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Chickens, Chicks, Eggs, and a Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonderful and joyous…

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

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

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

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

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

“CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP!”

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Download your free DIY Printable Canning Labels Here


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My kids have toys.  Tons of toys.  Toys, toys everywhere.  They have so many toys, they don’t all fit in their rooms at the same time.  Plus, in case those aren’t enough, they get more toys every Christmas and every birthday.  That’s 10 new toys coming into the house every year…not even counting the grandparent contribution!  So, what do they do with all of those toys?

Well…sadly, not much.  Don’t get me wrong, they do enjoy the toys, and they play with them from time to time.  However, most of the time, I note them playing with all sorts of other things…not toys.  It does beg the question, “Why do we bother?”

Here’s my list of some of my kids’ favorite not toy toys.  See if you can relate:

1. Sticks

What is so cool about sticks?  I guess it’s because they can do anything you want them to!  The biggest ones are often made into clubhouse teepees.  I’ve also seen fishing poles, horses, guns…pretty much everything can be mimicked with a stick!  Plus, once you’re done with them, you can throw them in the pond and make the dog chase them…and who doesn’t like making the dog take a swim?

 

2. Rocks

We have a plethora of rocks around here.  Not only can the kids dig them up from the dirt, our driveway is also made from rocks.  If we go on a walk, our road is made of rock.  So, we have no shortage of rocks.  We go out walking empty-handed, and by the time we come home, I’m carrying a huge load of rocks in the stroller, my pockets, and even in my hands.  Wait, why am I carrying all the rocks???

Once back at the house, they are investigated thoroughly.  Then, the ones that contain the proper level of sparkliness will go on to become eggs in a pretend bird’s nest, or dinosaur nest, or turtle nest…you get the picture.  The ones that don’t make the cut either go back in the driveway (if they know Mommy or Daddy are watching) or they are flung into the pond one by one so that, you guessed it, the dog will chase them.

3. String

Oh, all the uses of string!  Tie some string to a stick, and now you have your very own fishing pole.  If you can find a piece that’s long enough, tie it together at the ends, and now you have a glamorous necklace to use for your next ball (it’s starting in 5 minutes in front of the refrigerator).  Bear once tied several knots on one end of a piece of string to make something that vaguely resembled a dragon.  Everyone else immediately had to have a dragon pet of their own.  We had string dragons floating around the house for days!

4. Cardboard box-small

Ah, the cardboard box…it’s infamous!  Any time we receive a package in the mail, the children immediately claim the box and the bubble wrap (see #6).  Why do children like a cardboard box so much?  We adults will never understand.  I guess all our make-believe magic grew up and moved away…or maybe got packed away in one of those boxes!  Cars, trucks, boats, aquariums…those little boxes can be magical! 

You never know what they’re going to put in the box, either.  Last night, I came out of my room, after having fed Baby.  When I emerged from my room, I was confronted with a highly suspicious sight.  Three out of four of my mobile children had found a box that my dad had sent something to us in.  They were standing around the box, and Bear was hurriedly closing the top of the box.  

“What do you have in that box?” I demanded in my most authoritative Mommy voice.

<Giggles>

Bear flashed me one of her patented sheepish grins and piped up, “Monkey!”

Maniacal laughter from inside the box ensued.  Then all the children started laughing.  Monkey popped out of the box.

Their dad and I started laughing too.  “Alright,” I admitted, “with you four around, perhaps I should have asked who!”

I have no idea what kind of game they were playing, but it sure was funny…especially after it aroused my suspicion!

5. Cardboard box-large

Need I say more?  What parent hasn’t bought their kids the best toy of the century only to have it thrown by the wayside in favor of a refrigerator box?  Shocking, but true.  Jails, castles, houses…the possibilities are endless!

6. Bubble Wrap

Lizard starts jumping up and down any time she sees the delivery truck bouncing up the driveway.  She’s already calling out, “I get the bubble wrap! I get the bubble wrap!” before I even get out the door to claim the package.  I have to meet our drivers at their trucks…they’re scared of Patch (as are all the meter readers, and the guy who works for the county grading the roads).  LIzard’s still bouncing when I come back in, and I can barely make it in the door, because they now all want a piece of bubble wrap.

Oh, the disappointment that ensues when a package comes with brown paper stuffing instead of bubble wrap!  There is wailing and gnashing of teeth!

I have to avoid the shipping materials aisle at WalMart just as meticulously as I do the toy aisle.  At least if I want to keep the “Momma, can I have?”s away.  You should have seen Lizard’s face the first time she noticed the shelf full of giant rolls of bubble wrap!  No birthday or Christmas morning has yet been able to compare to the joy and desire mirrored in those little eyes that day at WalMart!

7. Strangely melted metal

They call this little gem “Rudy”.  When they first found it in the yard, one of the children decided that it looked like the big, bad dinosaur creature from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs that Buck called Rudy.  I’m not actually sure what it really is, but we’re pretty sure it originated from the burn barrel.  Don’t worry…we checked it for sharp edges.

 

8. Shovels

Yes, my kids play with shovels. Not the toy shovels you find in the sandbox seasonal aisle or the role-play toy aisle, they ‘play’ with real, full-sized shovels.  Every once in a while, someone gets a hankerin’ to dig a hole.  It makes no sense to me, but, hey…they have a blast.  Their Daddy will give them shovels and real jobs that need to be done.  They get a shovel, Daddy gets a fence post hole, and, after they’re done Mommy gets a quiet afternoon nap time since they’ve exhausted themselves digging a hole!

9. Pile of bricks

A few years ago, while we were visiting my parents’ house up in the DFW area, we were over at my grandparents’ house, visiting with them one afternoon.  My granddad had a pile of bricks stacked up next to the shed behind their house.  It was a fairly decent-sized pile of bricks.  Bear found them while playing outside and immediately set to work building a pint-sized castle.  She asked to go back over to their house every afternoon.  My granddad was so amused with her building, that at Christmas (the same Christmas that the giant Lincoln logs appeared), he sent at least half of his pile of bricks down with my parents so that Bear could have bricks at her house too.  Since then, they’ve been castles, walls, chairs, stages, corrals for wild stick horses…you name it!

10. Old coffee cans

Oh, the fun you can have with an old discarded coffee can!  My husband buys his coffee from Sams, you know, the big, giant 2 pound canister.  When he’s used all the coffee inside, the cans (or rather, plastic canisters) meander out to the barn where they are then given a second life as a feed scoop, or egg transport device.  If, however, the children gain control of them first, however, many interesting things can happen to these unsuspecting containers.  They make fantastic sandbox toys or mud pie makers. 

They like to collect rainwater in these cans and turn them into “soup”…the main ingredients of which appears to be water, dirt, leaves, grass, and sticks (to give it just the right amount of texture).

Sometimes, though, their stick horses become stick cows, and the rainwater in the coffee cans is actually milk.  With the milk they collect, they can make cakes or ice cream…both of which look strikingly similar to aforementioned “soup”.  Woe to the onlooker who guesses incorrectly!

I could write an entire post about all the uses for old coffee cans…maybe I will!

 


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Our Favorite Outdoor Summer Activities

It’s summer here in central Texas…and it’s HOT!  But, with four mobile kids, being stuck inside all day, despite the heat, just isn’t an option.  So, today, I thought I’d write about some of my kids’ favorite outdoor summer activities.  Some are childhood classics, some are definitely ‘farm kid’ pastimes, and others will just downright make you cringe!  Keep reading, if you dare! 

1. Playing in the Pool

What kid can resist playing in the pool?  We make occasional trips to the “big pool”…you know, the kind where the water is higher than your ankles.  But here at home, we don’t have anything fancy like that.  We buy a wading pool at the beginning of each summer.  We still haven’t found a way to keep them usable from summer to summer, so we have to get a new one every year.

I spend many an afternoon watching the kids splashing around.  Their splashes keep me just cool enough to stand being outside!  They play all sorts of imaginary games.  Dolphins, whales, “fast fish” (whatever those are), crocodiles, sea turtles, and even the occasional mermaid…my front yard is full of aquatic wildlife when the pool is out.  My husband and I are constantly amazed by the amount of communication skills that go into a single game of make-believe!

Plus, we (and by we, I mean my husband) can give the garden a good watering when it’s time to empty the pool.  Nearly everything – even playtime – has to pull double duty around here!

2. Rope Swing

Sometimes, though, playtime is actually an object’s second duty.  Several months ago, my husband slaughtered a pair of hogs.  I know many who read this may find that horrifying, but that’s just how life out here works.  Meat doesn’t come from your grocer’s freezer…not originally, anyway.  But, I digress…

My husband put a rope up in one of the trees to aid in processing the hogs after they were slaughtered.  The next day, our kids came out and found the rope still hanging from the tree branch.  They didn’t see a hog rope, they saw a fun time!  My kids are weird, remember?  They stand on the side of my old truck, hold onto the rope and jump off, swinging across the yard.

Occasionally, only under proper supervision (they know they’re not allowed unless one of their parents is right next to them), they get to “foot swing”.  They put a foot into the loop in the rope and (usually) their Daddy swings them up, high and fast.  Their ol’ Momma has even tried it a time or two.  It feels like flying…at least until you can’t hold on any longer!

3. Giant Building Logs

The. Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever!

These logs were a collaboration between my dad and my husband.  My husband came up with the idea, and my dad brought them to life.  These are landscaping timbers cut into varying lengths.  Then, Dad drilled holes at even increments along the flat sides of the timbers.  Pipes can then be inserted by the builder through all the layers to make sturdy structures…much like Lincoln logs, but on a much bigger scale.

These logs have built castles, houses, boats, backyard fences, corrals…you name it!  If Bear is missing, you can almost bet that she’ll be outside building something.  The rest of the kids really get into it as well, giving her ideas of new structures to build.

4. Bubbles

What list of outdoor activities would be complete without bubbles?  I usually make our own bubbles at home with a little Dawn, water and sugar…otherwise, we’d go broke buying bubbles all the time!  The kids really enjoy blowing bubbles.  They especially like to chase each other’s bubbles across the yard in hopes of popping them before they fall in the grass or float over the pond.  Occasionally, a bubble will float past a dog who will try to catch it.  Sadly, the dogs never have anything to show in victory, other than a bad taste in their mouth!

5. Catch

I know what you’re thinking when you read that title.  But, you’re probably wrong.  Our Border Collie, Patch likes playing with the kids.  She also likes playing catch.  A lot.  She’s usually the dog that ends up catching bubbles.  But, Patch will try to catch pretty much anything thrown in the air…tennis balls, sticks, dirt, fertilizer (much to my husband’s consternation), and of course, balls of mud.

One of the kids’ favorite variations on this game is throwing small twigs or pebbles into the pond.  Patch will then take a flying leap into the water (what’s not funny about that?) to try to retrieve whatever was thrown in.  If was a stick, she’s usually successful.  However, if it was a pebble. she’ll swim around desperately trying to find it.  Of course, the children think this is quite hilarious.  I wind up with four sets of muddy feet and a dog covered in pond scum.  What joy is mine!

6. Pond Hunts

Our pond starts to dry up in the late spring.  If we’re lucky, we get enough rain during the early summer that our pond doesn’t completely dry out (our first year living here was 2011, and by the end of the summer the pond was bone dry, not even a muddy spot left!).  But, either way, it gets much smaller.  Our children often form a little roaming band and tramp around the pond bed finding interesting critters, or playing some imaginary game.  The game often degenerates into playing mud-ball catch with Patch.

Bear will often bring her nature journal and nature identification guide with her.  She takes great pleasure in finding, drawing, and identifying little creatures and plants that have made their home in the dried-up pond goo!  I’m glad they have fun, and I suppose it’s even a little educational.  But, again, it tends to end in mud-covered shoes, clothes, and dogs!

7. Mud Fight!

Ah, I’ve saved the best for last!  I know this one is likely to make many of you shudder.  But, this is, hands-down, my kids’ favorite game!  They run outside as soon as it stops raining (usually before if there’s no lightening) so they can get to the puddles before they dry up.  As you can tell from the pictures, they get gross!  But, it’s nothing a water hose can’t fix.  I suppose all that fun is ultimately worth the mess!  If you would like some tips on how to deal with kids and mud without losing your sanity, check out this post.

 

And, because you really can’t get a real feel for this last one from just a picture, here’s a little video clip:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/PNGsf47Bs1U” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

 


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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!

 


  

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

 

 

Amaze Me Monday

 

by Angie Ouellette-Tower for http://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/ photo YoureTheStarHopLarge_zpsncuylahd.jpg

 

JENerally Informed

 

Homestead Blog Hop every Wednesday. Share your posts on gardening, DIYs, real food recipes, natural living and health at SimpleLifeMom.com

 

Coffee and Conversation button

 

WW Hostesses 5-17

 

Think Tank Thursday

 

 

 

 

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

 

 

Awesome Life Friday

 


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.


JENerally Informed

 

Homestead Blog Hop will take place every Wednesday featuring real food recipes, natural health remedies, DIY, crafts, Gardening Tips, and more...

 

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Blueberry Dessert Recipes

 

Wonderful Wednesday

Think Tank Thursday

 

 

 

Awesome Life Friday

 

 

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

 

 

The Blogger's Pit Stop

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!


I linked up with:

 

Teaching What Is Good

 

Tuesdays With a Twist

 

 

JENerally Informed

 

Epic Mommy Adventures

 

Coffee and Conversation button

”TheNaturalHomeschool”

Messy Marriage

 

Think Tank Thursday

The Blogger's Pit Stop

 

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

 

Coffee and Conversation button

 

Awesome Life Friday

 

 

Inspire Me Monday