Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Saturday in May

We had a lovely weekend with NO PLANS WHATSOEVER. We rode our bikes,

played in puddles,

smiled for the camera,

listened to music,

built a chicken fence,

built a hundred puzzles, (well, at least ten)

and threw stones down a drain and then listened to see if anyone was stuck down there and needed rescued.

All in all a great weekend. We also reorganized kitchen cupboards, cleared some more of the weed field to make a pumpkin patch, fertilized the plants, tried out a water slide on the lawn, went to the park, added a rope swing to the treehouse, went for a walk in a WW1 cemetery nearby and Steve and the boys are off to pick up the caravan which has been sitting in a corner of a car park on the base all winter and is need of some care and attention before we use it sometime soon. There's talk of a canoe trip in the next few weeks.

And lastly, here's a photo taken at Paradisio Park the other day. This was just after Tadhg had thrown one of our good water bottles into the water in the tropical bird house and we had to find someone to come and scale the fence, scramble through the trees, climb down a rock wall, balance on some stepping stones and fish the bottle out for us. The boys loved that, of course. I will not be surprised if the same thing happens again next time!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Our back garden

Welcome to our back garden.

I will love looking back at these photos later. One of my favourite things to do is move things about in the house (and outside) and change stuff around so nothing stays as it is for very long. I'm collecting some house photos too, for later.

Most of the growing is happening in this back corner and on the patio. Here's Brendan and his friend Aiden playing. The grey bin has potatoes in it.

The deck. We eat out when it's nice and the boys play out here pretty much every day, regardless of the weather.

Porridge and melon outside for breakfast.

Fun in the sand box.

Eating strawberry fool in the new treehouse.

Here's the treehouse almost finished, Steve has added a few extra little touches since.

We have handy tree stumps all over the place. They make good steps, tables, seats and places to play near the sand pit or practice hammering. They've been picked up while out and about- I just stop and ask if I can have a couple whenever I drive past someone chopping down a tree.

The chicks will soon be running around in the garden. Putting a fence up for them is this weekend's project.

A playhouse, a treehouse and now a greenhouse. Steve is wonderful! I helped when I was needed, but mostly just watched (and gave my opinion when asked) while keeping the boys out of trouble and away from the power tools. Our tomatoes and green peppers are in here and thriving so far. The basil plants have been eaten by something though- we're not sure whether to plant another sacrificial basil or to pull them out and risk the bugs moving on to the tomatoes. That's just one of our garden issues at the moment- the others include ants, ants, some sorry looking bean bushes, other tomatoes refusing to flower and more ants. I'm keeping an eye out for the caterpillars that ate so much last year. Steve had a little tutorial from our neighbour at the weekend. He makes his own pesticide with nettles from the back field.

Outside from inside.

Tomatoes, peppers, carrots and radishes.

In the greenhouse.

And a herb tub complete with spider web. There must be tens of thousands of spiders in our garden.

Can't wait for the day we have a big, interesting garden with mature trees and some topography! But we're making do and giving this garden our time and love. We'll be spending a lot of time out here.
I just put a whole bunch of other photos in our web albums. I really need to spend some time figuring out a way to organize our photos. It's one of the many big projects on my to do list- along with catching up on my breastfeeding reading, making curtains and other sewing, sorting through clothes, finding more shelving for books, planning my contribution to the homeschool cooperative (more on that later) and a bunch of other projects. I'm looking forward to a slow but productive summer at home :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

cluck cluck

I'm astounded by how fast these girls are growing. I'd heard about it of course, but actually seeing a visible difference from one day to the next is just incredible.

Check out the feathery feet on the Malines!

Brendan is still more attached to the littlies. No wonder- they're a lot less flighty (these are the ones that each had a wing chopped off - NOT by us but by the farmer before I knew anything about it) and as they are younger their beaks aren't as developed yet either.

We put them out in the chick pen for a couple of hours each day, less if the temperature is on the cool side. We had to start covering the hole in the top as they started to jump out.

We also let them run around a bit too but they really don't like to stray far from familiarity and run around the outside of the pen trying to get back in! They do enjoy scratching around in the soil though.

We can easily tell them apart now and their personalities are beginning to show through. This one here pecked my finger yesterday. It didn't hurt at all but it made me jump. Those beaks are getting pretty big and sharp :)

I'm collecting some photos of the garden so I'll do a garden tour sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dinosaur world

One morning last week, in the hour we usually have between eating our porridge and walking Brendan to school, I offered the boys some TV time while I "got stuff done". I rarely do this these days because it always ends unpleasantly with Brendan getting very upset when it's switched off. But on this particular morning he said, "ummm, okay, how about that dinosaur one," pointing to the Walking With Dinosaurs video in the "give to charity shop" pile.

An hour later he was so engrossed in creating a dinosaur world that I just couldn't tear him away and take him to school. So we had a home day. We spent hours playing dinosaurs. Or at least Brendan did. I spent a little time playing dinosaurs and lots more time playing with Tadhg while trying not to make it obvious we were letting Brendan play alone. We have a sort of rule in our house: all toys belong to everyone and we have to play together. But sometimes Brendan loves a bit of time undisturbed by his pesky little brother. I try to let him have that time without making a big deal about it but it isn't always easy. Man, can they fight!

Brendan has totally taken to the chickens. He is such a good helper, making sure they don't fly out of the little box while I clean out the big box, refilling their food, breaking up their woodchip bedding, carrying them one by one (or two little ones) to their run outside and counting them about ten times a day to make sure they are all still there.
This whole chicken business is making me daydream a lot more about living on a farm. I look around and see Steve digging another veggie patch, Brendan watering the garden and Tadhg sitting in the chick pen with eight chickens running around and I think of the future... wondering what it holds for us :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A day in the garden

We picked our first strawberries today. They were unbelievably delicious. The boys ate a couple but managed to resist one which they ran off with to give to daddy who was busy building a tree house suitable for little people.

They are wearing wellies because this tree is in the corner of what pretty much amounts to a nettle field out behind our back fence. We've cleared the area around the tree but the nettles are persistent to say the least. We're hoping that once the chickens are big enough they might help keep the little nettle seedlings at bay.
Tadhg "helped" of course.

They immediately took to jumping around this thing like monkeys, Tadhg copying everything Brendan did.
They came in for supper- spaghetti with yesterday's homemade burger leftovers cut into cube shaped meatballs- but they couldn't wait for me to make a quick dessert and rushed back out before the last mouthful had been swallowed. I whipped some cream and took out a big bowl of strawberry fool, alas not with our own berries but it was yummy and sweet nonetheless.

And here's our little knight off to fight a dragon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some recent goings on around here.

We saw this group of people outside our local bar as we headed to the market on our bikes last Sunday. The young ones were running about or dodging their mothers who fussed over them and sorted their outfits, while the adults were inside, presumably having a wee drink before they did whatever they were about to do. On the way home we heard a band playing a block or two away. As we started planting all the plants we brought home from the market we kept hearing the band in the distance until I couldn't take it any longer and had to take the boys out to find them. We walked slowly through the local brocante (car boot sale without the cars) until we found the band emerging from the bar at the local football club around the corner. The boys were each given an orange by a young person and then another two or three each by some very drunk men dancing about and having a wonderful time. The whole scene was hilarious. The band struck up but sounded terrible- they had all been drinking for a few hours by this point, although it was still only noon.
We found out later from our neighbour that this is the normal labour day celebration, although we still don't know what the costumes are all about.

Here's Steve and Tadhg buying some seedlings for the garden to add to the ones we've grown from seed ourselves. More on the garden later.

Brendan and I went to our first formal(ish) homeschool activity. One of the homeschool group parents organised an owl pellet investigation. Brendan was the youngest but he still got something out of it. We've been talking about owls for the last few days and the tricky topics of animals eating animals, death, raising farm animals etc. The major find in our owl pellet was a complete rat skull. So Brendan insists CouCou must not go outside so she isn't eaten by an owl.
And when it comes to our chickens, we are allowed to eat them all except JJ, the littlest one which Brendan has claimed as his very own.

So much for not really wanting a trampoline :) This one was in the garden when we arrived and the boys love it and are on it almost every day. And it does funky things to their hair. Lots of fun.

The chicks have moved to a bigger brooder box and are going outside for a while every day now. They love running about and fighting over every little bit of bare earth they come across for a quick dust bath. I'm amazed at how their instincts are so strong that they know just what to do without having a mama bird to show them. Incredible.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Another new addition

Meet Cou Cou, our new rat. We went to the agricultural/animal shop for chick food and came home with this lovely wee rat. I have had rats before but this is a first for the boys and Steve. Brendan decided that her name should be Cou Cou, or Koo Koo or Cuckoo- however it is spelled it must be said with an over exaggerated french accent. (He corrects you if you pronounce it wrong!) I've gone with the spelling Cou Cou just because we brought her home just a few days after our Cou Cou de Malines chicks and that was how the Belgian lady spelled and pronounced it. I know, the name is silly, but it has stuck and we seem to be used to it already.

I'm sure she will be good friends with the boys and will be out to play a lot. She has been very patient with Tadhg already, who is still learning how to hold an animal gently :)

She is curled up asleep on my lap as I write this. Very sweet. It is lovely to have animals in the house again. We haven't been blogging much recently so I haven't recorded here how we lost our lovely cat Bill. He stayed out one night, which wasn't unusual, but this time he didn't come home in the morning and hasn't been seen since.

When we left Canada we re-homed our other little cat Alma and we talked about her with Brendan saying that she wanted to live on a farm so we found a nice big farm with lots of mice and a family with a little girl to look after and love her. So the other day Brendan was looking very pensive and suddenly said, out of the blue, "Mummy, maybe Bill has found a farm and is living with a little girl and is very happy like Alma." Lovely thought.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


An exciting day today as we welcomed our first chicks!

One of my colleagues gave me the phone number of a little farm where she buys her chicks. I went to pick up 6 black Marans today at their lovely little farm about 10 minutes from our house. I actually came home with three 8-day-old black Marans, three 13-day-old Coucou de Malines (related to Marans) and two 13-day-old Light Sussex. That, you will notice if you were paying attention, adds up to 8 birds. Oops.
I did ask for only two of each but he added two extras for free and I was too soft to reject them :)

This is one of the three "coucou de malines". Which I think is a type of Maran. They are beautiful grey speckled hens which are really bred as table birds but are so beautiful I couldn't resist.

The boys have been so gentle!
Here's one of the younger black Marans. They are a lot smaller and fluffier- I think we are going to be surprised by how quickly they grow. These lay dark chocolate brown eggs. They seem much more fragile than the others but I'm hoping it's just because of the age difference and they aren't actually weaker in any way. Brendan is particularly besotted by these wee ones, I think because the bigger ones can already flap their wing feathers a bit and these littlies are bit more timid.

And here's Tadhg with one Sussex and a Maran.

So maybe we'll have a regular chicken diary entry on here. I'm off to sit with them for a bit before going to bed. They're not the cutest little things but they really are funny and totally tug on your heart strings.