Friday, May 29, 2009

The Horse Slayer

A while ago I blogged about where we got our dog, Spanky, and I told of some of the particulars of my job. As a quick recap, part of my job was to drive our data from the paper in Emmett over to our sister newspaper in Nampa. The drive probably took about 20 to 30 minutes and it was almost always at night.

One night in July of 1999, I was on my way home from Nampa to Emmett. Morgan and I had been married for about 2 months and our friends Mel and Michelle had come to visit. Everyone was still awake at my house, waiting for me to get home. It was about 2:30 in the morning and I was a few miles down Highway 16. The speed limit on the highway was 65, I believe, but I usually drove a lot faster than that. There is a lot of desert and nothing between the towns of Star and Emmett. For some reason, that night I pegged my cruise control at exactly 65. I remember that because I usually went at least 70 or 75, but for whatever reason that night I felt like obeying the law.

As I followed a gentle curve in the highway, I saw a horse in the road directly in front of me. You always hear about how time seems to slow down when you're in an accident, and it really seemed that way for me. I first thought about swerving but immediately decided that I was going too fast to turn that sharp. Also, I had no idea which way the horse would go. It was just slowly plodding along from the right side of the road to the left. I realized that the safest option was to try to stop before hitting the horse, so I stood on my brakes. As the tires began to screech, the horse was spooked and began to try to get out of the way. Just before impact, I threw my arms up in front of my face. The horse almost got out of the way. My front bumper hit its hind quarters and the horse slid up the hood of my car, breaking through the windshield with its rump. When the car came to a stop, it threw the horse off of my car onto the road. I'm not sure the order in which the next things happened, but at some point I reached over to turn off my stereo because in the sudden quiet the music was deafening. I could feel something warm and wet on the right side of my face and in my mid-back-length hair. I was sure that the horse had exploded and that I was covered in its innards, so I began to scream. At some point I realized that my car was in the middle of the road, just around a blind corner and that I would probably be safer if I got out of the car. I stepped out of the car onto the glass-covered pavement to see the horse lying several feet to the front of my car. I hesitated, because I wanted to see if the horse was alright, but at the same time I was afraid to go near it because I didn't want it to freak out and kick me.

Where the accident happened, there were two houses, one on each side of the road. The house on the right was a veterinarian's clinic and the horse ended up belonging to the vet himself. These two houses were the only houses for several hundred yards, if not a couple miles. I heard a screen door slam from the house on the left and then a voice called out, asking if I needed an ambulance. It was at this time that I started to assess my body for injuries. I was walking, so my legs and feet worked, although my shoes had come off during impact and I was walking on broken glass in my bare feet. My left hand was cut up pretty good from where the windshield came to rest on me. Everything else seemed to be in good working order. I told the voice that no ambulance was needed, but could they please call the police.

It was about at this point that the horse decided to stand up. She was a pretty mare, light colored, maybe tan or gray and her coloring made it impossible to miss the bloody gashes on her hind legs and rump. She took a few steps and I saw that her leg was obviously broken, as it was bending at any angle but the natural angle intended by God. I don't know what I thought I was doing, but I wanted her to stop trying to walk, so I stepped toward her saying, "No, horsey, horsey, horsey. No, horsey."

By this time people from both houses had started to show up, and I think the police officer was there, too. I was shaking so hard I could barely walk and the officer had to help me down the embankment to lean against the fence. As I was talking to him, I realized that what I thought was horse guts dripping from my face and hair was manure. The horse came in through my windshield butt first and emptied its bowels directly on me. I missed a direct hit to the face because I had thrown my hands up and turned my head, but my cheek, temple, and long hair were coated in stinky, stinky stuff. I was telling the officer what had happened, trying not to stand too close to him in all of my foul-smelling glory. I then realized that I should have been home and that Morgan would begin to wonder where I was. The veterinarian loaned me his cell phone and I called Morgan. This was in the nineties, before cell phones got very good reception and I was also in a valley. Morgan heard something about an accident, come get me, cop cars and flashing lights and then the call ended. Morgan, Mel and Michelle all jumped in Michelle's car. They told me that she practically flew down the highway. After I was done talking with the officer, I walked over to where a group of people were kneeling around the horse. I asked the vet (who was really nice throughout the whole thing) if his horse was going to be okay. He told me that they had just put her down. Then they wrapped a chain around her neck and unceremoniously drug her down his driveway with a tractor.

Morgan and our friends showed up and I didn't think that Morgan would ever let me go. I kept telling him to move away, that I was covered in poop, but he didn't care. It turns out that I wasn't the only one involved in the wreck; I was a few weeks pregnant with Michael at the time. I had suspected that I was pregnant but it was too early to tell. I was so worried that the force of the accident, the pressure of the seat belt on my abdomen could have hurt the baby. Thankfully, it turned out all right.

We went home and I got in the shower and washed my hair three times. It still smelled like crap for days. My parents and all of my siblings except for my brother Lonnie were camping, and Lonnie was going to head up to the cabin later that day. I felt like my family needed to know what had happened, so I called Lonnie collect at 4:00 in the morning to tell him what had happened. I was shaking so hard and my teeth were chattering so violently that I could hardly talk. I finally gave the phone to Morgan and had him tell Lonnie about it. I asked that Lonnie let my mom and dad know what had happened when he got to the cabin. Morgan was sure to tell Lonnie that the horse had covered my head and torso with crap and they both got a good laugh out of that. Now I think it's funny, but it wasn't that night.

My parents made their way to a phone the next day to call and see how I was doing. The first words that my dad said to me when I got on the phone were, and I quote, "Julie, that's not what getting shit-faced means." That sentence has become one of my all-time favorite quotes of my dad.

In the days that followed, I heard many horror stories of similar accidents that made me realize just how lucky I was. First of all, the horse came through the window butt first, which made an incredible mess but ended up a lot better for me than if she would have come through feet first. Apparently many people have been in accidents that they would have otherwise survived if the animal's feet hadn't came through the windshield and kicked them to death. I was wearing my seat belt and it functioned properly. The only physical injuries I received were some cuts on my left hand where the windshield actually came to rest. If I had not been wearing my seat belt, my head would have met the windshield and then the rear end of the horse and the outcome would probably not have been as favorable for me as it ended up being. As I mentioned before, that particular night I felt compelled to go the speed limit. Maybe if I'd been going faster I would have passed by before the horse got out onto the road, but I believe that I was travelling that speed for a reason.

Another good thing about the accident was that the veterinarian and I were both covered by the same insurance company, so they took care of fixing my car 100%. I guess they figured that there was no other insurance company to pawn off the cost on, so they just paid. I don't know if the vet was compensated for the loss of his horse. He and I spoke on the phone a few days after the accident. He had called to see how I was doing. I apologized for hitting his horse and he told me that she was a difficult horse to keep corralled. He had had problems with her getting out of her pen many times before. In fact, the night of the accident she had somehow made it over or through two different fences. The vet was great about not making me feel guilty for the accident.

My car got fixed up within a few weeks, but there was glass everywhere. When we would turn on the air conditioner or heater for the next year little chunks of glass would come flying out. There was glass and manure in the back seat, front seat and trunk of the car. I was glad that cleaning that mess had not been my job.

Morgan, being the sweet, caring man that he is, immediately started teasing me about it. When we would drive past a pasture of horses, he would say, "Don't look! They're all giving you the finger. They know you've killed one of their own." He told me that he was going to get me customized license plates that said HRSSLYR - Horse Slayer.

I have found, by sharing this story, that I am now a part of some twisted club: the 'I Hit Livestock With My Car and Lived to Tell' Club. My dad was a member. He told me that when he was younger, he had hit a cow that was in the road. It bounced up on the hood of the car, continued on up over the roof and landed on the road behind him. He said he swerved to the side of the road and then sat there trying to figure out what was making that awful screaming noise. It took him several minutes to realize that he was the one screaming.

So, there you have it. I have killed a horse. It's ironic, actually, how many animals I have killed. I have such a tender heart when it comes to animals. I have actually cried over road kill. I have never gone hunting before, ever, and the one fish I caught that my dad gutted and cooked for me made me feel so much guilt that I couldn't eat it. So far, the death toll is two squirrels, four cats, one dog, countless birds, one snake and a horse; all of the deaths were accidental, with my vehicle as the murder weapon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dude. Where's My Dog?

Do you remember "Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th and a Half Century?" The big monster Gossamer gets a haircut and it reveals that he is nothing more than hair and a pair of shoes.

I'm always afraid that's what will happen when I give Spanky his haircut. Except he doesn't wear shoes.

Whew! There he is. And he's looking quite handsome, I might say.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Waterfalls, Alligators and Sturgeon

Yesterday, we loaded up the family (and the Wards) and headed west for a fun filled day of family frolicking. First we stopped at Shoshone Falls.

The flow wasn't very high, so the falls weren't all that impressive. But there were lots of rocks to climb on and hills to roll down.

And fits to be thrown.

Then we went out near Hagerman to see the alligator farm.

I've been here a few times but every time I go I enjoy the odd mixture of alligators and sagebrush.

There weren't as many alligators this time as there have been in times past, and the ones there weren't as big, but it was still lots of fun.

I'm pretty sure this alligator was dead, as it didn't move at all while we stood just a few feet away and it really didn't smell all that living, either.

This big guy was more obviously dead, but the dead ones posed for pictures a lot better than the live ones.

The man who raises the alligators also raises tilapia and there are ponds and streams full of the fish. Here is some of my family and Jake enjoying the view of the fish. What this picture does not show is Jake's mother's reaction to her son's proximity to the water.

Miss Rae and Mr. Jack were unimpressed by the alligators and the fish, but totally dug being outside and in their strollers. Raena shows emotion a little more freely than Jack.

Then we went to Crystal Springs, where they have a pond with some big sturgeon and trout.

This is the smaller of the two sturgeon.

This is the bigger sturgeon. It looked much more impressive in person. This pictures makes it look more like the Loch Ness monster.

These pretty lilies were growing in the pond with the sturgeon and trout.

After we left Crystal Springs, we went to my aunt and uncle's farm in Jerome. By this time the wind had picked up and I was more focused on holding Jack Jack and making sure that Adam didn't run away so I didn't get any pictures. But we have been invited back and we'll definitely take pictures the next time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Children Were Switched At Birth

That's the only explanation I have for their physical build. All of my kids register average measurements for their height but super skinny for their weight. If you have never met my husband or I, you should know that we are not cream puffs. We like to eat them, but we weigh considerably more than your average cream puff.

As a result of having string bean boys, I can never keep their pants on. Even Michael, who is now nine, wears ill-fitting pants. If they fit around the waist, then they are far too short. If the pants are long enough, he has to constantly hitch them up. Belts were difficult for Mike, so I usually just took his pants in. That was tons of work.

Now I have another string bean boy who can't keep his pants up and this one is super active to boot. Unless he is wearing overalls or some sort of jumper, he is frequently sans pants.

My father-in-law wondered if they make suspenders in toddler sizes. I, of course, thought, "well I can make suspenders."

So today I did. And I think they turned out quite nicely, thank you very much.

He's pretty excited to be wearing the suspenders, but he was more excited that I was chasing him to get some pictures.

The back view. They aren't adjustable, but I don't care about that for right now.

Now there is no stopping to hitch up the britches. He is unstoppable!

I may seriously regret this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Michael and Noel are constantly asking for a dog and I have said no more dogs until Spanky is gone. We've had several dogs along with Spanky and it's much nicer to just have one.

I was browsing craigslist on Friday and found some baby goats for sale for cheap. I've always wanted to have a goat or two and since we have the chicken coop all finished I figured that we could get some. Maybe Mike and Noel would accept a goat in place of a dog.

Emily and Joe decided that they wanted to hop on the ol' goat wagon with us, so off we went to pick out our babies.

I'd like to say just one thing about the woman from whom we bought the goats: she has two of the biggest dogs I have ever seen. Most dogs are the perfect height for crotch-sniffing; these dogs were the perfect height for armpit-sniffing. I'm not exaggerating. They would have been really intimidating, too, except they had that goofy puppy-dog grin and they bounced all over the place, overjoyed to have company. Well, only one of the dogs bounced around us. The other one was in time-out. That was the only detail we got, but it is possible that his crime was swallowing whole one of the goat babies - the dogs were that freaking huge!

So, blah blah blah, big dogs.....aaaaaand we bought some goats. We got two and Joe and Em got two. I won't blog about their goats, you'll just have to check out Em's blog whenever she gets around to posting about them. (Ha! I beat you!)

We got one Nubian, which is light brown and white spotted like a fawn, and one Oberhasli, which is rust brown with black markings. Michael's is the Nubian, who is named Flopsy on account of his cute floppy ears. Noel's goat is named Humperdink.

The kids went to stay with my sister for the weekend so that Moe and I could celebrate our 10 year anniversary extravaganza (more on that in another blog), so Morgan and I got to take care of the babies for the weekend. They have to be fed bottles two to three times a day, plus they eat grain and hay.

Here are some pictures taken Saturday morning. We are trying to feed our goats. The Ward's goats are in these pictures, too, because they hadn't finished their goat pen yet.

Moe feeding Humperdink while the other goat (his name keeps changing) tries to weez some juice, too. You can kind of see Flopsy behind Morgan's leg.

The black goat eating Morgan's shirt is Jacob's goat, and while he was a lot of fun, he was also a bit out of control and we weren't too sad to see him go. He was a lot older than the others so he was able to get into more mischief than they were. That's little Flopsy in the bottom of the picture.

Moe and the demon goat shared a few tender moments. (Actually, I think Morgan might be threatening the goat's life in this picture. He was a handful!)

I need to get some more pictures on here where you can see the goats a little better. Also, it's fun to watch the kids feed the goats their bottles. They have to get up extra early in the morning to feed them before the bus comes. Nothing like teaching a little responsibility.

During the day when I'm doing yard work, I'll let the goats out of the chicken run. They usually stay right by me, or right underneath me, or right on top of me, depending on their mood. They have personalities a lot like dogs. Flopsy is quite a bit younger, just two weeks old, so he is needier and more vocal. I watched him chase Michael across the yard tonight, just bouncing along. I think they might be best pals.

Noel's goat is more of a loner, and I don't blame him much. I think I'd be a loner, too, if a seven year old girl put a leash on me and dragged me around the yard.

I'll post more pictures as soon as I can get some good ones.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm a Criminal

Every once in a while, when I get after Morgan for questionable behavior, he uses the retort "At least I've never stolen someones windshield wiper off of their car in the middle of a storm."

And I have no argument. It's true. I'm a windshield wiper thief. I'm also the only person I know who has stolen something by accident.

Since Morgan delights in sharing this story with all who will listen, I thought it would be a fun story to blog about.

It was a dark and stormy night. Really, it was. It was raining cats and dogs. Morgan and I were headed over to Pocatello to see a movie. At this point in our relationship, we were still just friends. That's not important to the story, just an extra tidbit I thought I'd throw in.

All of the rain on the drive over made it abundantly clear that my windshield wipers had wiped their last. We got to Pocatello with about half an hour to spare before the movie started, so we decided to run into Walmart to buy some replacement windshield wipers for my car.

We found a parking spot as close to the door as possible, which really wasn't all that close, and ran to the door. Just after we made it in, I realized that I hadn't grabbed one of the old wipers to take in to make sure that I bought the right size. This was before the days of the computer on the wiper aisle that tells you which size to buy for your car; taking in the old wiper saved a lot of time. I dashed back out in the rain, wrenched the driver's side wiper off and ran back into the store. By the time we had purchased new wipers, it was almost time for our movie to start. I decided to drive the two blocks to the theater without using my wipers since we didn't have time to install the new ones before the movie started.

Did I mention that it was pouring sheets of water from the heavens? We had already started driving, though, and since I had pulled the wiper off of the driver's side, I knew that if I turned on my wipers the metal arm would scratch up my windshield. Morgan, however, had forgotten that my car was only half-wipered. In what I would swear was slow motion, he reached over and flipped the "on" switch for the wipers. I said "Nnnooooo!" in that weird, low, slow motion voice as I watch the mechanism move across my windshield with, not a screeeeech as I had expected, but the regular weeeek-weekthud sound that wipers usually make. Morgan and I looked at each other. I gasped and covered my mouth as he burst into laughter. I immediately grasped the entire situation: some poor, innocent soul, who was unfortunate enough to drive the same kind of car as me and park really near to me, had finished up their shopping, sprinted to their car in the pouring rain, started the car, turned on the wipers and heard screeeeeech! most likely accompanied by a lovely scratch across the driver's side of their windshield.

I was mortified. I had never stolen anything in my life. Morgan thought that it was hysterical. He told the people in line at the theater, the ticket attendant, the people we sat by - everyone. He giggled to himself throughout the entire movie. Afterwards, as we installed the new wipers on my car in the parking lot, he told the people that walked by. In retrospect, it was pretty funny, but I felt so bad for the owner of the other car. After we put on my new wipers, I drove back to Walmart on the off chance that the car would still be there. No such luck. I even carried the extra wiper around in the back of my car for months, just hoping that I would see that other car and I could make amends.

Dear Owner of a White Geo Metro,

One evening, sometime around 1997-ish, you went to Walmart and left the store to find your vehicle horribly disfigured. This was not a prank (although, if I didn't have such a hyperactive conscience, you have to admit that it is a pretty great idea for a prank). It was completely accidental. I mean, it was pouring sheets of water from the heavens, as I'm sure you well remember ( ahem-awkward!). You can forgive a girl for not noticing that it wasn't her car she was defiling when all she was trying to do was hurry and get out of the blinding (literally!) rain.

Please contact me via comment on this blog and I will happily return your wiper to you.


The Accidental Thief

Thursday, May 14, 2009

La Casa de Los Pollos

I've had a lot of different questions about our birds; why we got them, how we built the coop, what they eat, do they regularly attack small children, etc. so I've decided to blog about it. Fasten your seat belts, because it's a really long blog. I am by no means a chicken expert, but I've read quite a bit about them in the last several months.

I was raised in the country. Not on a farm, but in a new subdivision about three miles outside of a town with a population between 3 and 4 thousand. Our town is based on agriculture, with most of the stores offering farm supplies of some kind or another. We are very proud of our ONE stoplight.

So, while we didn't farm or ranch, I grew up in an agricultural setting. In addition, my grandparents lived on a farm. They had a huge garden and Grandma raised chickens for the eggs and the meat. I have vivid childhood memories of watching my grandmother whack a chicken's head off with an axe. They really do run around a little bit if you don't hold on to them. I also looooved to collect the eggs. Everyone else thought that it was a chore but I thought it was just the coolest thing to go out to the coop, look in the nesting boxes and BAM! There was food; all packaged in a neat little shell.

So fast forward twenty-something years. My husband and I moved around a little bit, finally settling down back in my hometown. He was raised in Boise, which is a big city for us, so he wasn't much of a farm boy. But he's really adapted to country life. He's also quite a Mister Fix It.

Last summer we moved from our house in town to a house about six miles out of town. Morgan and I have always wanted to live in the country and have lots of animals. Morgan would love to have horses; to me, horses seem really expensive and lots of work. Oh, and I accidentally killed one a few years ago. I've always wanted chickens, though, because of the memories I have of our visits to Grandma and Grandpa's farm. When we moved here, there was a flock of seven ducks that wandered the place and a few chickens. They had belonged to a hired hand who had left them when he ended his employment with the people who own the property that we live on. Since it's a feedlot, there is a ton of animal food lying around - hay, corn, etc. As a result the abandoned birds were really well fed. There are also plenty of barns and haystacks for them to roost in.

We loved the birds and wanted to build a coop and catch them but first we had to get settled, unpacked, do some fixin' up to the house, etc. Oh, and I was SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT and it was between 95-100 degrees every day. I think I've already told you how I feel about temperatures above 80 degrees. I believe that summer is God's way of punishing me. But I digress....

If you're familiar with farm life, you know that on most farms there is always a bunch of broken old junk lying around: old fence posts, animal pens, wire, various pipes and metal bars, you get the picture. Our friends who own the property gave us the go-ahead to scrounge up whatever we could from all of the junk and we were able to build a chicken coop with minimal out-of-pocket cost. We used an old broken calf pen and put it up on bales of straw to make it taller and also help with insulation at the ground level. I bought a door at DI for $5 that already had the hinges on it. We had to buy a roll of chicken wire and again were able to scrounge some posts to string it on. All of the lumber was salvaged, and we still have a lot left over which we'll use to build a play house. (Yay!) We had to buy hinges and a latch for the gate and latches for the doors to the coop. Our total out-of-pocket-cost was around $75, with about $50 of that being for the chicken wire. Totally, frugally awesome.

As you already know, we kept the birdies in the laundry room until we could get the coop built. Since the abandoned birds had survived for a few years without any help from humans, I knew that our birds wouldn't need much. One thing I remember from all of my research (side note: since I had all winter to think about getting chickens, I did a lot of reading on them, both on-line and in books. That's where most of my chicken knowledge comes from.) is that chickens are really flexible and resilient when it comes to their homes. One person used an old pick up shell for their coop, another used the cab of a semi truck. I wanted them to have a shelter to keep them out of the weather and to keep them safe from coyotes, cats, dogs and the occasional sasquatch. All of the ducks that were here when we moved in died during the fall and winter. We suspect that coyotes got them.

So, to sum up, we built the coop, fenced in a run for them and my oldest son caught the two rogue chickens that had been wandering the place. They are old enough to be laying eggs so we are keeping them in the coop and collecting the eggs. As soon as all of the birds realize that the coop is home, we will let them out during the day to forage and scrounge. Chickens are excellent at keeping the insect population down. In addition, allowing them to free-range a bit gives their eggs a richer flavor. If you have never had fresh eggs that didn't come from a mass-produced egg farm you are missing out!

I don't know if we will eat the chickens when they become too old to lay eggs. I am a real softie when it comes to animals and I don't think that I could eat one of my pets. However, we don't want any roosters. They can be kind of rough on the hens when they are feeling romantic. It also gives me the heeby jeebies to think about eating a fertilized egg. I learned just last year that chickens will lay eggs even if there are no roosters around. You only need a rooster if you want babies, which we don't, at least not right now. So what that boils down to is if any of the birds end up being roosters, it's off with their heads. We tried to get all females but it's hard to tell when they're tiny.

We got our chickens when they were one or two days old and held them a lot so they are very used to us. Even with the older rogue chickens that we've brought in there have been no attacks. They're actually pretty sweet. When I open the gate to their yard they all run to me. I'm sure that if they could speak they'd all be yelling "FOOD!" but I like to pretend that they're excited to see me because they enjoy my wit and personality. I never fail to crack myself up when I ask them "What up, home chicken?" If you Google "raising chickens" there is a plethora (A plethora, Jefe? Si, a plethora.) of information about them. Apparently they make excellent pets, especially for children. You can even mail-order them from a place called Murray McMurray Hatchery and you will receive day-old chicks in the mail. I think that would be totally awesome, but we went with the old farm and ranch store since it was much more fun for the family to be able to pick them out.

As to what the chickens eat, we bought chick starter (fancy name for baby chicken food) when we bought the chicks. They have graduated to eating some of the ground corn that our friends get for the cattle. They said that since they buy it by the ton to feed hundreds of cattle, feeding my ten birds wouldn't make a dent in their supply so I'm welcome to a bucket of ground corn whenever I like. It looks like coarse corn meal. Also, I used to work at a seed cleaning place where they take the harvested wheat and clean out all of the chaff and abnormal kernels of wheat. Then they sell that, which is called the screenings, as pig or chicken food. It's a good deal for them because otherwise it's just garbage and it's a good deal for us because we can get 100 pounds for about $5. I also learned from my grandma that chickens will eat just about any table scraps, which also enhances their egg flavor and saves you money on chicken feed. You can even feed them chicken meat, just not raw chicken meat. If you feed them raw chicken meat it will encourage them to become cannibals. Seriously. It's the same with eggs. You can feed them eggs, but they have to be cooked or they will develop a taste for them and break open their own eggs to eat. They also won't eat root vegetables, like carrots or potatoes.

One more weird chicken fact: The color of their ear lobes indicates what color of egg they will lay: white ear lobes = white eggs, red ear lobes = brown eggs. A lot of people think that brown eggs are better for you - this isn't true. All eggs are the same inside. There are breeds of chickens, the Ameraucana and Araucana breeds, commonly know as the Easter Egg chicken, that will lay eggs that are blue, green, pink or lavender. Cool, huh?

By now you probably know all that you ever wanted to know about chickens and probably a whole lot more. They help to keep me busy and it's fun to get to know their different personalities.

Here are some pictures of the finished product in all its redneck glory.

Cozy straw and cedar bedding with a heating lamp help keep them warm. As soon as the nights warm up we'll take out the lamp. The ladder is for roosting. Everything I've read says that providing a place for roosting is very important. Apparently my chickens haven't read the books.

View from the door of the inhabitants checking things out.

The front of the coop. There's my $5 DI door! I think we'll change the little door. I wanted the chickens to be able to get in and out on their own, but I'm not sure if the little bantams will be strong enough to push open the door. Also, I'm a little concerned that a swinging door that heavy could cause accidental decapitation.

I'm particularly proud of the gate, as I designed and built it mostly by myself. Yes, I am awesome and no, there is no charge for awesomeness.

A view of the whole shebang. Please disregard the piles of junk still lying in the yard. This picture was taken pre-cleanup. I'm planning on painting the coop sometime this summer. We have a little bit of work left to do, insulating and water-proofing and such but it's mostly done. As soon as the little chickens start laying, we'll need to build a few nesting boxes but I don't expect them to start until August or September. I'm getting my informatin on egg-laying-age from the same books that stressed the importance of roosting, though, so if my chickens didn't read about roosting they may not know when to start laying eggs, either.

I guess I'd better plan to teach my chickens how to read.

The Family That Plays Together...

...argues about whose turn it is to be Player One.

But sometimes they get along, and that's nice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Which I Devote an Entire URL to My Son

My two-year-old son, Adam, does something every day that makes me laugh, cringe or shake my head in disbelief. Adam is my third child, so you would think that I would be prepared for this terrible-two stage that we find ourselves in. Either time has been kind and erased the vividness of the memories of my two eldest children's naughtiness, or Adam is far and above the naughtier of the three. Morgan and I often discuss Adam. Lots of times, the discussion sounds like this:

"That kid...."

"*face palm*"

Morgan said that I should start writing down the stuff that Adam does. I liked the idea but didn't want to include more Adam stuff here on this blog because it's already pretty Adam-saturated. And so, I'd like to introduce......

Yes. Another blog. Written by me. Because two wasn't enough.

I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Busy Busy Busy Day!

Things accomplished by me and my family today, in no particular order:

  • Serviced lawn mower.
  • Mowed lawn.
  • Weed eated (weed ate? weed eatered?) Umm, it's trimmed.
  • Hauled off gigantic truckloads of garbage and junk.
  • Caught (and released) a salamander in the front yard.
  • Leveled out ground in preparation for building fire pit.
  • Broke water line while leveling the ground.
  • Fixed the water line.
  • Cleaned up one corner of the garage and moved in the lawn tools.
  • Trimmed all the little teeny obnoxious tree branches that try to poke my eyes out when I mow.
  • Put away all the scrap lumber from building the chicken coop.
  • Discussed building a play house out of the scrap. Yay!
  • Got a bunch of river rock to use in building the fire pit.
  • Swept patio and sidewalk.
  • Learned how to drive the skid loader - suh-weeeet!
  • Got the lawn mower stuck.
  • Felt like a moron for getting the lawn mower stuck.
  • Ate breakfast.
  • Forgot to eat all other meals.
  • Hoped children fed themselves.
  • Got a blister on my big toe from my new gardening clogs.
  • Got a gash on my cheek from weed trimmer shrapnel.
  • Lost the scrench for the chainsaw.
  • Found the scrench hours later in Morgan's back pocket.
  • Took a looooong bath in the jetted tub.
  • Completely forgot about Adam's birthday party tomorrow. Crap!
Ooohhh, everything hurts so much, but our yard looks awesome! I'm excited for the firepit; that's something about our old house that I miss a lot.

I'm off to find some ibuprofen and my bed. I hope that I can move in the morning. I'm afraid that once I quit moving my muscles will fuse in that position.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Terrible Twos and a Really Cute Baby

Adam will turn two years old this Friday, and it seems as if someone whispered in his ear, "Hey! You're two! Two-year-old children are supposed to be full of mischief and very naughty."

Duly noted.

In the past several days, Adam has eaten hydro cortisone cream, smeared hydro cortisone cream in his hair and the carpet, unrolled half of a roll of toilet paper, eaten the tip of a highlighting marker, given several of our chickens near-death experiences, emptied the towel cabinet of all its contents, and completely "reorganized" my sewing room several times. This is just the short list of all he's accomplished. He's always been a bundle of coiled energy, just waiting for physical coordination and thought processes to cooperate. Apparently the thoughts and physical abilities are finally coming into focus. I'm sure that this is just the beginning and I'd better brace myself for the coming years.

It's actually fun and amusing to watch him learn and grow and figure things out. It's just no fun rewinding multiple spools of ribbon, being bashed with a light saber, trying to protect the baby, dog and chickens from certain death, and cleaning various substances from various surfaces.

Something else that is new is speech. All of my children have been beeblers. They all chattered away in their own language and added real words as they learned them. Eventually, the real words outnumbered the baby speech and the child was speaking. Some of the baby words have stuck in our family's collective vocabulary, which is fun.

According to our pediatrician, Adam is pretty average for his speech capabilities, if not just a teensy bit behind. But we're not worried. He's picking up new words every day, which is fun, unless it's a swear word accidentally uttered in front of him. Then it's funny. Bad, but still funny. I guess that to strangers Adam looks old enough to speak and understand what is being said to him. It's not uncommon for complete strangers to try to strike up a conversation with Adam. He opens the door to that himself, because as we shop he says "hi" to everyone he sees. Then people feel obliged to stop and ask him how he is doing, how old he is, what is his name, etc. Sometimes Adam will play the shy card, ducking his head and remaining silent. Other times, he answers with a full volley of Adam-speak. This leads the other person to look to me for an interpretation. My answer is always the same: "He doesn't speak English yet." It's true.

I love this video. He had no idea that I was watching him, so he's just reading his book to himself. There are a few real words thrown in among the babble, I'm sure he says "tractor" once or twice, but the rest is uniquely Adam.

Emily is fascinated by Adam's speech. I guess her kids both passed over the gibberish stage in favor of speaking real words. Did your babies jabber?

I would be remiss if I didn't share another new development in our house: real Jack laughter! Morgan was changing Jack's diaper when he (Morgan) sneezed and Jack thought that it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. Morgan kept "sneezing" and Jack kept laughing. It's awesome, if you can hear it over Noel and Adam shrieking in the background.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Finally, a Haircut!

Last summer Michael began resisting hair cuts. He had always had his hair cut fairly short before. I did the best that I could with the clippers and he was happy with it. Then he decided that long hair was cool and short hair was lame.

What's a mom to do? I am rather old-fashioned when it comes to hair on the opposite sex; it should be short and neat. I forced him to cut his hair a few times. We compromised by going to a hairdresser and having her cut it at a length that we could both live with.

Then Morgan stepped in. Morgan was raised a lot more liberally than I was. He told me that his mom made him keep his hair short and when he was a teenager, he rebelled by growing it long (among other things.) Morgan's philosophy was that if we give Mike control over his hair now, maybe he won't feel so inclined to rebel as much as a teenager. "After all," Morgan argued, "it's only hair."

I acquiesced, with the stipulation that if the hair was to be long, it had to be clean. So this is how Mike has looked for the better part of the last year:

It drove my mother NUTS! Every time she saw him, she would make a comment about his hair, telling him how much more handsome he would be if his hair was short. He quietly accepted her criticism until one day, when he told me that he wished she wouldn't say anything about his hair. I told her that she needed to stop and she did, but I could tell that it was painfully difficult for her to hold her tongue.

I'll be honest: at first I too tried to convince him to cut it, but he always insisted on keeping it long.

Then one day last week, out of the blue, he told me he wanted his hair cut. I tried to disguise my glee. Here is the final product:

I forgot that he had eyebrows! I also forgot how much he looks like my dad.

So, the big question: I knew when I married Morgan that we would have differences in how our children were raised, specifically because my family is/was a lot more conservative than his family. I didn't, however, realize how difficult it would be to go along with a choice that my spouse would make when it went against my feelings, and it was only hair!

How would you have handled it?

Proof That I Am Not the Craziest Woman Ever

It's no big secret that I deal with "issues" from time to time, as I posted a blog about battling depression some time ago. Not to go into extraordinary detail here, but I've been going through a doozy the last month or so. A big doozy. I'm seeing a counselor in addition to a psychiatrist, just to make sure all of my bases are covered. The counselor is there for me to talk to and help me figure stuff out and the psychiatrist is there to figure out what sort of drugs I need to be on in order to function as a human being again.

I'm posting this blog strictly to relate a funny thing that happened to me today, which I'll get to in a minute, but since this can of worms is opened I'd like to take note of something.

A LOT of people are feeling crazy right now. Waaay more than usual. My counselor told me that the place she works has had to hire more counselors and has asked everyone to increase their case load and they still aren't keeping up. I have friends and family who have confided to me that they are "feeling a little crazy" themselves. It makes me wonder: what is going on? Is there some cosmic evil force at work, trying to push us all over the edge? Is it the state of the world, the economy, or the fact that Wendy's no longer serves fry sauce? I don't know why, but I think it's strange and interesting. Also a little inconvenient for me because I have really needed steady reliable people to lean on and it seems as if stable people are in short supply.

Anyway, back the original reason for the post; I had an appointment with my psychiatrist today. Today was only the second time I've seen her so she doesn't know me all that well yet. As I sat on the couch in her office, we exchanged pleasantries, she consulted the file in front of her and said, "So, the last time we spoke you told me that you see and talk to dead people. Is that still occurring?"



I wish I could have seen the look on my face. I had no idea what she was talking about. She apologized, again consulted the file and then the computer and said that she must have misunderstood. We proceeded to discuss how I had been doing. During the whole discussion, however, I am wondering why on earth she thinks that I think that I see dead people. Did I really say that last time? I don't remember saying that. Maybe I'm way more screwed up than I thought! Why would I say that? And on and on. Finally, as we finished, I just had to ask. I didn't want her to think that I thought she was lying or that I was totally loony (ironic, as I was the patient and she the psychiatrist) but I wanted to know: Did I really say that?

Apparently, she had confused my file with that of another patient who has a name very similar to mine.

I actually walked out of the office giggling to myself. It made my day. Even though some days I feel like I am losing my mind, there is someone out there who is a whole lot more messed up than me!