“This Wheel’s On Fire…

rollin’ down the roooooaaad! Best notify my next of kin, this wheel shall exploooode!”

(apologies if you never watched Ab Fab…you’re scratching your head right now) And in case you’ve forgotten the song:

And that, friends, pretty much sums up our latest family vacation.

Yes, my dears, we have survived yet another vacation. Perhaps this is why we waited two years this time? While I will work on links to former vacations to share with you at the end, let’s review this year’s 2017 voyage, shall we?

Let’s begin with the “pre-flight” checklist! As a person who has never, and I repeat never has an uneventful vacation, you would assume that I would be prepared for anything. Typically, I am! If you have ever gone on a trip with me, you will know that I try to keep my emergency arsenal fully stocked.

Scene: A vacation, somewhere in the U.S.:

Friend: Do you have an umbrella? I didn’t think about rain.

Me: Yes, I brought four.

Friend: My button came off! Do you have a sewing kit?

Me: Yes, it’s in my bag.

Friend: I think I’m having a serious reaction to this bug bite!

Me: I have bentonite clay, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, lavender essential oil, or an Epi-Pen. Which would you like?

Friend: Oh my gosh, my car won’t start! What am I going to do?

Me: I have a disposable Honda in my purse.

So you see, I am usually pretty well prepared for what comes our way. And as the resident weather nut, you would also assume that I would have packed everything for inclement weather on this trip. I checked the forecast on Saturday and Sunday, and it showed that, by some miracle of God, it would be sunny skies and in the 70s. As I was packing the motorhome, I literally put my hand on my scanner/weather radio and thought, “I should bring this.” But I didn’t bring it, because, it was supposed to be sunny! Warm! Perfect weather! And I also walked right past my mud boots…twice. No, I won’t need those if it’s sunny! No, siree, no boots for me!

Monday: The trip to Arkansas was uneventful, other than a wrong turn in Washington (Arkansas…not the state or D.C., although you can’t rule that out with us). The weather was perfect! We set up camp and ate a hot dog feast, topped off with S’mores. Yay!

Then I decided to check the forecast again.

What was this? Severe weather in two days? Well, of course it was. We can’t go anywhere without a tornado warning. And my scanner and mud boots sat at home in Maydellish, mocking me, saying, “We tooooolllld you so! We knew it! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” I may or may not have said something ugly at that moment.

That night, Jason and Zoe had colds and coughed, sneezed, and hacked their way through the evening. Fortunately, they had mostly resolved by:

Tuesday: Rather uneventful day; no diamonds were found and we were able to walk the nature trail a time or two. Legs were killing me…I am no spring chicken anymore.

Wednesday: We woke up to this:

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And so we did this:

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I colored a lot and did some bible study. I kept thinking about Psalm 46:10, which begins with “Be still, and know that I am God…”. I am so often NOT still. So with the combination of the torrential downpour, deadly lightning, and being stuck in a 8′ x 34′ box, I was still! All day! And got to reflect on the Bible, which was nice. The rain finally let up about six o’clock in the evening, with no severe weather (WOOHOO),  and we were able to walk around the park before it got too dark.

Thursday (departure day):

We went back to the diamond mine for a last look, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t bring home anything that was worth more than ten cents. But the searching was still fun and I got some nice garden rocks.

We broke camp at 4pm, and headed back into Murfreesboro. As we stopped at the gas station, a horrible burning smell filled the entire motorhome. Jason quickly determined it was a stuck brake caliper, which could result in many outcomes: An exploding tire, failed bearings, or (the best one) a fire. Fires and motorhomes don’t go very well together, in case you were wondering. We managed to make it to a local auto store just before they closed. The man was kind enough to lend us a couple of “c-clamps” and told us to just mail them back. Can you believe it? I called the park to make sure there were vacancies available and sure enough, there were several. Like a scene from Groundhog Day, we went back the the park and plugged in while Jason started working on the RV.

If you have never been to Murfreesboro, let me explain that it is a precious little town, but very little to it. And very little around it. For many miles. And if you are looking for a rental car, well buddy, you are straight up outta luck. Weighing the options, it would be best if Jason could fix the brakes enough to get us home. And so:

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I got to be the faithful mechanic ‘nurse’; holding the light, fetching tools, pumping the brakes and turning the steering wheel. After about two hours of sweating, greasy stains, and possibly a curse word or ten, he had resolved the issue enough for us to limp home! Hurray!!!

By this time, it’s a little after seven and starting to grow darker. I put on some truckin’ tunes (Jerry Reed, Dan Seals, a song about Bertha the Truck Drivin’ Queen, etc.) and we rolled along.  As we passed under the final overpass into Texas, I lost it. Through tears, I broke out into “Texas, Our Texas” with my hand over my heart, and somewhere in the distance an eagle cried in unison. No one was prouder at that moment to be a native Texan and back on her native soil.

Truly, this is the loveliest sight:

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There is such a stark difference between Arkansas and Texas. From the moment you cross into Texas, there are stores! There are restaurants! And, praise the dear sweet Lord, there is a Chick-Fil-A! A chicken sandwich with pickles, waffle fries, and lemonade never looked so good! I may have blubbered just a tad as I placed my order.

Everything was going so well…and then we got hit with the “Texarkana curse”, which is what happens almost every time we try to leave Texarkana. We missed a turn. We were so elated at having found the road to 59 south (HOME!!!) that we didn’t pay attention and missed what is essentially a tiny side street exit. Ten minutes later, Jason screamed, “Welcome to Arkansas?!?!!!!”

Oh, Arkansas, with your confusing roads! You have stumped us yet again!

I had failed at my navigator role! I had to lead us, with a limping vehicle, mind you, through the back streets of Texarkana late at night. Through the old industrial districts, with their liquor stores and their barred windows of all places! Would Texarkana never end? At a critical turn, the brand new Keurig decided to jump off of the counter and hit the floor with the most God-awful crash you have ever heard in your life. You could smell the stress! Finally, I got us BACK to 369 and to 59 south. We got home a little before 2am and I have that home never looked so beautiful…ever.

And that, friends, is how the 2017 family vacay went down. As Jason said, “Anyone could just take a “regular” vacation.” And I agree. We will make this thing happen despite tornadoes, flaming tires, or illnesses! Hear! Hear!

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Egg Miracle!

***Spoiler: This post is only a joke. No chickens were harmed in the making of this post. Do not attempt the following unless you want to kill your flock and/or get arrested for public indecency.***

So the other day, I had a nice little old man give me some tips on how to increase my flock’s egg production. He said that if I gave them some expired Vicodin, a handful of Froot Loops, and dance nekkid to the Hokey Pokey in my front yard it would increase their egg laying dramatically. Well, look what happened! I guess he knows what he was talking about!!! 97 eggs later!!!! :O

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I’m sorry! I had to do it! After the great “expired yogurt/increased egg production” post on Facebook that has been making the rounds since last week, I just had to get in my two cents.

First of all, I think that the original poster on Facebook certainly meant no harm and was simply excited to share an odd coincidence where they fed their hens some expired yogurt and seemingly, egg production exploded. One would naturally assume that the two might be related. But let’s get down to the brass tacks.

First of all, chickens don’t really digest dairy products simply because they don’t produce the enzymes to digest lactose. Oh, but some dairy doesn’t contain lactose, or at least very little, you may say. This is true, but I’d just have to ask where in nature would a chicken find dairy products? Now, is the occasional serving of funky cottage cheese or yogurt going to straight up kill your chickens? No. Is the occasional serving of yogurt going to miraculously quadruple your egg production? No.

The truth is, it’s that time of year when the day length is steadily increasing and chickens’ egg laying action naturally ramps up. The above photo (with the 97 eggs) was less than a week’s worth of eggs out of my small flock. About a month ago or so, I was having to BUY eggs! Now see what happens as spring gets closer! So, you can easily see how, if I were to have given my hens some yogurt a few weeks ago, I would naturally assume that it was due to the yogurt that my hens became egg-laying machines, right?

What I found particularly hilarious after reading the comment section on the original FB yogurt/hen post was that people were very, very excited that they actually had EXPIRED yogurt to give their flock. As if the expiration date possessed a magical quality where, the day (or week) after it expired, this yogurt turned into egg makin’ steroids for chickens. There were dozens of people shouting, “I have expired yogurt! Woohoo!” or something similar.

On the other hand, there were some odd comments from some animal rights folks who seemed to think that all of the eggs were laid in a single day. Or something. It would be like looking at my photo above and thinking that I had five or ten hens laying ALL of those in a day.

Let’s clear this up right now: Chickens only lay a single egg a day. There may be the very rare occasion where a hen lays two a day, but I have only had that happen once in eight years. Trust me, you ain’t getting those broodies to lay on your schedule. I bought eggs five times this winter while my hens took a winter break. There is NOTHING I do to “make” them lay eggs. I don’t stand over them with a tiny bullwhip and shame them into making my breakfast.

The only thing that I would personally NOT recommend is using artificial lighting for your hens, which can ‘trick’ them into thinking that the day length is not decreasing in the winter. Even God had to take a day off, y’all. Let those girls take a break for a bit and they will get it going again in the spring. No expired yogurt, Vicodin, Froot Loops, or nude Hokey Pokey required.

Peace out, y’all.

P.S. The original poster of the egg/yogurt post is a fabulous craftsperson, and I’m just going to throw that out because I happened to go over and do some Facebook page stalking.  I’d love to own one of their baskets! And in no way am I trying to make fun of them. I just want to clear the air on the matter. Chicken lovers unite!

 

 

Spring is almost here! 

I can always tell that spring is just around the corner. The henbit is blooming, narcissus are looking at the sky with their bright bonnets, and the bluebirds and wrens are looking for places to lay their eggs. 

Another exciting consequence of the day length growing longer is that my chickens begin to lay copious amounts of eggs. So far, my best layers are my mixed bantam flock, which are largely Old English Games with a dash of Silkie, and my Ameraucanas from Clayborn Farms in Waco. Everyone else is getting too old to be a reliable layer. 

If your hens are being lazy about egg laying, I have found it helpful to use ceramic eggs in the nest boxes. It seems to flip a switch in their little chicken brains that it’s time to get busy making eggs. I purchased mine at a local feed store. 
Here’s to spring!

Random find

You never know what you’ll see in the country. Yesterday, I found this adorable moth outside our shop. The common name is the Large Tolype moth. It reminds me of a fuzzy little puppy. Isn’t it cute? Odd to see it in January, but it’s been so warm lately.

Lamplight

The electricity hasn’t gone out. There is something absolutely magical about reading by the light of an oil lamp. 

When days grow dark at five o’clock, artificial light given off by electric bulbs seems harsh to my eyes. It’s too bright; too unnatural, perhaps. 

Tonight I’m enjoying the illumination and warmth given off by my Mamaw’s green glass lamp. 

I wonder how our sleep cycles would be affected if our homes weren’t kept as bright as daytime when night begins to fall?

Now, back to my reading. Goodnight, friends. 

Down at Ye Olde Noodle Hole

Buying a home is an interesting experience. You are certain to come across some surprises from time to time. For example, one year our washing machine was draining slowly. We ended up digging up the PVC drainage pipes and rather than use a joint fitting to get the water to go where they wanted (down the hill), they simply…bent the pipe.

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Yes, friends, who needs a 22 degree joint when one can use their brute force to just BEND THE PIPE almost in two? Well, now THAT certainly won’t cause issues. So after the pipe was fixed, it did lead to the discovery that our greywater from the house drains into our hillside. This is all the water you use in the house except the potty. Now this was actually a pleasant surprise! Greywater can be used to irrigate plants for your gardens as long as you are careful about the soaps and cleaners you use, assuming you do your greywater recovery correctly.

After the greywater drainage discovery, it wasn’t long that we also found that our dogs had come to the same conclusion. Yes, all of the kitchen waste that accidentally makes it down my sink does flow out by the hillside. And yes, dogs find this delectable, especially when we have a dish like spaghetti. Thus: The Noodle Hole got its name.

The screams of “The dogs are in the Noodle Hole again!!!” were pretty frequent in the first year we lived here. After running dogs out of the Noodle Hole, away from donkey dung, and out of the chicken manure, I decided that dogs are just gross. I pray to God that they don’t have taste buds.

But back to the Noodle Hole! For some reason, this year we have tons of tomato plants that have decided to set up camp by the Noodle Hole outlet as well as the washing machine drainage. I guess I had some tomato seeds in my pockets? Who knows. But there are about seven giant tomato plants, covered in green tomatoes out there now. Unfortunately, our first hard freeze is coming later this week and so I am going to pick the green fruit, take some cuttings, and cover them just to see how long the vines will make it. I have had tomato vines through January before!

Since the ‘maters enjoyed their laundry/kitchen water so much, we are planning a tiered box which will utilize the greywater and keep our tomatoes watered through the hot summer.

When life hands you a Noodle Hole, make a greywater recovery system!

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Tomatoes Love Noodles

 

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The biggest tomatoes at the Hole
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Dichondra apparently loves laundry water!

 

The Grey Days

During the fall and winter a couple of years ago, we had two or three sunny days in four months. It was terrible. Every day started off with a grey hazy morning and ended just as gloomily. I actually love cloudy days, but after a month of seeing no sun, my attitude became just as ‘blah’ as the forecast.

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Starting around Thanksgiving, I felt bone-dead tired all of the time, then eventually my attitude worsened to where I didn’t care to do anything. I didn’t want to clean, cook, do crafts, or work on my garden plan, which are all typically things that I enjoy. I also drank too much sugary coffee and stuffed myself with whatever carb was handy. Subsequently, I put on extra weight. I clearly remember one day in January where the sun was barely peeking out from the oppressive cloud cover. Since it was in the 20s that day, I sprawled out on the floor of our sunroom just like an old cat, basking in the warmth. I was desperate for some sunshine!  The ‘meh’ feeling went on for several months until February, when Mr. Sun decided to show his face again. Days were warm enough to get outside, and my mental fog dissipated.

While I believe hormones totally rule our female world and could account for at least part of my ‘blah-ness’, I also thought that there was a deeper explanation for the lethargy and overall depression I had experienced. That’s when I began to research Seasonal Affective Disorder.

As it turns out, SAD (how appropriate!) is a cyclical depression that affects people most often during the autumn and winter months, although it can happen other times as well. SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight, so the number of people who are afflicted will increase the further you move from the equator. It can also occur if you live in a cloudy area with little sun or even by working in a dark office.

So what to you do to lift your mood? Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, who first wrote about SAD in 1984, gives several tips on his site. One suggestion is to increase the light in your life! Get outside in the sun when possible. Open up those heavy drapes, or even invest in a light box. This is one reason that I pick weeds for at least an hour a day when weather permits throughout fall and winter. Other tips: Reduce stress! Don’t overeat sugary and starchy foods. Get some exercise!  Take a vacation to a sunny place and bask. And of course, if these ideas do not work, definitely talk to a professional.

After the Grey Days of 2013-14, I was talking with a friend, and she went through the exact same thing! Remember that you are NEVER alone!!!

Have you ever had the grey days of winter? I often wonder how many women go through this and don’t speak up!

May your days be sunny and bright, friends!