Monday, June 30, 2014

of mornings and neighbors

A truth of my life: I'm not much of a morning person.  Waking up is just so hard.  Give me some time to adjust, though, and the rest of the morning is wonderful, full of newness and all the promise of a new day.

Chickens are morning fowl.  They love first light just as much as any bird.  Thankfully my chickens seem okay with my relaxed morning style. 

Coffee first, then I'll prepare them a little breakfast.  Nothing fancy, just a morning offering to buy their adoration.  Sometimes cooked oatmeal, or yogurt with fresh blueberries, or even just a piece of bread crumbled into small pieces.  Still in my pj's (chickens don't mind) and most often barefoot I venture out to see the girls.  I open up their coop door and bribe, coerce, herd them into their trampoline playpen.  Sometimes it's easy and they go willingly.  Sometimes I have to wrangle them.

This morning was no different. 

Later this morning my kind neighbor, Sharon was in her backyard weeding very near my garden.   Who doesn't love a neighborly chat over a garden fence? I couldn't resist. 

Now, Sharon has one room in her house that looks directly into our backyard.  It is her crafting room.  You just have to know what comes next.

Sharon says, "I saw you this morning with your chickens."

I say, "......oh.  Yeah?  Pretty funny, huh?"  Because, what else can you say?

Some fun details: I was wearing my striped pajama pants and my husband's t-shirt and I was indeed barefoot.  Egads, the woman probably thinks I'm a loon!


It is quiet around here today.  Blake has gone over to Caleb's to help with some work around their place.  Caleb's mom, Anna, is golden.  She makes you want to be a better person just in the way she breathes.  Her words are encouraging and her actions are unassuming, without airs.  I just get so self-conscious around her for whatever reason.  I'm guessing she doesn't go out and tend to her chickens in her pajamas.

At this moment I'm sitting on the patio.  Charlie dog is sleeping at my feet and Silas is close by too (neither one is feeling well today).  I'm seeing goldfinch, sparrow, downy woodpecker, flicker, crow, chickadee, hummingbird.  Just yesterday there were four (4!!) Flickers in our yard at once.  Two of them were dust bathing and one was feeding her baby.  I was pleased.

Later on I'm going to make Jamaican pork for dinner.  Here's the recipe:

Brown 1 1/2 pounds of pork.  Add one sliced onion, one diced acorn squash, and one bell pepper.  Add 1 inch finely chopped gingerroot, a 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes (or fresh), fresh or frozen corn,  1 1/4 cups of chicken stock, and 1/4 cup of lentils.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Transfer to a casserole dish, cover, and bake at 375 for 1 hour.

Served with a store bought loaf of French bread this ought to be a pretty good dinner!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

the lining of my heart

The problem has become: how to write about life as it races by in a colorful blur?
Spending time in the garden or with my chickens helps to slow down the pace.  When I'm barefoot in the sunshine with growing things nearby, ah, then I can breathe.
But the thing is, there's more to life than feathery, chirping chickens.
My children are growing up before my very eyes.  Austin starts his first job next week. 
And I know I'm not the first mother to experience an aching heart.  And I know we have miles to go.
It's the small details that make up the big things.  It's the gentle breeze ruffling a chicken feather the wrong way.  It's a brown eyed puppy dog staring at me in adoration.  It's 2 quarts of homemade yogurt turned into a sweet frozen treat.  It's an extra large batch of cookie dough baked into gifts for the neighbors, giving reason to head over and meet the neighbors.

A picture of chickens (for Quinn!!)  This is Mintie (on the right), Braveheart, and Nuggets in the background.

In having a garden my one and only goal was to have enough to share.  So far I've only been able to share spaghetti squash starts and lettuce but I am able to share.  I may not be very talkative with the neighbors but with a plate of cookies and a bag of lettuce in hand it sure is easier to introduce myself.

Laying in the sun one afternoon and I had to force my Charlie into a picture.  He was panting and the sun was in his eyes and he was less than happy to pose.  But whatever.  I still love him.

My chickens are spoiled.  They eat well.  They live well.  Every day I pull fresh weeds for them and talk to them.  I hold them and pet them.  And decorate their coop.  Here you can see the pallet planter box I made with some bright sunny Marigolds.

I hung a little windchime in there for them to play with.
On the back side of the coop I put some old windows to shield the chicks from the weather and add a little security.  I just love how it looks.


I read a really great post on Ann Voskamp's website this past week.  Here's one of my favorite quotes from what she wrote:

Beauty doesn’t live in your skin
Beauty lives in the lining of your heart.

That has nothing to do with anything else I've written here today but it's definitely something that is constantly on my mind so in that way it was woven in my words.  And it's important to read, to understand, to live.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

growing things

It's a horribly wonderful addiction, this idea of growing things.  This turning over soil, sowing seeds, and watching new life emerge.  I'm in the planning stages of garden expansion.  It is my desire to triple the size of my current garden by next spring.  Two-thirds of the garden will be used for growing food and medicinal herbs.  The other third will be devoted to flowers, I'm leaning toward wildflowers.  It's all intensely exciting!

Maybe only I will be interested in an inventory of what I'm growing so far, with current growth rate added, but I will proceed to record said inventory, for myself.

  • spaghetti squash - I started this in a large bucket and when the starts got too big I transferred 5 of them into the garden.  Two have been eaten beyond saving.  The other three are surviving despite the abuse.  Some of the starts were left in the bucket and they are thriving!  No flowers yet.
  • cucumbers - lots of little plants have sprouted up with three leaves each but the going is slow
  • lettuce - this stuff is hearty and resilient and we can't eat it fast enough.  I read that to keep the plants producing and from going to seed you have to keep harvesting.  I've been harvesting daily and the next day it's all back again.
  • carrots - the above ground proof of growth is there but I've not ventured to pull any out of the dirt.  I'm excited to see these carrots as they are heirloom variety and will be crazy colors.
  • peas - little white flowers are opening up, the vines are spindling upwards and outwards.  The tendrils latch on to anything, including the neighboring carrot-tops.
  • sunflowers - I've got 7 or so great plants.  The tallest are about 3 1/2 feet tall already.  The bottom set of leaves have wilted and browned.  I think this is normal?
  • zucchini - 2 plants.  Slow going.  It's neat how similar these are to the cucumber plants.
  • basil - started from seed.  Just transplanted to a pot outside.  It looks disheveled and sad but I'm hoping that the fresh soil and sunlight will bring it back to vibrancy.
  • mint - I have two varieties that I've had in pots for a couple years.  I like to use the leaves in tea.
  • potatoes - the tower that I built is really thriving.  The plants are large and verdant and healthy.  I'm excited to see them flower.
  • tomatoes - the seeds I planted did not take so I bought two starts.  Today I saw the first little yellow blossom!
  • lemon balm - my mother-in-law gave me a couple stem and root systems last week which I've planted.  They are taking hold and look like they'll do well. 
  • lavender - the seeds I planted in the front flowerbed in full sun back in April did nothing.  I bought more seeds and tried these in a pot out back where they'll receive more shade.
All I want to do is grow more, MORE, MORE.  It's so fulfilling and education and rewarding.  I've seriously learned so much through this process, always wondering, where has this been my entire life and why don't more people do it?!

Monday, June 9, 2014


Listening... The guys are watching tv out in the living room so I can hear that.  I can hear a jet from the nearby Navy base.  Other than that I am enjoying some peace and quiet.

Eating...  We just had dinner.  I had made bbq meatballs, egg noodles dressed up with garlic, crushed peppers, and some herbs, and a mix of fresh veggies (onion, carrot, zucchini, orange bell pepper) fried in coconut oil.

Wearing...  When I'm feeling a little funky I like to wear my tie-dyed t-shirt.  I was feeling "crunchy" today so the tie-dye fit right in.

In the kitchen...  Part of my "crunchiness" is attributed to the fact that I tried my hand at making yogurt.  It is still in it's process so I'm not sure what the outcome will be but I am hoping for yogurt!

Feeling...  I worked really hard here at home  so I'm feeling tired, but the good kind of tired that comes at the end of a productive day.

Weather...  It was a gorgeous day.  I noticed a shift in the light again.  I'm not sure why I'm so sensitive to these little changes but I saw it and I saw summer begin.

Wanting...  To turn my entire backyard into a mini-farm.  I'm hooked on growing things.  Next step: an herb garden, thanks to my mother-in-law who inspired me.

Creating...  the opportunity for food to grow.  Today I planted some lemon balm (thanks mom-in-law!) and transplanted my basil starts (grow little babies!).  The slugs and snails are destroying my little spaghetti squash plants.  I'm very against using chemical warfare in my yard so each little plant has a barrier of Diatomaceous Earth around it (I didn't have enough egg shells and the coffee grounds were not deterring them).

Enjoying...  I thoroughly enjoyed a nice long yoga class this morning.  I've been so busy with my baby chicks and gardening that I've not made it to yoga in weeks.  I settled right in and my body thanked me.  Thank you Silvana!  You are the best teacher and I will miss you.

Outside my window...  I had the sprinkler out, doing some watering.  A hummingbird captured my attention as it flitted in the sprinkler, catching the tiny droplets of water.  Was it getting a drink or playing?  I'm not sure but it came back multiple times!

Going...  Back to work tomorrow.  Thankful for a job.  Thankful for a job.  Thankful for a job.  I am.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Standing in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of dough.  My heart warmed as I read the recipe written by the hand of a dear friend.  I could hear her gentle voice speaking in her soft way, always positive, always encouraging.  There are those friends that speak to you and reach all the way to your soul, tearing away any veil and requiring honesty, sincerity.  It's the friend that listens as much as she speaks.  The one that listens - and hears.

The dough that I mixed up is rising under a towel outside in the sunshine.  I'm making three pizzas for dinner.  One will be pepperoni, one will be ground beef/tomato/fresh pineapple, and one will be a vegetarian (spinach, zucchini, orange bell pepper, onion, garlic, roma tomato, and garlic/dill cheese curds that I picked up at the farmer's market).

Ah, the farmer's market.  We have a weekly market here in town during the spring and summer.  Yesterday I met with a friend for frozen yogurt then we perused the market for a bit.  I like how it grows each week, more vendors, more variety of produce.  And I like an excuse to hang out with a friend on a sunny afternoon.

I am making friends with the idea that I may never have pretty nails.  My hands are always submerged in soapy water, or pulling weeds, or digging.  I hold my chickens and I cook.  And when I get nervous I pick at my fingers.  All these factors leave my hands bedraggled.  Honestly, I don't mind too much the dirt under my nails because the digging in the dirt is so fun.  And I saw silver haired woman, comfortable in her skin, and her hands looked just like mine.  Dirt and work had left their mark.  And I suppose it's ok that I can't have pretty nails, as long as I can still knead bread dough and pull dandelions for my chicks and wash up a sink of dirty dishes.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

photos of progress

The girls (my baby chickens, as I like to call them) are changing every day.  They are roughly five weeks old now.  They live outside full time, in their chicken tractor most of the time with excursions to the garden or the play pen I made them.
This is Elsa.  She is the most independent of all the girls.  Her voice is unique and strong.  She almost sings when picked up and when communicating with the other chicks.
Elsa again.  Her neck looks like a lion's mane.  She always reminds me of a bird of prey, like a small hawk.
A chicken learns about technology.  Elsa thought maybe my phone could be food.  It's been fun to watch them learn.  Without a momma hen to teach them, they learn either through my persistence or their own trial and error.
Here you can see the playpen I made them out of our trampoline.  I used a plastic netting, zip ties, and tent stakes to create an area for them to graze without worry of them getting out of the yard or eaten by an eagle.  This is a good way to continue training the dogs to leave them alone too.
^^^Mintie makes a good playpen model don't you say?
My girl Pearl is the friendliest, warmest little chicken.  She is always eager to say hello and loves to sit with me.
She's changed soooo much from this little peeper just four weeks ago!
Nuggets is also very friendly and eager to sit on me.  That is Braveheart in the background.
My Austin wearing everything he has earned this past year in NJROTC, the big one he earned in Olympia shooting with the rifle team, first place in the state for his age group.
We attended a JROTC award ceremony.  All those cadets (over two hundred all together) stood at parade rest for an hour with full composure and patience.  It was pretty awesome.  I circled Austin amidst the blur, he's the second one back in that row.
Spring Football Camp starts this week for him.  He's got quite an arm according to his dad.  This will be the first time he's ever played football.  He's got his school schedule for the fall too.  Lots of firsts.  Sigh.
My husband, with lots of help from my sons and very little help from me, built a chicken coop/tractor.  It is complete now.  We made a pad for it with the option of putting it's wheels on and rolling it to somewhere else in the yard.  While on it's pad there is extra protection in the foundation we made to stump any digging predators. 
Details of note:
>metal roof topper
>end flaps on each side that open to nesting boxes (for ease in cleaning and egg gathering)
>two ramps inside for the chicks to climb up to the nesting boxes and their nighttime roost
>the white framed door opens for general purposes
>there are lots of other details I love but not that you can really see in this picture
This is my newest purchase.  I plan to spend as many summer evenings here as possible.  And warm mornings.  And lazy middays.  We broke it in with a dinner of burgers grilled over our fire pit.  LOVE!
My potato tower is growing splendidly.  Better than I had imagined. 

And the garden has great progress.

I've become quite diligent about saving egg shells and coffee grounds to use as predator control around the garden.  These are natural ways to deter slugs and snails and I rely heavily on them.  I've already lost one spaghetti squash plant because I didn't have it protected well enough.  : (  Good thing we drink plenty of coffee around here.

None of my family think I'm crazy yet with the coffee grounds and egg shells so I've begun to save the used tea leaves and herbs from tea bags.  These will be dried then added to the chickens nesting boxes for a pleasant aroma.  An added bonus would be that the chickens eat the herbs and gain from their medicinal properties.

Off I go to dream about chickens.