Friday, May 31, 2013

Mama Hen Update #5 - Still Waiting

Mama Hen is still sitting on her nest, and nothing seems to be happening with the eggs yet.  Today is 21 days from when she first started sitting.  Some more eggs were laid in the nest the following day, so perhaps we will have to wait until 21 days from the last egg.

I wonder if she feels like I did before both of my girls were born, when my "due date" came and went and no baby came?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First Garden Harvest of 2013

L and I went down to the garden this morning before breakfast and we picked about 1 gallon of luscious strawberries!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mama Hen Update #4 - The Blob

Mama remains quite contented in her new Baby Hotel.  She panicked a bit this morning when I threw corn to the rest of the flock...she ran around flapping and pecking and trying desperately to get out.  I have been pouring a little bit of corn just outside of her nest box where she can reach it without getting up, but that didn't seem to satisfy her this morning.

I candled the eggs again tonight.  We finally had a warm night so I didn't have to worry about leaving the eggs out for a few minutes.  All of the eggs (with the exception of the same one that I questioned last time) were entirely filled with a dark blob, leaving a tiny sliver of light through at one end.  Since it is now day 18 of incubation, I'm assuming that blob is the chick.

Friday is day 21, so by this weekend we should have some new peeps!

Tuesday Night Circus

A few weeks ago, L told me that the circus was coming to town this week.  The word "circus" usually brings to mind this:

I was able to slip out of work a bit early this evening, and the girls and I rushed to the early show under the Big Top.  It was not very crowded, and quite enjoyable - clowns, trapeze artists, jugglers, fire eaters, animal acts, expensive peanuts and popcorn - the works!

We ran into our friends there, this being Small Town, America.  Uncle J allowed the girls to ride an elephant during intermission.

Forgot my camera, so it was terrible
cell phone pic or nothing!

The elephants made me think of Water for Elephants, which if you haven't read it yet, consider doing so this summer, it is quite entertaining.

We met up with JP afterwards and ate dinner together at Bob Evans (Tuesday nights kids eat free!)  Then rushed home to wash up, read a chapter of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and tuck the girls into bed just a few minutes late.

All in all, we had a pretty fun Tuesday evening!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Rock-A-Bye Baby, In the Treetop...

I think this is the third year that we've had a Cook Out on the Hill for Memorial Day with all of our friends.  Our crowd was a bit smaller this year, than years past, but we had a good time anyway.

JP found a giant 2 man sling shot, capable of shooting water balloons up to 200 yards.  We managed to dent the side of the barn a few times in the process.

Afterward, the girls invited 2 of their girlfriends for the FIRST EVER INAUGURAL TREE HOUSE SLEEP OVER.  We packed them in like sardines, and despite over night temperatures that hovered down around 35 degrees, they stayed snuggly warm up there.

They had a walkie talkie in their possession, should they need to contact us.  We heard from them only once, at about 10:15 PM.  "Daddy!  Help!  It's an emergency!  There's a giant cockroach on the ceiling!  S.O.S.!  S.O.S.!" 

By the time he made it up the tree to rescue the damsels in distress, the vermin had scurried back into a crack.  Cute.

It has been a long week.  The power was out overnight twice, necessitating L and I to start school at McDonalds on their free Wi-Fi on one morning.  J had SO MANY field trips and fun things and very little school last week.  L had her last Speech Therapy session and her first Piano Recital. has been nice to be a bit lazy today!

We have 4 more days of school, no more piano lessons, speech therapy, or swim lessons this week.  It's do-able.  I think I can...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mama Hen Update #3 - Carnage

You know those nature experiments that you get all excited about doing with your kids, but they go terribly wrong?  Like raising Monarch Butterflies, except the chrysalis gets dropped accidentally, completely annihilating the growing butterfly in the process.

I found a Praying Mantis egg case last Fall, when I was cleaning out my flower bed, so I stuck it in the nifty little clear plastic "creature case"  (it has had fish, tadpoles, Praying Mantises and caterpillars inside over its long history.)  Then I stuck it on a window sill in the garage, where it stayed all winter long.  This morning, JP noticed what he thought were ants all over the window sill.  The Praying Mantises apparently hatched yesterday, when it was close to 90 degrees outside, and were in the plastic case in the sun.  It looks like all of them perished.  I felt terrible when I saw the's all my fault they met their doom in our garage!

I'm feeling a bit that way about Mama Hen these days too!  When I checked on her this afternoon, I realized that she only had 9 eggs under her...9!  I looked quickly around for the missing egg, but didn't find any signs of it until tonight.  There was a wet spot in the wood shavings in front of her nest.  Apparently another egg was pushed out, probably broke in the process, and was eaten.

I decided that in order to allow her to raise even a couple of chicks, it was in Mama Hen's best interest to move to quieter quarters.  Under cover of darkness, I moved the old Egg Cart'n down next to the Chicken Barge, filled only one nest box with clean, fluffy shavings, and carefully moved the remaining 9 eggs in.  I put Mama on top, and she muttered to herself while she rearranged them, but was peacefully sitting there when I left her.  She has her own food and water, a small run to scratch in during her coffee breaks, and blissful privacy.

Let's hope the rest of these babies actually make it...I'm extremely vested in their well being by now!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More May Flowers

Some more things are blooming in my flower bed, some of them for the first time!

Lupine and Peonies

I dug the plant with blue flowers from my friend's garden before she moved.  Can anyone tell me what it is?  I love the cornflower blue.  It made me realize that I didn't have enough blue in my garden, so I added a blue Columbine and a blue Balloon Flower...both Mother's Day gifts from JP and the girls.

Blue Balloon Flower -
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mama Hen Update #2 - Candling

I snuck out to check up on Mama Hen tonight after the girls went to bed.  This morning, she was apparently out for coffee, when someone else moved in to her nest.  She did the next best thing, and sat on another nest full of eggs.  (This lady is determined!)

L and I shooed the impostor out, and after removing the fresh eggs, replaced Mama on her rightful nest.  She was still there tonight, thank goodness!

This time, I took my flashlight along, and candled the 10 eggs that she has been incubating.  I was able to see veining quite clearly in all of them but one, so it appears that we should get some chicks in another 2 weeks if all goes well. 

The last egg was darkly speckled, and it was difficult to make out anything inside.  I'll take another look next weekend.  By then, we should be able to see the fetus inside!

By the way, I opened the 2 discarded eggs over the compost pile yesterday.  I think that both of them may have been viable at one time, as there were "veins"  attached to the inside of the shell of each of them, and a tiny blob of something was at the center of the "veins".  Probably the eggs were knocked out in a squabble over the nest (she picked one of the favorites to inhabit, of course), and lacking hands, she was unable to put them back.  I would rather be safe than sorry, but next time I might just try sticking them back under her.  I still can't account for the 13th has disappeared completely!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Today, the girls and I had the opportunity to attend our very first Major League Baseball Game with JP and a bunch of friends.  We had pretty nice seats along the 1st Base Line, and just under the balcony, so we had some shade.

The day was overcast, but not too hot.  We drove into the city with friends, parked at the Subway station, and rode the Subway right to the stadium.

I love this view of the city and bridges from our seats.

Best of all, our team won!  There was only one point scored the entire game, but it was for our team, so...HOORAY!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Big Sigh...Done!

While I took the girls and their friend, C, to the Sheep & Fiber Fest today, JP stayed home and rototilled the bottom of the garden for me.  It looks fairly flat, but he told me afterwards that it would have been much, MUCH easier if it had been TRUELY flat!

In town, we watched them shear a sheep and an alpaca, and watched the Border Collies herd sheep and ducks.  (All that calling of "Away to me! Come by me!  That'll do!" put me in mind of one of my favorite movies - "Babe"...I'll have to watch it again one of these days.)  We bought fried oreos and a funnel cake from one of the local doctors, and cold drinks from our friend the "Bee Man."

It was overcast when we arrived home, and I was anxious to get out into the garden before the rain.  Mom, the girls, and I spent probably 3+ hours out there this afternoon, and got EVERYTHING planted!  First, I had to remove this little guy from my storage shed!

Please excuse the terrible cell phone pic...I didn't take
 the time to line up the perfect shot!

I broad forked 2 beds, and planted one with corn, and the other one we planted with tomatoes and peppers.  Mom and the girls planted all of the vine crops:  butternut and acorn squash, zucchini, pumpkin and cucumbers.  The girls and I planted 20 short rows of beans:  bush green beans, wax beans and horticulture beans.  I put the cabbages, broccoli, jalapeno peppers and basil down at the end of the garden, and the girls filled their own little bed with cantaloupe, honeydew, sweet peppers, onions, and other good things.

Over the past week, I weeded around almost all of the fruit trees and berry bushes in the orchard and put compost around them, and did the same for the blue berry bushes in the garden.

There is one empty bed in the garden.  In about a week and a half, I will broad fork it, and plant one last bed of corn.  I like to stagger the plantings so that it doesn't all get ripe at the same time.

This is a HUGE weight off my shoulders...I've been very anxious to get the garden in.  Thanks Mom, J and L, for helping to get it done!

Now I am exhausted!  We are taking the day off tomorrow, and heading to the big city for a baseball game with friends.  Although it sprinkled on us a tiny bit while we were working in the garden, and thundered ominously during dinner, so far it hasn't rained to water all of our plants.  That will probably come tomorrow while we are at the ball game.

And so it goes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mama Hen Update #1 - Bad Eggs

Mama Hen is still setting on her nest on Day #6.  We keep finding a couple of new eggs there every day when some other hen sneaks in and lays a fresh egg while Mama is out on a coffee break.  Thank goodness that I numbered them so that we can tell the old from the new!

I snuck out tonight with my flashlight on dim and discovered that Mama was only sitting on 10 eggs, instead of the original 13.  Hmmm.  A quick peak into the coop revealed #6 and #4 abandoned on the floor.  Does this mean they are bad eggs, or were they accidentally knocked out in a fight over nest ownership?  One has mysteriously disappeared.

I brought them in and candled them in my dark closet with an LED flashlight, and did not see anything that even resembled veins.  We are going to take precautions and dispose of them deep in the woods, so that we don't accidentally have a Templeton sort of mishap with a rotten egg later on.

15 days to go until we learn whether Mama Hen will have some peeps this summer, stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

April Showers Bring May Flowers

After dinner this evening, in the dimming light, I planted my Mother's Day gift of flowers in the flower bed.  The girls sat on the porch swing, chatting.  The dogs cavorted on the lawn.  It was a summer-ish day today - blue skies and temps in the 80's, and we all enjoyed this evening after our chilly weekend and frost the night before that nipped my little tater plants down in the garden.

JP did a bit of Red Neck tree pruning.  A branch was broken most of the way off our big hickory out back in that big blizzard of 2010 that buried us for several days.  It was too far up to reach, even with our extension pruning shears, but it dangled perilously above the hammock for entirely too long.  JP took his 12 gauge shotgun, shot it neatly through twice, and it is now on the brush pile, awaiting some evening when we want to make S'mores.

Once the flowers were all neatly tucked into the soil, I joined the family on the porch swing, and read "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" until it was too dark to see the words.  Then we came indoors and tucked the girls neatly into their beds. 

I went back outside to put away my flower pots and watering can, and found the night still too lovely to leave behind.  I sat on the veranda, watching Lizzie leap about crazily after moths, and stroking Ernie.  Every now and again a bright tongue of lightening flicked off to the West.  I finally came in when the thunder started to roll.

The rain was brief, but the new flowers got a refreshing drink of water.

The part of my flower bed that didn't get excavated last summer, or trampled by cattle last weekend is looking better than ever.  Here is a peek at the May flowers I have right now:


These Irises came from my Grandma's
flower garden.

More Irises - from the Farmer's Market

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blew a Gasket

My dad was using the splitter yesterday to split firewood, when it blew a gasket on the oil filter.  He was sprayed all over with oil.  "I'm glad I was wearing safety glasses!"  he remarked.

When I blew a gasket this afternoon, safety glasses wouldn't have been sufficient.  I exploded and yelled, and sent red, hot, burning lava flying across the room.  A full body asbestos suit would have been more appropriate.

What could have caused this reaction, you might ask?  Art.

I've mentioned before that I really like the curriculum that we have been using for the past 5 years in Cyber School, especially History, Science and Art.  I haven't mentioned, however, that the girls DON'T like the Art.  I really think it's put together well, and starting in Kindergarten, the girls were taught Art History, about well known artists, and about various art techniques.  Some of the projects are kind of hokey, but for the most part, they seemed fairly simple, and pretty fun.  For some reason, both girls developed an instant dislike to doing a project the way it was instructed, instead of doing their own thing.  Most of the time, if the their technique would not distract from the lesson, I gave them some freedom.  I heard complaints about the EXACT SAME projects from both girls, and for some reason, Art is the very last subject that we finish EVERY YEAR.


L is extremely persistent.  She did NOT want to do the Art project today, which was to draw and color a building in the style of Ancient Greek Architecture, including columns, a frieze and a pediment.  It isn't the most exciting of projects, I agree, but it is simple, and should be quick.  After getting through the first few negative comments ("This is dumb."  "This is boring."  "Why do I have to?"), which were echoes from J's 1st grade year, she moved on to:  "I can't draw a rectangle."  "I can't draw a triangle."  "I don't know how to use a ruler."

By hour number two, it morphed into: "The ruler is broken.  I didn't do it."  "I can't draw steps."  "I can't draw columns."  etc, etc, etc.

I lost it at "The ruler is broken."

Needless to say, the simple, quick Art project is edging into the third hour, which has kept us from accomplishing any thing else this afternoon.  It happens frequently, and it is so, SO frustrating.

Pair that headache with the one where the On Line School crashed about 7 times today, I am ready to be DONE with Cyber School.  DONE.

Now I am so angry with myself.  Why do the little things FEEL so BIG?  Why do those things get under my skin in such a BIG way?  Why don't I have the self control of an adult, when I definitely have the problems of one?  Why?  Why?  Why?

There seem to be no straightforward answers, and changing my fiery short temper is taking a lot of WORK.  The end result will be worth it, so I resolve to be persistent, just like my youngest daughter.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cross Your Fingers...

It appears that we may FINALLY have a broody hen.  She has been sitting on the nest now since yesterday morning.  Ever since I discovered that the hens freaked out when I moved them to a posh and private location, and refused to set any longer, I have not been taking any eggs out from under hens on a nest.  I will only collect eggs if there are no hens around.  Of course, since then, no one has stayed on a nest longer than about 2 or 3 hours.

Yesterday morning, one particularly bedraggled hen was on a nest.  I checked again after lunch, and she was still there.  Lo and behold, when I peeped in one more time before bed, she was still there!  Typically the chickens all roost at night, they don't stay in the nest boxes.  She was still there this morning, and again this afternoon when I really needed to clean out the hen house.

She stayed for several minutes while I shoveled poo, but finally freaked out and left her 8 eggs all alone.  I checked again several times after I had finished, and she still wasn't back on the nest.  She was off for several hours, I'm sure.  Finally this evening, she was back in there.

I checked several chicken forums on line, and it appears that if they are fertile, they could still hatch, even with an extended period of inattention.  We'll know for sure in another 20 days, although I could try to "candle" them and look for "veining" next weekend.  I have educated myself in this process by watching youtube videos.

Stay tuned, there may be peeps in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Out of My Hands

We did it.  Today, L and I got her birth certificate out of our Safety Deposit Box at the bank, and took it to the Elementary School to enroll her for 2nd grade next year.  The paperwork has been filled out, signatures signed, i's dotted, and t's crossed.  All done.

I'm going to have more "free time" next Fall than I ever have before in my life.  I'll have no more excuses for not having dinner ready when JP finally arrives home each evening.  Oh, I'll fill it up all right.  I'm sure I'll FEEL just as busy as always, but I just might get a few more of those things done that have been on my "To Do" list forever.

At the same time, I feel a bit sad.  I can't believe that my baby will be leaving me, or that my home schooling adventure will be least for the time being.  My goal, when I ventured into home schooling, was to provide the best education that I could for as long as possible.  I think I've achieved that.

I sat down out in the soft, green grass to chat with J this afternoon.  I have been feeling guilty that her last year at home was so stressful, and there was so much yelling and crying from both of us.  It was a rough year.  I apologised to her about it.  She assured me it was alright, and then told me that she missed some things still:  the Art History, the History and Science.

After I informed her that the local Library contains many, many books on those subjects, J launched excitedly into her plans for the summer.  "I want to do a lot of reading," she said. 

We talked about other things that we hoped to achieve this summer.  It was a wonderful moment to spend with my blossoming older daughter.

"You know, you have a lot of things to work on too, Mommy."  she announced. 

"I know," I told her.  "I've been really working on yelling less.  Don't you think it's better?"

"Oh yes," she replied, taking my chin in her hand.  She traced the dark circles under my eyes with a finger.  "You see these?"  she asked.  "You work too much."

I work too much, all the while my little girls are growing up.

Then my Doctor phoned.  She reported that my mammograms this morning were changed from last year's.  I think she commented on a "consolidation on the left" that was new.  More mammograms and ultrasounds will be ordered.  It is unlikely that there is a problem, but it's difficult not to worry a tiny bit, especially since another friend has recently been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Deep breath.  Release.  Let it go.

It's all out of my hands:  the "consolidation", new educational opportunities,  girls growing up.  I have to just let it happen, roll with it, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, May 6, 2013

To Lime or Not to Lime...

With my Mom's help, I FINALLY finished digging all of the sorrel out of the bottom of the garden this weekend.  We essentially dug every square inch of that area (50 ft x 10 ft) with hand trowels and sorted out all of the weeds, rocks, and tenacious, spreading roots of that nasty sorrel. 

JP dumped 2 tractor buckets full of mushroom manure (aged horse poo, mostly), which we then spread around that whole area.  My intentions were then to spread lime, and allow JP or my Dad (they can fight over who will get that pleasure) to till it in with the roto-tiller.  I went on line first, however, to get an idea of how much lime to use.  That's when I saw the links with warnings not to use lime and fertilizer together.  Apparently together the two can form ammonia gas.  I got varying information from each site I visited.  Finally, I had to ask much of what is on the Internet should I believe?

What did I do?  I put the lime out there, of course.  I rarely follow directions.  Both the manure and the lime were dry, and the lime is pelletized for slow release, so I really don't think it's going to make too much of a difference.  I promise that I will report if I did the wrong thing.

After all that, I mowed the garden paths.  It looks so nice out there right now!

Garden Report:  We still have beans, and more corn to plant (in a couple of weeks, so that it doesn't all get ripe at once), as well as the seedlings - tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers.  Peas, greens, radishes, potatoes, spinach and onions are up.  The other root crops - red beets, carrots and parsnips are still not doing much.  Things are coming together!

The rest of the weekend passed in a flash.  L and I went on a field trip with some others from her cyber school on Friday to nearby Laurel Caverns.  It was an enjoyable trip.

Limestone Formations at Laurel Caverns

Someone gave JP another huge bag full of morels.

Fresh Morels

We celebrated my Dad's recent birthday on Friday night with a mushroom fry (2 big platters of fried morels) and home made cherry pie.

The remainder of the morels, we dried.  Hopefully we will be able to enjoy these later.

Dried Morels

Saturday morning, we attended a seminar given by the Apiarist who keeps 2 hives near our garden.  I had invited along a bunch of our friends with children, and a handful of them were able to make it.  It was fascinating, especially when he opened up a hive and let us all take a peek.

J all suited up for bee watching

Searching for the Queen Bee (the one with the crown)

L and her friend E looking at a tray of bees with the Apiarist

That evening, we attended a cook out at a friend's farm.  L found a horse to ride off into the sunset upon.

On Sunday, we all rode our bikes in the parking lot at the Elementary school.  JP and J rode their new bikes, and L graduated to J's old bike.  My bike was unchanged, except for the kick-stand that JP added for me.

That evening, we had a quick and unexpected visit from one of JP's cousins.  Afterward, we were finally able to collapse together on the couch and read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

And now, it's the beginning of another week.  L and I are still working on school work at 3:15 this afternoon, because we took some time off this morning to have a tea party with my grandma before she headed back home, and we planted 2 beds of corn after lunch.  It is supposed to rain tonight, so we were hoping it would get watered well.

Life keeps rolling right along.  Thanks to the love and emotional support of many of my friends and relatives, I made it through last week without a mental break down.  There are several "extras" on the calendar this week, but I think they are do-able.  I made it through the weekend, the crazy, crazy weekend, yelling only once.  (I stopped myself in the middle, so I'm not even counting it.)  That makes 4 days with no yelling!  Hooray!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The No Yelling Thing? Not Going So Well.

I think I'm about to lose it.  Seriously.  Things are BAD.  I'm way stressed out.  I'm lonely.  I don't know how much more of this INSANITY that I can take!  I actually broke down about this time last week.  Unfortunately, JP's method of calming me down consisted of him telling me that I should cancel some stuff, which made me feel MORE guilty.  Um...which thing should I cancel?  My yearly Gyne exam, L's speech therapy or swim lessons, J's after school programs x 2, taking the van to the repair shop, visits from family, mandatory work trainings...which one?  I did end up cancelling a speech therapy this week...helped a lot, actually.

So, YEP, I've got a lot on my plate lately.  Then just glop on top of it all the fact that the garden is not getting itself weeded or planted, much to my dismay, AND the grass is not staying mowed!  Plus I am so, SO tired of homeschooling.  I'm all burned out.

The no yelling thing kinda slipped to the back burner about 2 weeks ago.  I do catch myself sometimes, and over all, I still think I'm yelling less frequently than before, but it's still not good.

Almost daily I'm having to deal with a moody pre-adolescent, who has very different opinions about what is or is not appropriate school attire, and who frequently "doesn't hear" the things I tell her to do.  She's also attained a somewhat disrespectful attitude since starting school, which I don't appreciate in the least.  That's my biggest downfall, dealing with the eldest child.  I get so angry with her, and I still haven't learned to walk away and count to 10 before unleashing my full head-of-flames fury.

Perhaps this time, before I sit J down for a heart-to-heart, I need to sit myself down - do some deep breathing, and have a heart-to-heart with myself.  If my number 1 priority is to have a peaceful and satisfying home life, then I need to make that start with myself.  If I can exude inner peace, it should spread to those around me, sort of like the irritability oozes off of me now and infects everyone else in this house.

Yes, I'm tired.  I'm frustrated.  I have more obligations than I have time or energy to do them.  I frequently feel that I'm failing as a Mom.

No, I don't need to make my husband and daughters feel bad too just because I lose it when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

The Orange Rhino, who has been my inspiration for this no-yelling lifestyle, keeps reminding herself to "take care of me!"  It's true.  When I get more sleep, exercise regularly, and take time to relax, I feel a whole lot better, and can focus more on the task of parenting peacefully.  That is why I chose to stay up an extra 30 minutes tonight to blog - my OWN 30 minutes of this day - instead of head to bed.  It is therapeutic.  I always feel better after venting on my blog, especially since nobody ever slaps me across the face and says "stop yer whinin dammit!"

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though.  The van is fixed (for now), J's last after school program is tomorrow, L has only 2 more swim lessons, the Gyne thing is done for another year, and we are entering the last 4 (or 6...depends on how much I can tolerate) weeks of school.

So how about a do-over?  Tomorrow is a new day, and I'm making a new commitment to not yell at my family.  Hold me to it, won't you?