Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I started blog-trawling my own blog for no reason other than to reminisce. I got led down some paths I'd forgotten about. I don't have links, but the pictures were fun to see again, so I am going to post a few for you, and for me. I started this blog in 2005. Wild. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same!
I got a label maker! You can't see that he is giving me a rude gesture beneath the brim of that hat. He did not like being labeled. Silly man. If he hadn't sat still, it wouldn't have happened.
 Boo was so young...
 Somewhere in there we got Dazee for a time
 And then Yoshi...
 But always we come back to Boo. Momma's Boo.
 It's impossible to resist.
 April grew really fast.
 Girl totaled her car but brought home a Gerbil to replace it.
 My mother and Dazee at Halloween. She was so excited to see that dog in that chicken suit!
 But always there was Boo...
I went to a Toby Keith concert (I love my husband I love my husband I love my husband...). Although this photo is labeled "drunken cowgirls", I am holding, I wish to point out, a Stewart's root beer.
Girl graduated, which was before she wrecked her car and before April was born. Here is her hippie homeschooler graduation portrait, complete with bare feet and tassel over the ear.
Before Yoshi, Dazee or even Boo... there was Kioshi. And I had hair halfway down my back that made a huge braid and took three days to dry. Oh, and we lived in a totally different house.
 Kioshi did not like the new treadmill at the new house.
 My father, however, really liked my first book.
 Meg had a rooster named Tut who turned out to be a girl.
 See, there's that Gerbil...
Tucker, dad's dog, discovered that the only way to make the treadmill not move was to sleep on it. 24/7. Worked, too!
 I had a three dog afternoon with Dazee, Boo and Abby.
We took a cruise - and then took pictures of the pictures they took of us to save cash. Worked, too. Well. Except for the distortion and warping...
Boo always knew the way home. And always was ready to take it at the first opportunity!

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite!

For The Birds (Literally)

And for me, too!

Yesterday I was surfing the inter-webs for some kind of upcycled DIY birdbath that would cost me less than an arm and a leg, or even just less than one arm OR one leg. I found a few that I thought were sort of cute and pinned them to my Pinterest - this for instance, from HGTV - a sink recycled into a birdbath:

It really did not work for Gene at all. There was even nose-wrinkling and a clearly and simply stated "...tacky." in response. I saw some baths made of logs with empty pots atop them, some made just of a pot set on a rock or slab on the ground. I found these - teacups - from Something Wonderful! Loved-loved-loved this, but Gene didn't, and so the idea was discarded:

But then I found this at Home Stories A to Z...:

Now this I love with one exception. It's entirely too... blue? Too ... matching? Too something. It doesn't look like something you'd find on a farm. Not that I am a farm, but I still have a farm brain. I wanted something more earthy, maybe mis-matched, and as cheap as possible - preferably made predominantly with stuff I already have on hand. And as the Beth at Home Stories A to Z says right in her entry about this bit of adorableness "Be creative and add your own flair, pot sizes, rebar size, birdbath top, paint color, etc." In the end I came up with this, and I'll even tell you how!

First, remember that I am hugely cheap and will find a way around spending money any way I can. I foraged in my basement in the tag sale pile until I found a red-rimmed white enamel basin that was destined for a new home. Then I dug up some terra cotta clay pots from the wealth of them that I have acquired over the years. They aren't all the same size, some are stained and chipped, and I didn't even measure them - which became a small issue later, but I am getting ahead of myself. 

We did not have any re-bar, which the original plan called for, and I needed some annuals to fill the pots, so I headed for the store. I found 1/2 inch EMT, a type of electrical conduit, for $1.20 a 5-foot length. Re-bar was $5.20 for 10 feet, and I'd have had to cut it. By using the EMT I saved money and time. It may not last as long as re-bar, but based on my experience with EMT in the past, I suspect it will come pretty close.

I pounded the EMT two feet into the ground in the not-yet-finished (so please don't mind the dirt piles and uneven mulch and infant perennial plugs!) pond garden. At the base I set the largest pot, and then began to slide others down, tipping them as I went. Two wider pots were not cooperating with me - the width of the pot was too great to allow it to rest against the EMT center post AND on the edge of the pot below, which it must in order to be stable. It kept tipping, slipping, and in general annoying me. To compensate, and to avoid a trip back to the store, I used pliers to gently chisel away at the 1/2 inch center hole of the pot until it was more of an oblong shape. This allowed the wider pot to rest against it's neighbor below and the center post, giving it needed stability. I continued placing pots up the post, dry-fitting as I went along.

"Measure twice, cut once" as the saying goes. Or, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Either way, I am a big fan of dry fitting projects. Once I was certain that all of the pots would stay in their angulated positions, I filled them with potting soil. I glued the second-largest pot to the underside of my enamel basin and set it aside. It will take 24 hours to cure fully, so after taking the "finished" picture I removed it from the post - carefully - and set it enamel-pot-side-down to cure.

Oh! I was really frustrated that my last pot would not sit squarely on it's tipped downstairs neighbor. There's really nothing for it to rest on but a bit of pot edge. I solved this by putting a hose clamp onto the EMT at the height of the pot rim so that the screw part of the clamp is opposite the edge of the pot, as above. This way the last pot rests on the pot below and on the hose clamp, which allows it to be more stable and level.

TAH-DAH! Not to bad for an hour and some pondering and even a tiny bit of sweat (it's getting warm out there in the sun!). The pots are planted with very inexpensive sweet alyssum in purple and white, and dusty miller. I love the sage-y silvery haze of dusty miller, and it is very likely to self-seed at the end of the season, so really it's a two-fer.

When I got home from the store the Asphlundh guys were almost in my door yard. These are the things that drive Yoshi completely mad, or used to. Today I convinced him to be more or less silent while they did their job and trimmed our trees away from the wires. He was less than amused by my demands for silence.

When I took baby chicks to visit my neighbor the other day, she asked what was up in my backyard...if you don't know, it does look a little unique. I told her, and I will tell you, too. 
Above, believe it or not, is a tiny little vineyard. Between each pair of posts is a grape vine. Some make wine, some make raisins, some are just for eating and juice and jelly.
And below, we have an orchard. Can you see it? Hint: I was standing right in the middle of it.

It's a little harder to see. But look closely - that's apple, quince, peach, plum, cherry and apricot trees; 15 in all. Mostly apples, though!

Last fall Girl and I planted a bunch of daffodil and narcissus bulbs in the front yard. We naturalized them, just scattering them around. I hope that someday they will fill the whole yard. I think the squirrel dug up about half of them, so of 75 original bulbs we have many fewer flowers. But they will grow and in time there will be hundreds! For Mr. W. this means no mowing until the flowers go by. You think he'd be pleased with this, but he seems rather insistent that he needs to mow soon. Luckily his lawn tractor is down with some sort of illness that prevents starting. (It wasn't me, honest!).

Last but not least, who wants some gratuitous chick pics? Ready?




OK, that's enough of that for now. I love it when they do "normal chicken" things, like the little Polish scratching and preening in those last two images. I am starting to make more guesses about what breed some of the more obscure chicks may be. I think we may have Delawares and possibly some Hamburgs. I can't wait to see them all grow!

Monday, April 29, 2013


I believe in diversity. In difference. In yin and yang. Look at those faces - the friendly, loyal, loving companion on the left and the assertive, ever so slightly feral hunter on the right. They both fill(ed) a need in me. The one who's gone filled my need for effortless, unconditional love. The one left behind fills me need for a challenge. I like to be kept on my toes, but I also love balance. Balance is stability.
Some differences are obvious. On the left we have future eggs. And on the right? Future chicken dinner. Pretty apparent who's who if you ask me. They both hatched on the same day, but it's pretty obvious which role each will play around here in the future. Not every difference is as obvious. We moved the meat birds into their official chicken house this weekend. They'd been living in my recycled pond form that Gene got at the dump. I kind of wanted to put my pond in, and they kind of outgrew it faster than I had anticipated.

As a nurse my favorite roles were at births and at deaths. It sounds to some ears very strange to hear me say that attending a death was a favorite role. The truth is we all get born, we all live for a while, and then we all die. None of us should make such a big transition alone, and it is an honor for me to be present at either. 

I am still stinging from Boo's death, and will be for a while. I reflect a lot when my denial slips. Today my thoughts run a bit like this: As painful as losing him may be for me, having him in my life was a gift without price. I knew it the minute I first saw his face in the Delta cargo area at Bradley. One look and it was all over. I saw him, he saw me, and that was that. He was Boo, and I was Momma. Watching him grow, loving him, him loving us, the obstacles we crossed, trips to the emergency vet for ingested foreign objects ranging from rocks and hairballs to large quantities of butcher paper, playing in the snow (because trust me when I say no one played in the snow like Boo!); every second of it was a matchless gift.

For a while now I had worked to separate myself emotionally from him, just a little. I was still here, still momma, still petting that head and loving those ears, but on the inside a little wall was building up to shield the depth of me from the depth of him. I knew what was coming and I knew what my role would be in his end. I needed to get some space emotionally, I needed to get ready to do my job. I did the same thing with my mother. I've done the same thing with anyone I knew was dying, human or animal, makes no difference. Maybe I don't love enough or maybe I love too hard, either way I know what I need to do to get through. A little comfortable distance, a little self-protection against what comes next. After, when it's all over, you can come out of the shell you made for yourself, and you can bleed and cry and hurt like nobody's business. But Boo needed his Momma, and Momma doesn't get scared, or cry, or bleed.

So I held his paws and rubbed his head and cooed lovingly and comforted him until the last moment of his life. I did it competently and comfortingly. I used every ounce of strength inside of me to support him and ensure that he was not afraid; he left the world unsuspecting, unarmed, and welcoming of the peace he was about to receive. "I am safe, because Momma is here." I breathed it, he knew it, and we made the transition together. He moved on and I stayed here - but a part of me went, too. I know, because there's a piece of him where that bit of me used to be.

And then, when he was gone, I collapsed on his head and left a puddle that felt more like a torrent when it poured out of me. I lifted my head, kissed the top of his, and left him behind. 

Gone forever, but never, ever gone. There's a difference.

One last difference - I love dirt, and always have. Stick me outside in a pile of dirt, add some water, and I am lost and joyful for hours. At 4 years old, mud puddles are small, untidy affairs. They disappear almost as soon as you've made them, washed away by the hose or the rain or the tide. 

But at 46? Mud puddles get BIG! They are solid, stable things with strong sides and a base filled with sand and rock. If you'll excuse me, I need to go play in my mud. Hear it calling? I can!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On a Happy (Peeping) Note


Straight from Meyer Hatchery, straight run, 25 baby meat and 26 baby eggs (well technically half eggs and half meat in the end really, since I don't keep all of the boys in the egg group).
It always amazes me. I never get tired of being in awe of this thing:
You can take a newly hatched, just-dried baby chicken and pop it into a box along with 24 or so of its relatives, close the lid, and send it halfway across the country. It will arrive, 36 hours later more or less, peeping and alert and active. Dip it's beak into the waterer for safety, so it knows where to find fluids, and after a quick run around it's new environs, it settles down for a brief nap before jumping up to chase its siblings and assorted relatives, or catch errant spiders and flies, or peck at chick starter. 
I won't even wax poetic about the whole 'egg to chicken' miracle. I'll save that for another time. For now I am maternally contented, compulsively checking brooder temperature and chick behavior, and explaining to Yoshi that 1.) I am not hiding the baby chickens from him in my pockets and 2.) I am not taking him outside to consume all the baby chickens. 

The other thing I find amazing is the significant differences between baby meat and baby eggs in terms of behavior. The meat birds are pushing to be twice the size of the layers already, with a couple of exceptions in the layer batch - which leads me to believe I have a couple of Cochins, with big fluffy feet and larger bodies. The layers are very interested in their entire surroundings - they peck at the sides of the brooder, chase bugs, and "play" with shavings. They play games of "tag" with their siblings by finding something amazing and running off with it, peeping at the others to give chase. The meat are interested in two things: food, and water. Three things: MORE food. They are louder, more "assertive", and were quick to get into their single deceased compadre's little fluffy corpse. (True fact: things die - sometimes baby things. It's part of livestock, part of farming, part of being an omnivore). By comparison the layer chicks had not pecked the body of their dead brother. They just sort of huddled over him (or her). I suspect this is more the natural behavior of the chicken - clustering around the weak link until forced to acknowledge failure. Survival of the flock versus survival of the fittest. 

Now I get to spend today fussing and being maternal, while taking pictures of the layers once they've had a chance to warm up and settle in and compare them to online chick photos to determine what breed they are. I got an assortment. I love grab bags. SURPRISE ME!! Definitely got 3 White Crested Black Polish...two Golden Laced Polish...maybe some Welsummers...and if I am very lucky some Penedesencas and Favorelles! Only time will tell!

I love baby days!
So, apparently, does my little Silkie rooster, who's obviously gone all soft and maternal on me.