Thursday, March 27, 2008

Anticipation, part II

The chicks have been delayed for a week, due to poor hatching. *sigh*

The only good news is that the weather is decent, and yesterday at afterschool I got to watch Emily showing other kids her favorite grapevines to swing on, and building something between a stick fort and a tent. I'm still not feeling great (bronchitis lingering, despite me finally resorting to antibiotics), but we are all enjoying more outside time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


All week, in addition to waiting for my husband to bring the camera home so I could post a photo of the coop (still waiting!), I have been thinking of posting. I have felt like I did back in 1998, when I was in the first weeks of our first pregnancy, unable to contact any old friends or correspond on a routine basis until it was time to tell "the news".

We are awaiting the arrival of 25 newborn chicks - yes, an overabundance - Banties, a straight mixed-breed run (hens and roosters, since Banty newborns are too small to determine gender), meaning that the roosters will have to go live out their dotage with my in-laws (who love chickens also). They should come late Tuesday or early Wednesday. I hope it doesn't sound cruel that I hope to end up with 2-3 chickens per child; we tried chickens (with 3 pullets) last fall but they all died or escaped our care soon after. But ask me again, in August, if 25 was too many and I promise to answer honestly.

For now, that's all. I have a brooder bulb, thermometer, cage, and pine chips ready in the garage. I'm tired, and recovering from what must have been at least bronchitis, but with a feeling in my stomach that might be like a chick, pecking to get out of its egg. It's butterflies, but somehow, that isn't the right taxon tonight.

More soon.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

First crocus, chicken dreams

After the rude awakening of returning to Pittsburgh after semi-tropical Florida, we've really enjoyed some nice weather here this week. I am loving the long days and the lure of the garden. I already have enough seed packets that planting them would require more than double the garden space I have available.

Today I'm working on making a chicken house from recycled kitchen cabinets and window screens (I promise photos when I'm done). Total materials so far: 1 $10 kitchen cabinet, 2 small shutters (for ladders), 4 large window screens, 6 linoleum tiles (for roof pieces, though I found something better in our garage) - total cost (at Construction Junction): $28. Of course, it is all worthless if the coop doesn't work, but given that I found $1000 chicken houses on-line last night, I think this is at least a good start with the money supporting a store I really like. Given that I'm no carpenter, this promises to at least be creative. Functional? I guess we'll find out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Not Disney

We just got back from four days in Florida. One day hunting for fossil shark teeth at Venice Beach (we found far more waves than teeth, but lots of good shells). One day seeing manatees and tropical birds at Homosassa Springs, where the shoreline is all mangrove forest and wetland. One day in Ocala National Forest, a rainy day when we had 2 state parks entirely to ourselves for snorkeling in crystal blue water. And our last day near Tampa, on Honeymoon Island, where we saw dolphins and ospreys and braved fierce winds for as long as we could stand it. The weather wasn't perfect, in the normal sense of the word.

But perfect sometimes isn't 75 and sunny. After day one, despite our efforts at sunscreen, all of us had at least one red spot, and I'm glad to say the girls had less sunburn than either of their parents. And we had two perfect, crystal-blue springs entirely to ourselves - so isolated I changed into my swimsuit next to a picnic table. The rain cleared just enough, each time, to give us the illusion of ownership in a place where ownership should have no meaning. Our only company in the springs were blue crabs, gorgeous fish (I don't know my fish at all!), moorhens, great egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, kingfishers, and a green-backed heron. Admission was $4 a person, and the pair of masks and snorkels $20. We had our own Disney princess towels packed for after swimming, a sight that amused me each time we emerged from the water to head out on a hike.

Disney, and other amusement parks, were just signs on the road for us. I know that we've damaged our daughters' social skills and cultural literacy, and I hear that Disney really does host a wonderful, relaxing vacation. We stayed in two questionable hotels, and we had to buy local maps for navigation, especially with the sometimes torrential rains on days 2-3. I've only been to Disney once myself, during a national academic team competition when I was 17 - and I actually really enjoyed it. But this year, we wanted to introduce Hazel to the ocean, and to remember a similar trip taken when Emily was just over a year old. We wanted to spend four days outside, at a time of year when a day outdoors in Pittsburgh tends to invite a day spend inside to recover from the cold and wet snow clothes. Disney can wait.

Monday, March 3, 2008

First spring day

It isn't the first official day of spring for nearly 3 weeks, but today the snow is melting fast, it is 60 degrees, and I broke into our compost bin to get soil for the coming year's garden. On the north side of the house, we may have snow for another day or so (and I fully expect another few light snows), but in the vegetable garden on the south side of the house, I scattered some swiss chard (overly optimistically I'm sure) and filled some egg cartons with compost and seeds from last year's tomato crop. The oregano has some green leaves ready to take off growing. I still need to buy some snap peas, but as soon as I get them it is time to start sowing the girls' favorite vegetable crop. My snapdragons have overwintered again, for the second year.
We have left, I'm well aware, plenty of mud, gloom, drizzle, and cold. I know that logically, I'd just as soon have it all up front, so as not to trick the trees into blooming before a hard freeze. But still, I can't help but feel grateful and optimistic in this kind of weather. Hooray for the sun!