Monday, May 30, 2011

Poultry Menagerie

The broilers grew so fast, so we put them out of the house brooder first.  The Auracanas are still in the house brooder.  The Auracana is the brown bird to the right of the picture.  My husband brought one broiler into the house because she wasn't doing well with the others.  She's the white bird towards the top.  The turkeys are the two eating.  There is one Silkie.  Unfortunately, the others met an early demise.  The Silkie is the very small brownish bird behind/above the turkey to the far left.  Finally, we've got some Golden Buffs...a hybrid that is supposedly an excellent layer.  I'll let you know.

Turkeys are terribly cute when they are little.

Dead or Alive...

The other day Eli says, "Mom, guess what's in my pocket!"  I dreaded this day.  I actually dreaded sticking my hand in a pocket of dirty shorts about to be put into the wash more so.  Fortunately, this time it was only 2 crickets.  Live crickets. 
Today it was a dead bug.  A large dead bug. 
Our barn cats have begun to bring home dead things.  Mice and chipmunks.  Can I mention how much I hate picking up headless rodents.  Even more so, I hate that my children find them before I do.  I only hate this because I have this fear that the rodent is carrying some sort of horrific disease and my children will catch it.  I'm pretty sure these rodents have not been on a ship making a summer-long Atlantic voyage with rum-drinking dirty pirates from Europe, but I am still wary.
Our goats arrived again last week in the form of dinner.  Ew.  My kids were super excited to eat "Frankie", but I had to decline.  I almost threw up in mouth a little bit when Silas, face covered in ketchup, approached me and said, "Eat goat. Frankie ketchup!" 
We're preparing mentally for the slaughter of our meat birds.  I know what you're thinking...I just talked about being horrified at the kids eating our pet goats and now I'm talking about killing chickens. 
I am not attached to these birds at all.  They will live with us for between 8 to 12 weeks and then off with their heads! 
A fellow chicken-keeper friend of mine and I were discussing what to do with the layers after they're past their prime.  We talked of a chicken swap, since we couldn't eat our beloved ladies.  As much as I'd love to keep a flock of old hens, I foresee the flock becoming very large over the years...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I Love This Week

8 Vanilla Beans in a bottle of Smirnoff.  Shake every week, use in baking anytime after 2 months - preferred to hold out for 6 months.  Helloooo, Christmas gifts!

 Silas gathering the one blue Auracana egg we get each day.

 Beans sprouting in my compost pile.  Also, I'm not sure if there is melon or squash sprouting, too.  I'm interested to see how they'll do!

Eli playing soccer.  He's ridiculously in love with the game.

Eli and the gigantic slug.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gray Treefrog

We found this cool frog this morning.  I looked over at my fence and saw thing sandy looking lump.  I couldn't figure out how a clump of sand got on the fence.  So I walked over to investigate.  It wasn't sand.  It was the coolest frog.  I called the kids over.  When Odin picked it up he squealed, "It's so STICKY!"
Eli noticed the underside of the frog was yellow.  We brought out our Audubon book and looked it up.  Gray Treefrog.  We noticed the large suction pads on the toes, which is what made the little guy so sticky.  The frog climbed up shirts, jumped really far and kindly endured my children's handling.  When they started to get too excited (or rather, started fighting over the poor frog), we let him go back into the woods. 
I find it a difficult task to teach my children compassion when it comes to those creatures that live outdoors.  I have family and friends who stomp on ants and other bugs.  I have folks telling me that "boys will be boys" and killing things is just a part of that.  I have to admit, I killed my share of living things in my very younger years - I was tomboy hanging with the boys.  We're all relatively well-adjusted grown ups.  I still would like my kids to have a bit more compassion and understanding than I did.

Orange Cleaner

I use vinegar to clean everything.  Consumer Reports writes about the uses of vinegar here.  Vinegar is all natural - it's fermented goodness.  Vinegar can be used to kill weeds, add nutrients to plants, clean your house, condition your hair, as salad dressing, to prevent burns from blistering, for a sour stomach, and as an ant deterrent.  Amazing stuff that vinegar is!
I've been adding tea tree or lavender essential oils to my vinegar-water mixture for cleaning with an extra kick.  I use a 50/50 vinegar-water cleaner.  Then I'd add in 30 drops of E.O. or so to a large spray bottle. 
I love tea tree oil, but it gets expensive when you use it for everything.  I buy my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I have had great success with their products as have many people I know. 
While I do love the oils, I have found a more inexpensive way to clean my house effectively and naturally.

Orange peels.  They contain limonene.  I don't have the time or the set up for steam extracting or distilling.  Instead, I throw the orange peels in vinegar and let them sit for a few weeks on my kitchen counter. 
Then I use the orange peel-vinegar solution for my tables, walls and counter tops.  The ants don't like the double dose of vinegar and orange peel.  It smells delightful.  And it's super cheap.  The kids know to throw the peels in a jar on the counter.  Then I add vinegar and let it sit.  They like to notice the difference in the vinegar week after week.  "Mom!  Look, it's changing!" 
Green Living Tips has a great site noting the uses of orange peels.  I use them to deter my cats from using my garden as a toilet.  I should really try the same with the sandbox...

Friday, May 20, 2011

To Curriculum or Not Curriculum

This coming school year is the first official year we are homeschooling.  We are more interest led than anything else.  However, with the impending dark cloud hovering above us, that is the public school system, I feel like I need to purchase a curriculum.  I am feeling like there are certain things my kid will miss out on by not attending school - like silly songs, for one.  We don't listen to "kid" music really.  From birth, our kids have listened to the band Clutch
They request the songs, they sing them while playing with their army men.  My almost two-year-old requests the album to be played.  If I turn on the radio he yells, "Mama! Clutch! Louder! Pleeeeaaassssse?!" 
Only recently have my children been interested in typical kid-geared music.  They LOVE The Wiggles.  They love The Imagination Movers.  I just borrowed Snack Time by The Barenaked Ladies.  My boys are absolutely in love with "789" and "The Ninjas".  It's like BNL are speaking directly to them. 
I digress...
We don't use a preschool curriculum.  We don't do circle time.  We don't sit around and sing songs accompanied by finger play. 
Okay, so "This Little Piggy" and "Pat-a-cake" don't really count...
I checked out Enki.  This is a very holistic way of educating your child.  I love what they have to offer:

"Enki Education offers a unique and innovative classroom & homeschool curriculum. Ours is a Global Cultures Curriculum in which ALL academic learning is introduced through the arts.

Our Classroom & Homeschool curriculum weave together many diverse elements in order to support our fundamental premise: the central task of education, whether in the classroom or homeschool, is the integration of body, heart, and mind within each child. The result is the cultivation of educational excellence, confidence & competence.
This individual wellbeing is inseparable from the wellbeing of the communities of our lives – families, neighbors, the global community. For this reason, we have developed a Classroom and Homeschool curriculum in which the children can see their own strengths & struggles reflected in all peoples, and can experience human greatness in all, regardless of nationality, race, or religion."

Unfortunately, our budget could not expand enough to let Enki play a part in our lives.  I sought my local homeschooling group's help and found an alternative to Enki:  Earthschooling.
I'm not going to deny it...I'm a hippie and I love the name Earthschooling.  Shut up, okay?
Earthschooling is brought to you by the lovely people of the Waldorf school. 
Here is a brief synopsis of what Earthschooling is:

"The new generation of eclectic schoolers considers the entire earth their school. We don't stay at home. Some travel the USA or the world or have a classroom outdoors. We may "homeschool" part-time or full-time or we may be involved in after-school or weekend enrichment activities. What we all have in common is that we base our schooling on the needs of our family & we create our own "ideal school" from the many varied resources available."

Earthschooling is affordable.  I mean, really affordable.
You can try it for a month for $35. 
The Kindergarten Curriculum is $85
Granted, there are also the supplies you need/should/might want to buy. 
The site sells them for just under $100.  I'm quite sure you could piece meal it all together for much less than that if you're savvy and frugal. 

Now, I just have to figure out if I should buy the Kindergarten curriculum or the First Grade one.  I know, my son would be entering Kindergarten next year.  He just seems so much older than Kindergarten.  I'm now going to hash this out in my blog:
1.  If I get the Kindergarten curriculum, I can supplement with other things if I needed to.
2.  Kindergarten curriculum could also be used simultaneously with my four-year-old, and then later on, for my youngest.
3.  We'll get to sing silly songs.
4.  Why rush him...I would love to keep him little forever, so what's another year?

Okay, Kindergarten Curriculum it is.  Now, off to tell the husband I need $85 for silly songs...


Questions from a SAHM for working parents

A friend pointed me towards this little ditty today.  I laughed out loud and had to share. 

Questions to help spouses bridge the communication gap
By Heather Rigby
May 19, 2011

My husband always asks how my day went. And he really wants to know. He’s nice like that. As we slowly push the girls around in the stroller, he shares what went right during his day at the office, and I share funny things the kids said. On bad days we vent stresses and offer support and advice.

But lately I can’t help wondering if when I mention that my day was sort of stressful, he mentally thinks, “Yeah, my days are like that too.” Because I really don’t think that our days have the same sort of stresses.
When you decide to become a stay-at-home parent, you enter into a different realm — one ruled by illogical two-year-old dictators, school schedules, and choosing the correct color yogurt. As much as I can explain this to my husband, I don’t know that I’m getting through. Now I’ve done the next best thing: creating a list of questions that will help him and other office-bound parents gauge how (cough, cough) similar their days are to ours.

1.When you walked into work this morning and pleasantly greeted your co-worker Jim, was his first reaction to scream “NO! WANT JASON!" followed by an office supply being thrown at you?
2.Has a colleague ever climbed up on your lap while you were using your computer and slammed the keyboard with both fists until the up arrow no longer worked?
3.Do you have to lock yourself in the supply closet or bathroom on a regular basis in order to make phone calls?
4.Did you finish a complete thought at any time during the day?
5.When you went out to lunch with your fellow workers, did you have to pack a diaper/juice/extra outfit for them? Did you have to wipe their faces? Smile an apology and leave an extra tip for the waiter on their behalf?
6.When a co-worker needed you for something, did she sit at her desk with her head tilted back toward the ceiling and repeatedly scream “SEAN! SEEEEANNNN! SEAAAAAAN!” until you came to find him?
7.When you needed a specific colleague, did you search all over for him, only to finally find him giggling in the cabinet under the sink? Did you also find six pairs of your church shoes under there with him?
8.Have you had to come to an associate’s aid because she fell off her desk after trying to climb on top of it using a rolling chair?
9.When you reached for the report a co-worker was handing you, did he snatch them away at the last second and scream “MINE!” while shoving you backwards?
10.Does your colleague lift up her shirt and pick things out of her belly button every time she comes over to ask a question?
11.While you are using the restroom, do various co-workers come in the stall and ask you to settle a disagreement or open a packet of fruit snacks?
12.During a board meeting when everyone is present, do you notice a smell and then have to check all your colleagues’ pants to locate it? In fact, at ANY point in your day do you have to deal with another person's feces?

If the answer to most of these questions is no, it’s a safe bet to assume you’re in an office. That said, if your answer to most of these questions is yes, and you know you’re in an office, it’s safe to assume you might need a new job.

My favorite was the one about the coworker picking lint out of her belly button.  Depending upon how hot she was, my husband might enjoy that one. 
My husband had the fortunate experience of staying at home with all three children a year ago so that I could attend a workshop.  It was hard for me to be away.  I was exhausted at the end of each day.  He was exhausted by the middle of the first day and it didn't end.  He had a whole new appreciation for what I do.  That appreciation seems to have only lasted a couple of weeks, though.  I think it's time for me to attend another workshop!
Thanks to Heather Rigby for the laughs today.  I needed that. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Clipping Wings...

Today we clipped their wings.  I thought it was going to be difficult, but it wasn't.  Since I had locked the ladies in the coop last night, they weren't hard to catch.  The husband let one out at a time, grabbed her and fanned out the wing.  I clipped the bottom row of feathers off.  Backyard Chickens recommends clipping the bottom row of 10 feathers from one wing.  We did this on the first two birds, but they were still able to jump up to the top row of the fence.  So, we clipped all the feathers in the bottom row in a straight line, from both wings.  This has been the first time these ladies have hung out on the rock pile.  This pile was originally for the's now a nice chicken perch, and it's far enough away from the fence so they can't hop over. 
There's plenty of dirt for them to forage through for bugs and worms.  It's mud right now, thanks to a week of rain. 
It took all of 15 minutes to do all 7 birds.  No more chickens crossing into our neighbors yard.  No more chickens crossing the road. 
...Hmmm...I never did find out why...

The Spiderwick Chronicles!

I have been waiting to begin this series for years.  I tried two years ago and my boys just were not interested.  I tried again last year.  Nope.  I bought the box set from Amazon for a penny + shipping and handling.  We began reading the first book last night.  Score! Oh, by the way, as of today the used box set is not currently available for the super great deal I got.  I'm sure if you wait, though, it'll happen for you.  Mine also did not come in a box.  But, my boys would have just used the box for knights or ninjas or something anyway. 
I read Chapter 1 to them while they were all snuggling down in bed.  When I had finished, they wanted more.  Perfect.  We'll read Chapter 2 tonight. 
I don't know Holly Black. I do have a friend, however, that is very good friends with her.  And I like to support my friends and their friends.  I also loved The Spiderwick Chronicles movie.  My kids need to like what I like.  So, there.
I have read White Cat, a young adult novel by Holly Black.  I've got Red Glove on my nightstand waiting for me because I liked the first of the Curse Workers trilogy.  Black Heart isn't out...yet.  The only thing that bothers me about these books are the covers.  I don't like real-life people portraying a character in a book.  I like to envision the look of the characters myself without any preconceived notions about their airbrushed appearance.  It reminds me too much of Fabio gracing the covers of romance novels. 
As much as I love Dr. Seuss and Disney stories, I've been yearning to read some books with words to my children.  I made the "mistake" of beginning with picture books, which, in my opinion, doesn't really encourage reading, but looking.  I wish I had been one of those moms reading Chaucer to her infant, versus the mom with a subscription to the Disney book-of-the-month club.  At least my kids like the idea of books and enjoy listening to the spoken word...almost as much as watching Kung Fu Hustle(not rated as a kids movie, but the husband's desire to be a ninja, raising little ninjas, has taken over our parenting a bit...)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Moving Chickens to a New Coop

Hmmm...what do we do with the goat house now that we don't have goats?  Turn it into our hen house!  The old coop (roof caved in during the crazy snow-filled winter here) will be revamped to house the broilers - and by the way, those chickens eat and eat and grow and  A new coop will be created to house the turkeys.  The dog house, which once housed goats, then chickens and now cats, will be redone to house all my tools and feed.  The partially boarded area in the front will be a mini garden of sort.  I have no idea what I'll plant there.  I have to wait until the sun comes out so I can gauge how much sunlight hits there. 
The semi-carpenter husband of mine removed two boards from the old goat house, bound them together and added hinges.  Wallah, it's an access door to the eggs.  He built the nesting boxes and framed in a door.  I put hardware cloth over the frame, hinged and handled it.  I added a lock to the access door.  I also added in a roost. 
For the past three days those darned chickens have been sleeping outside the coop on the fence next to the dog house...IN THE RAIN.  Each night either my husband or myself go out there and pick up each hen and place her in the new hen house.  They don't really struggle, since it's night and that's when they hunker down.  If you don't pick them up around the wings and breast, they'll flap their wings and hard.  I got flapped in the face when my grip slipped on one.  Ouch.  At least I didn't have to chase those wily ladies around the yard to catch them. 
We've left the door ajar and they come out in the morning, only to not return the next night.  However, they are getting closer to the coop, but close isn't good enough. This was night three and I put some food and water in there, and locked the door.  That'll teach 'em.
We let our chickens free-range.  And range they do.  Into our disgruntled neighbors yard.  My husband witnessed our neighbor standing over our chickens with his hands on his hips, shaking his head.  Whoops.
I came home today to the neighbor across the street flagging me down as I was coming down the road.  My chickens had crossed the street and were galavanting in his yard.  I apologized profusely.  He is the more laid back neighbor.  He didn't really care.  He was concerned about the girls getting hit by a car.  Also, which he didn't mention, he has 3 dogs.  I can only imagine...

Monday, May 16, 2011


 Butterfly Pavilion (chrysalis' bottom left)

Um...a butterfly...

The boys scoping out some of the different species of butterflies.

Looking at the butterfly chart.
So very excited one landed on his finger!

Who doesn't love butterflies? Actually, I know a person who has a slight phobia. I think it's hilarious, so I tease her incessantly.
We love butterflies over here. Let's turn it into some homeschooling fun!
Read: From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman.
The Very Hungry Catepillar
Visit: The Butterfly Place
Buy: Butterfly Pavilion
Watched:  Magic School Bus - 
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!

We read the book, ordered the pavilion, visited The Butterfly Place and watched the movie.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly is a Stage 1 book - meaning it "explains simple and easily observable science concepts for preschool and kindergarten age children."  It covers habitat; terms like metamorphosis, molting, and chrysalis, different species of butterflies and there is even a listing of butterfly observatories in the back of the book. 
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was perfect for all my kids, especially my youngest.  My kids loved reciting all the foods the caterpillar ate, especially what he ate on Saturday!

The Butterfly Place was a trek.  And halfway there my kids started telling me that they hate long car rides and they wanted to go home.  Sorry, guys...we're in it for the long haul.    
Once we got there the kids couldn't wait to get in.  My oldest was in heaven.  We had been there two years ago, but he was too young to really care.  I bought him the identification chart ($1) and off he went with his friends, searching high and low.  Odin was very interested and excited for about 20 minutes.  Then he decided he wanted to go back out into the gift shop where Magic School Bus - Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! was playing.  I had the baby in the Ergo so we walked around the gift shop for another half hour while watching the video.  Each kids' needs were met.  Excellent. 
When we got home we ordered the caterpillar's from the coupon in the pavilion kit.  It cost $5 for shipping and handling. 
They arrived about 3-4 weeks later.  There were ten alive caterpillars. 
It's been about a week and a half to two weeks and they are all in their chrysalis'.  We I carefully moved them into the pavilion.  Now, we wait. 

If you visit an observatory, you might want to take notice of their policies.  I've been to Magic Wings in Deerfield, MA and to The Butterfly Place.  Both have very strict "no touching" policies, as it can be detrimental to the butterfly's life.  My kids really wanted to catch one and it was really hard to explain to the youngers why they couldn't.  If a child is under 3 years of age, he or she needs to be attached to an adult at all times, either via carrier, stroller or hand.  The will kick you out if their policies are not adhered to. 
The coolest part of The Butterfly Place was their array of tropical and beautiful butterflies.  I didn't realize the small number of butterflies that are indigenous to the U.S. 
Also, they have these little birds walking around the place.  I can't recall their name...maybe quail...but they are the cutest things ever.  And the koi pond.  I'm pretty sure my kids wanted to go swimming with the fish, as one tried to climb over the rail.

When the butterflies hatch the pavilion will hold them in, but it is imperative to let them go.  They cannot live in the pavilion forever. 
My kids, however, would like to feed the butterflies to the chickens. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Simplifying Our Farm

Silas and Frankie 2011

Jerry in our kitchen 2010 - and no, we kept the rabbit in the cage behind wasn't a goat cage. What a wee little thing she was!

Brownie and Jerry Winter 2011

The goats were a stressor. After a year and a half, we decided to find another home for the goats. I'm really saddened by this. I'm not going to dwell or air my dirty laundry online...well, more so than usual.

We have decided to focus on the chickens. We are now poultry farmers.

We recently acquired 30 broiler chickens. We have lost 9 in a week and a half. We are not good chicken farmers. This morning we lost our 9th. I had the little girl all wrapped in a warmed towel, giving her sips of cool water. Her eyes were closed and I could see her little tongue as she tipped her head back to drink the water. The husband said to just put her back in the brooder...there was nothing I could do. Within an hour she had died and had been pushed aside by the other chicks.

We also acquired 3 Auracanas. They are still with us.

It's interesting to see the size difference between the broilers (Cornish Cross) and the Auracanas. The broilers have become double the size of the blue egg layers.

We have more chickens coming this week, as well as some turkeys. Oh, yes...turkeys. Gobble, gobble.

I'll be ordering more egg layers, too.

I still can't decide whether to cull some of the layers at the end of the year or just keep them until they die of old age...

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 2011 These are a few of my favorite things...

Snow Toffee

Asparagus in my garden

Learning to drink from a bubbler on Boston Common.

Bacon Apple Pie Tartlets

Kids camouflaging the playhouse.

Dirty boy knees.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chicken Trance

My husband has been trolling You Tube again. I am not a fan of it, but he loves it. The other day he was researching how to humanely slaughter our chickens. We recently acquired 30 Cornish Cross chickens to raise for meat. We trying our hand at being chicken farmers. Let's just say, we've got a lot to learn!

While researching he came across video after video of chicken farmers and owners who hypnotize their chickens. He thought he'd give it a go. I promise you that the chicks to the left and below are completely okay. They were not hurt at all. I was worried about them. I mean, my husband put them on their backs, softly stroked their chests and they were left in this position. I did some Googling of my own and found this article regarding hypnotizing chickens. There are a zillion more articles and videos that result as well. Once my husband clapped loudly, the little ladies hopped up, shook out their feathers and were fine. The method he tried was the Sternum Stroke Method. True to it's name. Then he tried the Oscillating Finger Method, where you simply oscillate your finger in front of the chickens face, slowly, while gently holding the chicken in a prone position. Lastly, the Chalk Line Method, where you draw a chalk line from the bird's face, while gently holding the chicken down, and moving outward. Some on You Tube say it's a depth perception thing that the chickens use to find bugs and such. Another article-writer says she saw a Discovery Channel show about it and it has something to do with playing dead. It doesn't matter why, I suppose, because I was amazed, but I just couldn't encourage his goofiness, so I kept calling him crazy, while giggling. We do have older chickens that he plans on trying to hypnotize later on today. He tried yesterday but our three-year-old kept yelling, "Daddy, NO!!!" - even after my husbands attempts at reassuring him that the chicken would be fine.

I did have to make sure that my husband, who thought he was the next big thing, didn't let the chicks lie like that for too long. They are only chicks and I was a bit freaked out. They were left like that long enough for a photo op and then they were released from their hold.

You might be thinking how this would be useful to a chicken farmer. Well, we want to clip our chickens' wings so that they do not fly out of the fenced area and over to our neighbor's houses. We love our free-ranging chickens, but our neighbors don't necessarily love the birds in their yards. And in case you're wondering about the wing-clipping, it does not hurt the chicken. It's like clipping fingernails, or so I've been told.