Things Coming 'Round Full Circle


Do you have a NAMING THEME going on with your flock? Like some people choose only flower names, names that start with B, people names, or names that come from the chickens' behavior/attributes.

I have one name for one of my original flock, the rooster: “’Roo”. (His original name was Dynamite for Napoleon Dynamite).

I named my first hen chick after a dearly departed dog because she was tiny and black and cute like the dog. I've avoided naming them all because I would never actually ‘call’ them…. Besides, I can't decide on a theme! Maybe I have OCD, as I’d even want their names to be 'organized'!


As ‘empty nest syndrome’ loomed over my life larger than life itself (it felt), I began trying to stem the sense of loss with redefining (re: finding) myself as a person – who I was other than ‘mom’.

Mom is not only a title, but comes with a built-in life purpose and work that never ends – a job never done-- until suddenly the last child in line turns 18. The sense of loss and of aimlessness and a growing lack of usefulness becomes emotionally overwhelming!  As the fledgling sparrows leave the nest and the apron strings hang limply at your sides, I became tangled up in a kind of realization that I no longer felt certain of who I was.

Worse, there you are, for all practical purposes, not only laid off forever without a chance of employment, but left with skills that are meaningless to apply to an empty home. You are left having to repurpose those skills into a useful application toward something else!

Discovering meaningful purpose in life becomes ever more urgently needed as an anchor to who you are- or who you wish to be (now that you’re all grown up, right?). 


Now, I’m in a situation where I have about a 1 year break between raising kids and beginning the journey of elder care in my home (bringing my parents home to live). Talk about things coming round full circle, eh?

These past 2+ years has been filled up with the hard journey of keeping ownership of our home. Staying sane in that fight, staying hopeful or motivated or even cheerful in such a situation almost ruins the whole reason behind successfully keeping the roof over head.

The battle at times becomes embroiled in massive financial sacrifices severely limiting your options and ability to seek relief –it’s necessary some form of mental escape –even if just for your physical health & from the emotional toll it takes, and you strain not to become embittered. It nags at your problem-solving skills, and pulls out all your inner strengths, and exposes your vulnerabilities in new ways.

The struggle remains the focus and purpose of our lifestyle in a very real sense even now, but it isn’t enough to create a meaningful life. I will be who I am wherever I am, so the house itself is not important enough to become the sole provider of purpose in life.
Being a housewife isn’t enough to fulfill me.

I don’t know about others, but I began to look back to childhood at all those things I was going to be and do when I grew up…

I began to look at who I was BEFORE kids came into my life, before I became “mom”… and what I had held in my heart for myself when I was young. What did I do with my time and daydream about (besides prince charming)? What did I view as my ideal lifestyle & what did I wish to attain? What were my dreams for myself, my ideal OF myself, or for my life paths?

How could I resist despair? Well, I didn’t - it came all right! But I discovered the best remedy for  that was in taking action.  I could lose so much of my hopes and dreams, but as long as I had the future in mind, it didn’t hurt as badly.

I began creating a plan, a strategy for resilience, for bucking up against a time when we might face larger and possibly crushing realities. I want a plan and a backup plan! I never again want to be so vulnerable, so dependent.

How could any of my childhood dreams be useful to me today, when the problem of the day is always: what is happening in the larger world – the state of the economy, the growing sense that this struggle is for the long haul?

Oh yes, I wanted to be “a Farm Wife” like the 1972 Ecyclopedia Britanica described! They had a picture of the ideal farm wife,  and everything! I used to gaze upon that page and wonder what such a life would entail. Oh yes, they described it: The Farm Wife gets up at 5:30 and picks blackberries and then bakes biscuits or makes pancakes for the Farmer/men who have been working since 4:30 in the fields… cue the Farmer on his tractor picking up a sack lunch from a little boy about 50 feet from the farm back porch where she is waving from, in her apron. LOL
White fences. Friendly smiles. Oh yeah, I want to be in that life! That’s the life for me!

And so my dream took off.
I spent long hours with pencils and paper designing my dream farm layouts. Of course I always included a dozen horses! I never thought one moment about WHY I would have what I placed on the farm maps- or what any purpose any of it served. It was just fun to imagine ‘having it all’.

In a nutshell, I then became a teenager with a pinto pony and I forgot about that stuff for a few long years. [For the next 25 years I was busy raising kids. Life was about giving THEM the experiences, striving to efficiently maintain everything that life brings around... ]
It became such a full-time job that I quit dreaming for myself.

Then we moved from city life back to the country, to a long-time dream of my husband to live in Colorado. We chose a rural life in SW Colorado, outside a tourist town with a river running through it, at the edge of a high desert valley full of hay farms, surrounded by mountain vistas.

We have had so many dreams for this place but keeping it is iffy, and the dreams have become all about self-reliance.
With the way things are going lately, I am thinking an economic collapse, or an electric grid outage from some rogue sun explosion (CME).  I’ve been trying to prep for the last few months but have little to show for it so far. 
But that’s where I am now, not where I’ll stay.

Keeping chickens is my first line of defense against hard times, (whether they truly help at this point is beside the point)! LOL

Here is how that little black chick turned out:
                                      
I had a scare this morning when opening up the coop. I couldn't see my big roo chick anywhere, and I panicked, kicking myself for not having that last look with the flashlight last night as I usually do! (He has quit his response-clucking at night; you know how teenagers are…) Not only do we have a wandering coyote pack around here but thinking I’d locked him out of the coop without even checking!

Thankfully he reappeared when I began calling the "food is here- bauk-bauk" call. For a moment I was out in their yard looking for feathers or some other 'sign' where they forage during the day (all around), and was so relieved to see him in the coop – I THINK he was sleeping behind the nest boxes. Whew.

Small thing, I know... but dang it, raising animals changes everything about your day!
Long ago I had 5 sweet angora rabbits torn to bits by dogs, so I KNOW the devastation of that kind of loss- of that kind of personal failure! It still gives me a shudder to recall picking up their white bodies, strewn around all over before the kids would see them, crying so hard I could hardly see to do it (thank God it was a literal blur).


I used to shop for after-school snacks for the kids, now I make sure to look out for chicken snacks, sunflower seeds or grapes when it’s hot, to cool them off.

I used to plan the flowers I wanted for landscaping, now I consider only deer-proof things that will propagate themselves for bees.
I gather the wild timothy grasses growing in shade over the septic leach field and line the coop with it. I think about sowing the seeds for adequate ‘straw’ to overwinter the coop floor.
I scatter the coop litter (straw and some wood shavings) out in the yard for mulch and because of their feed mixed into it, am getting some feed corn in the grass- great for future goats to forage on. Future goats.
I am planning to raise worms (3 kinds), just for supplement chicken feed.

I obsessed about getting pictures of each member of the flock so that I could ‘learn’ their individual combs and be able to tell them apart.
I obsessively took photos as my first hen went broody and successful hatched chicks. Each chick became beautiful, with their particular metallic sheen feathers and patterns.

I obsessed about getting shots of the coop in different weather and lighting, and arranging all the different (and growing) number of accoutrements it actually takes to raise and care for a flock. (You know, roost bar, nesting boxes, feed dishes, etc…) Each needs to be placed right. It takes time to figure it all out! 

Rearranging their stuff and perfecting things in the yard will always be an ongoing process. On one hand, I feel like a little girl in her playhouse. On another hand, I have a limited amount of time to get everything running smoothly.
Next spring, getting a dozen hen chicks - not sure yet what breed (debating between Austalorp (great layers but ugly), more cochins (docile, but not great layers!), and laced Wyandottes (pretty!)
My husband asked me yesterday: What are you going to do with all those 'turkey-looking' birds? Yes, the cochins are huge as turkeys and only 3 of 7 hens are laying (and that is a bit sporadic to say the least). But they have been my teachers and I am attached....
Questions remain to be answered, such as what priorities matters most - what needs must be met, etc. 

Hopefully next summer getting 50 meat birds to harvest in late fall (before my parents arrival) so I will have a stocked freezer for about 1 chicken per week for the household. I need to do the economics of that - though there are some unknowns such as the price of feed by then. 
Also, how would I house 50 birds- even temporarily?

As well as starting some experiments in feed supplements. 

I have an agenda, something that matters, purpose, even entertainment and delight in these ‘little’ things, but most of all, a reason to get up in the morning.

Animal husbandry can change your life, and it might just change you, too.



Is this Dreaming?


I continue to dream despite the fatalistic knowledge stored in my head. 

I discovered a new song, "I'm wide awakeby Katy Perry (the song implies a soured relationship), but  it was telling me: I’m awake to what’s going on.

WE are here in a country, a world, that is falling apart. 
We are having our eyes opened...

If we'd only understood what was going on in the financial sector, and how it was all working against us... Well, we would've done EVERYTHING differently!

Like the song says, "we've all fallen from that cloud nine" - a place we thought we deserved to be, because we worked for what we had -the way it was supposed to be –the American Dream and all that.

We're finding that reality is something else altogether.

"The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." - Winston Churchill

I do not have any financial background whatsoever, but obsessively watch the stuff.  Kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion...it's just horrible, but you can't take my eyes off of it. 
The charts and graphs look a lot like heartbeats… the heartbeat of someone in cardiac arrest. If the charts were off a seismograph, we'd all be in the street in our underwear, dodging sheets of glass falling off of buildings all around us. It's that bad.
This is really not that different.
I've learned a lot of acronyms over the past year, like ISM. 
By monitoring the ISM Manufacturing Index, you are able to better understand national economic conditions.The ISM is an index based on surveys of activity of more than 300 manufacturing firms by the ‘Institute of Supply Management’. 
The ISM monitors employment, production inventories, new orders and supplier deliveries –that monitor conditions in national manufacturing and track the amount of manufacturing activity that occurred in the previous month. This data is considered a very important and trusted economic measure.
If the index has a value below 50, due to a decrease in activity, it tends to indicate an economic recession, especially if the trend continues over several months.
[The ISM dropped to 49.7% from 53.5% in May but ticked back up a bit]. 

“Confidence is the feeling a person has before he fully understands the situation.”
—Unknown
It's good to gain some understanding, to be awake to see what's happening, even if you find yourself "on your knees on the concrete”... like the song says.
I mean being able to see what lays beneath, you have the opportunity to stand up again and find out who you really are and what you’re really about, both collectively and individually.

What we’re made of and capable of… who knows until you find yourself faced with it?
That's what's I see for us, for me. It's in us to do it, we were made for this; if we are nothing else, we do know how to stand tall. It just takes some inner belief that we can. 
It's going to be a long journey to the other side, so if we don't buck up now, then the whole rest of our lives will be spent in misery-- and that is sh*t! 

This blogs’ motif is:
 “The World Exists For You... Build Therefore, Your Own World. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Time to get over the American Dream; it is not the world, but yourself. Accept the reality of your own potential. It's about exploring and engaging in struggles that are real and meaningful to you, with whatever intangible or tangible reward you want... that's the same as it ever was. 
So the system is a stinking, rotten fish.
But even rotten fish are good for something!
Bury the rotten fish- and things will grow....
(You can even take that literally! Someone once invented and someone else industrialized "rotten fish sauce" – in the form of  the Thai fish sauce called “nam pla”… it’s similar to soy sauce for flavoring things!) 
Here's to burying the old system, and growing something new!
So I look each day in the face determined to keep my head up. No despairing.
I look for the light in gray skies, and take pictures of it- so I won't forget it.  Sometimes I think it will stay gray and dreary... but then I turn around and there is something I've never seen before.

In paying attention, I find that each day there is a little something in my life that is like ‘a farmgirl life’, the life I want to lead. I'm far from the real thing, but not as far as I once was.
Money is a limiting factor but it doesn't stop me or kill this dream. I continue to find ways around it. THAT is what I'm talking about.

The other day I took video starting as I stepped off the front porch all the way to the coop.  I laughed when I heard that familiar cacaphony of chickens, just because one laid an egg; a great accomplishment indeed! But even the roo gets in on it. 

I stopped taping when he spread out his wings and flapped them and came at me. I just stuck my foot out (foot in face) and he stopped: "OK you win this round"...and he walked off. (I had an egg in one hand and a phone in the other so I couldn't do anything else. Usually I take a spray bottle of water marked "Rooster Spray!" He leaves me alone when he sees it, LOL

I spent 6 days hand-cutting tall Timothy grass that grows out over the leach field (septic). I piled it high on a large plastic sled, took it to the coop yard to dry out for a day and repeated. It gave them some seed-heads get excited about snacking on and gave the coop a nice fresh scent when I spread it out.  


I WAS going to find out more about about new no-mow landscape grasses –it seemed like one step away from the normal suburban lawn – less water, less work. Now I may just plant timothy hay, amaranth, quinoa or oats and forget about a lawn. It’s not like we sit out there or play games of badminton out there. Although we did it once long ago.

Everything needs to serve a purpose toward Sustainability and manageability...

For me, the definition of sustainable lifestyle isn't providing everything you're used to, but getting used to what you can provide. I've been studying and doing, and moving toward resilience SO slowly. These are my main focus areas:

1.     farming techniques (permaculture, no till, raised beds, etc.)
2.     homesteading techniques (like best chicken coop management)
5.     prepping for goats and bees 
6.     recipes & managing a working pantry -with emergency supplies 

I’m starting with: How Much to Plant per person for 1 year (in the vegetable garden).
I've been studying up on pantries again...trying to determine where to start (with a priorities list).


If you're interested in this topic, 3-weeks-without-groceries has an audio on stocking up and managing a working pantry 

Food production comes with all the possible gardening options for 4-season harvesting, like maximizing containers on the deck (mostly herbs and lettuces) & utilizing a cold-frame, ‘tunnels’, a greenhouse and trying the Hugelbeet system. Hubby is interested in setting up rain catchment systems, and an aquaculture system (raising fish with plants).

I’m working up a detailed plant list in order of personal preference and what is economically prudent to grow ourselves (some things will remain cheap at the store -like cabbage), with a special garden in mind solely for perennial plants. 
I'll be using lots of pallets for fencing but 8' high (deer fencing) and bird netting necessary here!

{I want to read: “The Winter Harvest Handbook Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses”, by Eliot Coleman}

I'm very interested in sustainable planning of our longterm animal feed systems so as not to be completely dependent on the feed stores! I wish we had irrigation, but then in drought even that can get shut down! 
I plan on raising animals (goats/chickens) for meat processing, as well as bees for honey, wax. I have the hives, am planting a lot of purple Russian sage (in case of continuing drought), and will add dandelions next spring (they bloom earlier than anything else).
  
I need to decide if we're getting bees or goats next spring... it's a toss-up for now. Perhaps higher food prices will create an answer to that small question.

And here is the one hen that hatched in April (out of 4 eggs, 3 are roosters). She's so pretty and unique, and has a very sweet personality! 

Did I tell you that I got a pretty brown egg from the little brown hen last week?  
It was so cute, half the size of the other eggs (which are only medium-large size). She laid it in the straw in front of the nests, so I have to watch my step!

Every day there is something new to 'report' from the coop, lol. Mostly it's good, but this week has been a challenge.

The big gray roo "Roo", tried to attack me from behind again so I pushed him around the coop yard with a big piece of black plastic board to teach him who's boss without hurting/scaring him. 
I had found him earlier pecking (starting to eat) an egg in a nest - in front of the whole flock of grays. GRR! I chased them all out.

I have yet to get another egg from the brown hen.

The biggest roo chick is now crowing, so 3 roos are competing now. 
Darn if they all weren't so pretty we'd be looking forward to some chicken dinners! LOL 
He’s turning into a beautiful roo, and has tried mounting some of the gray hens (they don’t permit him to and the big gray roo chases him off too).
When he’s putting on his ‘threat stance’, his wing drops down to the ground like a fan and he skitters to that side, It’s very funny! I'll try to get video or a picture...

I also read a chicken-keeping blog newsletter on keeping diseases away- sounds a bit impossible to accomplish, IMO. I am not too worried about most diseases because we have hot dry air here that kills off most of them. 
So, you're supposed to have special shoes just for the coop, and a tray of bleach water to wash the bottoms in. You're supposed to use special shoes or wash yours any time you go to a feed store or animal show, or anyone else's home that keep chickens...and not to let wild animals around them like squirrels, mice, or other birds... I do leave my shoes by the front door, but I’ve seen too many creepy-crawlies to even leave them outside.

Always LOTS TO LEARN and LOTS of challenges TO FIND SOLUTIONS FOR!!! 

I seriously never will understand how the pioneers survived, much less progressed...and of course in our own progression we have lost so much of their skill and wisdom. And we lack the many hands to help with the efforts.

I think the best thing I read this week was about using lavender essential oil in a spray bottle (with some other scents that are good anti-fly/mite/mosquito scents) all over the coop. Some women even lay fresh mint leaves into the nests for the hens (who apparently do like it, preferring to lay in those nests over those without it).


Update on the broody hen setting on 2 eggs: no chicks hatched....the colored shells tricked me into thinking there were air pockets…so I'll wait until next spring. 
I’m debating what kind of chickens to get, but I think it will be Easter Eggers since I can’t find a source of lemon Orpingtons! They are a fairly new color introduction. Most of the breeders seem to be in the UK! I found a pair an expired eBay ad... $50 for a rooster and hen.

I like the golden-yellow Orpingtons so much because they are a cheerful color. Who doesn't need cheer, especially when winter lasts so long!

Well you know how i was saying that I'd like the lemon Orpingtons...lol, that was before I discovered the Blue-Laced Wyandottes ( you should see the roosters too!)

$8 per chick or  $50 for 1 dozen hatching eggs for incubation (show bird stock). 
They're a heavy dual-purpose bird (both for meat and reliable eggs –laying up to 4 per week per hen is considered a "very good layer").
Really, they are a work of art, 

There really is no dilemma- I can't afford any new chickens yet. (insert much LOLOLOL)

But I can dream.
And so can you. The opportunity is there, free for the taking.

What do you dream of?

My youngest daughter had a dream. At 23 she moved away to pursue a degree in nursing. She's in New Mexico,and I haven't been to see her because we're running our car on a broken part that we don't trust out of town. It's really hard not to go see her, to drive the long back winding roads thru the mountain passes and pray not to hit a deer... 
I'm so proud of her, and want to see her flourishing garden and the house she's made a home in.  It's so hard letting go of kids, even for good reasons!

It's harder still when she's so close yet so far. To get there is no picnic! We went thru Wolf Creek Pass on the way to Illinois. It will snow 20 inches there for every 2 we get here. A treacherous place of sheer drops and cliff sides and hairpin turns on a steep incline! 
Every direction from here is like that...except south, to that place -New Mexico. 

I swear, it sucks your soul out thru the window like an exhaled breath. You can’t not look at the passing landscape – notice I didn’t call it ‘scenery’. . .no...in fact, our eyes just wish to die in their sockets. 
Notice there's no "LOL" after that!
You feel like your eyeballs want to jump out of their sockets and just hang by their strings. 
I guess that's not the correct anatomical word for it... but does it matter, if you can ENVISION that? 
LOL