Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Fresh Look at This Life

The other day, our niece Ellie was at the farm for just a little while. Knowing she had to leave in a few minutes I said, "Hey, Ellie, do you want to run down and gather eggs with me before you go?" She readily agreed and off we went.

With the warmer weather, the hens are changing up their habits a little bit, so we hunted around the chicken yard to see where we might find eggs. We found a couple in the little pot bellied stove in the coop where some of the hens lay consistently. We didn't find any eggs in the brooder shed, but then we struck gold when we poked around the feed shed, where the hens have been hanging out in some loose straw left behind from a straw bale. I spied one egg and pointed it out to Ellie so she could pick it up, then she moved a feed bag and let out a little cry of delight, "Aunt Teri! I found a NEST! They must have been hiding these here."

As she bent over and began grabbing eggs and handing them to me, she said eagerly, very proud of her find, "This is kind of like Easter egg hunting, if you think about it."

I love when someone comes to visit the farm and expresses excitement over a discovery or simply the experiences they get to have here in the outdoors with so much freedom -- it makes you take a fresh look around, to see the magic through their eyes and have that warm reminder of what a great, if dilapidated, place this is to live.

Today I felt that wonder and joy and gratitude all day as I worked outside. It is beautiful weather right now and, while I hope winter returns very soon to relieve the drought, I love stealing outside for hours  at a time to prepare for spring.

I spent a lot of time with the chickens and the ducks, refilling waterers, searching for eggs, feeding and just moving quietly and slowly among our little flock so they'd be comfortable hanging around me. At one point, I sat on the ground with a scoop full of chicken feed and poured a little in front of me. As I sat watching the ducks paddle in the pool then wander as a group over to the water dish to drink, eventually Wyatt the Rooster and a number of his ladies came sauntering up, pecking at the pile of feed, right up close to me. A few pecked at the pebbles and dirt bits in the tread of my shoes. I stayed still and spoke quietly to them. 

Otis, my sweet pup, lay nearby lazily watching the chickens and ducks explore the area, content to leave them be. Unlike some of our previous dogs, Otis doesn't chase the chickens. We took him to the coop from the time he was a several-week-old puppy so he'd think of the chickens as part of his neighborhood rather than food. It's worked out nicely.

In addition to quality time with the birds, I spread some compost material on the garden, moved pallets left over from delivery of our wood pellets to the pallet spot behind the well house, and watered the trees, which are thirsty from lack of snow and rain. I gave the honeysuckle bush a long, slow soak and raked and cut weeds around the place. I picked up stray items that get dragged by the dogs and the wind to the oddest places around the property, and I burned weeds along the side of the house, the first step in preparing the area for seeding with grass. I checked on the peppermint plant by the poplar tree in front of the house, watered the bees and cleaned out and refilled the ducks' pool.

Now, I'm going to look at seeds and hopefully get a little bit of garden planning done, then work on a Sunday school lesson I'm giving tomorrow.

I love days like these, when I remember how wonderful it is to live close to the earth and feel the promise of spring in the world around me and in my very bones.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Man Mallory

OK, so I had a few questionable moments last week.

As I was discussing our new ducks, I had the nagging thought that brightly colored mallard ducks are always male, or drakes, as male ducks are called (see, I know stuff.) But then I heard someone make a comment that triggered a question mark in my head and made me think, "well, I guess I'm remembering wrong," and without further ado, I went with Mallory being a girl.

It never, ever, ever pans out for me when I ignore that niggling voice way back in the recesses of my noggin. Never.

So, yes, I know Mallory is a boy, and while Mallory may not sound very manly, I kinda like it. I think a fella with a certain kind of swagger can pull off Mallory. In fact, I'm betting with me putting it out there to the universe as I am, within five years we'll begin to see Mallory cropping up on the "Most Popular Baby Names" lists for boys. Mark my words. Mark. My. Words.

I'm psychic, after all.

Not really.

But, I do believe Mallory for men is going to catch on. (Is it just me, or did you just picture someone with a cologne spritzer standing in a department store, saying, "Mallory for Men?" in a questioning voice as they proffered the bottle as if to spray a passerby?)

Speaking of "fellas," you may remember that Mallory isn't the first gender-flexible name we've had around here.

First there was Bruno, who, I'm sorry, looked like a man and there was nothing feminine about her gait or her behavior, either. You can't blame us for being confused, since we were goose rookies. Once she started laying eggs, however, we were convinced of Bruno's female status, if not her femininity; and given that she seemed to have a webbed foot in each pool, we stuck with Bruno as her name.

Our other mix-up was with a little tabby cat called "Stella."

Stella was such a sweetheart, as I've discussed here before, but he turned out not to be a girl, either. Again, we were already hooked on the name Stella, so we opted to refer to him as "Stella the Fella." Problem solved.

So, now we have Mallory -- or as I now call him, "My Man Mallory," and on we go. I'm sure new tiny creatures will come to our farm again in the spring, and again we'll be doing the guessing game. We could play it safe and go with gender neutral names like Pat and Jamie and Chris, but I doubt we will. So our gender-flexible naming philosophy will likely continue, and I don't expect our future misnamed critters will complain any more than the ones who've gone before them have.

I once again resolve to listen to that niggling voice that tries to steer me to the right path. And I also promise that, because I've coined this new little phrase here as well, you will soon start hearing "gender-flexible" in the common vernacular.

Just you wait.

It'll happen.

Mark my words.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Como te Llamas?

Since we're in the Southwest, I thought I'd start this little post with a little Spanish lesson.

You should know that all of my friends and family are snorting right now because they know that I don't know much Spanish.

But, I do know some and I'm going to share what little I know.

In spite of what you might think, with this being a farm-ish blog, the name of this post is not talking about llamas. Cute as llamas may be, and oh my goodness, wouldn't it be fun if we had one?!


 Oh my.
 Oh dear.
I'm. In. Love.

Wait. I cannot go down that road. We have miles to go before we can justify getting a llama. There are a few things we need to do around here first. Like build a bedroom with actual doors.

But I digress.

Actually, "Como te llamas?" means, "What's your name?" asked in a very friendly, informal way. If you were being uber polite or talking to a stranger, you would say, "Como se llama?" or "Como se llama usted?"  (I'm dispensing, by the way, with finding all of the special characters on my keyboard like the fantastic little upside down question mark and accent marks that would make this a more authentic discussion. What can I say? I feel too lazy at the moment to look them up. Roll with me.)

The "te" turns the question from formal to familiar, and I'm going for familiar and friendly when I ask this question. Do you know why?

It's because I'm asking it of these sweet ladies who I want to feel welcome; to feel that I am a friendly and familiar face.

After watching them today, asking their input and puzzling over their names, I've settled on ones that I think are perfect. From left to right, we have Sue, Autumn, Pheebs and Mallory.

Sue got her name because I was standing in the chicken coop this morning, scattering fresh straw for added warmth and freshness, when one of the orange chickens jumped in to start digging in the straw, then a little white duck head poked through the doorway to see what was going on, and I thought, "Oh, there's Sue." Then I realized yep, that's her name. She's Sue.

(It is pure coincidence that I now have ducks named Doris and Sue, which just happen to be the names of two of my Dad's wonderful sisters, whom I love dearly and who, in no way, resemble ducks.)

Now, on to Autumn. I named her this because for years and years I wanted to name a little girl "Autumn Grey" and no one would let me. My mom, sister, husband, friends -- NO ONE in my life liked the name "Autumn Grey." I always thought it was lovely and beautiful and subdued and mysterious. No one would indulge me. So, when a darling grey, petite little duck showed up in our chicken yard, I indulged myself. Autumn it is. Pffffttthhhhhhhhhttttt!! (Sorry, I've waited a long time to win on this one.)

Pheebs gets her name in remembrance of another little black runner duck named Phoebe that we had a couple years ago who had a tragically short life when a heavy object fell into the brooder box and killed her. Phoebe belonged to Macy, and while she couldn't agree to naming our new black runner duck Phoebe, she did agree that Pheebs was a nice alternative.

And, finally, we have Mallory. Forgive me for being completely unimaginative on this one, but really, what else could I have named her? It's so obvious that's her name.

And, there you have it. Our flock/herd/gaggle/bunch of ducks have their very own names. Now to build them their very own pen, so Wyatt the Rooster will quit pushing his amorous intentions on them.

Just because they're in the chicken yard, Wyatt, doesn't mean they're yours. Now stay off. We won't be having any attempts at making the world's first "ducken" portion of the "turducken" on this farm.

Love from the farm,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What I Haven't Posted About

So, there are a few things I haven't posted about that I'll share now.

Mike's sweet Granny died this weekend. Oh, how we love Granny. She was this beautiful, smiling, engaged-in-our-lives lady who always had a gleam in her eye.

It's weird to use "was," "had," "loved."  I'm not sure I can quite say "loved" yet. We love her; we always will. She was 92 years of love. This picture of Mike and Granny was taken at her 90th birthday party. 90th!! Can you believe it? She was ageless and gracious.

Mike loved his Granny. He still does.
Tanner has pneumonia and it's caused his kidney disease to flare for the first time in a long time. We've postponed our departure for the funeral in the hope he stabilizes enough that I feel comfortable leaving him at Mom & Dad's while I accompany Mike and the other kids to Granny's service. I'm, of course, completely comfortable with the care he'd get at Mom & Dad's. I'm just not comfortable being away from him when he has so much going on.

This was Tanner without pneumonia, at one of his football games this fall, deep in remission, right where we like him.

This is Tanner rockin' a mullet during his show choir's "Rock of Ages" tribute performance. Yep, 80s music is the thing of elevator music and school choirs now. I don't feel old at all.

Adam's been here a few weeks and will be here a few weeks more before he heads to Utah to live, and begin his post-South Africa life. I'm very excited for him.
Here he is with cousin Megan and sister Macy at the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix.

Here he is with Mike at the mall. (Mike is Pops to Adam, but he's Mike to me.)

Here he is with Karlie, giving her a kiss on her 13th birthday.

Here he is with Macy lurking like a creeper behind him, and Sadie our sweet dog enjoying the summer heat. (When Adam left South Africa in August it was winter there. Flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in the blistering August heat represented a bit of atmospheric shock, I'll tell ya. Thankfully, in our high desert corner of Arizona, summer is a bit less punishing.)

This is Adam with Mike, Tanner and Macy, fresh off the plane from South Africa. I may or may not have breached the boundary stanchions and ropes in my eagerness to hug my sweet boy after his 2 years away.

 Dad had cancer last year, and he got through it with just fatigue. No other horrible side effects. He's so grateful to have it behind him; so am I.

He was a little tired when Macy and I picked him up from his two weeks of radiation in Sedona. (See that red mark? That's where they aimed the radiation 10 times. The spot's gone now; so is the cancer.)

Soon after we got him home, he was back in his garden, and all was well.

One of my dear, dear friends is having a baby after a struggle with infertility -- I'm so excited to meet miss Nora when she arrives in April! (I don't have a photo for this little note, obviously. Note the not arriving until April part.)

My sister's baby, Ellie, turned 8 on Christmas Eve and was baptized in January by Mike. I can't believe the baby of our family is not a baby anymore.

Finally, I am feeling good. Better than I have felt in years and years. It's fabulous. Right up until about 2 weeks ago, it had been some tough years of illness. Each day the past couple of weeks has felt better than the last and I am so grateful.  (Even with my fantastic fall in the chicken pen last week, which I am completely over by the way. All scabs are almost gone.)

I'm a little uncertain what to do with all the energy and good moods. But, I'm accepting it all greedily and loving it. And the kids and Mike are adjusting to my goofy extra energy. Well, they'll just have to adjust. Because I don't plan on giving it up.

And that's a synopsis some of the events that I don't necessarily write about, but they add the color and shadows to our lives here.

Love from the farm,

New Kids on the Block

Here are the newest members of our little farm family.

Meet The Ducks.

(We don't have names for them yet, but that little grey fellow has stolen my heart so I need to come up with an extra special name for her. I guess I should start with not calling her a fellow.)

The Ducks have begun venturing out of the shed and are trying to get the lay of the land. They've even sauntered over to the chickens, cautiously observing their farm mates from a distance.
There isn't much happening on the bonding with Doris front, though. In fact, this is how it looks a lot of the time.
The Ducks are interested in her; Doris just isn't having much of them yet.
In fact, she even ventured over to the chickens, who she previously spent a lot of her time avoiding, and began making nice.
"Hey, Chickees, don't mind me. Just pecking around like you, that's all. What?! Nooooooooo - I always liked you guys. What makes you ask a silly thing like that?," she guffaws, only slightly overdoing it, ducking her head over and over, as supplicant ducks do.
Not surprisingly, the socializing moment passed quickly, and there was Doris, back to the regular state of things. Alone.
Maybe she's OK with it. Maybe she's not sad. Maybe she simply likes her alone time. Maybe she's just an observer, content to be among the chickens and The Ducks, not needing to be hanging with them every moment.
Time will tell.
And when anything worth crowing about happens on the bonding front, Wyatt the Rooster stands ready to testify.
Love from the farm,