Monday, February 27, 2012

The Birds and The Bees

David and I agreed when we started this little homesteading adventure that his focus would be food and mine would be animals. It's not that I find growing veggies and fruit boring, it's just that I feel the whole animal aspect of any farm or homestead so much more interesting.

I've always had a green thumb.  My dad told me a few years ago that when I was a child he would always have me plant the things he had bad luck with so they would do good. A fact I did not appreciate when I was small. I actually hated working in the garden when I was at home.  And I do stand in awe of the fact that this tiny seed turns into a bush full of the worlds best tasting tomatoes or the sweetest corn. I also take a large amount of pride in growing organic food that my kids will actually eat. I love knowing that I did this amazingly healthy thing for them.  However, it still doesn't hold the same fascination and enjoyment that raising animals does.

I love the daily interaction I get to have with the animals and the personality I get back from them. I adore the looks and excitement I get from them when I walk into the room.  I'm pretty sure my dogs worship me, and my parents chickens always sing my praises as I walk past. The fact that I am very generous with treats has nothing to do with it...maybe.

So last week, after much research, I finally got around to ordering my chicks. It was a hard decision! There is so much that has to be taken into consideration. How many? Color of eggs? Size of eggs? How many eggs a week? Good layers or good for meat or both? Cold hardy? Friendly? Free range or "cooped up"? You can even take a little quiz on to see which breed would be best for you. In fact that is what I did and came up with a short list of little ladies I'd love to have. What I ended up getting are four Barred Plymouth Rock and 3 Partridge Plymouth Rock. These gals are friendly, dependable, good layers (brown eggs), do well in winter, and can stand being cooped up, but love running around.

They are hatching out on March 26th, and I should get them a day or two after that.  I know I'm very excited but I am surprised to see how excited the kids are especially Hannah, my oldest. She is reading the same books I am and throwing out little chicken facts. She's so excited that I decided to take her to the feed store with me. Which was a funny experience. She was terrified by the coyote traps and in awe of the goat and sheep food.  It was very sweet. So now I wait. I'm not very good at waiting, but I know I still have lots to do. With the help of my father I almost have the brooder box done.
I also got some "new" bee hives this week.  My dad was a bee keeper, and it's something I've always wanted to do. A few years back my cousin, Anne, started bee keeping, but due to certain twists in her life had to give it up. She was generous enough to loan me her stuff.  Now I just need lots more knowledge and a couple of colonies! I learn best from doing, so I will be (hopefully) taking some classes in April from a local bee expert that Anne recommends. I am most nervous about this. You might get stuck with thorns from a blackberry bush, chased by an angry chicken, but bees can kill you. My dad likes to tell me tales of when he got stung. That doesn't calm the nerves though. His best advice is to just get used to the fact that I'm going to get stung. I try to tell myself that it will be no big deal...can't be worse that tattoos and piercings...right?

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Week of Salvation Army

In addition to being a stay at home mother, I also have the priviledge of holding a couple of other "jobs". I fill the roles of Sunday School teacher, Children's Church teacher, youth leader, and Girl Scout co-leader and cookie mom. I am very honored to be able to do these things, and feel it's my responsibility to help mold these young ladies and gentlemen into adults with a great moral compass. Therefore, I am always looking for ways to get them involved. I want them to leave my care knowing that God is beyond the doors of our church.  He is also out in the community with the worst our society has to offer. "Worst" is a strong word. Perhaps I should say poor, dirty, smelly, hungry, homeless, broken, tired, dejected, angry, lost, or hopeless. 

So, it was with great delight that I learned our scout troop would be working at the Salvation Army for a couple of hours earlier this week.  We are currently working on our Bronze Award. Everyone's heard of the Boy Scout Eagle Award, right?  The Bronze is sort of like that.  It's actually the first of three prestigious awards you can earn as a Girl Scout.  To earn it, the girls must do 20 hours of work. Part of this time they will spend building something that helps their community in some way, the other part they have to spend volunteering.

We showed up not knowing what to expect. The nine of us, six girls and three adults (myself included), were quickly put to work. We sorted clothes, hung them up, and put them on the sales floor. I know this may not seem like much, but we got tons done! The ladies at the SA were so greatful and so kind to the girls.  I even learned some cool facts.

The neatest thing I learned was that they use everything you donate.  It may not all go to the store, but it will all get used, so don't be scared to donated anything.  The lady I was talking with actually said, "Don't feel bad about donating stuff that isn't great, we use it all." If things are holey or stained, bring it on.  They put those things aside and either sale them as rags for $10 a bag or they get baled and sold to a company that sends them overseas.

I was very proud of our girls.  Some of them came in not even knowing how to hang things up! I'm not talking about some fancy retail way of doing it...they didn't know how to put any kind of clothing on any kind of hanger. I was shocked, but they sure as heck knew how to when they left! That's kind of a non-official motto of Girl Scouts, "Leave things better than you found them." I know that means clean up your mess and then some, but I also think it can mean something more personal.

My girls! :-)

Naturally, being a female with a retail background, I have an eye for a good deal.  I couldn't help but window shop a little while I was there.  I used to refuse to shop at thrift stores.  I felt bad for buying good clothes at rock bottom prices when there were so many people that needed them.  But then I realized that by shopping in these stores I was actually helping them. They money I used to pay for clothes and other things goes to pay utlities, rent, and buy food.  And as you can see from the photo above, they have plenty! They quicker they can sell them, the quicker they can process all of those donations.

Ever since the holidays they been blessed with many donations. Thanks to this, all the clothes have been $1.  David went in a couple off weeks ago and got a great suit...for a dollar! We went to shop on Thursday while our crazy little man was at school and left $50 poorer, but with a shopping basket full.

Some of our finds include: Lots of tops for our puppet ministry (we have 10 kids at church making their own puppets), a fine dress and shoes for Hannah, dress shirts for David, red high tops for Joel (a little too large but he loves them so much!), a pair of brand new Keens that I am going to give to a little girl at church (expensive sandals...I got em for 75 cents!), and several shirts to support my new hobby (making cardigans out of tshirts).

 I've saved my two greatest finds for last. I've even taken pics because I love them so. First off, I spotted this little beauty as I was about done for the day. I truly think it was meant to be.

A vintage 1970s burnt orange jacket.  I have a style that is all my own. If it's funky, I'll love it. Well, what can get any funkier than an orange polyester jacket from the 70s? It has a lighter orange sister that I purchased also, but I love this one the best.  I found some crazy green high heeled loafers, got those too. 

My next fab find was a slighty used but still working bread maker for $8.  We had one years ago and loved it.  We moved around so much back then. Evidently we started some bread one day, forgot about it, moved, found the machine (and bread).  Needless to's never been the same.  We talked just a few days ago about buying a new one. I don't know who was more excited about this, bargain hunter me or bread addict David.  I made my first loaf today and it was fantastic!!

Joel put David in time out for touching the hot loaf.
He can hardly wait.

The moral to my story is this, step out of your comfort zone, volunteer and you'll be rewarded!!