Tuesday, October 27, 2015

parenting from the bathroom

I have been painting. First Elliott's room and then the kids' bathroom, which now holds the laundry area. For weeks now.  Weeks.  Wow.  But, I pulled the area back together a bit the other day.  Pulled down the blue painting tape, screwed switch plates back on, cleaned the paint splatters off the floor (still working on that one), and hung new curtains and spruced it all up a bit.  And stood back.  And realized just how much I had done.

We went from a bathroom that looked like this.

With random pieces of old wallpaper flaking off every time I tried to smooth a section of the trim or wall.

I scraped and plastered and sanded and cleaned and painted and pulled together that beast of a room. 

While all those different steps dried, in between, I finally sewed Elliott and Julia's curtains from fabrics chosen by them long ago, but which I had never found the time to actually make.

And while plaster dried, we hung them in each of their rooms.

And while primer dried, we finally figured out what to do about Julia's desire to hang her book cover tracings.

So, don't look at the mess I have made in the room just outside the bathroom.  Or as it has been referred to, the Mommy visitation sitting room.  Because lately, when we all get home from school, I have been heading upstairs, saying over my shoulder, if you need me I will be in the bathroom.  And I must say, eyes toward a just out of reach flaking piece of trim, swiping at it with a scaper while I hang onto the shower curtain rod and stand on one foot atop a stool?  I have had some fabulous conversations with the kids up there.  As though me having my eyes away from them has allowed them to let loose a bit.  We've talked books, they have listened to bits of my audiobooks, constantly playing while I painted, and we have talked about what they heard (and other ones I have quickly switched off when I heard footsteps approaching), they have told me about their days and we have planned Halloween costumes.

So let's just look around this.

Or at the fact that you have to walk past view of areas like this.

Or that this visitation room and Nicholas' room are clearly next on the to do list.

 Let's focus, instead, on this.

It did not help that the cats found and cornered a mouse that I had to catch and take outside in the midst of all of this.

This radiator almost bested me.  I stayed up after the kids went to bed and Jonathan was away at a conference for two nights straight to get her all cleaned up and then all those gorgeous textures and details and all of her incredible surface area for emitting heat painted.

But I did it.  And I think that even my challenging patient is pleased with her makeover.  The radiator.  Not the mouse.

Anyhoo.  Isn't she lovely?

The late night caused by radiator surfaces may also have explained my slight overreaction to discovering that the shower curtain hooks did not fit through the shower curtain holes.  I am sure Jonathan appreciated this picture being texted to him in his hotel room at 3:27 am.

When we decided to move the laundry room into their bathroom, the kids said, well, if it's going to be in there, does that mean everyone is going to be able to see our underwear?

They had a point.  So I pondered.  And decided curtains could solve this problem.  And I knew just the fabric for the task.  It's from Heather Ross' Far Far Away III collection.  And was such a delight to work with.

As requested, no pictures of underwear except the adorable ones drawn by Heather.  But instead, Jonathan's pants.  Much safer.

And my other problem to solve was the cat litter box and cat food situation.  We have dogs and cats who coexist.  And my dogs know where the cat food is and will go right for it whenever they can.  So I created, after my recently patented creation, the chicken tunnel was complete, the cat condo.

Millie indeed does stick her head in, but she can't reach the cat food.  Or the litter box.  This is good.

I still have a few kinks to work out.  Such as the doors that no longer latch.  And some touch ups in the paint from late night sloppiness.  And cats who fear swinging doors.  And several more rooms ahead of me.  But it feels good to have this one almost wrapped up.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Chicken Tunnel 2.015

It has happened.  I know you were waiting on the edge of your seat.  Perhaps partly because the barn began to be gag-worthy when you entered it, but mostly because the playdates between old and new chickens began to pay off, we have combined the whole flock and they are all living together in the coop.  And I have celebrated this event with the construction of The Chicken Tunnel 2.015.

Chicken Tunnel 2.015 connects coop with garden.  Is made with scraps of garden fencing.  Can be made with the help of a willing 9 year old,  But must be constructed before the ground freezes.  Chicken Tunnel 2.015 is still working out a flaw in the connection between garden and tunnel, in which pesky canines have pulled it apart repeatedly in order to enter said garden and snack on rotten tomatoes and chicken scratch.

But otherwise? It's all good.

With a bit of training (a boy and a bowl of scratch does wonders), the chickens will enter the tunnel.  Eventually.  And when they decide to.  And not before.

And sometimes it can get downright crowded in there.

Because we are still working on the whole coming when called thing, or going where I need you to go, or running away from me when dark is coming and I need to leave to take someone to their piano lesson.  This tunnel can be quite handy.

Chicken Tunnel 2.015 offers the backyard chicken keeper a bit of control.  Traffic regulation.  Helps dogs and chickens coexist.  And? With less feather loss.

Friday, October 23, 2015

playdates in the garden

Jonathan had a technology conference in Bangor.  He spent his days discussing iPads, and dongles, and enthusiastically tweeting and then, because his pesky wife texted him that there were some lovely sounding chickens, hand raised by children for a 4H project just a short drive from where he was, he loaded himself -- still in his conference-appropriate clothes and with his name tag still on -- into his Subaru and headed to the farm.  And bought us four chickens, pullets, actually, to replace the hens we had lost to raccoons.  

Arriving home afterward, a bit scarred by his three hour drive south with four chickens in the back of his car with no crate or bedding or planning ahead for such an adventure, he was, understandably, a bit ruffled.  And I think he had temporarily lost his sense of smell.  But we set those ladies up in the barn for the night and went to bed.  Next morning, Elliott went running out to meet them.  

Jonathan had used his three hours of alone time with these new pullets wisely.  He had named two for the characters of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, of course.  So now we have Penelope and Cassiopeia, the Black Australorps, and then Pumpkin and Rusty, named by Elliott.

For a few days, they were carried from the barn each morning to the fenced garden where they spent the day outside free ranging and then were collected (oh, how I wish I had pictures of this silliness, but you try chasing a chicken while snapping frames!) and returned to the barn for the night.  

Meanwhile our existing flock could see them through the fence but could not get to them.

The kids have been taking the task of keeping them socialized and comfortable with humans quite seriously.

Introducing new chickens to an existing flock is no easy task, we have found.  And though we have a flock of chickens that we raised from chicks, they have some trauma issues and they are, well, chickens.  And pecking order is real, folks.  So, we began making introductions.  Supervised visitations if you will.  Playdates in the garden.

Here comes our existing flock, toward the new pullets, approaching them for the first time.  Please insert the theme from West Side Story here.

There was blustering and chest thrusting and feather fluffing and looks that were definitely askance.  

And some behaved better than others.  And Tiny, perhaps because of her recent run in with molting and her resulting compassion for the misfortunes of others, stepped in a few times and let the older hens know that they...needed...to...back...off.

Marauding grey chicken approaching from the bush.

If I walk between you, I will show you just how boss I am.

Can we both peck here?

Man, those migrating geese can FLY!!


Hawk!  Make like a Zinnia.

Tiny:  Follow me ladies, and let's give those younguns a break.  Why yes, thank you for noticing, I do have feathers on my backside again.

Mean girls in the zinnia patch, Pumpkin relaxes enough to take a dirt bath.

And playground monitor Elliott decides they all need a snack for low blood sugar related temper issues.  He heads for the sunflower heads.

And the mature hens headed for Elliott's sunflower bed, the freshly turned earth full of worms.

Tiny was now, social dynamics having clearly shifted in the yard, the new leader. Don't worry.  Those feathers will grow back.

And Elliott decided that pulling down the sunflower patch was almost as much fun as playing with the chickens.

While Elliott's eyes were temporarily directed elsewhere, Sirius was still watching all the funny business.  Yes, yawning. But his substantial girth alone is a hawk deterrent.  It's an all family activity after all.