him.  The one who, though he had desperately lost his own way, would one day, stumble upon hers.

This is their tale.

Turning the Camera Around

So, I’ve been taking selfies lately.  Yeah….

I’m not going through a narcissistic phase, if that’s what you think.  I’m not doing duck faces, and if I DO, then by all means, stage an intervention.  I promise you, I haven’t developed an unhealthy obsession with my good side.

Nah, the truth is, I’m coming out from behind the camera, because I’m way too comfortable back there.  Over the past few years, I’ve been slipping into invisible mode.  Hiding behind my kids, melting into the background, sitting on the sidelines, slipping out the door, whatever.  I think some of it is a natural introversion (why does nobody believe I’m an introvert?) but some of it is probably laziness.  And then there is the fact that I’m not a big fan of pictures of myself.  All terrible excuses for HIDING.

I recognized this shortcoming recently, and I didn’t like it, not one bit.  Life’s too short to hide from it.  What do I have to lose?  Vanity?  Pride?  Am I afraid to look a little foolish, a little fat, a little goofy?  Lord forgive me.  And it’s not just pictures, I tend to hold back in lots of situations, when I should be open and engaging.  I can be there, without really being there.   But I don’t want to be that way.  When I am an old gray mama, I want them to flip through photos of me in their younger days and remember that I was full of life and joy.  I want them to see the happiness on my face, the laughter in my eyes.  I want them to see me engaged in all the moments given to me.  Because if they see anything else, then they are seeing an untruth.  And I can’t bear that thought, that they would ever believe I didn’t love sharing this life with them.  I don’t want to be on the sidelines of Life, out of the picture.  I’m there, and I want them to see it and remember it long after I’m gone.

So now I get it. You can’t suck in your middle and belly laugh at the same time.  You can’t romp in the waves if you’re hiding under a towel.  I mean that literally, AND metaphorically.  You’ve got to let go, and believe in the love of your Father and those who hold your heart. For me, making my way into intentional pictures is a step towards visibility in a bigger sense.  Putting myself out there, embracing the person I am at almost 39, it’s not narcissism.  It’s about NOT letting stupid insecurities hold me back from the fullness of living.  “Hiding” is a disservice to the great blessings I am surrounded with, and the One who gifted it all to me.  So now, you see me a little more…. but hopefully, you’ll know it’s so much more than a “selfie.”  It’s me saying, I’m here, and I’m glad I’m here, and I’m especially glad it’s with you.  That’s worth some time in front of the camera, and in front of the crowd.  My loves deserve it.

[But, I can't defend the hashtag.  #onceyoustartyoucan'tstop ]

Happy week, all.

 

 

Time for the Traditional Weeping and Mourning Over First Day Photos

Well, it’s here again.  The post where I weep uncontrollably over my children’s relentless and merciless march through childhood.  Or, as everybody else knows it, The First Day of School Pics.  (It’s the side by side that gets ya.  WHY DO I DO THIS???)

So, Czarina last year, in 8th grade:

And this year, in 9th, in HIGH SCHOOL:

Oh, give me strength. 

Last year, here was HeroBoy, in 5th:

And now, knocking out his last year of elementary as a 6th grader:

That’s it, I quit.  I can’t go on.  Make it stop.

Here is the Duke, last year as a 3rd grader:

And here he is, sliding into 4th like a pro:

Deep breaths.

Chipmunk, last year as a 1st grader:

And now, in 2nd:

(I do believe his hair has gotten redder this past year!  I will admit no other changes in this fellar.)

Lastly, here’s Mister, in PK3 last year:

And now, looking sharp for PK4, ready to do this thing:

So, there ya have it, in one sharp blow.  A whole year passed in ten photos.  It’s gonna be a great year!  But more on that in the next post.  Now, I must go drown my sorrows in some strawberry ice cream. 

It’s the only way.

All is Ready

Here we are, on the eve of a new school year.  Lesson plans have been prepared.  Pencils sharpened to fine points.  New books wait to be read, workbooks crisp and empty.  It is quiet and clean in here. 

All is ready.

It’s one of my favorite feelings in the whole world. As much as I enjoy summer, I really do miss schooling with my kids over the break.  I miss teaching them, and learning with them.  I love the converging of the five unique minds and spirits that homeschooling gives us.  I love these faces around the kitchen table.  I am privileged to look upon them, and into them, day after day. True, individual studies throughout our schooling day will scatter us about a bit, especially as some of my students are advancing.  But there are many moments when we are all there, together, and we’re a system in harmony.  Crazy harmony, sometimes.  But we’re US, and there’s nothing else quite like it.  

Homeschooling can be challenging, I’ll not deny that.  There are days of self doubt and anxiety.  Times when I am overwhelmed or frustrated and I desperately need a “do over.”  But those off days are like little gnats I just shoo away.  They can’t spoil the blessing of this long, bright and sunny day.   I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, I really wouldn’t.  I’ll do it, year after year, First Day after First Day, until there are none left to be had. 

And when the Last Day of the Last Days comes (I can hardly even envision that far off moment), I will thank God for the journey He put me on. I will bless Him for the life He destined to me, (because it surely is my life, it is not something that can be done to the side.)

I will praise Him then, as I do right this very moment,  for the strength and patience during the hard days, and the joy and pleasure of the good days.  I will, above all, be grateful for the time He allowed me with His gifts.  Thousands of hours knowing them, making memories with them, sharing in the people they become.  It is an honor I know I am not worthy of, but I will take without hesitation.

As my students lay down in their beds tonight, somewhat moaning the loss of their summer freedoms (and who can blame the poor dears), I will lay on my own pillow with a little flutter in my own heart.  For tomorrow is the First Day of another school year.

And all is ready.

Hen House Happenings

Kind of a big day in the coop today. (And now I’ll give you this opportunity to find the nearest exit if you’ve heard more than enough about my chicken life.)

Ok, still here? Good. You’re just as weird as I am, so there will be no judgement from this point forward. This is a safe place.

I went into the coop this morning, and to my delight, happened to catch BESSIE on the nesting box. We’ve been on an egg watch with her, and I was so excited to find her getting serious about things. I had nothing better to do (the kids basically raise themselves these days), so I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. (I am the chicken doula. I bring peace and support to the laboring hens. In through the beak, out through the… beak?)

She arranged the hay and shavings in the nest just so, stealing choice bits from the other nesting boxes and putting them in her chosen spot. She also threw some pieces on her back, which I thought at the time was a little quirky, but maybe it was the easiest way to carry them? Turns out, she was instinctively camouflaging herself. Be the nest, Bessie. Anyway, she fussed and carried on a bit, while Prissy and Lucy were helping themselves to the feeder nearby. The girls got impatient, and wandered on outside, but Bessie stayed focused. After a little while, she realized her ladies had rudely abandoned her on her Egg Day, of all days, and she sent out a few scolding, beacon clucks. Chastised, they rushed back like good sister hens should, to see what the deal was.

Satisfied that her team was nearby, she settled in, squawked a bit, and then hopped off the nest. What? What a bummer. I figured she must have just been practicing, since I didn’t see anything in the nest. Or just messing with my head. They’ll do that, too, those conniving chickens. She loitered on the walkway, reluctant to leave the nests completely, still toying with my emotions. But, Prissy decided it was her turn now. Let the professional through, she was clearly conveying. Bessie did not comply. Bessie has authority issues.

Ooooh, this is getting good. The drama is unfolding. Chicken fight? Chicken standoff? What will happen next??

Bessie wouldn’t budge, and Prissy couldn’t find a polite way around her. After a few minutes of the unblinking chicken stare, finally Prissy shoved her way past Bessie. Duty called. She found her favorite box, and with a little repair work to the nest (shooting Bessie a look), she got comfy and started up her Egg Song. It started out so sweet and pretty, but quickly morphed into a bellow.

Oh. Um, what does one do as a chicken doula? I looked on sympathetically. You poor dear. And you have to do this every day, Prissy? I am so sorry.

But, with a few weeks of laying under her belt, she’s got this. She doesn’t need the emotional support of the other girls (or me, a dumb human), so the gals wondered off (what with that bellowing, I don’t blame them) and Prissy carried on. At this point though, all the little chicks came in to see what the ruckus was about. I wish, oh how I wish, you could have seen the looks on their faces. You didn’t know they get looks? Oh yeah. They do. Their expressions clearly said, What in the WORLD??? They were absolutely baffled and concerned by Prissy. I’m fairly sure they were glancing back at me like, DO SOMETHING! You have HANDS for crying out loud!

She paid them no mind though, and after a few more minutes, the deed was done. She popped off the nest, ignored the pesky little chicks, and went in search of her gals, who were outside eating the grubs that had come up from the light rain. When I reached in to get Prissy’s egg, I saw another! BESSIE!!  That fluffy vixen!  She layed one after all, and hers is largest by far of ALL the eggs. TWO EGGS!! Bessie’s Egg Day, and I was there for the whole funny thing. She brings the egg count to a dozen, and now we’re ready for our first sampling. Let the feast of scrambled eggs begin!

Now, I tell you all this, fully aware that I have lost my everloving mind. It’s okay. I wasn’t saving it up for anything special anyway. You don’t have to send me any concerned emails or private messages. I realize I have wandered past the point of return. Don’t worry. There are other chicken people out here with me, and they TOTALLY get it. We’ll just be crazy over here and try not to bother anybody too much.

So, that’s all for now. (And really, that’s enough, isn’t it. I’m so embarrassed.)

(Until it’s LUCY’s turn!! Bwa-kak!)

The Homesteading Years

And now, in chicken news:

Our babies are two weeks old, and starting to feather out more fully.  They sure are pretty!  Oh, you want to see some pictures?  Well, let me get out my chicken brag book right here…

See?  Aren’t they purty?  Don’t you loooove them?  Let me add here- you think taking pictures of small children is hard?  Oh my goodness.  Getting a chick to stay still is impossible.  Scientifically impossible.  They are little blurs of fuzz whizzing by the lens.  I took 4, 529 pictures to get these three.  Rascals.

We call the younger chicks “the babies”, and our first batch are “the girls.”  The girls are now 13 weeks old, and look like mini chickens.  Aw, so grown up:

Pretty sure they are Golden Comets, going on appearance.  They are a cross of Rhode Island Reds and something else, and will be good layers of brown eggs.  I picked them up from a local guy and didn’t think to ask him specifically at the time!  They are still developing their waddles and combs, but they are very chickeny now!  Their clucking and fussing amuses me far more than it should. They eat table scraps (every time I come walking up, they expect me to have some treat) and are busy foraging in their temporary chicken run during the day.

We still keep them separate, until the babies are big enough to survive the “pecking order” system, probably a month or so.  The babies are Easter Eggers, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Buff Orpingtons.  We kept one roo that was mailed with those chicks to keep them warm.  I think he’s a black star, and he seems a day or two behind the others in size. He better grow up to be a nice boy, that’s all I have to say.  I remind him every day.  Nice roosters get to live.  Mean roosters go into the stew pot.

So all together, we have 13 in our flock.  The EE will lay multicolored eggs, pinks, greens, maybe a blue?  The other three breeds will lay nice sized brown eggs.  Chickens start laying around 24 weeks, and once we get them going, we’ll have more than we know what to do with!
It’s very exciting.  (um, right?  Or has my radar for thrilling activity become seriously skewed?  Possible.)

King Pen and I had a good discussion the other day about what my “vision” is.  I told him I’d like the opportunity to try lots of different animals, and I listed a few.  Rabbits, maybe goats or a pig, poultry of course.  But ultimately, I’d love to have a milk cow.  Way, way, way down the line.  I am new to animal keeping, so I have a long way to go before I’m up for something with hooves.  :)  But I would love to provide as much of our own food as possible.  I daydream about it, and I haven’t had a good juicy daydream in a long time.  Not since King Pen was in school, and we were daydreaming of him being licensed and being his own boss.  Even then, it was a lovely dream, but this is more personal to me.  I lay in bed at night thinking about barns and fences and knowing these animals from their beginning to my plate.  Is that weird?  I want to provide the best possible food for our family, and the best possible life for our food.  You don’t need me to talk about the inhumane and unsanitary conditions of the meat and food industries.  We all know it.  Well, here’s a chance to change that, a little bit, in my corner of the world.  So, we’re gonna give it a try.  It’s a grand experiment!  And a new page to turn in the blog as well.  Wondergirl, the Homesteading Years.  Gonna be an adventure!

Happy Monday, y’all.  Hope it’s a good one.

Cluck.

 

 

 


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