the pond

On our trip to the UK we flew over it. When I was a teenager and we took a family trip to Florida, I put my feet in it. But until we ventured forth with our munckins in tow, I had never actually swam in the Atlantic ocean. And I’m sold on the whole idea. We had so much fun on our first trip to a North Carolina beach I’ve already planned out at least 4 more this summer. We have to find a favorite one right?

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Something that can be a bummer about southern California beaches is the complexity of the excursion. I know that’s my total lack of experience (my cousin lived in San Diego for years and she is a beach professional) but choosing a beach then finding parking then lugging your stuff to the spot can be a bit much. This time we drove 2.5 hours through rural farm land, then crossed a bridge and were magically on the shore. We parked (for free) then walked up and down these stairs and set up less than 200 yards from the water.

In about 3.7 seconds after being slathered in sunscreen (not that it is acutally necessary for my bronze babies, but maternal paranoia) They were in their respective happy places. Kids and sand is a beautiful thing. Well not literally…sand in a mouth isn’t pretty at all and it’s worse when they don’t even notice!

Selfie, lest posterity think I missed my childrens’ complete childhoods. Also the little girls took turns going into the big waves with Daddy, and would have happily spent the next 17 hours jumping into waves and getting splashed full on in the face. They are 3/4 fish.

Picnics at the beach are something of a logistical nightmare for a mom. There is the actual menu (tasty and healthy, but easy to make, haul and eat), keeping sand out of the food (I gave up) and bringing enough, but not too much (no one wants to lug sandy, warm food back to the car, am I right?). Recently I’ve been on a crazy canning kick and I found a woman’s blog that I’ve been stalking for about a month now. This post of hers was gold.

Fudgesicle Frosties and Homemade Fudgesicles (Fruit or Agave Sweetened)

[wordpress is not cooperating with me and my wanting to add pretty embedded hyper links, sigh]

The frosties were a solid victory. Also seaweed adorned sand castles. And sandy babies sleeping all the way to get pizza on the way home. Mostly we all love that beach going will now become part of what we do. I can’t wait to be a professional.

 

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outing

Lest you erroneously think that we never leave our idyllic life on the farm (we have zucchini and pickles and blackberries [SQUEE!!!] and it’s true that we don’t leave often, but more on harvest later), I thought it was about time I shared pictures from one of our recent outings.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Science came with a high recommendation, and so when we needed to kill time waiting for daddy to come home from a cross country road trip, we packed a lunch and headed north. School for the day: check. I was not disappointed. And that statement doesn’t really mean all that much.

To give some context to the ease with which I’m pleased, you have to understand that I grew up in a town where 1) culture was a secondary commodity and when competing with sex and gambling it kind of lost and 2) anything of substance (unless it could really turn a major profit a la The Bellagio Art Gallery or the Cirque de Soleil shows) was just done on a small volunteer/donation type scale. The natural history exhibit I was used to had one floor and the highlight was a animatronic T-Rex that turned it’s head when you pushed a button. This museum beat the pants off that poor T-Rex.

Not that this museum didn’t have a T-Rex…it just also had a few full sized whale skeletons…

and a room with flying pteranodons. “Dinosaur Train” is the show du jour for my little girls. I mean, I know it’s a big deal when it will induce Layna to actually use more than two syllables all together. On purpose! Voluntarily! (“Joo-joo een” incase you were wondering which syllables, her version of choo-choo train I think). So they were mesmerized watching “real” ones circle around.

See? Mesmerized.

I kind of slacked off with picture taking when we explored the three floors of North Carolina habitat recreations, but man we moved to a cool state. We also beat the field trip rush lunching at the café.

We ended our day with a 3-D movie about Antarctica. It was really well done and I’m excited that my littles did so well. Next up is one about chipmunks called “Tiny Giants.” I’m guessing that one will be even more well received than one that mostly featured floating chunks of ice, ha!  Oh. And I’d appreciate someone telling me how my somewhat sheltered six year old learned about duck lips??? That girl. Love her, and she will probably be the death of me.

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Can’t wait to head back to this awesome place. First off though we will be heading to the beach this weekend to experience all the fuss about the Atlantic Ocean for ourselves. [Squee again!]

 

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motherhood

So…it’s only 18 days after Mother’s Day…{epic face palm}. I promise that I have very good reasons for my inability to blog on a more frequent schedule. Kids, man! Garden, man! The real reason, though, is that writing about my mom, my mom-in-law, several grandmas, and my own journey into the land of motherhood is kind of overwhelming. Animals, garden, etc…those posts kind of write themselves. Tap a few great pictures, fun title and away we go. Motherhood is a different writing process altogether.

I’ve tried to write this post 3 different times now. The first was the real, down and dirty “motherhood is hard, and I feel like a failure” post. The second was about how awesome my mom is especially given the new adventure she is about to embark on (teaching 3rd grade at an all boys charter school in the Bronx! Yeah Buddy!). The last attempt was talking about my own kids and what I love and what drives me crazy about them. All of them are part of what motherhood is for me and what Mother’s Day was about. But as I’ve been standing here writing and deleting and writing some more…I’ve decided that while it is all these things, it’s so much simpler than that. Motherhood is a gift that I’ve been given. An opportunity to become the very best version of myself. There are women who have been placed in my life that have been amazing guides and mentors and I’m grateful to them. My kids push me and sometimes I do fail. [side note: for someone who has declared herself born to a life of mucking various types of animal poop (and I truly enjoy mucking much more than I probably should), I have a surprisingly low tolerance for human poop and pee…potty training has been a joy.]

So how about I stick to what comes easy? At least for this season in my blogging life I’m going to go with the external…the documenting our life on the farm. I’m Hereby giving Myself permission to Not write about anything deeply Philosophical (unless its the necessity of painful mosquito bites. Totally unnecessary). No metaphysical Musing on the meaning of life (unless it’s my children’s first, for-real firefly season. Now there is a creature that is allowed to exist for purely aesthetic reasons). Now I’m off to tap pictures and think of witty titles for all the posts writing themselves in my head!

 

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Spirit Animals

It’s a thing now to declare a person or an animal or an object even to be your spirit animal if it has qualities your either have or would like to have. I’ve decided that between my cow, my pigs, my garden and the honeybees I’m hoping to get someday I’d have the perfect spirit animal. Can I declare my burgeoning farm to be my spirit animal? Is that even allowed?

Meushi. It means female cow in Japanese. We call her Mei (pronounced “May”) and I love her. I liked goats a lot, they were fun and educational to the max, but my dairy cow is a whole ‘nother thing entirely. And she is mine…I share her with the kids, but she kind of doesn’t like the husband guy. Crazy strong milking hands are in my future I think.

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Cows. We’ve never done that before. The internet never disappoints, however, and we are over two weeks in and she is doing great. We have a routine, banana peels are her drug of choice, and come August or September she will be ready for a date with a great little angus bull. That means this time next year(ish) we will have a baby calf running around and hopefully we will be drowning in milk. That baby will go into the freezer about 18 months later. Dude, farming is a long term proposition.

Like I said, she lets me share her with the kids and on occasion she will tolerate Neil. Mei is so docile and sweet; the girls get all up in her business and she just swishes her tail.

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This lady is “chill” incarnate and I want to be more like that. Not to say that she doesn’t like to (quite literally) kick up her heels and go dashing around her yard (she hates the wheel barrow and demonstrates it by running madly around). But nothing says serene like a big dairy cow picking at stuff here and there and mostly just being.

Next to more immediate freezer fodder…sorry. I know some take issue with that and don’t get how I can simultaneously adore my new piglets and be poring over pork recipes and butchering options. I don’t know how either but it’s happening my friends, in my head, as we speak.

Rewind a few years to the purchase of our brand spanking new van. We promised each other, the husband and me, nay…we vowed that this expensive shiny vehicle would never be used for farm stuff. At all. Ever. Yeah, we were adorable.

Since the truck couldn’t make the move with us, our van has hauled muddy t-posts, ply wood, all kinds of feed, and now livestock. Yeah, we were adorable.

Fun facts about feeder pigs:

  • You buy them between 6-12 weeks old for about $30-60 and 20-60 lbs.
  • over the next 5 months or so depending on breed and living conditions, they will get up to a market weight of 250 lbs.
  • From that 250 lbs about 140-170 will make it back to you in consumable awesomeness.
  • They can eat everything from grass clippings to chickens (they are the ultimate omnivore) but won’t in fact eat themselves to death as some think.
  • They are clean (kind of) and given the chance will not be as disgusting as most people think (although they do love them some water splashing and mud).

We always knew we wanted to try raising pigs. There was the perfect porcine playground built here before we moved. However, we always figured we’d wait until later. But then we went to a local farm stand and a lady was there selling her homegrown pork. It was obscenely expensive and we said, “Forget that noise, we’ll do it ourselves!” and so we did and we are. As per family vote, they are named “Pig1” and “Pig2” (think Thing1 and Thing2 from The Cat in the Hat) I wanted to name the boy “York” and the girl “Shire” because their breed is Yorkshire, but I was voted down. Mostly I call them “Pig”. They are so much fun! I love their grunty pig noises and you need to go write down on your list of things to experience at some point — have pig snout pushed in the palm of my hand. Trust me.

The best thing about pigs is that they are veritable machines for taking what life gives them and efficiently processing it into something far better. Lessons for me all over the place with that.

IMG_0566Did you know tomorrow is Mother’s Day? My husband does! He is rocking it this year. He took the kids to run errands in town this morning and I had 2 whole hours to just work outside! Without screams for my immediate assistance or the dreaded quiet of a toddler thrashing a bedroom! I mucked out Mei’s pasture and started on building the soil in the future blackberry patch with the goodness I procured. I got more bricks for the garden paths from the abandoned building behind our property. And don’t even let me start on what I got done in the garden! It was a beautiful thing, and I’m grateful for him. Rumor has it he’s even taking over meals tomorrow and there is a large something wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper on the counter that I think is for me…Oh and those beauties? wild flowers that he and the kids picked for me. Winning. My husband is winning Mother’s Day.

I’m actually going to do a separate post on the Mom’s I’m grateful for in a few days, because they don’t need to share with pigs and cows. It might be late, but I sure do love those great women.

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Biddies

Because in the south, there is no such thing as a baby chicken, a chick or an adolescent domesticated poultry fowl. No, there are Biddies. And I kind of love it.

As mentioned previously we spent nights pouring over coop designs and systems for rotating over the yard. Free range is of course the hip, buzzword-promoted, ideal method. Neil even drafted up a beautiful permanent coop plan with drafting software he has for work! However, I don’t want to lose my flock over the next few months to hawks, vultures, eagles, or any land based predators either. I also don’t want to hunt over my 5 acres and my neighbors property when these biddies start laying (chickens enjoy sending one on a grand treasure hunt come laying time). The solution that combines the benefits of free ranging (don’t turn any one patch of land into a moonscape, can eat greens and bugs and whatever else they scratch up, happier birds) with security and control was a chicken tractor. Now when my husband sent some pictures of the tractor in progress to his co-workers they really couldn’t get what was happening. Pretty sure the word tractor threw them. A chicken powered tractor would indeed be a thing to behold. Alas this is just a movable house with a coop up above a fenced in run that we move to a new spot every night after they go inside to roost.

Neil’s desk frame did double duty for a while…not sure what he’ll use to build the second tractor. As soon as there was some wire to keep them in, we figured the biddies would appreciate some outside time.

Handles for easy moving and lawn chairs for easy upside-down baby bird viewing.

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After the coop part was totally finished we moved them outside full time. The heat lamp was plugged in for the last few weeks of cold and they loved it. Turns out people on the internet are pretty clever sometimes and on a forum, a man had explained how he put roof shingles on the ramp into his coop so the tiny ones could still make it in. Brilliant! We did that and it has worked a treat. In this picture you can see the toggle latch on the end. That’s where the nesting box is and it will be super easy to collect eggs. The two big side panels lift off thanks to their handles and inside we are going to put linoleum down on top of the wood planks to make cleaning super quick and painless. There is also a roost inside so our biddies are perfectly comfortable sleeping up there after the sun goes down.

Birds have to eat and drink and our flock of 22 has quickly started to outgrow the chick feeders and waterers. Neil rigged up these PVC solutions that are great…simple to fill and they move when the tractor moves.

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The first go we made at farming we were all about functionality, aesthetics be danged. Now that we live somewhere pretty, I want all of our farm to be pretty. So bare fence boards got painted white and there are going to be some furring strips added to the side supports that I’ll also paint white to make the whole thing look better. It’s awesome and each one is big enough for 7-10 birds. Now we just need to make 1 (probably 2) more!

 

 

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decisions

 

A few months ago I stopped blogging because I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to write about. Now I find myself pushing off posts because…well…life, but also there is so much going on I can’t choose just one thing! It’s a refreshing problem to have and I’m not complaining. I guess you just need to brace yourself for a series of scattered mash-up posts that are more stream of consciousness spewing than anything. Ok. Now that you’re braced…

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We have a carport that is the south east version of a garage. Ours was housing this junk and I had a full dining room and storage space upstairs that had even more junk. And while it is junk, it’s not junk I want exposed to the elements so we had to think of something. A shed was the obvious choice, but those are expensive not to mention the previous owners left a stack of fence panels in the back lot just begging to be repurposed and given new life.

The unfortunate thing for our kids is that they tend to fall in love with the unfinished projects. This nifty play house was destined to be enclosed and filled with camping gear, tools and other randomness, but they took advantage while they could. Little man is his dad’s shadow and right hand hammer man. Say that five times fast!

Tom Sawyer doesn’t have a thing on me and Naomi still has paint in her hair, two weeks later…

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Paint, shingles, and junk later…we have a finished shed. Well mostly. I have yet to paint the middle of the outside wall and so I’ve put off taking an official “after” picture. This is the closest thing I have and I can’t put off this dumb post any longer. It actually was a brilliant solution and while there is still much organizing to be done, I have my dining room completely devoid of junk. Can I get an Amen!?

 

 

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Iron pipe is versatile stuff. Once you use an entire bottle of paint thinner and put three of your four kids to work rubbing off the sticky black protective coating, it is amazing stuff! Neil prefers to stand when he works all day at a computer and buying a standing desk that was big enough for his three monitors (it’s not as weird as it sounds, it’s actually kind of great to work with three screens) was out of our budget. Plus the ones we found were ugly. So…to the internets! turns out a solid core door makes a great desk top. Some beautiful stain, black spray paint and he made a perfect work desk. The best part was that while we waited for Lowes to get the door delivered, the frame was a building support and a jungle gym…it’s still a jungle gym but we’re working on that. ahem.

Also you know you are a master computer genius man when you have a completely blank keyboard. And you know you married the right woman when she can type on it no problem when none of your coworkers could without whining. I win all the things.

Outside is my favorite right now. On our back lot was this dilapidated bird house. On a whim I checked it and found these…Squee! And there was the bald eagle we saw yesterday and the millipede two days ago and and and…like I said. My favorite.

The heavens shone forth and fourteen cubic yards of garden dirt was delivered. And there was much rejoicing.

Serious rejoicing. She calls it “my mountain.”

The natural state of baby hands and feet plus my current manicure. I call it “FarmGirl.”

North Carolina thought I might miss the desert, so it made sure I have a cactus in my woods…and yeah I’m sometimes a few short.

P.s. Chickens and their tractor are next!

 

 

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Happy Easter Egg!

I think I like my toddler’s way of wishing well on this holiday better than mine. As I type this, I imagine that I can hear the drizzle happening outside. You can’t actually hear drizzle but I like pretending. Rain has been elusive and long hoped for and it finally happened today for real. I couldn’t think of a better atmosphere for our first Easter Sunday in our new life…we woke up in a cloud and it still hasn’t lifted. There is a pond out back that is going to be seriously splashed in the morning.

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Did you have a good Easter? We did. It wasn’t the production that my Easters have usually been since I became both Mother and Easter Bunny, but luckily my kids didn’t notice. Their first and very own package of Peeps (blech!) may have helped smooth things over.

Yesterday was sunny in the morning so the Easter Bunny was able to visit right after breakfast…

He was going to set up shop in the pine trees, but it was chilly and they were shaded, so the cleared area by the tree-house tree was perfect.

Egg hunting is both joyful and serious business. Naomi had a life lesson in “not finding the very last egg that the Easter Bunny is mostly positive s(he) left out but isn’t 100% because s(he) may have accidentally forgotten to count as they hid the eggs.” It is  a right of passage really.

Later I went to a church function and the kids got to head to the local feed store with Daddy for a gardening/seed planting class. They had so much fun, and if it kills me, they will leave my house with solid green thumbs.

Because we just, you know, moved 2600 miles cross country, and my sewing machine is only barely unpacked,  matching Easter dresses were not going to happen. My mom rescued me in high grandma fashion by making these (and a rocking bow tie for the little man…by the way, isn’t he a stud? so handsome.) She even sent white sandals to complete the ensembles. I am so grateful that my kids looked put together and awesome for probably the most meaningful Sunday of the year. I couldn’t pull it off, but my mom sure did. Love that woman.

Tonight my brother, sister-in-law, their kids, and a grandpa came to dinner. They are the reason we even started thinking about North Carolina in the first place. It was a whirlwind of good food, cousins, and bubble goo…short but so nice to connect with family we love.

You have to understand, when you have kids, deep reflection often happens way after the event. Bedtime is a beautiful thing. As I’ve been sitting here typing and deleting and typing some more and reflecting on Easter here is what I’ve got: I’m more grateful than I know how to express that there was a perfect being who loves me and loves my husband and loves my kids enough that he suffered and died for me so that I would have a chance at Joy. A Joy that will be so lasting and complete I can’t even really understand it, but because of Him I get glimpses of it every so often. It makes me cry every time.

Happy Easter, friends!

 

 

 

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