Saturday, June 14, 2014

Building Our Backyard Chicken Coop

The Coop
Our chicken coop is finished! {Mostly finished, that is.}

Over the course of a few weeks, Justin did what he could after work and on weekends. It slowly came together. I have to admit, it's far more than I ever expected.
Our chicken coopChicken CopChicken CopOur chicken coop
I was really only expecting a boxy, blah coop. Instead, my husband built, well, our new neighbor has titled it, "The Cadillac of chicken coops." Ha! I've seen far more amazing coops here, but we just wanted a cute and simple one. J did a great job.
Our chicken coop
The kids enjoyed playing in it so much, now we really want a playhouse for them. Our chicken coop
My husband dug four holes in the ground and cemented the posts in our backyard. That way a tornado could totally still probably couldn't take it down. Now, a sharknado, that's another thing...but thankfully, we live in a landlocked state and that's not too likely to happen. Chicken Cop
He added linoleum on the coop floor to make cleaning it out a little easier. Chickens poop a lot. Like. A LOT. So it's nice fertilizer to have a non-porous surface for their coop. Chicken Cop
After the building and framing was done, then came the fun part. The siding, the painting, the shake shingles, etc., it was fun to see it all start to come together. We painted it yellow to match our house. Chicken Cop
These chickies! They think they can roam the back patio! I don't think so. Dorothy has eaten the decorative kale out of my planter, the little stinker. I have had to shoo them away a couple of times.
The Little Yellow Coop
We love the way the shake shingle looks and it smells amazing. Every time it rains, our yard smells of cedar.
The Little Yellow Coop
Then suddenly, one fine May day, finally, the coop was done.
The Little Yellow Coop
Well, so the nesting boxes still need to be sectioned off and we plan to insulate before winter, but other than that it's finished! The chickens love it. The Little Yellow Coop
A few decorative accents really make it charming. A Victorian style gable, some flower boxes, and a picket fence. What more could a little chickie ask for?
{Mealworms, that's what.}
The Little Yellow Coop
In the morning we open the gate and they roam out to the bushes and the edges of our yard where they scratch for bugs or plop down to rest. In the evenings, just before the sun sets, they file back into their coop. Some days they spend in their run, but we like to let them roam too.
The Little Yellow Coop
There is a ladder style perch inside and plenty of room for the six chickens and two ducks to get cozy at night.
The Little Yellow Coop
I love our coop! We can't wait to get eggs, which should be happening in the next couple of months here.
The Little Yellow Coop
Do you remember when Big Betty was just a tiny yellow chick? {You should, it was like, two days ago.}
The Little Yellow Coop
The duck "pond" has doubled as a watering hole for the entire flock. Ducks are so messy, the fresh water turns brown within an hour of filling it up. I've stopped trying to keep it fresh.
The Little Yellow Coop
Did somebody say mealworms?! Run!
The Little Yellow Coop
We've been working on taming them with mealworms, and it's doing the trick. When we call them, "Heeere, chick chick chick!", they come running for their favorite treats. Mable here is our friendliest and boldest feathered friend.
The Little Yellow CoopThe Little Yellow Coop
I love looking at our coop and watching our flock from the back patio. It is so relaxing and peaceful to me.
The Little Yellow Coop
I'm so glad we got chickens. {Even if they do eat my decorative kale.}
I'm so glad we built our coop instead of going with a kit or trying to re-purpose the sheds we saw on Craigslist {and could never get to in time}.
The Little Yellow Coop
So there you have it!
Props to my hubs for building this adorable little chicken home.
I want to go buy some numbers and give them their own address.
Also, a mailbox might be cute, no?
Am I getting carried away here?
The Little Yellow Coop

Cheers,
Heather

Thursday, June 5, 2014

ASSumptions.

Today I loaded the kids in the car and decided to take them to Chick-fil-A for lunch before we ran errands. We don't usually eat lunches out, not unless we meet up with Justin for his lunch break. That probably won't be happening much anymore because he is so busy with his new job. I don't know, I guess I just needed a break from peanut butter and jelly sandwich making and wiping up yogurt smears.

As a modern mom, I sometimes have trouble keeping my phone off and paying attention to what is important. I was doing a good job at Chick-fil-A today, however, enjoying the nonsensical conversations one has with three-and-five-year-olds. I found myself reaching for my phone a couple times, but each time I stopped and remembered that Instagram and Facebook could wait for nap time.

Then another mom and her eight(I think?)-year-old daughter sat down at the table next to us. Mom tucked into her lunch while hunched over her iPhone, her daughter was fidgeting beside her. Few words were spoken between the two, and toward the end of their lunch date the daughter accidentally knocked her kids meal bag onto the floor. Mom was furious, even though it was an accident {which she didn't see because she was looking at her phone}. She started scolding the girl for "throwing her lunch on the floor" and spent a good five minutes before they left berating her daughter for various offenses that I didn't see happen.

I am a total hypocrite. I have a habit of looking at my phone too often, especially when the kids are around. I don't want them to remember their youth as sitting around watching their mom look at a screen. When my kids speak to me, it is absolutely imperative to me that I stop what I'm doing and pay attention to what they are saying. Still, I do spend too much of my day on my smartphone. It bothers me. I need to do a better job.

The mother-daughter scenario at CFA today was just the start of my day's run-ins with rudeness and assumptions.

The truth is, I'm not the type of person who shies away from confrontation. Not scared of speaking up, you could say I'm even sometimes smug when calling others out on their "rudeness" or "bad behavior". My mother knows this about me, and she has told me on more than one occasion, "Someone could pull a gun on you one of these days." It does happen.

As I get older, I'm learning to become more tolerant of other peoples behavior. I'm not in charge of policing their behavior. What was once one of my worst traits, snarking at strangers, is now something I'm really trying to curb. I don't like it about myself. I used to, but I don't anymore. I think it's somewhat immature, I suppose. Also, pretty hypocritical. What is it the Bible says about the beam in your own eye? Anyway...

For a moment I thought about saying to that mom, "Maybe if you hadn't spent your entire lunch ignoring your daughter via your iPhone, she wouldn't feel the need to act out to get your attention?"

A few years ago, I probably would have said just that.

I am slowly learning {duh!} not to make assumptions about people. It is usually better for everyone when you assume the best, but I rarely do. I have come to believe that it is no coincidence that the word assumption starts with the word ASS.

ASSumptions: because they make asses out of us. 

I am an ass all the time.

But I'm starting to make more excuses for people, or at least I'm trying to. Not even as much for their sake as for mine. To give people the benefit of the doubt, because I, too, have been on the receiving end of smug snark. People have made ill-educated assumptions about me, my marriage, my children, my life, my words, my intentions etc. It drives me crazy when it happens to me. Yet I make similar assumptions about others pretty much...all day. Pretty much all the time.

How often do we really have enough details of a situation to make a judgement call? Very rarely, I'm finding. We don't know what has gone on behind closed doors.

I remember several months ago, when Paxton was a newborn, my family was headed out to Costco for a shopping trip. On our way there, we encountered a crazy driver: speeding, in and out of lanes, driving recklessly. I remember Justin calling him a jerk and we made a few unkind remarks about what kind of person that was. One our way home, Paxton started screaming. After about ten minutes of driving with a screaming infant, we were now the ones speeding and changing lanes like crazy. We just wanted to get home and get that baby calmed down!

I remember thinking that day, boy, are we hypocrites or what?

Not that there is any excuse for speeding, mind you. It's against the law and that's that. But when I occasionally observe that other crazy driver and start to think bad thoughts about them, it might be helpful to remember that they might be rushing to a hospital or something. Or they might be a jerk. Does it matter? Not really, no. People will speed and I'm not a cop, so it's not my problem.

I could have given the mom at CFA an excuse too. What if she had just spent the entire morning one-on-one with her daughter? I know better than anyone how a mom needs some down time after hours of entertaining your kids. What if she was now waiting for important life-changing news to come in via phone? She could have been dealing with some very real stress, maybe she didn't usually ignore her daughter but today I just happened to witness a rare occurrence? I saw them for 20 minutes of their day, tops. Yet I was ready to assume she always ignored her daughter. She didn't need me to snark at her for it. She is in charge of her choices. It wasn't my business to start with.

Leaving Chick-fil-A, I heard someone say, "Didn't you cut kids hair?" I turned toward the voice and there was my favorite old client from my hairstyling days. I did their son and daughter's hair for a few years, they were SO nice, loved that family. Their dad is the manager for the Colorado Rockies. I remember going to their immaculate house once to cut their hair right before the World Series, they didn't have time to make appointments. Anyway, she was at lunch with her son, her daughter apparently in college...already?! She was shocked to see me with three kids...already. Her son looked so big! Thirteen-years-old now. I was shocked, and it was just another humbling reminder to me: set down that phone, indeed! Look at how fast this goes. I cut that kids hair when he was Eisley's age.

So after Chick-fil-A today, I hit up Old Navy to buy Justin some new clothes for work and then we headed for the grocery store. I dread the grocery store, especially when my kids are in tow.

An elderly lady followed me around the produce section, but she looked annoyed every time I stopped to select some fruit. I don't understand why she was following me and why she couldn't go around. A few years ago I might have snarked at her, today I just smiled.

Then I saw a little girl standing in a cart. She looked about two-years-old. She was sitting on the edge of the basket and moving around quite a bit. I was watching her out of the corner of my eye while picking out yogurt. I didn't see mom anywhere. A few other customers and even an employee were watching her also. Where was mom?

I finally saw mom down at the other end of the aisle from her daughter, browsing cereals. I had to remind myself: Heather, not all moms are like you. They don't all worry and fret as much as you, they aren't terrified of letting their kids out of their sight the way you are. Do I think it unwise? Absolutely. But she wasn't my daughter.

At check out, the same mom got in line behind us and her daughter ran to the horse ride at the front of the store. I always select a lane near the horses so my girls can ride it while I'm checking out, but today the horse ride was out of order. The little girl climbed on the horses anyway, and mom left the lane to go grab another item. It makes me so nervous to see a two-year-old left alone in the store! After we finished checking out, I hung out around the horse ride for a long moment until mom came back, the cashier already half-way through her abandoned cart.

A few years ago, I would have said something snarky to her too.

I recently did say something to a mom in a store, actually. She was yelling at her pre-teen daughter and I was going to stay out of it until--I'm not making this up--mom lunged for the girl, got her in a choke hold and started shaking her. I said something then. Not snarky. More along the lines of calm down lady! You can't lose it like that!

I wish I'd said more. I wish I had told her, "I feel you, I have fantasized about choking my kids when they are driving me bananas. But good gracious, you can't act on that!"

When we got to our car--I had been lucky enough to swipe the front row parking spot at the store today--I saw a beat up old truck was parked next to my Volvo. By "parked next to" I mean, a mere six inches away. He was over the line.

WHY does this ALWAYS happen to me? I mean, if I had a dollar for every time I've had to go into a store to have someone paged to come move their car because I can't get a car seat in...I'd have, like, $5.

Makes me want a mini-van. Almost. Not really.

I could get the baby in, but the girls and I would have had to climb in from the other side. Violet also can't buckle herself in.  But look, mostly, it's just the principle of it! I shouldn't have to climb into my car from the other side because you can't park!

This time was different, though. The driver of that car was not in the store to be paged. He was asleep in the truck. I also shouldn't stereotype or judge on appearances {ASSumptions, people!} but he looked like he could have been the type my mother has warned me of: the gun owning type. After loading my baby and groceries, hoping he'd wake up and notice me {he didn't} I finally gathered the courage to knock on his window.

A few years ago, I would have been a real stinker toward him about it. Huffy and snippy and snotty. I am not proud of that.

Today, I just apologized for waking him and asked if he could move his car. He was really nice about it, actually. Very friendly. I'm an ass.

Finally, on my way home! The only thing left to do was get my buggy out of the parking lot.

The thing about this King Soopers is that there are two cart storing thingys {what are those called? anyone?} in the back of the parking lot. I don't always take my cart where I should, sometimes I leave it at the front bumper of my car. Because: kids in my car.

Today, since I had a prime front row parking spot, I decided I could lock my kids in the car for a quick moment and at least run my cart up to the front of the store. So I did just that. I parked my cart next to a bunch of other carts by the flowers that are being sold for springtime. I thought I was doing the nice thing by moving it to the store entrance. I noticed a hipster couple walking past, a young man and his girlfriend.

I turned to run back to my car when I heard Hipster girl say, in a sing-songy voice just dripping with smug snottiness,

"That's not where the carts go!"

Oh no, she didn't. Yes, she did.

Seriously? Here I'd been on my best behavior all day, keeping my mouth shut and being polite as I could despite my hypocritical thoughts. She sounded just like me, the snarky me.

Without skipping a beat, I spun around and said, in my sternest momma bear voice,

"Bend over and I'll show you where the carts go!"

I didn't say that, I said:

"It is, actually, when you have three babies waiting in the car for you. Why don't you do a young mom a favor and take it in for me? Huh? No?"

I headed back to my car and my kids, but not before observing a smug smile on her face and a slightly embarrassed smile on his face. I recognized their smiles as the same ones I used to wear, they were actually surprised that I'd stand up to their calling out my supposed rudeness because usually--I know this from experience--people are assuming that you won't. Stand up to them, that is.

As I drove out of the parking lot, I couldn't help but ask myself, My stars, Heather. Is that how you have come off to people? You little snot. 

While we're on the topic, by the way, I have to say I have had a handful of lovely people approach me in parking lots after noticing me load my kids in and offer to take my cart in for me. People who don't have kids might not think of that, so I'm putting it out there: next time you see a mom loading groceries, it makes her day when you collect her cart for her. It might also save her from some smug hipster rage. You never know.

This meandering post doesn't really have much of a point other than to say that I continue to slowly learn that assumptions make asses out of people, myself included. I've been quite the ass so far in my life. But people can change.

I'll never forget, nor will Justin, the time I jumped out of my car to scream at another driver who had just nearly killed us in a car accident. {It had been one of those days at work, and he scared the daylights out of me.} I was so angry. I'd expected him to get out and yell back {or pull a gun on me} but instead he put his hands up in the air, tilted his head, and said with the utmost sincerity, "I'm so sorry."

That really stopped me in my tracks. I got in the car and felt like a total jerk. By being nice to me instead of smug and snarky and on the defense, that guy had totally won. I went home ashamed of myself that night.

I turn 30 this month and I'm just now learning to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Cheers,
Heather

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What May Looked Like Around Here

Margaritas and lawn mowing, they came with May.
May 2014
May meant baby shower time for my pastor's daughter, and here is the cake I was commissioned to make. {I did not host this party, but my friend Jessica did, and you can see more baby shower photos here at my Flickr account. It was so very cute.}
Katy's Baby Shower
May meant it was time to do something with the amazing antique copper boiler the previous homeowner left behind.
May 2014
In May you can start buying flowers to plant.
May 2014
May--specifically Mother's Day--means Colorado's last frost. It snowed the day after Mother's Day this year. Figures.
May 2014
May meant this guy turned 10 months old. Can you believe it? Neither can I.
May 2014
May is the perfect month for big sisters to teach their little sisters how to ride a tricycle.
May 2014
So there was a lot of bicycle bell ringing on our back porch. And side ponytails, lots of those these days too.
May 2014
Lots of grilling opportunities, as well as chances to revisit your favorite summer recipes, May brings with it.
May 2014May 2014
I can't remember the last family meal we had inside at our dining room table. The back porch is too lovely to stay away from. {I'm writing this post up there now, in fact.}
May 2014


May 2014

May allowed for warm, chicken ranging weather. They like to hunt bugs in the bushes, the girls bring them worms and moths that they catch.
May 2014
Our first May in our new home meant watching the flowers that we didn't know were there bloom.
May 2014
May also happened to be the month we put the finishing touches on our chicken coop. Or rather, Justin finished the chicken coop. Next post, I'll show you more. It turned out sort of cute.
May 2014

Happy June! I turn 30 this month, on the first day of summer.

Cheers,
Heather

Monday, June 2, 2014

Riduckulous

May 2014

Ducks. They are ridiculous.
I've listed about six examples below, for your amusement.

We've figured out who's who when it comes to our ducks. Percy, the black one, is a drake. Leif, the fawn & white, is a hen. I'm sorry that this sounds like some horribly sexist joke, but it turns out you can sex Indian runner ducks by how vocal they are, or aren't. Females are noisy and talk all day long. Males barely whisper, if even that.

We'd wanted Percy to be a female because he would have started out laying black eggs that would have progressively lightened to white or light gray over his lifetime. Cool! But it wasn't meant to be. Leif is our female. She quacks all day. Most ducks actually don't "quack" though.

Having a {female} duck is like having someone with a strange abrupt laugh hanging out in your backyard ALL DAY:

"HEH! .......... HEH! ............ HWEH HWAH HWAH HWEH HWEH HWAH!..............HEH! "

I've worried the neighbors will get irritated, but our super nice neighbor to the south says she loves it because she grew up on a farm, so it's actually a peaceful noise, she says. The neighbors to the north said they haven't even noticed the noise. Well, that's good. I certainly can hear her. All day: "HEH!"

We have loved watching the ducks in their "pond", but I learned this week that ducks also enjoy running through the sprinkler. 



Every time I get the hose out to water the flowers, the ducks come over.

Ducks eat like the Cookie Monster.

When we feed the chickens out of our hands, they strut up to us, eye the food, eye us, eye the food and with quick precision they peck the exact piece of food they wanted.

The ducks? They cautiously waddle up to us, eye us for a long, awkward moment, and suddenly their head thrusts forward and their bill rapidly vibrates in the handful of food, sending it flying around them. It gets everywhere, most of it probably doesn't make it in their bills.

Ducks can be rudely aloof. 

When the chickens are feeding, they approach the food politely, going around the feeder until they find an open space to move in between the other chickens. The ducks approach the feeder in a beeline. Chicken is in the way? No problem. The duck head pushes under chicken butt, the chicken ends up piggyback on the duck. The startled chicken almost falling over, wings flapping. Food starts flying as the duck starts eating, chicken looks bewildered, most likely thinking, "Well, I never! How rude!"

Ducks are so clumsy.

We knew the ducks were clumsy the day we got them, but moving them outside into the coop proved to be quite amusing. They had to learn how to use the ramp to get in and out of the coop. The chickens learned it pretty quickly, and they are able to flap their wings enough to achieve soft landings while getting down and elegant hops onto the ramp.

The ducks had a harder time learning to use the ramp. The first few days we'd have to put them in the coop by hand. Watching them come out in the morning was hilarious. Leif would take one step out onto the ramp, not watching where she was going and not understanding the ramp, her second step would be off the edge, she would fall head first into the dirt below...."HEH!"...then took off running.

Percy learned how to go up the ramp by himself at night like the chickens, but Leif would be the only one left out. We would hear her, protesting loudly at being the only one left outside the coop. We'd have to go out there with the broom to herd her and put her in the coop ourselves. {Which got her all worked up, "HWAH!!!!! HWAH!!!! HWAH!!!!" While the rest of the flock stared from inside the coop, probably wondering why they had to share a home with an idiot duck. She's terrified of the broom now.} It was watching her try to make it up the ramp that was hilarious, because...

Ducks have very poor spatial awareness.

Leif would see the rest of her flock inside the coop, and she tried to get in, she tried so hard and would get so confused. She would stand next to the ramp, and since her head would be positioned over the ramp, she thought she was on it. So we'd watch her, repeatedly, walk up to the ramp, think she was on it instead of next to it, and she'd turn and walk toward the coop...then stop, wondering why she was now under the coop instead of in it. So she'd go back to the ramp and repeat. Over and over, she didn't understand why she wasn't getting inside the coop.

A similar thing happened when we first introduced them to their pool. They would walk up to the pool, their head over the side, they would gobble up water with their bills and dunk their heads in. Then, they appeared to think they were in the water because it was all they saw in front of them. Instinct to swim took over at the sight of water. The result was a comical display of them trying to paddle and swim on the ground: they'd squat down, and run rapidly in circles, before tripping and face planting in the dirt.

I could watch them being fools all day, but they finally learned to push themselves over the pool edge. Watching them get out of the pool still usually results in some trips and falls.

I am glad we decided to get ducks. They are so fun to watch; I understand now why they have a reputation for being silly. They get along so well with the chickens. The chickens have a pecking order and can get into spats with each other, the ducks are completely oblivious to any conflict, they waddle around the yard all day--"HEH!"--wagging their adorable tails and gobbling up food and water like piggies. Every once in a while they abruptly plop down, fold their heads onto their backs between their wings and close their eyes. 

May 2014

Our sweet, silly ducks, Percy & Leif. We will never be able to take them seriously.

Cheers,
Heather


HWEH!

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