Chicken Blog by Natalie

To Each Her Own - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:11
The hens, in their own yard, separate from the goats, eat their lay crumble eagerly, greedily. I set out two feeding stations, but there is still pushing, and pecking, and inevitably feathers are ruffled. Little Debbie rarely even tries to get into the buffet line. By now, she knows, she does not stand a chance between those big fat hens... a fate she had not foreseen. Wherever I feed her, a hen rushes in to chase her off, so these days Little Debbie takes her chances with the goats.

And the goats? In their own yard, separate from the hens, the goats are eating their chow eagerly, greedily. It's no use feeding them separately. They're too goat headed to do anything but push and strategize over their breakfast, lunch, and dinners, no matter how, or where, it's served, and Little Debbie just stands by, waiting for her chance to take a share.

They take sides... Tasha on the left, and Ada on the right. Always. No exceptions. Sometimes they start in opposite positions, and then, without fail, they realize that something is terribly wrong and in spite of the feeding frenzy they switch sides! And it's Tasha on the left, and Ada on the right. Always. It's Ada that usually initiates the switch, insists on her side, and Tasha has resigned herself to the arrangement. One thing they both agree on: No chickens at our buffet, so when hens pop over for a bite, Ada and Tasha stop butting heads with each other and turn their eyes on the offending bird.

They see you, Little Debbie.

The goats even butt their heads in the direction of the hen, but cannot aim low enough, or fast enough, and I think the chickens get the message... back off!

Must be too crowded at the chicken's buffet, here comes Liberty! Then Mako. They know when the goats are full, there will still be tasty bits to clean up from their feeder, so Li' Debbie, Liberty, and Mako wait for the goats to clear out.

But the goats will not be rushed, harried, or hassled. Mind yourself, Liberty. They're watching you.


No way.

Goats love oats, and alfalfa, and their chow. They love carrots, dried leaves, pumpkin, and evergreens... especially crisp and brittle. They swoon over black licorice.

Chickens love grass, and grass seeds, and goat chow, and their own lay crumble. They love cracked corn, tomatoes, flies, wriggly things they dig up, and veg from the garden.

I love rice pudding. And I do not share. Neither with goats, nor chickens. Nope. No way.

Picture Day For Ballet Folklórico - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 12:09

Maria was even happier to be in ballet folklórico when her friend, Nathalie, joined, too.
Maria loves to dance, {You may have noticed!} but it's been a long time since she's had a class. Last spring, at her school, there was a demonstration for a new class, ballet folklórico, that would be taught in the fall, and Maria was utterly enchanted with the prospect. They meet once a week, and what with breaks and holidays, she's had only four lessons, but the teacher is good, and the students are enthused, so they've made good progress. This day was for pictures, and a first chance for many, like Maria, to try on the traditional dresses and suits. Maria wore the blouse and heavy skirt, with many ribbons for Jalisco. I am thankful to have made a friend, too... another mother who is experienced with the traditions, and expectations, like gelling that hair way back! There are more things to learn, for Maria, and for me, and so far it's fun. And beautiful. The dresses, the ribbons, the music and steps... it's pretty, romantic, and touching to see young girls standing confidently, learning about themselves. Twirling was irresistible. And for me, taking lots and lots of pictures was irresistible. Pictures for the abuelas and tias, and tios, too... I am excited to share these happy moments. And when I get the date for their first performance, I will be sure and tell those doting grandmothers to mark their calendars! Va ver baile!

{this moment} - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Alex and Bambi, and the towering waffle dinner!

Foo, Foo, Foo, Chango, and iPhone 6 - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:17

Yesterday I posted from my new phone, using the Blogger app. I wanted to see whether any improvements or changes came with the iPhone 6, whether Blogger would need to be updated... just troubleshooting. Everything worked the same. And the only thing that needs updating is my own knowledge... I need to teach myself how to get links into the text of a post. Maybe my resolution for 2015 is Experiment. Maybe not. But, today I am fiddling with the camera on the iPhone 6. So far: Wow! Amazing! Super impressed.

And even though Apple didn't ask me to sing their praises, I will say, "This new phone is pretty spiffy."

I am tech reluctant. Is that one word?

I am techreluctant: adjective \ˈtek\-\ri-ˈlək-tənt\
:a person averse to adapting new devices, esp anything dependent on electricity and/or WIFI
See also: troglodyte.

It's true. From this blog, to microwaves, from my cell phone to the remotes for the television, I am slow and reluctant when it comes to figuring it all out. In fact, I am slow to even posses those articles, and they are here only because of Geoff. He assures me they are safe, interesting, worthwhile, and sometimes even necessary. It never fails to come as a bit of shock to me, but Geoff insists these devices are good, and easily adopted into our modern lifestyle. I drag my bare feet, stand by him, and grimace while he dives in and gets everything humming, synchronized, uploaded, downloaded, and online. I find a chair, sip chamomile tea, and daydream about living in a yurt pay close attention. I am neither boasting about my ignorance, nor particularly ashamed... okay, yes, it is embarrassing, but the truth is instruction manuals, and tutorials on subjects that don't include loads of pictures, or glitter, wool, or chickens, are indescribably inaccessible to my attention span. I lack discipline, or affinity, or the proper neural receptacles, or simply interest... in fact, I believe it is a tragic, yet effective, combination of all four barriers that keep me techreluctant.

But I do like my new phone, and I am thankful for it. And, thanks to Maria, I am learning to navigate IOS. And I do like posting from a mobile device, because sometimes my deep thoughts, and other musings, cannot be contained. And, so, I keep trying. I have figured out our PS3, so I can play movies, and I write my own HTML for Chickenblog... a bit, anyway. I've even used those registers that let you check your own groceries out at the market, though I can't say I am impressed with that whole scene. {All of this to mention that I have a new camera! And it is gorgeous, and small, and new. It came from Mom and Dad, for my birthday, and I've set it all up... and it scares the courage right out of me, so adopting it into my modern lifestyle is going slowly, because I am embarrassingly techreluctant.}

Would you look at my dear, poor, Chango? I've never had any camera that could capture and focus on the details of his face... his nose, the fine whiskers, his dark features, until this iPhone 6. His expression? Yes, I do have many, very many pictures of Chango looking utterly dismayed, ill at ease, confused, dazed, out of sorts. The wide-eyed terror. The twitchy eye. It is his state of being. He is a feral cat who has succumbed to the comforts of domesticity, and even he cannot comprehend how this has all come to pass, or whether it is secure. We adore our Chango. His is a tender, though guarded, soul.

Pencils,Threads, Hoops, and Rats... And Testing The Blogger App - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 14:11

It began with my birthday cake, served by a mouse... {she's supposed to be a rat, but now I can see her ears are too round}. I am on a rat theme.  Rat art. Rat sketches. Rats embroidered on flour sacks.  I wish I hadn't tried to paint the rat I drew on the canvas, because I loved him sketched. The painting is not enough like the fabulous vision I had in my head. I'm  much better at sewing than painting, apparently.  Now I'm finishing a similar rat in embroidery floss.  
Why?  The answer is:  I haven't the rattiest idea.  Maybe I'm simply working on career options, in case I ever grow up. 

Farm Good Things - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 08:42

Our chickens, are they clever, or sneaky and daring?

It turns out the hens are laying a few more eggs than I was finding. We went down to two eggs a day, and then a few days with no eggs at all, which was disappointing. Even more surprising though, is that Kamen is laying, again. She's our oldest chica, hatched in March of 2011. Her eggs are a bit thin shelled and elongated, like a teardrop. I don't think Kamen laid any eggs last year. She's got some gumption, yeah? But back to the missing eggs... it seemed to me that the younger hens could muster a little more effort. Our days are cooler, and shorter, but not that much shorter. Turns out, they took to laying in the goats' cottage! They've done this before, but I thought they'd given up on this reckless habit. The goats aren't exactly dainty-footed, or overly careful about where they drop down for a nap. I can't believe six eggs were safely, stealthily tucked away in the goat cottage... especially in this rainy weather, when the goats hardly step out of their cozy little shelter. How did we keep from having a mess of scrambled eggs in straw?? Since I cannot be 100% sure how long the eggs have been in the goat nest, I will put them to the egg freshness float test. Good eggs sink! It's a tried and true way to know for sure whether we have good eggs.

It's so much fun to bring the holidays outside, where goats and chickens can enjoy the season, too. In the fall they stay busy carving up Jack-o-lanterns from our pumpkins, and now that Christmas is over, they can all enjoy a crunchy evergreen snack. In a few weeks, Alex will have a nice, cleaned-up pine trunk, for, maybe a walking stick? Those wise critters, and our children, do their best to rethink, reuse, and recycle!

Good Things...

1. We enjoyed more rain over the weekend. Yesterday was an all day drizzle, nice for gardens, I think.

2. I finally, finally planted sweet peas, and they are really flourishing. {It seems it took eight years to recover from a tragic sweet pea loss.}

3. Does anyone need an artichoke plant? I wonder if they will flourish, too? Our plants from last year threw such pretty seeds into the breeze, and now we have volunteer artichokes popping up all over. There are more than we can sustain.

4. Inspired by what Deanne and James showed us at their lake cabin... I bought peanuts for the birds, and sure enough, we have scrub jays, flying in and out of the yard, like jets to a runway! They are fun to watch.

5. I resisted bringing home chicks, pigs, sheep, goats, and/or ducks on my last visit to the feed store. Gold star for me, I think.

Monday, again. They seem to come about once a week, ready or not. I hope this is a good one for you, whether you are farming, gardening, browsing seed catalogs, scrambling eggs, or just napping with your cat.

One Genuine Inauthentic Awesome Viking Tent - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 12:13

In my research for this {most anticipated post} I discovered an early account of Viking history, told here at Chickenblog, in 2007. Apparently our affinity for Viking culture goes back a bit further than our visit to the Viking Festival, last September. Anyway, today I am going to share the full scoop on our very own, still in development, genuine and inauthentic Van Viking tent. We fell in love with the small village of tents, crafts and trades that we discovered at a local Viking Festival, and by the time we were planning our Solstice party, and thinking about Christmas gifts, and activities, we became even more enamored of the idea of making a tent of our own, and enjoying some of the more festive, and loosely related cultural interests of ancient peoples who explored, built, crafted, ate, slept, and hung out, in and around Viking lands, which as it turns out is a very broad geographic and aesthetic swath of the planet. {Whoa, that was a long sentence. Almost lost my way, there.} So, yeah. We totally got stoked to design, build, and party in our own Viking Van Viking tent!

Our tent is inspired by Alex's extensive research into Viking tents and lodges, and by what we saw at the Festival. Then, Alex and I looked into available resources at the local hardware store, and ran our initial ideas by Geoff. Geoff loves aluminum... he can weld it, and it's strong, and since we were leaning toward something big. Big. We figured that a fifteen foot wood ridge beam would be very, very heavy, and possibly flex too much, so Geoff proposed an aluminum ridge.


Canvas: Two 12' x 15' canvas pieces from the paint department. {These are actually smaller than said "12 x 15", which is something we are trying to trouble shoot, now. Though smaller than advertised, they are still massively heavy and were quite a handful to sew together.} I sewed canvas strips to make ties, and hand sewed those around the tent canvas.

Wood: We employed four 2" x 8" pieces, 14' long, for the A-frame. Geoff and Alex designed dragon wings at the peaks, which will later be carved for detail. At the base sides of the tent floor there are two pieces of 2" x 4".

The pole is 1/8" wall, 6061 aluminum, and 15' long. Geoff made end caps, and added 6" x 1/2" galvanized steel bolts threaded into the caps. These are to attach the wood A-frame pieces.

Rope: 3/4" natural fiber. It's there to maintain tension in the frame to keep it from flexing.

We still need to make and add canvas doors, and this will include extending the length of the canvas, since it's at least six inches shorter than we anticipated. Also, to go with the dragon wings, Alex is carving dragon heads that will fit over the bolts at the peak of the tent... like a figurehead on a ship. And we are also developing a forge, making more wooden swords, and shields, we want to make those sturdy Viking chairs, and a long boat, maybe get some sheep and start spinning wool. Basic stuff like that.

When things didn't go as we had hoped for Solistice, we were disappointed, but not defeated. More slowly, with less pressure to meet a deadline, we rallied to get the tent standing in time for our Christmas celebration. And after exchanging gifts, and enjoying a happy morning around the Christmas tree, we shifted our activities outside... we made waffles outdoors, played games, and raised the Van Viking tent for more holiday fun!

The first night it was up, we had a Swedish-Viking-ish dinner... with meatballs, and veggie-not-meatballs, Irish soda bread, roasted cabbage, salad, steamed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce. Then we hunkered together in the dark, and watched The Hobbit. Outside is such a marvelous place to watch a Tolkien adventure unfold. It was so flippin' awesome, and cold, and dark, and cozy, and awesome. For my birthday Alex, Max and Maria presented me with my very own shield/serving tray... Alex took Maria's chicken sketch, and used it for inspiration for this gorgeous fat hen. Max helped with chiseling, and Alex finished the dear with paint! We've had naps, games, breakfast, lunches, talks, visits, all in the Van Viking tent, and more ideas and plans keep popping into our heads.

The best thing about a tent, or a fort, a tree house, sandcastle, or an idea... ? Sharing it with friends. I would like to thank Sweet Life Farm, and My Home Among the Hills, and Come Away With Me, blogging friends, all, for kindly taking my hints, and nudging me to share.

{this moment} - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 08:20
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Geoff, Simone, and Maria, communing with the locals.

Christmas Eve In The Morning - Wed, 01/07/2015 - 09:33

Something I often say, "If you do it two years in a row, it's a tradition." Christmas Eve in the morning, enjoying brunch with Ruth, Holly and Rich, the cousins... this is a lovely tradition! And I really must emphasize how appreciative I am, because it's so easy... for us! Ruth and Holly tackle most of the cooking and prepping, and it's Ruth's home that is sweetly decorated and open to receive the masses. We get to sleep in, then bring drinks, and a dessert, and arrive ready to enjoy a relaxed visit, play, exchange gifts. Ruth hosting Christmas Eve in the morning is the real gift!

The poppers were so charming. The prettiest I've seen, with their Nutcracker theme. And each one had a whistle, and a riddle. The riddles were awful, which was fun and brought a lot of laughter. The eight whistles played different notes, and came with a musical chart. Holly conducted a recital. We were outside, tooting our horns for all the world to enjoy. I am _sure_ we were _awesome_. hahahaha

Yes, the sky was blue, with those wispy feathered clouds. We're spoiled. Naturally, some of us still wish for snow and clouds, but no one should complain about a day this beautiful.

Speaking of two year old traditions... we kept Christmas quiet, at home, and blissfully peaceful. No gifts. No hurries. No stress. Same as last year, when the children voted to make the schedule of opening gifts fit work schedules. Choosing when, and how, to celebrate gives us control, and frees us from doing things rushed, short of time. I love-love-love separating Christmas day from present day! Love it. On the actual day of Christmas we snuck around hiding and wrapping gifts, we did some cleaning, and cooking, and making. We did a lot more to complete the viking tent... like hand sewing ties, then raising the frame. {Honestly, as soon as one person asks about the VanViking tent, I will be giddy with inspiration to write a ridiculously long post, with pictures. Just so you know.} When things slow down, and the family is together with nothing on the agenda but spiritual warmth and gratitude... it makes the whole day feel good. We took the Viking-Swedish inspired dinner that we had planned for Winter Solstice, and enjoyed it for Christmas dinner, in the VanViking tent! It was wonderful.

Happy To Think of Good Things Even Though Winter Break Is Over - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 12:07
This may very well be the worst Monday of the year. Not because of any catastrophic events, or front page news, but because it is the first day back to "real" life, after winter break. I truly am sighing deeply, and feeling blue. People are dragging their Christmas trees to the curb, taking lights off their houses... tragic sights that make my heart sink. Geoff remarked this morning, "The days are getting longer." I nearly moaned. I said, oh so wistfully, "I am looking forward to fall." I miss short days, long nights, and the anticipation of holiday traditions, relaxed plans, celebrations, pretty sights. I love pajama days, and too many good things to eat in the refrigerator, lists of movies to watch, nights without homework, sitting by the fireplace, and sharing the sofa with Mister Foo. I feel strong pangs of petulant regret, because of days lost to recovering from ailments, missing parties, missing family, not being in Wisconsin, Oregon, or some darling cabin in the snowy woods.

{If only I could keep to my one resolution... stop blogging, then you would be spared my pitiful tale of suburban woe.}

Fortunately, I did pick up my camera, or phone... and I have some happy moments to recall. Many happy moments, actually, and really, the only trouble is how greedy I am to enjoy more.

It looks, I suppose, as though I will have to think of some other new year resolution, because I have quit quitting blogging, again. Key to my resolve to stay at it are Maria's sad face when she thinks Chickenblog will be no more, the return of dear friends to the blogosphere... making my interest in the Internet Infinitely greater, and sweeter. And then, just this morning, I stumbled upon a new-to-me blog, and a post about not quitting at blogging, and her thoughts so neatly and succinctly matched my own, that I felt a small surge of renewed desire to carry on, and resolve to squash the doubts I typically nurture and feed. When I think, "Oh screw it! I may never be a success, but it's some kind of habit, anyway..." well, it's hardly a rallying cry, but here I am.

Perhaps, I will resolve to embroider more, because after making my birthday cake in pink floss, served by a ROUS I felt a pleasing contentment. I may resolve to do all those usual things people resolve to do, like exercise, and eat kale, and write to Congress. Or, more likely, I will look for pretty views, pack school lunches, remember garbage day, celebrate the small and obscure occasions that fascinate me, try to be, and do, better, and daydream about next fall.

Here are some Good Things...

1. Today is Ron's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! I sure wish we were there to celebrate with you!

2. Alex has a working phone. This is because Geoff set me up with a new phone, which very nice, but I feel even more happy for Alex, who has my darling and dear old phone.

3. I've potted my birthday plants, and some bulbs, and they look pretty. {And this is a huge accomplishment, because sometimes I wait too long, and things get brown, and droopy and pitiful, and I am left feeling ashamed... not so pretty.}

4. The viking tent is even more fun than we imagined it could be, and that's even though it's not entirely done. {More on this later...}

5. We dropped cable. The only thing we miss are the clocks... lol.

Just Kickin' It In The New Year - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 10:30
Happy New Year!
Welcome, 2015.

Five Good Things - Mon, 12/22/2014 - 08:46
I like to make them stand together, so I can take their picture. They cooperate because they are great that way, and also I found fresh milk to go with their cookies, because I am great that way. {Alex and Bambi, thank you for dashing to the market for fresh milk. You two are great.}

William, Jern and Myalex, Grant, Bambi and Sarah, Maria, Celine, Corey, James, Alexi, Max, and Clark.

Good Things...

1. Ratatouille delivery. Diana, thank you.

2. The homegrown broccoli bouquet from Robin... it was so huge and bodacious, I put it in a vase!

3. The Christmas cards arriving in the mailbox. Maria and I tape each of them to our wall, and it's wonderful seeing them there.

4. Talking about fish and aquariums with Sarah, and Grant.

5. Facing the new week knowing we have wonderful, thoughtful friends, who make anxious days feel more manageable.

Should I add "No school!?" I'm happy for our scholars, who can sleep in, and see friends, make things, play games, read aloud, and relax. I like to think everyone will have some time this week to do the same, to enjoy their own pace, and some of the things that make their holidays merry and bright.

This Is Our Winter Solstice, So Far - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 11:00

We had to make some big changes to our Winter Solstice plans, a cancellation, actually. No, we didn't cancel the solstice! We cancelled our plans to celebrate Winter Solstice with our friends. No big fire with a ring of straw bales. No Swedish meatballs, and potatoes. And no kitchen full of friends, hugs, laughter, cheer. The disappointment is keen. We've been making a Viking inspired tent. It's huge. We wanted to recreate The Playa in gingerbread, then burn the Gingerbread Man! For a year I have been smiling every time I thought of our past celebrations, and feeling a happy buzz when I though about this year's celebration. I've come to think of this night as a thank you, a gesture of affection for our friends and family, our holiday gift, and have found that the gift is immediately returned, ten fold, in the kindness and company of our guests.


Feeling the loss of our special occasion, feeling concerned for Geoff... {he's recovering from heart surgery, and suffering some setbacks. We stay quiet on such subjects, perhaps hoping we can make big matters small,} I picked up my camera to try and capture moments in this day, because in spite of our disappointment, in spite of our worries, I found comfort in the activity around me, in our space. Maria, in front of the computer listening to music and dancing. William making a latke breakfast for us. Alex and Max immersed in conversation, plans, reflections, silliness. Mister Foo, being Mister Foo. Our tree is decorated, and it looks darling. Perfect for us. Maria and I made loads and loads of cinnamon and applesauce ornaments... to share with our party guests. And we have loads and loads of bourbon pecan cakes, because we were going to share those, too. Alex with a Dremel. The bird I embroidered while sitting with Diana, sipping tea. Things, sounds, smells, sights, and activities, home. Our comforting, good home. Good things, great things happen here. Geoff has been bringing this relic, an old robot he found, back to life. It's his coping activity. It feels as though a silent prayer is moving through our home, and beneath the discomforts, I feel a steady current of hope, of ease, of assurance that everything will be okay.

{I hope our friends know how dear their messages are to us... the offers of help, the concern, the well wishes. I am trying to answer each one, because they are so helpful, so thoughtful. I am eager to accept all of the prayers, and acknowledge that sometimes we need to let help come. Perhaps, big matters can be made small, when we share the burden, when we accept support.}

As for those ornaments, and the bourbon pecan cakes... we may miss this party, but we really must have a do-over, and share our gifts. Winter is here, and we need the light and cheer of friends!

{this moment} - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Preparing for the storm.

Resisting The Urge To Word Play With Flocked - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 08:05
White Christmas, anyone? It's never gonna happen, not here, not in Sunny So Cal, where rainfall spins us into a weather phenom crisis, where women don scarves and boots with shorts while nursing their non-fat fro-yos.

Baby, it's not so cold outside, and only a lot full of faux-snow flocked Christmas trees, lights on houses, and our miserable sore throats clue me in... it's almost Christmas! It's not that I am Scroogy, Grinchy, or cynical, it's just that sometimes the holidays, the spirited joy, and decorating fervor, elude me. Some years I wish I could hit a pause button, give our taxed systems a moment to catch up with the dates on the calendar, find the gift tags we stowed safely away, and come to terms with some basic truths...

Basic Truths:

1. Pinning beautiful crafts, and snow covered cabins on Pinterest will not translate into a decorated home, and clean floors.

2. Beautiful rain, welcome and good, also brings mud, sad goats, heap loads of clean-up.

3. The sofa is broken. Not broken-in, cozy. Just broken.

4. The cats are never going to toilet train themselves.

We do have a Christmas tree. And after three days, we even put lights on it. No one ever need tell us, "Take it easy! What's your hurry?" And this year, for the first time since 2004, I bought, signed, addressed, stamped, and mailed holiday cards. My feeling of accomplishment, of old-timey traditional social engagement, is off the charts, and only matched by my feeling of dorkiness, and being painfully aware that this achievement is not that great, that a lot of it was actually slightly botched, and a bit too old-timey. Does anyone remember when Christmas cards were of glitter trees, manger scenes, or mice drinking cocoa, and they were simply dated, and signed? Some people included a personal note? I forgot that this is 2014... and Christmas a season's greetings card is a professional portrait of a family dressed in comfortable sweaters, on a beach, or in the woods. They look amazing. Christmas Season's greetings cards might include a single-spaced printed essay... reflections on travels, promotions, awards, and heroic accomplishments. I love those letters. I've noticed people have their friends' addresses printed on labels. Sheer genius, pure brilliance, and organizational fortitude! If I got my act together, and had all my friends addresses in a computer file, and knew how to print labels... you'd better believe I'd mention it in my single-spaced printed essay on our great year of heroic accomplishments.

We don't have a family picture, all of us looking in the same direction, an in-focus portrait. And as I signed our cards, I reasoned that it's fine. It's more than fine, because Chcikenblog Chickenblog is loaded with pictures. We've been sharing chickens, goats, cats, and us all over the Internet, and I am pretty sure everyone gets a general idea about that sort of thing... how we look, what we do etc. Then I thought, what about the essay, the catch-up letter? And again, I was painfully aware that no one can be longing to know what we've been up to lately. I was fiercely tempted to casually include a small url mention of, tastefully written in a corner of the card, a gentle reminder, for friends who have never heard that I have been banging my head pursuing a career in writing about all sorts of random topics, and hoping to land a book deal, so I can feed the goats, and put a new roof on our house. But thanks to an article I read {ten things not to flock-up in your Seasons Greetings card,} I knew better than to run a business advertisement in our holiday card. And even as I debated all of these things, I also questioned the value and sense of sharing my internal monologue, here. On Chcikenblog. Chickenblog. Apparently, I am a rebel, even against my own good sense, because, as you can see, I am posting all about my self-doubts, missteps, and goofynesses, here on Chiemcmelblog. {Also, hand addressing and signing fifty cards gave me hand cramps and the after-spasms make it difficult to type, or spell correctly, for that matter. (After-spasms are the post cramp wimpiness you feel when you have forgotten how to hold a pen for long periods of time, and cannot immediately recover from the task, but choose to write all about it for your blog.)}

Also, at 2:30 this morning my brain woke me up to inform me that I did not spell Aunt Margie and Uncle Howard's surname correctly. That I left out the T.

Thanks, brain. For waking me, and giving me one more basic truth... I cannot catch all of my mistakes in time to fix them, but I will always have the predawn hours to be tormented by them.

Outside With My Camera Before The Storm - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 09:18
My camera card was missing for several days. As soon as I found it, I knew I wanted to go outside, before the forecast rain, and take pictures. I cannot explain why taking pictures calms me, grounds me, makes me happy. Or, maybe I could explain it, but I'd rather just share the pictures.

Mister Washburn Foo is not going outside. He's been parked on this dining chair all morning. From this vantage point he can serenade the gold finches that come to the feeder, the phoebe bird that sits on the back of the chair.

Did you notice Tasha's nose... the picture where she crinkled it up? What a funny expression. What funny goats... chewing on my apron, untying it, too. I wonder if they know rain is coming. I put more straw in their cottage. The chicas have plenty of food, and they're busy finishing the small bits of grain the goats didn't inhale. Ada is wooly. I was watching for that... for the soft wool to grow under her coarser outer coat. Could we be in for a cold and wet winter? Wouldn't that be grand! The flowers love the rain so much more than my hand watering. After our first storm, I could see how much greener, and more lush the sweet peas and snapdragons became. I spy Maria's bean sprouts... experiments for her Junior Master Gardening Class. This makes me realize I should sow carrot and spinach seeds, before the rain starts... perfect timing.

Five Good Things - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:02
Lest anyone think keeping chickens is all glossy photo-ops with darling hens, and fresh eggs, I present: Le Muck! Nothing brings the realities of keeping chickens and goats to light like mucking out the run after a big storm! The ground is slick, thick, slippery and mucky, and the goats nearby bleat plaintively, "Why? Why did water fall from the sky, why? Why is the ground squishy and damp?" Because nothing breaks a goat's heart like water falling from the sky. Poor goats. The chickens, on the other hand, are heedless things, with no concern at all about rain, mud, or muck. The chickens see opportunity... things get uncovered, and discovered when I am in the run with my rakes and boots, and they follow me, eager to see what comes out. They scratch, and peck, and coo contentedly. The compost pile grows, old trees get mulched. Then comes fresh straw, and the goats investigate, happy for the dry spots I've laid before them, and the hens go wild. I used to lay down the straw and decoratively spread it about, until I realized that's a chicken's job! They are experts at spreading straw, and it's a task they love very much. With more storms lined up for this week, I'll be deep in le muck again, soon.

Good Things...

1. We enjoyed a spontaneous and productive Arduino play event this week. We love doing things with our Young Makers Club, Love & Rockets :: Art & Engineering.

2. All that rain that came over the weekend! And more on the way! Goats may not be impressed, but it's pure joy for us drought stricken folks.

3. Cough drops, tissues, soup, socks, and naps... okay, I am reaching, here. A bug has settled in, making some of us miserable. I guess without small comforts, it could be worse.

4. Boots. I love boots. Sunny days, rainy days, mucky days... boots give you what it takes to face the job, or just kick up your heels!

5. Texting with my girlfriends. Staying in touch, sharing news, finding help... laughing!

Maria just came downstairs, covering her eyes, and woefully announcing "I think this must be the headache Alex had, because it hurts so much!" She has the fever, too. Not sure what's made her more sad, being sick, or missing her Winter Concert. More soup! More cough drops! More socks, tissues, and naps! But please, no more bugs! I hope you find the good things in your Monday. We try.

Word From the Chicken :: Cluck - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 09:11

To remind myself that...
Everything has a beginning, a middle, and a new beginning.
And it isn't the end until we stop moving forward.
Still moving forward, here.
And feeling rather clucky about that.
Happy Weekend, friends~
With love, from
Natalie, the Chickenblogger

{this moment} - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 07:28
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.
An honest to goodness FB fangirl moment, with Pink Martini. Brian Lavern Davis and Maria.

Maria's Shiny Christmas Shop Is Open - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:48

My mother makes jewelry. Beautiful jewelry, and she is as generous as she is talented. While she was here, she combined her talents and generosity to pass her skills along to her granddaughter. Delia hit the craft store and set Maria up in her very own cottage industry, teaching not just the basics of making earrings, using needle nosed pliers, and assembling bracelets, but also how to calculate expenses, keep inventory, and price merchandise. Maria absorbed every bit of those lessons, and even with Mister Washburn Foo's eager assistance, Maria was incredibly productive! All those shiny baubles, and more, she made in one sitting, and has not tired of it in the least. Last night she added a few more pair of earrings, before hunkering down to finish her homework.

Speaking of shops, local talents, and small businesses... have you finished your holiday shopping? I certainly haven't... Okay, but it's not too-too late, and it can be an extra gift to our communities, and to artists if we shop mom & pop style. Local is great, but I like to at least consider the independent craftsmen, and American made products. Here are some people and business that are small, great, and open for business:

The ToyMaker... Marilyn Scott Waters, another one of those talented and generous artists, has a new book on the shelves: A Year In The Secret Garden is brimming with her lovely illustrations and loads of activities for the young {and young at heart} gardeners on your list.

In the Fiona Gallery you will find custom art and jewelry, with a caring and heartfelt passion for dogs, and cats... especially dogs! Gina Barbosa also has a very personal keepsake bead company. Sisu Beads are thoughtfully made beads, and Gina is just the talented and sensitive person to help you make these unique memorial pieces.

My friend Jill never lost her fangirl passion for music, and she certainly inherited her dad's entrepreneurial savvy, which is why her Etsy shop, Records and Stuff makes so much sense! They take requests, and make custom orders.

Now for something sweet! I know a young man... just out of high school, actually, and he is putting his heart and good taste into his cottage industry with Mother Tucker's Toffee! Following his Great Grandmother Tucker's recipes, Lucas is building a solid reputation for his delicious toffees, and he'd be happy to ship you a box!

Need an elf in your kitchen this year, someone to help with the baking? Karen's Kookies can do it for you, and with her gluten-free options you are sure to find something for anyone on your list. Those Salted Double Chocolate Caramels are irresistibly good!

Abstract and vivid art, custom orders, too... ArtWork by Janece is an Etsy gallery, open for your shopping pleasure.

Shopping for a watercolor painting, something personal? Visit Art Studio: Yanina Cambareri does commissioned art, beautiful pieces that capture people, and places you hold dear.

Have I mentioned our favorite holiday music?? You are going to want to get up dance, when you hear Pink Martini's "Joy To The World" CD!

{For the record, these mentions are not paid for, not bribed, nor coerced. I am happy to pass along a kind word and support for the busy folks and friends in my life.}