Chickens!

The chickens are looking more like chickens! Still small, though. They can get to be 8lbs, so they’ve still got some growing to do. The personalities have stayed the same over the weeks. Aster (who is sitting on my lap in the top photo) is the easiest-going, doesn’t make a fuss when I pick her up, and is always happy to be petted. Rita (who seems more and more likely to be a rooster) is the second friendliest, just not quite as out-going as Aster. Rita is who M is kissing above! And Charlie is still the smallest and the noisiest. I’ve never been able to find a reason for her size OR her complaining — maybe she just burns too many calories peeping all the time! Iris and Laverne have less distinctive personalities, although every so often I think I’ve got Aster on my lap, and it turns out to be Iris, so she’s also pretty friendly. A few of them have food coloring marks so I can tell them apart, but once they’re full-grown, I’ll get them leg bands, so it’ll always be clear who’s who.

They’re getting a little big for their brooder pen, but the coop isn’t finished yet. So I take them on field trips to the fenced-in garden. They always have a good time exploring for a few minutes, and then they realize where I’m sitting and all run/fly over to me. Then they stay under my chair or nearby. I had trapped Nova outside the garden yesterday — she’s gotten over-excited about the chickens in the past, when they’ve been in their brooder pen. But then a couple of deer ran from one field to the next, and since I didn’t want Nova wandering off to follow them, I let her in the garden with us. I held onto her at first, worried that she’d lose it and try to attack the chickens, but she went from really relaxed and interested to slightly nervous about them. She kept her distance! She wouldn’t even come over to me when I called her, because the chickens were under my chair. So I don’t think I have to worry about her!

And as you can see, M likes the chickens. She’s so kind and gentle with little creatures; I love it!

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Saturday

I forgot I took all these photos on Saturday! We went out in the morning for a little wander around. It’s been warm lately, but that means it’s beautiful early in the day. The mosquitoes have been annoying, though!

My main goal for the garden this year was to get things more or less in place for future years. But I’m still disappointed that so many of my seeds didn’t come up. Only two of my (dry) bush beans sprouted, and NONE of the soy beans did. And 1/3 of the broom corn came up — that’s not going to be a very impressive broom! The flowers have fared a little better, so far. And the tomatoes and broccoli, which I bought as starts, are looking pretty good.

The chickens have gone out to the garage in their little brooder box — I hope the coop will be finished soon, so they can move in in the next couple of weeks! I shingled the coop roof since I took that last photo. There’s a lot I can’t do on my own (sheets of plywood need one person to hold them in place while another person nails, for example), so my dad’s been helping out. We’re making slow progress (it’s been hot out!), but at least the coop is looking a little more like a building now.

p.s. — M was licking the dew off the chair in the third photo. Toddlers are weird.

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Review: Block Island Sunscreen

Hooray! I’ve been looking forward to telling you guys about Block Island Organics, and I’m finally making the time to do so. They contacted me a bit ago to ask if they could send me a bottle of their Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 in exchange for a review, and I jumped at the chance. The timing was perfect, as I’d just been wondering what to buy to protect M’s skin from the sun.

The company itself sounds pretty great — family owned and run! And the sunscreen is vegan, not tested on animals, and free of all the nasty things you’re supposed to avoid. The only active ingredient is zinc, which was exactly what I was looking for for M. The last tube of zinc-based sunscreen I bought for M was really thick and difficult to apply (not the best when you’ve got a little kid who already doesn’t want you to cover them with lotion!). The Block Island sunscreen is so thin and smooth! And like they say, a little really does go a long way. I’ve blurped out a little too much a couple of times, because I forget how nicely it spreads. Luckily, a baby wipe seems to do a good job of removing it from between my fingers! It’s been very effective at protecting M from the sun, which is the best part, of course. She’d spend all day outside if she could, so it’s been put to the test!

M was pretending to put the lotion on herself in the second photo. Dab, dab, dab with the bottle, then put it down and rub the ‘sunscreen’ in. So she must like it, too!

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Sunday Fun

It’s amazing what you can fit into a day when there’s a toddler to entertain (vs being able to sit on your butt and veg out all day). Highlights of the day include taking a walk to pick wild flowers (well, things growing wildly — weeds and some chives that come up in new places every year), playing in the pool, and a visit from my mom. M had quite a lot of fun arranging and rearranging the flowers while I made dinner.

Oh! AND — we had some special visitors this morning. M was playing in the family room while I hung up mini blinds, and she made her ‘I see something exciting’ squeal. So I said, ‘Oh, do you see a bird?’ Then I looked out the patio door and was very surprised to see some of the neighbors’ cows parading through the back yard! No wonder M was excited!

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Recent Stuff

– I was in the other room for a minute this morning, and when I came back into the living room M did her ‘Look at this!’ noise and pointed to the tower she’d built. Not bad! I love that she built it all on her own and then thought, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta show this to somebody!’

– I decided to paint the top of M’s desk with chalkboard paint, after all. I’m so glad I did! It looks really sharp now (and matches the black legs of M’s chair) instead of being sort of disappointing. And M is taken with being able to color on it with chalk. Usually when she colors, she’ll just draw a few lines (with crayons or whatever), but she’s really into the chalk. I was asking her to draw me things (a butterfly, a flower, etc), and each time she’d purposefully turn back to the desk and draw something and then point to it. All just squiggles of course, but I love that she’s like, ‘Sure, I can draw a flower. Here you go!’

– The chicks are getting big! There’s a little heft to them now. Aster is still the sweetest. That’s her in the top photo, and she’s the one looking at the camera in the last one. She’s always happy to just perch on me and relax. The chick sitting next to her is Rita, who is still my top pick for possible rooster. She/He’s got the biggest feet of all of them, even though Aster has a bigger body. And I don’t know if it means anything, but Rita’s voice ‘dropped’ (sounds more mature instead of just baby peeps) a little while back. Everybody else still peeps. Either way, Rita is the second friendliest chick, so hopefully if (s)he is a rooster, and least (s)he’ll be a nice one. I just think the chicks are so fascinating — I’m really glad there’s a way to have tame birds who don’t have to be trapped in a cage all day (well, once they’re old enough to live outside). They’re very different from mammals but still so full of personality.

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Busy Girl

It’s 6:30am, and M is still sleeping! Usually we get up at 6:00 — I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30, and she’s usually awake between 5:30 and 6:00, but we don’t get out of our respective beds until 6:00. (I work in the interim; she rolls around and dozes and plays with Kitty Cat Doll.) But we had a busy day yesterday, so she’s still snoozing. We had to go into town to get caught up on the shots she missed before her surgery, so maybe she’s a little sleepy from that (as far as I know, she slept soundly all night long, though).

More likely is that she was worn out from all the fun stuff! We visited the public pool that we have to drive by on our way home. It’s really nice for a small-town facility. There’s a regular pool with a couple of big water slides, and then there’s a zero-entry pool with various fountains and sprinklers. M didn’t want to follow me into the water at first, so we sat down right at the edge and splashed. After about thirty seconds of that, she was back on her feet and headed right out into the water. What a stressful but fun age for a kid to be in the pool! She totally enjoyed herself, but obviously she can’t walk on her own when the water is up to her armpits (or up to her knees, for that matter), and she has no clue about not going so far in that she can no longer touch the bottom. But she had sooo much fun and loved watching all the other kids, too. We were there for about an hour, including time in the changing room, and that’s a LOT of ‘aquarobics’ for a toddler!

We also did some running around outside before bed, which definitely tuckered her out. After we’d been walking around for a bit, I realized the sun was perfectly filtered and golden, so I grabbed my camera to take some photos of M. The second one above isn’t anything special, photo-wise, but I thought you might like to see how long M’s hair is now. Quite long!

Update: M woke up at 6:45. I often ask her if she dreamt about cats, dogs, chickens, etc, etc — and she always enjoys saying ‘no’ to every item I go through. This morning I asked if she’d had a nice dream about swimming, and she said, ‘Yeah yeah!’ There’s no way she knows what I’m even asking about (‘You know, dreams — the things you see in your head while you sleep that seem real but aren’t!’) — but she definitely wants to go swimming again!

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Garden 2015

Okay, here’s a garden update! There’s nothing more to see than there was yesterday, but at least I can show you how the beds are laid out. I made all of them without buying any new lumber — just made do with what I had. (You’re probably thinking that that’s pretty obvious! It’s all a little cobbled together.) The two 4′x6′ beds were existing ones, and everything else I made from the old (shorter) fence posts and some timbers we found on our thirty acres*.

I’m trying landscape fabric to keep down the weeds this year — I’m hoping it’s worth the effort! I’ll let grass grow on the paths; it’ll be easier to mow them than to try to keep them weed-free. I expanded the fenced-in area from 21′x28′ to 28′x35′. The new space is still just grass, but I figured if I were going to the trouble of replacing the fence to make it taller, I might as well give myself room to grow in future years. For now, I’ll get a play area set up for M (she’d love a water table!) and just keep it mowed.

One 4′x6′ bed has squash (birdhouse gourds), and the other has watermelons. I planted tomatoes in one of the single narrow beds (there’s nothing in the other yet). And the big bed ‘unit’ is all flowers along the outside. One pier (what should I call them?) is broom corn, one is dry beans, and one is soy beans. There’s still another one to plant. I’m not too concerned with what I harvest this year. It’ll be nice to have stuff growing, but mainly I’ll be happy if I can just get things set up for the future. I started all the flowers from seed (except some marigolds, which I bought when I got the tomatoes), and they’re starting to come up now. These are the sunflower seeds I bought — I’m excited to see how tall they get! They line one side of the fence, so I might have to come up with another way to support them, so they don’t lean too heavily on the fence itself.

The other photos are from our little walk down to the rock pile (also on the thirty acres) today. There’s a driveway that goes over there, but it’s become overgrown with weeds. I mowed them down today, and now it’s quite a nice path! There are red-winged blackbirds who must be nesting near the little pond in the pasture, as they were not pleased with our visit. And then we spotted the last fellow (?) near the rock pile. A pretty song from that one! I haven’t looked it up in the bird book yet — anybody know what it is offhand? M had the best time looking at and climbing on the rocks. She would have stayed there all day! But when it was time to head back, she didn’t make it very far down the path before she needed me to pick her up and carry her. It’s exhausting being little!

*We purchased the neighboring thirty-acre parcel last year, so we always refer to it as the ‘thirty acres’, even though it’s not specifically set apart from our existing land.

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Chicks

I want to do a garden update, but there’s not much to update you about yet! I’ve done a lot of work getting garden beds in place and planting seeds — and I did plant some tomatoes a few days ago — but there’s not a lot to look at. So have some chicks instead.

In every one of these photos, the chick in/on my hand is Aster. I don’t want to play favorites (I want them all to be nicely socialized), but she’s SO different from the others. When I try to pick up Iris, Laverne, Charlie, or Rita, they’ll scream like I’m hurting them (I’m not!). But Aster has gotten more and more friendly, to the point where she pretty much launches herself up onto my hand as soon as I put it in their house. Then she just calmly stands there while I lift her up. And once she’s out, she’s content to hunker down and be petted.

M had grown bored with the chicks for a while — I won’t let her climb up on the futon anymore, and that was the main draw of the ‘chickie room’. But I had them all out (on the sheet-covered futon, which is why M isn’t allowed up on it) yesterday, and she decided they are quite fun, after all. She’s very gentle when she pets them and hasn’t tried to poke their eyes even once! She was giving them kisses yesterday, although luckily that doesn’t involve actually putting her mouth on them. I think they’ll be more interesting to her once they’re bigger and live outside, and she can run around with them. If Aster is still such a people-chicken by then, that’ll be interesting!

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Book Follow-Up

Thank you for all the book suggestions! It’s so helpful to have ‘personalized’ recommendations when you’re looking for something in particular. I bought How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, and we’ve been having fun finding the little mice on each page — perfect! I’m keeping all the other recommendations in mind for the book-buying future.

I also took down some books that M got for Christmas that were a little above her level, and I realized that three of them are illustrated by Marc Boutavant. Around the World with Mouk, All Kinds of Families, and For Just One Day. I hadn’t realized he was the illustrator of all three when I was adding them to M’s wishlist. They are soooo gorgeous, and they’re not exactly what I was looking for recently (the same little character(s) hidden on each page), but the illustrations are really detailed, so M enjoys pointing things out for me to name, and I can ask her where things are and she searches for them.

I just got this train puzzle for ‘M’, and I’m so impressed. It’s a good sort of puzzle for a young kid, since all the pieces can fit together in pretty much any order. Even the box that they pieces go into is lovely. M isn’t really interested in puzzles yet, but I’ve been having a good time looking at each ‘car’. The one in the photo above is my favorite — don’t you wish that were real?

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