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Chickens, Chicks, Eggs, and a Baby

Sometimes, in life, decisions come back to haunt you.  Such is the case in our home right now…every time I go to put Baby to sleep.  Bedtime, naptime…they both present challenges right now that no mother should ever have to face.  It’s all because of one decision made nearly 7 years ago…the decision to let my husband have his way. 

He wore me down, really.  I wrote a post about it, so, if you wish, you can go back and read all about it.  He wanted chickens.  If there was one thing in this world I didn’t want, it was chickens!  It was the one rule I had when we first moved out here.  No chickens.  How hard is that?  Honestly?  Well, apparently it was hard enough, because we did eventually wind up with chickens.  Lots of chickens.Chickens in the barnyard

Most of the time, the chickens and I keep the peace.  They stay out near their coops behind the barn.  I do my thing up at the house.  I happily eat their eggs and feed them to my kids all year.  But, once a year, in the fall, we hatch eggs*.  The lucky ones will grow to be replacements for our aging hens and roosters, but many will eventually grace our dining room table.  You may be wondering at this point what hatching chicken eggs has to do with my story, but don’t worry…I’ll get there.

The weather in Texas during the fall can be a little erratic.  One day, it’s 95 degrees.  When you walk outside the next morning, there’s been a cold front that has pushed through (often with plenty of wind damage in its wake), and it’s only 52.  Never to fear, it will be back up to 85 by lunch.  Chicken eggs require a relatively consistent 99.5 degrees during their 3 week incubation time.  With the fickle weather outdoors, that just isn’t possible this time of year…unless you have a hen with an inclination to stay with her eggs.  We have plenty of hens, but we have yet to produce a hen that is a good enough mother to stay with a nest of eggs longer than about 3 days.  We’re generally happy when they don’t break their eggs…asking one to sit on a nest may be a tall order!  So, up in the loft above our bedroom sit two egg incubators.

Hens hunting grasshoppersThey have been there, full of eggs for three weeks.

About a week ago, we began to strain our ears, listening for the first little cheeps and pecks coming from the loft.  Then, on Friday, it finally came…with a cheep cheep here, and a cheep cheep there…here a cheep, there a cheep, everywhere a cheep cheep.

Now, the eggs are hatching, bringing forth new life to feed us for another year.  The kids get so excited, and watch for their daddy to head up the stairs.  They know that when he comes down, he’ll be carrying all the fluffy little things that are ready to make the move from the incubator to the brooder in the garage.  It’s a wonderful, joyous occasion.

Wonderful and joyous…

…Until it’s time to put Baby down to sleep.

You see, chicks are really loud when they hatch.  Their doing it in my bedroom in the loft, remember?  Baby’s crib is in our room.  So, it’s me, my husband, Baby, and a bunch of hatching eggs.  We’re one big happy family!

Here I sit on my bed, nursing Baby (who isn’t really very good at  the whole sleeping thing to start with).  She drowsily starts to slip off to dream land.  I gently get up to lay her in her crib.  As soon as her little body touches the mattress, “CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP!”  It’s rather jarring, I must admit.  Baby is now wide awake, and is not pleased that her mother had the audacity to put her down just as the dreaded sleep monster was about to overtake her.  The chickens, sensing my ire, immediately desist.

“Dad-gum chickens!”  I mutter under my breath.  

I pick up my dear, sweet, non-sleeping child.  I comfort her, and she calms down.  She’s not hungry anymore, but maybe she’ll settle for a lullaby and some rocking.  So I sing a few verses of Jesus Loves Me and Baby is getting sleepy again.  It’s time for the dreaded transfer maneuver.  I gently lay her down, and she immediately rolls to her side…a sure sign that sleep is coming!

“CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP!”

I want to pull my hair out!  No mother should ever have to try to put a baby to bed with a loft full of chicks!  Why me?

I’ll tell you why.  It’s because I surrendered during the Battle of Chickens way back in 2010.  Now, despite the fact that “I wouldn’t have to do anything with the chickens,” I now have chickens in my bedroom…my bedroom!  My baby can’t sleep because of the chickens.  If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d have chicks in my bedroom, I’d have had you committed.

In a week, they’ll all be hatched, dried, and out in the brooder in the garage.  There will once again be peace between the chickens and I.  Only the white noise of air conditioner and noise machine will remain in my bedroom.  It will be back to just the three of us…me, my husband, and the baby.

Well, until the second batch starts to hatch in a few weeks anyway…


*We hatch eggs in the fall instead of the spring because our winters aren’t cold enough to freeze little chickens, but our summers are hot enough to cook them!


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diy printable canning labels

Ah, fall is almost here!  Our first cool front of the season rolled through last night.  Outside, the birds are singing, the children are playing, and there’s a lovely breeze blowing.  We’re topping off at about 85 degrees today, which to much of the country, I understand, is still considered quite warm.  However, here in Texas, it’s about 20 degrees cooler than it has been!  With that in mind, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet so I can go outside and get to play a little with the kids.

Now, here in our little corner of the world, we harvest most of our food in June, before it gets so hot that everything dries up and withers away.  So, we’ve had our vegetables picked and put away for a couple of months, now.  However, in much of the country, folks are just now starting to bring in that delicious garden bounty.  

I know I like to have all of our cans in the pantry look nice and pretty.  So, this year, I decided to make some labels to put on the jars to give them a more organized, uniform look in the pantry.  Also, if we decide to give some of our produce as gifts to our friends and family, pretty labels really make those jars look nice!  Just tie a pretty little bow around the lid, and there you have it!  No other gift wrap necessary!

No other giftwrap necessary! Free DIY printable canning labels. Click To Tweet

So, if you have been busy canning all your produce to keep for the year ahead, why not pretty those jars up a little with some nice labels?  At the bottom of this post, you can find the labels I used.  I’m offering them for you to use.  Please feel free to download them, and use them for your pantry.  I only ask that you direct people to this post if they wish to use them, too!  There are several different styles to choose from.  You can print them out on label paper, or on cardstock to tie on with a pretty ribbon.  Get creative!

Download your free DIY Printable Canning Labels Here


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An Epic Battle

As we were sitting on the porch one evening recently, Lizard pointed out an epic battle happening right in front of us in the grass next to the pond.  A large garden spider and a red wasp were fighting to the death.  Lizard and I watched, glued to the action.  The spider was certainly bigger, but which way would the fight go?

Bear happened to walk by as Lizard and I were mesmerized by the action.

“What are you looking at?” she inquired.

I pointed to the wasp and spider, and Lizard piped in, “They’re fighting!”

“Woah, cool!”  Bear was sucked in.

“Quick!” I said to Bear, “Run in and get my camera.  It’s on the bookcase.”

A Victor Emerges

During the 6 seconds it took Bear to bring my camera outside, the battle was decided.  We watched the victor begin to drag the spoils of war off, presumably to consume in the near future.  

About that time, Andrew walked up to ask for some help.  He noticed that we were all focused on something in the grass.  Of course, he too wanted to know what we were doing.  We told him all about the battle that we had just witnessed.  We were still enthralled by the helpless victim being carried off the battlefield by his ruthless foe!  Watch what happens next:

A New Victor Emerges

Yes, that’s my husband’s big boot.  He was mad at the wasp for killing “his” spider.  “I like those spiders!  That wasp killed my spider!”

Now, if you know me very well, you also know that I have an irrational fear of wasps.  Those things are out to get me.  They leave everyone else alone, but they incessantly buzz toward my head…stingers at the ready!  So, I was rather amused to see the wasp meet his untimely demise…even if it did end our show a bit prematurely.  The kids were a little upset at first, but were quickly consoled by watching the video approximately 584 times in quick succession.  So, how could I possibly keep this little gem to ourselves?  Enjoy!


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How to treat insect stings fast!

This weekend, I was reminded of a fantastic little addition to our medicine cabinet when Bear accidentally encountered a couple yellow jackets while fishing with her Daddy. Insect stings hurt!  Especially yellow jackets…but it doesn’t matter what critter did the stinging, they just hurt.  There can sometimes be quite a bit of swelling after one of these encounters as well.  So, how do you take the sting out to make your little ones comfortable again?

I’ve heard several home remedies for insect stings in my life…most of them from my grandmother.  I’ve tried all of these at least once, and for the most part, she has a pretty good track record for knowing things that work…no matter how crazy they sound!  Now, my granddad, on the other hand, he wanted to put kerosene on everything…he even kept some in his medicine cabinet.  I wouldn’t suggest kerosene, but I do have a couple of my grandmother’s suggestions to pass along!

Maalox

Maalox was my grandmother’s go-to for insect stings…ant stings in particular.  I was terribly susceptible to ant stings when I was young.  If I got one on my toe, my foot would swell so badly that I couldn’t put shoes on within an hour.  I grew out of it for the most part, but they’re still a nuisance!  Grandmother would dab liquid Maalox onto my stings, and, while it didn’t help the excessive swelling too much, it really did help the pain.

Meat Tenderizer

A doctor at my university’s student health center actually suggested meat tenderizer when I was bit by a spider (not an insect, I know) in my dorm room.  I tried it…you actually make a paste to apply by adding water (some folks say to use vinegar instead, but I haven’t tried it that way).  It worked pretty well to take the pain out, but there was still a lot of swelling, and it still turned purple, prompting an after-hours visit to the ER.  Maybe I should have used it with vinegar!

Aspirin

I’ve heard this one from a lot of folks.  It makes sense, really.  It’s not as crazy as meat tenderizer!  Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory medication.  You can crush a tablet, and make it into a paste with a little water…then apply it to the insect sting.  This method works fairly well, but it takes a little while.  It’s definitely not as fast-acting as the next remedy.

Laundry Bluing

Laundry bluing?  What on earth is that???  Fear not, that was my first reaction when my grandmother first suggested it to me.

I took the kids up to visit my parents and grandparents one summer.  Apparently, at a stop along the way, we gained an additional passenger who remained unnoticed until a couple hours later.  Lizard was only about a year and a half old at the time.  She had fallen asleep, but just before we reached our destination, she woke up and started screaming.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on while driving into Dallas rush-hour traffic, so I pulled over, and managed to get her calmed down…though I still couldn’t find the cause.  Well, a couple hours later, at my grandmother’s house, I laid her down on the floor to change her diaper.  There was a huge welt on her leg.  She had been fussy ever since the incident in the car…and now I knew why.  Something had stung her on the leg.  It was big and red and angry!  I made a rather surprised exclamation about it, and my grandmother came to look.  She said, “That’s a bee sting.  I just bought some bluing.”

I looked at her like a cow looking at a new gate.  “Bluing?  Is that what you said?  What’s that?”

“It’s for laundry.”  She stated rather emphatically.

“Okay…”

My mom jumped in, “People used to use it a lot to make their whites brighter.”

“Okay…”  I was still waiting for someone to tell me why we were talking about brighter whites in every load instead of my daughter’s giant bee sting.

“Mother used to use it on us when we got stung, but I hadn’t thought about it in years.  It takes the sting out, and all the swelling will be gone by bedtime.  I just bought some last week I just happened to come across.  Let me see if I can find it.”  Grandmother took off for her back bedroom to look for it.

I looked at my mom and shrugged my shoulders, still a bit dubious.  But, I figured I might as well give it a try.

My grandmother returned after a few minutes with a little blue bottle labeled, “Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing” and a few cotton balls.  She said, “Put a little of the bluing on the cotton, then dab it on the sting.  Make sure you cover the whole thing.  Try to keep her still until it dries, because it will get all over everything and it will stain.”

So, I did as instructed.  I made a big blue painting with that stuff all over Lizard’s leg.  By the time we sat down for dinner, Lizard had stopped fussing.  By the time I changed her next diaper, the swelling was gone.  She still had a big blue splotch…but no swelling.  I used it again the next morning, just to be sure…but I had a hard time telling where the sting had even been.  I was sold.  Grandmother told me to keep the bottle, and I did!

I’ve used it several more times since then…every time someone gets an insect sting.  It has a great track record for bee stings, and for yellow jacket stings…including Bear’s little encounter over the weekend.  She was stung on the leg and on the nose.  At first, she didn’t want me to turn her nose blue, but within minutes of the time I put it on her leg, she said her leg didn’t hurt any more and wanted it on her nose too.  So, Bear had a blue nose Sunday afternoon…and I didn’t hear another complaint about her nose.  By Monday, her nose wasn’t blue anymore, but that yellow jacket sting was gone too.  A blue nose is a small price to pay!

So, next time you or one of your little ones gets an insect sting, give bluing a try.  You may be just as surprised as I was.

Incidentally, while bluing is great for insect stings, you can also grow a fantastic crystal garden with it, I’ve been told.  It’s on the list to try this week! 


How to treat insect stings fast!

 


  

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Today, I was feeling a little inspired by a real bully to write a little children’s story (rather poorly…come on, I only spent five minutes on it!) in the style of a classic:

So without any further ado, here it is, retold for farm children: Continue reading “The Pasture that Daddy Fenced: A retelling of a children’s classic”


It’s summer time in Texas.  It’s still early, and God hasn’t turned off the rain faucet or turned the oven to “broil” yet.  The neighborhood children are out of school.  It’s not so hot yet that they cannot play outside all day.  The grass is growing, the corn is tall.  The tomatoes are flowering, and there are little green tomatoes starting to ripen in the sun.  It’s the time of year when everything has sprung to life…

 

 

…and all that life has determined to kill something else.

 

 

Along with the grass come the grasshoppers, and if it’s green, you can bet they’ll be chomping holes in it.  They eat the silk off the ears of corn.  Weird caterpillars show up inside the ears of the sweet corn.  If we don’t harvest the corn soon, the whole crop will be gone.  There are strange looking bugs crawling all over the squash plants, eating holes in the leaves.  Stink bugs poke holes in everything.  They’ll leave bad spots in all those tomatoes that are still green on the vines.  The squirrel who lives in the tree next to the driveway will soon be up to his usual tricks.  He likes to come into the tomato patch and take one bite out of each tomato he finds.  He throws the rest on the ground to move on to the next.  The birds peck holes in the peaches.  Then there’s the chiggers…I’m pretty sure they’re trying to eat us.  They may actually succeed in eating a couple of the smaller children!  It’s summer, and it’s time for war.

If we move up the food chain a little, we’ll come to the lizards.  Fortunately, they crawl along the sides of the house every night, eating the moths that lay all those eggs that turn into the caterpillars that destroy all the plants all summer long.  Clearly, they ought to move from the house to the gardens.

Then come the snakes.  Oh, the snakes!  It rained last weekend, so they’re on the move.  It’s humid and warm…perfect snake weather.  The rat snakes are in the chicken coops, eating eggs instead of the rats that are eating the chickens’ food.  They’re long and look fairly intimidating.  These snakes are kind of cranky and do like to bite if their caught stealing eggs.  They’re not venomous…but the copperheads are.  Copperheads usually short and fat, but the ones we’ve run into this year they’ve been huge, and more the size of a really fat rat snake!  I’m convinced that there are snakes lurking in every patch of grass that’s any taller than the tops of my shoes.  There are water moccasins waiting to jump out should I decide to step off my front porch (some genius put a pond in the front yard!).  There’s a pit of vipers in that hole the dogs made under the porch…and please don’t trouble me with your version of reality that says, “If the dogs lay in that hole every day, there can’t be snakes in it.”

Sometimes, if you shoot a snake, babies will explode out of it.  Did you know that?  They don’t all lay eggs, some of them have live born babies.  If it meets my husband’s shotgun out by the barn in the dark, however, it’s all over for that snake…exploding babies and all!  That’s just how it goes during summertime warfare.

I sure wish we had a Rikki Tikki Tavi.  We do have 2 guineas.  Well, they’re not actually ours…they belong to our neighbors.  But they spend a lot of their time at our house!  Andrew keeps saying he’s going to try to talk our neighbors into getting some more guineas so they’ll eat more snakes, but I don’t think he’s done it yet.  I’ve been trying to talk Andrew into guineas for a couple of years now, but I suppose my arguments for guineas are just as effective as my arguments against chickens!  At least the neighbors got some that like to hang out here!  They just aren’t hungry enough, I guess.

That’s just how life is during the early summer here in Texas.  I never really thought about how strange this all would seem to someone who wasn’t “from around these parts”.  That's just how life is during the early summer here in Texas. A Guide to Surviving Texas… Click To Tweet

Several years ago, I worked with a girl who was a student from Germany.  One weekend, she had planned a trip with a friend to a rural property, where they would have a nice, relaxing weekend, and maybe float down the river a time or two.  The following Monday, back at work, I made the mistake of asking her how her weekend was, since I knew how much she’d been looking forward to it.  What followed was a rant of epic proportions!

“Texas is the craziest place I’ve ever seen!  All the wildlife here, if it’s not trying to kill you, it’s just trying to sting you and make your life horribly uncomfortable!”

She may or may not have used more colorful language than I just did.

“There’s snakes everywhere.  In the grass, in the water…everywhere!  There’s mosquitoes, and they’re not normal.  Some of them are like an inch long!  Don’t get me started on fire ants,” she was getting agitated now, and she pulled up the legs of her jeans to reveal hundreds of fire ant stings all over her legs.  “I found out about fire ants this weekend, I didn’t know about them before!  What horrible little creatures!  You have bees and wasps, too…”

“…and scorpions” I couldn’t help myself, I had to interrupt.  I was a little amused.  “We have scorpions too.  Always check your shoes before you put them on every morning.”  She looked at me like I’d grown a third head.

“See!  Everything here is trying to kill me.  And you’re all so proud of it!  Why do people live here?  It’s awful!  You have hurricanes and tornadoes…even the weather tries to kill you.”

“Well,” I was laughing now, “I’d never really thought about all that before, but you’re kinda right.  Texas is a pretty harsh place to live.  But, it is home.  I guess we are pretty proud of it, Texans are rather infamous for that.  It’s just home, and it’s just how home is.  I suppose if you make it through childhood here, you have something to be proud of!”


There’s lots of life out here right now, and the circle of life dictates that all of us have to eat.  So, if you come visit, catch a few grasshoppers, caterpillars, and weird bugs to help us save our plants.  Put them on the end of a fishing hook and catch us some dinner with them.

We’ll roast a few marshmallows over a fire in the front yard.  After all, the smoke helps to keep mosquitoes at bay.  Take a flashlight and a shovel if you go off by yourself (you can’t take the shotgun until you prove you know how to use it) so you won’t step on a snake in the dark.  Use the shovel to smash its head before it can bite you…or take more eggs from the chicken coop.

Be sure to keep your flashlight with you when you go to bed.  If you need to use the restroom during the night, you’ll need it to check for scorpions on your way…yes, even if you’re inside the house.  

It’s early summer in Texas, a time full of life in our home.  It’s a time of harvest…all the fresh produce we and the insects can eat.  In another month, the oven will be on, the rain gauge will be empty, and all that life will wither and blow away.  The dog days of summer will be oppressive.  So, we’ll say a little prayer of thanks for this time of the year.  Then, we’ll remind you to check your shoes before you put them on.  Scorpions.


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