Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekend Review

The present incarnation of Palace Poultry. It's been a really windy, cool spring/summer, so Himself got some lumber-tarps from the local Co-Op building supply, and we tuck them in. Behind you'll see Farm Security Headquarters, manned by one or the other of the Cherubic Infants through the night. Usually. The coyotes are incredibly noisy, as is the donkey who lives half a mile down the road, so every now and then the sleep deprivation levels become so dire that we leave the chickens to fend for themselves and let the children sleep indoors. Not that I want them to get used to that sort of soft living. I'd like a sewing room, and I'm trying to convince one or both that they'd find ample, unparented space in the auction mart. So far, no takers.

Haven't lost any more birdies. They were only on the antibiotics for a week to get them past the pneumonia, and now we're just adding some vitamin/mineral supplement to their water. Praise be! That every-morning-death-cart experience was getting to me.

Bless the potatoes. Nothing else come up except the potatoes and dill, so they're lovely green oases in the sea of dust. This weekend I gave up hope in ever seeing any of our original seedings, so I dug up some beds and replanted. 55 days to maturity for the beets, so I figure we can squeak through a season, even if we don't manage to construct any row-cover to extend the growing time. That, and peas. And maybe carrots too. I put another bed of those in.

The mice have been freely exploring the spilled grain, and sometimes get themselves trapped in the five-gallon buckets that litter our farm. When the kids find them, they pop the kitten in with it to "homeschool" him into hunting, but so far he hasn't got the gist. Not for lack of his mother trying either. She's a ferocious huntress. She'll learn him eventually, I'm sure.

Other than that, reviewing and re-memorizing my muscles and A&P for the fall when I start school again, a few clients now and then, reading books about Chinese medicine, and Joseph Campbell, and Diana Wynne Jones. I seem to keep busy.

And now it's bedtime, right? Zzzz....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


There are several excellent reasons why baby quilts are the best quilts. Let me tell you about it:

1. They're small. That means they're a lot easier to quilt on the machine, and a lot easier on my back.

2. They're small. That means that I can used up bits and pieces of fabric, things I don't have enough of to piece a larger quilt with.

3. They're small. If they're an eyesore, they're not a huge eyesore, and when the baby gets a little bigger, people have a very valid excuse for passing them along.

Poppy's been attending a youth group at one of the local churches, and the couple that runs it is expecting a second child. I very much appreciate that they're willing to undertake that project (the youth-group, I mean - baby-making is their own look-out), so I'm making a quilt.

These are fabrics that I've had way too much of for way too long. Poppy swore blind that she loved them and I got enough to make her a bed-size quilt, but after the purchase she informed me she loved them, but not in that way.

(Yeah, heard that one before. Oh, my heart...)

So there I was left with her expired passion, and I've since made two laps quilts and several baby quilts with the heap. This is it. I'm done. All the niggly leftovers are going in the second hand bag.

But all the same, it's kinda pretty, and I've satisfied my stash-busting instincts. I guess even unwanted leftovers have their consolations.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chateau Chicken

The Spouse has nearly got this thing ready to roll... really. There was too much stress on the back panel when we pulled it with the dolly, so he's rigging it up with wheels scavenged from a defunct lawnmower.

The only thing he bought for this project? The chicken wire. Everything else was recycled and found. He's got a gift, I tell you. If only it didn't mean all the heaps of things-waiting-to-be-reincarnated. Oof.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thinking Thistle

It's dandelion season. I live in the midst of a dandelion forest. In fact, there are places in the "lawn" that look like they were deliberately sown to dandelion, because there's nary a blade of grass. Not even quack grass. That's quite an accomplishment. Maybe later in the year I'll go out and dig roots and make a batch of wine. At the very least I know it's "organic".

This place has been so neglected for such a long time, and often when I'm gazing, stupefied, at some clump of desolation, I think about the word "organic" and wonder what its applications are. My dandelions are organic, but that kind of organic doesn't look very fruitful by human terms.

Organic Thistle. I've been punching through the thistle patch with my shovel, breaking off the tops so they don't go to flower. I gave up on trying to dig them up by the root. Hah! They go on forevah.

Chickens, doing chickenly things. Pooping, eating, flapping, shrieking. Growing. Astonishingly. We were planning on putting them out on grass this weekend, but the forecast is for rain and thunderstorms, so perhaps we'll bide our time a bit longer.

One-Eyed Jack, the preening one. I thought he died a few days ago, but it must have been another runt, because here he is in Cyclopean glory. When everyone else in the coop had pneumonia, Jack's eyelids on the one side swelled up and stuck together, and that along with his runtiness made him easy to spot. The sickness has passed, but his eye is still mostly shut. And he's still a runt. Or she. Maybe it's One-Eyed Jill.

I'm astonished every day when I go to check in the morning, and this bird is still wandering around tipsily under the legs of its giant siblings. If it makes it through to the bitter end, it won't be so much a chicken dinner as a chicken nugget.

When I'm working on our farm, I'm hard. Hard like weathered, not hard like brittle. Like a "bottle in the smoke", a drinking skin.

I do what needs to be done, but that's not what I think needs to be done from inside the house. I haul big food-sacks, and behead thistles, and carry five-gallon pails of water. The place looks bad. There are days when I'm out there, and I look around at the ugliness, and the loneliness, and there are tears running down my face because I can't see the beauty, and my heart is cracking with all kinds of grief, and all I want is to get the hell out. But I do it anyway. The chickens get fed, the garden has a chance to breathe because it isn't choked by weeds. When it's time to butcher, I'll do that too, and maybe the tears will splash on the meat. And I'll do it, and carry on with it, because I'm tough. Something inside me is hard, and hardening.

I need this. I need the other things too, the study and the companionship and the therapy work, but I need this too, to keep me on the right side of real.

I was thinking this afternoon, about real, about really real. There was a time in my life when I used to worry about whether it was right or wrong to wear jeans to church. In a world where food comes from the ground, that's not a real question. It has nothing to do with morality. All the lists of do's and don't's from church that I used to fret about, or the lists that accrued inside my head, the ones of my own making, they're so far away now. Now it's about whether or not the chicks and the garden have water, and that's about it.

That's who I am today. Could be different tomorrow.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's with Blogger? All sorts of things are screwy, and it's not just my site. Pictures, sidebars, all sorts of weirdness. Huh.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Scene in the Life


Started early, as usual during the week. We're up at 5 to get the Spousal Unit to the bus-stop. It's so light in the morning now - if I wake before the alarm there's really no way of knowing what time it might be from the piece of sky through my window. The sun's been up for hours. It was worse when I lived 400 miles further north though. There the sun barely dips below the horizon at all. Or so it seems.

From the bus-stop back to the chicks. They're so big and voracious by now that by the time I get to them in the morning the feeders and waterers are empty. Mercy. I didn't realize I was in the market for avian elephants.

Altogether we've lost 24 so far. We finally went and got some antibiotics for the water, because it was beginning to look like we might lose all of them. Since that we've only lost a couple. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to have nothing to show for this endeavor at the end of the summer. We'll keep them on it for a week and a half longer, and then pull them off. Since we got them, people have been coming out of the woodwork to share their experiences with Cornish Giants, and they all said the same - these birds are bred for antibiotics and factories. It was the Cornish Crosses we wanted, the ones Joel Salatin recommends, but those weren't available. Oh well. Live and learn. We'll try something different next year, and hopefully by the end of the summer we'll have a little flock of laying hens to try our hands at.

The birds are two weeks old today, and to celebrate that they got extremely belligerent. They puff out their chests and explode in each other's faces. Charming. I think I won't have as much trouble with the butchering as I thought.
"Homeschooling". Patch's reading-readiness has taken some big leaps lately. Hallelujah! He wants this so badly, and it looks like it's finally on the map. He loves real, meaty books, things along the lines of Terry Pratchett. For years we've been pulling them in from the library in audio format, so he could have that autonomous access. Now that the symbols are making more sense for him, he's decided to work on Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By. He breaks it down as he can, phrases here and there. It's still beyond his fluency, but it's not beyond his sophistication or his pride. He's never tolerated the condescension of "readers". He'll get there. I'm so happy for him.

Garden. After the chicks, I was out busting the clods from my last unseeded bed. This is hard work for me. I'm such a wimp!

Big, bright, and bold. I got the purse done on the weekend, but I feel a bit too... conspicuous carrying it around. I know big purses have been really popular for the last decade or so, but I can't get over the diaper-bag effect. I think this purse will enter a library raffle and find new life on someone else's arm.

Jess, my girl who gives the coyotes a severe barking when they need it. Geez those things are loud! They park next to my window and make their horrible moaning and wailing in the middle of the night. I get up and flash the house lights at them, and that seems to unnerve them enough that they go find somewhere else to hold their convention.

Groan. Just when I got the kids sleeping through the night...

The proportions on this photo are so ridiculous. It looks like her feet belong on a poodle!

Baby. Just because he's so cute.

Attacking his mum. This is the part just before she hangs a lickin' on him.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bach and Bamboo

I've been craving a new purse lately. The one I've been hauling around for the past couple years is looking pretty battered and bruised, not being exactly high-end to begin with, and constant employment has worn it down to the nubbins.

And it's spring - I want some "pretty" in my life. (Without spending $150!) So I drug out the fabric bins, and bought some bamboo handles, and started playing with newspaper templates. I think I've got something that'll work. I'll post more pictures when I'm done. Still need to pick up some interfacing to hold the inside cell-phone pocket.

Poultry Report

So far we've lost 8. Ding-Dang! These darn broilers seem to make a hobby of dying!

Here's what I did, and you can laugh if you want. They were all looking so distressed and unwell, and I'd frantically checked and double checked on feed and water and shavings and temperature, and everything was as it's "supposed" to be, but they were still lying around and panting and making horrible noises and I was having nightmare visions of losing the entire batch.

Then I remembered the Bach flower essences that I've been using on myself and my family, and that there's a bottle of something called 5-Flower, or Rescue Remedy for emergency-type situations. I've been using it on my hands and wrists after therapy sessions, and on the Spouse's headaches, and sometimes on clients when they've got unrelenting knots. But you can use it internally too, and now and then I'll take a few drops just to settle.

I took the chickens' waterers, refilled them, and put 5 drops of Rescue Remedy in each. Then I put them back in the brooder, told the chicks to LIVE, and tucked everyone in for the night.

The next morning there were no dead chicks - first time since we got them! I took the boards off and they all started running around very energetically, and nearly crawled up my arm to get at the chick-starter I was pouring into the trough.

Hurrah! We have had one die since, but it was one that had already gone paralyzed and couldn't move to the feed or water. Today, cross my legs and hope to fly, it looks like a grand day for chick un-mortality.

I swear, I dreamt about chickens all night. Who knew this chick-anery would be so fraught?