Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sleeping bags are for dumb people

Aimee asked if the kids could spend the night on Tuesday. This a little rundown of how the evening went.

4:00 p.m. Picked up Gaige, Nathan and Kaitlyn.
4:03 p.m. Yelled at said boys who immediately started bickering in the rear seat.
4:15 p.m. Arrive at Bear Swamp location.
4:16 p.m. Yell at Nathan for letting the dog into the backyard where the chickens are running around.

For about an hour, they play outside peacefully. Of course, I forgot to put Off on Kaitlyn, so she gets 4 huge mosquito bites on her leg.

5:30 p.m. David calls to say he's coming home early because he is feeling sick from a cold. Oh great, no help from that quarter! At least when he's sick he doesn't require a lot of attention. Just kind of crawls into his den and disappears until he feels better.

The rest of the evening goes fairly well. We have bathtime, we have storytime, we eat ice cream and brush teeth. Here comes the fun part--bedtime!

9:30 p.m. While the children are bathing, I put the boys' sleeping bags on the floor of the front guest room. Normally, they sleep in the bed, but my sister-in-law and her son are visiting this weekend and I had already put clean sheets on the beds and didn't want to go through another change. Silly me to think that a six-and-a-half-year-old would think it was cool to sleep on the floor! No, no, no! Nathan was fine with it and climbed right in. On the other hand, Gaige defiantly crossed his arms and glared at me with an evil look in his eye and declared, "Sleeping on the floor is for dumb people!"

No amount of reasoning, explaining that this is what kids do when they have a sleepover, threatening, would change his mind. He was adamant that he was not sleeping on the floor. Of course, the whole time this is going on, David is blissfully snoring away in his drugged slumber, while I am sweating and frustrated that a six-year-old is winning the battle of the wills.

10:30 p.m. I finally give it up as a lost cause and let them sleep on the bed on top of the quilt. I suppose, if you look at it in a skewed sort of way, it was a compromise.

11:00 p.m. I take a shower in the guest bath, because there's no way I can go to sleep caked in sweat from 10 rounds with a six-year-old.

12:00 midnight. I fall asleep on the sofa, exhausted.

6:30 a.m. Kaitlyn wakes up. The coffee isn't even ready yet. Here we go again!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Matthew and Lauren

Matthew and Lauren came for a visit on Sunday. Lauren and her daddy had been sick for about a week with some kind of stomach virus. She's looking quite perky in this picture, although she started running a fever and feeling bad later in the evening.

Matthew looks cute sleeping on Poppy's tummy. Notice the Ohio University shirt. Maybe he's trying to influence Matthew's future college choice.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's my bathtub! No, it's mine!

The chickens were being confined in their pen for a few days following the hawk attack, so I fixed a dust bath for them out of nice loose dirt from my patio flower bed, some ashes from the grill and sand from the sandbox. They loved it and wasted no time in trying it out. Goldie, Little Red and Puff were mixing it up in there.

It started getting a little crowded though, so I used the grandkids' small wagon to create another. Henrietta is taking advantage of being the first one in. The others were a little skeptical at first.

I've relaxed the quarantine on the chickens. The hawks seem to have left the area and Henry and his girls are a lot more aware of danger from above and head for the bushes and trees whenever they hear anything that sounds like a hawk or see that ominous shadow flying overhead. I'm sure that isn't the end of it, but I just try to be a little more cautious when I know the hawks are in our vicinity.

Jimmy crack corn

We had fresh corn on the cob from Wishwell Farms last evening. Delicious doesn't even begin to convey the yumminess of sinking your teeth into those yellow and white nuggets dripping with butter. Well, it was Smart Balance but it just doesn't create the picture I wanted. The two of us polished off six ears along with a Niman Ranch ham steak that I got from Trader Joe's. It's the only ham that David likes. I realize now that I should have photographed the wonderful bounty, but I was in to big a hurry to eat it!

However, I did take a picture of the chickens getting the leftovers. They like nothing better than to finish off those ears of corn. It's their favorite treat and so much fun to watch.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Visiting Grammy and Poppy

On separate days, Jaye and Aimee both brought their families for a visit. I forgot to get a picture of Lauren, but here are a couple of new ones of Matthew. He was ten days old. He is such a calm, contented baby and he looks just like his daddy when he was an infant.

Aimee and Daniel and children came over yesterday. We cooked out and the kids had a great time. They hadn't been out for a couple of weeks and were surprised to see how much the chickens had grown. I've been saving dropped feathers for them to have for art projects and the boys immediately got to work making their version of dreamcatchers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Party's Over

We dodged a bullet today! A bullet with a four foot wingspan and a red tail! The chickens were in the backyard as usual, enjoying roaming the entire area. David was sitting out there relaxing, just watching them peck and scratch. I was at the computer ordering some pajamas for my Aunt Marie's upcoming 90th birthday, per her request, via my sister Judy. Then I heard the most god-awful, blood-curdling screeching coming from the chickens! I looked out the window just in time to see a red-tailed hawk with talons out-stretched, ascending into the sky. I raced outside to see which one it got, David racing from the other direction. My heart was pounding so hard, I thought I would have a heart attack. The chickens had scattered in two different directions and David said the hawk had got hold of Henry, but didn't get away with him. There were feathers all over the place and we looked for blood, but didn't find any. Poor Henry and Henrietta were hiding under the large Colorado blue spruce and the rest of the flock was under David's truck which was parked in the backyard driveway to the barn. Getting down on my hands and knees, I crawled as close to Henry as he would let me to try and ascertain whether there was any damage. He was panting, but seemed to be okay. I managed to shoo the others under the same tree, feeling that it would be safer under there.

The poor chickens were scared to death. The sounds they were making weren't like any I had heard from them before. Very soft little trills to each other, maybe taking inventory, to see if all had escaped and were okay? I immediately sent David to Tractor Supply to buy some deer netting to place over their run. No way was I going to allow them to be out there another day without protection.

While David was gone, I started the process of moving the flock to the coop which is probably seventy-five yards from the tree where they were hiding. I caught and carried thirteen of them one at a time and placed them into the run. As I was carrying Henry, I did a quick assessment and found nothing wrong except for a lot of missing tail feathers. They went directly inside the coop without further coaxing from me. The last three were the hardest to catch. They kept moving away from me to the other side of the tree. Finally, out of desperation, I got a broom out of the garage and shooed them out and back to the coop. Of course, they wanted to hide in the woods on the way, so it wasn't an easy task. My arms are covered in scratches from the tree. You know how prickly blue spruces are.

Where did we go wrong? In a previous post, I declared that our backyard was perfect for free-ranging. Obviously, I will have to retract that statement. It is almost perfect. Unfortunately, no matter how much ground cover you may have, there are going to be times when the chickens are exposed to predators' eyes and hawks can be very patient. The area where the attack happened was fairly well-covered, but the hawk apparently had been lurking in the trees above and precisely timed its dive. I had become very complacent in my thinking. Now, I will be thinking more like a hawk and less like a stupid human. No more free-ranging at will all day long, even on days when I'm away from home. They will stay in their covered run during the day and will be let out for an hour or two in the evening with supervision. They won't be very happy about this arrangement. They love their freedom! This means that I will have to be more creative in finding things to keep them occupied while in the run. Any suggestions from readers would be most welcome. We have tons of dead leaves, so I will scoop a few shovels of those every morning to help keep them busy.

I still shudder when I picture in my mind the very close call we had. In fact, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep last night. I think I will sleep better tonight, knowing that none of the chickens will be a hawk's dinner!

The scene of the attack

The hiding place

Henry's okay, just a few missing tail feathers

Chickens in the run with new deer netting in place

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A good time in the sand box

The chicken kids had fun in the sand box today. This is where I get their grit. I must have been slacking and they decided to get their own.

The great spangled fritillaries are loving my numerous purple coneflowers. At times there are three on one blossom. I can't seem to get a good shot of that, but here is a single one. We had black and tiger swallowtails in late spring, but I haven't seen any lately. Late last summer, David and I were walking and happened upon a whole tree full of monarch butterflies! It was the most lovely sight. I really hope we are that fortunate again this year. And I will be carrying my camera this time!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fresh and Clean

After visiting Matthew in the hospital, we brought Lauren home with us for the night. She had a wonderful time playing with My Little Ponys on the porch with her Poppy. Then we had a hastily-prepared dinner of frozen Taquitos (from Trader Joe's), pinto beans and sauteed zucchini. To my surprise, her favorite thing was the beans! She must take after her Grammy. After playing a little longer, it was off to have a bath. She loves playing with the fish that squirt water. Grammy always does the 'Jaws" music when the fish are nibbling at her toes. Then she gets squirted! "Do again!" she squeals. When she was dressed in jammies, she had a snack of graham crackers and milk before having her teeth brushed. Then it is time for a story or two. We read "The Berenstain Bears' The New Baby". It was her Daddy's book that I bought when I was pregnant with Josh. I can't believe it has held up for 29 years and it's not even hardback. Here is Lauren looking for a snack in the pantry.

Matthew is doing very well and will be ready to come home today. He's a calm baby, quite unlike big sister Lauren. Of course, that may change after he is home. He is nursing well and is sleeping a lot, so he must be getting nutrition. Kelly isn't supplementing with formula, so it's all her. His weight is holding steady. He's a real cutie-pie! His Daddy keeps calling him "Dude". Should that be his nickname?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Puff the Magic Chicken

I went out to sit with the chickens and Puff, an Easter egger, hopped up on the chair arm and wanted to be petted. Of course, like a fool, I didn't have the camera with me at the time. That always happens to me. She sat there for a while squatted down while I stroked her soft, soft feathers and then she climbed over in my lap and went to sleep! I continued to pet her and started singing "Puff, the Magic Dragon", very softly crooning to her. I was thrilled when she started trilling back at me! Now, when I go out to see them, I sing "our song" and she cocks her head and listens. I think she is beautiful.

Here is Puff on the chair later in the day.

This is Puff's "come and get me" pose.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Kid on the Block

Matthew Tyler made his appearance in this old world at 10:01 this morning. Mommy's C-section went smoothly and both she and the baby are doing very well. He was quite a big boy at 9 lbs., 12 oz. and a very long 22 inches. He has large feet and hands just like Daddy! Great-great Grandma Hinkle always used to say they need a good foundation to stand on, so I think he is fulfilling that requirement well. Here's a look at his hand as he waves.

Matthew is named for his dad's middle name and his Uncle Joshua Tyler who we lost two years ago in May. Jaye and Kelly were trying to come up with an M name, because they wanted to keep the alphabetical sequence of their first initials: Jaye, Kelly, Lauren. We sat one Sunday afternoon and went through all the M names in the baby naming book and they couldn't agree on any of them. So I said well what about Matthew? At first they were reluctant, because they didn't want it shortened to Matt. Take that as a warning, family and friends! But lacking anything else that they could agree on, they decided to go ahead with it. Aimee, our daughter and Jaye's sister, suggested Tyler as a tribute to their brother, and so Matthew Tyler it is. I think it's a fine name and very classy for a beautiful little boy.