Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rest In Peace, Rowan.

Back when my hubby and I first met, he had no pets.  I couldn't believe it.  After much discussion (and a coworker who had free kittens), he got two.  One of them picked me.  His name is Ruaidh (Gaelic for red), and the other one was Rowan, who picked Scott by promptly falling asleep in his arms. 

Ruaidh, pronounced Roy, was always the friendly one, while Rowan was always a little shy of strangers.  Still, she was my constant couch companion while I was pregnant (both times).  If you knew her and she knew you, she was cuddly.

That's her in the front, Ruaidh in the back.

Sure, she had her moments . . .like when she was laying next to you and sucking on her feet.  She'd appear out of nowhere to be your little feline speedbump. 

Folks, tonight she died.  I'm not quite sure what was wrong, but she was gasping for breath and moaning.  Every now and then she'd have a seizure.  We all took turns sitting with her to let her know we loved her.  She passed her final moments on a pillow. 

Rowan, I'll miss you.  Scott will miss you.  The kids will miss you.  You were an incredible kitty.  May your spirit return to grace us.

We love you, Rowan.  Thank you for blessing our lives.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's Such A Pain

Living on a farm brings its own particular pains. When you realize that you shouldn’t have stabbed yourself in the foot with a pitchfork, it makes for a memorable moment. When you realize that forking hay on a hot day while wearing a tanktop, shorts, and flipflops will make every particle of hay in the whole world stick to you in some places you’d rather it didn’t (along with bugs), that’s a memorable moment (as will removing said particles). When you were foolish enough to go to the chicken coop wearing not only toenail polish (with said flipflops) AND a sparkly ankle bracelet . . .well, the bloody wound was pretty memorable too.

Of course, we’re not even going to count the multiple scrapes and bruises that just seem to accumulate. Sure, you lost your balance and grazed your knee on the rickety steps into the coop. Of course, you MEANT to whack your leg with that fencepost. Then there was the “freak” shaving accident when you decided that now might be a good time to shave your legs, lest your husband think he married a cactus. Oh yeah, and don’t wear your Wellies without socks. Your ankles will get sores, but those don’t count.

One of the worst possible things you can do is to twist your ankle. Believe me, I came by it honestly. I was playing Monster Mommy with the kids (which involves me stomping around and growling “I’m gonna GET YOU” while they run and scream. It usually ends in a good ticklefest. Well, this time, I managed to forget about the steps in the kitchen. I missed one. My (yep, you guessed it) flipflop skidded out from under me, and I took quite a tumble.

To my kids’ credit, they wanted to help me up. I figured that I was rather beyond that. Good thing I managed to only croak “OUCH” instead of the myriad other phrases that popped to mind that would have made a sailor blush. I’m glad I knew where my Ace bandage was. Within minutes, I became a hobbling vehicle of pain. Sure, I put ice on it and took some ibuprofen. Yep, I wrapped it up, and was very proud of the idea of cutting the toe end off of an unmatched sock to keep my bandage clean. So there I sat. Ice, Compression, Elevation. Every step was sheer agony. I cursed the day I thought that I could keep up with 8 pens of poultry, 2 horses, 2 rabbits, and 2 dogs (plus all the cats). How in the heck am I going to take care of them?

When you have a twisted ankle, you suddenly rediscover every last hole in the yard that you meant to fill in. Your injured foot finds every single bit of uneven ground on your property that you always meant to do something about. Never before in your life have you been more aware of possible pitfalls, looking for available handholds, or figuring out how to stand up from a chair without crying out. I know you seniors out there know all about this.

Then there’s setting up your table for farmers’ market (shameless plug here: I’m set up in Marion Central Park Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings—ask me about eggs!). Dragging your table from the truck. Setting up your merchandise. Walking way farther than you really should. Dragging it all back to your truck. Afterwards, you can come home and hobble back down to the chicken pens to check them, drag the hose to water the horses, and still chase kids . . .albeit slower than before. Chores take twice as long as before—after all, you’re not striding out there, you’re hobbling. You're trying to watch out for those holes, and finding some of them the hard way. And of course, you’re out there in 100 degree heat. Gosh, next time I twist my ankle, I’ll make sure I do it when the daily high is under 70. Sweat and Ace bandages just don’t mix. Standing at the sink and doing dishes? Standing at the stove and making fried chicken? Let’s just not talk about that. It's making my foot hurt just thinking about it.

I’m so glad that my hubby is willing to step in for me. After all, Ibuprofen really doesn’t help if you re-injure yourself. I’ll just have to show him the secret spots in the coop where the goofy chickens sometimes lay eggs, but he’s learning fast. He's awesome at forking hay to the horses. I honestly don't know what I'd do without him.

So at least for now, my foot doesn’t look like a black and blue mutant marshmallow. I’m still moving slowly, but I’m still moving. Watch your step, folks (especially when you play Monster Mommy)!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Speaking Terms

Every day, something good happens to you.  Sometimes you need to look for it, but other times it gets dropped in your lap like a ripe peach for you to enjoy.

Saturday mornings have been pretty depressing.  I get up early, do my chores, then I head out to the farmers' market, and I sit there.  ALONE.  Nobody else sets up, nobody stops by, so I usually pack it in and head back home to finish more chores.  Talk about starting out your day on the wrong note.

Today was different.  Yeah, I was running late as usual, but at least I'd had a shower.  To my incredible surprise, there was SOMEONE ELSE SET UP!!  My jaw just about hit the ground. 

Lo and behold, they had produce.  Of course, I hear that somebody else is setting up at the other park in town, but hey.  They could have been here and having fun with us.  Because that's what we were doing--having fun! 

Then someone walked up to me and asked if I was the Thornhill that wrote for the Hillsboro Free Press (apparently my I <3 chicks shirt tipped him off).  Sure I am.  Joel, Dawn, and I had a really great conversation--as a matter of fact, she has some chickens that I WANT, and I'm going to put some eggs under my broody hen for her tomorrow.  How cool is that? 

Then I get on to write my blog.  As usual, I check on my stats--you know, how many views, from what countries, what posts are popular, and where referrals come from.  I got knocked flat.  A link showed up there that I'd never seen before, so I clicked on it to see just who was referring me.  An amazing site met my eyes.

I'm joining it.  Y'all, please go to www.eggzy.net if you value your food (and your chickens!!) as much as I do.  Their kind selves have included a link to my Chicken Math in a blog about their own Chicken Math, so please do them a favor and check it out.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

As the final cap on the day, my wonderful, handsome, sweet, long-suffering husband Scott just dropped another bombshell on me.  Mind you, the entire time we've been married, the only time he's ever eaten fried chicken with bones in was on our honeymoon (when he was STARVING, or so he says).  So, I've resigned myself to making boneless fried chicken.  Tonight, he told me that he's willing to eat OUR chickens fried with the bones in.  Again, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor.  Hey, that's great!  I can't wait to test the idea!!!!

The moral of tonight's story is that you should never be afraid to talk to people.  You never know what kind of friends you might make.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Don't Get It.

I mean, I really don't get it.  While reading through my beloved Countryside magazine tonight, I came across an article written by a vegan.  She was very happy that they juiced carrots and used olive oil lamps in winter to save the environment.

HUH?  Unless you live next door to an olive grove, where do you think the oil comes from?  Where do you think the electricity comes from that you use to juice?  So I went to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegan to see what this was all about.

After reading the article, I REALLY don't understand why vegans won't eat eggs or drink milk or wear wool sweaters.  I can completely understand the idea of opting out of commercial production (heck, I'm doing that myself) but why don't they just look up their local farmer who DOESN'T run a CAFO?  I'm not exploiting my chickens . . .laying eggs happens whether I eat them or not.  Sheep grow wool.  Does it hurt them to be shorn?  Nope.

So we have all these people who are eating cheese or meat "alternatives."  Gosh, a lot of them are made from SOY.  Roundup Ready?  You betcha.  How much gas or energy does it take to make that soyburger or your soy milk?  How much more pollution is belched into the air to get it to you?

Then there's this to think about:  plants scream when you cut or uproot them.  http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=772

Then there's the bit (in my mind) that really stands out.  If you scroll down the Wikipedia article, you'll see him with two dogs . . .that I'm sure he refers to as "his" dogs (thereby refuting his own statement).
Gary L. Francione, professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, is also a rights-theorist. He argues that "all sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property,"

It really seems to me that the vegan movement is a result of misinformation and laziness.  Sure, if you don't CHOOSE to eat meat, that's your right, and I'm not going to stomp on you about it.  However, if you think you're doing it to save the environment or save those poor CAFO animals, there are other avenues open to you that would be much more beneficial. 

If anyone can explain this to me, PLEASE do so.  I just don't get it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strangers In The Night

OK, so they're not strangers.  Most of you know how much I dislike insects.  Sure, I realize that most of them have a purpose in life--flies and their larvae help break down dead tissue, ticks make guinea food, spiders *supposedly* eat other bugs (I must have slacker spiders!), crickets exist to tell you what temperature it is and get on your nerves in the house . . .you get the idea.  Still, there is actually one bug that I actively LOVE.

Put yourself in my shoes (or flipflops like I'm wearing tonight).  I'm walking back up to the house in the twilight after finishing my evening chore round.  I'm hoping I didn't pick up any ticks along the way, and blessing the wind that seems to be blowing the mosquitoes the other direction and away from my sweaty self.  The sun has set, the world is going dim.  I can hear my horses munching their hay contentedly, I hear chickens softly cluck as they settle in to roost.  I take a deep contented breath.

And I'm surrounded by little winking dots of light.  Down here under the trees, the fireflies seem determined to show me just how many of them there are.  My rational brain is thinking "well yeah, it's been a wetter year than last year."  Thankfully, my artistic brain is thinking "aaaaaah."  I stand still.  Some still choose to stay in the trees and undergrowth, but some choose to investigate this newcomer.  They fly close.  I don't duck or swat.

I simply stand and breathe.  Those little bright green lights come closer.  It seems like magic, here in the twilight.  For just a few moments, I feel like I live among the stars.

Reality descends, and reluctantly, I head back for the house.  I wonder what they thought then, those bright green stars that surrounded me.  Some of them have followed me though.  Would I catch them?  Put them in a jar?  Never.  You can't bottle stars. 

The bravest ones that venture up to the house give me a deep feeling of contentment and rightness.  Reassurance too.  Looking out the window or sitting in the screen porch and seeing those lightning bugs . . .sometimes it's quite a few, sometimes it's just one.  It seems like they have a message for me.  I wonder what it is.  I'm usually pretty good at languages, but I haven't yet learned to speak lightning bug.

Maybe it's the message that you should treasure every last little moment of beauty that you can.  Realize that sometimes what you think is mundane is vastly more unique and awesome than you expected.  Keep that with you always--even during the worst winter storm, you'll still have the promise of fireflies later.

photo from turnbacktogod.com

Friday, June 15, 2012


My friends, I am the victim of a conspiracy.  My children watch to see when I head out to do chores and invariably get into trouble the MOMENT I step out the door.  I have tried various techniques--staggering times, random checkings, you name it--but they're masters of espionage.

Remember those old westerns when Slim says "It's quiet--TOO quiet?"  Welcome to life in my home.  The kids drive me nuts when they're stomping around, hollering, or slamming doors.  Still, when I step into the house and I don't hear anything, I get WORRIED.  Rightfully so.

Some days, they sneak food up into their bedrooms.  (They're well-fed at mealtimes, they get snacks, so I have no idea what the draw is.)  Some days, they decorate the bathroom with toothpaste.  Some days, they decide that the pets should all be confined in their bedrooms.  Some days they think that Play-Doh and stickers really work well with my decor, an opinion that I vehemently disagree with.  Still, I think that today took the cake.

When I went up to check on the (too quiet) children, I found multiple empty boxes of Jello in their rooms.  Since I couldn't find any sugary piles, I assumed that they'd eaten them.  However, after interrogation (no, I didn't put them in the Iron Maiden, use thumbscrews, or beat them . . .but the idea did cross my mind), they confessed that they'd poured them into the sink "to see what color they made."

So, I went into the bathroom and found the wreckage.  ANTS WERE EVERYWHERE.  Anyone who suggests that I have no self control has never seen me at that moment.  We had a nice chat.  Well, I had a nice chat.  Maybe I should clarify that:  I (re)stated all of the reasons for not doing such a thing and they looked properly abashed.  Still, that didn't stop them from taking more food to their rooms as I was doing the afternoon chore round.  Mind you, this is after they've been warned about ants, roaches, and mice.

So, maybe a different strategy is in order.  A very dear friend (my other mother!) enlightened me today.  Perhaps I'll encourage them to take every last bit of food up to their rooms, so as to draw any pests away from the rest of the house.  After all, if mice get upstairs, so will snakes.  (If this sounds cold-hearted and mean to you, you're more than welcome to come clean up the daily messes.)

What Happens When You Say No

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Older

It's official.  Yep, I've reached the ripe old age of 36 without meeting my end in a number of possible ways like:

*breaking my neck as I jumped off the swings at school
*crashing my bicycle into objects harder than I am
*picking a fight with a guy WAY bigger than I am
*freezing to death stuck in a snowdrift less than a mile from my house
*being pecked to death by crazed chickens
*being strangled by any number of people I know that have lost all patience with me
*having my face torn off by wolfdogs
*being thrown from a horse and breaking my neck (that was a close one)
*wiping out on my motorcycle
*falling face down on skis and not being able to get up

So, I've learned a few things in these 36 years.  Here ya go, and may they help you sooner than they did me.

*Be careful.  Be very careful.  But don't be so careful that you forget to have fun.  (And NEVER EVER say "Hey folks, WATCH THIS!")
*Family is important.  I can't stress that enough.
*Always be willing to try something new.  It may scare the bejeebers out of you, but you might just enjoy it.  If you don't, you don't have to do it again.
*Love Makes the World Go Round isn't just a saying.  Love the people around you (and if you don't, don't hang around them!), Love what you do, and Love who you are.
*Go out and LIVE.  Those dishes will still be there when you come back.
*If your day is crappy, find one special moment when it wasn't.  Treasure it.  Be thankful for it.  Make it happen again.
*Don't take crap from anybody.  Check your definition of crap. 
*An oldie but a goodie:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Don't be afraid to lend a helping hand:  someday you might need one too.  Besides, sometimes you meet neat people that way!
*Shit happens.  The sooner you can laugh about it, the better, but someday you WILL look back at that moment and laugh.
*If you're like me, adventure follows you like a rabid dog.  It chases you around then it bites you in the butt.  Roll with it.
*Don't get 60 chickens until you're sure you have enough pens.

Here's to another great year, folks.  May yours be as good as mine will be!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You Can Never Have Enough . . .

of . . .well, the list is here.

*Chickens.  They're cute, they cluck, they either lay eggs or make meat.  What else needs to be said?

photo from newpetzone.com

*Tomatoes.  Between eating fresh tomatoes straight off the vine, slicing them for sandwiches or salads, drying them for tomato chips, canning them for winter use, making fried green tomatoes or green tomato jam . . .30 tomato plants is STILL not enough.

photo from tomatoesweb.com

*Hoses.  Until you've slogged around 100 yards worth of hose all over your property, you don't know why you really need hoses in place for your gardens that you can simply hook up to the spigot with a shorter hose.

*Hay.  You'll run out of hay for your horses about a month before you can get your pasture baled.  Count on it.

*Onions and Garlic.  You'll always use them.  You think you don't, but you do.  They keep well--plant more!

*Spare fencing.  There's always a pinch for fencing.  Even if it's not quite what you had in mind, what you have will work.  KEEP THAT WIRE!

*Spare cages.  Rabbit cages, chicken tractors, even some chicken wire that you can put screens on top of.  If you're anything like me, you need more cages ALL THE TIME.

*Firewood.  Of course, we heat with a wood furnace, but I get a little antsy when we hit that last stack before winter is over.  I want a buffer zone!!

*Lumber.  You never know when you'll need to build something else, or fix something that's already standing.  Best have enough to at least patch it.  Plywood stockpiles are good too.

*Ideas.  Well, sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.  You learn from them and go on.

*Friends.  True friends--not just the people that say they like you.  True friends are an amazing asset.  They can lean on you, you can lean on them.  They're there to pick you up, stand up for you, and help in any way they can . . .and you'd do the same for them without a second thought.  Family works this way too.  Sometimes family and friends are the same thing.

*Love.  Find it where you can, but treasure it when you do.  From my kids' kisses and hugs to my family's interaction (yep, more hugs there!), I've learned that everyone needs to remember this:  every second that you receive love, send it back and send it forward.  Sure, some won't return your love, but there just may be somebody out there that needs a kind word or a hug.  Maybe that lady on the street needs to hear that she's wearing a pretty shirt and her heart is warmed by your smile.  Maybe you can spend some time volunteering in your community to show love to those less fortunate than you.  Pass on some love wherever you go--plant that seed and the world will grow.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nuts and Bolts (and nails!)

My wonderful husband.  OOOOH, my WONDERFUL HUSBAND.  Not only has he encouraged my chicken habit, he builds things for me.

Mind you, I took shop class about 20 years ago.  I have a general idea about how to do stuff (or use the stuff to get something done).  Scott, however, is in an entirely different class.  That man can BUILD.  He took the vague ideas I had about building chicken tractors and made them work.  Granted, there are still things I'd change, but he's really got the talent. 

KLA (who was kind enough to comment :) ) this is for you about the wheels.  I'll try to give a step by step instruction.

The wheels are mounted on a piece of 2x4 which is bolted to a 2" spacer on the side of the tractor.
(We got most of the wheels as salvage from the local dump)

See the bottom hole on the wheel strut?  You pull up on the top of the 2x4, use your foot to move the wheel forward, and stick the nail in the bottom hole on the strut that matches up to the hole on the spacer.  That way your wheels don't just keep going forward.

Hubby demonstrating the nail and wheel technique

Here's a closeup of the mechanisms.  Lucky you, you get to see my dirty toes.

the back of the tractor.  See ma?  No axle!  Those blocks on top of the nest box hold the lid open without laying it over.  How cool is that? 

I hope this might help anyone wanting to build a tractor.  Of course, I wanted to paint them but we needed them NOW.  I'll bet that if you need more tips, my husband would be happy to give you some.  I'll let you know about any more modifications we decide to make.  Happy Chickening!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Screen Porch

AAAH.  Don't you wish you were me?  Just minutes ago, I was sitting out on my screen porch, safely ensconced in my Sky Chair.  The breeze caressed me, I was rocking gently, surrounded by the peeping of chicks and the nibbling of bunnies.  The crickets are chirping (fine, as long as the dang things STAY OUT OF MY HOUSE), the cicadas are singing, and I even had a book.

Mine's blue, but it's heaven.

Now that it's late spring (yeah it got a little warm today--summer's on the way!), the screen porch is THE place to be around here.  It's about 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  Scott has his hammock chair set up out there, I have my Sky Chair (and if you don't have one, you simply must get one!!).  It's been used as brooder space for chickens, shelter for bunnies, space for hardening off seedlings, a place for the egg fridge . . .you name it.

Still, I can go out there and sit in the breeze (it's screened on the north, east, and south) without having to worry about rain or mosquitoes.  Sometimes flies get in but hey, I've got a flyswatter and I'm not afraid to use it.  Flies make good chicken treats.  We can watch storms go by, we can watch fireworks in town, and we can just chill out, relax, and communicate with each other. 

Scott and I used to sit on the porch at our old city place every night and use it as talking time.  You know, what happened that day, what made us happy, what was bugging us . . .the way a good marriage should be.  However, it got a little distracting, having to continually swat june bugs out of my hair, or (as happened once with my mom) having a huge preying mantis land on my glasses.  Now we don't need to worry. 

Screen porches seem to have gone the way of the dodo.  That's really unfortunate.  It's a great place to kick out, reconnect, and relax.  Of course, many of those things have gone extinct too.  The more we lose touch with those closest to us (our family, then our neighbors), the more we lose touch with the world as it should be. 

If you possibly can, build yourself a screen porch.  It's not hard.  You'll thank me for it later.  I'm going to head back out to my little bit of paradise.