December 29, 2012

Bath time!

The past few posts, and this as well, have been written and posted from my iPhone. Whereas the mobile version of this blog does not have my nice green background and peaceful mountain photo header, the rest of the formatting looks fine. However, I noticed on a real computer that the photos I'm posting are getting chopped off. FYI, you can click on the photo to see a larger, uncropped version.

As for posting from my phone, I can add photos easily but don't know if or how it's possible to position them where I want them in the text. Anyway, these photos are of the newest setup for giving Eden a bath. We had been using a large, round dishpan but it takes two people - one to keep her from falling out and one to bathe her. This setup worked quite well, especially since Joe wasn't around to help this time. The Bumbo seat did his job of holding her upright, and she had extra room for playing in the water. I did have to rearrange some furniture to make room, but all in all a success. As you can see, Eden approved and even offered her assistance with the set up.

December 17, 2012

Picture 1: And...ABRACADABRA!!! There will be ice cream in this bowl!
Picture 2: Haha! Had you fooled!

December 13, 2012

Learning curve

So, I'm learning that there is an app for everything. After struggling to write my previous post and thinking "there has to be an easier way!"..there is. This post is a test of the Blogger app I downloaded. Apparently I can upload pictures which I take via my phone's camera, so I'm going to add a puny photo of my Christmas decorations as a trial run.

Eden has had a rough day. She's dealing with a runny, stuffy nose and teething. We have been blessed with such an " easy" baby that I feel completely lost when she has inconsolable crying fits. When she is upset, she doesn't want to snuggle; she just wants it fixed. Unfortunately I don't always know how to do that. Thankfully, she is sleeping good tonight. We are headed to Va Bch in the morning and were thinking we might have to delay our trip a bit if she had another rough night. Speaking of which, I should be going to bed myself. I haven't gotten that part worked out yet. I always stay up later than I should to take advantage of "me" time.

December 12, 2012

First blog ever written AND posted from MY home.

This is a test of the backwoods blogging system. I'm typing this out with my thumbs (which I'm happy to find I'm pretty fast at) on my new iPhone while lying in bed listening to Eden struggle to breathe through her stuffed up nose. I'm so thrilled with having Internet connection  at our place!! I was hoping I could hook this phone and my computer together so I could do the typing work the fast, ten-fingered way and then just use the phone to do the uploading. I apparently have to have my head in the iCloud to do that though. I'm not complaining, though; this is great.

Well, I look forward to catching up a bit soon, but at the moment I should be focusing on sleep. Eden is experiencing her first real runny, stuffy nose today and it has made nursing and sleeping difficult. Given my lifelong allergies and stuffy sinuses, I long long ago gave up on using my nose for oxygen acquisition, but Eden is still a believer.

Okay, one last addition to the test. Can I post a picture?

Um...never mind.

September 08, 2012

I'm still here! Really, I am. I have written many blog posts in my head, but not a one of them has made it into the digital world. The combination of no internet at home and a 4-month old baby makes for zero blogging. Actually, I think that even if I had internet at home there would still only be one blog a month -- I'm not a very fast one handed typist. :)

At the moment, I'm at my boss' house, spending the night, because tomorrow morning Eden and I are heading with him and his family to spend a week at the beach!!! I'm so excited. Joe may or may not join us depending on how he feels midweek when his school work is done. He's been fighting what we assume is a case of Lyme's disease for almost a month now and is feeling pretty run down and fatigued. He's just started a 30-day round of treatments laid out for him by a naturopathic doctor. (The standard doctor he went to dismissed his concerns entirely after his blood test came back negative for Lyme's.) I'm really hoping he feels better soon.

Anyways, I have tons of photos to share, all on my personal computer back home, so so much for that.

Eden is growing and learning every day. I love seeing her discover the world! She's now an expert bubble blower and spitter (I never knew you could carry on whole conversations with bubbles and fart noises, but we do!!), makes lots of coos and word-like noises, grabs things and attempts to put them in her mouth, almost rolls over onto her side, and laughs!!! The laughing is brand new and we've only gotten one or two precious glimpses of it yet. It's my favorite development so far. I actually have caught it on video, so maybe you'll see it eventually.

Speaking of video, here's a link to Joe's most recent video montage of Eden.

"Happiest Girl"

My biggest accomplishment of late (besides growing a Cabbage Patch Kid, as Joe calls it, to make me feel better about my horribly weedy, bug infested, non productive garden) is that I managed to mow 1/4 of our lawn, only the 2nd time it's been mowed in more than a month.

Well, Eden has now been asleep for two hours, which means I better get to sleep as well or I'll be in that groggy position of only having slept for an hour or so when she wakes up for her midnight snack!

July 22, 2012

Eden's First Trauma - Three Stooges Style

Well, besides the process of being born, and there wasn't anything Three Stooges-esque about that! Earlier this week, Eden and I attempted our first major road trip. We - along with my mother, sister, niece, nephew and sister-in-law - went to Atlanta to visit my grandparents. I was very nervous about the long car ride, but it went much better than I had expected. Many thanks to Mariah (sister-in-law) for the expert driving both ways, allowing me to sit in the back and "entertain" Eden during her many awake periods. The six hour trip only took 8-9 hours with stops for nursing and carseat freedom.

The journey, however, was not the traumatic part. My grandparents have two sunrooms, both of which are equipped with rockers/gliders that make perfect nursing locations. I was relocating to one of the sunrooms for a quiet spot to nurse Eden when I walked us both headlong into a sliding glass door. There was that split second when we were both so shocked all was dead silent, but then came the cries. I had been holding Eden in front of me and her poor little head took the brunt of the impact, smashed between the door and my body. Eden doesn't cry much at all, and when she does it is mostly the "I'm tired" type of cry. This is the first time I'd heard her really cry out of pain. She sobbed heartbreakingly half of the time she was nursing, but in the end she gave me a big grin, so I knew I was forgiven. Luckily, no lumps, bumps or bruises were sustained.

I lost my camera just before heading out on this epic journey, so no pictures at the moment. We found the camera this morning, though, after pulling the mattress away from the wall, so here's a little grin for ya.

July 08, 2012

Catch up

Boy, it has been ages since I have been able to post anything on here. Eden is of course my main excuse. I'm getting good at doing things with one hand (and finding creative ways to get my feet involved as well), but typing is not one of those things. Add to that the fact that my internet connection is a good 1/4 mile hike away, in the blistering heat of summer, and it just isn't an ideal blogging scenario. I've written numerous posts in my head, if that counts for anything.

Here's the past two months in a quick summary:

Eden - growing like a weed (already doubled her birth weight!), more beautiful and fun every day
The garden - hanging in there but NOT growing like a weed (except for the weeds growing in it of course)
Wilson - 8 weeks gone but not forgotten
Poultry - Added five new young hens to the flock, slowly integrating them in with the existing birds. We've already had three separate batches of baby guineas hatched, and disappeared. It's sad there were no survivors this go round, but nice to not have to be constantly watching our backs for assaults from protective guinea moms!
Joe - Has taken care of practically every everyday life detail for the past two months. Eden and I would be lost without him. She and I are headed to my parents' for a few days, though, so he can buckle down on his 30-page paper that is due in three days.

Here are some pictures that will say the thousand words I don't have time to write. :)
Post nursing bliss

Daddy's reading is hypnotizing

Stripey little monkey!

Good dreams!

June 10, 2012

Curveball #2 - Wilson

Sweet baby Eden is one month old today! Today is a sadder milestone as well, though - four weeks since we've last seen Wilson. Four weeks ago today we brought Eden home from the hospital, home to my parent's house anyway, and Wilson was with us. He'd had a rather boring and confusing couple of days while we'd been in the hospital. Among the many things we did not have figured out, hadn't even considered figuring out, when I went into labor was what to do with Wilson at 3 in the morning should we be heading to the hospital, so we just took him with us. Over the next couple of days, he continued to stay in the car in the hospital parking lot being checked on and taken for walks by Joe and his mom. So, when we got to the familiar, wooded, wide open expanses of my parents' property, he was pretty happy to be free. He'd had a brief introduction to Eden, but he mostly seemed interested in food and adventure. It never dawned on me when we turned him loose at my parents' that it might be the last time we ever saw him. Unfortunately, he wasn't wearing his collar. Joe had taken it off so as not to cause him any discomfort during his days in the car, and we just didn't think to put it back on right away.

When he missed his midday meal that first day, we just assumed that he was still burning off steam, hunting rabbits in the surrounding woods. But, one missed meal turned into the following morning with still no beagle. At this point, we have posters in five counties, listings on multiple websites, even a spot on a local radio station and newspaper, and still no luck.

It's amazing how much you can notice the absence of a dog who mostly spent the whole day alternating naps between his favorite sunny and shady locations. How can it seem so quiet when he hardly ever made noise to start with? Almost every night Joe or I dream that we find him and every day I find myself glancing out the window as if I'll just happen to catch him trotting down the driveway like any ordinary day.

At this point, I can imagine four possible scenarios as to what happened, and it is the reality that I'll probably never know exactly what happened that is one of the hardest things to deal with.

#1) Wilson is off to the great hunting grounds in the sky, a casualty of an encounter with some wild animal. This is a very sad scenario, but at least I like to think of him dying while off on a grand adventure, having the time of his life.

#2) Wilson is currently some little boy's best friend or an old lady's calm, steady companion. In this scenario Wilson is kind of like an angel who had served his time with us and moved on to another needy soul once we had Eden in our lives.

#3) Wilson is currently tied to a dog house or in a barren pen in someone's back yard eating dog food flavored cardboard. This is the scenario I most fear.

#4) Wilson is on his way home. He may have had a seizure while out on his post-Eden grand adventure, got disoriented, and temporarily lost his way. He's made the journey from our house to my parents' house and back numberous times, albeit in a car, but he's a smart beagle. He's currently trekking across the countryside, following an innate sense of direction and a longing to be home with his favorite people. Along the way he has various mini adventures and interactions with people who help him and are in turn touched by his gentle, quiet ways. Any day now, he WILL trot down the driveway, as if he's never been gone, and be showered with ice cream and cheese. This, of course, is my favorite scenario.

It has been a crazy month processing both life with Eden and life without Wilson at the same time. Wilson has been a fixture of all but the first few months of our marriage. I was so excited about Eden getting to spend her early childhood with one of the best dogs ever. I was determined that Wilson would grow old with us, dying in his sleep at a ripe old age curled up by the woodstove or lying in his favorite sunny spot. But, in the end we trust that Wilson's life is following its perfect path, and we were blessed to be a part of it for a while. And, I'll keep looking out that window...

June 02, 2012

Curveball #1 - Eden Loraine

So, I haven't been posting much on here lately, but I have a good reason - and her name is Eden Loraine. Just over three weeks ago, I was 36 weeks pregnant and we were busily attempting to get things in order for the upcoming birth of our child. We went to bed on the night of May 8th assuming we'd be spending the next morning getting the yurt tidied up for when our midwife came that afternoon for our homevisit. I'd been spending the previous weeks washing cloth diapers, washing and sorting baby clothes, washing spare towels and sheets for the homebirth and emailing people on Craigslist looking to purchase a bed for the yurt. Just days before we'd cleared out the "nursery" corner of the cabin and set it up with a dresser full of baby clothes and a bassinett.

All this "nesting" was supposed to get us ahead of the game, well prepared and anxiety free when the big day actually came. I must have sent the wrong signal to my body though because at 3 a.m. on the morning on May 9th, while attempting to roll over in bed, my water broke, and there was no turning back. We missed our homebirth window of 37-42 weeks by just one week and ended up at the hospital. While not the homebirth experience we had planned on, we really couldn't have asked for a better hospital scenario. We were well cared for and allowed to take a very natural course, attended by a pair of competent and caring midwives, and at 7:05 am on May 10th, Miss Eden Loraine made her debut. She was a tiny one at 5 lbs 4.5 oz, but fully functional and pretty much perfect.

May 08, 2012

Chickens have cooties

Apparently, no one wants to drink after a chicken. I keep a generic, outdoor animal waterbowl by the rain barrels in back of the house. I clean it out and refill it regularly. The chickens and guineas frequent this water dish often. However, Foxy would rather drink out of the frog pond and Wilson will drink out of mud puddles and any murky old water that collects in random buckets and containers we leave sitting around. Both Wilson and Foxy will sometimes beg to come inside and drink from the indoor water bowl as if they haven't seen water in weeks. I don't get it. Do chickens have cooties? Are they notorious backwashers??

May 07, 2012

Mystery wildflower

I almost weedeated this flower in my yard the other day. I've never seen anything like it. I haven't been able to find it in any of my wildflower field guides. It looks very columbine-y, and I'm thinking it might be in the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. Anyone got any ideas?? I've scoured the internet for a similar photo, but no look yet. After it is done flowering I intend to transplant it to a safer, weedeater proof location.

May 05, 2012

My New Woodstove!!

Yesterday, with the help of three very generous and strong friends, Joe and I went and collected our new (to us) wood cookstove that will heat our yurt and cook our food this winter. I found this little beauty on Craigslist and couldn't pass it up. The stove is a Waterford Stanley, from Ireland, only about 10 years old and in excellent condition. It is currently sitting in the yurt, on a dolly that Joe made so we can scoot it around as necessary, awaiting its final installation in a few months. I'm really looking forward to learning how to cook on this thing!

This photo was taken in the kitchen of its former home, prior to being dismantled and loaded up for the journey to our place. 

The guys all made their "heavy faces" but didn't even grunt when picking it up! We tried to take as much removable weight off of it first as we could.
In addition to the stove, we were able to dismantle and take the chimney as well, a very important component we will reinstall at the yurt. I missed the photo op of cousin Wesley up on the peak of the roof dismantling the very top of the chimney.

April 27, 2012

Introducing "The Upcycled Chicken"

As if I don't have enough endeavors already, I've opened up another Etsy shop, this one featuring the tote bags I make out of empty feed sacks, mostly from my chicken feed. Check it out at "The Upcycled Chicken" . I'd appreciate any feed sack feedback (haha!) anyone has to offer.

April 25, 2012


I've mentioned before on this blog how I've discovered a good use for those pesky stink bugs that invade the house in the fall - capturing them and feeding them to my chickens! For this use, we always have a "bug catcher" nearby, and I've found that an old prescription bottle does the job quite well (leftover from the antibiotics I had to take after contracting Lyme's disease a couple of years ago, an unrelated tidbit of information but an additional connection to the peskier side of the insect world). Often, the last thing I do before heading out to work in the morning is to take the previous day's captives to the chicken pen, and because yesterday I was in too much of a rush to toss the pill bottle back in the house, it ended up in my purse and went to work with me.

A few hours later, I was sitting in a doctor's office with my boss' mother, waiting on the doctor to make his appearance. Even in this sterile environment, I heard a very familiar buzzing noise, and moments later a stink bug landed right on me. Luckily, I had my pill bottle stink bug catcher right there in my purse! I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure the doctor wouldn't mind my stealing his stink bugs, so I captured the bugger and put him back in my purse to take home with me. Stink bugs are not your ordinary prescription to be leaving a doctor's office with, but they are going to be turned into fresh delicious eggs for me to eat, and as it has been said before...

"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison." - Dr. Ann Wigmore

"Let food be thy medicine...and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates

April 18, 2012

Let the Sunshine In!

Wow, it seems like forever since I have been able to post anything. I'm not sure what my excuse is. Life is just flying by with very little computer time in it for me these days. I have been trying to funnel what energy and free time I have (assuming those two things are both available simultaneously) into gardening. We are in that delightful time of year where we can have a bowlful of fresh salad greens whenever we want. Also, the chickens are laying an excess of yummy, golden-yolked eggs. Joe and I often comment that "we sure do eat good around here!"

I've been thinking a lot about food, and sunshine, lately. Joe and I have been without a refrigerator for 4 years now, but we've recently been experimenting with the use of a small 12V cooler to keep a few items cold, on sunny days. By early to mid-morning on sunny days our photovoltaic system (sounds so impressive, doesn't it?) is in "floating" mode, meaning the charge controller is letting the maximum amount of electricity into the batteries for recharging purposes, and any extra that is coming in from the panels is floating off into some electricity black hole, unless put to good use. When we see that red floating light come on, we switch on the cooler and take advantage of that extra electricity (this is also a good time for recharging other batteries - power tools, computer, electric lawn mower, etc. - and doing other electricity consuming tasks). The cooler pulls too much electricity to run it full time, so we only use it during periods of extra sunshine and turn it off once the sun goes away and it starts drawing from our battery bank. Hopefully by that time, the cool of the evening will help keep things stable until the next day.

It's not a foolproof method, but it has allowed us to keep making yogurt, keep a block of cheese around and store the occasional leftovers. I like systems that require some planning and adaptation, keeps you on your toes. Today, for instance, is very cloudy and rainy, so we won't turn the refrigerator on at all. So, we ate up all the rest of the yogurt for breakfast and took all of the remaining leftovers for lunch today. That only leaves some carrots, ketchup, a small chunk of Parmesan cheese and a small jar of yogurt starter in the "fridge". Carrots and ketchup don't really need refrigerating anyway, and there are several partially frozen water bottles in there that I brought home with me from work yesterday that will keep the yogurt and cheese cool. I'll be buying fresh soymilk during my grocery run today, and turning it into yogurt in the morning. Luckily, tomorrow is forecasted to be "mostly sunny", perfect for a fresh batch of yogurt.

At the same time that we are using the sunshine to cool our food, I'm often simultaneously using the sunshine to cook my food mere feet away in our solar oven. There is something so satisfying and beautiful in the irony of that. Even on days when I'm not forward thinking enough to actually plan out what I want for dinner before 10 a.m., I'll take advantage of the sun by putting some pots of water in the solar oven and having HOT water for dishes, or maybe a bath, by late afternoon. Thank goodness for sunshine! And on days like today when clouds cover the sky and no sun is to be seen, well I'm very grateful for that other natural resource - water - falling as rain, watering my garden, and "recharging" my rain barrels.

April 04, 2012

The King Has Lost His Crown

You may remember a little while back I posted this photo of our young Salmon Favorelle rooster, Elvis. Notice his nice, bright, spiky comb. Well, somehow in the midst of the mildest winter in decades, this bird managed to get frostbite! When we close up the chicken pen at night, we just assume that all of the chickens have put themselves to bed and don't bother opening up the coop to do a headcount. One night, for mysterious reasons, Elvis did not end up in the coop. We discovered him the next morning waiting outside the pen for his peeps to be released. This happened to have been THE coldest night of the mildest winter in decades. A day or two later I noticed a faint black line appearing about midway down his comb, and over the next few weeks, the black line got darker and spread to engulf all of his little spikes. I wasn't sure if I should take some kind of action, and online research gave me two options, 1) perform comb surgery and "trim" the blackened areas off or 2) do nothing and it would fall off of its own accord eventually. I opted for option two, and sure enough, nature took its course and Elvis now looks like he's had a crew cut.
For the record, it is very hard to take a picture of a chicken. They do not want to pose for you.

The loss of his "crown" has not affected Elvis' demeanor at all. He is now almost a full year old, quite the accomplished crower, and has recently discovered his amorous side (much to the dismay of the hens, it seems). Courting is not his strong point. He prefers the unannounced pounce on the nearest available hen. He's not very discriminating either, much to Chickadena's dismay. Whereas our previous rooster definitely viewed Chickadena (our asexual rooster?) as a rival male and treated him as such despite there being no competition, Elvis seems to view Chickadena as one of his harem. I watched Chickadena narrowly escape one of Elvis' unannounced pounces, protesting loudly the whole time, and then led Elvis on a futile chase around the yard. Poor little fella. It's a tough world for an asexual rooster who just wants to be left alone.

March 31, 2012

To-Do List Revisited

So, I know that those of you who read my previous post are dying to know what I actually did or did not accomplish on Thursday. Let me fill you in.

Yes, I did make the bed. And fed myself breakfast. Off to a good start. :)

I then went straight to the greenhouse. First I watered all of the broccoli, kale, lettuce, spinach and chard that has been growing beautifully for several weeks now. Then I planted tomato, pepper and basil seeds as well as a few ground cherries and some miscellaneous herbs. At this point, I was feeling quite accomplished as it was only 11 a.m., but I was also feeling quite sore from the cramped greenhouse work. So, I went and laid down for 45 minutes and browsed through the latest edition of Mother Earth News.

Next, I hiked down to the spring to fetch the yogurt starter from the bucket of cold spring water that was hopefully serving as a refrigerator. I hadn't intended to leave the yogurt starter down there for as long as I did (just over a week), but I had sabotaged my own yogurt making schedule by leaving the soy milk languishing in the mini fridge at the office in Blacksburg and had to wait until I was back in town to fetch it. Upon close inspection, I decided that the starter had gone funky and was not to be trusted. So, I switched gears and chopped up one of our last two homegrown butternut squashes to put in the solar oven for dinner.

Having just finished lunch and already accomplished (besides yogurt making) my entire revised to-do list, I was feeling quite proud and eager to tackle "the big one" - weedeating the garden. Now I must go on a rant. Is it just me or do other people, especially other women, find it next to impossible to start any of those stupid "pull the rope" engines!! I consider myself a very competent woman and can weedeat with the best of them, but why must they make me feel like an idiot, wearing myself out yanking that stupid cord for 15 minutes in vain!! Joe usually stands back and watches me for the first couple of pulls, giving me a chance to do it on my own (which occasionally, miraculously, does happen), and then steps in and in one swift pull gets the thing roaring. However, I did not have Joe to step in for me this time as he was at school (but I did call him halfway through the process, in order to vent and catch my breath and get some emotional support). At long last, just when I was about to quit, the weedeater finally came to life. I was utterly exhausted, but I dug deep into my reserves and started mowing down the jungle around me. I had weedeated half of the garden when the other big weedeating hurdle reared its ugly head...out of string. This is another area where I often prove incompetent and usually rely on Joe to reload the stupid thing for me. I seriously contemplated calling it quits and taking this as a sign that it was indeed naptime, but I was so inspired by how good the mowed half of the garden looked that I decided to try reloading the string myself. Another frustrating 15 minutes later, I had string again and finished the garden. What a sense of satisfaction!

Definitely time for a much deserved break. After sitting on the porch steps and soaking in the glow of a freshly mown garden, I spent an hour or so relaxing, beading and watching a movie. I have actually had several paid beading gigs recently, and it is so nice to be able to relax, do something I enjoy, and feel like I'm being productive a the same time. Here's one of my more recent beading projects that I was pretty happy with. I sold the one in the photo, so I've got to find time to make another for myself.
Okay, so I know you're already super impressed with my day's accomplishments and pretty exhausted yourself at having read all of this, so I'll spare you the details and just say that in addition to all of the above I also did access and prune two of the four remaining unpruned fruit trees and transplanted half of the lettuce and spinach plants into the garden. And I did the dishes. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. And throughout the whole day the baby was doing some serious gymnastics in there. I don't know if he/she was also feeling energetic and trying to lend some support or was maybe protesting my activity and trying to convince me to give it up. Given the fact that the gymnastics continued long after I was lying in bed, attempting to sleep, I'm thinking it was the former.

March 28, 2012

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and clear, and I get to be home ALL day! So, here's my to-do list for tomorrow, in no particular order:

- Weedeat the garden
- Mow the yard
- Start tomato seeds in greenhouse
- Make yogurt
- Transplant lettuce and spinach seedlings from greenhouse to garden
- Prune the last four fruit trees
- Weed the other half of the strawberries

Hmm, I just remembered something. I'm 30 weeks pregnant and whereas I like to think I'm a fairly healthy, fit pregnant woman, you won't be reading any news stories about me having just completed a marathon or anything. With that reality check in mind, let me take another look at my list and see what I might reasonably expect to accomplish.

- Make the bed (I know this wasn't on the original list, but given my current condition, I often add this to my list of "accomplishments" for the day in order to boost my self esteem)
- Weedeat the garden (Assuming I can get the weedeater started, and that I remember to fill up the gas can on the way home from town today, I'll give it a try. I'm really not sure how it will affect me physically until I attempt it, but I probably shouldn't expect much)
- Mow the yard (Yeah, probably not, especially since the grass has already gotten too tall for me to use the electric mower, so I'd have to push the heavier gas mower around. Once again, assuming I could get it started, I might get one or two swipes done....hmm, maybe we'll just skip having a yard this year and settle for a couple of "pathways"??)
- Start tomato seeds in greenhouse (This absolutely must be done so I'm not even going to consider not doing it an option!)
- Make yogurt (Surely I can manage this, although the hike down to the spring and back to fetch the starter from it's hopefully chilled location may consume enough energy to knock several other items off the list)
- Transplant lettuce and spinach seedlings (Is it naptime yet??)
- Prune the last four fruit trees (The reason I haven't done this already will probably still keep me from doing it tomorrow, that being that I fenced them in so well to keep the deer out that I also fenced myself out. In years past, I've gotten down on the ground and actually shimmied under the fencing to reach the trees, but that ain't happenin' this year!)
- Weed the other half of the strawberries (Considering that the first half of the strawberry weeding was a time consuming process requiring a lot of uncomfortable crouching and impossible bending over and still wouldn't be done had Joe not joined in on the project, I'll not set my hopes too high.)

So, what does the revised list look like?

- Make the bed
- Start tomato seeds
- Make yogurt

Looks like a full day to me! :) (I'll let you know how it goes)

March 15, 2012

Ode to Walmart

I'm about to say something that I never would have thought I'd say, and most of you who know me will be shocked as well. Are you ready? Brace yourself! …..I Love Walmart!

There, I've said it, and at the moment, I truly mean it. For the most part, Walmart is everything I try to avoid in life - cheap, mass produced, soulless. However, I'm not a snob, or not much of one anyway, and I do occasionally patron the giant box, primarily for things I can't easily come by elsewhere. And for tires and oil changes. In this category, I fall in the everyday American pattern of seeking cheap and easy.

Last night, Joe came home from school with a tire rapidly loosing air from a nail in the sidewall. Yep, unrepairable. And, because we have an AWD car, apparently all four tires must be replaced at the same time or else you risk serious damage to the transfer case. (Aren't you impressed with how knowledgeable I sound??) I found out all this information from one repair shop that I took the car to because it is directly across the road from the office I work in on Wednesdays. I tend to avoid this particular repair shop because it is one of those places were you walk into a pristine storefront, deal with a clean, well groomed salesperson, and never actually see a speck of grease. There's something way too sterile about it all. However, the across-the-street convenience occasionally has me permitting them to deal with minor issues that I'm pretty sure even they can't find a way to rip me off on. I didn't doubt their information in this case, but I couldn't help but imagine their joy as they handed me a $500.00 quote for a whole new set of tires.

After briefly wondering if this was a sign that I should break my Walmart tire streak, I folded and headed to Walmart to see about getting new tires. I can't even explain what happened at this point. I didn't want to ask too many questions lest I break the magical spell. They did have record of us having bought our tires there last July, and although the tires came with a 60,000 mile warranty I didn't assume this situation fell within that warranty. However, after looking at the wear and tear on my other three tires, they said they would pro-rate the price of the new tires and discount them to $13.00 a piece!! At that price, I decided I was definitely going to add the additional $10.00 a tire for the "road hazard warranty", a program which would give us the benefits we were somehow getting for free at this moment.

Just over an hour later, I left Walmart with four new tires and a receipt for $76.00. When it came time to ring up the bill, the computer wasn't processing the discount on the tires. I was extremely patient and pleasant as the guy repeatedly voided and rerang up the order. I did not want to give him any reason to rethink his amazingly generous offer. Finally, he announced the total and I swiped the credit card. The total was even less than I had anticipated, so I nervously asked "Did that include the road hazard warranty on the tires?" "Yep", he answered, followed by "Where did you get that dog?" Wilson and I had spent the past hour sitting on a bench right outside the tire and lube center. Wilson's delightful mopey demeanor and amazing leashless manners had everyone charmed. He would graciously and calmly allow all passing Walmart customers to pet him, without getting at all worked up over their swooning and baby talk. So, I told the guy that we'd gotten Wilson from the county pound, the best $10 I'd ever spent, thanked him and drove away before the clock struck midnight and the magic ended.

Upon examining the receipt later, it appears that the guy (who was in fact the manager of the automotive section, so probably had the authority to do this) got tired of arguing with the computer about the price of the tires, erased them completely from the order and only charged me for the extras - the road hazard warranty and lifetime balance and rotation thing. Wow! As my sister said, God was definitely smiling down on me today, in the very ironic form of a giant yellow smiley face.

March 09, 2012

So, Joe didn't go to the beach for his spring break from Radford, but we did don our bathing suits and check out the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. We've been wanting to do this for a while, and it's a good thing we didn't wait much longer. My non-maternity swimwear was stretched to the max! Being pregnant and all, I wasn't able to test out the water slide, but Joe had a blast on it. I did enjoy swimming some leisurely laps on my back and soaking in the 95-degree "therapy" pool.
Testing the seams on my bathing suit at 27 weeks pregnant.

A blurry close-up.
Even though we didn't do much actual swimming, I still felt like I got a pretty good workout. We were both exhausted after we left, so we treated ourselves to a hand-packed pint at Ben and Jerry's. :) Joe should get spring break more often!

March 07, 2012

Today marks the first day of Operation Chicken Lockdown, for their own good. Yesterday, Joe was home and witness to a broad daylight attempted chicken attack by a hawk. Luckily, the attack was unsuccessful and all the chickens were able to scatter for cover, and the hawk flew away when Joe came outside to investigate what the guineas were screaming about. We lost Wanda our Speckled Sussex hen last week to what I'm 90-percent sure was a hawk attack. That puts us down to six hens and two roosters, and I've had enough! Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what to do about it. My best guess, confirmed by the internet research I've done, is to keep them confined for several weeks or even months until the hawks lose interest and remember that they're supposed to eat wild rabbits and squirrels! The Wareing Chicken Shack is closing! No more free meals, especially if all you intend to eat is the head! I've gotten some bird netting to cover the pen with as we've learned that the hawks are not afraid to fly into the pen for their snacks. It's going to be sad keeping the chickens all closed up, but I'd rather them be bored than beheaded. :(

March 01, 2012

As I lay in bed last night (well these days I find myself propped up to an almost sitting position to sleep, but that's beside the point), listening to the rain on the roof, I kept hearing a strange noise. My first thought was that we had a leak somewhere and rain splashing somewhere inside. But then it dawned on me - it was a frog in the pond!! Yep, last night of February and we've already got our first frog staking it's claim to our little lily pond. (They must have heard it was a "leap year".) I was so excited I dreamed about frogs all night. In my dreams, they were bright blue and yellow poison dart frogs, similar to the one in this photo (taken from

February 29, 2012

Breakfast of Champions - the Homemade Version

Throughout my pregnancy so far, yogurt has been one of my staples to add both protein and probiotics to my diet. However, being lactose intolerant, I was buying soymilk yogurt (which apparently can only "legally" be called "cultured soymilk" as the dairy industry has some kind of hold on the term "yogurt"), which is unfortunately not as readily available as standard yogurt, and twice as expensive. I considered the extra expense worth the nutritional benefits though. The cheapest option I could find was Stonyfield's soy yogurt six packs, 4 oz each, for around $3.99 a pop. I'd eat one a day and make it last almost a full week, but no sharing with Joe. :(

Then, Joe and I discovered that it is as easy to make "yogurt" out of soymilk as it is regular milk, and there's been no looking back! The economic difference of making our own soy yogurt is staggering, and there's plenty for Joe and me both, even if we want to eat more than 4 oz at a time. I can get a half gallon of organic soymilk for $2.50 and make enough yogurt for us both to have breakfast for a full week.

Banana, raisins, yogurt and granola - YUM!
We started with a culture saved from some goat milk yogurt we bought (which is delicious, lactose-intolerance friendly, but prohibitively expensive for a regular basis). The process is exactly like making dairy yogurt, and very easy in our Yogotherm yogurt maker, no electricity required. We have experimented with adding some tapioca starch to the mix to help thicken the yogurt, with varying results. Sometimes it makes little tapioca clumps, sometimes not, but it always tastes good.

We've gone about 8 weeks or so using a 1/2 cup of the previous batch to culture the next batch, but the last couple of batches have been going down hill. I'm blaming it on unpredictable refrigeration. This winter has NOT been good for providing us with consistently cool weather to keep things in a refrigerated state! The yogurt has not gone bad, but it has gotten a little weaker each time and the last batch, even with the tapioca starch, was more the consistency of buttermilk than yogurt. It made great pancakes, though! I'm thinking it might be time to grab a new, store-bought starter and make yogurt a quart at a time, twice as often.

An added benefit is that we've been finally using up our backlog of homemade jam from when we went a little jam crazy the year before last. We not really peanut butter and jelly people, and we rarely just have a piece of toast with jam, so most of our jars had gone unopened. Turns out, one jelly jar (1/2 pint size) is the perfect amount to mix in with a quart of yogurt for blackberry, wineberry, strawberry, etc. yogurt. Also, I've been inspired to start making our own granola, too, for which I'll share my recipe in a later post. 

February 22, 2012

Date Night

I'm not much of a shopper, and I'm even less of a mall shopper. Malls seem to mostly contain clothing stores, and I can't remember the last time I purchased a new item of clothing from the racks of any store. However, this  past Friday, the "Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley" were having a used book sale in the mall, and THAT caught Joe's and my attention. We'd spent the whole day in town, alternating running errands and me getting in some work hours at the office, so it was getting dark by the time we got to the mall. Friday night at the mall with my fella - almost felt like the quinessential American date night, for teenagers anyway.

Between the two of us, we had exactly $5.99 cash on us, so we decided to let that limit our spending. It was fun but a bit overwhelming to scan through the hundreds of titles of books on the numerous tables. My favorite find was four paperback titles in the "Oz" series by L. Frank Baum. Everyone is familiar with "The Wizard of Oz", but not many people realize he wrote quite a few books about the magical kingdom. I read many of them as a kid myself and am looking forward to reading them again with our kid.

Among the books Joe found was "The Idiot's Guide to Baby Sign Language". I think the growing trend of communicating with young children through sign language is great. I've seen many of the board books with a dozen or so signs to teach your infant, but this book has a vocabulary of 150 signs suitable for kids. I'm especially interested in using sign language with our kid because American Sign Language was actually my "foreign" language in college. I took two semesters of ASL during the time period I was doing distance learning college classes from home, and my little sister and two of my cousins went through the material with me. We were fairly proficient as long as we could practice with each other, but once I transferred to Virginia Tech and moved to Blacksburg, without my practice buddies around me all the time, I slowly lost much of what I'd learned. Joe studied Spanish throughout highschool and college and has traveled extensively in Spanish speaking countries but has also gotten quite rusty in the past few years. We've talked a lot recently about using the arrival of a child as a good excuse to bone up on our skills, teaching each other, so we can maybe pass some of it on to the littl'un. So, finding this book was an added incentive.

By the time we'd narrowed down our final selections and scraped together our last penny (actually the last penny came from a generous stranger), it was dinner time. Off to the food court we went. We had no intentions of buying any food, though. We were looking to raid the condiment package displays. We snagged some salt, pepper and mustard packets, some plastic cutlery, and Joe managed to charm a little to-go container of mayonnaise from the Subway server. Back in the car, we had a bag full of food we'd brought along as we knew we'd be spending much of the day in town. Included in our stash were some hard-boiled, home-grown eggs and a loaf of bread. With the extras from the food court, we mixed ourselves up some egg salad and had a picnic in the car in the mall parking lot. By this point, our date night bore little resemblance to the quintessential American version, but we had lots of fun anyway. And, to be completely honest, we had treated ourselves to the delicious buffet lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant earlier in the day. However, we are members of the 99% after all (or the "soon-to-haves" as I prefer to think of us), so we try to keep our luxuries within limits. :)

February 17, 2012


A week ago today I made the hour long drive to go to my parents'/grandparents' house and visit for the day. My parents were on a road trip to Minnesota to deliver some woodworking equipment to my sister's in-laws, and my little brother and his wife were house sitting for my parents to watch the dogs and keep the "old folks" company in their absence. I thought about waiting until the weekend when Joe's school schedule would allow him to go with me, but in the end I decided to go by myself. I spent the afternoon with my brother and sister-in-law and ended up staying later than I initially planned because I was enjoying a more in-depth visit with my grandparents than I've taken time to have in a while. I will be forever grateful for the inner voice that urged me to make that trip because early Friday morning, my grandmother passed away. It is such a gift to have those final happy memories of her and to have no regrets at her death.

Death is of course inevitable for all of us, and I'm sure we've all had thoughts about how, if not when, we'd prefer the inevitable to occur. My grandmother was blessed with what most people's ideal scenario would be - a  swift, peaceful death in her sleep, in her own home, with her head on the shoulder of her husband of 64 years. This little one growing inside of me right now just missed meeting his/her great-grandmother by a few months. Life is such a miracle and a mystery, at both beginning and end.

There is a deep sadness, but also beauty and peace in Grandma's passing. I can't begin to imagine the changes in my grandfather's life as he adjusts to her absence. He was her loving husband for decades and devoted caretaker during her final years suffering from Alzheimers. Their relationship remains an inspiration to me. I spent four days at home, steeped in the love and comfort of family and friends as we went about preparing Grandma's funeral. At the same time, I am struggling with intense feelings of grief and anger around my thoughts about those who chose not to be physically present at her burial. Sometimes an actual death can be easier to come to terms with. I am very grateful for Joe and the empathy and understanding her provides as I continue to decompress and process my experience. I find strength in my belief that God is Love and happiness in the thought that for Grandma right now, that is more than an intellectual notion; it is her whole reality.

February 08, 2012

Good eatin', for chickens

My chickens are one of the primary beneficiaries of my garden pest control  endeavors. I do not let my chickens into the garden to search for insect pests on their own. If that was all they did, it would be very helpful and cut me out as an unnecessary middle man, but the true result would be that I would have not only a garden free of pests, but a garden free of any plants at all. Trust me, I know my chickens. The other day they decided to completely consume my several year old, overwintering, adorable patch of the succulent plant I call "Hens and Chicks". Cannibalistic little buggers!! So, during the summer, I am left to the task of handpicking the insects that plague my crops and serving them to the chickens on a silver platter, so to speak. They are especially fond of cabbage worms, cut worms and those giant, juicy grubs (I think they might be Japanese beetle grubs??). There are some bugs I can never seem to get them interested in though, and who would blame them. Would you eat a slug?? I would also never in a million years, even if starving and desperate beyond imagination, eat a squash bug, but I was very annoyed that my chickens turned out to be as picky as myself.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
I have recently discovered, however, that during the winter when bug-pickins' are slim, chickens are willing to expand their dietary palettes. (Hence the decimated "Hens and chicks") I do not have any squash bugs to feed them this time of year, but I do have a house, like most everyone else, that has been invaded by their close cousins, the brown marmorated stink bug. I used to think lady bugs were the worst things you could share your house with over winter, but these guys have convinced me otherwise. But! Hallelujah! It turns out chickens think that stink bugs are a delightful treat, at least in the winter. So, now rather than being annoyed when I find one of these guys crawling around on the windows (or worse yet, my pillow) I capture it in a little jar and toss 'em to the poultry. The other day I found a cluster of 30 or so stink bugs hiding out in a cranny of the outdoor kitchen. What a feast! I see this all as a slightly sadistic win-win situation -- household pest turned chicken treat turned eventually to yummy eggs for breakfast! Now, hopefully the chickens will remember about eating stink bugs when squash bug season rolls around. If not, maybe I'll hire this kid.
Sorry, I know I've put this picture on my blog before, but I just can't help it. It gives me the shivers all over to even imagine!! I just have to share the horror. And hey, the kid is happy!

February 03, 2012

So, did the groundhog see his shadow yesterday? I was busy with a prenatal visit with my midwife and wasn't paying attention. Are we going to get six more weeks of winter? Are we even going to have six weeks of "winter" this whole winter? Today is blue skies, sunshine, mild temperatures and birds singing -- quite nice, but not very February-ish.

At my prenatal appointment I learned that the baby is doing fine and growing well. I, however, am not growing. I weighed in exactly the same as last month's appointment. To clarify, I have of course grown, somewhere in the vicinity of 12-14 pounds since the beginning, just not anything in the last month. Hmmm....the midwife was surprised, but not worried. She seems confident I'll catch up here soon, and meanwhile I have free license to eat whatever and whenever I want. Not that I haven't been doing that already. I've been eating whenever I'm hungry, and mostly light meals as I don't have room to stuff myself anymore. Also, what I initially thought was a tendon or something being uncomfortably stretched in my right ribcage area turns out to be a grumpy gallbladder. (Always wondered where that thing was.) Apparently gallbladders have a tendency to get grumpy about pregnancy. It's been recommended that I avoid fatty greasy foods (not a problem) but also get plenty of fat in my diet. I actually felt obligated to go and order a whole basket of french fries after my appointment yesterday. Such a conundrum. Smaller, lighter meals seem to sneak by my gallbladder without upsetting it, which is what I like, but not necessarily good for weight gain. I'm taking this as a sign from God that I need to eat more chocolate. Yes, that is definitely the answer. :)

Totally different topic, but if you happen to catch a copy of the latest issue of "Mother Earth News" (Feb/March 2012) you'll find a picture of my garden on both the contents page and on page 83 in the "Country Lore" section. They've also printed a copy of my letter to them about how great our concrete block garden beds are. Pretty cool. I think I get paid for this, although I haven't gotten anything yet. I'll give them a couple of weeks before I send someone over to break their legs. :) I also recently had a "Letter to the Editor" published in "Backyard Poultry" magazine. I'll be happy to sign autographs for anyone who is interested. :)

January 27, 2012

My simultaneously pregnant sister Lynn and her husband Ben flew down from Alaska last week for the one get together we'll be able to have during the pregnancies. As part of their east coast visit, much of the family drove down to my grandparent's house in Atlanta to catch up with my mom's side of the family and attend a double baby shower thrown for Lynn and me by my grandmother. I didn't pull my camera out a single time, but here's some photos from Lynn's camera.
20 weeks pregnant, due June 5th and 6th! Haha Lynn, from the front angle, I still have a waist. :) And no, we did not coordinate our outfits.
No waists for either one of us from the side angle. There was some question as to whether or not Lynn was carrying twins, but there's only one in there.
My mom didn't coordinate outfits with us either. Pink was just the theme of the day. Four generations in this photo - my grandmother Ruby, mother Karen, sister Lauralee and niece Ruby (named for her great grandmother of course).
Using my grandmother's stethoscope from her nursing days to try and hear heartbeats. Ruby wants to help.
Beautiful Ruby with her  beautiful quilt handmade for her by her namesake.
My nephew Logan, Ruby's big brother. He and Ruby were the highlight of the trip.
Grandmother and Daddy Bob, my mom's parents. 

January 19, 2012

A Letter to the Neighbors

Dear Local Wildlife Neighbors (in particular, those of you who inhabit the skies above us),

I really enjoy your presence. I've been a lifelong fan. In fact, I spent four years in college just to learn more about you and how to work with you, not against you, in my daily activities. However, my decision to raise chickens was not meant to be a joint activity. I've done my best to not tempt you with the presence of my chickens -- sturdy coops, pens, well secured food barrel, free ranging only with supervision, etc. Therefore, I would appreciate it if you would hold up your end of the deal and LEAVE MY CHICKENS, AND GUINEAS, ALONE!!!!

Thank you.

Your neighbor, Amanda

If only it was that simple. I had the disheartening experience once again this morning of finding a partially consumed carcass in a pile of feathers, inside the chicken pen. It was barely beginning to get light outside, and I just assumed it was yet another guinea casualty (they have short memories, and several of them have taken to sleeping outside the coop again). However, this death was my remaining Salmon Favorelle hen (the hawk Joe spied about a week ago had indeed gotten the other SF hen. We found the carcass in the back corner of the outdoor kitchen a couple of days later). I'm pretty sure this newest death was also the work of an aerial predator, which unfortunately means that my chickens are not safe in their pen during the day when I'm not there. Once upon a time, I had a plastic netting "roof" over the chicken pen to protect from overhead attacks, but snow, ice and sun broke it down in less than two years. Now it just looks like my pen is decorated for halloween with torn remnants of netting draped all over it. I was all excited about heading into this coming summer with 9 hens, five of which were going to be in the prime of their laying days, but now I'm down to 3 young hens and four older ones. That is still plenty for us, but these birds of prey need to leave it at that! Argh!!! And, before anyone starts sharing their favorite predator extermination tips and offering to bring over their guns and take care of the problem, even if I wanted to take such steps, hawks and owls are federally protected species and it is illegal to kill them. So, let's just put that argument to rest before it even starts. Looks like it's time to do some re-roofing and reinforcing of the chicken pen.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

January 15, 2012


Baby Wareing! 19 wks and 2 days old, give or take a day or two. On Friday, Jan 13, Joe and I got to watch the little squirt squirming around in there, moving arms and legs, talented already! And, everything looks good and healthy. I could fairly easily see the lobes of the brain and heart, spinal cord, etc. while the ultrasound guy was checking them out. However, he also proclaimed the presence of a gallbladder, two kidneys, liver and some other stuff that I just took his word for. The cyst is still there, but not growing, so doesn't seem to be an issue. As I write this, the little guy (I consider that a unisex term) is bopping all around in there! Feels like popcorn going off in my belly. Mmm, popcorn....

January 14, 2012

10 Things

I have apparently been nominated by a fellow blogger for the "Kreative Blogger" award. I usually prefer awards that come with a cash prize as well, but I'm honored nonetheless. This award apparently comes with a little picture that I may or may not figure out how to post on my blog and some requirements. The first requirement is that I tell you 10 things about myself that no one knows. The second requirement is that I nominate 5 other bloggers for the award. As I don't even think I know five other blogs/bloggers to nominate, I'll probably break that last rule. As for the 10 things no one knows…I'll give it a shot. By "no one" I assume they mean the readers of this blog. Obviously, I'm married and live in a one room cabin, making Joe at least one other person on the planet who knows everything about me. And, since I know that most everyone who actually reads this blog is either a friend or family member, there's not much I can pull out of the hat to surprise you, but I'll try to keep it interesting.

10. I really, really, really want a donkey. I can't come up with a single reasonable reason for owning a donkey, but every time I see one out in someone's field, I can't stop myself from smiling and exclaiming, "Oh! A donkey!" So, surely having one I could see everyday would be nothing less than life enriching, right? And I don't want just one either; I want two. Everyone needs a sidekick. I think I'd want one miniature donkey and one standard size donkey because I love the idea of big and little sidekicks, with the little guy being the boss, of course.

9. As a really young kid, I went through a phase where I prayed every night for quite a long time that my blue teddy bear, named Blueberry, would come to life. At one point, I was convinced I saw him move, just a little! I went through a similar phase with a repeated prayer that a puppy (or two!) would just miraculously show up on our porch one morning and we'd of course have to keep it.

8. Also as a young kid, I spent hours walking through the woods convinced that if I could just project an innocent and loving enough vibe, woodland creatures would flock to me. When my Disney-esque fantasies failed me, I resorted to more straightforward methods of interacting with the local wildlife and became a very skilled lizard and skink catcher. I would then proudly carry my captives around on the front of my shirt, or my head.

7. Speaking of reptiles, I really don't have any fear of snakes, or spiders for that matter. Granted, I can be startled by a snake or a spider (even a puppy or a kitten can be startling if it shows up under unexpected circumstances), but I don't consider that the same thing as a fear. Crickets, on the other hand, I find a bit unsettling. I'm not afraid of them, nor dislike them necessarily, they're just, well, unsettling.

6. I listen to the radio a lot while I'm doing stuff around the house. I really only have two stations I switch between - NPR and Top-40. This makes for an odd couple I guess, but I like to think it means I'm well rounded.

5. I once won the Peppermint Patty Award of Excellence in tree identification for a dendrology class in college. In a separate forestry class, I was voted to have the best decorated hard hat. I decoupaged autumn leaves onto it. :)

4. For my birthday one year (maybe somewhere in the 6th, 7th, or 8th range), my grandmother gave me a BBC recording of the books "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass". This started a lifelong appreciation for these stories and the genius of Lewis Carroll overall. I could quote large chunks of the books and find their wit and wisdom applicable to so many aspects of life. At one point in "Through the Looking Glass" the White Queen is disappointed in Alice for not believing her when she told her she was 101, five months, and a day old. Alice asserted that "one can't believe impossible things." To which the Queen replied: "I daresay you haven't had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!" I must say I agree with the Queen. I have no problem believing impossible things, even contradictory things. I do, however, reserve the right to only choose pleasant impossible things to believe. (See #'s 9 and 8)

3. I do not like cucumbers. I realize this puts me in a very small minority of people, but it is true. Over the years, I have reevaluated most of my food dislikes and found that I do indeed like them - such as olives, mushrooms, and lentils. However, no matter how much I want to be one of those people who likes cucumbers, they remain firmly on my dislike list.

2. I have an obsessive habit of mentally dividing words, phrases, even whole paragraphs, into groups of three letters. It really upsets my mind when they don't evenly divide into threes, and I'll sometimes cheat and include punctuation marks, or un-contract contractions if necessary, to make it work out.

1. And finally..I don't shave my armpits in the winter. (Caught ya off guard on that one, didn't I! ;)

January 11, 2012

A Blog Within A Blog

It's a funny concept to be blogging about being blogged about, but I'm pretty excited to have had Beagle Beads featured on a jewelry review blog, Jewelry Revelations (click the link to view the blog). As the namesake and mascot of the business, Wilson is also feeling pretty famous. We're trying to get him to tone it down, though, because there's nothing worse than a beagle with a big head. :)

In other exciting news, Joe is home! He had a great experience at his Vipassana meditation course in GA, and we're having a good time spending this week together before he starts back to school. Once again, his absence was the perfect proof that HE is the reason for the bed covers being all askew every morning. The whole time he was gone, I merely had to slide out from between the sheets in the morning and the bed looked good as new. In the whole 10-days, I only had to "make" the bed twice. Sure enough, one night of him back home and the bed had to be practically reconstructed the next morning. Of course, he says the same thing is true of when I go away and he is the only one sleeping in the bed. But, since in those cases I'm gone and not able to verify his facts, I'm sticking by my story. :)

On Friday we go in for our 20-week ultrasound. Sorry everyone, no we're not wanting to find out the baby's gender, but it will be exciting to see the little squirt again. Even as fat as I'm getting, there are days when I feel like I've imagined the whole pregnancy thing. There's this weird window between the first trimester, when the nausea and exhaustion has you pretty sure something is going on in there, and the time when the baby gets big enough to be consistently felt bumping around in there that you have no real proof that you haven't just eaten too much for dinner.

Besides seeing the baby, we get to also check on the status of the cyst, or blob as I like to call it. Since my last ultrasound 8 weeks ago, I've been sending my best blob-zapping mind waves down into my belly, so I won't be surprised when they say it's up and disappeared completely. :) At the worst, I'm hoping for the same diagnosis as last time - "stable and simple".

For the moment, the guinea massacres have ended. We're down to six guineas left. Joe was walking back to our place from having been visiting up at his aunt and uncle's house yesterday when he startled a hawk that was sitting on the roof of the outdoor kitchen, scoping the place out. He didn't see any signs of death and found 8 of the 11 chickens hiding under the porch behind a pile of firewood. When I was doling out chicken scratch yesterday afternoon, I got a headcount on all but one of the Salmon Favorelle hens. I'm hoping she was just inside the chicken house or around the corner somewhere. I'll have to do another count before I start to worry. These birds of prey really just need to move on and find some other food source!

P.S. Jenny, don't worry, I've accepted the 'nomination' and will be posting my list of secret facts soon. Patience my dear, patience.

January 06, 2012

Starpod in Winter (or Experiments in Photography)

I had just gotten home from work the other day and stopped to admire the sunset before diving into unloading the car. I LOVE winter trees, and the Starpod silhouetted on the hill was so nice. Once again I was tempted to attempt the impossible (at least for super amateur photographers like me) and capture this moment in megapixels. The sky was a perfect mix of blues, yellows and oranges, but the first photo came out like this....all blue. Pretty, but not at all what the sky looked like.

I then switched to my camera's "sunset" setting and got the following picture, taken only seconds after the first. This one included the yellows and oranges, but completely deleted out the blue!

So, you'll just have to use your photoshopping imagination and combine these two photos in your brain to get an idea of the actual scene I was viewing.

The irony is, I've just spent all day at work researching photography equipment and reading reviews on cameras so I can make some purchases for work. My goal is to be able to take over the role of photographer for my boss' business, North American Gem Carvers (or rather revive the role, seeing as how our previous webmaster and photographing employee hasn't been with us for 5 or so years now). For the record, if you click on the above link, I did in fact take the photo of "Phoenix" that shows up on the front page, and am pretty darn proud of it if I do say so myself. However, if you click the "Galleries" link and view any of the other photos of gem art on the website, those were not me, but that's what I'm aiming for. Taking photos of gem art, it turns out, is as elusive as trying to capture a beautiful sunset. But, I aim to try. At least I'll have appropriate equipment now, so I'll only be able to blame myself for poor results.

This, by the way, is why my job is so hard to describe when the inevitable question "what do you do?" comes along. Well, I spend my summers pulling weeds and canning tomatoes, and my winters becoming an expert in gemstones, all under the same employment umbrella.