Monday, June 29, 2015

Five Good and Fair Things

Watch your zukes! That is my gardening motto for as long as we are growing zucchini. This is the first year we've had an actual bounty of zucchini. In years past, we've had fair success to nothing in growing zucchini, so I think I am way out of practice about just how wildly they will grow, when left alone for too long. I thought I was being generous when I gave the hens the big zuke I found, but when I went back to the garden, I found loads more... about 25 lbs worth. These will be firm and seedy, but there are recipes for dealing with them, and I've made some friends sharing these beauties. Apples, and tomatoes, too! We made grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced apples, and we've been snacking on them, sharing them, but I think we are going to need to bake pies, soon.

Last baile for Ballet Folklorico! Maria and her friends made three appearances at the County Fair, and I think this last one was the best. They've had experience and more rehearsals, and the routine is getting into a groove. Best of all though... it was overcast and a wonderful ocean breeze was blowing through this new venue. Everyone was able to stay cooler, more comfortable... what a relief. Another thing to add to the pleasure was being joined by Robin and her mother, and Celine! I loved seeing Maria's smile light up with extra wattage when she saw us waving to her!

We made a special effort to hang out after the dancing, so we could catch some sights, and indulge in special treats. Roast corn with chile? Sí, por favor! Even a bag of cotton candy, then a ride on the giant ferris wheel, which has been beckoning to Maria all month! She loved it, of course. The crowds had to have been record-breaking, but we managed to see a few farm animals.

The people watching was exceptional, and seeing the robots was thrilling, too! Hard to believe it's been four years since we were at the Fair for robotics, and our favorite FIRST teams, like FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, and those Midnight Mechanics from The Preuss School. Proud and excited to see that first place ribbon on Marie Antoinette. Looks like Team Paradox is doing better than ever!

Good Things...

1. Our refrigerator died. And we scrambled to manage all the perishable food damages... even going so far as to bake 24 croissants! Duty calls. Nothing good in all of this, but Geoff did save the day: He had to manufacture a small part, to replace the broken mechanism (no longer made by Kitchen-no-Aid.) His time and efforts paid off, and we have a working refrigerator again!

2. Our first Summer Movie Night was fun... we showed Return of the King, the director's cut. The movie is fabulous, but the best part was getting friends together, and sharing a rainbow carrot cake in celebration of a move forward in social justice, and love.

3. Nutella Cheesecake... Erika, there were a lot of rave reviews for this tasty contribution!

4. I have a dear friend who is going to Iceland... I just get so excited thinking of the adventure she'll be enjoying, and I cannot wait to see some pictures, and hear about what she sees and does.

5. People send me funny videos about goats, and chickens... sometimes the same video link will be posted to my FB wall multiple times. This cracks me up.

I cannot believe this is only the first week of summer since both Max and Maria are out of school... what a lot of goodness we've enjoyed already! How is your summer shaping up? I hope good things are happening for you, and yours. Please tell us what's good where you are.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Backyard Chickens & So Much More!

Please, please, please vote for ChickenBlog!!

I have yet to figure out what my career goals are, what ultimate vision I have for this blog, but I do know this... I love my family, I love to write, I love to take pictures, I adore chickens, and goats, and bunnies, and our Ratty Rat Hazel, and I am passionate about supporting young people and STEAM. ChickenBlog gives me a chance to play with all of my interests, sharing deep thoughts and other musings, while making a family keepsake. As for being an "award worthy" Backyard Chicken Blog... I can think of a few good reasons to crow!

#1. It is ChickenBlog: Since 2002, because I love chickens, and I love to share what I've learned.

#2. I have learned a lot! Like how to nurse a hen through a bobcat attack! She's four years old, now, and still laying!

#3. We have humble backyard chicken beginnings, and we have built on our experiences, so we can shelter and protect our backyard flock.

#4. ChickenBlog has practical advice to share.

#5. ChickenBlog has had a Chicken Muse, who inspired a Foundation, and art.

#6. We love to share the the fun of backyard chickens.

#7. When we can, we lend a hand for more backyard schoolyard chickens!

#8. ChickenBlog keeps it fresh... covering topics from robots to art, from fresh eggs to hencakes!

Selfie with chickens, because I am silly.

So, this morning my aunt posted on FB her lament that Disneyland will be banning selfie sticks. No more extended poles risking life and limb on rides, no bumping people, but I understand her disappointment, and I love her posts, her group shots, and all the happy pics she shares.

I was thinking about her predicament when... my career destiny dawned on me {in case this blogging gig implodes} I am a selfie stick. William said, "Don't you mean photographer?" But I think "photographer" builds up too many expectations. My skills are simpler, convenient, immediate. My aunt can take me to Disneyland, where I will be her personal snapshot, moment recording, selfie stick! I can achieve the extreme close-ups, and funny angles, I can squeeze everyone in, go on rides. I am water-proof, and have long lasting batteries. No one will have to carry me!

Seriously, if you ever go out in public with me, sooner or later, I will disappear for a moment, and when you look around for me, you will find me offering to take couple and group pictures for complete strangers. I do this all the time. At the beach, in theme parks, at statues and memorials... we live in a destination area, and the opportunities to take picture for people come up regularly. I love doing this. I overcome all of my shyness, and crowd anxiety. Maybe I have a trustworthy face, too, because no one has turned down my aggressively friendly gesture. I've even daydreamed about purposely going to the zoo, or meet a cruise ship, with the sole intention of offering to take pictures for people. My favorite part is when they are genuinely happy with how it came out... it makes me beam with happiness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Vote For ChickenBlog!

No shame! I am strutting and crowing, and asking you to vote for ChickenBlog at The Happy Chicken Coop in
The Annual Backyard Chicken Blog Awards 2015!

Voting is open now, and you only have to vote once.
ChickenBlog was shortlisted and is #3 on the list of 25 Back Yard Chicken Blogs.

You guys! This is a silly, happenstance, commercial thing that may never have any bearing on world affairs!
So, please, please, please vote for ChickenBlog!!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beach Season

It's beach season... the best time of any break is when you play outside, especially with friends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sharing Season

It's sharing season... the best time in any garden is when there is enough to share.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Five Good Things

June is whirr, a blur, a dizzying month of activities, celebrations, finishing a school year, beginning a summer. And we have been filling up our days with some good things.

Good Things...

1. After a performance, Geoff is the first one Maria looks for and sinks into for a hug. This says everything to me about the kind of father he is, and I love it. He is dependable, generous, caring, supportive, strong and gentle... he is a daddy.

2. Cousin Emma joined Ballet Folklorico, and made her first performance, yesterday at the Fair. Now Maria and Emma can share this special pastime, and see each other whenever the two programs meet for shows. Her mom posted a video on FB, and I love watching Emma doing her first dance... she was precious! No bias. Seriously, a fun, fun dance to watch!

3. Alex is 21 years old.
Alex is 21 years old??
It's hard for me to believe, but it's true, and we could not be more happy for him, for his accomplishments, and his plans. And he throws a really fun Middle Earth party, too.

4. Frankenrouter is inching its way to completion. Geoff squeezes in progress, troubleshooting, experimenting, trial by error, and steady success whenever he can, and even I managed to contribute {in a very small way} to the first project. Here you see me holding the wood William prepared for a Prancing Pony tavern sign. Is there any doubt that I will host some kind of grand fete when it's cutting into that wood??

5. Max did everything asked of him, diligently, steadfastly, without complaint, never late, never grousing, and consistently with high marks, and now, at last he has his summer. You should see the smile he is wearing now school is through! And the trebuchet? Max and his AP Physics team hit the barrel on the spot, and earned an A+. Well done, Max. All very well done.

Summer. Summer! We hardly have a thing planned, but the general mood is bright and eager, and we feel good about this. Are you enjoying good things? We'd love to hear all about it... leave a comment, send an email. Share your summer goodness.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sitting With Chickens

I visit our chickens everyday. To feed them, to check their water, to collect eggs, and scoop chickenblogs. The goats, too, get regular visits and attention from me. But sometimes I sit with them, because they make the world, problems, stresses, frustrations, and shock, a little easier to face. I can watch them go about their silly and simple lives, and feel my breathing slow, my heart calm. They don't fuss if I'm crying, they don't say cliched things, or tell me to feel better. They take me as I am, flaws and all. Flaws and all... there's something to that. Chickens are great, and they are flawed, but there is no pretense, no shame. They don't wax, or wear concealer. A chicken doesn't get worked up over social media posts, or judge your style. If they could vote, they'd endorse clean air, clean water, clean food, room for everyone on good roosts. So, when I am with them, I find I can be myself, too, and appreciate the essentials, let go of judgement, self-conscious cares. And I can resolve issues, fix problems, manage to make an appreciable difference in their lives... that feels good, it's gratifying. It's encouraging.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Autism is About Neuro-Diversity

There were some key concepts and words in this Ted talk from Steve Silberman,The forgotten history of autism, that I had to jot down, because they really resonated with my experiences and how I have come to understand autism. I do not 'seek a cure for autism,' because I don't think it is a puzzle to solve, a problem to fix. Autism is neuro-diveristy.

I've shared small bits of our family's autism story, a chapter in what has become a lengthy, rich book. I've been addressed as the refrigerator mother, and we have met doctors and educational professionals who scared us, shamed us, misled us. So, when Steve Silberman says, "[Seventy] years later, we're still catching up to Asperger, who believed that the "cure" for the most disabling aspects of autism is to be found in understanding teachers, accommodating employers, supportive communities, and parents who have faith in their children's potential," I feel a catch in my throat, and know that we did alright, we made good choices for our children, and it's such a huge relief, and a healing affirmation to hear someone else acknowledge this.

Faith in children's potential is one of the greatest driving forces in everything I do, promote, and am motivated by. Diversity... it's a gift, not a puzzle. Every time autism has been a "problem," the real issue has been about someone not fitting a prescribed mold, a construct of some institution that only functions by managing the most people with the greatest common profile... like most schools, like factories. The problem is not the person with autism; the problem is inflexibility in the system. Thank goodness we have been able to see other possibilities, been willing to create new paths. {Maybe I am defensive, feel a bit beat-up... it's been a hell of a journey, one we are still taking. It's not easy, it's not normal, typical. That's alright. I've come to love and cherish all of this neuro-diveristy I see around me. I hope anyone else out there, feeling different, can find places and people where they are met with faith, understanding, and support.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Behold, The Greatest Gift Is Gold

Happy Birthday, Alex!
You really are blessed with the greatest gifts...
humor, imagination, curiosity, intelligence, creativity, and great friends!
Solid gold!
Door bell rings.
Long pause.
William, with awe and pleasure calls out, "Hey, Alex, I think you'd better come here..."
We all rush to the front door, and are met with the slain head of Smaug the Tyrannical! {And some of his booty!}

Truly, tales and songs fall utterly short of your enormity,
O Smaug the Stupendous...

I am strong, strong, STRONG! My armor is like tenfold shields!
My teeth are like swords! My claws, spears! The shock of my tail, a thunderbolt!
My wings, a hurricane! And my breath... DEATH!

Alas, poor Smaug has breathed his last, but he shall not have died in vain, and his glory will be honored when we fete Alex in Middle Earth!

{And who was the crafty warrior who delivered this treasure? A swift youth was seen riding off... and I Grant you he was fleet-footed, yet we have our suspicions.}

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bird House & Barn

... a Farm Report~

This time it was Tasha, not Ada, looking me in the face, and making me feel all kinds of affection and amusement. Goats! If you say "goats" in just such a tone, you can convey anything from adoration to vexation, and sometimes both at once. Goats.

Not big girls, not yet, but they've grown so much they're off the porch and in the run with the real big girls. They are in a dog crate, and have a separate area fenced off for little chicas only. The introductions between our established flock and these newbies is going well, but the new chicks are much too small to fend for themselves. In the early evening, I sit with them all and play referee, mediator, mama hen.

This evening, I came with a special treat. Our friend Lani came with enough chard to feed a farm... for goats, chickens, and soup for us, too! She says she has as much at home for her family... that is a happy garden bed she has going. Mako was the first to sample the beautiful greens.

Tasha and Ada don't peck and rip, like the chickens do. The goats inhale their fresh greens... I am reminded of feeding a paper shredder, everything is drawn in, devoured systematically, hardly pausing. Thank you, Lani. From all of us.

From left to right: Two Ameracaunas, Fiona the Buff, and two Laced Wyandottes, Pepper and Pippi.

Our oldest hen, Kamen, visiting the new girls. Kamen could tell them a thing or two about the world.

Pepper? Pippi? We just don't know! I am amazed by the gradual shift in the feather patterns and colors. More and more white is appearing in those black feathers. And I am so relieved to see that at least one of them is developing a distinctly hen-like tail. The blunt feather tips, and upright direction of her tail feathers is all hen.

Here's a comparison of sizes... about two months vs. three years. A big difference.

Pepper, Pippi and Fiona peering into the nest box. They are curious about everything, especially if it looks good to eat. They've learned to stay clear of the grown hens, and they'll have to learn to dodge the goats' heavy steps. The goats seem to regard everyone else as other goats. Mostly, they are polite, but the size difference can make them formidable when they are in a hurry, clumsy, or eager to establish boundaries. When goats see food they are in a hurry, clumsy, and eager to establish boundaries, all at once!

Chickens, too, like to establish boundaries. There will be a pecking order, and none of my mediating or refereeing will negate that! Being hen-pecked is all part of the chicken life.

You can tell she means business, can't you?

Birds of a feather... roost together! These are the Ameracauna hens, all ready to call it a night.

They've come home to roost: Pele, Koa, and Mako.

Now Kamen will have to figure where she lines up in the pecking order.

Even the little ones have figured out that when dusk calls, it's time to go to their mini-coop, to roost for the night. I put their food away, cover the shelter. The goats get a hay refresher, and last scratches.
Good night chicas. Good night goats.