Chicken Blog by Natalie

24~ Errands With Benefits - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 13:34
If this sign were hanging somewhere around the Bird House do you think it would help my garden... specifically the flower garden? Like a if you sign it, they will grow incentive. I like signs, letters, words, old wood, metal, embossing, and fresh cut flowers. Today I was out running farm errands, which amounts to buying hay, goat chow, and chicken feed, then visiting the kittens, chicks, and goats, or pigs or ducklings. This is an errand with benefits, because I always conclude that: As long as I am out here, I may as well stop at my favorite shops, and see what treasures are inspiring, or irresistible. And I can include a visit at my favorite market, where even buying staples feels like a pleasant activity.

So, what was tempting, this time?

Answer: Two gray tabby kittens, and three baby goats, a 1950's dress, an old fashioned post box embossed with the word "Post" and a bird and painted a fresh, spring green, a jar full of Scrabble letters, China cups, a Pyrex bowl, a butterfly print, old yardsticks, and the Fresh Cut Flowers sign. I came home empty handed... almost! Just as I was leaving the last shop, a little second-hand costume jewelry owl necklace begged to come home with me. Errands, with benefits, what a nice way to get some farm chores done.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

23~ Hola, Jacarandas & Happy Anniversary ChickenBlog - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 10:01
They're back, the jacarandas are in bloom. Both of our trees have burst their buds and are showering everything in snowy drifts of purple. Look for these all over Southern California. And all over Chickenblog, for that matter. I even planted one of these enchanting trees at our home where we were Jolly Green Ranchers.

Sometimes, in a fit of wishful desperation, I read articles with bullet points about how to build a successful blog, and those almost always include a sharp rebuke of blogs with 'too many subjects or labels.' You know, kind of like Chickenblog... too many labels to count, from A to Z, but with well over three thousand posts, in fifteen years, I love my labels. I wish there were more. Every label creates a more efficient means of finding old posts, searching the archives, bringing up particular subjects, like Nature, but really it could be Trees, so, why not specific trees... Jacaranda, Torrey Pines, Redwoods?

Happy Anniversary, Chickenblog. Chicken Blog. ChickenBlog. Chciekneblog. However it's spelled, however many labels there are, I find a lot to be thankful for in the years, the memories, the friendships and other gifts you have brought us.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

22~ Once More, With Heart - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 15:15
Everyday... right? We have to keep trying, start over, take a new route, find a better way... everyday. If I could grant myself the same understanding, patience, empathy, and grace that I have for everyone else, I might find the resolve and heart to once more, take a do-over. This is vague, I know, and embarrassing, too. But it's another hard day, and I need to find that something that gives me whatever it takes to try, once more. How do you do it?

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

20~ Nearly Summer - Sun, 05/21/2017 - 10:31
In a few weeks, Max will be done with his freshman year... a year brimming with physics, Calculus, humanities, and navigating an entirely new way of living. Ahead, is a year of social sciences, and a whole lot more physics... Computational Physics, is his concentration in his physics major, because it looked like his best opportunity to incorporate as much math as possible. But before all of that... it's nearly summer! And all of us are looking forward to having this guy around on the regular.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

20~ Saturday Morning Cat-Toons - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 10:20
Not cartoons, but just as riveting, much funnier, and Saturday morning regulars... Mister Washburn Foo and his Boop, Neo Cairo Nepenthes. I just love the Saturday morning show, all the kitties, put on, and the luxury of enjoying the time to catch a few extra episodes.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

19~ Crochet Rows - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:30
Lunch hour crochet lessons... that's what I've been up to, on Fridays, sometimes Monday's too. As word spreads, the class has been growing, and that's sweet. In the beginning, Mrs. B and I were teaching Morea, India, and Maria... my favorite part to observe is that when new students show up and want to "try," one of the original three girls, happily, steps in to begin the lessons, with finger crocheting. This peer to peer teaching is what I've learned to encourage through experiences in our make club... Benevolent Order of Makers. Teaching builds confidence and reinforces our understanding of subjects that we are sharing; its not necessary to be 'older,' and you don't have to be absolutely 'authoritative' to be a dependable and helpful mentor. It might have been a daunting thing to welcome new students every week, starting over with every beginner, but we are adding as many teachers as students, and everyone is adding and building skills. This hour has become one of my favorite of the week... sitting in a (growing) circle together, exchanging ideas and skills, observing and praising each participant's progress, even feeling at ease and amused about frogging! I love how calming it is to be in that room, surrounded by thoughtful, kind, curious, and enthused crochet-ers, who set such a comfortable and encouraging tone.

And! Maria "made a thing!" I love that she loves what she made. It's not that she doesn't see the inconsistencies, the gradual slope, it's that she is thrilled with the prospect of getting better! She is delighted with the texture, the feel of those double crocheted rows that she made, herself. She has decided on a practical use for it, and she's started practicing the shell stitches for crocheting a shawl. And... ohmygosh, I just love her harvest gold square!

This reminds me of a funny thing about making... if I buy something from a store, I expect it to be square, or hold water, to be uniform and "perfect." But I love the affection, the almost romantic thrill of holding something homemade, our own, so that no matter that it tips, or leaks, or is lopsided, or not-quite-perfect, we love it, adore it, keep it for always. I love that Benevolent Order of Makers celebrates tinkering, creating, failing, trying again, success, sharing, cooperating, teaching and learning, across ages, across disciplines. We don't have to be "perfect," we only have to want to keep trying to reach our goals, and be thrilled with the journey. Inch by inch, row by row... this is how we learn and grow.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

18~ Fresh Air - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 19:30
With considerably less grace than a pale swallowtail, I flitted all over the yard following this beautiful butterfly. And of course, I had my phone on hand, which thrilled me, because when it did land, I got to take pictures, along with a slow, appreciative and reverent look. See the feathery texture, admire the iridescent colors, the way the blue looks like pointillism. It was the most promising beginning to a day that was very good, outside.

The picture went straight to Instagram, and my head went straight to The Butterfly Song...

Butterfly – glad to see you back again
Come and rest your wings my friend
I promise not to pin you down
Or even frown
If you have to fly away
Into someone else's dream

Our hollyhocks are back... the ones I planted four years ago, that bloomed last year. Somehow, I totally failed to collect seeds, and I had been so eager to do that, to share them with friends. Alright, this year. This year I will collect seeds, and share them. And if I fail to follow through, then I hope someone will barge in and intervene, because it's ridiculous how muddled I've become. It's useless to let pride get in the way... I need shaking up.

(The fresh air and time digging around in the garden may be doing me some bit of good. Isn't admitting there's a problem the first step in solving the problem? Let's hope so.)

More evidence of my muddled head... I've finally planted all of the seedlings we bought from two plant sales. That was... what? Maybe two weeks ago. Three? I called everyone outside, to join me, and to lift heavy things. Happily, everyone was obliging. Alex and Max moved soil bags. Maria planted the tomatoes. The chickens.... the chickens kept us amused, and so did the cats, and the goats.

How long did it take me to find this bit of whimsical art planted in the garden bed? Answer: Too long! Bambi made it from found and salvaged bits. I'm glad it watches over this distressed watermelon sprout... I think it will help it rally and thrive.

At least some things in the garden, and my life, are managing under my less than graceful care... the Spoon tomatoes we planted last year, moved from the garden bed, over a fence and beneath the old apricot tree, where they are lush and thriving, again. The wee tomatoes are almost annoyingly small... cute, and tasty, but not too easy to harvest from their overgrown, jungle vines. Our fingers are crossed for the Berkeley Tie-Dyed, the Blue Beauty, and Juliet tomatoes.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

17~ One Cat, One Window, Two Views - Wed, 05/17/2017 - 08:58

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

16~ Friend and the Fairy House - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 20:30

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

15~ Chicken Inspiration - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 21:00
Maria and I love Mako, who is by far our mildest and friendliest hen. She loves to be pet, to be held, to be admired and sheltered. She's not exactly at the bottom of the pecking order, but those Silver-laced Wyandotte hens are way too much, and Mako has a rough go. Sit with us, Mako. We will make sure you get a share of the treats, and loads of loving.

Does anyone remember when I made it Year of the Shelf, here at the Bird House? My factory had a temporary shut-down, when Frankenrouter broke down, but that's over now. Geoff manufactured new parts for our homemade CnC mill, and he rebuilt the computer... it's all been quite an undertaking. At last, Frankenrouter is humming again. Geoff wasted no time putting the mill to work, and he cut and rough sanded 35 of my shelves. Thirty-five! I've never known Geoff to do anything in a small way... he is generous, all the way!

Now, I am fine-sanding the pieces, preparing them for gluing and painting. And lo! I do have my work cut out for me... literally! It's happy work, and as you can see, I have happy company! The chickens, both inspiration and distraction, were fascinated by my busy activity. If I can read their wee minds, I believe they were astonished that so much effort produced no edible treats!

Also, Lady Thompson wanted me to observe that she ought to be the model for my next design, and rightly so. My first effort looks plain and silly compared with her noble visage.

Sanding shelves, with Maria by my side, talking about school today, and summer, next month. Finishing the rough edges, smoothing the burrs, with all of my dear chicas milling about... it was a good pastime.

This is Thompson, or Thomson, or Tamsyn. The pretty Cuckoos all look alike.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

14~ Mother's Day - Sun, 05/14/2017 - 14:42
I'm home, surrounded by love and comforts, and it is a very good place to be. But a wish is in my heart and thoughts, and it goes like this... I would love to be in Oregon, with my mom, and her mom. I would be holding my grandmother's beautiful hand. My heart and sentiments are there, along with my prayers. And I am feeling full of the love, grace, strength, and wisdom, that generations of mothers have blessed on me, that I hope to bless on my own children.

Happy Mother's Day.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

13~ Global Scratch Day - Sat, 05/13/2017 - 18:30
For about 2 years, Maria has been enjoying Scratch, a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, and today she participated in a very special event celebrating the tenth birthday of the Scratch program, Global Scratch Day. Using Scratch, Maria has been learning to program, or write code, which has given her the opportunity to illustrate, write games, create animations, and engage in an online community of fellow coders. And today she taught Working With Vector Graphics, Advanced Workshop, portrait making.

The Benevolent Order of Makers was proud to be represented by Maria, and to participate in this great event. It's our first Scratch Day event, and it will not be our last!

Not only did we get to spend the day with family and friends, like Bex and Spencer, but we were surrounded by all kinds of enthused and energized people who were eager to learn, eager to teach, eager to share. The exchange of ideas and knowledge is probably one of our favorite incentives for being a benevolent order of makers.

We are so glad to have friends like Ido...

and Leslie... they brought their happy Scratch Day enthusiasm and experiences with them when they moved here from New York. Now we know what a Scratch Day can be, we are already looking forward to next year.

Maria and Simon~

Getting started.

Maria chose to share her knowledge of making portraits, using vector shapes, with more advanced Scratchers. To prepare for the hour long workshop she created different elements that coders could assemble, and make their own. She also wrote key notes and directions on two white boards. Geoff and I were on hand to help... Geoff for technical support, and me to move chairs, and take pictures. Really, she knows Scratch, and managed her lesson plan and preparations all on her own.

Tutu, Aunt Holly, and cousin Iz joined the class, which was a nice bonus.

During the afternoon session Maria decided to be a student and take on Pen... Pen blocks are for controlling the pen tool in Scratch. This class gave Maria new skills and confidence in using functions to create graphic patterns and geometric shapes.

Geoff, Nadav, Maria, and Simon~

Maria is fine tuning her project to share at the end of the day. A great aspect of Scratch is keeping things open, so people can share what they've made, how it was done, and learn from other Scratcher's projects, too.

The day, and the activities, the people we met, all of it raised our thoughts and confirmed our hopes and plans. We love our community, we love the integrity and drive of people who want to teach and learn, grow and share, and we are eager for more... more Make, more Scratch, more sharing, thinking, tinkering, playing, testing, failing, moving forward, creating, and BOoM!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

12~ Over The Fence - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 15:37

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

11~ More Moments - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 17:30
Is it too late to make a New Year Resolution? Of course not. I'm going for it. I want to dedicate the rest of this year to taking more pictures of friends, with friends, for friends, about friends. I want to capture the smiles, the light, the familiar faces and moments that make our lives meaningful, supported, funny, inspired, motivating, engaging.

Thank you, Janece, Paul, for submitting yourselves so willingly and warmly to my Stop! I have to take your picture! request command. And fair warning: Family, friends, cashier at the Trader Joe's, I want more moments, captured for posterity, so get ready to say queso, please.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

10~ Prop Master - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 09:35
Maria's school is preparing to perform Sleeping Beauty. Maria is designing and organizing props, and the cool thing is... she's in touch with a budding prop master who is more than happy do her bidding. William wasn't only happy to make a sword and shield for Prince Phillip, he was ecstatic. Topsy-turvy fairy-non-magic cake? He nailed it. There are two more props we are looking forward to seeing completed. Maleficent's staff has some promising design features, and the dragon... ? that's a big one! Fortunately, Maria has some imaginative concepts drawn up, and we know a guy.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

9~ Crochet Blues - Tue, 05/09/2017 - 11:08
Is this a sad post? Maybe, a bit. If it is, it's my own darn fault. The trouble begins with granny squares; I keep making them, and when I ran out of rose colored yarn, I switched to blue ones. But I still had not learned a satisfying way to attach them. Now I have a drawer, overflowing, with rose and gray squares, and another drawer crammed with blue squares. Ok... that's the first part of my blues... Recently I decided to start a blue, cotton yarn blanket, and I committed to making it wide enough to attach rows of the blue granny squares from my stash. I measured. I planned. I was sure. The double crocheted rows of blue cotton yarn are coming along, and I concocted a solid method for attaching the granny squares (at last!) But guess what?? My strip of attached granny squares is too short to align with the blanket. Two and half inches, too short... but, my planning! The measuring! The confidence! Foiled. Shut down. Humiliated. Vexed. Addled. Instead of eliminating a work. in. progress. with a grand endeavor, I have created another wip. Now I have two incomplete, poorly planned blue cotton yarn works in progress. (And let's not even raise the question... Who needs to make blankets??)

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

8~ Hey Kids! - Mon, 05/08/2017 - 19:00

Geoff asked, "How old are the goats?"
My brain goes back to the spring of 2012, when Alex and Suki were seniors in high school and Maria was only 7 years old, Max was finishing middle school, William and Geoff were building our "barn." Way back. I made a quick calculation... 2017 less 2012, and voila! "They're five! They're five years old."


It seems like it was just last week when I was introducing the kids. Take care... only *click* on that link if you can totes handle cute goats!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

7~ A Good Scratch - Sun, 05/07/2017 - 19:00
Cairo kitty heard we were scratching and he came to have a look. Cairo, like most cats, loves a good scratch. What he didn't understand was that sometimes when we scratch we actually Scratch! Writing code, animating, making games, and creating vector line art, programming with MIT's Media Lab. If you have never Scratched, and would like to learn how to code, there is a wonderful opportunity to learn more... Look for a Scratch Day event near you! There is a global network of events to celebrate this 10th anniversary of Scratch. And it's not just for children... any beginner can get familiar with programming and writing code, using this free, open-source, and engaging program. Maria will be leading a class at an area Scratch Day event, and she's looking forward to learning new skills, too.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

6~ Unplanned - Sat, 05/06/2017 - 13:32

Wait... a... second... was that... a date?

Maybe I sighed extra hard, or just looked extra morose... something compelled Geoff to say, Let's go do something. Something fun. And even though I moved like a reluctant sloth, Geoff didn't throw in the towel. Come on! We're doing this, he coaxed. We drove. We drove some more. We debated, amicably, the possibilities, the options. We walked, and observed, and recalled. And we dared ourselves into going into a hip and happening spot... why not? My water glass was aglow. The cheese and meat board was intriguing, tasty, different. Holding hands, on the way home, I made a request... Do it again, please. Okay? Even if I am slow to catch on. Unplanned outings are good.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

5~ Expression - Fri, 05/05/2017 - 12:37
Chango is expressing at least half what I am feeling and thinking these days.

Frustration. Disappointment. Disgust. Dismay. Disapproval... and that's just with Congress. All in all, for many reasons, I cannot call myself a fan of 2017. Part of me is tempted to pour it all out, every hill and trench, and heartache, and dark valley I've faced, including dirty laundry, because I want to believe that in the near future I will look back at all of this and sigh, maybe laugh, and give thanks for what we overcame. Then again, I'm not sure I have the stamina to list all of it, or the resilience to read it and keep my hope and faith.

After many days, my computer is back, and after updates and other tweaks, it's working, too. That's a good thing. Chango's expression is a very good thing, reminding me that humor goes a long way toward holding us together. It's supposed to rain this weekend, and I welcome that. My car survived another hiccup, the hollyhocks are about to bloom, Geoff put up pretty curtains in our bedroom. Good things. I saw a quail in our tree, and have heard them in the garden. It's already May, almost summer, closer to Thanksgiving! I gotta admit, to conquer frustration, disappointment, disgust, dismay, and disapproval I need to actively think about being closer to Thanksgiving, having lovely friends, crocheting, painting, napping, breathing. Ah... I think it's obvious, now, I will keep blogging. One way or another, I will keep looking for good, describing our journey, and sharing pictures of my cats, or goats, or chickens, or robots.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.