Wednesday, December 05, 2012

New Blog

If there are any readers left here, a long lost blog name dangling along on your blog reader, I have started a new blog.

Living With Less...

A blog about living with less money, time, space, chemicals, etc.

I plan to use this blog (really, for realz) for my normal thoughts and daily bullshit, just to get it out of my head.  If you've stuck around through all these months and years of silence, I thank you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My chickens

Last winter I decided I was going to take the plunge into urban chickens. Well, ok, technically they're not "urban" when we don't really live in an actual real "city," so to speak, but hey, we have neighbors a rock's throw in either direction. So it totally counts. The biggest hurdle was that the hatchery had a minimum order of 25 chicks, and there was no way in hell I just didn't need that many. Then very early in the spring, my country friend lost most of his 40+ flock to mink and hawks, so I made a deal with him = I'd order 5 Buff Orpington chicks for myself and 20 Dark Cornish for him. The box came May 1st (even though the shipping receipt said February 29th). Check out these teensy peepers:
McMurray Hatchery sent us one extra Cornish and another (Bonus! FREE RARE!!!) chick - it was a Crested Polish. If you look closely, you can see her there near the back. The blonde chicks were mine, the speckly ones are the Cornish. My friend picked his chicks up the next day, and we moved ours to a spare rodent cage, since it was still ridiculously cold outside.

In practically no time, they'd outgrown their little cage (and gotten really ugly).
Pictured: Ugly Dinosaur Chickens Eating the Xbox.

So we moved on to building the coop. I mentioned here before that we intended to use the kids' old clubhouse for a coop, with a few modifications, and that's exactly what we did. With my husband's gracious help (long, LONG story that starts with me saying to him "I don't need your f***ing help and I don't want it!", and ends with me saying, "Please help me for the love of God."), we built our ladies a nice sized coop and a little yard to scratch in. (pics of the coop later).

These pictures were taken this morning, while I fed The Ladies some grapes.
Thankfully, they've feathered out (and aren't so ugly), and their waddles (or as Riley says, "wobbles") are getting darker by the day - a sign of sexual maturity (i.e. EGGS). I'm expecting them to start laying by the middle of July or Early August.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

***WARNING*** Graphic Images...

Do not scroll down if you're sensitive to the sight of blood, or images of dead things.










Still here? Good. My son killed a deer yesterday. If you've been here lately, you'll know that means he brought home a hide for me to tan. In the book I bought, the author called the process of prepping the brains for use in the tanning process making "brain soup" .. and that was enough to make me run screaming from the whole mess. I had intended to use the brains, because it's the most natural and authentic you see, but decided on an less disgusting easier method.

This is the package that Chad brought home:

See how neat and tidy it all is? I figured it wouldn't stay that way, so I made an "apron" out of a garbage bag.

The head was included in our little gift package, but since we wouldn't be using any part of that now, I had to remove it along with the tail.

Peeling off the nasty bits.

Scraping off the rest of the nasty bits. I didn't have a proper scraping tool, so this part was a real bitch. If I do this again, I'll be looking into some better tools.

And then, into the drink. Weighed down with some rocks, it will soak in a lye solution in a plastic garbage can (outside) for the next few days, stirring occasionally, until it's spongy and the hairs are loose and easier to remove.

The most exciting part for me was that I handled this whole thing without a single gag reflex. I'm not sure if it was because it was fresh and not all that bloody, so there was very little smell. Or maybe because I wore gloves, eliminating the problems caused by my texture issues. Or maybe because I had to do it in the dark, in 40 degree weather and was more concerned with just getting-done-for-chrissake-so-we-can-get-in-the-house. It didn't bother the kids much either. As Cadence and I scraped, Riley played with the head. "Look, Mama, I closed his eye." "Look, Mama, I made his ears point up/back/sideways." **shudder**

There are harder steps ahead, as far as actual work and time spent on the hide, but the grossest part is over, and we all handled it really well. More photos and updates soon!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who needs building plans?

The chicken coop plans that I spent a good hour on, carefully drawing and measuring, have been scrapped. The early dark (thanks, time change) and the rainy cold weather have been a big deterrent in getting the coop built this last week. But I had a backup plan, and by the looks of it, it should have been our plan in the first place.

This is the kids' clubhouse:

(This picture was taken last winter, no actual snow around here yet. The apparent tilt is the result of the camera-operator - likely me.)

When the clubhouse was new, it was a place for reading, a lookout, an advantage spot in a water gun fight, and a place to keep the toy kitchen and all the bazillions of dishes and plastic food. In the last year, it's become an ignored and empty waste of space. The kids still climb up in there, but now it's just to sit and chat for a few minutes, or stop off on the way further up the tree.

So really the only thing making the difference between a clubhouse and a chicken coop are a door and some insulating. I'll post more pictures of those, the fence, etc. as we go.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More on satisfying projects...

So, I'm getting some chickens. 25 of them to be exact, because the hatchery has a minimum order. The plan is to keep them in the kitchen for a couple of weeks, then divide those we're keeping to move outside (just three of them), and move the rest to my country friend's place for the next 4-6 weeks until they're big enough to sell (craigslist, anyone?) or eat (umm.. we might pass on that one). We've had a house chicken before, what's another couple of dozen right?

As usual, I am jumping into this with both feet. But as usual, I am researching and learning as much as I can before said jumping. Keeping chickens is much easier than it may seem, and so much information about health, potential issues, housing, etc. is available online for free - no need to even buy a book. But I still bought this one. First things first, though: My chickens need a home.

I've googled a zillion chicken coops and drawn up a design that I'm happy with. Because money is an issue, the majority of materials we'll be using are recycled scraps gathered from friends and family. This is what it looks like right now:

A pile of old fence pieces and some random boards. I'll be taking more pictures as we build. Just hoping to get done and get those chickens settled (wherever they're settled) before I have a hide to tan.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Satisfying Life

How much do we hear, in some version or another while talking with people, "My life is so unsatisfying." People are lonely and depressed. As a culture, we are bored. We spend so much time and money; buying things, joining clubs, playing games, chatting and texting and facebooking - desperate to get some kind of enjoyment out of our lives. And one thing I am so guilty of myself: complaining about the monotony and just overall dissatisfaction. I also have heard a lot, and seen in practice, that the more you involve yourself in daily activities, the less negativity you feel, and the happier you are in life. I've always thought this was because if I'm busy all the time, I don't have time to think about how bad my life sucks. This was a depressing thought all it's own, because my life isn't any better, I'm just ignoring it. It felt like a form of denial.

But now I'm starting to understand that it's not doing things; it's the things you do. Busying yourself with unfulfilling things still leaves you feeling unfulfilled. Facebook is fun, online games are entertaining and doing those things seem like ways to enjoy my life, but all they do is take up some time - my life is not changed by them in any way, just put off. Cleaning the house for half the day makes me feel better; not because it's taken up half the day, but because my house is clean. Because I've worked diligently, and can see and enjoy the benefit of that work. If my daily activities don't change anything, benefit anything, or provide anything useful, it's not a wonder I start feeling useless and unsatisfied with my life.

When I first started knitting, I was excited about it, but I also felt more upbeat and positive - I was using my free time and talent to create something beautiful and useful for my family. After a while though, the slow, slow stitches seemed like a chore, and I thought, "Well, I was just doing it for fun, so I can quit if I want to." As soon as I started viewing it as "just for fun" it was no different than wasting an hour on the computer - unimportant, unsatisfying. But mostly I'm seeing that putting in that extra effort - like cleaning the house - really pays off in the satisfaction with the completed project. I think that effort might even be one of the most important parts of the equation. I worked for this, it benefits me/my family/the world; I did this hard thing, and it was worth it. How empowering and satisfying and rewarding!

I'm not giving up my FarmVille any time soon, nor am I willing to exhaust myself with busy things, but I am making a point to fill the gaps in my time with more useful activities, even those that require a lot of work. The more difficult projects, new skills, and even little (but still a mountain) jobs I take on, the more satisfied I feel with my life, my home, my family, myself. It is self-sacrifice, when you think of the work involved, but it doesn't feel like a sacrifice at all when you reap the joys and benefits of your hard work. Kind of like parenting, isn't it? I'm parenting my life.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Deer Season

Deer hunting season is upon us - bowhunting now, shotgun next month. Normally deer season comes and goes with me remaining oblivious to its passing, aside from the occasional gift of deer meat from friends. This year is different.

My son, all of his life, rejected his dad's offers to go hunting together. Refused to eat fresh-caught fish and said he'd sooner eat dirt than a rabbit. He told me in no uncertain terms that he could never hunt, could never even support hunting, because it was stupid to kill a wild animal when there were animals raised specifically for food. And come to think of it, he wasn't so sure he was okay with that either. I was bracing myself for a declaration of vegetarianism. I even went as far as researching vegetarian diets, variations on meals we already eat.. the whole deal.

Then something strange happened. Suddenly he was eating all the beef he could get his hands on, and a few deer burgers convinced him deer was the Best Meat Ever. He thought maybe he'd like to try hunting for NON-food animals, so my country friend took him prairie dog hunting in SD for a few days. You could almost smell the change on him when he came home. It happened one step at a time, but it felt like a flash to me. Now he's gun-crazy, scanning guns & ammo magazines, visiting the local Bass Pro and drooling over the rifles. He can't stop talking about how much meat we can get "for free" (ha! hasn't bought a hunting license lately, I see).

Then there was this crazy thing I did. I went and bought a book on brain tanning, hoping to try making buckskins. Call it a homeschool project. I bought the book before my son's drastic transformation from border-veggie to hunter-killer, and had asked several of my hunting friends, "Hey, when you get a deer, save me the hide and brains, k? And it has to be fresh, so call me right away. Cuz I'm doin this thing.." They shook their heads, because they know how weird adventurous I am, but they all promised me the hide.

Well, without me even noticing, it's Deer Season. The day of reckoning approaches. I, one who can barely handle boiling a chicken, will very likely have a large - and freshly killed by my firstborn child - animal in my back yard being cleaned (why is such a bloody messy job called "cleaning"?) I will, regardless of my son's success, have someone's deer hide with bits of .. you can imagine what.. on it, waiting for me to soak and scrape, stretch and oil. And brains?!?! What the hell was I thinking??

Please keep me in your thoughts. I have made my bed, so to speak. It would harm my pride be wrong not to lie in it. I'm just hoping I can do this with a smile.

**sniff** that's my baby