Saturday, April 19, 2014

# 509 - Chicken Evolution, City to Country

Over three years ago, I got chickens for the first time. We lived in the suburbs outside of Houston, Texas and bought six chicks that would reside in our backyard.

I had NEVER been around chickens. Well, when I was a teenager, I had a boy who liked me buy an "Easter" chick for me that was dyed pink --- sweet at the time, but now it is a horrible thing to look back upon. I had NO IDEA how to care for a chicken, but it survived. Eventually, as it grew larger, I had to give it to someone who I thought would treat it like a pet, but those people ended up butchering that chicken and they ATE IT FOR DINNER.

This was a learning experience.

Anyway, as an adult and more fully aware of how to take care of other living creatures, I was delighted to bring my six chicks home to grow big and strong in my master bathroom garden tub.


No joke. For a couple of weeks, they lived in my bathroom lined with newspaper and hay. Eventually, they became strong enough to be able to hop out, so Sgt. Dave made a nice container for them to live in until they were able to move outdoors.

I scheduled "play-dates" outside with the chicks, sitting on the grass with them in the backyard as they ate from my hand and scratched the grass.

Soon, they were able to move outside. They made a new home in the chicken tractor/coop that Sgt. Dave built for them. And I look back upon this time in my marriage and cringe because we were at that 25 year itch...the only thing we had in common at that point...were chickens. Today, it makes me laugh.

Maybe I should've named this post, "Chickens saved my marriage!"


Anyway, in that first flock, we ended up with two roosters that were purchased by mistake. We had not wanted roosters, but we ended up with two cock-a-doodles that were soon too loud to keep in a backyard city district.

We gave them to a local farmer. By "gave" I mean...Sgt. Dave and I literally drove to this farmer's open chicken range, in the cover of darkness, and we told the roosters to go find a girlfriend!

I am coaxing the roosters to head over to the gals.

Talk about an experience, that was one of the most interesting experiences of my life.

Then, Karma seemed to visit me as my youngest daughter Stefie phoned me in a slight panic to let me know a friend of hers had just found two tiny chicks in her garage...Easter weekend.

Stefie helping to check for eggs.

Obviously, they were an Easter gift that the recipients "conveniently" let get away.

I took in those two chicks. One was attacked by Belle the Yorkie and lost her top beak, so I hand fed that chicken for two years and she was beautiful. Both of those chickens were an awesome addition to our flock.

Seeing that our farming skills were not so terrible...we'd not lost one chicken due to starvation...Sgt. Dave and I decided to do the opposite of the Beverly Hillbillies. With LESS money that we had been accustomed to, we sold the house in the city, loaded up and moved to the country with nothing more than an RV to move into for the next year.

We no longer have a small backyard in the suburbs.

Talk about a risk. We were truly ready for a change in our lives, and we got it.

We moved to the acreage we'd owned in Texas for about 15 years.

My in-laws are on a long visit, getting the deck built and
enjoying the nice night in the country.

I towed the trailer that had the chicken coop strapped to it with a special-designed cage that held the six chickens for the near two-hour trip to our land from our old house. We all survived, intact.

Everyone in the area of our acreage said our chickens wouldn't survive three weeks out here due to the heavy forest and prolific numbers of predators.

Well, they survived, for eight months. And then, some predator...I don't know what...killed my beloved chickens that were also fantastic laying hens.

I was the one to discover the carnage. And I am not a violent type of person, but I wanted to kill that predator on the spot.

The views after I came home and the moment the one remaining
chicken the predator didn't kill came running toward me.

In fact, I got the .22 and walked the acreage, looking for it. But, it was too late. My daytime free-ranging chickens were massacred. Except for one survivor. Sadly, about three weeks later, the predator came back and finished the job. I literally sat and cried.

The remains of my chickens on an obvious battlefield where the
struggle took place. It appears they did fight, but the predator
was too capable of taking their lives.

For over three years I had enjoyed those chickens. For over three years I had not had to buy eggs at the grocery store. For three years I had enjoyed my chicken's antics and had delighted in hand feeding "Beaker."

The next day, my husband took me to town for lunch, being a sweetheart to lift my spirits. Then, he took me to the local feed store and by the end of the day, I had twenty chicks of various varieties!

It's been a couple of months now and all twenty chicks are healthy and growing strong! Soon, I will have eggs coming out of my ears! I never thought I would end up to be a chicken farmer!

Then, this past week, both of my grown daughters have enjoyed visiting us and each wanted to go to the feed store to pick out their OWN chickens. So, I got seven more. Now, I have 27 chickens.


We've not yet let these chickens free-range, and I'm scared to do so, for multiple reasons. I know that predator still lurks about, watching and waiting. Finding my chickens dead is not something I want to go through again, so they remain in the open chicken tractor, happy to scratch the earth, to be in nature and to gobble up their daily feed allowance that is multiplying as they grow bigger. They snuggle inside the chicken coop at night, but will soon need more room.

The seven new chicks are enjoying their extra-protective cage with a heat lamp. Soon though they will join the larger chicks.

My daughters picked out Bantams, which are adorable chickens...they lay small eggs and are sweet birds. I look forward to watching them grow.

Since I will soon have more eggs in one day that would take us one month to eat, I am going to either join a local farmer's coop or start one. It's another step toward fully enjoying our beautiful life in the country.

But in the meantime, Lord have Mercy! I have TWENTY-SEVEN CHICKENS?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

# 508 - Almost One Year in the RV: Country Life

Construction update: We have met with our loan officer. However, building on raw acreage brings an inordinate level of difficulty to the building process. But, we are up for the challenge.

Right now, I am pressed to prepare a rather substantial proposal-construction package for us to finish the loan process and to get closed on our construction loan so we can start building.

We are now about 35 days shy of living on our acreage, in an RV, for one year! Can you believe it?

The first barn structure on our acreage.

From the beginning, we knew that we would likely wait one year before starting the building process, mostly because we wanted to actually live on the land throughout one year and through changing seasons before building.

I am thankful we decided to be patient.

Our first week in the country.
A few months later.
Loving those summer nights in the country!
The moon and stars suddenly have become visible, in a new way.

That patience has been invaluable in teaching us exactly how our land responds to different weather conditions. That has prompted us to build on the opposite side of our acreage, a couple of acres away from the RV site we've enjoyed for almost 11 months.

Lately, my oldest daughter, Heather, has been enjoying time here in the country, with her daughter. Heather is introducing her daughter (my first grand-child) to our family acreage in the country environment of the Big Thicket...we are also located in a part of Texas dubbed "The Piney Woods." My beautiful daughter is traveling back and forth from the Fort Worth area to the Livingston area to spend extra time with us and to help me coordinate efforts to build our next home.

Since Heather's husband owns a commercial construction business, they are going to help review the sub-contractor's bids and make sure things are on track in ways that I probably would not think about.

Heather, Coraline and Henry. Lol.

The really great part of all of this is that Heather and her husband own a nice, roomy fifth wheel that has been set up next to ours for visits as we go through these challenging months ahead.

A bonus of being able to spend extra time with Heather has been our time sewing together! We gave Heather a very nice sewing machine a couple of years ago, and we've been in this tight RV space USING that sewing machine to make the most awesome items for babies and children to add to Heather's online boutique for babies and children.

Bandana Bibs

Heather is extremely creative, so I am happy to teach my daughter some of my sewing skills that had also been used during her make adorable clothes for Heather and her sissy, along with other unique things!

My daughters wearing dresses I made
for them.
And now, my grand-goodie is getting to wear things that her mommy makes for her!

Sleepy Coraline still enjoying her mom and Nana picking out fabrics.

To check out Heather's work, check out the Facebook page below and feel free to "LIKE" it and give a shout out that you got the map to her page from her old momma!

As for my sweet grand-baby Coraline, she absolutely loves the forest environment. Once she is outside, she is literally fixated on a tree blowing in the wind, then she shifts her view to a bird at the feeder and is mesmerized, then she sees a is never boring.

She's in her 7th month in this world outside of comfy womb-service, and she is a smart fart! It won't be long until her mom sees that baby RUNNING here and there, especially because she already pulls up onto furniture and free stands. Since Heather and her sister Stefie were walking by 8 months of age, I am sure Coraline will be walking very soon as well.

Oh Lord. We better get that house built so that our growing family can have the desperately needed extra room to move around!

So, even with all the chaos that constantly surrounds our busy lives, I've been enjoying my special time with Coraline and Heather.

My daughter and grand-daughter. Heather & Coraline.

I am 45 years old; Coraline is my first grand-baby and truly one of the greatest joys in my life. It was worth waiting 45 years to enjoy the treasure of a grand-baby!

Let's just hope it won't take another 45 years to build our house in the country!

Friday, April 11, 2014

# 507 - Country Life in an RV - Nearing an End!

Ohhhh...Country life during this time of year is even better than I imagined. The weather has, for the most part, been delightful. We love being outdoors and savoring the beauty of our acreage.

Can you believe that we've been in the country, in "camping-mode" for almost one year? I cannot believe time has passed by so quickly!

Good thing is, we have met with our loan officer for our home to be built, but it will probably take until around June to get all the paperwork together for submission. We have to have the specs of the house finished and all the bids attached for every sub-contractor needed to construct our new home in the country. That is taking a LOT of work!

And, you blog buddies already know one of the reasons for the indecisiveness, which is now becoming more narrowed. I now realize we need a 1 1/2 story home with extra bedrooms upstairs and that's for another blog post, but it is important. Of course, I will be looking forward for your feedback!

Over the past few weeks though, we have had fun. I learned to load the .22 rifles.

Our oldest daughter and her husband had their huge fifth wheel pulled out here by a dear friend so that Heather and my first grand-daughter, Coraline, can be here whenever they want.

Grand-Daughter Coraline during her time with me, her Nana!

Heather is helping me in a HUGE WAY to finish the development of our architectural plans and to get prepared to build a house in a more organized fashion. Heather is EXTREMELY detailed oriented and no small matter will go unnoticed in her presence.

I have enjoyed having my oldest child and my grand-child out here in the country more than can be expressed.
At our local Feed Store with my daughter and grand-daughter.

Of course, Heather is like me, her mom...we step into the feed store, she hears the chicks and gets chick-struck. We end up adding three more chicks to our flock of twenty.

And these chicks have names...Penguin, Copper and Calico.
For Heather's daughter, of course, because Heather doesn't act like
an excited little kid when she sees sweet baby chicks. Oh Nooo!

Then, my youngest daughter, Stefie, calls me and says, "Hey! What about me? I want to get some chicks!"

Oh Lord, go ahead. Why not make our flock an even THIRTY!?

Since their own family are business-owners, lots of travel is always on their schedule, and we are so happy to be a lay-over station for whenever they want to soak up some more country life!
Heather, Coraline and me enjoying dinner in downtown Livingston.

I've been spoiled by Heather...she's been cooking for us. I guess Heather and I spoil each other because I get to play with the baby and free the young mom's arms, which she then uses to spoil me with a delicious meal! It's a beautiful plan between a mother, daughter and grand-daughter!

Farm-raised pork from my son-in-law's family's farm, made into
meatballs with Parmesan and other great ingredients, browned
to perfection and served on toasted French bread with sesame seeds
and with freshly grated Parmesan. So delicious!

And Pappy is happier that a dog with a real bone as he holds his grandbaby.

And Gracie the puppy found in the forest has turned out to be such a wonderful dog. Getting through the puppy stages has been difficult, but she's a sweetheart and will also be a great guard dog. Already, she is almost six months old and has been killing gophers/moles on the property. It's disgusting.

She digs and digs, then traps them, kills them, and plays with their carcasses for a long time --- flinging them into the air to catch them and so on. Yuk. Gracie is my first country's a new experience, let me tell you.

Anyway, the past couple of weeks have been more excited than I can express. We are making strides toward building that makes me feel as if I am ALMOST breaking into a full run. Almost.

For now, I am enjoying our current living conditions because the hardships that have come with living in an RV for this year will soon be over. I would NEVER change this experience for anything.

Well, I might have bought the de-humidifier a LOT sooner, but other than that, I'm doing great and having the time of my life!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

# 506 - Paying Attention to the Beauty

My long-time readers already know that my 7-year-old niece, Shaye, has a very special place in my heart. My sister was in the middle of her first pregnancy when our mother passed away from breast cancer. Shaye was a precious gift to all of us. That little baby helped us heal from the loss of our mother at only 57 years of age.

My mom is in the wheelchair...this was about four months before
she died. At my sister's wedding.

Life bring us suffering, but we must create our own missions and goals in life, which should include savoring the best things around us, the FREE things. We must treasure and appreciate the parts of life that are bigger than our problems for that is where we find our hope to be restored.

In the year of Shaye's birth, I experienced a year of massive of losing my mom, the next of gaining a special niece, my oldest left for college and soon house was destroyed by Hurricane Ike as my youngest daughter began her Senior Year in high-school and that was followed with a serious medical situation due to a broken neck that would need a double-spine surgery to somewhat repair the damage and then my youngest daughter was in a bad car accident that gave her a serious head injury and a broken back...more of a spinal crush/breakage. So, when someone who has been through a lot tells you to savor the best in life, then it might be good advice because those kind of people have truly learned to embrace tactics to overcome insurmountable difficulties.

Life's challenges can sometimes try to beat you over the head.

My Sissy with her daughter, Shaye, about two years old here.

But, the healing moments in my life have been more powerful than the destructive moments. Even now, those healing moments keep coming. This time of year is a bit difficult because the anniversary of my mom's passing is on March 31st. This is the time of year when I often can't help reflecting on memories that I wish to have lived without, but they are a part of me.

However, my Spring Break visit with Shaye came just in time for us to share joy with one another...and for me to remember the beauty my mother shared with all of us. My mom loved her family more than she loved herself, and I try to pass on a little bit of that kind of powerful love to Shaye.

Shaye getting to be in the barn with the chickens. She LOVES
having chickens in her life and being able to tell her friends about them.

Shaye spent four days of her Spring Break with us in the country. We treasure our time with Shaye. But, another bonus to our regular visits with Shaye has been that she gets a front-seat during our major transition from city life to country life.

In fact, over the past couple of months, her second-grade class has been studying different kinds of lifestyles with environments...comparing city life with suburban life and rural life. She told me that she was very happy to be able to tell the class that she has family who lives in the rural country and has a private road as long has her city street lined with houses. She told them about helping out with the chickens, being able to go on hikes through the woods and that she can really see the stars at night without all the city lights blocking their view.

Shaye is blessed to experience both country life and city life. She is already learning how to appreciate and SAVOR beauty in nature and to value the small "free" things because they really aren't so small.

Most often, the things with a "big" price-tag are the most worthless items in our life. They are great distractions, but we cannot let our value system become screwed up. Today's kids need to be taught these lessons.

And as much as I complain about dirt and mud...I must say that I also love it. I just don't like our vehicles being stuck in it or having it tracked inside our residence, but it sure is fun to play in.

And I am so happy that my Sissy does her best to encourage time with her Aunt, with me. I did the same with my daughters to be close to my sister...we sisters share our love for our children; we make a conscious effort to do the right thing for Shaye, to give her a strong support system, especially since she does not have a maternal grandmother.

Sometimes, when I get sad thinking of how Shaye never met her grandma, I remember the moments when the room would be silent, mom would be lying in her bed, very sick, but she'd lay a hand on Robin's pregnant belly as tears rolled down all of our cheeks. So, in a sense, she did meet Shaye...our mom felt her grandbaby growing strong; she shared a room with her unborn grandchild, and I know the most important connections possible were made during those unforgettable touches.

That baby lay comfortably curled and protected in my sissy's belly as we mourned one of the greatest losses we would personally know...the loss of our mother. So now, I want to jump for joy when I see Shaye growing up and displaying so many traits that my mother had.

I love seeing Shaye in the photo below, she is trying to sweetly coax a chick her direction as I try to contain the joy threatening to burst out of me while listening to Shaye's precious voice, "Come here baby, come to me..." she says to the chick.

I love these moments.

And I can see that the beauty in life can be overwhelming. We need it, but some people refuse to recognize it because they need to stay in their place of unhappiness. However, we need to appreciate the beauty that life provides because it can help blanket the ugliness that is always lurking. If we don't stop to look for the beauty or we don't appreciate it...then, it will pass us up or be wasted upon us.

Shaye's first trip to a Feed Store; here she gets to see the chicks.

Don't waste the beauty in nature that is everywhere...soak it in and no matter what has happened in your life or in someone else's life, you need to not feel guilty about savoring moments of joy that nature provides as a FREE GIFT! To waste those gifts would be wrong. A choice to ignore the best and to focus on the worst is not much of a choice, so enjoy the little things, the big things and all in between!

I refuse to let life make me bitter. When all the family and friends are gone and Sgt. Dave is bogged down with work to keep him busy, I might be alone, but I am NEVER lonely. I LOVE to LOVE all that nature has to offer...from the crunch of the leaves under my feet to the bloom of a wild-flower, I love it all. Well, I don't much like the huge bumble bee that chases me in a territorial rage, but I do appreciate the view as I run the other direction. Get it?

Beauty exists; joy is ready to be experienced; love is everywhere...make it yours and help to spread it around, someone else might need to be reminded to appreciate the good in life!