Friday, February 3, 2012

It's Black and White

We'll, it's amazing what you can get done when you don't have a full schedule of classwork hanging over you head.  In a stroke of inspiration last week, I cranked out two environmental posters.  I'm open sourcing them which means that I hope someone sees them and uses them. No permission needed.  Let me know if you have any ideas that we can develop together. -Jason

 Save the Wells- A play off of the 80s slogan Save the Whales

Buy Local - An attempt to stop and make you think 
why we buy organic when we can

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Let me preface this post by saying we are not cat people.  Never have been, and I dare say never will be.  Seeing as cats and dogs are neck and neck in the popularity polls, I'm probably committing blog suicide by even hinting at the fact that I am not overly enamored by felines.  I'm not against cats, per se.  I am just a bigger fan of the unconditional love of a dog.

Now that I have that off my chest...

It appears we've pseudo-adopted a neighborhood kitty - actually it is more like she has adopted us.  About a year ago we actually caught her (and her two siblings and mom) for a brief minute, only to have to let the babies go when the mom went crazy and escaped the cage we had confined her to.  There was no way we would be able to re-capture the mom, and we didn't have the heart to keep the babies from her - or take them to the SPCA where they would probably be killed immediately b/c they were so young.  Back then we named her Zorro for the black mask splashed across her face.  

Care to guess whose reflection is on our dishwasher?  And I swear in real life you can't see a single scuff mark!  Weird!
As she grew older (and larger) she occasionally showed up in our yard, but for months we always immediately chased her off.  I was so afraid she would try to kill/eat the chickens.  However, after observing her quite a few times, it became apparent she actually just got a kick out of watching them.

Zorro striking a pose
Sweet Zorro
Over time we lost the urge to yell at her, and then we'd say hi when we saw her in the yard.  She's quite "chatty" and she began to tentatively come towards us looking for love (I'm no fool - it was most likely food).  Now she's basically our outdoor cat.  She greets us in the morning.  She even lets us pet her up.  She is still slightly skittish, but overall we've found her - I can't believe I'm saying this - to be a welcome addition to our homestead.  Fortunately it has been an extremely mild winter, or I dare say she'd have found a place IN our home - though I can't even say now with certainty that that is an impossibility. -Carrie
[Trust me, it is. -Jason]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


[I want to preface this post by saying there are two pictures attached that are fairly gross for the faint of heart. I include them to be used as a tool to help others who may experience something like this in their flock. Feel free to skip this post if you aren't a fan of blood...]

Three months ago I went out to the coop following what I thought was a bit of excessive ruckus over a hen laying an egg. At the time I always headed to the coop with a bit of trepidation, as one or two of our black sex-links seemed to have it out for sweet Dove, and were always nipping at her. Nothing excessive, but it was constant. We kept hoping they would get over it as she grew larger. That did not happen. Even before I got into the coop I was already scanning the run for Dove to make sure she was OK. I could not find her. I checked the sleeping quarters, but she was not there. I finally made it over to an old small recycling bin filled with sand that the hens use to dust bathe in. It was there between the bin and the fence that I found her.

With a huge, bloody, gaping hole in her neck about the size of a quarter, and one bird running over to me trying to get more shots at her, I scooped Dove up and quickly took her into the house. I was quite upset to say the least. After getting a good look at her wound I figured she had a 25/75 chance of survival, with the odds against her.

This had never happened to us before, as our hens always got along great. For some reason though, Dove brought out the worst in a few of our BS-Ls (jealousy?) and they were determined to make her pay. We had never had any medical issues among our birds; and with such a deep wound, we had no idea what to do. We decided to stick to the basics, because as much as we enjoyed Dove, we are not ones to take our chickens to the vet.

In the picture there is a lighter section running from closer to her head straight down towards her back in the very center of the wound. I am not positive, but I believe that to be her spinal cord. One more peck and it would have been severed.

After gently and carefully trying to clean off some of the dirt with a damp rag, Jason poured Hydrogen Peroxide all over the wound. This was followed by a thick coating of Neosporin. Into a storage tub she went to wait out the next critical hours in our living room. She would not eat, but did drink a bit. I think she was probably exhausted from the stress of it all. She slept through the night, but by morning she was extremely antsy, and we made the decision to put her back in the coop in a completely separated area with her best bud, Leopard. I really worried that Leopard would see the wound and pick at it herself, as I've read that is fairly common. Plus I didn't want Dove in the coop getting dirt all in the wound. The nursing student in me wanted to keep it as sterile as possible. But she was so upset being separated from Leopard we figured she'd have a heart attack from being stressed and lonely, so we made the move back to outside.

Our friends Tracy and Sebastian over at Little Farm in the Big D gave us some Blu-Kote spray to apply to the wound. It is an iodine based solution. I figured it couldn't hurt. So about every other day for a week or so I would try to clean off the dirt and grime from the wound, spray it with Blu-Kote, and then cover it in more Neosporin. Thankfully Leopard never gave it a second glance.

Slowly but surely the skin began to heal. I assumed Dove would never be able to grow feathers there again, but within 5 weeks she was mostly feathered out at the site. Three months later, except for a few purple feathers around her neck (Blu-Kote stains everything - so be careful!), you would never know anything had happened to her. We have found chickens to be a mix of strength and resiliency coupled with fragility. Fortunately for us, Dove fell on the side of strength. We ended up selling the main bird that had it out for Dove. We are now finally down to a happy mix of 14 hens of varying ages and varieties, and they all get along great. More details on that in a few days! -Carrie

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Green (-ish/Blue) Eggs and Chicken(s)

It's been THIRTY-ONE WEEKS in the making, but our two remaining Ameraucanas (we sold the other two) have finally begun to lay the beautiful bluish-green eggs we've been waiting so patiently to see. Leopard's first came on December 9th, and Dove's first came this past Saturday. I never thought it would take them this long to lay, but it has been worth the wait. I was surprised that they are exactly the same color. I figured there would be some distinguishing features between the two, seeing as Dove is pure white and Leopard looks, well, like a leopard. The eggs are breathtaking, though. And even better, both birds are sweet as pie, though Dove still holds a special place in our hearts. I swear if I was more country and knew how to make chicken diapers, she'd be a house chicken!

Another bonus, at least as far as Leopard is concerned, is that she's laying like a chicken-star. She's laid 8 eggs in the last 10 days. In our experience it usually takes a few weeks before production gets up to this point with new layers. Not only that but her eggs are as large (longer actually, but skinnier) as the year-old Black Sex Links, even from day one. We couldn't be more satisfied. Dove's production rate is yet to be seen. But I venture to say that even if this is the only egg Dove ever lays, she's with us for the long haul. She's too awesome, and we've been through too much with her to give up that easily (more on that in a few days - stay tuned)! -Carrie

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Repurpose It! Acorns and Cheese Packaging

It's been a while since I got my craft on.  I have been so busy with school for the past year that I haven't had the time to channel my crafty side.  And while I've previously extolled the virtues of living in a small house, one thing that has suffered is my access (or lack there of) to a crafting corner.  My yarn, cloth, paints, rick-rack and baubles are inconveniently stuffed in various out-of-the-way corners in my bedroom, making it very hard to find what I need when I need it.

This morning it hit me that I was short two kids for the day, my youngest was off playing by himself no less, and I had no school work (thank God for Christmas break)!  I made a mad dash to gather supplies, amazingly was able to find what I needed, and set to work!

First up: a large, fuzzy Burr Oak acorn found during a family walk about a month ago.  This one ended up on my desk. Unfortunately its sisters place in a bag and stored at the top of my closet ended up getting a bit of mold on them and had to be trashed.  Next year I will be sure to let them dry completely before putting them in storage.  I believe these were collected the day after a rain, hence the ensuing mold.

The second I saw these they screamed "Santa!" to me.  So I set about putting a face to my idea.  The finished product is nothing spectacular, but it was fun to work on a quick little re-purposing project.  Next time I'll drill a hole in the top and put a string in it for a cute little ornament.

And second: Brie holder-cum-Christmas gift packaging.  As I was searching the fridge for breakfast this morning, it hit me that this would make a cute box of sorts to hold a small gift for my daughter.  I painted it, glued to the top an ornament I made last year out of old holiday cards and glitter, and used the shiny gold outer lining of the Brie packaging to wrap around the gift inside!  I think it turned out pretty cute.

It felt great to be crafting something home-made again.  Now I just need to buy Christmas gifts to fill the box!  Way behind on that.  Only a few days left - wish me luck! -Carrie

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting Healthy - For Realz This Time!

In early September 2010 I wrote my heart out on this blog, and it basically boiled down to the fact that I was overweight (obese if you want to be technical!) and sick of it - ready to do all it took to change my ways. You can read the whole (though brief) series here. In eight weeks I lost 8 pounds. Slow but steady. Then came week 9 - and the aftermath of Halloween - i.e. - CANDY. I lost all self control and within about a month I gained back all of the weight. Craziness.

Fastforward to mid-March 2011. My 5'3" frame was hauling around 182 pounds. 13 pounds into the obese category if computing BMI. Not good. I couldn't take it anymore. Beyond sick of myself was putting it lightly. So this time I got serious. No-excuses-take-no-prisoners-serious. It's been 6 months now and I haven't looked back. I honestly think Jason is sometimes taken aback - seriously amazed and bewildered - that I haven't dropped the ball on this for the umpteenth time. In the last 180 days I have lost 23 pounds. I'm now down to 159 pounds. Just about one pound/week. Occasionally I am bummed because it seems like the weight is coming off S.O. S.L.O.W. But then I snap out of it and think of how far I've come. I still have about 20 pounds to lose, and that will just put me into the high end of normal on the BMI scale.

The keys to my weight loss? Very basic stuff everyone already knows but often just doesn't have the willpower to put it into place. There's a saying that goes something like this, "People won't change until the pain of not changing is worse than the change itself." This is so true. Here's a few things I've done that helped me lessen the pain...
  • Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. This can not be overstated. I exercise 6 days a week - 7 if I can find the time. And on the days I don't - Jason will attest to this - I'm not the nicest person ever. I have seriously trained my body to crave it. Even if it is something as simple as taking a brisk 2 mile walk, it helps me stay on track.
  • Don't Over-Eat; But Do Eat More, Smaller Meals Per Day. OK, this is like Losing Weight 101. But it is so true. I just don't pig out anymore. If I want crackers, I don't open a box and sit on the couch and chow down. Now I open the box, pull out 4 crackers, and put the box away immediately. It really seems to help me. I also usually eat about 4-5 smaller meals (or even large snacks) per day instead of 3 larger meals. This means I get to plan my next meal only 2 or 3 hours out instead of 5 or 6! That's exciting stuff! Especially for someone who likes to think about food.
  • I've eaten the same breakfast 99% of the last 180 days, and I eat a salad about 6 days a week. My delectable breakfast bowl consists of (from the bottom up) mixed fruit (think pears and bananas, or a variety of berries); plain low-fat yogurt; dry oatmeal or a high fiber, low sugar cereal; raisins or dried cranberries; almonds; and cinnamon. I have yet to tire of this. It is that good. And lunch or dinner (but not both) is a dark green (almost always spinach) salad. But with loads of other goodness added on top: whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, black beans, sauteed onions & walnuts, cucumbers, feta, low-fat dressing, etc., etc. Jason partakes of these salads as well, and again - we have yet to tire of them. Not even close.
The payoff for all of this "work?" As if the 23 pounds aren't enough? I'll let the labs speak for themselves:
  • Cholesterol: 8/05/2010 - 198; 9/19/2011 - 164
  • Triglycerides: 2010 - 110; 2011 - 62
  • HDL: 2010 - 51; 2011 - 50
  • LDL: 2010 - 125; 2011 - 101
  • Risk Ratio: 2010 - 2.45; 2011 - 2.03
My heart was literally jumping for joy when I read these numbers. A 34 point drop in my total cholesterol?!?! An almost 50 point drop in my triglycerides?!?! This less eating, more exercise thing really DOES work! Go figure! Here's to staying the course. I have no intention of dropping the ball this time. My health is too precious. -Carrie

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Heritage Harvest Festival Follow-Up

Last year I pined over my inability to attend the Heritage Harvest Festival held at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello near Charlottesville, VA. Well this year I am happy to report that numerous members of my family made the trek, and my brother just wrote a post about it over at Point 09 Acres. Take a gander at his post - lots of great pictures of Jefferson's gardens.