Archive for My House

Cut and Paste Chicken

Well, it’s spring.  And I’m blogging about my chickens.  It seems to happen every year.  I should just cut and paste my post from last time.  But, I can’t help it!

(I do blog more about my kids than about my chickens, though.  I checked my Tag Cloud.)

Every spring, we have our first warm sunny day, and I open up the doors to the coop, and the girls come bursting out into the sunlight, and spend the next joyful hours “discovering” the world outside.  That they forgot was there.  Because it’s been a long winter.  And they are really pretty stupid.  But I love them for that too……….

This time, when I burst into their coop with my pitchfork (another sign of their lack of intelligence is that they’re not at all fazed by being awoken by a girl holding a pitchfork) I found a lovely surprise waiting for me.  6 eggs!  6 tiny almost ridiculous eggs from our 2 tiny almost ridiculous birds………but I was so excited!  They stop laying in the winter.  The days are too short, the coop is too cramped, their energy goes entirely into staying alive in the cold.  These eggs are a joyful sign!  A sign of light and warmth and survival.  36 more of these tiny eggs and I’ll have enough for an omelet………

So, I mucked out the coop, the girls scratched around the yard, I collected the eggs.  I had a few bittersweet moments of remembering the girl that didn’t make it through the winter.  It’s a miracle this bird even made it into the winter.  Tessa was the wrong kind of chicken.  Tessa was a broiler.  Broilers are bred to get so huge so fast, that they are ready to slaughter in 45 days.  We did not do our research.  We saw the world’s most adorable puffy yellow chick and had to have her.  She was so cute you wanted to eat her up………….my point exactly.

OMG she's so cute she's sitting on my hand I don't even care if she poops on me I want her to live in my house forever and ever and ever!!!!!!!!

Um, guys? What happened to Tessa? Why can't she walk? Why did we think it was a good idea to buy a chick from Tractor Supply? That they usually only sell in packs of 30?

Tessa was a good girl.  She made it way past the 45 days.  But she didn’t make it past winter.  I don’t think she had an unhappy life.  She ate and drank and scratched.  She did sit around a lot.  Her legs weren’t strong enough to haul her broiler-ness around for very long at one stretch.  But she got to sit in the sun.  And chase bugs from where she sat.  She gave it up in January.  (I don’t blame her.  January makes me want to give it up most years too…….)  We buried her in the garden.  Which is one (and possibly the only) perk of global warming: we were able to dig a hole in the non-frozen ground even in January.

So, we’re down to 3 girls.  In Neenah, you’re allowed to have 4 hens.  So, we’ll be getting a chick again this spring.   Again, she will be so cute we will let her sit on our hands and poop in our house.  Again, we will spend the first few months praying that she is really a “she” and not a rooster (which would have to go find a “nice home in the country”, like Sasquatch).  Again, we will just want to eat her up!  But, we won’t.  Because, this time, she will NOT be a broiler from Tractor Supply.


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Set in Stone

My kids and I drove past our old house in Appleton last week.  It’s funny how rarely we get over in that neck of the woods.  It’s only 5 miles away from where we live now, but it feels like another world!   We moved to our current house in Neenah 6 years ago and we love it.  It’s definitely “home”.  But there is a lot of nostalgia for that “old”  house:  it was our first house, our first yard, our first mortgage.  Both of our kids were born there.  (Well, they were born in hospitals nearby, but you know what I mean).  So, driving through that old neighborhood brings back such emotion.

Gage doesn’t remember the house.  He was only 18 months when we moved.  But Solon remembers.  In fact, he didn’t want to move.  For the first year, he got sad every time he thought about his old Appleton house.  It was the only home he had ever known.  And for a long time, our Neenah house didn’t feel very homey.  It was all spiders and moldy carpet.  And exposed wires.  At least now the moldy carpet is gone.

So, we drove past our old house.  The boys saw the windows of their old rooms.  They saw the perennial gardens that mom planted.  They saw the backyard where they used to swim naked in the kiddie pool (I have pictures).  They saw the screen door that Daddy installed all by himself.  My kids saw all this stuff.  But all I saw was walls.  Two beautiful stone retaining walls.  That were still so. damn. straight.

The old Appleton house was where I discovered gardening.  I loved planting perennials and flowers and herbs.  I grew seeds and made compost and cultivated raised beds and fantasized about flowers all winter long.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a terrible gardener.  I still am.  I’m a Darwinian waterer: I only want my fittest  plants to survive.  I’m a very forgiving weeder.  What’s a “weed”, anyway?  Dandelions are so pretty!   But I still love having gardens.  And at my old house I wanted MORE gardens.  We had a small lot and a sloping front yard.  I decided that, if I had retaining walls in the front, I would have even MORE room to grow weeds.  I mean, have a garden……… For those of you who know anything about my life in 2004, you know that these retaining walls were not going to get built by the traditional wall-building member of our family.  Poor Shiloh was a little…………busy.  (Poor guy.  This was still a year before they actually passed laws saying it was ILLEGAL to force a person to be that busy………but, once again, that’s a whole other post).  So, I decided that I was gonna build me some walls.  This was a huge undertaking.  I studied books for months.   I examined gravel.   I collected tools.  I sought the advice of my Dad, who is famous around central Wisconsin for the blinding straightness of his retaining walls.  I took at least 12 trips to Home Depot to pick up stones since there’s only so much you can haul in the trunk of a Nissan Altima with two screaming children.

That brings me to the most important part of my story: the screaming children.  Those of you with small children who have every tried to get anything exciting done (like peeing or unloading the dishwasher) know what I’m talking about.  These walls were only gonna get built over the course of several weeks in short 21-minute sessions between breastfeedings and butt-wipings.  My kids were 2 years old and 6 months old.  These are not helpful ages when it comes to masonry.  So, I planned around naps and playdates and that one day in July when Shiloh had an afternoon off.  I even did a little building in the dark.  And the rain.

But build it, I did.  And I felt like a superwoman.  Honestly, I think I (like most moms) already was a superwoman: I clipped coupons for tampons and drew maps of garage sale routes every Friday to save a few dimes, I remembered every birthday in my in-laws family and forged my husband’s name on the cards, I grew two human beings from scratch, for God’s sake!  But none of that made me feel as powerful as building those walls.  If you need tangible proof of your superwoman-ness, there’s nothing more tangible than stone.  When we drove past our old house last week, I noticed that the paint was peeling and the front steps were pretty crumbly.  The gardens looked like a Costa Rican jungle.  But those walls were still so. damn. straight.  Super-humanly straight.

My super-woman status is set in stone.

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Look at me. I’m camping.

I did it.  I went camping.  It’s been a LONG time.  In fact, my kids have never been camping outside of my backyard.  We do have a firepit and a big muddy backyard, but it’s stretch to try and call it camping.   As a family, we love to hike and swim and have bonfires and get dirty.  But, after a few bad camping experiences early in my marriage, I was forced to enact the Great Camping Moratorium of 1999.  It decreed that Adria (that’s me) would not be spending the night in a tent or a car with Shiloh (that’s my husband) unless we were stranded on a distant highway or our house was very recently burned down.  I didn’t say that Shiloh could not go camping.  Just that I would not be going with him.  It sounds harsh.  But we had some rough camping trips.  One involved 4 bottles of Boone’s Farm wine, an angry park ranger high on his own power, and a silent drive home at 6AM.  One time,  Shiloh and I went to the Dells and actually forgot our tent.  I can see forgetting a can opener or a toothbrush, but the actual tent?  Each one of us blamed the other, but it was a joint effort in stupidity.  And a long long night in a small small car.

Anyway, the Great Camping Moratorium was only supposed to last 3 years.  I figured that by 2002 I would be ready to camp again.  But 3 years stretched into 10 years.  We had kids.  We stopped drinking Boone’s.  We bought a bigger car.  It seemed like the time was right to try again.  For the kids.  So last Friday, with a long vacation weekend ahead of us and no firm plans, we packed up the car and headed to Door County to do some camping.  We actually got a walk-in spot in Peninsula State Park and……we camped.  I think we did pretty good for our first time!  We remembered the essentials: matches, flashlights, tent, iPhone.  We did forget a few things: cooking pot, clothesline, can opener.  One of my kids  forgot his shoes.  Seriously.  How can you go anywhere, especially camping, and forget to wear shoes?  We bought him new shoes at the camp store but, as punishment, we chose him pink and lavender aqua socks.



We had a great weekend of hiking, reading, roasting marshmallows, and just enjoying Wisconsin.  I kept saying “Look at me!  I’m camping!”.  It was surreal.  I was surprised by how much fun I had.  I don’t hate camping.  But I do struggle to understand it.  Why is it fun?  That’s not sarcasm….I really want to know.  Why is it fun?  You work hard to pack up every single thing you need to enjoy the comforts of home.  Everything you would already have if you just stayed home.  You cram it in your car and haul it across the state, you set it all up, you get it all wet and dirty, you pack it all up again, you haul it home, you unpack it again to dry it off, and you pack it up one more time and put it in your basement.   Seems crazy when you look at it like that.  Most of the time, just living in my house is kinda like camping: the floor is covered in dirt, the bathrooms are kind smelly (I have boys), and you’re probably only getting hot dogs for dinner.

The day after the Great Door County Monsoon of 2010. Every single thing we brought was soaked. We hung it all up to dry. On a clothesline we had to buy at the camp store.

I can’t deny that I had a great time this weekend.  And I’m looking forward to our next trip!  We spent quality time together.  No TV, no grocery lists, no internet connection (I know because I checked my iPhone every 35 minutes just in case).  Who doesn’t love a bonfire at night?  And lying in a warm sleeping bag listening to the wind blow through the treetops?  I guess I don’t have to be able to explain camping to enjoy camping.  It is lots of work.  It is vaguely damp and smelly.  Yet, it is strangely rewarding.  It’s not logical, but it’s fun.  Just like life.

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We’re doing a little remodeling on our house.  I don’t know if “remodeling” is the right word for it, as that implies some sort of finished room we are re-doing.  There was nothing finished about these rooms when we bought the house.  We’re really just fixing holes and putting in ceilings and capping bare electrical cords.  After 4 years.  Fancy.

But, I’m still excited.  We were so fired up that we ripped out the floors and pulled down the damaged walls and removed countertops and demolished a shower stall.  And then realized this was not a do-it-yourself project.  Oh well.  We did what we could (which was a lot! thanks Jason!) and waited for the contracters to arrive.  Waited for about 3 weeks.  But, the plaster guy is plastering as we speak.  The wood floor guy is ready to go.  This is going to be awesome.

The bathtub in our one functioning bathroom. And I use the word "functioning" loosely here. Today my son was taking a bath in this pit, I was washing my hair in the sink, and Dad was.....well, use your imagination. But, the family that you-know-whats together, stays together. So there.

The view of our utility room. It used to conatin a random shower stall and many ugly built-in cabinets. You can see part of the plaster guy as he attempts to repair the walls. And ceilings. And tub surround. And laundry chute.

My studio. It's not getting remodeled, but it becomes the repository for junk whenever we need to clear out another room. Like when we are having a fancy dinner party or when the plaster guy shows up earlier than expected. Lucky me. I especially like the broken toilet next to my guitar. Handy.

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Mothers, Daughters, and Christmas Salami

Christmas means many things in my family.  Gifts, candles, carols, blah, blah, blah.  In my family, Christmas is about the food.  We don’t even pretend anymore.  We don’t dress up or set the table or use forks.  That fancy stuff  just gets in the way of the eatin’.  We even abandoned an actual menu for Christmas Eve.  We just load up the living room coffee table with all our favorite dips and appetizers and desserts and go to town.

Shrimp, artichoke dip,  salsa…….these are a few of my favorite things……..

But, one of the most important parts of our family Christmas Eve, our “yule log” if you will, is the Christmas Salami.  We’re not usually much of a sausage family.  But, what’s Christmas without the salami?  So, on Christmas Eve, my (vegan!) sister and my (carnivore!) mom and I went to the grocery store to get the essentials.  Wow.  You should grocery shop with my mom sometime.  Wonderful, but painful.  I regret that I don’t have any daughters I will be able to subject to the Christmas Grocery Shopping.  It’s a rite of passage in our family.  But I doubt that any daughters-in-law will be willing to accompany me.  Only mom knows how to get the RIGHT cocktail sauce (refrigerated, not canned), the RIGHT crackers (stone-ground wheat), and the RIGHT salami (not too soft).  My mom rejected the salami I chose and went back for one that was “harder”.  Seriously.  You can’t make this stuff up.

As usual, my mom was right.  I hate that.  (Someday, it will be my turn to always be right.)  Christmas Eve “dinner” was painfully good.  And filling.  And big enough that I’m still eating artichoke dip and corn chips for breakfast.  But, not the salami.  That was gone right away.

My mom, triumphant in the quest for the 2009 Christmas Salami.

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Paintings For Sale

GageysaleHere’s my little guy busy at work at his Art Stand.  He was inspired by our neighbors, who hosted a successful Lemonade stand last week.  He and his brother sat in the yard and watched cars stop and give the neighbors money for lukewarm Kool-Aid.  It seemed like magic.  Money for nothing?!   My kids like money.  They instantly started begging to have a sale themselves.  Kool-Aid was not an option: we don’t have any Kool-Aid.  They wanted to sell their broken toys: that seemed less than classy to me.

I wanted to come up with something that actually helped them understand entrepreneurship.  Selling broken toys (that technically belonged to ME) didn’t teach them much about the marketplace.  So I suggested they create something on their own to sell.  My oldest son immediately lost interest.  He’s not my most imaginitive.  That’s ok.  But Gage, my youngest son, was captivated.  He immediately set to work with watercolors and glitter glue and created over 15 works of art.  He’s an amazing artist, if I do say so myself.  I just love to watch him as he loses himself in the worlds he creates in his artwork.  He loves it.  People say to him “Maybe you’ll be an artist when you grow up.”  He always replies the same way.  Gives them a  puzzled look and says “I’m already an artist.”

So, Gage set up his stand and started offering his art to passers-by.  He thought 10 cents was a fair price.  I talked him up to 25 cents.  He sold about 8 paintings the first evening.  He sat out there for almost 2 hours, looking expectantly at each car that passed.  I couldn’t stop watching him from the window.  Pretty soon, my oldest son started to wonder just what he had passed up.  He tried to go sell a handful of Matchbox cars alongside his brother.  But, the creativity conoisseurs in our neighborhood weren’t interested in Matchbox cars.  They know art when they see it.

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My Thistle Victory Garden

I’m proud to say that today I found a thistle plant in my yard that was 7 feet tall.  It was nestled up against a shrub where it escaped 3 months of ruthless months weed-pulling.  It’s a mighty specimen, as thick as my arm. Not my upper arm (which is pretty thick and not a little jiggly), but my forearm.  I left it there, partly out of respect for its growth and partly because I will need to find a saw to get it down.  All my corn died, but I sure can grow thistles.  “Knee-high by the Fourth of July”?  Ha!  Take that!



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