Turning to a New Page

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The school year is coming to a close, and about three weeks ago my principal asked me to teach a new class this year.  And it’s not Language Arts OR Reading OR any combination thereof.  I was shocked and amazed–and honored and appreciative.

This has been a year in which I have grown and stretched and learned as a teacher.  And now, that will continue next year as well.  I keep on telling my kids that you will have to learn ALL  of your life.

In the mean time, I am ready for summer.  I am ready to go through photographs (like the one above) and tell their stories.  This one was from October, 2012 when Tony surprised me with a trip to Round Top–which is a big antiques fair nearby.  It was all his own idea and it was a wonderful trip.

Hopefully this new page I’m turning at work will give me a little more room to breathe–but even if it doesn’t, summer vacation is on the way and the year ahead is going to be full of endings and beginnings.  I need a nice, long break before we begin.

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Does it ALWAYS take this long?

This school year seems to have taken a bit longer to calm down. . .and I am hopeful that I’m not speaking too soon about the calming.  We have a new principal who is GREAT–but VERY young and VERY high energy.  Therefore my teaching (which wasn’t lethargic before) has also grown in intensity.

I am also teaching a new subject this year.  It is an elective called “Exploring Languages” in which we–wait for it–explore languages.  We have covered Shakespearean English, Greek and Latin Roots, and Spanish.  Now on to French.  It is an experiment.  I know no French.  I have no French students.  Everyone is about to be on even footing as far as languages go.

Thad is at the Jr. High with us this year–and we love it.  Only TWO stops each morning instead of three.  He has grown an insane amount in the past school year–even over the summer–even SINCE the summer.  His voice is also in the process of changing–there isn’t a lot of cracking, but there is a difference. He has been somewhat determined as of late to NOT be photographed.  It is an obsession.

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I only managed to get this one after we had a “chat.”  He has grown about a half an inch (or more) since this was taken at the end of July.

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And this one when MawMaw came to visit in August.

Processed with MoldivMawMaw and Victoria small(Victoria and my mom. I love this picture.)

Victoria has a boyfriend.  His name is Hunter.  He is a Junior just like her, and they have known each other since 7th grade. They both CLAIM  to not have “liked” each other that long.  Either way, there was enough discussion of Hunter in our car and at our house that I took a photo of them together the night they were inducted into Jr. National Honor Society at the end of 7th grade.

2011, National Jr. Honor Society 050They were both inducted into National Honor Society in the spring, and I WANTED to get a picture of them together again, but I feared that the indignant “Moooooooooooooom!!!!!” would be hanging in a conversation bubble above the high school parking lot even now.  In the photo below, Hunter was about 12 feet away to the right.

Harding, NHS, 4.14 151And here is Homecoming which happened this past weekend.

Homecoming, October rsz ps 2014 072 Homecoming, October 2014 rsz ps 006AND the Homecoming hair extravaganza.

photo(45)The truck was crushed beyond repair this summer.  A tree decided that 21 years was long enough for the truck to be in service.  It was a sad, sad day.

photo(42) rszThe bumper was already like that–and the hood was already missing paint–but the tree did some significant engine/frame/body/radiator damage.  Tony still held out hope that it could be repaired. . .to the extent that when the Body Shop lady called and he asked her, “So can it be fixed?” she laughed for nearly a minute solid.  Then she apologized for laughing.  Then she laughed some more.

June, 2014 624SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. . .Tony got this bad boy for his birthday.  My brother gave us the nicest congratulatory message.  It was, “Tell Tony that I hope this truck lasts him twice as long as the last truck did.”  We can’t wish for more than that.  A new truck every 21 (or 42 as the case may be) years ‘taint bad.

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And these blossoms were picked at the end of my walk this evening.  Victoria was with me for a bit–the weather has cooled off (for us), and we opened the windows in the house.  Ahhhh. . .fall.  photo(41)rsz   Our weekends have been packed, and our days and evenings have been packed, but we ALL came home at a reasonable time tonight, and everyone is under THE STRICTEST of instructions to not accept any invitations for this weekend.  We plan to stay in our pajamas and play Clue!

Study

January 9th of 2014 marked the fifth year in our “new” home.  And five years is not really a long time to be in a home.

My mother has been in hers for 48 years.

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View across the pasture from Nanny and Grandaddy’s house where Daddy grew up and where my sister now lives.

Tony’s parents have been in theirs for about 52.

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Tony’s parents’ bedroom the Sunday morning we finally got to go back into our home after the fires. . .back when Victoria was shorter than me and we were both very tanned. I need more pictures of their house. The chandelier is an original.

We lived in the Copperfield house for 12.

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In the two pictures prior to this one, Thad was pointing at the sold sign and sticking his tongue out. He and Victoria weren’t too hip on moving.

We had one last “hold out” as far as rooms went, though.  For five years, the study served as the last repository of moving, filled with boxes and junk galore.  We had a full week for Thanksgiving this year, and Tony was inspired to get the study in shape.  That he did.  We all pitched in somewhat, but he had a vision, and took the reigns.

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He moved the furniture to one end (it was a perfect fit). He built a frame for the world map out of old fence planks back when we were in the old house. Now it’s finally on the wall for which it was intended. The chess set is actually multiple games that my mom gave him long ago. He was very glad to finally get them on the table.

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More Anthony Langley Original fence plank frames on the opposing wall. The other map is of Camp Philmont. The rug was intended for the dining room but turned out to be too small. The green chair was in our room, and I miss it, but it’s so nice in here.

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Looking out the study doors into the living room. The shelf above the doors is yet ANOTHER Tony original, and I’ve already shown a photo of the grape wreath I made from our own grape vines.

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Treasures on the shelf: Eagle Scout award, Teacher of the Year award, wooden giraffe he made in wood shop in jr. high or high school, campaign poster for Bellaire City Council, log chewed in two by genuine beavers in Colorado, his grandmother’s rotary dial phone from her New Orleans home, a commemorative Astro Dome tin from the last baseball game played there, and a shadow box (also made by my wood-working husband) containing the shell of the largest crab he’s ever caught as well as other miscellaneous things either made or treasured by him.

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Blood donation mugs atop the study furniture.

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And the pièce de résistance. . .a large photo of him and his buddies in the beloved campsite doing what they do there. . .except they are normally all three in hammocks–this was an effort to show the main activities simultaneously.

We have all enjoyed the study.  It’s a lovely placed to sit (in the green chair) and talk on the phone.  The table is used by Victoria and Tony a lot–the computer by all of us.  Sometimes I just like to walk in and enjoy the calm and the silence.  Although I think Thad would have preferred to have kept the furniture out.  It’s easier to wage war that way.

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The Brain

If I could say the title of this the way that Victoria and Thad do, you might understand the significance.  When they say this, they deepen their voices and send them into silliness just a little–they draw out the “aaaaaiiiiii” in brain and you know they are talking about icky, sticky preserved in a jar gray matter–not the computer that is in everyone’s head.

Victoria is taking an AP psychology class this year.  She had to do a project on The Brain.  This is it.

Misc. 10.13 004

Misc. 10.13 001I had to use my own brain more than a little bit to figure out how to get a full-sized styro foam head to balance while dangling from a wire coat hanger.  Brains are very, very interesting and amazing and indescribable, but Victoria made a really cool model.  She enjoyed this study–learning about the amygdala and the hippocampus and the different cortices. Her brain is firing on many, many cylinders.

We are ten days into November, and I’m not quite sure how we got here.  The time change allows us lovely sunrises in the morning on the way to school at 6:25 give or take five minutes.  There has been rain the past couple of weeks.  The weather has gotten cooler, and the light has changed.Misc. 2 10.13 001 Misc. 2 10.13 002

Tony continues to clear things out of the woods behind out house.  I had just been a big bramble, but as he clips and cuts and prunes, you can see the beauty that is there.  This leads to big piles of brush–mainly yaupon, green briar, and grape vines–that need to be burned.  I help him here and there with the clearing and the burning. . .when I’m not balancing brains–mine and everyone else’s.Misc. 2 10.13 003 Victoria is somewhere on the phone with her friend Angelica.  They set up a Pinterest board today entitled “Victoria and Jelly are Awesome.”  They are 15.  I remember 15–at least pieces of it.  It involved a lot of laughter and being loud and football and basketball games and a play in the spring.  My brain probably remembers more than that, but it has too many other things that struggle to the top to take precedence.

Tony and Thad are in the living room discussing Boy Scout things while playing Star Wars games on some game system (Nintendo 64–thank you Stephanie).  Thad practiced his trumpet earlier–first year in band.  He’s in middle school now–6th grade.  His brain is learning new things–and his brain loves his Momma, so that makes me happy.

We have much to be happy about–and I hope you do to, on this fine Sunday evening in the first third of November.

 

Aygs*

Chickens lay eggs.  This you know.

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What you probably DON’T know is just how MANY eggs a group of eleven hens can lay in one month’s time with some if not all of them taking a day or two off each week.

One of the Girls making use of the ramp and The Sky Walk to go inside.

Excuse me.  I need to go and lay an egg now.  BRB.

Go ahead.  Guess.

Can't a girl get a little privacy?  Seriously.  I'm working here.

Can’t a girl get a little privacy? Seriously. I’m working here.

Here’s a hint.  We get anywhere from 6-10 eggs each day.  We’ve not gotten less than 6 in quite awhile but have yet to get 11.  Keep that in mind as I tell you a thing or two about chickens and their eggs.

Thing the first:  Hens do not need roosters to lay eggs.  I believe I’ve covered this before, but just in case, ’tis true.  Hens (like human females) are born with the total number of ovum they will ever possess all packed away in their little avian ovaries, but unlike human females who only release one (very tiny, miniscule) egg a month (although on occasion there might be two or three), most hens  lay about one egg  per day (with the occasional double or triple yolker–and those suckers are BIG).

Thing the second:  Would an egg of any other shell color taste as good as a brown egg?  Yes.  All eggs taste the same with the exception of fresh eggs possibly tasting a little “better” because they are fresher.  Brown, white, cream, pinkish, blue, AND green shelled eggs whether they are small, medium, large, or jumbo taste about the same.  If a hen eats a lot of a certain type of food, the yolks of her eggs can be much, much darker, but this does not normally affect the taste. (Although, if you feed your hens an exorbitant amount of onions or other strong tasting greens and foods, it CAN affect the taste.)

Thing the third:  Eggs last a LONG time and can be kept on the counter for short amounts of time.  Of course, they last longer if kept in the fridge, but some doomsday experts state that sealing an egg with wax or oil can keep it fresh for up to a year.  We don’t plan to try this–but I suppose it’s good to know.  If your fridge is PACKED for the holidays or a party, just put those eggs on the counter.  They are better for baking and scramble, mix, and froth (the whites) better when they are at room temperature anyway.

THIS is the number of eggs we have in our fridge right now.

THIS is the number of eggs we have in our fridge right now.  We gave some to our neighbors yesterday and are not hoarding them.  I promise.

This is the back side of a hen (no “guess what” jokes, please).

Eggs and chickens 9.13 139Victoria tells me that this is Rubye Mae (named after my Granny), and I can think of no finer specimen to carry that moniker.  Seriously.  I LOVE this picture.  Do you know WHY?  Because it shows (much like the ovum packed ovaries of fetal pullets/aka: future hens) how incredibly creative, thoughtful, and awesome God is.  This is a New Hampshire red.  She is perfectly suited to sit on a clutch of eggs–those downy soft feather will keep them warm and protected should she ever go broody (which she won’t unless we get a rooster). Her tail feather curve back perfectly to help create her chicken shape.  That is some serious soft right there.  Feather pillows, feather beds, feather duvets. . .geese aren’t the only fowl who can stuff a tick.  Rubye Mae, however, will keep all of her fluff for herself as I plan to pluck no chickens.

Okay.  Have you come up with a number?  Our hens started laying August 7th.  We know not who laid the first egg (although we DO know that the chicken came first), but here it is.  We were VERY excited.Frist egg 8.19.13 rsz

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Later in the month of August, some of the different colors of shells.

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I know that one egg looks either lavender or gray, but it is tan with a chalky coating on it. You can get up close and personal with the array of hues if you click on the pic.

Tony discovered that our red hens are laying the eggs with the chalky coating.  He said it is called “bloom.”  It is a natural coating that is on eggs when they are first laid.

Okay. . .any guesses as to how many eggs 11 hens can lay in one month?  Well, in the month of August with only one hen laying starting on the 7th and the others joining in fits and starts, we got a grand total of.

Eggs and chickens 9.13 228

For the month of September the hens totaled out at 256 (no including some misfires in the form of soft-shelled eggs and one that was just plain wonky–it looked like a hen drawn by Dr. Seuss laid it.)  So far in October we have 126 which puts us on track for 250+ again this month.  Of course, the time is changing, so Tony is trying a “trick” to keep the girls laying a bit longer by having the coop light on a timer so it stays on for a bit after they come in for the night and turns on a little earlier than the sun actually rises.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the mean time, how about an omelet.

*There are many, MANY words I heard pronounced as a child that do not strictly adhere to the rules of (American) English phonics.  I spent a large portion of my early childhood wondering why on Earth a soldier of Christ who had gone through all the trouble of arising AND o’ercoming through Christ alone would want to “stand in tar at last.”  Tar is hot. . .and sticks to your feet, and tires, and makes gravel from newly paved roads adhere to a paint job as though attached with super glue.  Seriously!  It took a bit before I realized that the word was “entire” and that standing in tar was not required of soldiers of Christ or any other cohort.  Eggs was yet another word that rattles around in my memory as being pronounced “aygs.”  It was REALLY more like “aaayyygs.”  Rubye Mae said it that way.  She also let her aygs come to room temperature before making meringue (which Daddy told me was calf slobber. . .OH, The South!) and her (world class) divinity.

ALSO, FYI a website has to say this about storing eggs:

Storing Eggs
Store your eggs pointy end down to keep the yolks nicely centered.
Keep them in an enclosed carton for longer freshness.
And don’t forget to keep your eggs refrigerated – an egg kept at room temperature ages the same amount in one day as a refrigerated egg ages in an entire week.

The Girls

As you recall, back in mid-March we took a trip to get our newest family members.

Day One on the trip home

Day One on the trip home

While the chicks seemed to enjoy their sojourn in the large cardboard box in the breakfast room, they were finally large enough to move to the coop by the end of April.

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You will notice the VERY clean shavings. . .not so anymore.

Eventually, the girls were out in the run every day.  Their combs and wattles began to come in, and they generally took on a more chicken-ish appearance.  Here they are during their awkward adolescent phase–a little skinny and gangly with a “trainer” comb.

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And here is the entire flock just a couple of weeks ago–all filled out and reminding me of a certain scene from “The Music Man.”

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“Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, pick, pick, pick talk a lot, pick a little more.”

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I hope the costume department won an award, because this group of ladies DOES look like a flock of pecking hens.

For a comparison of how our girls have grown–here are the two blondes as I call them (they are really Buff Leghorns) shortly after graduating from college.  Young lady hens, if you will; sleek, fresh-feathered, ready to take on the world with their JCrew caramel sweater sets and their smart, red caps.

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The one in back is Lacy, and the one in front is Macy.

Fast forward about 6 weeks, and Macy is sporting an impressive comb.  She’s very chic.

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Here is one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks. These are not my favorite hens as they tend to be somewhat aggressive at times.  Her comb, however, is brilliant red (if a bit dusty) and lets you know she is a healthy hen for sure. This is either Bobby, Esther, or Lolly–probably not Lolly as her comb isn’t this spectacular.

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When we first brought the babies home, there was much interest in the coloring of two in particular.  The one in the center of the photo that looks speckled almost–brown, black and white splotches–is our Silver Campine, Alpha.

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And here is Alpha today.  She has blue feet and HUGE eyes for a chicken.  She is the smallest one we have, and lays small, white eggs.

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My personal favorite was Hazel–the lovely little striped pullet.  I think she pulled at my heart strings, because she reminded me of Charlie.  She could be a house sparrow if she weren’t a chicken.

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Here is Hazel today.  Isn’t her coloring amazing?  Unfortunately, and though she is one of the larger birds, Hazel ended up at the bottom of the pecking order.  Literally.  She has been pecked and plucked and chased and squawked at since we moved the hens into the run.  We make sure she gets plenty of treats though.

Hazel Crop 9.13 210

This is Morgan.  She is the Diva of the bunch–no ones’ feathers are a shiny with oil–no one has quite the exotic beauty.  She knows it too.

There is nothing little about our red hens.

There is nothing little about our red hens.

 Our Girl with The Girls.Blog V and chickens 9.13 050

Blog Victoria and Flock 9.13 053

I absolutely love this picture!!!

When I mentioned aggressive chickens earlier, I was not kidding.  For some reason, chickens LOVE to peck at toe nails and shorts hems and arm hair and freckles  on legs–namely mine.  This is not fun, nor is it comfortable. The toe nail pecking was the WORST. For the longest time my “chicken run shoes” were a pair of flip flops.  One does not walk into the run with unshod feet lest one plans to step in chicken leavings.  Chickens leave a LOT of leavings.  So–old flip flops it was.  They would peck, and peck, and peck at my toenails–not a moment’s peace did I have and it’s none too comfortable either.  I got a  Chicken Stick with which to shoo them away, but they would sneak up behind me or under my chair.  (We take lawn chairs into the run at times just to sit and enjoy the activity.)  I finally dug these out of my closet.  They are my Chicken Coop Protective Footwear.  Now my toes can rest easy.

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Blog Pecking

Victoria doesn’t seem to mind the pecking on her toes or the poo between them as much as I do.

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For now, it’s time to fly.  In our next installment:  Chickens and Other Things They Lay Besides Poo.

In a Hen House in the Woods. . .

So with my blogging absence, I have not kept things up to date with our hens.  When last I blogged about them, they were still tiny, little chicks who amounted to no more than noise and fluff.

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Alas, chicks grow into chickens, and we have been blessed with some lovely hens.

This was when we first put them into their coop/hen house/Marriot  in mid-April.  They were still teenagers back then.

Chicken Roost 4.15.13 034Here we still had all three of our white Plymouth Rocks.  The first day we let them into the run all day, one of them stuck her head out of the wire to get a tasty niblet and BECAME a tasty niblet (or at least part of her did).  So now we just have two white hens. . .and reinforced wire around the lower 2/3’s of the run.

Tony pulled out all the stops to make a house and run that would be the envy of all other poultry, and BOY was he successful!  He built the coop AND the run in his head (along with all of the other touches that make this a stellar chicken habitat), then made it so.

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This was back in the spring when there was a pile of wood that was waiting to be split.

Just in case anyone is confused as to the occupancy.

Just in case anyone is confused as to the occupancy.

Today.  Tony used old palettes to make a porch of sorts, and yes, that is an electric light over the door.

This photo taken today. Tony used old palettes to make a porch of sorts, and yes, that is an electric light over the door.  There is power running to the coop for an exhaust fan, overhead lights, and a nightlight.

The entryway to the run.  The girls like to hang out there as it is near their way in and out of the house.

The entryway to the run. The girls like to hang out there as it is near their way in and out of the house.

This is the way they get from the coop into the run.  The kids named it "The Sky Walk."

This is the way they get from the coop into the run. The kids named it “The Sky Walk.” You can see the original wire–very strong and sturdy, but plenty big enough for a hen to stick her neck out–a lose it.  We put up hardware cloth to keep their necks safely inside.

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Tony dug a trench and buried the wire for the run a foot in the ground to discourage digging predators.

One of the Girls making use of the ramp and The Sky Walk to go inside.

One of the Girls making use of the ramp and The Sky Walk to go inside.

The run is nestled in under the trees and behind the Hen House.

The run is nestled in under the trees and behind the Hen House.  It’s tucked in so well that it makes taking a photo of it difficult.

Tony built the nesting boxes and their housing, then put them into the coop back in June.

Tony built the nesting boxes and their housing, then put them into the coop back in June.

The traditional chicken ramp--this was back when everything was nice and CLEAN.

The traditional chicken ramp–this was back when everything was nice and CLEAN.

Again.  Clean--and no wood chips yet.

Again. Clean–and no wood chips yet.

Before we even had the ladies--this is the view from the back of the coop toward the front door.

Before we even had the ladies–this is the view from the back of the coop toward the front door. Now it’s full of dust and wood chips and chicken droppings. . .and after dark it is also full of chickens.

Thad enjoying a rest.

Thad enjoying a rest.

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What it looks like now. . .not very clean, but much loved by all of us AND the chicken inhabitants. There is roosting above on both sides with nesting boxes below on the left, and food and water below on the right.

We have an open air coop to let out methane--the fan helps to circulate the air and also keeps them cool at night.  Chickens don't sweat and can die from heat.

We have an open air coop to let out methane–the fan helps to circulate the air and also keeps them cool at night. Chickens don’t sweat and can die from heat.

When you walk in, this is what you see.

When you walk in, this is what you see.

An original drawing from Stephanie Mallicote along with a token rooster as we don't have an ACTUAL rooster.

An original drawing from Stephanie Mallicote along with a token rooster as we don’t have an ACTUAL rooster.

From one of Tony's friends.  It adorns the back of the door.

From one of Tony’s friends. It adorns the back of the door.

Next time. . .meet The Girls.