Changing of the Guard

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Wednesday evening, I went into the barn to close the chickens’ door, and I noticed there were only three hens in the coop. So I called for the chickens (they’re better at coming when called than the dogs!), and I heard one of them start “bock-bock-bock”-ing in the distance, basically telling me that they saw something scary. I went out behind the barn and could see the two hens at the edge of the woods, but they wouldn’t come any closer. So I started to walk into the weeds, which made a hawk fly up from the ground and into a tree. Ah ha. The hens still wouldn’t move, so I picked them up and carried them back to the coop.

Close call, I thought.

Except what I realized in the morning was that I had miscounted. I’d thought I’d seen Mister Chicken roosting with the hens and the young boys on the window sill, where they like to perch. What I’d really seen was Red (one of the young roosters) sitting with the hens and the two Juniors on the window. My first thought (hope) was that Mister Chicken was still out in the woods, hiding. But I knew why that hawk had been on the ground. And, sure enough, his remains were right where the hawk had been. I hadn’t even looked over there the night before, because I thought all the chickens were accounted for.

I’m sure he was caught because he was protecting his hens. Either he actually charged the hawk when it came for a hen, or he was left out in the open, keeping lookout while the hens hid in the woods. He was the best rooster — I didn’t even know roosters could take such good care of their hens. He always kept an eye out for threats (while the ladies milled about without a care in the world), and when he found a particularly tasty treat, he’d call them over instead of eating it himself.

I’m hoping one of his sons will take over his role with the same dedication he had. Red (in the second photo; Mister Chicken is in the top one) is mature and crowing right now, while the Juniors aren’t quite there yet. The hens are being nicer to the boys now, but they haven’t completely meshed as a single flock.

Farewell, Mister Chicken — can chickens fly in chicken heaven?

M is Three

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M turned three on Monday. Can you believe it? She’s still so little — I know I’ll look back at this age when she’s a tween and think, “She was just a baby!” — but she’s also becoming such a big kid. A year ago, she was JUST starting to talk. And last week, one of the preschool teachers (who we see when we go to ECFE) said she always forgets that M is just turning three because M is so verbal. She’s definitely become a chatterbox. It’s so interesting to find out what she remembers and the connections she draws between things now that she can verbalize it all.

I haven’t done parties for M except when she turned a year old; we had donuts for breakfast, lunch at a restaurant, and then my parents came over for presents and cake. M really remembered her second birthday, so she was very excited about this one. I had the dining area all decorated when she came up in the morning, and this year she had a special surprise — a mini bounce house! That’s been lots of fun already. M had told me she wanted a Daniel Tiger cake, and made Trolley. It was my first time using fondant, so I’m just glad she recognized it! She got a few Playmobil sets as presents, some Play-Doh, pajamas… lots of stuff, but I think all things that will get used / played with. She seemed excited about everything, at least!

The Boys

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Out of four chicks hatched this year (two by Rita, two by Aster before she hatched the guineas), all four were male. One of Rita’s was killed at night a while back — I’ve tried to explain to them the importance of going in the coop at night! But young chickens don’t listen and are impossible to catch. So I’ve got three surplus roosters, plus Mister Chicken.

My plan is to keep them unless/until they become a nuisance. Our neighbors have said they’ll take them, so they won’t wind up in a pot. (Though, when they’re refusing to go inside at night, I’ve often thought they’d look quite nice with a coating of bread crumbs — and I’ve been a vegetarian for fifteen years!) The three of them are closely bonded, and it’s fun to watch them wandering around together. I really wish we would have gotten a couple of female chicks, though; the hens are slowing down their egg production for the winter, and M and I are almost out. Only three left in the fridge!

Growing Up

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So, M is making us scrambled eggs now (with help, of course), and F has moved into her own room. Both babies slept in my room but in their crib (with one side removed and attached to my bed), which made it easy for them to start sleeping in their rooms. Or at least it went well with M, and the first night was unremarkable with F.

I hesitated more with F — she wakes up a lot, but she’s not as noisy as M was. And now I know how fast the infant stage passes, and I’m not in a rush for it to be over. But I wanted the transition to be easy for F, and I felt like the time was right. As reluctant as I was to move her crib, as soon as it was out, I wasted no time transforming my room back into a livable space. Instead of a baby hovel with cardboard over the windows!

The cats are happy.

Apple Time

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We usually get our apples from the local orchard this time of year. But I was able to get them even closer to home this time. When I brought over the guineas I’d hatched for our neighbors, they gave us two big bags of apples, straight off their trees! They’re pretty tart — perfect for baking — but M likes eating them just as they are. We peeled and sliced two gallon bags’ worth for the freezer. And I made some (very pink!) applesauce out of the crab-size apples we got.

We did the apples yesterday, and then I made tomato sauce today. That’s about as productive as I’ve been lately! We did start preschool-homeschool last week, which M is loving. I’m looking forward to this last third of the year. Apples, classes starting (early childhood class and gymnastics for M), and all those end-of-the-year holidays. Not looking forward to cold and flu season, though. Both girls are just getting over some junk they caught the week before last. M made it to 9mos before she ever caught a cold — F barely hit 3mos. That’s what happens when you’re a little sister, I guess!

Life with Two

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Look at that baby, trying to steal one of my fries. She spent almost all of lunch attempting to get her hand to connect with a fry, but the best she could manage was brushing them with her knuckles. How unfair to be only 2.5mos old!

F is a pretty funny baby, and compared to M at this age, fairly easy, too. I’m currently going through a period of feeling TIRED and TOUCHED OUT, like, doesn’t anybody else want this baby for a few days? While I float in a sensory deprivation tank? But I haven’t experienced that panic of second-guessing myself and feeling like having a second child has ruined everything. It’s more just that I know life will be so much easier in another four months, but the only way out is through. If M was a typical baby (and I think she was), this is kind of the hardest part, for me, anyway. The sleepy newborn phase is long gone, but it’s still a while before naps become organized and life returns to some level of predictability. At least everything (feeding, sleeping, health) is MUCH simpler this time.

M has been a real star as we’ve adjusted to our new life as a family of three. She’s at a challenging age herself (she’ll be three in October), and when she’s pushing my buttons, it’s hard to see her as my original baby. But she is, and thank goodness she’s so good at saying, “I need a snuggle!” when her emotions get away from her. Now that F has (some) control of her hands, and batting at toys can keep her happily occupied for a short stretch, I’m able to get M back on my lap for hugs or tickles or whatever she wants (except I canNOT “play with [Paw Patrol] pups” anymore!).

I want to enjoy every minute of F’s babyhood — and I’m sad when I think about her turning into a big kid before I know it — but right now I’m fixated on 6mos. That was when M really started to feel like more fun than hard work. Plus, it’ll almost be Christmas by then, and I can make the girls wear their matching Christmas sweaters!

More Outdoors

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Here’s another big bunch of photos, since I’ve been going Instagram crazy the past couple of days. I managed to get the brooder pen fixed up for the two-week-old chicks yesterday morning. I just had to put chicken wire on top (so the big chickens won’t jump in an harass them) and then bring the food, water, and chicks out, but it took a while with sleeping F strapped to me! Once the guineas and these little chicks get big enough, they’ll go over to live at the neighbors. And my plan is to get a coop built inside the barn (right now, the chickens have the run of the barn and are in there at night, and it gets… messy). But for now, there’s the chicken nursery, with poultry of all ages and sizes, each needing their own food and water. Whew.

After playing outside this morning, we went into town and came across a few good finds at the thrift store. An Aquadoodle mat (with pens and stampers, even though the box said there were none) for just a quarter, some puzzles, and that set of Melmac cups and plates. They’re for M’s playhouse, should it ever get finished. I had been imagining cups JUST like these and figured I’d never find something so cute in person, but there they were, waiting for us at the thrift store. So you never know!

Photos

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Here’s a bunch of photos for you, going back to the Fourth of July. I’m happy that it doesn’t LOOK like we spend all our time inside! I have so much I’d like to work on outside, but I haven’t figured out how to do that with a little baby who doesn’t nap regularly… and doesn’t nap very often when not attached to me. There’s only so much you can do with a baby in a wrap, especially when it’s 80˚+ out. The garden needs serious attention and the chicken quarters need rearranging. We’ve got two-month-old chicks living in the barn with the big chickens, two-week-old chicks inside (who need to go out but stay under a lamp), and then the week-old guinea keets with Aster, in the mini-coop.

But ever since the older chicks went into the barn, the “old” hen house has been empty, so M and I have been working to get it cleaned up and turned into a play house. I’ve removed all the chicken stuff (bedding, roost, feeder, etc.) and scrubbed down the walls, but there’s still a lot more to do. M can’t decide if she wants the walls to be pink or blue (but not dark blue, because that’s too DARK, we’ve all decided). She’s pretty excited about her little house, and I am, too, so now we just have to get the baby on board and cooperative, so we can work on it!

Graham Crackers

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These days, any time I manage to think of and execute a special project for M, I temporarily feel like Mom of the Year. She’s pretty happy doing her puzzles and playing with her pup toys most of the time, but I can tell she gets bored after a while. So a few days ago, we made these graham crackers. M loves using cookie cutters, but we really didn’t need any sugar cookies. The graham crackers are still fairly sweet, but at least there’s whole wheat flour in them?

I’ve been baking with M for quite a while now, and it’s amazing how much more capable she’s become in that time. She wanted to help with every step of the process this time, and she was really able to do a lot. Such a sense of accomplishment for her! And way more fun than watching another episode of Paw Patrol.