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Hoopin' it up

As trite and cliché as it may sound, clouds do have silver their silver linings.

J got three days off work for his grandmother's death, so he was able to come home after the funeral. The little break was a welcome one because otherwise he would have been gone from us for a full month. He still won't be back until April 5th, but the break made the long stretch a little more bearable. I really pray he gets his transfer this summer.

A package arrived the day before he got back:

And thanks to frigg, you get to see a step-by-almost-step of the set-up of what is inside.
Many pics this wayCollapse )
Kids and dog approve. Let the growing begin.

Sorry for the different photo sizes.  No idea what is up with it and not wasting my time figuring it out.

Keep your eye on that "pond." Fixing that will be one of the big projects this spring/summer.

Grieving

My mother passed away one week ago. She had cancer and was in a bad state with an inoperable tumor blocking her esophagus, but the flu is what killed her.

Death is often complicated, and for various reasons, my mother's passing was no different.  J was with me until yesterday, and his presence, along with a bout of truly lovely weather that kept us outside working, fully immersed in the moment, insured that I was too occupied and tired to think too much about my loss.

But today I am alone and grieving the passing of two women in my life because J's grandmother died this morning. She would have turned 98 next month.

I wanted to make a post today about my mom, but I wasn't counting on J's grandma passing, too, and now I don't have the strength for it.

I'll regroup and talk a bit more about her another time perhaps.

Sundry things before a Sunday

Life on the farm has been anything but quiet and restful in this normally calm(er) season, and all my plans of being more present, more organized, more on top of everything pretty much flew out the window.

We had a warm spell around Christmas, and our flock got infested with lice and red mites. Naturally, J was gone for work, so I bathed chickens, cleaned the coop, and tried different set-ups over several days to make future cleanings easier. Sadly neither the hens nor I were happy with any of the changes, and I ended up putting everything back the way it was. Much wasted effort, but let us think--or pretend if we have to--that I learned something and the extra work was good for me and the birds.

In other poultry news, we bought two ducks to replace the ones that escaped in December. I'll get a drake for them on the 12th of this month.  And possibly one more female...

And speaking of males and females, Lila, our sickly poulet, has turned into a strapping young rooster.* Bad on the one hand since I bought him to be a mother hen, good on the other because Rico has turned into a terror. He attacks everyone in the family except me. It started with Ti'Loup, and we chalked it up to him being only slightly bigger than Rico. But now he is even trying to take on J. So, into the pot he will go. We're going to keep him for about a month longer to fertilize a spring clutch, and then we'll harvest him. *sigh*

The chickens weren't the only ones attacked by parasites. A couple of weeks ago, we discovered that we had pinworms. We found this out the night before J was scheduled to take Sprout and Farmer Boy to my mil's place, the plan being for them to stay with her for 1.5 weeks to give me my first almost-kid-free break in 5 years. I was supposed to use the time to work on my children's book, which I want to send out by March 31. Instead I disinfected the house from top to bottom, only finishing all of the laundry two days before the kids' return.

The morning after they came back, we had guests come stay with us for 3 days. It was wonderful to see them, and their two kids got along famously with ours.

I don't think I mentioned that we got a puppy, but we did, back in November. His name is Banjo, and he is a Border Collie/Husky cross, with a couple other breeds thrown in. Those who know what it is like to have a puppy will know what a stupid mistake this was on my part, a total lack of judgment. I'm already responsible for so much with the house, the property, the kids, and I decided that, sure, I could add a puppy to the mix with no worries. If you haven't figured it by now, this is my first time having a dog. So I underestimated the attention they need.

We wanted to get a puppy to raise around the flock to habituate it from the get-go to the birds. In hindsight, we realize an older dog would have been a better fit. In a moment of inattention from me, Banjo discovered the thrill of chasing the chickens. He has attacked Lila** four times. I've been trying to train him thanks to advice from frigg, and he is doing so much better:  He's quick and wants to please, but yesterday, when I was right there with him, making sure Rico didn't attack Ti'Loup, he darted off after Lightning. He immediately stopped the moment I yelled at him, but it just shows that the trust he was slowly building back is unfounded.

It makes me feel even more raw to admit it, but this has been a rough season, and I've been through some rough patches, feeling like I can never get anything done, like I make bad choices and only bad choices.  Which makes me feel worthless and frustrated. Here we are in March, and we aren't ready to plant, much less sow, yet our plan relies on us being able to feed our family a majority of food grown and raised on our own land. I know we have to be patient, but our desires and expectations leave me irked at myself for not being more on the ball.

To add a bit of salt on the wounds, J's request to do his blacksmith trainging this year was denied. We were counting on acceptance to have him around the farm more this summer to help me out. Our next hope hangs on his being transfered closer, albeit still an hour away, to home this September.

Speaking of close to home, in less-whiney news, I love the varied and fascinating cloud formations we witness living so close to the Massif Central. I've been an avid cloud admirer since my early childhood. Here is a photo I snapped with my phone while taking Sprout to her horse riding lesson; I wish I would have had my camera and could have done it justice:



And the best news of today is that we celebrated Farmer Boy's 4th birthday. I can't believe that wonderful, loving, generous boy is already 4.

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* I've suspected for a good two months at least that he was not a hen, but our neighbor kept insisting he was. Buff Orpingtons don't have flagrantly obvious sexual diamorphism, and Lila was retarded in his development because of his early sickness.

**That rooster is like a cat: nine lives. He is getting close to that final number, though; he needs to be more careful. :P

Joyeux Fêtes

Happy Holidays, everyone.  I guess I'm posting too late to legitmately wish you all a Merry Christmas, so general holiday greetings it is.

In this season, I gifted myself with grace.

Instead of making sure that supper was ready exactly on time, I took a moment to admire this chaffinch  bullfinch (thanks nipernaadiagain) at sunset:


and walk to the top of the pasture to photograph this cloud that was doing its best to make a local volcano look like the scientists are wrong in saying it is extinct:



Instead of worrying about mess, I let the kids do their own thing and prepare Sprout's created recipe for "rollashines."*


Instead of baking another batch of cookies, I took a walk with the family in the Christmas Eve fog:





I hope you are all being gracious and kind to yourselves this holiday season.  See you next year, if not sooner.

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* Sprout invented rollashines (kind of a stovetop cookies with wildly variable ingredients and amounts, or shall we say "highly personalizable) when she was two or three. I still have the paper where she drew the many shapes a rollashine can be take, even what she calls "Chinese rollashines" for some reason. :P Junebug, now to be known as Farmer Boy, at his request, loves making them, too.

Bye Bye, Birdies

Wednesday morning, we braved the snow and piercing wind to buy some ducks at a local bi-monthly farmer's market.  We got four Muscovies: one drake and three hens. We put them in the stable with the chickens, having sectioned off a secure place for them that would still give our chickens access to both their coop and the outdoors.

Well, the ducks were stronger than we accounted for, and they were able to push through the barrage we had made.  I went to close up the hens a little before sundown and found that the ducks had literally flown the coop.*  I spent almost 2 hours looking for them in the rain and dark, to no avail. I went out yesterday, checking all the nearby ponds, again with no luck. I think they are well and truly gone.  I'm so bummed, and it isn't just for the financial loss. We have so many foxes around here; I don't know if the ducks can make it out there on their own.

It is a long shot, but if the farmer we bought them from is at the next market, I'll ask him if they flew home. I don't know where he lives, but I understood from what he said that his farm is minimum 40km from here.

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* It didn't even cross my mind to ask the farmer if he had clipped their wings, and while I don't know for sure if they flew, I could find no trace of them around the house.

Not a Crazy Chicken Lady

...but I could easily become one.

I really love taking care of our chickens. I took this photo the other day to show queenoftheskies the variety of eggshell colors our hens lay:

IMG_6446.jpg

The difference is very faint in this photo, but it looks like the two light colored eggs are from different hens. Perhaps not because I don't know who the other layer could be, because...

...before I got around to posting the previous photo, Storm finally came into lay,. Her eggs are dark brown, leaning towards pinky-purple. So here is another photo on white paper to show the creaminess of Lightning's egg (far right) with the breed noted:
IMG_6620.jpg

See the size of Storm's egg (far left) compared to the other hens who have been in lay longer? This is only her second egg, and it is already quite big. Even though she is not my favorite hen personality-wise (more skittish than standoffish), I might be interested in getting more of her breed because they grow big and fast without intensive feeding. Perfect for a family of four meat-eaters (Sprout only eats bacon and crispy chicken skin) because Junebug looooooves chicken.  But maybe he loves sausage even more. Yes, we will be getting our own pigs. Soon I hope.

Meet the flock

This is a post I first made on DW*, but I added a bit more info along with the pics.

Let’s start this catching up with baby steps. Seems easy to talk about our chickens, so I’ll begin there. Back in this post I mentioned the flock, but things have changed since then.
The day J went back to Cairo, he first made an early morning dash to a nearby farm to get two ready-to-lay hens for us. Because, you know, I was trying to get settled into a new house with three kids in another country and had just fallen down some stairs and seriously wrecked my arm. Of course I needed more things to take care of.  Remember this point of needing more to do; it comes up often. :P In all seriousness, though, we were all ready to start eating some farm-fresh eggs, fresh from our farm, that is.
Wazel Peck and Pêche are both good layers, but Pêche is certainly the star. Poor Wazel got a bad case of worms in August and is now undergoing a major moult, so her laying has been seriously sidelined. They are both typical hybrid hens, what people around here simply call « Les poules rousses. »

Pêche:
IMG_9761.jpg
The hen on the left is Wazel Peck, when she was feeling well, next to Lila, the little Buff Orpington that I mentioned being sick:
IMG_0600.jpg

And here are Wazel Peck and Lila again, now that Wazel is moulting and Lila is back on her feet.  Yep, against the odds that everyone around here said Lila wouldn’t—couldn’t—beat, she is mended and doing great. She convalesced in the house for over a month, and I doctored her with elderberries, self-heal, comfrey, nettles,** propolis, and thyme and clove essential oils. When she got a sinus infection, I gave her injections of Tylon, or however it is spelled.
IMG_1378.jpg

Lila, looking spry and doing ever-so-much better. Love her character; she is curious, friendly, brave, and independent:

IMG_1389.jpg
This is « my » hen, Winona, a Wyandotte, who is still with us even after being attacked by something, possibly a hawk. Not only do I think Wyandottes are beautiful, the race has a lot of characteristics that made me choose her, like being known for being good mothers. We hope to hatch our own chicks come spring to supplement some day-olds that we'll buy for meat birds:
IMG_9894.jpg
Sprout’s other hen, Lightning, a Gournay, who is now helping Pêche keep us in eggs. Some people believe that the Gournay line has roots in chickens brought to France by the Vikings:
IMG_1345.jpg
Cot-Cot, Ti’Loup’s Bourbonnaise. This is an old photo; her crest is quite big now and I think she’ll be the next one to come into lay. She is also a hen that I really like. Similar to Lila, she is very energetic and a real go-getter. Not skittish, very curious, and a fantastic forager:
IMG_9652.jpg
And an earlier photo alongside a current one of our Noire de Berry rooster, Rico. I wish I had a picture of him before he got attacked by our neighbor’s dog the other day. His tail was quite magnificent. We’re just happy he is still with us and that I went outside in time when I  heard all the ruckus.
IMG_9917.jpg IMG_1369.jpg
After Wazel has her first spell of not laying and Lila being at death’s door, I asked the breeder from whom we bought the majority of our flock if she had any hens that were ready to lay because one egg a day was not cutting it. She sold us Storm, a Coucou Malines Tête de Dindon (turkey head). That was over two months ago, and we are still waiting on an egg from her. :-/ When, after a month of waiting, we half-jokingly asked the breeder if she mistakenly sold us a rooster, she said, « She has to lay one of these days." Color me irritated.
IMG_0402.jpg
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* I'm fed up with DW and will be posting on LJ again.

** On a couple of blogs and forums, I’ve read people in the States saying that elderberry and nettles are poisonous for chickens. Why is that? Chickens in France are regularly fed nettles, which are excellent on the nutrition front, a real superfood. Our chickens wouldn’t touch unripe elderberries, but once the berries were ripe, the chickens loved them, and I firmly believe they played an integral part in Lila’s healing.

Lemming

Despite that I have a permanent account here on LJ, I'm going to be active on DW now because most of my flist has already migrated that way. If you want to keep in touch over there, I'm wayfaringwordhack.

I may or may not post more over there than over here. Life is still in a very busy season for me, even more so since our departure date from Egypt has been moved up by three weeks. Still, I'm going to try...

Tags:

I have no subject line

So, things:

Got my laptop back from the shop.  It works. Not perfectly, but certainly functional and probably for many years. No thanks to Apple.

I have some crud that really resembles strep throat.* I am self-medicating with homemade remedies and feeling better. J seems to have something similar (he has congestion; I had none. My fever lasted 2 days; his is going on four...), but the doc said J probably has something viral. A pediatrician came to the house today and said the three kids have strep. Didn't do a swab test or send anything to the lab, though.

I am not going to miss Egypt, but here are a few things that I will be sad to have no more of:

- Access to Egypt's mad love affair with all things DELIVERY! Seriously awesome when you are sick and can't muster the energy to cook for the sick family.

- Awesomely exotic blooming trees. (Note to self: take some pics when you feel better)

- The smell of citrus trees in bloom. Heady.

- The network of lovely people we've met here


And now time for bed.  Oh, I'm going to miss that, too. Our mattress here is terrific. Not so the one waiting on us back in France. :P

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* I spent almost all day yesterday lying in bed, watching this guy paint with his baby in his arms:

So relaxing. :D

Settling in

After a blessedly uneventful trip, we are back in Egypt for the final stretch.  It is a weird feeling this time, knowing we are set to experience so many "lasts." Last time to do this, that, and the other here in Egypt. I've been doing that, more or less, since end of July, but this time it has kicked up a notch.

I've started mentally sorting our possessions, deciding what will go back with us and what won't. I'm so eager for things to move that I want to start giving away those won't things right now. It is too soon, though, and that would be just silly.  Still the ansty-ness is distracting as I'm trying to settle back in.

There are so many things to get done:

- Get N'Djema vaccinated, etc. in prep for our trip
- Get Junebug and Ti'Loup their American nationality (yes, I am lousy about taking care of admin stuff)
- Decide whether or not I want to do pottery and/or jewelry-making workshops before we leave here, and if so, Get on with it!
and lots of other things that my tired mind can't think of right now... Things which aren't the usual, "make progress on my art/books/etc."

Also, despite many attempts on J's part, we're still no closer to knowing what is going on with our car. Today he contacted someone who may be able to help. Fingers crossed. Because if it can run, or isn't in too bad of shape, we have to decide if we want to take it back to France and look into the cost and procedure of that.

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