Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Free Range...

OK I promise this will be my last post about chickens for a while and tomorrow I will return to posting other profound and amusing observations from my life, such as Turi choosing to wear all his pants backwards like the third member of Kriss Kross arrived several decades too late.

But for now I will abandon all restraint and reveal myself for the truly crazy chicken obsessed lady I have become.  I have to admit the whole chicken thing has been harder than I thought.  It turns out Betty is a bit of a mole and has spent the last few days mercilessly pecking Chocolate Brownie (I feel like this is begging for a lame joke about everyone wanting to peck at chocolate brownies but I digress).  There was even blood splattered, Quentin Tarantino style, about the coop.  After endless googling and boring all my friends trying to come up with ideas to solve the issue, I decided it couldn't hurt to try some of my hard learned parenting techniques on the poultry.  When Turi and Minty are fighting they usually just need some time running around in the fresh air to calm them down!

So I decided to let the chickens run freely around the garden for a couple of hours.  At the moment this is somewhat of a leap of faith.  We don't have complete perimeter fencing.  Our house backs onto a farm and it is possible for the chickens to range further than the eye can see before they reach any fencing!!  Not to mention my unfenced freshly planted veggie garden with new baby seedlings sprouting, situated within meters of their coop!  

Today their free range session was a raging success.  They discovered an unsightly dirt patch near the house and had a luxurious dust bath.  I've never seen birds look so blissed out!!  Then they pottered about the yard while I hung the washing out.  Minty patrolled the veg patch and Turi played frisbee.  Then when we needed to go back inside I just lured them back into their regular enclosure with some snacks.  Their favourite foods are live moths and goji berries!  After their time in the wild outdoors there was no more pecking issues and everyone played nicely together!  Fingers crossed the peace will last! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First egg...

We've had our first eggs!  The one Minty is holding has a slightly wrinkled shell like a well worn leather handbag but the other two eggs laid this morning were perfect.  Thankfully the chickens have also settled down.  I've introduced them to a bigger enclosure which seems to have reduced the pecking order issues significantly.  They even lay down on the grass this afternoon to sunbathe!  I'm not entirely sure whether to find this behaviour endearing or alarming.  Their ungainly postures make the yard look a bit like a chicken hospice!

I made carrot and herb rolls for lunch, using our freshly laid eggs, and served warm with a generous slathering of butter.  Minty adored these but kept referring to them as parsnip rolls despite their obviously orange hue!

The garden is coming along slowly.  I suspect I lack the patience needed for real success though watching seedlings sprout is endlessly rewarding!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In which Betty makes a break for freedom and I make a pink dinosaur cake...

We have chickens!  Three Isa Browns.  I had my heart set on getting Araucanas and/or Marans so that I could have blue and chocolate brown eggs but in the end the price was prohibitive (Marans close to point of lay are about $100 each).  I decided that it was much more practical to start out with something cheap and productive while I learn the ropes!

So far I have to say that things haven't gone entirely smoothly!!  Within the first hour they had broken the ramp to the nesting box, tipped over their fancy new water dish three times and pulled out one of their perches.  Of course when I attempted to fix the ramp a chicken escaped.  I fairly promptly lured it back to the coop with pita bread and patted myself on the back for my superior chicken herding skills.  

However now this particular chicken, who for the purpose of this story we will call Betty, has had a taste of freedom she makes a dash for the door every time I open it.  By dusk the chickens had once again knocked over the ramp and were therefore unable to get into the roosting box for the night (although I must say I am a little suspicious that perhaps they merely knocked it over as part of an elaborate escape plan).  I opened the door to fix the ramp (again) and Betty got out and rushed across into the cow paddock.  This time she was nowhere near as easy to recapture.  In the end I put on my gardening gloves, picked up the other two ladies (Anastasia and Chocolate Brownie), shoved them in the roosting box and locked the door.  I then ineffectually chased Betty around for what seemed an eternity and eventually she went back to the coop of her own accord just to show me who was boss.  Clearly I am going to have to work on my chicken handling skills if this relationship is going to work!

In other non chicken related news, we celebrated my niece's third birthday today.  I made her a three layer chocolate cake with subtle pink ombre marshmallow icing and edible gold stars sprinkled on top.  She asked for a 'dinosaur cake' but since I'm not a huge fan of shape cakes I just put a little triceratops on the cake plate.  Minty even made it a tiny party hat so it would be more festive!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Today in photos...

01 Seeds sprouting
02 Nothing better than kids doing dishes!
03 Homemade honey almond granola with yoghurt and raspberries
04 / 05 Mint painting a starfish
06 Veggie box day
07 Never get tired of that view
08 Kale pizza for dinner amongst the random rubble on the dining table
09 / 10 Monkeying with lego and pizza!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sight Word Jenga

I'm a bit conflicted when it comes to sight words.  Personally I feel like it's much more valuable to learn words in context.  For instance, 'there' and 'their' are both sight words but if you simply memorise their pronunciation, stripped of context in a sentence you're surely doomed to become someone who makes embarrassing social media gaffes in later life!

There seems to be an emphasis on memorising the 100 golden/red/purple etc words before you die finish prep as though this is somehow the key to unlocking reading fluency (well at least if you listen to the marketing touted when trying to sell sight word products!!).

I challenge you to write anything of interest with the 100 words, which, if I remember correctly, is made up mostly of pronouns and only a handful of adjectives like big, little, old and new.  You are left with sterile sentences like 'I went before you' and 'That was big'.  To be fair the '100 words' were never intended to be used in isolation (though it is a fun challenge - prize for anyone who can write a whole paragraph!!),  and I guess in a broader literacy program, learning the sight words isn't going to kill anyone (unless perhaps they encounter grammar rage in adulthood when they misuse to, two and too).

So occasionally I dip into the sight word list with Minty… mostly so it won't seem like some new and competitively alluring benchmark of her progress when she starts 'real' school next year.  I have this cynical suspicion the sight words were invented to sell flash cards to hyper-competitive parents… "Little Ava is so advanced she's already up to her chartreuse words!"  "You must be so proud.  Jude, of course, is gifted so he passed chartreuse months ago and is already up to his puce words!".  

This week I bought a 'tumble tower' set so we could play sight words jenga.  Because even if learning sight words is a waste of time, I'm sure we can all agree that being a bad arse jenga player is an essential lifelong skill!!

In case you were wondering - we play so that as you remove a block you have to read the word and use it correctly in a sentence before you move to the next turn.  I've written a set of easier words in black on one side of each block and a harder set of words in green on the opposite side so she won't grow out of them too quickly.  I also plan to add some maths problems to the other sides of the blocks.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In which I am hoarding toilet rolls...

New veg garden under construction... not very pretty yet!!

Yesterday one of my good friends left me a Facebook message to say that she had saved me two toilet rolls and two ends of celery.  It occurred to me that I have reached a frightening level of thrifting.  I suspect it's a short trip from here to crafting a felted tea cozy from clothes dryer lint. 

In case you're wondering what I'm doing with this miscellanea, I've been making little planting tubes from the toilet rolls for my veggie seedlings.  And did you know you can plant the bottom of a bunch of celery and it grows again?  Well pinterest assures me it will work, so it must be true.  

Gardeners are as a rule such a thrifty bunch.  Take cuttings for example.  I mean seriously you can cut a bit off another plant, bung it in the ground and it grows!!  Who knew?  If only I could do that with my Calvin Klein jacket.

Just a quick disclaimer to say that I'm totally new to this whole gardening caper and though I may occasionally sound as though I know what I'm talking about I can assure you it is just hot air.  The Mr and I have been having intense debates about the best way to get a bumper tomato crop as though we are some kind of experts but the truth is neither of us has the slightest idea.

I guess when I started this blog three years ago I had no idea how to use a camera and could hardly sew… so I'm hoping blogging about the garden is going to spur me into some kind of action.  I'll fake it until I make it so to speak. Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


The kids somehow managed to decapitate their rocking horse this morning.  I feel like I need to use the head for some kind of "Godfather" re-enactment… sadly I think the reference would be lost on the children!  

There's been a strong north-westerly whipping through the valley where our house sits.  I've been hiding inside while the kids run off their crazy in the yard.  I made some yummy carrot, apple and hazelnut muffins. They've also got pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sultanas and coconut in them, so they seem sort of healthy if you have selective amnesia about the caster sugar, brown sugar, honey, and butter!!!

My favourite lunch right now is tahini and tomato on fresh baked bread, sprinkled with a little sea salt and a generous dose of fresh coriander leaves.  Even the kids love it!

It's too windy to plant out my strawberries today so they sitting in a sunny spot inside along with my tomatoes.