Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm

A Tip From My Daddy’s Kitchen…

This morning when I wanted to make biscuits, I was once again thankful for kitchen tips passed down by my parents and grandparents. Here’s my daddy’s tip for “making buttermilk.”

Take a cup of milk.  Add a TBS of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let stand for five minutes. Voila!

I rarely buy buttermilk because most recipes only call for a small amount. I usually let the rest go bad or end up baking more recipes that call for buttermilk. It’s a vicious cycle. With my dad’s helpful tip, I’m saved a little money and a lot of calories!



16 Years of Make Believe…

Today I cleaned out the costume box. It isn’t the first time I’ve done this, but I think it might be the last. Over the years I have discarded dragon costumes, princess dresses, Wonder Woman, Superman, and the most of the rest of the Justice League. Today, I tossed nearly everything else. It was bittersweet.  I have so many happy memories of the children playing dress up for hours on end.  It sad to realize those days are pretty much over.

To make matters worse,  I was working alone. So to ease the pain and the boredom and to catalog what we have left, I took a few photos. I also photographed toys, books, and the children’s art. It took me seven hours to clean Chet’s room, and Hal thinks I’m nuts (these photos confirmed his suspicions), but it was fun too.  And now my kids can look back on some of their childhood costumes one day and remember what fun they had – or at least what fun mommy had.



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We Are the (Reserve) Champions, My Friend….

Let’s just say our first experience with show rabbits was a learning one. When the big day arrived to take our animals to the county fair, my elder son Jack graciously offered to take them for us and get them “signed in.” I’m sure the fact that our school counts all fair related business as a school activity  (a free day off) had nothing to do with Jack’s generous offer. In any case, I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to haul all five show bunnies in the back of my Suburban. Messy.

I got their food and water bottles together and wrote down each rabbit’s name so that Jack would be sure not to confuse Blossom with Penelope or Claudia with Cornelius. By lunch time the frantic text messages from Jack, whose farming interests lie entirely with the buffalo, began. What kind of rabbits are these!!! How old are they? Are they boys or girls? Apparently, fair judges don’t care which one is Penelope and which one is Blossom. Jack recovered from the embarrassment, fair week was under way, and we managed to continue rest of the process (which consisted of a daily trip to the fair to feed them) with dignity.

In the end, our rookie mistakes didn’t hurt us a bit. Two of our rabbits won blue ribbons and Penelope was crowned Reserve Grand Champion – apparently that means that if for any reason the Grand Champion is not able to continue her reign (death, injury, embarrassing photos) our Penelope will step (ahem, hop) up and take her place!

Actually, we did make one rookie mistake we are kicking ourselves for. Turns out we didn’t know a Grand Champion when we had one. The winner was the offspring of our very own Claudia and Bandit. We had given her away just weeks before. Oh well, at least we can say we are Grand Champion rabbit breeders. We can’t wait until next year!



I admit it. Every year I dread the fair. It’s filthy. It’s crowded. And it’s expensive. Every year I tell the children that we will go one night and only one night. And every year we go at least three times.  Occasionally I will here someone complaining, “The fair sure isn’t what it used to be when we were kids.”  Well, actually, it is.  Maybe better.  It’s just that we aren’t the same as we were when we were kids.  Adults who show up expecting the same level of excitement they had when they were eight are most certainly in for a disappointment.  But my children are never disappointed.  And the truth is I really do love the fair too. Here’s why…

1. Good Friends.  Good Times. I get to see friends from all over the county all in one place.  It is a bit like a hometown reunion.

2.  The livestock.  Okay, I admit that I suffer from a little bit of envy since I don’t have any pigs or sheep.  And I think the fainting goats I asked for for my birthday but did not get would have been a HUGE hit. But I do like to see the animals.  I find the pigs especially delightful.  It’s all so E. B. White. Plus, several of my students (past and present) show livestock. It’s amazing how hard these kids work all year long, and I want to show my support. It is great any time kids have a hobby, but unlike a lot of extra curricular activities, this hobby will carry over into real life, real world living.
3. The talent show. For such a little county, we have a lot of talent. This year’s show featured country music singers, a classical pianist, a rock guitar soloist, and a gospel rap/hip hop group.

Miss Carroll County,, posing with a rock guitar genius

4. The footlong corn dog. I’ve never actually eaten one, but each year I have the renewed hope that I will bring myself to do it.

5. Free Bibles. I won’t actually let my kids take them because we already have plenty of Bibles at home, but I’m still glad to see my neighbor Charles and his Gideon friends greeting people at the gate each year!  Way to spread the love guys!

6. The parade. It is small Southern town America at itsbest.
Jr. Miss Carroll County 2011

7. The Cattlemen’s Booth. Local farmers and ranchers serving up good food.  And you always get to eat with friends.

8.  It’s filthy.  I know I mentioned the filth as one reason I dread the fair, and it is.  But it’s also one reason I love it.  For one week out of the year, I really do let go of my germophobe tendencies.  Well, I sort of let go.  I just choose to eat with dirty hands rather than brave the fair public restroom. Still, I consider it a small victory.

9.  All my chicks in one basket.  Expensive though it is, for one glorious week, all of my children want to do the same thing.  And fortunately the Big Kids get terrible motions sickness, so we save big on arm bands.

10. Community.  In short, county fairs, Friday night football, town festivals, and the like are what make a town a community.  It is because we are a community that our  town will roll out to eat spaghetti and buy cinnamon rolls and raffle tickets to support a sick little girl heading to Mayo Clinic soon.  It is because we are a community that dozens of people gather to celebrate our fire station’s 100th anniversary with good  Bar B Q and good fellowship.  A community rallies behind a young man and his newborn son when he loses his wife in childbirth.  A community prays for it’s shared concerns (even if we gather to pray in different places).  We have the same beliefs.  We have different beliefs. We agree on issues and we disagree.  We stay here after high school, and we move away and start new lives n other towns.

Of course, not everyone who has ever lived in a town like ours, has a warm fuzzy feeling about it.  In fact, few of us are in a state of constant euphoria over small town life.  We sacrifice a lot (Museums, theaters, restaurants, shopping, and Starbucks) to live the small town life.  We put up with limited opportunity, boredom, gossip,and again, no Starbucks.  But in the end, even without mocha lattes and some of city life’s other perks, most of us are happy here- because we are a community.  And that’s even better than a latte.

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