Friday, March 15, 2013

Thoughts from Two Little Girls

When life starts to feel too complicated - and it often does - I would be wise to stop for awhile and listen to my children. They have mastered the art of simplicity in life, in appreciating what is there and making the most of it. Sometimes I think they have more worldly wisdom than I do, simply because they have not been so affected by the world.

As we were driving home one night at sunset, The Oldest piped up, "I'm imagining my honeymoon. Me and my husband will be driving toward the sunset, in a convertible." Where will they go? "Um... I think we'll go to the lake and go fishing. And then we'll catch crawdads, and then we'll make a crawdad pie for our honeymoon dinner."

(Nevermind the fact that I've never suggested we catch and eat crawdads... for such a big thing to be dreaming about, it is so beautiful in it's simplicity!)

And I must share this letter, from Littlest One to The Daddy while he was away at work. It outlines the very most important things of her day.

"I love you and I miss you.
I rode my bike. I got ice cream. I loved my day and I went out and fed with Mom. I went with a walk down to the mailbox with Mom, Chloe, Jussie, Libby, and Phillip and Aurora. And it was so fun that I just loved it. I climbed a juniper berry tree and Mr. Bear's tree. And we're gonna think of makin' a tree house. And I went through Cactus Canyon with Chloe. Cactus Canyon has rocks and cactus. It's on the hill. And I had nachos cheese with Mom. And Old Grandma Tree is doing fine. And Mr. Bear's Tree is doin' fine. Mrs. Squirrel's Tree is doing fine, too. Our tree is Grandma Tree."

How often do we stop to listen to our children when they tell us what meant the most to them that day? Trees and ice cream and baby goats top her list of Important Events in the day. It doesn't take anything fancy to please her, just the freedom to roam and explore and appreciate what is there.

Sounds like a pretty good life lesson, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Little Bits of Spring

 When we lived in the Big City, spring just sort of appeared one day each year. I woke up sneezing and sniffling and feeling like my head would explode, and looked outside. It seemed as though suddenly every tree had leaf buds, bulbs were poking up through the ground after their winter sleep, and Two Little Girls were playing out in the sunshine, barefoot on the grass.

Life is much different up here in the mountains - spring comes on at a much slower rate. While I'm certainly ready for green plants and bare feet, it's nice to feel that I'm easing into it all a little bit.

We haven't seen grass since the first big snow in early December. But as the temperatures begin to warm a little more each day, bits of snow are starting to melt off, revealing the long-forgotten yard that surrounds our home, the bits of grass that the horses are so content to nibble... and lots and lots of mud.

And with the (ever so slow) coming of spring comes the Spring Time Change. I love this day. I love feeling like I've got more time in the evenings to enjoy myself outdoors, where my frazzled homeschool- mom spirit gets to breathe deeply and relax.

The poor goats have been locked in the barn nearly all winter. Every so often I would feel terrible about this, and would open the doors wide, encouraging them to go out and get some fresh air. They would walk to the edge of the barn door, realize the ground was covered in snow to their knees, and would retreat right back to the dry comfort of their stall.

Now that the ground is covered instead with knee-deep mud, they are at least willing to venture out for a moment or two, gingerly picking their way through the corral to nibble at stray bits of grass, the babies bounding around between fence railings, slipping and sliding in the mud and having a grand time.

Since I had time after dinner the other night, and the sun was still out, I decided a walk was in order. Justice is wonderful on a lead rope. And wherever she goes, Liberty and the babies will follow. So off we went toward the yard by the house, which is still mostly snow covered, but less muddy.

Justice went right to work - she knows how to earn her keep. She began the slow and careful process of mowing the new grass and edging the yard. As far as yard tools go, she's excellent - she's quiet, she doesn't require gas, and she even fertilizes as she works. And then she converts the grass clippings into milk. Good goatie-girl.

The babies had a tremendous time racing up the hill and then bounding back down, tripping and tumbling when their feet sank in the deep snow and getting up and racing on. One can't help but giggle when watching baby goats. They provide all the entertainment anyone could ever need.

When they were all tuckered out from their jaunts up and down the snowy hill, Liberty taught them to prune dogwood bushes.

Before much longer, the goats will be confined to the back side of the property, where they won't be able to prune (read: destroy) plants and bushes. But right now I don't mind... and they don't, either.

Both babies are growing at a steady, healthy rate, and are just as friendly as can be. Little Aurora still begs for attention and cuddles every time we go to the barn... which of course right now is adorable, but will likely become a problem with she is a 150 pound goat jumping up on her humans to try to cuddle.

And Phillip is growing big and strong, playful as ever. I can't help but look at him and realize how meaty he is becoming. The Oldest doesn't like it when I mention this fact.

It's wonderful to have this evening time outside, when I'm not racing the sunset to get barn chores done. Spring is a time to enjoy these sweet animals I've been blessed with, and to take a few moments to breathe in the evening. I'm glad for those moments, especially with our busiest season on the horizon.

Happy Spring, everyone. Be sure to take time to enjoy it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

And the rest of the new chicks on the block..

We visited a hatchery today. We drove two hours to get there and called it a homeschool field trip. I'm pretty sure they learned some things. Definitely biology... maybe history, and definitely math. Plus some social skills. Yeah, I think we can call it school.

The Oldest is doing poultry for 4H this year. She needed some chickens to show, and wanted some breeds a little different than what the feed stores were offering. This guy had just what we were looking for, and was full of information about each breed. He walked the girls around and told them about each and every chick he had, and helped us pick out just the right ones.

 And so, in no particular order, I introduce our newest chicks. Most of them are worthless as far as egg production goes. Some will likely be roosters, as most fancy breeds are straight run (meaning they haven't been sexed.) But they're cute, and they're fun, so we'll enjoy them.

 If you've read my previous post, you've already met Geraldine the turken. I'm hoping she grows on me. She's kind of like a train wreck... you just can't help but stare.
 This is Mulan, a Japanese bantam. (Note: We have given them all female names, as if somehow this makes them more likely to be hens. That's how we ended up with a rooster named Tinkerbell last year.)
 Marian, a Blue Splash Old English Bantam. (Named after Maid Marian, from Robin Hood. Should she begin to crow, her name will be changed to Robin Hood.)
This is Comet, a White Cochin Bantam. (Yes, we got a lot of banties. They are easier for kids to handle, and The Oldest will have to be showing them all at fair.)

 A Light Brahma, as yet unnamed.

And Cupid, the Cuckoo Marans. 

 Of course, I couldn't leave without picking out a few of my own. This is Betty Blue, the Blue Cochin Bantam. I picked her because Cochins are known to be broody, and I'm all about having a broody hen do the work of raising chicks. And I really like blue chickens - it seems novel.

And Phronsie, a Partridge Cochin. (Bonus points to anyone who can tell me where that name came from!)

I also got my own Cuckoo Marans, named Jemima. Marans are known for laying eggs in a deep, chocolatey brown color, something we don't already have so it sounded fun.

These, along with the Blue Silkie and the Mille Fleur bantams that were added to our flock a week or so ago, and we should be set for chicks this year. We're looking forward to seeing what they look like as they grow up - should be a pretty flock when all is said and done!

So Ugly It's Cute?

I have always assumed every baby animal is adorable.

I was wrong.

Truly, there is nothing uglier than this:
A turken. It's a true chicken, though it has a naked neck that makes it look more like a turkey vulture. Or like a turkey vulture mated with a chicken. Or something. Something entirely unnatural, and downright creepy.

Regardless, The Oldest is positively in love with her turken, whom she has named Geraldine. 
 The sign at the hatchery said, "A neck only a mother could love." They weren't joking. But from all I've read about these ugly creatures, they sound like wonderful and very useful pets, great egg layers with fantastic personalities. And no, Geraldine will never grow neck feathers. She will otherwise grow to look like a chicken, but will always have that bare neck.

The Oldest is sure some of you will tell her how adorable her turken is. I figured you'd all have nightmares. So what's the verdict?