Friday, May 8, 2015

Meet the Chicks (Part 3)

This should be the final edition of Meet the Chicks for this year. While it is a lot of fun hatching eggs and seeing the new babies, I am also quite glad that we are at the end of hatching season for now. The brooder boxes have been in the master bathroom until the babies are old enough to be moved outside, and it will be really nice to have my bathroom back to normal after it has been so filled with peeping little ones for a few months now.

These babies are some more Bantam Cochins. As they are bantams, they will always be smaller than a traditional chicken, and lay smaller eggs. They are a very sweet breed, and I think the kids will have a lot of fun playing with them as they get older.

Taking pictures of chicks is a lot harder than I had anticipated. They are constantly moving and constantly pooping. I had a container of wipes next to me the entire time to clean up poop. They also intermittently just decide they are going to go to sleep.

Or, when you have a pretty good group shot, one will just wander off to a little too far.

I think the birds from my first Meet the Chicks posting could use an update as they have gotten so big, so look for that in the near future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Joys of Free Lumber

As me and Brady received the Mother Earth News for quite a few years, we saw many articles touted on it's covers with catchphrases that said you could build your own home or farm buildings for a very small price. The first few times we saw such covers, we excitedly opened the magazine and began reading. Sadly, many of these articles were examples of people doing exactly what the article stated, but with much different circumstances than our own. Harvesting your own wood off your back acres for free lumber just doesn't work when you are living in the 'burbs, and if you don't know someone will an old barn with wood you can reclaim, then you are out of luck. We would sigh, and continue to look at large parcels of land that we could not afford.  Apparently, we needed more money before we could live cheaply.  Pretty soon those promises of debt free living were met with the same disdain that I give the magazines at the grocery checkout declaring that they have the secrets to get me bikini ready in four weeks. Mother Earth News does have many great articles, but the ones of this variety are not among them in my opinion.

There has also been a lot made of reclaiming old wood, such as pallets, to make cheap projects. We love this idea.....and so do many other people. Especially with the popularity of Pinterest and it's siren's call of craftiness, more people than ever are trying to get their hands on free pallets and lumber.  

If there is one thing I have learned from looking, it is that finding project wood is much harder when you really want it. It is kind of like easily finding something you were searching for the week previously. Or possibly you can find it, but is driving an hour's distance really worth it? 

I was checking my phone after leaving Costco last week and was extremely excited to see someone listing on Facebook that they had quite a few sections of wood fencing available for free, and only a few minutes away from where I was. I happily drove over and loaded all I could in the back of my car. I went back shortly after with a truck, a teen, and some work gloves to grab as many as we could fit in the truck bed. It is not pretty, but the boards are mostly in decent shape, and it was free! 

So what will become of these piles of old fencing? Some may go towards building the giant chicken run that we have planned, or perhaps make a sheep shelter. In the meantime, my farm girl heart is happy to have the goal of finding free old lumber realized. It gave me enough of a thrill that I suspect I may be scoping out Craiglist and Facebook garage sale groups even more now. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Meet the Chicks (Part 2)

Welcome to the second installment of Meet the Chicks. If you missed the first post with our chicks, you can find it here. Our little farm is full of little chirping goodness this year. Many of these chicks were sent by my sister-in-law, all the way from Idaho. Picking them up from the post office was a lot of fun and made for a lot of smiles from everyone. There was a little boy in line that was amazed as I carried the peeping box away from the counter. I let him peek in the holes so that he could see there really were live birds in there. Squirt was with me to pick them up. It was also right after story and craft time at the local library, which is why he is sporting such an amazing hat.

We had taken a few out before I thought to get a picture, but you get the idea of what a box of shipped chicks looks like. 
These are our turkeys. We have a few different varieties, and it should be interesting to see how they feather out. There is one meanie who has been biting the others....that one may end up Thanksgiving dinner.

Princess's turkey, Marshmallow.
 I believe these cuties are Blue Orpingtons. They are Orpingtons, but I am not sure about the color. Their feathers are starting to come in really nicely and I am excited to see them as adults.

These are Bantam Cochins. Bantams are smaller size chickens, so these little ones will always be fairly small. They are actually a breed that loves affection. They also go broody more often than other breeds, so some people do use them to raise up babies of other breeds as well.

The last variety of birds I have to show you today are Lavender Orpingtons. These are from eggs that were shipped to us and hatched in our incubator. Brady is really excited about these guys since they are a rare breed. We  would like to be able to provide more people with these awesome chickens. They are starting to go through their awkward stage, but should be really gorgeous when they feather out completely. Some of these guys are the chicks I used in my Easter picture.

And that is all for now, although not the end of our chicks for this year. We are currently waiting on a few more to hatch. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Perot Museum

We had the opportunity to join up with a homeschool group and visit the Perot Museum in Dallas yesterday. It was a lot of fun! If you live in the Dallas area, or are visiting, I would put it on my list of recommendations. It is a nature and science museum that lives in a really neat building. Bill Nye has visited it, so it has to be cool, right?

Even the landscaping is quite awesome. The kids had a lot of fun playing on the giant frogs while we waited for the museum to open.

The museum houses 11 permanant exhibit halls devoted to a different field of science or nature. The Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall contained a lot of neat robotics, among other things. Me, Brady, and the kids had fun with a machine that measured your brain waves. If you could get your brain waves into the correct waves, either by relaxing or thinking of math problems, a ping pong ball would shoot into a basket.

The Being Human Hall was all about the human body. Want to use a machine that can show your veins, control a prosthetic limb, or look at yourself using an infrared camera? This was the area for that. 

We spent about five hours at the museum, and there were parts that we skipped. By the end of the day, our entire crew had achy feet. We experienced an earthquake, watched a tornado, saw all sorts of taxidermy native Texas wildlife, and ogled at gems. 

On the bottom floor of the museum, there is a fun children's museum so that the smaller members of your crew can get some wiggles out. 

If you want more information on visiting the Perot Museum, just look here. I am sure you would enjoy it as much as we did. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Field of Weedy Dreams


Moving onto a large parcel of land has been an experience that has brought us a lot closer to nature. We have seen a deer, a few rabbits, and a couple skunks within the confines of our yard. In the evenings, we have stood outside and listened to the frogs or watched small lizards climb up the walls of our home. I could really have done without our dog, Sheba, taking an interest in a skunk and getting sprayed, but even washing her down with Brady led to some laughs.

While we do like a landscape that is pretty to look at, I will admit that our family's tastes tend to be a bit on the wild side. My kids have thoroughly enjoyed walking around our meadow of a yard and finding new plant treasures. I have spent many days with the flowers that my kids have brought me tucked into my ponytail, often forgetting they are there until I brush my hair at night. 

One of our next door neighbors walked on over a few days ago while I was outside, and tried to convince me to have the guy who mowed his lawn mow mine as well. This particular neighbor seems to feel a partial ownership of our property since the house previously belonged to a friend of his. As it also really seemed like he would be getting a financial kickback for signing us up for the lawn service, I was pretty taken aback. I honestly have to say that mowed down or not, both lawns are about as much weeds as they are grass. Better Homes and Gardens are not going to be knocking on any doors around here anytime soon. 

I explained that I would be mowing some areas of the lawn soon, but we did not want the entirety of the lawn mowed at this time. I also tried to add that my kids liked the wildflowers, and our newly placed bees were relying on those same flowers. 

I used to feel guilty for not having a perfect yard in our old home, but I am determined to not feel that guilt now. We moved with the intention of having a life closer to nature and with less confines, specifically to an area that we could do that. We are still planning just what we want to do with all this space Most likely, a lot of it will be devoted for pasture areas. For now though, I am just going to enjoy the scenery.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dying Yarn with Easter Egg Kits

Easter has came and went in a flurry of chocolate and jelly beans. Luckily, my kids also really love to eat hard boiled eggs so they got some healthy protein along with their mass consumption of sugar.

We dyed Easter eggs as we normally do this year, but instead of mixing and pouring the beautiful colors of leftover dye down the sink, I decided to try and dye some wool yarn with it. 

I chose a skein of KnitPicks Stroll in white, since I really wanted the brightness of the colors to show up. This yarn was great to work with, and is still wonderfully soft after dying. KnitPicks does also carry a line of "Bare" yarns and fibers that are unbleached and a natural creamy color that would also work great. I am really thinking about ordering some of the Glimmer yarn that has a small amount of stellina for sparkle!

In order to take the dye, just remember that your yarn needs to be a protein fiber (animal fiber) and not cellulose fiber (plant fiber), or synthetic fiber. While having some cotton or acrylic in the yarn is okay, those will just not accept the color the same way, so try to stick with yarns that are mostly composed of animal fibers like wool, silk, or alpaca. 

I started preparing to dye my yarn by winding it up on my niddy noddy. I did not measure and really just tried to get three hanks of different sizes. I got a little carried away, and my last hank was pretty small. This yarn is destined to be used on my sock yarn blanket, so having a very small skein is not a problem.

I tied each hank in four places to keep it from getting tangled. I use white acrylic yarn for tying since it is cheap and it easy to spot and clip when I want it off.

I then soaked the yarn in a 9 x 13 inch pan for about an hour, squishing it slightly every now and then to help it get thoroughly wet. It looks a lot like rice noodles and I have been craving pad Thai since.

The dye was left pretty much just how it was when we used it to dye our eggs, complete with vinegar. The only change I made was to add a bit of water to each cup to allow for more swishing around room.

With the largest skein, I held it in roughly thirds, and placed each third into a different cup of dye, using the pink, blue, and green. The medium skein was split between the yellow and light green, and the smallest skein was plopped into the red.

Three color dye bath with pink, green, and blue
Two color dye bath with green and yellow.
Single color dye bath with red.
The dye bath will need to be heated up, and the microwave makes that really easy. I listed up each group of dye cups into the microwave one at a time and heated them up. You may need help holding all of the cups at once while placing them into the microwave. Each set had a different amount of time since I was working with a different amount of water, so you may need to experiment a little to get the water nice and hot like a steaming cup of tea.

Leave the cups and yarn in the microwave while it cools down completely, or at least enough to handle safely.  I did move the areas that were white a little to once cup and then the other while the dye was cooling. Once the yarn has reached room temperature you can remove it from the dye baths and rinse it thoroughly.

After removing your yarn, you may reuse the dye bath if there is any dye left.  I had Gizmo help me take a picture of my pink dye bath, which I completely exhausted. Dipping a white measuring cup or spoon into the dye will show you how much color you have left. In this case, the dye had been all soaked in and the liquid looked just like plain water.

Let you yarn hang and dry, then enjoy!

Another little tidbit of information I will pass on is to visit the clearance section of your stores after Easter. There are usually some Easter egg kits left over, and you can get them for a great price. I was super excited to snag quite a few this year for .37 each.  Lots of fun dying experiments for me!