Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Grinding On

 The tree stump grinder came today.  We had six stumps that needed to be removed to make a path, and a final resting place, for the twin turd.  His big machine made quick work out of grinding down the stumps, and fascinated boys who watched in awe at the carnage of metal meeting wood at high speeds.

The end result -

 Tonight, the kids and I started filling in the holes and taking the extra woodchip/dirt mix to use as mulch on the garden.

We are tentatively set to bring home our new baby on Monday.  I can't wait to take you all on an indoor tour, but watch your steps, there are some soft spots in the floor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quiet for a (Super Duper FANTABULOUS) Reason

I haven't wanted to be quiet for the last week.  I've in fact wanted to scream our good news from our mountaintop, but it's been crazy busy, which has left me too tired to do any screaming, or blogging. 

I'll let you in on a little secret.  Every time I see a shooting star, or blow out my birthday candles, or make a wish on one of the many dandelions that the kids bring me - I wish for my family to have and keep good health.  That's it.  My one wish - every.single.time.  Anything else seems trite and superficial in comparison to good health, right?  It is, when you stop and think about it, and if I've learned anything these last few years it's to value most of all the things in life that I can't see or touch, because they are most often the very, very most important.  But, if I were to wish for something other than our health - this is what I would wish for........

Are you ready for it??

Really, really ready for it??

Maybe you should run and go potty first so that you don't pee your pants from excitement!!


We're getting a new(er) and bigger tin turd!!!!


 Isn't she a beauty??  She spans a whopping 14x80 feet and comes sporting three bedrooms and two bathrooms!!  Her dining room will enable us to use ALL FOUR SIDES of our dining table.  Yes, yes, that would mean that we will once again be able to sit and eat a meal as a family!!  My Man and I will get our bed back and the kids will have more space.  She needs a little work, but nothing we can't handle.

Here's the plan - we're going to keep the old tin turd, place our new tin turd (from this point forward they shall be referred to as "the twin turds" - a girlfriend thought that up, I can't take credit, but I think it fits perfectly!!) about 20 feet away and in time build a connecting room between the two creating one gigantic turd!!  How's that for trailer trash?  I really think we're getting this new lifestyle down!  All of this will create enough space to live comfortably while we wait to build a house. 

All kidding aside.......

I hate lying - directly, by omission or by false presentation, so I need to tell you that this is a gift.....the whole thing....the tin turd, it's setup, and pretty much everything else that is needed to make this happen!!  How beautiful is that?  Very beautiful.  Very generous.   Very out of this world amazing.  We are beyond words grateful.  And that's all that I can say about it - because that's part of the deal.

We've spent the last little while tin turd shopping, mobile home mover calling, getting tree stump grinding quotes and otherwise readying ourselves for bringing home a twin turd.....and that's my super duper fantabulous reason for being so quiet. 

My Man took down two trees and cut the stumps down to the six tree stumps that need to be grinded down.

My Man has been on the hunt for some bamboo for months - he finally found some for FREE and we went this weekend to dig it up.  I shot this picture of our tribe while My Man was busy digging his treasure.

I'm so happy, My Man is happy and the kids are happy.  I joke about twin turds, but this means the world to us.  It gives us back so much normalcy, which has been so missed.  It gives us each back enough space to collectivity be a better family.  It lightens the load and it makes us shine bright.  Thank you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The First Day of Summer

The first day of summer didn't make it's entrance unnoticed up here on the mountaintop - it was also our hottest day of the year, so far.  The kids have gone from drinking two gallons of KoolAid a day to guzzling four gallons.  We keep a one gallon jug of sun tea brewing on the picnic table at all times, and the freezer well stocked with Otter Pops.  The tin turd holds in the hot air, while the air conditioner loudly buzzes in attempt to keep up with being unplugged from the electric socket that it shares with the toaster.  I wonder how much toast they can possibly eat on a hot day?  I refuse a trip to the swimming hole until chores and school work are done.  It's an unspoken refusal, but it's there hanging in the air with the smothering heat, and so they work diligently.

They wait, like they do everyday, to hear me say okay, get ready to go swimming.  I don't have to say it twice.  I don't have to ask if any of them heard me.  And then there is a flurry of activity as swim suits and river shoes are recovered from where they were thrown the day before.  They work together.  One gets the market basket with shampoo and soap.  Another get towels.  Older children help younger children with swim gear.  I refill my glass of iced tea and we head out the door.

With the A/C on high and the windows down I slowly drive the steep and twisty mountaintop roads the short mile to get there.  On this hot and sunny day the cold air coupled with the breeze makes us all come to life.  We talk along the way.  There's excitement in the air and they have questions.  I calculate my answers, careful to protect them from disappointment. 

We turn onto the road that travels above our swimming hole, and as we get closer we all look to see if anyone else is there.  We know that even if we have it to ourselves when we first get there, it won't be long until others come, but that doesn't stop us from hoping for a few private moments, unshared and untouched by others.  In unison, I hear; nope, no one is there!!!

I pull around and park, and then out pours my tribe of children.  The Rose asks if she can go ahead, while brothers already have.  I haven't even made my way across the creek when I hear the sound of children hitting the water as they jump from the rocks into the water.  As I walk downstream I count heads and then turn to look behind me.  A four year old boy is carefully placing little plastic boats into the current so that he can shepherd them downstream.  As I stand between the noise of happy children swimming and the sight of a small boy with boats I think that if I could stop time and linger in a single moment - this one would be a contender.

I make my way to sit on a rock while Baby Man squirms to get free.  At ten months old he is an All Terrain Vehicle that makes his way along the creeks edge using rocks to hold his small body upright.  He thinks nothing of crawling over rocks or into deeper water.  I walk behind him so that he can explore, but am close enough to catch his fall.  He sees a flower floating in the water and decides he wants it, but every time he reaches for it it moves further away.  I could get it for him, but for the moment I am more interested in watching his diligence.  Not until the flower heads into water too deep for Baby Man do I give it to him, but by then he is no longer interested, something else has caught his young eyes. 

Baby Man heads for shore, so I can sit for awhile.  A slight breeze comes along and with it it brings the scent of freshly bloomed flowers.  The fragrance reminds me of my Grandmother.  Suddenly, I can see her old trailer bathroom and the stacks of floral scented Yardley soaps.  She has them everywhere.  Around the bathroom sink, along the edge of the tub, even on the back of the toilet.  And then I see her, in a print shirt and slacks, both made of polyester and sewn by herself on her old sewing machine in her bedroom.  I see her white hair, parted to the side and frayed on the edges, and her blue eyes.  I feel her love and I imagine she sits on the rock next to me.

She was the good Grandmother.  She baked cookies and took me to Sea World.  She asked me what I wanted for dinner and then she cooked it.  She taught me how to ride the public bus, and she taught me how to tell people off.  She loved to read The Enquirer and take pictures.  Her small two bedroom mobile was stuffed to the gills with a lifetime of memories.  We would sit on her couch together and she would pull out an old photo album, or shoebox, to go through and tell me stories.  Sometimes, she would stop mid-story and then tell me that was a story for another time, and then she would look off and get quiet.  She gave me old dime store trinkets and told me that they were worth money, which I think she honestly believed.  At the end, she got a small fluffy dog named Teddy who would piss on her carpet and then get on the back of the couch and try to hump your head while she was unaware and talked on about this and that. 

It wasn't until I was grown and had children of my own that I realized what an instrumental role she played in my life.  It was her, in part, that taught me that everything happens for a reason.  She was more than love and cookies.  She helped make me who I am, and without knowing it, she showed me how to take care of myself and survive.  I imagine that if she was still here that we would talk for days getting all caught up.  We would talk from the creek to back home, and through dinner, and then after the children were in bed we would talk over a cup of tea.  We might take a break and play some cards, but the silence wouldn't be awkward, just a chance to reflect.  If she was still here I would tell her that out of all of the people in my life she was one of the most important, but I imagine that if she didn't know that before that she knows it now. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I'm All About Them Now - Cordwood Houses

I was looking through a building book that My Man just picked up at Goodwill and I found a section on cordwood houses (you can read more about their history and construction here - because I'm a chick and not so into that kind of stuff.)  I instantly liked the look of them, and from what I read they are not terrible hard or expensive to build.  And when I say not terribly hard - I mean the construction is simple, comparatively - they do look rather labor intensive to me, but that's what we have our herd of children for, right?


Isn't it cute!?

From Jay Builds a House

I immediately started to read the section on these houses, and oddly enough it was about a familyman who had just lost his job, had his car die on him, and then they he had a house fire - destitute he and his family was.  In desperation - he built a cordwood house to live in.  That little tidbit only gave me more hope.  Against my better judgement, I shoved the book at My Man while he was driving and said LOOK at this!!!

He was all - yeah, I've seen those before.  They're pretty cool.

I don't really know what stopped me from actually doing it - but I felt like rolling up his little building book and smacking him with it.  I kept my cool though, because after being married for so long you try to stay sane even when you feel like going crazy - why ruin an otherwise good day?  That, and I had already tempted fate by making him look at the book while managing his way back up the crazy curvy mountaintop road.

I don't know - I don't really know that much about cordwood houses, other than the little section in the book and a quick Google search, but I think we need to check into this whole idea a bit more, and I was hoping that my special friend (a-hem, Rick) who has mad master building experience, would chime in with his opinion.  In the mean time - the images of cordwood house (over 600 sq ft in size, and with running water - both cold AND hot - and not out of a freaking hose in my window....oh, who am I kidding....I don't care about the hose, just give me more space!!) are what I'm falling asleep to at night - between the four year olds delivering kidney kicks and Baby Man wanting a snack, or two, or three.......


From Dirt Under my Nails

Edited to add - the pics are all messed up and I'm not sure how to fix them without starting all over, which it is far too late to do.  You are not seeing double either, there are two of the same picture on some of them, but this didn't show up when I wrote the post...oh hell, maybe there aren't even really two of each picture - maybe that's just the beer talking?  Just enjoy the post and ignore all the

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Measure of a Mother

I became a mother quite by accident.  Even though I always wanted kids, I wanted to wait until the time was right to have them.  I didn't want to make the same mistakes that my parents did.  At twenty one, and in a four year old on-again off-again relationship, I didn't feel that the time was right.  I didn't feel that I was the right mother material, or that My Man was the right father material, and I certainly didn't feel that our relationship was right.  I didn't feel ready, and I didn't feel qualified. 

The night that I conceived our first baby; I knew.  It was just one of those things that you can't explain knowing, but you know, like deep down in your heart where no doubts lie.  My very first thought was: oh shit - I'm pregnant.  I knew nothing about pregnancy tests or how they worked, I in fact, knew very little about my own body and how it worked.  In my youthful ignorance I went to the store the next morning and bought a pregnancy test.  It, of course, was negative.  But I knew.  So I kept buying them and taking them until, finally, the second little line appeared that said - your life just changed.  It's no longer about you or what you want - it's now all about someone else

For days I worried in silence.  I thought of my own childhood and how much I had hated my own parents and why.  I thought of the many lonely days and long nights that I felt so alone and unloved.  Forgotten birthdays, weekend visitations long given over to a new wife and life, words spoken, and sometimes most importantly - unspoken.  I thought of my unbalanced mother and my inability to ever make her happy.  I thought of drug use and alcohol abuse.  I thought about how many times I wished I had never even been born. 

Could I, so broken, possibly have a child and be good to it?  Could I love it enough?  Could I willingly give enough of myself?  I wondered if I could unwrap what had been done to me enough to find my way into motherhood if not whole, at least pieced together enough to not screw up

Any option other than having the baby didn't appeal to me, and so I finally told My Man.  Now I had company, and my fears turned to our fears.  We muddled around in our minds looking for answers, deciding what our next step would be.  A self imposed shotgun wedding seemed the noble and right thing to do.  It wasn't that we didn't love each other, it was that we weren't very good at loving each other for more than a few months at a time.  Our love was like that of a moth drawn to a flame - good from a distance, deadly when we got to close.

We made plans, we did the right thing, we started grownup life.  I gestated and read books on pregnancy, birth and parenting.  I got a subscription to Parents and CHILD magazine - and I read them cover to cover.  I took a new interest in watching moms with children.  And I continued to worry.

I gave birth to Columbus high on the pain killer Demerol, my doctors first choice, not mine.  In the haze of bringing him into this world I worried about what I would do with him once I got him here.  And then they put him in my arms.  And again, I knew.  I knew that I would just love him

I don't think that I ever doubted that I would love him, I just had no idea how much I would love him, and so soon.  So instant.  But loving him wasn't enough - I had to raise him too.

Being the first born child can't be easy.  You have these newbie parents who haven't a clue what they are doing but are trying so hard to do the right thing that they've got themselves all tied up in knots about every.little.thing in the world - half of which, or more, that doesn't even matter.  And all those books and magazines don't help - they just make you more worried.  They make you worry about stuff that you didn't even know you needed to worry about.

Columbus suffered at the hands of my over zealous parenting for years, and then at some point I calmed down enough to worry a little less and to find a little more enjoyment.  I always tried to think ahead though - to plan my parenting.  To guess it's final outcome.  It seemed so unfair to me that the end product of my accumulated parenting choices wouldn't be revealed for years to come, when it would be to late to go back and right my wrongs.

For seventeen years I've wondered and worried.  I've waited for him to become a man so that I could see if through the broken beginnings we somehow managed to make something that resembled a whole.

I talked to Columbus on the phone last night - halfway across the country he sounded so very grownup, and while not yet a man, he is well on his way.  He told me of his adventures, that for the first time I was not there to share with him.  He asked about his brothers and sisters, and his dad.  We made jokes and we laughed.  He opened the care package that I had sent to him. 

While we talked, I thought about him.  My baby boy.  That tiny little man that we brought home so many years ago that caused me so much concern.  I thought about the years between then and now.  And I thought about who he is today. 

I made mistakes, we all do, but today I can say this; I trust him.  I admire him.  I know him to be honest and honorable.  He is responsible, and I would trust him with my life. 

I don't know that the measuring ever stops.  I have too many kids now to think that there will be a day in my lifetime that I ever sit back, breathe a sigh of relief and think my job is done - well or not.  I believe that children have an inherent ability to know right from wrong.  I believe that the expectations that they have of us as parents are instinctual.  And I believe that love is primal.  I only believe all of that from the combined experiences of my childhood and my mothering career, and I can only hope that I somehow found a way to measure up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

He's So Vain

Up until the other day Baby Man had been camera shy.  Any pictures that I had of him smiling he made me work for - like beg and plead, and make a complete fool of myself - work for.  But not the other day - he turned a corner when I got out the camera and instead of acting like I was pointing a baby zapping ray gun at him - he smiled and posed for me.......
Getting into the sugar bucket - he loves the sugar bucket:)

Figuring out "child safety" locks.

Distracted to pose for me.....he will master breaking and entering another day. teeth - need I say more?

Coming in for attack.

He stops for a serious moment.

He's back up and on his way again.

More cabinets to break into.

And back to the sugar was a full day for Baby Man.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Filling The $9.99 Cage

We were at Goodwill a couple of weeks ago.  We spend far too much time at Goodwill.  We even bought their Smart Card, which gets us another 10-20% off, depending on the day.  I figure if you're serious enough about your second hand shopping to pay money to save money - you're in a special league of buying pre-owned.  But, I like my Smart Card - it really does make me feel special, like I belong to an elite club that only the truly frugal dare enter.  I have their sales and deals memorized, the kids do too, now that I think about it.  We buy pretty much everything that we need, or think we need, or might someday need - used.   It was hard to get used to at first.  I would miss the smell of new things - like shoes, or the bright colors of unwashed and unworn clothes, the tight bindings of books with unbent pages, things that didn't need to be cleaned or washed, and sometimes even repaired, before using them.  But after awhile it became normal, and besides, even when you buy new it doesn't usually stay looking and smelling new for very long.  If buying used meant that we could afford a couple more kids - I was more than willing to accept a life of secondhand stuff.

So, back to my story - we were at Goodwill and I found this brand spanking new animal cage for $9.99.  I had no animal to put in it, nor did I have plans for any small animals in my immediate future, but I threw it into my cart anyway, so that when My Man and I met up I could see what he thought.  That's how we shop in Goodwill - we each get a cart and then spread out in opposite directions, all the while gathering what interests us, then we meet up in the store and go through our finds together.  I mainly look for stuff we need, My Man mainly looks for stuff to resale on Ebay. 

My Man was just as impressed with the $9.99 animal cage as I was, but it seemed pretty stupid to buy it not having any real need for it.  We hemmed and hawed and then finally decided that if we didn't find a use for it we could sell it for more than we paid for it went in the keep pile.

So, the great deal of a cage has been kicking around the mountaintop empty for the last few weeks.  I will admit there was a time or two that I secretly wished it was a slightly larger cage - like say, big enough to hold a four year old or two.  I hadn't any idea what to put in it until I was over at the neighbors for Chicken Butchering - Take 2 (Part 1 for those of you that missed my first dismal attempt, or that just want to make yourselves feel better thinking; in all the dumb ass things I've ever done in my life - at least I didn't do that!)  and in between drinking beers and killing birds we were making small talk about gardens, which lead to rabbits and their cold manure (cold means that the manure doesn't have to sit and age awhile before you put it on the plants.) 

I came home and thought on rabbits and the wonderfulness that they would gift me with for my garden.  I looked online to see what a rabbit might cost - and I remembered that $9.99 cage.  I figured if I was going to go through the trouble to have a few rabbits for their poop, I might as well get some meat rabbits.  That way, if I ended up with too many I could sell them, or if things (like our horrible economy) got worse they could be a food source for us. 

All of these ideas bounced around in my head for a few days and then I finally told My Man that I was thinking of getting rabbits.  He is pretty used to me and my ideas, but rabbits really aren't my style.  I like animals, but the more kids we have the less patience I have with them (the animals, not the kids:))  I used to like cats - now I only have them to kill rodents that I don't want to coexist with.  I like my chickens, but I wouldn't bother with them if they didn't give us eggs.  Dogs - they're about the only animal that I like enough to have around even though they might not provide anything, but even dogs I expect to be protective.  So, My Man wanted to know why I would want rabbits - for the cold manure, I told him.  Are you suuuure, he wanted to know?  Yes, I said, such-and-such told me while we were killing the chickens.  That didn't count, maybe it was all the beer drinking that made him doubt me, but I had to Google it to prove it to him.

So, today we were in town and we stopped to check out some rabbits.  We ended up getting a New Zealand doe.  She won't be ready to breed for several months, but in the mean time she will be shatting.  I plan to make some Manure Tea - Bunny Brew to spread her goodness as far as I can over my garden. 

And just because I like to keep it real up here on the mountaintop - let me break down for you just how much my $9.99 cage ended up costing me:

Rabbit                      $10.00
Feeders(used)           $10.00
25# bag of feed          $9.00
Waterer, wire, hay     $25.00
Total                     $54.00 

It's kinda funny when you think about it.  You know what else is funny?  I was talking to Columbus last night and I told him of my rabbit plans.  You know what he said to me?  All excited he says:  OH, I know JUST what to name them!!  I bought his enthusiasm hook-line-and-sinker and said what!?  and he named off mine and My Mans first names.......such a wicked sense of humor he

Fish, Finally

The kids have been trying to catch a fish from one of the pounds down the road since the beginning of April. Are you impressed that I can remember that?  Don't be - the only reason I know that it has been since April is because I blogged about it here: Asking The Impossible

 They've tried different baits, asked family and strangers alike for fishing tips, and spent countless hours trying.  Finally, they caught some (two) fish - too tiny to eat, but fish on a hook nonetheless.  You can't see the fish very well in the pictures, but they are there - if you kinda squint and tilt your head just so you might be able to make one out, if not - don't worry, I wasn't really trying to get a great picture of the fish as much as I wanted to capture the moment.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


One moves the cursor while the other pushes the button - two four year olds are better than one!

Chicken Butchering - Take 2

Last weekend I did go over to our neighbors to watch them butcher their chickens.  I felt foolish admitting I had just tried on my own and had not done so well, but they were nice and more than willing to let me come watch. 

He killed his birds different than we did.  He hung his birds by their feet tied over a rope strung between two trees, and then he just grabbed them by the head and with one fell swoop he cut their heads off.  He had also dug a hole in the ground right under where he was letting them hang and bleedout for easy cleanup - smart, huh!?

He then gutted them and then plucked them.  It looked easy - and he only did ONE BIRD AT A TIME.  Sure, he had several hanging to bleed out, but his birds didn't sit around half naked waiting their turn like mine did - and after watching him, I (again) think this really was our big mistake when we did ours.  I don't think we did so bad for our first time - other than trying to do too many at once.  The only other notable differences was that by the time he got around to cutting off heads he was nursing his second beer....I can definitely see where chicken butchering would be made better with a little beer drinking - I added this tip to my notes first!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

And The Winner Is........

The names are in the Cat in the Hat hat.....

JoJo gets to pick the lucky winner......

The lucky winner of the Storey's homesteading book set is SkippyMom from I Make Soap.  If you haven't checked out her blog - you should - she's one of the nicest people you will ever meet.  I'm going to try to find a box big enough that I can pack myself with the books - she has some Lemon Meringue pie that I want a slice of, and I am secretly hoping that she will let me take a hot shower while I am at her  Send me your addy and I will get your loot shipped off ASAP:)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RainSaucer Review

Back in March I wrote about getting some free Rainsaucers to review.  You can find the post here.  Back when I requested a RainSaucer we didn't have any running water.  Ironically enough, the company emailed to say that they were sending my RainSaucers on the very day that we got our well (kinda) working.  I got my RainSaucers awhile back, they sat under the tin turd for a couple of weeks and then when I went to use them I discovered that all I got were the saucers - no parts to put them together, or filter for drinking water.  I emailed the owner of the company and this is what he told me:

My apologies. Unfortunately I'm swamped and out of parts right now.

Can you try it this way?

Use packing tape to make the funnel shape. Then secure to bucket using two 7' pieces of ordinary twine through holes on edge of the Saucer. It won't be as elegant but should be functional.

 The saucer was bigger than I expected, and a bit awkward to work with, so the idea of using packing tape to make a funnel shape appealed to me about as much as using packing tape to wrangle and hogtie a pissed off pig.  Seriously, life is complicated enough, this was just one more headache I didn't need.  I decided to leave the saucers sit until a time that I felt up for the challenge.

I guess it was the week before last that I was feeling peppy and up for a headache that I didn't really need, because I finally decided to give the RainSaucers a whirl.  I didn't use packing tape though, I still cringe at the thought of even attempting to wrestle tape onto one of these big ole saucers.  I'm pretty sure if I did try it I'd be so red-faced mad and frustrated that I'd fling the damn thing off the mountaintop, and no doubt some old timer down a yonder, drunk on moonshine, would mistake it for a UFO and before you could say well-all-be in your best southern drawl, shotgun shots would be wildly echoing from ridge top to ridge top causing a ruckus of good ole boys to take off in rusted out pickups in search of aliens.  So, to avoid that whole mess - I used zip ties. 
The saucer has pre-punched holes that are meant to be secured with parts (that I can't explain because I didn't receive) to form the funnel shape, and I assume that in place of the handy dandy parts I was meant to packing tape the saucer into a funnel shape.  I just ran my zip ties through the prepunched holes and pulled them tight - it worked pretty well, and it didn't send me into any frenzied fits of rage, I might add.  So, I had my funnel shape, which is all you really need to catch water.  I don't really know what I was supposed to do with the  7' of everyday twine.   I know he said to use it to secure the funnel to the bucket, but that really didn't make sense to me, or maybe it just sounded like a big ole pain in the butt, so I skipped that step.  Besides, I didn't have any everyday twine on hand, and the closest I have to it is 550 cord, which I wasn't about to waste on this project.
I just set my rain saucer on top of a five gallon bucket that I anchored with cinder blocks. 
Then I sat back and waited for it to rain.  The first rain that I caught with my saucer was a light rain, and I caught about a 1/4 to 1/3 of a bucket full.

Later, it poured rain, and the then the bucket was over flowing.  Overall, the saucer was easy to use, but at this point I'm not trying to catch water to drink, which is what it is designed for. 
Where the drinking water filter goes.

The idea behind the RainSaucer is that you set it up when it is going to rain, catch rain that is filtered, and then you have drinking water.  When it is not raining you are supposed to store it where it will remain clean.  The saucer is big enough that I don't know where I would store it and it would stay clean - maybe if I had a garage, but then I wonder if I had a garage if I would really need a RainSaucer to catch rain with in the first place?  If this was truly the only way for me to catch drinking water I guess I would find a way to make it work, but being a semi lazy person from a developed country I'm more apt to use it for garden water, and for that it is great.  My only problem right now is wind.  Since my saucer is not secured by everyday twine it gets blown off of the bucket.  I need to figure out a good way to secure it against the wind, and then I may even attempt a larger holding bucket because when it really pours here in Tennessee there is definitely more than five gallons worth of water to catch - and why waste that!?

Disclaimer - I received two free RainSaucers (minus assembly parts and filters) in exchange for my blog review.  My review is based merely on my personal experience and opinion - your results may vary.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mama Love

This morning was cold on the mountaintop, so the chicks dog piled under, and on top of, mama.
I'm really enjoying watching mama hen with her baby chicks.  There's just something about a mama with babies that appeals to me, which should come as no  Watching mama with her babies is so much more fun than buying chicks.
Protective and sweet - she watches over her babies.

Monday, June 4, 2012

1440 Minutes in a Day

I appreciate your comments.  They are kind, concerned and sympathetic.  But I fear I may have come on a little too strong.  Apparently, I depressed even My Man.  For that I apologize - it wasn't my intent to make things sound so bad.

There are 1440 minutes in day and in all of those minutes I experience a range of emotions.  What I felt yesterday was frustration.  I am not depressed and life is not dismal.  I have so much to be grateful for and I know it.  But in those moments of frustration I feel powerless to change things, and in that powerlessness, hopelessness starts to crept in.  That doesn't mean that our situation is really hopeless, but in that moment I fight giving into it. 

In the last few years I've fought true despair and hopelessness, there has been heartache and betrayal, and stress I never imagined.  This mountaintop is the end result of those experiences, and I am ever so thankful that we were able to make it here, even in all of it's imperfection. 

I'm not really going to torch the tin turd or go running down the mountaintop screaming (and I think you know that), but there are those flashes of split seconds that the idea of that kind of release sounds appealing.  It's hard, all I really want is to sit at our dinning table as a family, have a good nights sleep without four little people in bed, and some hot water.  It doesn't feel like anything outrageous to want, and to be so far from it and not see the answer of how to get it anytime soon (because I do know that in time it will come), well.....enter the frustration/powerless/hopeless moments. 

This whole adventure grows me, and us as a family, and that's not a bad thing.  We all have the opportunity to be stretched and learn, and I honestly believe that this process makes us better people (not better than you, but better than we were before.)  I also believe that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and that we are living the life that we were meant to live.  There is no other place I could imagine being right now. 

Sometimes, I feel like I have been faithful enough, that I have proved myself and paid my dues, but faith is not stagnate.  Faith is not a trait you just decide to have.  Faith is active and requires my action.  It demands my attention.  To remain faithful I must be reminded of my faith, and this mountaintop does just that.  There is good here now and in future - I have clear faith in that.  If I didn't I probably really would torch the tin turd and go screaming down the road.  But to walk blind in it, to honestly rely on it, and only it, because that is all that is there to cling's not always an easy walk.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Better Yet, Torch it All

I was going to write about why I love Sunday, which would have led into why I love Monday, but now I just want to torch it all, as in the entire tin turd and all of it's contents.  I know I would regret it, being truly homeless is no joke, but right now the idea of not having to deal with the limitations of cramming twelve people into 600 sq ft appeals to me, greatly.  Damn the consequences.

Let me back up, and I will take a deep breath and tell you why I love Sunday, anyway.  I love Sunday because it is our day to regroup.  Sunday is the day that I send two little boys out onto my mountaintop to pick up litter, stray toys, broken toy pieces, put away tools left laying around from various projects, and otherwise make it look like civilized people live in the crappy tin turd with mold growing on it.

Sunday is the day that my stove top gets cleaned, the microwave tray is scrubbed free of what ever charred food has taken up residency on it from a week of reheating, and the front of the refrigerator is wiped free of fingerprints, smudges, and spills. 

On Sunday my van is cleaned of trash, toys, discarded clothes and anything else that doesn't belong.  The compost bucket that sits on the kitchen counter and collects scraps for the chickens is hosed out. 

The list goes on, but as you can see - we clean and organize.  We make our life a little less chaotic by doing some weekly maintenance.  While all of this work is going on I think about Monday.  Ah, Monday...beautiful Monday.  Why do I love Monday so much when so many other's hate it?  I love Monday because it is the beginning of a new week - a second chance, week after week, Monday after Monday - to get it right.  Monday is yet another opportunity to get all of the school done that I have planned, to pay bills on time, to get up early and get moving, to live the perfect little life that I envision in my head. 

It doesn't matter to me that by most Monday afternoons my plan is shot, I still have Tuesday to try again and get it right.  And even though Tuesday often ends the same as Monday, there is still Wednesday.  By the time Wednesday ends without reaching my high expectations I give it up for the week and take things a little easier on Thursday and Friday.  And then begins another weekend, and another Sunday, to get ready for the perfect Monday.

So, today is Sunday and we are cleaning and organizing.  I'm humming along thinking of all that I want to get done today and next week.  I wonder what parts of my plans are reasonable to accomplish and what parts are me living in fantasy land?  I pass out instructions.  I delegate jobs.  I look around for what can be improved on.

It all started last week when My Man came home for dinner, and yet again our large dinning table was packed full of little people, but still without enough seating for everybody because half of the table is butted up to the wall, making it  an impossible pain in the ass awkward for My Man to reach any food, not to mention find a small corner to cut up food for tiny people.  He started, again, with his hemming and hawing, and the sighing.  It had been a long day for me, what with the arguing, complaining, and drama.  Being a child is hard business you know.  You have to play together, and do chores that don't include just cleaning up after yourself, and you might just need to correct a brother or a sister on how hard they make your life by not doing this petty thing, or that inconsequential thing.  And if you're the brother or sister being corrected, naturally it is in your best interest to just tell the corrector to shove it where the sun doesn't shine, because saying something like; yeah, okay isn't in your freaking vocabulary.

And so, when the hemming and hawing, not to mention the sighing started, I may have snapped a little.  I may have reached my limit of complaints for the day.  The rest is history - if you're married or you've ever been married, you know it went downhill from there.

And so this afternoon I looked at my large dinning table that is just the right size for our brood, but far too large for the tin turd that was made for one or two people to live in, and I thought if maybe I moved some of the stuff off of it that it would help.  Mind you, moving the stuff wouldn't provide access where we need it most, but maybe it would make the place feel a little less claustrophobic. 

It was in this attempt to improve things that I realized how bad things really are.  There just isn't any room left.  There is no space for another book, another drinking glass, another can of beans, or another pairs of jeans.  We're maxed out.  It's not like I didn't know this already, but today it was like the tin turd just reached out and slapped me in the face, all the while laughing at me.

I walked outside, to sit in a wide open space, free from the reality of life's crap stacked wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling.  I contemplated my options, or tried to, because my mind came up blank.  And then I looked off into the distance, and I could clearly see myself running down my mountaintop road screaming.

I wondered why?  I wondered what I haven't learned?  I restrained myself from screaming up to the sky; how much more and when will it be enough?  I walk in faith that it will not be asked of me to spend another winter in 600 sq ft with ten kids.  I remind myself daily that there is a night in our future that My Man and I will share a bed and that the bed will be free of small children.  I imagine an indoor shower with hot water - no matter how primitive the setup may be.   And then I fear that in my presumptuousness that none of it will come true.  What then, I wonder?  It's June already, I remind myself.  The clock ticks.   

Living the simple life sure feels complicated.  Once you get past the ideas of raising your own food, living off the land, and freedom from society, the reality is so much imperfection.  I'm not talking I can't have my dream house.  I'm talking about my dream house being a simple 30x40 four walls and a roof and even that seems so out of reach.  I'm talking about Plan B being a simple 500 sq ft  addition, and still, that seems out of reach.  I'm talking about a simple chicken coop still unbuilt, or a simple solar shower (a real one, not my Coleman camping bag and sheets hung with rope to trees), or the simple office's funny, these things are so simple in the mind and planning phases, but the execution is so very not simple.

There is humility and grace to be had here.  I take it - to heart, I believe, and yet it seems there is more.  I believed that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other and became even more humble that our meager wants would be meet, that we would be worthy.  I can't help but to feel so taunted and teased, we have come so far for this, and yet we are still so far from what we imagined.  My patience wears.  I want to get this part over with, like gutting the chickens.  I want to quickly reach in and grab the innards and pull them out, letting them fall into a bucket for easy disposable as quickly as possible, and if I must gag, I still will not stop to vomit, just spit the foul taste from my mouth and keep going, and when it is over I will say that I did it and it was worth it......simple.

Only Three Days Left

If you haven't already entered my giveaway for this great lot of Storey's homesteading books, now is the time - only three days left until the drawing!

You can find the original post and official rules here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Chicken Butchering - What Not To Do

We attempted to butcher our meat birds yesterday.  Obviously, using the word attempted implies it did not go well, and that would be the case.  I've had over 24 hours now to think about the ordeal and this post.  My thoughts and emotions have run full circle - there is shame in my failure, which I hate to share here because this is not the post that I thought I would be writing.  In that shame there is also frustration, because I wasn't prepared, and I take full responsibility for that, but something that aided in my lack of preparedness is that in all of the research that I did in trying to learn to butcher chickens on my own, what I found over and over were cleaned up and sanitized how to's.  Over and over I saw what looked to be simple and easy with an end result of beautiful birds ready to be eaten.  It seems that people wait to do blog post's and YouTube video's until after they have mastered the task.  Never once did I find a newbie who blundered the whole affair and then shared of their mistakes.  That is what I offer here today - what not to do

My desire to raise and then butcher my own meat birds was for the fresh meat and because I wanted to have the knowledge and skill of how to do it, not to mention the satisfaction of saying I had done it.  I have never killed an animal in my life, nor have I processed one.  I've never even tasted a fresh chicken before.  My Man wanted no part of this venture of mine.  He was disturbed by the thought of it all and couldn't believe that I would actually attempt it....well, he could believe that I would, but he didn't understand why I would want to.  But my dear Columbus, he was game, and so it became our project.

If you are a card carrying member of PETA, a vegetarian, or an avid lover of animals who believes in unicorns and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows - you probably shouldn't read any further.  If you ignore this advice and read anyway, please, spare me your emotional emails of how tragic it was for these poor birds to die at the hands of two cruel and stupid humans.  None of what happened here was intentional, far from it.  And besides that, I listen to whining and complaining - your complaining will fall too far down the list for it to even matter, so it's a waste of your time.  Any attempts at humor are because, in hindsight, there is comical value to what happened, even if it was pathetic.

And so begins the botched butchering story of seven meat birds.

We were smart enough to get everything set up and ready to go before we got started.  We gathered supplies, sharpened our knives and sanitized our work area.  This all took longer than expected, putting us later into the day, which in the end was a problem because of the heat....not for us, but for the meat.

Note: no need to worry - there aren't any graphic pictures:)

 A pot for hot water, which was on the stove, and a tub for cold water.

 The killing station that Columbus made.

We decided to kill the birds with homemade killing cones made out of milk jugs.  Columbus cut the jugs.  Columbus did the throat cutting, because he is a sixteen year old boy and that sort of thing appeals to him, me, I am not so into that type of stuff and we play off of our strengths around here.

Trying to get the first bird in the killing cone.  Ignore the child with the fabric mask (more of that cheap yard sale fleece - it's uses are tied over his face - that has nothing to do with killing chickens and everything to do with being a silly eleven year old boy. 

Putting the first bird into the killing cone is where we run into our first set of problems.  The holes that the heads were to go through were not cut big enough, which took a couple of attempts and one pissed off bird to figure out.  We had to stop and re-cut the holes.  We also discovered that you can't cut the bottoms off like a horror movie maniac - the rough edges catch on the bird and make it harder for them to just slide right in.  I'm not so sure about these milk jugs, they really aren't as tall as I would want them to be, which was illustrated by spasming birds flopping out, one not all dead and who ended up running around the yard before it's final demise.  I will admit here that I knew that if you cut off a chickens head that they would jump around, but I did not know they would do that when you cut their throats.  I tried holding a bird down in the killing cone so that it would not pop back out - what a flipping mess - blood sprayed on me.  And we're just getting started......

One of my biggest mistakes on this whole deal was that I attempted to assembly line process seven birds.  I assembly line as much as possible in my life with ten kids - cutting hair, clipping nails, serving food, the wash cycle at the water hole, but as I learned - there is a time and a place for that, and butchering birds for the first time isn't one of them.  I should have only done one or two birds, even though it would have been such a monumental pain to turn around and do it all over again the next day to get the rest of them done.  I think we would have had a better ending to this story and I would still have my pride.  Ideally, no person would try butchering birds without some knowledge of butchering animals in general - I think some first hand experience would have helped a lot.

So, we ran our seven birds through the killing cones, then we started to pluck them.  This actually wasn't that bad to me, but the few kids that tried it, Columbus included, weren't interested.  I wasn't about to force them, so that left me to pluck the birds by myself.  That made the whole plucking take much longer than expected, again, setting us further into the hotter part of the day.

Once all of the birds were plucked we set out to turn them into roasters.  Here is where the assembly line mentality really screws things up.  We lined up all seven birds on the table to cut of their feet, heads, and gut them.  Cutting off the feet was quick, but by this time all the other kids had jumped ship and Columbus is disgusted by......well.....dead, smelly, naked birds.  He was a trooper though, and he stayed by my side through it all, and he even at one point stopped, turned to me, and said; mom, I love you.  You know you have a good son when you can have a moment in the middle of a fiasco gone so very wrong.  It was right about this time that he had gone from asking me; are we aver going to do this again? to telling me; I'm never doing this again - you can if you want, but I'm not! 

By now we are in the hot sun and the flies are swarming around our work space.  We attempt to juggle the book with step-by-step instructions (I should have watched more video's on gutting chickens) and cut out the oil glands, but we're not entirely sure where to cut.  Once we finally think we have things figured out and go to cut, the knife slips through and hits the intestines - leaking chicken poop onto the meat.  The thing is - I'm not even sure if this is a big deal or not.  I feel foolish plain stupid and incompetent - none of which helps my confidence or the situation. 

We continue to bumble are way through the rest of the oil glands, and then to take off the heads, but by now we're both frustrated with our lack of know how, the flies, and the amount of time it is taking us.  We move onto pulling out the guts.....Columbus tried on one bird and couldn't go any further, leaving me to go at it alone.  I stumbled my way through cutting off the heads and pulling out the innards.  I was lost, really, I hadn't a clue in the world if I was doing it all right or wrong - and I hated that feeling. 

Honestly, it had long been apparent that I had no clue what I was doing, and in that awareness I become concerned for the safety of the meat - everything was taking too long - too many birds were sitting out in the heat.  I couldn't help but to wonder - would it make us all sick if we ate it?  As I reached in to pull the guts from one bird flies came swarming out of it, and then when I finally got to last bird, I turned it over and the breast meat had started to turn white, I assume from sitting in the heat too long. 

There sat seven headless, footless birds, plucked and gutted, for all intents and purposes - done.  And there sat I, in lawn chair looking at my table of dead birds, feeling so ill prepared and stupid, wondering if they were safe to eat or not?  In the end I decided to be safe than sorry.  I had vision of food poisoning and buckets of vomit, and so we abandoned ship and dumped the birds.  It was sad, and I was left feeling.....I don't know what - odd, confused, frustrated.  Columbus and I just keep saying they made it look so easy.

Starting out the day - all smiles before reality sets in.

So, my words of advice to any fellow virgin chicken butchers - read the book, but watch more video's, or better yet find an experienced person and watch them for some first hand real life experience, and do not try to do more than a couple (2) birds your first time.  The inconvenience of taking it slow will spare yourself the displeasurable taste of failure and the watse of birds. 

I will say this - I learned a lot from this experience, I'm sorry that it was at the expense of the birds lives and the cost of raising them, but I can't undo that - I can only share what I learned in hopes that it will help another and that I don't make the same mistakes next time.  Ironically enough, today on the way home from the airport I stopped to talk with a neighbor and they mentioned that they are butchering chickens on Saturday (a day late and a dollar short - isn't that always the way it is?), but I asked if I could come over to watch (and learn) - they said yes.  Right now I can't say if I will ever try butchering chickens again or not, but my guess is that I will, simply because I still want the skill, I still want to say that I did it, and by golly - I want to know what real fresh chicken tastes like!