Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm

Something Fishy Has Been Going on Around Here

Well, we are back from our trip to the gulf.  I owe my parents a huge debt of gratitude.  They were heroic in their efforts to keep all our livestock (including the buffalo) alive for all seven 105 degree, rainless days. And they were successful – almost.  After about four days, The Littles wanted to call home and talk to their grandparents -of course.  After telling my mother all about the waves, sand castles, and dolphins and after asking about the rabbits, dogs, and chickens, Chet asked,”How’s my fish?”  Uh oh. Fish?  I forgot to ask them to feed the fish. In my defense, considering the usual murky condition of Speedy’s fish bowl, it’s no wonder his existence slipped my mind.

But low and behold when we walked in the door today, there was Speedy (or a reasonable facsimile) swimming around in a bowl of crystal clear water. “Wow!” Chet exclaimed,”Speedy looks better than ever!”  Which is pretty remarkable since the nearest pet store that sells goldfish is 60 miles away.  My children are very fortunate.  They have the world’s best grandparents – and a farm-load of happy healthy animals.

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I’m not a great housekeeper. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a clean house or that I don’t want to be a good housekeeper. I do and I do. But for some reason, clutter stacks up, laundry piles up, and dust gathers. I work hard at keeping my house tidy, but I don’t seem to be able to stay on top of my household chores with the seeming effortlessness that some other women do. I could blame it on too much time blogging or on Pinteresting. But many of my tidy friends blog and Pin too. My kids’ crazy schedule? My friends with scrubbed floors and spotless kitchens have kids too. My two hour daily workout? Ha! I wish!

The fact is those women – the ones you can drop in on any time and they don’t feel the need to explain why there is laundry on the dining table or a tequila bottle on the front porch (actually that one is a pretty good story) – those women got the organization, time management gene. I did not. My mother has it.  Her mother had it.  But somewhere there must be a recessive disorganization gene in my family, and I got it.  Yes, I’m blaming the ring around the bathtub and the layer of dust on my mantle on genetics. I’ve heard worse.

At least I’m not throwing in the dirty towel (that was probably left in the bathroom floor for a couple of days). Instead I am constantly devising plans to try to make my housework more manageable and the messes less overwhelming. Some of my plans, like saving all my 37 loads of laundry for one day (and night) a week, have been a bust. Others, like getting a house dog to snarf up crumbs off the kitchen floor, have been a great success.

This summer I resurrected an old system I used when I was homeschooling, and I must say it is making a big difference, especially now that the children are older and can take on even more responsibility.

First of all, each of the children has a chore chart. Duh.  I know other families have used them for years, but we get busy and forget ours.  Not this summer!  Some chores are daily others are weekly.  Either way, it’s simple.  You don’t get to go swimming or have friends over unless your stuff is done.  And we are big time summer party people.  I want almost everyday to be a party in the summer.  For this to happen, people have to be able to come over without me suffering ignominy and disgrace.The brilliant thing about the new and improved chore charts is that they include some important jobs that I don’t necessarily think of as house work,  and that I rarely seem to get to – like watering the houseplants or cleaning the bird poop off the front porch.

Another clutter breakthrough –  each child has a zone (the kitchen, living room, etc.) By the time Daddy gets home, everyone must have his or her zone tidied. Sometimes, when stuff begins to pile up and get on my nerves during the day, or if we are expecting company, they have to do a ten-minute tidy to get their zones looking spiffy.

The charts and the zones have been a tremendous help – easy solutions that we will continue into the school year. But by far, the biggest coup over household drudgery has been my C.Q.C. policy. C.Q.C. stands for CHEERFULLY, QUICKLY, AND COMPLETELY. No whining. No fussing. No complaining. No dawdling. No slacking.  Of course it is normal for kids to grump when they have to do chores – normal, but not acceptable.  I think sometimes we as parents get so used to the stereotype of the “typical American kid” that we sometime accept behaviors and habits (whining, eye-rolling, sass-mouthing, etc.) that are at best disrespectful and at worse are forming habits in our children that will make them unpleasant adults – we’ve all worked with these Debbie Downers and Negative Neds. I do not want my children to grow up thinking it is their right, privilege, and duty to complain about things they don’t want to do.  I want my children to learn that cheerfulness is a virtue. You don’t have to like scrubbing the toilet.  You just have to act like you do!  If one of my blessing begins to complain, I simply shout through my teeth C.Q.C.!!!!  No, not really, I lovingly remind (sometimes with threatening undertones) that if a job is not done cheerfully (or at least in pleasant silence) it isn’t done well.  This simple set of letters has made daily chores go much more smoothly.  Why didn’t I think of this before?

Of course this new system only solves part of the problem of daily chores.  The children are efficient, reliable, and pleasant…if only I could leave ALL the housework to them!  Oooops, I guess that didn’t sound very cheerful!

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Souped Up Recipe…



I know it’s obnoxious and a bit pretentious, but every time I share a recipe that is not totally from scratch, I feel I have to preface it by saying something like, “I don’t usually use canned soup, but…”

I don’t know why I do this. Well, yes I do. Pride. I take inordinate pride in not using canned soups or box mixes. But I do use them. Not often – but sometimes. And when I do, I try to hide it. Or I apologize for it . Or I make an excuse for it. Or I offer too much explanation as to why I broke down and used the canned stuff just this once. Well, this time will be no exception. Here’s what happened:

We joined a CSA this summer. Perhaps you remember CSAs from my earlier post ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living . Anyway, one of our selections this week was kale. Hmmmm? What to do with kale? I tried kale chips a few months ago – back when they were all the rage. Blech! Contrary to numerous Facebooks posts, kale chips are NOT the new Pringle.   Anyway, I googled kale recipes, but  I didn’t have the right ingredients for any of the recipes I found, so in the end, I did what I often do – I made up my own.

My own kale soup recipe relies on a Campbell’s 100% natural, no MSG, no preservatives, two servings of vegetables in every can, tomato soup. (See how I did that – I can’t just say “canned soup” I have to clarify that I at least use healthy, 100% natural canned soup).  I happened to have this canned soup on hand, because I recently discovered The Littles like tomato soup.  Since I’ve never made tomato soup, I bought the canned stuff to tide them over until I learned to make it from scratch (eventually someday). I also keep emergency chicken noodle soup on hand even though I do make a really delicious chicken noodle soup.  This is in case I get sick and need chicken noodle soup but I’m too sick to make it.  Anyway, that’s beside the point, but I’m just pointing out that there is some justification for having canned soup in one’s pantry.  Anyway….

  • Sautee 2 cups kale and one chopped onion in bacon grease and/or olive oil.
  • Add about a cup of chick stock. Cook until the liquid in nearly gone.
  • Add 3 or so cloves of minced garlic
  • Puree this mixture with 2 cans Northern white beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Add the kale/bean mixture to four large cans of Campbell’s Select Harvest Tomato Basil Soup
  • Heat thoroughly
  • Enjoy with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich on crunchy bread!
Easy and Delicious and Very Healthy!  No apologies.

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Sharing My Dreams…

Yesterday Cat and I sat by the river tossing pebbles in the water and enjoying God’s creation.  The sun seemed to have healing properties – melting away all my stress and baking out all my impurities.  Clearly Cat sensed the magic of the moment. Eager to make the most of our time together and strengthen our mother/daughter bond, she turned to be with her enormous, questioning blue eyes and angelic face and asked, “Mommy, what would you do, if you knew you could not fail?”  My answer was honest and immediate, “Buy a lottery ticket.”

Perhaps this wasn’t my finest parenting moment.

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If I Were the Jealous Type….

I love my life.  What’s not to love?  I’ve got a great husband, four amazing children, a job I enjoy, and a beautiful farm.  Life is good.  And yet, now and then I look at the lives of other women, and I can’t help thinking, “Wow, she’s really got it good!” or “Why can’t I be more like her.”  It’s not that I’m jealous, of course.  But IF I were the jealous type, these are the women who would be at the top of my Green List – and by green I don’t mean environmentally friendly.  By green I mean jealous, which I repeat, I am not.  Let’s just say,  all of these women represent something I’d like to have or like to be.  Okay, that sounds like jealousy, but let’t call it inspiration.  Behold my Inspiring Women List:

1.  Ma Ingalls – The Littles and I have started reading the Little House books.  They are so delightful – funny, interesting, and engaging, but Ma is killing me.  Everything they have, she makes – with the help of Laura and Mary. And everything they make is lovely.  She never throws dinner together and serves it on paper plates.  She actually grates carrots and boils them to make yellow food coloring for her butter  – the butter she churned herself from the milk from her own cow – the cow she raised by hand.  You see what I mean?  She sews beautiful dresses for the girls, fashions hats from reeds, and keeps a simple, tidy, but inviting home. And they do it all Cheerfully, Quickly, and Completely – which is supposed to be my children’s chore mantra. Ma and her kids are seriously putting me and mine to shame… and inspiring me to be more resourceful, peaceful, and tidy.

2.  Michelle Duggar – Okay, I don’t necessarily want 19 kids, but I would have liked four or five more. I am serious.  I LOVE  babies.  In fact,  so far I’ve loved every age and phase my kids have been through.  And the thing is, I think Hal and I get better at parenting with each one. We’re wiser, more patient, and, dare I say it, more fun.  If I had just a few more children, they’d probably turn out to be saints – with a great sense of humor.

3.  The Pioneer Woman – Ugh!  I live in the middle of nowhere. I homeschooled my kids (for a while). I have a cute dog and a hot husband. And I’m pretty handy with a a spatula.  Where’s my Food Network show and book tour?  Again, not jealous just so, so flippin’ inspired.

4.  Hallie Lord  – This woman is responsible for a book entitled Style, Sex, and Substance. (Once again, I’m into all of these things, yet I have no book). The cool thing about Hallie and her book is that she collaborates and cyber socializes with all of these awesomely cool Catholic women and writers.  I do have great friends – Catholic and Protestant, but we barely find time grab an occasional lunch, let alone write a book together. I’ve only started following Hallie’s blog, www.bettybeguiles.com  but I can tell you it’s pretty nifty. (And I’m not just saying that in order to be entered in her Mother’s Day give away, which is another darling idea I wish I’d thought of).  Oh, and did I mention she’s also a personal shopper.  Really?  One can make a career of shopping – with other people’s money.  Man, that Hallie Lord is one clever girl!

5. My cousin, Dena – Anyone who can eat anything she wants and maintain an amazing figure is bound to be a source of jealousy.  Yes, I said the “J” word, but no amount of inspiration will give me Dena’s metabolism. So, yes, I am flat jealous, and I admit it!  It only galls me further to think that we are from the same gene pool!

6.  The woman from Proverbs 31 – Far be it from me to question the Lord, but did we really need nearly entire chapter in Proverbs detailing the attributes of a Superwife, Supermom, Supermerchant, Superwoman?   Actually, on my better days, I really do find this particular scripture passage inspiring.  She is who I aspire to be, right down to her good taste (…her clothing is of fine linen and purple) and her great attitude (Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come..).  She is resourceful, hardworking, savvy, productive, and Godly.  Let that be me.  Amen.

Reposted at homestead-barn-hop-61.html


Super Lazy Sunday Mornings and Guilty Pleasures…

We went to Mass last night which means we have a whole beautiful day stretching before us with no place to go, and I don’t plan to get off the farm.  Also, Hal and Jack are out of town, so I’m feeling particularly lazy and a little self-indulgent.  I’m not sure why it is that when Hal is gone, I relax my “rules”.  They are, after all, my rules.  Well, we both strive to eat healthy and live naturally, but I think I’m more of a stickler. (Don’t tell him I said that)

I have no real explanation for why we eat more junk, watch more T.V., and leave more dishes in the sink  when Daddy is away, but we do.  I also know he does the same thing when I’m gone.  In any case, on the way home from church last night I stopped to get some natural peanut butter so I can make a batch of my very healthy Peanut Butter Power Balls (recipe to come).  On a whim, I picked up a couple of packages of canned crescent rolls – well, not really a whim.  I agonized (briefly) because canned crescent rolls represent all that is wrong with America’s eating habits.  They are loaded with fat and preservatives and are void of nutrition.  However thanks to Pinterest, I now know they are also delicious when slathered with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar then doused with a powdered sugar icing.  I mean YUMMO.  Include a side helping of bacon, and you have a breakfast fit for a Queen – a lazy, unhealthy queen.

As I said, I agonized over my decision last night and again this morning.  I almost made banana bread instead, but that takes time and creates a bigger mess, and I just wanted to sit with my coffee and enjoy having no place to go. In the end, my laziness won out, and the kiddos were thrilled.

I hesitated to write about this.  After all, I recently posted  ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living .  I didn’t really want to out myself.  But if you haven’t read my article on natural living, please do.  Perhaps it will redeem me a bit, but take note that I mention I choose my battles.  In the article, I’m referring to choosing my battles with the kids, but the truth is I have to battle myself too.  I like to think that as I’ve gotten older and become more aware, my tastes have changed.  I choose healthier foods not only because they are good for me, but because, unlike so much of the junk that is marketed as food today, healthy foods are real foods.  And it’s true.  As a rule, I do prefer real food to the plastic, boxed alternatives….most of the time.  Unfortunately, there are (and I’m not proud of this) junk foods and convenience foods that I have not outgrown – that I still crave.  In my estimation these foods are, on occasion, worth the fat and worthless calories.  Below is my list:

1. Velveeta cheese – Maybe it’s just a southern thing. I have a friend from Canada who married into this culture, and was initially horrified by our love of Rotel dip.   She, of course, has come around to our way of thinking.  It is delicious.  

2. Pop Tarts  – Again, I’m not proud, but I love them.  I’d take I couple of brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts and a cup of coffee over a fresh egg omelet any day (but I don’t).  And I’m a chicken farmer.

3.  Hog Dogs – Seriously, who doesn’t love a hot dog especially with…

4.  Nacho Cheese Doritos – Really, yummo.

5. Coke – In fact, I hardly even count Coke as a junk food.  Of course it is loaded with sugar and empty calories, but at least it’s all natural.  It’s Fiengold (ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living ) approved.

6. Captain Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and several other varieties of sugar coated cereal – My mother didn’t let us have these when we were little, and I still long for them.  I guess that’s an argument for all things in moderation.  Maybe.

7.  Frozen Pizza –  Any brand  – I think I can eat a whole one by myself although I’ve never tested this hypothesis.

Okay, I went there.  Of course I’m not suggesting that these are the only “treats” I ever indulge in, but they are the worst of the worst, the junkiest of the junky. Now I hope some of you will share your list of favorite guilty pleasures.  Seriously, please share. I need to know I’m not the only healthy eater with a dark side.