Chicken Blog by Natalie

21~ Snow In Mammoth - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 18:00
They're off to see the snow in Mammoth! In July! Practically the end of July, and they may be skiing.

Alex texted me from the road, "Lots of bats in the high desert." I love it when my children have their own adventures, travel, build things, explore... and I love it when they report back to the Bird House, share something of their impressions, and experiences. A success of parenting is seeing my children grow, develop their views, make their way, but it's hard, too. I don't need to cling to them, or hold anyone back. I think I've described it before... they're like the best novels, and all I want is to go on following the story, appreciating the characters, plot developments, scenery. I can't put their stories down!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

20~ Our Most Darling Puppy Cat - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 12:09
Top 7 reasons our Puppy Cat is most darling...

1. He is black and white and pink; in all the right places and proportions.

2. He is half fat and half guts; as seen in his medical imaging when he swallowed yarn.

3. He sings to his plushy rats.

4. He throws, chases, and catches his plushy rats.

5. He poses his plushy rats.

6. He plays fetch... catching and retrieving balls and sticks, then pants when he's had enough.

7. He lets us hold him in our arms like a furry infant.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

19~ Three Hour Excursion - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:00
The first visit inspired a second visit, and closer look. Here is some of our lovely time spent at, and in La Jolla Cove~ With Maria, Stacia, Bambi, and Alex.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

18~ Scene From a Favorite Book - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 11:53
Maria has taken to drawing from pictures in a favorite book...

Maria and I read The Private World of Tasha Tudor about once a season. We've done this for about seven years. In each reading we find new things compelling, inspiring, amusing. Each time we read it we sigh over something pretty, something rousing. It became an altogether novel experience to read the book after our visit to New England, last Fall. Those are the walls, the trees, the views, that inspired her, we would say, or muse. Places, even ideas, become easier to recognize, more relatable, after traveling through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine.

Tasha Tudor's world was odd... not simply because she wore old dresses, cooked over a wood burning stove, and drew mice, which she kept stashed in her freezer for easy reference. She was odd because her choice to live freely, following her own path and means of expression, were rather dogmatic, restrictive. When I first read the book, or about her, I suppose I was infatuated with her peculiar world. I found it extremely relatable and appealing. But then I would feel a certain deficiency in my own routines, habits, activities. I would marvel, awestruck, then incredulous... she really carried water from a well, and had no power, while raising her children, sewing their clothes, heating the home with firewood? She illustrated books, decorated the Christmas tree with lit candles, made marionettes and gave performances, while managing hand-laundry and wood-stove cooking?! It was too much! Intimidating. I felt defeated in my meager accomplishments, and wondered what the heck did her kids think of living in the 19th century in the midst of the 20th century? Not just for fun, or sometimes, but everyday.
I have had some experience with off-the-grid living, in Mexico, and Guatemala, and even a bit of roughing it, here, in Southern California. Believe me, the glow dims pretty quickly. Running water, electricity, appliances, a supermarket... I'd never scoff at anyone's dependence on these "conveniences!"

So, for a brief time I fell out of love with Tasha Tudor and sort of crossed my arms at her and then microwaved a dinner before sitting down to watch Netflix on my iPhone, while the children did homework on their iPads, and the clean clothes tumbled in the dryer. But Maria still enjoyed hearing the narrative, looking at those beautiful pictures, of gardens, baby goats, doll house shelves, and darling pencil drawings. And I did, too. Tasha Tudor's world is compelling, complex, and perhaps less Private than it should have been. She was a reticent woman, an individual that lived in her own way, and I don't mind so much, any more that she was odd, that she did things I could not, would not. I appreciate that she chose her course and lived satisfied, true to her own calling. And when I read one of her emphatic, critical remarks about how things should be done, or what she found insufferable, I smile. I smile, thankful that she lived, that she painted, drew, and made things, and kept her gardens, and managed to create a place and activities that are very different from most. It's nice that we can take joy and inspiration from her choices, and then make our own choices, do our own odd things that make our own lives fulfilling.

We just finished reading the Summer chapter of The Private World of Tasha Tudor. It was as lovely, romantic, and rose-tinted as ever. I could be perfectly happy living in long skirts, shawls, sketching by candlelight, until I need high speed Internet, and a Trader Joe's frozen pie crust. My experiences, for which I am very thankful, have taught me to be resourceful, resilient, to build a fire, carry water from a well, or spring, and I can sew, tend animals, bake bread. Those times, skills, and places, even make me wistful and appreciative of so-called simple living. But life is not so simple, is it? I have found life to be surprising... it brings up issues and events that I never anticipated, and I have certainly have had to adjust my sails more than twice, maybe that's why I felt so disenchanted with Tasha Tudor, and then just sort of amusedly resigned to taking her whole world with a bit of salt, and kind regard.

We can admire and hold some people in such high esteem that it can be a detriment... maybe it discourages our own sense of success, or clouds our perception, so that we cannot see the whole person, both commendable, and flawed, human. Tasha Tudor wrote, "People have a rose-colored lens when they look at me. They don't realize I'm human. They don't see the real me. As Mark Twain said, 'we are like the moon, we all have our dark side that we never show to anybody.'" Maybe this admission matters more significantly in the whole context of her book, than anything else. It's a beautiful book, full of ideal moments, and the best of days, one side of a moon, bright, good. For a time I worried that Maria would become too enthralled with the idealism of it all, the high expectations, and almost glamorized version of living in a world that is presented as if it were crafted as idyllically as a storybook. But I didn't want to take it apart, either. When I went through my phase of being disappointed in Tasha Tudor, and in my shortcomings compared with her astounding accomplishments, I spared Maria my more cynical remarks, and judgements, but I did try to delicately introduce questions... about how we do things, about what works for our lives, about being flexible, and being open to being our own flavors of 'peculiar,' without trying to control everything. What I wanted was for Maria to be admiring of Tasha Tudor as a whole person, to see and respect her dark side, and still find the good appreciable, and worthwhile.

We read Tasha's strong remarks on women wearing pants, and Maria laughed knowingly. She was aware that this point of view of Tasha Tudor's was just an example of the woman's nature to express her mind, as though her beliefs were facts, and the facts were fixed. I listened, with satisfied relief, when Maria stated her own views on wearing pants, being feminine, and having choices. She balanced her words with dissent, respect, and her own voice. And it made me glad that this favorite book is still a favorite, one that we are growing with, seeing in new light. As our ideas and experiences change, so do our appreciation and understanding of books, places, beliefs, and expressions, and I am happy that we can appreciate the old with the new.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

17~ No Escape - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 10:05
I can't get away! Just when I think it's behind me, that it's time to move on to new activities, crochet winds its way back into my hands. When I was making the granny squares I was less than organized... not unusual, I admit. I had a stash on the bedside table, some in the car, a few in my purse, or bag, or tote, or basket, maybe in a suitcase, or an overnight bag. Anyway... guess what I found when I (finally) unpacked supplies from our last Maker Faire stint? More squares. About a dozen, finished, granny squares. I've already strung them together and added them to the blue blanket, which feels complete. It's long, and pretty, and done. Unless, of course I come across another cache of blue, cotton yarn granny squares. There's no escaping my squirrely habits, or crocheting, it seems.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

16~ Late Night Sketching - Sun, 07/16/2017 - 22:30
"Ruffles are hard," sighed Maria, then, "but they're fun, too." I think that may be one of the main reasons for Maria's success, in art, in life... she recognizes when something is difficult, but that's not her stopping point. I admire her perseverance; it inspires me.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

15~ Tutus are Haute - Sat, 07/15/2017 - 11:00
When Janece showed me how Chibi dances for a treat, I had a vision: A tutu for Chibi! Maria and I worked together to make this little blue tulle confection. Our two hopes were to get her picture in her ballerina ensemble, and that the whole scene wouldn't distress her. It was a success that far exceeded our hopes and imagination.

Maybe her treats are so fabulous, a little tutu isn't going to interfere. Or perhaps it's that a tutu is what she's been destined for, all along.

She wore it with ease, with grace, and natural refinement.

Maria and I made our delivery and were honored with Chibi's dance, Amira's smile. What a happy, gratifying start to our day. Later, Amira posted pictures of Chibi, all danced out, but still in her tutu, elegantly reposed, daintily napping.

Bird House Couture, where tutus are haute!

(You can see Chibi dancing in her tutu, on Instagram... follow Chickenblogger!)

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

14~ What's Cooking? - Fri, 07/14/2017 - 22:00
My sketchbook was set aside, when I took up crocheting, again, and it's been months since I've painted. But the interests and pastimes that grab my attention shift from one thing to the next, and last night I opened my sketch book, sharpened a pencil, and began to revisit drawing lessons, doodles, tests, lines, shades, shapes, ideas. And again, as it is with any of my pursuits, I stumble and struggle, until I decide to be a student, a beginner, an explorer, then at least, I feel optimistic, curious enough to turn the page, try another.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

13~ A Happy Place - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 21:00

The chicas almost always come when I call them. Almost always. In the evenings, especially, they are ready and willing to be in their coop, safe, roosting. Tonight, they didn't come. I offered treats, and made a few insistent hails for them. A couple of the hens reluctantly sauntered up, but most were too absorbed in their own pleasures to even give me a glance. They were, it seemed, each in a happy place. And happily, for me, I didn't need to hurry them, and I didn't need to hurry myself, either.

Some hens were scratching the earth, looking for the bits of whatever that appeal to chickens. One hen was so engrossed in her dustbath, that I chose to sit beside her, and see if I could take that singular photograph that conveys the bliss and silliness that is a chicken's dustbath. The little golden hen met my gaze for a passing moment but she was too intent in her pursuit to be bothered, or dissuaded. Pepper, or Pippi, came along... and I can only tell the two Wyandotts by their toes. Pepper's toes are black, and Pippi's are pale. Pepper, or Pippi, walked over and around Ginger, curious, envious, determined to take a share. The activity attracted Fiona, then Koa. The dustbath became the place to be. Pepper gave up, and then a Thompson arrived. The Thompson left, and Liberty moved in. Liberty is one of the older hens, about four years old. Goodness, where does the time go? She was the one that always would take off in her own direction, fearless, a loner, with a turned beak, and a sweet disposition. Apolitical.

Mister Foo, our polka-spotted cat, came around, keeping a respectful distance, occasionally meowing conversationally. It seems this was a happy place for chickens, a cat, and me. We'd had a good dinner, with lots of fresh garden vegetables. Some laundry was done, and errands run. Inside, I could hear engaging conversations. Outside, birds were talking, too, and the air was both warm and cool, stirring. Not everything is going smoothly, not all of my worries are small, but in this space I was aware of the contentment of fine. A moment when things were good enough, and plenty of beauty surrounded me that I couldn't not be grateful. Sometimes "normal" sounds dull, or unspecial, but I have come to appreciate how refreshing and generous normal can be. The simple pleasure of not being hurried, of noting the feel of the air, watching the evening light, hearing laughter, the sounds of a safe and quiet time... and acknowledging that it's wonderful to have this space, time, freedom from fear, angst, hunger, pain, urgency. It's a happy place to be aware of normal, of quiet beauty, reflection, the simple activities of hens.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

12~ Summer Fruit Festival - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 10:49
Lilikoi. Passionfruit. There are so many of these beauties growing along both our north side and south side fences, so many that look plump, vigorous, and full of promise, that they are worthy of a festival. A Bird House Fruit Festival! We will be eating passionfruit, and sharing passionfruit, and giving away passionfruit (which is the same as sharing, really, but sounds more random, more "please! take them!") We will be jarring up lilikoi butter, and sipping lilikoi juice, making lilikoi syrup for lilikoi shave ice. Ono, ohana! We'll have more than plenty, for all!

This is only one half of two fences that are full of fruit!

And apples. These need eating, now. Such a delicious dilemma. Our Little Free Library will have lemons on the sharing shelf. Oh, and I received a garden zucchini big enough to hold in a loving embrace. I think we can turn that into an equally sizable zucchini bread. It's summer! It's garden abundance season, and sharing the bounty time. What are you growing, harvesting, sharing?

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

11~ Long Evenings Playing - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 16:25

Bubbles. Slingshot rockets that whistle and light up. Peanuts for goats, and chickens who love a good roam across the lawn. Long evenings, in a breeze, with everyone home, and play... the makings of a wonderful time.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

10~ A Bit Obsessed - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 16:13
Well. Now I think about it, I am not sure which obsession I should be addressing with the title of this post. Initially, this was all about boba tea, and the cravings that have been overtaking my thoughts, but then I remembered that I already posted all about it... on Instagram. Seems like everything is going to Instagram, and poor Chickenblog is playing second fiddle. I am a bit obsessed.

Green milk tea and Jasmine green milk tea, and either of those with those lightly sweet, gummy tapioca pearls called boba, have been singing me a siren's song ever since the first one I ordered for myself, June 7th. Yes, I know the date and place and occasion, because it was that yummy. And I've had two more since then. And I am ready for another. On Instagram I was reluctant to post the picture, because it didn't seem good enough. When I started posting to Instagram I had this self-imposed ideal that I would try to share only special pictures, dear moments, better quality images of meaningful subjects. Nothing too commercial or superficial. A bit silly, I know, and it comes to this, I love the memory of the one I had when Lisa and I went to see the play in the Park. I love that it was part of a lovely evening, of a needed break, and an uplifting outing. I love that Geoff and I shared the second one, when celebrating our anniversary, how we were all piled into the van, enjoying sights and activities. And this one... it was a balmy afternoon, with beach crowds in town, and again, we broke with routine and enjoyed a treat. So, even though it's only a plastic cup of an icy drink, I look on it with a smile, and recollections of pleasure, and good company.

As for Instagram... I guess there is pleasure and good company, there, as well. Blogs really do not keep the company that they used to, though I cannot seem to cut the habit. It's refreshing, and slightly sweet, like a cool summer treat, to post pictures, and engage with friends, and see their pictures, and enjoy new views, and the happy moments shared. Instagram is like an uplifting outing, with some surprises, new flavors, inspiration. Instant gratification, long-lasting impressions.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Seven Eight Nine - Sun, 07/09/2017 - 12:45

Friday we left the Bird House for an explore... out to see the sea and whatever else struck our fancy. We ended up at La Jolla Cove, where we scored the best parking spot, and sights that never disappoint. The marine layer was heavy, obscuring our view to the north but giving the cliffs of Torrey Pines a dreamy, mystical look, and emphasizing the University, Scripps Pier, and our next destination, Birch Aquarium. We watched the cormorants tending their fledglings, sea lions basking in the sun, and the beach steadily filling up with sunbathers, beachcombers, divers, swimmers, kayakers, people like us... out to enjoy the beauty of the day. After exploring the Aquarium, we all wanted something refreshing and decided on a stop where we could get boba tea, onigiri, kapa maki, and origami paper. Origami paper isn't "refreshing," but Maria was thirsting for some more!

Back home, we settled in, fed our goats and chickens extra noms, admired Chango, and the other fur babies, and by nighttime we all enjoyed Paterson, which I recommend for its calm, soothing, poetic observations on lives. For sure, some will call it a "boring movie." I haven't researched it in depth, or even finished contemplating its message, the effect it's had on me, but I will say... it is not boring; it's simply a quiet look at a man's life, which, devoid of Hollywood drama, serves as a welcome antidote to hype, special effects, sensationalism, and even our own real world worries, and angst. I enjoyed the humor... so delicate, and natural. Everything in this film has been distilled and purged of hyperbole, I feel as though my palate was cleansed, and I can detect the light beauty of subtlety, virtue, human experience. Take it in, if you like, with an open mind, with... a suspension of disbelief, actually. I usually reserve that for fantasy movies, but funnily, this real life story might rattle our cynicism, and detachment from sincere, almost guileless, story telling.


Well! As you can see, the blanket that I have been plugging away at, and have posted on, that has been teaching me lessons about embracing my amateurness, about letting go of making something "perfect," when I am really a beginner... it's very close to being finished, and has, obviously, found approval with at least two Bird House residents. I really did struggle to find the best, "right" way to connect granny squares, and it made me stall and hesitate, self-criticize to the point of giving up. Finally, I listened to the very same messages I give the people I teach..."When you start learning crochet (or most anything,) it will be hard, frustrating, and it probably will not look great. Keep going. Let go of the outcome and get into the process. Eventually you will improve, and find a level of success where you are comfortable saying, This is pretty good. I like this. I am keeping this. Forever. So... yeah, there is a lot of wonkiness and poorly planned execution in this blanket, but I am getting better, and better, and loving it more, and I am keeping this, and I am even inspired to do another, better. Laughing at myself... I think it's hilarious how when I am confused and struggling, trying to learn technical steps, I cannot comprehend or even imagine an aesthetic direction! Like, creating a pattern, or organizing colors, even just counting stitches... any of the "art" of this creative project, was completely beyond my capabilities or vision! And I think it's funny that my brain slowly, after the fact, comes around to seeing the whole... which of course, by then, has become an utterly dear mishmash. My style might be called "Deliberate Unintentional Randomness."

(Just because I like recalling the journey... The blanket in June.
And some hardcore May blues. Way back when I first landed in a granny square tangle!)

We had a Breakfast Club with our friends Janece, Paul, and Amira, and they gave us some happy anniversary love, which was really sweet. What else? I admit, Saturday was slow, gentle, quiet, mellow, restful, and slightly unproductive. I think it means I am really lucky. I'll go with that, and be thankful.

To balance out yesterday's over-mellowness, today I am spicing things up! I got laundry going, and sliced up a large box of perfectly ripe strawberries, which I served with hand whipped cream, and a scrumptious platter of French toast. Then I sat down to crank out this epic blog post. More laundry, no doubt, more pet care, and cooking, and crocheting, and a walk. Yes, a walk. And plans. Yes, making plans. I am all spiced up and seasoned to get things accomplished.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

6~ Refresh, Renew - Thu, 07/06/2017 - 21:00
Good company, a willing crew... just the thing to get a job done, and just what I found in Alex, Max, and Maria. We hauled everything out of our barn, to sweep, and vacuum, to make fixes, and wipe down shelves. We repaired the bed, and turned it around. It's a barn, yet not really a Barn. But, you've probably heard this one before.

And while it was a big job getting stuff out, and tidying everything, it wasn't such a pressing or urgent project, so there were breaks, with time to gaze across the lawn, watch chickens, weave grasses, make plans.

It was an ideal, early evening time, when we felt the day cooling, but no mosquitos were out, and the dampness that comes to our neighborhood was not settling in, still. We cleaned the windows, dusted corners, chased away spiders. Max reached for a tie beam and dared himself to pull himself straight up onto the loft... the loft he made. And he did it, too! He lifted himself, until he could swing his legs over a one of the roof tie beams, then squeezed himself over to the narrow loft, where we stash sleeping bags, and a six foot tall (plastic) skeleton. The skeleton was a bit of a surprise!

I also watered the garden beds, and admired the light on the sunflowers.

More pickles, soon!

And pesto, too.

The barn is refreshed and restored. There's a door that probably should be replaced, or boarded up. And a few things we want to move around. A nice thing about a little barn is how easily it can be renewed, especially with willing company, a good crew.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

5~ Her Adoring Gaze - Wed, 07/05/2017 - 14:30
If you find your days are feeling long, and your stamina short, if you need an afternoon pick-up, or a break from your Twitter feed... look no further! Please, you have my permission, to print this image of Ada Lovelace Goat. Tape it in your locker, add it to your smartphone wallpaper, print hundreds and wall paper a room! Make it wallet size. And whenever the world has got you down, or you've run out of steam, Ada Goat will be there for you, with her adoring gaze, her soulful eyes, her enduring smile that says, ""Hey, look at me, let's butt heads and chew things. Life is beautiful. Don't worry. Everything's going to be fine."

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

4~ The Hero in Each of Us - Tue, 07/04/2017 - 14:14
Yeah... that's totally one of those click-bait headlines, reeling readers in with the promise of news of profound insight, knowledge to empower, and deep discount coupons for fro-yo. Then you realize it's just a cat discovering he may be Batman. I think even the cat is disappointed.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

3~ One Cat, Four Views - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 15:09

Neo Cairo Nepenthes aka... The Boop, Lazy Eye, Jon Snow, Half-Fat, Baby Fluff, Puppy Cat (he catches and retrieves balls!)

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

2~ Garden to Kitchen - Sun, 07/02/2017 - 13:18
Armenian cucumbers don't need peeling. And look at how adorably these slice up, all crinkled, as though I made a special effort!

About half a cup of white vinegar, a teaspoon of salt, some garlic cloves and this sprig of fresh dill went into the jar. The next day, they were picklelicious!

One tree, and only about half the fruit! And it's a small tree! Our Annas and our Golden Dorsett trees have always been incredibly generous.

We peeled and sliced these... and I'd call it a half-hearted peeling. Then we added them to a pot where I was simmering unfiltered, organic apple cider with a cinnamon stick. When the apples were soft, I threw them into our blender. The apple sauce was scrumptious.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

1~ July In The Garden - Sat, 07/01/2017 - 13:08
Here are the new things going into the garden... dianthus, cosmos, zinnias, lobelia.

Here are what we are bidding farewell to... the last of the hollyhock blossoms.

We are beginning to harvest tomatoes... mostly the volunteers that sprang up everywhere.

We would love to ask for a cup of rosemary honey from our neighbors, the Honeybees.

The new to us garden treasure... Armenian cucumbers! We've already enjoyed a successful batch of refrigerator pickles, with this muskmelon variety.

And here is the promise of the garden next year, and the next... saving the pods with the hollyhock seeds, for planting here, and for sharing with friends.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

30~ Breakfast Meeting - Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:51

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.