Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chicken update

Well, the last four months have been full of LOTS of learning about chickens. I guess I knew adding a totally new animal to our mini-farm would be challenging, but the biggest challenges we faced were totally not on my radar.

Challenge #1:  AKA Heinz. The best, most trainable dog in the world. It took 4 chickens, 4 incidents, before he really figured out that he MUST NOT play with chickens until they stop playing back. He knows it now. I trust that, if exposed to a chicken, he will resist as long as his still-semi-puppy nature will allow. Think the kid and the marshmallow test.  I think the chicken would have at least 15-30 minutes unmolested. Not that I'm willing to test that theory and risk another Incident.

Challenge #2: Random possum attack. One chicken down several months ago. Hasn't been back. My theory is the dogs might kill the chickens, but they also scare away predators. So that's sort of a win, right?

Challenge #3: This adorable puppy, RollyPoly. You wouldn't know he's a chicken killing machine, would you? He looks all adorable and sweet. He's cuddly and fluffy, too. And he REALLY likes to play with the chickens. Until they stop moving. Because really, they are just fluffy squeaker toys, right? Oh, man. He got in the pen with a new batch of chicks through a hole in the fence we didn't know about. It was truly awful. Our fences are so much better now. He's also starting to respond to training, so there is hope he'll calm down once he gets out of the young puppy stage.

 Challenge #4: Random chicken stupidity. I forget what all the chickens have done to get themselves killed.  We've lost at least a couple to sheer birdbrained stupidity (and that's not including the ones that flew over the fence to play with the dogs. Fence is taller now). I'm ALWAYS sad. I ALWAYS cry when I find one. But at the same time--seriously? How many crazy things can a bird do?? That said, we always fix whatever it was that the chicken did and never loose two to the same stupid thing. At least we are learning, even if they are still birdbrains.

And, for all that, we still haven't gotten our first egg. Though it is really hot here right now, and they are still a couple weeks out from normal egg producing time.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New family additions

A couple weeks ago we added 12 new additions to the homestead. Chicks!!

I'm a total newbe to chicken keeping, but a backyard flock of chickens has been high on my new-home wishlist. I selected a dozen chickens--five Buff Orpington, five Australorp, and two Black Copper Marans. They are all female, since our city isn't crazy about roosters in city limits (which is okay, roosters don't tend to lay many eggs).

I chose breeds that are considered "dual purpose." They will be good for both meat and eggs (but won't get as big as a meat-only breed, or lay quite as many eggs as a layer breed). Eggs are the most important part, but I also want my daughters to grow up okay with the idea that we eat meat, and the meat we eat used to be an animal. We raised the creature in a humane, loving way and then gave it's life to make our dinner. It's part of the cycle of life, and it is silly to be squeamish about it. (That said, I am squeamish about it, and I'll have to work on that before any of these girls end up going in the soup-pot.)

The chicks are living inside with us until their feathers come in and they can move outside. Right now they are in two giant uhaul boxes that I've taped together to make a brooder. It isn't nearly big enough, especially now that they have started growing. Later today I'm going to add two more boxes so they have a bit more room.

I'm not naming them. I'm not sure how many will become chicken soup, but just in case I don't want to turn them into pets. Some of them are easy to tell apart, of course. The runt is half the size of the others. There are only two Marans. A couple of the Buff Orpingtons are HUGE. But no names until I know I'm okay with "Runty McNugget" potentially turning into real McNuggets.

Whoops. So much for not naming them. I guess Runty has a name now. Well, we won't name the other 11, then.

In a future post I'll introduce you to the Hall of Golden Yolks, which hubby built with a good friend of his. It is absolutely beeeeeyoutiful, and deserves its own post.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What is your art?

I've been reading A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky. I started it a well over a year ago after hearing her speak and being given a copy. It isn't an easy read, but it is such a good one. In it Emily Freeman explains that God is a creative God and has made each of us in his image--an artist. Our art reveals a small part of His nature. Perhaps our art is the traditional kind--painting, drawing, music. Or perhaps we are called to show God's glory in accounting. Or Teaching. We all have art, and each of us is called to make that art a little differently. There are A Million Little Ways for us to show the glory of God.

As I read the first portion of the book I struggled to see where my art fit in. I like to draw, but drawing isn't my calling. I sew beautiful things, but it isn't something I must do. I like to blog, but blogging isn't a primary ministry outlet. There are many things I enjoy doing, but few of them are drives the way that Emily Freeman describes.

And then it hit me, around page 91, my art is right in front of me every day. My art is covered in jam and oatmeal, and marker art from yesterday evening. Mothering is my art. My children are the canvas upon which I show the glory of God. Sometimes being a mother means I sew cute things for my girls, or write a blog post, or take marker in hand and show my daughter how to draw a person (or, more often, every person in our family and extended family with "ABCD names" right beside). But those things are not my art, they are expressions of it. Mothering is the art.

This morning I was thinking about this as I began my day. The children were still in bed, and after yesterday it was easy to think of mothering as an art. I had the most pintrest worthy morning yesterday. I got up early and drank my coffee while reading a few pages of a Christian classic. I had breakfast on the table in time for the family to eat together. My husband had a homemade lunch to take to work. I worked on Bible verses with the children, complete with handmotions. I taught my oldest to balance on a balance beam. We learned about Noah while coloring pictures of Noah's ark. we spent time outside. We went to the store. Yesterday morning was art, if ever mothering was art.

The baby woke up while I was thinking these things. I got her up and as I was walking to the kitchen felt something run down my leg. In the time it took to walk to the kitchen the diaper had exploded and was running down my leg. Did I mention we're on day 6 of norovirus (for her--she's the last to catch it) and I've been changing poopy diapers nearly every hour? Nursing around the clock? Yeah. Baby cried for the next 3 hours. I never put her down. It wasn't a pintrest worthy morning. It wasn't a blog-worthy morning. It was a down-in-the-trenches, jaw gritted, holding on till naptime sort of morning.

When I'm a pintrest mom it's easy to see how my mothering is art. It's a little harder to see the art when the baby is crying and I can't decide which poo to clean up first. Sometimes art gets messy--but messy, imperfect art is still art. An artist can't throw in the towel every time their art doesn't turn out just the way they envisioned--any artist knows it NEVER comes out entirely perfect. We just keep making art, keep reflecting God's glory, even when it isn't exactly how we'd had in mind. And that's okay.

What is your God reflecting, messy, beautiful art?

Friday, July 18, 2014


Joining Lisa-Jo and others this morning for Five Minute Friday, where we cut the words loose for just five minutes, and see where they fall. No editing, just encouraging the others who play along. The topic today is Bloom.

Five Minute Friday

It's Texas, in July, and I'm sitting on our front porch enjoying the weather. It's 67 degrees. How did this happen? Inside my babies are still sleeping at 8:25am. It's a blessing I don't take for granted, this sleeping in they do most mornings. 

This week has been a successful week. Why do I say that? Before my littlest was born, I was afraid of what would happen when I had two babies. I remember how long the "postpartum stage" lasted with my first born. At 3 months I started looking around for the balls I'd been juggling (activities, commitments, basic housework, etc) before baby was born. At 6 months I began to pick them up one by one. At 9 months I awkwardly tried a few tosses. At 1 year I had finally learned to juggle again. It took awhile. Longer than I realized it would, and I was afraid the second round--with a baby and a toddler--would be even more difficult. 

In some ways it has, but in other ways not so much. I don't have to learn how to be a mama this round, and that is a big difference. My toddler is young, but growing to be helpful. In my fearful moments I forgot how sweet it is to just sit and hold a new baby while she grins happily up at me.

Have I learned to juggle yet? Goodness, no! At 2 months postpartum I'm only just starting to re-orient. But that's okay. I can take this one day at a time. Every day I learn and grow, and fear doesn't have a part in that. Motherhood is hard, yes. But this is the place I'm at right now, and I am happy to bloom right here. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The adventure begins

We started school today, and entirely by accident. Though my husband and I have been talking quite a lot the last few months about our philosophy of education, I feel very strongly that the first few years of a child's life should be left free of book-work. Let the child play outside, explore, find bugs watch a flower grow. Children are sponges for knowledge and are learning scads every day--don't make learning boring by forcing book-work too early.

And then this morning my daughter pulled out her Einsy Weency Spider book and sat down on the couch while I was looking after her little sister. A moment later I heard a quiet, "Eight.... Seven.... Nine...." I tiptoed over to the couch and peered over her shoulder. She was pointing at all of Einsy's spider siblings and counting them.

I had to laugh a bit at myself as I sat down beside her. "Look how many spiders there are!! Would you like to count them?" A few minutes later she was counting from one to five without much trouble at all. Sponges indeed.

While I probably won't be buying curriculum any time soon, school is officially in session. Let the adventure begin.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Joining Lisa-Jo and others this morning for Five Minute Friday, where we cut the words loose for just five minutes, and see where they fall. No editing, just encouraging the others who play along. The topic today is Grateful.

Five Minute Friday

It's Mothers day weekend. Saturday, and the house is quiet as I'm writing. "puppy tuan" (as my daughter calls him, his actual name is Huan--without the descriptive prefix) is curled up in his crate beside me, the rest of my family is enjoying the one day of sleeping in they get each week.

Pregnancy, of course, is on the forefront of everyone's mind. I'm nearly a week past the sonogram due date, and tomorrow is my official 40 weeks. Yes, this time my due date is on Mothers day. Is there a more perfect day to be due than Mother's day? I've started collecting guesses for when this little one will make an arrival, none are farther out than a week from today (though with a cobbler cookoff at church a week from tomorrow if this little one is going to hold off a week, she might as well hold off a week and a day so her mommy can get some tasty cobbler and ice cream!). The guessing process has been fun.

Life itself has slowed from the frantic pace that I described a couple months ago. Yes, sometimes a hard stop is needed simply so that we have a chance to savor the gifts God has given us. And He has given me so many gifts. Here are a few that come to mind on this quiet Saturday morning:

--Rest. I have slept so well this last week. Every night my head hits the pillow and I sleep the sleep of one who has earned it. Solid, refreshing, rejuvinating sleep. I have started taking magnesium, and while I'm sure that has helped tremendously, solid nights of sleep at 39 weeks of pregnancy can only be a gift from God.

--Comfort: I mentioned in my only pregnancy post a few weeks ago that I'd had increased pain levels this pregnancy. I started seeing my chiropractor regularly, and that (when combined with faithful execution of the at-home exercises she gave me) has made a tremendous difference. I thank the Lord moment by moment for the gift of being able to move without pain.

--my daughter has become a tiny little mother. I have neither encouraged or discouraged imaginative play, and yet to my great surprise she has decided she is now a mommy to her collection of baby dolls. She changes diapers, puts their shoes (and socks) on, brushes their teeth, bathes them in the sink, and pushes them around in her tiny shopping cart. She makes sure that they ride along in the newborn carseat (which is now in the car), and insists that they also should be properly buckled in. I would not be surprised to see all these actions in a few weeks--as she models them after my own actions with her sister. But for her to start nurturing her babies now? Without watching on? And just before the tiny one arrives? It makes me smile every time.

--a clean house. No, no. It isn't perfectly clean. I've chosen that hard-stop, grateful, focus-on-my-family life, remember? *smile* Looking around I see a few toys on the floor, a mug my husband drank out of as we sat on the couch together and read in the evening hours, and dirty dishes in the sink that remind of entertaining dear family members last night. While it certainly isn't perfect, I've been at the "20 minutes to company ready" state for a couple weeks now. It feels nice to know that whenever this little one arrives we'll have a tidy house to welcome her into.

There are so many other things that bring me joy on a daily basis--things that are harder to quantify.

The early morning light now streaming in the bay windows.
Our playful puppy cavorting with my daughter on a sunny afternoon.
My husband--in so many ways, my husband.
A well stocked freezer, allowing me a 10-minutes-and-done dinner when I need a restful evening not focused on the kitchen and cooking.
My little orchard in back, a birthday present, all trees growing well.
A slower, more peaceful pace of life.
My pre-baby check-list--all the tasks done, even if I did choose a few weeks ago to hand it all to God, to choose rest and trust instead of frantically rushing. Is it possible that God had it all under control all along? *smile*

I don't know when this little one will arrive. Perhaps it will be tomorrow, but I suspect I have a few more days at least, and that is fine too. Due dates are only estimates--and babies don't generally care about calendars or estimates.

 In this stage it is easy to understand the attitude of patient expectation I am to have toward the return of my Savior. I do not know the day or the hour He will return (or my baby will be born), but I do know it will be soon. I can rest in peace and joy, knowing that the hour God has appointed is perfect--whether thinking of the return of my Lord, or the birth of my babe. In the meantime my task is to welcome each moment that God has given me in the interim with joy--as a gift He has graciously bestowed.

(And no, that wasn't 5 minutes. But I started writing, and today just seemed to need longer than that. Which is okay. Slowing down, remember? )

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pregnancy update--38 weeks

It's hard to believe that this pregnancy has passed almost un-noticed on Ruby in the Rough. On Sunday I'll be 38-39 weeks pregnant (depending on which due-date I go by, we generally stick with the farther out one). In some ways this pregnancy has flown by. It doesn't seem possible I could be at the point now that my little girl could be here any day.

In other ways I feel like I've been pregnant forever. The other day my husband bent over to kiss Tirza, and the first thought that entered my head was, "how in the world was he able to BEND like that?? that must have HURT!" And then I realized that he wasn't pregnant. I watched an action movie recently, and the entire time I was grimacing as I watched the characters run, jump, and climb walls. Movements that would be painful or impossible for me, the characters were doing just for fun!! I've been pregnant long enough that it's hard to remember what it was like to have full mobility.

It has been a good pregnancy, but different than my previous two. Different enough that before the sonogram we were certain it was a boy. Apparently there is a lot of variety in each pregnancy, regardless of whether I'm pregnant with a boy or a girl.

Here are a few differences:

  • Tirza's pregnancy I had a serious food aversion to ground beef. I could eat beef, just not ground. Even the smell or thought of ground beef turned my stomach. My poor hubby had to get hamburgers on the sly when I wasn't around.  This pregnancy? No aversions (thank God!), but I have had a few random cravings, especially in the second trimester. The most memorable one was for the Rhoades Family Broccoli/Rice/Cheese casserole--properly made with instant rice and highly processed cheese product (which meant an emergency run for my husband to the store to obtain ingredients I never use). 
  • I had awful heartburn with Tirza pretty much from the start of the second trimester on. Thankfully, this pregnancy it has been minimal. 
  • On the flip side, last pregnancy I had very little pelvic girdle pain--and what little there was concentrated at the very end. This pregnancy PGP has been a constant companion since 20 weeks. There are things I am able to do to keep the pain manageable, but it is always present. 
  • I don't remember huge energy slumps last pregnancy. I know I slept more, but I was also fully able to keep up with two jobs through most of the pregnancy. This round my energy levels have been noticeably lower throughout.
  • I gained a lot of weight with the last pregnancy, this round I'm staying pretty close to on track with the "recommended" amount. I'm not sure what I've done differently, since both pregnancies I was fairly conscious of eating well--without stressing the small things. I think last time I simply ate more than I needed to, because I thought I was supposed to "eat for two." When one of those two is the size of a pea, grape, or banana, the "eat for two" mantra is somewhat misleading. 

I go back and forth between excitement at meeting my new little one in just a few days time, to wanting to stretch these last days out as long as possible. Sure, pregnancy isn't always a comfortable thing. I'm sore, slow and tired. But I sleep more than I will with a newborn, and this season of pregnancy has been a season of joy. I want to savor each moment I have left to focus on just Tirza. Even though my love for her will only grow, my attention will be divided when her sister arrives. I don't want to rush these last few moments with her as an only child.

That said, I'm also eager for my second daughter to be born. I want to meet her, learn her personality, start savoring the moments I can spend with HER. And Tirza is at an age that she will get a lot of enjoyment out of a sibling. I am genuinely excited about their meeting. And, although the newborn stage is intimidating and exhausting, I also remember how much joy there was in those first days with Tirza. I know there will be multiplied happiness as I get to experience those same moments a second time, in addition to the joy my first daughter already brings. Watching them interact will be a gift to remember.