Friday, April 22, 2016

it takes a village to build a chicken coop


The chicks are almost 6 weeks old now and working on getting in their adult feathers. It’s a scruffy process. I’m currently growing my hair back out so I can relate.

Also, I am so happy to be back in the business of owning chickens. It feels great to have renewed interest in an old hobby and the boys are loving it too. Our recent conversations are distinctly chicken flavored, if rather gruesome…

Jackson: “Which would you rather fight? A zombie-sized chicken or ten chicken-sized zombies”

Me: “Uh… ten chicken-sized zombies, I guess.”

Jackson: “Why? A zombie-sized chicken would be awesome. Chickens aren’t mean.”

Jonathan: “It could peck your eyes out!”

Me: “Oookay! Look at that beautiful field of wild flowers over there!”


It may seem like a small thing because it’s ridiculously easy to drive to the co-op, pay $17 and walk out with a cardboard box full of day-old cheeping chick. But for me it feels like a huge step in the direction of setting down roots here. I’m now responsible for six living creatures that reside in a large coop I can see from my bedroom window.

It feels rather permanent.


Probably because Caleb doesn’t ever build anything in half-measures, so he designed and built a coop “we can park the RAV on”. This term goes back to his first wood project five years ago and the SUV I drove at the time. His project was a dining room table built out of 2x4s and 2x6s. In other words, heavy duty lumber. I almost threw out my back trying to move it into the house. And when we’d finished moving it in and stepped back to survey the behemoth, he turned to me and said “You can park the RAV on it.” 010

This is our second chicken coop, but our first time building one ourselves. We decided to make a permanent structure, one that will withstand storms and possibly still be around when my grandkids are swimming in the lake. In other words “You can park the RAV on it.”


Our timeline for the coop was a bit skewed. Actually, that’s an understatement. We were so rushed to get the chicks out of the house that we started on the coop before Caleb had even finished designing it. This led to a lot of confusion about the order in which the structure went up. And okay, I don’t think we agreed on a single aspect of how any part of the coop should’ve be done. Not our finest project in terms of cooperation.


When we’d worked through the Spring Break week and still weren’t finished, my family stepped in to help. My mom helped lay pavers, my dad shoveled sand, my brothers showed up on my birthday to help hang hardware cloth. It ended up taking about two weeks to finish out the coop… and then an additional week to finish all the decorative touches. We differ over what these should be called. Caleb says they are “unessential extras” while I call them “necessary elements”.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016



Almost two years ago we hatched a duck egg that was abandoned on my parent’s dock at the lake house. Loving and raising that duckling was one of the greatest adventures we ever had. A lot of people followed along as we dressed Wobble in a diaper and let him run all over the house, discovered “he” was actually a “she”, took her to the lake for weekend swimming lessons, and eventually released her on a friend’s property.

We’ve since moved away and aren’t able to visit Wobble, but still occasionally receive updates on her. She integrated very well into being a wild duck and even hatched out a brood all her own this Spring. I think this is about as happy as any ending can get.

In case you are wondering what it’s like to raise a wild mallard, here are the posts about our experience:

duck tales: episode 1

duck tales: episode 2

the time she almost died

duck tales: episode 3

duck tales: episode 4

duck tales: episode 5

duck tales: the finale

Friday, April 15, 2016

spring break


Welcome to Spring in the South… or as my allergy prone son calls it: “pollen season”. Last week you could bounce a basketball on the driveway and stir up a small yellow tornado, or look out the window and see a stream of pollen floating down the lake.


This is the first year I have ever been significantly affected by allergies. Apparently it’s never too late in life to become sensitive to tree droppings. Trouble is, I’m not yet experienced enough to tell the difference between a case of mild allergies and the common cold.


So we took the whole of Spring Break this year to build a chicken coop. Because two and a half weeks along the adventure of keeping chicks in a storage bin in the living room, I’d reached my limit. We’ve raised chicks before and I knew they were messy, but turns out there is quite a difference between six chicks and three. And also, they were previously kept in a bathtub which made clean up significantly easier.


I knew it was a problem when Jon came home from school with a poem about chicken poop.

“I see a coop because my chickens poop…” etc.

For the record, I don’t recommend purchasing your chicks before you have a permanent place to house them. Unless you just like pain. Or feeling like there’s a fire under your backside.


Therefore we worked sunup to sundown every day of Spring Break to complete the chicken coop, on top of being sick with what seemed like allergies but was more likely a cold.


We worked through it, because… chicken poop.


How’s that for an exciting Spring Break?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

when picking lures


Quite by accident I found myself in the fishing department of Walmart last week. There is just one big box store in this little lakeside town, so naturally during the spring and summer months the fishing department is extra beefy. I know because I’ve been there a lot. It goes like this. I’m walking along and then I glance over and suddenly I’m sucked into the aisle full of shiny lures and fishing poles organized by size. And I’m hooked. I find myself standing in front of hundreds of different bait, a rainbow of colors in tiny packages.

I want them all.

Which isn’t to say I’m deluded enough to think that having all those lures will make me a better fisherman or catch me a bigger fish, but I fall prey to the pretty. And sometimes I think having a tackle box overflowing with colorful bait of all shapes and sizes will make the fishing experience so much better.

The problem with all these lures is that there are just too many. In tiny packages. With zero instructions on how to use them. I’m sorry but “guaranteed to catch crappie” is NOT helpful. One thing I’ve learned is that different lures have different methods of use. Certain colors work better in sunlight or murky water or at night. And then you have to know the proper “retrieval method”, which means the best way to reel in the lure so it performs correctly and attracts a fish.

And you thought fishing was easy.

I don’t have an overflowing tackle box yet, even though I have purchased a few lures over the past year. A few I have lost in the water and a few have produced fish. But I admit that my method for picking bait is a bit flawed. For one thing, I tend to gravitate toward whichever lure I think looks the most attractive. Like, if I were a fish what would look tasty to me. Another thing is I wait until I get home with the lure and then I google “how to use a __________ jig”.

How did people learn to fish before the internet?

So far I have been lucky. The “pick the prettiest” method worked just fine when I caught that bass, except that it was a crappie lure. But whatever. It caught a fish.

Then last week when I found myself again in the fishing department, I decided I might like to try a bigger lure. You know, because my in depth understanding of the crappie brain tells me that bigger fish go after bigger bait.

So I get home with the lure, I rip open the package, attach it to my fishing pole and then I sit down and start researching how to use it. My first inclination that I might be in over my head was the first article that popped up. The gist of the introduction paragraph was that most fishermen might avoid this particular lure because it was more difficult to use. Super. I read on and soon found out the best way to use the lure was to drag it along at 1.5 mph behind your boat.

Wait, what?

Could that information not have been included on the package? Like right under “guaranteed to catch crappie”, in fine print, “boat not included”???

It looks nice in the tackle box, though.

Monday, March 21, 2016



March is a fun month. Jack and Jon both have a birthday in March, six days apart, in fact. So we usually have one party for both of them, but we try to make it big and fun so they don’t mind sharing.

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Two days later we are still riding the birthday party euphoria train. I hope we can expect a few more days of abundant sharing and gratefulness and unashamed Halleluiahs because I don’t have to make another cake topper out of rice crispy treats until next year. All that’s left of the party are a few deflated balloons still holding on to the deck by their strings, and a fourth of a cake wedge sitting on the kitchen counter.

And also…


Six chicks in a tupperware bin, under a heat lamp, in the living room. Happy Birthday to us all!

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To my Jonathan…


Littlest buddy, on your 8th birthday, I know you don’t like being called “little” and I know you only tolerate being called “my baby” because you love me. You know what, I’ve decided to stop asking you to please stay my baby. Because eight is a pretty big deal and I’ve noticed that you get a little bit cooler everyday. And you can now beat me at board games that say “ages 13+” on the side. I’m still trying to understand how that happens.

Sometimes you are good at getting into mischief. Like that time you turned the knob in the refrigerator as far left as it would go and the next morning all the milk was frozen. We knew it was you… because you are curious like that and you like to figure out everything for yourself. But the things you do make us laugh… eventually, and they make great stories for later. Every day with you is an adventure. I love it.


To my Jackson…


The past 10 years with you have been the best. I learned my most epic parenting moves with you… like how to tempt you to open wide with a spoonful of plums, and then stick a spoonful of green peas in your mouth instead. Also, how to fish toys out of the toilet with a pair of tongs. And how to have a proper memorial service for hermit crabs. 

You may get upset sometimes because you aren’t an expert at everything, but I think it’s better to be really good at a lot of things than perfect at just one thing. For instance, you excel at drawing cartoon people who think all their thought bubbles in beautiful cursive. Also, you are really good at reading entire novels in one afternoon… and actually remembering what you read. And let’s not forget how you find new ways to pronounce words you’ve read but never heard.

A-dull-oh-cent : n. an adolescent person

se-zeck : n. short for Czechoslovakia

kuh-lohn : n. the sign (:) used to mark a major division in a sentence

You are excellent at being a good big brother, at being kind and compassionate. You are helpful and eager to learn. And whenever I don’t know how to spell a word, I know just who to ask.