Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Epic Chef Day and more

Alida has just given way to sleep and I want to be doing the same soon, but the list is growing of things I would like to note here.  I recently read a friend's final blog post as she made the decision to close her blog to be more fully present to life as it unfolds right around her.  I felt inspired by her reflections and drawn to the idea of not sitting at the computer more than I already do during my work week.  At the same time, I  want Kali and Alida to be able to enjoy reading back over stories from life during their childhood (not to mention hoping that family and friends who land here enjoy keeping up with us too - comments always welcome!).  I feel conflicted.  Recently when we went for a hike and I realized partway through that I had forgotten the camera, there was both disappointment and relief.  There is some pressure removed when we don't have the ability to photograph every beautiful thing we see or try to catch on film all the cute things the girls are doing along the way.  But I also then feel like I miss capturing (yes, that is the word that keeps coming to mind and I don't like using it, which might be worth further reflection) moments that I will likely forget.

Clearly this is going to be one of those "long rambly posts" that doesn't get around to the core mission of the post (Epic Chef Day if you are forgetting) for awhile.  See there are all these things I could update you on:

1. We redeemed Jason's soup by soaking chick peas in the broth to cook the following day and by adding a bunch of chicken and some cream that I had in the freezer waiting for such an occasion and then serving it stew-like over rice.  Quite tasty with those modifications!  Curry powder helped, too.

2. The peeping in the shells turned out many fine chicks but no turkeys. Maybe another time.  Sadly when Jason checked the eggs after all that were going to hatch had, both turkeys had made it almost to hatch time but for some reason that we'll never know were not able to make it through the final push out of the egg.

3. The cicadas no longer seem so interesting, at least in a good way.  The ducks and chickens still love them and I still find their various sounds intriguing, but the destruction they are causing makes it hard to feel very endeared to them.  Next door our neighbors have spent months preparing for the blueberry crop only to have branches falling off bushes with half ripe berries on them where the cicadas have grooved the bark to implant their eggs.  Jason has decided not to thin out the peaches on the trees yet, as there will be a natural, and possibly harsh, thinning from the cicadas.

Then there are all sorts of new things to comment on.  Life has no dull moments in it.  And I continue to feel in love with the piece of land we find ourselves living on and the people that I find myself living with.  And as I hear snippets of news from across the globe, I struggle to know how to hold the joy that I feel in the life right around me with the sadness and anger and even despair that I feel as things seem to continue to unravel across the globe and also in the lives of some that I care deeply about.  I keep thinking of a quote that was stated a few times this weekend in various conversations.  It seems to resonate with how I have felt about a variety of things recently: "All of us are hanging by spit right now..." (Kinky Friedman) 

But I won't choose to expand on that right now (as that would make this blog post even longer than it is already going to be).

We are spending a lot of time outside. If Alida had her way we would spend ALL of our time outside, getting as dirty as possible.  And she makes that very clear anytime anyone goes outside without her, or keeps her from going out an open door, or brings her back in prematurely.  Let's just say that even Jason noted the other day that he may have to take back his prediction that Alida was going to be more laid back/chilled out than Kali.  This little gal can throw a tried and true fit - complete with pounding my chest if she is in my arms.  But the flip side of that same coin is that she loves so sweetly - the way she leans in to give her daddy hugs is pure sweetness.

Jason is even making sure she gets some gardening under her belt this season.  She helped to plant a little patch of amaranth that is sprouting nicely:

Here she is checking the germination rate.
Not too bad!

Now to get to the point of this post - we enjoyed a nice planned visit from Jason's sister, Christie, and a very spontaneous visit over part of the same time from most of the rest of Jason's family (the Benner spontaneity is almost as impressive as the Myers intensive over-planning).  Jason's sister and her husband have started celebrating some holidays created by them.  This visit fell right around the time to celebrate Epic Chef Day and so we were invited to take part.  What fun!  We may have to begin joining them in this celebration.  
The menu included:

Appetizer: Cahill's Irish Cheddar with Elderberry Wine served with homemade Whole Wheat Soda Crackers and some recently picked and canned Serviceberry Jam

Bread: Kali concocted a recipe for Oregano Orzo Garlic Roll-ups made with Lamb's Quarter Swiss Chard yeast rolls
Main Course: Agnolotti with Sweet Peas and Goat Cheese (mind you these homemade pasta squares were pan fried in butter and served with freshly grated parmesan cheese - AND miracles of all miracles I liked the ones with shitake mushrooms better than those without!)   Vegetable: Sesame-roasted Asparagus (and while this may be too much information Jason and I are wondering why our pee had none of the normal asparagus odor this time around - neither did Alida's diaper)
Dessert: Icy Lemon-Mint Parfaits (with some of the last fresh strawberries)
Drink: Cucumber Water

Mouths watering?  It was scrumptious and fun and great for memory-making.

It was really special to have Christie with us for a number of days. Kali warmed up instantly and Alida sat on her lap for most of one book and came to her for help donning a glove (yes, she seems to have gotten obsessed with wearing gloves and mittens just when temps have risen into the 90's!).  We both thought about how the last time we spent this much time together was almost exactly 4 years ago when she came to spend some time with us, helping with Kali, at UVA and ended up being the one with us when Nora died and in the hours/days immediately following.  Her presence then was and now is a bright spot in our lives!

In just a few days we will remember (from the vantage point of the wonderful hills of West Virginia) the time of Nora's physical departure from us four years ago; another one of those times in life where we had to hold a whole lot of beauty and pain simultaneously.  We've watched her garden bloom again this year and the butterfly weed is starting to blush orange as it always seems to do right on the anniversary. Jason has been working on the next phase of Nora's garden (the "water feature") and with some excellent help this weekend was able to get the concrete poured.  Next comes digging/grading around the concrete and working on creating the stone benches.  It's good to spend time there and we are all eager for it to very soon not be a child safety hazard but a place to play! 

Okay, it will soon be morning and Alida has a very good head start on her night of sleep. I think I'll relieve Jason from chopping garlic scapes so he can read my ramblings before posting them!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life and death in a compost pile

This evening, as we often do, we decided to try to fit in a gardening task after supper.  That is to say, Janelle took the lead on caring for the girls and I headed out to layer a compost heap.

In our casual system, compost materials (mostly kitchen refuse and weeds) are deposited in one bay of our three-bay compost bin system, and when enough material has accumulated and the space next to it is vacant, I layer the raw, mostly half-decomposed material with soil (if not enough has come along with the weeds), high-carbon "brown" materials (not too much), and lime or wood ashes (sparingly).  When I can no longer add any material without causing a minor avalanche each time, the heap is ready to transform, over the course of weeks or months, into the best soil amendment I know of.  It gets turned one time into the bottom bay as soon as it becomes vacant and I can get around to it.

As it happens, this evening it began to gently rain as I began the layering job.  The temperature was nice, though, so I just went after a hat and kept on.  I was enjoying the lush vegetation, the bird calls, the slanted evening light that was only dimly penetrating the clouds overhead.

But what was that squeaking sound?

Every so often I could hear a faint but distinct squeaking as I tilted, then plunged the fork to fill it afresh.  I ruled out bird calls, because I could tell it was a very local sound.  Was it my knee brace?  No, it happened once while I was still.  I assumed then that it must be what I'd found the last time I turned a pile--a nest of mouse pups.  I hoped it was the same nest, because then the mice would be old enough to scatter on their own rather than obliging tender-hearted me to relocate them as I had the last time when I moved them several inches over into the next bin, since they seemed to be old enough to move around some and loud enough to call in the mom when she came looking.

No such luck.  When I uncovered the nest, they were very new, pink, puny, with eyes still closed, and utterly helpless to even change their position.  Moreover, they were right in the middle of the topmost bay, nowhere near any refuge, and I had at least a half hour more to work in the area...I felt sure the mother wouldn't feel safe coming to search for them until they had succumbed to hypothermia, especially in the rain.

I made my decision quickly, but with a sinking heart.  I gathered all the "pinkies" I could find (I think there were seven) into my gloved hand and made my way to one of the movable chicken pens.  The hens had not yet gone to roost, so, steeling myself, I reached out and dropped one hairless mouse pup onto the cool, wet grass.  A curious hen came to investigate, and in a few seconds the mouse pup was gone.  One by one I dropped them in, and one by one they were swiftly dispatched by powerful beaks then swallowed whole, with gusto.  I walked back to my task, my hands feeling empty.

In those kinds of moments, I always wonder what animal rights-motivated vegetarians and vegans would do in my shoes.  Certainly the destruction of the mouse nest had nothing to do with the production of meat, although my choice of what to do with the doomed nestlings may contribute to our egg supply.  Nearly every organic gardener needs compost...I often wonder how many mice are destroyed by the turning of those massive windrows of compost turned by machine at the professional operations.  The operators could in no way afford to take any pains for mercy.

Of course, in the natural food chain creatures are gaining their sustenance by way of the destruction of other creatures every millisecond of every day.  Still it feels strange to be an intermediary in that relationship.  I say it feels strange and so you might assume this is a rare occurrence, but the fact is we do this habitually.  Throughout the growing season one might find me collecting beetle grubs to toss to the chicken we keep in a movable pen in the garden partly for that purpose.  Japanese beetles and slugs I feed to the birds with positive relish, and here in 2012 we're in the thick of the 17 year cicada emergence, so several times per day someone may make the rounds to collect cicadas from the lower branches of trees (they seem to be especially fond of the apples...worrisome!) to throw to the ducks or chickens.  Even Janelle has taken a deep breath and handed one to Kali's pet chicken, "Daffodil" (the aforementioned garden chicken).

For that matter, I sometimes feel pangs towards all the vibrant plants we routinely kill because we like the ones we placed in the same location better, rendering the perfectly innocent, sometimes preexisting plant a "weed."  In some cases, the same plant in another location would be prized.  For example, this evening while turning the compost I took a few seconds to gaze wistfully at one particular clump of sod that rolled out of the heap:  it was a perfect, pure clump of orchard grass punctuated by some very cute white ideal piece of pasture.  If I only were to take the time to dig a hole for it, it would be quite viable.  I sighed the sigh of a busy man and reached out to stab it onto the fork, then tossed it on the new heap.

Still, something feels different when it's a mammal.  Kali wondered today about the definition of a mammal.  I replied with a question, "What do you think might be the connection between the word 'mammal' and the word 'mammary'?"  Mammals, including mice and us, give milk to their young, and even though I know a blacksnake could have come along five minutes later and eaten the mother for dinner and the babies for dessert, and even though I know this is how the mouse is wired to interface with the world, I do not like knowing that she may search for her nest of pups and never find it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Special times

This will be a very quick recap of special moments to remember in the last few days!  I'm choosing selectively to highlight those moments that I wish to remember (there have been some not so pleasant moments that I'm happy to not record here) and those that I wish to put in a public space...

I woke up early on Sunday morning to Jason making a rather loud sound in the kitchen.  Of course then I could not go back to sleep as I could not turn off my mind from figuring out that he was making breakfast for me.  But I enjoyed snuggling in bed with Alida until he came in with warm apple oatmeal.  The food was good but the most special component of the breakfast was the flower bouquet that was made from Nora, Alida and Kali's gardens.  It was a very special start to Mother's Day.

We stayed home from church as I wanted to spend as much of the day outdoors as possible.  We enjoyed a long hike on the mountain. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful time together. The flowers were beautiful. We hiked a part of the woods we had not been in before and the mountain laurel was exquisite.  I'll be completely honest that I've never been as drawn to it as my mother (okay, even thought that sometimes her sheer joy over it and the rhododendron was a bit excessive - sorry mom), but I've changed my mind. I could hardly stop looking at it!

Monday Alida enjoyed her first Summer Peacebuilding Institute potluck/dance.  Kali loves to go for the dances and Alida shares that opinion.  She was so cute wanting to be on the action during the talent show and showing off her little dance moves.  She is probably on folks' cameras from from at least a dozen countries.  As she danced with a woman from Somaliland, I felt grateful again that my place of employment is one that gives my family the opportunity to be exposed to and interact with beautiful people from many parts of the world.  Alida was very fascinated by the interesting clothing, but seemed the most interested in picking up the multi-colored disco ball and trying to throw it (that is what you do with balls after all!).

Yesterday, Tuesday, was our thirteenth wedding anniversary. Jason spent much of the day getting the tomatoes, peppers and basil in the ground and I preparing for our evening (and making more jam!). I've been planning a surprise for weeks now. It is normally pretty easy to surprise Jason but my excitement about the surprise made it hard to hold in for the weeks of thinking about it.  I hatched the idea one day on the way back to my office after a meeting and when I was in the middle of reading my old journals of our engagement time.  I lived in a community house on campus at the time and so Jason and I spent many hours with my housemates and alone in the various spaces of that house.  Well, the house's future is uncertain at this time and so I thought it would be very fun to have an evening together there.  Long story short, it is currently abandoned and I was able to acquire the key and after dropping off the girls with friends I blindfolded Jason and drove around until he admitted to being completely lost.  I ushered him inside and even after taking off the blindfold it took him a good 30 seconds to figure out where in the world I had taken him. It was, after all, not your typical date location - run down dirty empty house with no running water!

Despite worrying about how our littlest was doing, we managed to have a wonderful few hours together.  We picnicked and starting learning a new song to sing together.  And we reminisced on the role that space played in our relationship, as well as the many meaningful relationships we had with people that year and how many of them continue to be very dear friends. I was surprised at just how comfortable and happy I felt being in that house again.  While our year of engagement was tumultuous in some ways, it also was a year of a lot of growth and I think one that laid a foundation that we are enjoying the fruits of now.

When we got back to pick up the girls, Alida let me know the second she saw me that it was not appropriate that I had left her. But after nursing, she perked up and was her happy self.  The report was that while she was fragile-spirited for a good part of the evening, she also had some fun too, especially at the playground.  It was a memorable evening all around, and I completely forgot to take any pictures!

Then last but not least, Jason and Kali made dinner for me this evening (or part of it any way) - a late Mother's Day treat.  Jason may wish to add his own notes on this, but mine will be a more glowing report!  Kali made biscuits all by herself and they were very tasty.  Jason made soup all by himself and it was not very tasty.  It was made with the last butternut of the season and I think that had something to do with it - it had nothing to do with the abilities of the chef, other than him not having time to taste it before putting it on the table to try to troubleshoot the lack of good flavors.  Salt, pepper and honey helped and there are chick peas soaking in the remaining broth to cook tomorrow.  It was fun and memorable for me though, and it was nice to also feel like Jason thinks I'm pretty amazing right now for being able to get a full meal on the table on a regular basis!  We did enjoy freshly picked strawberries and a spinach salad.  No one went hungry [even if they might have rather done so...Jason's note]!

What I love about many things that have occurred in the last few days is noticing how much we have grown together and as individuals.  We laugh at our foibles much more easily than we did a dozen years ago. And we can laugh with each other and not take ourselves quite so seriously.  It sure helps life go more smoothly!

We laugh at our littlest gal a lot too.  Here she is trying to learn to jump:

News flash - there is peeping coming from the incubator!!

And finally, had to include this photo of a cicada recently hatched. We've been enjoying seeing/hearing them all over, but Jason managed to find one just about to emerge.  Very cool!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another first!

2 p.m. This morning as I was chatting with Mom on the phone during Alida's "nappy walk" she asked what was on my day.  As odd as it may sound, I really hadn't generated much of a list yet so couldn't come up with an interesting answer at all (I had a few phone calls to make and was hoping to catch up by doing lots of puttering around the house but I waiting to see how the day would unfold). It's been so busy that I really hadn't thought about today ahead of time - other than working with Kali on the menu for our "fancy etiquette dinner" tonight (she recently re-read the family meeting minutes book and found some things that we had decided to do regularly that we had only done once - this being one of them!).  This week I've shifted to 3 long days a week rather than 2 short and 2 longs days at work.  This gives us another much needed day (today is the first of those "extra" days) at home together each week through the summer to work on projects and keep up with the garden. 

Well, I should never worry about generating a list of things to keep me occupied!  I was quite pleased to head out to the garden mid-morning and come back with four bowls of goodies - one overflowing with fresh spinach and lettuce, one with fresh oregano for drying, one with rhubarb and finally one with strawberries.  The spinach and lettuce has already been consumed and the oregano still needs my attention, but what I'm most excited about is the 7 little jars of strawberry rhubarb jam cooling on the counter (and the one in the fridge to be tried tonight with fresh cornmeal rolls as part of our "fancy dinner"). 

Kali seems to get a kick out of me when it comes to how excited I get about food processing - particularly the popping sound made when jars seal.  It makes me completely giddy!  And I think if Kali was completely honest, she gets kind of excited about this time of year too - when I was cooking the jam, she asked if I had to can it.  When I said, "yes" she exclaimed happily that this would then be the first canning of the season. 

I'll have to report later on whether we like the results or not (the licks from the pot and spatula were approved by Kali and me) but here is what I did. I looked online at various recipes and was appalled by the sugar content.  So I took one recipe and followed it pretty closely but only put in 1/4 the sugar called for.

A generous 4 cups each of cut up rhubarb and strawberries
1 T lemon juice (the recipe called for 2)
a dab of butter
two boxes of no sugar pectin
2.5 c sugar (it called for 10!)

The recipe didn't have you cook the rhubarb before you cooked it all together and then said to only boil for 1 minute. Hopefully it sets up okay because I had to cook it much longer to get the rhubarb soft so I might change that in future times too.  It looks tasty!  And it is fun to try something new.  I have frozen two very small containers of strawberries but otherwise we are keeping up with eating them fresh (though we did enjoy a strawberry shortcake dinner the other night - at which there were no leftovers).  Alida used to gobble them down quickly and now she can often be found with one strawberry in her hand for a good 20 minutes until all that is left is a little mushed up piece and then juice dribbling down her arms and all over her face. 

Now I think I'm going to try to grab a short nap while Alida is sleeping peacefully here beside me.   Jason and I made the unwise attempt at processing various things last night from about 10 p.m. until after midnight.  It had been so long since we have tried to have any kind of long or in depth conversation that we had forgotten what a bad idea it is to try it late at night.  We are both a bit sleep deprived today, since Alida decided to rise at 6 this morning, but Jason is working away at getting the rest of the garden weeded.  Part of my tiredness right now is clearly physical - and I like the good tired feeling I feel most days from working hard on meaningful and fun tasks, especially when done side by side with Jason.  I think I'm also feeling a pretty strong emotional surge right now.  The last few years, it usually surprises me a bit when it hits me.  I've been thinking about May and June arriving and always think of our last month with Nora particularly at the start of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at my work (which started on Monday).  But yesterday, in particular, I found myself experiencing waves of sadness.  When I got home from work and had a moment to reflect on it (as there was no clear external reason for the feelings that I could tell), I realized that it was May 8th, the four year anniversary of Nora's feeding tube surgery.  I continue to feel a bit amazed by what seems to be our bodies' ability to remember anniversary days/seasons.  In many ways May 8th feels like one of the harder anniversary days for me as I think back because it clearly feels like the turning point.  I was grateful for a few moments this morning during Alida's first nap to read back over some of our writing of this time.  Alida has reminded me of Nora a few times recently - she has a little squeal which sounds very similar to the vocalizations Nora made.  And most recently as Alida nursed to sleep just now, she had her one little arm outstretched on my shirt reaching towards my face.  It evokes such a tender feeling in me to feel like this little person wants to be near me and finds comfort and nourishment in my arms.  I'm glad Nora and I experienced some of those moments too.

10:19 p.m. Some pre-supper dancing in our fancy clothes, a delicious dinner with the family (and Jason in a tie!), a leisurely walk along Happy Valley Road (the world seemed all fresh from the rain and like we once again live in paradise with the clouds on the mountain), a game of Yahtzee (in which Jason creamed both Kali and me) and now it's time to bring the day to a close.  The strawberry rhubarb jam was considered a success and none of us can imagine how horrible it would have tasted had I put the additional 7.5 cups of sugar called for:  Not quite all the strawberries went into the jam.  Here's Alida enjoying one recently:

Alida has some work to do on mastering mealtime etiquette!
Tomato cocktail, mint tea, green beans, fresh cornmeal rolls with jam and chicken tenders. Yum!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Exciting things

Kali:  "There are so many exciting things happening, I didn't even notice the honeysuckle was blooming!"

Indeed!  I, Jason, couldn't have said it better.  As I write this, I'm working on digesting two and a half fine, fine helpings of homemade/homegrown strawberry shortcake generously doused with neighborhood-produced raw milk.

Life, as they say, is good.

Except for the slugs making holes in the strawberries.  They are perhaps the least lovely thing about this spring, which after a dry start is turning out to be exceedingly lush and vibrant!  Plants and animals are growing full tilt; it's about all we can do to keep up with the weeding and mowing.  The bluebirds in the garden-fence bluebird house have fledged, and the phoebes on the downspout return at the back of the garage are filling the nest so completely I fear one will fall out if one of the others won't be too many more days before the parents take them off into the canopies of the trees in our neighbors' woods.

The chickens are growing apace, but they are soon to be outdone by the ducks, who are winning our affections by being not only less pointy than chickens, but also more gregarious, more hardy, faster growing, more interactive with humans, and less prone to feather picking and other crowding-related poultry neuroses.  Also they stay fuzzy longer.  I would assert that a well-managed duck makes a somewhat more likely pet than a chicken.  They are even becoming accustomed to being held, and their obvious joy in water is rather endearing, too.  Let me be clear that these winsome waterfowl will not likely overtake chickens as my top poultry enthusiasm anytime soon...chicken raising is deeply imprinted on me!  But we've always intended to have a diverse home place, including a diversity of animal species, so it's gratifying to feel the ducks making themselves so welcome here.

In other news, the grain/pea polyculture experiment is off and running.  For those who've not seen it, here's the scoop:  last year I noticed some wasted oats left by Kali's late pet chicken, Henny Hen, had sprouted out of the weedy litter I had scratched into windrows for mulching between my double rows of peas.  Lacking time and/or enthusiasm for weeding between two tangled and fragile rows of sugar snaps, I let them grow, assuming I'd just have to catch up on my weeding when the peas were done.  To my surprise, the oats made themselves right at home, and did not seem to compete with the peas, but did seems to out-compete other species, leading to a much less weedy pea patch where the oats had volunteered.  Liking what I saw, this spring I sowed oats and a few kinds of wheat between all my double rows of peas in hopes of solving the perennial annoyance of unreachable weeds and floppy pea vines, since the grains might provide some crude trellising.  Thus far, the jury is still out on whether there is any competition between the peas and grain species, but I don't think it's severe and the weeding job was much easier.  The trellising seems to be working out.  One of my goals is to be developing systems inside our garden fence that might turn out to be "scalable."  That is, they are efficient enough to be convenient to do on a larger scale for potential market garden production, or at least to be able to make a more significant culinary or nutritional contribution.  In this case, growing shelling peas and wheat at five or ten times the current area might result in enough wheat to begin experimenting with sprouted wheat bread or some minor grinding, and enough peas to be able to enjoy them more regularly from the freezer all year!

I hope we also get to do some experimenting this year with moving the "three sisters" crops outside the garden, as well as opening up some spaces in a few of our meadows for trying a little grain amaranth.  I've already tried some potatoes in "the wild," where I had whacked back an autumn olive tree to a four foot stub and took advantage of the nearly plant-free ground under it's former shaded area and worked it with a farmer's hoe sufficiently to plant potatoes there.  At last check, they were doing better than the ones in the garden.  I look forward to a better potato harvest than usual!

That's if the voles don't get them.  I'd been worried about voles last year, but didn't see any problems.  But neighbors were reporting early and severe damage in their gardens, and in the area where we'd spread leaves for mulch, I've been hearing lots of rustling and squeaking sounds.  Ominous, since that's where I intended to put the sweet potatoes!  So when I was recently in the hardware store, I purchased some mouse traps, then placed them inside the garden fence under the leaf mulch in empty peanut butter jars with a good sized hole bored in each lid and baited with chicken feed.  Well, I can't pretend to understand what's exactly going on, but I was nonplussed to remove, in rapid succession, five SHREWS, not voles, from my traps.  I regard shrews as mostly if not wholly favorable in the garden (they are voracious predators of various invertebrates and other small animals...didn't know they liked chicken feed!), so I was dismayed to have killed five of them.  I have removed the traps, and will just have to wait and see if voles give us any trouble before trying anything else.  Could the critters I was hearing in the mulch have all been shrews?  I had no idea they could exist at such a population density.  Could that be related to the high slug population?  Seems possible.

I suppose there could also be some sort of connection to the cicadas.  This seems to be a hatch year for one of the broods of periodic cicada, and they seem to be in the full swing of their emergence.  Many places in our yard and woods have empty cicada husks clinging to the vegetation, and are often speckled with the adult cicadas themselves.  Usually they are motionless and easy to handle, seemingly focused on finding mates and laying eggs, and lacking much wariness regarding predation.  I guess their strategy is to remain in hiding for 13 or 17 years (I don't know which kind this is), then emerge all at once in such bewildering numbers as to overwhelm their predators' appetites.  It must work well, because there are plenty of them!

Well, I've got an eight-year-old waiting for a bedtime story.  Gotta go!

Here's the above mentioned eight-year-old this evening. Tough life she has!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Have I mentioned that we are having a lot of fun having ducks?  I'm not sure out of the four of us is enjoying them more.  The other night we introduced them to their new water dish/swimming pan.  You can judge for yourself if it was a success by the videos and photos below:

At first they just drank the water. Then...
one took the plunge and soon all joined in the fun.
They liked when Kali would add clover to the water for them to dabble.
This doesn't capture it, but they were so cute cleaning their feathers and then resting like big grown up ducks.
It's no longer so easy to hold them, but she still tries and they are amazingly patient with her attempts!
Someone really wants to swim WITH the ducks!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dish towels

They are Alida's newest and most favorite toy right now. Despite our best efforts, I was not able to get on video what she most loves to do.  She gets it over her head so that she cannot see anything and then walks around the house (or into things). Thus far no major injuries.  But here are some other shots of her enjoying them:

We try to remember to put them in the wash when she is done with them:

Yes, she has also learned how to undo the velcro on her diapers, and without her jammy pants would have been diaperless:

Maybe she hit her head too many times from not being able to see where she was going but she was getting downright silly:

In other news, Kali's ducks made their big move to their outdoor pen and are growing very fast, trying out new sounds (a bit closer to a quack but not quite there yet).  And my fear of Alida not liking books has been completely relieved - she loves them!