Monday, December 29, 2008

The Surprise Gift

The Engineer pulled a fast one on me. I thought we had agreed to not spend a bunch of money on each other for Christmas this year. And I think he held to that until the day before Christmas. Until he and the kid sneaked away for a little while. Then a gift for me suddenly appeared under the tree. A gift I certainly never would have expected.

You see, he decided to buy me a chicken related gift too. A brand spankin' new video camera! So I can spend even more quality time with my chickens and then bring you all quality entertainment like this...

video

Yeah, okay, okay, it might take me a while to figure out that whole quality thing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Do What Comes Naturally

Well, it's official. I've become "The Chicken Lady". Did you know this blog started out as a home improvement blog? No really, it did. Back when we thought we were going to transform this old farmhouse. Back before the economy took a nose dive and the real estate market tanked. Seems sort of silly to invest a lot of time and money in a house now days. So we do a little here and there when time and money allows, but no major renovations.

Here lately we installed carpet in the master bedroom. The only room with carpet in the whole house.


Then we painted and updated the upstairs bathroom. This is our family bath. Shared by all who inhabit the upstairs. I still need to finish hanging curtains and artwork. Who knows when I'll bother to get around to that.

Before:
After:
But I'm not known for my home improvement blog. Nope. I'm "The Chicken Lady". You know you've been obsessing about chickens when almost all the Christmas gifts you receive are chicken related. One of my favorites was the sweatshirt my brother gave me...


But my point here is that it comes naturally to me. Chickens that is. Some of you will recall that this whole chicken adventure was all my Dad's fault. It's been one year since our current chicken project started. But really it all started thirty years ago.

Back when my Dad and I kept chicks in the basement.

That later grew up to be a colorful barnyard mix.

And the next thing you know they had friends. Lots of friends like ducks and geese.

And even a few turkeys.

That's me, many moons ago, petting Old Tom. My uncle is in the background. One would have to believe the combination of my uncle and the Pabst Blue Ribbon on the coffee table have something to do with how the turkey ended up in the living room. Nobody ever accused my Dad of not having fun.

So I just wanted to justify the direction this blog has taken. I get it honest. And I also wanted to warn you that, while around here 2008 was undoubtedly the year of the chicken. I think 2009 might just be the year of the turkey. But I plan to leave them outside...

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Mother Told Me to Pick This Very One

I hemmed. I hawed. I sat around poking myself in the head like Winnie the Pooh, saying "Think, think, think." But I just couldn't make up my mind. So many of the contest entries were fantastic. I mean Chicken Patty and Fertile Myrtle, Hello, how stinkin' funny is that?

Unable to make a commitment all by myself, I decided to form a committee. So on Christmas Day the committee congregated and after much heated debate and deliberation finally concluded that the names of the new girls will be...





Minnie and Pearl

Congratulations Marlene! Contact me with your e-mail address to collect your winnings. But like, uh, don't go getting too excited or anything. Cause, uh, like, uh, you won't be retiring on this prize.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mr. Edwards

Tell me he doesn't look just like him?



We're struggling with all the fabulous contest entries. I like them all. It's too hard to decide. It may have to come down to eny, meany miny, mo.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Name The New Girls Contest

It's an amazing transformation. Some will recall he burst on the scene here wild as a march hare. But not unlike Mr. Edwards from Little House on the Prairie, Old One-eyed Calico Jack's rough edges are starting to soften.


He didn't quite know how to act around the ladies at first. In fact I think he was plum terrified of them. It stands to reason now that I see how many feathers are starting to grow back on his head. I never realized how literally henpecked he'd been before getting his own place. The poor bugger.

The new girls are still young. Too young for any shenanigans and Jack knows that. So he's actually been a gentleman in that regard. So my realization of being a chicken pimp hasn't materialized. In his rough and gruff manor he has been teaching them things like how to roost and where to find the best morsels though. Unlike Jack, the ladies are quite civilized and social. Their gentle influence is making a remarkable change in Old Jack's demeanor. In fact, they've even taught him some table manners and he's now eating out of my hand.


So now that it seems this relationship will last, I feel it's time to name the new girls. I didn't really want to continue the pirate theme since they're a different breed than the others and certainly better behaved. I considered a "ladies of the evening" theme. Something like Lola and Trixie or something, but now that doesn't seem right either. They're too nice of girls for that. So I decided to leave it up to you all.


If you've been reading this blog for awhile and are not reading the comment section, you're missing the best part. There are some really, really funny people reading this blog and some of the comments will make you pee your pants and cry like a baby. So who better to name the new girls? And there might even be a prize involved...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without Eggnog

And it just so happens I know someone, who knows someone else, who can get me some eggs. So over the next week I'll be testing out several different eggnog recipes. Hey, it wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't gain a few pounds right? Might as well get it over with.

Here is today's recipe. I stole it right off the Egg, Chicken & Other Favorite Recipes forum over at backyardchickens.

NON-ALCOHOLIC EGGNOG

12 eggs - beat until light
1 1/2 cups sugar - beat in gradually
pinch of salt
8 tsp. vanilla (imitation vanilla is okay to use)
Stir in:
6 cans evaporated milk
3 cups water

Place in a glass jar (I used 4 of the quart jars) with a screw on top. Permit to ripen in refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

Makes 4 quarts.



Then on Thursday I'm going to try MissPrissy's recipe.

12 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 cups very cold heavy cream
4 cups very cold whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
nutmeg for sprinkling

In large bowl beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold in half of the sugar. Careful not to break the whites.

In an another larger bowl beat yolks until creamy. Fold in half of the sugar.

Fold egg whites into beaten yolks.

Carefully stir in the cream, milk and nutmeg.

Sprinkle with nutmeg.



So tell me, do you like eggnog? Spiked or plain?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pssst! Hey Mister...

what will it take for you to bust me outta here?


Beth's recovering well. She's not a very good patient though. She won't take her pills. I can't cram the pills down her throat, so I have to come up with creative ways to sneak them into her. Like cooking oatmeal or scrambled eggs for her. She really must not like the taste of the medicine because I can only feed her a treat a few times before she catches on and refuses to eat any more. I'm running out of options.

She also wreaked havoc inside her coop with her little shoe so I've removed it before she hurts herself. She really wants to go back outside with her friends. And Bob really wants her to come back. He's a man gone wild, searching for his lost love. I had to do football therapy on him twice yesterday. That's where I pick him up and carry him around like a football in front of all his ladies. Once humiliated he calms down a bit.

One more week of solitary confinement and it's going to be a long one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Indoor Recess

Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the cabbage is so delightful, and since we've no place to go, Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!


I remember when I had to schlep out of the house every day and drive to work. The first snow of the season always caused major traffic headaches. So when I lowered the gangplank to let Bob and the girls out for the first time in the snow, and the first chicken stopped dead in her tracks causing a multiple bird pile up, it didn't really surprise me. Her assumption that it must be white flaky toxic waste strewn about was pretty darned amusing though. Finally after the mob pushed the first one off into the snow and she didn't die, a few of them proceeded to walk on out. A couple tried flying to dry spots then were too afraid to move any further. None of them liked the snow though and all decided hanging out inside the coop was a much better option.

We designed the coop according to the recommended space requirements for keeping chickens. I don't think the folks making that recommendation took a hen's aversion to snow into consideration though. Nope, if they're cooped up in the coop all the time, they need a little more elbow room. And something to keep them entertained to prevent them from pecking each others feathers out.

Entertainment comes easy. Throw some scratch on the floor and let them dig for it. Hang a cabbage and let it serve as a pinata. Teach them a few sing-a-long songs. Oh, I kid. But the elbow room thing is a little more difficult to manage. Only one thing to do. Somebody's gotta bail ship. Today we had a nice couple show up and take four of our fat-bottom girls home with them. They, the couple, were excited to be getting such fat, fluffy and pretty hens. I think the hens will be happy too. And everyone else will have a little more room to run and play. Blackbeard might be a little depressed though. I caught him cavorting with one of the big Brahma girls earlier in the week. She was six times his size. Funniest thing I've seen in a LONG time. What a stud!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beth's Boogy Shoes

So early this morning I packed Beth up and we headed out to the vet's office. I sat in the waiting room with all the dog and cat owners eyeballing me with their smug grins. Beth got to meet a pit bull up close and personal and wasn't all that impressed. In fact she pretty much just sat there good as can be. But even so we caused a bit of a stir. Seems they don't get a lot of chickens in the office. Go figure.

As we waited in the exam room we could hear the technicians talking about what scale they could use to weigh "the chicken" and whatnot. I think they were excited about having a chicken as a patient. A nice change of pace from all the four legged furballs. When the doctor examined her Beth just lied there and let her do it. She was as calm and sweet as she always is. Only pecked the light thingy they were trying to shine down her throat once.

The doctor was obviously intrigued by the ailment. She knew exactly what needed to be done. It was down right entertaining to watch the discussion between the vet and the vet tech. We were the highlight of their week. And while I had only signed up to get some antibiotics they really, really wanted to do surgery on her. And made me an offer too good to refuse.

You see, one of the reasons they wanted to do the surgery was to try out making a cast for Beth's foot. One of them had the brilliant idea to use an epoxy compound that was designed for equine use. It creates a foamy substance similar to a Nerf ball that can be custom formed to the hoof or in our case foot. It cushions the injured foot allowing it to heal faster. So they basically made her a little tennis shoe.


Lot's of photos were taken which I understand may be making the rounds in certain veterinary circles. So not only did she get her foot all fixed up, Beth's going to be famous. Of course, Beth doesn't care about that yet, she's still trying to figure out how to walk with the darn thing.

For the fellow chicken owners out there, the post-op procedures will be to change the dressing every two days and apply a triple antibiotic ointment. They prescribed an antibiotic, Baytril 68 mg 1/2 tablet twice daily and an anti-fungal Ketoconazole 200mg 1/4 tablet twice daily for 14 days. They stressed the anti-fungal needed to be taken when taking antibiotics because the antibiotic lowers their natural resistance to fungal infection. They stated her eggs should not be eaten for a month.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Not All Fun & Games

DISCLAIMER: If you're even a little bit squeamish, you might not want to read this post...

I'd highly recommend raising chickens to anyone. They're fun to watch and provide hours of entertainment. It ain't all fun and games though. Nope, there's a very unglamorous side of raising chickens. I started off the weekend making chicken saddles. Or aprons. I've heard them called both. I can hear you saying "That's it, she's finally flipped her lid."

Why on earth would I ever do such a thing? Well, sometimes a rooster plays favorites. In this case Bob has a few girls that he uh, exercises, yeah uh, exercises more often than others. And all that exercising can wear a girl out to where she no longer has feathers on her back. Then when trying to grow feathers back, the other chickens see them, think they're something to eat and peck at them. The next thing you know you've got a bloody chicken. And that is really bad, because blood attracts even more pecking and the next thing ya know their innards are no longer in. Sorry, but that's just how it is. I told you it's not glamorous.


Sooo, I made them little chicken saddles out of two layers of denim. They attach around the wings with elastic and protect the back of the favorite hen. The feathers can grow back underneath without being pecked. And aren't they kind of cute? I think I might embroider their names on them. Or maybe applique some flowers for the girls with no names.

Then while I was out watching the fashion show I noticed my favorite hen, Beth, limping. I've told you about Beth before. She's the "special" chicken. She is one of the original chicks that we incubated and hatched ourselves. Her daddy was a Barred Rock just like Bob and her mommy was a Blue Ameracuana. So she looks like a Barred Rock but she lays blue-green eggs just like an Ameracuana. But that's not the only thing that makes her special. She's always just kind of beat to her own drum. When it comes to the hens, she's got the most personality. Or maybe she's brain damaged. I'm not sure, but I know she's special.

Anyway, after noticing her limping I noticed her foot swollen up like a little balloon. I scooped her up and brought her inside for a closer look. And it was what I was afraid of. Bumblefoot. It's a staph infection. They can get it by having a small cut or wound on their foot. Left untreated it is fatal.



The method of treatment is to soak the foot in Epsom salt. Then remove the scab and attempt to remove the hard pus material. An incision may need to be made in order to do so and you need to be careful not to cut the tendons or blood vessels. Then treat with antibiotic cream and bandage it.

I attempted the surgery. Twice. Problem is I only dreamed of becoming a veterinarian as a little girl. I didn't DO it. How in the heck am I supposed to know where the tendons or blood vessels are?

Another option for treating it is an oral antibiotic. So I called my dog's vet who happens to also treat chickens and asked if I could have whatever antibiotic would cure Bumblefoot. Unfortunately, the State of Indiana now has some law on the books that will not allow veterinarians to prescribe any medications without a prior "patient/doctor relationship". I asked how much this "relationship" would cost to establish. She said $47. I said, "You realize we're talking about a chicken, right?"

Anyway after giving it much thought, and determining ordering antibiotics online wasn't any cheaper, we've decided to pay the $47. I'm a visual learner and if I can watch the procedure once I'd be a heck of a lot less shaky when doing it myself the next time. And since this is a common chicken ailment it would be a skill worth knowing. Not to mention that we could then have access to any medications we might need in the future because while the "patient/doctor relationship" is supposed to be on a per chicken basis I could hear the vet tech winking on the phone. So Beth has a doctors appointment tomorrow at 11:oo a.m. I can't even imagine what my Dad would think of that. Taking a chicken to a vet. Craziness.

BTW, you know you're community is being taken over by city slickers when you call the small vet office just a few miles down the road and when you ask for medication for a chicken their response is "Sorry, but we don't treat exotics." Huh?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Unsolved Mysteries

Something went down. Something serious.

I've been putting all the knowledge I've gained watching all those CSI and NCIS episodes to good use lately. First it was Bob. His erratic aggressive behavior. Then the holes dug next to the run fence. Then Jack not leaving the coop.

Something went down. Something serious.

Then there was the abuse of poor Old Jack. And his desire to run and hide. Jack had never been the run and hide type before. He was more of a in-your-face kind of guy. What happened?

Something went down. Something serious.

After moving Blackbeard and his Wenches in with Bob it was like a huge weight had been lifted off Bob's shoulders. In fact, on Saturday while I was out milling about in the run Bob and I made up and he even sat in my lap for awhile. We did NOT kiss and make up though. I'm still leery of him getting near my lips. But what made him go crazy to begin with?

Something went down. Something serious.

Then I noticed the most important clue. When Jack jumped up on the roost to taunt Blackbeard about his new lady friends I saw it clearly. Jack's spurs were missing. He was walking around unarmed. It takes an awful lot of force to remove a rooster's spur. None of the other chickens were injured. So how did he break off his spurs?

Something went down. Something serious.

Then it snowed. Snow is good for crime scene investigators. You can see clearly the tracks in the snow. The tracks of the culprit that most likely came lurking around. The predator that Jack valiantly fought through the fence where he lost his spurs. He's not just a lonely old rooster afraid of his own shadow. He wasn't trying to cavort with one of Blackbeard's Wenches. Old One-Eyed Calico Jack is a disabled war veteran!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Red-Light District

The dilemma of the frozen water. An issue near and dear to my frozen fingers hearts. After consulting 19,000 fellow chicken owners over at Backyardchickens.com the simplest, safest solution is to run a heat lamp at night over the water fount. But not just any heat lamp. A safety heat lamp. One with a ceramic base that cannot overheat. One that can be secured securely to the ceiling. After this photo was taken we took it a step further and attached it even more securely with a zip tie and then used electrical tack thingys to secure the cord. That sucker's not coming down any time soon. And with a thermostatic outlet, it can be controlled to only turn on when it gets down to 32 degrees.



In the mean time though, it's keeping Jack's side of the coop just warm enough for the new girls not to freeze their precious little bums off but cold enough that they want to cuddle with him. Which leads me to this little revelation....


while gazing at the amber glow emitting from the coop and pondering some of the comments on the last post I realized I can now add "chicken pimp" to my list of lifetime accomplishments. Nice.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Boy Meets Girl

It really is a small world. Milton, the man we acquired Jack's girlfriends from, was a student teacher for my high school biology teacher. Which in an of itself is strange but if you knew where I went to high school you'd swear it was some sort of miracle. My high school is in such a wide-open and remote location it's now a wind farm. I'm talkin' WAY out in the middle of nowhere land.

Anyway we brought his girls home yesterday and since they've spent their entire lives inside a nice warm and cozy house we knew we needed to gradually get them accustomed to their new living conditions. They spent the night on the back porch with the dogs. Where it's between 55 and 60 degrees. Normally before you introduce new birds into your flock you should quarantine them away from the flock for a week or so just to make sure they're healthy. Which was our plan when we brought them home.


The little dog changed our plans. She thought it would be a fun game to bark incessantly at them in the middle of the night. We've since decided the new birds look perfectly healthy and since we know they were raised in the guy's house away from other birds they were moving outside TODAY.

At first we contained them inside a clear plastic tub. They could see Jack and Jack could see them. He stood around flexing his muscles and trying to do his best George Clooney impersonation.


Then after a few hours of him posing we decided to release the girls. I swear to you, she immediately walked right up to him and pecked him on his head. He just stood there looking at her like "What the heck did you do that for?" Then he did a little "I've got an invisible morsel for you" dance. And the pecking and the dancing continued for a while.


Then he jumped up on the perch and proceeded to announce something to the world. I only wish I knew roosterese. I'm not sure if he was begging for someone to come save him or bragging that he had a girlfriend?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lonely Bantam Rooster Seeks Female Companions

It started about the time I noticed Old One-Eyed Calico Jack hanging out inside the coop all day. I could only assume he had tried cavorting with one of The Wenches and Blackbeard banished him to solitary confinement. Then the freezing weather hit and I grew weary of breaking up the frozen water in the north end of the coop. We designed the coop to have passive solar heat in the south end. The north end was designed for storage. The south end's water wasn't freezing. The north end's was. So I declared a state of emergency and forced all The Pirates to evacuate the north end.

It was tense at first, but Blackbeard soon established dominance over Bob and pecking order was established. But Old Jack still was staying in the coop all day. Once I couldn't find him at all. He was hiding behind the food storage box. I don't know how long he'd been back there.

I let it go on for a couple of days, but noticed Old Jack seemed really, really hungry when I would sneak him a treat. Bob and Blackbeard were relentless in their heckling and even the Fat-Bottom Girls were chasing poor Old Jack. I don't think it helped any that he was trying to cavort with them while they were laying an egg. Then came the final straw when I realized he'd spent the entire night hiding behind that storage box while the others pooped on his head.

While doing the chores that morning I left the door to the north end open. Jack high-tailed it in there looking for a place to hide. I closed the door behind him and gave him his own private food and water. He was famished! I left him to rest awhile in peace. When I came back later he had his craw so packed full of food you could actually see it bulging in his neck.

I was so mad at the others for starving him, Jack now has his own private living quarters in the north end. Problem is, chickens don't like living alone. So I had no choice but to place the following add on craigslist:

Lonely Bantam Rooster Seeks Female Companions

Old One-eyed Calico Jack would like to settle down and start a family. While he's partial to Ameraucanas, at this stage in his life he's pretty much willing to cavort with any bantam who will take him. If you have two or three lovely ladies that might be interested in meeting Jack, please contact us. We are willing to trade a few of our large-breed fresh layers since they seem to be out of Jack's league and too much for Old One-eyed Jack to handle, or pay a reasonable price.



I'm happy to announce a man named Milton took pity on poor Old One-eyed Calico Jack and offered up a couple of his darling mixed bantams. We'll be picking up Jack's two new lady friends on Friday to come hang out with him in his swingin' bachelor pad. They're small, young and impressionable and should think Old Jack is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'll be back to breaking up frozen water again but that's okay. He deserves it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Circle City Copperworks

Have you dreamed of a custom made copper range hood or maybe a copper farmhouse sink? I'm not ashamed to admit I have. And you know what? I touched one today. And you know what else? Within minutes of me touching it the germs I left on it were dead. Deader than a doornail. You know why? Because copper itself is an antimicrobial surface that naturally kills bacteria. Cool, huh?

Today our homeschool group toured Circle City Copperworks. A company in Indianapolis that manufactures unique one-of-a-kind copper sinks, countertops, range hoods, cupolas, finials and spires. I think everyone needs a spire. The bathtub below can be yours for a mere $10,000. Or you can custom order a cookie cutter in the shape of the Colts emblem. They do it all. And they do it extremely well.


We learned how it all starts out mined from rocks like these.


To how it's shaped and finished.


And three or four days worth of work later, a master coppersmith like Dan here, can make a range hood like the one behind him. It is unbelievably beautiful in real life. My first born should have been nervous while I was contemplating how I could ever acquire such a beautiful thing.


Dan gave an absolutely fabulous tour of their impressive shop. It was fun, educational and extremely interesting. It was really surprising to see that not all that much has changed over the years. Oh sure, he showed us the fancy laser cutting machine attached to the computer. But he also said it takes so much time to design something on the computer they often just do it by hand, given they're usually only making one of whatever it is. The fancy computer sits right next to some shaping tools that are over 100 years old. You wouldn't believe what he can do with just a hammer and a stump.


In the end, no question went unanswered. The kids really enjoyed it and learned some valuable life lessons along the way. The importance of studying geometry for instance. It was a great hands on learning kind of day. And learning from someone so passionate about their work, always makes it exciting. Thanks, Dan. As soon as I win the lottery I'll be back for that tub!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bob Receives Stay of Execution

It just so happens that Bob is the luckiest rooster that ever lived. Really. I'm considering a Vegas trip for the boy. In an odd turn of events, Bob's life has been spared.

For the past couple of weeks I'd noticed the dogs sniffing around the chicken runs. I just assumed they were looking for dropped morsels of chicken treats. Because if you asked them they're plum starved to death. Never mind they're so fat they can barely make it out the door together. Anyway, I didn't pay much attention to the sniffing.

Early Saturday morning, while the knives were being sharpened, I proceeded about my usual chicken chores. First I let the Pirates out, then Bob and the girls, then I start tossing scratch grains out to keep them busy so I can go inside the coop in peace. I generally make a complete circle around the entire chicken compound, tossing it out evenly so everyone can get some. But this time I was stopped dead in my tracks about half way around. Some varmint had dug a huge hole next to the fence and would have gotten in had we not buried the hardware cloth a foot underground!

This very well may explain Bob's nasty behavior of late. It's possible something has been lurking around and Bob knew it. So Bob's really just trying to protect his turf and his ladies. *sniff* And to think he was a frog's hair away from becoming soup.

I apologized profusely to Bob, told him he was a very good boy and refilled the hole. This morning the hole was back again, not as big this time though. So we'll be keeping Bob around for awhile. We'll step back and let him do his job as night watchman. The lucky bugger.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dead Bird Walking

Well, I've pretty much had it with Bob. See, he's being a real pain the the buttocks. Down right mean even. So a few days ago I decided to get busy with a little bit of tough love therapy, rooster style.

When Bob comes out of the coop and starts to come after me I just scoop him up and give him a big ol' hug. As you can imagine he doesn't care much for that. In fact if he had panties they'd be in a big ol' bunch. But it did seem like it was starting to help keep him from attacking me. Until this morning.

To say Bob and I had a brief scuffle, would be stating it mildly. He came after me. I scooped him up and gave him a big ol' hug. But when I tried to readjust my grip on him he somehow managed to get close enough to bite my lower lip. And that's when the feathers started flying. I was the one with bunched up panties at that point. And I was bleeding. And I was MAD. Real mad.

Normally when he comes after me I just lift my boot and let him run himself into it. I don't believe in hurting animals so I don't actually use any force against him. He's stupid enough to hurt himself. Today though, I have to admit I helped him a little as I scrambled for the exit holding my lower lip.

So the time has come to make a decision about Bob. So far I've been able to deal with him because he doesn't have any spurs yet. But they're growing fast. It won't be long and he could do some serious damage to someone. I hate having to make this decision. I love that dumb bird.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rogue Roosters

A must read...


http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/O/ODD_ARRESTED_ROOSTER?SITE=AP

Crossing the Line

There are a couple of things you won't often read about here, religion and politics. I find them both very personal matters. Matters that I don't feel the need to thrust upon you as I am sure you all have your own opinions. And I respect you for that. But given that this blog also serves as a journal for me to reflect back on I would be remiss if I did not mention the election.

This election is not just significant for our country, but for the first time in my adult life Indiana is actually a real player in the game. That's pretty cool. This election has also been significant for my family. It's the first year my daughter is eligible to vote. It's also the first year my husband is eligible to vote. And by the sound of his voice at 6:30 this morning when he roused me out of bed to tell me he'd voted, I'd say he was rather excited about it. I guess I would be too if I'd waited almost 40 years for the right to do so.

I have to admit, as a woman, every election year I thank my lucky stars that I live in this great country where I have the right to cast a ballot. This year I watched every debate. I researched every hot issue. But what it all boiled down to in the end, for me, was one deciding factor. I have a fifteen year old son. A son who is bound and determined to join the military once he turns 18. That time will go by like a blink of the eye. So today I voted not just as an American. Not just as a woman. But as a mom.

Please, go vote today to stand up for the issues that are near and dear to your heart.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Should Have Zagged

Have I ever mentioned how much of a klutz I am? It's a wonder I'm still alive really. Just ask any of these folks I live with. I was hanging up one of the engineer's shirts in his closet the other day. The rod is way too tall for me so I was on my tippy-toes. I felt something in my back crunch right between my shoulder blades. Not a good thing, but not debilitating. It hurt a little but no big deal. Then yesterday, while doing my version of The Biggest Loser workout, I think I broke myself. Because it suddenly became a REALLY big deal.

Not willing to admit I'd broken myself though, I proceeded to shower as usual and still planned on cleaning the chicken coop, putting the garden to bed and painting the upstairs bathroom. By the time I finished the shower, where I narrowly missed drowning, I decided lying down with an ice pack was probably a better plan. So I did. For about 20 minutes. Then I determined I should just try to work through the pain and go ahead and clean the coop. I managed to get the big bird side done but nearly passed out, either from the pain or from this stupid diet I'm on. So I fried up an egg with toast followed by a cookie and milk. Figured that was enough protein, carbs and sugar to cure what ailed me. Then I went back to bed and stayed there for a couple of hours this time, under close supervision of the cat.

By the time I managed to pull myself out of bed I'd completely lost all hope of continuing this dumb diet and exercise routine. It's apparently going to kill me. So I hobbled outside where the engineer was and asked him if he wanted a soft drink. He said "yes". I said "Great, then you can pick me up some Cheetos while you're at the convenience store." And he did after he laughed at me a while. I finished the other side of the coop with much less enthusiasm. Then I pulled up all the tomato cages and hauled those to the barn and emptied the pots and buckets my herbs had been growing in. After that I gave up the charade and admitted defeat. It was either that or actually do the screaming out loud and not just in my head.

This morning it's more sore and achy than sharp and shooting pain. I still can't make any sudden moves. The bathroom is definitely not getting painted today.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bob's Been a Bad Boy

I love the dumb bird. I really do. But he's been acting a little too aggressive for my tastes lately. I understand he's just trying to do his job of protecting the flock. And maybe part of it is he's so darn proud of the eggs the girls are starting to lay he doesn't want me to take them. But he needs to get that little pea-size brain of his wrapped around the concept of not biting the hand that feeds him.

The men folk won't even go in the run anymore if he's in there. I don't mind going in because I know he's mostly full of bologna and just likes to talk trash. But the other day he actually got me from behind as I was leaving the run. He's lucky I was already half way out the door or he would have ended up hanging upside down somewhere. I was NOT amused. So much so I came directly into the house and pulled one of his brothers out of freezer camp and made up the tastiest batch of chicken-n-noodles you can imagine. Here's my recipe.

Chicken-n-Noodles

1 stewing chicken
2 sprigs parsley
4 celery branches with leaves
1 carrot, pared and sliced
1 small onion, cut up
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt *
about 1/2 pound of noodles**

Place chicken pieces in Dutch oven or large kettle with enough water to cover (about 2 quarts). Add remaining ingredients. Cover; bring to boiling and cook over low heat about 2 1/2 hours, or till tender. Let cool. Remove meat from bones and return to pot. Bring to boil. Add noodles and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. * If you're watching your sodium intake reduce or omit salt. **Homemade noodles are best, but you can buy homemade-style at the store in a pinch.


Later that evening when I returned to close up the coop for the night Bob had completely lost his bad attitude. My earlier jumping up and down, flapping my arms, gritting my teeth and yelling "bad chicken, Bad Chicken, BAD CHICKEN" must have made an impression. I can only imagine that must have been quite the sight to see from his birds eye view.

Friday, October 24, 2008

He Knew Beans About Beans

Way back in the old days, soon after I married The Engineer, I had an occasion to make ham-n-beans. Seeing how The Engineer was one of those crazy canucks, he'd never heard of such a dish. The man ate baked beans out of the can for breakfast with ham for crying out loud. You know the stuff here in the Midwest we start a recipe with to take to picnics and potlucks? Very strange. Anyway, sadly, I made the most bland tasting beans you can imagine. I mean that ham had no flavor to it whatsoever. As we sat at the dinner table that night he politely didn't make a single negative comment, he simply asked "Dear, how often will we be eating this dish?" I'm guessing he was praying the answer wouldn't be once a week. Ever since, I've left ham-n-beans off the menu even though I craved them so.

Then the other day, at the blacksmith association meeting, they were serving ham-n-beans. He ate them, and genuinely seemed to enjoy them. I thought to myself, AHA! He's been here long enough now to develop a taste for real beans. Then I ran across a bona-fide cast iron bean pot in an antique store. They were selling it for a song. I remembered Dad always made his beans in a pot just like this and nobody made beans as well as Dad. I brought it home, cleaned it up, seasoned it and set off to make some real beans since I just happened to have a bunch of leftover ham. Dad took his bean recipe with him when he passed away, but I can remember the flavor well. I started doing a little ham-n-bean research and finally put together a recipe I figured would be a good place to begin replicating Dad's beans.

I started out with one pound of a great northern and pinto bean mix. Soak 'em in water over night. I chose those 'cause they were on sale and this recipe is all about being frugal. Dad loved The Frugal Gourmet.

Cook six slices of bacon right in the bean pot. This helps with the seasoning of the cast iron. Good cast iron needs to develop over time to become non-stick. Most believe it helps the flavor too. Remove the bacon, crumble it and set it aside.


Drain all but a smidge of the drippings, then saute about half a chopped onion and two cups of ham just until the onion is tender.


Then add some chicken broth. I happened to have about three cups handy in the fridge. Add water to what ever broth you have to equal six cups of liquid total. Add the crumbled bacon, the beans, 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic powder, one tablespoon of onion powder, one teaspoon pepper and two tablespoons of dried parsley.


Stir it once and leave it alone. You should not stir beans. I don't know why I just remember you're not supposed to touch 'em. Bring it to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Let it cook for a couple of hours.

I'm pretty sure it's a federal law that you have to serve it with cornbread. So mix up a batch of cornbread, bake it in a cast iron skillet and serve it with butter and a little maple syrup. The saltiness of the beans paired with the sweetness of the syrup is a match made in heaven, let me tell ya.

This time The Engineer claimed it was the polar opposite of the beans he ate years ago. He claimed he'd eat these beans every night of the week. And even went as far to say they were better than the beans we had at the smithy. And I'll even throw in a confession here. These beans are even better than my Dad's!

So, how do you eat your cornbread? Plain or fancied up?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yeeeeeeee-haaaaaw

I'm connected to you today via DSL. I cannot even begin to describe, for there are no words to adequately describe, how happy I am right now. If you know me well, you know how words cannot describe how much I dislike my current satelite provider. We've had the horror story of all customer service horror stories when dealing with that company. We're so far out in the boonies we thought we were doomed to a life of dealing with the evil empire called HughesNet. We were skeptical when the phone company sent us some junk mail claiming they could provide DSL service all the way out here. We'd been through that before, getting our hopes up by the sales staff only to be shot down when the techies got involved. But always the optimists we called and signed up. The technician called today and instead of saying "Sorry miss we can't install the service" he said "Everything is ready to go, plug in the modem and have fun surfing." I batted my eyes like a frog in a hail storm, stunned by what I had just heard. I didn't believe him, but now I'm surfin' at mach speed! Yahoo! I may need to install a seatbelt in my easy chair!

Gettin' Er Done

The craft room is about as organized as it's going to get. I'm pleased with it considering all the furniture and shelving, etc. was recycled from our last house. Back when I had the most fabulous craft room ever. So fabulous it was drooled upon by all who entered and was even published in a few magazines. *sniff* Dang, I miss that room. Well, really I miss the free time I spent in that room. That was life before homeschooling. But I wouldn't give up what I have now for the world, let alone that room. This room will do just fine.



I wasn't able to fit all of my books and stamps in, but the engineer says he'll build some bookshelves to fit in that hallway you can see on the left in that top photo. I wasn't able to set up a spot for my ironing board to stay up all the time either, but that's okay. Now I have a legitimate excuse for not ironing clothes. It would just be too much work to drag that old board out. But if I'm buying a stack of fabric for a quilt, then that would be another story. ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Busier than a one-eyed cat watchin' two mouse holes.

The man came to fill up the fuel oil furnace. I didn't pass out when he handed me the bill, but we immediately called someone to come blow in some more insulation in the attic. They'll be here Friday. Of course it's not just that easy. I needed a light fixture installed in the closet. You know, just one of those old fashioned pull-the-string kind. Better to do it now than after all that insulation is in the way. The engineer spent some time recently sealing all the duct work, too. We need to put the storm doors back up and try to get ahead of that horrible wind whistling noise we suffered through last year.

Then there's the entire reorganization of the upstairs. We're installing carpet in one of the bedrooms. The one that served as my sewing room. After it's carpeted it will become the master bedroom, freeing up the room we're currently using for a kiddo or two. So I've relocated the sewing room to the loft at the top of the back stairway. I've crammed all my scrapbooking and rubber stamping stuff in there too. Well, most of it. There's so much stuff it won't all fit. But luckily I'm using some of it up. On top of all the other tasks, I'm working on a family album that we need to present to the social worker when she comes to do our homestudy. She called today to schedule it. Now I have to get busy, finish childproofing and clean this house too...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bigfoot Spotted at Local Corn Maze...

No wait, that's not Bigfoot. That's me! Still a rare sighting considering I'm usually behind the camera, but I don't have big feet. Well maybe they're big considering my height, but you didn't really come here to read about my feet did you?

Have you ever been through a haunted corn maze? Neither have I, but my kid and all his friends and their families did Friday night. I volunteered to be brave and stay and make sure the campfire didn't die out. Would have hated for them to come back all cold and scared and not be able to warm themselves.


It's not that I was too scared to go in the maze after the hay ride. Nope. Those screams coming from the corn didn't drag up any unresolved issues of Steven King novels for me. No, I was just genuinely concerned about guarding our fire and belongings. Someone may have run off with our cider, or worse yet our marshmallows. Cause, you know, those criminal types are always out looking for marshmallows. I saved the day by not going in that maze.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whodunit?

Somebody laid an egg. A pinkish brown egg. It wasn't Beth, our "special" chicken who lays green eggs. (That's one of the reasons she's special.) Or Sammie who lays nice, pretty brown eggs. Nope, it was one of the potentially evicted. Problem is, I don't know which of the sixteen did it. So I don't know who gets to stay. I think we need to come up with a chicken cam so we can catch her in the act. Maybe we could broadcast it live right here. It would be like an online version of the game Clue. I could make little chicken costumes, Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock. Yeah, yeah, I can see it now. We could become an overnight web sensation!

Or I suppose it might be simpler to just keep them all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Little Dream House on the Prairie

My dream house sits just a stone's throw away from the blacksmith shop. It's wrap around porch just calls me to sit and snap some beans or something.


The cozy interior is furnished perfectly. Everything you really, truly need is here.


I'd move in tomorrow if the park staff would let me. My family laughs at that and claims I wouldn't last a day. But what they don't know is that I've been dreaming of this place since I was a little girl.



When I read the Little House books or watched the series on TV, in my mind I was Laura. Just standing inside this humble little abode makes me wonder if I didn't live in such a place in a former life or was it just the childhood dreams that make it feel so much like home?

I'd last longer than a day. The only thing I can think of that I've become too spoiled to live without would be a fan on those steamy August days where the air is so thick and still you can't breathe. But even then I could just take a dip in the pond to cool off I suppose. Yep, if it were just me, I'd be moving.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Blacksmith Shop


The village smithy, a place where men have gathered for centuries among the flames, heat, smoke and noise.


You won't want to believe me, but this is a brand new building. It's dedication was held just today with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Complete with a metal ribbon of course!


The craftsmanship is amazing. All the logs are hand hewn. As are all the buildings in this little village.


Each window is fashioned with unique metal crossbars. The doors sport hand wrought hinges and latches.


The forges consist of a raised brick hearth outfitted with bellows to feed the coal fire and a hood to carry the smoke away.


With a forge and anvil, hammer and tongs, blacksmiths can make almost anything.


Everything here is made from a simple railroad tie.


These men are some of the finest you will ever have the opportunity to meet. They are willing to pour their blood, sweat and tears into building an environment where the future may learn from the past.


And ladies, believe it or not, these big burly men can even cook up a darn fine meal. I've never had ham and beans so good!