Friday, May 29, 2015

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Friday, April 24, 2015

i am a chicken farmer part 3

M and I were enjoying the bliss that one has during the chicken honeymoon period.  We sat for hours playing with the babies, petting them and praising ourselves for being such forward thinkers.  We talked endlessly about different egg recipes, coop plans and all the chicken knowledge we gathered on the internet the night before.  The chicks were handled constantly by many small hands and even brought indoors for bonding purposes because what use is it to have a chicken if it can’t be brought indoors to watch TV on your lap?  We all had our turn being christened by hot stinky chicken poop.  Turns out even if a chicken really really loves you they will still poop on you.  Never read that in all my chicken research.   

The brooder cage was kept in M’s garage.  The door went up in the morning and down at night to keep our little ones safe.  We cleaned the cage daily lining it with newspaper because God forbid their little toes have to step on the wire bottom of the cage.  These were some pampered chicks. 

We got down to business naming them.  We had agreed ahead of time that we would be raising some conservative, biblical and wholesome hens and their names needed to reflect that.  Because you know if we would have named one Lexus or Gucci they would have turned out… well you know…  So bible names it was and if not biblical at least something that conjures up Little House on the Prarie or something with innocent country charm.  No Disney characters or types of chicken dishes (Kiev, Nugget, Patty etc…).  We are serious chicken farmers here and this was a big decision.  This is the point we felt the need to create the board of directors.   Truthfully the board of directors includes only M and myself.  Our husbands think they sit on the board but they are really just honorary members with little voting power.  Scott and E (M’s husband) do not read this blog, please do not pass this information on.  Thank you kindly in advance.  I've since deemed M the additional title of head of security but more on that later.  In the end the board of directors settled on the following names:

Splash Silkie: Eden
Red Frizzle: Goldie
Bigger Buff Orphington: Elizabeth
Smaller Buff Orphington: Josephine aka Josie
Bigger Cuckoo Maran: Esther
Smaller Cuckoo Maran: Delilah
Easter Egger: Robin
Polish Top Hat: Magdalene aka Maggie
Golden Laced Wyandotte: Willa

I soon ordered some chicken nipples that would resolve the madness that came with trying to keep the water dish clean.  We fashioned them to the bottom of some two liter soda bottles and used cable ties to hang them in the brooder.  I worked hard to teach all the girls the chicken nipple system.  I and pulled out a stool and sat and sat and sat.  I would tap the nipple to make it leak and peck at it with my finger mimicking a chicken beak.  They would all stand there very curious and then one at a time I would hold their beak to the nipple and trickle water out.  I made a list of all of our babies and then marked them off as they demonstrated chicken nipple competency.  It took 2 days before I felt comfortable removing the old messy watering system.  This is how I determined where each chicken fell on the IQ spectrum.  The smartest by far are the Buff Orphingtons.  They catch on to everything so much faster than any of the other breeds.  It appears the more ornamental and pretty the bird the lower the IQ.  I don’t believe in most stereotypes but have to say that silkies must be the dumb blondes of the chicken world (not that I actually believe that any blondes are dumb).  So sweet and funny and lots of fun but maybe not a lot going on up top. 

The chickens were very popular with the kids.  I think M was a bit overwhelmed when six children would show up in her garage at all hours of the day and night all begging to hold chicks at the same time.  We were trying to keep a low profile in the neighborhood and six children whining and dancing around a cage in the garage with the door wide opens tends to draw attention.  Not to mention none of these children had valid chicken experience so dropping chicks resulting in a flock of children chasing a flock of flapping chicks out into the street was a real possibility.  M suggested we only allow two children at a time to hold the chicks and also implemented a rule that no child should open the brooder without an adult present.  This is why she is such a good farming partner, she’s logical.  I would probably just go on dealing with the crazy if it wasn't for her and her common sense.   I think we were both excited for the novelty of the chicks to wear off.  It since has and we've come to a happy place.  The children that are actually interested in chickens are now experienced enough to know how to handle the chickens and keep them safe.  Those who are less interested observe but are done begging to hold the chickens. 

We fell into a nice routine of cleaning the cage, bringing in fresh clumps of dirt with green grass, feeding and watering.  When we would run out of newspaper for the pan below the cage we would send one of the children to the corner to gather enough of the free Senior Life or Florida Weekly papers. 

While at Linda’s chicken farm M had discussed some additional chickens we’d be interested in and several days after getting our flock integrated M got news that Linda had just received a shipment of Polish Top Hats.  They were 1 day old.  M drove back out and picked up two.  They appeared to be similar in size to my little black frizzle that I had picked up at Haley’s farm so we put all three of them together in a 20 gallon turtle aquarium that I had laying around from a previous free turtle adventure.  The three chicks got along quite well and so became roomies.

We added the following to the flock:

Splash Polish Top Hat: Pearl
Silver Laced Polish Top Hat: Lacey

These babies had to be under the light so we dug through E’s workshop searching for extension cords and strung them across the garage.  We rigged up a brooder light that we could raise and lower as needed.   

We now had a flock of nine.  M and I cleaned them out regularly and I swept the floor daily but I still felt a twinge of guilt every time I entered the garage/coop.  I couldn't help but feeling like we’d infringed on M's husband’s territory.  We unplugged one of his garage door openers to have an outlet for the brooder light, I used his table saw stand to hold the baby chick’s aquarium, stole some of his cable ties to wire part of the cage shut, and made use of all the tools I needed.   He was probably sick of seeing me occupying his garage day and night but I needed to be with my flock.  After all, we were bonding.  One day I called M to see if she could open the garage door for me and she instructed me to sneak through the house because she was laying down with the baby.  I snuck through the back door as instructed, crept through the house like a cat burglar and tiptoed out into the garage.  I couldn't find the light switch so I went about watering, feeding and cleaning the cage in the near dark.  Suddenly the kitchen door squeaked open and I watched M’s mother in law come out to start a load of laundry.  I froze while I struggled with how to announce my presence.  I knew any movement or sound would startle her and so I cowered near the corner waiting.  She screamed as we made eye while I apologized and stumbled over my tongue trying to make her understand why I the creepy neighbor lady was lurking in her garage in the dark.  She was quite understanding however she probably feels like she's being watched every time she comes out into the garage at night.  The funniest run in though was the day I walked over extra early in the morning.  I was happy to see that the garage door was up and I could do what I needed to do without disturbing anyone.  As I rounded the corner about to start babbling and saying good morning to my hens I caught a glimpse of some skin.  M’s husband was bent over in front of the washer wearing some very small shorts or boxers or something.  I don’t recall exactly what the outfit was because I was so focused on back pedaling as quickly and cautiously as possible.   Being a rather robust woman, I am not often described as stealthy, quick or light footed but I assure you I was silent and lightening quick as I raced for the safety of my own yard.  I was a thousand shades of red as I tried to undo what had just almost played out.  That was a really close call.  I felt guilty enough but if his eyes would have met mine I think I would have died.   I never mentioned that run in to anyone except my own boys who asked what was wrong when I came flying into the house sputtering and red and sweating.  After my two run ins I think it was safe to say we were all excited to get these chickens out of the garage.  I was tired of being the peeping bird woman, the chickens wanted sunshine and dirt, M’s husband probably wanted his garage and his privacy back. 

For all you women out there ready to execute a chicken purchase just as soon as your husband finishes your dream coop listen up.  Nothing will motivate you husband to build a coop faster than allowing nine stinky chickens and one creepy neighbor lady to occupy his beloved man cave.  Do not wait I tell you, buy those birds and let your husband find the natural motivation to build that coop. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

i am a chicken farmer part 2

Although the Chicken King experience was a bit discouraging we pushed on.  Our chicken dreams would not be crushed that easily.  Back to the drawing board.  We went back and forth weighing whether we should order eggs and deal with the roosters that would no doubt hatch with our precious hens or whether we would order chicks even though that would mean having a large amount of one breed because they often won't ship small orders without charging an a silly amount ($65 per bird) for shipping.  I had a vision of the two of us sitting in our lawn chairs drinking something beautiful with a varied rainbow of ridiculously flamboyant chickens frolicking about.  I was not ready to give up or willing to make a second appearance at the gate of the Chicken King's castle so it was back to the endless chicken research. 

We were so close to clicking the purchase button on a few birds and paying some CRAZY amount when a last desperate peek at Craigslist paid off.  An ad appeared out of nowhere offering several of the varieties of chicks we were interested in within about 30 minutes of our empty chicken brooder.  I fell in love with the first chicken lady the minute I spoke with her.  Linda oozed with feathery chicken passion when she spoke of her birds.  She suggested we come out and see her flock and ended our conversation by telling me that even if we didn't buy any of her chicks she would still love to have us out to show them off. 

The next day M and I loaded all eight of our children into our vehicles and headed out of the city to the country.  Old Florida country is beautiful.  Endless green pastures and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss adorned the roadsides.  I was day dreaming the entire ride out there of barn boots and front porches and sweet smelling laundry on clotheslines.  Soon we rolled up at the chicken paradise.  The gate, the winding road and the free ranging cattle made me long to have acreage and a matching farm.  The chicken woman greeted us warmly and wasted no time bringing us into her very large coop and run area. 

We were supposed to be focusing on picking out chickens however being chicken newbies we were also intrigued at every chicken supply and technique  Linda used.  It was so useful to see a successful method in place and producing happy chickens that I wanted to mentally document it all.  The buckets she used for nest boxes, the way she integrated new chicks into the rest of the flock, the chicken nipple watering system she used and on and on.  I had to force myself to focus eventually and make some decisions on who to bring home with us.  Linda was so patient with all of us and our children and even held a baby so M could hold a chicken.  She had the opposite mindset, demeanor and chicken raising philosophy from the annoying Chicken King.  I think Linda would have let us sit there all day petting her chickens and asking ridiculous novice chicken questions.  She never rushed us or judged or questioned or challenged us.  When we said we wanted pretty she showed us pretty birds.  When we said we wanted Easter colored eggs she showed us Easter Eggers.  She understood our vision and she had a coop cat which was a clear sign of her intelligence and trustworthiness. 

We had eight children in her coop at one time and the children were naturally calm and gentle with all the birds they selected.  We ended up picking out six chicks from Linda.  There was a little squabble about what chicks were riding with what children and I had to nurse the baby but after that we settled everyone in and the rain started to come down as we drove away to make our chicken dreams a reality.   

Our flock now consisted of:
2 Cuckoo Marans
2 Buff Orphingtons
1 Polish Top Hat
1 Golden Laced Wyandotte

We needed to feed the children on the way home.  Ironically M led the way and decided to  swing into the KFC drive through.  I sent her a text letting her know this was wrong on several levels and such a cold welcome for our chicks but followed her nonetheless.  To make matters worse this was the world’s slowest KFC and we ended up transferring all the chicks to M’s vehicle while waiting in line in the drive through.  I can only imagine what the other customers thought.  I know I giggled at the thought of it all as I ran through the rain to the back of M’s car with chicks in hand. 

We brought the one week chicks home to M's garage where we had set up the brooder.  The brooder was the old quail cage upcycled and scrubbed to remove any remaining quail body parts from the previous quail massacre. 

We were satisfied with our babies for about 24 hours and then decided we needed more.  I located yet another chicken lady with more of the chicken breeds we wanted with a similar mentality and passion for feathers.  Haley lived a bit further out in the country but I was up for another drive.  I headed out with all my boys and arrived at a similar farm.  I was greeted by several rather pushy goats upon exiting the van.  They were playful but demanding of attention.  Eventually several of my littles took to riding them and that seemed to occupy both the boys and the goats which allowed me to shop for chickens.   It was difficult enough to shop while keeping the goat rodeo in my peripheral vision but I felt like I needed to include M in any decisions so I was photographing and texting chick pics to her as fast as possible.  I believe that's known as Chexting.  Photographing chickens is a real challenge.  Some of them are not very photogenic or just look evil in photos but I did my best.  

Haley had one of our favorite breeds, silkies.  She had saved one splash silkie from a recent hatch because if seemed extra special and seemed to approve of our grand chicken vision and felt we would be a great fit.  The bumbling silkie is the silliest thing to watch.  One cannot watch a silkie hopping across the yard in its fluffy pajamas without cracking a smile unless you have no soul I suppose or are the Chicken King and see no value in pretty chickens.  M confirmed that we needed the silkie for sure.  I selected a black frizzle that had the most gorgeous turned out feathers I’d seen yet.  I also selected an Easter Egger.  I don’t find Easter Eggers beautiful however, their eggs are amazing colors so she was on my list to come home.  After selecting my three birds Haley told me she’d let me have a free one.  A free chicken?  I was hesitant because I was not sure how many chickens M expected me to return with but had my eye on a red frizzle that was beautiful but more importantly had a winning personality.  She had been following us around begging to be petted.  She was sweet and trusting.  Not a sketcher like M calls the skittish ones.    I decided to surprise M with her. 

While looking at chickens we walked past Haley’s rabbit cages.  She raises lion head rabbits.  I accidentally petted one and then accidentally ask to hold one and then accidentally fell in love…
I loaded up my boys, four new chicks, 1 snuggly baby rabbit and one smelly goat that wanted so badly to get in my van.  In the end the goat decided to stay at the farm.  Huck proclaimed that he would hold the puppy (the rabbit) on the way home and he did.

Look at that photo and tell me that you could have resisted bringing her home.  I seriously doubt it!

We added the following to our flock:
1 White Silkie
1 Red Frizzle
1 Black Frizzle
1 Easter Egger
1 Lion Head rabbit

I sent a text to my not so farmy husband that included photos of the five chickens I had just purchased.  He did not seem to note that the fifth chicken was actually our rabbit. 

We stopped at a farm supply store on the way home.  I include this detail only to make sure it's documented in this record that they were selling chicks and ducklings both and I was able to walk out of the store without buying any of them.  That may be important evidence later in the event that anyone determines that I have some sort of farm animal hoarding condition. 

I predict both of our newly discovered chicken ladies will offer a wealth of information for weeks to come as we have more questions and possibly want to add more to our flock.  M keeps in contact with Linda who has also agreed to take any unwanted or unintended roosters that we end up with.  Which is an amazing resource because I understand figuring out what to do with unwanted roosters can be a bit of a predicament if you aren't interested in culling them.  We talked back and forth a few times since our purchases and look forward to having a long chicken relationship in the future.  I recently played matchmaker when a friend of mine ask me if I would like to be the new owner of her pot belly pig named Luna.  I declined but hooked her up with my chicken lady.  Who knew I was a livestock matchmaker? 

Our original chicks were all young enough that they welcomed the new family members without issue.  To date they all get along as though they were hatched together.  Our flock now included nine hens and we were complete… for awhile.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

i am a chicken farmer part 1

I am a chicken farmer.  I am an urban chicken farmer.  I am an urban chicken farmer raising fancy chickens.  I am a super hip urban chicken farmer raising fancy chickens.  I am a super hip urban chicken farmer raising fancy chickens in a Pinterest worthy coop.  I am a super hip urban chicken farmer raising fancy chickens in a custom built Pinterest worthy coop with my slightly more hip neighbors. 

There, I like how that sounds now.  I have been speaking it into existence over the last few weeks.  It’s all migrated from my daydreams into to my reality except maybe for the hip part.  While self fulfilling prophecy can place chickens in one’s back yard I am not certain it can be powerful enough transform one into someone others would describe as hip.  But just in case…  I am a super hip momma that can fit into super cute size eight farm girl overalls… I am a super hip momma that can fit into super cute size eight farm girl overalls…

I have wanted chickens or some type of poultry for years or at least since the great passing of the quail flock.  Many obstacles stood in my path particularly my common sense and my husband.  These were both easily overcame a few weeks ago when my neighbor M casually mentioned to me that she would love to have backyard chickens.  I proceeded to tell her my quail story and my shared desire to have backyard chickens.  Things proceeded quickly from there.  Shortly after our light hearted conversation she mentioned to my husband that we were getting chickens together.  Note I did not say asked or showed interest or brought up for discussion… She simply told him we were getting chickens.  It was quickly discovered that my husband was unable to look her in the eye and tell her no the way he can so quickly with me.  This was a little tidbit I picked up on and have tucked away for later ammunition or manipulation.  You know, the next time I want a cat or to acquire more children or something.

One minute we were having a casual conversation while nursing our matching baby girls in my front yard (we may be backyard chicken farmers but we are certainly front yard baby nursers) and the next minute we were scraping chicken poop off our feet after touring our first chicken farm. 

The first chicken farm was ran by the self proclaimed and very arrogant chicken man who made it his mission to make us bow at his chicken poop covered boots and proclaim that he was the all knowing chicken king and we were simply two city girls that desperately needed him and his very plain chickens if we intended on being even mildly successful.  I was fine to allow the king to lead the conversation and give us his opinions in fact form.  M however did go head to head with him on more than a few points and even suggested once that we were interested in pretty chickens.  Both of these were offensive to the king and grounds for head shaking and eye rolling but none as offensive as when she admitted she preferred to purchase her chicken at the grocery store instead of killing her own.  The only great piece of information we took away from that field trip was that this was not the right chicken supplier for us.

To be continued...

Friday, November 22, 2013

the quail

I’ve been avoiding this subject for some time now.  As of now, the empty cage sits in my backyard as a sad reminder of what several months ago brought a flurry of excitement into our home. 

The incubator stage was fun, the fragile babies a miracle of GOD it seemed, and the energetic little chicks were so entertaining I would lose hours of my day just laughing at their little quail antics.  I shared my office with them until they got too noisy and a bit to stinky for my liking.  It was time to move them out of their cozy little Rubbermaid tote to the big cage in the sunroom.  The sunroom is a glorified screen porch.  I was certain they would enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and I would enjoy having a peaceful office once more. 

They thrived, eating everything in sight and drinking ridiculous amounts of water.  I learned what happens when you startle quail and chased more than one panicky helicopter around the sunroom.  I learned about sexing them and had determined who would eventually be culled.  I made an effort to pick up and kiss at least five of them per day.  They had the most curious little personalities and I spent a great deal of time educating anyone who was willing to come out and watch my quail demo.  Each day I would refill their water and food and pull handfuls of weeds with clods of dirt still intact.  It was funny to watch them with long grass.  It became evident why they are often referred to as prairie chickens.  They loved to hide in the tallest blades crouching down and scratching through the dirt hoping to find grubs or ants or anything tasty.  They would hop up as high as they could or stand on their tippy toes (tippy talons) to pull seeds down off the top of the weeds.  I fell even more in love. 

As the pregnancy hormones started to rage so did my nausea.  I have had this issue with each pregnancy often throwing up multiple times per day.  Needless to say there are certain triggers that can set one off.  It became impossible to get through feeding and daily cage cleaning without stopping to throw up several times.  Quail are lovely in many aspects, but the smell of quail manure is not something that quail enthusiasts advertise as one of their best qualities.  It stinks and lingers in one’s nasal passages.  Their last day in the sunroom I vomited on my feet.  I was wearing flip flops.  It was moving day. 

I am creative by nature so spurred by the recent vomit covered flip flops I started brainstorming furiously.  They needed to move outdoors so they didn’t smell as much, I needed to stop dealing with their manure each day.  The answer was simple.  I would place their cage in the backyard and take the aluminum manure catching tray out.  This would allow the manure to drop through the bottom of the cage onto the grass.  I determined that if I forced one of the big boys to come back with me each day we could each pick up one end of the cage and move it one cage length down the backyard.  It would be a modified quail tractor.  I praised myself for being  such an efficient problem solver. 
This system worked well for several weeks.  The quail seemed happy.  Actually I think quail always seem happy, but they were thriving and I was no longer vomiting, as much, while dealing with them.  Life was good. 

One afternoon, a few weeks into my genius backyard quail setup, two little boys flew through the back door with tears streaming down their faces.  Through sobs and snot they pulled on my apron begging me to come out to the back yard and see what the flies had done to the quailies.  The flies?  “They killed the quailies, they killed the quailies,” was all they kept repeating.  I threw on my flip flops and rushed to the scene of the crime.  I had not properly prepared for this.  What I found was horrifying.  The quail were all dead, at least I hoped to GOD they were.  It was a massacre.  Something had come in and literally pulled each quail, by whatever body part they could snag, through the wire mesh of the cage.  Feathers were everywhere.  Worse yet, body parts were everywhere.  Most of the little quail bodies were still in the cage, but their heads, wings, legs and feet were scattered throughout the backyard. 

We said a quick prayer and I sent the little boys into the house with strict warnings not to come back here again.  I took a deep breath and predictably vomited.  It broke my heart to imagine the suffering that these little quail went through.  I cried because they were my babies, I knew that some of them would die, but their lives would be honored and their meat used to feed our family.  I cried because this was not the way it was supposed to end.  I cried because this was supposed to be an amazing adventure in micro farming for the boys, not some horrific traumatizing life event that would haunt them in their sleep.  I cried thinking of their last moments being attacked by their ruthless predator.  But I also cried because I had thrown up on my flip flops… again.

So, sadly there you have it.  This is why I’ve been vague.  If I think about it too much I still throw up.  I will most definitely get more quail however, I need to finish incubating this little baby before starting another flock. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Five seemed like such a ridiculously large amount of children a year ago when we found out we were expecting Huckleberry.  Five went from daunting to manageable to totally doable to a new normal.  So normal that it soon became time to shake things up once more. 

We are so excited to announce that our family will once again welcome another baby into our little pack of boys.  Baby six is due sometime in early May.  We do not know the gender yet but are excited to find out some time near Christmas.  Our house is divided on this subject.  Some of us like what we know and are standing firmly on Team Boy while a smaller but far more passionate Team Girl has taken up a strong campaign hoping for that little princess or at bare minimum that little tomboy. 

We planned to keep things under wraps until we were certain what the gender was but I have a tendency to be completely transparent when it comes to things like this.  It didn’t take long for several of my acquaintances in our close social circles to quickly recognize that look I must wear on my face during every pregnancy and called me out on it way too early.  I have little ability to lie.  This lead to a great deal of scheming to keep the knowing group far away from the unknowing group until all interested parties could be officially told.  Our boys were some of the last to find out and we did not want them to hear about it casually.   I can finally sleep knowing that everyone knows and I don’t have to wrack my brain with who knows and who doesn’t and how to keep the two parties apart.

The boys reacted much the way I anticipated.  They have grown accustomed to this routine and were all very excited.  There were lots of questions from the little boys and we all believe that Huck is in denial.  Sitting next to one of the Bigs in church last week I overheard his after communion prayers requesting that GOD deliver twins to our family.  Several weeks ago this would have concerned me but rest assured I did not leave that first appointment without confirmation of how many were in the litter and I can assure you it is only 1. 

Having a large number of children is such a strange concept. I follow several blogs with more than 10 children so on the spectrum 6 really isn’t that many but for the rest of the world it must seem like a lot. From the comments, the advice, the criticism, the awe and the curiosity I can never predict what might come out of a stranger’s mouth these days.  I am careful to think before reacting to the sometimes less than appropriate comments knowing that I usually have an audience of five small students taking in my every word and lesson.  Most often though I get the “God bless you” look or the soft head tilting reminiscing look of an 80 year old mother who tells me that she too had five sons. 

I loved the number five while it lasted but am looking forward to six.  I’m not sure how I feel about even numbers but I don’t feel strongly enough to start planning another pregnancy just to get back to an odd number. 

Thank you all for your love and support.  We are blessed to be surrounded by family and friends that support our decision to let GOD play a large role in the number of children we bring into this world.  Or at least are blessed with that same group of people that respect us enough not to share their strong opinions opposing our view.   

Sunday, August 4, 2013

the quail are coming

Somewhere out there in Georgia there lives a woman who probably works a full time job and is a bit quirky so on the side raises quail.  She sells the eggs on E Bay because her husband says she already has too many weird hobbies.   
Somewhere out there in Florida there lives a woman who probably works a full time job and is a bit quirky so on the side she wants to raise quail.  She buys them on E Bay even though her husband says she already has too many weird hobbies. 
In the wee hours of the morning a few days ago I was sitting in my office with my dog and a boy asleep at my feet while I wandered into a dangerous section of E Bay, the farming section.  Like a middle aged man with a porn addiction (sorry for the graphic nature, but I have a problem) I stared wide eyed at the screen.  Then I did the unthinkable and typed “quail hatching eggs” into the search fields.  It was the exact right combination of words to bring up, not eating eggs, not quail egg crafts, not pictures of quail, but the actual listings for fertile eggs that one could actually place in an incubator and hatch out their very own amazing little quailies.
Math is not my strong point so I spend a great deal of time figuring out just how many eggs I wanted.  I would like to end up with 1 male and 6 females.  So if roughly half of my eggs turned out to be male and half female I would need approximately 12 eggs right?  I figure some might not hatch so made an attempt to read the reviews from previous egg buyers to feel out the probability of my hatch rate and got overwhelmed, so just assumed maybe four wouldn’t hatch.  Then I just figured that since this is my first time around and I’ve never actually been the captain of an incubator there is a decent chance that user error would maybe cause some to hatch but die shortly thereafter or maybe be still born.  Can that even happen in quails?  I do not know.  You may be losing faith in my ability to come up with an accurate set of statistics or actually raise quail altogether but rest assured that 24 is the magic number of eggs that a family my size should order.  Statistically I would have had a better chance of getting the number of eggs correct if I would have just drawn a number out of a hat instead of putting an hour of half witted predictions into some made up equation where half my input was not logical and several mathematical errors were made.  But 24 it is.   
Next I sifted through buyers until I found a handful willing to sell in quantities of 24.  I located a seller in Georgia, read the listing and then…  Clicked the Add to Cart button.  I’m sure many of you have added quail to your shopping cart.  This sounded perfectly reasonable to me and the sleeping boy and the sleeping dog did nothing to stop me so I went ahead and paid for my purchase. 
I have been wanting quail forever.  In the way that a mother longs for a baby, I have had their little coop set up for months and walk by it everyday staring at the empty hutch imagining little quailies hopping around.  I’ve always had an excuse for not being ready.  An upcoming vacation which would require a quail sitter, a job that required me to travel for weeks at a time leaving my less than quail enthusiast husband home to care for my babies etc.…  I was never ready and then the other night I pulled the trigger. 
It’s done, the quail are on their way.  We can’t undo this.  It’s happening.  I am really gonna be a quail momma (assuming nothing tragic happens).  I also have to figure out how to operate my incubator, build a brooder and figure out how to possible dispatch (that means kill to any newbie farmers like me) all the extra males.  Oh yeah and figure out how to clean them, cook them and stop crying long enough to eat them.  I had a long talk with my mom about all the things that could potentially go wrong.  She brought up some valid points like 1 year olds that might squeeze fragile quail and a dog that may eat them.  All things I will consider however, I prefer to live in my little farming fantasy world and am predicting that this adventure is gonna be fantastic.  I can hardly wait.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

a new season

I often find myself in the middle the novel that is my strange little life turning the page and starting a new chapter.  Like any worthy novel, I’m usually so excited to get started that one chapter just melds into the next with out missing a beat.  This new chapter is full of change. 
I am not longer in the go live arena traipsing across country assisting hospitals implementing new software.  I feel incredibly blessed with an opportunity that has come my way.  Well, not exactly that easily, but regardless I won the prize.  I am still supporting surgeons, anesthesiologists, doctors and nurses with EPIC with one tiny, incredibly important, difference.  I support them over the phone and by remoting into their computers.  This difference means very little to all the struggling EPIC babies, but it means the world to my boys and my deserving husband.  I am able to do all my work from home.  I play with the boys all day and then slink off to my office (usually with one or two of them in tow) and log in.  I take calls from 5 pm to 1 am.  I’m three weeks in and already feel like I’m on top of the world.  I love the challenge of a seething physician or a crashing patient with an equally crashing computer. 
Huck isn’t too much of a baby anymore.  He’s in size three diapers, eating everything his brothers eat and doing his best to keep up with the pack.  He turned one yesterday.
We are finally settled in the new house and have taken some time and money to make it ours.  Scott has a honey do list a mile long and whips through it at an amazing speed.  I think he’s at Lowes every week.  We’ve painted the outside, replaced the front door, sodded the front lawn, put in a new mailbox, remodeled the kitchen, painted most of the rooms and a few weeks ago he built me an office.  It turned out incredible.  If I had all the money in the world it would be completely decorated, but we’re not quite in that position. 
The boys are getting ready to head off to school in a few weeks.  Gavin will be entering middle school this year which was a real turning point for me.  I loved the elementary school the boys all attended, but the middle school we were assigned to I was far less comfortable with.  We explored the always nagging thought of homeschool, which for the first time ever would be a real possibility with my new job and we toured private schools.  We fell in love with a small private Catholic school with a ridiculously large tuition.  Scott wanted to send them all there, the budget however, did not.  After lots of thought and prayer, I turned this matter over to GOD and low and behold, our boys will be attending Catholic school.  Finn, Tommy and Gavin will all be together in an amazing school with fantastic classmates.  We are pleased and blessed that we belong to a parish that appreciates moms who teach religion (and that make incredible dreams come true for said moms).
I have been cleaning and organizing and cooking all day long.  Being home has been amazing.  I have charts for everything.  Meal planning, zone cleaning, chore charts and calendars make my stay home days most predictable. 
We have been working really hard to adopt a more Paleo approach to food and cooking.  It’s been a super exciting journey, only three weeks in to wean the boys off sugar and onto some more beneficial foods.  The side effects are most welcome as well. 
I look forward to what this chapter holds.  I have a few plans that I am looking to execute including the quail, some potential small scale fish farming, the explosion of a planned September planting and maybe a few other surprises.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


From California to Kentucky and from Kentucky back to Florida.  This has been my agenda over the past few months.  We are currently enjoying having me on a hometown project.  My hospital is implementing yet another piece of their EMR puzzle and has asked me to join the cause and work for them for the next few months.  I can certainly appreciate working in my own city again mostly because it involves sleeping in my own bed every night and seeing my family more. 

Things have remained chaotic, in a good way, at home.  Just when things calm down, we start projects like gutting the kitchen or decide we should paint over the ugly pink color that was once the outside of our home. 

I've been kitchenless for the past week and a half mostly due to my own fault.  Sometimes my optimism needs to do a reality check.  When the cabinet guy warned us that we should cool it on the gutting part because the cabinets might not be finished quite so quickly, I encouraged Scott the destroyer to rip it all out.  Keep going I assured him.  After all, I'm creative, I can make lots of things in my amazing crock pot.  That announcement was roughly 31 meals ago.  I no longer feel this way.  We are actually coming to the end of this project and I can appreciate all the money, time and inconvenience that have been part of this remodel.  I will have pictures to post soon.

The boys are well. 

Gavin is hoping desperately to get taller soon.  He announced to us last night that we better look out because he is going to be hitting his growth sperm soon.  I hope for his sake that he does add a few inches to his height in the coming weeks.  Tommy is gaining on him monthly and it won't take long and he will surpass Gavin.  We found out what middle school he will be attending next year.  Nervous doesn't even begin to sum up how I feel about middle school and this school in particular.  Home school, private school and combinations of options linger on my mind.  I'm not sure what direction we will head. 

Tommy is Tommy.  He is finding his creative side and channeling that energy daily.  Often times it's in the form of cutting apart and reassembling cardboard boxes into people, Flat Stanley style.  I have several rather creepy characters hanging from my curtain rods in the bedroom.  They are the last thing I see when I close my eyes and the first thing I see when I open them.  There is something so eerie about the way kids draw people. 

Finn is getting taller as well.  No bigger around, but longer and leaner everyday.  He is working so hard to master some of the skills he will need to do well in kindergarten.  Somehow he is aware that he is a bit behind the curve and has lots of work to do.  If I'm not prompting him to count or sing me his version of the alphabet, he is prompting me. 

Petey is so sweet these days.  He trails around after Finn preferring be near him all the time.  It's funny how the table have turned.  For years it was Finn chasing Peter telling him what to eat and drink and play with and now it's the opposite.  Peter cries when Finn tries to get up in the middle of a play session.  "Noooooo, come back, don't leave me."  They act an awful lot like twins sometimes.  Peter longs for the day when he can go to school like Finn.  I hope Finn continues to set good examples for Pete because he is a powerful role model right now.

Little Huck is getting sweeter each day.  He ate his first dog food the other day when he decided he could crawl.  he proceeded to crawl from the living room to the kitchen, find the dog dish and have a bite.  I will mention that this did not happen on my watch, although it probably could have.  He loves to eat.  Huck loves nursing, loves the bottle, loves his brothers cups, loves to sit in is high chair and stuff his little mouth with anything he can convince his brothers to give him a bite of. 

Auggie Doggie is often referred to as The Hog.  We are still trying to maintain our pecking order.  The Hog wakes up most mornings determined that he will go to bed in the evening as the Alpha dog.  It's a constant struggle to remind him that he is not the dictator of the house and to remind the boys that they need to keep him in check.  About 30 hours of Dog Whisperer on Netflix and I have still not cured him.  On the plus side, he is neutered now, he will sit on command and comes when we call him most of the time unless he suspects he is in trouble.  Something tells me he will require a lifetime of training.  Scott is trying to find a place in his heart for Auggie, but as of now, the two don't really see eye to eye.

It was my birthday yesterday.  I do not feel older, in fact, I do not even know how old I am.  I know I was born in 1981, but haven't had the time or motivation to do the math.  If you want to figure it out, go ahead.  The house is coming together.  We still have a long way to go but at least I have a 2013 kitchen and dining room.  The rest of the house is still circa 1961, but the sixties were an alright time in our history I think so I'm not in a huge rush. 

We have great plans for gardens and my quail and a few other fun projects, but need to get the kitchen wrapped up first.  I look forward to what adventures we find next.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I signed my final papers today for a 17 day California project.  I'm leaving soon.  I planned on breaking this gently to the boys and analyzing their reactions but... in true Scott fashion he told them all while driving them home from religion the other night without me.  I always worry for them and keep information from them and present it gently only when I feel most appropriate.  Not Scott.  He tells it like it is when it happens.  Maybe this is better.  I tend to overthink all things related with my boys anyway.  So now they know and no, they weren't concerned in the least that I was leaving for work again. 

This was comforting to me.  I remember when I was pregnant for the first time.  I wasn't concerned or worried at all for the birth of Gavin.  I remember saying to Scott, "How bad could it really hurt?"  I'm not like those other women, I can handle this.  Then there was the second pregnancy.  I worried about the birth of Tommy and the pain of labor as soon as that pregnancy test confirmed I was pregnant.  There is something significant about going through a traumatic experience the second time around.  You know what's coming, you remember the pain, you agonize over what's to come.  I told Scott that my first trip would be easy to explain to the boys, but it was my second that would be the most telling.  This time around when the boys found out I was leaving I planned on carefully studying their reactions.  They know what it means now when I say I am going to be gone for 17 days.  They've lived it.  But as usual, the thoughts that keep me up at night are my worries and just that, the boys aren't concerned in the least.  I guess that means that Scott and I did an OK job maintaining their little lives the last time we went through this. 

Today I hung up a new paper chain.  This is the chain that hangs in the dining room that signifies how many days are left on my trip.  They cut one off each night after getting off the phone with me and then count the days remaining.  I could see them look up then down taking in just how many links there were.  I was anticipating some groans.  "At least it doesn't touch the floor," was the only comment then they all ran off in a pack to play outside some more.  Phew!

Preparing this time around was much less overwhelming.  So many systems were already in place.  Scott has a fantastic routine he puts the boys through when I am gone and we have been practicing bits and pieces of it this week.  The boys cling to the routine and really find comfort in it.  They enjoy teaching it to me so I let them.  I plan to continue Scott's super routine when I get home this time and try to avoid falling into our oh so casual routine.  I think that would be healthier for them. Scott runs such a tight ship while I'm gone because he has to.  He cannot chance losing control or allowing chaos to reign when he's alone but when I'm home it's a different story.  If the boys go to bed without laying out their clothes or forget to brush their teeth at night Scott knows that I will catch up in the morning.  We are both more casual when we are around each other. 

I plan to leave a suitcase permanently packed next time.  I didn't actually use many of the items I had packed last time while at home.  Today was the first day I actually put on mascara.  I had to take it out of my travel bag?  How sad is that or actually how awesome is that?  The boys don't care how thick my eyelashes look so there's really no need when I'm not working and I love it.  I'm already working on booking my next project after California and it would be great if I could get the prepping down from 1 week to just a few days.  Last time I prepped for two weeks so just needing a week is already a huge improvement. 

I am creating a list of things that need to be done every time I leave so that I don't have to try to remember so much.  I emailed Tommy's teacher requesting his homework for the next two weeks.  I'm not sure where I stand on this.  Last time we had it complete prior to me leaving.  That took a huge to do task off of Scott's to do list.  Let's just say that doing homework with Tommy is not my favorite task these days.  It's like trying to make a fly land on your finger.  Lots of chasing around the house, reminding, focusing, reigning in, redirecting and hand holding.  I do not want to put that on Scott if I don't have to so I am trying to come up with alternatives.  One thought is to make copies of the homework so that I can help him via Skype.  This may be a twist he'd enjoy or maybe he would just get up and leave and I would be left staring at an empty computer chair frustrated.  I don't know but plan to come up with some ideas in the coming days.

I still plan to scale back all extra-curriculars while I'm gone.  This worked well last time and seems to take the pressure off everyone.  The freezer is stocked with bachelor food for them that require little effort and maximum calories.  They are looking forward to this.  The dog will go away to Miss Tammie's again to give Scott one less little boy to look after. 

I will allow myself to be excited about California once I get on the plane but for now I need to focus on everyone at home and get as prepared as possible. This includes actually getting a good night's sleep so good night!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I returned from Texas to a house full of very happy little men.

I have spent the last few weeks trudging through Christmas, enjoying company and finally in the last week or so exploring my new normal which will be my life as a stay home mom (sort of).  I have been so busy exploring that I have not been updating here so for those of you ever so curious here's what's been going on at our little homestead.

The littles just knocked on the door and requested watermelon

I stopped typing, sliced watermelon, placed it in a large purple bowl and sent them on their way

Glenn Beck mentioned creative farming the other day on his show

Scott mentioned that he thinks we should get quail (ya think?!?)

I ordered my quail

Scott put my cage together

This makes me smile

The big little just knocked wearing purple bowl on his head squinting while watermelon juice dripped in his eye and requested sliced bananas

I stopped typing, sliced bananas, placed them in the large purple bowl and sent him on his way

I rediscovered Flylady and have the cleanest house I've ever had

I have a vision and work hard every day to make it a reality

Zone 3 is today, our bedroom will be spotless, organized and a source of tranquility by this afternoon

I made homemade laundry soap

It's beautiful

It's cheap, 17 cents per gallon

Scott approves and wants me to figure out a way to make homemade dryer sheets

Yay Scott, that's the spirit

My dog is still bad, but not as bad

My mom didn't hate him when she came to visit

My couponing is going stronger than ever

I've discovered a super secret new website for Target coupons that has made my life easier

The family closet is completely functional now

It's awesome

It's not beautiful yet, but it will be

We found starfish at the beach the other day

They're on my shelf now

I swept the sidewalk in front of my house today

The littles just knocked again, bananas are gone, purple bowl is cracked in half, they want more watermelon

I stopped typing, sliced more watermelon, filled their grubby little hands with slices and sent them on their way

I got a new computer

One with a working shift key, appreciate the capital letters

I have been digging deeper into permaculture

Plans for an urban garden are in the works

I am overwhelmed with new ideas

Huck went right back to nursing the minute I returned

I still make him take and ounce of formula or two once a week to make sure he will survive another trip although my freezer has an amazing amount of breastmilk in it

I successfully pumped, stored and traveled with roughly two gallons of breast milk while in Texas

My fourth grade religion class was happy to have me back

A bit too happy, we got a bit loud last night

My truck is clean

My husband is shocked

I went to the farmers market today and plan to every Thursday

It was fun

I can't wait to get my quailies

I am fighting with photo gallery

I will get it fixed soon

I will show you all lots of photos of the goings on around here

The littles knocked again, they want acorn squash

I explained that it had to be cooked

They explained, they want to use it as a ball, not to eat

I told them to go wash their hands

They washed their hands in the tippy tap outside

We built a homemade handwashing station outside

It is truly simple but genius

This is the cleanest my boys hands have ever been and the cleanest my bathroom sink has ever been

I will be sure to post photos

The littles are back with more produce requests, I must go as they are climbing into the refrigerator and Huck just woke up.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

I have spent the last few weeks frantically preparing and over preparing for a new venture.  I have taken the plunge and walked away from a full time job, benefits and a guaranteed pay check.  This is hard to type as it doesn't look like the best idea when I see it in print.  Although most of my best ideas don't.

If you have followed this blog for any amount of time you have probably read between the lines or actually even just read the lines and can see that staying home with the boys has always been a siren that is calling to me.  That being said, I am now a stay home mom... a stay home mom with a twist. 

Our current plan will allow me to stay home for weeks on end but pick up some consulting work every now and then (when I run out of money).  My first gig came a bit quicker than I anticipated though.  I was only home about two weeks between my last day at my current job and the day I flew out.  This was not enough time to prepare the boys and Scott to spend 17 days without me. 

I prepped and I prepped and I prepped.  The family closet is labeled, the shoes are labeled, the supplies are labeled, the back up supplies are labeled and the labels are labeled.  Some of the last minute preps were really for my peace of mind, not theirs.  In my mind, I knew things would just work out fine it I went through and added a few more smiley faces on my lists of steps or if I hid another spare key or if I left one more surprise note for the boys to find.  When I wasn't prepping, I was researching tactics for leaving your children home while on business trips.  I got lots of great advice and implemented it.  We have calendars, postcards, a paper chain and several other recommended processes for helping the boys cope and understand that I will be back and am still accessible. 

I write this blog from Texas, far far from home.  I am sitting in a giant hotel room, in a king bed that just doesn't seem the same without several little boys fighting me for another inch of space or drooling on  my pillow.  Today I am in a good place emotionally.  I worried about that.  I talk to the boys often and am looking forward to Skyping with them soon. 

I fully intend to nurse my little Huckleberry when I return so my milk supply is on my to do list including a timer that goes off every four hours to remind me that I best be finding a nook to tuck away and hide in while pumping.  Pumping is a coping skill for me.  It reminds me of when Huck was in the NICU.  During a time when I had no control, pumping was productive and helpful to him.  It was the one thing I felt I could do to.  breast milk and travel logistics are just a bit messy.  I have been very creative thus far and have no plans of losing my milk supply while on this trip, even if that means pumping in strange places, storing my breast milk all over Texas like a squirrel hiding nuts, or nursing a cowboy baby... just kidding.

More than a few of my conversations have started off with, "Hi, I'm Erin.  I will be your consultant for the next 17 days.  Is there any chance I could stick some breast milk in your freezer?"  So at the end of my trip I will be gathering up my supply and trying to fly home with it.  Wish me luck. 

I'm a bit worried that I may be picking up an accent.  I found myself mimicking some of the staff that I've been working with and I't only been 24 hours.  If that's the worst thing I bring back from Texas, I suppose it'll be ok.

On that note, I've been up now for 28 hours and it's time to close my eyes and get some sleep. 

Ya'll come back now, ya hear?

I will be in Texas for the next 17 days.  I have lots of extra help and some super specials visitors lined up for the boys the next two weeks.  This will no doubt be an adventure, maybe more for them than me!  So far so good though. 

Friday, November 2, 2012




because scott believes that the boys need to learn to become informed contributing members of society

because paul ryan was in town

because i wanted a photo op



because little boys still have homework even when potential vice presidents come to town

because there was a little down time while waiting for paul



because forgetting your collar shirt is not an excuse to avoid the camera

because these memories will last a lifetime especially when captured in my lense




because mitt has five boys too

because scott believes that the boys need to learn to become informed contributing members of society

Thursday, October 4, 2012

prompt 21

writer’s block tonight…

so it’s off to a writer’s block website to randomly pick a prompt…


Describe some of the organizations or clubs you belonged to as a child



the first two organizations that come to mind are 4-H and girl scouts. 




allow me to start with girlscouts.  it was short lived.  i have very few memories of my girl scouting days.  they are as follows:

referring to our troop leader maxine as maxi pad behind her back and getting busted by her

having my mom drive me half way across the state to the girl scout camp that we probably couldn’t afford only to have a near panic attack when we arrived over the homesickness i was sure i would develop during the course of the week.  thinking quickly, my mother forced my sister to go in my place, living out of my suitcase for a week and hanging out with my best friend

having my best friend resent me for a long time for abandoning her with the enemy, my sister

feeling bad as i looked at pictures of them together making camp memories wearing the matching outfits that we had packed

lastly, finally getting brave enough to go to a camp, cross country ski winter camp

deciding i hated cross country skiing and climbing atop the outhouse in protest but discovering french bread pizza a love that would last a lifetime




performing in two of the most memorable group dances of my life.  both equally blackmailable material

dancing to a new kid’s on the block song, hang in tough, with my brother

winning that competion

realizing it was humiliating but realizing it was too late because now we had to perform on the state level at the state fair in front of about a bajillion more people. 

doing fairly well at the state level and being documented fully on the front page of a very popular wisconsin newspaper to last as evidence for a lifetime

learning another dance, a can can style, taught to me by a lovely small town goat farmer, the goat farmer who also taught me to milk a goat which i learned later is not the same as milking your own breasts, useless stupid skill. 

going to the fair with garden items that my parents had planted, taken care of, harvested, cleaned and prepared for the fair only to win first place and take all the credit

summer 4-h camp where i developed a serious interest in boys

summer 4-h camp where i met some very interesting boys

summer 4-h camp where we danced to achey breay heart and i’ve got friends in low places and it was actually cool

bad 4-h games at the monthly meetings and even worse refreshments

attempting to learn a pledge but never being successful

barbara hauerberg

the county fair where i could meet up with i could meet up with boys that i had met over the years at summer 4-h camp



funny this prompt comes up today.  we are on the eve of our first official cub scout campout.  i am still a cub scout newb in all senses of the word.  i struggle with the cub scout promise, i know none of the terminology.  i don’t recall if our leader is called the denmother, the grand pooba, the wolfman or the denmaster.  i will be sure to bring you the play by play from what is certain to be an entertaining weekend.