Sunday, September 13, 2020

New Chickens, and the Goat Tussle

 Hambone ordered another 50 chickens that we moved to the big chicken house yesterday. We felt we might have better survival success if we add netting to the top of the chicken coop (for airborne predators) and we are keeping the chickens inside the pen until at lease 11am to keep the fox at bay. 

This limits the 'free range' a bit, but is a little more time in the coop worth it for survival? We are betting on "yes".

As we refitted the chicken coop and fenced in area yesterday, our dog Elwood was out in the field with the goats. It has been an uneasy peace between the dog and the goats for over a year now, where Elwood chases and taunts the goats until the goats line up and butt Elwood in the stomach with their horns.

Yesterday Elwood fought back and took ate half of Charlie Goat's left ear. We realized something was amiss when Charlie Goat stood stock still right by all of  us as we worked, with his head cocked down to one side. We suspect that Elwood ate and swallowed the ear. 


Friday, August 28, 2020

The Great Chicken Massacre

 As our eggs rise in popularity throughout the neighborhood, so also did the taste of our chickens to the local fauna.  I may have mentioned in some earlier posts that we have seen some shrinkage in our flock due to the increase in predators.

We are now down to 6 chickens from our initial flock this spring of 47. The good news is that we now know what is eating the vast majority of them; a red fox has moved in just down the hill. 

This is no ordinary mouse/vole/mole/vermin eating fox, this fellow (or lady, for that matter) has a particular taste for free range organic chickens. And this fox is not intimidated by our dogs, our goats, or by Hambone waving his arms and yelling. It will stop at nothing until it can sink its tiny, razor sharp teeth into the neck of one of our chickens. One particularly bad day, this fox ate THREE chickens.

The remaining chickens all seem to suffer from PTSD. The brown chicken hardly leaves her nest anymore, and she continues to try to hatch rocks instead of eggs.  Hambone dutifully throws the rocks out of her nest each night, but the next day they are right back in the nest.

To protect the hens, we have reinforced the gate around the chicken house so there is no possible way for the fox to enter the chicken coop area. We are also leaving the door to the chicken yard closed until 10am -- just past fox hunting hours. This week we successfully kept the foxes and chickens apart for four days straight.

In the meanwhile, Hambone bought a local widow's lot of shotguns and rifles. Her husband was an avid hunter, and now Hambone is determined to shoot the fox. 

This morning, Hambone opened the gate to the chicken yard early, and sure enough, the fox visited straight away with 4 days of pent-up hunger. Before he even knew what was happening, Hambone saw the fox run off with a chicken by the neck. He shot *at* the fox, but (according to Hambone) the rifle was sighted in all wrong. He had three other good shots at the fox, so clearly (CLEARLY!) it was the rifle site. 

 Tonight all three boys, Hambone, Hamslice and Little Ham (who has requested the new name of "Pipsqueak") are all down the hill doing target practice and sighting in the rifle. It's a beautiful bonding picture of manliness.  

There are another 40 chicks in our garage right now, maturing to the point where we can put them out in the chicken yard next spring for a "do over." And so life goes on.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Long Slog

It looks like the Corona Virus isn't going anywhere. States reopened too quickly and the virus jumped from people in senior care facilities, prisons and New York City to"20-30 year olds in every state." This seems more difficult to contain.

So we stay home and do our best to pretend like this isn't wearing on us. Hambone and I had a long conversation yesterday, reminiscing about what it used to be like to shop at Target. We miss it.

To bring a little normalcy, we go for long drives in larger circles. We always start at home and end at home. We enjoy the drives a lot -- we play comedian sets on the radio and laugh and laugh as we avoid all other people. Sigh.

Our friend ML came over last night with her son. He has been struggling with feelings of isolation so it was a wonderful time for him to have a chance to play with our boys. They played hide and seek, and laser tag and jumped on the trampoline. So much laughter and smiling was wonderful for all.

This fall it looks like school will be online again which is a tremendous relief. This way I can still keep them in the public school system. I was planning to home school this fall to keep them out of the school buildings.

In a feat of incongruity, my companies (both of them!) are busier than ever. I have been completely under water for the last two weeks and have hired three new people, with plans to hire two more. I have also engaged two contractors. This is fantastic news, but does also make it difficult to manage the simultaneous care that my boys need. Once the new people are up to speed things should get a little easier.

Keepin' on keepin' on.

Monday, June 22, 2020

So I guess this is the "New Normal"

In Maryland, the virus continues on its gruesome path, with most of us still staying home as much as possible. Our family has come to accept that this is just how things are now, and we will be ok. In a symbolic gesture, we ate the giant brisket (see "Panic Shopping" post from March) and are now settled in for summer break.

School "officially" ends today, although we received an email from school some weeks back that said the unofficial last day was last Friday, but the ACTUAL last day that curriculum occurred was two weeks ago.

To fill our days, we have purchased several classes on "outschool.com" where the kids can learn anything they want (seriously... ANYTHING). Right now they are learning money management, personal responsibility, fibonacci sequences, PHP programming, virology, how to draw sharks, dungeons and dragons, topographic studies of the terrain in the video game "Zelda"... these classes are awesome. Sometimes I listen in as well.

The boys come to the office with me Monday - Thursday at 8:30 AM. They have their own offices in my company office space, and they do their work in their offices as though they are Jr. executives. At lunch time they come into my office and we eat together, then they go back to their offices. It's adorable and so amazing to me that it is working as well as it is. Hambone usually takes them home around 2pm. This works for all of us. 

I have to take a moment out at this point to brag about my boys. Since COVID we have become a team. We are finally able to trust them to do what they say they are going to do, and to follow the rules of the house. It's like a miracle to me and Hambone is still trying to catch up with the total 180 degree shift in the household.

Yesterday we delivered eggs to one of Hamslice's classmates' houses and Hamslice saw his classmate for the first time in months. This young fellow had gained about 30 lbs and had lost a lot of his social skills since the end of school. His mom, like many of the others I've spoken with, stopped enforcing bedtimes for her kids once COVID hit. She also allows unlimited video game play and lets her kids set their own diet and daily schedules 100%. She is not parenting, she's acting as a roommate. Her oldest is 13 years old!

Hamslice and Little Ham got in the car and could NOT STOP TALKING about how grateful they are that they don't look and act like that kid. It was such a pleasure to hear them expounding on how happy they are for a routine and for discipline to make them into humans instead of ... whatever he was turning into.

I take it as a win. Our family is OK and is getting stronger every day, and if this Covid nightmare ever ends, we'll come out on top. So now I get it, and am willing to ride this out. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

It's not funny anymore

It's now the middle of June and school ends next week Friday. We have been in quarantine for more than 90 days, and now we're "suddenly reopened for most activities" even though the virus has not been able to be treated, there is no vaccine, and we don't really know why things are opened. It feels like people got sick of staying in, and so now we're open.

And, as people were getting more and more frustrated with quarantine, there was a horrific crime against George Floyd. This began a series of marches and protests worldwide, further increasing the pressure-cooker feel of this year.

The stock market is rising like crazy, in defiance of all logic or reality.

Nothing makes sense.


For now, I hold my babies tight, pray and wait. God help us all.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Weightless during Covid

So one of the things people complain about loudly online about the COVID quarantine is their weight. We are all indulging in comfort foods more often than we would at any other time, because we're all a little off center and want to feel better.

Hambone had the foresight to remove the battery from our bathroom scale on the 5th day of quarantine to keep us from obsessing. That was smart. Really really smart.

In other news, we haven't been able to get to a hair salon since February, which makes NO DIFFERENCE to the boys because I cut their hair anyway, but MY HAIR is a real disaster. It turns out I have gone pretty gray somewhere along the line and now I have tri-toned hair (dark brown, gray, and the brassy remnants of my last dye-job). There is no real date to look toward for a salon reopening AND accepting an appointment from  me, so I bought hair dye online, and then two days later I bought some wigs because the hair dye was super back ordered and did not have a delivery date available.

Ah, vanity.

Yesterday the Governor started phase 1 of reopening the state, but our county executive is not in agreement. So this means "maybe you can go outside?"  But it doesn't matter, we wouldn't go out in public anyway for a long, long time. 


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothers Day 2020

Mothers' Day was low-key this year, as you can imagine. However, Hambone and the boys did their best to make it special anyway.

After dinner, Hambone made home made gluten free chocolate chip cookies and then made those into ice cream sandwiches with whip cream on top. It was a wonderful treat for us! And of course, I ate many more cookies after the sandwiches were gone. They were so good!

The boys made cards for me -- Little Ham's card said "I always knew you would be a good mom someday"  and Hamslice's said "You may be annoying and cruel, but you are also kind and caring" 

I'll take it =)


Thursday, May 07, 2020

We Don't Need No Education....

Yesterday we heard the news that school will be closed for the rest of the year. That means from March 16 to June 22 we are homeschooling, using BCPS provided curriculum. Total time that we have no activities available for the kids as of today: 6 months and two weeks. That means no school, no summer camps, no Magic club, no sports, no Sky Zone, literally nothing to do outside of the home. We anticipate that "at some point" some of these non-school entities will be open again, but as of today, there remains a yawning span of primarily at-home activity.

So how am we doing? I honestly kind of prefer this. I love having this time with the boys, and I see them thriving without all the hustle bustle and peer pressure of school. We have hit a groove, where we all work during the day (them on school, me on... work) and then around 4, we all ease into the evening after a nice long walk.

Hambone has reduced his hours to 4 days/week, and he doesn't set a morning alarm anymore. My work is finally letting up, so I have less work overall to do.

As a family, we are having long conversations about things like "Why do people get married" and "What were you guys like when you were kids" and "Tell us about some of the jobs you used to have" and the connection between all four of us has never been stronger. We're like an old timey farm family from the 1800s, but with Amazon, Michaels' delivery, Pizza delivery and Instacart. We have never had this level of connection in our family.

When everything starts back up again, I will grieve the end of this time together.

Is it stressful? I'd be lying if I said no. The stress comes out in strange ways -- Hambone had the hiccups for three days (DAY AND NIGHT), and I have been eating frosting and marshmallows like I've just been released from Weight Watchers. My back spasms at night. My breathing is noticeably shallower, and so on. But it's not because of the time with family, it's because of the insane news cycle swirling in the background.

We are waiting to hear about school in the fall. As of today I am certain that even if schools open again I won't send Hamslice and I am on the fence about Little Ham. Home school has been a godsend for Hamslice (even with an admittedly bumpy start) and I am unconvinced that this virus mess will be resolved by fall. We've been talking at home that our boys may never see the middle school again -- the next time they go to public school may well be as high school students. This would be fine with me.

Friday, May 01, 2020

The Adventure continues: The Meat Story

Since the Corona virus hit restaurants squarely in the teeth, Hambone's restaurant owner friends have shared the fact that they are required by contract to continue purchasing food and supplies at the same rate all the time. Since their restaurants have been closed for over a month, meat and other foodstuffs are piling up in the restaurant freezers.

Hambone worked out a deal with a local steak house to purchase 200 lbs of beef and pork from them at a discount. Half came to our house, half to Hambone's business partner, Mr. Chris.

Our hundred pounds arrived last night in restaurant-sized portions. And, because we were fueled by anxiety and opportunity, we processed all this meat into family meal sized portions and tossed it into freezer in about 20 minutes. We took care of all of it while the kids were watching a TV show.

Hambone suggested that the kids help, and I said no. The kids really shouldn't see this. In my mind, the food should just keep magically showing up. No need for them to see us doing these strange things.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Corona Virus hits the Exurbs

Today marks day 47 hundred thousand of the Covid-19/Corona virus quarantine. Our little family has fared quite well in spite of all of the madness around us, and I wanted to post something here to help remember our own personal memories of the pandemic.

But I'm only adding the funny things.

1) When the announcement was made that the state of Maryland was shutting down for quarantine, there was (of course) panic buying everywhere. On the VERY LAST DAY before we were not allowed outside anymore, Hambone and I BOTH went panic buying, unaware that the other was also shopping. Our combined quarry included these hilarious items:
  • 5 gallons of milk
  • 15 boxes of cereal
  • 1 can of whipped cream (I bought this)
  • 5 boxes of Reses' peanut butter chocolate Easter eggs (Hambone bought this)
  • 8 lbs of potatoes
  • 4 racks of ribs
  • 1 brisket that weighed a whopping 18 lbs. Hambone explained that the only meat left in Sam's Club was this big brisket and raw shrimp. Of course he went with beef. 
2) The night before quarantine began, Hamslice left the doors to the chicken coop open and five of our chickens were killed by foxes.

3) On our second week of quarantine, we were drinking the milk that we had frozen from that initial shopping trip, and we had our usual delivery of fresh vegetables from Hungry Harvest (a company that delivers food that grocery stores won't sell because it doesn't match up with their standards). We usually get a nice variety of vegetables from this company but THIS TIME our delivery consisted of SEVEN HEADS OF BOK CHOY, two potatoes and four cartons of lettuce. I diligently cooked and served ALL seven heads in a variety of soups and stews. The boys WILL NOT STOP TALKING about how gross BOK CHOY is.

4) In the third week of quarantine, food shortages of eggs started hitting the grocery stores, and everyone we know started buying eggs from us.  What dawned on us soon after the sales spiked, is that our egg customers were using an "egg run from the T's" as a family outing -- they brought vegetable scraps for the goats, and each egg pickup would take about 20 minutes with all of the visiting with animals. We were, of course, not welcome to join them because of the social distancing measures, so we watched all of our friends pet the goats through the windows, sighing wistfully for brighter days. However we are very happy to share our animals with our *very bored* friends and neighbors.

5) Easter was a super crunch for egg production. We suspect that some of the dozens we sold were colored and hid in peoples' yards for their kids to find. Again we helped to entertain the neighborhood. =)

6) As our little family grows more suspicious of grocery stores, we have started trading eggs for other food staples. One of our friends is "friends with a gardener" who trades fresh onions and veggies from her garden for a dozen eggs. At this point, a dozen eggs is evenly traded for two onions and a handful of potatoes. These friends also leave a couple of bucks for the kids, but we all really look forward to the fresh veggies more than the money.

7) Our kids have started using the bank. As their opportunities for spending their egg and chore money dry up, they have started handing over all of their money to me to put in the bank. Their reasoning is that having money lying around the house is just an opportunity for theft from each other, and in case the house would be broken into. I can't argue with that logic. They also have asked for their savings accounts to be transferred into stock market purchases. I am not making this up, people.

8) The weekend before the virus closures happened, I went out for a manicure and got a "dip nail" which is basically powder-coated fingernails.  This color Would Not Come Off and as it grew out and out, it became pretty atrocious. Finally Hambone came to me with a can of acetone and said simply "It's time."

So with all of these funny things happening, you can see why I wanted to write this all down. More to come, I am sure, so stay tuned. As the governor says, "We're not out of the woods yet!"