Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who Knows the Meaning of Fun?

Well, here we are on our 2nd full day at Orange Beach. The weather is perfect, the ocean breeze is refreshing, and the waves are crashing sufficiently for boogie boarding. Being here is wonderful but it has reminded me of the difference between my children's viewpoint of vacation and mine. When these two viewpoints collide, it looks something like this: zzzz..."Mom, wake up. Let's go to the beach!"...sip of coffee..."Mom, when are we going to the beach?"...one page turn of a novel..."Mom, when are you going to get in the water?" Don't get me wrong--we have great kids, and they probably don't badger us to do things as much as they could. We do, of course, want to play with them and hang out with them. But, I have learned over the years that their idea of vacation is go, go, go, and mine is slow, slow, slow. I guess I am painfully boring at 35 years old. All I want is to read a good book while reclined in a beach chair, a Diet Coke in my hand and the wind in my hair. And, maybe to sleep late, just once or twice (and by late I don't mean 7:30, which is my kids' definition of late). Even with our differing ideas of fun, we can still agree that we love being here together as a family at one of our favorite places on earth. I can't wait to see what the rest of the week holds!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Vacation...Oh How I've Missed You!

School's finally out, teacher workdays are over (at least for me!), and toward what end do my thoughts naturally turn? The beach, of course. Mmmmmm...I can almost smell the briny ocean air right now. I love the beach--I would live there if I could. I have heard people say many times, "You'd get tired of living there. The novelty would wear off in no time." Well, I don't think so, but I would love the opportunity to prove it. What could be better than waking up every morning (provided it's not raining) to a glorious, God-orchestrated sunrise over the surf, seeing the sun's rays turn the sugary-white sand a pinkish hue? Not even the men with their metal detectors can spoil that scene.

But, alas, I am not independently wealthy, so I can't buy a house on the beach. However, I can enjoy a great vacation with my family: soaking up the sun, playing in the waves, driving go karts, and shopping for tacky souvenirs. I know not everyone gets to do this every year, so I am thankful for the opportunity. It is truly a blessing! I will try to update my blog while I am there, but I'm making no promises. I tend to get kind of lazy in the beach atmosphere--plus I will have my Kindle with me. I may not even know what day it is once I start reading in my beach chair. So, anyway, even though we are not leaving just yet, I will say for now, in the words of the Von Trapp's, "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So...You Want to be a Chicken Farmer

It all started with a dream...well, not really. It actually started with an email. David received an email advertising plans for a chicken coop. Now, I don't know about you, but we usually ignore most of the emails that junk up our inboxes, but for some reason, this one caught David's attention. Coincidentally, I had seen a chicken coop for sale on the side of the road the same day my husband got that fateful email. The streams crossed, and our lives exploded into a world of chickeness.

Our initial reactions to the idea of "backyard chickens," as they are called by those in the know, ranged from, "Would this work?", "Is this even possible?", to "Are we completely nuts?" As it turns out, yes, yes, and probably. Although we live somewhat in the country--you do have to pass two farms to get to our house--we definitely don't live ON a farm. I mean, we live in a neighborhood, with neighbors and everything. We weren't even sure that this was legal where we live (it is). However, our extensive research showed us that not only could we have chickens in our backyard and in our neighborhood, but that keeping backyard chickens is its own growing culture.

We initially decided to buy 6 or 7 one-day-old chicks from an online hatchery and then let them stay in a brooder in our living room for 4-6 weeks, until they were old enough to live in a coop. I know what you are thinking..."What is a brooder?" A brooder is basically a big box with food, water, and a heat lamp--this setup keeps the chickens warm and dry while they grow. We have gained a whole arsenal of new words since we started this process. Brooder, scratch, chicken tractor (not what it sounds like), and nesting box are now part of our vocabulary. Anyway, back to the story. Like I was saying, we were going to get the chicks from an online hatchery, but after finding out the shipping costs, we decided to try to buy them locally.

David and Sarah made the trek to two different feed stores and bought not 6, but 12 chicks of 6 different breeds: two Buff Orpingtons, two Ameraucanas, two Barred Plymouth Rock, two white Plymouth Rock, two Wyandottes, and two Rhode Island Reds. The chicks ranged from 2-4 weeks old, not the one-day-olds that we originally wanted, but that turned out to be a good thing--more on that later. They promptly put them in the brooder, turned on the heat lamp, and gave them food and water. Of course, the most important task, according to the kids, was naming them. (Yes, all 12 chickens have names, and yes, we can tell them apart). It had begun...we were now newbie chicken farmers.

At first the chicks mostly huddled in a pile out of shock, but they finally started running around and acting "chickeny". The chickens were cute, very cute, which kept me from killing them a few weeks later. They seemed really healthy, but there was one chick, Talitha, that we were afraid we were going to lose. She didn't move much, and she had a limp. We gave her special treatment--treats, medicated water, and her own little section of the brooder so she wouldn't get trampled. Just to put your mind at ease, she did not die, and now she is bigger than her "sister" and is very affectionate.

The first few days, the first week even, of caring for them, watching them, and listening to their sweet "peeps" was actually enjoyable. After that, not so much. The pine shavings that we put on the floor of their brooder to catch ummm...stuff was not working as well at masking the smell as it was at first. I also think that I developed an allergy to either the pine or the chicken dander, because I spent several weeks severely congested. Finally, the constant "peeps" that were once so sweet began to wear on my nerves. It was like water torture...peep, peep, peep...drip, drip, drip. There was hardly ever a quiet moment in our house. I was ready to get them out!

Finally after several weeks and a lot of backbreaking work on David's part, the coop was finished and we moved all the chickens out. I don't know who was happier, the chickens or me. Now, caring for them is enjoyable again. The girls have loved coming home from school everyday to check on them and give them treats. They can't wait until the chickens start laying eggs, which will probably be around September. All in all, even though it has been more money, time, and work to get this chicken train moving than we thought it would be, I have so far enjoyed the journey (most of it anyway) and am glad we did it.

Our finished coop and run

Inside of the coop complete with roosts, nesting boxes, and original artwork!