March 21, 2013

Sleeping In

Now that our mattress, which Eden and I share, is on the floor and separated from the woodstove by a baby fence, I don't have to worry if she wakes up before me. This morning she woke up at 6:30 am, which is not unusual for her but seemed ungodly early this particular time. I was definitely not ready to be fully awake and in entertainment/supervision mode, so I pretended to not notice she was awake and lay there drowsily faking deep sleep. This was especially hard to do since I was the only "toy" available to Eden at the moment. While I pretended to sleep, she amused herself by poking my closed eyes, giving me a full dental examination, a few wet willies for good measure, and twisting my nose like a door knob all while spitting and making motor noises!! Somehow I not only managed to keep up my act with a minimum of giggling, I even fell back asleep for real. Apparently Eden did too as I later woke up to find her zonked out, using my throat as a pillow with one hand on my forehead. Using this method, I got to "sleep in" until 7:30 am!! Hey, you take what you can get.

March 20, 2013

Wonders Never Cease

First, I must say that so far the best thing I've done all year is to purchase and install an automatic chicken coop door ( Now I can focus worry-free on round-the-clock child care without the stress of nighttime chicken protection. Whatever birds choose to roost in the coop at night are safe and sound. As for those who don't (namely the guineas), well lets just say we're down to two guineas. It's been serious carnage over here of late!!

But, there is hope for the two lonely guineas because....Jango is back!!!! It's been right at two months since his mysterious disappearance just as the biggest snowstorm of the winter rolled in. I had knocked on doors, posted on various online sites, and spent weeks scanning the roadsides for any sign of him, to no avail. I had assumed he'd been hit by a car, wandered into the woods and died somewhere out of sight. Ever since Wilson's disappearance, I've been keeping an eye on lost-and-found dog pages on Facebook. I quickly skim over the myriad of pictures popping up on my newsfeed to get to more interesting social tidbits, but on Tuesday a very familiar face popped out at me. I had to pull up a picture of Jango to verify the location of specific markings, but I was pretty darn sure it was him. Within a few hours of first seeing the photo, I had Jango back home, safe and sound, with a few extra pounds on him. Getting lost suited him!

The best I can piece together the story, he was found wandering around on a road that is 15-20 miles from here, depending on which route you choose on Google maps, during or just after the snowstorm. Although he was wearing a collar and ID when he went missing, by the time he was taken in by a concerned woman, he had no collar or ID. Due to her living arrangement, this woman could not keep him and passed him on to her brother and sister-in-law. Somewhere along the way he developed serious Lyme disease symptoms and was treated with antibiotics. The sister-in-law grew quite attached to him, but the brother was just "not a dog person". So, Jango's photo was posted on Facebook in hopes of finding his original owners or a good home. That's me!!

Jango was happy to see me and has settled into his old routine already. He spent most of last night barking, hopefully scaring off raccoons. Tonight all is quiet. Although he was a house dog for a while, I still can't convince him to come inside. He seems to prefer his outdoor freedom. Now I'm even more curious as to what happened and how he ended up collarless 15 or more miles from home. Joe thinks he just got lost and roamed that far because he didn't know what to do. That see unlikely to me. Could he really be so stupid as to get to the end of the driveway and decide to head in to town because he can't remember how to turn around and go back home? My theory is that he was dognapped, probably by meth heads, and his collar thrown out to destroy the evidence. He managed to escape from his captors soon after arriving at their destination, but he doesn't know his left from his right, so he wasn't able to retrace the route they'd driven and was left to wandering the neighborhood until a Good Samaritan picked him up. I think that's a far more realistic scenario. I heard a rumor that police are staking out possible meth labs in our area, so I like to throw a few meth heads into my stories these days for good measure.

Either way, we'll never know. We're glad to have him back and readjusting to having a dog again. Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that one day Wilson's face will pop up somewhere. Stranger things have happened!

March 08, 2013


I don't do caffeine. Ever since I was a kid, even a little bit of caffeine can make me literally shaky. But, once or twice a year I make an exception and test out whether it was all just in my head. This morning was such an occasion. It was a beautiful, sunny, mild March day spent hanging out in town with some fellow "mom" friends. I was feeling wild and free, threw caution to the wind, and had half a cappuccino at a local coffee shop. On the midday drive home, I was definitely feeling the jittery caffeine buzz. Usually this feeling makes me a little frantic and crazy, but I hardly paid attention as I drove the deserted back roads at twenty miles an hour below the speed limit, totally absorbed in my audiobook, to allow Eden a nice long carseat nap.

"Let's go turn our chickens loose on this gorgeous day!" I told Eden while unbuckling her carseat straps when we arrived home. They'd been on lockdown for a full week in attempts to protect them from a Cooper's hawk (Sharpshinned??) that has been killing my hens of late. Just a week ago, all in the same day, I lost a hen to a hawk and narrowly saved a second hen from a raccoon by running through the cold, dark woods in my pjs with a flickering flashlight, yelling in my scariest voice. This tactic actually worked, although in the future I'm hoping my soon-to-arrive new solar powered automatic chicken coop door will keep me from having to rely on this as my primary defense against nocturnal prowlers.

It took me a second to figure out what I was looking at as we approached the chicken pen. The fluffy piles of creamy yellow feathers surrounding a motionless mound of dead, semi-devoured chicken was an all too familiar sight. But just under the edge of the chicken house there was something hopping around in an erratic fashion. Another chicken, alive but mangled? Nope, I had surprised the killer at his feast and my presence had him cornered under the chicken house, frantically testing the chicken wire for a way out. In an instant my shock disappeared and the caffeine in my system combined with a sudden surge of adrenaline to create a rage so palpable I felt like I might explode!

Whenever I share my predation frustrations with other humans, the most common response involves jokes about making hawk stew or involving weaponry in the situation. I tend to ignore these comments because this particular solution is not only illegal (all birds of prey are federally protected) and impractical (even if I knew how one goes about hunting hawks, I'm not sure where in my 24/7 schedule of infant care I'd fit it in), it does not jive with my personal moral compass. However, at this particular moment my best self was trampled to the ground by a raving, revenge seeking version of myself I generally keep pretty good control over, and if I had had a shotgun in my hand I would have obliterated that hawk! If I'd had a nuclear weapon at my disposal I would have pushed that red button in an instant and taken the whole east coast down with me just to get that bird!! But, I had no shotgun or nuclear weapon in my hands, only a baby on my hip, and a cellphone.

So, I did the next best thing and called Joe, who was catching up on work at school, and I screamed at him. Well, not at him, but to him. Poor Eden; if her first words are of the four letter variety, this one instance will be the reason why. Joe, who I'm pretty sure has meditated every last scrap of crazy revenge seeking self out of his psyche, listened patiently and responded empathically. He was very understanding, but he suggested I have a heart-to-heart with the hawk. Hardly the wrathful justice I was wanting to wield, but I didn't have many options. The only thing keeping the hawk cornered was my presence, and there was no one else but Eden around. I squatted down to get a closer look at my enemy. I could see I wasn't the only one hopped up on adrenaline. "Good" my rage-self said, "maybe he'll die of a stress induced heart attack!" My better self was in awe of his wildness and beauty. And my incredulous self still can't believe such a little bird is killing chickens almost twice it's size!

My better self gave it a shot at understanding the hawk's need for sustenance and reminded it that the woods were full of squirrels and rabbits which I had no personal investment in. Then I tried to get a couple of photos, nearly impossible given my jittery hands and a jittery hawk. I held my ground for as long as I could, really hoping this particular hawk would decide a few chicken mcnuggets aren't worth all this stress, but it was past lunchtime, and no amount of standing there being mad will make a dead chicken come back to life. When I had backed far enough away that the hawk felt he had a window, he flew with a high pitched whistle up into a pine tree and looked down on me for a second before disappearing into the woods.

When Joe got home and took over with Eden, I removed the dead hen from the pen and finally took the time to spread some netting over the top of the pen. I was kicking myself because I'd bought this netting almost a year ago and could have prevented this particular incident if I'd been proactive about installing it. Hopefully now the chickens will be safe from aerial predators when they're in the pen. As for when they are free ranging, which is an uncompromising chicken-quality-of-life point for me, I can only hope that hawk is perched somewhere taking our heart-to-heart to heart. My other hope is in a new generation of chickens I'm going to add to my now puny two hen, two rooster flock this summer. After much research, I'm opting for breeds that are billed as being "quick and alert". You gotta stay on your toes around here!

There's not much of an end to this story. It's merely a chapter in my ongoing saga to find a way to make it all work, to be creative and find solutions in-line with my better self, even when the quick fix solution seems most gratifying in the moment. The photo I've attached is grainy, but zoom in for a better look.

March 05, 2013

Peas under pressure

So having this iPhone hasn't made me the blogging diva I imagined. Turns out that by the end of the day, when I can actually use both thumbs and the small portion of my brain that is still awake, I'm mostly too tired to come up with anything interesting. I blame it on Facebook. FB is pretty mindless, and that is what fits the bill most evenings. I make my mothering situation sound rough, but I actually have the best baby you could ask for. Still....

But, I did want to share this one tidbit that I've been strangely exuberant over the past few weeks: how to cook split peas in a pressure cooked!

We have a dried bean soup mix that was billed as being perfect for busy days. Quick cooking lentils, split peas, barley, etc. Seemed like the perfect job for a pressure cooker. However, my pressure cooker manual warned me in bold, capitalized font "DO NOT COOK SPLIT PEAS". That's it, no explanation, just a stern order. So, I'll cook in the old fashioned way, no problem. Well , after having crunchy split peas after hours and hours of simmering away on a woodstove over two different days, I decided in the future Wed find away around the pressure cooker ban.

I found this very helpful site:

I'll summarize for you. Basically split peas are dangerous because they have a proclivity for exploding under pressure and gumming up the works. The trick is to let your pressure cooker vent steam for 30 sec or so, then let it come to pressure. As soon as it does, turn it off and let it sit. By the time the pressure drops off again, the peas should be cooked. If the pressure drops right away, just turn on the heat for a minute or two and repressurize. Works like a charm!! And I love the "retained heat cooking" aspect of it, something we're big fans of around here.

So, there you have it...and good night.