Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Feral Hogs

The first weekend in after the turning of the new year, we all went down to my Aunt and Uncle's place to celebrate the belated holiday. During conversation, my Uncle asked me if we had noticed any signs or had any trouble with feral hogs. Oh noooooooooo, I said, not a one! Not a hint!

The. Next. Night. The very next night we were visited by a "sounder of swine," as I've learned you call them (or team, or passel), and regularly ever since we've started noticing their destruction. The morning after each visit, more and more land is torn up like a rototiller went through it, there's scat and cloven prints everywhere, and they've even broken through a fence and moved the chicken tractor!

Then, one night (really, it was the wee hours of the morning), as I was laying in bed half-awake, I heard a growling-screaming sound outside our bedroom window. I crept to the window and peeked out, and what to my wondering eyes did appear? At least twenty feral hogs of various sizes- and some were huge- running all over the backyard. Dark ones, light ones, spotted ones... I tried to get a picture but even with my special low-light camera lens I couldn't find anything to focus on...

...though you can tell by the big, light blob that some of these hogs are giants! We knew we had to do something (I started worrying that they'd make it down near my bees and either accidentally or intentionally knock the hives over...).

To make a long story short, after a morning of phone calls, I found a guy who was willing to come out and set a no-kill 'corral' trap that can trap 20-25 hogs... for free! His fee will be any hogs he catches (though I think I've convinced him to leave us a small one if possible, yay!).

Yesterday, he came out and set up the trap.

 At the same time as he was building this trap, UPS pulled up and delivered a box from my Uncle containing two trail cams... such perfect timing! So now we have a plan, a trap, and a way to monitor these pests. I've actually found myself wishing they'd come back now!

I can't wait to lay eyes on these things, though we've been told to be patient, as pigs are very intelligent and will shy away from new things in their environment until they get used to them and grow bold. It could be a while.

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere piggy piggy piggy!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Weekending :: Garden Progress

This weekend, with some extra hands on deck, we shaped up the garden space and got all the raised beds built. I can't believe we once again started and finished the designated weekend project by the end of the weekend! High five!

 I'll be working this week to fill up the beds with layers of rotting wood, straw, sand and compost, inspired by a hybrid of the lasagna method and hugelkultur for soil building. Once the layers are complete, we'll figure out something to do with the paths, put the fence back up, and install cattle panels for climbing vines (kinda like this). And then? Then we plant seeds!

I'm so thankful for the willing help, the space, and the opportunity to finally get another garden going. Sitting out from the process last year really made me realize how important gardening is to my psyche and my identity. I've felt at a bit of a loss not having that outlet, and my fingers are practically tingling with the anticipation of participating in that Spring magic once again.

Yay for garden progress!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Not All Rainbows and Butterflies

I woke up this morning feeling a strange sorrow I couldn't put my finger on. I'm not sure if I was having some kind of sad dream that was forgotten as I awoke or what, but as I got breakfasts and packed lunches, my thoughts began to rest on memories of my babies when they were tiny... and that feeling of sorrow evolved into regret.

Now, for some reason, the memories that my mind keeps chewing on are all the memories of frustration, angry words, and actions taken without much thought and directed towards my strong-willed Littles. I could easily take a few moments for each memory that pops up and justify, justify, justify... but instead I just find myself wondering if my kiddos will remember what I remember.

As a parent, I try so hard to maintain a balance of freedom and rules, of lightness and seriousness, of mistakes and correction. However I can't escape those days when I go to bed feeling like the entire day was spent fighting, struggling, and yelling. On those days my cruel memory makes it easy for me to look back into my early parenthood and taint all those memories with the same feeling.

I know I've got good intentions and everyone's best interests at heart, but am I missing a better way of going about it all? Is it possible that I'm creating darkness in their childhood that they'll look back on with regret, too?

So this morning I dove into the archives to remind myself of the happiness that has been with us, balancing the hard stuff and outweighing the struggles that everyone- everyone- feels at times.

My babies were happy, and they are happy. Not because I've made them happy, but because I've given them the tools to make themselves happy. The balance I work to achieve in our lives would not exist without a counterpoint of conflict. It can't be all rainbows and butterflies all the time. That's how psychos are made.

Today, I just needed to make that point to myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Music Lessons

Our kiddos began music lessons this month. Henry has been begging for drum lessons for almost three years now, and recently Audrey decided she wanted to try playing the piano. We got them their own instruments last year at Christmas (er, I mean Santa brought them... ahem...), and we were finally convinced that they were serious enough to stay committed this year, so here we are.

Audrey has picked up the piano at an astonishing rate. She blew through the first volume of 'Piano for the Young Beginner' in her first two lessons. She already understands and can read the notes, and her teacher had her playing with both hands by her third lesson. It's been just wonderful to watch her figure it all out. (She was dreading her first lesson for some reason, but didn't tell us, and when we got in the car afterward she said with a dramatic exhale, "OK, that was way better than I thought it would be.")

It appears as though Henry is loving his teacher and lessons just as much, though I have no first-hand experience because he's always been in a sound-proof room which has viewing windows too high for this short Mama to peek into! My only glimpses of him playing have been through the pictures I sneak by putting my phone up to the window. He practically dances with excitement waiting for his lesson to begin, though, and when he finishes he's all smiles, so that seems like a pretty good endorsement.

Whenever our kiddos try something new, we always make them commit to at least a year. So far they haven't found anything they want to do beyond their one-year deadline, but I'm kinda hoping this might be something they stick with.

After all, when I find stuff like this lying around...

 ...it makes a Mama kinda hopeful that there may be a chance that at least one of them might be finding a groove!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Weekending :: Coop Movin'

 My jungle chickens are tucked safely up into the woods now, with a yard of their very own (not a former-garden-hybrid-chicken-run), lots of deep leaves to scratch and pick through, and lots of brush to hide in. We actually started and finished this project all in one day (thanks to our friend Matt's help for sure!), and before sundown beckoned our girls to roost they were settling in to their new digs.

I love the vibe of their coop up in the woods, I love the new space for them, and I love the extra room in the garden for sure!

...I'm not loving how sore I'm feeling at the end of the weekend, though... when did that start becoming a thing? Ugh.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mid-Winter Hive Check

 During our most recent warm spell, I went out and took a quick peek in all my hives. My three main hives look like they're doing pretty well- plenty of stored food and a good population, with no obvious pest problems that this novice could spot. I've been feeding my two weaker hives since late fall, but my strongest hive I've only given a few pollen patties to (no syrup), and they might end up needing some sugar water in the next few weeks. Everyone looked stable at this point though, so I dusted everyone with powdered sugar left them to their business.

The only bad news: my little bee ball hanging out in the nuc box didn't make it though those crazy-cold nights in the teens and lower. Sad day.

Overall, though, my mid-winter hive check went well and my main little ladies look like they're doing a-ok! I've been told I just need to keep a watchful eye on their food stores in the next month or two and they'll stay in good shape for when those spring flowers start blooming... so we'll see!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The New-New Garden Plan

All thoughts and plans for free time have been almost completely garden-focused lately, and it's not just me! This new garden plan has been a real team effort, and with the fresh perspective of the hubs guiding it's design, this new space is really taking shape and it's so exciting!

Our 'new' garden is going back in the same place where it was before, but it'll be a little bit bigger and there'll be one big change to the space: we're going to move the chicken coop.

At least, we're gong to try to move it. Because I've pretty much committed to a 'no-till' gardening method and since we're sticking with raised beds (probably 15-18" high), we just don't need the chickens in the garden anymore. Plus now that we have so much more space for alternative coop locations, and we've figured out the chickens prefer the woods to the pasture, we're just going to drag the coop to the west and nestle it into a little patch of woods where they can have their own yard (you know, the way we dragged the old well house back into the woods last year). With them out of the way they'll free up a great slice of our fenced-in garden space and leave behind some great fertilized soil!

 Once the chicken coop is relocated and the ground is leveled, we'll build the raised beds, put the fence back together, and start prepping soil for spring sprout babies!

We (the kids and I) sat down this past weekend when everything was foggy and gray and sketched out the plants we'll have when everything is made ready...

...and as we finished and admired our work, Audrey summed up what we're all feeling right now- she said, "I wish it was spring and we could go dig in the dirt with our tools and seeds right now!" 

Garden planning is my most favorite mid-winter activity; when those rose-colored glasses are on thoughts of the pests and the weeds and the heat are a million miles away and all we remember is the taste of that first ripe tomato... I mean, what better way is there to spend a dreary afternoon?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Before and After :: Ottoman

This week I finally gave myself permission to get on with the recovering of our poor peeling ottoman. We bought it off of Craig's List the first year in our house here, and from the start it's had problems.

There was light pink sparkly nail polish on one of the corners that wasn't noticed when purchased, and some of the veneer had chipped off of one of the pull-out cup rests. Then shortly after we'd gotten it settled, the cat jumped off the top and his claws scratched the bonded leather. Unable to resist the raw edge, Bubba came along and over time slowly peeled a hand-sized patch of the leather off the cushion.

Fast-forward two more years and there are now multiple places where the leather has peeled (or been peeled) off, and two more of the little pull-out cup rests are missing veneer.

It was hurtin' for a makeover. I mean, you can only strategically pile magazines so may ways to cover up all those spots before it just starts looking ridiculous.


 Thankfully it was not difficult to disassemble, and all the parts and pieces seemed very amicable to a total novice recovererer. I found some nice upholstery fabric on sale that would compliment the tuft buttons (technical term I'm sure), and with some basic and improvised tools I gave it a go... and made a total mess of it.

Side note: I have almost zero reupholstering experience.

 I mean holy cow, those buttons are no joke. My thumbs are going to be reminding me of this process for a few days I'm sure. But guess what? It's a whole lot easier to get started the right way, which does not mean starting with those damned buttons... and this was demonstrated to me by a wise and generous friend who came right over after hearing me complain about my erroneous ways. She got right to work undoing my mistakes and making it all right, and it's true- it went so much easier when it was all corrected.

 After everything was redone properly, the rest followed like a piece of cake...


  Thanks for the help, Keri!

(I tried to get a shot of the top but there was something blocking every shot... I'll try again later...)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


My parents got the kiddos their first telescope for Christmas, and ever since we've been asked at least 2-3 times a day canwegetthetelescopeoutnowpleeeeease?!

Unfortunately there's always been a reason why the answer has had to be no so far: it's been too cloudy, it's been way (way way way) too cold, the kids have been sick, I've been under the weather... but tonight we got to say yes. Yes, it's clear. Yes, it's warm enough. Yes, we'll get the telescope out tonight.

They were so excited... you could say they were over the moon (booooo, I know)...

(Mama also tried out her new camera in super low light... so do forgive the blurry photos, some of us couldn't hold still for the pictures! But they turned out well for it actually being almost pitch-black!)

 It was too windy to keep the telescope aimed properly and still very for long, but overall everyone was pretty excited about the experience, and as long as my kiddos stay excited about science that's all that matters to me!

Friday, January 6, 2017

First Snow

 It didn't snow at all last year, nor sleet nor even get icy... but when it came to the chances of winter weather today, the weather people couldn't make up their minds- it was either going to be clear and sunny with no chance of precipitation or there was going to be a 30% chance of snow for the first time in two years... buuuuut no accumulation. Well well well, guess what we got? Snow all day long, fine and soft, and by the time school let out it was sticking here and there. My kiddos were over the moon about it, shouting "I knew it! I knew there'd be snow!" during the short drive home, ooooo-ing and aaaaaah-ing at all the snowy windshields, gutters, and north-facing rooftops.

Of course we had to get out in it, even if it was just for an excuse to cozy up to the fire and have hot chocolate afterwards, but there was definitely magic in the air... after all, it's been a long time since we've gotten to experience a First Snow!