Friday, October 11, 2013

Camping with Kids

I don't love camping.
I don't love camping AT ALL.
I have a bad back, remember, so among the many things I do like are temperpedic pillows and mattresses.  I'm a super hot-blooded lady, so the weather seldom gets to me, but I agree with you chilly-beans out there:  Being cold is miserable, and it's an especially toxic blow when you are used to being hot and sweaty all the time.

But, I do love and I very much miss what camping does for a family.  I miss getting out of town.  I miss being in the woods.  I miss cooking over a fire.  A real fire.  I miss hiking.  I miss being in an area with no bars of service and no way to BE connected.

So, I took the kids camping.  Yes, that is correct.  I took the kids camping.  MOTH was on call, so he stayed back and I went with family friends:  Momma and Daddy G, and their two kids, L and A.  They have a piece of land not too far from here, pretty far off the beaten trail, where there are really NO BARS of service.   We went for one night and it was just glorious.  It sprinkled light rain for part of the evening, but it was still quite nice.

The campfire was more aptly named a bonfire.  Daddy G has dug out a pit so large it can't be considered a campfire.  He and his brothers have been building a cabin on this piece of land for quite a while.  It's an old-style rustic cabin, so they are falling trees, de-barking, letting them shrink and putting them up as the major timbers of this massive cabin.  So, when I say cabin, don't think of a little outhouse in the woods kind of cabin.  Think of  Derek and Meridith's house on Grey's Anatomy.

Potty services were present, but camping quality.  And by that, I mean . . . a hole in the ground with a tarp strung around it for privacy.   The kids did great.  Hand sanitizer is a nice thing.

Daddy G has lots of toys including four wheelers, which I thought was a blast.  Every kid rode and had the time of their lives.  Clutching and shifting:  new skills for my offspring.

The G family has a young boy a year or so younger than Little.  Imagine these two shooting milk cartons and cereal boxes with their bow & arrows and air-soft pistols.  I could hardly tear Little away for supper, which was BBQ chicken tenders and veggie packets.  Camping makes you hungry, so it could have just as well been  BBQ cardboard and it would have been delish.

And then there's the sticks.  Part of camping, to me, is carving on a stick.  Daddy G agrees.  The kids were hunting young aspen suckers to whittle away at by the fire.  When from the forest comes the sound of a chain saw, and suddenly, Daddy G emerges riding the four wheeler and pulling an aspen.  I big one.  He had more of a totem pole than a walking stick in mind.  It was so cool.

We hiked.  One long hike and one evening stroll.  We collected driftwood and picked raspberries. The kids played team hide--n-seek in the woods.  We went to the lake and skipped rocks.  We went to a pond and tried to catch salamanders.  Six muddy kids and no salamanders later, we went back to riding four-wheelers.

We played on the swing.  Daddy G and his brothers have built a few kid-things on the property to amuse the kids whilst they work on the cabin.  Mimi loved the rope swing.  And the hammock.

You learn a lot from watching another family in action.  Daddy G and Momma G are very, very nice to each other.  Seldom a harsh word.  Daddy G is super, super positive.  Almost as annoyingly optimistic as I am.  He says, "that's a good idea" as general language and he lets kids play and play  hard.  Momma G and I know each other pretty well, as L and Middle have been on the same gymnastics team for several years.  In addition, I went to college with Daddy G, so our ties date back decades.  Suffice it to say that I came home with a new goal to be nicer to my husband, hoping that in return, he'll be nicer to me.  I'm hilarious and a sarcastic jackass most of the time, and I've come to the sudden and harsh realization that my husband doesn't really appreciate that.  He's been raised in a "yes, sir" military family and I'm sure he'd prefer that from me.  I don't think I can swing the pendulum that far over, but I will try to raise my awareness.

All in all, it was wonderful and glorious and one of the best memory making trips of our summer.  Until we got back into service and received the million angry voice messages and texts from MOTH threatening to be-head us all for failure to communicate.    Eeek.  In my defense, on night one, we had one working cell phone, so Big climbed up a the biggest hill around and sent a message that said, "all's well but none of us have any service . . home late tomorrow . . . no news is good news."  

Here's a classic example of what that message means to a woman vs. what that message means to a man.   MOTH and I may be in counseling over that message, but I'll just see if he simmers down a bit . . . . (and I'll revisit my resolution from 2 paragraphs up.  I'll have to revisit that daily for a bit.)

Again, I say, as I cling to the happy thoughts . . . camping was awesome.  A good time was had by all.

Here's us, at the end of the day . . .  we had dinner @ Denny's because the pass to get home was closed for flooding.  I decided to not drive 7 extra hours to go around a mountain and to wait it out with pancakes.  Good thing.  We got our dinner and the pass re-opened :) After dinner and 45 minutes, we were home!

The Raising of a Hen House . .

It's a tiny platform.  Why?
Raising the hen house is good for ventilation and for predators.
For this Crazy Chicken Lady, I was designing removable floor boards so
that when I have to change litter, a flat container will slide in the gap and I can scoop the
gunge down and out.  

The walls are up.  It's officially 3x5x5 and will house our 6 hens.
I'm adding a nesting box to the side so I don't lose house space
to nesting boxes. 

And, she has a roof.  
Roof and nesting box on :)
It's getting closer.
The chicken run overlooks the playground in our urban backyard.

Add windows.  This was my cost factor.  I added windows that I ordered from
a supplier.  The little one opens.  The transom window doesn't, but it's a perfect peekie-hole.
Also added roof and nesting boxes.  

Next project:  painting the interior.  The ladies are now 6 weeks old and fully feathered and it's my personal mission to get them in the hen house & coop, totally imprinted before winter weather hits.  I'm painting the interior first because they'll be in lock up for at least 3 days, which I can use to paint the exterior and complete the run.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The building of a chicken coop: site selection

Yes, I have chickens.  No, I don't have a coop or hen house.  Yet.  But . . . . . 

I bet zillions of chicken owners say this same thing.  The do a nonchalant stretch and sigh and think, "they're adorable right now.  So what if they are living in the kitchen.  Or the front room. They're tiny and cute.  And they're doing great in their brooder box."   And then, they begin to escape.  They begin to get adventurous and it becomes a necessity to move the ladies outside.   

See . .  pictures of escape day: 

Yea, they are way to little to go outside here.
But, this necessitated a baby gate system on top of the brooder box to prevent escapees from wandering freely about the house in our absence.   

Thus, site selection for the coop begins.  Yes, I read every book the library had on raising chickens and having a backyard flock.  Yes, I do think I'm a little bit of an expert in the house.  I've become the chicken whisperer.   Or maybe what I've become is "that crazy chicken lady."  Either way, site selection looks like this.  This flower bed used to be full of iris, then it went untended for quite some time and went to the au natural look.  Lots of hollyhock volunteered to grow there, and because it was at the end of the watering line, I let them.  In the corner, the kids and I built a fort a couple years ago, but it's been making MOTH batty for some time now.  After much consideration, I decided to sacrifice this flower bed and replace it with a chicken coop and hen house.  I tried pretty hard to buy a chicken coop and run on line.  Couldn't do it.  Too pricey.  Plus, not the right size and shape for my run-location.  The prefabbed ones are all to boxey or too tall.  And to get them to fit here would require moving earth.  And I don't want to move earth.  Well, not that much earth. 

So, I'm planing a hen house for the area with the shovel.  It's gonna be built almost entirely out of scraps from the treehouse project and it'll actually look like a miniature tree house.  I'm building in a few maintenance features that I like .. . . and I'll consider it a work in progress :)   The run will attach to the house and stretch the length of this tie-enclosed bed.  

Yes, indeed, I think I love it. 

Blue and Chip

Here's the Baby Blue Andelusian Chick . . . I'm guessing about 3 days old.  Doesn't she look like
 Mumble from the Happy Feet?  She's super sweet and so pretty!

She started out as CiCi  . .  Because she's a Sicilian Buttercup, but because she has
a racing stripe that looks like a Chipmunk, she's now called Chip.  About 3-4 days old in this picture.
She's adorable :)