Tuesday, June 30, 2009



Will it ever end? Will I ever "get" organized? Or is it all about the journey...?

In any case, I've spent a considerable portion of the last couple weeks' time and energy into that very thing. Of course, bending, lifting, putting one foot in front of the other, those things are tricky. Much of what I've 'organized' is intellectual. In between laundry and cooking and vacuuming and (slowwwllyyy) chasing kids, of course.

I loaned out my MOTH book, so while I also needed a new "Master Schedule," I started revamping our Chore Packs (after locating them.. Some we're still searching for. Others we're searching for again.). Managers of Their Chores really is such a great resource. Working through the list of 'jobs that need done around here' was really overwhelming. Moreso when I started assigning those jobs, on paper. Eventually the 'organizing' part was done (which is far more than would've happened without that book!), and I printed out cute little chore cards for the girls (now to make my own...). For some reason, mine print out vertically, as opposed to the horizontal orientation shown on the book's cover.. Not sure why... Last week we started implementing JUST the morning chores - things like read bible, pray, get dressed, make bed, brush hair and teeth, straighten room, empty dishwasher, set/clear breakfast table, pick up dining/kitchen floors, etc. Big Sister jumped right in, usually doing all of her jobs decently and in reasonable time. Li'l Artist was another story. An hour into it, I was usually still helping her read (i.e. "guess") her chore cards, and encouraging her in each one. With my one-on-one attention she did things with a fairly good attitude, as well.

This week we're implementing the lunchtime, afternoon, dinner, and evening chores as well (lest you think I'm *totally* wicked-stepmother material, the dinner and evening chores are VERY light). So far it's slow going, but at least we're making some progress. Misplaced chore packs are becoming a problem, however, and I hope to come across them shortly!

It has helped, to be sure, because things that were just *so easy* to overlook (it's only one thing on the floor... it's only 2 little things...) are now definite "to-do" items, regardless of their smallness. Their room is getting daily attention (and ok, I did have to sit in there with them this weekend and crack the whip over some shoddy work), as is their bathroom and laundry. The upstairs hall had it's first thorough cleaning and vacuuming yesterday (and that's noteworthy), and I'm hoping I'll be inspired to actually... *gulp* clean my room before my midwife makes a home visit in less than 2 weeks. Daggum midwife wants to see "wherever I may be laboring." *grumble grumble*

Less than In the neighborhood of 6 weeks to go!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Have You Seen This?

***Update below***

I got this this morning, and am off to find my cell phone to make the long-distance calls. Please read it and consider...

For myself, this looms as one of the bigger threats we face today. And the list of 'threats' is not short: food modified to administer pharmaceuticals, vaccines, contraceptives to the eater, widespread mismanagement of food production, making sick animals and depleted soil, "mandatory volunteerism" (isn't that an oxymoron?), the government taking over corporations, the government dictating to industries what they can and can't earn or pay, doubling our money supply (and halving it's value), owing the soul of America to China for trinkets... All these are serious, but all pale on a personal level. Read on:

Dear Friend of Parental Rights,

Monday in a Harlem middle school, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told a group of 120 students that administration officials are actively discussing “when and how it might be possible to join” (that is, ratify) the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As before, she also communicated what a disgrace it is that the U.S. would stand with only Somalia against such a widely-accepted treaty.

This is the first direct public statement by the Obama administration that it will seek ratification of the UN CRC.

In my 30 years of political involvement, I have learned to recognize this as what is called a “trial balloon.” Like in World War I trench warfare, our opponents have “sent up a balloon” to see if it will draw fire. If things remain quiet, they will proceed with their plans to push for ratification of the CRC in the U.S. Senate.

To discourage them from doing so, we need to make sure that our voices are heard with unmistakable clarity. We must let the Obama administration know that we oppose this anti-family, anti-American treaty.

Here’s what we need you all to do:

1. Call the White House comments line at 202-456-1111. Tell them you heard the administration wants to ratify the CRC, and you strongly oppose this giving away of U.S. sovereignty to the UN. Also keep in mind that this treaty gives the government jurisdiction to override any decision made by any parent if the government thinks that a better decision can be made—even if there is no proof of any harm.

2. Call Ambassador Susan Rice’s office at the United Nations. Tell her that you want her to represent the United States to the world rather than trying to get the United States to go along with international law initiated by the UN. Her office number is 212-415-4000.

3. Contact your Senators and urge them to oppose ratification of this treaty. (Find your Senators’ contact information by typing your zip code into the box here.) Ask them also to defeat it once and for all by cosponsoring SJRes 16 – the Parental Rights Amendment.

It is very important that we speak up right now. Please call before you close this email!


Michael Farris

***Repeated calls to the White House have given me nothing but a busy signal. How about you? I'm still trying.
***Calls to Susan Rice of the UN have given me: failed call tones, messages that my call cannot be completed as dialed, and once it went through, rang for some time, and I got an automated operator that instructed me to enter the first four digits of the person's last name. I used the keypad for this, and three times was given, "sorry, ID not available" messages before it disconnected me. Conspiracy? Faulty connection? Faulty Info?

***Update on the Update***
I just checked email again, and got this message:

First, be encouraged. From reports we have received, we have kept the White House phone lines very busy this morning. We have also had an impact at Susan Rice's office.

However, some of you are having trouble getting through to her. It turns out Susan Rice's name is not in the automated directory. However, there are three options to fix this. Please dial ONE of them, and deliver the message that you oppose the CRC, and that she should represent Americans to the United Nations rather than push a UN agenda on our country.

1. Dial the main line at 1-212-415-4000, and dial 6 to leave your message; OR

2. Dial the Public Diplomacy Office at 1-212-415-4050 and leave a message; OR

3. Dial her office directly at 1-212-415-4404. Again, you will need to leave a message.

This is not a message they want to hear, so do not expect a cordial reception. The important thing is to get the message through.

Thank you so much, and keep up the great work!

Michael Ramey,

Director of Communications & Research

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crib Quandry

I have decided we're in a unique situation.

Yeah, I know that's not much of a surprise, but hear me out...

We're a couple months away from expecting our fourth child. FOURTH. That is still so wild to me. In any case, we find ourselves wondering what to do with this baby after a few months, in regards to it's sleeping situation.

With our first baby, Gi-gi contacted her millionaire-niece who was enjoying an old crib in her "collection." I'm not sure if it was 'on display' or not, but let's just say she was sad to see it go (Gi-gi had loaned it to the niece's daughter for her babies). The crib is actually great; it's an old hospital-nursery crib that the hospital got rid of in 1950 when Gi-gi and gramps had their first baby. I don't know how old it was at that point, but it's tall, both sides drop down, it's got great wheels, was made of steel and had a nice thick coat of white lead paint, which Gi-gi's children and grandchildren (my brother and I) practiced our teething on. Of course, being a hospital nursery crib, it's not your regular full-size by any means. But it's perfect for when they're still little. And it (barely) fits through doorways.

Much to my relative's chagrin, Gi-gi and I had it sandblasted and repainted yellow (non-lead-based, I presume). Goodbye antique value! At about 4 months of age, Big Sister moved into this crib, and at about a year or so, needed a "real" crib. Gi-gi came to the rescue again, bringing us an old wooden contraption with a fanciful animal painted on one end. Also "antique" and not likely up-to-crib-code. It was also somewhat rickety, so Hubby screwed a piece of 1x2 in the center of the rear panel, from the top rail to the bottom (again, "goodbye" value...). It had a dropping side, but the mechanism was partly ruined, so that was hit-and-miss.

We used this pair of cribs for Little Artist as well, but was offered a fairly new (had housed 2 children thus far) crib when expecting Organique. We took it, figuring it had to be in better shape than the old rickety heirloom.

Of course, I looked at all the stickers and labels I could find and googled for information on it. It had a recall issued due to a badly-engineered drop-side mechanism, but I could contact Graco, I think, for some hardware to fix the problem. So I did. Of course, this "fix" resulted in a side that was safe, but also NOT drop-able. Further research revealed some other issues (nothing terrible, just things to watch for), and the discovery that the actual manufacturer had gone completely out of business. And by completely, I mean that their email was returned and calls to their 1-800 # were met with phone-company recordings that the number was no longer in service.

So, when putting the thing together, finally, I had to bust out the baling wire and duct tape (just kidding. No duct tape, and the wire was actually electric-fencing wire), but got the thing to hold together. Yeah, I'm a safety freak. One end was missing the casters, so a book and a chunk of wood leveled it. More or less.

And this is what Organique slept in for the past year or less, until last weekend when she slept in a homemade toddler bed at Gi-gi's. It was a transition, but when Gi-gi offered to let us take it, we did, loving how our new van has stowaway seats and others that tumble forward and such. It fit; barely. Of course, Hubby nearly tore it apart removing it from the van and maneuvering it upstairs, but we were happy to be rid of the death-trap crib and replace it with the bed. Of course, getting Organique to sleep at nap- or bedtime is a ritual in law enforcement, since she can escape quite easily from this bed.

Last weekend I also learned something else... The rickety wooden crib was not originally in our family, but the family of the crazy next-door-neighbors Gi-gi had from the time she and Gramps bought their house in 1949 or so. I should say, the parents were crazy, and harassed my brother and I in the same way they'd harassed my mother many years before. The daughter of this couple is *not* crazy, apparently, and she or her son had actually asked Gi-gi about this crib (perhaps Gi-gi had it from way back?) a few years ago, when we were using it. At this point I feel quite obligated to get it back to that family (with apologies for the 1x2 screwed into it?). About as obligated as I feel not to reassemble the Total Recall crib for this upcoming baby. Of course, I still have some time before Baby #4 will be in need of such a crib, but it's on my mind.

So really: How many families expecting their fourth child within a reasonable time frame, who haven't moved cross-country or had their house burn down or anything else otherwise notable, find themselves in want of a decent, regular crib? That seems odd to me.

Too, I feel a little handicapped. First-time mothers searching for such are often overwhelmed with offers from friends and family who will 'pitch-in' to buy such a thing, or spend Saturdays garage-saling with their mother or mother-in-law. Me? Notsomuch. Garage-saling with the girls would be less than thrilling for their mother, and just the thought of so many stops for what would likely be a wild-goose-chase makes my pelvis ache.

I think they've finally got a craigslist going in our area, though, so I might try that, or perhaps make calls to area thrift stores. Any other ideas?

In the meantime, though, I look at the carcass of the last crib, and all those vertical rails just make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside... Why, I could trellis beans on that! Homemade baby-gate? Oooo, maybe hang fabric or quilts on that part! How about hem-in the turkeys? Wow, we could suspend that from the ceiling and add a few S-hooks to make a hanging pot rack!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Can Take The Girl Outta Redneck Paradise...

But after that, you're on your own...

We spent a few days this past weekend at Gi-gi's. Gi-gi lives in her duplex, in what is now the expensive, old-school end of town. When *I* was growing up a half-block away, it was full of families and kids, lots of old people who'd raised their families there, and the like. Now it's gay couples and yuppies and others with *lots* of time to keep their landscaping and architectural-additions historically accurate. The hills behind her house are peppered with condos and apartments-with-views.

She has this neighbor, a corporate-lawyer type, who had a baby girl a couple weeks before I had Little Artist. Said girl is now also 5. She got rid of the husband a few years ago, and apparently hasn't said, "no" to her daughter since then.

Their backyard consists of:
2-3 large dogs penned into a small kennel area
3-4 cats running loose
2 chickens loose
2 pygmy goats, tethered to a pivot
2 rabbits, escaped*

Escaped apparently means, "we built them a ramp up to their hutch and propped the door open."

These 2 rabbits have spent all spring in and out of Gi-gi's small yard, eating and destroying every bit of garden produce they could manage. Peas, beans, her priest's cabbages, eggplant, tomato, rosebushes, cucumber, etc. She tried catching one once, and it tore the skin from the back of her right hand. Of course, she went and knocked on the lawyer's door bleeding like a stuck pig. You'd think a lawyer would be familiar with "liability" and would try to deal with these "escaped" neighborhood menaces.

Instead, she and her daughter went on vacation a couple weeks ago, leaving someone to come once each evening to feed their menagerie. Until Gi-gi met her one evening, the woman wasn't even aware there *were* rabbits there.

After months of these tales, I offered to bring the pellet pistol and deal with the issue, as I was coming to town anyway.

Gi-gi declined, with some nonsense about the rabbits' emotional reunion after she'd kept one of them penned in the backyard of the empty rental next door (the other next door).

Pshaw. She's come a long way from the farm, in many ways. *sigh*

I didn't bring the pistol, but I kept making comments about how I wouldn't expect anyone to tolerate a "pet" being such a nuisance. I have higher tolerance when it's someone's "livelihood," but even with that there's a line. Hubby and I completely understand that if our dog were to get into someone else's "livelihood" (whether their livestock, or even, yes, their garden), they'd be justified to shoot her if we didn't deal with the problem (and make restitution) immediately.

Well, my chicken-capturing experts went to work and did catch the larger of the two rabbits. Which I promptly took by the scruff of the neck, stuck in a bucket, covered with a milk crate (sound familiar?) and marched into the vacationing-neighbors backyard to replace the cretin in it's hutch. Which is much nicer than Hubby would have been. :) This is where I discovered the means of their "escape." We unclipped the door from it's permanent open-position, and locked it in.

The other rabbit wasn't so easy. It was smaller, and more skittish, perhaps. The girls chased it all over the yard(s), the alleyway, and everywhere after a heavy rainstorm, drenching themselves in the process. They finally gave up. As I was readying for bed that night, I looked out the window into the narrow passage between the wall and the obnoxious neighbor's fence, and saw the rabbit still at large. I hollered at it, and told Gi-gi to give me her bb gun, though I didn't expect her to do it.

She did, though, and as I waddled myself through the house and out the garage, I pumped up the ancient air-powered weapon. I stepped out of the garage door, barefoot, pregnant, and in my pajamas. I stepped gingerly in the water puddles, carefully peering around one corner, then another, in my hunt for the destructive rodent. It had disappeared, though, and I was left hoping that no one in the lofty apartments above had a telephoto lens trained on me. I'm sure if they did, that my image is on some blog somewhere garnering much laughter for the 'fancy' neighborhood that still occasionally sports some "breeder" wielding (what would likely look to them like) a rifle as she hunts some varmint for dinner.

The next morning as I was loading up the van for our return home, the creature reappeared near the short garden fence Gi-gi put up, and the bb gun was handy. It's not very powerful though, and while I aimed and hit with accuracy, the rabbit didn't do much more than jump and scurry in a circle before pausing and receiving a second sting. After that, it hid across the alley in another backyard, and I haven't yet heard from Gi-gi if it's shown it's face near her garden again.

The question remains whether *I* will be showing *my* face in that neighborhood anytime soon...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Plucker Pics!

To read more about this adventure, see this earlier post.

Saturday morning started out, well, typically... See what we have in the near-center of this picture? Yep, one kicked the bucket at the last minute.

Then I inspected the plucker. See the fancy way Hubby figured (well, *I* helped) to keep tension on the belt?

This is the center-lower portion of the plucker. This is what happens when the delivery man for the tool shop didn't show when he was supposed to. Instead of the 2x6s being aligned above one another and the bearings set over centered holes, Hubby offset them and used angle iron to make use of the bearings we *could* get. They were cheaper anyway.

Hubby was on-call, so we didn't want to get too deep into the project until evening, so he spent the day being all manly by installing a switch (a waterproof one at that) and playing with wires and his nifty electrician tools.

See? Manly:

The virgin plucker (this before the addition of extra fingers):

We set to work the automated-chicken-catchers. This one works well (please don't ask why the top of an alphabet table is sitting in my garden):

This one doesn't work so well yet, but it's cute, so we keep it around anyway:

They found creative ways to keep the chickens in place if Daddy wasn't ready to "hang up another one" yet. Organique enjoyed the closer look:

The not-so-virgin plucker, after the addition of the extra fingers:

Did it work? Did it? Huh? Huh?

Well, check it out:

Some people might not find this beautiful... They're probably the same ones who buy shoes more often than once a year and don't ask their husbands for pluckers as anniversary gifts:

These are the last 18 birds, representing approximately 97 pounds. Hubby brought it in the house in one load, without breaking my laundry basket.

And... these are the turkeys that day, a photo which I accidentally uploaded. They're already much bigger.

So - are you impressed? Excited? Thrilled? Probably not, and I can mostly understand that. But I'm tellin' ya; a plucker is an amazing thing.

I might give it a name.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The (former) Commies See It...

While you await photos of my lovely naked chickens, think on this...:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Meat Mutant Breakdown

Well, after finally ridding ourselves of the scourge that is the Meat Mutants, I'm excited to have kept careful records of what it took to get these things to the freezer.  For once.

50 chicks @ $.50/ea (I think we actually came home with 52) = $25.00*
50# chick starter @ $11.30 = $11.30
9 bags (50# ea) chick grower @ $9.60 = $86.40
6 bags (50# ea) chick grower @$9.70 = $58.20
?? of ?? =  $8.00**

Wood shavings @ $10
Light bulbs @ $5

Total investment: $203.90

Total return: 35 birds, ranging from 4 to 7 lbs, totalling 181.25 lbs.

Cost per lb of dressed bird:  $1.25/lb***


To tell you the truth, I'm a little surprised by this.  I'm fairly certain I have all my receipts but it sure felt like I was at the feed store every time I turned around, shelling out dollars like crazy.  Of course, I was also buying lay pellets, grain, and dog and cat food, and that adds up too.  

The cost of hardware is not included here, as we bought it in years past, but it would be something to consider; the feeders, waterers, heat lamps and the like.  And obviously it doesn't take into account our work both in feeding/housing them and butchering.  And I don't think you could pay me enough to do that. :)

Considering how many birds died between bringing them home and putting them into the freezer (we even found one Saturday morning before trying out the plucker), I would expect we could get this price tag down considerably if we could keep more of them alive.  We also should have had them dressing out closer to 4 lbs than the 5+ we averaged, and that last pound or more of weight probably cost a whole lot more.  When eviscerating, there was a LOT of fat on these critters, and much of it was tossed.  I don't know how my eviscerating compares with the store (well, yes, mine's FAR more careful and cleaner than mechanical evisceration!), but I usually cut off the tail-feather thingy, and any hanging fat or skin.  These are likely included in the weight at the grocer's.  Also, Hubby keeps the gizzards and hearts (ew), but I didn't count them in the end.  *I* don't really consider them food. :)

Overall, I'm somewhat surprised that these didn't come out more expensive.  Considering our losses, and how long we left them alive, I expected the pricetag to be double a decent grocer's or more, and it's not (Costco had them for 99c/lb last I noticed).

[Don't read the following paragraph if you're eating commercial chicken for dinner tonight.]

And in comparison to the grocer's (other than that they're huge), they enjoyed fresh air and sunshine, green stuff (when they'd eat it), and weren't constantly medicated (the one bag of starter was) or breathing fecal dust.  In death, they were killed more humanely, eviscerated by hand (carefully keeping the poop from the food!), and chilled in a tank of clean water - that didn't have several inches of fecal matter settling at the bottom (how much of that do you think is soaked into the meat?).  Still hungry for chicken?  I am! :)

*This is far less than the 'usual' pricetag of $$1 - 1.50 or so.  But the local farm store was running specials a lot this year, and we ordered during that time.

**The last week when we still had most of the birds to feed, the feed store was out of chick grower.  We bought lay pellets and whole wheat, and they got some of this, in addition to what we had left of the grower.  This cost is an estimation.

***Also, I didn't include sales tax in the costs.  Consider the final price tag to be $1.25/lb "plus tax."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Plucker Power

Hopefully I'll get my act together enough to post all the ... precious... pictures I took today, but I can't wait to get this out.

The bottom line:  

My new favorite appliance is the chicken plucker.  I need to give it a name, like I do my vehicles.  I love it.

The details:

Saturday Hubby was on call, so we delayed our Chicken Slaughter, Round 2 until evening, when he was certain not to be called out.  As it turns out, he was home all day, but he did reassemble the now-balanced shaft/flange to the unit (and also put a waterproof switch on it and fixed the mower deck of the riding mower).  It was cool (high of under 60!), but that keeps the bugs away anyway.  I had Hubby hang them by their feet and cut their throats (a better way for them to die, and better for the meat/nutrition also, apparently) to bleed out.  We scalded them as per the Storey's Guide instructions (30 seconds at 130 degrees), and put the first into the plucker.  The first bird came out fairly impressive, albeit not as good as pictures I've seen online.  Still better than we manage by hand!  The ones that followed were of mixed results.  We did only 8 birds that night, as a big storm was moving in and we needed to wrap things up.  Some birds wouldn't shed their back feathers or those from one wing; several had their faces just beaten up (not an eating issue, at all, but wild to see broken-up beaks and such) and occasionally a foot would get caught between the plate and barrel wall, jamming the system.  I'd read it works better with more than one bird at a time, so we put 2 in at once, and thereby discovered that our motor is NOT a 1 hp, or even 3/4 probably.  It's an old-school Westinghouse motor, and the horsepower info is all scratched out.  It could handle one okay, but NOT two.  I ended the night with mixed feelings about the contraption.

Hubby thought more fingers placed inside the barrel might help; some up higher as well.  We had a handful of leftover fingers, so this morning he installed them.  After a night of unusual rain (of unusual quantity), we set up shop again and gave it another go.  The water had gotten way too hot, so Hubby cooled it down with the hose, but didn't cool it down enough.  Or so I'd have thought.  Instead of 128-130, he had it at 140 or just above - at least, according to our thermometer.  This temperature, and the added fingers, made all the difference.  Hubby is killer, scalder, and plucker extraordinaire, and I maintain my title of Evisceration Queen.  (Wow, that'll be something for Gi-gi to brag about when she writes her Christmas newsletter to all the doctorate-holding relatives *sigh*)  The girls chase and capture the chickens with finesse. 

After this temperature discovery, I was so excited to be handling NAKED chickens right out of the plucker.  There were the few tail-feather stubs (which, I usually cut off that entire little thingy anyway), and the occasional pinfeather on the back or under the wings, but overall I was enthralled.  I haven't bought a store-chicken in years, so I'm not sure how well they're feather-free, but these were far better than we ever achieved by hand - and in less than a minute!  (We're very accustomed to removing the skin around here. :)  Modus operandi for us is to put the whole frozen bird into the crockpot, with or without seasoning, then remove the skin and enjoy tasty meat).  I'm inspired to fry some chicken - and that is saying a WHOLE LOT.

Our unit differs a bit from the ones you'll find online.  Obviously we'll be looking for a bigger motor before the turkeys are full-size, and there are the additional rubber fingers in the walls.  Also, our 'gap' between the plate and the wall is less than the inch or so called for.  And, in fact, since the barrel isn't perfectly round, our gap varies considerably in width.  However, while most homemade-plucker users claim a certain percentage of caught/broken legs, we didn't have that happen at all.  Caught/broken feet, yes.  Boy, they came out looking wild and flopping at odd angles sometimes, but after removing the feet, there were no problems with the legs.  I.e. the part you eat.  Carcass-wise, Hubby scalded a couple of them too hot or too long, and their skin suffered some serious tears, but again, we're not selling these to restaurants or anything.

Once we found that groove, though, it was just great.  

I love this thing.

I am such a freak.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Parents! Texans! Lovers of Liberty!

Apparently the Texas legislature has passed a bill giving CPS investigative (warrantless, without probable cause) authority to enter your home, confiscate records, and transport your children - away from you.

Call the governor, and ask, request, demand his veto on this.  Not a Texan?  Me neither.  Call anyway.  This sets precedent.  Numbers, email links, and details are at the above link.

Do it.

Post-Its Leave Their Mark

The good news:

I mopped the floor on Tuesday, ridding the dining area of the cherry-juice cemented hot-pink post-it notes.

The bad news:

The hot pink coloring on my floor seems to be staying for good.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Shoe Weirdness

Did you know I wasn't quite normal?

Perhaps wishing for a chicken plucker for my anniversary gave you some clue.

Here's another clue:

When it comes to shoes, I'm not your typical woman.  I sit in on conversations with friends and family where they discuss their latest shoe purchase (and I'm not even talking about crazy shoe shopaholics, even), and how fabulous this or that sandal looks with whatever outfit or accessory, and I smile and pretend to be busy cleaning the garden dirt from under my fingernails.

Or, I listen on the radio where some radio host is talking about the *insane* number of shoes his wife has collected, or whether she's a cheap-shoe person, or a name-brand woman.  At least I don't have to pretend to be busy at this point; usually I am.

Sometimes I run across a blog post about someone's shoe purchase, or choice of shoes for the day, and I decide I'm missing certain wiring in my brain.  Which is likely good for our family budget, I suppose.

I hate shoe shopping.  HATE it.  I also rarely wear shoes that are *just right* for some outfit or accessory.  I tend to have one pair - which I wear around the house, running errands, in the garden, tending critters, to church, wherever.  I do try to make sure there's no chicken manure on them for church. :)

(I do have a pair of tall black boots I wear a couple times of year when appropriate, and a small box of random feet-killers I usually bought when I was out of town for a wedding and had to buy something in a pinch.  And I do mean pinch.)

Obviously most cheaply made shoes wouldn't hold up to this schedule, and my feet probably wouldn't hold up to them.  Which may be why shopping for shoes is so miserable.  Spending the necessary money for a quality shoe (which may or may not work for me in the end) is a hard step to take.

For the past couple years, I've been blessed with a great pair of shoes.  They're like these; in dark brown.  Looking at their retail price tag, I can see why they're so great.  By the way, I didn't buy them.  Gi-gi's friend's daughter is an ob-gyn (who obviously needs, and can afford, quality shoes) and was getting rid of them.  Somehow I ended up with them.  They fit perfectly.  I started wearing them that minute.  They're comfy on my feet.  There's not a whole lot of traction on the bottom to track in... stuff.  I don't even have to be able to reach my feet to put them on!

Alas, they're wearing out.  The right shoe has split an entire seam across the foot, and every time I splash water on them, I get wet feet (this may sound odd, but it happens ALL the time.  In the kitchen, tending the animals, etc).  I haven't looked hard enough to see if I can hand-sew it back into shape.

I'd buy the ones I linked to above, but my size only comes in salmon orange, and that's a little bold for me.  

There are others I like, but would they work?  These are cute, but would they be ruined in the garen?  Fill up with dirt?  These are interesting, but all about 'eco-friendliness' - which I think I have, but I'd hate to be mistaken for a liberal (haha, 3 kids and pregnant?  That's unlikely, isn't it?).  These have a good gardening-name, but yikes, what a pattern.  Hey, these look like fancy birkenstocks.  Aw, but they don't have my size.  Did you ever have birkenstocks?  I didn't.  Hmm... These might do it.  In the dark brown.  I wonder if the wool would make them too warm?

What do you think?  Any opinions?  Advice?  Hand-me-downs?  Do you collect shoes like I collect poultry, or are you weird too?


Also, the site I've been linking to, Sierra Trading Post, has served us well.  I bought some WARM, waterproof, lace-up wintery boots last year (those Dansko's I wear don't cut it in deep snow/slush), and they're great.  Little Artist got a pair of clearance rubber-boots for like $5, and they've held up better than all those Target specials put together.  We've bought a handful of items there, and have always been pleased with the quality and service.  And the prices aren't bad, considering regular retail.

Psychedelic Salad

I mentioned in my Azure post the hemp oil I bought last month.  There is a recipe for an italian-style salad dressing on the back, and it makes me laugh every time I open the fridge.

It reads:

2 parts water
2 parts vinegar
2 parts hemp oil

Shake with herbs and serve....

Now, is it just me, or are their ratios a little... groovy?  If you have "two parts" of everything, then you have "equal parts" or "one part"of each.  You don't say "two parts" of every ingredient.

So I think they must have been using a particular "herb" in their dressing, when they wrote this recipe.

By the way, we use hemp oil for nutritive purposes, not that there are any other purposes (that I'm aware of, anyway).  I put it in our smoothies instead of flax oil sometimes, because it's so good for you (wiki).  It's not one you'd use for cooking, so raw in salad dressing or other applications is appropriate.

Groovy, man.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Azure Order

This week is Azure Order week for me.  I find I really enjoying seeing other people's grocery lists and menus, so even though this seems a mite silly to be writing it, perhaps it's just an issue of perspective.

If you don't know what Azure Standard is, click the link in my sidebar.  Even if you live outside their general delivery area (which is actually quite large), you can have things shipped UPS, as long as they're not frozen, refrigerated, or otherwise perishable.

Ok, here you go:

2 25.4 oz jars of Organic Sunflower Oil for $6.65 ea.  I can get this locally, but it's about $8-9/bottle, so I don't.  Last month I was almost out of all our oils.  I bought Safflower oil, Almond oil, Walnut oil, Hemp oil even (more on that later!), sesame oil, toasted sesame oil, six gallons of coconut oil (not from Azure), and forgot all about my trusty sunflower oil.  I buy olive oil from Costco, usually, and each thing is used for different applications, depending on it's heat tolerance and nutritive value.

2 lb of fresh, organic rhubarb for $7.  *choke gasp*  I know.  I grow the stuff, just not really well yet (I brought my transplant here from our last house, where the neighbor claimed it had grown there since 1960 when he moved in, and survived many, many residents trying to destroy it.  I figured that was my kind of rhubarb.  But I planted it in a bad place.  I'll move it. I will.).  I want to keep some frozen, and maybe have an upsidedown cake stashed for post-baby.  Right?

1 bunch of organic celery for $2.60.  Celery is one of those highly-pesticided items and I like to get it when I can. 

14 oz bag of Brown Rice Pasta in cute shapes for $2.85.  Yes, that's over $3/lb.  Which is why I'm not buying a barrel of it.  The girls love homemade macaroni and cheese, and I prefer whole grain, and even non-wheat when possible.  

1 lb box of Organic Vegetable Alphabet Pasta for $3.50.  See above excuse.  It's a splurge.

3 stainless sprouting screens for $1.95/ea.  These are for my neighbor.

2 1-lb packages of Garlic Granules from Oregon Spice for $4.45/ea.  Hubby knows no sense of moderation with this stuff at all.  I'm so glad he sleeps on his left side a lot...

1 lb Onion Granules from Oregon Spice for $3.85.  Ditto the above.

25 lbs Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals for $24.55.  I usually buy the 5 lb packages, but this will save me over $5.  Sugar isn't prone to bugs or infestations, so storing it won't be too hard.

2 90-tablet bottles of Rhino-Vites for $5/ea.  The girls aren't too thrilled with Melaleuca's new vitamin flavor (and Gi-gi and I have cancelled our account anyway), so we're going to try these out.  I don't know if they're a good buy or not, but they're on sale this month, so I hope so. :)

1 lb Organic Sprouted-Grain Penne Pasta for $3.60.  Sprouted grains are by far the best for you, and while the taste can be lacking (in the few places/ways I've tried them), I thought we'd try out this pasta.  It's on sale this month too.

3 quarts of Bragg's Liquid Aminos for $4.70/ea.  IF they come in.  It's a healthy, non-GMO, no MSG version of basically a mild soy sauce.  They're on sale, so I try to stock up.

3 quarts of Organic, Raw Apple Cider Vinegar for $3.35/ea.  Also on sale.  Seeing a trend here?  This is the only vinegar Hubby can have on his diet, and he LOVES vinegar stuff.

1 quart of food grade Vegetable Glycerine for $6.70.  I found a different brand locally for $8/pint, but didn't buy it, even when this didn't come last month when I tried ordering it.  I'd like to try it out in a laundry detergent recipe.

2 2-oz bottles Alcohol-Free Stevia Extract for $8.60/ea.  I like this stuff to sweeten my prenatal tea, and even though I just bought a bottle last month (and it'll last me a while), they're 15% off this month, so I'm stocking up.  The alcohol-version is cheaper, but I like this one.

2 14-oz cans of Organic, Lite Coconut Milk for 1.70/ea.  These go on sale sometimes, but not now.  Hubby enjoys it in some of his meals, and I use it for curries or stir frys (fries?) occasionally.  The un-Lite version hardly can be scooped from the can, and has about as many calories as Obama's deficit, hence our choice here.

That's it!  My order comes to about $135 this month, not counting the 8% I add to cover shipping/tax and whatnot.  I also order through another gal who runs a 'buy club' so I don't need to worry about extra charges if my order is too small.  I try to keep my monthly order about $100 or so, but there are several 'pantry stockup' items this time, and with Hubby's OT I have some leeway.

I order a lot of herbs/spices through them, especially when they go on sale, and one of my favorites is Oregon Spice's Ranch Dressing Mix (try finding one of those without MSG on your grocery store shelves!  Or one that tastes good from the health food store!).  I also buy organic whole wheat berries from Azure, as well as pearl barley, barley flakes (like oatmeal, only not), rye flakes (ditto), organic corn starch, pasta in bulk (comes in 10-lb boxes), salt, molasses (Hubby loves it), sorghum (Hubby again), frozen strawberries in bulk, produce wash from Biokleen (on sale for $3.50 sometimes, regularly $4.05 or so -- still cheaper than locally)... I've gotten beef gelatin, lecithin granules, seeds for the garden, essential oils, half-gallon canning jars, seasoning mixes, diatomaceous earth (for killing squash bugs, etc), unusual flours (barley, triticale, spelt, garbanzo bean, etc), organic popcorn, rice-, almond-, hazelnut-, oat milks (they're sometimes cheaper locally, though), and more.  Their fresh produce is available in season, and while it's often still quite expensive, organic apples get really cheap in the fall.

They also sell a lot of organic pre-made stuff, like canned vegetables, fruits, soups, boxed dinners, baking mixes, books, meat & dairy items, pet supplies, baby care items, and more.  I don't usually buy those things from them (or anywhere), so I don't know as much about price comparisons in those categories.

A note about sales:  They run for 2 months.  I get a sales catalog with every other order, alerting me to their new and on-sale items.  For example, June and July have the same items on sale, but August/September will have a new catalog.  Stocking up on sale items really helps keep things affordable, and sometimes there's even a treat to splurge on (organic root beer, anyone?)!  Their sales catalogs always include a recipe or two, and a kind of 'editorial' about some nutritional topic, or even political (food politics is something to keep up on!).

Finally, from what I gather, the people 'at the top' of this organization are wonderful, good people.  Christian even, I think.  They started selling their bulk grains off their farm decades ago, and it just grew from there; families requesting this or that item and they became a 'distribution warehouse' of sorts.  They do sell certain products, by request, that they wouldn't personally recommend (soy stuff, for instance), but they depend on their customer's being informed and using their own judgment, which appeals to my libertarian bent.

If you haven't checked them out, I encourage you to do so.  If you're local, contact me and I'd be happy to add your order to mine, and even pick it up!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Farm & Garden, June 2

In the garden:

All but 1 tomato plant are set out.  The 1 was the victim of the stroller-smashing accident, and when the whole thing was mostly busted off, I set it like a flower in a cup (a sippy cup, actually...).  It sprouted wonderful roots!  It's been hardening off on the porch, and hopefully I'll be feeling moveable enough to set it out today.  Total tomato plants will be 27.  The girls had messed with the plants, and several little packs of tomatoes were missing their labels, so I'm not sure what's out there.  I do have 3 "juliet" salad-style tomatoes, 3 "old german" stripey-lookin' things, 6 "mountain fresh" which I bought because they were tall and their tag had only a handwritten title, and no other information (I think that's why they were still available).  I called my neighbor and had her google them.  I also have 4 little bush-type plants, and I forgot their name (but the tag is in my apron pocket, I think).

The SFG holds 4 peppers, a huge bell, a 'chocolate' bell, a 'sweet cherry', and a 'garden salsa' - hot one.  I have 3 more of each Sweet Cherry and Garden Salsa with the tomatoes.  10 total pepper plants.

The onions in the SFG have sprouted!  The carrots are getting their first real leaves, if/when Organique will stop scooping out handfuls of dirt and seedlings.  I also don't like it when she scoops up 'weedy' garden dirt and adds it to the SFG.  Argh!  And I can never move fast enough to intercept...

The lettuces are getting bigger (again, the ones Organique hasn't uprooted to add to her 'soup').  The largest are maybe a fist-sized clump.  Not sure when I'll be able to bring myself to pluck any.  They're so pretty!

The SFG potatoes are really growing.  Four per square foot seems excessive to me, but maybe the fancy dirt makes up the difference?  I also have 5 garbage bags set in the ground with about 6 potatoes each.  They're beginning to sprout.  As are 5 little seedlings in a row across the surface of one... I'm not sure what they are or how they got there.  They look possibly like melon or squash, maybe even sunflowers.  Maybe I should transplant them...

The SFG has 7 cucumber plants.  I don't know if I'll get a trellis built, or let them wander off into the wilderness.  So far they haven't died, but they don't seem to be growing much either.

I have several herbs in the SFG.  Chives, sage, thyme, oregano, cilantro.  I started basil seeds, but they're not acting real hardy yet, and I don't know that they'll get there or not.  There are still a handful of empty squares that had assignments on paper, but not yet in reality.  I may change my mind.

Yet to do:

Set out pumpkin starts, zucchini (I found some eventually), yellow squash (I'll be hatin' the squash, huh?), and the butternut squash a friend gave me.  Of course, the sippy-cup tomato.

Have Hubby rototill a spot for the sweet corn he ordered.  So much to do on his off-time!  So little off-time to do it! :)

Critter-wise, most of the Mutants are still eating and drinking.  Hubby is on call this weekend, but Sundays are usually slow; maybe we can do it then (with the plucker!?!), or on Saturday evening if he's not too done-in.

The seven little white turkeys are alive and well, which surprised me some.  As soon as they could (and it was soon), they would jump up onto the edge of the bedliner/brooder, occasionally getting down to the ground.... the same ground the Meat Mutants occupied for some time.  Turkeys are susceptible to chicken germs or something like that, and I was worried.  Hubby never got around to moving the hoophouse, and eventually ALL of the turkeys made it down below, and there was no trying to capture all 7 every night to put them to bed.  They're still down there, knocking over their feed and water daily.

The 3 geese are quickly outgrowing the garden cart.  I'm not sure what to do with them yet.  They and the turkeys are both without heat lamps, after surviving one night where we forgot to plug it in.  I think that's always how that works out.  They're so big, but they're still 'babies' - 3 weeks old today, I think.  Their feathers are still the soft, fluffy kind, and they'd probably still be hawk-bait if they were somewhere exposed.  They LOVE green stuff, and eaven choked down several morning glory vines the girls tossed in.  They prefer alfalfa and clover, of course. :)  I'd like to know if they'll eat thistles...  Then I might know where to put them. :)  A guy at Hubby's work grew up eating farmyard geese, and warned him they were the greasiest meal he'd ever eat.  Sounds like a self-basting bird, to me!  I hope we like them.

Still to do:

Take the plucker shaft/flange back to the shop and have them figure out how to center the shaft.  The guy got it off a bit, and the balance just won't work that way.

Get the plucker operational (it should be, after putting the shaft back on) and kill the Meat Mutants.

Find a better home for the geese.  They're still too small to stay inside field fencing, I think, and I'm not sure if poultry netting will keep them in (it's not electrified).

Maybe kill a rooster.  One or two of our four are a bit too aggressive.  Organique ended up with a scratch on her hand due to one of them.  Too bad he's the prettiest.  The big Light Brahma is really mellow, as is the Buff Orpington.  It's the Brown Leghorn and the Black Australorp that are problematic.

Fix the shed to keep chickens out, and fix the coop to keep chickens in.  That way we can find their eggs!  And my porch will be more presentable...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Plucker Problems, Part 2

Be warned: this is a long, rambly post. But there are pictures.

See here for part 1.

Every day I seem to pass a new threshold. "Wow, I've never worked this hard." "Wow, I've never worked this long." "Wow, I've never hurt this much."

I didn't mention it in Part 1, but I've definitely been over-doing it. Which means I'm either stupid, or wimpy... Wimpy, because I DO manage to keep going, but then 'pay' for it so much later, or stupid for even trying. Maybe both?

Sunday morning I ran to the farm store for *more* bolts (man, I'm getting to be a bolt expert, lemme tell ya), an electrical plug (to wire up the motor), and something pipe-like into which a 3/8" bolt can fit, as a hinge-mount thing. Hubby managed to figure out a way to make the motor adjustable, so as to keep tension on the belt. I forgot to check for a belt.

I ran home and loaded everyone up for church (*gasp* yes, we were going to make it to church again, finally). Organique fell asleep right about the time we pulled into the parking lot (so not good), and managed to disrupt us and the rest of the congregation several times that morning. *sigh*

She fell asleep when Hubby finally took her out of the building (and into her carseat), leaving me and at least one other daughter to listen to the rest of the sermon in peace. On the way home we went to the farm store again because I had gotten bolts with smaller threads than we needed, plus, Hubby needed to look for the belt.

They don't have belts there.

NOWHERE else is open in our little town on Sunday.

We went home, I made a peanut-butter type of milkshake and ran out the door, so tired, sore, and achy from the goings on of the past days, but *someone* had to find a belt for this thing, and *someone else* had to weld makeshift hinges. The latter would not be me. Pregnant lady with a miter saw, yes. With a mig or tig or wire-feed or stick-welder? Not so much. I don't even know which kind(s) we have, or which he used.

At this point I also fielded a knock at my door from the mother/inlaw of my neighbors wanting to learn about keifer. I tried to be relaxed as I kicked dirty diapers and mismatched shoes out of the direct area of the front door. There wasn't much I could do about the beach umbrella, overturned garbage can full of moldy banana peels, soggy beach towel, or chicken poop she already had to step over just to knock on the door. Did I mention I've been busy with other projects lately? I gave her my email address as it was obvious we were on a time-sensitive mission, and I had no time to spare discussing the how-to's of keifer. Besides, among the cluttered counter she might have seen the jar of keifer that has likely morphed into something very wrong and terrible.

Also we got a phone call from our cousin. He wanted to inform us of the Sunday-night bible study/fellowship they were having at 6:30, which I *always* want to go to and we've only made it once. I explained our current project and problems, and the slight likelihood that we'd make it, though I wanted to. I was already about to run to Town for a belt. Hubby had run back to the farm store to get a metal-cutting saw blade (those hinges, you know), and probably a couple more times for bolts. Lock washers. A 3/4" spade bit. Gas. A few minutes after hanging up the phone, the cousin called back.

"How would you guys feel about our having fellowship out at your place, and helping you out?" (they sometimes do service-style gatherings, helping out this family or that with just everything.)

"Um... you know we plan on killing chickens, right?"

"Yeah, that's a big job. I'll call everyone."

After about 50 more clarifications, and a discussion with Hubby, the plan was set. How did I feel about having "fellowship" out here? Fine. How did I feel about the spilled cherry juice all over the dining room floor (that was also serving as glue to hot-pink post-it notes that wouldn't sweep up), or the 38 loads of laundry that needed washed and/or dried and/or folded and/most/definitely put away? Not so fine. How did I feel about asking other people to deal with the most nastiest of jobs that was my choice, my responsibility, my chore, and for my benefit? Terrible. Hideous. Deep breath; *I* wasn't really asking them. Crazy Cousin was. Deep breath again. Fold some laundry. Find some chidren to put it away. Run around giving to-do lists to everyone, so I could go find that darn belt. Decide that the freshly-spilled peanut-butter milkshake that slid off the table with the fresh tablecloth that didn't make it all the way on wasn't going to make much difference, what with the juice and post-it's. Dry Big Sister's tears and get her some more milkshake. Have I mentioned I haven't done much cooking lately?

I stopped at Cousin's to load up his weird little trimmer-mower that he is letting us 'borrow' and 'store' (we love that kind of arrangement), and then hoof it to the auto parts store. It was somewhat closer than Lowe's. Hubby had warned me, though. We needed a 64" long, 1/2" wide v-belt, but most places weren't geared to find it. "They're going to want the year, make, and model so they can look up a part number... You might have better luck at Lowe's." While I hobbled and waddled around the sorely-understaffed-on-a-Sunday-afternoon auto store, I couldn't find any belts displayed. I asked a guy that was picking through a tiny drawer of tiny brass bits if they kept the v-belts hidden away, and he said yes, and he'd help me shortly. While I waited and ached, I tried to access one of their computers, but when I clicked on belts, nothing happened. I snooped around more, and found a phone book and called Lowe's (after I saved the # in my phone). Right around the time the Lowe's guy answered, another clerk materialized and offered to help me. Of course. The Lowe's guy finally informed me that the biggest belt they had for a mower deck was 52". Not good. The auto guy was helping someone else by now, so I called Hubby. I don't know why, but I did. Finally, the auto guy was within my sights, and I asked about the length of belts they had, and he pulled out a ginormous thing. We kindof measured it with a tape measure, and deduced that it was far bigger than I needed. Eventually he discovered that there was a little number code for each belt, and some of the numbers indicated length, in inches. Ah, yes. Experts abound. The bad news: no 64" belts. The good news: some were longer. The bad news: no 'universal' belts Hubby had described. The good news: 70" might work. The bad news: darn, it's a 5/8" belt. The worse news: there were no half-inch belts that would come close. Another call to Hubby, "would v-belts with little teeth cut into them work ok?" The good news: Yes. The better news: a half-inch one in the neighborhood of 68" was located. I'll take it! And after wondering what this all-important item would set me back (after the hundreds already invested), the best news: $6.99. Thank you, Lord!

I headed home to wash dishes and put away groceries bought on Thursday (have I mentioned I haven't done much housekeeping lately?), and have girls hang out laundry, and when a storm blew in, to bring in laundry. And then put away laundry. Hubby had the hinges finished, and put the belt on, then we wedged the angled part of a sawed-off fence post (because we're particular at times like this) under the motor to create that tension. Temporarily, of course (yeah, right).

He wired on the plug, and gave 'er power... Ta-da!, it whirled! Of course, the work wasn't done, because we wanted a circular plate. I found the lathe woodworking tools, and my first contact with the plastic bent the tool, dug a deep (but not deep enough) cut into the edge, and nearly took my arm off. Hmm.. We tried a file, a belt-sander, and more, and eventually returned to the woodworking tools, with Hubby and his Muscles in charge. It worked much better this way. We got it nearly circular, to discover that the wobble won't go away because the metal fabricator guy (who charges $75/hr!) didn't center the flange on the shaft right, and it's off-balance. Believe me, as soon as I can, you know, walk, and bend over, and move again, I'm going to tear that sucker apart and take it back for a re-do.

Cousin showed up "dressed to kill."
Note the carcass of the trampoline in the background.
The Cousins showed up, with their "piece of crap mower" (i.e. old beater good for mowing weeds) and their kids (at least one of whom is old enough and savvy enough to run said mower), as did a handful of bachelor-types. Later another family. Hubby now had to weld some sort of stop on his drill bit, so we could make a counter-sink for the finger-holes in the plate. And I had to access the geometry section of my brain to figure out the spacing for these holes. It was truly miraculous. Or not. I had help.

Yes, that's a roll of shop towels.
No, those nice fingernails and fancy bracelet make it obvious that that's not *my* hand.
The plucker wasn't going to be operational fast enough anyway, so I got out the axe...

And handed it to Cousin.

Nothing like a service project where you end up covered in blood spatter. That, my friends, is service. Love. Sacrifice... in a very Old-Testament-y way.

Cousin's Boy really got into it. He's a big helper already, and not even 11.

He chopped. Kids gasped. Others cheered.

Organique was not among the cheering.
Rabbit trail: Three days ago Little Artist was nearly crying, because she wanted to keep one of the white chickens. That she loved them. She didn't want them to die. Yesterday she greeted the Cousins in the driveway with a gleeful clasping of her hands, and exclaimed, "we're going to butcher chickens!" She was quite disappointed when the event didn't materialize on Saturday. Later, she emerged from the chicken pen with her own chicken, telling me that she wanted to chop the head off this one, but she'd use the "little axe." How does this happen? Is it that we don't do the normal diversions of ballet classes, or video games? Good heavens.

I set about to scalding and handing out rubber gloves to willing pluckers (Hubby was still drilling holes and countersinks in the garage, the lucky guy). We didn't get to them all, indeed at 10:00 pm, by the (head)lights of an old suburban-type-vehicle pulled up onto the lawn (yep, we classy), I had eviscerated 8 of the 9 dead (having my guests pluck was asking enough, don't you think?), leaving Hubby to clean the last one, as well as his beloved gizzards, while I made my way to the house with Organique, who was ready for her dinner and bedtime (yep, we also great parents). Oh. I. Hurt. Every step. Every movement. Feet, legs, hips, back. Ouuuuchhh...

We talked and fellowshipped (which I loved) while I played the part of crummy hostess (which I didn't love - "oh, can I feed your kids some almost-warm casserole, in which there *might* be glass shards, but I think I got most of them out?").** I drug myself to bed about 12:30 or shortly thereafter, and Hubby made it up around 1:00 after getting some of his tools sorted out and put away. He got up before 5:00 a.m., and I was up about 6:30. This morning I feel like I usually only feel at the end of the day. Maybe worse. This will be the first Monday in months that I haven't washed the sheets, but I just can't do it. Hubby's work clothes will be the most I manage today. And I suppose I should cook.

And let me tell you more about what happened yesterday. Before the sun went down, Cousin and his Boy mowed a huge portion of my garden. I know, that sounds dire, but when I say "garden" I basically mean the fenced-in weeds, where I also have my SFG boxes and tomato plants (soon the squash and pumpkins, I hope?). Their Boy, and the boys of the other family also mowed a huge 'field' area. By "field" I mean the weeds not fenced-in. The neighbors love us, as you can imagine. In the morning's light, it looks SO NICE. I can walk through that part of the garden and maybe even be able to see what I'm tripping on! The cheet grass is there, but it's short and won't tickle my legs. It looks... tended, if a field of weeds can look so. ALSO, Cousin's new career (HVAC stuff) netted him a 1.5 ton window a/c unit which he completely refurbished and redid, and then GAVE to us. Some of the guys installed that sucker in the family room window, building a stand from extra lumber I bought cheap at Lowe's last week (Thank you Lord, again!) and some cinder blocks. Wow!

Can you believe I'm still not to the most incredible part of this story? See, Cousin is the pastor of the church we used to go to. The 'fellowship/bible study' is almost entirely made up of people who attend that church. Do you get that? We do not attend his church. We don't tithe there, or anything else. Service. Love. Sacrifice. Now, we obviously are still quite involved with many of them (we're related to a good portion, obviously), and our not attending there is not some vengeful axe to grind (hmm.. axe..). And I love, LOVE Christians living out Life across those traditional "boundaries." Where "church" isn't limited to Sunday mornings in a certain building, but that as we gather and serve, the "Church" is uplifted. This Sunday evening fellowship (and chicken slaughter/home improvement when appropriate) is the best example of that that I've seen in a long time. Maybe ever.

How do you repay that? Should you even try? A batch of cookies, organic or otherwise, is hardly sufficient. A chicken dinner probably not entirely welcome just yet. Hehe. Since I'm not exactly functional today, my gratitude is expressed in thanks to God. That HE has ordained believers to serve one another and provides people to lean on (not just in an ethereal, emotional sense) when you would NEVER even THINK of ASKING for it. And asking God to enable me to do the same for others.

**Okay, this was one of those "for after baby" meals that just didn't make it till then. One day, while retrieving something from the chest freezer in the basement, Big Sister balanced the frozen dish on the corner while she rummaged, knocking the 9x13 pyrex dish to the floor, and breaking off a good portion of the glass. I rewrapped it as-was in plastic wrap, and just put it back in the freezer. As I defrosted/chiseled the remaining casserole-dish off the frozen meal, I realized some of the *ice* crystals weren't, but decided it wasn't going to waste, either way. This was before I knew we'd have a pile of people over, and once I did know, there was no time to cook. *sigh*

Plucker Problems

It's been a busy week, this past one.  We (I) have spent most days running around for the all-important parts to our chicken plucker project.  Spending more $$ on the project than I thought was possible.  Last Tuesday our online-ordered parts came in, and the local tool shop worked on a shaft for it, and drilled a bigger hole in a too-small pulley we were going to use.  $110 for the 'right size' was just NOT the 'right price'.  I ordered bearings that were to be delivered to the shop around lunchtime on Friday.

Friday I spent nearly all day in the garage.  I REALLY wanted a pile of dead chickens on Saturday, and REALLY didn't want to hand-pick them, so I had Hubby set up the miter saw for me in the driveway before he left for work at dark-thirty.

There's nothing like the sight of a big pregnant lady wielding power tools in the garage, I tell ya.  Too bad there was no one to take a picture (actually, I'm sure I don't regret that circumstance). I measured and sawed and used my cordless drill and even the drill press.  I found a little ratcheting wrench-y thing (at least, I think that's what it was called) to attach bolts and nuts, and only sometimes had to call Hubby and say, "do the washers go on the bolt side or the nut side?"  It was a good thing I called.

But - I built the frame!  All by myself.  And a few other things, like marking the tub for the fingers (re-re-remarking, I should say).

I went to the local tool place to 'get my bearings' (haha) just before they closed at 5, and guess what... Mr. Delivery Man, who called from 2 hours away that morning to say he'd be there, had NOT shown up.  NO, they were not open Saturday, and NO they didn't have his number so I could go accost him on the freeway.

So I bought another kind, some sideways bearings, for half the price, but double the required brainpower to install.  *sigh*

Hubby got home just before 9 pm, and busied himself for too many hours after HIS brainpower was used up.  That is, the next morning I was surprised to see that he'd (tried to) cut a circle from our HDPE plastic, and mount the shaft in the center.  In the dark.  After working 12+ hours, etc, etc.  It wasn't terrible, but I needed to find a new 'middle' and mark it appropriately, again.  Hubby now needed to figure out how to mount the bearings, shaft/plate, and motor, so we could get this "circle" spinning and whittle down the edges to the right size/shape.  No easy task.

I had mentioned off-hand in an email to a friend, "your husband doesn't happen to have a 14" pulley laying around, does he?"

Turns out he did, and was able to drill a 1" hole in it for the shaft - at a great price (free).  This I got from them on Saturday night, after working alternately with Hubby in the garage (those rubber fingers are SO HARD to install!), and killing myself in the garden.  

I always kill myself in the garden; why is that?  I must be very weak.  Though I did get all of the tomatoes (28ish?) and the rest of the peppers (6) planted, and the rest of my weed-tarp stuff laid out.  It was only about 95 degrees.  Organique joined me for a time, and sullied my warm square-foot-garden water with square-foot-garden dirt (which isn't so bad, since it goes back in there anyway), used a little juice jug to water one particular square foot of potatoes - a lot, drank some of it, scooped a handful of dirt and seedlings from a carrot square :(, dug up a red lettuce (which I found in the same bucket on Sunday and replanted), and sullied the water with regular dirt.  This was bad.  Regular dirt = weed seeds = not going into my SFG.  Then she dipped her head into the mucky mess, just because.

We ended the day still needing a belt for the plucker, a way to keep tension on it, the plate made circular, holes drilled, fingers installed, etc.  And no dead chickens.

Stay tuned for the best part of the story...