Jun 30, 2008

Garden Update

The garden, after a lot of dilly-dallying around, has finally started to take off....all at once.

The weeds have been worse than I remember them ever being at the old house. it must be because its the first year...or maybe because of how much uncultivated area there is around my house...or both. I finally got exhausted from pulling weeds and laid ground fabric everywhere that wasn't a growing place.

My mixed greens are more than ready to eat - I harvested a bunch but since haven't been able to get through those, I haven't taken the rest.

My Zucchini are getting big and are flowering nicely.

My sad little eggplant bush is being choked out by some very aggressive Tomatoes...but still managed to produce this one eggplant-in-the-making.

And finally - the coop is half done. The sawhorses are stored inside it for now - but won't be a permanent fixture. If you look closely you can see the little chicken door framed in on the left.

Jun 29, 2008

Home on the Range

Toby has been putting in some serious overtime this weekend. I'm sure he didn't know he was signing up to build chicken coops when he married me - but he's been a good sport about it....99.9% of the time.

Robbie has also been enjoying the project, as he typically enjoys anything involving: dad, outside, power tools and dirt.

Toby and Robbie picking up the nails Robbie dumped out...again.

Robbie trying to look innocent. "What nails? Me?"

Bob, the ever-helpful draftee into our crazy projects....and look close - Robbie is never far away.

Jun 27, 2008

Neighborhood Party

Last night we were on our patio, finishing off the last of our watermelon dessert when we heard sirens.

"They sound like they're getting close." said Toby and we went back to debating if we should do something fun or productive after dinner.

I heard the hiss and squeal of breaks in front of our house - it sounded like a dump truck or something else big so I went to the fence and looked through. I saw a firetruck parked right in front of our house and smoke coming out of the house across the street.

We grabbed Robbie and stood in our front yard to watch. The fire crew piled off the truck and started making preparations....and then they kept preparing. They put on their clothes, they pulled out some hose, they hooked up the hose, they adjusted clothes, the fixed the hose hookup, water gushed out of the truck, they put on their tanks, and on...and on.

Toby and I looked at each other.

"Isn't this taking a long time?" I asked.

"This is a fiasco." he confirmed.

If a fire was so bad it required 911 attention - why was the fire crew proceeding so slowly to help? As they kept preparing, more emergency cars and trucks pulled up. One, then two ambulances, another fire truck, several police cars, even the division of natural resources truck came to the scene. Before it was over there were 6 fire vehicles, two ambulances, four cops and a few other odd and ends - sherrifs and forrest rangers...all we were missing was a meter maid.

Not only were we flush with emergency crew, we had the whole neighborhood out in little clutches. I met neighbors last night I'd never even laid eyes on in 18 months of living here.

"We don't need a neighborhood barbeque," said Toby "we just need to set someone's house on fire."

So what was going on in the house? Apparently one of their kids (they have five boys) was playing with a lighter or some such thing and caught a closet on fire. Lucky for him, he was not the same boy that broke their living room window with a rock two weeks ago. One kid can probably only take so much punishment. I can only imagine what kind of punishment I'd have gotten for setting the house in fire.

Fortunately the family is fine...but I am very nervous about the possibility of our house ever catching fire, given the "rapid response time" of our local emergency crew.

Why Chickens? Why NOT Chickens?

I know most of my family and friends were just being polite when I said I was getting chickens. They said "oh...neat...." but I am sure behind their smiles they were thinking "Why chickens? Is she losing her mind?"

I completely understand why it would puzzle most people. Chickens (at least grown ones) don't seem cute and cuddly like cats. They aren't good at games like dogs. So why chickens?

Well...they only thing my dogs have every given me in return for all the time, money and effort given to them is a big steaming mess. My chickens will give me eggs.

My dogs eat about $30 worth of food a month. My chickens will eat about $5, while producing about $23 worth of organic "farm fresh" eggs.

The only thing my dogs ever did for my backyard was tromple it, chew it, poop on it and destroy it (including a hot tub). The chickens will eat any insect they can lay their little beaks on - including garden pests.

The dogs have to be walked, played with, vaccinated, spayed, bathed, etc. Chickens....not so much. Their medication is in their feed, they'll happily eat kitchen scraps, they exercise themselves while hunting bugs and they only need about four square feet each to live in.

And unlike my dogs....if the chickens destroy a hot tub, I can feel fully justified in eating them.

If all that weren't enough....just look how cute these girls are:

For any chicken people out there - the top photo is a Barred Rock and the bottom is a Buff Orpington. We have two of each.

Jun 25, 2008

The Pitter Patter of Little Feet

It's official - we are the proud parents of four tiny, fuzzy chicks.

Robbie helped with the naming and, not surprisingly, he chose "Rosie" and "Thomas". All our chickens are girls - but I just laughed and said "That's a GREAT name!" when he suggested it. He was really proud of himself and I didn't have the heart to remind him Thomas is a boy name. I hope it doesn't confuse her and put her off laying eggs.

I chose the names for the other two chickens and they are "Giblet" and "Chickenoby". The latter is an homage to Toby's toddler years when he, about to become a big brother, kept telling his mom to name his sister Chickenoby. His thinking was that the name was a good combination of "Chicken" and "Toby". What better way to pick a name for a little girl?

I am sure Rikki's glad her mom overruled Toby's choice.

About every ten minutes we have to go downstairs to check on the chickens (according to Robbie) and then he asks me to take a baby bird out for him to touch. He puts one finger on it and says "Hi Baby CHICKEN!" and then we go back upstairs.

Silly kid.

Can He Read - or Am I Crazy?

Sometimes Robbie does things that convince me that he's merely pretending not to know how to read. Today he did it again.

"Robbie, what are you going to name your new baby chicken?"

mumbles something incoherent




mumbles it again



"Say it for me again, please"

mumbles something again that I can't make out


Robbie sighs, walks out of the room and comes back in holding a small purple train he rarely ever plays with. He turns it over and shoves it under my nose.

"Rosie!" he says.

And there, printed in tiny letters on the underside of the train is "ROSIE".

Jun 24, 2008

The Most Stubborn Boy

When Robbie doesn't want a nap...he really doesn't want a nap. Sometimes I just cave in and let him play quietly as long as he stays in his room. Sometimes even that doesn't satisfy him.

Today was one of those days.

After tearing apart his room, sneaking out, taking off his clothes, being re-clothed, put back in his room and baby-gated in...... he stood at the baby gate calling "Mommmmmeeeeee" for quite a while.

Suddenly I realized he'd grown quiet - I couldn't tell for how long. I went up to check on him. This is what I found.

After working for more than two hours to get him to go to sleep, I was torn about what I should do. I weighed my options... peed-on carpet....or angry awake child.... tough call.

I put him in bed with a blanket - no diaper.

Europa Europa

Europe was....great. I've always wanted to go there but business and family seemed to take me everywhere except there. I was pretty nervous about leaving Robbie for 8 days - but he had a great time with Grummy and Grumpy.

Amsterdam is probably one of the 3 most interesting city I've ever been to...and I've been to a fair few: Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, Melbourne....not to mention a few stateside cities.

What I loved most about this city was that no matter where you went, the architecture was charming, old and unique. The canal houses on postcards and in guide books weren't just one "section" of the city as I had expected - the WHOLE city looks like that.

The other thing Toby and I really enjoyed was the thousands of individual tiny shops, cafes, coffee houses (we never went in to any of these - I'll explain in a minute), restaurants, etc. They don't have Chili's, McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner like we do. They had very few chains at all from what I could tell. Instead they have a profusion of family-owned establishments occupying tiny buildings that have stood longer than we've been a state...most of them longer that we've been a country.

A culinary adventure? To be sure! But we never went hungry and the food was universally tasty, fresh and interesting.

I had been looking forward to taking billions of photos all over Amsterdam but 98% of the photos I have were taken with my pocket camera.

Part of the reason for this was not wanting to be weighed down with a hulky camera. We walked an average of 6 hours every time we went out in the city. Our hotel was outside of town so we had to take a shuttle, a train and then a metro tram to get to where we wanted to be - more reasons not to be lugging a camera. Finally, Holland does not suffer from high rates of violent crime or even drug crime (how can it be a crime if it's legal!?) but theft is rampant. Bike theft is a national pastime.

So, without further ado - here are some of my pocket camera photos of Amsterdam. These are just Sunday's pictures - we did nothing much more than walk around neighborhoods.

Evening canal - notice the locals enjoying their dinner canal-side. You could also call it "parking lot" side because their bikes are all chained up nearby.

One of ten thousand charming streets in Amsterdam.

The cafe where we ate dinner Sunday. I love this scene because it was so typically "Amsterdam". This was a neighborhood cafe we stumbled upon. There was a football (soccer) game on inside, a kid playing soccer out front, everyone was just lounging about. Waiters in Holland (and in most of Europe, I suspect) do NOT bring you your check unless you ask. Europeans spend about twice as long eating dinner as Americans... and bringing you a check would probably seem like showing you the door.

A side view of the same cafe. Are you beginning to see a trend with th bikes?

More bikes further down the alley of the cafe.
Amsterdam has one of the highest people-to-bike ratios...and they don't ride them as a leisure activity. They are aggressive, fast and extremely daring on a bike! They could give bullet bike riders a lesson in lane splitting.

One of Amsterdam's 1300 bridges. Think about that...I bet all of Utah has fewer than half that number and Amsterdam is a small area!

For a lot of people, Amsterdam is also synonymous with vice - but as you've seen above there is really so much more than that. They do have the red light district and they have hundreds, maybe thousands, of coffee shops. The name "Coffee Shop" seems to be a code word for "place to come smoke pot with the windows open so that when naive tourists walk by they say 'what is that smell?!' "

Unless you like the smell of pot (and why would you?), don't linger near a coffee shop.

The red light district is easily avoided but worth a tour at least once...because it really takes seeing it in person to grasp the concept. We walked through it with a hundred other tourists. We saw elderly couples and a few families with small children (I wouldn't do it...but to each their own) and all kinds of people....mostly just tourists.

There were also some patrons, mostly intoxicated, singing Dutch soccer songs to passers by wearing the opposing team's colors.

Jun 23, 2008

Conversation in a Car

Toby: You just know one day Zoe is going to land one of your chickens. I'll get a phone call at work ...Toby, Zoe killed Giblet...boo hoo....she's eating her....
Me: laughing
Toby: And Giblet's kicking her chicken legs saying "Buckaaaawwww..... Buckawwwww... BuckHollllleeeeee!"
Me: laughing uncontrollably...because it's probably true.

I had better make sure I get BIG chickens that can defend themselves. And we are definitely naming one Giblet.

Jun 16, 2008

The Smart Car

Yesterday we rented a "Smart Car" and drove it to Zaanse Schance, a town about 30km from our hotel. Yes, we drove in Europe.

The smart car is extremely small - picture a Geo Metro cut in half. Now picture Toby driving it. He makes fun of his mom's Geo so you can just imagine how many jokes he made about the Smart Car. Here are just a few...

1. It's a good thing it's called a smart car. If the name were any longer it wouldn't fit on the car.
2. If we can't find the car in the parking lot, we can take the train and just have the museum mail it to back us.
3. I hope it stops raining before we have to drive back. Six inches of rain, and we'll need paddles to get home.
4. If Robbie were here, we'd have to get him a side-car.

The whole day went like this. Then we pulled into a large gas station with several pumps and we got blocked in. There were cars all over and we couldn't go forward or back to go out. I told Toby I had seen someone in a similar car drive between the pumps to get out. In one turn we were out.

I turned to Toby and said "Ok now try to make fun of the car."

He didn't.

Jun 14, 2008

Things I've Learned in Amsterdam

In my mind, at least, the Europeans have alway seemed more "polished" and sophisitcated than Americans. That impression is eroding quickly after being here 24 hours and having seen:
1. someone vomit about 8 inches from where I was eating lunch (glass between us thankfully)
2. the "public" restrooms here which are really just tall plastic buckets on the sidewalks for men to step up to (pictures to come)
3. the local soccer fans (football over here) that make Oakland Raiders fans look like sissies
4. I know we all hear about the "window" girls in the red light district...but knowing about it and actually seeing it are totally different. For some reason I always thought the window girl was an "ad" for the business inside. Nope. She is the business inside. The window opens up and the guy just steps in, the curtain closes....blagh! There is no "back room" or upstairs. This is all happening inches from hundreds of tourists.
5. On television here porn is totally mixed in with kids channels, CNN, you name it. We got to our room and started channel surfing...click...click...click...EEEK!

The above picture is Toby and I at the hotel - taken by my laptop. We're working today so that is why we have on matching shirts. We have not been married so long yet that we actually dress alike by choice.

Jun 10, 2008

Call Me the Crazy Chicken Lady

For several weeks I've been teasing Toby saying I want to get some chickens. After all, we live in "the sticks" as I never let him forget ... time to start assimilating. He has adamantly refused, which makes me giggle because I enjoy pushing his buttons. It's only fair since he does it to me constantly.

The real reason I half wanted chickens wasn't to fit it - I wanted them for free, non-disease ridden, non hormone laced eggs. Basically, eggs that don't come from four de-beaked chickens living in a 2'x2' cage. This is wear Toby usually says "Enough with your vegetarian propaganda!" so I'll stop there.

Then Sunday we were eating our eggs at breakfast and Toby said "I think you should get some chickens."

I almost fell off my chair.

Since then I've been looking into the backyard chicken thing. I had to re-read our HOA bylaws, call our city's zoning department (consisting of one nice lady) and do a little reading on what it takes to raise egg-layers. The long and short of it is that it's do-able...both in terms of municipal regulations and my low threshold for squeamishness.

But one thing is holding me back. I feel like I would have to keep the chickens totally and completely hidden from friends and neighbors. Otherwise, people are going to make all kinds of assumptions about me. After all, if I raise my food in my back yard I probably carry Skoal in my purse, marry my cousins, give birth to litters of sticky children born with Kool-aid mustaches already in place, have ducks in the bathtub and...the list goes on.

Until recently these would have been my assumptions of anyone who told me they had a chicken coop.

On the other hand, I keep looking at chicken websites. Oh yes, there are many websites dedicated to the backyard chicken farmer. I'm starting to develop a preference for certain breeds and what kind of coop I want...

Am I crazy?

Jun 6, 2008

Deep Denial

My mother in law called me yesterday to say she had read our O.B./G.Y.N (yes we go to the same one) had suddenly died. I cant recall how many times I said "What?" and "You're kidding" and "Are you sure it was the same guy?". All those psych classes were right - denial is the first step to accepting any loss.

We didn't hang out together or send each other Christmas gifts. But, he'd been my doctor for years and held my hand (metaphorically speaking) through four pregnancies, a couple of surgeries, three miscarriages, and a lot of stress. I just saw him last month.

No only was he my doctor and my mother-in-law's doctor but also my grandmother-in-law and my sister-in-law's doctor. He delivered the only two grand children in our family - so it stands to reason with all that connection to us he was more to us than, say, a dermatologist.

He wasn't old. He seemed very fit and healthy. Then he went home, went to sleep and never woke up.

I can't explain why I am so stunned....except this: he was a pretty formal "by the book" doctor and even though this is very absurd and even childish sounding...I just can't believe he would go off and die (as if he had a choice) before my sister-in-law and I were done having kids. At least not without referring us to someone?

It's very weird how our brains work. I feel terrible for his children of course..but also his patients.

It took so much drama, effort, grief...so many exams, ultrasounds, appointments, blood test, prescriptions, hospital stays and panicked 2 a.m. phone calls before we got Robbie. I feel like we climbed a mountain over the course of three years. At least we had the comfort that if were going to climb it again we'd have the same guide. But now we won't...and I'm seriously wondering if maybe I should just hang up my hiking boots and call it good.

Jun 3, 2008

Child Prodigy?

When I was four I couldn't yet read but I'd memorized my favorite books and I pretended to be able to read to my friends. They usually bought it.

I was reminded of this just now because I am working in my office and above me Robbie is "trying" to have a nap. I just heard him shouting "Mamma, Mamma. I Wenna Town. Innide, Owside, Uhside, Down!" which is the last line of one of his favorite books. He loves to shout it out when we get to that page.

It won't be long until he'll be trying that trick on his friends.