Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Third and Fifth

My Littles are back at school today, y'all. More than ever before, this summer seems like it flew by. Despite our best efforts, I felt a little under-prepared this morning, to tell the truth. Standing in the dark kitchen packing lunches and listening to the thunder (because of course it rained for the first day of school), it felt a little surreal that I was packing the lunches that would start Henry's third grade year and Audrey's fifth grade year. (Even typing that felt weird.)

Henry woke up and came downstairs dressed and ready to embrace the day. Audrey, on the other hand, came down in her pajamas already filled with anxiety and very reluctant to get to school. Partly due to the unknown that is any first day of school, and partly because she had some trouble with some of the kids in her class last year, she kept that anxiety with her all the way through the door into her classroom, and although I did my best to give her a good solid pep talk, I think the only thing that will bring her around to her usual enthusiasm for school will be the experience of the first few days and the difference a summer break can make.

I know this year will be better... but that isn't stopping me from whispering a mantra for her, over and over, and holding it in my heart until she gets back home- keep an open mind, try your best, and find the kindness in the group, brave strong girl.

This school thing never gets any easier, y'all. But we're getting it done.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Three Days...

It never fails, y'all- three days until the First Day of School, and everyone finds their summer rhythm. Audrey starts sleeping in past 9am, Henry gets hooked on a chapter book series, everyone finally shifts to getting hungry at noon... and on Wednesday we all get back on School Time.


I guess we'd better just enjoy it while it lasts.

All three days of it.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Teenage Peeps (Updated)

Since the beginning of the summer, we've had six little puffballs living in the garage in a "brooder" borrowed from Aunt Karen and Uncle Larry. Happy and safe, they grew and grew... and got smellier, and smellier... and smellier.

Then, over the weekend, we realized all the room in the brooder had somehow been filled with teenager chickens, and it was time for them to move out.

Now, this is the first time I've had to blend younger chicks with an established flock, and I've been reading everything I can lay my eyeballs on to make sure I don't mess things up! Right now I'm 99% sure they are not big enough to go out with the big girls in the proper chicken coop, so what to do with these big-little chicks?

Revive the chicken tractor, of course!

I added a perch at the back, a solid wood panel in the middle, and a small tile roof for shade and rain protection, then wrapped the whole thing in hardware cloth to protect them against snakes. They have now spent two nights out there and so far all is well! The major flaw right now is that something motivated enough could dig under it, but at night I push them up closer to the house with the hopes that Suka's scent might discourage things from lingering.

Phase two will be pushing the chicken tractor into the big girl chicken run so they can all start getting used to each other. But that probably won't be for another week or two I think.

For now, the Chicken Friends approve of the new Peep's new digs, and I have heard both report that the little feather girls are clearly happier out there, as they get "peep zoomies" every time they're visited by their people.

I sure am happier with them out there, too- at least now our garage doesn't smell like teenage peeps!

Post edit:
Overnight it appears a coyote found and exploited the biggest weakness of the tractor: there is nothing to stop a digging predator. There were no survivors. 

Designs are now underway for a rebuilt chicken yard with a peep pen within the fortress walls. We will rebuild... and we will try again.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Soccer Guy

Hen's a soccer guy now, did you know? We have moved beyond the community center "fundamentals" sessions and he is now a member of a real team... and apparently at this level, they'll be playing real games that follow all the real soccer rules, they'll keep score, and the best part- according to Henry- is that in a few more weeks, they'll all have real uniforms.

That should be fun... I already have to fight him to keep him from wearing his shin guards and cleats out to, say, the grocery store... but he is so excited about this, y'all.

I was a little worried after the first meet-and-greet/practice; he is the only kid out of the 11 of them on the team that has never been on a sports team. After the second practice, though, I am feeling great about it all- he is very average compared to the majority of them. Truthfully, there are only two kids on the team that look like they know what they're doing, ha! And once Hen realized that for himself, he relaxed and dove right in!

And he's not the only one loving this new thing we're now doing twice a week...

Big sister has voluntarily come to 2/3 practices- in the heat- to sit on the sidelines, refill water bottles, and cheer for her Bubba. I think we're off to a great start with our Soccer Guy.

First game should be at the end of August!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Blackberry Outfits

Down around our pond we have a huge tangle of blackberries. They are intertwined with wild grapes and poison ivy, and every year we brave the bugs and weeds and pick as many as we can reach. There have been years when we freeze bags and bags of berries, and then we have a year like this one... where we miss the season completely.

We got caught up in waiting for a path to be mowed around the thicket and we just plain waited too long to make it down there. We didn't know it was too late, though, when we decided on a morning to go check this past week.

Now, there is a lot of poison ivy in and around the blackberries, and Mama has had a rough encounter with it before (that kinda traumatized everyone), so before we headed out the door the kids decided to design their own poison ivy-proof outfits. It took them about 15 minutes before they were ready to go check things out...

...but once every inch of skin was covered (from the neck down), we got the green light to go down to the blackberry patch.

Sadly, after all that trouble, we got down there and figured out they were pretty much done! We found about a handful of berries still on the vines, but most of them were dehydrated or just plain gone. What I thought was awesome, though, was the upbeat attitude of my bundled-up Littles, who came away with their little handful of berries feeling accomplished and proud that they were able to pick them all with no poison ivy, thanks to their creative getups.

At least we'll know just what to wear when blackberry season comes back next year!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Big Kid Issues

I don't know about y'all, but for us, chores and allowances and kid-determined spending comes up in conversation pretty frequently between Mama and Daddy over here.

For quite a while now our kiddos have been helping with the chores around the house, but only recently have they been given real responsibilities that they are expected to handle without parental intervention. About the same time that came about, they started getting paid for a handful of them, too. I was torn about paying them for things I felt they should just do because they are members of the family and should contribute to improving or maintaining their situation. However, there's a worthy argument to be made that you shouldn't fight the natural partnership of work and pay when this comes up. So allowances became a weekly thing, too.

To be honest, being able to remind a reluctant worker that no chores = no money has helped get a few things done and cut a few arguments short, but there was also a glaring gap in our process: how should they be managing that money once they earn it?

For a couple years now, we've just been having them use good old-fashioned piggy banks, but those piggy banks have kinda outlived their practicality and usefulness.

First, we realized they needed wallets.

Then, we realized they needed a way to track their spending, what they were saving for, and what they ultimately wanted to spend the money on.

Finally, we came up with a system- whiteboards.


So now they both have one of these puppies on the back side of their bedroom doors, and I was shocked to see, for example, what Audrey put in the 'What I Have' column to start with (it was over $100 you guys), and what Henry wanted to start saving for (a pool), but we've had a lot of good conversations about budgeting and saving, and I think we're finally finding a rhythm that will help us balance those big kid issues- chores, allowance, and spending.

It's working for now, anyway!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Big Fat Charlie Gets a Bath

Pooooooor, poor Charlie. Not only is he the biggest of the two Christmas guinea pigs (by far), but he also has the longest hair (a total accident when I picked him out), and he is the smelliest and dirtiest of the pair to boot. He lounges all day long in whatever he happens to be standing in, his fur trails through whatever he passes over... you get the idea. Short-haired, trim little Wilbur has no trouble keeping himself clean. Charlie on the other hand... let's just say Henry was getting grossed out about holding him, and we finally decided enough was enough.

It was time for Big Fat Charlie to have a bath.

And so a bath he did have.

Henry very gently and carefully washed all his curly fur, and we gave him a little trim to make it harder for him to get dirty again. The conclusion of his spa experience was a nice little garden salad, shared with his roommate and still cold from the fridge.

So now Big Fat Charlie is clean and fluffy (at least for the time being), and as a result is enjoying much more attention from his favorite human. I think Wilbur appreciates the effort, too.

Honestly, I think we all do.

Monday, July 8, 2019


We have been keeping bees since 2016 and have gone through three honey flows now, and all this time- for one reason or another (mostly because I ignored my responsibilities with regards to varroa)- we have sat them all out. There was of course the honey I got from a cutout and our serendipitous little harvest last year, but we have never done a real extraction with our own honey frames... until now.

This feels really big for me, you guys. I've never been so happy about being a hot, sweaty, sticky mess!

Five quarts of mild, floral, and maybe a little melon-y-golden success! A family effort with enough to share... I cannot tell you how good it feels to be a part of the harvest season this year!