Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poultry Progress

Here you can see the progress of the chicken tractor. It's moved forward each day, leaving a patch of thoroughly eaten-down grass behind as the hens are treated to greener grass and fatter grubs. Supposedly the grass will grow back a lot more luxurious thanks to the mobile fertilizer.

I'm really a fan of the Barred Rock hens.

They're pretty fat and happy right now.

This chubby biddy right here lays some of the most beautiful green eggs ever.

Somebody, apparently, couldn't quite make it to the nesting boxes in time. I wonder who it was...?

I won't name any names, but I have my suspicions.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bad Day to be a Rodent

Meet Twiggy.

Hello, Twiggy.

Twiggy was a brand new cherry tree planted last year. He was carefully planted, watered, pruned, and painted (to indicate which variety; Twiggy was a Chelan).

But it was curtains for Twiggy.

Under that healthy veneer of shiny bark and lanky limbs was a dead tree.

Twiggy has no roots.

Not a single root. You just had to look at him the wrong way and he fell over; no support or taproot underground whatsoever.

Twiggy was a victim of the sneaky silent crop killer: The Gopher.

The Gopher tunnels around underground looking for a free buffet. Tender tree roots are a popular salad variety for this voracious vermin.

Twiggy and 200 defenseless companions were claimed by The Gopher this year.

Retribution will be hard and swift.

If you're a gopher, be forewarned. Your days on this farm are numbered.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flying Around the Farm

I'd like to take you on a little flying tour of the farm...

The Robins are everywhere.

So are the Magpies, but they're a little camera shy.

Here is one fat little Quail... a whole covey just flew away.

This sweet little bird and his mate are soaking in the warm sun and eating the first of the Spring grasses.

This little guy is the crown jewel. I'm not sure... Western Meadowlark?

This is as close as we can get to him.

This concludes our flying tour. Goodnight!

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favorite New March Tradition

Right now... my fifth grade niece is doing Spelling and is lamenting the fact that the entire 3rd grade (her little sister) is home sick. I'm sitting back, happily surveying the fruits of my weekend labor: a tidy house.

This weekend... was exquisite.

On Friday, the Solemnity of the Incarnation, I received a revelation during Mass.

I'd had a nightmare the night before, a recurring one that happens whenever I feel like my life is going too fast and is utterly out of my control (I had them most often during my senior year of college). In the dream I'm in a car, careening downhill with no brakes. I guess I was stressing a lot more than I realized about this whole land/house situation and so on Friday morning I took it to God in Mass.

I wasn't really expecting any answers, only hoping for some peace, but when I asked in prayer the answer came back very clearly: "Trust your husband. I will guide him."

What a relief!! What a burden lifted!! Isn't marriage incredible!? I don't have to bear the weight of this decision alone -- in fact I don't have to bear it at all, I just have to follow my husband's lead.


Also on Friday I saw on Facebook, "For those of you who are Lord of the Rings nerds, happy Anniversary of the Destruction of the Ring." LotR nerd? That's me. So my husband took me out for (yes, for all of my "real food" convictions, I keep an 85/15 diet -- 85% good whole real food, 15% 'cause I want it food) fast food burgers and curly fries. When we got home we polished off some homemade ice cream in root beer floats and settled in to watch the Extended Edition of Return of the King. We split the nearly-four-hour movie between two nights, but I think we'll have to make this a tradition; it was just too fun.

On Saturday it was all work out at the farm. But more on that later this week.

Sunday was one of the most glorious of recent memory. I love my life.

Some plans for this week: I really want to learn how to make cheese. Swiss, Gouda, cheddar, Muenster, Havarti, Colby, Mozzarella, Pepper Jack...? Add "smoked" before any one of those and come to mama!

If I get some time for myself, I want to... get a haircut. Maybe. I haven't had one since my lovely locks were butchered in October of 2007. It was right before I presented my first academic paper at a Philosophy conference, and I was mortified when the stylist cut my hair like a man's. Anyway, I've never trusted scissors near my head since. My tresses actually look very nice when I take the time to style them, but Summer is coming and to avoid the fate of the teeny-bopper ponytail, the time has come to remove the temptation and whack off my hair... and maybe get some bangs?

Special prayer intentions for this week: for Nadja's son, and for my baby nephew.

Something that makes me smile: Something, or someone?

Happy sigh.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Religion Quiz Fail

Disclaimer: Slight exaggeration might be present in this story.

"What is the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary?"


8 year old niece: "The Assumption of Jesus Descending on the Apostles Teaching in the Temple."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Footloose Education

1. I made dinner last night even though my husband wasn't home. I rarely cook for myself (Triscuits and cheese for lunch, anyone?). But I was really hungry last night and the dry Triscuits just weren't going to cut it, so I made sausage pizza. The added bonus came when my husband got home very late and appreciatively ate the leftovers -- the poor darling hadn't eaten dinner, so I'm glad it was waiting for him!

2. I strayed from the lesson plan on Monday with my nieces and let them color. I'm a pretty strict and exacting schoolmarm, so this was a big deal for me. The poor dears had had a really rough weekend and needed some downtime. It was a good break for all of us (even if it did mean double work on Tuesday, hehe).

3. Speaking of straying from the lesson and letting loose... I switched out our traditional grammar lesson one day for mad libs. Holy cow -- the girl who couldn't tell a noun from a verb from a punch in the eye now knows her parts of speech quite well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bank Likes Us

Well, we got the thumbs up from the bank today to buy the land.

There's still a long way to go on this. A few acres without a house on it is not worth much to us (except a mortgage bill each month), and the cost of building a house from all preliminary estimates is pretty outrageously high.

But hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The No-Poo Experiment

My shampoo bottle is about to run out, and I'm contemplating whether or not to buy another one.

Several months ago, I quietly started experimenting with no-pooing... not using shampoo.

Before you recoil in horror, I wasn't walking around with slimy greasy icky stinky hair. I was washing it, just not with shampoo. I'm not a hippie!

To be kinder to your scalp, your skin, your plumbing, your reproductive system, and our water system, you can bypass parabens, Propylene glycol (PG), butylene glycol, isopropyl (SD-40), Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and wash your hair with baking soda and diluted vinegar.

How well does it work? 
Well, my hair was soft, shiny and it squeaked clean when I rinsed it. It did feel different (the strands were more separated -- more volume but not frizzy), but not unpleasantly different. I didn't go through the "greasy stage" that a lot of other people do who try it. I'd say it works perfectly well.

How to no-poo:
I mixed about a tablespoon of baking soda into a half cup of warm water, dumped it on my head, and massaged it in little circles into every spot on my scalp. Then rinsed.

As a "conditioning rinse," I mixed about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into cup of water, poured that on my head and rinsed.

There are more complete instructions and information here and here. Purportedly you're supposed to rinse with cold water, but no thanks.

Why I quit no-pooing, the cons:

1. There are no suds, because it's baking soda (made into a thin paste with water). I like suds; they make me think the shampoo is doing something. Mentally, it was hard to feel clean without a good lather.

2. Because it's anti-aromatherapy. When you're scrubbing away the oils, dirt, dead skin, and sweat in your hair, you don't smell tropical breezes, cucumber melon, lavender mist, apple blossom, cherry vanilla or tangerine blast... you smell oils, dirt, dead skin, and sweat. And that's followed with vinegar. Your hair doesn't smell bad after you're done, at all, it just doesn't smell sweet, and I like frilly smells. I've heard you can overcome this by adding a few drops of essential oils, but I never did it.

3. I never put it into a good container, so it was messy. This isn't a flaw of the system, it was my own laziness for not putting the stuff into nice bottles. Often, then, I had vinegar running down my face or baking soda dripping down my eyes. Granted, it didn't sting like shampoo would, but it was just not pleasant.

With that said, I'm still considering going back to it.

Why go back to it? The pros of no-pooing:

1. It's cheap.

2. It works.

3. It actually kept my hair cleaner longer. With shampoo, I can make it about 22 hours before it starts getting a little slick. With no-pooing I could easily have gone a lot longer. How much longer? I don't know, because after 48 hours I would wash it again just because.

4. If you're at all into earthy crunchy stuff (it doesn't have to get political here, if something is not toxic to your body or the environment then...?) it's pretty obvious why.

I'm still eying a cheap bottle of Suave in the hair care aisle, and will probably end up keeping a bottle on hand for those days when I just need a good Coconut Mango Tropical Tahitian Breeze sudsy lather. But on the rest of the days, I might just hop back into no-pooing.

What are you thoughts? Have you ever no-pooed? Would you ever consider no-pooing? Why or why not?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Date with Fate

Right now... I'm cold, but I refuse to turn on the heater. A few jumping jacks and I'll be fine.

This weekend... was a farmy weekend. We shipped Ofelia (our milk cow) off to spend a few months with the bulls. This is her last chance. If we don't see two strong lines on the test, her next appointment is with the butcher.

We also planted peas, radishes, spinach, parsnips and lettuce! The chickens are living and letting each other live; consequently they're regrowing their feathers. All is right with the world.

Some plans for the week ahead: The appointment is set.

On Wednesday at 10:00 am PST (12:00pm CST, 1:00pm EST) we're meeting with the bank to discuss the 5 acre plot overlooking the river, and our chances of getting it. We'll either be buoyed or squashed. Pray for the former, please.

If I find some time for myself, I want to... I don't know. I don't have too many plans for this week, yet. It'll be interesting to see how it shapes up.

Prayer intentions for this week: for the appointment on Wednesday to go well, and for resignation to God's will about it, either way.

Something that makes me smile: the Coca-Cola in glass bottles that my husband surprised me with. And discovering that it's perfectly okay to end a sentence with a preposition.

Monday Musings are hosted by Nadja at Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Nose Knows

As we stepped outside to go to Mass, recently, I remarked, "good gracious, it smells like onions out here!"

I shook my head, trying to deduce the source of the pungent odor. It was so strong my eyes started to tear!

By the time we arrived at church, I had already forgotten the matter, but when I stepped out of the car, there it was again!

"No really. It smells like onions. Don't you smell that?"


My husband agreed that the acrid aroma did hang heavily in the air.

"It almost smells like a truck carrying onions tipped over and spilled onions on the road, and the spillage was minced and mashed by passing cars."

To which my husband shook his head and chuckled a patronizing chuckle, dismissing my girlish theories with a wave of his hand. How, after all, could I smell onions from that far away?

When we drove out to the farm later that day, there, two miles from our house, were onions all over the shoulder on both sides, with smeared onion in the road!

Let me tell you, heroic virtue was needed to keep from gloating... much.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hope Rises

Well, the dream house fell through earlier this week when the owners raised the price $25,000. But there are five acres of fertile ground overlooking the river that just opened up 5 minutes from the farm. Forgive the italics, but I'm trying really hard to restrain my excitement and went for italics instead of exclamation points.

The price for the land is perfect.

But it has no well, no septic, and... well.. no house.

Anybody here ever built a house before? How do you afford a mortgage for your new place while still living somewhere while the house is under construction? What is the bare bones price you can build a tiny house? (including well, septic, permits, closing costs, etc.) We're already sold on investing sweat equity, but with limited knowledge and no homebuilding experience, we're kind of limited as to how much we can do there, too.

Even if you just have secondhand knowledge, any advice or tips at this point would be really nice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rainclouds and Dashed Dreams

It's raining today.

The weather often mirrors my mood, and today is no exception. Late last night we got a call from the people selling the charming farm house I've been fantasizing about for months. The one I finally wrangled our budget to afford and made it, within pennies.

"We had the house reappraised and are raising the price $25,000."


Kinda feels like having your hopes roundhouse kicked to the teeth.

Yes, I know God has bigger and better plans. Yes, I know His plan will ultimately make us happier than our petty puny little dreams.

But for now, I'm having a hard time letting go of my strawberry patch behind the barn. And the large lazy pasture for my dream milk cow, being chased by the chickens and pig. And the tire swing in the front yard on the birch tree. And the pellet stove where my husband was going to warm his toes after a cold work day. And the alcove in the attic bedroom with the slanty roof, a charmingly ideal... *sigh*... nursery.

Today, there's weeping in our little house of happiness.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hopes and Schemes

Right now... I need to go pick up my husband so we can go to the evening Mass.

This weekend... it rained and rained and rained. So the garden project is still in the scheming mode.

Some plans for the week ahead: Clear out a spot for the garden, plant peas and radishes, and take my first stab at sprouting grain for bread.

If I find some time for myself, I want to... paint and reupholster a few chairs we have. It most likely won't happen this week, but a girl can dream, right? These chairs are ugly, but my secret pastime of do-it-yourself decorating blogs (like this one and this one) is making me think I could prettify them on a dime.

Prayer intentions for this week: for my sister, and nieces and nephews, and of course for the people in Japan.

Something that makes me smile: our dinner on Sunday... crusty bread, buttery corn, sizzling steaks, and dark beer in a mason jar.

Monday Musings are hosted by Nadja at Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Slime Into Spring

It's officially time to plant our garden. The scheming and fantasizing phase (about 8 months of the year) has come to an end and the days of actually moving dirt are about to commence.

I have 47 vegetables and 12 herbs in mind for our plant paradise, mostly of the vine variety and all of which have to fit in a space of about 10 x 10 (the upper size limit of the space I'm willing to maintain).

I was super big into square foot gardening last year and still am, in theory. I had no weeds at all last year, but virtually no tomatoes, either. That could have something to do with slug plague of Biblical proportion, or the fact that I forgot to water the garden for... um... a few weeks. Well, I didn't forget -- I just didn't want to turn on the hose because it was surrounded by Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs.

(Sorry. I grew up on Tiny Toons.)

This year, armed with a carton of salt, I'm going to give it another go.

So here's my question. Besides the non-negotiables (tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and radishes... can't get enough of those radishes), what should I pare my garden fantasies down to?

If you say eggplant, I will delete your comment. Just kidding. Maybe.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

42 Hours

I made it 42 hours into Lent before breaking one of my fasts.

My weakness and lack of self-mastery are truly eye-opening.

Truly, thank God for the discipline of Lent!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken Smack Talk

Greedy biddies were waiting on the ground beneath a hen in the nesting box as she was about to lay an egg for them.

My husband intercepted the pass and caught the egg mid-air.

Eat that cannibal chickens!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Potential Personal Penitential Practices

I've really been floundering this year about what to do for Lent. Of course the not-to-be-devalued traditional penances of additional prayer, fasting and almsgiving are in the bag. But I really wanted to have a more pointedly personal season of conversion this year.

Last night, when I was really beginning to despair of finding a suitable tailor-made penance for Lent, a painful wave of self-revealing inspiration came.

I haven't decided on any particular one, but a partial list of possibilities includes forty days without:

1. Bossing my husband around. Just because I know he'll do almost anything I ask doesn't mean I should ask. Especially if I'm just asking because I'm too lazy to do it myself.

2. Micromanaging. Contrary to every instinct in my being, there is more than one way to do any given task, and it doesn't always have to be done my way.

3. Critiquing food. "This could be better if it had..." "You know what would make this really good?" "If this were just a little riper..." "If this were a little thicker..." "If it had been cooked just a few minutes less..." "I bet a little .... would really help this." Under the guise of being a culinary genius, the quest for foodie perfection is an ugly habit that betrays a hedonistic sensuality and revolting lack of gratitude.

4. Griping rather than serving. "You left the cabinet doors open." "You left the shower door open." "You left the light on." How much effort does it really take for me to close a cabinet door?

5. "I'll do it later." There are no safer words to assure that it will never be done. If the task takes less than 5 or 10 minutes, there's no good reason not to do it now.

6. Sulking. My passive-aggressive self absolutely loves a good sulk. For instant gratification, it's so much more satisfying to wallow in being offended than to articulate the grievance and seek resolution. More than half the time, once I've wasted a gorgeous day cold-shouldering and sulking, I find out that the offense was actually a complete misunderstanding with no real wrong committed... which leads to further sulking.

7. Gossipy prayer intentions. For the sake of getting to talk about other people's problems, I've been known to couch any juicy gossip in a prayer intention. "Yeah, we really need to pray for Betty Lynn. Her marriage is not doing so well." "Georgeanne nearly had a nervous breakdown. We really need to add her to the prayer list."

And at least for these... I don't intend to break on Sundays.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blistering Tales

Right now... I just walked back from Adoration. My husband's pickup is in the shop so he has my car. We got a ride there, so not anticipating having to trek back I wore adorably frivolous shoes. Thankfully our church is only a half mile away, but still... ouch.

This weekend... we went for a drive in the country. Oh it was lovely! You could see nothing but rich fertile farmland in every direction, with a house and silo or two stretching out a lazy silhouette on the expansive horizon. The wide open spaces of beautiful farmland would have been an ideal dream house location had it not been surrounded by noxious dairies. Ironic that when I felt most able to breathe, I couldn't inhale for the stench.

Some plans for the week ahead: Get a great start to Lent. I've been praying about it for weeks and still haven't really firmed up how we are going to observe the penitential season this year. Typically the harsher the Lent, the more glorious the Easter... but...? I know that I do want to do the 40 Bags in 40 Days (throw out or give away a bag of household clutter each day), but that's more of a sideline discipline than central spiritual focus. I will continue to pray about this. Any ideas?

If I find some time for myself, I want to... write up the next part of the Love Story. My husband gave me the go-ahead for the next episode!

Prayer intentions for this week:  for my sister, who had some adverse reactions to a prescription. And for dear dear Karla and her family; may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace, Amen.

Something that makes me smile: My first successful batch of homemade yogurt.

Monday Musings are hosted by Nadja at Patch O' Dirt Farm. Be sure to check out her family's new Etsy shop; I have my eye on a few potholders, but the pincushion is darling, too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Arm Candy

My niece gave me an unexpected (and unmerited on several counts) compliment the other day.

"Your house is always so neat, and you're always cooking delicious meals. Everybody thinks you're a trophy wife."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Redneck Wine Rack

We love the wine rack we got for our wedding!

We assembled it right after we got back from the honeymoon. Skipping the directions, we set it up exactly the opposite way you're supposed to, so the bottles slipped out. It was almost 2 a.m. but we took is apart and reassembled it right then... because we were newlyweds, and because we could. Oh it was so much fun!

Back then we had a whole case of wine with which to fill it.

But uh... we haven't had twelve wine bottles at the same time since then. So last night we re-purposed the gift.

Behold: our redneck wine rack.

Try saying that three times fast.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oh Stupid Chickens, Who Hath Bewitched Thee?

I may or may not have mentioned that lately our egg production has dropped off severely. We were getting about eighteen eggs a day. Now we're averaging nine.

Why? I suppose they wondered why we were harvesting the fruits of their labor and decided to give them a try. Lo and behold, chickens love eating eggs. Filthy little cannibals.

I didn't know this about chickens before we had them. There were a lot of things I didn't know about chickens before we had them. But I do know that I will never again feel bad about eating the grody creatures. They deserve to be eaten and good riddance.

Case in point: my husband spent many hours away from farm duties to rig up a system to prevent their poaching. Pulleys, trap doors, pipes, gravity systems; it would have made Rube Goldberg proud. For about one week our problems were solved. The eggs would roll to the back of the laying boxes, out of harm's way, or else drop through a hole into a padded bucket below. Voila.

But no. Those furious little bird brains were scheming, and hatched a plot so brilliantly stupid we couldn't have anticipated it.

They now go into the egg-laying boxes head first.

With their hind ends hanging out in the breeze.

So their eggs kersplat into the coop below where a bunch of eager biddies are greedily awaiting a scrambled egg breakfast.

I hate chickens.