Making it up as I go along

I’ve been doing the stay at home mom thing for a week now. So far, so good.
Finding things to keep the kids occupied has been tough. They’re obsessed with their tablets, TV, and for the oldest, Minecraft. I kick them off technology regularly and get whines of “I’m bored!”. Ugh. I tried suggesting things for them to do and got a resounding “No!”. I’ve been leaving them to solve the boredom and after a whole week, they are finally getting into pretend play again with their toys, and reading or looking at books. The other day I made banana bread and the oldest volunteered to help and really enjoyed it. He also ate it (actually over half of the loaf) without telling me it looked weird, so I call it a success.
Yesterday I painted a “No Solicitors” sign, because the religious and sales people have been driving me up the wall. Both boys kept wanting to help, so I went and dug through my craft supplies and found some flower pots for them to paint. I think we’ll try turning them into wind chimes in a day or two when they’re getting antsy to do some crafting again. If I suggest it, it will be a no, but if I let them start asking, they’ll be gung ho for it.
Can you tell from my painting that I’m a huge Mary Engelbreit fan? I’ve always loved how bright and cheerful her pictures are. I’d never painted something like this before and wound up painting how I doodle. The slate plaque is from Goodwill – it has an ugly Christmas scene on the other side. I tried removing it with nail polish remover but that didn’t work so I just flipped it over.
Next week is vacation Bible school for the oldest and that will be a relief. I’m still trying to come up with creative things for them to do and it will give more time.

We got chickens!!

For years and years, I’ve wanted a flock of chickens in the backyard, as pets and for egg production. Hubby was skeptical, I think because of the cost and the work involved. Still, I dreamed, read homesteading websites, stalked Instagram feeds of people with chickens, and lurked on the Backyard Chickens forum.  

When we moved, I started trying to come up with a chicken coop plan. We have an old playhouse we wanted to use and had started researching. One night I was on e-Bay though and found a local seller trying to sell 5 chicken coops for $99 each. They were A-frame tractors so they would be easily movable, although only hold a few chickens. I messaged the seller and made a deal to buy two of them for $150.

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Hubby assembling our coop!

A few weeks later, I was on Facebook and someone posted in a local group that they needed to re-home their flock of 11 chickens of various breeds. I texted Hubby and he reluctantly agreed that we could go take a look. I messaged the lady and made arrangements. Since I wouldn’t have time to go home for cat carriers, I snagged some large boxes and poked holes for air in them.

The chicken lady had a huge coop and a fantastic set up. She pointed out the different types of chickens and told me about each one. I picked a Rhode Island Red that had been rescued from an overcrowded farm, an Easter Egger, and what I think she said was an Orpington mix. We popped them in the boxes and headed home.

One our way home, we stopped and picked the boys up from daycare. We did not tell them what was in the boxes. When we got home, we set the boxes down in the backyard and let them boys take the lids off.

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Background chicken is molting
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Surprise! Chickens!

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They did not come with names and we had fun coming up with what to call them. The RIR is now Gladys, the Orpington is Gertrude, and the little gray Easter Egger is Bernadette.

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The boys love them. Orion especially, and he is great at helping catch them when it is time to put them up. “Mama! Catch chickens! Orion catch chickens!” It is the cutest thing, and anything that gets him to practice talking is a miracle. He has a speech delay and has had speech therapy but is still making progress.

I will admit, that to my embarrassment, I was a little afraid of them at first. They were squawky, and unfriendly, and Gertrude was so loud when we’d get close. Things are calming down now that they know we’re nice and give them treats. So far I’ve learned that they like strawberries, even just the tops I cut off for the kids. They also liked Sebastian’s leftover peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Bananas, oranges, and apple chunks were not a hit.

For the first 2 weeks, we didn’t get any eggs which I expected since they were traumatized with the move. Then we started getting one a day. I suspect it is Gladys. She was the quickest to catch on to the humans=treats thing and is now the friendliest.

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Side note: That isn’t a giant egg, I just have really small hands.

I love the chicken tractor because we can move it around the yard every few days to give them some new green space and a clean floor. I’m using wood shavings inside the coop and just add a little layer every day and then clean it out on the weekends. The dirty shavings go in my compost bin.

It has been about 3 weeks and we’re up to a dozen eggs now. The girls are getting used to us but I need to plan an enclosure around their coop so they can get out and about without us worrying about the dogs.

OK, I’ve rambled enough about our new ladies. If you have a flock, please tell me about them! What treats do they like?

One man’s trash is another man’s… compost bins

One of my to do list projects was compost bins. Manufactured ones weren’t in my budget and I was thinking of trying to make one from wooden pallets. Then one night I was on the Facebook and a neighbor in a local group posted that they had several compost bins they needed to get rid of. What??? I messaged him and confirmed they were still available- he had 2 left! Hubby and I rushed right over and collected them. 

Aren’t they beautiful? 

Our first offering! 

Hopefully by Spring, we’ll have some lovely rich compost for our garden beds. I’ve given my oldest kiddo the chore of emptying the coffee can of kitchen scraps into the bin every day. 

I love local Facebook groups for free and cheap stuff and for meeting our neighbors. If you haven’t got any local groups for your town or neighborhood, try making one. It really expands the sense of community. Plus you never know what you’ll come across! 

What I Learned From Our Failed Camping Trip

When I was a kid, I went camping every summer, either with my aunt or my girl scout troop. I’ve been trying to think of something we could do as our family that would be cheap, fun, and close to home. Camping! I thought. Camping would be perfect.

Alas, I learned that buying the equipment needed to go camping can quickly add up. But then! I Googled and found the First Time Camper Program with the Georgia campgrounds which allows you to borrow all the gear needed and get advice from a park ranger. The gear is provided by REI and Coleman and includes a 6 person tent, 2 camping chairs, a stove and fuel, 4 toasting forks, lighter and/or matches, a lantern, and 4 sleeping pads to put under your sleeping bags.

I made reservations and counted down the weeks, talking up the trip to get the kids excited. My 2 year old is excited about anything if he isn’t yelling no, but my 6 year old took some coaxing. He wasn’t too sure about sleeping outside with bugs and no electronics.

The first trouble was trying to get everything packed and organized and realizing that I should have gone shopping the week before so I’d have time to review and buy anything forgotten. I also carefully made a list and then lost it. It was our first real trip as a family and I was so disorganized!

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We made it!

When we got there and checked in, our tent was already set up for us. Inside was a plastic locking storage trunk with our supplies. There was a hook up for water and electric. A park ranger came and met with us and told us about the park, showed us how to use the little propane stove, and gave us some tips on camping which included advice to stay out of the lovely greenery:

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Leaves of 3, leave it be. AKA Posion Ivy

Poison ivy hides among harmless stuff which I did not know. Yikes! The itchy residue can stay for a year on unwashed clothing, so if we walked through it, we would need to immediately isolate those clothes to wash. I was really thankful for the park ranger. She put the fear of itchies in the kiddos and they stayed away from the green stuff.

During all this, Hubby had not been feeling too hot. He had been having pain on his, uh, derriere, for a few days and it was getting worse. He thought it was a pimple but it was getting bigger and more painful. He lay down for a while and the kids and I unpacked the car. We all put our swim suits on and went to the lake’s beach. We all had a blast and stayed for several hours. I did remember sunscreen for everyone and no one got burned. The boys and I are all super pale so I use SPF 50 sunscreen.

Once everyone was worn out from the water fun, we rinsed off and headed back to the camp site. We had bought fire starters which were wax in paper cups, and some firewood from the park’s visitor center. It is important not to bring your own wood, because you don’t want to accidentally introduce non native flora to the area. Anyway, Hubby got the fire started while the kids got the hot dogs and marshmallows ready to roast. I worked on stringing up a line for the towels and swimsuits. Every time I hung something up, the whole thing would fall down. It was because my temporary knot wasn’t strong enough and would come undone. I finally got annoyed and just knotted the rope and tight as I could in a more permanent knot.

Hubby suddenly started feeling bad again, worse than before, and needed to go lie down. When he did, the fire went out. No problem, I thought, I can do this.

I gathered kindling, got the matches, and got busy getting the fire going again.

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Success! See?

Once I sat down and started to get settled, the fire went out AGAIN. I went to tell Hubby and found him sweating in pain. It turns out, he had a huge abscess. I made the decision right then to pack up and go home which we did. Hubby went to the ER where they lanced and drained a silver dollar sized abscess and told him there was no way he’d have been able to wait any longer to get it treated. Our little trip was a bust but I learned a few things:

Learn some basic knots because you never know what will need tying – like my poor clothes line.

Make a plan and follow through, including supply lists. Give your plan and list to other party members so if one person’s gets lost, there will be back up copies.

If anyone in your party doesn’t feel well, don’t try to stick it out. You don’t want to be stuck in the woods without medical care.

Know what poison oak, sumac, and ivy look like and bring calamine lotion, in case anyone runs into it. Be sure to bag up any clothing that comes in contact with poison plants and wash it in HOT water when you get home. I found out from the park ranger that the poisonous oils can stay active for a year on clothing so you need to get it washed off right away. Keep your dogs out of bushy areas when the plants could hide. If your dog gets it on their coat, it can spread to you.

Bring some fire starters. An easy one to make is: save your dryer lint, then wrap balls of it in strips of wax paper (about 6 inches or so), like candies. Poke the finished products down in the middle of your wood and light. My ex girl scout troop leader reminded me of this after I told her about my failure at making a fire.

What have I missed? Any good tips or camping stories to share?