Saturday, August 30, 2008

Relaxing week, uh, not so much

This past week was supposed to have been a little stay-cation for me while David was in Germany on business. No cooking, no housework, catching up on some reading, watching the convention, so on, so forth. Just me, the dog, the cats and sixteen chickens.

Okay, just for fun, throw in an almost-seven-year-old boy, a five-and-a-half year boy and an almost-three-year-old girl, the first day of school, and two parents who both started working second shift. I decided to just keep the kids here overnight so I wouldn't have to drive home at 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning. That meant, of course, that I picked up the two youngest at home before going to school to pick up the oldest, big-boy first-grader. Then bringing them back here to play, have dinner (which no one wanted to eat, but Gaige bravely managed to eat some of the fried rice), play some more, have baths, bedtime snacks, teeth brushing, bedtime stories and finally (sigh) singing the usual songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Are There Stars Out Tonight?, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Yes, there is a theme running through the selections. The selections can never be altered, neither in content, nor in the order in which they are sung. That much you can count on.

Think that sounds like enough? Oh, no, no, no! Said boys are VERY active and love to try and kill their Grammy with their rambunmctiousness (not sure that's a word, but it sure is descriptive!). And the noise level is tremendous! I'm thinking of investing in some Bose headphones!

Hoping to quickly scoot downstarirs to watch television and unwind after a hurried and much-needed shower was beyond the realm of possibility. The hall light had to be on and the door placement just so. And there's no chance of Kaitlyn just going to sleep on her own little Dora toddler bed. No. "Dammy (grammy), you seep wiss me? You lay down wiss me?" There is no bargaining on this point. I learned to just do it, and save myself a lot of grief. Luckily, I have a very comfortable guest bed in that room and it usually doesn't take long for her to fall asleep. Of course, there's the usual litany of excuses not to fall asleep. Each one has to do the following at least once before falling asleep: drink of water, go pee, needs a tissue, one more hug and kiss. (More sighing)

Finally, everyone was fast asleep and I quietly slipped downstairs to watch the convention which had already started, but with the magic of Tivo, I could watch in its entirety sans commercials and speed past the talking heads' commentary and get to the good stuff. What? What is that? Are my eyelids closing involuntarily? How can that be after such a peaceful, relaxing day? Knowing that I would have to get up early in the morning to get Gaige ready for school and the others ready to go home, I gave up and went to bed. It would have been nice if I could have slept on through the night, but, every time Kaitlyn rolled over and opened her eyes a crack, she would call for me and I would have to go and "seep wiss" her.

Caffeine, lots of caffeine the next morning and rewind tape and do it all over again Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. At least David got home last evening and took some of the pressure off me, but he was suffering from jet lag and had to hit the sack early. I'm off for three days and then get to do it again next week while David is in Colorado on his annual bowhunting trip for eight days. I hope he's in jet lag hell he has a great vacation. This time, Nathan will be starting Kindergarten on Wednesday. Sounds like a new layer of fun to be added. I may be posting from the insane asylum after next week. Can you type while wearing a straightjacket?

Big boy's first day of first grade.

Oh, yeah, still no eggs! They're 19 weeks and I was hoping that at least the Golden Comets would be laying. Goldie is sure sitting in the nest box every morning, but nothing but the wooden eggs that I put in for decoys.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why our garden should have a fence

The chickens have won the battle for who gets to eat the most tomatoes. The blasted things took forever to start bearing, because, of course, the bok-boks ate all the blooms off the bottom half of the plants! Then when they finally started getting some fruit on them, they picked off all the ones they could jump up and reach. Yum! Tasty treat. Oh, yeah, not to mention all the lovely cucumbers, peppers and pumpkins they devoured. Number one on the To-Do List for Fall: build the damn fence!

It seems we can now trust Lucy around the chickens. Of course we can! They're like a walking, squawking smorgasbord. She just follows them around waiting for snacks to pop out their butts! Why would she ever want to limit the amount of chicken poop she can eat in a day!

David left for Germany today and will be gone all week. No cooking for me! I'm planning to reduce the amount of leftovers that threaten to take over my fridge. This evening I've already dined on the remains of Thursday's dinner. Scallops with linguine in tomato-cream sauce. Yum! Awaiting me in the days ahead are spaghetti with portobello marinara, some pork loin that I smoked yesterday with added BBQ sauce and pork fried rice. I love using leftovers creatively.

Goldie is getting vewwwy interested in the nesting boxes. I found her sitting in there this morning after all the others were outside. She was the first one to investigate them. I checked her vent this afternoon and it's nice and moist and seems to be a little swollen, so that's a good sign that it won't be long! Maybe I will win The First Egg contest between Amy, Don, Ron and me.

So, Henry, the champion crowing machine (45 times in a row, dare to compare), is going to live with my mother-in-law, Phyllis. She has been wanting him for a while and I just can't take the incessant crowing anymore. I'm afraid the neighbors will lynch him some day when I'm out. And what's worse, he tried to flog one of the grandkids a couple of days ago. Nathan was chasing Kaitlyn in the yard and she was screaming like a two-year-old is wont to do and Henry flew up at Nathan with his feet going for his face. Thank goodness he doesn't have his spurs yet and he didn't quite have the hang of it, so he was unsuccessful, but it was a little scary when you realize the damage he could do in the future. One more reason to ship him off. If we didn't have that option, he would be Sunday dinner.

And, last but not least, just wanted to add a few cute pics I've taken in the past few days.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Picky, picky, pecky

Are the pullets getting close to laying? Their behavior has altered in the last few days. In the evenings when I gave them their cracked corn, they used to peck and scratch together peacefully. Now they're getting testy with each other, pecking at necks and squawking as if to say, "Hey, that's my piece, get your own!" Henry is getting more aggressive with the girls. He hasn't tried mounting them yet, but I'm sure the time is getting near.

The chickens were penned up in the run last evening before roosting, when they all stopped what they were doing and went to the back fence next to the woods. They were craning their necks looking into the trees and underbrush. There were dogs barking in the distance, an owl hooting and various birds giving their goodnight calls. Those are all sounds they are used to hearing. Maybe they could hear a raccoon or a fox or a coyote starting their nightly rounds early. They were definitely very wary and paying close attention for at least ten minutes. A long time for an animal with a short attention span.

On the way back from a walk with Lucy yesterday morning, I counted twenty crows near our house. That thrills me and gives me hope that they will keep the hawks away from the area around our property. We haven't seen many in the last few years. I'm positive they were decimated by the West Nile Virus epidemic we had several years ago.

Also on our walk, I saw a young red-tailed hawk hanging out near a wooded pond about a mile away. I'm pretty sure it's one from the nest on our property. The parents obviously have left it to fend for itself. Its call sounded plaintive and hungry. I hope it doesn't remember where our barn is, but more than likely it will be back. Like Amy, I'm worried about the Cooper's hawks when the protective tree canopy is gone. We have several evergreen trees in the yard, but not like the cover that all the underbrush under the deciduous trees provides. I guess I'll cross that bridge later.

Why is it I never seem to have my camera with me when I see things that are interesting? I suppose I'll have to start carrying it with me everywhere I go so I will have photos to correspond with every post. Oh well, next time!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sing! Sing a song!

Sing out loud, sing out strong! The pullets are singing all the time now. And I've even had a lot of bawk, bawk, BUHgawks lately. All, of course, being signs that they're almost ready to start laying. David started working on the nest condos this past weekend and finished them up last evening. I left the perches up last night when they went to roost, and they didn't show much interest in them or even seem to notice they were there. This morning when I let them out of the henhouse, I lowered the perches and put some pine shavings in each one and a couple of wooden eggs that I had bought at a flea market a few weeks ago. I'm going to replace the pine shavings with hay this weekend. Little Red, a Rhode Island Red, was very curious, as she is about everything I do, but she didn't hop up to investigate further.

Some of the pullets' combs and wattles and, really, their whole faces are turning bright red. Another sure sign that laying is near. They will be 17 weeks on Saturday, which is still early for heavy breeds, but I've heard of some laying at 18 weeks. I'm glad David got the nest boxes done early so they can practice and get used to them being in the henhouse. Can't wait to taste those yummy eggs!


Henrietta and Peep

We didn't make it to the state fair this weekend. Kind of a bummer. David was off on Friday, but he had so many things to catch up on, the day was gone before we knew it and we were just too tired to make the drive. Our guests, David's cousin and wife, were too burned out from their recent stint at the Butler County fair to be up for it, so we stayed home and had a campfire in the pit and made S'mores. It was a 'fair' substitute. The leftover ashes will make a great dust bath for the chickens.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cheep sleep therapy

David swears that since the day I brought home the baby chicks I have been sleeping like a normal human being. You have to know that I have suffered from middle-of-the-night insomnia for probably twenty years or longer. I didn't keep tabs. I think he has something here. I'm actually going to bed around 10:00 p.m. and, except for a couple of trips to the bathroom, sleeping until the alarm goes off. Prior to getting the chicks, if I woke up to go pee, that would be it for me. As soon as the brain had one teensy-weensy thought, I was wide awake. It's a family curse. My mom had it and so does my niece, Debbie. I would do this four or five nights in a row and then sleep on the fifth or sixth night because of sheer exhaustion. I'm telling you, it was taking a toll on my health.

So, why this amazing transormation? They say that having pets helps you stay calm and lowers your blood pressure. But I've had cats and dogs for decades and they had no effect on my sleeplessness. Being under a lot of stress obviously adds to the problem and those of you who know me personally will understand why that most likely has been a factor. Something about watching the baby chicks and now the almost-grown pullets and cockeral has allowed my brain to disengage from the vagaries of life.

Whatever it is, I'm glad it's there. It's better than any sleep medication I've ever taken. Perhaps I will open my own sleep clinic. When a client comes in for help, I'll just tell them, "Take two chicks and call me in the morning."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another Susan

Remember The Cowsills? The singing family from the sixties that recorded such songs as "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" and "Hair"? The Partridge Family was modeled after them. I just discovered today that they are still singing together. At least what is left of the family. Brother Barry was killed in the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina and brother Billy died before the memorial service for Barry. Susan Cowsill has her own band that includes her husband Russ Broussard. I listened to a lot of her music on her MySpace page. She has a great voice and wonderful style reminiscient of Lucinda Williams. In fact, she covers Lucinda's "Drunken Angel" and does a beautiful job. I think I prefer her version because you can hear the hurt in her voice and phrasing. Susan Cowsill looks eerily like the other Susan who played her on the show, Susan Dey. I wonder if they were ever friends.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Susan, Incorporated

Company, company, company! We're having lots of company! This past weekend my sister-in-law, Anita, visited with her son, Xan. Aimee was here both days with her children and Jaye and Kelly were here on Sunday with their two. The noise level was tremendous. At times I just covered my ears so that I could think straight. Luckily, the weather was great and all the boys played outside.

Gaige finally learned to ride a two-wheeler! I had been trying to teach him, but Grammies don't run very well behind the bike when they have bad knees. Xan has been riding his for a couple of years now, so I asked Anita to try and help Gaige. She went out in the yard, got him on it, gave him a few words of advice, a shove, and off he went! Apparently, she has the magic bike-riding teacher touch, because he's been riding ever since with only a couple of spills that caused scrapes. Of course, I was too busy cooking for the hungry hoardes to get a picture of him. He's so proud.

The bed-and-breakfast, lunch and dinner theme will be extended into this weekend when David's cousin, Mark, and his lovely wife, Cindy, (who is also one of my BFFs)and their daughter Kaley are coming Saturday and staying until Sunday afternoon. They haven't been over in a while, so I'm looking forward to their visit. Kaley is a teenager, so won't require much looking after. We just have to monitor her Internet time. She'll probably play with the chickens a lot. She and her mom were the first people who saw them when I picked them up at Mt. Healthy Hatcheries. That will be quite a leap from day-old fuzz butts to 16-week-old pullets, and Henry, of course.

The weather forecast for Saturday is clear and 78 degrees. A perfect day to go to the Ohio State Fair! I love to look at the exhibits in the Fine Arts building. There are always a lot of excellent entries and you can vote on your favorites. I try to stay away from the Midway. Too many people and I can't stand the smell of all the deep-fried delicacies; e.g., Twinkies, Oreos, hubcaps! Just kidding on that last one! I think.

I have to hear at least one performance by the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. I'm a 1969 alumna of that wonderful group. We performed under the direction of Mr. Glenville Thomas, the founder. He was a lovely man and managed to herd and corral 350 eager young choir singers. It still gives me goose bumps when they sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". The choir sings it at every alumni concert in honor of Mr. Thomas, who passed away in 1991. Last summer was the first time I managed to be at the fair to participate in the alumni concert. It was so thrilling! And need I say, there were very few older members than I! I still have the record we made and all the sheet music. It was the highlight of my teenage years!

We really enjoy the ODNR Natural Resources Park as well. It is a permanent exhibit area at the fair. Children love it! There are lots of hands-on activities to keep them occupied.

Go to the Ohio State Fair! You will have a great time!