Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I've opened the door a crack

Here's what I've gotten from The Big Guy so far:

LAUGH! Have a sense of humor!

BE THANKFUL. So half your coffee spills while you're driving in the rain at night. You still have half left, and didn't get in an accident! Hooray! Reread the essay you wrote last year about being thankful.

HAVE FUN. When things are at their worst, turn up the music and dance with the kids. Just be silly for no reason.

TRUST ME. Just when your business account is not going to have enough money to pay for your monthly expenses next month, I'll bring you two big orders. Just a little reminder that I have not set you adrift.

Oddly enough, I have heard all these messages before. Many times. I did mention that I have a thick skull, right? :-)

Monday, November 15, 2004


I have to keep reading 1 Corinthians 13 lately. My kids are driving me bonkers. And I'm not really taking all the farm mishaps in stride (note the comment on cursing in the previous entry). So I keep pulling out my bible to try to remember what love is.

Well, love is "patient". Among other hard to manage things... like "not easily angered".

Upon reflection I realized that I am currently living through the time in my life when I have been least patient. Yikes.

The things that try my patience appear to be endless. Bickering kids; an easily frustrated 3 year old whose first line of defense against the trials of her life is to scream at the top of her lungs; animals that are driven by their stomachs and not their sense of what might be convenient to, say, ME; poop everywhere, crumbs galore, endless mud and dirty laundry; rain that insists on falling at the wrong time; brooder lamps that break when you crack your head into them; etc, etc, etc.

Something is afoot. My feelings and behavior are not meshing with my beliefs. When this happens it usually means that God is knocking hard on the door that is my thick skull, with a message. I'll have to get back to you when I screw up the courage to open the door...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A good day on the farm

We got a lot done today. One would not think that moving cattle and chickens would make one feel like a success in life, but if you haven't done it before, you find yourself feeling rather self-satisfied.

The shed, while not quite finished, was declared to be chicken-ready after sunset the night before last. It did not yet have a door, but had plastic sheeting firmly in place. At least firm on the top and side, but open enough for us to get in and out. Us, and our dog and cat, not to mention the coyotes and bobcat that have been spotted in these parts. In addition we needed to hang the brooder lamp, and put plastic on the window opening. I needed to buy the chain for hanging the lamp, so we weren't ready to actually do the work until today.

First I had to move the cattle. The sound of the plastic shed "door" reminds them of the sound of a bag of delectable cubes being opened for their dining pleasure, and they had been rather cozy yesterday when I had gone into the shed to see how much chain I needed. Molly had been with me, and she spent the whole time I was in there barking and herding them away. They still were right outside the door when I came out. So I knew we could not be going in and out moving chickens, with cattle hovering, and little kids on the loose.

So I drove the truck - pulling the trailer filled with cubes, stuff to go the barn and the chicken feed - down to the barn courtyard. I poured a bag of cubes into the grass, and let the eager cattle through the gate. The horses were standing there wanting to get in on the action as well, so I had to close the gate before all the cattle got through, in order to keep the horses in. I drove in quickly, fed the horses, then tried to round up the other cattle. I got a cow through, but the remaining three calves just wouldn't go, so I gave up. Then, realizing it was going to be too much to try to maneuver a truck and 16' trailer backwards (my only option to get the chicken feed back to the shed), the kids and I grabbed a few of the small things we needed to do our work and walked up to the shed. The calves mostly stayed away, except the bigger one whom Molly bullied a few times.

I was in the shed trying to figure out how to attach screen to the window opening that was 1/2" wider than the screening, when I got a funny feeling. I looked out and it seemed the horses were mighty interested in our trailer. Most of it was hidden from view by the barn... aack! The chicken feed! The other bag of cubes! Sure enough, they had gotten into both. And this after I had fed them a generous portion of sweet feed!

I'm embarassed to say I think I have cursed more since moving here than during Farmer Boy's entire life (the point at which I really upped my efforts to speak like a lady).

So I ran back to the barn, shooed the horses away, moved the broken bag of cubes to the barn, and dragged the VERY heavy metal can of chick feed up to the shed, then through the gate into our back yard, where the lid can not be reached by any large mammals other than humans. I hope.

Back to work in the shed... attached the lamp, pulled in and configured the extension cord set-up, spread around the wood shavings, constructed a make-shift wooden door. I also popped the window into the frame, which was easier than stapling screening and plastic, and is a real window with a real screen. Stephen will have to eventually get it in right, but for now it works great.

At last we really were ready! The boy and I grabbed some gloves and emptied a Rubbermaid tub of outside toys, then started loading up birds. We did it by breed so we could finally get a definite count of how many we have of each. When we had put them in the brooder the first day, we'd had a really hard time keeping track of the count as we were unloading, and it is darn near impossible to count moving chickens.

In relatively little time we were done. The 25 Australorps, 26 Buff Orpingtons and 26 Rhode Island Reds are now safely in their new shed, and the Cornish Rocks have the whole brooder to themselves. It was dark when we were finishing up. Everything takes so much longer than you expect! I think it took about 4 hours to do all this.

I feel so accomplished!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Who I voted for

My post about the boy's ideas for election reform have garnered a few questions. If you really want to know who I voted for, just ask. But more importantly, here's who I WANTED to vote for:

Joe Schriner

Silly, uninformed, doesn't watch tv, busy homeschooling, moving and now farming me. I thought a write-in candidate was someone you wanted for president and could WRITE IN. What a big fat dumbhead. A write-in candidate is someone who has been approved to be a write-in candidate. Nice.

Where I live I COULD have actually written in Joe's name, because I voted by filling in an oval with a pencil. But my ballot would have been discarded. Where my parents live, there wasn't even an option to write in someone's name to be discarded, because it was all levers and buttons. There was a selection of so-called "write-in candidates".

I have no concept of how the electronic voting works. I haven't talked with anyone who has done it. You realize of course that the very technology we want to use is now dictating how our governmental process works. Scary.

Now that I understand, I am going to work to get Joe on the ballot in Texas in 2008. He's already running. I really admire this guy.

P.S. Please excuse rampant abuse of prepositions in this post. They are dangling everywhere. If only we could get our government to limit their abuses to such as this...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Happy Party

We had a great time at the party yesterday. It was, well, chaotic to say the least. Lotsa kids and chicks (the avian type) running around, lots of laughing, lots of plastic beads scattered on the floor during a craft project, not enough forks, cake iced by my sister-in-law and her mom DURING the party, beer arrived after the guests, unsupervised kids with horses (aaack... that was nipped in the bud quickly!), general mayhem and fun.

I told my brother beforehand, "It's a good thing my friends and family don't love me for my organizational skills." He replied, "Don't worry, Pat, we never have." "And you never will!" I answered. :-)

While I hope that is true - I'd rather people love me for who I am, not what I do - I would like to grow in this area. Once again my inability to be organized was highlighted in a dramatic fashion. We did still have lots of boxes against the walls (in every room), my mom was sweeping the floor a few minutes before people arrived, and I had to have a lot of help to get the food on the table... an hour later than I'd planned. I have this idea that other people would have been unpacked and more prepared, so I wonder what it is about me? Is it because I want to do all the cooking from scratch? Because I wanted to have crafts and activities? Because I rarely have a moment without kids interrupting me? Because I procrastinate? Dingdingding! Correct answer! Well, at least partly. The other stuff does play in as well.

Anyway, enough dwelling on that, gotta just get up and walk on and unpack and organize, etc, etc. Just jump in where I am. :-) Got a lot of work to do... off I go...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Gleaning from the snafus

So remember how I wrote about worrying about people getting hurt? And that Stephen seems to be the one on the receiving end of the pain?

This afternoon I came home from the Farmer's Market and Wal-Mart (should it be legal to write those two in the same sentence? My loathing of Wal Mart shall be saved for a different post), and found the chicken brooder wide open. No husband or son in the back yard working on the shed. Bad feeling.

Open the door, shout Stephen's name, he answers, rather weakly, and I say "Are you okay?" "Mostly," is the reply.

So I walk in, find him lying on the couch, he has hurt his back, and hammered his thumb three times. He is stoic about it. He grudgingly puts a bag of frozen corn on his thumb and asks "Why are you always trying to make me feel better?"

Mostly I think he is sick and tired of all the setbacks on the shed. And he is DEFINITELY sick and tired of hardy plank. He told me that he has become convinced that after Satan's incarnation as a serpent in the Garden of Eden, he became hardy plank. Stephen even composed a song about hardy plank, and how it is the source of all his problems. He recorded it on his laptop. Maybe I'll see if we can that up on the blog. It is a thing of beauty.

This morning I'd joked that we might name the farm, or at the very least the shed, "Snafu." Snafu Farm. Snafu Shed. Snafu Chicken House. ;-)

The big snafu for me, now, is that we are expecting an ever expanding list of guests tomorrow; my house is 1/3 put away, 1/3 in boxes, and 1/3 strewn on the floor; I am baking a monstrous flower cake as requested by the princess, spaghetti sauce from scratch and the other assorted preparation one must do for such things; I'll need to to supervise the farm chores so that Stephen does not further injure his back; I've got a bunch of craft projects and activities to set up for the party, not to mention decorating; and everyone except my brother and his wife are coming for the first time to the fabled and long-awaited Brown Family Farm, so are expecting the grand tour. Deep breath

Here's the thing: I AM SO HAPPY HERE!!! :-) Really! I am not the world's most organized person, so my house is a mess, but I am a person who really likes the fact that she has to put on her boots at 9:00 at night and go out and check on the chickens. And when I do, the beauty of the stars makes me catch my breath. No eclipse, no shooting stars, no Mars glowing red. Nothing special, just the dark night and the stars, like most people over the course of time in all the world have been able to see, but most of us only get to see on a ski trip to some tall and remote mountain. We have gained so much in these years, but indeed, we have lost much too.

When I was pregnant for the first time, and we were exploring the possibility of a home birth, Stephen observed what an odd thing it is that people would choose in advance to dull the experience of perhaps one of the most pivotal moments of their life. That has stuck with me, the notion of living life as a flat line... by avoiding the lows, we somehow restrict the highs.

We are so afraid of pain, of loss, of the unknown. I am basically a fearful person. But I believe I am a recovering fearful person. Part of it is because I have had to face some fears by them coming true. I discovered that I am stronger than I thought, that God is bigger than I understood, and that the saying "If it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger" is actually true.

All this philosophizing isn't getting my house any cleaner, obviously, but it does help me focus. :-)

I've always wanted to have a home that is wide open. I love to have people over, I love to share what we have, and it seems that lots of people want to come over now that we are on the farm. This so exciting to me! My prayer is that I can grow enough to have a home and heart that are welcoming without fretting. I have learned that the little things can make a difference, but some little things are only nurturing when they have been thought out and implemented BEFORE your guests arrive!

On that note, I'd best get to work. Hi ho, hi ho.....

Friday, November 05, 2004

Growing chicks and growing in other ways

Our chicks are two weeks and two days old today. They are not cute and fluffy any more. That period goes by reaaally quickly when you're a chicken, especially if you're a Cornish-Rock cross. These guys, also referred to as broilers (guess why), grow at an astonishing rate. They are voracious eaters; in fact, we have to remove the feed from them for 12 hours at night or they could actually die. This is called "flip" and it is caused by them having heart attacks. Their legs also can not manage the rate of growth... too weak to sustain them... so they do a lot of sitting down, especially after having just eaten. It is pretty freaky, frankly. Doesn't seem right. I am inclined to not get this breed again. We have 25 of these, and had to separate them from the other birds after less than a week. They are slaughter weight at 6-8 WEEKS!! Isn't that nuts? These guys are the kind you buy at the grocery store.

We also have 25 Rhode Island Reds, 25 Black Australorps and 25 Buff Orpingtons. Together they make a pretty picture (one breed is white, one black, one buff yellow, and one reddish brown). Well, pretty except for the fact that they are gauky teenagers right now. ;-) They are too big for the Princess to hold at all now. Farmer Boy can manage, but it is a struggle.

This week we have been working on getting into our chore routine. Stephen and I are getting up at 5:00 and having time to drink coffee, talk, and read our bibles, then get working on inside chores. At 6:30, Stephen wakes the boy, he gets dressed and they go together to feed and water the chickens and freshen the litter (pine shavings). Then the boy feeds the dog and cat. We eat breakfast at 7:00 (theoretically... in practice it is later because it takes a half hour for the chores, which leaves no dressing time before!). We still need to tweak the schedule. School work starts at 8:00. As we get the rhythm of this, and get more animals, the Princess will also have her own farm chores.

Stephen has been working very hard on the chicken house/shed. It is awesome. I am going to try to throw some pictures online of the sequence. He is doing it all alone, with occasional assistance from the boy, and once or twice I hammered a nail or moved a board. Princess likes to walk around the work area talking to her 5 sisters. ;-) A three year old with a rich imagination.

I am trying to make all our bread myself. It is fun to try new recipes... tried a whole wheat Italian bread a few days ago. I need to work on my technique. I love to cook, but I am not very good at time management. To whit: we have technically lived here for two months and you would think the moving truck came a week ago. I find it very difficult to do the moving in, when the day-to-day stuff is so time consuming (homeschooling, cooking from scratch, no kid-free time). But we are getting there slowly. Sunday we have our first gathering here, in honor of the Princess' birthday. Most people coming will be here for the first time, so it would be nice to have it a little less, well, pig-sty-like. I mean, this IS a farm, but the only sty should be the one back behind the corral, not behind the front door!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Reform a la Farmer Boy

Took the boy with me when I went to vote this evening. Voted in a little community hall at long tables with pencil and paper. The way everyone used to vote I guess. Our town has a population of about 500.

He had a lot to say about the process, and here is how he wants to see it changed:

1) Voting eligibility: Must be able to read, and at least three years old
2) Voters may vote for anyone they want. No more having to get lots of signatures or pay lots of money. Write-in candidates are just that... don't have to be an "official" write-in.
3) Ballots will include information about each candidate, submitted by the candidate. A minimum of 1/4 page per candidate.

I think he has some good ideas, how 'bout you?