Friday, March 31, 2006

That'll be leaving a mark

This was not the best day on the farm. This afternoon I messed up my truck. I was backing up and the pole that holds up the big old bird house was in my blind spot. It tore into the left front quarter panel of the truck and I had to take a five pound sledge hammer to it and the door to get metal out of the way just so I could open the door. Needless to say, the driver’s side of the truck looks like crap. Melissa reminded me of the first car she ever had – a Dodge Aspen that had been hit by a bus and the passenger side door would not open, ever. The truck is a vehicle we are using as a working vehicle on our farm. It does not have to be pretty, it just has to function.

So, I went on and loaded the t-post driver, wire and clips in the truck bed and went back to the tank to continue working on the electric fence around the future apiary. The bees are due the week of April 10th. I got the clips on and began driving the pipes I am using for grounding rods. On the second pipe I checked it as it was about half way into the ground and went back to pounding. On the first stroke after checking the pipe I missed the pipe. However, the top of the pipe lined up perfectly with the handle and it was driven in a little bit more. The problem is that the index finger on my left hand was between the pipe and the handle. This was the end of today’s work as Melissa and I went on a little date to the local emergency room. My finger is now shorter than it was this morning and the fingernail that was on it when I got up is now in my pocket. Faith, the eagle eyed daughter, spotted it when we went back to the tank this evening. It is kinda cool looking and goes well with the tip of my finger, which we brought home from the hospital in a specimen jar.

I am currently blogging under the influence of vicodin and cannot use the messed up index finger at all. Here is what I get when I use the bad finger on the “d” key: dfscexr. But, while this day was not ideal, it had its bright spots. Claire is in the orchard watching cows. Faith is hanging out with me on the front porch in absolutely beautiful weather. Stephen is making cookies with the butter left over in the mixer from the butter making this afternoon. My favorite kind of cookies as it turns out – chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I am in no pain thanks to the pharmaceutical industry. Monday we will go back to the doctor to have him look at the finger again. Even though he had deadened it with two shots of litocain (sp?) before clipping off the tip that was hanging on, it was very painful since it was a nerve that was keeping the tip attached. It felt like being poked with an ice pick that was electrified. The nurse was very nice and the doctor, other than trying to cut off the tip without any pain killer, was good as well.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another chick update

All the chicks are doing well. We can tell the twins apart from the rest because they are a bit smaller and each have one foot that looks a bit deformed. Not so much deformed as it is bent or curled under. This morning we discovered it didn't stay warm enough in there. It looked like the smaller twin was dead. I went to pick it up and it felt cold, but then it moved. So we warmed up the brooder and it perked up. I just checked on them and they are all doing very well. All 19 of them.

Funny, we didn't expect to get many chicks from these eggs since they were some of the first the hens ever laid. We did better than I expected and now the kids are saying we should continue to incubate our own eggs. Time to research what breeds and crosses we'd like to try.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chick update

I had a bit of a scare last night. The chicks that had hatched were still in the incubator along with the eggs that still hadn't hatched. I awoke to bright flashes of lightning followed by our electricity going out. The first thing I thought of was our freezer full of meat. Then I thought of our future meat in the incubator! Yikes! I immediately got up, fumbled in the dark for my cell phone and palm pilot (which I had previously put the electric company's number in) and called to report the outage. They came, fixed it quickly, and then even called to be sure we had electricity. The total time without electricity was only 30 minutes. Not bad. Meanwhile the incubator did cool off some. You could tell by the condensation on the viewing window. I covered it with towels to try to hold the heat in while waiting for the electricity to go back on.

This morning I checked on them and egg #9 with the "twins" was still unhatched and still moving and trying. Egg #11 was also trying to hatch. One other egg had hatched during the night. One more egged hatched this morning.

I spent some time this afternoon getting their brooder box ready. I'd decided that we'd get the hatched chicks out of the incubator and then if the two in the process of hatching weren't done, we'd just help them. I know, you're never supposed to do that. But you're also never supposed to open the incubator during the last 3 days because it decreases the humidity. I knew of at least 3 occurences of it being opened yesterday by children who were excited and didn't know better. Stephen was able to tell me about another incident or two. What happens then, is that the chick trying to hatch gets dry and sticks to the membrane. Chicks in egg #9 looked really dry. Most of the egg shell was gone, but it was dry. Egg #11 had a foot and beak out, but appeared to be stuck. We also figure that these cute little chicks will lose their cuteness and get to eating size before they are ever able to reproduce, so we won't be carrying on a weak line of chicken.

So Stephen and I cleaned up a place to put their box and started moving chicks. There were 16 cute fuzzy chicks that we moved and they all seemed delighted to have food and water now available to them. He did the "c-section" on the twins and I did the other egg. We both agreed that aside from the membrane sticking to them, they seemed fine. They are currently still in the incubator to finish drying out and get some rest before we put them with the rest in the brooder box.

Then, being the homeschooler that I am, and Stephen being the inquisitive, animal-interested person that he is, we went outside and "disected" the last 6 eggs. We were fine not waiting on them. None of them were alive and none had even finished developing. I will spare you pictures of those! We didn't take any.

16 in brooder
These are the cute little fluffy chicks in the brooder box.

3 in incubator
These are the still wet chicks that are drying in the incubator. We'll let them join the others when they are dry and fluffy.

So we ended up with 19 chicks from 18 eggs, but 24 eggs total.

Off to try to get something done besides stare at eggs now.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Good News / Bad News

First the good news, we are at about 14 chicks in the incubator. The double yolk egg continues to try to hatch. On one end there is a chicken trying to get out - this is better than I expected. On the other end we can't tell what is going on as the 14 chicks that are out of their eggs are moving around and the double yolk egg is rolling around. We do, however, have the very real possibility of a pair of live chickens coming out of the same egg. Not a miracle, but at least an uncommon occurrence.

The bad news is that Fred the Goat gave in to Floppy Kid Syndrome today, throwing off his mortal coil around 12:45 p.m. There was a viewing until around 1:30 p.m. at which time a brief, grave side service was held with the Right Reverend Dad officiating. The family is requesting that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to in memory of Fred the Goat.


Hatch pictures

egg with crack
chicks in incubator
egg #9
Here are the pictures I promised. They aren't the greatest photography, but hopefully you can see something there.

The first picture is just an egg beginning to open. The next picture is a "group shot" of a bunch of chicks that just happened to be where we could easily see them through the window. And the third picture shows you egg #9. You can't see the number written on it because it's rolled over, but we know it's number 9 because it's much bigger than the rest. I just wanted to try to catch the beak poking out of the shell, but it didn't come out very well. Timing has to be perfect to catch that shot, and then you need a clearer image anyway.

As I've been typing and uploading pictures I keep hearing updates shouted from the kitchen. It sounds like we may have another chick hatching soon. But soon means what? Stephen can actually predict how many minutes until they hatch, but he hasn't shouted any updates in a while. I guess he has more experience with this. We've hatched things before, starting about 7 years ago when we hatched ducks. Then the day after Clark was born Stephen came to me with a bunch of duck eggs and said, "Mom, you promised I could incubate them when my ducks laid eggs." So he incubated that batch of eggs all by himself. That started 6 yrs ago yesterday. We've only done chickens since then. You'd think we'd lose the excitement of a new hatch, but we never do. I guess that new life is always exciting. :-)


Animal update

In case anyone is on the edge of their seat wondering how the animals are doing, I thought I'd update you. Fred the goat is still alive. He seems slightly better than last night. We'll repeat his meds tonight.

Our incubator is a busy, noisy place. We have 7 chicks fully hatched at the moment. This could change at any time since there are more pecking away at their shells. Grace just informed me that waiting for chicks to hatch is hard! And, she said, waiting for me to have a baby is even worse.

We've numbered our eggs. The one with the double yolk is egg #9. A frequent question around here is "How is #9 doing?" So far the egg has a hole pecked at one end, but nothing more. They are still hoping for a siamese chicken.

I'll try to get some pictures in a bit.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Life and near death on the farm

Had a full day and went to the Wal-Mart in Brownwood this evening. When we got back we all went about our business of getting the chickens put up, the eggs collected, chores done and Fred the Goat getting fed. Since Faith was already ready for bed I went out to feed Fred and Stephen went out to get water to the brooder chicks. There was one problem. Fred the Goat was looking pretty awful.

Now Fred has not been much of an eater since we got him, but this was different. He was laying there on his side and letting out a mournful sound. It was not good. I was told to feed him and if that meant waking him up, then I was to wake him up. So I picked him up and he just flopped over. I shoved the nipple in his mouth, but he did not take any of it in. Fred the Goat was in trouble. We took him in the house and Melissa looked up symptoms at – I swear to you, there really is a web page named Anyway, turns out Fred the Goat has Floppy Kid Syndrome, also known as FKS. Not a lot of nuance in the goat raising world.

So we have a goat laying on the floor with Floppy Kid Syndrome and we are reading all about treatment (B vitamins, electrolytes, penicillin, probiotics) and how to administer it to a goat at the various stages of Floppy Kid Syndrome. We are at the worst stage as we had no idea he was exhibiting the symptoms of Floppy Kid Syndrome until we began reading about them on Fred the Goat has Floppy Kid Syndrome pretty bad, so we are going to have to administer the medicine, we had all the items or an acceptable substitute on hand, by tube.

I really dislike doctor shows and I hated the Discovery Channel and all their surgery shows back when we had TV. Yup, I am the one to shove the tube down his throat and into his stomach. Took a syringe and filled his stomach with the medicine. He is laying in a box in the living room and we are praying we have a living goat in the morning.

We are also in the midst of having our chickens hatch out on us. There is a bunch of peeping and wiggling and three of the eggs are cracked as the chicks try to break out of their shells. The double yolk egg has made it this far and tomorrow will be the day of judgment for that one. If that egg hatches and anything living comes out of it, Melissa will be vindicated as everyone has told her double yolk eggs almost never result in a live chick. The kids (not the floppy ones) are hoping for Siamese twin chickens. Double the meat! So if you are in the kitchen you can hear the sounds of life as the chicks are peeping away from inside their shells. If you are in the living room you can listen to the patient bleet as he does not like being kept on his back and is complaining about the poor reception on the TV.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Apparently, the chicken was first

This has been one of those weeks when it has just been one activity or chore or conversation or effort or whatever after another. I love weeks like this. There is just too much going on to tell it all, mostly because I have a very small brain and many thongs fall out of it.

Monday was chicken slaughter day. Tuesday we drove to Dallas and I visited with my mother and then we went to Grapevine to sell our chickens and eggs. Wednesday was work and a dawn walk and catching the calf and bringing her back so the cow could spend some quality time with the bull and digging up the septic tank and going to church and then to bed. No time to blog. Today was a lot like today except the calf was already put up and the septic tank got pumped out instead of dug up.

One of the interesting things about this week included a friend of mine, Roy Poage, donating a kid to us. He called on Wednesday to tell me he had a nanny with three kids. My initial thought, since I have spent more time in the city than the country, was that I did not know he had any little children at home or that he needed a nanny to watch them. Then I understood that he was talking about a goat. For those readers that are in the city, triplet goats would be a problem since a goat only has two teats. I really did know this before today. Anyway, the kid survived through to today and I took Faith, Grace and Claire to pick him up this afternoon. Since we are trying to make every possible mistake, the girls have already named the goat. I know you aren’t supposed to name your dinner, but it still happens.

Another interesting thing was finding eggs inside the chickens when we butchered them. We learned that the yolks are there in abundance inside the chicken. As they make their way out the bird the get bigger, the whites collect around the yolk and then a shell forms. We took a fully formed egg out of almost all of the chickens. Okay, the rooster did not have an egg in him.

We have heard from two of our customers and they were very satisfied with their chickens and one was very happy with the eggs. We tend to forget how good our pastured chickens and their eggs are since that is all we eat. It was nice to hear from both customers.

The final interesting thing about this week is that we have, for now, an operational septic system. It has been very cold and windy and the boys and I have been urinating outside to save the flush. With the system up and running for now we can stay inside. I still go outside as marking my territory has become a hobby.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rainy day Saturdays always make me blog

It is raining! It has been doing this, off and on, since about 8:00 this morning. Melissa is off to the midwife’s to get a check-up and I am here with all the kids. They are in the process of doing their chores and I am doing mine and Melissa’s – okay, actually I am sitting on the bed typing, but have been doing and will return to doing chores. Faith went to a slumber party last night and will not tell me much about what happened other than bowling, a Wal-Mart stop and Taco Bell. She paid to bowl one game and then quit because she did not like bowling. She watched the other girls buy candy at Wal-Mart and gorge on Taco Bell offerings. Since she has to use her own money for these things she is very careful about what she buys. That is yet another bonus for us. I am constantly reminded of Paul in Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

We used to have a lot and now we do not. It was our own choice and we made it freely to change our lives for the better and to leave the intensity of our former life behind. Things like my kids really appreciating the value of a dollar are a giant bonus in all of this. The other is that I am so much more relaxed now. I was telling Melissa how I just don’t care to watch a lot of sports anymore as I get so keyed up on each and every play. The whole game always hangs in the balance. She commented that I have always been that way and only realize it now as I have adopted a more laid back approach to life. At the job I am still all keyed up and so appreciate the farm even more. I try to get all my hours in Tuesday through Thursday, and sometimes I am successful at this. The result is that Tuesdays are worse than any Mondays ever were because they are the first day back after four days off.

Melissa is at the midwife’s this morning because we have chicken processing to do on Monday and a delivery to Grapevine of chickens and eggs on Tuesday. We will also get a couple of orthodontist appointments in and I will go to visit my mother. Every visit could be the last and I have done a crappy job of seeing her in the last year. Dad says he thinks she is approaching the end. He has been holding out hope for a long time and to hear this from him now tells me the end really is near. Yes, we saw The Notebook, thank you for your movie recommendation.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Blogging and Following the Tournament on a Friday Night

Melissa is fine now, thank you all for your interest. We are getting rain this evening. We had a new batch of chickens come in this morning. 100 Red Broilers are bedded down in the brooder right now trying to fight off the cold. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of year it is, when we get chicks it is a cold or wet day. It got into the mid 60’s today, but I never managed to get warm.

We took three gallons of milk off the cow today. This is a good development for her and the rest of us. What we really want to have happen is for her to get pregnant. The bull that is on the property has paid plenty of attention to her, but she is still not pregnant. I am thinking maybe some Luther Vandross would be a good soundtrack for the pasture. With the grass coming in now I expect the cattle will continue grazing our property until the lease is up in July, so she will have plenty of chances to spend some time with the bull.

I had thought of cutting off the beard as it has been so nice here lately, but the weather forecast calls for lows in the mid 30’s next week and protection from that is exactly why there is a beard on my face. That, and the fact I enjoy looking like an ax murdering vagrant.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bed Rest Scare

Little bit of a scare today as Melissa was having contractions every seven minutes this morning. It kept her in bed all day and made some of us very nervous. In the end the answer was water and lots of it. We were called by the hatchery that they had sent our order of chicks today so this afternoon was a rush of activity to get the brooder cleaned out and reset for the critters.

I had mentioned this task to Stephen and he had blown it off. So I ate lunch and called everyone in the house – Faith, Grace, Claire, Clark and Joy to get outside to help me with the brooder. As we walked across the yard to the brooder Stephen came tooling along with a wheel barrow full of wood shavings. He had been out doing his noon chore and remembered that the brooder needed to be cleaned out and took it upon himself to get it done. Mitchell had come by and joined in with him and the dang thing was almost all cleaned out by the time we showed up. The best thing of all was the look on Stephen’s face while he was pushing the wheel barrow – he was happy and proud of the work he was doing and not at all feeling like he’d been put upon. It was a very neat moment.

Anyway, Melissa laid out has slowed down the chicken tractor work as I could not get the work started today. Tomorrow I work all day, so maybe Friday I will get after it, so long as there is no rain and I would very much prefer rain.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Not all roses

When I first became a mother, I began to read a lot about parenting. I read about the terrible two's and I read about the teen years being bad. Nobody warned me about the 3's being worse than the two's. As a matter of fact, it seemed that what I read either made parenting sound all bad or all good. I knew it wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all good either so I figured I was doing something wrong.

When we first chose to homeschool, everything I read was all roses. Well, there were those who thought it was all bad, but I could see that was wrong. Otherwise it was all about how supersmart and supergood your kids will be. And your family will be happy all the time. Well, don't get me wrong, my kids are all supersmart, but not always with "school stuff." And I consider them to be very good kids, but certainly not perfect. And we're certainly not always happy. It's a lot harder than I originally thought it would be. So I spend a lot of time figuring I'm doing something wrong.

I knew it would be harder work to move here. I didn't really read anything about it before we did it. I was not disillusioned into thinking this was going to make everything perfect. I was simply following what I believed our LORD was asking us to do. He has His reasons and my job is to trust and obey. But I don't want to be guilty of leading others to believe that it's all perfect and so when/if they try this, they won't assume they are doing something wrong. I hope that makes sense. Either that, or I'm looking for a good excuse to gripe tonight. So be forewarned. If you don't want to "hear" me complain, go away right now.

This morning the ladies at church had a brunch/antique shopping get-together. It was announced almost 2 mos ago and I've been looking forward to it ever since. In Grapevine, I was part of a homeschool group that had a monthly Mom's Night Out and I LOVED that chance to get together and chat with other moms. This was my first opportunity to really just socialize since we left Grapevine. I was excited. Then yesterday Roger found out he had something he had to do at the same time the brunch started. Normally that would be no big deal because we have 3 children old enough to babysit. But Sam and Grace weren't feeling too well and I wasn't sure they should be without a parent. I felt bad, but not bad enough to skip it. I went to the brunch. I had a great time!

Here comes the griping part. And maybe this was true as a suburban housewife, too, and I just didn't notice it quite as much. If I take "time off" from my duties at home, I'm really just postponing when I will do my work. I guess that really was always true. It's just that now there is so much more work to do. I'm not sure how worth it it is to ever leave the house when it means doing dishes until 10pm. I came home to find stinky laundry where someone had wet their pants. The towel used to clean it up was left in the sun and had managed to spread the smell throughout the entire house. The dishes from breakfast were left unrinsed for me to wash when I returned home. NO ONE had done their chores. I had butter to churn. We just shake it up in jars. That usually means we share the work. Not today. Stephen was helping Roger outside with the fence. I thought Mitchell was too, but it turns out he spent the day working on the book he's writing. So I never asked him for help. Faith was helping with laundry. Out of 10 jars of cream, I shook 6 of them before Faith and Stephen came and finished up for me. My arms were still shaking! Meanwhile, Samuel cried almost the entire day. He didn't even want to watch Signing Time which is really weird for him! I never managed to bake bread which means at lunchtime tomorrow someone will complain about not having any. The vacuuming didn't get done and that's a major thing here with all the dirt that gets dragged in the house. So I'm at least 4 hours behind where I should be because I was gone for 4 hours. I guess in Grapevine I didn't work so hard. I had some down time. I really don't anymore and sometimes I feel so exhausted I wonder what we were thinking.

You know what always pulls me back to knowing I can make it? I know that this is what God called us to do. Somehow our being here is right. Maybe our kids really needed this. Maybe Roger did. Maybe I did. Maybe we'll do some good for someone by being here. I don't know. I just know that for whatever reason, God has a purpose for us to be here. And if it's good for Him, it's good. I will trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

On that note, I think I'll go sneak some late night homemade ice cream from milk my dear husband got up early to get from our cow. Just like parenting and homeschooling, it's not always easy to do things, but anything worth having is worth the work.


Friday, March 10, 2006

The chicken tractors are not fixed yet, but the fence work is well underway and will get finished tomorrow. I forgot to tell you about the great hunter’s success yesterday morning. Stephen asked me if he could take the .22 out to hunt as I was headed to town to walk with a friend (uninteresting story there). No big deal, but I did remind him if he killed any member of the family he would not get to hunt again, this is a standing rule. Anyway, I get back from my walk and milk the cow and as I am getting ready to head out the door to go to work Stephen comes walking up with a dead rabbit. He shot at a rabbit and killed a rabbit. The two are not the same, which is mildly interesting. Seems he shot over the rabbit he was aiming at and hit a second rabbit. Kind of a random drive-by killing, only with rabbits.

Melissa has a rule that if you kill something (other than an insect), you have to eat it. Stephen took our Encyclopedia of Country Living and skinned the critter. Following the instructions further he checked the liver for white spots and the dead rabbit had white spots on its liver – coccydiosis (sp?) – so he could not eat the rabbit. He gave the rabbit to the dog and so far the dog is still alive. Melissa looked it up and coccydiosis is apparently something that is common in dogs, so the rabbit was fine for her and I won’t have to dig another grave.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Anniversary, Worm

We had a storm last night. No rain, just a bunch of wind. We had rain clouds all day, it looked like it was going to rain. It smelled like it was going to rain. It faked us out. At 1 a.m. we awoke to a clanging sound. There arose such a clatter I sprang up to see what was the matter. The matter was the roof of the stanchion blowing off. This morning we woke up to find that the chicken tractors had been totaled as well. Weirdest thing of all was that the roof sections blew over to the hose faucet, disconnected the hose from the faucet and turned on the faucet. This is too dumb to be made up, it really happened.

Today is Grace’s birthday and we are having her choice for dessert. White cake with fruit punch frosting and vanilla ice cream. Yummy! Since it is Grace’s birthday she never forgets that we share an anniversary with her. This morning we were given a priceless gift from the girls. They made a “Happy Anversary” card with an extra special Bible verse in it for Melissa and me – Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. This is so special we will keep this card forever as it is signed by all the girls and since they like it so much it will be a part of their wedding ceremony.

Tomorrow is a day off for me and I will use to rebuild/redesign the chicken tractors so that they do not blow all over the place when the wind blows and begin putting in the cross fence to keep the animals out of the “orchard” area and future watermelon/peanut patch.

Faith and I planted six peach and two plum trees on Wednesday and will plant three more peach trees, three blackberry vines and three blueberry bushes tomorrow. A couple of the kids mentioned after we were done on Wednesday that it really felt like we were on a farm. We had the trees planted, the garden planted and had processed nine roosters. Sorry Darlene, but the roosters had to die. The folks I work around at the chamber thought it was funny that I called it processing, they all call it killing.

The wireless broadband is installed and blogging just got a lot easier and more convenient. The quality is not any better, but it is easier.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Mornin' Bloggin'

We have the near barn clearer that it was and I have a table saw area set up so that some of the on hold projects can get finished. This is very exciting for me as well the boys – who get desks – and Melissa – who gets shelves. Plenty of brown recluse and black widow spiders killed in the last three days in the near barn. In the far barn we have scorpions and a snake to contend with. Funny, we are probably within 10 feet of a hundred spiders, scorpions and snakes at all times, but it is almost as if we live in different dimensions. As much as we dislike these creatures they seem to want to be away from us just as much. I do not intend to live and let live with them, I just hope they don’t make that same decision as they would win.

On Wednesday we are supposed to get wireless DSL installed. This will move us from the “dark ages” of 1990’s internet use to the modern world of 1M downloads. It will allow us to get some pictures on the page as well. Not only do we not want to take the 36 hours it takes to upload pictures with dial-up, but we also don’t have time to wait for pictures to load when we check our blog. Now we’ll have the speed.

Thursday is Grace’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. It is tradition around our house that the kids get to pick the meal and dessert served on their birthdays. Grace informed us last week that we would be allowed to pick the dessert since it is our anniversary. Yesterday she decided that she wanted to pick the meal and dessert, so now we are having cake and ice cream instead of the ice cream and cake Melissa and I wanted to have.

The cow is giving more milk each day now as we have changed our routine. For those of you that are cow milkers it will sound foolish, but we have gone from one milker to two milkers each time. Instead of me milking alone I have added a helper on the other side and we are getting about ¾ gallon more milk a day after the first week of this. Faith and I milked this morning and I sat there milking and watching the non-milkers play out in the field at 7:30 in the morning. Their chores were done and it was apparently time to sword fight.