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Well, that explains it.

We had been trying to breed our rabbits for some time, and weren’t having much success. Then, Husband tried Fawn once more. He put her in Bear’s cage. And after watching at bit, he found out why Fawn would never kindle.

Fawn’s a buck, not a doe.

So… that changes our approach to things.

Sad Sally

On a cold day a couple of weeks ago, Husband said we had a sick chicken. She was standing in one place and moving very little. She was not following the other chickens around. She wasn’t eating or drinking. She wouldn’t even eat meal worms, which is like crack for chickens, so we knew something was wrong. Husband said she seemed despondent.

Since we wanted to make sure she didn’t infect the other chickens with whatever she had, Husband put Sad Sally in her own little cage in the rabbit barn. There is a heat lamp in there, and she seemed to perk up and begin drinking water. Finally, she stepped out of her cage and Husband thought perhaps she was on the road to recovery. He placed her back with the rest of the flock.

Perhaps it was too soon, or maybe she just was never going to make it, but a few days later, Sad Sally was dead.

We think perhaps she just got too cold and wasn’t hardy enough to survive her first winter.

This week, the forecast shows even colder temperatures than what made Sad Sally suffer. Wind chills below zero had us a little concerned. There is a large door-sized window in our coop, and we thought we’d better do something about that to make sure the rest of the chickens don’t get too cold. I had an old shower curtain, and this morning we stapled it over the opening. However, I hadn’t considered that the cold temperature would make the plastic brittle, so the staples were tearing the plastic. Clever Husband put staples in the top where the plastic is reinforced, and folded the sides over to help make it stronger. It’s better than nothing, but if the winds are really strong, the plastic may tear loose anyway.

We still have the plank of wood we had cut out of the shed to make the door, so we carried it to the window and rested it against the opening. It should block some of the wind, at least, holding the plastic in place, and hopefully it will be enough to avoid more sad chickens.

And next time we build a chicken coop, we’ll keep these weather concerns in mind, perhaps by having an actual storm door.

We’re always learning something on our little farm.

The Nice Thing About Being 40

A few nights ago, I was having a really rough time.  I was feeling lonely and discouraged and down on myself.  I was reading a book and lamenting that I will never write as well as that author.  I was feeling pretty worthless, when it comes right down to the truth.

But even in the midst of my tears, I knew something.  This will pass.  It is largely a symptom of winter, when the gray clouds fill the sky and the temperatures chill my bones.  When April comes and the warm breezes ruffle my hair and the trees and flowers bloom, I will feel much better about life.

It’s one really good thing about being middle-aged.  I know myself better than I ever have before.  I know that winter is hard for me.  Rules I’ve made for myself include that I’m not allowed to make major decisions in the winter, and I’m not allowed to label myself in the winter.  Things always are brighter — both literally and metaphorically — in the spring.

And a December sunrise like this one always serves to lift my spirits, too.

IMG_0063[1]

In Admiration of a Rooster

Written by The Husband

Foghorn1

This fellow is truly inspiring. He guards his hens with dignity — pecks them into the hen house if he spies a hawk and makes an awful fuss if he senses one of them is in trouble. He works through his fear by sidling up to danger and keeping the corner of his eye on you. He is the great, white, kingly Foghorn.

Foghorn2

Orchard: Past, Present, and Future

Our house sits right in the middle of a long, narrow lot, leaving about two and a half acres in front and the same amount behind. When we moved here in 2014, there were just three trees in the front yard: a small pretty black cherry tree and two tall hackberry trees. We decided that the large grassy area would be an ideal place to start an orchard.

Last spring, we planted two Montmorency cherry trees, an Elberta peach tree, and a Red Haven peach tree. A little later, we got two blueberry bushes (Sunshine and Blueray), several blackberry bushes (Apache and Navaho), about five Nantahala red raspberry bushes, and a Concord grape vine.

And then I accidentally ran over one of the blueberry bushes with the mower. Oops. I hope it will survive. The heavy and constant rains of last summer may have killed one of the cherry trees; it didn’t look very good at the end of the season, so we’ll keep an eye on that one, too.

This next spring, I hope to plant apple trees (Freedom, Liberty, and Enterprise), and plum trees. Perhaps a couple of pear trees, some apricot trees, and more berry bushes. Maybe I’ll expand the strawberry patch as well.

I’m trying to keep track of the types of trees and bushes we plant, but I’m afraid I don’t recall which blueberry bush is which, and I think I may have gotten the blackberry bushes mixed up. We have quite a few extra bricks around here, and I’ve been considering painting the names of the plants on the bricks and then placing the bricks by each tree or bush.

I just hope that when the trees are mature, I won’t lose the beautiful sunrise view.

sunrise

Deadline

Last week, I got up and found that the house was pretty chilly. When I checked the thermostat, it read 60 degrees. I was sure that I hadn’t set it lower than 62, but I checked anyway. Nope, it was set at 63, just as I had thought. Concerned, I bumped the temperature up to 65. Nothing happened. I turned the thermostat off, then back on again. The furnace kicked on, called for heat, and then promptly shut off. I tried again and got the same results.

Well, crud.

I left a note for Husband who was still asleep when I left for work (and I piled more blankets on top of him since it was 59 degrees in the house by the time I departed), and he called the repairman. The igniter was cracked, and that was about a $350 fix. The repairman mentioned that the motor is really loud, and that at some point we should consider replacing it as well. Husband asked, “Will it last five more years?” Probably, he was told.

So, the furnace has about five years left in it. The septic tank has about five years left. The windows get condensation on them in the spring and fall, and that turns to ice when the weather gets really cold. There’s mold under the house, and on the last really windy day, several shingles came off the roof.

This house is falling apart.

And we knew that when we bought it, but becomes more and more obvious as time passes. The circumstances give us a big push to get started.

We’ve got a deadline.

Encouragement, Sort Of

I told my students that I’m writing a book.

I don’t remember how it all came out, but after I told one group of kids, they told others, so that now most of the seventh and eighth graders at my school know about it. I get some interesting questions.

“Are you going to have it published?” they ask.

“I hope so,” I say, “but it’s not finished yet, so I don’t know.”

“Can’t you line up a publisher now?”

“No. I’m not J.K. Rowling or John Green. I can’t line up a publisher without having the book finished.”

Another question I get often is, “Will you finish the book by the end of this year?”

My reply is always, “I’ll be happy if I finish the book by the time you graduate from high school.”

One seventh grader asked me, “Are you going to use a pen name?”

I said, “Well, the book isn’t finished yet, so I’m not even thinking about that.”

“A pen name is cool,” he insisted. “I haven’t written anything yet, but I have a pen name.” (At least he’s got his priorities in order.)

In a sense, I suppose it’s encouragement.

In another sense, they may just be trying to get me off-topic.

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