The Chicken Chronicles

Last spring, we bought three Norwegian Jaerhorn chicks from one person, and three Barred Plymouth Rock chicks from another.

Their first (protected) foray outside.

Their first (protected) foray outside.

We named them, which everyone will tell you should never be done if you eventually plan on eating them.

This was Astrid, before we found out she was a he.

This was Astrid, before we found out she was a he.

 

This was Bertha...she became Bert.

This was Bertha…she became Bert.

Liesel, the only female of the Barred Rock bunch.

Riley was the most beat up looking of the Norwegians, but is now full grown and the strongest of the three.

Riley was the most beat up looking of the Norwegians, but is now full-grown and the strongest of the three.

 

Not only does my hubby work more than full-time, not only is he finishing his Master’s degree, but he also built a coop from mostly scrap material in his spare time.  With no prior building experience, I gotta say, not too darn shabby!

Working on the frame.

Working on the frame.

A visitor, inspecting the somewhat finished product, before we painted and added a run.

A visitor, inspecting the somewhat finished product, before we painted and added a run.

A couple months old, enjoying their run.

A couple of months old, enjoying their run.

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Being in the market for eggs only at this time, we gave away the cockerels.  So from six, we are now down to four.  They should begin laying their first eggs any day now, and I am looking forward to the experience of cooking truly fresh eggs for my family.  If all goes reasonably well, we will triple our flock next spring to keep our family – and occasionally our friends – in fresh, nutritious eggs.

This morning, I shall rant, then I will get on with my day.

My response to this ridiculous FB post follows:

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Cigarettes slowly suck the life out of their users and those who are habitually smoked around. A child who holds their smoking parent’s hand has to eat with those ashtray-smelling hands – the smell doesn’t always come off so easily in one washing. A child who sits in a car or lives in a home with a smoker who smokes inside will smell like stale bar air at school, and is often thought of differently because of this. Young lungs can and will develop breathing issues that can follow them into adulthood, affecting their quality of life. All so a parent can nurse a stupid addiction. Budgets are stretched further and further over time, money spent on foul death rather than on new shoes, a special dinner out, or even paying off a bill sooner rather than later. Why? So an adult can feed their legal addiction. A loving and dutiful spouse will kiss that mouth that tastes like the bottom of an ashtray, and caress the face that bears the signs of death chemicals working their way through the system of the addicted. The loved ones that watch teeth and nails turn a sickly yellow-gray will want to say something, even plead with them to try to kick this awful habit, only to have their own imperfections and humanness thrown back in their face or be scoffed at for caring for the life of someone they love. Innocent, stinky little habit? Much more than that. Too much more.

No business should be required by law to put pictures that oppose their product on their own packaging. Include ingredients on packaging? Absolutely! But not photos and statement that detract from what they are trying to make a living selling to the public.

McDonald’s doesn’t create obesity. An individual’s choice to eat that trash more than they eat good, clean food, and a lack of meaningful physical movement creates obesity. Not every cosmetic company tests their products on animals, and we as consumers can choose better companies for our cosmetics, or make our own. Alcohol is not a problem for a great number of people, and not everyone drinks to get drunk. Wine can also be used for cooking, and there are limited health benefits with certain uses. Every politician is also a human being. We are all liars, terrible sinners, selfish jerks, if not on the outside then at the very least in the darkest parts of our minds. To plaster the faces of our voted-in legislators on our paperwork is absurd on more than one level, and would likely result in decades of slander cases being seen in court. Not every politician is a scheming shyster. BUT! But, every cigarette draws you closer to your demise, and you aren’t the only one who is affected. Every single awful cigarette rips through the inside of your body and screws with your mind, creating a dependency that is very hard to shake.

Let’s not attempt to legitimize this filth by calling out every other possible poor choice a person could make. Two wrongs, or 4 wrongs, or 117 wrongs, don’t make any of them right. Your right to smoke yourself into oblivion is your right alone, and no one else should have to pay for your poor choice.

Exploring Creation through Zoology

Genesis 1:20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

 

Last school year, I made a last-minute curriculum change decision. Instead of teaching through Apologia’s Exploring Creation through Astronomy, I thought we would try something new, something that looked “kid-friendly”. Meh. I chose a Christian Kids Explore text (used) that covered Earth and Space. I won’t go into details lamenting the entire textbook and lackluster experience. Many people seem to enjoy the series, and that’s great for them. I think we should all find what works for our families and stand by those decisions. I ended up piecing together short units based on the subjects in the text and hardly using the text at all. My advice? Get your hands on things before implementing them.  We did some neat projects throughout the year, as you can see…

Measuring melting rates and movements of pure ice "glaciers" versus "glaciers" full of sediment.

Measuring melting rates and movements of pure ice “glaciers” versus “glaciers” full of sediment.

 

Showing the earth's layers.

Showing the earth’s layers.

 

 

On the upside, I have gone back to Apologia. I wanted to try something new, see if there was something…better? Anyway, the Young Explorer series offers everything we need in a rich science study, and God is glorified in the process. To ice that cake, Pinterest has become a homeschooler’s goldmine, offering up everything from applicable Netflix suggestions to corresponding art projects and where materials can be had for less money.  The kidlets have created their binders already, and I have the first lesson printed out, with each lessons taking two weeks to complete, topped off with an experiment.  Once I purchase my lesson planner, I’ll scribble in the lesson plans and get to focus on the best part of all – gathering experiment supplies and LEARNING TOGETHER!

Delicious!

 

For two days, I’m doing a mini cleanse.  There are so many types of cleanses one might do, and many people fast as part of their cleanse.  I have decided, this time, to do a fruit and veggie cleanse.  I’m drinking diluted fruit and veggie smoothies twice a day, eating gigantic organic salads with a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar and slices of avocado, and taking Super Cleanse by Nature’s Secret.  If I start to get fidgety, I’ll have a cup of plain tea or a few nuts.  Most importantly, I’m chugging 9-10 cups of water each day.  Want to try your own smoothies but can’t decide what to choose?  Give this handy little chart from Good Clean Health a shot.

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The rhythms of our seasons lend themselves to helping us create habits out of spring and fall cleansing as our bodies prepare for different circumstances.  Those dandelions in the yard bugging you?  Pull the leaves (provided they haven’t been sprayed with weed killer) and add them to your salad to aid in cleaning out your bloodstream after a winter of heavy, starchy foods.  April showers got you down?  Let them remind you of thoroughly cleaning out your digestive tract, replacing filters around your home, and cleansing your sinuses with a Netipot.  The heat and added activity of summer?  Drink lots of water.  As crops and bushes begin to produce, we are blessed with good nutrition if we eat them fresh.  When the temperatures begin to drop, we add spices to our cooking, which in turn helps our bodies to warm up from the inside-out.  Cinnamon in particular is helpful (to diabetics as well) to aid in the use of sugars in our bodies.  Cloves aid in cleaning the air we breathe (steaming or diffusing), numb topical pain (think toothaches), and are antimicrobial (how helpful in the cold and flu season)!  If we work with the seasons and rhythms of life rather than fight against them, we can learn so much about ourselves and God’s creation.

Need a little more inspiration to begin the summer eating energizing, clean foods?  Try the link below for so much deliciousness that you may very well jump out of your chair, jump into your car, and buy out the produce at your local farmer’s market or grocery store!

freshsalads

 

 

 

Updates and things to come

First of all, there were over 1100 entries into the “I Love Alaska” giveaway, and the winner has been notified. Congrats to her!

Second, the ground is thawing! 17 bulbs were planted yesterday, with 12 more laid out in a bed in front. I’ve begun hardening off a couple hardier sets of seedlings from our dining room, which makes me nervous. I hate to lose a plant due to my incompetence. As soon as we are frost-free, I’ll be setting out the little bed of chamomile in the front yard near a tree. I think it’ll give a pretty and somewhat wild look, while softening the base of the tree of which they will sit. Bonus, chamomile tea is excellent.

Third, the brooding box is ready for our chicks! Rather than simply buy a kiddie pool or fold-out apparatus for our future chicks, hubby made what almost looks like a miniature coop, complete with linoleum tiles and a latch (no lid, yet). We will be picking up a couple different breeds over the coming wee, so watch for photos if you are interested in our new adventure. The building of the coop will come over the next month, and I warn you now, it will not be fancy. It will be functional, though, and safe, and that is the goal for our growing layers.

Fourth, can you believe the school year is almost finished? Not that the pursuit of knowledge and educational experiences should be placed within a specific timeframe, but in the sense of, “My, how quickly this year has sped by!”. I just about have our curriculum finalized for the fall. It is getting easier for me each year to decide on texts and publishers and such, as we try things out and see what does or doesn’t meet each of our needs and goals. Of increasing concern is the prolific number of texts sporting the “Common Core Aligned” badge across their covers. Ew. I get that they are trying to sell books, I appreciate that, I really do. The worst offenders are those who have actually re-done their texts so that they not only meet the requirements but ARE the requirements. Have some imagination.

Fifth, I begin running (I am using the term loosely) with my brother today. The MudFactor 5K is coming up in June, and I haven’t been running on a regular basis in too many years to try and count. I’m also carrying around an extra 10-12 pounds of NOT-muscle. He is a gracious man, though, and probably won’t laugh at my red face until we get back home. ;-) He is very patient with me though, and I struggle to imagine life without him. We were so far apart – on different planets for all practical purposes – for so long, and yet I talked to him in my thoughts every day. A piece of my heart has always been his. I couldn’t ask for a cooler sibling. Now that we live just minutes away from each other, I’m still adjusting to having another piece of my family so close, and grateful for the fact that they are just down the road. For the greater part of my adult life, J-Dub and I have been on our own with the kids, making friends here and there, but mostly just living independently from any real network of support. Our privacy and slower pace is still important to us, but over the past few years we have enjoyed being part of a local group of family and friends again. Our babes seem happier as well, knowing that friends they make are likely to be there for a long time.

Well, I’m off to enjoy this amazing Alaska sunshine. Stay tuned for chick updates over the week, and coop and garden updates throughout April and May. If you are planting and homesteading and farming and experimenting at your place, I’d like to hear about it! Share your dabblings and ramblings in the comments below! Have a blessed Easter!

The air outside my house smells like camping.

Do you understand the title phrase? Have you ever felt that way, or heard someone else express something similar? I often share my feelings in terms of smell, which may sound a bit bloodhound-esque, but I believe it is completely valid considering our sense of smell plays such a powerful part in forming memories in our brains. For example, when smelling a particularly delicious barbecue sauce or beef grease, I might mention, “it smells like summer”, as summertime for us means lots of outdoor cooking that includes those two items. When the air outside is very crisp and prickles your nose when you first breathe it in early in the morning, and there is a slight damp smell of decomposing plants, I would say, “smells like fall”. Lately, it has been smelling like camping when I step outside with my dog early in the morning. Camping, to me, smells like clean air with a light mist running through it. It smells like the dew on the ground just before the sun comes up all the way and burns it off. It smells like cool pavement and damp wood and freshly brewed coffee and even a little bit of soap (think, Ivory).
Now, because we have a school year and all of the related duties to finish out, and because it still gets pretty frosty at night, we aren’t going camping QUITE yet. We will be taking a couple mini road trips and hiking adventures, though! Our first mini trip will be an hour and a half drive out to the darling town of Talkeetna. There will be a trip almost twice as long but in the opposite direction to the town of Girdwood. We will venture out to Thunderbird Falls next month for a day hike and picnic, and hopefully make at least two visits up to one of my very favorite places, Hatcher Pass.

Share your plans and adventures in the comments, I would love to hear what adventures or restful trips others are getting themselves into!

I Love Alaska Giveaway!

                    I Love Alaska Giveaway - including a $250 gift certificate for Alaskan seafood!

It’s no secret that “The Last Frontier” is a magical place! There are many things to love – scenery like nowhere else, whales, bears, Native culture, and just enough danger and adventure to keep us on our toes!

Alaska is a HUGE state (2.3x the size of Texas!), but Alaskans all across the miles – from Juneau to Barrow – share a special bond. As do people who have visited or dream of visiting! When you catch the “Alaska bug,” there’s no going back! A group of us bloggers living in the 49th state have decided to come together to share our love for our home with YOU – tangibly!!

Please take the time to visit all of the Alaskan Bloggers sponsoring this great giveaway:

Hey What’s For Dinner Mom?
Idlewild Alaska
Dabblings and Ramblings
Megan’s Gluten Free & Other Allergen Free Recipes
Raising the Barrs

We are so excited to be offering quite the Alaskan bounty to one of you – over $500 in value to help you celebrate your love of Alaska!

The Prizes!

Anderson Seafood

A $250 (wow!!) gift certificate to purchase your favorite Alaskan seafood from Anderson Seafoods. Anderson Seafoods has worked hard to provide high quality and sustainably-sourced seafood for 35 years! And if wild caught Salmon and Halibut aren’t your thing (is that possible??), they also sell crab, lobster, shrimp and lots more fish.

Children's books from Sasquatch Books

Set of three Alaska-themed children’s books from Sasquatch Books – Alaska’s Sleeping Beauty, Grizzly Bears of Alaska, and Patsy Ann of Alaska. These charming and beautifully illustrated soft cover books will captivate children of all ages. Read a full review of these books here.

handcrafted oil lamp from Roads End Pottery

A handcrafted oil lamp by Dave Hough of Roads End Pottery – from the Town Square Art Gallary in Wasilla, Alaska. A thick cotton wick is held in place by a round stone, which sits at the mouth of the lamp. The lamp can be filled with ordinary lamp oil, as one would fill a glass oil lamp with. The glaze on the pottery is lead-free and dishwasher safe
Alaskan fiction by Warren Troy
.   Trilogy of Alaskan Homesteading fictional books written and signed by Warren Troy. Wilderness Reckoning, The Last Homestead, and Trails are captivating adventure stories sure to please anyone who daydreams about life off the grid or Alaska.
Alaska-on-the-go-Exploring-the-49th-state-with-children-SIGNED-200x300

  A copy of Erin Kirkland’s brand new book Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th State with Children – so that you can start planning your family’s Alaskan vacation! This book will help you decide when to travel, how to get here, and how to take advantage of your time here with your children!

Alaska cutting board

An Alaska shaped cutting board from Epicurean. The better to remember us by! You’ll get to share your stories from the frozen North every time to pull it out to prepare dinner for guests!

chocolates from Alaska

A yummy box of chocolates from JB Chocolatier – handmade in the Matanuska Valley. These beauties are almost too pretty to eat… almost! :) $60 value!

Alaska Seasoning Company
A 3-pack of seasonings from the Alaska Seasoning Company to spice up your life – Kodiak Cajun, Gold Rush Seasoning Salt and Denali Dry Rub.

The Rules

Eligible entrants must be 18 years or older and live within the United States (AK & HI are FINE, of course! No discrimination from us!!). This giveaway will be open through Sunday, April 13th. Winner will be notified via email. Please enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below:

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

While a post each day seems a daunting undertaking for me at this time, I can surely manage at least one each week. In this case, I get to let photos speak for me, rather than my sometimes garbled writing. Here is the first weekly challenge…

 

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Planning and packing

Learning, Growing, then Leading

Sons grow up too fast

 

My boy – my only son – is away at his first Trail Life lock-in tonight.  Sure, this is just a glorified sleepover, but it is a step in the direction of manhood.  He is tasting little bits of independence, watching as successful grown men lead and teach he and his peers useful life skills.  He is learning how to humbly lead, without realizing it.  He is becoming a young man before my eyes, and I mustn’t blink.

 

~V

How is it possible to be stressed as a stay-at-home mom?

Stretching, now reaching
Not enough time, space, or me
Need to re-focus

How in the world is it possible for someone who spends the majority of their time at home, gets a full night’s sleep most nights of the week, steals moments each day to take care of themselves, and is doing what they deeply love, to become incredibly stressed? How could she possibly develop stress headaches that spread down into her shoulders? What could she be doing so wrong and inefficiently that at the end of the day, her brain seems to cease working and she becomes clumsier than normal? She is exhausted from the inside-out. Why? With such a comfortable situation, how dare she feign a tired mind and body?! I’m not a doctor of any sort, and so will not venture into understanding or explaining things from a technical angle. I will briefly share how she has arrived at this place, and how she imagines pulling out of it.
Homeschooling should be considered a full-time job. If an employed, certified and paid teacher is working “full-time”, then a non-ceritfied, unpaid homeschool mom should consider such her employment. She will spend summer mornings working her garden and caring for her home and having adventures with her family. She will spend summer afternoons carefully scheduling curriculum into a lesson planner, leaving room for life to happen along the way. The school year will begin with great excitement as new supplies are dipped into and new books explored! P.E. and art classes and the occasional field trip will be slipped into those open spaces the homeschool mom saw a need to leave room for as she scribbled away over the summer weeks. There will be appointments and disruptions to the well-laid plans (illnesses, surprise visitors, work schedule changes, etc). With a deep breath and an eraser, homeschooling mom adapts quickly and quietly, trying to roll with the bumps and jostles, keeping things running as smoothly as she can. You may thinking that she is a naturally organized person, but she isn’t. She struggles like a young child just trying to keep her own room orderly. She has joined up as a member of parents and teachers within the local school program, and enjoys the shared purpose of the monthly meetings.
On top of her homeschooling job (which she deeply loves!), she has a greater love – Jesus Christ. Her Savior, the Lover of her soul, her Redeemer, He who she longs to know better and grow to become more like, deserves her very best. She slips scripture into her students’ lessons so they can discuss, apply, and memorize God’ word. She sneaks peeks at her sermon journal and sits quietly with her Bible and coffee most mornings of the week. She longs to become a servant in the church body, and berates herself for not doing more for her Christian brothers and sisters or serving within the various ministries.
Homeschool mom believes that a healthy marriage is the top priority after her relationship with Jesus, and strives to put her husband’s needs and desires ahead of all others. His health and needs weigh heavily on the heart and mind of his wife. While she doesn’t worry – worrying being a lack of faith – she does have him on her mind constantly.
Next on her list of priorities are her children. Three personalities, three groups of strengths and challenges. Three unique individuals who all need a wise and loving mama. If one were to couple the tasks of “home economist” and “caregiver” which generally include all of a mom’s responsibilities, you would have another full-time job. What are we up to now – two full-time jobs? People do that and survive every day, no big deal, right? Well…maybe.
Now for the extra tasks and outside pressure. Here we include the business(es) the homeschooling mama dreams of putting more time into, though these endeavors require a cash infusion of which there is little each month. Money aside, one business requires focused chunks of time on the computer and eventually at shows. The other requires time in development, time in construction, and more of both in the future.
So, at the end of it all, where does she draw the line? At one full-time job? Two? Cut out activities for the children? Give up on her joint dream with her husband on operating a mini-homestead? Give up on her personal businesses? Perhaps forego those stolen moments of personal development and rest she finds in writing, reading, and outdoor adventures? She has tried different ways of juggling all that is asked of her over the years, and only one thing has worked. Prayer coupled with re-focusing priorities. There are only so many hours in a day, in a week, in a year. When using the Bible as her guidebook, she is able to prayerfully decide what will benefit her relationships with Jesus and her family. Perhaps, that is what she needs to do again.

~V

NaPoWriMo

For the past couple of years – since first learning of NaNoWriMo through another homeschooling mom – I have been meaning to get around to walking my students through writing their own novel in a month. If I recall correctly, NaNoWriMo goes through the month of November. I really do hope I get us on board with it this coming Fall.
This morning, I learned that April is NaPoWriMo! How cool is that? The little bug of creativity which sits patiently inside is jumping up and down begging for a little exercise. Something I’ve learned about the little creative bug is that she at once longs to learn and grow and stretch her legs, and simultaneously shrinks at each thought of criticism – or worse! – haughty-eyed condescension. This month, nay, this year, will be the year that I allow myself creative freedom, bravely stepping into the wide open spaces of my environment with confidence! Will there be whispers of disapproval? Probably. Will there be rolling of eyes? I don’t doubt it. Will I allow others to dampen my excitement? Nope! So here it is, the second day of April, my first poem of NaPoWriMo! This week will be all in haikus, so hold on to your caps! **Side note – Constructive criticism of all poetry encouraged. I like learning and improving!**

My Alaskan Chai
Warming me inside and out
Spices tingle tongues

~V