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I’ve been holding out on a new post to wait on getting the camera back from John.  He is teaching now and has been doing photography with his students the past few weeks.  It doesn’t look like he’ll be done before too long, so I’m going to post anyway.

We got our spring garden in!  Cauliflower, Broccoli, Lettuce of several kinds, Swiss Chard, Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Shallots, Peas, Italian Parsley, Dill, Cilantro, Rosemary, and Chives.  It felt so good to be outside in the dirt.  There is such peace there in most cases.  The girls were much more helpful this time around.  They are getting older.  All the plants are perked right up and growing.  Hopefully the seed will show sprouts soon.  I’ve been craving good veggies after a pretty rough winter.  It is hard to find good produce in the groceries here.

We also had some homeschool friends give us 5 hens and a rooster in order to make room for their upcoming 4H projects.  There were two little bantams – hen and rooster, and some large mixed breed hens.  The little bantam hen, we called Little Lady.  She had blueish gray feathers along with some tan, and she was so very gentle.  We even brought her in the cabin to eat macaroni and cheese.  I did away with her body yesterday.  The larger hens had pecked her to death.  😦  There was no sign of them bullying her.  She stayed in the coop most of the time, but I thought she was just getting used to things.  After loosing 4 entire flocks, including all the grown diddles from last year, you’d think I’d be over caring.  I’m not.  Well, especially when a hen will let you pet her and will sit in your lap like a dog.  We are getting eggs daily from our free-ranging flock.  They are healthy and roost on the front porch.  It makes a mess, but Lars (our dalmatian) sleeps there with them and keeps them safe.  It would be nice for these new hens to eventually be free ranging too.  It seems we have better luck that way.  I told them though, they better start laying or they’ll be in the pot for killing Little Lady – barbarians.

It is so close to warm here.  We had a week of 70 degree weather and the girls were so happy.  We will be getting new water soon, and I won’t have to take them to my mother’s for baths any longer.  Deladis graduates from kindergarten on May 26!  Our homeschool group has a great ceremony planned and I’m going to cry like a baby.  I just know it.  I ordered her 1st grade curriculum yesterday on sale.  I can’t believe it.  It’s funny that Ivy still seems so small.

I’ll try to get some pictures up soon, and some exciting news.  I hope to start hearing from folks again.  I’ll do my best to comment back as well.  My computer reading time has been kind of limited lately.

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And I’m beginning to wonder why…

Why am I wondering why?  It has given Lars, our eldest dog of 11 years, a complex.  Today, as it has been for the last few days, he has been chasing the diddles, trying to eat them.  Add that to Goldie, our pup, chewing everything in site.  Add to that, Lars fighting Goldie over both his food and her food.  We have a mess on our hands… and we’re adding another baby to the mix in a few days – of the kitten variety.

Goldie and her mess.

I’m exhausted today.  Above you see Goldie and her mess.  She tore up our waders (fortunately they already had holes), the girls’ sidewalk chalk, a toy bunny from the sandbox, and somehow she got the girls’ snow hat from inside and tore it up outside.  Oh, and tearing into the food bags.  Ugh…

But, you know… I expect that.  She’s a pup.  They do those things.  Lars destroyed our couch and my pewter statue collection when he was a pup.  Yes, he chewed up soft metal.  What I didn’t expect was Lars to be fine for the first couple of weeks with Goldie around, but now that we have 9 diddles, and they are getting older, he has decided that he is nuts and doesn’t care about the rules.  He has turned on Goldie during mealtimes, yelps coming from the front porch as he puts her in her place.  And, after the last few days, I’m beginning to wonder if our joy with the diddles (“peeps” as Deladis calls them) will last.

The diddles have a mother.  A good mother.  She free ranged and set 9 eggs through hatching, and has made it with all 9 babies through a week as of today.  They are adorable, and we enjoy them like proud grandparents, giving them back to their mother for the complicated part of rearing.  This afternoon, however, as I fell into the peace of yoga, I was interrupted by an upset Deladis.  “A peep is under the house and she is stuck!”

“What!” I jumped out of my crescent moon lunge and we were out the door in a second.  Then, I see Lars – dirt smeared across his face and I see the evidence of him as the culprit of this mess.  Deladis confirmed it, as she had watched it from her swing.  The diddle jumped under the house for protection as the hen and the rest of her brood scattered around the side of the cabin.  The baby was left under the house without the capability of figuring out how to get back out.

First, I go under the cabin.  It’s dark – really dark.  Then, I see where the sound of the peeping is coming from, and that the floor joists are so low that I will have to army crawl to get to the diddle.  Not to mention the diddle is a black one, and I can’t actually see it, just hear it.

I hunt a flashlight.  The only one I find is a toy one of the girls’.  Tinker Bell.  I go back under and realize that this flashlight won’t cut it.  I also realize what I have suspected for some time.  I am a little put off by tight squeezes.  I go back out and call John for a better light and encoragement.  He tells me there are no flashlights within a reasonable proximity to me.  The diddle’s cries are louder now, and I know I have to suck it up and save that baby.  I take the Tinker Bell flashlight and put Deladis on guard outside one of the vent holes in our cinderblock foundation.  I take deep breaths and crawl, only hitting my head once, to the diddle.  It jumps and runs to a nearby corner.  I catch it between the block and a piece of plastic, pick it gently up, and hand it to Deladis who is still waiting outside the vent hole.  She then returns the baby to its mother.  We are all pleased after the minor freak out.

Then, I just get plain mad.  Lars needs to get over himself!  He’s well feed, gets plenty of attention, and has all the room and comfort he needs.  He is being a party pooper and is disregarding the rules of this family.  I guess he thinks he’s old enough now to do what he wants.  Well, you know what happens to grown kids when they get old enough to do what they want… ok, just kidding.  I won’t make him get his own place.  So, I’m left with having to respect his age and realize we a peers now.  And, that leaves me where I started, being mad.

The last week (well, since Tuesday) I’ve felt like Death warmed over.  Now, I ain’t been too far from home, so I don’t know if that is strictly an Appalachian expression, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were.  Us mountain folk love to discuss our ailments.  I don’t know when that came about, but as long as I have been alive, it has been true.

It usually goes a little something like this….  You see Linda’s, Mamaw Flora at the grocery store.  You go to church with Linda, so you feel you should say a hello.

“Hello  there, Flora.  How you today?”

“Aw, not too bad.  I got the arthritis so bad in my hip I can’t hardly get up and down.  Linda can’t help me none… much.  She had the stomach virus this week, and Fred (Linda’s husband) has been down in his back.  He’s too old to be working underground, but he can’t retire.  Not right now.  But, we ain’t doing too bad.  Can’t complain.”

So, I’ve felt like Death warmed over, folks.  I’ve had the whole sinus thing going on, and I’ve just felt plumb wiped out.  John’s been off his feet because of swelling and blisters from all the hard work he’s had to do these last weeks.  Winter was rough on us this year.  But, we can’t complain.

This week we’ve had visitors from Princeton University who said the trip to the cabins here to talk to John and George were the highlight of their trip.  I haven’t felt like keeping up with the girls, but they kept up with me. 🙂

Ivy found the dress up clothes that Deladis never bothered with, and was a Princess for two days.

Deladis had to get in on the picture taking fun without really playing dress up.

Today, we were all feeling a little better.  The girls went to stay with John’s mom last night, and husband and I got some much needed sleep.  The sunshine this morning lured us out to the barn and the garden plot we’ll be sharing with our friend and now neighbor, Nathan Hall, for some work.  Nathan has huge ideas of the real learned variety.  He has somewhat of a degree in agriculture.  We’ll have a nice organic garden this year. 🙂

This morning we spread nice wet and aged poopy throughout the area where we will plant over the next few weeks.  The aged poopy came from the barn, and the nice fresh stuff, Nathan brought back from some where off.

The barn door.

This area will be disced and more manure spread as we go along.

Soon, we will be adding more animals to the mix.  We’re looking for meat goats and some larger chickens for egg laying.  We did get six eggs from our house hen yesterday!  Crazy!  They are tiny little things too.  She isn’t setting though, so they’ll be breakfast.

It’s a beautiful day, and John’s Mamaw is celebrating her 82nd by cooking her family a nice old time dinner.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and being a little better than not bad. 😉

We are home once again from a trip that was mostly uneventful, but has left us tired and behind on our work at home.  It was nice to spend time with family and celebrate all we have to be thankful for with the other people in our lives.  I love watching the girls with our family.  Traveling long distances is always hard with little ones, and we are very glad to be home.  We have spent most of this Sunday trying to get caught up and seeing to the week ahead.

The first structure on the property when you emerge from the creek is an old barn that doesn’t belong to us, but we have recently been allowed to use it by our landlord. It is about two football fields distance from the cabin.  When we came home last night, we couldn’t resist checking on the chickens that we moved there last week – if only to see how our work had held up in our absence.  The two hens and one rooster that survived the move (We had one causality when our other rooster flew the coop and almost immediately was eaten by something hiding in the woods.  We were moving them at night.) were roosting snuggled together and comfortable.

The barn where the side entrance to the chicken house now is.

All we had to do was clean up a bit, build new nest boxes, and construct a chicken run that was as critter proof as possible with fencing and a gate.

We began with what was left of the old.

Old nesting area and boxes.

Roosting Room

The girls jumped right in raking leaves and moving light boards.  John tore off the rusted chicken wire (poultry fencing), gathered posts for the fence, and removed the nest boxes.  I started digging the trench to bury the fence under the ground.  Before too long we were digging the post holes and nailing the chicken wire to our secured posts.  I forgot to photograph the run and fencing because I am so enthralled with the inside that I didn’t even think of it.  I’ll have to do that soon to share here.

Getting started.

Deladis rakes.

Ivy moves dirt.

We all love outdoor work better than anything that can be done in the house.  The exertion and experience of fresh air lends itself to a greater sense of accomplishment, I believe – at least for us.  The warm few days that it took to get things completed were so exciting for the girls.  Deladis could and still can hardly contain her joy and eagerness to get at them chickens.  Ivy loves anything physical, so she was right at home.  Now, if only the girls could get the chickens to let them touch them, then they would have it made.

When we were finished we were all smiles.  These pictures were taken this evening after checking in with our little flock.

Like the fancy border on the nest boxes?

Moving on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky!

We still have another rooster and three hens that run loose around the cabin.  I’m afraid they are going to be impossible to catch and move.  They roost high in a planted Christmas tree that grows outside of our bedroom window, so high that they can’t even be reached with a ladder.  They allow us only to get so close to them, which isn’t close enough to touch.

I can’t wait until Spring to go again to the stock sale for more chickens to add to our new chicken house, and a goat!  There are three stalls on the other side of the barn and we’ve gotten the approval for a goat or two.  🙂 Oh, milk!

I’m waiting to listen to a free Waldorf homeschool workshop on teaching Waldorf Math. It starts at 8pm at The Waldorf Connection (http://attendthisevent.com/Modern/?eventid=9671790). We have been so busy this week and throughout the weekend. A dear family who we go to church with and the our children play together lost their mother to cancer. It has been a sad time for our little community, but her life was celebrated. It was most definitely an inspiring life.
John is home for the entire week, including the weekend!!! We are working on moving our chickens to the barn about two football fields distance from the cabin. Getting caught up on the things that go kaput when we aren’t all together has been time consuming.
The girls and I have had some trouble staying in our rhythm with all the staying away from home and extra errands over the last five weeks of John’s busy period. I’ve done the best I can, but I am realizing that our days need some tweaking. I’ve also decided to design our own curriculum for our homeschooling to better suit our needs. I’ll have to write more about that later too. It will still be Waldorf inspired. This lifestyle is working so well for us.
I have also started a new Kundalini yoga set that turned my body to jello today. It was amazingly challenging, and I’m looking forward to the work it will bring about. I’m leading myself without a DVD to try to bring my focus more inward instead of planning incessantly as I tend to do for what is next. “Cease striving and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10. I’m trying.
So, I’m writing this on the fly. I’m not proofreading, but I wanted to say I’ve taken some pictures of our barn renovations and chicken prep, and will post about that really soon. I have plans to post about my schooling decisions too when I get them worked out, and what ever else comes along as soon as possible.

Meet our new flock.  They are little cuties.

chickens

I believe they are some kind of bantam.  We aren’t sure.  Chickens around here seem to be just what they are – chickens.  One thing I do know is that this bunch is much tamer than the last.  They are still only babies and have been petted since hatching.  This makes me hopeful that we might eventually be able to free range these.  That gives you the healthiest eggs and the chickens a more natural diet.

coop

We have moved the coop from the previous location of the massacre of the last flock to right outside our bedroom window.  We are hoping to avoid a repeat massacre,offering the new flock a little more protection.  The coop sat next to the woods before which left them vulnerable I believe.  John dug a trench for the run and filled it in with dirt.  The two of us tied wire around the bottom about an inch between each tie to try to reinforce the chicken wire.  It was pretty obvious the last undoing of our flock was done by a possum because of the total destruction, waste, and nastiness of it.

There is nothing like a home grown egg.  Chickens that feast on clover and quality feed, bugs, and treats from the table give the darkest yolks that are so full of flavor.  You don’t have to worry about serving them runny either, though I’ve never been much to worry about that.  Another plus are the shells are so much stronger.  You can definitely tell that the factory farmed poultry are not healthy animals by their egg shells and yolks.

Right now, we have two baby hens and two baby roosters.  Then, there’s Roy, our left over rooster from the last flock.  He runs free and is scared to death of John, but will sit on the porch with our dog. 🙂  So, we are rooster heavy, but we’ve decided to expand the flock to at least six hens.  I won’t count out the possibility of one of the baby roosters ending up on the table when it is grown.

I rocked Ivy to sleep this evening and heard Roy crowing his head off.  Then, in this viable attempt a little voice screeched what I believe to be his first cocka-doodle-doo.  It was sweet.  I know I shouldn’t get attached.  It’s not healthy. 🙂

shack

This is another thing that has inspired my homesteading mind of late.  This little structure sits right inside the trees in the backyard and inside a fence that the previous dwellers on this property used to keep pet foxes.

shack2

Here’s another view from farther back.  I dare not try to drag it out of the woods because it is almost a guarantee there would be a copperhead nest under it.  Yet, it sits there sturdy and unused, slowly becoming a part of the woods.  See, I’m thinking goats.  A goat family.  I’m thinking this would be a perfect house for them.  John laughs at me and says that’s a project for next spring.

The weather of the last three days has made me high on life, I tell you what.  Those cool breeze days are coming closer everyday.  🙂  The girls and I are experiencing rocks and gemstones this week with our Little Acorn Learning curriculum, and being outside these last days has been perfect.  While the girls washed some stones we had collected by the creek, I decided to start clearing up the garden, chicken coop, and working on our compost pile.

We’ve made several poor attempts at composting.  The first was dumping old food in the same spot in the back yard.  Our dog would come by and eat it all up, so our pile never grew.  Then, we decided to make a real attempt when we still had our little flock of chickens, so we made the pile bigger.  (Lack of research and thinking you already know how to do something isn’t always a promising adventure.)  John pitched some outdated chicken legs into the pile raw, and in a few days we had maggots like I have never seen before.  The stench was gawd awful.  I would go on to describe it in detail because the image is burned into my brain, but I will spare you.  So, we destroyed that pile.

Lately, I’ve slowly been researching composting a bit more, asking questions of those who know a bit about it, and we have a true compost heap.  I can’t call it a pile anymore because when composting without a container, you need a heap for it to work.  Today, I did most of the work to make it into a heap.  It now is the height of my knees.  I’m 5’8″.

It started like this.

compostThe point is to create enough moisture and heat to turn the organic matter into a rich, crumbly, earthy scented dark soil.  This soil can then be used as topsoil in the garden and around plants to give them more nutrients.  In organic gardening it is a must (we didn’t use it this year) because the nutrients it provides helps plants become strong enough to fight off diseases and naturally repel whatever might destroy them.

It can take quite awhile for compost to be ready, but with daily attention and aerating, you can have compost in 4-6 months.  That’s my goal.  When spring comes again, we’ll have compost.

I was most pleased to find out that you can compost shredded paper and cardboard.  We don’t have a recycling center in our county, so we collect our recycling wherever we can find the room to stash it until we can make a run to the next county for disposal.  It piles up fast.  I hate throwing away anything that could be recycled.  Now, we can recycle the paper stuffs ourselves.

The following websites helped me figure it all out.  There are several different ways to start a compost.  I wanted simple and free.  I can make a pile of layered material.  I can be a brut and turn the pile.  I ain’t afraid of hard work.  I am afraid of technicalities and costs.

Garden Guides – Guide to Composting

Dave’s Garden – Household Composting

We also have good news that we are going to be getting some new chickens soon.  They are just old enough to identify the sex.  Shredded paper is great for their nest boxes, and I’ll then compost the poopy bits. 🙂

I’m excited about trash.

I do believe that I’m chilling out.  I’m becoming more patient.  It is a virtue that I have never had, but it’s coming – I feel it.  A few days ago, I received a sign.

milkCatching up on my writing, while the girls seemed to both be content to play on their own, was my task at hand.  They played in their room and I became absorbed with my work.  It was when things got a bit too quiet that I decided to get up and check things out.  Ivy had left the bedroom, crept into the kitchen, climbed upon the kitchen table, poured out milk, coffee and water on everything, and was using half a bag of napkins to try to clean it up.  I have a very adventurous little girl.  Yes, mommy should have been paying more attention.  Normally, I would freak out.  I’d say things like, “why” in a high pitched voice, immediately remove Ivy from the table, and be angry for a duration of time much longer than required.  I would pine away at my inability to do any sustained activity without Ivy napping, and feel punished for even having attempted it.

I didn’t do that this time.  I laughed.  I laughed, and my heart felt free.  At least my precious baby was trying to clean it up.  I’ve taught her well.  It was my fault, after all, that I neglected to push the chairs under the table after breakfast.  Some things happen for no reason at all.  Was I worried that she could have been hurt?  Not really.  She has very adept climbing skills and she would have hollered for me to get her down when she was finished.  Should I let it happen again?  No, but similar things are sure to come.  It’s the life of a mother and her children.  These feelings are a huge step in the right direction for me.  I’m celebrating. 🙂

Now, for the magic.  I am a firm believer that magic is all around us.  The Creator works in mysterious ways, and there is such glorious amazement to be found in the nature created for us to subdue and enjoy.  Since childhood, I have looked for oddities of nature, not necessarily looking for the whys and hows, just looking to gawk and be in awe.  Folks, I have a secret.  Gardeners for ages have planted various beds of flowers to attract butterflies to their yards.  One might plant beds of aster, marigolds, oregano, mint, and coneflower.

All the fuss and flowers aren’t necessary, gorgeous, but not necessary.  All you need to attract butterflies is poop.  Poop of the rooster and canine variety has attracted varying species of butterflies small and large to our property.  It is a beautiful show of color and dainty, careful flight.  The girls and I walk outside often to be surrounded by the magic of nature flitting here and there, circling us in radiance.

fliesonpoopHere are a smaller variety in all their lavender glory feasting on old man rooster poop.  The larger ones don’t like to be photographed.  Now, how do I answer Deladis’s question?  Why do butterflies eat poop?  It’s magic, honey.  🙂

Nope, I’m not the only one.  I’m not alone.  In fact, I have found four other mountain mamas.  We all have incredibly common goals, and can be found doing many similar things.  We are building chicken coops, tending gardens, raising children, blogging, taking pictures, picking blackberries, cooking, preserving food, and making things.  When I found these mama blogs, it made me smile.  I saw worlds similar to my own.  I saw mothers making it their goal to bring up their children close to the natural world.  I saw families making a sustainable lifestyle.  I saw can-do women.  It makes me proud to be A Mountain Mama.  I wanted to share them with you.

Meet the other mamas and what we have in common:

Mountain Mama – Jenny – loves old things, raising chickens, getting rid of un-needed items, likes flea markets, was recently stung by a bee and was swollen (as was I), and picks blackberries.

Mountain Mama – Knits – our dads like the Thunderbirds, brother is gainfully employed by Wal-Mart (my Uncle loves his job at Wal-Mart), likes knitting and making things

Blue Ridge Mountain Mama – (C-re) raises chickens, Rooster named Henry (RIP Bill Henry), we are getting our first garden harvests

Mountain Mama – (North Carolina Blue Ridge mama), has sunflowers in her garden, a light haired child and a dark haired child like me, is working toward a green lifestyle

Our name is a simple one – Mountain Mama, but it is filled with hardwork, a love of nature, a striving to raise children who are in tune with their surroundings, a certain zest behind our motivations, and mountains.  Lots of majestic mountains.

We woke up this morning to dark storm clouds, an oddly placed but familiar sound of a single crowing old rooster, and a coolness in the air. John was the first out of bed and it wasn’t a minute until he came back to the bedroom to tell me something had tore into our hen house and killed all our hens and their rooster. I jumped up and went outside to see one hen smashed and laying in the run. The only thing remaining of the other 3 chickens were a few feathers. All around the run and coop was the evidence of the predator trying to break through the chicken wire. It got in around the bottom of the run.

My heart sank. I can’t blame the predator (probably a bobcat or raccoon). To each its own. I have to blame our novice attempts at tending poultry. Here is the test of “Jubilee” – swing and turn… live and learn. We know now how to reinforce the coop. I can’t help but feel sad. A calm always seems to prime the atmosphere for a storm. I’ve come to expect it.

I had developed a kinship with the hens. They liked me and I liked them. John spent an afternoon this week sketching them and yesterday Deladis took her easel outside to do the same. Deladis isn’t hurt about it at all. “Roy is still alive,” she said.

I had a post ready for today pertaining to how great we are coming along with our food budget. How our chickens and the garden is helping to save us money and that maybe I’d be able to put back some meat for fall and winter. I’ll post it tomorrow as it is still a pertinent topic, but today’s travesty will set us back once again.

We are looking for a new set of hens. Our old man rooster is crowing and looking for his lost loves. I am trying to “chin up” and tell myself that it isn’t a sign from above of more of the same to come.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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