Saturday, April 18, 2015

::chicken tractor big time::


  Max and I are amazed at the chicken tractor Josh built!
A chicken tractor is a moveable coop and run that allows you to move chickens around to fresh grazing areas while keeping them safe and out of trouble.  An added bonus in that they fertilize the land they are grazing.  

Josh knows a great deal about welding.
Even Q knows to not look at the light.

I originally wanted a coop built out of PVC.
But - I have been married to Josh long enough to know that my Pintrest finds are never as awesome as what he can actually come up with.  
The base frame is 10ft/10ft.

Poor Josh - always getting talked in to projects. 

Which generally include him having to build something for the farm. 


 He was smart enough to weld on a pivot point that allows the tractor to lift and move the coop when it needs to go further than just getting pulled to a new near by spot. 

I seriously don't know how he thinks of these things.  

 It took us over a hour to catch these bad babies.  
They knew something was up and where not having it.
Finally, we had to get a fishing net to get them. 
 But, now they are all moved in to their three seasons room. 
The plan is to have them in here from late spring till fall.  
Then they can free range away for the rest of the time. 
Let's take a tractor tour...

There is a small door to get in that allows us to get out eggs and add water/feed. 

Josh built the latch out of some door frame he had laying around.  
The door has a spring on it so it closes by itself, in case some kiddos forget to shut it.

Wash basins from Lowes are set in a frame for nest boxes.  
I will add some straw soon, but Max already drew on them to make them comfy for the ladies.  

 I did invest in a larger waterer so I could be sure the chicken didn't run out.
 


The metal siding is left over from when Josh's barn was built.  

Josh added a perch down the middle so they would have a place to roost.  

Cost:
Pipes 23 X $6.50 = $150
Nest boxes = $7.50
Waterer = $35
Total cost was < $200
And the ladies are happy, happy, happy.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

::growing broccoli::


IT IS TIME!!  I scream from the top of the mountain.  It is TIME to plant BROCCOLI and some other stuff too. 

I live in zone five (if you don't know about garden zones, google it.  It tells you what time of year to plant what plants.  It also lets you know what plants will survive where you live.  Like I can't grow pomegranates here :( = sad.)  For me this means that my time to plant really sensitive plants, like tomatoes, is around mid May.  Many plants are more hardy than tomatoes.  Some plants can take a great deal of cold.  I have spinach that is still growing in my garden that I planted last year.  Broccoli is one of those plants that likes a little cold.  

Today I planted 12 broccoli plants and it is April 6th.  We had a high of 61 degrees today - and broccoli don't care. (Like honey badger.)  Broccoli actually likes a little cold. 




One year I used cardboard as weed mat
Broccoli needs to be planted about 1.5 to 2 feet apart.  That mean from the base of one plant to the base of the next needs to be about 1.5-2ft apart.  I plant them exactly 1.5 feet apart.  I have raised beds and very good soil, I know that my garden can support close spacing.  Plus - the closer you plant things the more they crowd out the weeds!  

This year I am dealing with a new problem.  I am waiting for Josh to have enough time off to build me a chicken tractor (a post for another day).  This means that my chickens are free ranging right now.  Which also means that they can put a pretty good hurting on plants if they decide they want too.  I usually lock them up by now, but they are just so happy free ranging that I don't have the heart to lock them up.  My other problem is called - Augustus Walter Schaefer.  A seven month old Great Pyrenees is a peaceful natured teenager, but he is still a teenager, and his pure mass can put an XL hurting on things.  I am also dealing with an old problem, that I have dealt with before - the dreaded super crazy toddler.  No fungus, disease, dog, goat, or chicken can destroy a garden like a toddler boy. 




My little broccoli babies looked very fragile when I planted them with all the risk factors around them.  Since nothing else is planted right now I took all my old tomato cages and wrapped them in chicken wire scraps I had laying around.  I also placed sticks around them.  This makes it too much hassle to bother with for the chickens.  It makes them uncomfortable  to lay on or dig in for the dogs.  The toddler issue needs razor wire and electricity, but I am not willing to go that far.  Broccoli grows pretty fast and one it gets about two feet tall it is practically infallible.  I had to have Josh rip them out at the end of last year, because I couldn't even up-root them, they where so well anchored by a great root system.  

Center stock coming up

 Here is where people get the most confused by broccoli - you get a TON of broccoli off each plant if you give them a few minutes of your time ever 5 days or so.  The first floret that broccoli sends up is right in the center and is usually very large.  You know when to cut it off when it looks like the stuff you get in the grocery store.  If you start to see any hint of yellow color, CUT it right away.  Yellow = getting ready to send up flowers = tastes bitter.

IF YOU ONLY READ ONE PART - READ THIS
Once you have cut off that first central big floret, the fun is just starting.  Depending on the amount of water and sun, you will need to spend about two minutes every 4-6 days trimming your new smaller florets.  They will pop up from side sprouts of the central stalk and will not be as impressive or large as that central floret.  BUT - they are still just as tasty and full of goodness.  If you keep trimming these side shoots before they turn yellow you can harvest from the same plant for months.  If you go away from two weeks, you may come back to some tall pretty yellow flowers growing out of your broccoli plant.  At that point you can enjoy the yellow flowers (which really are pretty) or rip the plant out - but you really will not like how bitter the broccoli tastes after that.  If you have just a few tiny yellow flowers thinking about being seen, just keep cutting and eating.  At some point the summer gets so hot that your broccoli starts sending up yellow flowers very fast.  Don't feel like you failed!  Enjoy what you got from that plant and move on.  



I planted 18 plants last year and still have broccoli in my freezer left over.  This year I planted 12 plants, which I think should be just about right for my family of 6.  I taught my kids how to harvest the broccoli last year and they pretty much did it all them selves.  

Since broccoli has such a strong central stalk going into the ground I like to put weed mat or cardboard down and plant the broccoli directly into that.  Then I put grass clippings over that weed mat to hold in moisture.  I have often thought about planting spinach below the broccoli to let the broccoli shade the spinach.  I may try that this year, but you couldn't do this with weed mat down.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

::march so far::

I am so glad to see the cold start to fade away.  I love snow and I love living in an area of the country that has four true seasons, but I am still so happy to see spring come rolling in.  This family is rocking and rolling like crazy.  The blog is on neglect mode - but that is just the best it's going to be right now.   

Me: 
I keep saying over and over that I am not going to do a huge garden this year.  But spring smells so good and I am dreaming of garden rows.  I have a modified plan, but those smaller plans seem to always expand.  I am currently trying to talk Josh into building me a chicken tractor to keep the ladies out of my gardens.  School is trucking along.  One day at a time.  So far I am just getting the beginning classes out of the way so that I can get to meat of what I really want to learn.  Work is fine, just fine.  I figured out the other day that I go to 11 different units.  I love the floating and I adore the nut jars I work with, but the people who manage my schedule make me nuts.  In all fairness, I don't think anyone could manage my schedule to my standards of crazy.  

Josh:
Working too much!  His job is over working him right now.  He has been doing a great job working out for the past few months.  I am so impressed with his work ethic in all the things he does.  We are going to Disney for an adult sneak out in late April and we are both so excited for our sneak out.  Poor Joshy is getting a long honey-do this with spring here.  Thank God he is such a good sport.  

Emma:
This lovely girl is getting ready to be in her high school musical - Pajama Games.  I am so glad she has fallen in love with theater.  What a great hobby to have.  She always impresses me with her cool hair styles and makeup.  This kid is amazing with fashion.  Her 17th birthday is a few weeks away.  Some vintage and artist original items are in her future.  Two of her favorite things.  

Lily:
Our Lily is over the moon.  She got the lead in her elementary school musical!  She worked so hard - and put her whole little soul into trying out.  I was ready to reassure her if it didn't happen, but I was so glad to celebrate with her.  This kid needed the boost.  This kid lives and breathes drama and musicals all day long.  She is doing very well in school right now.  

Max:
My Max has been struggling along at school.   Lucky for him, he doesn't really seem to care all that much.  I get very discouraged with the not love notes home from his teacher, but I have come to realize we have to just finish out this year and be ready for the next.  Max is just happy in his own head, as always.  He has the most amazing personality.  I adore him.

Quinn:
This man is HUGE!  Seriously.  He eats constantly and he is a giant.  He struggles with the typical three year old stuff.  He goes from happy to throwing himself on the ground in 2.8 seconds.  He is still the best little snuggle guy in this house.  He worships Josh, which makes me happy for Josh but also jealous.  

Things that are working great in life:
Sunday funday - we have kept this up and it makes the kids and I really look forward to Sundays.  I can't wait for the weather to warm up so we can have outdoor adventures.
Kitchen remodel - my dad made us our cabinet doors.  They are amazing.  We sand and paint them and this kitchen is done and nicely updated.  I love the way it is turning out.  So bright and fun. 
SPRING - love it

Things to work on:
School - I am not being very proactive with school right now.  I am letting due dates get too close.  I'm just bored with this semesters classes.  But I will buckle down for the rest of the semester.  
Diet and working out - I start.  I do great.  I fade out.  I restart.  But I am not far off the wagon right now.  Plenty of time to get back on!    
The rest of the house - the kitchen is going along great.  But I need to paint just about every surface in the rest of the house.  Time and money always slow me down.  I am only able to do so much, so I will just keep chipping away at it.  Garden season never makes me want to work inside :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

::how I came to understand that my Max has attention deficit disorder::


Max.  Oh, Max.  I want to eat this kid.  Curly headed little ray of sunshine.  I am fairly blind to anything but the perfection of him.  It's not hard to do.  He is funny and has the best sense of humor.  He is handsome, sometimes I stare at him because he is just so good looking, I literally love the look of him.  He hears a commercial or a song and the lyrics stick in his head like glue.  He can act out the entire "Jake from State Farm" commercial, it's HILARIOUS.  You never met a kid that could memorize like him.  He is such a talented reader and is way ahead of his classmates.  He does math in his head and already gets points taking away for not showing his work.  Because he doesn't need to show his work.  He is a performer is his heart - which is not something we have pushed at him since Lily is really our theater girl.  We didn't want them to compete, but we can't hold him back.  He wants to act, so we let him.  Max.  Max.  Max.  He is my sunshine when skies are grey.  I can't resist my future American Ninja Warrior.  



 

So, when I started getting frequent notes home from his first grade teacher I knew it was her not him.  How could anyone not fall in LOVE with the glory of this child?  She doesn't get him.  She'd too old.  She retires after 30+ years at the end of this year.  She's mean.  She's boring (she is actually boring).  When she first suggested that my perfect baby had ADD I knew she was off the deep end.  He is a bizarre thinker I always thought.  He is a bad listener.  You have to given him lots of extra time to get ready in the morning because he gets off task.  That's just his quirks.  His teacher is a crazy old ____________ (insert one of the many choice things Josh and I called her).  I was taking Quinny in to the doctor anyway so I brought up this crazy ADD crap.  We both rolled our eyes and said this teacher was nuts.  My kids doctor is wonderful.  I love her.  Yet, she is new to us.  We have only had her for the last few months.  She has met Max one time for about 10 minutes.  She has never done his spelling words with him - the ultimate torture test of endurance.  She has never had to get him out of the house dressed and presentable.  She had never tried to have a conversation with him that is longer than a few minutes.  


  The doctor gave me a form to fill out and one for his teacher to fill out.    You rate the kids behavior on a scale, five being the more often you witness the behavior.  Things like "How often is your child easily distracted by external stimuli, like something in their environment such as a noise or another conversation?".  5 stands for several times a day.  As I am filling this thing out my heart drops.  You don't have to be a genius to realize that all 4's and 5's on this thing is a pretty strong indicator that things are not exactly what you thought they were.  When I started the hyperactive part of it I was writing down 1's and 2's.  As I started researching this whole issue I realized that not only does Max have ADD, but it isn't just a little mild case to be ignored.  He has high moderate to possibly severe ADD.  And it isn't a maybe kind of thing.  

How could I have been so blind to this?  Totally in an alternative reality about the whole thing.  This kids head has a ping pong ball bouncing around in it, hitting on random thoughts no matter how they fit in to his reality.  

What do we do?  We attack it.  I am ADD.  I was also hyperactive.  I interrupted constantly as a child and was dangerously impulsive.  You don't have to know me for long to know that I am still ADD in lots of ways.  The hyperactive has mellowed into high energy, now I think of it as a super power.  I just have more energy than most people, I get lots of crap done.  I don't have to worry about channeling Max's hyperactivity - that's not the problem.  He is active and sometimes wild, but not hyper.  His attention span is the issue.  



  I grew up with my learning issues and my parents had a strong opposition to medications.  So strong that I couldn't even talk about meds as an option for Max.  I am trying to be more open minded.  At some point in Max's future he may need medication to help him, but I am going to exhaust all options first.  The number one reason I don't like meds as an option for Max is because one of the big side effects is poor appetite and poor growth.  We have been chasing this kids calorie intake for years, trying to get him to eat.  He is finally in the 50th percentile for height and I am not going to do anything to risk his growth.  Not yet. 


  I have a meeting next week to talk about treatment options for this guy with his pediatrician.  I am going to do what ever it takes to channel this creative little genius into a high functioning adult.  He has limitless potential.  We just have to find his personal plan.  I am researching like crazy this whole thing to make sure I am informed.  I am devoted to this.  This kid is not going to slip through the cracks.  Our school has a top notch principle that I have met with to get Max's treatment with the resource room teacher started while we pursue additional outside of school options.  I am currently not interested in essential oils, healing crystals, or medications - besides that I want to hear about peoples experiences.           

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

::infant loss - four years latter::

Recently it was the fourth year since I went through the loss of my third baby.

Let me explain that statement.  I have been pregnant four times.  If you ask me how many children I have I will say four.  You will think I gave birth to those four children.  You would be wrong.  I would not correct you.  It's too long a story.  Emma did not come from my womb.  She has a mom, a great mom.  The position is filled.  But she is still mine in my heart, so I don't say I have three kids and a stepdaughter.  Because she owns an equal slice of my love to the children I gave birth to.  Besides - I did have four children come from my womb.  But, one died.  See - its all too complex to be explained when a random person says, "How many kids do you have?"

What do I call the baby we lost?  We did name him.  But even that seems odd now.  I am trained in infant loss in my job.  A big part of that is using the babies name, acknowledging them as a person.  Maybe it's because I know that trick, but I don't really like to talk about him by name.   When I tell the story I usual say, "We named him Zack."  Not, "His name was Zack."  It has different inflection.  It honestly doesn't matter that much - the name part of it all.  But what do I label him in my mind?  When I say I have four kids the 4 includes Emma but does not include the baby we lost.  Is that really fair to him?  He was real, We knew each other, I was in love with him.   But, I don't mourn his loss like I did, not for that first year.

That first year broke my heart.  When he died and I had to deliver his dead body I was a shattered soul.  My brain was off the tracks for a bit.  It took me pulling Max out of preschool and making him stay with me all day, changing jobs to a whole different hospital and unit, and delivering another healthy baby to pull out of the gray zone.  That's exactly what my depression was, a gray zone.  I wasn't gone, but I felt like I was SO tired all the time and that my emotions where underwater.  They felt lesser in all ways, my anger was only luke warm, my happiness was just light grey instead of bright yellow.  All the color was turned down and I hated it, but only in that luke warm way that I could hate during that time.

It got better, the colors where turning back on and things where improving.  Then my rainbow baby Q was born and the world was spinning right again.  It was so NICE, refreshing, rejuvenating, relieving to be back to me again.  I like being hyper and I like feeling strong.  Those two things were not possible during that grey year.

Now it has been four years.  It doesn't seem possible that time had flown that fast.  I'm so glad to have that behind me.  To have that in my past and not in my current problems.  I can tell my story when it suits the situation and not cry.   It's not a secret in my past, it made me a fundamentally better and truer to the real me person than I was before I lost that baby.  And then there is Quinny.

Quinny is the last baby, the youngest in a family of four kids.  He fits the role perfectly.  He is Max's twin in looks and Lily's rival in dominance.  That kid was meant for me.  And he would have been an egg that would not have been used if we hadn't lost that other baby.  I don't mourn that baby anymore as the person that we lost.  I feel fear and great sadness that that kind of depression lived in me and affected my family for that year.  I wish they hadn't had to go through that journey with me.  I wish Lily hadn't been afraid the entire time I was pregnant with Q that he was going to die.  But I don't miss that baby, I don't ache for him like I did.  I really took his place in my heart and let Q have it all to himself.  I'm not sure that really is ok.  To just forget the love I had for that baby.  But that is just how my heart healed and I have examined it all pretty closely recently.  I don't think there is a secret black hole of sadness waiting to pop out at some point.  I think it really is that his death left a hole and Q just filled it right up.

Time will tell, but the gist of it all is I am still a stronger and truer Brooke than I was prior to that hardship.  I like the new me way better than who I was before.  I immediately became a stronger person, and my whole family has benefited from it since I could shake off the grey cloud.  I write this last part with Q actually wrapped around my neck like a scarf trying to grab something off my desk.          


Saturday, February 7, 2015

::quinn - age 3::


Oh this Quinn.
He is such a bulldog.  
He grabs on to something and will not let go.  
Maybe he is really more of a terrier.  
Tenacious.  
But playful.  

Not since the great Emma baby has a child been able to give such a high quality dirty look,
This child has mastered the Stink Eye.  
He has a highly developed sense of stranger danger.  
I never worry he is going to walk away from me in a store.  
He might try to sneak away in public, but the first person that tries to talk to him will have him running back to me.  

When Q's older brother Max ended up with curly hair I was shocked. 
I have been so secretly pleased to see my Q have very similar hair.  
Please note that Q is brushing a goat.
He is funny like that.  
He has to always be doing something?
Brushing, organizing, throwing, jumping. 
The man has a mission.  

He has to figure out how things work.  
He HAS to!
Just let him.  
It's not worth the fight to try and make him stay in line.  


Here he is happy as can be on Christmas morning when he put his Lego guy into my homemade pumpkin bread that I was taking to my inlaws.  

He had to help me paint.  
Had tooooo!
Again - don't fight it.  
Just let the man help.
Look how happy he is.  

If he has to go outside when it is raining he wears his shirt like this.
Every time.
He is hilarious.  
A comedian.  
He teases all the time but he loves to be funny.  

Caught figuring things out again.  
This kid.  
He is a professor of world studies.  

And duck chasing.  
He can chase ducks all day. 
It's good exercise for everybody.  

He LOVES to eat.
He fell asleep eating the other day.
He eats ALL the time.
HUNGRY.
I feel like I need to use capital letters a great deal with discussing Q. 
He lives his life in CAPITAL LETTERS.


This kid loves the shower.  He can shower for hours.  
It's a great baby sitter.  

Overall, my little Quinny is a perfect end cap to a great crew. 
He is the most snugly of all of them.  
He will nest with you for hours.
He is my co-pilot.  I take him just about everywhere.  
This kid has an amazing amount of understanding about technology.  He amazing me how well he can take my phone and open up Netflix to watch JustInTime.
This kid and his Dad are best buddies.  
Josh is the first thing Quinn talks about when he wakes up in the morning.
"Where is my Daddy?"
I am a very distant second place. 
But as long as I remain second I am ok with that.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

::max - age 7::



Max owns me.  
Max melts my heart.
Max makes me happy when skies are grey.
Max can break through my angry shell.



Seriously - I can't explain this kid to you.  He makes no sense.  He tell jokes that are so bizarre that we all stare at each other while he rolls around laughing.  He might be the weirdest kid I have ever met, but his weird is just so damn appealing that every one adores him.  


He gets love notes in his backpack from girls at school.  I don't blame them, he is irresistible.  


He takes 45 minutes to get ready in the morning.  It's the slowest process ever and he had to take breaks to warm up in front of the heater.  He eats four pieces of toast every morning with THICK butter.  It may be the majority of his calories for the whole day, because otherwise he hardly eats.  


He gets notes home often from his teacher, that are NOT love notes.  He is brilliant at school.  Straight A's and takes to learning like a natural.  Yet - he doesn't listen and struggles to stay on task.  Basically, that means he isn't even trying and he still gets straight A's.  What's going to happen when we can harness that genius into an outlet?  The sky is the limit.  


He is left handed, just like his Emma.  


He is actually fairly athletic, but lacks the focus to be able to do sports.  If the action lags for one minute he is picky flowers in the outfield.  


He loves drama class and has a chorus roll in Legally Blonde the Musical.  


Of course - his hair is his signature look.    


He gets into the least amount of trouble of all the kids.  When he does get in trouble he is the only one that I feel bad about punishing.  He just looks at you like he is so sorry.  Again - he melts my heart.  


All four of my kids have different reasons why they own me.  Why my soul is locked to them.  Mr Max is always going to have my gratitude.  He was the right age at the right time and when we lost our baby a few years ago he was the only one that didn't give a shit if I just wanted to fall apart.  He wanted his cereal and he wanted me to take care of him.  He didn't humor me, because he was too little to humor me.  He didn't look at me with pity or concern like any normal adult (or even Lily) that cared about me would.  He was in the oblivious older toddler phase where they really don't care about anything but themselves - and he was the perfect medicine to my soul.  He was going to act normal even if my heart was broken.     

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