Archive for April, 2010

Today the chicks grew combs.

They are little ticking time bombs, exploding with growth nearly every day.  The reprieve we were granted after moving them out of the bathtub and into the growing house is about to expire.  They’ve already grown to fill the space and are almost fully feathered, which means it’s time to put them out to pasture, where they can get their fill of a fresh-daily salad bar.  It’s right on schedule, but we’ve still got the pen to construct.  I figure it should be a piece of cake to whip out a simple, Salatin-style pen with the construction of the much-more-involved growing/green house under our belt.  Right?  Sounds like I’m just asking for trouble, using phrases like ‘piece of cake’ and ‘whip out.’

Not much to look at anymore, are they?  That’s just fine; they are food, after all.  Delicious, soon-to-be-grassfed food.

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Where cranes tread

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One.

Our sweet boy turned one.

The momentous event was ushered in with a low-key but sweet celebration with The Grandmas and The Grandpas.  Errol was presented with his very own cake, that rite of passage marking the first birthday.  His cake, though, was a minor nutritional triumph, bearing beets in equal proportion to the chocolate.  (it’s a family favorite)  We all waited to see how he’d react to the sunshine-frosted cake placed before him, perched at the edge of our seats, holding our breath.  He did not disappoint; he performed brilliantly.  It strikes me as not all that different from other cultures’ ceremonial attempts to predict the future for the baby, placing before him or her a selection of objects.  Tradition holds that the object first chosen portends the life the child will grow into – choosing a pencil foretells a scholarly future, the string – a long life.

And how will you, Errol, approach this thing called life, this delicious cake metaphor for The Future?

With relish.  With both hands.  With focus and concentration, when needed.  With an impish grin, marveling at the unbelievable good fortune before you.  With an enveloping circle of love, surrounded by family and adoring eyes.  What a life you have before you, little one.

May you find joy till the last crumb and may you wear that joy all over your face.

The knit blanket that I started while he swam in my uterine sea was wrapped, then unwrapped.  We remembered his dramatic birth. Captain Daddio led us by harmonica in singing Happy Birthday, a now-tradition that began with my birthday.  It was a lovely celebration for the little boy who’s brought so much joy and laughter and sweet baby chub to our lives.

Together now, let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in.

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The chicks have left the building.

And just like that, the mad spinning of the world has slowed for just a bit.  The weight of that world, measured in ever-growing chicken feathers, lifted its crushing force from our shoulders and we took a deep breath for the first time in weeks.

Bare Butt Boy bids the chicks adieu. (photo by Daddio)

And now we’ve entered the inevitable period that follows any ‘Drop-Everything-Put-Everything-Else-on-Hold-and-Get-This-DONE’ crisis mode:  The Aftermath.  The sun peeks through the mounds of dirty, unwashed clothing, the crusty residue of caked-on, dirty dishes, the run-rampant snarls in The Girl’s hair, and we reach for it as we slowly emerge.  The bulk of the Poultry smell that permeated my house is gone, had left immediately on the wings of the culprits, but I’ll bet that cleaning out the bathtub and dispatching the soiled wood shavings to the compost pile will really bring this house back into the Presentable category.  I’m still a bit too exhausted to tackle that project.

The turning point arrived with a quick perusal of Craigslist and a phone call.  (You’d have a tough time convincing me that the answer to almost any problem is not Craigslist.  But I digress.)  We had closed last weekend as the third in a series of back-breaking work weekends, only briefly interrupted by a birthday party, which you’ll soon hear all about.  Our goal was to evict the chicks by Sunday night, and we worked intensely, wringing out the very last drops of light from the too-short day, but didn’t get the door hung and didn’t get the last side enclosed.  Monday morning, walking downstairs to the squalor in the bathtub, the impending crisis of population density, I grasped at straws, racking my brain for a way to get them out.  Now.  Enter Craigslist.  Straw for sale.  Small bales, ten of them.  Can you deliver?  Great.  Done.

I scrambled to get the Boy down for his morning nap, affixed the hardware cloth to the bottom of the chick house, to keep future varmints from burrowing up for an all-you-can-eat chicken buffet.  Rain was on the horizon, threatening to break any moment.  I worked feverishly, let the Girl play unbridled in the chicken coop.  The straw arrived, I arranged it into a protective racetrack enclosure, put down the mulch bedding, set up the heat light, the food, the water, and then got those chicks the hell out of my house.  I used the box they had arrived in only one week prior, except it took two trips to transport them all, they had grown so much.

Nevermind that there was not yet a door, or a fully enclosed eastern wall; Captain Daddio would swoop in after work to join forces and together we would seal it up.  I worked through the drizzling rain during the second naptime to cut and affix much of the remaining plywood to the eastern wall.

There is, of course,  that little matter of siding and trim and finishing touches, which we’ll still be working hard to button up.  Until then, the chicks shall share living quarters with the chop saw.  And what about the greenhouse portion of the building?  There are seeds to order, minor constructing to be done on the interior… the work is far from over, but moves now at a more leisurely pace.  And we resume our regularly-scheduled programing.

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Checking in with the chicks

I’ve got my hands full, keeping these little ones safe from their two very exuberant, not-at-all secret admirers.  Thank Mother Nature for equipping them with an automatic alarming device – whenever an intruder is in their midst, the volume of the cheeping goes way up, alerting me immediately.  Multiple times yesterday I rushed to their defense, to find an almost-one year old Boy resting his head on the side of the tub, watching them contentedly.  He can’t reach them, thankfully, but wastes no time in scurrying inside if he spots the door ajar.  One of the many Old House Quirks we enjoy daily is that particular door which doesn’t quite shut without employing the (laborious) secret handshake.

But The Girl is much more crafty.  She understands the situation perfectly:  a chick is to put into something small.  Only hours after their arrival, amidst the rushing here and there, I came back into the house to catch her red-handed.  She froze, her arm frozen halfway inside a rubber work boot, knowing full well that she was in big trouble.  I rescued the boot and its 4 chick inhabitants swiftly, biting my cheek til near bleeding to keep from laughing.  And yesterday, upon taking out two chicks for some sanctioned play time, she quickly ran off to put one chick into Errol’s toy car, then in the back of a wooden truck, then into the cup in the photo above. They’re cute, all right, but even better placed into something small.

There are these two very compelling reasons to get the chicks out of the bathtub and into their growing house as soon as possible.  Really, though, those are secondary.  More pressing is their need for space.  Every moment that passes finds them growing, which is great for their eventual destination of the freezer, but I estimate that they’ll grow out of that bathtub space in about 10 minutes.  So there’s that, the practical urgency to get them out of my bathroom, but the most compelling reason of all is way more personal.  My whole house smells like chicken.  From the moment you walk in the front door, the smell hits you, a heady mix of wood shavings and feed and….chickens, amplified by the round-the-clock heat lamp.  My house smells like chicken.

Construction has been stalled by the monotonous, unrelenting two days of rain which overnight turned to snow.  The weather report that just landed in my email’s inbox predicted another cold, dreary day but promised warm sunny weather tomorrow.  I hope we can all make it that long without an all-out chicken crisis of one kind or another.

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Chicken Greenhouse Verdict: Late

There is a strange chorus of cheeping coming from our downstairs bathroom, as well as an eerie red glow peeking out from under the door.

Our 80-odd chicks arrived yesterday.  And for lack of a better (finished) home, they currently take up residence in our previously-unused extra bathtub.

Just like last time, our first go at chick-raising two years ago, the call from the Post Office came at 6am, ripping me out of my slumber and filling me with an ice-cold panic.  Crap.  They’re here.  I had been hoping that they’d come in toward the end, in the middle, or even the second day of their expected week of arrival.  Nope.  Monday at 6am, just like last time.  Just like last time, we weren’t exactly ready for them.  Though, all things considered, we were light years ahead of that first debacle.  We’ve had no casualties at all yet, though statistically I think 1-3% is reasonable to expect.

Andrew had already planned on taking the day off to work on the chicken greenhouse.  We’d already played both ‘get out of jail free’ cards and bought two weekends without kids by shipping them off to each set of grandparents for the past two weekends.  And while they were gone, we worked like parents recently set free from their kids, which is to say like a starving person set in front of a banquet.  We worked steady and we worked hard.  We forged a set of wagon tracks between our house and the lumber yard, after realizing that we couldn’t just raid the fall-down barn for scrap wood.  Salvaged wood is great because it’s free, but not so great if it’s completely warped or half rotten or heavier than a son-of-a-gun, which antique barn wood tends to be.  It’s also not so neatly organized by size or cut, as in the lumber yard, adding lots more processing time to the process.  So we compromised, pulling some more usable timbers from the wreckage and buying the rest.

So the first thing you do, as a blogger-turned carpenter, is photograph the Get Down To Business get-up.  Please pay extra attention to those steel toe work boots.  I paid a whole two bucks for them while thrifting up north and thought my mom was going to die when she saw me triumphantly hoist them up onto the counter, enveloping the corner of the store in a cloud of used-boots dust.  Hee hee.   So the boots fit like a glove, er, so to speak, and are just perfect.  Except for when I’m not wearing them and drop a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood on my toe.

And this is where we left off, after abandoning the project yesterday to an impending storm and that pesky, nagging Life, both menacing on the horizon.  Had I not been the panic-stricken, we’re-running-out-of-time Debbie Downer, had I not been so busy with the hammer, nails, and saw, I would have captured more of the process in photos.  But the only time it occurred to me, with much regret, was at the moment on Easter afternoon that we paraded the last wall from the garage down to the site of the chicken house.  I very seriously mean “parade” in the most literal sense possible.  Andrew drove the van, pulling the trailer, upon which was propped the 12′ by 9′ framed-in wall.  I walked behind, mostly for show, and waved at the empty house and chickens as we passed by, elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist.  I don’t know that we would have won any design awards, but it was a parade float for sure.

Already it’s withstood overnight thunderstorms and is still standing – hooray!  Now we’re left to sneak in working time wherever possible, chipping away at it whenever we can.  The sense of urgency is real, is persistently cheeping.  Those chicks aren’t getting any smaller.

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Gosh, chickens are handy for a photo shoot.

I’ve just added a whole slew of new quilt kits to the Etsy shop, in a new series called Gravity.  Who better to help photograph the finished sample than Chuck Norris, Vinny the Guinea, and the Lovely Ladies? All this AND THEY LAY EGGS TOO? You betcha.

I’ve had such fun pulling from the nether regions of my wall o’ fabric to create these kits.  So many of these fabrics have been buried for so long.  The polka dots polka’d once they saw the light of day for the first time in months.  ‘Why, it’s spring!’ they rejoiced and gathered their flower neighbors onto the dance floor.

And the birch trees stre-t-c-h-e-d out their limbs towards the sky and thought about setting some buds.  Can I just say that I feel so clever and resourceful for recognizing the gem of these birches as they languished in the thrift shop?  They’re from an embroidery kit, circa 1976.  Oh, they had their shot to manifest in embroidery form, I reasoned, the sun having already  risen and set on the color palette of the embroidery yarn included.  But that linen, printed with the design, would make a smashing addition to a quilt, I thought.  And damn, I was right.

And this combination I’ve named Elsie, in honor of the one and only Elsie Marley.  Meg’s a friend that I see from time to time, mostly just to get a super-charged zap of inspiration.  I’ll never forget the time, shortly after meeting her, that she declared grey to be her favorite color.  ‘Grey’ I thought, very quietly in my head, ‘is NOT a color.’  I was, of course, deeply entrenched in my ‘more color is best’ phase, boasting kitchen walls the color of Daylily, set off by a cobalt blue ceiling.  (and we LOVED that kitchen)  Grey was not in my vocabulary.

But it started creeping into my peripheral vision.  A little here, a little there, I began to notice that grey was a color that did indeed exist.  Really, though?  Her favorite color?  She’s got pretty high design credibility in my book, but I just couldn’t fathom such a strong affinity to a non-color.  Then I noticed how it transforms pale yellow into a luminous, otherworldly hue when set side by side.  How it does this paired with other soft pastels as well.  And then I understood. It’s one of my go-to colors now, of course, so it’s no surprise grey has ended up as the linchpin in a quilt kit.  But I’ve got to give Meg her due and, since I’m fresh out of trophies, naming it after her will have to do.  Salute!

There are a few more kits listed in the shop, with a lot more on the way.  I also just acquired a die set that can cut hexagons for English Paper Piecing in the blink of an eye.  I’m putting together a plan to offer custom cutting for anyone else out there that gets bored after cutting five of these.  Let me know your thoughts on this if you think that might be of interest.  You can also subscribe to the RSS feed of the shop on the lower right hand corner to keep on top of new listings.

Stick around – Tuesday promises the much-anticipated (by me at least) follow-up to the Chicken Brooder / Greenhouse construction project.   Whoooooooeeeeeeee!

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Daffodils are up!

Too busy for a proper post today, but I wanted to pop in and say hi.  Next week promises lots of great stuff – quilt kit update, chicken brooder/greenhouse update, and whatever else I can cram into a tiny little nugget of time.

Happy weekend!  Happy Easter!

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