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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.

Zone Clean ‘n’ Flip – Make Chores Fun!

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!

 

 

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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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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.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

ethannevelyn.com

 


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.

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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.

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