spectating participant

June 6, 2008

fresh starwberries from our garden

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 3:35 pm

fresh starwberries from our garden

Originally uploaded by xixstar

Oh these are oooooh so very, very yummy. I’m not sure chris is ever going to get a chance to try them because I imagine I’ll keep gobbling them up as soon as they’re ready to pick. These were wonderfully warm from the sun and perfectly sweet! Yummmmm.

[posted via BlogThis on flickr]

June 5, 2008


Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 10:49 am

I’ve been obsessing over homeschooling Alex again for the past couple months. I am very committed to the idea, but I’m the only one. Alex enjoys school, though it often amazes me when I consider all of her negative comments about the classwork and other students. Homeschooling without her support would be a challenge, but I’m hoping to get her interested in at least trying the idea for a year. My first plan was to give a test run over the summer, and I might still do something like that, but I’m really more interested in the student-led-learning approaches that we didn’t do last time. If we go that route, there isn’t really a lot to “test run” in the summer. Also, since she’s been in school so long, I agree with the idea of an extend period of “deschooling” to break out of the mental mindset that school has built up. This means that we could have many months where it seems like nothing at all is happening. Bracketing that on top of summer break seems counter intuitive since she’s expecting a break from all things school anyways.

There are lots of arguments against homeschooling and whether or not we’ll have the time to do, especially with the little one arriving soon. But, since I’ve never really supported the “school at home” approach, I’m not as worried about that. Alex is old enough to do mostly self-driven work at this point, though I’m sure she’ll need some motivation, and that is a lot less time intensive than sitting down to math, reading, spelling, writing, science, ect, every day. Instead, I’d like to take the approach that we didn’t take last time - unit driven studies that really let her dive into topics. I’ve noticed her doing this independently more and more lately and would love the opportunity to really support her interests and help her find even more ways to gather information.

Alex’s biggest concern against homeschooling is the lack of having gym every day. It’s pretty odd that she has gym every day now, but I guess Carroll County is one of the few school systems that still value daily physical activity. I’ve yet to verify that this will still be the case next year. But, if that is the only argument she has, it’s not a very reassuring one, from my point of view. Especially considering how we can add more physical activity to her schedule - including archery that she’s been wanting to do - if so much of her day wasn’t filled with being in school.

As school is winding down, I’m wondering more and more if this is going to happen for next year. I really want it to, but also won’t force it on Alex either - that’d be an invitation for disaster if I tried. Hopefully, she and I will have a chance to talk some more about it and also reassure her that it won’t be the same as it was the last time we tried it. Maybe I can get her interested in giving it a try for a year at least.

June 4, 2008

Fast Furious Storm Damage

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 4:05 pm

I was trying to rest upstairs in front of the fan when a recent storm system came through. It started out with your typical gusty winds and heavy rains and then seemed to jump up a few notches in an instant. I reluctantly got up to check the open windows in the house, see if any needed closing, and made it to the craft room when I heard a huge bang/crash/crack/pop sound out front. I wasn’t sure if it was lightening or breaking limbs or what - seems it was probably a combination of both. A glance out the front window showed:

06.04.08 Storm Damage

Okay, that must have been the noise I heard. I kept wandering around the house and then looked out our side door and it looked like there was a tree across the road at the other neighbors house. Wish I’d snapped a picture of that, but ended up tossing on some better clothes (ie. not a long skirt) and went out to help the neighbors clear the road. This picture is the semi-neatly gathered pile of limbs, which was a significant amount and thank goodness for strong, non-pregnant neighbors because several of the limbs were way beyond my lifting power - even with the extra hands helping.

06.04.08 Storm Damage

Once back inside and back into dry clothes, I went out on the porch to snap these pictures. I also noticed that our other neighbor across the street lost the top of one of his pine trees — that damage is pretty hard to see in the photo though. There are actually 3 pine trees there and the far left one is now topless.

06.04.08 Storm Damage

Amazing thing in all of this — our sad maple tree lost one measly little branch and other than taking out the power line, none of these limbs caused any damage. One neighbor even had a motorcycle out by the road for sale and all the downed limbs managed to just miss the bike somehow. I wanna go check on our neighbor across the street, but am worried about the loose power line between us — maybe I’m being overly paranoid, but will call and touch base with Chris first. Not too worried about her, she’s quite the lady at 70+ and I’m sure a little loss of power isn’t causing her much grief at all.

ETA: Neighbor is fine, as expected.

June 2, 2008

crazy weekend recap…

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 12:49 pm

Last week I spent mostly recuperating from the insane two weeks prior, which means that I did a whole lot of nothing. The rest was needed and my body thanked me for it.

Saturday morning was an AP-yardsale in Glen Burnie that had been advertised on a local forum I frequent. Since it was targeted at momma’s likely to care about things like cloth diapering and buying local, I figured it was a good event to attend even though I wouldn’t have any yardsale-priced items. Thankfully I’d already decided that I wouldn’t spend any energy on making more stock for this event. I was comfortable taking whatever I had left from the prior weekend’s event at the MD Sustainable Living fair. Since I really needed that week of rest, I was more than happy to leave everything from the show packed and waiting for my next trip out.

The yardsale was very successful. Lots of local (maryland-local vs carroll county-local) stopped by and chatted about diapers and several fliers went home with new faces. I sold several items, much to my surprise, including the playsilks that didn’t sell last weekend much to my disappointment. One of the big perks from the Sustainable Living fair was having a mom stop by and tell us that her child was currently wearing one of my diapers! Imagine my surprise when that happened again this weekend! This mom had purchased one at the show last weekend and we got to see her little one running around in it - thats such a simple pleasure to have.

Good Food
After the sale, we stopped in to visit Chris’ mom in Bowie. I really enjoyed our visit, though I was completely exhausted following the sale. After hanging out and watching the food channel for hours, the subject of dinner approached and I was dying for some good BBQ thanks to the tv. We ended up going out to a place in Bowie, Smokey Bones Barbeque, an East Coast chain with only one location in Maryland.

I didn’t have high hopes for the place. Getting good BBQ is always a challenge, in my book, and I expected to find skinny ribs drowning in too much sauce. But I was wrong. This place had impressive food and great service. Our waitress was on the ball and always bring exactly what we needed, when we needed it, and the food was fabulous. I’d even say it was probably the best rack of ribs I’ve had - tons of meat full of the perfect meat flavor. Chris’ mom and I got the combo platter which was a half-rack of two different style of ribs ($19), Chris tried the pulled-pork platter ($11), and Alex happily ordered a decent sized steak ($14). Alex’s steak was perfectly cooked and also full of flavor. Unfortunately, I missed out on trying the pulled-pork which looked yummy. We all left with full tummies and a just a little bit of leftovers. All evening long I kept commenting on how impressed I was with the food - that just doesn’t happen all that often these days, much less at a chain restaurant it seems.

Deer Strike
We finally headed back home around 7pm, I think. Along the way we, we saw a car lose control along 32. They did a couple spins and went flying across the highway, into the median. Thankfully the other drivers were paying enough attention that the sudden flash of break lights prevent any further accidents. I had Chris pull off into the median and we hopped out to see if they people were okay. Half of their windshield was busted in (in the spider-web way, not busted all the way through) and we quickly learned they’d hit a deer. There was a husband and wife pair in the car and the fellar was already on the phone making necessary calls while looking at the damage. I sat down in the drivers seat to check on the woman who was very upset. The deer had hit the windshield right in front of her seat, that combined with out of control spinning and stopping, was understandably upsetting. Luckily, she wasn’t physically injured, so I just sat and talked with her a bit as she started to calm down. I encouraged her to step out of the vehicle so she could brush off the broken glass. The shock of the event finally wore off and she was calm enough to start processing the whole event a bit more.

Chris ended up taking lots of pictures of the scene, including ones of the vehicle damage and the deer. He also made sure the deer was dead as well, as the idea of a suffering animal is just too cruel, and pulled it out of the roadway. We stayed and chatted with the couple for a while, making sure they were doing fine and they had a plan of action as well. Luckily, they had local friends/family with a two truck to call upon and seemed to be pretty set. We gave them our contact information, turns out they’re local to us. None of us had called emergency services — but a passerby must have. At some point, an ambulance, two fire trucks, and police officer arrived on the scene. Alex ended up being questioned first because she was closest to where they stopped and she let them know it was just a deer that was hurt. After the quick scene survey, the ambulance and fire trucks were prompt to head out and we verified with the office that he didn’t need us for anything and took advantage of the emergency vehicles blocking a lane so we could get back on the highway safely.

Bird Mites
Once home, we were exhausted, but the fun wasn’t over. On heading to bed, I noticed our toothbrushes covered with specks — moving specks. Looking closer, I noticed they were all over the counters. But, it was late and I couldn’t deal with it then, even though I spent the entire night obsessing over them. The next morning, further investigation was overwhelming - they were all over everything in the bathroom. I cleaned every surface in the bathroom and washed everyting - all the while getting these things on me. Google gave me a few leads, but nothing promising: clover mites or bird mites. When Chris got home from picking up a ladder that I swear is gonna be the death of him, we inspected around the house and finally concluded what the bugs were - bird mites. Some birds had nested in the eaves near the bathroom and we’d not gotten rid of them yet — we could see a steady stream of mites all over the area near the nest and up to the bathroom windows - but none anywhere else around the house.

I’ve been washing the bathroom down twice daily with a borax solution but it’s no use, really. I’ve sprinkled boax on the carpet and will vacuum daily for a while. And we’ll be washing our bedding daily too - what fun. We’re picking up some pesticide stuff for the outside today and hopefully that will help. Chris ripped off part of the house to get to the nest (and found more termite damange, oh joy), but hasn’t been able to get in far enough yet and the birds are still there. Argh. This is really overwhelming for me because I feel like I can’t do anything to solve this quickly and having tiny bugs on you is really freaky. I’m just trying to not go insane in the meantime. But, stopping them from getting beyond the bathroom is my biggest goal. At the moment, I’m seriously hating my old house and the delusions of owning an old house - why did I want to buy this damn place?

May 26, 2008

chicken sitting

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 9:18 pm

Wow, what a whirlwind weekend. Way too much was happening, but it was all worth it in the end. Instead of commenting on the traveling that wore me out - I figured I’d focus on our chickens. They are finally outside, woohoo! I wanna dance and sing about this accomplishment, but I’m pretty exhausted, so I’ll settle for a “Yipee!” cheer from the recliner.

One might think that this means that our chicken tractor is done, but it is not. It’s closer to being done, but the forces that be conspired against us and we admitted defeat. Defeat did not include returning the chickens to the house for another week, though, because I really was done with having them inside. They’re also way too big for their brooder and have been living in cramped quarters for way too long.

So, we developed several makeshift solutions and are crossing out finger that everything holds together well. I’m guessing that our solutions could have been even more thorough had rain not started to fall as we were scratching our heads for how to make it work. I must say, Chris really figured it all out - I just threw out random complaints that required new solutions, so I don’t know where I get off implying that I was a helpful hand to this situation. Beyond insisting the birds not come back inside, I was mostly just a motivating factor.

We got them all set up in their tractor, darkness began to fall, and they got whiny. Chris and I pulled up chairs on the outside of their new cage and chatted at them a bit. It took about 30 minutes, but they eventually started to settle down and the annoying drone of freaked out chickens began to fade. We sat there until the last one, a white rock, finally gave up her mission to cry all night, and finally joined the slumber party in the corner of the tractor. They all seemed determined to sleep in the same spot and there was a constant churning of bodies as one tried to settle herself on the top of the mass and the now-smothered one tried to get back out.

While babysitting the chicks, Chris and I enjoyed the first notice of the season of our local bats. It’s always fun to watch the three of them flutter about filling their bellies with bugs galore. It all felt like the first summer evening of the year, hopefully we’ll get a bit more spring though as I’m not looking forward to the heat and humidity.

May 20, 2008

naptime mandatory

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 5:20 pm

taking a daily nap used to be a nice luxury, now it’s basically mandatory if I’m to still be function after 3pm. Luckily, my usual 3 hour afternoon nap had whittled itself down to just 1.5 hours and I’m not waking up all groggy and confused afterwards. Now if only this meant I could stay up a little later in the evening — but I find myself pretty wiped out by 9pm with or without a nap.

May 18, 2008

once lost, now found

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 7:37 pm

Our missing chicken finally came home. She was missing from about 1pm to 7pm and during rain, sunshine, and sudden thunderstorm with hail and all. We’d went looking for her several time since the incident early this afternoon and I’d finally given up on her ever coming home. Chris wandered outside and heard her calling, rather loudly, from the other side of the house. Guess she finally got tired of hiding and was ready to be back home with her flock.

I’m happy she’s home.

ugly chicken just got uglier

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 1:48 pm

Our ugly white rock chicken has had splotchy feather growth and has certainly been out ugliest bird — mostly cause the rest of the chicken all feathered in so nicely. Well, today the neighbors dog got loose and went after our chickens. We found a whole trail of bright white feathers and assumed that chick was gone. We managed to round up 8 of the 10 chickens, missing one white rock and one rhode island red. Eventually, we found the white rock, sans many tail feathers but no other obvious damage. Sadly, we haven’t found the missing rhode island yet. We have some faith that she’s just hiding somewhere off by herself and the recent terror and the rain is just keeping her tucked away. But, after about an hour of all three of us searching, in the rain, we finally gave up and hope to catch a glimpse of her at some point in the afternoon. Maybe she’ll know enough to come back by the house, but then again, I haven’t given them much intelligence credit yet.

Sigh, stupid dog. Makes me wanna go do target practice with Chris sometime. But first, need to go talk to the neighbors and let them know, especially now that he knows the chickens are here (it was probably a surprise to him to find them). I have no sympathy toward any animal that escapes beyond it’s property and certainly have no positive feelings toward an animal that endangers or kills my food.

May 13, 2008

laptop lockdown

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 11:53 am

i need to lock my laptop away and send the key to work with chris. it gets in the way of me getting any work done. as does the overwhelming feeling of having too much to do.

but, i also need it to get work done, otherwise I’d need to print out a million things and don’t want to do that. catch 22.

alex is gone this week and you’d think that’d be a blessing, but I usually use her 3pm arrival as nice motivator to get moving on getting things done. now i’m stuck waiting for for chris to get home around 7pm, making the day long and my motivation no more motivating. is there sort of “get your butt moving” pill out there? well, something nice and natural and nontoxic and what not? yeah - it’s called just plain old self motivation. bah.

May 11, 2008

time passing by

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 8:25 am

I’m pretty sure I’ve yet to mention that we’re expecting a little one at some point in July. For the longest time, July was a very long time away and it was easy to let that fact slip into the background. But, today we’re now just 7-11 weeks away (38-42 weeks is a normal gestation) from time being up and this new little being joining our family. This finally sunk in this morning in the most unusual way…

Yesterday, we stopped by a friends house and got to see their baby chickens. They’re a couple week younger than ours, but one variety already dwarfs ours: Cornish Rock crosses. These are a 100% meat bird and their soul purpose in life is to eat, eat, eat and get fat, fat, fat. Looking at them now, you can already see dinner on the table. Looking at our birds, you see fast growing chickens, but not dinner. The Cornish Rock crosses are ready for harvest in just 8 weeks — our dual purpose birds might not be ready for harvest until 20 weeks or so. Lots of people refer to these birds as “frakenchickens” and other derogatory terms - they’re not universally popular among chicken farmers because they’ve got lots of genetic problems. For one, they gain weight so fast that they often lose the ability to walk. Also, some will gain so much, so fast, that their tiny little heart will just give way and they’ll keel over. Some people find them to be a genetic atrocity and others appreciate the quick egg-to-freezer timeline. Also, the quality of the meat is often questioned in comparison to slower growing breeds. But, seeing them up close it’s hard to ignore their fast growth and the quick turn around available with this breed.

I’d seen these chicks the week before, so I wasn’t as surprised by their size and weight (most are already over a pound where only one of our 6-week old chickens has crossed that marker so far). Chris, on the other hand, was pretty impressed and came home with visions of chicken dances in his head. Our chicken tractor is about finished and the birds should be moving out within a day or so. We’d already discussed the idea of getting another round of meat chicks once this batch is outside and Chris is thinking Rock Cornish crosses now. This morning, he comments on picking some up, “And they’ll be ready to slaughter at 8 weeks.” 8 weeks, huh? I thoughtfully respond, “8 weeks is about when a baby will be showing up” and it’s then the reality hits me that time is passing. We’ve now hit the point that upcoming events are within the magical 4-week period of birth possibility.

Now, I find the agricultural connection to this realization rather amusing. Especially because today is also Mother’s Day - an important day in terms of planting and gardening. For the past 14 weeks, Mother’s Day has been on my mind as the commonly accepted last frost date for our area. Everything we’ve been doing has been a countdown to this date. This week, seeing Mother’s Day approaching, I couldn’t help picturing all the work that needs done and thinking how the past 14 weeks have flown by. And then, I was reading on one of my boards about the upcoming holiday - Mother’s Day. “Yes, yes, I know…” was my first mental response, until I then started reading about all the plans people were making for that day. None of these plans included tomato plants and squash seeds, not one. All of these people were talking about gifts and celebrations for their Mothers! “Oh crap!” It dawned on me that Mother’s Day was this week and I’d totally missed the “Mother” part of it. To me, it was all about plants, and I’m hoping my mom won’t mind when I tell her that, had she been a seed packet, I would have great things planned for her; but being that she’s just a mom, a celebratory phone call is all there will be this year.

May 9, 2008

so pdf isn’t happening

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 1:40 pm

there I said it outloud and that’ll make it true. It just doesn’t seem feasible with our current schedule and stress loads and financial stuff. So, there, we’re not doing pdf. We’ll still come out for a day, at least, to see some folk we like — though the only option is Friday or Sunday — most likely Sunday cause Friday will be getting ready for the show on Saturday! Argh, I so didn’t want to lame out of PDF, but I just can’t see making it happen either.

May 8, 2008

on account of the rain

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 5:37 am

About two weeks ago, I learned about a natural living baby fair to take place this afternoon. In usual last minute fashion, I discovered that the usual spaces were already full, but that I could have a table outside, weather permitting. So,began a mad scramble to get things together in time, a scramble that was way overwhelming and unbelievably stressful. I’ve discovered that two weeks is not a sufficient amount of time to prep for a show, even one that was as small as this one. I could barely manage to get just a couple sample diapers assembled - which are still not done - and all my other planned-to-take projects are still in various states of completion.

The past two days, Chris and Alex have been putting in some hard evening hours helping me get ready. I’m very impressed with how well Alex has taken this extra responsibility and responded to my non-stop requests for assistance. I’ve learned that I can manage some stress fairly well, but overwhelming amounts of stress are almost impossible to get through. I’ve thrown in the towel more than once and broken down crying over little errors here and there multiple times. Luckily, I’ve got a good hormone excuse going on at the moment, but that doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant.

I was up at 4am to keep working in hopes of getting stuff finished up. To my surprise, rain was falling - oh how hard it is to get out of bed with the sound of rain and cool breezes lulling you back to sleep. Luckily, my stress over the day’s plan of action made staying in bed impossible. But, a check of the weather shows that what was supposed to be a clear week without any real rain, is now a day of rain showers, turning thunderstorms later. My “weather permitting” space seems to be nulled on account of the rain. This is a HUGE relief, by the way, and I would even celebrate if I wasn’t already so drained from the work I’ve already put in. So, in good news, I’m now fully started in terms of stuff for the show later this month. Thanks to this mad dash - I know have completed business cards, a services brochure mostly finished, items already assembled and labeled for sale, and a decent start on the stash I’ll need later this month.

I can now release the guilt that I don’t have more done for today. I can also stop worrying that I’d be showing up with embarrassingly little on hand for sale and have wasted the hour drive to the location, not to mention the stress endured by the entire family this week. I can also get some more supplies ordered which seem ironic seeing how more than 70 yards of fabric and 6000 snap pieces showed up this week. I’ll be placing some bulk wholesale orders today, including 120 yards of fabric as well.

April 30, 2008

Fabric and more Fabric

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 10:49 am

I’m in super prep mode right now, preparing for a couple shows and restocking supplies that have been dwindling rapidly in the past few weeks. Yesterday, 28 yards of fabric showed up at my door. Today, I placed an order for 70 more yards. We’re gonna be drowning in fabric soon!

April 24, 2008

don’t they know?

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 5:46 am

For some folks, 5:30am is a perfectly reasonable start of the day. To others, it’s god awful early, especially when the sun isn’t up yet. To our local bird population, it’s just a point in time in marathon serenading. The birds have been going at it, chirping that is, since about 4:00am. Perhaps they’re the designated alarm clock for the local commuters. Birds start singing at 4am and commuters start rolling past shortly past 5am.

For me, I just couldn’t sleep and eventually gave up trying. I’ve been pretty achey all evening and the stress over my car is really getting to me. After waking up every 45 minutes or so, I finally abandoned hope and just got out of bed. Typically, I’d be happy to just lie in bed listening to the morning unfold, especially with the cool breeze flowing in off our bedroom balcony, but the stress drug me to my laptop to google-obsess and get all anxious about things to come.

Thanks to the accident, I’m sure I need to go see the chiropractor again. However, I’m worried about the costs, as always, since I stopped going before because the money just wasn’t there. Part of my brain rationalizes that it’s something that should be covered, but my safe-bet worst-case-scenario-approach to life tells me that I better accept that I’ll end up eating the cost of visits I can’t really afford. I’m staying home tomorrow, instead of working, cause caring for a little infant when everything hurts doesn’t sound so appealing. But again, the cost really gets to me and it’s a day of pay that I’ll not be getting. Taking care of oneself, mentally and physically, sure is easy to do when money isn’t tight. Add that stress along with the indignation I’m feeling about the unfairness of losing my car at the cost of some else’s carelessness, and it’s no surprise that sleep isn’t happening. Instead, I’m smirking at birds who don’t care if there’s daylight and constantly fighting back a flood of overwhelmed tear at the whole situation.

April 23, 2008

Oh the irony!

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 8:22 pm

At 1:23pm I sent Chris the following text message:

oh man I want a new car with ac. It’s gonna be a hot summer.

At approximately 1:40pm, I was side swiped by a large GMC pickup truck pulling out of a parking lot.

My Car - Accident Damage

Based on the damage and the relative value of my car, I’m expecting the insurance company to “total” my car and offer a lump sum settlement versus paying for repairs. I’m extremely upset by this because I really love my car. Even though the lack of a/c does make me fairly miserable during the summer, I still really love my car. I’m slowly accepting that my 9 year relationship with my car may be coming to and end.

I originally thought the car was still drivable, but after additional inspections this afternoon I no longer agree. While I thought the damage was limited to the side and was more cosmetic (well, structural too considering the passenger door is inoperable), further inspection shows that the wheel was also impacted. Test driving at highway speeds (versus the 20mpg I did on the mile drive from the accident site to my home) shows additional indication that there is some damage either to the wheel/rim or to the axle as well. Sigh, now I have to struggle with vanity issues as I’m left with the option of driving Chris’ less-attractive vehicles.

April 21, 2008

MD Sustainable Living Fair

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 7:39 pm

Chris forwarded me this recent article from the Carroll County Times on the upcoming MD Sustainable Living Fair. I’m glad to see this getting some press and I would love to see some more. I should probably start talking about it more since it’s a little more than a month away.

A good day for rain

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 10:29 am

The joy of owning your own house is the reassurance that something will always break. Add 140 years to that house and you spend you time hoping that it’s not something major. Saturday was a super productive day outside, getting lots of yard work one and what not. While we were watering a re-sodded area, I noticed the water pressure to the hose was lacking somehow. After enough complaining, Chris went to see if something was causing the problem. The shut off valve for the outdoor spigot is under the kitchen sink and there he found a very wet cabinet - obviously a problem. We yanked the pipe out out the wall and viola:

2008 Busted Water Pipe

The busted pipe had been leaking in the wall/under the cabinet - fun, fun. As for how long it’s been leaking… We turned the outside water back on last week and it could have busted over the winter as we might have remembered to turn the water off but failed to drain the water remaining in the pipe. Or it could have frozen and burst this week during one of our two nighttime freezes. Luckily, it’s a fairly simple fix when you know what you’re doing. In the meantime, I’m appreciating all the rain we’re getting because I can’t water the garden right now anyways.

We took out baby chicks outside for the first time on Saturday. They had a blast digging up worms in our freshly dug garden bed. We weren’t sure how they’d act outside and we planned to only bring out two at a time. We didn’t thinking chasing down 10 chicks would be any fun if they tried to get away. But, once in the 4′x4′ garden plot, they were content to explore that area and never tried to go anywhere else. We kept bringing more and more out until they were all happily scratching away, stealing worms from each other, and gobbling them up. I had hoped to get good individual pictures of each one, but that gets hard to do when they’re herded together.

White Rock Chick Fluffly Ameraucana

Sunday was a good day for rain. I was pretty exhausted from all the work on Saturday, plus a little sunburned, but had planned on having company over in my craft room. I spent all morning getting it cleaned up, which was half putting things where they go and half shoving stuff somewhere. Jamie and Jen came over and it was great hanging out with them, reminds me that I need to be more social every now and again. They got some projects started and/or completed and I managed to get nothing done. But, I do have a clean craft room waiting for my attention today. Since it’s still cold and rainy and I’m feeling a bit sluggish, think I’ll take advantage of another day indoors.

April 18, 2008

Dinner Theatre: Sports Addition

Filed under: garden, food — suzanne henderson @ 1:37 am

Two-Week Old Chicks

The chickens continue to provide us with endless entertainment, though Alex’s fascination seems to be fading a little. We’re still weighing them daily - I’ve yet to make a graph that I find useful enough to share - and we’re still watching them on the TV when we’re not peering over the edge of the brooder. I’m impressed at their growth and feathering rates and at how they seem to be getting more and more accustomed to handling. But, this is the sport addition, so lets get to that part.

I was goofing off online and ignoring the tv while Chris was over playing with the birds. It seems he’s noticed they have a new game to play - chicken football. While he was watching them, a chick grabbed a large piece of wood shaving (their bedding material/litter) and started running around, peeping wildly. Several other chicks joined in and the lucky chick with the “ball” then started doing quick little touch-downs in each of the brooder corners, all while being chased by louder and louder peeping chicks. It was hilarious to watch because they were clearly having a ton of fun in their little game.

Chris has since learned tricks to get a new game started. He’ll reach into the brooder and slowly pick up some litter - this gets them all excited and one or two birds will come pecking after him and take it away. The first few tries, the chicks seem more interested in just getting that wood shaving back into their domain and will go about their business. But, as a critical mass of chicken attention develops, the excitement builds on repeated attempts and eventually a chick will steal the shaving/ball and start running around, peeping madly with it’s prize. Sometimes the other chicks follow, sometimes they just watch the antics of the lucky winner. Chris and I, on the other hand, are laughing hysterically each time.

April 14, 2008

Chicken Update

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 11:35 am

Rhode Island Red Chick

Originally uploaded by xixstar

Our chicks are growing like crazy it seems. I’m working on some charts that I’ll add to this post on their overall growth the past two weeks. We’re still watching Chick TV/Dinner Theatre regularly and it is incredibly entertaining. I’d always read that chickens are far more interesting than people give them credit for and I have to agree.

Each one has a pretty distinct personality and I’m noticing some breed personality traits too. The Rhode Island Red (RIR), pictured here, is very curious about anything and everything happening around the brooder. She’s always the first one to run up when we stick our hands in to either catch one or to change out the food/water. Most of the others tend to shy away. We have two RIRs and they’re both more forward and somewhat more aggressive than the other breeds.

I still have my favorite chicken and I think Alex has developed a preference for one as well. The Araucanas seem to be our overall favorites, probably because of their colorful markings. The birds are really starting to feather out now and are hitting the ugly puberty stage. Some of feathers coming out at funny angles in odd little places, making them look rather comical. Our New Hampshire breed have all look very similar from the start - only a problem when tracking their daily weight gain and you need to tell them apart - and hopefully their incoming feathers will help us distinguish differences soon. Otherwise, I’m thinking about some colorful hair dye or something!

[posted via BlogThis on flickr]

April 9, 2008

flickr delima

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 1:44 pm

I like using flickr and am currently planning on using them for my new business site hosted craft blog. It’s time to get a pro membership, but I’m not sure if I want to upgrade my personal account or if I want to create a new account for my business blog. Part of me thinks it’d be good to separate the two, but the other part of me wants to keep everything together and just use my existing account. Oh the choices are too complicated. I really want to decide as I’m tired of not having enough sets and I’ve crossed display limits on the free account.

April 6, 2008

Adventures in Chicken Farming - Part One

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 11:06 pm

Chick TV/Dinner Theatre

Originally uploaded by xixstar

Raising chicks is a completely new and un-charted territory for us. In the short week we’ve been doing it, we’ve already learned a lot of things. Today was our most exciting day in chicken raising so far. But first, some background.

As I mentioned, we bought 10 one-day old baby chicks and they’ve been providing us an endless source of entertainment. Against my better judgment, we brought them home before we had a proper brooder set up. However, Chris and Alex had set up reasonable looking accommodations in a large galvanized tub that we were sure would work for the first week, at least. When I got them home, the tub seemed like a great starting point. Being new to raising chicks, we didn’t realize just how fast they were going to grow. We began weighing them daily (chick stats to come) and it wasn’t unusual for them to put on 10% of their body weight in one day.

This weekend, Chris spent most of Saturday designing and building the brooder box. The tub was still serving it’s purpose but I was getting more and more nervous about the chicks increasing size and ability to jump. I was very happy to see the brooder built, but we didn’t move the chicks over right away. We still had to make space in the mud room to make it fit. That was put on Sunday’s agenda.

This morning, we planned to visit one of Chris’ friends, about 45 minutes away, to check out his place and see if he had any chicken wire or building supplies we could use for building our chicken tractors. Before leaving, I commented on how it seemed like at least one chick was testing the height limits of the tub and how the brooder couldn’t come any sooner. Instead of bring responsible chick owners and placing some wire over the tub, just in case, we headed out the door assuming all would be well when we got home.

While visiting, we even commented on how we hoped to get home and find 10 chicks still in the brooder. Seems our intuition was kicking in. About 5 hours after we left, we finally got home and the first thing I did is check the tub - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine… nine… Shit! Literally, shit on the floor and no baby chick in sight.

The chicken hunt began and it wasn’t a pretty sight. For those who’ve visited our place, you might recall that we’ve got a lot of crap every where and there are lots of places for a little chick to hide. Plus, the basement door had been left open, even more places to check. We basically tore the mudroom apart, flinging stuff on the porch and in the dining room — a challenging and aggravating process (to me) because there were 3 people, stressed over finding a missing chick, in a tiny mudroom crammed with too much stuff. The basement was searched, each corner and possible hiding spot was excavated, and we had no baby chick.

I finally gave up, decided that the chick was gone and that someday we’d finally find it’s body somewhere. The fact that it wasn’t making any noise (chicks will chirp loudly when cold or upset) had me convinced it was already dead. This failure to properly care for our chicks really upset me. Also, as much as I usually find that I form no emotional attachments to animals, I’d taken a liking to one of them - the missing one. I was so upset that it couldn’t have been one of the “dumb white rocks or the boring new hampshires”. Instead, it was one of the Araucanas with the squirrel face markings. Several times, hormones took over (that’s my story) and I was bawling over a missing chicken.

While I was pouting at the dining room table, I watched another chick make a near escape from the tub. The brooder couldn’t wait any longer and Chris and I got the new brooder set up. Within moments of being in their new space, a couple of them had already taken to zooming across the brooder with wings flapping; they were happy. The new brooder’s biggest downside was the it limited our visibility of the chicks; we can no longer just stand around and watch the chicks. The only space we could find, in the house, was on top of the dryer. The new brooder had to be elevated even higher to extend past the dryer and basically took over a corner of the mudroom (I’ll try to post pictures later, they’d make more sense)

At this point the chicken hunt is over; Chris is putting the mudroom back together and I’m trying to get some work done. Then, Chris comes and tells us that he’s pretty sure he hears the chick in the basement. We rush down there and sure enough, we find the little chick hiding under a random piece of insulation. Alex gets her back in the brooder with her friends (all this time, they’ve seemed to be completely indifferent to her absence) and she struts around taking stock of the new digs. Sigh of relief, I’m so happy that she’s back.

So, we’ve got all 10 chicks again, though we’re now lacking access to our primary form of entertainment of the past week - chick watching. While I’m busy working on some sewing projects, Chris sets up Chick TV — or Dinner Theatre as he calls it ( appropriately so). There is a camera on the chicks with lines feeding into the television, providing us continued access to watching our baby chicks. I must say, this is decadently entertaining and a decent end to a rather stressful day of chicken rearing.

[posted via BlogThis on flickr]

April 1, 2008

Baby Chicks - Day 2

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 11:15 am

Baby Chicks - Day 2

Originally uploaded by xixstar

Last night’s entertainment was watching our brand new baby chicks. Alex was anxious to pick them up, but respected our statement that you should leave them alone for at least 24 hours to reduce the stress of their new environment. Of course, that didn’t stop her from peering over the edge and making them a little nervous anyways.

Of course, Chris and I spent a good long while just standing and watching them chirp and move around. They seem fairly content as far as we can tell. Occasionally, one or two of them seemed determined to pick on the others, either picking at their feathers or poking at their eyes (ouch). We know that pecking each other can be a sign of over crowding, but we’re not convinced we were seeing that behavior and not just some random pecking that happens naturally.

They seem to have a lot of group think going on. One starts pecking at something on the side of the brooder and they all flock over to check it out. Or, one will eat from one of the feeder holes and four more will decide that the one they want to eat from. But, that seems pretty natural to descend on whoever has found something to peck at cause that means food! One funny thing is that they really like white dots — our metal tub has a tiny little white speck that they’ll occasionally come up and peck at (ding, ding, ding) and there is another speck on the cardboard they they like going after too.

I got up once (well, I had to get up anyways) in the middle of the night to check on them and they were sleeping soundly.

Alex is anxious to get home today so that she can finally pick them up. I think she’ll be surprised when she gets home and finds I’m running a little late and she’s gone and left her house key at home. Normally, I’d still make sure she can get in, but her exuberance about the chicks has me happy to make her just wait outside until I get home — for their sake.

[posted via BlogThis on flickr]

March 30, 2008

sunday sustainable

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 9:29 pm

it’s been a crazy busy weekend, seems like we’ve been going here and there non-stop. today we got to meet with some other local folk interested in sustainability issues, yay. also got to talk to someone running the upcoming Sustainable Living fair in Carroll County — look for it in May. I plan to have a table there, which will make that an interesting weekend as I guess we’ll leave PDF at the crack of dawn, hopefully be presentable enough to run a table at the fair, and then return to PDF that evening to catch the ridiculousness of the big burn. :)

March 27, 2008

yay freecycle

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 6:48 pm

i was starting to get nervous that freecycle wasn’t going to come through for me on some clothing needs that are coming up later this year. in fact, I’d finally contacted a friend who does consignment sales to see what she had on hand in order to start buying items. seems thats all i needed to do because the same week I planned to meet with her, I scored three freecycle lots of clothing, just what I needed. I still need some more stuff, but I now have faith that freecycle will indeed meet my needs in this area, yay. :)

March 26, 2008

evil napping behavior

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 5:18 pm

i’m at a point that I basically need a nap every day that I go out somewhere. problem is that I don’t want to take a nap so I put it off and put it off and put it off until I’m then about to collapse because I’m tired — of course, at this point, it’s really too late to nap without throwing the rest of the evening off — but not napping is no longer an option.

in other words, i’m going to bed, sigh.

March 25, 2008

netflix queue?

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 3:22 pm

Did nexflix used to list the movie rating in the queue? I think so — because I thought I used that so that I could always have a family friendly movie on hand for pizza-movie nights.

There is often strange stuff in my queue, it’s nice to have the rating there as the titles mean very little at this point.

March 23, 2008

homeschooling alex

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 8:10 pm

I’ve been coming back to the idea of homeschooling alex again and again. It seems very clear that this is something I want to do, but I also know that it isn’t that easy of a decision to make either. We did the homeschool thing once before and it wasn’t fun. Also, alex and I don’t get along perfectly, or anything remotely close to perfectly, and I know that homeschooling could really tread on that relationship. Also, next fall will involve a whole new family dynamic that I also need to take into consideration.

But, even with all the reasons not to, I still keep coming back to this feeling that it is something that would be a good thing to do for her. I’ve spent many years fully supporting the idea of public school and wanting to be sure my children went to public school, but the reality of the situation has proven time and again to not live up to my expectations of what children should learn. It seems like schools have lost the ability to teach children and are now simply catering to the testing requirements mandated by state and national measures. I don’t see anything in the schools the resembles the educational foundation that I feel children should get. Testing requirements continue to erode the overall curriculum and all that is left is just math and reading and few regurgitated facts.

Add to this continued disappointment in public schools - and the schools we’ve attended are actually decent school comparatively — is the fact that alex really struggles with getting challenging work and being engaged in her school work. Because she rarely completes out-of-class assignments, her teachers have begun taking that as a sign that she can’t do the work. The reality is that the work isn’t engaging and she doesn’t want to do it. Because she doesn’t do her homework and sometimes her school work, her teachers said that they will not allow her to continue in the advanced classes next year. She’s already bored with the work in these classes, I can imagine how much work they’ll get out of her next year when she basically repeats the material she’s doing now.

So, my frustration with the schools is really making me want to try this homeschooling thing again. but, I also can’t shake the fact that this might be a serious challenge. Talking to alex about it isn’t all that encouraging either. On one hand she wants to stay in school so she can go to PE every day — yeah, as though that is a reason to stay in public school — and then she’ll be all over the homeschool idea for un-encouraging reasons, such as wanting to go on field trips her her friend. I try to paint realistic pictures of what homeschooling would be like, but she constantly swings on pendulums in understanding and listening, it seems.

So, for now, it’s still and idea, an idea that should be best left untouched, I feel. But, we may give it a test run over the summer - something alex isn’t excited about, but i want to see that she will do the work involved before trying to do it full-time. Of course, there is still the time issue and the fact that this is probably more than I should take on right now.

Garden: March 23, 2008

Filed under: garden — suzanne henderson @ 2:54 pm

- Our broccoli and unknown seedlings have started on true sets of leaves.
- We planted cabbage, brussesls sprouts, and more broccoli last weekend. We had to put a heating pad under the tray and they are now sprouting.
- This weekend, we started some asparagus seeds and thinned out some more of the unknown seedlings into individual trays.
- We picked up 4 strawberry plants while at Home Depot looking for seedling trays.

We were pretty disturbed to find that Home Depot sells seeds and potting soil, but no seedling trays — uhh!. Guess they aren’t used to people really planning out their gardens and extending their harvest by starting seeds indoors. But, while we were disappointed to come home without the trays, we were happy to have some locally grown strawberry plants in the car with us.

In other news, the plan is to bring home 5 baby chicks next weekend. We’re still a little unsure about what will become the brooder, but we’ve at least cleared out a space for them. I really want to order some 20-week pullets now that I know that means we’ll get fresh eggs sooner, but Chris isn’t as excited about that plan. So, we’ll keep with the starting small plan, which is probably the best plan.

March 20, 2008

clothes on the line

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 3:36 pm

First day of spring and we’re now done using our dryer for the next few seasons. I love hanging clothes out on the line and I love how fresh they smell when I bring them in. I thought that I’d keep doing it during winter, but when a free dryer showed up (we were without one when we bought the house), it became an easy solution when the temps started dropping. It was still a bit chilly hanging stuff out, but I figure the first day of spring is as good a time as any.

March 19, 2008

Updated Bill Pay

Filed under: life — suzanne henderson @ 7:38 pm

SECU has been really hyping up their new, improved online bill payment system. I finally got a chance to check it out and can’t see anything worth cheering about. Not sure if it’s cause they’re credit-union-small-beans or if they just know nothing about online bill payment, but they seem rather clueless about how to make online banking a positive and powerful experience. I don’t really mind the home-grown feel to their online banking, it does get the job done, but I had high hopes that they were finally implementing a sophisticated system — guess I’ll just have to be patient for another 5 years in hopes that by then they’ll have finally crossed the threshold of online banking I found with other banks almost 10 years ago.