Thursday, April 30, 2009

All Work and No Play Makes Me Dull, Indeed

So, what do you do on a perfectly warm Spring day and you have the baby down for a nap, dirty dishes piled in the sink, floors that need to be swept, laundry that needs to be put away and more?

I grab a book and some iced tea, then shoo the kids outdoors, of course!

The dirty dishes aren't going anywhere and the floor is just going to get dirty again anyway, right? Right? And all that other stuff is just going to have to wait.

The kids have so much fun with the chickens, almost to the point where I have to ban them from going into the makeshift pen we made for them. The pen is the chicks' safe zone, they come and go as they please, but when the dog starts getting rambunctious, they run into the pen where Maisie can't get them.
We had a few hairy moments with the cats-- they all have taken a turn and stalked, then took a swipe at a chicken, but one of us always manages to be around when that happens and the cat gets a scolding and a swat. Mostly, though, they just hang around on the back stoop and watch until they're bored and fall asleep.
The girls are constantly picking up the chicks, which I don't mind, but sometimes they get a little rough and I've caught them tossing the chicks into the feeder or pulling tail feathers. When that happens, they are not allowed to play with the chicks for a while.
I can hardly call them chicks anymore, look how big they are now! I can't fit them all into the same carry box we use to bring them in and out of the house. I have to get 7, drop them off, then go back and get the other 7.

Middle favors the Buff Orpingtons and is always holding one of them. She kisses their backs and holds them like babies. It really surprises me that they allow to be held like that. I need to get a picture of that the next time I see the girls pretending they're babies. At least they'll be used to being picked up and they don't run off when we come near.
Work on the chicken coop is coming along.. pictures soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flower Power

Youngest is a flower crazed little girl. She picks every single flower she can get her hands on and I have given up on trying to discourage her from picking flowers. She gets immense pleasure from finding them and giving them to me, and if she didn't pick them, they'd never get enjoyed as much as they are now.

When we go out, she points out all the flowers she can see-- the redbuds, the pastures flooded with yellow flowers, purple, white and pink phlox, the azaleas and dogwoods. Spring time here is so colorful and beautiful.

Look how happy she is! Today, it's dandelions. I like dandelions and I remember picking my fair share and giving them to my mom when I was little, too. Then I'd make the mistake of licking my hands and getting that yucky taste from the milky-white sap all over my hands from the dandelions. Do you remember doing that?

They look pretty in a glass even if they don't last long. I like the way they smell, too.

She picked every single buttercup I had. I have no more left and it looks like I won't be getting anymore, either. Previous owners planted these way in the back of our garden area so they would never be seen if Youngest didn't pick them. Buttercups always make me think of the old Willy Wonka movie when Gene Wilder drinks from then eats a buttercup flower.

The red tulips are another story. I took the girls yard sale-ing with me on Saturday and at one of the homes we stopped at, they had bunches of flowers all over. Youngest wanted to pick and I had to tell her repeatedly that we don't pick other people's flowers. Well, the nice owner overheard me and said she could pick a flower and helped each of my girls to pick one flower each. I appreciated that because Youngest was heading toward a meltdown when I told her she couldn't pick any.

We have lilacs outside our bedroom window and they just smell heavenly. Youngest is begging me to help her cut some more blooms off, but I can't bring myself to cut any more. They smell so strongly, I can smell the ones in the dining room all the way down the hall towards the bedrooms. I can only imagine how a few more would over power the house.

My lilies are coming up, but they won't bloom until June, if they can survive all the trampling from the girls. Their days are numbered when they do start to flower because I can only imagine how happy Youngest will be to pick them and bring them to me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to Almost Heaven

You know how some people like to travel to far off and exotic places? They hop a plane or a train and go to see mountains or beaches or far away cities where no one speaks your language? I don't need to do that. I have all the beauty I need right here.

We had the most perfect weekend-- well, half perfect. Hubby had to work on Saturday so I went yard sale-ing by myself with the kids on Saturday. Then Sunday we all went out again and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.

We never went farther than 30 miles from where we live, and the views along the back roads are simply breathtaking. Add to that the blooming redbuds and dogwoods and it rivals any greek ruin. There's a reason why West Virginia is called "Almost Heaven". If you like John Denver, you can start singing his 'Country Roads' song now.

The John Blue Bridge. I know, it's green. But it's called John Blue. They're going to tear this one down soon and replace it with a stronger, boring concrete one. I'll miss this bridge when it's gone.

The view through the bridge, over the river. Gorgeous rocky cliffs. Downriver is a beautiful campground nestled in the valleys and there are campers and tents parked all along the river. We want to camp there one day when the kids are older and canoe down the river. It'd be lovely to see the views from the water.

Stopping at a road-side flea market, I caught this wasp admiring itself in the mirror. Couldn't resist a shot of it. It stayed there for a good while, preening and cleaning his antennae and legs.

Along Route 50 in West Virginia, there is a stretch of road that has blooming redbuds all along the side for miles. It's a breathtaking view and then when you clear the trees you can see for miles the mountain ranges that Virginia and West Virginia share.

I love, love, love this old log cabin. I can only imagine when it was built and the road was probably a dusty dirt trail. It sits right at the bottom of a mountain and beyond the house the road veers sharply to the right and a steep drive up, up, up. It's made from these huge cuts of logs and the cracks filled with mortar. Still in pretty good shape except for that corner in the back. A car crashed into it and busted it open, but look, it didn't even do that much damage. It gives me a peek inside to see abandoned furniture and odds and ends. How I wish I was brave enough to climb inside and get a closer look, maybe salvage a few pieces of furniture or something, but people up here don't take too kindly to trespassers and it's legal here to shoot trespassers. I'd rather not catch myself staring down the barrel of a rifle, thank you very much.

I wonder what happened to the occupants of the house, where did they go and why did they leave. They couldn't find anyone to buy it? Nobody wanted to live so close to the road? No surviving relatives? Maybe someone could reuse the logs and dismantle the house and stone chimney piece by piece? If I could, I would. I'd rebuild it on the other half of our property and rent it out as a vacation home. Until then, I'll just enjoy the beauty of the old house, tell Hubby to "slow down, slow down!" and crane my neck looking back at it every time we drive by it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You're Never Bored With A Chicken!

Someone once told me that if I wanted to be entertained, keep chickens. They were so right. We can watch the chickens for hours and never get bored.

On warm days, we free the chicks from their now-cramped box and let them run around in a make-shift pen in the yard. They are getting so big now (5 weeks old) and it's hard to imagine they were once inside of eggs.

Lucy the cat likes to watch them, but I think it's more of a hungry, when is dinner kind of watching.

Maisie the dog likes to watch them, too, and she once got too close to the fence and got her nose pecked! We got a laugh out of that!

Here's Archie stalking the chicken nuggets...


Dang! Stupid fence!

The Buff and the Red were sizing each other up here. I can see some dynamics happening among the chicks and I think I count 3 roosters.. Hopefully there aren't too many roosters, because I only want to keep one or two (providing they get along with each other), and if there are more than that, they'll be gracing the dinner table. Sorry guys!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Birthday / Easter Gifts

Last weekend, we went to the Husband's parent's house for Easter dinner. It was fun, we got to see everyone and we left with full bellies and smiling faces.

We missed our two nephew's and niece's birthday parties because Hubby works on Saturdays and we can't afford to have him miss a day. So when we got together for Easter, I wanted to make a birthday / Easter gift for the kids. I'm tired of all the crappy Easter toys they sell at the stores, you know the kind, the ones that break within minutes and little plastic pieces end up all over the floor. I wanted to make something that was more useful and would last much longer than 5 minutes.

I see these great pencil rolls all over blogland and I knew that they would be in my sewing future. I used what fabric I had on hand and I already had several sets of colored pencils bought cheap. I made 2 orange ones like this for the boys and I made flowers and butterflies for the girls. Oldest liked it so much I made another one for her and I am in the process of sewing up some more for the other children.

I also made these bags to put the pencil rolls in and added a blank coloring pad, pencil sharpener, and some of those melted crayon flowers and soap flowers my girls made. If I had planned my time better, I would have added a few more items, but as it was, the kids loved them. I thought they would be great for those doctor appointments and the kids need something to do while in the waiting room.

These would be great party favors, too, if you made a smaller bag and put together a mini notebook of papers. The bags I made were large (about 12 x 16 ) and the kids could pack in a toy or two if they wanted. I whipped up all 3 bags in a little more than an hour (unlined) and once I got the pencil roll figured out, I rolled (ha!) them on out in about 30 minutes each.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nails, Bowls and Flowers

How was your weekend? Mine? Let's just say it started out on the wrong foot- literally!
One of the advantages of living in a small town is that when you step on a nail and need to go to the emergency room, the small town hospital on a Friday night looks like this:

There were only 5 cars in the parking lot and I'm betting they all belonged to the hospital workers. The waiting room was empty and the nurses looked happy to have someone to attend to. Oh, how did I step on a nail? In the process of building our chicken coop, we have to take apart some pallets. One of the wood pieces had an old nail sticking out and it wasn't properly taken care of right away. You can rest assured that they will be now! Went right through my shoe! Ouch ouch ouch! I had to get a tetanus shot. Double ouch ouch ouch!

Saturday, even with a sore foot, I was determined to hit some of the first yard sales of the season. I'm so glad I did! The weekend was totally redeemed with this great set of mixing bowls.

Look at the detail! Lovely raised diamond motif with leaves and columns all the way around and scalloped edges. So nice!

Look at the pink one! Ohhh purty! It's not very often I can find a complete set of mixing bowls that date back to the 20's or 30's like these. Guess how much I paid for the set? $50? $25? Try $10! Eeeeee! Only $10! I could easily sell the set for ten times as much, but I think these will stay with me, at least for now.

We also got some garden planting done, a row of potatoes and peas went in. The coop made a little bit of progress and we did some burning around the edges of the property.

The girls picked flowers for me and there is nothing more lovely than daffodils in a mason jar while eating lunch. Just a little tip: be sure to check for spiders in the flowers before you bring them in the house!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lost and Found

Now that I am not working for the kids' store anymore, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how we are going to pay the upcoming car insurance bill. Usually, the money I make from selling stuff covers the twice-yearly bill which happens to perfectly coincide with the end of the sale.

I have been talking about opening up an etsy shop, but I haven't had the time to take pictures of the sale items and post them.

We're talking about a yard sale to sell many of those children's items we have, but again, haven't had the time to get everything together.

I tried to sell some bib and burpcloth sets and soaps on here, but apparently among my readers there is no need for them and they went unsold.

Our tax return is due to come in, but most of that is spoken for and there isn't much left over for the car insurance.

What to do, what to do?

I sat down today to write out some checks for a few bills that are due and opened up a bunch of mail that I put aside. You know how it is, get stuff in the mail and first, you sort out the junky stuff and get rid of that before it piles up (and it does pile up quickly!), then put the bills in the office and open anything that looks interesting. We had company a while back and I took everything that piled up on the counter and shoved it into a box and put it in the office.

Today, I needed the mortgage bill and it wasn't on my desk so it must have been swept into that box. I dig through it and found what I thought was the mortgage bill. It wasn't. It was something better! An escrow refund! And it was almost the perfect amount needed to pay both cars' insurance bills!

Hooray for "lost" mail! That'll teach me to open my mail right away!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pallet Chicken Coop: part1

Work has begun on our chicken coop. We are making it from pallets and leftover construction materials we have gathered over the past year.

Previous owners had a couple of heavy railroad ties stacked behind the pole barn. We are using that as the base with scrap boards on top for the flooring. I moved the ties myself using old egyptian methods-- a couple of short logs underneath and rolling them by moving the logs from the back to the front. The girls helped until they started to hamper and my back was screaming at all the stop and go. I had to shoo them away and finish it myself.

Part of the walls are up. This took the better part of the morning/afternoon because the girls wanted to help hammer the nails in. I would start a couple nails for them and then let them take over hammering it in. And they hammered. Hammered some more. Finally, a nail was all the way in. It took a long time for Oldest to hammer one nail in. Had to go look for another hammer so I could work at the same time. I'm not the most patient person in the world when I want to work on a project.

Inside view... That little log in front was part of my egyptian log moving tool. Underneath the scrap boards are cinderblocks for support so the floor doesn't sag. The husband has a day off tomorrow, so weather permitting, we will be working on the chicken coop. It's still too chilly for the chicks to be outside 24/7, but hopefully, they can be out there soon. They are getting big and the big box they are in is all of a sudden looking mighty small now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Future Surgeon?

As any busy mother knows, or rather, as any busy frugal mother knows, the sewing repair pile, well, piles up. At any given time, I have several pairs of ripped pants, torn dolly clothes, frayed hems and holey socks to fix. Once in a while, I'll also have a teddy bear or a dolly to fix, too.
One of the girls' cloth-bodied doll had a ripped gut. I put it in the repair pile, but as usually happens, it doesn't start high on my priority list every day, so I admit, it sat in the pile longer than usual.
"Mom, when are you going to sew my dolly?" I'd hear at various times and my standard reply was, "Soon." Apparently, soon wasn't soon enough and the question changed to: "Mom, can you teach me to sew it myself?" Well, of course I can!
After I started it and showed Oldest how to sew it up, she took over with gusto!

Just look at the concentration on her face!

And that tongue! I just love when the tongue comes out when they don't realize it. I do it, too.

Not too shabby, eh? Pretty good work for a first time repair job. The operation was a success, but definete scarring.

I'm so proud of Oldest and I know she is proud of herself, too. Good job honey!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Not The Mama

So we keep the chicks in a big box in the basement. It's the only room where we can shut the door and keep the cat and dog out. They're quite cozy, with a heat lamp, wood shavings for bedding, water, food... it's all good.

The girls ask often to "go downstairs and play with the chicks" and I tell them to wash their hands and be careful with the chicks. I'll go down in a little bit and check on them, making sure kids and chicks are fine.

Yesterday, Middle came running and said in a blur, "Oldest and me were playing with the chicks and then one of them got killed and it isn't moving hurry hurry come see!" Or at least that is what I think she said: chicks and killed jumped out at me and I didn't need to hear anymore.

I run down and on the chair is one of the Buff Orpington chicks. Laying on its' side, unmoving. I quickly scoop it up and it is still warm, but no breathing or fluttering of the closed eyes. It's dead. I tried mouth-to-mouth on it, and it's lungs filled up but nothing happened. I quickly counted the other chicks and one was missing.

I yelled (more like screamed), "Where's the other chick? I'm missing a Speckled Sussex one!"

Oldest hemmed and hawed, I know her expressions, she knows exactly what I am talking about and I press on, demanding she tells me where the chick is. Because I am deaf, I didn't hear any peeping or else I would have found it, Oldest picked up a winter hat and inside was the chick-- still alive, thankfully. I banished the kids upstairs and did a check on the other chicks, they seemed alright.

Poor chicky.. she started to cool in my hands and I put her in an old puzzle box. I thoroughly chewed out the girls, telling them that the chicks are not toys and trying to figure out what happened.

Turns out, Oldest and Middle were pretending to be mama chickens. Oldest pretended to sit on a chick, but didn't actually sit on it. Middle sat on it. Smothered it, is the best I can explain. I was beyond mad, and sad, too. My poor chicky. I told them that we would be burying it and we would say a prayer for her soul.

Rest in peace, little one.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Adventures of the Chicken Nuggets

It was a warm-ish day today, so we brought the chicks outside to play a little. We have outdoor cats, so a pen was necessary to prevent any thefts of baby chicks by the cats.

Oldest wanted to put the concrete hen and baby chick inside the pen and see what the chicks would do. Maybe they would think it was their mother? Another fellow chick? They didn't seem to notice at first...

Then as they gathered around the hen, they seemed to look at it and I wondered if they recognized it? Mama? Mother? These chicks were hatched in an incubator, so as far as I know, they've never seen a full-grown chicken.

When it didn't seem to respond, they continued on with pecking the ground and moved away from it. They weren't fooled. To them, it was just an obstacle in their way of pecking for food in the grass. Smart chicks.