Friday, May 25, 2012

Chickens on the mind

There is nothing like sitting under the summer sun sipping down a tall glass of fresh squeeze lemon aid reflecting with friends and family. Often enough you talk about your hopes, dreams, remember when's and the, If I could do it all over again's. Sit on down and pour ya' a glass!

 Recently, I have been thinking about the homestead...  I have been thinking about the things that I hope for my family and our children. I have been thinking about the things that I would change in regards to the farm set up, animals and crop. There are a lot of dreams up there brewin' in my noggin'!

I learned a lot from the homestead chickens. In fact my mother and I have discussed our chicken rearing days at great lengths. We both agree that the French Black Copper Marrans are pretty unique birds and their eggs are absolutely amazing. But they are very flighty and not very hearty. I had problems with them catching colds in the winter months and though they aren't really aggressive, they far from friendly!
But... remember Hijeevey? He was such a good Rooster.

 I felt like the Barred Rocks were very showy. I was smitten with the idea of raising a dual purpose breed. They were supposedly a good roasting bird (mine were always used in stew) and I couldn't complain with their egg production. They had much to offer. You can sex the chicks easily by their markings and their barred feathering could be used in making flies for fly fishing... Wow, I think I might be selling myself on the breed again! But wait! Not so fast here! We actually enjoyed the Buff Orpington's the best.

The the Buff Orphingtons won my heart over because of their great personalities. I remember when I released our young pullets into the coop for the first time. One by one they all walked down the plank into the chicken run. The majority of the group that had completed the tasked and loitered around the bottom, watching and cheering for the next to make the trip. Finally at the very last, one little pullet remained. A few of the chickens lost interest and decided to do a little exploring but alas there were still a few in the at the end of the plank trying to coax the last one down. Finally one chicken jumped back to the top of the plank and walked back down. She stopped at the bottom waiting for the timid one to follow. The scared little chicken squawked and paced while searching for the courage. Again big sister jumped to the top and walked down the plank again. I envisioned her at that moment cheering on the timid sister, "Come on down", "Its so easy", "Come on in, the water is fine". Sure enough the timid sister built the courage! Wobbly she held out her wings and quickly walked down the plank. The crowd at the bottom clucked and then dispersed. I kid you not! This is a real true story!

These chickens have personality! I use to watch them for hours. Many nights I sat writing stories inspired by the personalities and adventures of our precious Buff Orpingtons.

How cute was she!?

Obviously it wasn't just personality alone that won my heart. The Buffs are also prolific light brown egg layers. Usually I had about one Buff Orpington out of the group that would go broody but I wasn't complaining. I was tickled not to have to deal with the incubator. I  just really enjoyed the breed.

If I had it to do all over again... I would go with a small flock of Pure bred Buff Orpingtons. Although I lack patience I would start them off as chicks again. It is a proven fact that it does the heart good to watch things grow. Watching them grow is important in the enjoyment process. I would have a small portable coop (due to our lifestyle). The coop will be aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean. When I do it again...

I know its early and I will waiting for a while..BUT... but... dreams start from a desire! That desire transforms to an idea... a great IDEA  might I add! With a little bit of thought and patience and planning, a DREAM will transform into something AMAZING... a REALITY! So its ok to dream, even if its a bit early.

This coop INSPIRES ME!

Check this baby out!

We are already talking about houses, gardens and chicken coops. ;-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

I must find my people!

To reiterate what I have been saying for the last year of my life, things are changing my friends.

Here lately I have been trying to get into the swing of things. Alex's last day of school is this week and after that we will be completely and officially transferred to our new town! Hooray!!! I have been waiting for this day for quite some time now! The daily drive from here to the homestead has been a bit much for us all. Being here part of the time and then spending the rest of my time waiting at the farm for Alex to get out of school has made it difficult to get acclimated to our new town.

Yes, have been doing what I am suppose to in order to kick the transfer into high gear. The basics have been checked off the list.  Medical records have been transferred. Schools for the children have been found. Bank accounts have been moved. All the boring tedious stuff has been taken care of.

Its the whole, making this home, that I have been really focusing on. I have been writing a little more, exploring the surroundings, tending to our meager patio garden and searching out  the local hot spots for people like myself, (farmers markets, local craftsmen, popular homesteads, and fishing areas). I have been in search for the local cheap and fun entertainment for children as well. High and low I have searched. I hate to say it but thus far I am coming up a bit short in all areas!

It is frustrating. This is a big town! Where are the places that offer workshops for children and adults? Where are dairy goat farmers? I need cheese! Where are the bee keepers? We need honey! This town is large enough that the nooks and crannies should be loaded with niche markets.

This place is over saturated with shopping centers and restaurants filled with consumers but....where are MY people? The people who grow their own gardens, bake their own bread, sew their own clothes?  Where are the people who are suppose to inspire me to do more and to be better!?

It took me a while to find myself but now... Now, I must find my people! Perhaps I just haven't struck gold yet. Maybe its just this town hasn't got on board yet? But what if... what if the whole urban homesteading, going green, and getting back to the basics is/was {GULP} Just a... {deep breaths} a fad!? Will I travel alone in my journey?

Either way, even at worst case scenario.... I have my work cut out for me...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Flower Power

Fresh from the flower pot garden...
I know that it isn't a fruit or veggie but those are coming soon! The Squash and Zucchini plants are growing! I still haven't picked my tomato plants yet. I know, I know already! I need to get the show on the road! Alex will be out of school soon and I will have more time and focus. Until then, I am just stopping to smell the.. Lilies.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lovers Caught the Storm.

Friday afternoon Juan and I hit the door running. We were so ready for a little R and R by the lake. He already had the truck loaded when I arrived home. We left the house a little after 4:00pm. After a 15 minute truck ride we realized that Juan had left his wallet at home as it was nowhere to be found. Angry at himself, he mumbled all the way back to the house. After searching our home,  the wallet still went undetected... That is until it was discovered in the backseat of the truck! 

Ok, so lets try this again. Off we went. We were headed to a little campground at Land between the Lakes in Springville, TN. The Land between the Lakes is a national recreation area between the Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. 

We arrive at the same light where Juan had previously remembered that he couldn't remember where his wallet was when I remembered that we didn't remember our fold up chairs!!! There is something about that traffic light! If you are in the area and know that you forgot something but cant remember what it is go to the traffic light by Rural King in Clarksville, you will remember what you forgot! 

Determine not to return home again that night we continued on our trip. We finally stopped somewhere outside of Dover Tn and bought folding chairs at the local Dollar General. 

I would love to say at this point that we were thrilled and anxious with anticipation of a great weekend but that wasn't the case. Juan was hungry and still mad at himself over the wallet. I was tired and was wondering how exactly a camp fire WITHOUT a beer was going to taste! 

We finally made our way down a long gravel road. Towering White Pines filled the empty hill sides. Rusty red pine needles were scattered across the sandy rock littered shore lines as the last of the sun light danced across the water. I stared out of my passenger side window in awe of the magnificent site.

When we arrived at camp we were greeted by Kimber and Benelli, our friends (Mark and Kayleigh) 160 lb Great Danes. Kimber and Benelli were thrilled to have full access to the Lake. After the typical dog greetings of barking and inappropriate sniffing they showed off their romping skills as the ripped off back towards the lake. The fresh air, towering trees, the sound of water crashing against the shore lines, and the great companionship of man and animal alike, put every muscle in my body at ease. 

Juan and Mark unloaded our camping gear and started to set up our tent. Kayleigh and I pulled the short straw and had to make a run for fire wood. Luckily the store we bought the rick of wood from also sold fishing license. I needed to get my licensed updated for the year so I took advantage of the time away from camp.

Once we returned, the boys had everything together...except there was just this small little but not so insignificant detail that they left off the tent.  "Baby, you forgot the rain gear", I said delicately. "I know babe, we don't need it", my husband said reassuringly. "But hun we are suppose to have rain this weekend, I looked at the weather, will you please help me put it on", I asked. Being a good husband and trying to keep my pregnancy as stress free as possible he didn't argue.

 Finally our tent was equipped with rain gear and I couldn't contain myself any farther. Even though the sun was setting, I had to drop a line in the water!

I baited my hook and in less than 5 minutes I felt my first bite. My heart started to pump a little faster! Suddenly I felt a tug and a pull! My line quickly shot to the left and then to the right! "I got one", I squealed in excitement! Juan jumped up to help if I needed it.

 I reeled in my catch.... A 4 inch bluegill! Yeah that's right, a whopping 4 inches... and even at that, I may be telling a fish tale! 

Juan caught the fever. He threw out his line. After about 20 minutes darkness had settled upon us, along with a swarm of mosquitoes of biblical proportions! We decided to give it up for the night. We retired by the camp fire. The smoke kept the bugs at bay and the entertainment couldn't be beat.

Benelli sat at Kayleigh's feet occasional perking up her ears as Mark and Juan enthusiastically shared their stories about their deployment together years ago in Afghanistan. The camp fire crackled and sizzled as I drifted in and out of the moment to my personal thoughts. War stories had always made me anxious. Maybe it was the atmosphere or perhaps the company, but as I listened on, my anxiety about Juan's future deployments waned.

 Knowing the type of men that my husband has been stationed with before puts a little bit of that gnawing anxiety about the future to rest. I listened and laughed at their stories. Oh how boys will be boys! No matter where they are or what they are doing, they will always find a way to horse play.  Mark and Juan have great chemistry. I felt sure that their deployment together was made easier because of their companionship. I am glad that fate put Mark and his fiance Kayleigh are here with us.   

After a few hours of camp fire stories,a little before midnight I decided to hit the hay. I hadn't quit drifted off to sleep when my husband tiredly felt his way through the dark tent. He nestled in closely beside me and kissed my cheek. "Goodnight baby", he whispered. 

Then one of the sweetest things happened! The first rain drop hit the tent! Thank goodness for that rain gear!

 I heard Mark and Kaylee rustling around trying to get their rain gear on in the dark before the down pour. Juan must have been coherent enough to hear all of this as well. "Good call baby, good call", he repeated in a groggy voice. Satisfied, I peacefully drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. 

The  next morning I enjoyed a slice of my homemade banana bread  by the lake. I shared a bite with Kimber as we watched a blue hereon sweep down in attempts to catch a fish. The poor thing came back up empty handed. I understood its disappointment as I had hoped for fish for breakfast as well. 

We enjoyed a relaxing day by the lake. We fished and ate, swam and ate, talked and ate, and then ate some more! After our steak dinner we all once again gathered around the camp fire. The night was still. There wasn't much of a breeze. The water was quiet. Even the birds were quiet. I thought about how peaceful it was there and then I remembered that we would be leaving soon. 

I looked up at the sky. Between the pine tree tops the moon lit the night sky into a pale blue. We were all fairly quiet. Kayleigh broke the silence as she voiced her dread for the next morning. Dismantling camp was on everyone's mind.

After I finished the last of my ginger ale, I was yet again the first to wander back to my tent for some shut eye. Juan followed shortly behind me. We comfortably fell asleep as a nice breeze finally started to stir. At around 11:00 pm I had to go pee. I walked up to the bath house. I could feel the breeze pick up to a steady swift pace. The wind wrapped my hair around my face. I pulled the stray hairs from my mouth. I could hear Mark and Kayleigh down at the camp fire but all I could see was red coals blowing towards the lake. 

Tiredly I returned to my warm spot in my tent. About an hour later I was awakened by sound of large rain drops. The intensity increased. The wind blew rain through the open tent windows. Juan and I got up and zipped up the tent. The wind picked up and the rain beat down upon us. We both laid there wide eyed hoping that the storm would soon pass. It didn't. 

The intensity of the storm brewed. A tree toppling over and killing us both, much like what happened to my cousin, entered my mind. Just as I was really starting to worry, our rain gear was ripped from our tent shell, leaving us and all our belongings vulnerable to the pouring rain.

 Juan jumped up as the front of our tent collapsed. He held it up as the 60 mile an hour winds fought against him. "Hurry baby, put on your shoes, I cant hold it much longer", he said intensely.  I was afraid I would slip and fall in wet flip flops so I decided to struggled with my tennis shoes instead. Juan pushed against the heavy wind to keep our tent up. Finally I grabbed what I could of our bags and we made a run for the truck. 
As I peeled off for the truck I looked behind me to see Mark and Kayleigh also running for their truck, calling after Kimber and Benelli. I glanced back at their camp site. Their tent was already demolished. 

I jumped in the truck and Juan peeled out away from the trees towards the cinder block shower house. He must have been reading my mind! My cell was dead and Juan was pretty sure he had left his in the tent that was now filled with water. We ran to the shower house.

 Between the cold rain and the adrenalin, I shivered uncontrollably. "Baby, I am so cold, can we go sit in the truck", I pleaded. Juan was unsure if it was safe but he reluctantly agreed. As we ran back to the truck our heads were beat with nickel size hail. Once inside, I cringed as I heard the ice bounce off the truck. 

Finally the hail stopped and the beating rain waned to a lighter but steady pace. Juan and I debated, even if we wait till it quits raining all of our stuff is still soaked. We were both on the same page. We decided to dismantle in the rain, head home, go to sleep and deal with the mess at home after a good rest.

Together we operated like a well oiled machine. Juan worked the outside of the tent as I walked through 2 inches of water to retrieve our saturated linens. We had camp dismantled and cleaned in less that 45 minutes in the pouring rain night sky!

Luckily we made it home with out any major damage to our gear. By Sunday evening all of our gear was cleaned, dried and put away. We laid on the couch wrapped up in each others arms, thankful for each other... and thankful to have found out exactly how well we work together under fire. 

I reflected on the weekend. Sometimes, the magnitude of outside forces has little to do with how well you weather the storm. Its about your companionship, the company that you keep so to speak, like the chemistry between Mark and Juan, brothers in war...or like us... Lovers Caught the Storm

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Reintroduction Introduction!!!

In my creepy sing-songy voice... "I'M BACK"!

So much has happened in the last few months. My life is entirely different now. I felt like my new life wouldn't fit with my old blog. So I had even attempted to start a new one. It wasn't the same for me. The passion and the love that I felt for Come by Chance doesn't compare to anything else I try to write. Come by Chance isn't just a blog for me and its not just my own work of art. It's my expression of who I am.

HOW LUCKY AM I!? Most people search their whole life looking for the heart of who they are. My spirit has been to hell and back. But I have discovered that I am the same me no matter where I go, what I do, who I laugh with, what I cry about. My life is everything that embodies Comes by Chance. And so.... I am here to tell you that I AM BACK with a world of changes nipping at my feet.

Those of you who still check in, Thank you for your loyalty. I am going to do better about consistently  writing... because well... I AM BACK!

My first blog post being back, there will be a few changes... I have a few new characters that have been added to our lives. I remarried a few months ago and now it seems that we have a family that is steadily growing. {Wink wink}

Another upcoming change, I have decided to blog with our real names verses nick names. Perhaps I have been desensitized by frequent internet use (marketing, networking and blogging) But I have rationalized my decision by the fact that we meet strangers every day in real life which logically should be more dangerous, right!? There are many of you that I have met via blog that have become my true and dear life long friends. So this way it will be easier for my new readers to remember all of our names when we become best friends!

The pictures I have posted on my side bar will gradually start to change. I no longer live on the farm. Although I miss the farm so much that it hurts at times, this only means that there must be another one in my future, right!?, now lets not get a head of ourselves! Its not going to be anytime soon! BUT what we will be doing while we are currently living the good life in a townhouse, is, well...we will be living the good life in a townhouse! I have already started on our potted garden and I am very excited already by its growth. I will post pictures soon.

I am still fishing, hiking, camping, and playing in the mud when I can. So... some things will just never change....{{Sigh}}

I am  so excited and looking forward to reintroducing you to our lives...

Crap, I just cant wait for another blog post! So without farther adieu...

Our Reintroduction introduction

Welcome to our new lives as an average blended American military family! Follow along as we lasso life by the horns and attempt urban homesteading under extreme conditions (small space, rough climates and constant uprooting). Peek in as I attempt to maintain the social and academic lives of two small children (soon to be 3) while learning the ropes to this whole military life. And by all means watch with us as our townhouse garden grows!!!

This our beautiful and artistic 8 year old daughter Alexandria,

 The handsome and ever so charming 4 year old son named Aubrey,
Both kids are so different with their talents and quirks. They add quite a bit of flavor to our lives! I cant wait to meet our third. No telling what we will be in for!

 Last but not least... I am proud to introduce you to my hero...

 My husband Juan is an Infantry Staff Sergeant in the US Military. But he is my hero for completely different reasons beyond the metals that are pinned to his chest. Quite honestly, there are many reasons I adore my husband, of course I would, that's why I married him! But what makes this man so special... his strongest quality is one of  the most rarest found. He is promise keeper. When he says he is going to do something, he does it. Whether its take out the trash, pass a class or fix something that has me fretting. He is a man of honor, a man of his word and the man I very quickly  fell in love with.

I look forward to sharing our lives with all of you! Thank you for reading.