Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jesus Came to Bring Peace

I really wanted to share a little about what's been going through my mind lately about peace.  Children and ducks are pretty peaceful if you really think about it.  They are not stressed but relaxed, enjoying life and the blessings it brings.  I took these pictures today of the little boys playing together and holding our 3 week old ducklings.  So I will put them interspersed in this post about peace.

Lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed with the cares of this life.  My children's health always seems to be an issue and with that bills accumulate.  We are now a part of a Christian Share Program in place of insurance and I love many things about it.  On the other hand, it's a new way of handling our medical bills that we aren't used to and requires more foot work on our part.  Since Rich is working the majority of the day, this responsibility has fallen on me.  Along with home schooling, disciplining to keep peace in our home, planning all the meals, keeping up with my children's social calendar, entertaining for the holidays, well, you get the idea.  To say the least, my life has not been at all peaceful.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Added Ducks to the Lodi Farm

  I'm sure people are wondering why we bought 9 ducks.  Well, let me tell you.  My neighbor has ducks and I go over there every now and then to retrieve my kids from her house and I always stay and talk for awhile.  Her ducks are so pretty and she told me she is getting a few eggs a day from them.  She proceeded to give me some to try.  First of all duck eggs are extra large in size, packed full of nutrients and as I tried one I realized they are incredibly delicious!  I remember seeing a dozen duck eggs for sale at a local market back in Dallas and they were asking $13 a dozen!!  I decided duck eggs are valuable and therefore, ducks are worth having.  So I ordered 9 ducks to be delivered by mail. I forgot to say that she also told me that they eat lots of bugs and especially grasshoppers when they forage around your yard.  This is a plus for me since we had tons of grasshoppers out here this past summer.

 It was fun to go to the website and find that you can choose the breed of ducks according to their looks, temperament and egg production and of course, availability.  So we chose 4 different breeds all to be hatched on November 10th.

They were sent 2 day priority mail to our local post office and were to be picked up promptly as you would suppose the post office would rather not hold a chirping box with live animals in it for very long.  So on a very cold morning, I received the call at 6 a.m. that our ducks had arrived!  I was so excited as many of my children were too.  I woke up Dominic to go with me to the little country town we live in to retrieve our prized duckling not knowing what in the world to expect.  We'd never done this before. I was just praying they wouldn't freeze to death and would all be alive when we opened the box!

Dominic had done his research and I did too so we were prepared with straw for their bedding, chick feed and a home made water dish.  Oh, and let's not forget the most important heating lamp!  These ducklings were to be kept at 90* for the first week!

2 day old ducklings
 They were so very soft and sweet.  They had a ton of energy and were running around excitedly to be let out of the box.  I was surprised to hear that they chirp just like baby chickens do.  They don't quack. They must develop that deep quack later as adults.

This is their initial habitat but it only last about 5 minutes because we quickly realized that it wasn't deep enough.  They were trying to jump out and by standing on their water dish, they could have easily escaped!  So we emptied a clear plastic storage container from the garage and used that for the first week.  Much better.

Since we got up so early to pick them up, Dominic, Rich and I got to enjoy them while everyone else was still sleeping.  But slowly everyone began waking up and coming out to see what was all the chirping about.  It kind of felt a bit like Christmas morning when you have a surprise waiting.

Julia enjoys animals so much.  I don't think there is one she doesn't like.  One day I found her with her chair right in front of the ducks house doing her school work while watching the ducks.

Baby Pekin duck.

I had read that an old paint tray makes a great bathtub for baby ducks.  We introduced them to water for  swimming on day 4.  They were a bit scared but not for long.  The problem with this was that they kept jumping out and walking around the kitchen floor and when scared they would poop.  So it turned out to be a messy event with water all over the floor mixed with duck poop! It was a new experience to say the least to have ducks running free around the kitchen! So the next day we gave them a bath in the regular bathtub.  

Ducks drink a gallon of water a day when they are full grown.  These little guys drink a 1/2 gallon a week per duck!  That's a lot of water!  So they drink water as they swim to meet their quota. They also have a mucus membrane on the side of their bills that has to continually get wet so they need to be able to dip their entire bill in the water.  I knew none of this before.  It's pretty fun to learn new things.

Each duck needed to be dried off so they don't catch a chill before returning them to their heating lamp. This, I believe, is a Blue Swedish duck.  He, or she, is my favorite.

This is Dominic my other animal lover. He would love to have a whole house full of animals. He has been allowed to have a turtle and a gerbil but if he had his way he would have a pet farm and I'd have cages all over the house!  Can you see the teeny-tiny duck he is holding?  That's about how big they were at 4 days old.

 This is their new home to date in the garage.  After having them in the house for a week and having to change their bedding every day because they soiled it so badly we decided they needed a larger habitat.  So now they have room to run around and we have room to put 2 water feeders in their pen for them.  Now we don't have to change their bedding but every 3 days and they don't run out of water so fast either. This is my compost container that my smart husband reminded me would work just right for them.  It's open on the bottom so we laid down some cardboard and then put the straw on top.

This is where we found Julia with her coat on sitting in a camping chair in the dark with only the heating lamp and space heater on doing her school work.  It's a bit cold in the garage these days.

Today they are almost a 1 1/2 weeks old.  I feel like they are growing right before my eyes!  Each day when I go check on them in the garage, they look bigger!  We decided to take them outside today for an hour or so to see what they would do.  It was in the 60's today so we figured it wouldn't be too cold.
We made sure they stayed in the sunshine.

They were so cute.  They seem to move in a pack and run pretty fast.  They really liked the sunshine and we filled a shallow pan full of water for them so they wouldn't get dehydrated and so that they could get their bodies wet if they liked.  And they liked.

They were in and out of the water dish.  Drinking and fluttering about.  Only about 4 could get in at one time so the others would wait patiently on the outskirts watching.  It was relaxing for us too to sit out in the sunshine watching them.  It's so amazing how ducks just know how to be ducks without any instructions.  

These Pekins will grow white feathers and be a the pure white duck that you are probably familiar with.

I believe this is a Welsh Harlequin but I could be wrong.  We are calling this one Chipmonk right now because of his markings.  He is pretty distinctly different from all the others.  Wonder when he gets his feathers if he'll still have these markings?

This one is the Blue Swedish that I had a picture of earlier.  He or she is changing so much.  Can you see how much bigger they are from just a week ago?  There are two of this breed and they are the ones that have a pink rim on their bill.  One nice thing about ducks verses chickens is that they don't have a sharp beak.  When they eat out of your hand, you don't really have to worry about getting pecked at.

I hope you enjoyed my duck pictures!  I hope to blog about this again as they change and we learn more about them.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Family Dynamic Changes

I wondered if moving to the country would change our family dynamics.  When my older children were little, I longed for them to be outside with space to explore, throw a ball around, and spend time together.  We had 1/3 of an acre in Colorado when they were little and we did spend long hours outside.  I remember being barefoot and pregnant there and sitting outside watching them play. I visited with my neighbors in the backyard while they played on the swings, dug in the dirt or in winter went sledding down the short hill we had.

Then we moved to Dallas area and bought a house with virtually no backyard.  It had an 8 ft tall fence and a small patch of grass.  We looked for months for a house with a big yard but there were none in our price range and in the area we needed to live.  At least the house we did buy had two large trees that they could climb when they were older.  They did play in the street out front but had to be very careful not to hit a parked car with their baseball practicing.  We did take many walks at the greenbelt close by to get out into nature and when they got much older, they could go ride their bikes down there and explore.  We made due with what we had and they had a lovely childhood.  I on the other hand, quit sitting outside with the Texas hot sun and plethora of bugs to wrestle with.  I did when we first moved there but over time, I quit.  I'm not sure why. . . maybe it was the view of the tall fence that detoured me.  I did spend time trying to garden in my square foot box but that is only so relaxing.

When we moved to East Texas this summer, we bought a house that sits on 2 1/2 acres.  What a blessing it has been.  For the first month or so I felt like I was living in a country vacation home.  All the fresh air is mesmerizing!  I love the sounds of crickets, cows mooing, roosters crowing and the breeze rustling in the trees.  If it was too dark to be outside on the back porch then I would open the windows in our sunroom and sit out there and listen, read, or just sit and be thankful for all of it. I think God is glorified when we are just still with a thankful heart.

This is our sunroom where I can still feel like I'm outside without being out.  When it gets too cold, I'll sit out here maybe with a space heater so I can feel like I'm still outside.

Our front yard and house.
So how has all this space changed our family dynamics?  Well, I know it's helped me have more peace.   I automatically began spending time outside again because I love nature and gravitate towards being in God's creation.  Didn't God create all these trees, sounds, smells, and creatures for us to enjoy?  They reveal His handiwork, His splendor, His intelligent design!  I try to sit outside everyday for a bit and I just stand amazed at all the beauty there is to see.

Just yesterday I went outside to do Micah's reading lesson with him and it took us almost an hour to get started because we got distracted with a Monarch butterfly that floated by and landed in the tree above us.  We studied it and then I had to go get my camera.

I've always heard about the Monarchs migrating to Mexico but have never experienced it.  The more we watched, the more we saw.  One would flutter by and then another.  One right after another.  So as I was following them, hoping they would land in the yard so I could get a picture, I spied a flowering weed and saw 5 Monarchs drinking the nectar!

Aren't they pretty?  I had to get over the guilt of lagging in Micah's reading lesson and kept telling myself, this is what school is all about.  This is life science!  He'll learn to read all in due time.

We have slowed down since we've moved and that has helped me sort through what is important.  We stopped piano lessons, baseball practice, and home school elective classes.  Not because we wanted to but because we had to.  We might pick up some of these things again but for now we are learning what there is around here in our little town of 3,500.  Instead of me being the family taxi, we are spending time getting to know our neighbors, having friends over (new and old) and playing outside. all the while discovering things like Monarchs, spiders and the habits of birds.

The boys have named this chicken Fluffy Flyer.  She is our most docile chicken and will let most anyone hold her.  She is slow so she is easy to catch and never pecks at you. Chickens are so fun to watch.  Sometimes I go outside in the late afternoon to read a bit or maybe plan our meals for the week and make a shopping list.  I can hardly concentrate because the chickens are so interesting to watch.  I love that they eat the bugs in our yard especially the grasshoppers and crickets.  The run here and there as fast as their fat, fluffy, feathered bodies will carry them to catch a jumping insect.  They roll and puff up their feathers in the dirt and dust to clean themselves.  They separate themselves from the flock when they need to go lay an egg and will always lay it in the same place.  One makes her way back to the pen, another sits by the workshop in her dirt nest she has created and still another has made her nest on top of a grassy mound.  It cracks me up to see her fluffy red head peeking up over the grass as she sits and waits for that egg to drop out of her.

Anthony has had to observe 5 birds for his biology class.  He took some exceptional pictures last week, much better than I could have captured them.  This is a hawk.  Hawks are beautiful birds but really not chicken owners friends as they will eat them.  One swooped down into our yard the other day and all the chickens scattered and squawked.  Sometimes the chickens will just freeze when they sense a predator.  They will stand motionless for a very long time.

This is the neighborhood Blue Heron.  He/she hangs out by our pond next door and one day when I was pulling away in my car, I saw it flying across the road to another neighbor's pond.  The wing span was so enormous and seriously, it's wings were blue.  Absolutely beautiful are God's creatures!

This the Texas state bird the Northern Mockingbird.  They are fabulous looking when they fly because they have a white wide stripe on their wings contrasting with black or dark grey and they seem to love to fight with each other.

Isn't this picture striking?  Anthony got this one of our friendly Cardinal!  He is so pretty and comes around often.

 And, did I tell you about the newest animal that our neighbor's added to their household?  It's Pepper the pot-belly pig!  She is 10 weeks old in this picture and our neighbor brought her over to meet our boys.  Levi loves animals and always seem to wind up kissing them.  Pigs can be cleaner that dogs and cats, I guess so this one is a pet and lives in the house with them.  It sleeps in a crate at night in their son's room and they take her out to go potty just like you would a puppy.  So far, she hasn't had any accidents. Amazing!  I never would have known.

I've even decided that I love taking the time it takes to hang my wash outside to dry.  I love being outside so why not?  It's just another excuse to be outside among the trees with the breeze drying our clothes.  It saves money on the electric bill and I love the way the clothes come out slightly stiff with that fresh air smell.  In seems like more work because it is easier to throw them in the dryer and push a button but in the end it's less work.  I don't have piles of clean clothes laying around waiting to be folded and put away.  I fold them as I take them off the line and put them in the basket.  Then when I get into the house, I put them away. This goes right along with my resourceful personality.

So living in the country is slowly changing the dynamics of our home.  We are spending less time in front of media and technology, less time running from here to there, and more time outside.  It has created a less hurried lifestyle. There seems to be more peace in the home and patience with each other.

 We just ordered 9 ducks to add to our bird farm so I'm sure in the weeks ahead, I will be taking tons of pictures of ducklings.  My nature girl, Julia and I, could not be more thrilled, anticipating these day old ducklings coming in the mail.  Our neighbors have ducks and gave us some duck eggs to try.  They are amazing!  Did you know that duck eggs cost about $1 a piece?  They are a precious commodity!  So we will pray that they will make it through the winter weather and stay safe from predators so that in the Spring we might get to eat duck eggs regularly.

Stay tuned as we experience life in the country.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Two kinds of people in life

I've noticed that there seem to be two kinds of people, country people and city people.  City people would be defined as those who like their conveniences, downtown activities and plethora of choices in shopping and restaurants and don't mind the traffic to get there.  They are comfortable around lots of people and noise doesn't seem to bother them much.

 Country people like the slow pace of virtually no traffic, a few quaint shops to choose from and don't mind spending the day driving to the closest grocery or town to stock up on food.  They don't like crowds as much and find the peace and quiet of nature, soothing.  They don't mind getting their hands dirty, occasional bugs and spiders don't freak them out as long as they aren't in the house.  They like the idea of not having city rules like no clotheslines, no farm animals, and no burning garbage.  Your lawn can be as long as you like and you can compost or stack bags of leaves to use later wherever you want.

Some people who have a country mentality have to live in the big cities but they find ways to embrace nature and slow down.  They might choose to live in a suburb on the outskirts of the city and avoid the freeways.  They might even choose a larger lot over a big new house so they can be outside and have a garden and do their own thing. City folk would choose the new house with all the latest conveniences and a patio instead of a yard so they don't have to mow.

I suppose some people are a bit of both.  Let's face it we all love our comforts and conveniences but I if I had to pick a category, I'd be a country girl.  And isn't it a good thing that both the city person and country person can actually like each other and get along?  Even though, we are somewhat opposites, its a wonderful thing to get along and appreciate those differences.

I even have 2 opposites in our family. Once daughter loves her comforts, technology and clean living while the other loves the birds, climbing trees and can't keep her shoes on.

Together she and I have been watching birds and trying to the best of our ability to identify them.  For a few weeks in August and September there seemed to be a bird festival in our backyard!  We were seeing 7-8 different birds at a time in a matter of an hour of bird watching.  It was truly amazing.  It felt like we were at a bird sanctuary.  We tried our best to take some pictures so we could search our bird book later to identify them.  Here are some of what we captured.

This is a ruby throated hummingbird.  One day I was watering my grass with an sprinkler that rotated because us country people don't usually have sprinkler systems.  To my surprise a large bug came zooming through the water.  I thought it was a cicada or some really large buzzing thing I'd never seen before.  When it came in for a shower again, I realized it was a hummingbird!  I quickly ran out and bought a feeder and shortly after we had 4 different hummingbirds fighting over the feeder.  I've learned they aren't prone to share so while one guards his food, the others try to chase him away so no one really gets anything to eat!

 So during our bird festival we counted 9 hummingbirds!  They were swooping and zooming all over the place!

The cardinals out here seem really red for some reason.  We had these when we lived in the Dallas area but they didn't seem as red.  Maybe because of all the green grass and trees around here they just look brighter.

One day as we were bird watching we saw a bright yellow bird.  He stayed in the tree above our fountain and he was so small that it was hard to get a good look at him.  Day after day we would catch glimpses of him until he felt comfortable enough to take a bath in our fountain!  It didn't take long before he brought all his friends too.  We looked in our bird book and found that he is called a Yellow Warbler.

Aren't' they beautiful! The next bird I have a picture of I think is a sparrow. These birds have the prettiest song and sing very loudly!  I heard her singing and couldn't believe so much noise was coming from this little bird.  She has built a nest in our tree so we regularly see lots of sparrows flying back and forth from our feeder to this tree.

This is the red bellied woodpecker which we think is a funny name because his head is red, not his belly.  This is the best picture I could get of him.  We've seen him several times.

Ok, this is enough birds for one day.  I'll end with the black-capped chickadee.  They are another real cute, small bird that love our feeder.  Pretty common here just like the house sparrow.

Now that it's October, we aren't seeing very many birds.  The black crows are still around and the bluejays. Even the hummingbirds have slowed down in coming to their feeder.

That is ok, though, because we still have our chickens to watch! I look forward to Spring to see what kind of birds God brings our way.  Hope you enjoyed my bird post.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Resourcefulness continued . . .

 I want to continue this idea of resourcefulness that I spoke of in my last post.  The idea of taking something that someone else might consider trash, and fixing it up to make it useful and enjoyable to look at.  This is my definition of resourcefulness.

There is a story behind this porch swing.  It actually has some sentimental value to me.  We bought this when we lived in Denver, Colorado about 15 years ago.  I had always wanted a porch swing and we proudly hung it on our back porch.  I remember sitting with my neighbor on this swing talking and laughing as we watched our kids play together. I have pictures of my two older children sitting in this swing in their pajamas, eating ice cream cones when they were 5 and 3 years old.

When we moved to Texas a few years later, we brought the swing with us, intending to use it at our new place.  Well, you guessed it, we never found a way to hang it up.  We had no covered porch and weren't handy enough to build one of those free standing frames for it.  So it sat in our backyard in the weather getting more and more beat up.  It actually sat for 11 years!

We just moved after 11 years to a ranch style home away from the hustle and bustle of Dallas, TX. We live an hour East of Dallas in a small town of a little over 3,000 people called Wills Point.  It's one of those cute towns you drive through on road trips to your vacation spot.  My husband said to me the other day when we went to town, "We live in one of those towns.  Can you believe it?" I said, "What do you mean, one of those towns?"  He said, "One of those little towns that we always drive through on our way somewhere." He's right, and I can't believe it!

These pictures are of Julia staining our old porch swing.  It looks so much better with a coat of stain.  At this house, we do have a covered porch with a good solid beam for hanging swings like the one we already have.  Rich bought the screws and the chain and hung it a few weekends ago.  It looks out into our front yard where we have a tire swing and a horse shoe pit.

Already, even in August we have sat out there in the evenings and watched the guys play horse shoes.  We had to pull out a few hedges to hang it far enough away from the windows under that solid beam.

We have started school up this month and Micah often picks to go do his reading lesson out here on the swing in the morning.  I was so excited to use this for the first time after so many years.  This is our Colorado swing that has relocated to Texas.  It holds many memories and will hold many more in the future.  My two oldest children are now 19 and 16, the ones who sat in their pajamas and ate ice cream on this swing. 

I look forward to making some memories with these two little guys out here on the front porch! Who knows, maybe Rich and I will grow old here in this house and as our nest gets emptier, we will sit out here and drink our coffee together.  Or just maybe we'll rock our grand babies out here someday or spend holidays with company sitting outside enjoying the countryside.  The possibilities are endless!