Monday, August 21, 2017

Menu plan for the week of August 21

This is so weird, y'all.  The kids being back in school so early.  Just...weird.

So they've had two days of school, and we're waiting for the schedule to settle.  As I've mentioned, the reason school started so early this year is because the high school is undergoing some improvements.  We started early this year, and will start late next year, to allow a longer summer period without students in the building.  As a result of the ongoing construction, bus schedules have been completely reimagined, and busses have been running late.  So late.  Which means that this year, it'll take longer to fall back into "normal."  In fact, we might not get back to "normal" until the kiddos are done with their fall sports.

In the meantime, I'm doing my best with the menu plan.  Here's what we're planning on eating this week, and I'm gonna do my best to make it actually happen.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

I survived...and updates

Are y'all familiar with the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis?  I think my first exposure was when AKD read I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912.  He went through a Titanic phase, as many boys do, during which he read pretty much every Titanic book ever written.

The books are historical fiction, aimed at about a 2nd-5th grade level, and they focus on disasters and wars and other terrifying events in history.

I was thinking we needed to add a new book to the series last weekend:
I Survived 48 Hours Without Internet, 2017!

Yeah.  It was touch and go there for a while, but we made it through.  Turns out a family of wasps had taken up residence in our junction box, and they chewed through the fiber optic cables.  What?  How is that even a thing?  And why don't they protect those things better if they're that fragile?

Anyway...that's the excuse I'm giving for not getting a menu post up this week.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I also did not get a chicken update up this week.  The excuse I'm giving for that is I was involved in a focus group.  It was interesting and rewarding, but I can't tell you any more about it (except that if you want to be involved in a focus group, too, you can sign up for the company I work for here).

So the girls are 14 weeks now.
Toasty Crunch

Esther--look how long her neck is

Austro has the most gorgeous feathers.  They're black, of course, but in certain light, they're green/blue iridescent

Red has the biggest and reddest comb and wattles.  They're still not very big or red, though.

We raised the roost to its final height of about 2 feet above the hen house floor last week, opened the nest boxes, and installed some ceramic eggs.  The idea is that the eggs will show the girls where they're supposed to lay their eggs, and if they do happen to peck at them, they will quickly learn that eggs are not worth pecking at.  Because chickens are cannibals.  And we don't want any of that egg-eating nonsense going on around here.

We also put together a dust bath, and installed a roost in the run.  So far, the girls seem more interested in eating the contents of the dust bath than bathing in it.  And I don't have pictures of any of those things, because I forget to bring a camera out with me when I visit the girls.  So...I'll just leave you with this picture of a fluffy chicken butt.

That's Red, in case you were wondering.

And, my excuse for not giving you a garden update is...well, there's not much to share.  I never did get any tomatoes in the ground, although I finally planted the corn, about 6 weeks later than intended.  Whoops.  It's taller than me, but probably not as tall as it should be.  Despite all that, there are some ears growing.  I guess we'll just see what happens.  And, I have more corn seeds for next year.

Tried to get all artsy and take this photo on an angle.  Turns out it just looks weird. 

The strawberries have done well this year, and what I'm most excited about in the strawberry realm (beside that fact that we figured out how to keep rodents from eating them) is the plants sent out runners this year that took root.  Pretty soon our 4x4' bed will be full of strawberry plants.

Our zucchini plants are finally producing.  This is the zucchini that's been selected to stay on the plant to see how big it will get.  Yeah.  Because we need to know.

Also in the bed with the strawberries and zucchini, I planted four onions.  'Cause my sis sent them to me.  I think they're done, but it's kind of hard to tell with root veggies.  And since we don't need them for anything right now, they're staying in the ground.

I planted carrots, and a grand total of three of them sprouted.  Again, root veggies, so I'm not sure how I'll know they're ready.  I planted to rest of my carrot seeds today.  There's definitely not enough time for them to mature before we get frost, but they're in a pot, so I can easily cover them or bring them inside.  I also began a new succession planting (that's where I plant some each week for a staggered harvest) of radishes today.  They mature in about 30 days, so we should be able to get a few groups of them before frost.

And finally, as of now, we have apples on our trees.  I feel like we had apples on our trees last year at this time, too, but somehow they all disappeared before harvest.  Hopefully we'll get something this year, because we're down to our last 8 or 9 jars of applesauce.

And that leaves me with the final update.  The kiddos started school today.  And we got pictures.  Before school.  Whoohoo!

Last first day of high school

First first day of high school

Fourth grade
I blinked, y'all.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Menu plan for the week of August 7

As you know, school starts for the kiddos in about a week and a half.  What you may not know is that football practice starts today.  MC has 6.5 hours of football practice today.  That's pretty much the same as a school day.  And this is why I feel like the school year snuck up on us.  Because while I was fixated on the date of the first day of school, football practice was lurking ever closer, until BoOm.  It's over, friends.  Summer is over.

Four nights this week at least one kid has practice scheduled during the dinner hour--on Tuesday, everybody's got something--so here come the slow cooker and can-be-eaten-in-shifts meals.  If you have any suggestions for me, leave them in the comments.  I need all the help I can get.  And pray for us, friends.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Persistent Chickens

Oh, those silly chickens!  We've had them for 12 weeks now, and my google chicken obsession of the week is "when will my chickens begin to lay?"  Answers vary widely, probably because chickens vary widely, but the general consensus seems to be: when they're ready.  Or in my mind: any day now.

OK, not really.  I can tell my chickens are not yet ready because there are some physical changes that occur before chickens begin to lay, and those changes have not happened yet.  It sounds like Toasty Crunch, Red, and Austro will probably lay before Rocky and Esther, but I guess we'll find out.  And I do mean "we", because you know I'm going to tell y'all.

Last week, the chickens were ranging outside while I was in the kitchen making supper.  For my family, not for the chickens.  I looked out the window to see if I could see the girls, and I couldn't, so I walked over to our glass slider to see if I could see them from a slightly different angle.

I could see them all right.  All five of them were on our back deck, just looking at me through the door.  It was very cute, but I shooed them off the deck immediately, and erected a barrier.

The reason we don't want the chickens on our porch or decks is because of this (warning: graphic content):

They poop.  Everywhere.

I knew it was only a matter of time before they realized that they could jump/fly up onto the barricade, and I was right.

I guess the good news is, they stayed contained to the railings because the railings are higher than the deck itself.

At this point, I decided more drastic measures were called for.  So I lured them back to their coop with an apple.


They're pretty fast when they're chasing food.


Tetherapple.  I gave them a tetherbroccoli last night, and for some reason, they weren't quite as enthusiastic about it (they still liked it, just not as much as the apple).

Amazingly enough, during all of this excitement, only one of the birds pooped on the deck, and that was on a step--easily washed away with the hose.  Whew.  Also amazing: they haven't gone on the deck since.  Whew again.

This week, the girls are looking close to fully grown.  I think they'll get a little bigger, but not much.  Austro still has the most developed wattles, and her comb is a lovely rose color.

We raised the roost this week, and are planning to raise it one more time in the next couple of weeks.  We'll also open the nest boxes in the next couple of weeks--I'd like them to be open before the girls are 16 weeks.

Even though I haven't made any efforts toward training the girls to come to my voice (this is a useful skill to teach, so if I see danger in the yard, I can get them quickly back to the safety of the coop), they do answer me when I call, and in general, when they're out ranging, and I step into their coop and call, they come.

Chicken butts are so, so fluffy.  Either I forgot, or somehow I didn't notice when I was taking care of friends' chickens.  I love the fluffy.

That's all for now.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Some things we're going to eat in the next couple of weeks

It's a menu plan, yes, but not for this week necessarily.  Because of people traveling and other people having evening activities, supper as a family is going to be a little hit and miss in the next couple of weeks.  So instead of pretending, I decided to just put it out there.  Into the universe.  Do with it what you will.

This free-form menu plan feels appropriate for what I consider to be our last few weeks of summer (defining summer as it's hot and the kids are not in school for an extended period of time).  We actually have about 3 1/2 weeks before the kiddos head back to school... So I guess we just have to repeat once?  Or eat a lot of leftovers?



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ten week chick update

Hey y'all.  The chicks are 10 weeks old, and possibly halfway to laying!  Here are some pictures taken during the past couple of weeks:

Austro looking all fluffy.

Rocky preparing to roost.

Esther with #fluffycheeks

Austro and Esther chasing the worm in Red's mouth.



Toasty Crunch



We got the larger feeder and waterer made and installed.  They'll have to be moved up a bit as the girls grow, but they're good for now.

We used food grade 5 gallon buckets.  We bought these for a few dollars at a home improvement store, but to make this project even lower cost, ask at restaurants, school cafeterias, or even the bakery at your grocery store to see if they'd be willing to set aside a few buckets for you.

We used horizontal chicken nipples again, because they worked so well on the smaller waterer.  We used nipples because they keep the water cleaner, and we used horizontal (as opposed to vertical, which are cheaper) nipples so the bucket could be set on the ground for cleaning and filling.

For the feeder, we used 3 inch diameter PVC 45° elbows, which cost a couple of dollars each from our local hardware store.  They're installed so that the lowest part is 3/4 inch above the bottom of the bucket.  The idea is to make it difficult for the girls to spill their food.  They have to put their whole heads inside, and when they try to beak the food out to the side, it just stays right there in the elbow.  For my five chicks, the feeder holds enough food for at least a month, and the waterer would hold enough for about 3 months (we will be cleaning it out and refilling it much more frequently than that, though).

Just in the past week or so I've noticed increased wattle (the red hangy downy things) development, which, of course set me to googling 10 week old black australorp hen and rooster images (Austro's are the most developed, but not anywhere near the 10 week roosters that google showed me).

The girls live for going outside.  It's just so much more interesting, I guess.  Yesterday for the first time, I left them outside for about an hour while I was inside.  They all survived the experience, and it even looked like some wild turkeys were checking them out while I was inside.


As I said, the girls are halfway to laying.  Maybe.  Most chickens could possibly start to lay at around 18-20 weeks, but that can vary widely depending on many factors.  I read somewhere that Silkies (fluffy-head chickens) might take a year or longer before laying their first eggs.  Toasty Crunch is bred for early lay, so she might be ready at around 16 weeks.  What all this means is we need to start getting serious about finishing the nest boxes.  It's a lot easier to train chickens to lay where they're supposed to from the start, than it is to retrain them after they've gotten into a bad habit.

That's all for now.  Until next time...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Menu plan for the week of July 17

The crazy short summer continues, y'all, and one month from today, the kiddos will be heading back to school.  I'm just not sure what to say about that.

This week, the two oldest boys who live here begin bike practice two days a week, which means I'm back to planning two meals a week that can be eaten in shifts.  The slow cooker is great for this--it'll cook the food, and it'll be ready when shift one wants to eat, and then keep it warm for subsequent shifts.  Unfortunately, our family doesn't really care too much for slow cooked food.  Maybe I need to try some of these recipes?  I also purchased another Wildtree workshop, this time a slow cooker one, so maybe we'll like some of those recipes as well.

This week, our eaten-in-shifts meals are spaghetti and BLTs.  I know.  Spaghetti isn't too shifty.  But it kinda is when the two younger boys who live here don't eat sauce.  What are your favorite on the go or able to be eaten in shifts meals?

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eight week chick update

The chicks have been with us for eight weeks now.  Seems like forever, and then sometimes it still seems a little surreal that we actually have chickens.

They've been out in their coop for two weeks now, and have completely defoliated the run.  That didn't take long.

Just in case you're wondering, the hen house is the building where the girls sleep.  The run is the enclosed "predator proof" (hopefully) outdoor area.  The coop is the hen house + the run.

Bubby continues to pick up chicks every chance he gets.

It gets a little tedious in the coop, since all the green stuff is gone, and probably most of the bugs have been eaten, too, so every now and then I'll bring the girls a treat--here they are playing tetherball with an apple.

I've been letting the girls out of the coop for an hour or so every now and then.  Now whenever I show up, they gather by the door, hoping for a chance at some fresh pastures.

It's a jungle out there.

I still don't let the girls out by themselves because they're so small, so I let them out close to sun down.  They go back into the coop on their own as it gets darker.

The other night, this deer wandered into the yard while I was supervising the girls, and watched me watching the chickens.

Then she snuck up on me.  Had to get a closer look at the crazy chicken lady, I suppose.

I think I told y'all in a previous update that I was obsessing over Esther's gender.  I finally figured out what all those chicken people were talking about when they said single or triple comb, and at this point, I'm pretty sure all the girls are, indeed, girls.  Rounded instead of pointed feathers, combs still yellow or light pink, no spurs, no wattle development, and in Esther's case, a single pea comb and even coloration.

Won't know for sure for sure until they start laying eggs, of course, and I found out that chickens can change gender.  What?!  Yeah, you heard me.

The girls will be excited when these wild raspberries ripen.

What else should I tell you?

The girls have dug a hole in the run for their dust bath.  They put it where I was planning on putting it, when I get around to making a dust bath.  I'm not sure what that means when owners start thinking like their chickens.  I had heard that dust bathing is a social activity for chickens, and it is.  For some reason they need to be right next to each other.  Much squawking ensues.

Speaking of right next to each other, Esther continues to like to snuggle with her sisters.  She'll walk up and plop herself down, sometimes right on top of somebody else.  Much squawking ensues again.

The girls have been doing a bit of what I would call posturing--makes me wonder if they're figuring out their pecking order.  Two of them will get right up in each other's faces, stretch up their heads so they're as tall as possible, and flap wings at each other.  Sometimes one will peck at the other's beak.

I'm realizing why people who are afraid are called chickens.  Chickens are so cautious and suspicious of every new thing.  And when one gets spooked, the others all get spooked.  It's funny to watch them all run around in response to one getting all worked up.  I try to reassure them, but they don't listen.

And...I think that's all for now.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Menu plan for the week of July 3

Every week, I keep thinking this is going to be the last menu plan for a while (at least the last posted menu plan for a while), and every week, I'm wrong.  Maybe this week?

Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Out to eat
  • Kielbasa and potatoes, green beans
  • Fend for yourself
  • Nachos with guacamole and taco toppings
  • Pizza
  • Hamburgers, buns, carrots, chips
  • Hot dogs, buns, carrots, chips


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Crazy Short Summer

I figured out why it seems like we're so much busier than normal this summer.  I mean, we're always super busy during the summer, but this year?  Busy-ness has escalated to the next level.

It's because we're doing all the same things we usually do in a summer: family trips, Boy Scout camps, football camp, VBS, swim lessons, fun local outings, but instead of our usual 12-13 weeks, this year we get 10.  Everything is compressed.  There was one day this summer that we could schedule the kids' Christmas gift trip to an amusement park.  One.  (Glad I realized and got it on the calendar before the day passed).  The kids go back to school 7 weeks from today.

MC will be starting high school.  That's another reason this summer feels compressed.  Two a day football practices start the week before school (for freshmen--the rest of the team starts even earlier), so about 5 1/2 weeks from now.  The other night I dreamed that it was the first day of school and MC had to get to room 138.  I was with him for some reason, and we kept passing rooms until we got to the very last room on the right.  Room 138 was a bathroom, which, of course, I thought was a mistake, but within a few seconds of our arrival, not one, but two teachers came into the bathroom to start teaching their classes.  Talk about overcrowding in the schools...

That's the reason our summer is so short this year.  The school district is making improvements to the high school, and they are beginning this coming school year early so they can end early, and the following school year will start later than normal, so they'll have a nice long summer break in which to finish everything.

I cannot imagine what that summer will be like.  Hopefully awesome and amazing.  Definitely long.

Wanna know what they started with?  On the improvements?  The football stadium and parking.  They did it that way because those were things they could do while students were still in the building, but still, it's interesting to think that might be where the school district's and community's priorities lie.  Gonna get those done first, just in case construction falters.  No worries about classes meeting in bathrooms.  It's all good.

AKD will be a senior this school year. That means we're gearing up for all the lasts.  Last first day of school, last bike race season, last Homecoming, last final exams, last year (God willing) living full time with mom and dad (not that I want to get rid of him, but that has been the goal from the beginning--to raise independent, self-sufficient adults).

Bubby will be in 4th grade.  He's not changing schools, nor is it his last year in his school, but since I mentioned the other two, I figured I should mention him, too.

For some reason, our family always seems to go on a trip just as soon as school lets out.  And for most people, that wouldn't really be a huge deal.  But for us?  We always seem to go on trips where we need to pack gear and food and stuff that is not just clothes and toiletries.  It's a lot to manage when my brain space is taken up with last days of school stuff.  For this year's trip, we headed to the upper peninsula of Michigan (which really should be part of Wisconsin--you can ask AKD why it ended up with Michigan) for a backpacking trip, followed by a visit to the Keweenaw peninsula (that's the part that sticks up like a thumb).  Mosquitoes like me.  A lot.  Then again, what's not to like?

I didn't take very many pictures, but I did get this one.

Did you know that they average over 200 inches of snow a year in the Keweenaw peninsula?  That's like stacking all three of my kids on top of each other and adding a very tall hat to the top one.  You never really see the road in winter up there.

Anyway.  Our summer is busy.  How's yours going?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Menu plan for the week of June 26

Y'all.  Do you realize we've made it all the way through June with menu plans posted each week?  Amazing.

I purchased another Wildtree bundle and it came this week.  This time I'm doing it on my own, and without the deadline of having to go to someone else's house to do the prep work, I'm not sure when I'll get to prepping those meals.  I'm happy that they're slow cooker meals this time, which means less preparation on serving day.  That will be much appreciated when I have two kids in football and a third on the bike team this fall.

One of the kiddos is away at camp this week, and another kiddo has swim lessons and soccer practice or a game every day, so meals are easy-prep and low key.  Here's what's on the menu this week:



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Coop Move-In Day and 6 Week Chick Update

We did a coop-building-blitz this weekend, and finally on Monday it was done enough for the chicks to move in.  There are still a few details that need to be finished, but it is good for now.  And none too soon--we left town for a week and when we returned the girls were HUGE.  No wonder they kept knocking their food over while we were gone.

As of today, the girls have been with us for 6 weeks.

Here's the view I've been showing y'all during the building process--you can see the run, ramp, chicken door (some people call it a pop door), and people door.  You can also see the people door to the run in the back.  And a couple of chickens.  And a couple of kids.  See those black things to the left of the people door?  Those are pullies and a lock to raise and lower and keep in place the chicken door.

Inside the hen house, looking from the people door.  Hubby used an old ladder for the girls to roost on.  When they're bigger, the ladder/roost will be raised to about 2 feet off the ground.

Toasty Crunch on the ramp.  Hubby used an old desk top that he found on the side of the road for the ramp, and branches for the cleats.  The girls are able to navigate it ok, but it's quite slippery between the cleats, and they're not quite big enough yet to just step from cleat to cleat, so I think we'll be putting a few more branches on.

This is the nest box side of the hen house, with a window up above.  The nest box is one of the details that needs to be finished, but since the girls won't be laying until they're about 16-20 weeks old, it's not critical right now.  In fact, the nest box is inaccessible from the inside of the hen house right now.

Esther (by the post), Rocky, Red (by the red bowl), Toasty Crunch (far side of the ramp), Austro, hanging out in the run.  When I think about how little they were when we brought them home, I'm just amazed.  I don't think we could even put one of them in the box they came home in now (and those boxes could fit up to 15 chicks).

I put the Mason jar waterer down in the run so the girls have access to water without having to climb the ramp.  I also put their fermented feed in the run.  This week I ramped up fermented feed production because they really like it and because they're getting so much bigger.

Bubby and Toasty Crunch.  Bubby is single-handedly doing the bird-taming around here.  We want them to be used to people, and not run away when we approach.  He picks them up as often as possible, and generally, they tolerate him.

A friend asked me about chicken start-up.  Like what's needed, and how to do things.  I told her I'm all about cheap and easy.  In line with the "cheap" directive, I'm using shredded newspaper for bedding in the hen house.  So far, so good.  A little bit has migrated out the people door and the chicken door, but it's biodegradable, so it's all good.

I put food and water in the hen house, too.  Hopefully within a few weeks I'll have the bigger/adult/permanent feeder and waterer made--those will be hung in the run.  The bigger feeder and waterer qualify for the "easy" directive.  Bigger, so I (actually, hopefully Bubby) don't have to fill them as often.

The girls, snuggled in.  Rocky, Red, Esther, Austro, Toasty Crunch.
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