Friday, October 31, 2008

Wow

I learn something new every day. Today I logged onto an old friend's blog and found a really fascinating post about the women's suffrage movement. I never knew all of the violence involved (you'd think they would've covered that in AP History when I was in high school....). Well, you know me, I don't trust anyone, and especially not email forwards (which is where she got the post from), so I started searching around for more information. Turns out all the horribleness is real.

Snopes Article: Why Women Should Vote
About.com article on Occoquan Workhouse's "Night of Terror"
Library of Congress article on the techniques of the National Woman's Party Suffrage Campaign--check out the "arrests and imprisonment" section

Did ya vote yet?

Have you voted? If you're in Texas, today is the last day for early voting. I have suspicions that all this "McCain doesn't have a chance" talk is just a conspiracy to get people not to vote (which could be beneficial for either party)---why, yes, I do have my tin-foil hat on, why do you ask? Seriously though, go vote. There are probably elections going on in your area that will end up being more important to you personally than who the next president is (there's the quite valid argument that one guy can only do so much, but who ends up with a majority and how much of a majority in congress makes a much bigger difference). If you don't make it out today, your last chance is next Tuesday. In Texas, you can visit this website to find your polling place. Did you know you can even vote curbside in Texas if you are physically unable to enter the polling place? (this seems a little weird and open to tampering to me, but it's a factoid I didn't know before today).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

America's Test Kitchen is my friend

I got the latest issue of Cook's Country and I don't even know where to start. There's Reuben Sandwiches, Skillet Sheperd's Pie, Bold and Spicy Gingerbread, Chocolate Bread Pudding, Cranberry Pistachio Coconut Triangles, Easy Caramel Cake, Fudgy Peanut Butter Mousse Cups, and Ultimate Cinnamon Buns. Oh, and Sierra keeps asking me to make pumpkin cookies (which I found a very good recipe for last year). So much yummy yummy food, so little toddler-free time!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chickies 101

So an old friend (who abandoned me to move to a little piece of land in Oklahoma...sniff) asked about our chickens. We haven't even had them for a year and we're definitely not experts, but our little flock of 5 has provided us with 5 tasty eggs a day during the summer, so I suppose we've done okay. Josh wrote the following chickie primer (b/c he handles chicken care around here) and I edited and added a few extra tips. I also added a list of tag links over on the side so you can click "chickens" and see all the blog posts (with pictures) I made as we went along.

To raise a chicken.

Remember at all times, this is a chicken. There are people that keep chickens as pets, have diapers for them, and let them roam the house. I am not those people.

1)Get your chickies. The feed store probably has the chickies you want for $2-3 dollars each. You will want female chickies only, known as hens or pullets. Do not get “straight run” chickies or roosters. If you get sex-link chickens, you are able to tell if they are male or female while they are still chicks, just from their coloring. We have golden sex-link and black sex-link birds. Both lay brown eggs.
2) You will need something to feed your new found source of entertainment. They will need starter food for the first 8-10 weeks, then grower food for 5-10 weeks and when they lay the first egg change to layer food. All the feed will come either medicated (Amprolium) or not. It is up to you which to use. We use non-medicated. At the same time you get your feed you need to get a feeder and waterer for the chicks. Both are very inexpensive but will only be used with chicks because once the birds get big enough they will need a larger feeder and waterer.
3)Now you need someplace to house your small bundles of fluff. A large Rubbermaid container works well for up to about 7 chicks. Lay a towel on the bottom so they don’t slip on the plastic (If you put the chicks on dirt or pine shavings from day 1, they will eat the shavings or dirt and not realize where their actual feed is, not good). Hang a 100 watt bulb over and close to the bottom of the bin. Don’t put it so close that the chicks can peck at it. You will leave this light on 24/7 for the next few weeks. It is there to provide warmth. Technically, the temp should be 95F for the first week and decrease 5F each week until you don’t need it (ie. reach room temp). Reality, watch your chicks – if they huddle under the light all in a ball, its too cold – if they are all at the edges of the bin panting, its too hot. They should be evenly spread out with warm areas and cool areas.
4)Once you introduce the chicks to there new home you need to physically take each chick and dip its beak into the water. This lets the chick know where water is. Remember, it’s a chicken, sometimes they are not very smart.
5)At this point you just change the water and feed every day and at 1 week old or so you can change out the towel for pine shavings or just regular dirt. When using pine shavings, DO NOT get cedar shavings. This causes severe respiratory distress and the chicks will die within hours to days. If you can smell cedar in the shavings it is to much.
6)Now is the time to start building their outside enclosure, whether it be a coop, tractor, pen or a run. There are benefits to all of them. You have to decide which is right for you and yours. We made a small chicken tractor type enclosure---it is 10'x5' at the bottom and triangle shaped. We used all scrap lumber we had around or got from a construction site (next time you see some people working on a house, ask if you can go through their leftovers). Chicken wire strung around the whole thing and corrugated metal roofing on the top. There is a closed in area on one end at the top and a ramp going up to it. There is a door on the inside (for the chickens to go through) with a rope attached so we can open and close the door from the outside. On the outside edge, there is another door and that's what we open to get the eggs (so we don't have to go through the coop to get them). We added a nesting box for them, but they never used it and seem quite content to lay in their coop (we were getting one egg a day from each chickie when the days were long, which is as good as it gets, so they must've been happy). There are wheels on one end and we drag the whole contraption to a new place every 3 or 4 days. This gives the chickies the “free range” access to grass and bugs, but keeps them safe (we had a huge hawk watching them this weekend!!)
7)Our chickies started laying eggs just about 4 months after we got them. It took them a while to ramp up to full production. After the initial starting costs (under $50, I'd say), we've spent about $9 for feed every 2 or 3 months (they get about 2.5-3 cups of feed a day--remember, they have access to the yard; if you keep the chickens in a non-movable coop, you'll need more feed--we pay $8.85 for 50 pounds of feed). I had no trouble selling eggs when we were getting nearly 3 dozen a week and they've “paid back” their debt at this point. They were in full production all of July, August and September. They started slowing down somewhere near early/mid-October and we get 3 eggs a day right now. By weight, we had “medium” eggs at first and “large” eggs by September.

This should get you started but more info is readily accessible on the internet.
Some links to help out:
backyardchickens.com - very helpful forum, lots of info.
ideal-poultry.com -right here in central texas

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yummy garden food

We picked some green beans out of the garden and cooked them with bacon yesterday. Healthy? Probably not so much. Yummy? Oh my goodness, yes!


Sierra and I also made Halloween cookies last week. She spent several days after that sneaking black sugar off the cookies when we weren't looking and then coming to us with a black/purple mouth and trying to look all innocent


Speaking of strange coloring---Sedona has decided coloring is fun. She's much more into it than Sierra (who couldn't be bothered to sit still that long) was at that age, but she is also more interested in eating the crayons than Sierra ever was, so you have to keep a close eye on her.


Been working on Christmas presents. Can't post most of them since most of our family members read the blog, but I think it's safe to assume my grandmother won't be getting internet anytime soon, so I can post the progress on her quilt. The squares are pieced, but not yet trimmed or joined. You can get the idea though. Most of the fabric here is from old clothes of mine (preschool age and up) and some from Sierra and Sedona. I'm gonna give her a "key" of what fabric is what and hopefully pictures of us in those clothes too


The local open air produce market has set up a small pumpkin patch type thing that we went to check out last week. Here's Sierra on the BIG pumpkin:


And some other random pictures (just a head's up...there is somewhere between a 1.2% and 2.3% chance of getting two small children to both sit still and look at you at the same time when you're trying to take a picture)


There was a little platform in the middle of the hay bale maze. Sierra climbed up and started singing a "I'm FOOUUURRRR!" song




Stephanie has requested a sort of step by step how we handle our chickens post....I am planning on doing it, just haven't gotten around to it yet ;-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The silver lining post

What Happened: I tried to melt butter in the microwave a little while back. It wouldn't melt. Then the microwave started sizzling. Then it stopped working all together.
Silver Lining: At least it didn't catch fire, I hated the "super nuclear power" microwave anyway (it was 1300 watt), and microwaves happened to be on sale at Target that week

What Happened: The neighbor backed into our parked car Monday morning. The door is dented in and the window won't roll down (and let me tell you, you never really appreciate the convenience of a drive-thru until you have two small children to get out of the car--the window not rolling down is a big deal).
Silver Lining: The neighbor came to the door to tell us even though we didn't see her and when we called the insurance company, she had already called and claimed full responsibility.

What Happened: The washing machine suddenly stopped draining water. Everything else worked, but it wouldn't drain.
Silver Lining: I was just washing fabric for a quilt, not poopy diapers (it was no big deal to scoop out basically clean water); and it turned out the switch seemed to be working, but was actually broken, so it was only $35 to fix.

What Happened: Because it seemed as though the washing machine was going to be down a while, I went to buy a pack of disposable diapers (am I the only mom of two children who is completely clueless in the diaper aisle???). Diapers that were completely unnecessary since the washing machine got fixed.
Silver Lining: The grocery store gave us zero hassle about returning them and refunding the full price----but I had used a $1 off coupon and a "buy a pack of diapers, get a bottle of soap free" coupon.

What Happened: Our old mortgage company paid a full year of homeowner's insurance about a week before we sold our last house. In the midst of selling a house, buying a house and having a baby, we didn't notice this. We basically gave a rather large, interest free loan to the company for a year.
Silver Lining: When the company called to tell us our policy had "lapsed" (since we didn't pay this year) and found out we didn't own that house last year, they cut us a check for the full year of premium, plus the leftover premium from the year before that (since we sold before the year was up). It's always fun to get an unexpected large check.

Still----I'd really rather not have any other seriously expensive things break this month.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sierra is FOUR!!!

Sierra has had a fun-filled birthday week! On her actual birthday (thursday), Josh took her to get donuts for breakfast, then she got to take rice krispies treats and kool-aid to school. She was SOOO excited to have everyone sing happy birthday to her and to get to hand out the treats.



I grabbed taco cabana for lunch because she wanted a quesadilla. After her nap, her friend Holly called her to tell her happy birthday, and I had to grab pictures of the first time she has talked on the phone to a friend:


Then we took her to chick-fil-a for dinner, where the poor kid got to get her very own kid's meal for the first time in almost a year (we usually get one adult meal for her and Sedona to share).

On Friday, she tried to convince me that since she was now 4, she would be 5 at her birthday party. Today we did a small party for her.

Here's her and her friends eating pizza:


Amazed at a card that sings happy birthday when you open it:


The present of the day, a toy lap top (since she's always insisting she needs to check her email--even though she doesn't have email):



Sedona trying to figure out what presents she could steal


The birthday cake:


Blowing out candles


Sedona figuring out that Pa-Paw usually has candy or cookies in his shirt pocket

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Christmas is coming!

I just read an excellent blog post about preparing financially for Christmas. You should read it too. Especially if you're in my gift giving circle, because smaller, thoughtful gifts are fine and make me feel less guilty about not being able to spend a lot of money on you. Like she mentions, we have a "gift budget" that gets contributed to monthly and buys all the gifts all year long. We've managed to contain costs through birthdays and all that this year, but I'm staying home with the girls and Josh is finishing up grad school---the gift budget is no where near enormous ('cause, you know, food is more important). I'll give you a hint about what you're getting from us for Christmas---my sewing machine is very very busy lately.

Education is a good thing

Am I the only who noticed an article change from "wall street cheers rate cut" at 8am to "wall street sours on rate cut" at 9am? Yup, all these economists know exactly what's going on and what to do about it.

Very disappointed in the debate last night. I suppose you have to get your main points across each time b/c the average American isn't watching all the debates (which is a little sad---maybe we could get rid of the ridiculous two party system if there were more involvement from "main street", myself included). Anyway, it was just a repeating of everything that's been said before. I think I'm gonna turn the last one into a drinking game----one shot every time Obama says "fundamental" or McCain says "my friends". Let me help ya out....there are many synonyms for fundamental: "basic, elementary, essential, indispensable, inherent, primary, radical, ultimate, underlying". And I AM NOT your friend. Knock it off with the catch phrase and find something substantive to say, or at least original. All the little informal polls this morning are saying Obama won the debate, but I don't think so, I think it was a draw.

If you missed the debates, it's not too late to catch up! Transcripts available online:
First McCain-Obama Debate
Biden-Palin Debate
Second McCain-Obama Debate

And since no one is capable of telling "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth", you should definitely read the analysis of all the debates at factcheck.org and see where both candidates were misleading:
Fact Checking Debate #1
Fact Checking Biden-Palin Debate
Fact Checking Debate #2

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Garden in Bloom

Garden pictures!

The garden on August 28:




The garden on October 5 (about 5 weeks later):




The weather has been decent so far...a gradual cooling. Hoping that keeps up instead of the wild swings we had last year.

Some pictures of fun things...
The first two zucchinis growing:

Tomato blooms:

Bean bloom:

Figs:

Chili peppers from last spring drying on the vine:

One of the chickies

And last, but certainly not least, Sedona trying to cram a piece of sandwich into her belly button

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Long time no blog

No one's taken me up on that 48 hour break yet.....

Fall garden is doing great. 4 potato plants have sprouted up to surprise us--guess we missed a few potatoes last spring. Chickens are slowing down on production, but still giving us 3 or 4 eggs a day. Tomato plants have started to bloom and the squash has female blooms. Hopefully we'll get a good harvest before the first frost hits. A cricket is living somewhere in the kitchen. We've tried (to no avail) to find the bugger, but apparently our cricket hunting skills are sorely lacking. The dang thing chirps ALL night. It was kinda nice and cozy and a little like sleeping in a tent....for the first two or three nights. Now, I'd really like to hunt it down and unburden it of it's little chirpy legs.

Josh had to go get his blood taken a while back (and for any person out there hell-bent on shutting down research and prone to taking their oh so applicable Latin American studies degree and applying it to science.....this happens every year for record keeping purposes and in no way what so ever indicates there was any exposure risk of any sort). I personally would have already been back to the lab to demand some sort of disciplinary action, note in a file, SOMETHING for this phlebotomist, but he's not as hot headed as I am. I'm not even sure how you can mess up a simple blood draw this badly, but it happened! Seriously, she must have just ripped the vein or something.



Less icky (maybe?) Sierra got a hold of Sedona's hair bows, a brush, and me again. She insisted on taking a picture of me when she was done.

For cute pictures---Sedona got to take her first trip to the park without big sister around. She LOVED the slide




And here are the girls playing ring around the roses


Oh, and you're running out of time---if you're not already registered to vote, do it now. If you don't vote, no complaining from you for the next 4 years.

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