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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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My kids are weird...and why I'm ok with it

My kids are weird.  

Whew!  I got that out of the way!  I love my kids.  They’re really, really good kids!  My kids just aren’t normal kids.  At least they aren’t normal based on today’s standards.  A hundred years ago I’m sure they would have been normal, run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter kids.  But not anymore.  My kids are weird.  But, I’m okay with that.  I might even encourage it.  They have seen more and understand more about real life in their few short years than many adults.

You see, my kids are country kids.

I grew up in town.  No…not in town, in the city.  I grew up in Dallas.  Well, in the rough, tough, suburbs of the northeastern corner of Dallas county, anyway (please take note of the sarcasm dripping off that statement!).  Dallas…it’s currently the ninth largest city in the United States, the fourth largest metro area in the United States.  That is, according to Wikipedia, anyway.  My grandfather’s (my mom’s dad) family were sharecroppers.  My grandmother (my dad’s mom) grew up on a farm.  I visited my great-grandparents’ farm a couple times per year until they died…I was in elementary school.  My uncle and his family lived in a rural area north of Dallas for a while.  I visited them every once in a while.  More importantly, I heard all his stories…about the chickens, and dogs, and coyotes.  I might have been a city girl, but I knew all about “country” stuff.  I was sure I had experience.

But I had no idea.

Did you know that meat doesn’t actually appear in the refrigerated section at the grocery store through some sort of magical process?  I didn’t.  Well, when I actually thought about it, I did.  But, like most people, I never had to think about it.

What about fruits and vegetables?  Most people grow beans for some sort of science project in elementary school, but that’s the end of food production…they rarely think of it again.  Many folks never think about the work that goes into producing enough for your family to eat for an entire year.  I know I didn’t…but my kids do. 

We moved out here, and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  I had no idea what I was getting our kids into.  I’m glad we did it.  Our kids are better off because of it.  But, our kids are most definitely weird.

Our kids eat their vegetables.

Gasp!  That one little fact probably makes them weird all on its own!  They don’t usually even complain about it…as long as no one did anything silly to the vegetables, you know, like cooking them.  They prefer them straight out of the garden (see number 8 on this list).  I don’t think we even managed to get any of our peas into the house this year.  The kids ate them straight off the plants for “outside snacks”, as Monkey called them.

Now, don’t try cooking their precious vegetables…that is ill-advised.  Don’t try to heat up canned peas and tell my kids to eat them because you’ve heard they like peas.  They will look at you like a cow looking at a new gate…and then absolutely refuse to eat whatever it is you just served them (it certainly wasn’t peas!).  Cooked carrots?  Forget it!

Our kids are homeschooled.

This is probably why they don’t realize that our family is a little bit different than most.  They get plenty of time to play with other kids, don’t get me wrong.  But, they’re not around the same set of other kids every single day like they would be at school.  We teach the things that we feel are important, not what the state tells us to teach.  We set high standards for what they learn.  

Most preschoolers learn about farm animals from picture books.  Our kids don’t just learn how to point them out in a book.  They learned that cows are huge.  They know that big brown one ain’t a cow…and not to mess with him.  There’s a difference between a cow and a heifer, and my four year old can tell you all about it.  Eggs come from hens, not from roosters, and even my 2 year old knows how to tell the difference.  Pigs really do enjoy a good wallow in the mud, and if there is no mud available, they will make their own!  Our kids know all about farm animals, and they know how to treat them, and how to behave around them.

Our kids pull their weight

Now, some of them weigh more than others, and we certainly make allowances for that.  But our kids have to work.  Most of the time, they actually enjoy it!  When I say it’s time to clean our bathroom, Bear jumps up and says, “Ooh!  I’ll clean the potty!”  No, I’m not making that up.  I actually did it myself this past week, and she honestly got upset with me.  There are certainly household chores they don’t enjoy, like cleaning up their rooms, but they are learning to do them anyway…like it or not.

All the kids have a blast helping their daddy with his work outside.  They go with him nearly every night to lock up the chicken coops and pull water for all the animals.  They help as much as they can.  When Daddy is out planting the gardens, the kids are right there helping him out.  They help pick the vegetables once the plants start producing, too.  Once the vegetables are picked, they help wash and sort it as well.  They know what goes into making the food they eat, and they probably have a better appetite for it!

Our kids understand that death is part of life.

This made me a little uncomfortable at first, but our kids have a very healthy view of death.  Without death, there is no life.  They understand where their food comes from.  They feed their food apple cores…our latest set of pigs recently went to the freezer, but we sure went through a lot of apples while they were living in the barn.  Our children know where the pigs are, they understand…but they aren’t upset by it.  It’s just part of life.  We take care of our animals, and when the time comes, our animals take care of us.

Many kids find a lot of blood and gore in video games.  Fascination with these types of things, while often disturbing to adults, is (to a certain degree) part of healthy development.  Our children don’t need video games…they’ve seen their dad slaughter chickens to feed his family.  It’s certainly not a pleasant task, but in our lives, it’s a necessary task.  Our kids understand that, and they’re blessed with an understanding that these animals have fulfilled their purpose.

The understanding of death gained by our children through their involvement in food production also prepares them for the death of loved ones as well.  They aren’t frightened of the concept of death and they understand what it means.  That means we can intelligently discuss our beliefs about what happens to people after death on earth.  My Granddad (their great-granddad) recently passed away after a year of confinement to a nursing home due to dementia and a hip injury.  When we told the kids about it, they were able to process the information.  Of course they were sad, especially Bear who remembered what he was like before his dementia got really bad.  But, since they already understood death, it allowed us to concentrate on the life that comes after death.  Without death, there can be no life.

So, there you have it.  My kids are weird.  But, I wouldn’t have it any other way!


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Think Tank Thursday

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Awesome Life Friday


I am a wife and the mother of five children.  I love my family.  We live on a farm…no pavement in sight.  You know what that means, right?  Dirt.  Dirt, dirt, and more dirt.  Then it rains.  Then comes the LAUNDRY!  Loads and loads and loads of it.  But, that’s just the tip of the iceburg.  

Let’s not forget the dishes.  My youngest doesn’t eat solid food yet, and is exclusively breastfed.  She doesn’t contribute to Dish Mountain.  So, that makes six plates, six cups, six forks, six spoons, six knives…plus all the pots and pans to cook in…for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Doesn’t my life sound glamorous?

Housekeeping is NOT one of my gifts.  Yes, I said it.  I don’t enjoy housework…I’m really not very good at it.  I don’t see all those little tasks that need to be done to keep a house truly clean and comfortable.  I’m generally happy if I manage to keep the dishes clean and enough clean clothes in my kids’ drawers.  I’m very lucky that my husband is an enormous help in this department, too!  He can often be found washing dishes with the kids (like, every night after dinner while I’m putting the baby to bed), folding laundry, or sweeping and mopping the floors.  But, there are always so many more things to be done…and with a two month old infant, even the basics often seem to slip.  Alas, I fall further and further behind.  There’s not enough time or energy to tackle that growing pile of clothes waiting to be folded…much less that big project that needs to be done!

But, I knew what I was signing up for eight years ago when I quit my job to stay home with my oldest…I thought.  Of course, the load has gotten a little heavier with each addition to the family, but that’s to be expected.  My biggest problem is that I tend to look at the housework all wrong.

I’ve always measured myself, and my personal success, on what I can complete.  What I can finish.  What I can check off that good ole’ to-do list.  With my housework, I always felt like such a failure.

“I found the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper!  Yay me!  I did such a great job today!”

Ten minutes later, I visit the bathroom and the hamper (OK, I’ll be honest, it’s usually the floor in front of the hamper) is already full again!  “All that time spent, and nothing to show for it.”  Sigh.

“Yay!  The dishes are done and put away.  The counters are clean and disinfected.  My husband’s coffeepot is sparkling!”

But then, “Mom!  Can I have a snack?”  And of course, if one person is hungry, everyone else realizes they’re famished too.  They find and finish their snacks, leaving dish carnage in their wake.  It’s not enough to justify a whole new sink full of dish water (No, we don’t have a dishwasher), but if I don’t do it now, after dinner it will look like a dish sculpture of Mount Everest.

I looked at the housework as something to be accomplished.  Completed.  Defeated!  But I got so discouraged because it just simply cannot happen.  It isn’t possible.  Even if I were to get every single article of clothing in the house clean, folded, and put away, we’re still wearing something while it’s getting done.  So it isn’t done.

If I can help my kids learn the right attitude about it all, they’ll be so far ahead of me.  My way isn’t the right way to think about all the housework.  Now that I have daughters who are getting old enough to actually help, I have to do my best to make sure they don’t get this attitude about work, and about life in general.  Because honestly, that’s what housework really is…LIFE!  If I can help my kids learn the right attitude about it all, they’ll be so far ahead of me.  

So, now, for that all important question.  How should I try to teach myself to think about housework?  How should I teach my kids?  I already know how NOT to do it.  But how SHOULD I do it?  Well, I’ve got to look at it as an on-going process, not something to be completed.  We can’t stop living because I just swept and mopped the floors.  I have to learn to accept that life happens.  There’s going to be a dog (or 3) who just took a nice swim in the pond trailing my husband who’s carrying a big pile of still mud-caked turnips inside from the garden the day after a good rain.  That’s ok.  So what?  I’ll try again tomorrow (and make my husband sweep again after he’s done washing the turnips!).

I also have to learn (and teach!) that if I’m doing my job right (which I rarely am), no one is going to notice.  But, that shouldn’t be why I do it anyway.  Housework is my act of service to care for my family, to make my guests feel welcome and comfortable…whether they called first or not!  This is one (of many) ways I should be showing love for others.  I should expect nothing in return…not even praise for a job well-done.

If I can impart this hard life-lesson early on in my daughters’ lives (and my sons’ too), that’s just another way to help them live happier, healthier, more satisfying lives than have I.  One way I’ve started is by making sure we do ourZone Cleaning  twice a day, every day!  This program really helps them break down each cleaning task into manageable chunks.  It also helps us all remember that keeping our home neat and clean is an ongoing process…not something to do that stays done forever.  We have to come back to it many times every day!

It’s a work in progress, but someday, maybe I’ll figure it all out!

 

 

I linked up this week with:

 

Blended Life Happy Wife

 

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Awesome Life Friday

 

 

Inspire Me Monday

 

 

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Do you remember when you were young?  There was a big list of things your parents said to you.  They got under your skin so much that you promised yourself you’d never say them to your own children!  But, eventually, when you got older and you had children of your own, you found you may or may not have been able to follow through with those promises.

When you were trying to understand some great mystery of life, you heard, “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

When you were playing the funnest game you had ever devised, it was always, “Don’t jump on the bed!”  Or, “Clean up that mess!”

Then, you were presented with an awful-looking mish-mash of turnips, parsnips, and brussell sprouts, and you heard the dreaded words, “You have to try it.”

Then, there was always the infamous, “Because I said so!”  Which, of course, was good for any occasion!

This is just a partial list of things that I promised my future children I would never say.  I can say with all honesty today, that every single one of those phrases has escaped from my mommy lips.  But, far more disturbing is a different list of phrases that I started collecting through my parenting experiences on a farm.  I say a lot of things in response to situations I never thought would come up…I can’t make this stuff up!  Some are funny, some are sad.  Some will leave you scratching your head.  How on earth did that situation arise???  Well, I’m not sure!  But, here it is…my list of things I never thought to say I’d never say.

1. “No Chickens!!!”

Chickens were never a danger on my radar I thought I’d need to avoid.  You can read more about it in this post.

2. “You bought how many chickens?”

This was in response to the first batch of chickens my husband brought home.  I was so reluctant to agree to
chickens in the first place, I thought he’d start off with just a few.  But, he brought home 25!  Twenty-five.  That was a lot of chickens to me!  

Looking back on it now, I realize it wasn’t really very many at all.  I’m not really even sure how many we have at the moment, but it’s enough to fill three coops!

3.  “Ham.  You want ham.  The ham to which you refer is clearly not ham!  What is ham?!?”

When Bear was almost 2 years old, she announced to me one day that she wanted ham for lunch.  Like any sensible mother, I pulled some ham out of the fridge and made some for her for lunch.  It turns out, whatever ham was, it was not, in fact, ham…at least not what everyone in the adult world called ham.  Bear was mad!  She looked up at me with that angry face (you know, the one you try not to laugh at because it’s so cute) every toddler has, and shoved that bowl away from her and yelled, “No!  Want Ham!!”  Then, she proceeded to feed her lunch to the dogs.

Sometimes, our dear, sweet children come up with names for things that make absolutely no sense.  “Ham” was one of these instances.  It took us weeks to figure out what she meant.  We tried all sorts of pointing games with objects in our refrigerator and pantry, but nothing seemed to be “ham”.  Finally, we were out at the grocery store, and happened to go down the baby foods aisle.  Bear started going crazy in the cart, pointing and shrieking “Ham!  Ham!  Ham!”  It turns out, the infamous “ham” was actually those little freeze-dried yogurt toddler snacks.  Who knew?

4. “Dear, how do you recommend I get a heifer out of the garage?”

When we first moved out here, it took a while to get all of our fences in perfect working order.  Our first pair of cattle were a Holstein bull and heifer.  Occasionally, my husband would let them out to mow down the grass out in front of the barn, but usually only when he was at home.  Unfortunately, they got the idea that it was perfectly acceptable for them to go out on their own any time they wished.  One day, Bear and I were outside playing, and I started hearing odd noises coming from our garage.  I looked up, and low and behold, there was a heifer in the garage.  There were lots of interesting things to investigate in the garage, and she had no desire to leave and go back into the pasture.  She was resisting my small repertoire of methods.  So, I called my husband at work for his recommendations.  Eventually, she wound up getting bored and backing out of the garage on her own.  At that point, she gladly followed a bucket of feed back to the pasture gate.  

The next day, my husband had not had time to fix up the fence where she got out, but he did put up some 2×4 boards across the front of the garage so that if she decided to wander again, at least she would stay out of the garage.  It didn’t work.  She plowed right through them the next day, completely undeterred.  Then she got stuck and couldn’t figure out how to back out of the garage.  When she stepped on the boards she had knocked down, they felt funny under her feet and she didn’t know how to get by them.  Sigh.  I wasn’t about to go move the boards from under a 1500 pound cow (er…heifer)!  Eventually, she was able to back out of the garage on her own, and she followed the feed bucket back to the pasture again.

The heifer’s misadventures in the garage were funny, but the bull was just downright sneaky.  When Andrew let
 them out to graze on the grass in front of the barn, the bull was always very interested in the section of the barn where Andrew kept the feed (imagine that!).  He got chased out of the barn so many times, I couldn’t even begin to count.  One day, he had found his way into the barn and knocked over the feed can.  Of course, as a large, 2000 pound animal, he was silent and invisible in his persuits…in his mind, anyway.  He looked over his shoulder just as Andrew came around the corner to chase him out of the barn (again).  He backed out of the barn, just a little, and faced straight forward, refusing to even look at Andrew.  The bull started licking a bush that was growing right next to the side of the barn.  Then, he looked at Andrew as if to say, “I’m just lickin’ the bush, boss!  I’m just lickin’ the bush!”  These two cattle are where one of Andrew’s favorite farm catch-phrases came from: “There are few things in life more obnoxious than well-fed cattle!”

5. “We don’t need another dog.”

I like dogs.  I’ve always liked dogs.  When I was younger, I figured that when I grew up, I’d have a farm with just dogs running around everywhere.  That’s why it came as a surprise to me when my husband started talking about getting another dog that I told him we didn’t need one.  But, by this point, I figured there were enough animals around.  We had just lost Blaze.  But we still had Trinity.  We had cattle, we had chickens.  We had two small children with a third due any day.  Getting any new dogs raised and trained was going to fall mostly on me, because, well, I was the one who was at home the most.  I didn’t feel up to the task…especially with a newborn coming!  My husband and I went back and forth about the issue for a few weeks, during which time Monkey was born.  

Then, one cold day, while Andrew was home over Christmas break, he was working on putting in a gate between the two sides of the pasture, and he had a little accident involving our bull.

6. “Mom, I’ll call you back.  Something’s wrong with Andrew!”

I was on the phone with my mom.  The kids were napping.  Andrew came up to the porch, all muddy and gasping for air.  I knew he’d been out in the pasture…and it was obvious that something was very, very wrong.  He just kept coughing and gasping.  He couldn’t even talk to me and tell me what was going on.

Well, he had, in fact, been run over by the bull.  You see, our bull at the time had previously been a roping calf.  He liked to play.  That was not a big deal when Blaze had been out in the pasture every time my husband went out there, because Blaze played with him.  Unfortunately, when a 2 thousand pound animal decides to play with a 200 pound man, things don’t always go so well for the 200 pound man…especially when there’s no fast-moving dog to distract the 2 thousand pound animal!

Andrew was fine.  He was very bruised-up, but he was fine.

Apparently, we did need another dog.

7.  “The well is…frozen???”

This is Texas, folks!  A frozen well is just not something we have to deal with here.  But, in early 2011, not even a year after we had moved into our new farm house, when Lizard was just a couple of months old, we had a cold snap.  It lasted several days.  The highs only made it up into the middle teens.  It was cold!  A gas drilling company had provided our property with a nice, deep water well.  However, they had left nothing to protect it.  The previous owners of our property had put up a little lean-to around the pump.  But, one of the walls (we found out) was merely a blanket.  Fortunately, we knew the weather was about to get pretty nasty.  We were having an electrical problem with one of the switches to start with.  Water service to the house had become a bit sketchy.  I took advantage of a day-long break between two Dallas snow storms and took the girls up to visit my parents for a few days.  Andrew called the next day to tell me that everything was frozen…including the well.  He was without water pretty much the whole time we were gone.  Every day he made the trek up to the well house to make improvements so that it wouldn’t happen again.  He fixed up the well, and it hasn’t frozen since.  Thank goodness for handy husbands who are willing to work in the freezing weather!  The girls and I came home once everything thawed out.  Bear did have a lot of fun on that emergency trip to Dallas, though.  It snowed.  Not just a little Dallas snow like we always got there when I was a kid.  She got 8 inches of snow to play in!  Lucky girl!  These things are enough excitement to last for years to a Texan.

8.  “You’ve eaten enough green beans.  You’re not going to eat any dinner!”

No stranger a phrase has ever crossed a mother’s lips!  Yet, it’s one that has come out of mine more than once.  The first time I said it, Lizard was about 2 years old.  Andrew had spent all morning picking vegetables in the gardens.  There were buckets and buckets of squash that had been loaded onto the trailer.  There were cucumbers, and turnips.  And, there were green beans.  Not just a dinner’s worth of green beans.  Andrew uses 5 gallon buckets to hold the green beans as he picks them.  That particular week, there were 3 or 4 buckets full of green beans.  Andrew gave each of the girls a green bean.  Bear ate hers, but she wasn’t particularly excited about it.  Lizard was a different story.  She ate her green bean, and then asked for another one.  Then another, then another and another.  Finally, Andrew got tired of getting her green beans.  He told her that she could have as many green beans as she wanted as long as she ate them.  We didn’t want them going to waste.  She ate green beans all afternoon.  Finally, a couple of hours before dinner, Lizard was still going back and forth to the green bean bucket that Andrew had left on the front porch for her.  I called out to her, “You’ve eaten enough green beans!  You’re going to ruin your dinner!”  

Andrew looked at me like I’d grown a third head, and said, “Really?”

“What?”  I asked.  “She’s not supposed to have any snacks after 4 so she’ll eat her dinner.”

“You’re worried about green beans?  Green beans.  We’re having fried chicken for dinner.  You’re worried that she won’t eat her fried food because she’s eaten too many vegetables???”

Well, he had a point.  We’ve laughed about that afternoon many times since it happened.   The events have repeated themselves several times since then.  It’s not always with green beans, sometimes it’s with peas or carrots, or something else pulled fresh from the garden.  Now, it’s a phrase I use jokingly, because, let’s face it, who can complain about kids who eat their vegetables?

9.  “Wait, you lost a frog in the bathroom?”

This is another one that sadly, I’ve had to say more than once.  We have a pond in our front yard.  I’m not sure why the previous owners of this property decided to put a pond in the front yard, but they did.  Asking why the previous owners did anything around here is a forbidden question…but that’s another topic for another post.  Anyway, since there’s a pond in the front yard, reptiles and amphibians are plentiful.  

It’s a nightly ritual around here for Andrew to go catch a frog or a toad or a lizard at bedtime.  Why bedtime?  I have no idea.  But, that’s the procedure around here, and who am I to demand that it change?

Anyway, we generally have some sort of reptile or amphibian find its way into the house every evening.  Every once in a while, Andrew will let one of the kids hold it.  Inevitably, it gets away, usually in one of the bathrooms.

10.  “Why is there a duckling in my daughter’s bedroom?”

One day, several years ago, Trinity killed a duck.  It was very sad.  It was the female of a pair of ducks that often swam on our pond.  The male flew away, never to return.  As it turned out, they had made their nest in the brush along the fence line close to the pond.  We pulled out the eggs, and put them in our incubator that was normally used for chicken eggs.  Of course, we had no idea what we were doing, but we thought we’d give it a try.  There were several eggs, but only one hatched.  We put it in the brooder box to keep it warm.  One day, after it had started getting its feathers, Andrew decided it was time for that little duck to learn how to swim.  Bear just happened to be playing in the wading pool that afternoon.  It looked like the perfect place for that little duck to learn!  So, Bear played in the pool with a duck.  The duck also took swimming lessons in the cows’ water buckets upon occasion.

I’m still not exactly sure why, but one day, Andrew decided the duck should visit Bear inside the house.  So he brought the duck in.  Bear was playing in her room, so the duck came to play as well.  Of course, as one might expect, the duck didn’t have very good manners, and soon pooped on the carpet.  I was a little irritated, to say the least, and said”Why is there a duckling in my daughter’s bedroom?  It just pooped on the floor!”  Andrew started laughing and said, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of that possibility!  I’ll take it back outside.”  Not every kid can say they’ve had a duck in their room.

Unfortunately, the duck did not have a happy ending.  The rest of the story involves a raccoon, so I’m pretty sure you can guess what happened.  But, it was fun to have a baby duck around.

11.  “Why did you trap your sister in a box?  Oh, of course…because it made her laugh!”                  

 

Bear had a big plastic bin that (occasionally) held her mega blocks.  But, it was much more fun to dump out all of the blocks on the floor and get inside the box.  It was even more fun to put her sister in the box.  Fortunately, Lizard also thought it was fun, leading to much giggling!  A picture is worth a thousand words.

 

12.  “Get that snake out of here.  It’s bleeding on the floor!”

This is another one that has come out of my mouth more than once.  Every time Andrew kills a snake that he finds impressive, he brings it into the house.  Usually it’s a particularly large copperhead that he brings to the house for educational purposes.  Sometimes, he wants to show me how many eggs a rat snake has stolen (you can count the bumps to find your eggs).  Whatever the case, it’s a snake, in my house!  I don’t really care if it’s dead.  I don’t want wildlife in my house!  Especially when it’s dripping blood on the floor.  Call me crazy…

13.  “There are bodily fluids flying everywhere!”

It was just after Thanksgiving.  I had caught a stomach bug up in Dallas where we had visited family for the holiday.  I was sick all Thanksgiving Day.  It was miserable, but I was over it in 24 hours.  We came home the day after Thanksgiving as usual.  Lizard was mostly done potty training, but still had the occasional accident.  Monkey was starting to learn how to use the potty (because he was interested), but since he was barely over a year old, we weren’t doing any intensive training yet.  While we were gone, Andrew bought a puppy…it was Patch.  Trinity got bit by a snake as we were coming home.  It was a great trip…really.

The next day went fine.  Everyone was happy to be back home.  We played outside most of the day.  There was a new puppy to play with.  It looked like Trinity was going to survive the snake bite.  Christmas was coming soon.  Life was good!  

Then came the evening.  One of the kids mentioned that their tummy hurt a little.  No one ate very well.  We got everyone washed and into bed early, hoping that the dreaded stomach bug would pass us by.  It didn’t.  It started in the middle of the night…it always does, doesn’t it?  We had a washer load or two of sheets and blankets by morning.  I knew it was going to be bad.  But, since I had already had it, I figured it would only last about 24 hours…just like it had for me.  Boy, was I wrong!  

On Monday, I figured we were pretty much at the end of it, and Andrew went off to work as usual.  Two of the kids stomach bugs progressed from the top side, to the bottom.  The other was still working on the top.  Lizard had completely forgotten all about using the potty, as had Monkey.  And, there was a puppy in the house who still didn’t know to put her waste products outside.  Not to mention an old, grumpy Trinity who was very upset about the puppy’s existence.  Andrew called around 10 that morning to check on us.  All I had to say was, “There are bodily fluids flying around everywhere!”  

Everyone did finally recover, though it took about 2 weeks for the kids…a far cry from my 1 day bug.  Once we were able to concentrate on training Patch, she caught on to the outside thing very quickly.  And, all those flying fluids finally dried up.  Now that was something to be thankful for!

14.  “Where are we going to put two pigs?”

This is another one I never had on my radar as a possible danger (see number 1).  I never thought I would need to worry about pigs.  But, a couple years ago, the deer hunting was bad…very bad.  Andrew was afraid we wouldn’t have enough meat set back in the freezer.  So, he decided that he wanted to buy a couple of pigs.  But, it seemed to me that we wouldn’t have anywhere to put 2 pigs.  Not surprisingly, Andrew quickly found a place.  

The pigs have been a great amusement for the kids.  They always enjoy feeding apple cores to the pigs.  We just put our second set in the freezer, which is always a little sad, but they are yummy!  There will be another set soon in our future, I assume.

15.  “Get that chicken foot out of my house!!!” 

Yes, you read that right.  When Andrew slaughters chickens, the dogs really enjoy playing keep away with each other using the chicken feet.  It’s kinda yucky!  Once, the kids had come out of the house during this game, and of course, they left the front door open.  In runs Midnight, with a chicken foot in his mouth to find a special place to hide it.  Fortunately, he had to run right past me to get inside.  As he ran through the door, I yelled, “Get that chicken foot out of my house!!”  He did.  Andrew started laughing, and he said, “You’re going to have to add that one to your list!”  So I did, and now you’re lucky enough to have read all about it!

 

 

 

 

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Life Love and Dirty Dishes

 

 

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The entomologist interviewed on the local news station assured us that they aren’t ladybugs, but Asian Ladybird Beetles. But they certain look like ladybugs to me. I also seem to remember that someone’s library books about ladybugs said that “ladybird beetle” is one of many alternative names for ladybugs. But that professor on the news really seemed sure of himself. Maybe he just meant that they aren’t the local, native variety of ladybugs. He said they were imported years ago to take care of some sort of crop pest…hmm, aphids, anyone? Anyway, I saw it on the news so it must be true, right?

Whatever the entomologists want to call them, we sure do have a lot of them! They seem to have chosen our house as their hibernation location of choice. Since it got a spot on the news, I assume we must not be all that special.

They’ve shown up every year in mid to late November, depending on when we get our first real cold snap. That’s when ladybug season starts in our house. The children wake up one morning to find hundreds of ladybugs, or perhaps Asian Ladybird Beetles, crawling on the ceilings of their rooms. They start to form clumps in the corners of the rooms, right where the ceiling meets the walls in each of the four corners of the room.

It’s really quite an impressive sight to see. I’ve never seen so many ladybugs in one place! The problem always comes a few days later. You see, Texas winter weather is rather notorious for its roller-coaster type behavior. One day, it will get down to 20F. A couple of days later, we’ll be hitting 80 again. A week later, and we’re back down into the 40s. It’s all very confusing for us humans who have a weather forecast to watch. No one gives the poor ladybugs a weather report. It gets warm, and they think it’s time to wake up. I’m sure many of them get back outside, but many of them don’t. This results in a ladybug graveyard that covers the floors of my children’s rooms. But then, it gets cold again. The cycle repeats itself all winter long.

I feel bad for the the ladybugs.  It must be confusing for them, living in Texas.  I do wish they would stay out of the house.  But, it does amuse the children.  They spend all winter playing with ladybugs inside.  They come and proudly show me all the ladybugs they managed to get to crawl on them at once.  But, in a few days time, they will be vacuumed up, off the floor…more sad victims of a Texan “winter”.  Hopefully, enough of them will last until spring time, which starts in late February or early March.  Goodness knows we’ll need them around by then.  There will be pests-a-plenty outside on all of our garden vegetables.  A feast ready and waiting for the Asian Ladybird Beetle.


If you have this problem as well, there are some things that can be done to get the ladybugs to find a new home.  Check out

this Orkin fact page

, and

this page from household-tips

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Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

 

 

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Living on a farm means living in the dirt.  Not only do we live on a dirt road, but we live 3 different dirt roads away from anything paved.  There’s dirt, dust, and gravel everywhere.  Now, what we have here is the beginnings of a recipe for a woman’s slow descent into madness:

  1.  Start with dirt
  2.  Add 4 young children
  3.  Add 1 farmer husband
  4.  Stir in 4 dogs

Mix all together well outside after a rainstorm.  Allow to marinate at least one hour.  Bring preparation indoors.

When we first moved out here, any time it rained, I would ban my poor daughter from playing outside until the mud dried.  But alas, I, a born and bred city girl, was the mother of a true country girl.  Staying inside all day was true torture of the worst kind for Bear.  And when a toddler is confronted with torture, they are experts at handing it right back to you.  


On those days when she was denied the right to play in the great outdoors, I was subjected to the worst punishments from my dear, sweet, daughter.  It was a vicious cycle.  The confinement I imposed on her drove her crazy, her cabin fever drove me crazy.  Something had to give.

The following year, after Lizard was born, was the great drought of 2011.  Mud…well, it wasn’t so much of a problem.  There were plenty of other problems…failed crops, the struggle to find and buy hay, and wild fires, to name a few.  But we didn’t have to deal with mud.  With all those other things to worry about, I forgot all about mud.

Eventually, rain came again.  And as usual, in Texas, when a drought finally breaks, it does so in dramatic fashion.  There were tornadoes and over nine inches of rain in one night.  It continued raining for the next couple of days, though not as torrentially as it had that first night.  We were so grateful for the rain, that all of us were out in it, playing in it and getting all wet.  By the end of the day, Bear was covered in mud from head to toe…and she was loving it!

A lot has changed since then.  Instead of 2 children and 2 dogs worth of mud, there are now 4 children and 4 dogs.  There’s also a husband, working in the garden, and in the pasture.  He brings in all sorts of root vegetables…turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes.  Guess what they’re all covered with?  You got it…mud.  There’s mud on the porch, mud on the floors, mud in the clothes, and mud in the sink.  What’s a mother to do to keep her sanity?  Well, here’s my few tips to deal with all the dirt. 

Have a designated set of clothes.

If you have a certain set of clothes set aside for your kids to play in when its muddy outside, you will save yourself a lot of stress!  These are the only clothes the kids are allowed to wear when it’s muddy.  They can all be washed together, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not all the stains come out or not.  We’ve been lucky enough to have a large set of well-used hand-me-downs from various donors to pick these outfits from.  Once a shirt or pair of jeans gets a hole, it goes into the “mud clothes” stash.  We also use my old t-shirts for this purpose.  Incidentally, you can also use these designated clothes to bring peace of mind to other “messy” activities…like painting, for instance.

Have a designated area for wet, muddy clothes.

If you can contain it before it hits your floor, the wet, muddy things don’t make so much of a house-mess impact.  This one is perhaps a little bit easier when you live in the middle of nowhere.  My husband built a little rack that sits next to our front door on the front porch.  When the kids come in wet and muddy, their clothes go on the rack, and they go straight to the shower.  No questions asked, everyone knows what to do.  It makes life a lot simpler.  The clothes can go out to the washing machine straight from the front porch, and all that extra mud never has to even come inside the house.

Ditch the carpet.

Carpet holds on to dirt and mud.  We have tile throughout our entire house now, except one room (and the floor in that room is on the list for replacement).  If you choose tile, choose a darker color for your grout…it won’t stain as badly (even when you seal it, it still will stain eventually).  One of my biggest regrets about the way we finished out our house here originally was choosing to put carpet in the bedrooms.  I had my reasons, but I have to admit, it was a mistake.  You can always add throw rugs that can easily be washed on top of a hard flooring option.

Learn to accept imperfection.

With 4 kids, living on a working farm, and 4 dogs…my life is going to be messy.  There’s no getting around it.  If it’s muddy outside, there’s going to be some mud on the floor.  If the kids don’t track it in, my husband’s boots will (and to be honest, if mud is the worst thing I have to worry about on my husband’s boots, it’s a good day!).  And the dogs are sure to have rolled in it before coming inside.  If you come visit me, and it has been raining, my floors will be dirty.  Just close your eyes, don’t look…and for goodness sake, don’t worry about your own shoes!  

Mud is always going to be part of life.  Especially out here.  There are some things in life worth worrying about.  Mud just isn’t one of them.  So, I’ll accept the fact that the dogs will track in dirt and deposit it all over the house.  I’ll be grateful for that sink full of muddy vegetables for my family to eat.  I’ll let my kids go outside and be mud magnets.  I’ll let them have fun and be kids.  We can clean it all up.  I refuse to lose my sanity over it. 


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Six and a half years ago, our lives changed forever.  We bought a house in Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas.  Then we moved from our nice, conveniently located house in town to our new little piece of property that was an hour away from anything.  At the time, Bear was around 18 months old, and we were expecting our second.  I was so sick, and so busy taking care of a toddler.  Andrew had to do pretty much all the moving by himself.  I was useless!  What were we thinking???

Once we got moved in and at least nominally settled, we had to get to work on a way to keep our agricultural tax exemption.  We had always intended to stock the place with animals.  I only had one rule.  One rule, never to be broken, when I agreed to move out to the middle of nowhere: 

NO CHICKENS!!!

No chickens.  How hard is that rule to obey?  We could get anything else…cows, goats, sheep, horses, even llamas.  Just no chickens.  The possibilities were endless.  I always assumed we would get some cattle.  I mean, this is Texas.  Of course there would be cattle.

 But then, my dear husband started with the crazy talk…

He wanted to get…chickens.  Yes, chickens.  I thought I had made myself perfectly clear.  Why on earth would he want to mess with such foul, disgusting fowl which are useless for anything except feeding the local bobcat and coyote populations?  My uncle had chickens years ago when I was a kid.  I was certain that this one experience in my youth made me an expert on the matter.

Unfortunately, my husband did make some good points.  We did eat a lot of chicken.  We ate a lot of eggs.  We would know what was going into our food.  It would be cheaper to raise them than to pay full price at the store.  It was starting to become clear that I was going to lose this argument.  But, I held fast and firm to my decision.  

NO CHICKENS!!!

Eventually, after many conversations about chickens, I finally made my fatal mistake.  Instead of my patented “No chickens!” response to end one of these little talks, I said, “I don’t want chickens!”

“So,” says my husband, smiling mischievously, “You don’t want chickens.  But that means I can get chickens.  You won’t have to mess with them at all.  They’ll be my chickens, my business.”

I was nearly 8 months pregnant, and I was tired.  I finally conceded the loss.  

“Fine.”  I pouted.  “But understand me now.  I will NOT do anything with those chickens!  They are yours, just like you said.  I won’t touch those nasty chickens.  And don’t come crying to me when the coyotes get them!”

We had finally reached an agreement.

A few days later, my husband came driving home from the feed store with a box full of chicks that he had ordered.  Thirty of them.  Thirty!

They were kinda cute.  Even my hard heart had to admit that.  They were all fluffy and yellow, with all the little cheep cheep noises.  But I still wasn’t going to have anything to do with them.  Nope…no way!  Wasn’t gonna happen!

My husband had a big crate in the garage that he turned into a brooder for them.  It was fall, it was actually rather cool, and chicks have to be kept very warm until their feathers come in.  He put chicken wire over the top of the box, and a piece of plywood on top of the wire to keep the heat from the lamp in the box, leaving enough room uncovered for air to circulate.  He weighted down the wood on the top to make sure it wouldn’t come off.

The next morning, as my husband was leaving for work, he asked me to come out to the garage every few hours to check the brooder to make sure the chicks weren’t too cold, and make sure they had enough food and water.  Remember, that I was eight months pregnant.  The walk (waddle) from the house to the garage was no small undertaking!  But, the compassion for these poor little babies in my hormonal pregnant heart was stirred.  So much for being completely hands-off with the chickens!  My resolve had lasted less than 24 hours.

Tragedy would soon strike our household, however.  The third day after their arrival, after my daughter was down for her nap, I went out to check on the chicks.  My pregnant, hormonally-charged brain knew something was amiss the minute I stepped into the garage.  It was too quiet.  There were no sounds of cheeping and scuttling about as I approached the box.  The lid was knocked off, and the chicken wire was pulled up on the corner.  Oh, what a horrible, gruesome scene I found in that brooder!  Something had gotten into the brooder and killed every single chick save one…but when I looked, I didn’t see the live one.  It must have been hiding in the corner under the light.  I thought they had all been killed.  

They had not been eaten.  They had been eviscerated.  The perpetrator had extracted the parts he wanted with surgical precision from each and every chick.  The rest of the parts were scattered about the bottom of the box, untouched.  This MO suggested that a raccoon was to blame.  I cried and cried and cried.  It was too much.  My emotional state was already unstable.  I didn’t even want those silly chicks.  And now I had to deal with this grizzly murder scene.  I called my husband at work, and I cried at him for about 5 minutes before I could make any words come out.  Of course, this resulted in a panicked husband.  Imagine your very pregnant wife who is alone with your young daughter out in the middle of nowhere, calling you at work, unable to do anything but cry.  I finally managed to pull myself together enough to tell him what had happened.  He was also upset, but told me he’d take care of it himself after work.  When he got home, he found the one chick that had survived.  I held and cuddled that little chick while he cleaned out the brooder.  All those poor, helpless babies were just gone!

It was the first of many life and death lessons we would learn about how hard, and sometimes vicious life could be out here.  Andrew fixed the brooder up and made many improvements so this would not happen again.  He also went on a raccoon hunting spree, the first of several.  We got more chicks.  In fact, since there was one survivor, we had to get more chicks the very next day.  Our lone survivor would get too cold without some compatriots to keep him company.  Andrew built coops and fenced enclosures when the new chicks were ready to move out of the brooder.  Since then, we’ve grown our flock quite a bit.  We keep a permanent flock of layers, and hatch out some as replacements for our older layers, and some for meat for our family each year.  

I still don’t like the chickens.  I like raccoons even less.  And, despite all my big talk at the beginning, I was the one crying when predators got to the chickens.  Whatever my opinion on the matter, the chickens are here to stay.  I even have to mess with them occasionally.  Guess who takes care of them when Andrew is out of town?  Yep, that’d be me.  And guess who has to make sure their water misters get turned on every day during our scorching Texas summers?  Yep.  Me again.  I have to admit, I do like the fresh eggs, and producing our own food is pretty satisfying.

So…I deal with the chickens.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth