The Great Chicken Massacre of 2015

Sigh.  Yesterday was a really hard day.  I didn’t share the tragic event (not sarcasm) because I wasn’t sure if it was something to share.  But it happened and it sucked and it relates to my circle of life posting and to my life as a parent.

We shall refer to this event as The Great Chicken Massacre of 2015.  (Great as in large and not awesome.)

Yesterday morning I went out to open up our chicken coop and to let our eight chickens out for their day.  It was pretty quiet.  That’s unusual.  I don’t get up as early as chickens do and they are usually not happy about that.  I opened the door and only two flew out – Raptor and Savage.  (Yes, they all have names courtesy of the children)

It took me a minute to figure out what the hell had happened.  I even poked one of the chickens to wake it up.  Chickens don’t lay down to sleep.  Sometimes we just don’t want to believe what we are seeing.  Two alive.  Two dead.  Two missing.  Two injured beyond the possibility of recovery.

I hate raccoons.  I understand the whole circle of life thing.  I understand that chickens will be chickens and raccoons just gotta be raccoons.  I hate them.  I’ll never understand killing for killing sake.  Just because.  Not for hunger.  Not out of need.  Just because you can.

By the way, the pacifist in me was quashed by the maternal, protective instinct in me.  Said raccoon has gone wherever dead raccoons go.  Around here it’s an open field away from the house where he can become part of the freaking circle of life and be buzzard breakfast.

The coop has been fortified.  Chickens have short memories.  The surviving two are no longer looking for the rest of the flock.

And, after having to explain the whole mess to my twelve year old who spends time reading to, talking to and hanging out with her birds, we ended up with 15 chicks.  In the house.  At the beginning of winter.  Chicks who won’t be able to go outside to live for months.  Chicks that chirp – all the time.  Chicks that eat all the time.  Chicks that poop even more than they chirp and eat.  Chicks that have to be under a warming light that warms up said poop.  Probably sufficient explanation of the insanity of getting chicks in November.

They are really, really cute though.  The naming process has begun. I have no idea how the kids can tell them apart to know which is which.  Chickens aren’t very good at responding to their name when called so it’s probably a mute point.  Come to think of it, kids aren’t very good at responding to their names and we name them.

On the decluttering front for today:

  1. 3 shirts that do nothing to make me look like a supermodel.  (I’m aware that none of my shirts have the ability to make that happen, but these three are serious fails)
  2. an inflatable cowboy costume that includes a horse that you appear to be riding on.  No explanation for the declutter really needed.
  3. a sweater that has more pills than my medicine cabinet
  4. a fitted sheet.  I already have two sets and although I can fold a fitted sheet (thanks Mom), I don’t want to so I just wash ’em and put them right back on
  5. an oscillating fan that doesn’t oscillate.  It just sits in one place and clicks incessantly as it tries to move.  Annoying to say the least.

As I read back over this list, I wonder why I ever kept these things to begin with.  Sometimes I have no words.

And if you are better at math than I am – 6 chickens gone and 15 coming in means that I actually now have more today than yesterday.  I’m coming to realize that the numbers aren’t so important.  It’s having only what you need and want that counts.

New

A new month!  A new week!  Yea for new beginnings.  The washer is washing, the dryer is drying.  The dishes are…waiting.  And, although there is no picture, stuff left the house yesterday.  A mouse pad, some worn-out undies that I wouldn’t want to be wearing in a car accident, boxes of old business documents, a Halloween decoration that never decorated this Halloween, and more than 500 emails.  I know that the emails are not technically things, but they were most definitely clutter. In working through the email I also unsubscribed to a lot.  That will help my inbox stay more relevant and hopefully help me keep up.

And there was fun around here yesterday.  This is what happens when you have a college senior home for the weekend who is tired of being in school and is trying to avoid writing one of several papers due early in the week.  She talks her little sister into this:IMAG1100 (1)IMAG1104Yep, they painted some of our chickens’ “toenails”.  If you aren’t familiar with chickens, they definitely have personalities and expressive faces.  This one’s expression is not saying, “I am feeling glamorous and enjoying this experience immensely.”IMAG1105

The best news of the day?  Our first egg.  We’ve been anxiously waiting and checking for weeks now. It’s finally here.  You have to raise chickens to understand the excitement of this moment.  It’s just one.  It’s small, but it’s a start.  This is as close to living off the land as I’m likely to get.  I love my chickens!

Now, I’m off to live another day.  Cleaning, teaching, loving, de-cluttering, art-making, smiling, struggling, hugging, washing, and dealing with each challenge as it comes along.

It’s going to be a good day.

Not Complaining

Another quiet Sunday.

The only other two occupants of the house are my son and his best friend (home from college).  They pulled an all-nighter on the computer and are now gently snoring under piles of blankets.  What a good feeling.  I’ve missed having the two of them together on the weekend.  Kids grow up and we can’t go back, but we can have brief interludes of the old days every now and again.  Whenever they wake up, I’ll cook breakfast and hold on to the memory – of today and all the other breakfast meals we have shared.

It’s raining and I’m not complaining.  We really do need the rain.  I choose to live here – in the land of all or nothing.  Drought or flood.  That’s just the way it is.  My chickens on the other hand – they are complaining.  They’ve had enough of the rain, the drips, the wind and the chill.  We’ve hooked up the warming light for them.  They venture out of a snack, squawk, ruffle their feathers and huddle back together under the warmth of the light in the coop.  They are so cranky that they are refusing to cooperate and take a decent photo.  Usually they smile and “ham” it up for the camera.  Not today.

IMAG1057

And the focus of the day.  The studio…

IMAG1055 (1)IMAG1054Sigh…  I know.  It’s more of a storage room right now.  Storage for materials, supplies, possibilities, and ideas.  Those things are important to have, but basically useless without a workable environment to utilize them.  I’d like to be making art, but first I’d better make room.

No doubt, I will find five things to declutter from this space today.  Wish me luck!

The Great Escape

The wildlife animal adventures continue here at Faith Acre.  Jiminy and Mulan have escaped.

Last Friday, we went to Homeschool Day at the Austin Zoo.  One of the presentations was by a group promoting crickets as an excellent protein and sustainable food source. Cricket flour granola anyone?  I try to be open-minded.  I did really try to sample the granola.  I love pecans and oatmeal and other “normal” granola ingredients.  Just couldn’t do it.  I really did try.

Youngest daughter took the opportunity to use her newly built cricket habitat (yogurt container with screened lid) to rescue two crickets from certain death.  They have been happily residing in her room along with Indigo the bunny.

They aren’t the big ugly black crickets we have running wild here naturally.  Those are loud and raucous and remind me of grackles or crows or other large black unattractive birds.  Jiminy and Mulan are small, delicate and a light brown.  As crickets go, they are kinda cute.  There chirp isn’t as obnoxious either.  My daughter says she finds it soothing.

Apparently, crickets can chew through screen. They have flown the metaphorical coop.  They are somewhere in our home.  We can hear one of them and the hunt is on.  One is apparently whatever sex doesn’t chirp.  I can see a future insect study in my daughter’s homeschooling future.

My son suggested that we bring the chickens into the house to search for the missing duo.  Hmmmm.  Can’t imagine what could go wrong with that scenario.  Two crickets, eight chickens, a basset, a bagel, and a rabbit under one roof?

I’m going to say no to that idea.

At least my sense of humor is returning.

UPDATE:  The chirping cricket has been found.  I don’t know if it is Jiminy or Mulan.  One cricket looks pretty much like any other to me.  A quick search on the internet tells me that we have found the male. I’m open-minded.  Still don’t know if its Jiminy or Mulan.  I don’t think cricket names need to be gender specific.  Now, my daughter is worried about them being lonely apart.  She is patiently explaining the folly of escape.  In her words:  “pesky cricket”

Progress!

Being normal is hard work –  today it’s not the “holding it all together” kind of work, but actual physical labor.

I’m definitely feeling better and have been toiling in the great outdoors.  Our yard/land is not the worst looking in the neighborhood, but it’s not the best either.  I’m not trying to win “yard of the month”, but I definitely have improvement written in on my list.

When we moved our home in we didn’t have them clear the whole lot.  I thought I would prefer a slightly natural look.  Slightly natural around here quickly turns into overgrown and a fire hazard.  We’ve had a really wet spring, but most years we have to be wary of wildfires.  I’m hoping to eventually get all the cedars and cactus cleared off and our beautiful oaks trimmed up.  That takes more money, skill, and effort than I’m capable of so right now I’m working on mowing down the tall grass, shrubs and grape vines.  Yesterday we hauled off the last of the big scrap metal pile and earned $50 dollars.  The big mess on the side of the house is gone.  I mowed the weeds down today and burned a huge pile of debris.

So much progress – and a lot more to do.  But, it already looks so much better.

The chicks have been moved outdoors so all twelve are scratching around and being happy chickens.  The oldest ones are transitioning to scratch grain instead of starter feed.  We are supplementing with kitchen and yard scraps.  The coop is right next to the compost piles and garden so we have a great little eco-system going.  A great combination of clippings, scraps, food waste, manure and egg production.  Well, no actual eggs yet, but we’re getting there!

Yard work this morning.  Errands with my daughter this afternoon and a bit of de-cluttering thrown in for good measure.

One of my readers suggested that there might be a bit of fear involved in my change plan and strategy.  Fear of what change might bring and look like in my life.  I have definitely been giving that some thought and am including it in my future plans for decluttering and simplifying.

I do struggle with change a lot.  I’m going to start thinking through what might change for the better if I get rid of something…for example, dishes.  We have a lot of guest/family we share meals with and that’s definitely important to me, but the dirty dishes are always out of control around here.  That doesn’t promote simplicity at all when you can’t easily prepare a healthy meal because of the mess.

What would it look like to only have the dishes we need for the standard number of folks around the table – 5 family almost always here and 4 sometimes family here.  9 plates, bowls, etc.  Any folks over that number and we switch to paper.  I know it’s not environmentally friendly, but it might be an equitable trade-off for right now.  The paper plates would be stored seperately and we would encourage each other to wash a dish when you need one.  A no-brainer, I know, but I seem to be challenged when it comes to the obvious stuff.

I think it all comes down to peeling off layers of belongings.  The change is slow, but I just gotta keep trying.  One day it seems as if I’ve totally gotten rid of everything I can in an area. Then a bit later I  re-evaluate and assess and clear out some more.

Small steps equal progress towards the home and life I hope for…

What to do?

What do you do at Faithacre on a sunny afternoon when the rain finally stops for a bit…and you get a great deal on a re-conditioned lawn mower?

Well, you start mowing down the knee-high grass that’s taken over your over an acre yard…

and you realize that the grasshoppers are thriving in the rain and wild grass…

and you think…hmmm, I have twelve chicks that are eating me out of house and home…

and you know that if you could let the chicks loose they would have a lot of fun chasing down those grasshoppers (but you can’t because they aren’t old enough to fend for themselves yet and they would be impossible to catch again…

so, you and your kids run around like crazy people catching grasshoppers (some might even have screamed when they touched the grasshoppers at first)…IMAG0843

and then you throw the grasshoppers into the chicken coop…

and settle down to watch the show!IMAG0853

Now, the chickens run up to greet me when I go to their coop.  I know they just want the grasshoppers, but I’m going to pretend they like me.

And, you have the satisfaction of practicing ecologically sound insect control, getting exercise and saving money – all at the same time.