Friday, July 29, 2016

Running Out of Yellow

When my mom and I went to the Mother Earth News Fair at the beginning of the year, one of the most interesting workshops we attended by far was the session on poultry health. The presenters were very knowledgeable and I gained so much from their presentation, but the Q&A session was even more enlightening.

For example, I learned that keeping apple cider vinegar in your chicken's water all the time (which is sooooo trendy right now) is not necessarily a good thing; the ACV actually thins their blood, which causes their body temperature to be slightly lower. Good for summer, not so good in the winter. Right?

They couldn't say enough about providing your flock with ferments such as sauerkraut, too, because just like people chickens need that good bacteria and those bioavailable nutrients that just don't come from store-bought feed!

And I also learned that laying hens can actually run out of yellow. Whaaaaaat?

So when a chicken's body is forming the components of an egg, the color of the yolk is determined by the amount of beta-carotene and xanthophyll available at the time the yolk is forming. If a chicken's diet is rich in meat and plant products (aka bugs and leafy greens), the yolks will be dark orange. If, however, a chicken's diet consists mainly of grains, you get the pale yellow typical of many varieties of factory-farmed eggs.

But here's the thing: the chicken's body will still seek out the needed nutrients when the yolk is forming, and if the beta-carotene and xanthophyll aren't available from diet the chicken's body will pull them from the chicken's tissues! So the nutritionally-deficient chicken will begin to blanch as she forms her eggs, because the yolks will pull their color from the chickens' feet, beak, and comb/waddle.

To prevent this depletion, the chicken keeper simply needs to provide the chicken with access to what they would naturally seek out if given the opportunity: bugs and greens.

However as we all know, not every backyard flock can be afforded the opportunity to free-range it up and gather their own grub (and unfortunately mine fall in to that category at the moment). In that case one must provide what they need to form those coveted orange yolks.

Last year we had a bumper crop of carrots. We had so many I ended up lacto-fermenting at least half of them. Sadly no one in my family ended up liking the sour dilly punch of fermented carrots, so for a little over a year I've had 4 quarts of fermented carrots sitting in my fridge. Are you seeing where I'm going with this?

Guess where my chickens' yellow has been coming from?

Yup. Once a month I have been shredding about a pint of lacto-fermented red, orange, and yellow carrots and setting them out with their usual gathered greens (mostly lamb's quarters, of which we have a ton growing everywhere right now). They gobble them up, and I check two boxes on my chicken keeper to-do list: ferments and yellow.

Maybe by the time I run out of carrots, my dream-fence will be up and the girls can take the reins... until then, though, I'm just glad these carrots have found a use... and a good one at that!

Running out of yellow... who knew?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


"Happiness does not come from doing easy work
but from the afterglow of satisfaction
that comes after the achievement of a difficult task
that demanded our best."
-Theodore Rubin

Having one of those life moments when you can see the past, the present, and the possibility of the future all in one hazy, sunlit whoosh. So much of what we've been hoping for and working towards is coming to fruition, and it's almost unreal to be standing with my bare feet on the pavers we've laid with our own hands, looking into the woods that we've cleared and seeing the fresh green sprouts of grass that we've seeded, while thinking about the possibilities that are still hanging thick in the trees and lying quietly in the soil. 

I think I'll just hang out riiiiiiiight here and ponder it all a little more and watch the sun set behind the woods... until the mosquitoes come after me... 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Play

We're nearing that time of the summer when school is looming and I start noticing more and  more the things that will change with that inevitable sendoff.

For some reason, this particular summer my kiddos have been playing together so well. Like, better than usual. Every morning they come together for a bit and drum up something to build, or a mystery that needs to be solved, or they come down for breakfast dressed in some elaborate getup with a background story already fleshed out.

I am not saying they haven't been clashing this summer- heaven knows that wouldn't be true- but the imaginative play has been far superior to previous summers this go-around, and I can't help but take note.

Sometimes my camera is handy and I can capture a piece of the moment- like when they were building thrones with pillows and an old box and donning their royal attitudes and gear, or when they convinced Daddy to get out the Legos they gave him for Father's Day... or when they were a perfectly coordinated caterpillar and crawled all the way from my office to the dining room in sync- and sometimes I just have to stand back sans-technology and absorb.

I'm just glad I've been allowed a glimpse into their sibling world... and I'm glad it seems to be a (mostly) happy place!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Projects (NOT the House Kind)

As I've been known to do, I'm looking ahead to Christmas again... in July... don't hate me. This holiday season promises to be more hectic than ever and I'd loose a little joy in it all if I didn't make it through at least some of my homemade/handmades list. I've also had this creative energy in me that hasn't been satisfied by the home renovation work that's been filling all our "spare" time, so as an opportunity arises here and there I've been goin' for the holiday projects.

Today I made Audrey's Christmas Eve nightgown. Henry's pj pants will be next. There's also a few lovely ornaments I've been wanting to make, but I never get around to it. Maybe this year will be the year!

So what if it feels like 103 outside? I've got snowflakes in my hands and a stash of wool felt at my fingertips. Bring it on, Summer!

Sunday, July 17, 2016


This weekend has been quite a weekend- while the kids were at their grandparents' house, Mama and Daddy worked and worked on the backyard... then went out on the town and slept in past 9am! Now the Littles are back home, laundry is everywhere, and we're settling back in for a slow afternoon and some early bedtimes.

Good stuff.

Happy weekending!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Before and After :: New Paint



The first interior space our attention has focused on since the weather sent us in to the air conditioning has been the kitchen. Since moving in we've been working toward making our kitchen light and modern, and today we put one of the major finishing touches on the room: fresh, light new paint.

It's amazing how much brighter and more open the kitchen feels now that it's not boxed in by that dark greyish-blue! Now all we have to do is put all the books and stuff back and this room is nearing that beautiful thing that is "FINISHED"!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lunch on the Porch

This weekend, while Mama and Daddy finished laying the pavers off the back patio (finished!), the Kiddos cleaned out their playhouse.

On Sunday morning, while Daddy was getting the brick-cutting setup up and running, I got out a ladder and tied up the new honeysuckle growth that was hanging down over their windows. It had been bugging me for weeks. My brief attention to their playhouse was enough to kindle theirs, and once the windows could open without being restricted by vines, they descended on their neglected space.

Audrey pulled out all the launder-able things and we did two loads of rugs, towels, and play bedding. They both helped each other sort though their dishes, Audrey being the "faucet" with her squirter thing and Henry being the washer. Then they swept their house out (with a little help), and moved all their stuff back in.

Today they begged to have their lunch out in their clean playhouse, so I put together some finger-type foods and brought it out to them. They were so pleased with how clean their house was, though, they decided to eat out on their front porch rather than risk making a new mess (which made me chuckle because honestly!).

Now I'm left wondering exactly how long they'll wait before they start hauling in fresh dirt and pebbles- after all it is a playhouse, there will be new messes (which is ok!), and when the time comes we can clean it out again!

Monday, July 11, 2016


Pavers are down, pavers are down! We are finished laying pavers, y'all!

Today is the three-year anniversary of our move-in/first night spent in our house here. We were reminiscing about the move over dinner last night, and everyone can agree- we are in a way better place today than we have been for any other houseiversary. What a difference three years makes!

I took a little walk down memory lane (this one too) and it felt so much more sweet than bitter this time around. The past three years here have been a whirlwind of precious moments mixed with incredible struggle and stress, but that light we were chasing at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly now, and we're finally lifting our faces to it and soaking it in!

And it's not just the big stuff lifted off our shoulders that's making us feel so good about Our Place- it's possible that by the end of this month we'll have almost everything crossed of our Phase One To-Do list.


That means all the "We need to..." stuff will be D-O-N-E done and we'll be on to the "I want to..." stuff, and we all agree that list is way more fun.

So today I'll be overseeing some work on a few unfinished projects inside and lining up a few more for this weekend... but for now I think I'll take my coffee and head out to my patio for a bit before everyone is up and at 'em.

Happy housiversary to us!

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Hooray for leftovers! We will absolutely be seeking out these giant 4-foot-long sparklers again next year.

Hope everyone's weekend had a little sparkle! Happy weekending!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Shifting Inward

We have begun our seasonal shift into air conditioned spaces as consecutive heat indices rise above 100 for the foreseeable future. From within our cool, shadowy places we watch as the grasses start to brown, the birds all start to pant, and the heat waves make everything in the distance dance in shimmery waves.

We dash around outside in the morning and early evening hours, trying to accomplish chores and projects before the sun fully rises or sets. Everyone perpetually smells faintly of coconut-scented sunblock. Egg production drops off more severely than when the daylight hours dwindle, and the mister stays on out in the coop pretty much all day. I pity my plants and my creatures, but there is nothing to be done except monitor water supplies and count down the days until Fall.

I can't help my wandering eye when we all end up inside day after day avoiding heat stroke- the gears start turning and we all start wondering: What if we moved that table? Changed out those curtains? Painted that room a lighter color?

Looks like a revampin' is in our future! If we're all stuck inside for the the majority of a season we might as well make the most of it, don't you think?

And so we shall!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Work Work Work

For some reason we have our timing off this year, and we've been finding ourselves drawn outside by various projects right as the summer is gathering real presence. We've tried to cope by following the movement of the shade, but it's still so hot! However it'll be superhot until mid-September, so it doesn't make sense to put off the work... so out we go!

We're currently working on our back patio area... it used to be a disjointed, disproportionate-to-the-house and hard-to-utilize space back there, but when we're finished it'll be just the opposite!

For now, though: pavers, pavers, pavers! (We're using these, which we caught on a crazy-good sale, if you're wondering)

And don't let the photos fool you- Daddy paused to take some photos, but he was working just as hard as the rest of us leveling the sand, hauling and cutting the bricks, and laying is fair share, too. It's been quite the family affair.

Like I'm sayin', it's going to be amazing when we're done, and that's what's keeping us going! Can't wait to do a 'Before and After' post on this one!

Sunday, July 3, 2016


From Chicken Joe and the Red Ladies: may your weekend find you with dappled shade, a nice breeze, and a good dust bath to share with your friends (or whatever you might be in to).

Happy weekending!