Of Meat Rabbits and Idols

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Wanna hear a crazy secret? I actually worshiped homesteading.  Not outright bowing down to it physically (’cause that’s impossible), but every spare second I was reading Morningchores.com online. Or I was reading through stacks of homesteading books, trying to accomplish EVERYTHING everyone else was doing. I was pouring hours and dollars, over and over again, into making more of everything I could- stopping just short of goats in my suburban backyard. More hens, more meat rabbits, more seeds, more eggs, more chicks, more, more more. Spiraling out of control wasn’t hard, but it was a slippery, quiet process.

See, I was super proud that I had the not-so-common skills of being able to raise my own protein source and butcher it. None of my friends could do this, and I wanted to be noticed for my rare achievement (for Baltimore). But everyone just thought it was gross.

So I thought if I could not only provide for my family, but make money selling food to a restaurant, that would prove my skills were important indeed, and not just gross. So I did it. I got a verbal contract from a local chef I was friends with and he agreed to buy 20 of my rabbits at a time, 3-4 times a year. I was THRILLED! Now I was legit. It wasn’t just a gross hobby anymore if someone else wanted to serve my hard work to the public. Now I was a real farmer! An entrepreneur. A business woman.

But it was all I could do to keep up with my housekeeping, child raising, meal cooking, nursing job, wife-ing, and farmer obligations. My hubby didn’t want to to lose all home my time to this “hobby”, and had legit concerns about everything growing so big on a backyard plot. I had concerns about how to go on 2 long trips this summer, leaving my  work load to be managed by someone else in my absence. I had completely lost all my spare time, and was stealing time in other areas of my life, like spiritual growth. I wanted to spend time with God everyday, but most days that didn’t happen. I was too busy. I had live creatures that depended on me, both 2 footed and 4 footed, and all of them had time sensitive needs!

I asked God to help me get back my daily time talking to Him and reading my Bible. I wanted my life to have a spiritual focus first, not homesteading first. But I wasn’t willing to cut anything out. I had gotten myself stuck, and wasn’t giving anything up. So, God took over.

Remember all the meat babies I got last month? I paid $140 to an Amish kid 1.5 hours away after none of my does would get pregnant, and I was behind on growing time for my restaurant demand. Yeah, all but one of those died due to a feeding error on my part. Thirteen baby rabbits (the last one we sold as a pet to a family). But not until I had sunk 2 vet bills into their care.  What a mistake.

At the same time, I had a mama bunny deliver 6 kits, then mysteriously die 2 weeks later. I hauled her body and the 6 kits to the vet, and found out her uterus prolapsed. I was given tiny syringes to feed the babies (baby rabbits will not suck a nipple bottle, and are terrible at hand feeding) and I keep kitten milk replacer on hand. I wrapped the babies up in a big bowl for warmth, feed them twice a day, and set my heavy laptop on the bowl to keep the cat out, leaving only let a small hole for air. They were in the wiggly, eyes closed stage still, and had to be kept in a nest for warmth.

The next morning, several tiny babies had died, and the two strongest kits were missing. MISSING. IN MY HOUSE! This was out of control. I found one kit on the living room floor, soggy with dog spit, laying on it’s back and kicking the air. It was cold, but not hurt. He died the next day anyway, despite my best efforts to warm him. As did the rest of his siblings. But where was the second one? I could NOT find it anywhere. The whole family looked, including my exasperated husband who was flat out of patience. Nada. That bunny was gone. Guess Grover or the cat got him. Darn it!

So I traded my last non-pregnant doe ( the one who wasn’t bitten by a fox, nor suffered a uterine prolapse, that girl) for another big doe from a friend. Wouldn’t you know it? My doe delivered 6 babies at her house 2 hours after she brought her home!!! I can’t make this stuff up!!!! I was failing miserably in this rabbit project! I was beyond irritated that night, and agreed to buy my own babies back from my friend. Ugh! Seriously? Then 2 days later they all died. My guess is that being on the ground in my yard gave mama bunny coccidia (something we thought we got rid of last year, but honestly it’s everywhere). So we traded back does. I didn’t want mine infecting her herd.

That was the last straw. I bought kits, they died. I bred kits, they died. I wasn’t even positive how I was going to dispatch 20 rabbits at 1/2 an hour a rabbit, and deliver them fresh-not-frozen to a restaurant. My fridge isn’t big enough to hold 10 rabbits overnight. But it didn’t matter anyway ’cause I was throwing in the towel. What had started out as a fun hobby, then a respectable income to prove myself, had turned into throwing time and money down the drain at the expense of my husband’s happiness. I was calling it, we were done raising meat rabbits!

Rather than feeling sad, I felt relief! Finally, I had the time I desired to have daily dates with Jesus. My foyer, which housed 20 rabbits one week-end, was now clean and empty. My feed bills were down, and my chore time took minutes each morning. I had peace. I felt spiritually joyful, and the silent relief in my husband was priceless. I let the restaurant know I couldn’t provide, and felt no shame. It was a good thing. I was unable to give my livestock a humane, healthy, safe life, so I would quit trying to keep them. The adult stock I had turned into pets, and the kids understood why we weren’t breeding baby buns anymore. I no longer judge the breeders who keep their rabbits in hanging mesh cages. That is literally the only way to keep them parasite-free and safe.

But just in case I needed affirmation that quitting my farming-in-the-suburbs obsession was the right way to go, I got the grand finale. A week later I was vacuuming the foyer to get any stray wood shavings, and rolled our sliding door closed so I could clean the wooden track. Out fell the worlds flattest, deadest, baby bunny. I had found the missing kit. I could not believe what I was looking at! What if I had skipped vacuuming that week?! Eeeeeew!

So yes, I had lost control of my priorities, and yes, my rabbit business never really got off the ground. My skill set will never be as cool and in demand as my sound engineer husband. But I have by spiritual life back. And I have my marriage on track. And right now, if you get real quiet, you can hear the tiny sound of rabbits everywhere breathing a sigh of relief! Whew.

20190216_164006              See the bloated belly on the gray top bunny? They shouldn’t be that round. 😦
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So Far This Morning…

20190206_183734.jpgThe squeal of a rabbit is about the same decibel as the cry of a newborn baby. A frequency that alerts and upsets women long before men. At 2:30am this morning I was suddenly alerted to, and upset that there was a crisis in our rabbit colony, I’d heard the squeal through my bedroom window. With Grover dog at my heels, I thundered up the stairs and out the back door. Thankful that our bedroom window was part of the 4th wall of our rabbit enclosure, or I never would have heard a thing!

Outside, barefoot in the snow, I see what I knew I’d find. A fox was inside our rabbit colony, and upon seeing Grover, LOST HIS MIND trying to get out. Farm dog Grover was in ALL his glory, barking up a storm and running around the enclosure. Trying to get at that fox through the wire walls. I, being super helpful, was yelling at the fox to get out of there. The whole house was now awake.

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I called to Captain Schenanigans that there was a fox in the run, and he staggers up the stairs in a haze. By now, I’ve realized the fox is unable to leave, and watched him throw his whole body face first into each wall of the pen repeatedly. The stench of fox pee is in the air. Yuck.

After failing to find his freedom, I stomped through the snow barefoot in my nightgown, flipped up the lid of the pen, and watched that fox light out of there in a mad panic. Grover dog, God love him, is HOT on that foxy tail and doesn’t let up the entire way across the yard. I have never been prouder of that dog! I really though he was gonna get that sneaky fox. But, honestly, Grover just loves to chase anything. I doubt biting was even on his scattered little mind.

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Flipped the lid back down, I retrieved my boots and set about inspecting damage. Captain headed inside to reassure the kids all was well, and both Schenaniganlets ended up in our bed. They hate fox stories.

I saw the hole the fox had dug under the fence (he’d started it three days ago, but I kept covering it up with rocks and lumber, thinking it was the rabbits trying to get out), and upon only seeing one of the two doe bunnies in the cage, lay down in the snowy mud to look through the tunnel for doe #2, Padame. A red eyed white New Zealand who was new to us and less than a year old.

I saw a white nose and paws in the dark, shadowy tunnel. They weren’t moving. She was dead. But I couldn’t reach her from this side of the fence, the tunnel opening was too small. Guess a wild fox is skinnier than a meat rabbit. Who knew?

I crawled back up off the wet snow, entered the pen and laid back down on my belly inside the colony. I peered down the other opposite end of the tunnel. I saw bunny booty, but no blood. That actually kinda surprised me. Guess she must have broken her back. I get up, retrieve a battery powered lantern from the kitchen, and get a second look at the front of the tunnel. I reached in to touch a paw,  and it moved back slightly.  I was pretty sure I saw it more. I think. Then I noticed a twitching nose. She’s not dead! But she’s not okay, either.

Rabbits are known to literally die of fright. They are not hearty creatures. So if this one was in shock, and not bleeding, I planned to leave her alone. Yanking her out just might have pushed her over the edge, better to let her come out on her own. I snapped of my lantern, headed back into the house, and cleaned all the manure, mud, and snow off my knee caps and shins. My nightgown was covered in filth, so I pitched it into the laundry and redress.  Still shaken with the nights startling events.

My bed was filled with children,  who were filled with questions. We did a quick family debrief in the dark to prevent further worry, reassured them that their pet rabbits, Luke and Hops, were in the safest cage we had, and no, nothing bad would happen to them tonight. Yes, Grover was a hero. No, Mommy wouldn’t be crawling back into that bed. I chose the nearby couch and hoped sleep would come. It didn’t.

My mind raced about how to protect my rabbits, what more I could have done, and how could I blog this all up? 🙂 When I got up an hour later to see if schools would be delayed (we’d had 2 snow days this week and it was only Wednesday), I popped a Melatonin and crawled back under more covers. It worked.

Come 8am I headed back outside, laid in the snow in yet another pair of jammies (I don’t have clothes designated to laying in snow), only to see that Padame had not moved at all. I gently removed her from the back of the tunnel, and she released all her bladder on to me. Adult rabbits have never peed on us before, only the kits do that. Padame was scared, and not well. She held her ears at a funny angle, had scabby lumps on her head. She wasn’t hopping. But there was no blood anywhere!? Huh.

I got 9am vet appointment and sure enough, my girl had two puncture wounds on her head, one shallow, one deep, and her winter coat had covered them over. Had she not screamed, she would have been a goner. She also had a sore hip, and after a head shaving and would cleaning, came home on antibiotics and pain medication. A hundred dollar vet bill for a ten dollar rabbit. But if you’re not going to cull an injured animal, you have to treat the pain, no matter what. I skipped x-rays of the hip, we wouldn’t have done surgery anyway, but infection and pain management are must-do’s for animal care. Padame was hopping and kicking enough to show us she could use her hip, she just didn’t want to.

So now there is a second doe in the house, sharing the foyer with Honey, our newest  mother bunny. Padame’s in a cage on the other side of to room to avoid any stress of another doe, and we hoped to convince Honey no one was going after her growing family. Well, except Grover who tended to like to taste the rabbits. Farm-dog-in-training.

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We’d also lost a baby rabbit today from last week’s herd. It had gotten it’s head stuck in the fencing. Not a great day for bunnies, but considering how long we’d gone since an incident, not too shabby.  Yes, my rabbits would be completely safe in small wire cages like all the other breeders use. But they wouldn’t be able to run, hide, dig, or snuggle on those biting metal wires. I’d rather their lives have more physical freedom and enjoyable moments, than total safety with depression and sore hocks. We could say the same for our children. A life in a bubble is no life at all.

 

 

Happy Quarter Acre Homesteading

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Today was more productive than it had any right to be, and the feeling is superb! After a week of school delays and  snow cancellations, biting temperatures down to 6 degrees, and gusting winds up to 23 mph, today was down right balmy! It was 50 degrees outside, no wind, and brilliantly sunny! Girlchild asked if she could run through the sprinkler on the way home from church. I understood how she felt, all I wanted to do today was garden, but it was still February, and more snow was expected next week. This delicious weather wasn’t going to last. But it felt so good, I SKIPPED MY SUNDAY NAP and headed out to the backyard to get a jump start on prepping for planting.

All the snow had melted in the gooey, slushy mud that squished up 3 inches when you stepped on it. The perfect thing for the chicken to complain about when I set them free to range the yard so I could exercise a pair of rabbits in their run.

20190203_162339Poor Squeaker, that yard is a sloppy mess! See my bridge from 2 weeks ago when I had to wheelbarrow mulch over a small muddy patch. 

While one pair of rabbits ran laps in the chicken run, I set another pair in a large temporary exercise pen on the ground, and watched them start digging with glee. I began cleaning rabbit hutches, using the manure from one hutch to set up my planter bags for starting seeds in 2 weeks.

See, with an urban microfarm overflowing with rabbits and chickens, plus a dog and cat, I have empty feed sacks piled up to my eye balls. EVERYTHING comes in 50lb sacks that are incredibly durable and hard to tear. It would be wasteful to throw them away, so I usually give some to a neighbor to collect yard debris in, and use others to transport manure for other people’s gardens. But I saw online that someone had used them as planters, and since I had just planned out my entire 2019 vegetable line up last night, I knew I’d need at least 6, maybe 10 “pots”.

So I set to work cutting the top 2/3 of the bag off, and punching holes in the bottom for drainage. I mixed the rabbit manure and bedding from the newly cleaned hutches in with potting soil, and made 7 planters from one 40lb bag of soil. 20190203_162423

So now I was done making planters, but what do I do with all these bag tops? The kids were given a gift of seeds for Christmas from some neighborfriends, and that was going to require a new garden. I had already made 2 large, no till gardens last Fall, but had space for one more. I started with a layer of cardboard to prevent weeds, add soil and compost, then top with mulch. Come spring, they would be ready for planting.

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So, I started another garden using the feed sacks. I cut them open so they would lay flat and placed them in the area I wanted the grass to die and my garden to grow. I substituted the feed sacks for the cardboard to prevent weeds, which then created the perfect space to dump all the old bedding and manure from my largest rabbit hutch. Scraps of wood will help hold the plastic in place as I continue to add compost and future litter/manure to the garden. I think I have just enough mulch left in last years pile to cover the top of this and hold moisture in while veggies grow. 20190203_162600I also took one whole feed sack, cleaned out the chicken coop, and filled the bag about a foot deep with the droppings. Adding another 8 inches of potting soil, I set the whole thing aside to decompose for a few months. Then I would mix it all together and plant carrots in it. Poof, instant grow bag for root veggies! I’m not the creator, it’s another internet hack from some homesteading website. But it’s a good one so feel free to copy. Just know that rabbit manure can be added to plants straight away, but chicken poop must be composted first or it will burn the plants.  That is literally my only fertilization fact. It’s all I know about the subject – but it’s grown some pretty epic plants so far!

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Luke, formerly Princess Leia, enjoying a clean cage full of fresh bedding and hay.

So now the rabbits have clean pens, the chickens have a clean coop, and everybody is happy to have had cage-free time out in the sunshine. They each went back to their pens, until I noticed Honey, my newest New Zealand doe whom I suspected to be pregnant, had begun to make a nest. That meant she was ready to have babies soon, and needed to be placed in her own space away from her bunny husband, Midnight. Not that he would hurt the babies, but he could get her pregnant minutes after delivery. No one wants that, especially not Honey.

I set Honey up in a private cage, gave her some fresh hay to throw around, and knowing  that she liked nesting with bits of paper, collected the scraps from the kids Valentine’s Day decorations out of the recycling bin. I ripped the construction paper scraps into little pieces for her and sprinkled them in her cage. She immediately grabbed one in her mouth and set to work. That doe is going to be a great new mama.

Speaking of Valentines day and babies, my own children had gone crazy decorating our home for the holiday. It doesn’t hurt that Girlchild was born on V-day, and has thus claimed it has her personal day. While cleaning out the barn on Saturday (I am buying 16 baby meat buns from an Amish boy in Bird in Hand, PA next week) and setting it up to hold a new herd of babies, I heard the kids singing Bare Necessities from Jungle Book through the closed doors and across the yard. That made me curious, they rarely perform without an audience to applaud them. 🙂

I popped into the house to get some cardboard to cover the floor of my bunny pen, and found newly made Valentines Day decorations EVERYWHERE! It was fantastic! Largely because I didn’t have to do it, but it also gave our humble home a holiday spark that is always so needed at this dreary time of year. I struggle each year with the end of January. Too much cold and dark, too long til chick season.  I don’t know how they do it in Alaska.

But this helped!

Now it’s just two weeks until I can start planting the first round of  indoor seeds in my new sack planters. My 25 rare breed white egg layer chicks arrive in April, and I can not wait! My goal is to be able to grow and share more food from my little quarter acre homestead this year than last. It’s probably a good thing most of my yard is shady, or my kids would have no place left to play after I finish planting the desires of my heart.

So if you need a dozen fresh eggs, or some snuggle time with soft baby bunnies, come on over! I’ve got a hot cup of coffee with your name on it, and there’s always plenty to share here on the farm.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Husbands

Captain Schenanigans started his new job this week, and we are SO proud of him!! Working for Bose, he will need to travel more, but actually work from home all the days he’s not traveling. Yay for a home office! We get to eat dinner earlier, there is someone else home if I can’t meet the school bus, and Grover dog won’t be so lonely all day long. Everybody wins!

Except for that little traveling part. I am very well aware that millions of families have one parent gone while the other holds down the fort. Just look at military families! They make it look easy. But we are brand new to this lifestyle, it’s just our first week, and there are bound to be some blunders and adjustments (dare I say resentment) as we learn these new ropes.

For starters, after his initial day long orientation in Boston, my husband was flown down to Miami Beach IN JANUARY NO LESS! But I’m not jealous. It was the annual employee bonding week, since everyone telecommutes, and he was hired just in time to meet all the guys he would be working with. Perfect God timing actually, and he really enjoyed meeting them, but that didn’t make it any less cold and gray and Baltimore.

The week started off on Sunday ,when Manchild sobbed his little heart out at Dad’s leaving. That was unexpected. Captain Schenanigans has travled for a night or two in the past, no problem. And twice a week I put the kids to bed alone. But I guess a week sounds awfully long when you are six, so there were big fat tears.

Monday was a snow day. The kids were thrilled, my work plans were shot, and the chickens all blamed me for the weather. I am their almighty, thus I must be screamed all over any and all displeasure (sorta like parenting). Especially now, with the dreaded snow about.

Our house quickly became a soggy, scattered mess of snow pants, boots, and lost gloves, spilling out of the foyer and threatening to bury us all avalanche style. It was overwhelming, as each kid had a friend over, and they were in and out all day long. So. Much. Snow.

Tuesday I managed to get to work at noon, only after a morning of an embarrassing amount of yelling and nagging to get kids dressed and fed, running for the bus, and second guessing if screaming at your kids maybe undoes the Jesus lesson you just read them over breakfast? Sigh. I managed to squeeze in a quick workout before hitting the office. But bedtime was more of the same sass, drama, and fighting. How do people do this for months on end?!?

Wednesday morning the woman who sometimes cleans my house (I know my weaknesses) texted me that she had an opening and was coming over. Yay, and oh crap! It usually takes about an hour to get all the stuff put away for her to clean, I had 15 minutes. I did it in 30, cutting a few corners. The house looked fantastic upon arriving home that day, however anything that was trash or clutter the thrown into a garbage bag and stuck in the garage. Including, we learned, Girlchild’s week long assignment for school that suddenly went missing. The missing assignment wasn’t missed until after dinner, at which point I needed to run into the city to pick something up, and Girlchild was left home alone to sort through trash bags to find the game board I had told her to put away no less than 4 times that week.

On my way back to the house with Manchild, we get a call from our neighbor. I can hear a sobbing Girlchild in the background, and my heart drops. What had happened? It was her first time being left alone at night, but she was pretty confidant when I left home. Turns out Captain had unplugged the landline phone last week, which was Girlchild’s only way to reach me, and she had no idea I was going to be gone longer then the usual 15 minutes. She thought I was never returning, had taken her brother and was on the lam. Because that’s a natural conclusion when you’re eight.

After assuring Girlchild that I was almost home, picking her up at the neighbors house, and feeling awful about the whole situation, we then stayed up an hour and a half past bedtime doing homework and re-creating her board game question cards. Not finishing, I agreed to get up early and help her in the morning. That, my friends, is sacrifice. I hate getting up early. Half our morning problems all week had been that I’d let us all sleep in a half hour late, thinking it would make things better. It didn’t.

Thursday morning I woke Girlchild up an hour early, and sit bleary eyed with her in the kitchen, trying for the hundredth time to come up with 20 questions about the Wizard of Oz to put on these game cards for her classmates. I am now a full on Wizard of Oz hater! But we pulled it off. She finished it all in the nick of time, but we STILL had to run for the bus. Praise God her project was done!

Feeling victorious, I take a ton of leftover dinner scraps and lunchbox rejects out to bestow upon our grumpy hens. They begin to feast like queens. Until I turned my back, and Grover dog pushed open the gate and began eating all the chicken’s warm breakfast, while they stood in silent fear. I had recently stitched up (AGAIN) the last hen that squawked at Grover. No one made a sound today. Which is why he got every last morsel, then spent the rest of the day crop dusting whomever was closest to him with the most noxious gas the would has ever known. Kibble. He needs to stick to kibble.

That afternoon the clouds were merciless. The whole world looked like it was made in sad shades of gray, and every few hours Captain Schenanigans would text me picture of himself under sunny skies. Captain in front of palm trees. Captain on a boat with happy people. Captain in a pair of brand new sunglass headphones that his boss gave them all. They are bluetooth, and connect to his phone. Not even on the market yet, but that didn’t stop Captain from chatting with me on his sunglasses last night as I lay shivering on the couch and smelling dog fumes. There may be a hint of self pity here, but remember this is my first week. I’m not gonna pull of perfection in my moods or actions, BUT I’m working on it!!! Oh, and did I tell you how much my eyes bugged out when Girlchild trotted off the bus that afternoon and declared that she’d forgotten to take her project to school that day and she’d just take in tomorrow. Deep breath…

Last night it snowed again. The dog log rolled around the backyard, getting in touch with his inner husky. The kids were thrilled, and I work up every few hours all night long to check the school closings. Baltimore County, 2 hour delay. Finally, it posted about 5am. Got up to feed the dog and cat, drain them, and make Girlchild a lunch I’m sure she will hate. Then went back to bed until I felt children laying on top of me at 7:30am, earliest they had risen all darn week, asking if school was closed. Why can they get up on time any other day of the week? Can I get an amen anyone?!

So now it’s Friday morning, my husband should be walking in the door in 15 minutes, the day is warming up, though not turning the least bit sunny. I am happy for this moment of quiet to write, surrounded by lit candles and cold coffee. Am I proud of how we did this week?  Not particularly. Actually, not at all. But it was a beginning, and those are always hard. This new job is a change we really do want. I just need to learn to change with it, and up my patience and “waking up” skills. We’ll get there. But for now, a little self grace never hurt nobody, and perhaps one day I, too, shall make single parenting look easy.  Or, maybe not. Whatever.

Joke for God

Tonight after reading bedtime books, Manchild told me a joke, then it was time for prayers. As I was praying, he interrupted to say he had another joke.
“Tell it to God”, I told him, getting him used to the idea of chatting with God anytime.
He closes his eyes, the room is silent. I ask if he is praying. He indicates that he is praying in his head.
Then I see his head shake back and forth, no. Then stop.
Then he shakes it no again. Then waits. 
Then he nods up and down and a big grin spreads across his face.
“Did God get it?” I ask him.
“Yep!”

Almost Made It To WOW

Today, I played hooky, AND IT WAS DELICIOUS! My drive to church was so pretty that, instead of attending my Wednesday morning women’s group (WOW- Women on Wednesdays), I hopped on the highway and left town. I wandered up through the gold and red fall foliage to my favorite spot, southern Pennsylvania. No particular destination in mind, I wanted a dose of freedom and all the eye candy I could take in. God’s fingerprints are all OVER fall, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Speaking of noticing things, I know, I know, I didn’t post anything new in October. But I have great excuses! First, my family drove down to New Orleans for our cousin’s wedding on October 13th (Girlchild was the flower girl), and then both Girlchild and Manchild had their tonsils out at the same time (while Captain Schenanigains was out of town) on October 19th. Throw in Halloween, and all spare time going towards building our new rabbit colony, and that pretty much sums up October.

Anyway, back to my stolen day alone. Since I missed the apple orchard I had vaguely considered going to, and was in the mood for a bit of exploring, I exited I-83 at York, turned right a few times, and found myself in Red Lion, Pa. A town I had heard of often, but never seen (lots of people selling chickens there on Craigslist).

It had a pretty little main street. The usual car parts stores and banks, along with a few places that had clearly been built for some other purpose. Like the Karate building that was obviously a store in it’s past life. But I’m happy the people of the township are able to breathe new life into these old buildings so that nothing stands empty. One particular  new store used to be a hair salon. Not bad for a small town!

As I poked along, I prayed for somewhere to pick up a few fun Christmas gifts and make this trip a bit more worth my while. Something to show for my time. About a minute later I came to Shadesville Hub and Corner Cafe. I was drawn in by the lure of the pink sign, and a promise of vintage and handmade goodies. ‘Nuff said! I parked around back, hustled up the steps, and found myself stepping into Etsy.

It was a seriously great idea for a store! There was a lunch counter with homemade food and desserts right inside the door, and then multiple other rooms of vintage, second hand, and crafted goods. But my FAVORITE part was that each of the 15-20 various display sections were run by a different seller. So you want chemical free soaps and shampoos, there’s a seller who makes that. You want jams, preserves, and sweet treats, there’s a seller for you. Are you looking for upcycled wine bottle gifts? Farm house decor? Pottery, unique jewelry, antiques, gourmet dog treats, knit gifts? It’s all there, sold by local citizens, just trying to get by. I love that. LOVE THAT!

I spent all morning pouring over each display (I never even made it upstairs to the used motorcycle wear section, what was I thinking?), and selected a bunch of gifts. I even treated myself to a few farmhouse themed must haves for my kitchen, along with a hand knit washable cover for my Swiffer mop. It can be used wet or dry, and keeps you from buying and throwing out replacements. Perfect! Some woman was very clever! She had sold so many of them I had to take the orange one off the display, the rest were all gone. It warms my heart to see good ideas flourishing at the grass roots level. Plus they were all very well priced. It pays to go off the beaten path (or offline)! 🙂

 

On the way home I stopped at Captain Schenanigan’s job to get some HUGE cardboard boxes. I need to get a start on next year’s new garden beds, and planned to use the cardboard as a bottom layer against weeds.  I also snagged a few nice pallets, because what can’t you make with pallets?

I stopped by my good friend Marti’s farm to pick up two bantam chicks. One sweet fuzzy gray mix, and a black and gold Sebright with a mullet that I suspect is a cockerel. I wanted to test out my new birthday present, a chick brooder heat plate (that won’t set my barn on fire). For that, I required volunteers.

When the school nurse called, I knew my day of hooky was over. Girlchild, my hypochondriac, had been complaining of a tummy ache since breakfast, and I agreed to pick her up early from the nurses office. While my freedom was fun while it lasted, I’d still sign up for the rigors of motherhood all over again. It’s painful and priceless, as most good things in life are.

So tonight, as wood smoke wafts into the air all over the country, and pumpkins decorate countless front steps, please know that I am grateful you stopped your autumn evening to  read my blog. I appreciate you, my faithful reader, and apologize for infrequent postings. I’m hoping for a very slow winter, with some quality stories to share. Just  between you, me, and the internet.

So when possible, eat local, shop local, and give local. Community is rare these days, and good relationships bloom wherever you water. Go in peace.

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Love Knows No Age

Nothing personal, but I almost decided to shut this blog down. I had run out of things to say, and felt bad that people were checking and checking, with nothing new to read. Until today!

This morning was our family trip to the dentist. I had scheduled all four of us in back to back time slots, so that Captain Schenanigans is on site to help wrangle whomever wasn’t in the chair. I pulled the kids out of school mid-morning, loaded them into the van, and headed over to the dentist’s office.

En route, Manchild began to tell me about writing notes to Amelia, a little girl in his first grade class. Suspicious, I asked Manchild what the notes said. “Love,” he answered (written vocabulary is limited when you are six). I was a little surprised, and asked how Amelia reacted. “Oh, she cuts them up with scissors,” he told me, “The last one I had to say ‘stop cutting up my notes’.” My surprised heart was then saddened at the thought of this foolish little girl, who clearly did not see what a prize tender hearted warrior son was. But, oddly enough, Manchild was no worse for the wear because of it. He spoke about the whole situation as if he were discussing his school work. Very matter of fact, no disappointment in his voice.

Tucking that in the back of my mind (and by that I mean texting all of his grandparents and his dad from the waiting room), I let the subject drop and intentionally didn’t make a big deal over these first love notes. Bitter sweet as they were.

By afternoon I had returned the kids to school and  noticed that I had another hen with a coccidia parasite. This facilitated a run to Tractor Supply for mdication, and a 30 minute drive each way. Pleeeeenty of togetherness time for the three of us (Captain volunteers with the middle school youth group on Friday nights and has a get out of jail free card).

After our errand, as we were winding through the Maryland countryside heading back to suburbia, Manchild made a statement. “I wish you were going to have more babies, Mom. Then I would marry Marti ,and introduce the babies to her so they can see how nice she is”. To explain, Marti is a close friend of ours. I met her through chicken dealings on Craigslist, and she’s become of on our favorite friends. Marti has grown-up children who are married, and never fails to spoil my kids rotten with candy and soda whenever we drop off unwanted roosters. Marti has a farm, a chicken business, goats, plants, and a full time job. She is my chicken & garden mentor, and the first person I call when I get in over my head with livestock. It was Marti who told me what to buy at Tractor Supply.

I pointed out to Manchild as we drove that we don’t need more siblings in the family to bring Marti into our family. If he wanted Marti to become part of our family (because he loved her so much), he could just marry her himself (Marti’s husband passed away a few years ago). Manchild pondered this, then asked me to text this information to Marti. I explained that I was driving, but he could call her if he liked. “I’m feeling shy”, came a small voice from the back seat. “Can you call her?” he asked.

Enjoying the situation immensely, and knowing Marti would get a kick out of it, I called her. I told Marti that Manchild had told me she does such a great job taking care of us when we visit, and being so good to us, that Manchild would like her to join our family by marrying him. She laughed!  HARD!

“You know, ” I told her, “You’re not going to find a sweeter guy than Manchild.”

“Nor a more handsome or daring one,” She agreed.

Marti stated that she would accept Manchild’s offer of marriage, despite a 50 year age gap, and have a big hug and a kiss ready for him next time we visited. We giggled and laughed as Marti stated this had been the highlight of her evening!

Getting off the phone, Manchild asked me how Marti responded. “She accepted your offer, Manchild.” I relayed teh entire conversation back to him.

“Really? She’ll marry me!” Manchild stated with excitement. “Yay! Now I can stop writing all those notes to Amelia!”

      And that, dear reader, is the end of my day! 🙂

 

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