Chicken Nipples And A Few Introductions

We’ve been hit with quite a learning curve since moving here. It’s one thing to know of something and it’s a whole ‘nother thing to live it. Here’s something that might surprise even you–our chickens have nipples. They’re red and leaky. And a total life saver.

Last month, we added chickens to our little farm here which is incredibly validating because now it’s officially a farm. Before that, the best we could say was that we were farming cats, dogs, and beavers. We bought a mix of five Black Copper Maran hens and eighteen Speckled Sussex along with a rooster from each breed. We’ll probably put most of them in the freezer before winter but for now we’re enjoying the fun of a large flock and trying to guess which hens are laying.

 

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This is a picture of “The King” and a few of his ladies. He got his name after winning enough fights with the other rooster to keep him on his toes. He enjoys NASCAR, cheap beer, and polygamy. We’re probably going to eat him in the next month or so. The hens all stick together and enjoy hiding eggs, listening to old records, and trying out makeup samples.

 

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This is Belle. She mostly hates everyone except Bruce Lee, because she fantasizes about being about to kick the ever-loving daylights out of anyone in her path but settles for snarling and running away. She also bitter because she used to be a city cat and it was much easier to take kung fu lessons at the community center. Her hobbies include, stealing dogfood and running an underground trade on the blackmarket dealing in dogs.

 

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This is Cassie. Cassies loves everyone–even bad guys and Belle. She is a beautiful blue heeler/border collie cross and her official position is Chicken Supervisor. She spends all day herding and sorting them and generally trying to avoid the roosters while getting into staring contests with the hens. In her free time, she enjoys watching re-runs of Friends, her celebrity crush is  Ferris Bueller, and she’s totally addicted to Pinterest

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These are the kittens. They bring unmeasured amounts of joy and entertainment to Violet, Henry, and Oliver. They are (R-L) Ana, Elsa, and Olaf. Yes, we’ve seen Frozen. The kittens spend most of their time begging for food, spending their money on candy, and fighting over watching Dora the Explorer or Go Diego, Go.

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Last but not least, here is Hart. Hart is a large Anatolian shepherd and enjoys keeping the bad guys away–much to Cassie’s chagrin. Her celebrity crush is Jack Bauer, and her favorite TV show is 24 and her favorite actor is Kiefer Sutherland. In her free time, she cleans her guns and practices timing herself while she loads and unloads.  She loves our family and is super sweet but is downright scary when she sees  anyone she doesn’t approve of.

Finally, here are some chicken nipples.

http://www.amazon.com/Threaded-Poultry-Nipples-Sanitary-Chickens/dp/B00846NTRI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409433712&sr=8-2&keywords=poultry+nipple

 

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Part Two: A Letter To My Children

Kids, perspective is everything.

How you live your life is directly related to your perspective.

Without perspective, camping in a tent for two weeks with three little kids just outside a construction zone sounds like a pretty shitty deal. As tough as it was, I kept reminding myself what an immense blessing it was that I had a fresh clean well just steps from our tent. Water.org says that 780 million people do not have access to clean water. That’s about two and a half times the population of the US. Remember how we didn’t have a bathroom for two weeks? That doesn’t make us any more special than at least 60% of the world’s population. When life gets comparatively tough, our instinctive reaction is a petulant tantrum along the lines of “Why me? WHHHHYYYYYY?” Maybe you don’t think you’re quite that dramatic, but think about it the next time your personal car, that you drive to your job to make more money than 90 percent of the world, gets a flat tire on the way to a movie theater where you will literally sit for two hours inhaling popcorn and candy while being entertained.

It’s been two and a half months since we moved here and officially became hicks from the sticks. I feel like I vacillate widely between feeling depressed about our living conditions, to a kind of determined contentment that is not without joy. I’ve come to realize that definitely for sure, I’m a pretty materialistic person with materialistic values. I’ll be honest, this house is not pretty. The land is, but the house and the weedy yards surrounding it have only improved slightly with weeks of cleaning and landscaping. We keep telling each other that it’s a marathon and not a sprint because if you try sprinting with children–something usually gets dropped. I think much more than I ever realized, a large part of my identity is not who God says I am, but is instead wrapped up in the perception that I desperately hope others will have of me.

So here’s how I’m seeing this adventure we call (ironically, for now) Hurst Farm.

What Do I Want You To See? I want you to see a beautiful cross between Better Homes and Gardens and The Pioneer Woman with a solid slice of organic living permaculture.
What Do I See? A field of weeds surrounding a run-down house that has good bones but looks uglier than the backside of a fleabitten cat. Seriously.
What Is The Reality? Well kids, the reality is that we still live better than probably 90% of the world’s population. We live in a house that is currently the size that most of our grandparents grew up in, but now we have running water and electricity and internet. Guess who has two thumbs and takes hot showers multiple times a week?

So, are we spoiled? Yep. Do we need a reality check about how our living situation compares to the rest of the world? Every damn day. Are we going to embrace living a lifestyle where we value others and allow them to value us based not on what we wear and how we look but who we are? You bet.

 

 

I know, I owe ya’ll some pictures after that flea-bitten cat description. Here’s the house from the driveway. In the foreground you see the original cabin and in the background–wrapped in more metal than a tinfoil alien hat–is the house.

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You can read part one of this letter in the last blog

 

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A Letter To My Children

Kids, in the spring of 2014 your father and I did something crazy.

We sold everything we owned except what we could pack into an 8X5 UHaul trailer and proceeded to drive nearly 400 miles to a place your father had only seen once. Hopefully most of what you will remember from the two weeks that followed will be mostly the pleasant parts of playing in dirt, exploring the fields, and sharing a giant tent like an epic sleepover every single night. Hopefully all the tough parts will be obscured by the magic that is inextricably linked to childhood. Anyway, here’s a recount of what it was like to move here for when you’re old enough to be reading blogs on the internet for fun. So, pretty old.

The last thing anyone wants to do after driving for nearly two full days with a carload of cranky kids is to set up a campsite and start a two week camping trip with no hot water or toilet. Fortunately the well went in and the pump was installed just a few days before we arrived, so there was no shortage of running water. Remember when I said I wanted to do things the hard way? Pshhh. That was just crazy talk. This “hard way” stuff is no joke. Here’s how a typical day went down.

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We would all be up with the birds around five and spend the next hour or so tossing and turning to catch any last remnants of sleep before someone had to go to the bathroom (and by bathroom, I don’t mean bathroom). The tent was large and comfortable, but uninhabitable between the hours of 9am and 8pm since it sat in the direct sun and proceeded to bake all day long which is ironic considering how cold it was at night. Usually your Dad would make breakfast and I would feed Oliver and hold him since there was no place to put him down. After taking turns holding Oliver while we all sat in our seats in the car eating oatmeal off the hotplate, your Dad would start off on house projects for the day and I would try to keep you all alive and happy till dinner. Unfortunately, since we’re all Pacific North West’ers, our sun tolerance is about 20 minutes a day before you kids started showing signs of overexposure. This meant that I had to keep you safe either playing in a shady patch on the driveway or sitting in the van with the A/C running during a snack time. In between all the many toilet breaks, (so many times…so many times) and feeding you snacks of fruit or PB&J, and drinking water, and washing hands at the well faucet, and more toilet trips because maybe you didn’t quite get the job done the first time since you were distracted by the view, in all of this, I am holding my dear sweet Oliver. Notice I didn’t say my dear LITTLE sweet Oliver, because there is nothing little about you. Weighing in around 25 pounds, holding you can best be compared to wrestling with a short, fat anaconda. By the time the evening started to roll around I would invariably either give up and feed you beef jerky and a banana for dinner or if I was feeling ambitious and your Dad was cleaned up in time to hold Oliver we would heat up some of the chili or chicken soup from the crockpot and once again eat in the car. There was this window of time between 7ish and 8:30 where the campsite would not be in the blazing sun. In this window, we would eat dinner andyou kids would play in the dirt left over from the well drilling process while I worked on the next day’s meal and clean up the campsite.

Night always came on fast though and suddenly. One minute the sky would be a giant whirling dervish of barn swallows during dusk feeding, and the next minute the sun would slink down the treeline taking all the heat with it.  All of a sudden, we’d be bundling up in our nighttime layers and listening to the crickets wake up.  Kids, you won’t ever understand this since you’re probably pretty comfortable sleeping in the great outdoors by now, but i’ll just admit here that your mother hasn’t been camping with so much wildlife around in a very long long long time.  After our dear, sweet, neighbors regaled us with tales of all the wild predators that they had seen around lately, I made your father take some extra precautions to stop the laying-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night-listening-to-creatures-moving-in-the-tall-grass and in spite of my dry-mouthed fear, planning how I was going to detail this imminent confrontation in a blog post called The Naked Prey. Not that we sleep na–it’s a metaphor, okay?

Part 2: COMING SOON

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Well, well, well…

Today our well was drilled.  All previous owners had relied on the use of several hand-dug wells, but we asked the sellers to drill a well before closing to ensure access to lots of clean water. Besides, it’s not 1800 and we’re not savages.

Anyway, in answer to your questions, we did not use these guys:

And the well does not look like this:

Instead, here’s a picture of a similar well setup to ours. You’re looking at the pressure tank, pump, and power for the pump.

We’re pretty relieved the well process is moving ahead on schedule since we’ll be arriving there in just a few days. When we arrive, we will be camping in a tent for the first week or two while we deal with several house issues. These issues are mostly related to general cleanup and mice eradication. ‘Cause Mamma don’t play that game. That’s right. I’m willing to live in a tent for two weeks before I share a house with mice. And just to be sure you understand me when I say “mice” and not “a mouse”, referring to more than one of these delightful little creatures, I shall use the plural PLURAL form of “meeces” to refer to them.  So the meeces. There’s quite a lot of them. We need to figure out some great trap ideas and bait options because I have no intention of feeding them poison and having them go die in the wall somewhere. If you have any great tips, please send them our way.

 

And now, I shall stop procrastinating and go pack my kitchen. T-minus 7 days and praying for good weather. Also, a super unusually warm early spring.

This post goes out to Elizabeth O. My newest blog stalker. I’m sending you an awesome t-shirt. Not really.

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Easter Musings

“And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly I say to to you, Today you will be with me in Paradise.”” Luke 23: 42-43

Could this be the most significant interaction in the whole of human history? These words, the most rich with meaning and joy? For here lies the perfect picture of humanity’s great need made perfect in the Divine Grace of the cross. In this simple conversation between a thief speaking his last words while dying for his own sins, and the sinless Son of God dying for the sins of all humanity we see Jesus invite with no need for penance, this sorry picture of humanity simply because he asked.

What a richly satisfying moment that must have been for Jesus. As he hung there, borne down more by the crushing weight of sin-separation from The Father than the agony of crucifixion, he turned to the man dying by his side and uttered words that could not have been spoken a day before. In his great mercy and love, he was finally about to vanquish sin and death once and for all and allow the floodgates of his Grace to cover us in our abject need.

Easter is such a sweet and heart-rending holiday for me. If I sit too long and think about it, something shorts out in my head because I really can’t comprehend the depth of the sacrifice and Grace that has been made mine. This year I was particularly struck by the interaction between the thief and Jesus. It’s as if all humanity is that one thief. Dying. Sinful. Nothing left to offer. He doesn’t even renounce all his sins. Knowing that there is no time to change and nothing else he can do to even the score in a great balance of the good versus evil in his life. And then Jesus. Even in the act of bearing the punishment for the sins of this man, He turns to him and promises eternal life.

This is the power of the cross. If you grab hold onto anything, hold this. His Grace is made perfect in our weakness and our salvation is only through the completely encompassing Grace of God. I’m pretty sure being a good person is overrated. Sure, life is much easier when we made choices that honor God, but at the end of the day, “good” isn’t what gets us into Heaven. Only Grace.

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What have we just done?

I remember wondering about love when AJ and I were dating . When does it happen? How do you know it when it comes? Do you recognize it, or is it so unlike all other types of love that you are left whirled around and speechless? One morning you just wake up and realize that somehow overnight, everything just changed. Like this morning. We bought a farm. One minute I’m running the vacuum in my 3bed/2.5 bath home in suburbs and the next I’m running as fast as my heartbeat through a wide open field. My field. Our field. Next, I turn sharply down a hill and around a corner into a berm of trees that line the creek. Our creek. The perfect mix of pasture, trees, hills, water, sun and shade.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s in rough shape. So it’s a bit of a fixer-upper.  AJ and I are terrified and excited. There’s nothing scarier than watching dreams get buried under the old pages of a calendar though.

My whole horizon just changed. I’m all a jumble of mixed thoughts and I can’t even seem to write a coherent line without either bursting into song lyrics or obsessively hitting the backspace key. I just can’t even.

Our field

 

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Better off yet

I have a complicated relationship with blogging. It’s hard to be so private and yet write  on so public a forum. I enjoyed writing so much more when no one was reading it but I miss writing too much when I stop. Love and hate. Like I said, it’s complicated. Plus, I feel so out of breath trying to catch up in my regular life that I can’t handle the pressure of trying to catch up with my life expressed in blog form. But I’ll stop apologizing now and get down the the messy business of writing.

In a fairly circuitous fashion, we have arrived at the conclusion that we want to live a rural and simple life and that our best bet at finding someplace we can be happy and still afford it will probably be in Eastern Washington. Honestly, I have no idea though. We’ve been considering Montana and Idaho too. I have had it with sidewalks, and neighbor cats, and no yelling policies in the yard. I’m done spending my days just trying to get the house clean and food made and kids loved. I think some people thrive best under pressure and that’s definitely me. I don’t just want a house to manage, I want land and a half-acre garden and raising livestock and little kids weeding long rows in the summertime. I don’t just want to teach my kids to read and write and love God, I want them to learn the satisfaction of hunting garden beetles to feed chickens, and tire swings, and digging the last of the potatoes before the frost hits, and sitting in shocked silence in the corner of a barn while a goat welcomes a set of twins. I know these things because I’ve lived them. Nearly a lifetime of experiences ago, my parents did something brave and crazy that resulted in raising a pack of happy children on a forgotten corner of the world. Literally forgotten even by time in an old house that had no running water or electricity and the carved names on the attic walls were a century old. I’m not saying I want that exactly…running water has it’s perks and there’s nothing like the convenience of a light switch. However, if there’s one hard truth I”m learning, it’s that you have to want a simple life with every ounce of your determination because it’s actually much simpler to live complicated. It’s pretty easy to live in town. Not so hard to go grocery shopping. There’s nothing truly difficult about eating meat you didn’t bottle raise. And, I’ll never be as smart as my smart phone, so why bother.

But maybe crazy is genetic. Maybe we just inherited some of this nonsense from our parents and that’s why we can seem to shake the feeling that we’ll never be happy watching the sun set over our neighbor’s houses. I know not everyone feels the same way we do about this urge to live a simpler lifestyle, but I know way too many people only watch longingly from the sidelines.  That’s where we were until this year. Now our angst has reached a fever pitch of searching for options that result in stepping outside at night and seeing stars with no city lights or street lights to drown them out and enough land to run till you’re out of breath trying to catch a wayward farm animal.

Sometimes I feel like my whole damn generation has gone soft. We’ve spent too much time thinking easier is better, but it isn’t. Easier is weaker and softer and more placid. Easier is letting all the losers go home with a plaque. Easier is fatherless or motherless children because being a parent is hard. Easier is divorce because marriage is hard. Easier is politically correct because we can’t handle someone who disagrees with us. Easier is working all the time to give your children the life they deserve.

Well, let’s try it the hard way then.

 

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