Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shoe Drama

The other weekend, while I had water boiling but no husband to kill chickens, I decided to tackle the back side of the front door.  That is, the little space that is behind the door when the door is open.  It had become very scary back there.  

The width of the area is about 3 feet; when the door is open it's completely obscured (too bad I can't host company with the door always open).  It's about 5 feet deep, but the back 18" or so is a set of plastic garage-style shelves, which fit - TIGHTLY - in the spot.  These hold boxes of seasonal stuff (like a bike helmet, garden hat and gloves, scarves, etc), a carseat, random mess that gets tossed that direction...  Once upon a time it held some bins labeled nicely with the names of my offspring.  The wall along the right is coats.

But when the floor between you and the bin is knee-deep in boots, shoes, coats, gloves, scarves (someone dug through a box), sandals, slippers, socks, swimming suits (?), an umbrella stroller, a beach umbrella, dirt, grime, and spiders... well, you abandon the bin in favor of the "toss and walk" method.  Which oppresses this mama.  

I began my excavation expedition, and before long no one could get into the hallway, up the stairs, in or out the front door...  I sorted JUST kid shoes, and my exasperation was palpable.  How is it, with only three, THREE, (3!) children who can even walk!, that I had some sixty (SIXTY, 60!)- ish! pairs of shoes represented!?!??!  I say "represented" because, well, never mind.

It's a good thing we don't have near neighbors, because I wedged the front door open and pitched many pairs and representative-of-pairs out the front door, not altogether silently.  The children ducked, then gathered them into vehicles of disposal without question.  At least, without question once they saw my steely jaw.

[Steely jaw?  What is that, anyway?  I guess I'm the Shoe Terminator.]

I filled most of the stairs, lining up pairs and assigning a "size" to each stair.  And Little Artist is still perplexed by her size 12, and her BIG sister's size 2.  Then I went and stole some of Hubby's boot boxes, and put a size or three in each.

Here is the box for size 3 and 4.  The pair in the top center was Big Sister's first pair of shoes.  Baby wore them the other day.

I bothered to take such a silly picture - of each box - because I then printed out a very poor black-and-white copy of them, which I taped to the outside of the appropriate box, marking the size with a Sharpie.

I made one box for slippers, since they are seasonal and we'll just dig into that and figure out what fits who each fall.   I did the same with our modest assortment of rubber/winter boots.

I also kept a box of "orphan" shoes (a.k.a. "representatives") on the shelf of things I was certain (or at least hoping) had mates around (and yes, some of them have been reunited!).  The "currently in use" shoes got a new home in a 3-drawer sterilite contraption.  So far it's working to a point; the point being when anyone bothers to get their shoes in that general direction, they end up in the drawers.  But that's only when they aren't dropped in the bathroom or bedroom or living room or porch or chicken coop or...

[Yes, oddly enough, I often find Organique's shoes in there.  Right next to the busted eggshells.  :]  For awhile she enjoyed knocking the cinderblock and board off the feeder, and climbing in to feel the feed with her toes, I guess!]

So now we have most of the shoes put up where moth and rust might destroy, but probably not the progeny.  And they were definitely the bigger threat.  :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Canaan Cultural Education

I was able to hear someone talk about homeschooling a bit ago, and while it's a subject I *do* read about and think about frequently, I had a new idea.

It's these doggone cultural assumptions we operate under.  We don't even know we're under them, but we are.

The speaker was (I think, if I recall correctly) addressing the "send your little kids as missionaries" plan that some Christian parents have when choosing public education.  He was quoting scripture in reference to the subject, and the "new" idea (which probably isn't new at all, but it was new to me!) that struck me was to assign our modern reasons for public school to Old Testament Israel.  There are some parallels; they were entering a land that was entirely populated with very UNgodly practices (have you been on a school bus lately?).  Babies sacrificed (abortion tolerated, promoted), all kinds of wickedness (Washington DC?), giant mutant offspring of who-knows-what (okay, maybe not a similarity :) ).  Yet God wanted them to keep HIS ways, and maintain HIS system of family and government and life.  I just wonder what we would think today, were we to open up the bible and read something like this:

"And the wives said unto their husbands that each was not sure she had the patience to put up with their children every day, that if they were going to live in Canaan, the children should be exposed to the ways and workings of Canaanite culture.  After all, they had to learn to deal with it sometime.  And there was not a wife that was sure she had the skills to equip the children for adulthood on her own.  To this end the husbands, safely trusting in their wives, inquired about options for their children's education, and found  nearby locations where Canaanite children were instructed in the ways of their culture for several hours each day.  Each man saw this would certainly relieve his wife of her struggles and also expose their children to the system they'd have to operate in.  Because the instructors seemed very nice, and were probably experts at turning out good Canaanites, the fathers of most of the children in the nation of Israel enrolled their children."

Now, I understand that it's not exactly the same.  We truly are to make disciples, where Israel was not commanded such (though it was obviously an option, e.g. Rahab).  But while these situations are more than common today, what do you suppose the rest of the Bible would look like had the Israelites done this?  They were easily persuaded to other gods and religions as it was, imagine if their children endured such a daily "education!"  From this vantage point, it's easy for me to say, "um yeah!  There's no way the nation would've stood long doing that to upcoming generations."  Yet we rarely look ahead like that in our own families.  We are concerned about today, even this year, and maybe our kids as adults, but that's about the extent of it.  I know, I know, Jesus could return any minute and that could kindof changes the game (maybe), but what if He doesn't?  What if it's another few generations before that happens?  WHO do we want to have in that generation?  And... What can we do about it, today?  The answers to these questions are some of the reasons we home educate.

I admit to being completely biased for home schooling.  I don't think it's a black-and-white sin if you don't, but I sure wish more Christians questioned the cultural assumptions of this world, of their churches, of their families.  I wish every public or private school parent looked at it this hard, and came to their decision by answering these kinds of questions, and not just by default, or through fear, convenience, or cultural pressure.  [By the way, I also don't want home school parents to come to their choice through fear, convenience, or pressure either. :) ]

Israel's future would have been drastically affected had they, as a people, gone with the influences of the ungodly cultures around them.  The bible is full of accounts where they DID do that, in certain instances, and it wasn't without serious consequence.  It certainly can't go much better for us, if we also immerse our children in the same.

Whatever we do, we should do it with informed conviction.  And NOT "go with the flow" just because it's easier.  If you're not raising children of your own right now, take opportunities to encourage parents to question and pray through their educational choices.  Encourage them to make a choice they can be wholly committed to.  A choice their great-grandchildren can call blessed. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Stephanie at Keeper of the Home is launching her new website, Saving Naturally, and also celebrating her 1000th blogpost with a whole bunch o' giveaways this week.

Here are a few so far:

Eden Cloth Diapering Giveaway 

Marie Madeline Studio Giveaway

Homestead Blessings DVD set + $25 gift certificate

Each and every one of these would be welcome in *this* household.  Go sign up if they'd be handy in yours too!

Oh, and don't miss this one!!  9-tray Excalibur Dehydrator!  I'm saving up for one of these...!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Broiler Cost Breakdown 2010

last year's naked chicken

Before we get to the numbers...

We had to delay our chicken processing until Sunday, as Hubby's "on call" Saturday turned into one 12-hour workday.

To set the stage:  We have never managed to process all our birds on a single day.  Sometimes we split it between weekend days, other times we do all the big ones, then a week later do the rest.  And I think the most we've raised to slaughter was 35.

Oh. My. Gosh.  Let's just say I am so sore, the kids are sunburned, and the place hasn't even really been cleaned up yet.  I was done in long before all the chickens were.

Oh, and two more killed themselves on Saturday!  I told you they're suicidal.  After such a great record though, I tried not to get too upset.  One more keeled over by Sunday morning.  But, I was even glad, by the end, that I didn't have to eviscerate the beasts.  Even lifting my fork, to eat dinner at 8:30, was enough to send some of my back muscles into spasms.  Ouch!

We had a hard time with their wings breaking; usually the left one and usually when they started flapping as their nervous system discharged.  In fact, we even had two whose wings had broken earlier in life.  This was so heartbreaking to me.  One even had a spot where the bone was actually sticking out through the skin.  Both had a terrible knot of tissue and bruising in the area, and they were both among the very smallest birds.  I don't know how they didn't get infection and die (I did cut the problem wing off each carcass; the rest of each looked fine, if small).  I wasted one of Hubby's precious gizzards when I busted a gallbladder over it, and then another when I did the same inside the chicken.  I know this is BAD.  But I hosed the bird off well and quickly, and it looked fine, so we bagged it up...  I'll let you know this year if we find out it wasn't ok. :)

When it was all said and done, we had 42 chickens in the freezer.  Seven more than last year.  And about 45 total lbs more, at 226.5 lbs***.

Average weight per bird:      5.4 lbs
Range:                                  3.5 - 6.5 lbs
Mode:                                   5.75 lbs
Median:                                5.75 lbs

Cost (unlike last year, taxes are included in these figures):

50 vaccinated chicks:                    31.80
6 lbs unmedicated starter                6.34
50 lbs organic chick starter:          29.43
500 lbs game bird conditioner*   110.13
150 lbs organic grower:               88.29

wood shavings:                           10.ish**
light bulbs:                                    6.ish**

Total investment:                     $281.99

Price per lb of semi-organic chicken:  1.24/lb  [1.17 before sales tax]

I'm worried I lost a receipt, because apparently we used more feed last year.  These did seem to eat more grass and bugs, and we kept feed from them on occasional half days to facilitate scavenging, so perhaps that is the difference?  We also added apple cider vinegar to their water, but not routinely, and not at all after we made the self-waterer.

This price is just under last year's cost of $1.25/lb before sales tax.  We got a lot more this year, so input costs were higher, but mostly due to splurging on four bags of organic feed (by the way, we fed them the starter as soon as we got it from Azure, then saved the grower for their last days.).

Things I might do differently in the future:

NOT process all of them on one day.  I know others do it better and faster (Joel Salatin for one!), but as fast as I feel I am, i's still a long day.  Especially when there are kids to feed, baby to nurse, etc.  Maybe we could do 30, and then 30 more, in separate ages/batches.  This might cause a housing problem, however, if they overlap.  Barring that, taking two days or two weekends might be a better plan.  This year's schedule didn't allow for either of those options, but I don't want to allow that again.  :)

Inspect the flock more often and more closely.  It's a shame they're so weak that they can break wings in daily life, but there is no sense allowing them to suffer.

Use vinegar more routinely.  I hear it helps mineral absorption, as well as staving off certain health problems.  Not sure that's what helped this year, as I didn't remember to start using it until 3 weeks in or so.

If I can get at least 2 meals per bird, that's 84 meals taken care of for the year (well, except for the cooking, of course).  I can usually manage that easily, plus making stock, though the little ones might not go as far.

So yes, I'm still glad we did it. :)

*I chose game bird conditioner as it was high in protein like a chick grower, not medicated, and easier to distinguish from our hen feed. 

**I didn't really keep these records, but realized I considered these costs last year, so I'm adding them here again.  I am not counting the price of the chicken waterer (someday I'll get those pics on here), because that will be used and reused for the hens, turkeys, or other future feathered livestock.

***These numbers seem confusing, because 45 lbs of chicken among seven chickens is over six pounds each.  We did have some that size, but no more in proportion to last year's harvest.  I think perhaps my eviscerating is becoming less wasteful; keeping neck skin, belly fat, etc. intact instead of taking the time to trim it.  Hubby also did more eviscerating last year, and he takes longer and cuts differently, I think tossing more out than I.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chicken Day 2010

Today is the day.  Forty-three (or so) chickens are scheduled to stop their eating and create some eating for others (me).  This is a record, I think (I'll have to look up last year's blogpost on the subject).  Seems we've lost far fewer birds this year than usual.  One to a toddler, another on day 2 for unknown reasons, one more shortly after, I think, 3 to cold while we were gone, 1 to a predator.  None to sickness or infection that we can tell, though I was thinking one was gonna kick the bucket a while ago; it's comb and wattle was purple, and it was always wheezing.  I can't spot it lately, so maybe it recovered...?

I have my hand-me-down overalls on, so I'm well prepared.  There are some glitches already; Hubby is on call and has been called out to at least 2 service calls so far.  Baby has been fine tuning her nighttime routine, which includes SUDDENLY waking every 2-3 hours and shrieking/screeching at the top of her lungs.  There seems to be nothing wrong, and she mostly settles after I pick her up or nurse her, but it doesn't make for a very restful night for either of us.  She's actually a bit hoarse this morning!

Worse-case scenario we have to put it off until tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Coop Culprit

Oh my grubby little angel.

There once was a little girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead...
When she was good she was very good, but when she was bad she was horrid..

I distinctly remember someone saying that poem to me when I was just a tot.  I glared as hard as I could and brushed the curl back with each repetition of the rhyme. :)  But!  I was NOT often very bad.  At least not like some members of this household.

I crack uh eggs, Mama.

Lots of them.  Every day.  We need a strait jacket, or a chicken-operable-only door, or I don't know what.

I sah-wy...

I know.  So am I.  But that doesn't seem to stop you.  I wonder if this is how God feels about me.  Me:  Always sorry, never stopping.

'Give me?

Yes.  *sigh*  I forgive you.  Please stop cracking the eggs.

Okay, Mama.  I will stop [for today].

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Egg-citing Times

We're getting there.  We've had the strangest weather; cool, wet, windy, stormy.  It's almost as though spring (the crummy side of its personality) refuses to give way.  Usually we enjoy several warm "summery" days in May - most of them, even, but not so this year.  We've had a scant handful of decent days, weather-wise.

The good side of this is that I can blame my late-as-always gardening on the strange conditions.  The bad side is, well, we're still waiting to get going on summertime.

A light brahma hen in the coop.

We have had egg issues lately.  Some probably stemming from our being out of town for four days (they missed us!), the several dark, cloudy days might've contributed to a slow-down in egg production, and Organique sneaking out to the henhouse many days running certainly affected what we brought into the kitchen.  (No, the ornery hen did NOT toss every egg about the place all by herself.)

We're finally swinging back into things after locking the chickens in (and Organique out) for half a day.  Hubby also found about 18 eggs in a nest - they were not being set upon, and they were still fairly fresh, so they were not lost.  Of course, all this happened the day after I made my last run to town, and couldn't share these with a dear friend who buys from us.  I felt so bad about the broken eggs, and not having any to take her that I put five (all I had!) into an egg carton and delivered them to her at no charge.  Just in case she had some baking to do, you know?  :)  Going back to weak, white eggs with pale yolks would probably be extreme torture to their family at this point!  It would be for me...

This is Big Ed.  He does not lay eggs.  But since I couldn't find my favorite egg photo... :)

Paperdoll Giveaway


They look lovely, and better yet; were created by two Christian home school sisters!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


No, it's not all done.  *gulp*

But it's been a weird, cool, rainy spring/summer/winter (there was some 16" of new snow in May in mountains not far from here).  So it's not like I'm late, meteorologically speaking.  Let's hope October's frost follows the same timeline...

MOST of it is done, however.  I thought it took me a long time to poke some 700ish holes in this garden box.


And then I realized I was wrong!  It DIDN'T take me very long at all.  I realized this as I was pinching two carrot seeds into each hole.  THAT took some time.  Followed by anguished wailing for a chiropractor.  But alas, none could hear me.

Tomatoes.  Organique walking along the pole beans.

I've put in 30 tomato plants, which is about 1/3 of what I'd like, but I do have to do laundry and nurse the baby and keep the 2-year-old on a leash, so I tried to be reasonable.  I think I have "Big Beef," "Beefmaster," "Old German," "Roma," one "Early Girl," and two "Sweet 100" cherry tomatoes.  Oops, I'm missing one...  "Brandywine."  I put in about as many peppers; mostly Anaheim Chiles for my Diced Green Chile experiment, a couple bell peppers, and a few jalapeƱos.  There are cukes, and beans along a trellis - soon to be some along a teepee - and corn.  An open-pollinated, heirloom sweet corn.  There might be Sweet Meat Squash put in soon.

Mostly tomatoes on the left, chiles on the right.

I reused much of this black plastic from last year.  Hubby has done most of the rototilling, so I am assigning blame to him when it comes to the geyser that erupted from the corn patch when I attempted to turn on the water to the garden. :)  He fixed it already though.

I'm hoping for a blessed harvest, and praying against the weeds...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Busy Little Man

I mentioned earlier that we took a trip for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary.  It was a lot of work, and couldn't have come at a busier time in the year, but it was a wonderful celebration.  I got to play photographer, and could make a book out of one sequence of shots.

The site was a simple lodge-style community hall near a park, which was filled with rented tables, chairs, linens, and china.  Everyone was seated at their tables, my folks entered, and a dear friend/pastor shared some words about love and commitment.  My folks took turns declaring the same to each other, but there was an element not typical to most 25th-anniversary gatherings:

The little hand you see belongs to my step-brother's son, who will be three in a few months, and he loves his grandma. :)  My parents have guardianship of him and his 8-year-old sister and have taken care of them for over a year now.  He did NOT want to be separated from her.

Here he is giving me the evil eye after I took an opportunity to try and get him back to his chair.  The flailing and squalling that ensued convinced me to stick to my camera duties.

He was content to stand holding their hands for about 4 seconds...

But, then he remembered his new shoes!

So much to do up in the middle of everyone!

Oh, the laces are new too..

I didn't post the ones where he was trying to kick over the mic stand, or the ones where Grandpa had to hold it down with his foot...

Oh, there he thought he'd try again..  He was demanding cake by this point!

Yep, he's a little whippersnapper.