Friday, February 28, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Still Grayish Bluish

We live in the blue house, that is fading to gray.
We have eleven hens, two bunnies, two goats, two cats, and a fish named Diego.
Peas have sprouted in a barrel.
Apples are growing in our trees.
Mice are nesting in our compost.
And a giant blue, red, and yellow robot parade float is standing in the rain.
Max is baking lasagna and making raviolis.
Alex is getting ready for class.
William bought walnut wood for a new project.
Geoff has six more weeks of crunch mode.
Maria loves garden club, Adventure Time, Blue Math group, crafting, and the prospect of sixth grade camp.
Natalie is the Chickenblogger, and she's meeting the septic man today.

Our blue house needs a fresh coat of paint, and most of us want it to be blue. Our friends who do not want it to be blue are vocal and determined, and dearly hope we will choose something subtle, like beige.

Our blue house needs a roof, and probably a ceiling where the roof leaks.

Our blue house is messy. Not condemnable... uh… well, maybe a little bit decry-able, but mostly merely teetering. I was thinking of printing out this article, which describes, and pardons, the messy home archetype... I am tempted to hand the copy to new visitors, at the door. They could sign a sort of non-disclosure-non-disdain agreement, and we could agree that our messes are of the harmless-creative-arty-absentminded variety. (This is perhaps an unfortunate loop I am trapping myself in… admitting my domestic skills are subpar, apologizing for my lack of interest in investing time in reversing the tide, then glorifying the mess as some sort of jolly reflection of greater good, when the driving truth is that I think filing paper work and putting socks in drawers is so numbingly dull, that I cannot find any means of compelling myself to care, every day, all the time, and so instead I blog, and volunteer to make soup for an interdenominational shelter, pull weeds in other people's gardens, and pretend that sewing tea towels is vital and worthwhile. It does not escape my notice that I am a very lucky woman, and maybe I shouldn't talk about messes. I feel embarrassed. Maybe I should be discrète… because shame and omission sound better in French. Maybe I should close the door on hobbies, parties, crafts, projects, tinkering, dabbling, collecting, at least until I can find my desk, repair the shutters, and manage all medical bills. Maybe I should figure out if this is a paragraph, and whether all of this actually belongs in parenthesis…)

This life is not static. It cannot be contained, it doesn't pause, and cannot be re-scripted. I think that I worry too much about how to do it right, and should just be thankful we get to do anything at all…

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Cup of Tea

The children and I have always had little tea parties. We drink from our prettiest cups, bake something special, enjoy berries, and sit at a small table with a pretty setting. And we most often drink sweet chai with cream. Lovely. Recently we invited everyone to our home for a tea party on a much bigger scale! More cups, more desserts, more friends, and lots more tea! I wanted to expand my tea experience and find new teas to enjoy, so I asked guests to bring the tea they wanted to drink, and one to share. We provided cups, hot water, and tasty things to eat, and I was imagining getting to discover new flavors and varieties of tea. Well, everyone was even more generous than I had imagined they would be. Thank you! Some guests brought whole boxes of tea. Patricia had her chai mixed in a jar, ready to heat on the stove. We had all kinds of teas to choose from, plus Sherry! Plus curry chicken, scones, vanilla cake… yes, it was a lovely gathering of people, and yummy things to drink and eat.

And now… well, there are plenty of new teas for me try, which has been fun, and really quite… what's the expression? It's been elegant and uplifting and pretty and enchanting… is there a word that kind of sums of the feeling when something clever and pretty makes you feel special and charmed? I don't know how to explain it, but some of these teas have me simply smitten!

This! It's functional. It's quite pretty. It smells of mint, with a suggestion of a confectionary indulgence, and that wee stem! I am utterly undone by this tea bag. Tea Forté. I haven't even tried it! I am hoarding it and relishing the darling design of it. I am a silly woman.

Maria and I have tried this tea… it's mint, and we love it. It smells like a garden of spearmint in summer. Fresh, awakening. The taste is the same… fresh, and awakening. It's a good choice for me, because caffeine and I cannot be friends. So, I guess I am not, technically speaking, looking for a true tea, which does contain caffeine, but an herb, or red tea. Lately, I've been troubled by the sad realization that I am far too enamored of my chai tea habit, and that the caffeine in that black tea is not good for me. Time to go back to chamomile, and pick up more of this lovely mint. Oh… I see they have a Jasmine tea. Jasmine tea is one that makes me absolutely spellbound with its fragrance. Those intense floral notes are romantic.

Of course, now that I've opened the door, and stepped into the shop, so to speak, I find that I've barely begun to understand all the choices, appreciate the differences, discover the histories and traditions of tea. And then there are more questions: Who makes what best, and how can I best prepare my tea? I am tempted to plan my next tea party. Mim mentioned flowering tea, and that's definitely something I want to try. And will I ever be able to drop my chai habit? Not when I am tempted with the comforting warmth and spice of that wonderful tea, or see how beautiful it can look when you mix you own spices and herbs, like Alicia Paulson did. Dear Chai, I cannot leave you.

This little pouch has a soft vanilla fragrance. I like the cotton bag, the vintage tag, the quaint way it suggests a voyage, a story.

My cup of tea is sharing with friends, and thinking of the next party. I take my chamomile straight, or if I am feeling sweet, with cream and local honey. And mint tea is nice with a touch of sugar, and company. Are you having tea?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Making Way For School Chickens

Over the years, we've learned a lot about being city farmers, urban homesteaders. We've housed chickens in everything from the trunk of our mini-van to a picnic table. We graduated to a beast we called the shark cage, and finally, last spring we completed a real wonder of a chicken coop and run, a Shangri-la, secure, pretty, practical, and built to match all the challenges we've faced in keeping backyard chickens. Now, we are happy to share some of what we've learned by helping to refurbish a chicken coop for a school farm. Most of the labor has come from William and Geoff, over three Sundays, with some initial help from Max, too. They figure they have another Sunday ahead of them for completion.


My job has been to redirect the design and details of the coop, so that it will function at its best for safe and happy hens. Our first couple of visits were mostly about making supply lists, and troubleshooting gaps, loose sections, chicken wire: its name is misleading, and for the health and safety of your flock, you're going to want something with smaller openings, and stronger. We pulled out all of the chicken wire, and I ordered 20' of 1" X 1/2" X 48" welded hardware cloth. It's going to keep out mice and weasels, and resist the strong and determined antics of raccoons.

Two more areas of concern were this roof, and gaps in the doors and eaves. When you are keeping birds, you can't tolerate any open spaces… rats can slip through an opening the size of a quarter. Mice, rats, weasels… those critters will ruin food, contaminate bedding, and kill birds. William and Geoff re-trimmed the doors to erase the gaps, and they built extensions on both ends of the roof, which closed gaps, and created overhangs for shade. I think the before photo shows, too, how weak chicken wire can be… it's easy to stretch and pull into place, but this means predators can stretch and pull the wire out of place, and they will do this easily for a taste of chicken.

After building the barn, and the chicken-goat-bunny run, William is not only a capable carpenter, but enthused, too. He looks forward to these work days, and enjoys improving his skills.

And we've enjoyed the company of really marvelous people, two church groups with great enthusiasm, friends Mim and Chaz and Camille, and Maria won't miss the chance to play with Adin and the neighborhood children who come by. It's inspiring to be around people who want to build something, who invest in communities. Their energy is tangible and feels uplifting, good.

Off with the old roof paper, and up go the roof extensions!

Besides pulling down chicken wire, and pulling up weeds, I am a good one to send on errands, like buying roof edging, procuring welded hardware cloth.

10' L-shaped, white painted roof edging… nice details, good finish.

Other details will include repainting outside, whitewashing inside, new hardware, and a lot of caulking. Caulking around the roof screws, and inside caulking for gaps and seams, where mites will otherwise hide. It's a good idea to seal nooks and crannies, and the whitewash helps when walls need a thorough scrubbing.

All inside will get a bright, clean coat of paint, and when the coop is in place, the floor wire will be buried with decomposed granite. And for bedding? Pine shavings would be my choice, and that comes from a favorite chicken help resource: HenCam.

The new roof is tin, and will face north. It looks adorable.

Securing the roof, so no Santa Ana winds whip it off.

Working on the hardware cloth installation, with great help from Thomas, his dad, and his sister. The coop looks better and better!

And while we work on the coop, more garden beds are being built, and a gorgeous wash station was installed. This is where I ate my first direct from the garden asparagus. Truly memorable, and delicious!

From the farm to the school lunch tables! It's an honor to be a part of this community.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Goat Love

Tasha and Ada got a special gift from the school farm!  A eucalyptus tree had sprouted right where the new garden beds were going.  A lot of team work and heavy lifting was needed to clear the area of the growth, and the huge limbs and cuttings that were stashed there.  The job was done, and our goat girls were the lucky winners of these lovely eucalyptus cuttings!   Tasha looks so pretty and pleased, I just had to share her picture and say thanks to farmers, everywhere!

Five Good Things

Good morning!

Word Verification for Chickenblog is, back, on. Yes, the always annoying, never a slam-dunk, fiery hoop of blog security was reactivated, promptly at 6:12 am, today. I am sorry for the inconvenience, but CB was hit with a tsunami of S-P-A-M… five-hundred and forty-seven invitations to visit bogus websites, and other nefarious content. I really do not like reading deciphering those word verification and security tests, either, but that much junk mail in two hours is awful… a time consuming and disheartening mess. Geoff convinced me, again, not to quit blogging. I just feel really useless when wading through garbage. I hope you will not hold back from commenting, please! We can't let the bums ruin a good thing, and your input is one of the best things about blogging!

Okay… not to drag a Monday morning down even further, but while we are on the subject of S-P-A-M, and nefarious web content: Please, quit "Liking" stuff on FB! Seriously, if you don't personally know where the content is generated from, think twice before you hit Like. For one thing, those sympathetic and plea-ful stories are all too frequently false, sometimes ages old, and even harmful. If you can't be sure whether a tale of woe, or a shocking anecdote, is true, or stinks, try running it by a site like Snopes. Maybe you Love Jesus, or can think of a bird name with a letter O in the spelling, but if you are trying to prove something, you are only serving the scammers' evil plot to generate traffic, and build ever larger webs of deceit.

Isn't it sad? I love a free Internet, the open highway of uncensored information, and the equal opportunity to say something! But if we don't self-regulate, and learn how to stay a step ahead of the spammers-hackers-trolls-phishers and bums, then we are going face serious consequences, and waste otherwise beautiful mornings deleting five-hundred and forty-seven bogus email messages.

Encourage your friends to lay off the farming-for-hits websites. Generate your own love and original content, because we love hearing from our friends… not the bums. Get the word out there: Thoughtful, Honest, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind :: THINK!

Rant over. Thank you.

Good Things…

1. Joining the ladies making quilts for people in need.

2. Nearing completion of the chicken coop for the school farm.

3. There are four days of rain in our forecast! Four days of rain. {Even the sound of it is lovely.}

4. Seeing video clips of my nephew competing in gymnastics. What a champ! Go Dominic, go!

5. Friends that are sharing this on my FB wall… you are thoughtful, inspiring and kind, indeed!

Good things! I know you got 'em, too! Tell us all about it.