Monday, December 31, 2012

Gratitude Overload

i realize that nearly every post of 2012 was about chickens.  that's funny!  if i were an alien reading this blog, or even just some other random human (hello aliens and random humans!), i might think that pretty much the only thing going on in my life in the past year (and ever!) is with regard to chickens.  which is certainly not a bad thing; chickens are funny and cute and interesting and i pretty much love them.  i've sure learned a lot about living with chickens this year...there have been many successes/gains and a few failures/losses.  and as of this moment, this 60th post, we are getting the best egg production we've ever fact, just the other day, we had the FIRST FIVE EGG DAY.  seriously.  like a couple weeks ago.  the TUF holy grail!  every hen actively laying!  we haven't had another one yet, but there are consistently between 2 and 4 eggs in the coop every single day for weeks now.  so 2012 has most definitely been a powerful personal poultry year.

however, MUCH has gone on beyond chickenry.  so much, in fact, that i didn't instantly write about the 5 egg day!  i know, i couldn't believe it myself.  so on this last day of this year, i find myself contemplating past events and on-going processes that have filled the non-chicken aspects of my life, and i find myself to be Unbelievably Grateful. in the name of documentation, and at the risk of extreme self-indulgence, i will use this space to ruminate upon these things. (if you are not into the personal ruminations of random humans who are not you, now would be a good time to run away! i won't be offended. remember that "ruminating" literally means "chewing cud.")

i haven't discussed my job on here at all!  my current professional incarnation is teaching 7th grade science.  this was my second year to teach science; the previous two years were spent teaching theater at a different school.  when i started out thinking about becoming a teacher, i kind of figured i'd be teaching language arts (NOTE: i do understand proper capitalization, grammar sticklers!)  but my whole career thus far i've been taking opportunities and learning experiences as they come, and i've felt very successful in the professional growth i've made, no matter how mad-lib-esque the process.

i feel pretty complicated about teaching right now, and the complications could fill a-whole-nother blog all by themselves.  it's a challenging, draining, invigorating, intellectually-stimulating, anguish-causing gig that takes up a lot of my mental spacetime.  2012 has been much more successful-feeling than 2011, and i have done a lot of growing and learning and working toward becoming better.  and i can see that i AM becoming a better educator, which makes me really happy.  i like doing things to the very best of my ability, so for a while i was discouraged when my teaching experience ranged from less than successful to really hard to damn near impossible.  but this year my perspective changed a bit--i've found that the thing i can do to the best of my ability is grow, and keep growing.  teaching is a process, and a practice, just like learning.  i strive to be the best student of teaching that i can possibly be, open and curious and observant, willing to try new things, continually evaluating my experiences, above all paying attention to the myriad needs and incredibly varied personalities of my students and classes.

but i am not gonna lie; just maintaining that perspective is its own studied practice.  this year i also found the words to tell myself this truth: i am not one of those amazing people who glean the majority of life satisfaction from the practice of teaching. i know incredible individuals who embrace the long hours and emotional drainage as the natural way toward personal fulfillment via their highly successful career in education.  my personal fulfillment comes from the availability of many different experiences, as evidenced by my mad-lib style career and multi-interest life. my optimal identity would equally balance chicken farmer/wife/cook/writer/musician/poet/pet enthusiast/philosopher with /teacher. often i find that these identities are not optimally balanced, and pretty soon there is going to be another REALLY BIG new identity to balance with these others. so i wonder what 2013 will bring in that regard.  more on the new identity shortly.

i will say this about teaching, though: i am extremely grateful that my job has built-in time during the year to take big brain breaks and work on re-balancing my various identities.  for all teaching's less-desirable aspects, getting paid to do things other than work for weeks at a time is a great, great gift.  this is not lost on me as i consider other possible career tacks for the upcoming year.  plus i love those dang kids.

i love them!  we had a big one to korea, several smaller ones to the beach (twice), ft. worth (anniversary), houston for dear darling sister's wedding, and any number of home-based ones regarding pets, holidays, food, friends, and new experiences. we also started the process of a brand new kind of adventure, which goes with the new identity, which deserves its own discussion.  here is a pictoral recap of many 2012 adventures!
first time beach dogs!
seoul romantic!
snake charming!

xmas tortilla soup attempt!
gorilla bonding!
sister's wedding makeup!
xmas eve party!

twenty twelve was a really good year for the relationships in my life.  my sister got married to a wonderful man at a spectacular party, and we did some very grownuppy holiday management together.  i am so thankful for my close and powerful relationship with my brilliant, loving, considerate and hilarious sister--she is an amazing listener and has such spot-on insight about things.  we are very different, complementary people, and her energy is both grounding and uplifting.

i deepened my friendships with several women i met through work at various points, and now i am so grateful for each of them in my life.  one helped me fight off a snake and introduced me to raw kale squished salad, and also can linguistically nerd out in a flash.  another lets me come in her classroom and scream and storm and rant and rave and then geeks out about gross sciencey things with me.  yet another is going to be present at the birthing due to her big calm energy, invaluable experience and blissful prenatal massage techniques, which she is willing to TRADE for various sundries, as well as being a fellow aquatic invertebrate dork.  yet YET another lives down the street and has a toddler of her own, and is always available for support and advice and opinions and toddler practice and baby stuff.  i am so lucky to have these friends!

i am so thankful that dan and i have a couple amazing couple friends, and that we have our individual friendships within the couple friendship. c and j have been our friends for a long time, and j is an invaluable ear and inspiration for me.  she is articulate on subjects ranging from food to music to life etc, and has great perspective on all kinds of things.  c is hilarious and full of interesting ideas and thoughts.  plus they play music and cajole us into being social even when we're in full-on homebody mode.  aaaaaand, j's sister b and her fiance d have become our good friends too, and we've even had all sisters and husbands together for rousing karaoke fun!  can it get any better?

i connected and reconnected with many friends through various media and for various reasons this year, and i hope to build and maintain these relationships, new and old, in 2013.  one thing i'd like to work on about myself is friendship maintenance, and it's fun to have so many awesome people to practice on.  i am grateful for people who have visited from far away, for dear ancient friends getting engaged to wonderful new friends, for people who have moved away but stayed in touch and visited, for meeting new friends through old friends and expanding circles, for friends of unique circumstance (like having the same due date and doctor, as well as mutual friends).

i am always grateful for my parents--they are endlessly supportive and now very excited about the new addition coming right up here.  mom has been visiting from dallas, since i can't seem to ever get up there (i know, bad daughter!!), and has been a source of advice and comfort always and especially lately.  dad just moved a mere 30 minutes away, and i'm so excited to hang out with him more often. i am grateful for his calm insight and willingness to talk about anything and everything.  and my mother in law and father in law are also unbelievably supportive and generous, and i am ever thankful for my relationship with each of them.  we're also so lucky to have my aunt and uncle in town, and a new year's resolution is to make more time to spend with them--uncle  p. has been a major influence in my life since i was a baby, and i don't see him nearly enough.  and i also want to make sure to get to san antonio to see uncle r. and my incredibly tough grandma, who made it through open heart surgery and rehabilitation practically unscathed at 89 years old.  i'm so glad that the new addition has so many amazing family members...he doesn't even know yet how lucky he is, but i do.

and finally, i am so thankful and grateful every moment for dan.  my life is so full of delight and creativity and humor and adventures because of him.  i could write for days about it, but really there aren't enough words, so i'll just say here that i love him so much.

i still kind of can't believe it, but we are expecting a baby boy in early march.  that's really soon.  i wish and hope and think and wonder about so many things regarding him.  i have insomnia dedicated just to thinking about conversations we might have as he grows up.  i can't wait to see what he looks like, what he sounds like, what he IS like, what he likes.  i sure hope he likes us; i sure hope we are "adulty" enough to do this crazy next adventure.  i think we are; i have a lot of faith in us.  and, i mean, there are nine billion people on the planet, it can't be TOO hard to raise a kid, am i right?  i just hope we do it right. and by right i mean...well, i don't even know what i mean yet, i guess we'll see.

as of today i am 31 weeks along, and i've heard that the last weeks of pregnancy serve to ensure the mother is willing to do JUST ABOUT ANYTHING to get the little one out and on his physical own!  there have been discomforts, but they have been blissfully minor (heartburn, insomnia, early food aversions), and all in all i've had an easy and comfortable pregnancy.  so thankful, so lucky.  though the idea of birth is a little daunting, i'm going to be with people who are positive, loving influences in my life, and i'm going to be in a safe place with a doctor i like.  i am going to be able to focus on empowered openness to do whatever it takes to ensure healthy him and healthy me.  so, crazy as it all sounds, it's going to be fine!

i also hope he likes chickens.  and here we are, back to chickens. there was definitely a lot more to 2012 than just chickens.  and i am thankful for every chicken, every person, every experience that has taught me something about life this year.  so happy new year! 2013 is really going to be something!

Friday, November 23, 2012

TUFlock: The Latestish

the flock is looking great lately, and despite the waning daylight hours we are getting eggs once again!  finally! we had had a bit of an egg drought, due to some changes and moltings.  also, i must pause to commemorate the sad passing of ninja, of  pearl and ninja, half of the Original Chickens.  there was no reason to believe she was ill, and no apparent drama--i went out to open the coop in the morning as usual, and she had passed on to the great free-range in the sky. she was a proud and lovely black silkie, and she will be missed.
the other ladies and gentleman have been fine for the most part.  sammo is only just coming off a molt, regaining her regular regal and bearded countenance.  she was the standing egg champion, but the energy expended for feather replacement takes priority over egg production, so we are eagerly awaiting her first post-molt green egg.
still a little scruffy lookin'.
scottie pippen, on the other hand, has stepped up to the (breakfast) plate.   she had a bout with the dreaded poultry pox, which saw her spend several nights on the porch in the chicken hospital, drinking antibiotic water, eating special treats and basking under the heat lamp.  she has fully recovered, and is now laying her first beautiful huge brown eggs!
that is a silkie egg on the left for comparison!

scottie is also the most friendly of all the chickens, and runs up to me or dan with great gusto every time we walk into the yard. she is also fascinated by the dogs, who luckily regard her as a strange and somewhat annoying yard creature not to be encouraged.  i'm glad we have this peaceful dog-chicken dynamic going, rather than the expected  predator-prey relationship.

pearl, the other Original Chicken, has taken the death of her companion in stride, and seems to be adjusting nicely.  she has always had a strong tendency to be broody, and so her egg laying is quite sporadic. but she is just SO photogenic!

bolo, having returned from her extra-coopular experience, had a  pause in egg laying for a couple months.   i suppose she was processing her experience and resolving her newly-deepend chickenness before getting back into the egg thing.  however, just in the past couple days she has seemed to resolve her chicken identity.

tony parker, the other relative newbie girl, should start laying any second.  she is filling out  nicely, has had no health issues, and is certainly the most athletic of all the avians.  she also adds a classic black n' white old fashioned hentacular touch to the flock.  i can't wait to meet her eggs!
and then, of course, there's tumblr the rooster. he has also just come off a recent molt, and his plumage is shinier than ever.  he seems to think so too, and his crow seems to get louder with his colors.

and that's the whole flock! it looks like we're going to have a good winter!  and of course there continues to be my own broodiness to contend with......:D

Sunday, October 7, 2012


i find many things in the world to be miraculous, though most 'miracles' have some kind of logical explanation. for instance, the new human creature growing inside me right now is certainly miraculous, although it's also perfectly scientific...cells are dividing and differentiating along a predicable path, and reproduction is one of life's most fundamental properties.  the exquisite rainbow and sunset i saw last weekend were miraculous, but also completely logical--light was refracting through the atmosphere in measurable ways, and my brain was perceiving the colors and reacting to them...all very explicable.

it is rare, therefore, when one encounters a real life actual miracle with no scientific explanation, an event that is the least probable outcome of a given situation with no perceptible base in logic.  WELL FOLKS, THIS HAS HAPPENED ON THE TUF.
Bolo The Chicken Came Back!

a couple of weeks ago i wrote about how bolo had disappeared without a trace--no feathers, no kerfuffle, no nothing.  i looked for her to no avail, and hoped she would find her way home.  but after a few days, i was certain she was gone for good.  this neighborhood has confirmed sightings of nearly all possible chicken predators: stray cats (always), stray dogs (often), kids with bb guns, hawks, snakes, skunks, raccoons, possums, and other chicken keepers.  to comfort myself i had decided she had been bodily assumed, or even that some other chicken fancier had seen a huge black chicken with feather pants walking down the street and had thus captured her for their own purposes.  her disappearance from the run happened tuesday, september 18th.  by that weekend, i was sadly sure she was gone forever.

fully TWO AND A HALF WEEKS later, on thursday, oct. 4th, i went outside to check on the flock and there she was. back in the run.  a little bedraggled and dirty, but eating and scratching and clucking like nothing had happened.  how is this possible?  i have no logical explanation.  it is the least probable outcome of the vanishing chicken incident. a real, actual, unscientific miracle.
the day of her return
she got the right-wing clippage that i have visited upon the other birds to reduce the chances of further chicken vanishments.  of course, wing clipping doesn't prevent worm holes, or alien abduction, or trans-dimensional quantum jumping, or random space time fluctuations, or any other theoretical event that might result in a chicken disappearing from and reappearing to the exact same east-austin chicken run over a 2.5 week period.  at any rate, i'm just glad she's back!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gains, Loss, The Future

ah, the beginning of fall.  when the temperatures drift down into the balmy mid-nineties, and there is a chance of rain sometimes.  actually, all facetiousness aside, the mornings and evenings have been beautiful!  and enough rain has fallen that the back yard is full of chickweed and egg production is ramping up again. i'm excited about the change of seasons, and fall air is some of the best air.

sadly, we have lost another chicken.  this time there was no disease or predation involved...earlier this week bolo vanished without a trace! there she is to the left, the big black one, having a roll in the dust with pearl last sunday.  by tuesday, however, she was gone. just gone!  no feathers, no yard kerfuffle, everyone had been in the run all day.  all other fowl were fine and normal. but when i went out to the yard after work to give the ladies and gentleman their yard time, she simply was nowhere to be found.

i keep hoping she might come back, but i think it's been long enough that such hope is lost.  my best thought is that she's been bodily assumed into heaven, rapture-style.  at least that's my favorite theory...several others make perhaps more sense but are far more depressing.  she was a non-flyer, but had accidentally hopped out of the run once a long time ago--she was never one for adventure.  

needless to say, all remaining chickens now have flight feathers 1-8 clipped on their right wing, like i did sammo a couple months ago, to prevent further chicken raptures.

i wonder if she accidentally hopped out again, went for a mosey, got lost....and then was bodily assumed.  at any rate, wherever she is, i hope she enjoyed her life here and is enjoying her next life.  if not, i'd like it if she would come back.
in other, better news, we recently acquired two new girls to bump up egg production and add some new feathers to the flock.  introducing tony parker and scotty pippen!

tony parker

tony parker is a lovely young barred rock hen, a classic breed. true to her name, she is especially quick and agile, and does not seem to like to get picked up yet.  however, once caught, she will happily sit on the available lap for pets and chicken talk.  she should start laying big brown eggs any minute!

scotty pippen
scotty pippen is a beautiful red star chicken who, unlike her new sister thus far, is quite friendly. she seems to enjoy being picked up and cuddled, and even hangs around waiting for such attention.  her breed is also an egg-laying machine, and so we are much anticipating her egg scene debut.  in fact, she was destined to go to an _actual_ egg laying machine--a big production chicken house--which explains why her beak was cut.  but here on the TUF, her beak can grow back in all its glory and she can party in the run and yard all day.  i look forward to seeing her beak back!

all chickens have made the adjustment seamlessly, both to the new additions and the loss of dear old bolo.  the flock numbers six once again--tumblr (the rooster), sammo (easter egger), pearl and ninja (original silkies), scotty pippen and tony parker.  we pause to remember the TUFlock chickens who have gone on to the great free-range in the sky: soft grey twitter, baby lil' bitz (we barely new ye!), and big black ol' bolo.  thanks for all the eggs and fun.

milk snail enjoying a fall morning

and finally, a bit about the future: dan and i are pleased to be expecting a new HUMAN addition to the TUF to join us in early march 2013!  all is well so far, and of course we will appreciate another TUF hand around to help care for all these crazy creatures. that's why people originally starting having kids anyway, right? more help around the farm?  maybe we can actually start that garden i've been screaming about since the beginning of this whole experiment!

speaking of experiment, and as a final note, here is a picture of the fantastic carrot soup i concocted the other day.  i had also (true to TUF philosophy) used a bunch of farmer's market vegetable odds and ends, and the frozen carcasses of a roasted local duck and chicken, to make a killer-awesome no-waste stock as the base for this soup.  i basically used this recipe, with lemon juice but no zest, a zillion cloves of garlic, and only 1/4 cup of cream, and it came out pretty dang delightful.  and healthy! mostly!

anyway, there is much coming up to discuss, what with the changing seasons, new girls, new food, new future prospects and all.  thank you for reading, Dear Reader, and though i'm clearly not the best at it, i'll renew my efforts to keep y'all posted and document the process!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer 12: The Happenings

so, needless to say, it's been awhile since i've posted anything.  i have been delinquent, yes, but it's because a lot has been going on! dan and i took a big trip to south korea from july 15th-july 24th, and the weeks leading up to that excursion were full of activity and non-cookery.  indeed, the extent of my cooking this summer is best represented by the following picture:

no, those are not home-made waffles.  yes, that is a home-sliced organic banana.  yes, i definitely meant to spend way more time cooking and chickening and gardening and writing this summer, but alas, it has not been.  now i have two weeks left before science teaching starts again, and so we'll see what happens. here are a couple things to catch up on...

this sweet little chicken was in our lives but briefly. back in early june, she (mighta been a he) was acquired as a new flock friend after the untimely demise of dear twitter.  everything was going great (for like 2 days) until she met the SECOND snake to plague our coop this summer.  turned out that snake had a taste for more than just eggs, and so she was murdered.  in a fit of hammurabian rage, the murderous snake was also murdered.  it was not the most shining of TUF moments.  but, live and learn and live.  she wasn't even around long enough to get a permanent name, so she will live forever in my memory as "Lil Bitz."

earlier this summer, we took another trip to Port Aransas like we did last summer, and stayed at the same place, although it's now called Amelia's Landing. this time we brought both dogs, and they were salty beach dogs for the first time!  great fun was had by all, and though there was a plethora of beautifully scary and goopy man o' wars (men o' war?), no one got stung.  yay for the beach!

i have no pictures of this at the moment, but we attended my beautiful sister's wedding shower in dallas july 14th.  she's getting married on september 2nd, and i'm the MaidTron v.2012 of honor.  ("matron" sounds too...well, matronly. and old and fat. and i'm trying to avoid those kinds of connotations.) i also partied (gently) at her bachelorette shindig on july 28th.  i am so excited for my darling closest relative's celebrations!  and i'm so honored to be her MaidTron.

then of course came the Big Fancy Trip we had been planning for some time, to South Korea.  thank goodness for the family and friends who looked after our zoo while we were gone.  a dear friend from school took all the rodents and reptiles into her BRAND NEW HOME for the 10 days, a responsible kid from the neighborhood was on am and pm chicken duty, another dear friend from the neighborhood and my beloved uncle came to check on the cat and house, and the dogs got to go to camp at the Canine Hilton down the street.  what with all the animal accomodations, we needed to make this one count.  AND WE DID!
huge market close to hotel in seoul

seoul street art

beautiful architecture

awesome hair and beaches in pusan

secret buddha

it really was an amazing journey.  and so, two more weeks of summer vacation!  what else might happen?

how about this enormous stick bug that dan came in to tell me about AS I WAS TYPING THIS VERY POST?