Chicken Blog by Natalie

Sandcastle Season - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 06:00
It's sandcastle season... the best time at the beach is when you can make something beautiful with water and sand, and your hands.

Five Good and Fair Things - Mon, 06/29/2015 - 09:50

Watch your zukes! That is my gardening motto for as long as we are growing zucchini. This is the first year we've had an actual bounty of zucchini. In years past, we've had fair success to nothing in growing zucchini, so I think I am way out of practice about just how wildly they will grow, when left alone for too long. I thought I was being generous when I gave the hens the big zuke I found, but when I went back to the garden, I found loads more... about 25 lbs worth. These will be firm and seedy, but there are recipes for dealing with them, and I've made some friends sharing these beauties. Apples, and tomatoes, too! We made grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced apples, and we've been snacking on them, sharing them, but I think we are going to need to bake pies, soon.

Last baile for Ballet Folklorico! Maria and her friends made three appearances at the County Fair, and I think this last one was the best. They've had experience and more rehearsals, and the routine is getting into a groove. Best of all though... it was overcast and a wonderful ocean breeze was blowing through this new venue. Everyone was able to stay cooler, more comfortable... what a relief. Another thing to add to the pleasure was being joined by Robin and her mother, and Celine! I loved seeing Maria's smile light up with extra wattage when she saw us waving to her!

We made a special effort to hang out after the dancing, so we could catch some sights, and indulge in special treats. Roast corn with chile? Sí, por favor! Even a bag of cotton candy, then a ride on the giant ferris wheel, which has been beckoning to Maria all month! She loved it, of course. The crowds had to have been record-breaking, but we managed to see a few farm animals.

The people watching was exceptional, and seeing the robots was thrilling, too! Hard to believe it's been four years since we were at the Fair for robotics, and our favorite FIRST teams, like FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, and those Midnight Mechanics from The Preuss School. Proud and excited to see that first place ribbon on Marie Antoinette. Looks like Team Paradox is doing better than ever!

Good Things...

1. Our refrigerator died. And we scrambled to manage all the perishable food damages... even going so far as to bake 24 croissants! Duty calls. Nothing good in all of this, but Geoff did save the day: He had to manufacture a small part, to replace the broken mechanism (no longer made by Kitchen-no-Aid.) His time and efforts paid off, and we have a working refrigerator again!

2. Our first Summer Movie Night was fun... we showed Return of the King, the director's cut. The movie is fabulous, but the best part was getting friends together, and sharing a rainbow carrot cake in celebration of a move forward in social justice, and love.

3. Nutella Cheesecake... Erika, there were a lot of rave reviews for this tasty contribution!

4. I have a dear friend who is going to Iceland... I just get so excited thinking of the adventure she'll be enjoying, and I cannot wait to see some pictures, and hear about what she sees and does.

5. People send me funny videos about goats, and chickens... sometimes the same video link will be posted to my FB wall multiple times. This cracks me up.

I cannot believe this is only the first week of summer since both Max and Maria are out of school... what a lot of goodness we've enjoyed already! How is your summer shaping up? I hope good things are happening for you, and yours. Please tell us what's good where you are.

Backyard Chickens & So Much More! - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 11:53

Please, please, please vote for ChickenBlog!!
I have yet to figure out what my career goals are, what ultimate vision I have for this blog, but I do know this... I love my family, I love to write, I love to take pictures, I adore chickens, and goats, and bunnies, and our Ratty Rat Hazel, and I am passionate about supporting young people and STEAM. ChickenBlog gives me a chance to play with all of my interests, sharing deep thoughts and other musings, while making a family keepsake. As for being an "award worthy" Backyard Chicken Blog... I can think of a few good reasons to crow!

#1. It is ChickenBlog: Since 2002, because I love chickens, and I love to share what I've learned.

#2. I have learned a lot! Like how to nurse a hen through a bobcat attack! She's four years old, now, and still laying!

#3. We have humble backyard chicken beginnings, and we have built on our experiences, so we can shelter and protect our backyard flock.

#4. ChickenBlog has practical advice to share.

#5. ChickenBlog has had a Chicken Muse, who inspired a Foundation, and art.

#6. We love to share the the fun of backyard chickens.

#7. When we can, we lend a hand for more backyard schoolyard chickens!

#8. ChickenBlog keeps it fresh... covering topics from robots to art, from fresh eggs to hencakes!

Selfie with chickens, because I am silly.

So, this morning my aunt posted on FB her lament that Disneyland will be banning selfie sticks. No more extended poles risking life and limb on rides, no bumping people, but I understand her disappointment, and I love her posts, her group shots, and all the happy pics she shares.

I was thinking about her predicament when... my career destiny dawned on me {in case this blogging gig implodes} I am a selfie stick. William said, "Don't you mean photographer?" But I think "photographer" builds up too many expectations. My skills are simpler, convenient, immediate. My aunt can take me to Disneyland, where I will be her personal snapshot, moment recording, selfie stick! I can achieve the extreme close-ups, and funny angles, I can squeeze everyone in, go on rides. I am water-proof, and have long lasting batteries. No one will have to carry me!

Seriously, if you ever go out in public with me, sooner or later, I will disappear for a moment, and when you look around for me, you will find me offering to take couple and group pictures for complete strangers. I do this all the time. At the beach, in theme parks, at statues and memorials... we live in a destination area, and the opportunities to take picture for people come up regularly. I love doing this. I overcome all of my shyness, and crowd anxiety. Maybe I have a trustworthy face, too, because no one has turned down my aggressively friendly gesture. I've even daydreamed about purposely going to the zoo, or meet a cruise ship, with the sole intention of offering to take pictures for people. My favorite part is when they are genuinely happy with how it came out... it makes me beam with happiness.

Vote For ChickenBlog! - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 09:46
No shame! I am strutting and crowing, and asking you to vote for ChickenBlog at The Happy Chicken Coop in
The Annual Backyard Chicken Blog Awards 2015!
Voting is open now, and you only have to vote once.
ChickenBlog was shortlisted and is #3 on the list of 25 Back Yard Chicken Blogs.
You guys! This is a silly, happenstance, commercial thing that may never have any bearing on world affairs!
So, please, please, please vote for ChickenBlog!!

Beach Season - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 09:25
It's beach season... the best time of any break is when you play outside, especially with friends.

Sharing Season - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 05:00
It's sharing season... the best time in any garden is when there is enough to share.

Five Good Things - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 09:30

June is whirr, a blur, a dizzying month of activities, celebrations, finishing a school year, beginning a summer. And we have been filling up our days with some good things.

Good Things...

1. After a performance, Geoff is the first one Maria looks for and sinks into for a hug. This says everything to me about the kind of father he is, and I love it. He is dependable, generous, caring, supportive, strong and gentle... he is a daddy.

2. Cousin Emma joined Ballet Folklorico, and made her first performance, yesterday at the Fair. Now Maria and Emma can share this special pastime, and see each other whenever the two programs meet for shows. Her mom posted a video on FB, and I love watching Emma doing her first dance... she was precious! No bias. Seriously, a fun, fun dance to watch!

3. Alex is 21 years old.
Alex is 21 years old??
It's hard for me to believe, but it's true, and we could not be more happy for him, for his accomplishments, and his plans. And he throws a really fun Middle Earth party, too.

4. Frankenrouter is inching its way to completion. Geoff squeezes in progress, troubleshooting, experimenting, trial by error, and steady success whenever he can, and even I managed to contribute {in a very small way} to the first project. Here you see me holding the wood William prepared for a Prancing Pony tavern sign. Is there any doubt that I will host some kind of grand fete when it's cutting into that wood??

5. Max did everything asked of him, diligently, steadfastly, without complaint, never late, never grousing, and consistently with high marks, and now, at last he has his summer. You should see the smile he is wearing now school is through! And the trebuchet? Max and his AP Physics team hit the barrel on the spot, and earned an A+. Well done, Max. All very well done.

Summer. Summer! We hardly have a thing planned, but the general mood is bright and eager, and we feel good about this. Are you enjoying good things? We'd love to hear all about it... leave a comment, send an email. Share your summer goodness.

Sitting With Chickens - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 09:52

I visit our chickens everyday. To feed them, to check their water, to collect eggs, and scoop chickenblogs. The goats, too, get regular visits and attention from me. But sometimes I sit with them, because they make the world, problems, stresses, frustrations, and shock, a little easier to face. I can watch them go about their silly and simple lives, and feel my breathing slow, my heart calm. They don't fuss if I'm crying, they don't say cliched things, or tell me to feel better. They take me as I am, flaws and all. Flaws and all... there's something to that. Chickens are great, and they are flawed, but there is no pretense, no shame. They don't wax, or wear concealer. A chicken doesn't get worked up over social media posts, or judge your style. If they could vote, they'd endorse clean air, clean water, clean food, room for everyone on good roosts. So, when I am with them, I find I can be myself, too, and appreciate the essentials, let go of judgement, self-conscious cares. And I can resolve issues, fix problems, manage to make an appreciable difference in their lives... that feels good, it's gratifying. It's encouraging.

Autism is About Neuro-Diversity - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 11:14
There were some key concepts and words in this Ted talk from Steve Silberman,The forgotten history of autism, that I had to jot down, because they really resonated with my experiences and how I have come to understand autism. I do not 'seek a cure for autism,' because I don't think it is a puzzle to solve, a problem to fix. Autism is neuro-diveristy.

I've shared small bits of our family's autism story, a chapter in what has become a lengthy, rich book. I've been addressed as the refrigerator mother, and we have met doctors and educational professionals who scared us, shamed us, misled us. So, when Steve Silberman says, "[Seventy] years later, we're still catching up to Asperger, who believed that the "cure" for the most disabling aspects of autism is to be found in understanding teachers, accommodating employers, supportive communities, and parents who have faith in their children's potential," I feel a catch in my throat, and know that we did alright, we made good choices for our children, and it's such a huge relief, and a healing affirmation to hear someone else acknowledge this.

Faith in children's potential is one of the greatest driving forces in everything I do, promote, and am motivated by. Diversity... it's a gift, not a puzzle. Every time autism has been a "problem," the real issue has been about someone not fitting a prescribed mold, a construct of some institution that only functions by managing the most people with the greatest common profile... like most schools, like factories. The problem is not the person with autism; the problem is inflexibility in the system. Thank goodness we have been able to see other possibilities, been willing to create new paths. {Maybe I am defensive, feel a bit beat-up... it's been a hell of a journey, one we are still taking. It's not easy, it's not normal, typical. That's alright. I've come to love and cherish all of this neuro-diveristy I see around me. I hope anyone else out there, feeling different, can find places and people where they are met with faith, understanding, and support.

Behold, The Greatest Gift Is Gold - Sat, 06/13/2015 - 09:29
Happy Birthday, Alex!
You really are blessed with the greatest gifts...
humor, imagination, curiosity, intelligence, creativity, and great friends!
Solid gold!
Door bell rings.
Long pause.
William, with awe and pleasure calls out, "Hey, Alex, I think you'd better come here..."
We all rush to the front door, and are met with the slain head of Smaug the Tyrannical! {And some of his booty!}

Truly, tales and songs fall utterly short of your enormity,
O Smaug the Stupendous...

I am strong, strong, STRONG! My armor is like tenfold shields!
My teeth are like swords! My claws, spears! The shock of my tail, a thunderbolt!
My wings, a hurricane! And my breath... DEATH!

Alas, poor Smaug has breathed his last, but he shall not have died in vain, and his glory will be honored when we fete Alex in Middle Earth!

{And who was the crafty warrior who delivered this treasure? A swift youth was seen riding off... and I Grant you he was fleet-footed, yet we have our suspicions.}

Bird House & Barn - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 09:52
... a Farm Report~

This time it was Tasha, not Ada, looking me in the face, and making me feel all kinds of affection and amusement. Goats! If you say "goats" in just such a tone, you can convey anything from adoration to vexation, and sometimes both at once. Goats.

Not big girls, not yet, but they've grown so much they're off the porch and in the run with the real big girls. They are in a dog crate, and have a separate area fenced off for little chicas only. The introductions between our established flock and these newbies is going well, but the new chicks are much too small to fend for themselves. In the early evening, I sit with them all and play referee, mediator, mama hen.

This evening, I came with a special treat. Our friend Lani came with enough chard to feed a farm... for goats, chickens, and soup for us, too! She says she has as much at home for her family... that is a happy garden bed she has going. Mako was the first to sample the beautiful greens.

Tasha and Ada don't peck and rip, like the chickens do. The goats inhale their fresh greens... I am reminded of feeding a paper shredder, everything is drawn in, devoured systematically, hardly pausing. Thank you, Lani. From all of us.

From left to right: Two Ameracaunas, Fiona the Buff, and two Laced Wyandottes, Pepper and Pippi.

Our oldest hen, Kamen, visiting the new girls. Kamen could tell them a thing or two about the world.

Pepper? Pippi? We just don't know! I am amazed by the gradual shift in the feather patterns and colors. More and more white is appearing in those black feathers. And I am so relieved to see that at least one of them is developing a distinctly hen-like tail. The blunt feather tips, and upright direction of her tail feathers is all hen.

Here's a comparison of sizes... about two months vs. three years. A big difference.

Pepper, Pippi and Fiona peering into the nest box. They are curious about everything, especially if it looks good to eat. They've learned to stay clear of the grown hens, and they'll have to learn to dodge the goats' heavy steps. The goats seem to regard everyone else as other goats. Mostly, they are polite, but the size difference can make them formidable when they are in a hurry, clumsy, or eager to establish boundaries. When goats see food they are in a hurry, clumsy, and eager to establish boundaries, all at once!

Chickens, too, like to establish boundaries. There will be a pecking order, and none of my mediating or refereeing will negate that! Being hen-pecked is all part of the chicken life.

You can tell she means business, can't you?

Birds of a feather... roost together! These are the Ameracauna hens, all ready to call it a night.

They've come home to roost: Pele, Koa, and Mako.

Now Kamen will have to figure where she lines up in the pecking order.

Even the little ones have figured out that when dusk calls, it's time to go to their mini-coop, to roost for the night. I put their food away, cover the shelter. The goats get a hay refresher, and last scratches.
Good night chicas. Good night goats.

Leave Everything Go To The Beach - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 09:16

We are a little rusty on our pick and go! spontaneity, but despite a few hurdles and speed bumps, I am so glad we decided to leave chores and home behind, to go to the beach. For a moment I thought, Oh dear, the kitchen is a mess... blahblahblahblah, then, fortunately, I concluded, If we were home "cleaning," we'd probably be making as many more messes as we cleared. Satisfied with my rational, I went into the waves with Maria, then buried my feet in the sand, and thought wasn't this a fine idea?

Lovely strange weather we are having, too. A bit balmy, with deep foggy bits, and large tropical raindrops evaporating as they land. Last night birds began their seasonal chorus, reminding us that it really is June, summer really is upon us. Other summer clues... Maria has no more homework for the last two weeks of school, Max and his team will test their trebuchet for AP physics, and that's about the end of his junior year in high school. Summer, and strange weather, sandy feet, and the end of school... what wonderful things to ponder, and enjoy.

Nuevos Pasos :: Ballet Folklorico - Mon, 06/08/2015 - 10:01
A big moment, all the dances completed, and dancers taking their bows, at the San Diego County Fair!

Maria and I have discussed keeping all of this straight... the dances she's learned, the performances she's been in. And even though they've been at this only six months, I've already lost count. So before there are even more shows to lose track of I am going to sort through photos and archives and write this down...

*Mid-November: First after school class

*January: Picture day for San Diego Fair banners

*February: First Performance, school talent show; La Costilla

*March: Switch, from La Costilla to Jesusita En Chihuahua, at Arts Festival

*April: Jesusita En Chihuahua, at First Thursday Downtown

*April: Jesusita En Chihuahua, at Street Fair

*May: Jesusita En Chihuahua, at Dia De Los Niños, Library

*May: Jesusita En Chihuahua, at school Fiestas

*June: Switch from Jesusita En Chihuahua, to Los Machetes and {with only three rehearsals!} perform at San Diego Fair!

The dresses, and boots are loaned to us from the dance studio, which is fortunate, because it would be a great expense and responsibility to buy dresses for every dance, and keep up with size changes, too. But, I've learned this can also be the reason dancers need to be switched around, especially when the class size increases. The teacher wants to include everyone, and so some dancers, like Maria, get moved up from the youngest (smallest dancers) and into whichever dance there are enough dresses for... does that make sense? It's a shuffling game, trying to outfit every dancer, and choreograph each group.

In the beginning there were the youngest and smallest, including Maria, in one group, and there was a second group of middle school dancers, and they've been dancing Los Machetes since December. An in-between group was created when too many very little girls joined the class, so the tallest girls were bumped to Jesusita En Chihuahua. All along, Maria has been in awe, and full of admiration for the older girls dancing Los Machetes, in their elegant black faldas and blusas. Just four weeks ago she got notice that she and her Jesusita En Chihuahua peers had to learn the big girls' dance, Los Machetes. Only three lessons to catch-up with the dancers who have had six months to learn and master their dance! It's been a bit much, actually, but Maria is so eager to dance, she just hangs in there and keeps at it. And just to be clear... we are not pushing, demanding, insisting, or bribing. When she looks worn out or defeated, I look her in the eye, and ask, "Are you happy?" Of her own will, she assess her state (thirsty, sore, tired, frustrated) and then she restates her resolve to move forward. Having possessed very little of this kind of ambition or devotion to anything demanding stamina and coordination, I am deeply admiring of her perseverance.

Nathalie and Maria, have learned the new steps... nuevos pasos.
{I learned how to crochet a bun cover (for her hair... is that obvious?) and to braid a yarn wrap}


There was a long, hot, wait {two hours} before they danced, and she was well worn out by the end of all of it... but it wasn't too long before she declared, "I think I'd like to do that, again." Maybe the strawberry covered funnel cake helped to revive her! Last night she asked me to sit with her and watch YouTube clips of Ballet Folklorico, and we shared our appreciation for steps, the swirls, the beautiful regional dresses, and styles, the talent and skills. And she said, "I'm not sure if Ballet Folklorico will be my life, if I will dance it when I am an adult, but I do love it, now." She's happy... we're proud.

Rocking The Garden Crafts - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 09:45
You don't have to decide whether garden markers are practical, or just pretty... couldn't they be both? And you don't have to go Over the garden wall for your own rock facts. These rock facts are practical, pretty, and homegrown. Maria and I had fun yesterday, rockin' some garden crafts!


Smooth stones, preferably with a flatter surface.
Acrylic craft paints + Acrylic gloss sealant (optional)
Small brushes

Maria and I first dabbled in rock painting for a Thanksgiving craft. We really enjoyed how easy and gratifying it was to make tiny painted tokens. We kept playing, and soon had a rock farm. Now, we have markers for the sprouts and veg popping up and spreading in the garden.

I don't think this necessarily requires a tutorial, but I can offer a few tips.

#1. You can use a pencil... it helps with spacing, and giving you a base to start from.

#2. Use slim, and small brushes, and start by making your letters, or veg small... so that when mistakes happen, you can layer paint, and correct lines... your painting will get bigger, and if you start big, you might feel like it becomes too big.

#3. Relax and have fun. This is rock art... not masterpieces! Or maybe it is a masterpiece. Just try not to overthink it.

#4. When Maria decided to join me, she went to the garden to look at chard colors, and she picked a basil leaf for inspiration. Visual references are helpful.

Our craft paints are flat, and the finished look was a bit dull, dry. It's not bad, in fact I sort of like the naturalness of it, but I decided to liven it up with the gloss sealant. Maybe it will help them last longer?

Maria didn't get where I was going with this. The end of the cucumber is sliced. Okay, like I said, "Try not to overthink it!"

This is for the Anaheim peppers we are growing, or as Geoff likes to call them, "The chile relleno garden."

Okay, did I overthink this one?

Simple, crafty, fun.

Lettuce agree to play in the garden, to grow something good.

I think it would be fun to be a multilingual gardener... zanahoria, carrote, ninjin, marchew, wortel, morot, karoti, cà rốt, carrot! {Spanish, French, Japanese, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Swahili, Vietnamese, English}

The basil smells really good.

I'm thinking of recipes, and dinners to come!

Need some sage advice? Make something!

Mid Morning Traffic Update :: KBHR - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 10:04
What if ChickenBlog moved into radio? What would my call letters be, I wonder. We are west of the Mississippi, so we'd start with a K. How about: KBHR... Bird House Radio?

Good morning! Let's go out to the barn for a midmorning check on traffic. No helicopters, here, but our field reporter is on the ground and she sees significant back up at the favorite nest box.

It's beak to bumper, and no relief in sight.

Alternate routes are available, but Liberty Chicken Maran thinks nest sharing is the answer.

Looks like Liberty Chicken Maran is preparing to merge.

Oh dear, folks, we have a pile-up! The Carpool lane is overloaded. Sig alert!

Thompson Chicken Maran, emerges, only her pride is injured.

Let's see if she'll answer a few questions...

Q. Ms Chicken Maran, how did you feel when you were encroached upon? Did the other hen signal, or was she lead-footed? Do you think the farmer is to blame for these conditions?

Ms. Chicken Maran, eyeballing the field reporter with thinly veiled disregard, refuses to comment.

Liberty Chicken Maran, unruffled, settles down to business.
Nothing to report, here.
Let's check traffic at nest box 2, aka The Goat Feeder.

Ada Lovelace Goat, how do you feel about the traffic situation? Do you have any comments for our listeners?

Ada Lovelace Goat says, "We try to give those compact models plenty of room. They zip in and out of lanes, scratching and pecking as they go. We love coming to The Goat Feeder, but it's getting real popular, and you get these ladies who just drop in, and idle, they take their time, texting their business, 'cluck, cluck, cluck!'"

Folks, Ada Lovelace Goat offered to sing a song, but she started by chewing on my equipment, and now, I'm afraid we are all out of time.

This is Natalie, the Chickenblogger, KBHR in the morning, wishing you clear lanes, and fresh eggs!

Celebrating ChickenBlog and Making - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 11:00
We did it again... a homegrown, mini-Make event and Lemonade sale!
It starts with lemonade. Fresh squeezed. We invite all of our friends, put a sign up at the Little Free Library, then dust off our bots, spruce up our tent, and get ready to play, tinker, share, learn, and make. Donations for those homemade cookies and lemonade go toward replenishing supplies... like duct tape, paint brushes, clay, epoxy, sandpaper, drill bits, and pizza. Our Young Makers Club goes through a lot of epoxy, and pizzas, and we like to share with everyone.

This post is a Big Thank You! Thank you, Paul... for all the pre-event support and heavy lifting. Making, and preparing to make, always goes better with help. Thank you, James... for explaining our purpose, in such succinct and lyric prose. You give us that air of totes legit:

"A glorious Sunday to ye all!
Come one and all to the Bird House, humble abode of the Van V. folk, for a lovely time of comradery, creativity, and cuisine. What cuisine (you ask)? That of the gods: a potent symphony of lemonade and cookies awaits your face-stuffing. The best thing about face-stuffing is that it often goes hand-in-hand with patronage.
Some of you may be wondering what the purpose of such patronage is. Well, you see, there happens to be a retinue of creative folks here who appreciate utilizing the industrial, artistic, and intellectual resources of the House of Bird.
So while we socialize, nosh on snacks, and sip on liquid snacks, we will be bringing and working on whatever projects need our love. We shall raise aggregates of magic metal and cotton that will allow us to buy infinite quantities of duct tape, gorilla glue, pistons, 3D scans, MIDI controllers, circuit boards, cloth, yarn, butter, flour, and all the like.
Come celebrate the manipulation of space-time events by sentient biological systems!"

Thank you to friends who came from near and far, who were curious enough to see what a "Lemonade & Robots & ChickenBlog" event is all about. Thank you for your support, for playing, for sharing your enthusiasm, interest, knowledge, and company. And I must thank my family, who want to create things, who cannot not make things, but who don't necessarily need to promote what they are doing, yet endure my aggressively friendly passion for sharing their accomplishments; indeed anyone's projects, interests, tinkering, making, learning makes me want to celebrate... It's a huge reason why I maintain ChickenBlog, and certainly our Young Makers blog.

Max finishing his pasta and hot glue bridge for Physics. Long may it stand!

Friendly customers, lining up!

So. Makey Makey? Lani and her daughter brought their Makey Makey, so it could get figured out... any takers?

Here is Da Vinci, the line drawing robot that first appeared at the Maker Faire, Bay Area, in 2012. Of course, he was only a hand, then.

Bridge complete, and ready to take on AP Physics bridge challenge. This is the first time the bridges are not balsa wood, but their fate is the same!

Isaac and James take the Makey Makey challenge, and build a strawberry, banana, and apple band that actually plays music. Yes, it is appalling that I do not have video of this, but trust me, it was pretty epic.

This has definitely inspired us to host another day to tinker with Arduinos.

Arduinos, and Scratch, and Java programming... these things are like magnets, drawing Young Makers into the greatness of S.T.E.A.M.

Chris F captured this moment, showing the big draw of programming with Scratch. Not just playing games, writing them!

Isaac, Paul, Suki, Amira, Grant, and Gabe... so good to see old friends.

Nathan, James, Matt, Nick, Isaac, Gabe, Grant... and campfire dinner.

The chickens and goats are never neglected. Isaac made friends for life when he sat with Tasha and Ada and brushed them.

Some of our youngest Makers, Maria and Amira.

In the back, William and Alex, then Max, James, Nick, and Grant, with Suki in front of all of them, and on the other side of the travel weary bot (he survived Fanime... barely} Matt with Gabe and Isaac, an inspiring lot, all.

And just to round out the day, we went half way Over the Garden Wall.

Our second lemonade sale and robot event, was a success, for sure!

Moments In The Garden - Fri, 05/29/2015 - 05:00

Last week the colors in our little orchard were glowing. If someone asked Do you like corals, deep orange colors, paler shades of greens? I would hesitate to say Yes. But nature always does it best, and if I saw apples on a tree, or succulents washed in a light rainfall, if the corals were the colors of peaches and apricots, and the pale greens the undersides of apple clusters, then I would say Oh, yes I do, with conviction. It was just these sorts of colors that drew me into the garden, where I found hearts and almost ripe peaches, Anna apples weighing down the tiny tree, and Dorsett Goldens, too. I added links in case you are in a similar growing region, because these two varieties have been completely wonderful, fruitful, happy trees. {Sunset calls this area a Zone 24: Marine influence.}

Today, Alex and I harvested two baskets of Anna apples. It seems early. Certainly not like last year when we picked in mid-June. They're ready, though. Crisp, not too sweet. They are tart enough to make a delicious pie, sweet enough to enjoy with a sharp cheddar. I think the Dorsett apples will be ready in another week, or two... and then! Baking? Canning? Apple sauces? We've learned from previous attempts that neither of these varieties stores well, so we will stuff ourselves now, and wish we had more, later. The other fruit making an early showing... our white fig. It's like dessert off a tree, truly luscious. We ate the dozen wee peaches. And the plum? Well, technically there were two plums. One for Maria, and one for a crow. Lucky crow! If our peaches, plums, and apricots ever produce like the apples, I will have to beg Marla and Sharon to come teach me how to can! They posted a gorgeous picture of jars and jars of canned peaches from their garden. The colors were glowing!

Funny Birds - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 10:07
Let's see. What have we here? Chicks, about six weeks old. This is not the age, nor stage, at which greeting cards use chicks for Easter cards. They are not in the phase where you'd say they look adorable, not as a first impression, anyway. No, this age is goofy, odd, awkward, ungainly, in-between. They are freaky feathered fowl. The last of their down flies off them like fluff from a dandelion. Their true feathers are coming in, and sticking out. They still peep like wee chicks, but they flap, flutter and fly with all the grace and coordination of Elaine Benes getting a dance started... they are funny!
Pippy and Pepper, Silver Laced Wyandottes. I might add, this is a doubtful stage and age, when one cannot be too sure of things... Are they chickens? Are they hens? Did we rescue genetically mutated starlings?

Sweet fancy Moses!

Pippy has more white feathers on her head. Write that down, for the quiz.

Just kidding. We still can't tell our Thompson from our Thomson.

And we still haven't settled on a name for this Ameracauna. I shouldn't name her Hazel, like I was considering, because that's our rat's name: Hazel Nutt. I think it's risky to name a hen when she's going through this phase... it inspires less than flattering suggestions! {Why am I thinking Phyllis Diller??}

The darker Ameracauna hasn't a name either. She may not be an Ameracauna. She may be a burrowing owlet, or an orphaned hawk. An escapee from the dinosaur cloning lab. We just don't know.

Fiona is the Buff Orpington. She's the tamest, the youngest, and the most likely to be an actual chicken.

And here's Pepper, photobombing. Funny birds.

5 Things When I Am Sick - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 09:55
1. Do Not Blog: Do not post on social media. Do not say, "No one has ever felt this way before. I am the most sick. Was ever a woman made to suffer more?"

2. Do not describe symptoms... not in order of miserableness, nor in alphabetical order, not repeatedly to anyone within earshot, not in text messages.

3. Drink tea. Wash hands. Wear socks. My mother will be calling, and I want to sound convincing when she asks, "Are drinking plenty of fluids? Are you washing your hands? I hope you are remembering to wear socks."

4. Find a comfortable position to "rest" in, then enjoy total recall of every errand, chore, appointment, commitment, duty, and obligation I've neglected, ever. Let it fester.

5. Imagine that, before I was sick, I was totally going to do all of those things I cannot do now.

6. Release a single tear of pity for noble martyrdom.

7. Resist the urge to make numbered lists... who can keep track of anything with only one eye open, and a raging sore throat??

8. Smell something. What is that??

9. Taste nothing. Food mocks my pain with bland flavors, but of course my appetite cannot be suppressed!

10. Think about my brain. Think about The Oatmeal. Think about making some oatmeal.

11. Read the entire Internet, then telepathically implore my friends to update their FB status, preferably with cat memes.

12. Smile, because at least I have an uncanny capacity for amusing myself.

Because Goats! - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 09:50

{There's nothing I can add to make this any more great. Because, Goats!}