Jun 30, 2015

The (Almost) Finished Coop

Bet you've been wondering what ever happened to the chickens and turkeys?! No, they are not still living in the garage - thank goodness!

The gang moved outside to the "almost" finished coop at the very end of May. And not a moment too soon. The smell coming from our garage, no matter how often we cleaned the small pen was growing stronger by the day. You couldn't walk past the garage door into the laundry room without holding your breath.

And I only say "almost" finished coop because we still need to paint and add decorative trim to it. Otherwise it is done. At least it's livable and safe for the birds. The paint and trim will come, probably in the Fall as we ready it for winter. 

Everyone seems to be happy with the change of scenery. And without any training, all the birds head into the coop at night to roost. And I mean all. Everything we had read said that turkeys don't go into coops to roost at night, that they just want something high to sit on. Apparently turkeys don't mind being outside all the time or even getting wet. Not ours. Within the first week, during my daily checks on them, I noticed that none of the birds were outside after the sun had set for the day, even though it was still light out. 

Upon further inspection, every body was hunkered down in the coop for the night, with the tom, Thanksgiving, closest to the door standing guard. When Cameron got home from his annual trip to Chicago for work, he too discovered this. Thanksgiving is the leader and protector it seems. Another night we went to check on them, all were in the coop, surrounding Thanksgiving. 

The part about turkeys liking to get wet? Yes, that part is true. Cameron changes out the water at least once a week and when he does this, he hoses down the inside of the coop. On Sunday, while he was doing this, the turkeys walked right in front of the spray and enjoyed the water while they could. Not that I blame them. It's been hot! I'd probably stand in front of the spraying hose too. I've definitely been taking cold showers, especially when I've come in from the garden.

Having the birds in the garage ruined all effort Cameron and I had put into cleaning the garage. They left a layer of dust all over. It was so thick it accumulated on the cobwebs on the ceiling to the point that the cobwebs were falling down.The garage started to look like a haunted house.

The day after the birds moved, I spent a couple hours moving everything out of the garage and cleaning/hosing/dusting it free of all the dust as well as sweeping and dusting inside as much as I could. I managed to only clean 2/3 of 1/2 of the 2-car garage. After that, I decided I'd wait for Cameron to get back from Chicago to help me the next time. Of course, California Central valley summer heat hit the next week, so the Great Garage clean up of 2015 will continue in the Fall (hopefully).

At least the birds are happy and safe in their new home. And we'll likely convert the shed in our backyard before we have chicks to raise again. I don't want to keep cleaning the garage only to have baby chicks destroy it so quickly again. Regular dust and spider cobwebs take a lot longer to accumulate than chicken dust. Yuck!

Jun 25, 2015

An Open Letter to London on her 5th Birthday

June 25, 2015

Dear London,

Just like last year, this letter is a little late. As predicted, life is busier each passing year as you and Sydney grow. 

To say you are ready to be 5 and all that comes with it is an understatement. The countdown is on to your first day of Kindergarten...54 days! We toured the school you will attend, Pleasant Grove Elementary School the day we left for Disneyland back in early October. You were able to go with us and loved the playground. You still remember that visit and seem excited for your new school. And the bus ride you will get to take daily to get there. You're dad and I are anticipating an adjustment period once school starts, since it will be a new place with new people. You went through it when we moved from Rancho Cordova to where we are now. 

Luckily, a bit of change is already happening that I think will help ease you into Kindergarten and the changes that it will bring. For one, your Transitional Kindergarten class at daycare has ended so you're back with many of your friends that you made while in the Friendly Frogs class. But some friends have since left daycare permanently or for the summer and may not return before you leave. 

Some of these lost friendships we are not sad to see go. While we have been proud in your choices and ability to stand up to friends making bad choices, at the same time we are glad they are gone and you will soon get to make new friends that will last a long time. One example is when a friend told you to kick the tree but you said no. You didn't want to hurt the tree. Recently we even received a call from the daycare saying that you were having an exceptionally good day, being a good helper and making smart choices. Then a few days later you came home with a note stating that you had had good manners at lunch. This was your actual birthday week, so we let you pick out what you wanted for dinner on the actual day with a special treat as well - you chose pineapple and mushroom pizza as well as a cinnamon wheel from Papa Murphy's. Plus, we took cupcakes into school so you could celebrate with your friends that day.

You're also ready for kindergarten on an intellectual level. You love learning. You have your ABCs down, both upper and lower case. You can count to 39 without any help. And you have learned several sight words over the last few months including: she, he, the, I, a, we, me. And you finished up speech the week before your birthday. You've come a long way in understanding the differences in how you may mispronounce a word and how it is actually pronounced, plus you work to get it right the next time as well.

We held a two-part party for your birthday this year. The morning of the party day was spent at Funderland for you and your friends. This has been a favorite place of yours since attending Eliza's birthday party there last year. You love rides, especially the dragon there. And it was a great stepping stone to the rides at Disneyland. You're a thrill seeker, given your love and enthusiasm for Splash Mountain. The dark thrill rides there, for now, you could do without. I'm sure the day you love Tower of Terror or Matterhorn are not far away. And you keep asking how long before you can ride California Screamin' in California Adventure. At last measurement, which was a week or so ago, you had 3 inches to go. I see a visit to Disneyland in our future early next year when you likely will have hit that height. Once you know you are tall enough, you will be begging us constantly to go, I expect. You already ask to go back to Disneyland at least monthly. You'll have to settle for Disney's Aulani hawaiian resort in December. 

We're working on strengthening your swimming skills in anticipation of that trip. You've already completed 2 rounds of swim lessons this summer and start your 3rd round on Monday. I'm debating whether we end the summer with a week of private lessons. And I know your dad and I need to work with you more in between lessons and throughout the summer to keep your ability up. The biggest issue you have with swimming is a lack of bouncy. You sink for lack of an ounce of fat on your body. And you're not as sure of yourself and your ability in the pool. We're working on your confidence, especially when you are floating on your back. You're so sure we or your instructors are going to drop you and let you sink to the bottom of the pool. While I'm glad you have a healthy fear of the water, we are doing our best to assure you that as long as we are with you, you are safe and that you can do some of it on your own. I know you'll get better at it as time and practice set in. 

This spring you decided you didn't want to play soccer on Wednesdays at school. While I was sad to see this end so soon, I'm glad you recognized you didn't like it and spoke up. Sydney took your spot and is loving it. Once you get into school we'll look into gymnastics or ballet for you, as you have expressed an interest in these activities.

I am happy to report that you are nap free these days, at least on the weekends. Rarely do you need one when you are with us. Quiet time is necessary, whether you zone out in front of the TV for an hour or play quietly, alone in your room. I know you will soon be transitioning to no nap time at daycare as well. 

You also no longer need pullups at bed time and haven't for several months. You don't quite like not being able to have a glass of water right before bed but you understand why. And we make sure to give you a warning on when the water drinking cut-off is coming each night. For the most part you head to bed between 7:30 and 8 PM. But you've inherited my doddling ability, trying to find any and every excuse to get out of bed and delay sleep. But, you also have me for a mother who knows every trick in the book. You have gotten a lot better. You know you can only get up once to go potty. If you get up any more than that you loose the dog. You rotate between Tulley and Gibson each night, although you have been happy to have Gibson a little more now that Sydney is asking for Tulley. And one night recently, you let Gibson out, saying you were brave enough not to have him. I think he was keeping you up and you were actually tired and wanting to sleep. He has a hard time settling down sometimes.

You're an amazing big sister Sydney and play well together most of the time. You're very good at allowing Sydney to have her way, most of the time as well. She's getting the hang of sharing but still needs help here and there. You are still learning that if you ask nicely you tend to get what you want, over whining. And you do need your space and quiet time from Sydney at times as well. You especially enjoy when that alone time coincides with a visit up to Grammi's for some 1 on 1 time with her. And you've discovered that when it's Sydney's turn, being home with mom or dad for 1 on 1 time isn't so bad either. 

This next year is going to be so exciting for you and I can't wait to see the little person you are becoming develop even more. 

We love you. 


Jun 23, 2015

Garden Update

We now know for sure that the issue with our pumpkin patch last year was not watering enough from the start. How do I know this? By all the big, beautiful pumpkins in my garden ready to be picked and carved or displayed...at that end of June. Yep, that's right, according to my garden, it's October. So much for following planting guidelines from Smartgardener.com. 

The good news is there is actually plenty of time to clear the snow peas, snap peas, green beans and yellow beans as well as weed before I need to plant my pumpkins. And I've been told that my current plants will produce a second wave of pumpkins to harvest. Which, of course, means I'm back in the garden weeding and clearing as often as I can. 

The corn, sunflowers and popcorn are all coming along splendidly. Cameron laughs every time I have to "go in" to water. I disappear, literally. Very Field of Dreams when I re-emerge, too. This area has also become a favorite of Sophie's as she can hide from the birds and sneak up on them. I've found one dead bird, thanks to her, in the actual rows, found wing feathers of another nearby the garden, and the morning of London's 5th birthday party, we had a bird on our doorstep that it appeared Sophie had performed open heart surgery on. Between the lizards, mice/rat/vole guys and now birds, nothing really shocks me any more and I instinctively look for all this walking out or to the door daily.

The Snow peas and snap peas were delicious this year. Very sugary. And I got about 3 weeks worth of harvests out of them. The green beans were plentiful. We still have some in the fridge for dinner sides. The last harvested were a little old and woody though. And while we did yield a crop of yellow beans, they didn't produce as much as the green beans. I think I'll be planting all these earlier next year and I'll be sure to make sure the snap & sugar peas as well as the yellow beans have a trellis to grow up. The green beans surprisingly didn't need the support. 

Our zucchinis are coming along. We've had several rounds of zucchini fries and zucchini lasagna is in our future. The yellow squash are not doing as well this year. Not sure why - all that we can tell are the plants are small. I'll probably try planting earlier next year. 

And tomatoes are right around the corner, which is a good thing given we are running low on oven-dried tomatoes. And the green ones I can see, while still on the small side, aren't as small as last year's crops.  

I'm not sure we'll get much from our bell peppers, jalapenos or banana peppers. This may be the last year we attempt these. The bell peppers are producing but small, thin bell peppers. And I'm pretty much over trying to grow eggplants. 

The watermelons and cantaloupes being produced are pretty small, but I think it's a lack of water. I'll move their locations next year to where water pools in the irrigation ditches.  

I'm making sure to take notes in my 2015 Garden Journal, plus amending my 2016 planting timeline for next year. I am even amending the 2016 Garden Plan Layout as we go so next year should be a smooth process, outside all the weeding I'll have to do. Plus, Cameron plans to boost the irritation so we won't have to go out there so much once the hand-watering phase is over. Right now we are watering 3-4 rows each night, 20 minutes at a time, which goes surprisingly fast when you're also trying to make dinner, lunch for the next day, bathe the girls and put them to bed.

All in all, the garden keeps us pretty busy but the results are worth it. Plus, when I can get out there, uninterrupted for a 1/2 hour or hour, it definitely relaxes me.