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, swallowing...so 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.

January 04, 2012

Ahh, thanks to some bitter winds and ice cold temperatures, I'm finally getting some good sleep! Whereas nightly feeding raids by owls don't seem to do much to affect a guinea's sleeping preferences, cold blowing snow sure will! Maybe owls don't like to hunt in frigid temps either, but whatever the reason, the guineas all slept in the chicken house last night, no one got killed, and I got to sleep like a baby. This arctic blast is a short one, though, and the temperatures are supposed to start climbing back up again in another night or two. I hope the guineas stick with the new program so we don't just start the cycle all over again. But, at least I've caught up on some sleep.

Speaking of cold temperatures, I've noticed in the past few days that 49 seems to be the magic number in my house. I'll load the stove a final time before going to bed (which means it will burn for another 45 minutes or so), the indoor temperature will be in the mid to upper 60's, and when I wake up in the morning 8 or so hours later, it'll be 49 degrees in the house. I'll build a fire again before leaving for work, once again leaving the house in the mid to upper 60's, come home 8 or so hours later, and it'll be 49 degrees inside. Not exactly a balmy temperature, but not bad considering it's a small house with no back-up heat source, and the outside temps have been in the teens to barely topping freezing.

January 02, 2012

Happy New Year!...I think

Happy 2012! My experience of the new year so far has been one of carnage and sleep deprivation, but we're only thirty-six hours or so in. I'm still optimistic that the year could turn out okay in the end.

I'm just shy of eighteen weeks into this pregnancy, and I've already reached the point where a comfortable, full night's sleep seems like a distant memory. According to the pregnancy literature, at this stage both back and stomach sleeping are off limits for me now. This wouldn't be a problem except that sleeping on my right side causes serious discomfort in my right rib cage, and sleeping in my left side soon leads to a very achy left hip. I basically spend my nights flopping from side to side like a fish out of water, swapping hip pain for rib pain and vice versa. To top it off, on new year's eve night, I was having an ongoing stressful, scary dream (I'll stop just short of calling it a nightmare). Despite my frequent wakefulness and attempts to shake this dream, it kept sneaking back every time I'd fall back asleep. I finally gave up the fight at 7:30 a.m. new year's day, not feeling rested at all, but too frustrated and achy to continue pursuing sleep.

The first order of business for the new year was to let the chickens out of the pen. As I approached the pen, I was startled by a very large bird making a swift departure from the area and disappearing into the woods. Hmm, not a good sign. Sure enough, I found a gruesome scene behind the chicken house - a bloody, half eaten guinea carcass surrounded by piles of feathers. No wonder I hadn't heard a peep out of the chickens yet. Generally, when we lose a bird to a predator, it just disappears with no trace, and the rest of the birds continue on about their business as if nothing had happened. However, having a comrade being feasted on right outside your front door has a whole different effect on the morale of a poultry flock. Even after I had disposed of the carcass, the birds were all very quiet and cautious the whole day. I had a hard time shaking the feeling myself.

As night rolled around again, I was disappointed to find that six of the remaining seven guineas were once again lined up on their very exposed perch across the chicken pen, easy pickin's for what I was sure would be a returning hungry owl. Only Ranger consistently sleeps in the house with the chickens: we don't call him the Lone Ranger for nothing! Oh well, what can you do.

I went to bed around 10 o'clock and slept peacefully until my bladder woke me up sometime later. I was disappointed to find that it was only 1 o'clock, but I managed to ignore the increasing winds and the incessant flapping of a stray piece of tin and fall back asleep in a reasonable amount of time. The next time I woke was to the sound of screaming guineas flying right past the window. Instinctively, I jumped out of bed and ran onto the porch, but what could I really do? By the time I got outside, all was quiet again and I couldn't see anything. So, back to bed (now it was 4 o'clock) I went, this time wide awake and heart still pounding. A few minutes after getting back in bed, I heard what was definitely an owl right outside the house, making the most spooky owl noise I've ever heard. It was quite chilling. My attempts to fall back asleep were not successful this time. When faced with bouts of sleeplessness, I often pull out my iPod and listen to some music. I find the band "Owl City" to be a good one for drifting off to sleep to, but given the circumstances, I wasn't in the mood. So, instead I turned on the lights, built a fire, ate a grapefruit and watched movies on the computer. Around six o'clock I finally drifted back to sleep and managed to fit in another hour and a half or so before the sun started guilt-tripping me to get up.

It was no surprised that when I went to turn the chickens out this morning, there were only six guineas hanging around. Thankfully, the owl decided to take-out rather than dine-in this time, so I didn't have any carcasses to deal with. Either the guineas will wise up and follow Ranger's example of sleeping in the safety of the chicken house, or, to look at it optimistically, I'll only have to go through this another five or six nights and then there'll be no more guineas to eat! Of course, I'll still be pregnant for five more months, but it's always nice to only have one sleep obstacle to deal with at a time.