Baby Steps…and Baby Invasions

So, before I fell super sick, we were working on about 2463 projects, all of which are in various degrees of planning or completion. Although most of the daily “stuff the Mama does” has gone undone in my absence, we have been making some progress on some other things.
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The tractor is once again operational. We’ve upgraded the starter and alternator to a 12 Volt system, and as a result had to put in a new ignition switch as well. Figured if we were going to replace it, we might as well prevent the problem from occurring again. Once my honey got all that done, the first of the produce beds got disced, so we are one step closer to planting!

If the weather would only cooperate a little more, it would be lovely. We had a series of unexpected crazy weather days last week. As in, literally 68 degrees one day and wet slushy snow the very next morning. We lost some plant starts, not enough to make me cry, but enough that it was a loss. One of our favorite local farms, Bennett Orchards, got hit far harder than we did. After a six hour stint of temps in the 20’s, despite smudge pots and helicopters, they lost their ENTIRE 2016 peach crop. We pick and buy bushels of peaches and blueberries from them each year for canning, I’ll miss them a lot this year. Thankfully, so far it looks as if the blueberries came through the freeze.
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And our Flemish Giant Rabbit doe appears to have some surprises in store for us as well. She has taken up fur pulling and nesting, and trying to rip my fingers from my hands when I feed, water and clean in her hutch, so it seems she may have already been bred and kits may be imminent. She’s not typically nasty, the rabbit growling and snarling are kind of scary.

The off-the-farm work boss called us last week to remove a large swing set from one of their rental properties, due to concerns about its age, insurance, and the potential for injury to some vacationer’s child. Since the components of the swing set were pretty well thrashed, we decided to save the frame to build a new chicken coop / tractor. I’m hoping to get a jump on that project this weekend, we’ll see how I feel.
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Ryan’s personal 7-egg incubator that he waited so patiently for has epically failed to hatch anything at all. It will likely be trashed after one more attempt with just a couple of eggs to insure that it’s incubator error and not ours. That was a disappointment, but he took it in stride. Having new babies hatching in the big one softened the blow. The season’s next large incubator hatch is due Sunday.

We’ve been peddling a few chicks from home, it’s been nice to have clients and visitors to the farm again. With me being sick, that extra few dollars here and there has sure been a help, too. Our first two hatching egg sales on Ebay have been completed (with a third preparing to sell in just a few moments)  and Ry’s birds now hopefully have offspring growing in Massachusetts and Oakland, California at a school!

We have some new breeds of chickens / chicks. Some Silkies, Lavender Aracaunas, and Blue Laced Red Wyandotte bantams have arrived! The first four of our Black Copper Marans chicks are doing quite well, too!

In our most exciting and happy news, one of my grown children’s families will be coming on the 7th of next month for an extended stay. The babies are invading! They’ve been toying with the idea of a permanent move up this way for quite some time, and recent events in the neighborhood they live in gave them a few more reasons. Dad’s already secured comparable work locally, and my girl and I are making plans for some much needed support for her, and possibly school. I’m excited to have a partner for the shop, and it looks like her artistic and crafty talents may get a pretty serious workout this year. Additionally, the extra hands around here will be a blessed relief, and I think we will make much more progress than I planned on for this year! Now, to figure out where to put six more bodies in this camp!

Hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons, hope things are going well for all!

 

 

Grandmuffin Madness

I’ve been a little lax with the posting of late and I apologize. It’s been an uber-busy week.

Terminal broke-ness resulted in me actually having to go and work this week…like, GASP…outside the farm. It was heinous and horrible, but necessary, I’m afraid.  Good timing, though, with my wee man being out of town. Cleaning super funky rental units crawling with insect life that the tenants chose to not take with them for the move for your part time boss will distract you from anything else you’d be prone to put at the top of the whine list. Like missing your 8 year old, who’s off on a Dad visit.

I joked with the boss this week I was going to fire his exterminator and put diapers on a tribe of my chickens and turn them loose in the next one to deal with the insect pets. I’ll call them the “cockroach containment unit”. Environmentally friendly. Chemical free. What’s not to love? Oh, yeah…free feed in the form of pestilence and disease with six legs. Ok, maybe NOT my million dollar idea.

But Friday, all was once again right with the world, Ryan was back home, and my eldest and her hubby and brood of four girls were coming for the weekend. I have been covered up in glorious girly grandmuffin madness all weekend long.

Sometimes I feel like since we didn’t go anywhere or take them to DO anything that I’ve failed at Me-mawing. But the weather was icky, it rained all day Saturday and today was a frigid windy mess. And I found out that as usual, I worry too much, because they mostly just had a blast.

We had eggs hatching in the incubator and we wore a trench of a path from the back door to the incubator / brooder shed with flashlights checking on the progress of hatching peeps. Teagan, my eldest granddaughter, the self proclaimed “chicken mama”, spent a large portion of her weekend on egg collection duty and incubator watch. She takes these duties very seriously.
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We had Easter Bunny tracks through the kitchen this morning, and a two acre egg hunt this afternoon. We’ll be running over the un-found eggs for months to come with the tractor.image

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I occasionally refer to my grandgirls as feral children when they’re here. In the most loving way, of course. Mostly because they walk through the door with the confident assurance that they know exactly who is running the show from that point on, and it is no one over 4 foot tall. They have one of two speeds on this farm at all times. Full tilt boogie and comatose exhaustion. There is no happy medium.

The shoes come off for the duration of their stay and the dirt begins accumulating on tiny faces. The back door never stops swinging and is rarely shut properly. There is very little that a pouty face and threatened tears won’t get you. Or get you out of. Or tiny arms slung around your neck, laden with motives because why should we not have candy before breakfast? The popsicle stash ebbs and flows in great waves. We eat what we please, we play till we crash from exhaustion, and then we get up and do it all over again. Bedtime? What’s bedtime? Pap and Memaws = anarchy. We have soup for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. There are toys in every square foot of the house and stray socks and blankies and stuffed animals, and we all love it. It’s completely unorganized chaos. It’s glorious.

And thankfully, my daughter and her husband accept that. Or they’re just tired. Either way, I love them so much for allowing me to turn their kids into a tiny tribe of anarchists when they come through the door. I miss them already.

 

 

 

Blech.

Blech. That’s the word for the week. After trying hard not to submit to the mystery bug that rolled through the house last week, my system finally said “That will be quite enough, foolish woman. I tried to warn you.  You will take to your bed and rest. Now.” Illness coupled with crummy gray cold wet weather, prepping to send my youngest on a weeklong visit with his father to VA with the usual dread, and the recent rash of mini-disasters didn’t help. Neither did my current financial status which doesn’t enable me to un-fudge said disasters…or the fact that we’re edging into the absolute busiest time of year here.

My egg eaters seemed to have slowed down. I hope I’m winning the war, which now requires at least four treks across the pasture daily to the new chicken casa to snatch eggs from under indignant hens before they get the chance to destroy them. My winter weight gain can certainly benefit from the extra mileage, but it’s no fun when you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.

We’ve temporarily put our new pride and joy out of commission. The tractor has thrown the starter and requires a new one. Technically likely our fault, since the bad battery was 6 volts and we were jumping her with 12. This resulted in some electrical bad juju that resulted in this glorious shearing apart of heavy metal parts. Lesson learned. Expensive lesson. She’s getting an upgrade to 12 volt status.

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That nice crack? Nope, no bueno.

Also in the user error department, I just found out today I’ve spent the entire winter feeding a buck rabbit that was originally mistakenly tagged last fall as a doe. Sexing juvenile rabbits is not a skill that I’ve perfected yet (Obviously), but this hit will insure I check again before wintering another buck I don’t need. Not a biggie unless you’re talking about 20+ pound rabbits that Hoover up feed like teenage boys ingest Mountain Dew. Plus this puts us one doe short of this year’s target number of litters.

A long planned and eagerly awaited trip to the feed store Friday resulted in mini-disaster number umpteen. As a result of an incorrect store website, we arrived thirty minutes AFTER opening to discover that the chicks Ryan has waited a month for had all been sold. In thirty stinking minutes. Apparently, the chick pirates were lined up in the parking lot at 6 am and we were not among them.

My middle son reached the magical age of majority (also Friday) which slaps one in the face with the reality that these lovely strands of gray glitter in my locks might not be premature. You start by celebrating your success that they’re now eighteen and you managed to not kill them! This is an epic parental accomplishment, as they send you home with them with absolutely NO instruction manual to refer to. It also provides equal amounts of terror and relief. You’re no longer legally responsible for their actions, and you can now no longer BE legally responsible. You have to hope and pray that you’ve taught them well enough to make the decisions that they’re frothing at the mouth to make.

Justin, below, as a grinning toddler on the beach, (enjoying his big bro’s entrapment) and just days shy of his independence-bringing anniversary of womb eviction.

 

I almost got skunked last night visiting the incubator shed to turn eggs. It’s a small skunk, and was as surprised to see me as I was it. However, it retreated to the safety of what appears to be his den after standing up on his front legs and wiggling and pointing a loaded rear weapon squarely at me. Unfortunately, his den seems to be directly UNDER the incubator shed. And the brooder. So on this week’s fun and games list is to live trap and relocate an angry and petrified skunk. Good times will be had, I’ve no doubt.

And to add the cherry on top of this S%it sundae of a week…Yesterday, as T was chainsawing down the line of adolescent trees that now front the property after the inattention of years past, he has hurt himself. Some sort of twisting of his knee that has now resulted in pain, swelling, hobbling about and clicking and popping noises that even I can hear. We’ve cancelled our plans for Easter sunrise church services in the first time ever in the history of “us”, and we will likely spend a good portion of the day at the Emergency Room instead.

I’m going to try and get my motivation back up and running over the next few days. Spring is definitely here and after working so hard to be ahead, it appears we are destined to be behind once again. Murphy’s Law prevails! I hope everyone is having a wonderful and blessed Easter Sunday if you celebrate it, and National Deviled Egg making week if you do not! 😉

~ Lisa

 

Zealotry and Zen

I find zealotry in all its forms completely distasteful. There is no faster way to completely dissuade me from a point of view than to try and ram it down my throat. This is on my mind this morning because I’m having a bit of a dilemma.  I respect a person having courage of conviction, and I pride myself on being a somewhat informed and educated person. I welcome new learning experiences of all sorts, and dissenting viewpoints. However, at the end of the day, it’s my right to decide whether I agree or disagree, and once I’ve done that, continued argument isn’t likely to do anything but push me farther from your school of thought.

Having said that, it’s important to qualify that we’re not “churchy” people…but we are “faith” people.  I had so much church foisted on me by two warring factions as a child, I vowed solemnly not to do that to my own children.  I have a wonderful relationship with the God of my own understanding. He may or may not be similar to yours, and frankly, I don’t care. I talk to him, he answers me in his own time and way, and my attendance in a house of worship of any denomination isn’t a requirement for that relationship. And that is all I have to say about that. Because I believe it should be a personal matter, and advertising your affiliation with or status within any religion, house of religion, or organization doesn’t make you any better at being a decent human than anyone else, myself included.  SO back to my dilemma.

My eight year old is a Cub Scout. He enjoys it, it’s a positive thing in his life, we enjoy the family based activities. As long as that continues to be the case, we’ll continue to be a part of the Scouts program.

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This week, Ryan is the “Star Student” in his classroom. This affords the classroom monarch a few privileges, one of which is to share something with his class that he enjoys. A toy, book, photographs, etc. With zero direction from either us or the Scouts, Ryan went to his teacher and asked if he could wear his scout uniform instead of his school uniform today, and share about some of the cool things he’s done in Scouts. She’s consented.

So I’m currently finishing up laundering said uniform, but I’m doing so with more than a few misgivings. You see, enrollment in Scouts programs is down. A lot. Some because of unfortunate events in the news in past years, but a good portion of it can be attributed to the fact that the Scouts aren’t allowed in most schools anymore. While there used to be a Scouts signup table at every school open house, winter carnival, etc…they’re now conspicuously absent.

You see, the Scouts, even though it’s a non-denominational organization, has some God going on. God’s in the book, the Scout Oath, and “Scout Sunday” involves attending your sponsoring or local church one Sunday per calendar year. (Completely optional)  It’s not a church program, it’s a community program. Boys and their families are welcome to take part in the program with any or no religious affiliation.

So, of course…there’s someone, somewhere, everywhere… who has decided to make noise about that.  One parental meltdown is all it takes for Scouting to be unwelcome at a school. One parent who feels that the mere mention or presence of a program that even makes mention of God is an effort to “indoctrinate” their child, separation of church and state, blah, blah, blah.

It’s absurdly funny to me that the most adamant of these objectors are most often the people who are so gung-ho about tolerance for and about protecting everyone’s right to their own feelings and beliefs. They tend to be more intolerant than anyone I’ve ever seen. The right to one’s own feelings and beliefs only applies for them when it doesn’t conflict with their own agenda. Am I the only one who sees this as complete hypocrisy?

I take serious issue with that. One of the most beautiful principles this country was founded on was Freedom. Freedom to think, speak, believe, worship, not worship, vote, object or abstain AS WE PLEASE in all matters. Blessed autonomy. So why do we now suddenly expect schools, workplaces, public places to police and insulate us completely from the beliefs or ideas of others? What happened to the right to and common sense to just be secure enough in your own convictions to respectfully tolerate those of others? To just BE, and let everyone else BE…

This is how I’ve tried to raise my kids. To know that…Not everyone is like you. And that’s ok. It’s their right to be different just as much as it’s yours. It’s for you to decide what you believe in and how you want to carry yourself as a person. 10710712_953048228055375_7582096015899745441_n.jpg

So, I’m sending my kid to school today in his Scouts uniform. With the dread that I’ll get a phone call later. That my little boy will be confused and hurt and not understand what is possibly threatening or objectionable about a program that he has fun in, that teaches him to be a good person, a responsible citizen, and a good steward of the environment. That he will come home feeling there’s something bad or wrong about being a Scout. That my son’s teacher will be called away from her class for a stern talking to, and that I’ll get a phone call citing the School dress code and uniform policy and have to take my child a proper plain polo shirt. I’m steeling myself for that, because I’m not quite sure how gracefully I’ll handle it. Tact and vocal filtering really aren’t my strong suit. Especially where my wee ones are involved.

I miss America. I don’t know when we became a land so hyper focused on insulating everyone else’s little baby feelings that we became afraid to have our own. There’s something that feels inherently wrong with that. I really miss America.

 

 

 

 

 

Angels Working Overtime

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The angels are certainly getting a workout this week on behalf of my family. Two days ago there were wannabe thugs shooting it out on the front yard of one of my grown children and today… This is my seventeen year old son’s Chrysler Sebring Convertible, or what’s left of it.

Just a few very short hours ago, he was on his way from Pennsylvania, where he’s currently living with his Dad and working, down here to the shore for the next 5 days. About 30 miles from my house, this happened.

For starters…and these are not just parental blinders… This kid doesn’t use his phone while driving. If you’re a parent blowing it up (or even a friend), you will be notified, quite petulantly, that he has had to pull over to call you back and find out just what your deal is and why it could not wait 15 minutes. He is also a seventeen year old seatbelt Nazi. Whether he is in the front or back seats, it’s on him. If you’re a passenger in his car, you put yours on or accept that walking is not crowded.  If you’re driving him somewhere…he’s a parrot in the passenger seat who only knows one phrase “Put your seatbelt on.”

What he does, however, is keep somewhat odd hours. As any 17, almost 18 year old is prone to do. Especially one with a full time job. I spoke to him before he left PA this morning. I asked him to update me with his trip progress and he answered that he was gassed up and traditionally does not stop for anything, I could probably not expect to hear from him until he got here. “Mom, you know I will not call or text when I am driving.”

When the phone rang at 12:44 pm, I didn’t think for a second something was wrong. I picked up the phone and was prepared for Mom-gloating that he actually had to stop to pee, or stretch, or something.

Mom: “Well, hellllllooooo, child of mine. How’s your trip going?”

Kid: “Holy sh$t, Mom, I flipped my F-ing car.”

This is not what any parent wants to hear in well…ever. My rational mind, which would tell me that if he’s speaking in coherent sentences and calling me on the phone, then he must be fundamentally intact…it goes on vacation. There are immediate visions of my baby boy hanging upside down by a seatbelt in a vehicle that’s mangled. Is he trapped? Is there fuel? Is it going to blow up?

Mom: “Are YOU ok?”

Kid: “Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. The car, Oh my God, Mom, the car”

Mom: F*#k the car, Justin! ARE YOU OK?”

It all runs together at this point. There are passers by talking in the background, the police and EMT’s haven’t even arrived yet, but I don’t know this yet. The questions come rapid fire now.

Mom: “Has someone called 911… Are you out of the car? Are you whole? Are you hurt? Bleeding? Where in the hell are you?”

Kid: “Yeah, they’re on their way…where am I ? Uh…I don’t know…I mean, I’m not sure. Hey! Ma’am…where am I?”

Random lady: “Hebron, kid…you’re in Hebron. Holy crap, maybe you should sit down.”

Male voice: “Son, I need you to sit down. Were you driving that…” ….CLICK.

Call back, no answer. Again. Again. Again.

It’s all kind of a blur after that. I called T, thankfully, he was right around the corner. I rang the phone. What came out of my face was something very staccato and rude.

“I don’t care where you are, or what you’re doing, it stops right now, I need you here, there’s been an accident. Justin. Hebron. Flipped car….”

He cuts me off “I’ll be right there.”

There was a call from Justin somewhere between home and Hebron…they had taken him to the ER in Salisbury, nearby.

The rest of this afternoon has been a kind of blur of people and faces and calls and prayers. The rushed him to the hospital in an ambulance. We were there inside thirty minutes. It’s a forty minute drive.  We found out the flashers cut themselves off repeatedly at certain speeds. EMT’s were apparently making him laugh on the scene with comments like…

“So that is your car?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Were you in it when this happened?”

I had to call his father. His sister. I didn’t call his older brother, because I knew he’d be racing there with no driver’s license and two babies in a van. The neighbors. Please get his little brother off the bus.

We got to the hospital and I completely bypassed the state trooper in the hall for my kid on the gurney. I kissed his face and then, only half jokingly, started feeling for broken bones and missing parts. Why is my child on a gurney in the hall?

The ensuing conversation with the state trooper, the hospital paperwork, everything all runs together. The trooper,  a very nice fellow, was incredulous that my child had walked away, seemingly without a scratch. One small abrasion on his knuckles from crawling his way out of the upside down wreckage. That’s it. Not even a mark from the seat belt.

The car, apparently drifted off the roadway at 55 mph, where the cruise control was set, and straddled a construction barricade. Traveling up the incline of that barricade launched it into the air, rotating sideways about 10-12 feet above the ground for somewhere between one to two hundred feet. The underside of the car struck a tree, slowing it down, and it came to rest on the nose and hood, completely upside down. Miraculously and inexplicably NOT on the soft convertible top, which would have crushed and killed one of my babies instantly. Not a single airbag deployed. Not one. My second born son released himself from the seatbelt and extricated himself before anyone ever had time to stop and run over.

My thanks to the emergency personnel and first responders. I think they’re an unappreciated breed, and I’m extremely thankful, not only for their handling of the situation today, but for the fact that they got to see a positive outcome. It could have been, and often is, very different.

They discharged him within the hour. I’m glad that in such a small town, I did not see that car on the rollback before I laid eyes on my child. I would have fainted dead away on the spot. When we were discharged, we had to go get his belongings from the tow yard out of the car. This is what we pulled up to.

As it turns out, the driver for the tow company happened to be just across the road having her lunch and witnessed the entire accident. The account of what happened came mostly from her, and what the officers were able to piece together. My son told us this afternoon he had stopped at a McDonald’s and gotten a sprite in the drive through just a half an hour before this happened. He had the notion to put the top down, but elected not to. Didn’t want to get out of the car and mess with it.

I don’t know what you believe…but there is no other earthly explanation to me than someone far bigger than all of us allowing a thin skin protecting 206 very fragile bones to crawl out of this alive and unharmed.

Stay on your kids about seatbelts. They’re ridiculously important. I’m thanking God tonight that my son is so vigilant about wearing his. This could have ended very differently than with my son currently sleeping off the adrenaline crash on my couch. He wasn’t under the influence of anything, and didn’t have a phone in his hand. He wasn’t fiddling with the radio, and no other vehicles were involved. One split second. That’s all it takes.

I’m hoping I’m done this week with my children having near death experiences. I don’t think I can bear another one.

Have a blessed night everyone. Go hug your kids.

 

 

Spring Fever and Hen Hunting

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My, such gorgeous weather the last two days. Our emergency Tractor Supply biddies have moved to a hoop coop outside with a light at night. They’ve been having quite the big time scratching and doing chicken things. They’ve discovered bugs, and grass and that’s always fun to watch. I confess I’m the sort of sucker that even after all this time, may have been caught lying down in the warm grass watching them for a bit today.

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Radar the lamb is a bit peeved. Now that he’s started sucking down the lamb chow with great gusto, I’ve cut him back to two bottles a day, and he, too, is a full time outside lamb with run in hut privileges. He still has no buddies, and Sophie the goat has decided to grudgingly accept his presence with only the occasional head butt to remind him she’s the boss. I hate to break it to her, but he’ll outsize her within a month, likely. She might want to start cutting him some slack.

We went and picked up 8 of last years Rhode Island hens from a friend’s farm today. They’re swapping out some of last year’s birds, so Ryan’s red roos got a pile of new galpals today. I’m hoping the travel didn’t wig them out too badly, and they commence right back to laying. I want the eggs for the incubator. The shipped Marans hatching eggs should be here within a day or two, and I dislike running a half full incubator. Knowing where they came from, (he operates a closed flock as well and his birds, frankly, probably live better and have better access to medical care than we humans do) we made a rare exception to the quarantine policy. I’ll just be keeping a closer eye on them than usual to make sure that wasn’t a bad call.

We did manage to take a brief break today and squeeze in a dockside lunch and some quick fishing in our travels today. And this fish definitely makes me look fat…oh, wait, no , it’s not the fish…lol. But, as it was the only one caught today…so my winter weight and I are right here with him.

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I have an appointment with a gentleman near the auction next week to pick up four English Lavender Orpingtons, and one Friday to pick up a Black Copper Marans rooster and two hens. They both have their own pens ready, and I will likely just let the Orpingtons go ahead and hopefully brood their own batch of fluffy chicks, as they tend to be broody and make great Mamas.

The part for our intended new tractor should be in tomorrow, and it should be fixed up and here ready to work before the weekend. Provided no one else decides to have a gun battle anywhere near my grown children’s homes, looks like this may have been a banner week and a great way to start off the spring season!

Hope everyone else has been out enjoying all this sunshine and warmth!

 

Gunfight at the P-town Corral

You know, my kids make fun of me sometimes when I say the world’s gone nuts. Or that I’m going to buy a mountain, put a big fence around it, and take my entire family to live behind that fence.

I have one grown child whose family lives in the city. Not Chicago or NYC, but one of those areas that’s a wannabe metropolis. Seven of them. The entire area is referred to as “the Seven Cities”. My only daughter and her husband, and four of my granddaughters still live there. In the hood. And when I say it’s the hood, I mean I have personally sat on their porch on a summer evening and listened to popping noises and said “Who’s setting off fireworks?” Only it wasn’t fireworks, it was gunfire. Police sirens and ambulances round out the nightly symphony.

My son-in-law is a huge hulking fella. Rather imposing, so I worry a little less about their safety than my own Mother probably did about mine when I had to take my children and go try on city life and bought a home in East Baltimore. (Ok, I worry a lot less, because she went out and bought us all burial plots at that turn of events, God rest her soul.)

I don’t care how big you are, or how smart…and they’re pretty sharp, the pair of them (and fantastic parents)… you cannot stop a bullet. You can’t stop violence from touching your kids, and planting yourself in the middle of an urban area likely to be a war zone for a bunch of little turf hungry hood rats that fancy themselves “gangstas”  doesn’t do much for your odds or your sense of peace. Or your mother’s.

Last night, right at the edge of dark, my daughter was forced to run upstairs with the girls. There was shooting in their neighborhood. Close. Too close. The young men who were being shot at jumped over their backyard fence and the next door neighbor’s. My son in law spent the next hour helping the police department round up the bullet casings. In their own front yard. Bullet casings. Where my grandbabies run barefoot all summer. Where they are lucky they were not hanging out, as they often do, on such a beautiful evening.

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I wish my tendency for hyperbole was at work here. It’s not.

Bullets. Whizzing within literal inches of where six of the things most precious to me in this world lay their heads and eat dinner. Thankfully, no rounds hit the house. Or anything with a heartbeat, including the fence jumping young men, who, of course claimed they had no idea who was shooting at them. Or why…after the police rounded them up from behind my daughter’s home where they took cover.

The kids were already flirting with the notion a move up this way. Closer to family, not in the city. The hardest thing about being a parent of a grown child is remembering you’re not in charge anymore. On the phone with mine last night, it was all I could do not to demand they pack their stuff, this instant, and come the hell home. To hell with your family autonomy, do what I say and right freaking now, because I don’t want to bury any of you.  Get your collective rear ends back to where if you hear gunfire, it’s someone putting meat in the freezer, not someone’s child in a box. I want to put my foot down. This is enough. No job, no city paycheck is worth this.

But I can’t. They’re adults. I have to respect their decisions as a family, and right now that means living where they are.

I didn’t sleep much last night. I doubt they did either. Your children may grow up…but they never stop being your babies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strutting Roosters and Ryans

My little manchild has gotten rather serious about his chickens. First of all, we woke up yesterday morning to this March Madness. There was cursing. Mine. In fairness to me, it was pre-coffee and I am not ever responsible for what comes out of my face before the coffee goes in it. 20160304_073551.jpg

Heavy, wet snow, coming down in great white clumps. It was a teacher inservice day at school anyway, so there was no closing or delay announcement to wait for. Most eight year old boys would immediately want to get out and play in it. Ryan stared out the window and declared “Naaah. I’m actually kind of tired of snow.” He asked me if his new incubator would come today, and I guessed probably not. We’re waiting on a small incubator I ordered for Ry at a ridiculous discount because it’s going to take forever to get here from the bowels of some overseas shipping system. I really don’t want to fire up and tend our huge cabinet style one for just a few eggs, so I ordered Ryan a personal one. It’s a little seven egg number so he can hatch his personal birds, and be solely responsible. (Without risking that he whacks 300 fertile eggs with an “I forgot” because he’s, well, an 8 year old boy.) But it’s shiny and new and digital and has a fancy schmancy automatic egg turner so he’s a little excited.

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Ryan at 3 or 4, checking “The Beast”…our homemade incubator.

So, since we didn’t have to post up in the front window and watch for the mail lady, we suited up and went off to the Southern States in the next town over. We have new birds from the auction, I was out of chicken meds and running low on feed.  Before we left, I sent Tony up to the attic in search of one of the ancient Little Giant styrofoam incubators we retired a couple of years ago, because patience and shipping through customs are not big with small boys. We set it up to test it and off we went.

Ry and I cruised the “chicken section” and lusted after all sorts of things that had my internal “No” recording working overtime, but I relented and sprung for a 14$ egg candler for him. Mostly because I don’t want my child goofing around with the current system of candling eggs here, which involves  drilling a hole in a metal soup can and using the highest wattage kazillion degree bare lightbulb as a redneck engineered projector.

We came home and trudged across the “frozen tundra” to medicate our quarantined auction chickens, feed, and check for eggs. Ryan has big dreams for this season’s egg and peep sales. He’s going to buy a go-kart with a Jeep body and headlights for his four wheeler and maybe a car, you see. 🙂20160304_080810.jpg

So yesterday was a banner day here. Tony left for work with goods from the farm. Certainly not the first time for that. I’ve seen him sell roosters out of the back of the old Subaru station wagon to the built-in ethnic market that comprises a good portion of his employer’s rental tenants.

But yesterday was new in that, for the first time, the “goods” in question were the first ever batch of eggs from Ryan’s personal birds. They were packed carefully and shipped off to a tenant who pre-ordered them.

T came home from work and presented Ryan with $3.50 and an order for two dozen more for Sunday.

 

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We may have created a monster.

 

Ryan and I spent most of the rest of the day indoors yesterday shopping online for hatching eggs. The go kart Jeep has been all but forgotten. He’s focused on his egg empire now.  I think I’m in trouble.

 

 

Attending a Livestock Auction, Part One

So we went to our local livestock auction last night. And it occurred to me that some folks might be complete livestock auction virgins and that possibly I could be of some assistance in that area. However, it needs to be noted that the advice you’re going to get here (as you’ve been warned previously)  is usually of the “Here are some things we’ve done that did NOT end well” sort. Ours is experience normally born of making every possible mistake and living to tell the tale.

I wanted photos. However, that didn’t work out well as:  A. We were late B. I am short. C. My view mostly consisted of a sea of shoulder blades, I wasn’t sure anyone would find that interesting. In the interest of authenticity, here is a link to an article by Joya Parsons from several years ago that includes some photos of our local auction. The remainder are not from there, but for illustrative purposes.

Joya Parsons Cooking Up a Story Dill’s

Alrighty then. So here’s a Fun E Farm tutorial on attending a livestock auction for the first time as a buyer. As in, all the random tidbits I really wish I had known or thought of before my first few years ago. It wasn’t pretty.

Before I even begin, let me say this. If you are the type of person that has an extremely tender heart for animals, DON’T GO. Just don’t. Livestock auctions are not a place for vegans or card-carrying, protest attending  PETA members. This will not be a pet store. It’s not the Humane Society or an animal rescue. The stock being sold are not pets. They are food animals, working animals, and producing or breeding animals. They are property here, not family. It is not likely to be a cushy environment by your standards. It will be crowded pens, noisy, likely your idea of filthy and it will smell.  You may observe the use of cattle prods and shock poles and things that may shock you to your very core. You may see sick animals or those who have obviously received less than stellar care. You may see those who were injured in transport and no one will appear to care because they’re going to be purchased by a meat packer within the hour. Just. Don’t. Go. If you do not heed my advice, leave your feelings at the door because you WILL NOT likely find anyone in attendance who will sympathize with your position. And you will be in a place where “When in Rome” is your smartest course of action. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, don’t light up my inbox with animal rights propaganda please, I’m just trying to be real and save you some angst here. Moving on. 12003296_1183904088302834_7421315606153525312_n

1. Wear appropriate attire.   For Pete’s sake, people. This means BOOTS, jeans, workwear of some sort. This is not Storage Wars. Men, dressing like an inner city pimp or his attorney will not impress or intimidate anyone. It will get you lots of attention, though. Ladies, this is NOT the place for your favorite flats or sandals. Same goes for your 400$ Tony Lama suede boots.  You’re going to get dirty. And muddy. You will likely, at some point, step in crap of some sort. You’re going to be on your feet for most of the time. Sale barns are also notorious for being unheated and uncooled. If it’s 24 degrees outside, it won’t be much more indoors. If its 97 outside, it will be 112 inside.

2. DO YOUR RESEARCH.   This could be an article all its own. I highly recommend that before you purchase ANY livestock animal at ANY auction, you attend at least one time prior with no money and observe. First, go early. Find the office and ask questions. Before the auction, not during, when the staff is trying to properly record 11,764 separate transactions. Here are some examples. Must I register before I can bid? What forms of payment are accepted? How do I bid? Where, when, and how, do I claim stock after the auction? Get a schedule, if one is available. There is infallibly a certain order in which items / pens / areas are auctioned off. Sometimes, multiple pens or areas will be auctioned simultaneously. Bring a friend or family member, make a plan and split up. Also, if sale record sheets (market reports) are available online or at the office, look at a couple auctions worth. It will give you a feel for average prices so you don’t overbid. There are no stupid questions, unless you ask them during an active auction. That’s kinda stupid and should be avoided. Stay for the entire auction. People watch. Note the way things are done.

3. Bring cash. At smaller auctions, small stock (rabbits, poultry, fowl, eggs, etc.) is generally sold for cash. On the spot. As in, before the next item is auctioned. You will hold up the works if you are not prepared to provide a bidder number, and immediate CASH payment. Again, this will get you lots of undesired attention. Seriously, everything will come to a screeching halt and all eyes will be on you. Larger stock (hoofstock) is generally sold in a ring, by bidder number from the seating area, and you will pay for all of the hoofstock you’ve purchased in one lump sum at the office after the sale. Checks may have to be pre approved, and a large number of auctions do not take plastic.westminster-livestock-auction

4.  Go Early.  Way early. Some auctions have “preview hours” and some smaller ones will just allow you to “walk the pens” in the hoofstock area before the auction. This gives you a chance to look over what’s been brought in. Bring pen and paper. Note the numbers of anything you think you’d like to bid on. This is also the time for (don’t laugh because I am dead serious) what I call “poop checking”. Check the hindquarters of the animal(s) you’re interested in. Bonus for you if they actually have “exhaust” as you’re observing. All joking aside, poop is a great indicator to hoofstock health. If it doesn’t look as it should, this can indicate a health problem in your intended purchase. Also eye up coats, eyes, noses, teeth and hooves whenever possible. You will learn that these are great indicators of health, age, and the level of care the animal has likely received. This is important. Bring home one goat with coccidiosis, treat your entire herd for a loooonggg time… That’ll learn you, pumpkin. Trust me on this. An entire herd of goats with flying diarrhea is not a good time. If you have even the slightest warning bells, mind them. There will be another auction, and goats will not ever stop making more goats.

5. Set a budget. Stick to it. This is hard, I know, believe me I know. If you are anything like me, this is the killer. If you are going for six hens, don’t buy twelve. If you’ve decided your limit on a goat is 75 dollars, don’t get caught up in the moment and bid 175. Don’t bid on something you aren’t wild about simply because you got shut out on the last one. On a related note, do not buy something you are not prepared to care for or know nothing about. Impulse buying here is not your friend. (Ask me about pheasant, pigeons, or guinea pigs sometime.) And don’t, for the love of all things holy, buy stuff you can’t haul. Our auction doesn’t deliver, most don’t, and those that do charge ridiculous prices for delivery. And you do not, I repeat, DO NOT, want to ride home in a folding lawn chair in a cargo van with a 200 pound horned beef steer breathing on the back of your neck. Voice of experience here, people. True story. Also, do not be this idiot below. It’s likely I (or someone like me) might walk up and hit you, (another true story)  and I really just don’t heart jail coffee.  (Photo below depicting a similar circumstance) Yes, that’s three, possibly four goats in a trunk, and what is almost certainly a feed sack full of poultry which may or may not be alive.

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6. Prep at home before you go. See above. Prep your vehicle for transporting whatever you intend to buy. Have crates and cages or boxes in your truck or trailer. Water, especially in the summer, is advised.  Some animals may come into the auction barn in the early morning hours and have little access to food or water through the auction.  If you aim to buy bottle babies of any sort, have bottles and milk replacer on hand already. I take full bottles with me. Our closest auction happens at 6 pm on a Wednesday, over an hour from home. There is NOTHING worse than getting home worn slam out at 11 pm, with a truck or trailer full of stock you are not prepared for. Make sure you have a “landing area” prepped for anything you intend to buy. Brooder bins and lights for peeps, pens, food and water. You’re likely going to be exhausted. The stock is going to be stressed. Having wire nippers available at home for removal of ear tags now is much easier than having to catch an animal later or treat ripped ears after a tag has been stuck in a fence. Having a plan and areas prepped will make things go so much easier.

7. Quarantine. I cannot stress this enough. Be prepared to quarantine any stock purchased at an auction for an appropriate time before integrating it with any existing herd or flock on your farm. Separate quarters, separate feed and water containers, everything. If you’re trying to be all organic and un-medicated, understand that auctions are probably not a good buying platform for you. Even if what you bought looks and seems perfectly healthy, understand it was just exposed to the critter equivalent of an auditorium full of snotty, sneezy, kindergartners and all their respective pathogens, germs, and nasties. Every single critter brought onto this farm from an auction is quarantined and medicated. Every one. Every time. They will ALL be given appropriate wormers and vaccinations and preventatives and those will be given time to work before they are integrated.  Once they are, it’s a closed flock or herd and only then, any unnecessary meds are discontinued. No exceptions, unless they are intended for immediate sale or slaughter. These may not be the hens you bought, but they may have been their neighbors in the next cage.  Once you’re home, handwashing and being mindful of tracking parasites or nasties from one pen to another should be observed. A dishpan of bleach solution to dip the old boots in between enclosures is advisable and will save you plenty of grief later.

 

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8. Type of sale. Ok, so typically, small stock on the barn floor is sold by the piece and without the cage. What this means is that if there is a cage with six hens and a rooster in it and you only want the hens, tough noogies. You’re bidding on and buying ALL of them. You are buying on them as a lot, but bidding on them by the piece. If the winning bid is , say 10$…the winning bidder now owes 70$, as there are 7 birds in the cage. Same goes for rabbits, peeps, most fowl, etc. BY THE PIECE. Box of 25 chicks? 3$ bid? 75$.   In the sale ring, smaller hoofstock (like sheep, goats or young pigs) may be brought into the ring in large lots, in which case the winning bidder can opt to take one, all, or any combination. The sold ones will be ushered out, remaining ones will be sold with a new round of bidding. If you’ve picked one goat kid you simply must own, and it’s brought into the ring as part of a lot, this is an important time to pay attention and exercise self control. The people you will be bidding against at this point are likely meat buyers for packing houses. They want them all, they want them cheap. If the price is low enough, they will take them all. Bid for first choice, up to your limit, and if they go over, then quit. Live to bid another day. Larger stock is sold BY THE POUND. That 123 you’re hearing is not a $123 feeder beef steer. It’s $1.23 per pound. All 800 pounds of him. That’s 984 dollars, kids.  If you do not know if you’re bidding on something by the piece or pound, don’t bid until you’ve confirmed which. There is typically a scale somewhere above the auction ring which will give an accurate weight and the auctioneer will have announced it prior.

9. Learn your terminology. This is a picture of a sale sheet, or market report. 12398_1272027286157180_5368147733148679890_n.jpg

By familiarizing yourself with the terms on it, you’ve prepped for how things are sold, and if you don’t already know the difference between a boar, sow, steer, bull, cow, calf, ewe, ram, doe, nanny, billy, kid, wether, etc…please educate yourself on those terms before you go. (Hey, I don’t judge, I see it all the time.)

10. Don’t bid against the Amish kids. Well, ok, you can bid…but there are only two possible outcomes here. You’re going to lose or get soaked. Understand that kid probably has more cash in the wallet tucked in his homespun trousers than you do. Know that he’s probably here every time the doors are open. He likely has far more working knowledge than you.  He knows what he’s bidding on, knows exactly what he’s willing to pay for it, and he will not stop up to that point. The other conceivable scenario (and I see it a LOT) is he brought it in, and he will bid you up to the price he wants for it or buy it himself to bring back next week rather than see it go for half market price. They’re smart and savvy. You can learn a lot from these young fellows. blog6.jpg

11. Keep track of your purchases. Seriously, write it down. Cage number, sticker number, price paid, amount owed, # of heads, etc. You will likely be unable to collect any of your stock until after a particular area or group has finished selling and been recorded in the office. You can and will forget. When you get home, this is also good information for your own records. You’ll thank me later, trust me on this. Bite the bullet and be the nerd writing your stuff down. It also comes in handy when you have to defend your hens from being snatched up later by a non-writer who may mistakenly think he bought them.

So, as this has gone on far longer than I planned, I hope some of these tips are helpful if you’re planning your first trip to auction. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I will address other items in a future post to come.

~Lisa

 

Beauty is in the eye of the determined.

10485366_1187124057981123_2848459601193225218_nA photo I took over our pasture this fall.

Sometimes it’s easy for me to find beauty. Sometimes it seems overwhelmingly, ridiculously impossible. We’re surrounded daily by so much ugliness and evil and hatred and contention on a daily basis that it becomes the norm. Immersed in it. Drowning in a media borne sea of 50 foot waves of awfulness and despair, clinging to nothing but a photo or memory of a baby or a sunset for hope of survival.    Don’t believe me? Watch the newscast. Scroll through your local news station’s Facebook feed. Just for the sake of this exercise, grab a piece of scratch paper and a pen. Make two columns. One for positive, hopeful or uplifting, and one for “stuff that angers, horrifies, scares, nauseates, saddens, or in generally makes me feel like crap.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Here’s mine. For the first 46 items on my local news station’s feed. (Discounting sports articles)20160227_191635 (1).jpg

 

43 to 3.  Really? See my conveniently labeled columns entitled “Crap” and “Yay!” (I’m a simple gal.) Forty flipping three craptastic articles featuring (in no particular order at all) murder, mayhem, car crashes, rape, ridiculousness,  bomb threats, fires, abuse, arson, assault, suicide, burglary, drug use, overdoses, death, destruction, natural disasters, embezzlement, and dissent. One puff piece about a local teacher of the year, one about the future of Punkin Chunkin that really could go either way (but my right column was lonely), and one about the upcoming local fishing season. I skipped over sports articles.

It even surprised me, actually. I’ve literally stopped watching the news for this very reason.  I’ve made jokes for years to my family that if I ever hit the lottery, I was going to buy a mountain, encircle it with an electrified razor wire topped ten foot fence and cloister my entire family there, and any other sane friends who would like to come along. A place to secede from the world’s ever growing insanity. It’s only half a joke. Like this right here.

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Or maybe a “tiny house” village. Like this one, only located on said imaginary mountain.

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But until then, I just have to boycott the network news media, (because it’s all bad, all the time) and continue my daily search for what’s good and lovely and uplifting in the world. I don’t think of it as willful ignorance, I think of it as sanity preservation.

I still have to send my remaining minor child off to school every day without lurking fear based imagining of an elementary school bathroom heroin overdose or a psycho school shooter.  And without using any sort of “happy pills” because I’m in recovery and my program and my sponsor both tell me that’s to be avoided.

So for now…these are my ” happy pills.” Here are some photos over the years that we’ve taken. These are some of our happiest moments. The most beautiful ones. Where the world is not a cesspool of crazy, and we’re consciously looking for and finding the beauty. Because beauty is in the eye of the determined, not the beholder. Some things are just ugly, and you can’t make them feel any different.