Operation Chicken Round 3 is going well so far. Not dissimilar from Round 2 at this point. The chickens are getting bigger — making me think they need a larger covered pen and a better coop. I want to build this coop. But in the interest of having some kind of standards, the chickens can’t get a nicer coop until my house is more livable.
These chickens, more than the last batch, seem interested in upward mobility. Maybe it is because they have a full view of the pigeons next door who are always flying overhead and doing upwardly mobile things. Mmm hmm. That must be it. Anyway, these chickens cannot be trusted without a cover on their pen if they want to survive.
It seems that pet chickens must have names. I don’t necessarily consider them my pets but all my young friends do, so naming them was necessary. One came with a name: Streamers. My friend Kitty, who is looking forward to chickens of her own next year, informed me that she is saving “Queenie” for her favorite chicken when she gets them, but would help name mine in the meantime. She came up with Mrs. Eggs, Goldie, Syrup, and Alpha. My niece Jane named the remaining white hen Pearl. There you have it. I’m putting these into a blog post because I am unlikely to remember them otherwise. Don’t tell my young farming friends.
It’s that time of year again… the black raspberries are ripe. This spring I was busy tearing apart the house so I didn’t get out there to cut down the invasive species surrounding the raspberry jungle. It is bad out there right now. Nettles. Poison ivy. Buckthorn. Russian olive. Lots of other weeds. (Does anyone else hear how necessary goats are out here??) But… those little black juicy morsels make it worth braving the jungle for. They started ripening last week. I’ve only done a bit of peripheral picking and introduced a couple cute nephews to the magic of black raspberries. The Hobbit couldn’t cram them into his mouth fast enough.
Fresh Berry Cobbler
- 2 1/2 cups berries (I used mostly black raspberries with a few mulberries– but whatever you have will work)
- 1/2 cup sugar (I cut the sugar from the original recipe a lot! If you are using more tart berries, add more in)
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 375. Mix berries and sugar together and let them sit while you put the rest of it together. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and stir. Add melted butter and mix together.
Put the batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan (ish). Glop the berry/sugar mixture over the top (or just mix it together- I’ve done it both ways). Bake the big pan for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Top with ice cream if you like. Eat it for breakfast (it is practically a health food, right?? Something about antioxidants and organic, locally sourced berries). There’s no wrong way to eat it. Ready go.
Update: I bought more rum. Who wants to come over for black raspberry cocktails?
Sometimes I am particularly struck by how bittersweet this life is. The same day a friend delivered her baby several weeks prematurely, I heard my friend’s mother is at the end of her battle with cancer. She hasn’t left us yet, but the news isn’t good and her time here is short. Little P is beginning his fragile journey here with us as Mrs. M is wrapping hers up. Joy and sorrow bundled together.
On the one year anniversary of a young mother’s death from our community, I was struck again by how intertwined joy and sorrow are. I wasn’t close but her family is constantly in my prayers as they move forward without their mother and wife. That same day I found out my cousin and his wife are expecting their first baby. What a gift!! A new baby cousin to love on for years to come! Joy and sorrow bundled together.
My grandpa is 94 and living with my parents. His dementia continues to progress and it takes it’s toll on everybody sometimes. A few weeks ago my mom was out of town and my dad was helping at my house, so I took Grandpa out for a spin. As we drove through town, stopping for errands, he reaches over to squeeze my hand. He tells me what a good driver I am and I tell him that I enjoy driving with him. He can’t comprehend a lot of what I tell him, but I repeat it in short cheery snippets I think he can grasp and answer the same question 12 gazillion times. His days here are numbered. The days where he can communicate how much he appreciates my driving are numbered. It gives me pause to realize that I am driving around with Jesus– sometimes in his most distressing disguise (as Mother Teresa put it) as the endless question loop. If Jesus asked me that same question over and over again, what would I do? Squeeze his hand and explain again that we’re heading to the dump where I’ll empty the trailer. Smile and tell him what good company he is, put on that 1968 baseball game for the 500th time, and cover him with a blanket. Joy and sorrow bundled together.
Living in community, I see examples of this over and over again. As much as I wish it was all joy, there’s something incredibly raw and beautiful and important about sharing our sorrow with one another. It strikes me that we are all part of this continuum, in and out of each other’s lives and stories and joys and sorrows. It’s a beautiful and intricate and confusing braid of lives intertwined. It isn’t MY story, it is OUR story. I’m just a small but important thread in the tapestry being woven into something beautiful with the people around me. And ultimately, we are made for heaven. It isn’t just about our story here, but our story for eternity. Home.
I can’t help but think this is the good stuff and also the hardest stuff there is. Loving other people means we hurt with them, mourn with them, and rejoice with them. We can’t and shouldn’t try to separate it. If I didn’t invest in people and relationships, my life would have a lot less suffering in it — and it would be missing the joy that comes with loving people. Joy and sorrow bundled together. Recognizing that we need each other so very much.
So today, my heart is heavy for the loss and the suffering around me and at the same moment filled with joy for the gift of new life and the gift of so many dear people to share this road with. Joy and sorrow bundled together. Intricate. Complicated. Raw. Breathtakingly beautiful.
Last week the progress finally felt like it was moving forward at more than a snail’s pace. I had scheduled a lot of time to be home (woooooo) which helps in the progress department.
Monday night I picked up tools and made sure I had all the supplies– and then spent the evening with my second family (one of the many) playing games and catching up. And then I set some tiles on the subfloor to pretend I accomplished something (#honestproject).
Wednesday night I started on the tile. This is my first time tiling (which kind of surprises me) but I suppose you have to start somewhere. They make it look so simple on HGTV. And it isn’t rocket science, but as I spend the entire long evening getting so few tiles in place, mostly learning to use the tile saw, and figuring out some complicated cuts. It makes me appreciate the pros and that I am far from being a pro!
And still, I’m so grateful for the loan of the saw so I didn’t have to rent or buy one (and believe me, I would have bought this same saw because of the price).
At 9.30 pm, I realized my mortar was setting up fast and I might need more — and of course, the Blue Store closes at 10. Sigh. So I drop everything, run to the store for more mortar, meant to pee there and forgot, and was home by 10 to continue. I think it was around 11 pm as I stood on my deck, a torchiere lamp lighting the tile operation, being sprayed in the face with tile water and dust, moths fluttering around my head, mortar goop all over my whole body, cringing as I used that loud saw, hoping the neighbors had fans in their windows to muffle the racket. I just had to laugh at myself and the whole situation. Yup, this is the definition of insanity or tenacity. You decide. I finished up around midnight– and by finished, I mean I put things away because I was half done with the bathroom and it was past time to go to bed. Of course, I couldn’t shower because there was freshly installed tile that I couldn’t walk on… so I slept filthy and showered in the morning when the mortar was dry.
I was planning to go with a lighter gray grout that would contrast with the darker charcoal tile but in the end (with some coaching from a friend) I went with the matching charcoal grout which was merciful with my newbie tiling job.
- If you use a cheap saw that sprays tile water at your face, go ahead and start the project wearing a hat. It makes the clean up afterward about 100 times easier. Obviously, as with any power tools, you should already be wearing safety glasses.
- Clip your nails before you start. Maybe you’re like me and can’t find your nail clippers because your whole bathroom is scattered around your kitchen, but if you have shorter nails, there’s less room to get them jammed full of mortar and you’ll spend less time trying to pick them clean and cringing at how bad they look at work the next day.
- Be prepared to be very messy. If you are tiling your only bathroom, you basically tile yourself out the door and then have to wait for the mortar to set — meaning you should either dash over to a friend’s house for a shower or sleep gross (I chose the latter because it was the middle of the night).
- Rags. Get out lots of rags. I found it super helpful to have a couple wet wash clothes for wiping mortar and rinsed them regularly throughout the evening. It goes without saying your clothes will get messy.
The other night when I got home from work it was raining lightly but I knew it was going to continue all night and I had to feed the chickens. These are exactly the moments you question having chickens, but since it doesn’t rain every day, somehow they get through.
I’m out there in the rain refilling their food when Daisy dashes over to one of the many woodpiles and out comes a woodchuck. When I moved into the house, there was a lot of woodchuck evidence and I’d see them occasionally that first year before the fence. Once the fence was finished, Maggie and Suzie did a good job of clearing them out and I haven’t seen one since. Until last night.
Since it was happening right in front of me, I pulled out my phone and got a video. Lucky you. No seriously, watch it. Just be sure to watch to the end.
My favorite part is how scared my 60 lbs of solid muscle is of this little woodchuck. On the one hand, Daisy doesn’t kill things so my chickens have a better chance at survival. On the other hand, I don’t want woodchucks and rabbits and squirrels infesting my yard. And it’s not my job to deal with them (I have enough on my plate).
As you can see, for as old as Suzie is, her hunting skills haven’t waned. She learned from the best (Maggie) and it is amazing to see it kick in.
After the video above, Daisy took the woodchuck over to a tree and set it down. The rain picked up so Suzie and I ran inside. Daisy didn’t come back and wouldn’t come when I called. I finally went out to check on the situation and found that the woodchuck was still alive and Daisy wouldn’t leave it. It was crying like a baby and it was horrible. I was trying to decide if it was time for me to clunk it with a shovel and put it out of its misery when Suzie came tearing back and gave it a few more violent shakes. She went back inside to get out of the rain and Daisy stood by, licking the woodchuck’s trembling face while it breathed its last. I’m not actually sure a woodchuck finds that comforting, but it was very sweet on Daisy’s part. She acted as though she was losing her best friend.
I went back in out of the rain and since the rain just got more intense, decided to clean up the following day. When I got home from work, it was my first order of business. Except when I went to where it had been, it was gone. What?? Please tell me there wasn’t some kind of resurrection!!! Weird. I looked all over the area and couldn’t find it. Hmm. Maybe some varmint carried it away. I moved on with my evening and was tasking around the house, door partially open as the dogs tooled around doing their thing. And then there was Daisy, at the patio door with a woodchuck carcass (fully intact, thank God!). Oooohhhh. Yeah, cleaned that thing up quickly as I am not interested in seeing it again.
The animal kingdom is an interesting and ferocious place. Well — at least parts of it are. Daisy Daze is 60 lbs of pure love with zero hunting skills. At least she looks scary and like she could protect me. Suzie looks like an elderly little love muffin but she can and will kill tiny creatures without a second thought. And all is well with the world.
One of my readers informed me that my friends over here don’t know about the new chickens. Oops.
I posted this a couple years ago and keep revisiting it in my mind lately, while this kitchen – dining – bathroom takes over my life. I realized it wasn’t posted here from my old blog so I’m sharing it again. I come to the same conclusion: I am so very thankful. My house is an ongoing challenge but I love it. I’m so grateful for the gift of this place in my life. As my sister said the other day, “No one loves their shack as much as you do.” I think she’s on to something.
September 2013 – Buying this new old house and having a zillion projects I want to do all at one time- with limited time and within a limited budget has gotten me thinking a lot about what it means to live within my means. And furthermore, to dream within my means. Sure, it would be awesome to re-side the house instead of this big ole painting the exterior project. But it isn’t in the budget right now. Instead I will bust my behind, scrape paint till I can’t move my hand, spend every spare minute painting, and buy maybe five years with the current siding. And I’m not unhappy with it. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it is work I am capable of and can afford. It will preserve the house and do the job I need done. All within my means. And in that delicious yellow that I love so much.
Upstairs I would love to gut the whole thing, put in some new windows, new drywall, new flooring, etc. But that isn’t within my grasp right now. Over time, I have some ideas about things I’d love to do, but for now, I will stalk the clearance paint aisles, paint the bedrooms, put in some better flooring, and be pleased with the progress within my means right now.
I realized recently that it is unreasonable of me to dream within other people’s means. Oh I’m not saying no one helps me or is generous with their time or talent, just that it isn’t fair to require friends to donate copious amounts of their time and talent to make my dream come true. I will certainly accept help and maybe sometimes even ask for it (like that top part of the house I can’t reach from the ladder), but keeping in mind that my friends and family have lives of their own, projects of their own, things to do.
And I have to say, it doesn’t feel like a great suffering. I’m blessed to be in this house that I love, blessed with talent (or at least determination) to tackle a lot of things myself, and dreaming within my means is actually kind of a safety net for myself and helps me be content and grateful with the blessings within reach.
God is good.
Apparently I never posted this… so here’s what happened over here in May.
Several weeks ago: my dad came over last Saturday for a couple hours. Our goals were to finish the sink plumbing (the one that had rusted through) and then level the floor. Of course, we got started considerably later than planned, so…
My dad had gone to the real hardware store and the guy gave him a fernco that should work. We had to make a gasket out of these little rubber sheets (my new favorite plumbing lifesaver) and this tape. Then my dad clamped the fernco on tightly over the gasket and the old pipe and voila! Solved! Now that we had that figured out, we could get to the floor leveling.
So the floor… it is hard to put in to words just how wonky this floor is. The tub is level. And the subfloor is 4 inches lower in the corner by the toilet than in the front of the bathroom door. It sinks two inches over the bathroom doorway alone. Gah. There is no indication it is moving still, but last weekend we added some braces to insure it doesn’t. My dad calls this the “belt and suspenders” approach which is a vast improvement over the previous homeowner’s “no belt, no suspenders, and probably no pants” approach.
By the time my dad headed home for dinner, we got the section by the toilet level, the new subfloor installed, and the toilet reconnected (again) – still wobbling away on a temporary platform because clearly #wearethatfancy.
Fast forward to Monday evening (yes, a full two days later), I’m working on the jagged floor vent in the bathroom (which is maddening and took 3 trips to the home improvement store to not find a solution) and suddenly I can’t help but notice the bathroom smells like sewer gas… I look over and the fernco that had been tightly installed is now sitting a couple feet away on the floor and the hole (thus the sewer gas) is sitting open. Great. So I guess that isn’t the solution we need after all.
I think I’ve figured out the solution, and believe it or not, it isn’t simple (shocking) and it is going to require removing some more drywall. This will mean all but the drywall on the wall behind the toilet is being replaced. And that piece isn’t in great shape …. Mmm hmmm. One step forward, one backward. That seems to be how it goes over here.
The Next Week:
That Saturday, I cut the old cast iron plumbing stack out, ripped out the unsecured and rotting stud walls surrounding the old stack, and figured out what I’d need to do to get the new stack in place. I put in the new fernco on and the new sink connection, but still need to plumb the stack up through the ceiling and out the roof.
Yard season is starting up again and it is feeling like everything needs to happen right now!! Gah! So I did some yard clean up during the week, mowed a couple times (different parts of the yard). I figured out some other details that I needed to think through (bathroom closet, where I need electrical, what I need to buy for the plumbing stack, etc).
The following week:
Saturday was go time. My dad had lined up a Grandpa sitter (my mom is out of town) so we’d be able to hit it hard on Saturday and get the floor finished up and maybe even the plumbing stack out the roof. Instead the sitter canceled, complicating our plans. I got up early and pulled the remaining drywall and insulation off the walls on either side of the patio doors, filled the trailer with demo trash from the deck, removed the rest of the drywall in the bathroom, cleared the building materials from the clogged dining room to the deck so we’d have more room to work, and pulled out saws and tools.
My dad and Grandpa showed up around 11:30. We hitched the trailer up and Grandpa got to ride along with me for some errands so my dad could work on leveling out that floor. Grandpa was a good sport for the ride, told me what a good driver I am repeatedly (obviously it bears repeating), and waited patiently as I unloaded the trailer into the dumpster. We went from there across town to pick up something for a job at work, and again, Grandpa waited patiently at the lumber yard. But that long drive through line at Wendy’s nearly did him in. By the time we got back to my house, he was tired from all the running around (or waiting in the car) and was ready for some good ole’ Tiger’s baseball. I covered him with a blanket and he was on the edge of his seat (figuratively) to see if the Tiger’s could pull off a win in 1968 when they were down by 3! (Spoiler alert: They do win). Grandpa is not always content to just sit and watch by himself, so the fact that he was content to do so was a huge gift. What a guy!
Late afternoon, my brother Donal and his family showed up so CK could run the hills with his buddy Daisy. They visited with Grandpa, Donal helped my dad for a bit, and CK ran the hills and “helped” with the project. He loves a good project! CK removed a few nails with his tiny hammer, picked up nails with the magnetic stick, and then uninstalled and reinstalled my heating vent about 100 times. Always such a help!
By dinner time, my dad had gotten the new subfloor installed and leveled (except one piece on the end that I needed to redo). Woooooooo! LEVEL SUBFLOOR!!! I made a run to Lowes to get the plywood I needed for that one remaining tricky piece, ate some leftovers for dinner, and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Like a boss.
Sunday I got that final piece of floor in and the rest of the floor screwed down. I framed in the new closet wall and plumbed the vent stack back up into the ceiling. Apparently my dad doesn’t trust me to cut into my roof by myself (which I find moderately amusing) but if he is that concerned, I can wait for him on that. In the meantime, getting that closet framed means I can move on to install backerboard for the tile and get a floor in. Wooooooooooo.
Sunday was gorgeous out and I spent the afternoon in the yard. I got the leaves blown off the strawberry bed and a couple of the flower beds. I started picking up sticks (there are SO many sticks down!) and marveled at the fact that I already need to mow — it is only April!!! I have a LOT of yard work to do.
I pulled the outdoor furniture out of the barn but since my deck is hosting a lot of trash, I didn’t get it set up yet. I swept the barn, moved things around, cleaned up varmint poo and was hopeful that none of it looked fresh. Maybe the varmint has moved on? Dare I hope?? I didn’t dig too deeply in the shelves, just in case.
Sunday I took a little photo walk around the yard after doing some clean up and savored how gorgeous spring is. The crabapple trees, the quince, and the forsythia are blooming, the lilacs are getting ready, the tulips and hyacinths are blooming. The leaves are all popping. Spring. I love it. Somehow I think living through a winter makes a person appreciate and savor how wonderful spring is even more.