Category Archives: For the Kids

Underneath

Underneath the vineyard
Tiny buds appear
Are they signs of kiwi?
Will this be the year?

Underneath the chicken run
Small pullets play and fight
Fluttering and flying low
Huddled up at night

Underneath the playset
Two boys rest with a treat
Chocolate pudding faces
Sticky smiles so sweet

Underneath the lovage
A little kitty purrs
Hiding, yawning, napping
Cleaning all her fur

Underneath the bright blue sky
The wind blows soft and strong
Greens and yellows dot the land
Summer won’t be long



Trampoline Lessons

Joe found a beetle today while we were woodchipping the garden.

It was huge.

It was shiny.

It was making a weird noise…a cross between a hiss and a squeak.

Joe and Jake both thought it was cool.

I thought it was creepy and wanted to feed it to the chicks.

“I wonder what it eats,” said Joe as he put it in his bug house.

“We found it in the wood pile so let’s put some wood in,” said Jake.

I watched them work together, putting wood chips, grass and dirt in.

“What kind of beetle do you think it is?” I asked them.

They didn’t have any guesses, so Joe and I went inside to get a few bug books. The boys both wanted to “do research” on the trampoline so we climbed on with the books and the bug house and started looking for a match.

The beetle was hard to see, so of course Joe needed to take it out.

I tried nonchalantly scoot away when it crawled its way toward me making its weird hiss/squeak.

We looked through all of the insect books and came to the conclusion that Joe had found a female stag beetle.

“Are you sure it’s a stag beetle?” I asked Joe.

“Yep. See, it has the same spikeys on its legs.”

He turned it upside down and touched its back leg causing another hiss/squeak fit.

I tried to get the crazy sound on video, but it would not cooperate so I found a YouTube video of a stag beetle making the same sound.

The boys played with it for a little while longer while I watched on.

When they got bored with it, they put it back in the bug house and put the bug house on the picnic table.

I gathered up the books and told them I was going to go inside and fix dinner.

“Ok, could you take the bughouse in with you? I want to keep an eye on the beetle.”

Gulp.

Bugs in the garden
Learning on the trampoline
Beetles in the house

Okra (et al.)

Today I planted okra
Lettuce, spinach, kale
And one sad tomato
All crooked, bent and frail

Worms in every spadeful
Wiggling in the dirt
A few big nasty grubs
A little chick dessert

Next I planted flowers
And cilantro all around
Bush beans in the garden
Carrots in the ground

I looked down at my hands
When everything was done
Dirt and mud had crusted
My fingers…every one

And then I heard the laughter
The sound of running feet
I looked up from the garden
And got an awful treat

Two boys armed with squirt guns
Had come to chase me off
They giggled, smiled and shouted
Hey Mom! It’s time to stop!

Nourishment

We move the chicks outside to the run every day. The boys fight over who gets to pick them up, transport them and put them in the pen.

Then, they both eagerly hop in and start digging.

They like nothing better than to feed the chicks live worms.

They get the biggest kick out of the little pecks and tweets and fights that break out when they hold a wriggly worm in the air.

As I sat watching, I wondered at the chicks lack of fear with the boys. They hopped on their laps, walked right up to them and came running to a “hear chickie, chickie”.

“Why don’t they do that with me?”

“Come in here Mommy, and they will.”

And then I realized that it’s time. Time is the key.

It’s not enough for me to feed and water them and occasionally pick one up. Time spent playing with and holding them is what makes the difference.

Time. And patience.

I would never describe either of my boys as patient. Yet in this, they are more patient than I am.

They will sit and coax a chick into their laps and not get frustrated when it doesn’t come right away.

Yet, I see them lose patience with so many other things.

Joe gets in a huff when he can’t do something well the first time he does it.

Jake loses all patience when he can’t get the wrapper on his cheesestick off.

But maybe it’s because these “other” things are just not in their control. They have to rely on someone else to help them.

Maybe thats where the frustration comes from.

Playing with the chicks, nourishing them and coaxing them to be comfortable is not frustrating for the boys.

On a weird level, they connect with that vulnerability.

The chick is at their mercy. The chick is relying on them.

There is really no magic to the chicken whispering.

There is just time.

 

 

Kneeling in the Garden

Yesterday, the boys planted a “secret hideout” using mammoth sunflower seeds.

They planted the seeds in a ring and then planted flowers, watermelon and broccoli inside.

Why watermelon and broccoli?

“For a snack while we are hiding out.”

While they were busy planting and plotting, I knelt in my own secret hideout.

I planted spaghetti, acorn and pattypan squash around the base of the squash arch. Today, I’ll plant the morning glory seeds I soaked overnight around the outside. I can’t wait to see what the arch looks like in a month.

I planted alyssum around the edge of the garden and transplanted a few more tomatoes. The ones I planted on Monday were very sad from wind and frost. I’m still hopeful they will bounce back though.

I planted the globe amaranth I had started indoors, as well as the purple basil in the herb spiral. There is still no sign of the cilantro and basil I planted a few weeks ago.

I planted the last pepper. I do not know what kind of pepper it is. I really must figure out a way to label better. My masking tape ends up falling off and my labels fade, even when I use a permanent marker.

I know it could be a sweet chocolate pepper, a jalapeno or a hungarian hot wax.

The tomatoes are the same. The pink boar’s all kept their masking tape on, but the crimson sprinters and mortgage lifters shed theirs when I wasn’t looking.

I have this problem yearly. It seems like it would be an easy enough thing to do, labeling plants, but for some reason I cannot seem to get it.

Oh well, I like a surprise.

Kneeling in the garden
Smelling earth and trees
Thanking God in heaven
While I’m on my knees

Innocence and Bliss

Yesterday was wonderful
We strolled around the swales
A sunset bright and beautiful
Boys running through the trails

Pretty buds were blooming
The water overflowed
The innocent enjoyment was
A wonder to behold

The grass is getting greener
The trees have little buds
As the day turned into night
The boys splashed in the mud

The summer heat is coming soon
Blue skies and brightest sun
Sprinklers, frogs and muddy feet
Swimming, biking…fun

Splashing in the swale

Searching for frogs

Racing through the maze

Investigating

Hard at Work

The tomatoes I started are leaning…actually, they are bending over in the pots. Rather than transplant them yet again, we planted them in the kitchen garden today.

The boys were a big help. They love to plant, dig for worms and play in the dirt. This was also an excellent opportunity to talk about life-cycles and the importance of healthy soil.

Science outside today!

Jake found a bunch of worms and wanted to build a worm home and keep them…inside.

We talked about how worms are a sign that the soil is healthy. Worms break up the soil so the roots can grow and their castings are a great fertilizer.

“What are castings?” asked Joe.

“Basically, worm poo.”

As you can imagine, that got a few giggles.

At least 5 worms were in every shovelful of rich, black dirt. The squirmy, wiggly worms told the story of the chickens scratching and fertilizing their way through the garden.

Both boys worked hard at digging their holes. Joe planted two peppers and Jake and I planted three tomatoes.

I pulled the squash arch out and put it closer to the deck this year. I also lined out my paths and will come back over the cardboard with wood chips once the ground dries out a bit.

This is our garden so far. Doesn’t look like much does it? A few chives, some tomatoes, two lovage and a couple of pepper plants. We’ll plant more next week, and the week after.

By June, this space will be lush and green and, with any luck, starting to produce.

 

 

 

 

Awake

Today, Joe and I walked around the homestead and heard buzzing, chirping, croaking and singing.

Spring is here, softly waking everything up and gently pushing back on a very determined winter.

We tried to sneak up on the croaking frogs, but before we could sneak all the way to the edge of the pond, the croaking stopped and we heard the plip plop of frogs diving for cover.

We heard the birds talking to each other and the rustle of critters in the grass. Joe was very excited to find worms and other crawly critters.

Buds are forming on trees and the majority of the autumn olive Ray and the boys transplanted last weekend are doing well.

Cherry blossoms are opening. We ended up with a handful of cherries last year that were a bit too sour for my taste. Maybe we will get enough this year to can.

Due to all the rain, our swales are full and overflowing.

The sun was shining and there was only a slight breeze, so we brought the plants out to stretch and bask in the sun and fresh air.

I plan to plant my cabbage and broccoli in the garden today. I may also throw some lettuce and spinach down and replace the carrot seeds the chickens ransacked.

They can withstand cooler temperatures.

The chicks also got to spend a few hours outside. It is still too chilly to leave them out at night with no mama to keep them warm though.

Yep. Spring is definitely here…now if we could just get it to stay put.

Winter, raging and railing
Holds tight to the cold
It roars into March
Pushing with rain and snow

Spring, sighing and shushing
Quietly stands against the cold
It whispers soft sounds
And stands determined and bold

#atozchallenge

A Little Wet

It rained a little bit today
Ok, it really poured
The hens were flooded
The garage was soaked
A stream flowed down the yard

The chickens seemed upset
A little mad at me
They splashed with rage
Squawked and glowered
Irate, enraged…angry

I sighed and tried to soothe them
But they wouldn’t have a bit
They turned their backs
They stomped their feet
They threw a little fit

Then, I turned and looked out
Across our puddled lawn
My boys were splashing
I heard them laughing
And my chicken woes were gone

Rain or snow or sunshine
My boys are playing hard
They love to splash
They love to splish
In our wet and soaking yard

Feathers and Fluffballs

We’ve had a whirlwind few days with chicks hatching and cheeping day and night.

Seven eggs had hatched fully by the end of Tuesday. It was getting a little crowded in the incubator, so we decided to risk  the 8th egg in order to get the other chicks in their new home, under a heat lamp and with food and water.

The incubator is temperature and humidity controlled to mimic the warmth of a mother hen sitting on her eggs. Once the egg has a pip, a small opening for the chick to work its way out, opening the incubator exposes the egg to dry air.

Drying the pip could make it more difficult for the chick to break through the egg without assistance.

The final egg had pipped before we opened the incubator, so we knew the risks.

After we had settled all of the chicks, we sprayed the sides of the incubator down with water to try and keep the humidity in and put the lid back on…and waited.

In the wee hours, the final egg hatched and a scraggly, wet little chick stumbled into the empty shells on clumsy claws. We let its feathers dry out a bit, before moving it with the others.

The boys and my nieces have named them all…although the names have changed frequently since we moved them.

Here’s the final list…for now.

Yellow Feather
Nita
Cheep Cheep
Sir Hubert McFeatherington
Fluffy
Fin
Cheepy
Flappy

A few of them have a couple gray dots like their father and they all have big feet with feathers on their legs.

This has been an exciting and amazing project for the boys. Joe has been so careful and gentle with the chicks and the eggs. He lets us know when it is time to leave the room so “the chicks can sleep”.

We’ve also learned a lot about the chicken…from anatomy to the lifecycle to how the chicks are able to go a few days without food and water.

I think the best part was when I asked Joe if he wanted to look at a piece of shell under the microscope.

While we were oohing and aahing over the little yellow fluffballs, my niece asked me “what if they are all roosters?”

Hmm. I didn’t consider that eventuality. Didn’t I order all hens? I’m sure Pecky and I talked about it, didn’t we?

Feathers and fluffballs
Yellow chicks with small gray dots
I hope they’re all hens