Archive for September, 2010

Chore Lists- a Very Helpful Tool

September 29, 2010

I have a confession.  I’ve been remiss the last couple of months of managing our home well.  Oh sure, I’ve sorta been doing my job – blurting out commands every now and then when the house seemed too out of control.  But the frustration level isn’t really worth this kind of management.  My true confession?  Sometimes I just get tired of managing and would like someone else to take charge – just for a little bit 🙂

So after I apologized to my husband and my kids, I got serious again about getting “life” back in order.  My kids have had chore charts all their lives.  Since before they could read they had chores to do – I used pictures to describe their different jobs.

My biggest challenge in all these years, is trying to be creative in how I presented the work that needed to be accomplished.

I needed something new…

Dave had picked up these graft note cards and he handed me a bunch.  Perfect!  Lines to write on, boxes to check off completed chores, not too big….yep, these would be perfect.

The hardest aspect for me in keeping chore lists is being consistent.  It takes time and forethought to make this system work.  I MUST remember that the time and effort is so worth the outcome – a cleaner more organized home, happy animals, a neater looking farm, and children who haven’t been nagged by their mother all day.

So I started with the new system….I always find it interesting how each child responds to the chore lists.  When they’re handed out, the kids read over the list, ask questions for further clarification, and work the lists into their own schedule.

How they each keep their lists also reveals some of their individual personality.

Victoria is a “checker.”  Finish the job and check it off….but keep the card neat and tidy, a minimalist.

Michael obviously calculates the time in his day, the efficiency of the tasks to be completed in that time, and then prioritizes his jobs accordingly with a number system.  Once completed – cross them off…

Megan is a line crosser – very neatly.  She also wants to make sure that there is credit for ALL the work that’s been done.  Notice the “x2″ on the first chore.  We have 2 cat boxes and she had to do both of them 🙂  The other day I verbally added to her list – please vacuum Mom and Dad’s bedroom.  She completed the task and them brought down her list for me to write that chore on so she could cross it off.  I asked her why she didn’t write it on there herself and she said,”because my handwriting doesn’t look like yours!”   …the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

And then there’s Alexandra!  She’s my “artsy” one…wanna guess what her bedroom looks like most of the time??  A lot like this card 🙂

I needed a place to put these cards once I had made them.  I’ve done all kinds of things before: magnets on the fridge, taped to the wall, left on the table….but I wanted something new.

I have these hooks under my cupboards for hanging herbs.  Why not chore lists?

By the look of this picture, I need to add “clean the walls under the cupboards.”

I hole punched each card and hung them up.

The kids liked the new system and I liked the convenience of the all the cards being in one spot.  Also, when the kids have completed the lists, they’re to hang them back up so I can check the lists and their work.  Follow through is important….I’m still working on that part.

My goal is to have the cards hung up each morning before they all get up out of bed.  I do carry around a small pocket notebook and write down jobs throughout the day that I see need to be done.  I often use that list to create their chore list.  I even write down the common ones that have to be done every day, i.e. – feed the dogs.  There’s such satisfaction in checking off each item and feeling productive!

Wanna know something interesting that I discovered?  Made me chuckle…

Michael is the only one of my kids who numbered his chore list.  Male/female thing?  Or just him….

I went into the laundry room to write down some items on our white board for the grocery list….

Guess who started this list???  Not me, I don’t number the items.

Dave!!   So maybe it is a male/female thing after all…..well, at least in our home 🙂

Life around here is a bit neater, more organized, and less frustrating when it comes to chores.

First item on my chore list every day?

Make up chore lists for the kids….


My Meat Chickens

September 27, 2010

I do raise chickens solely for meat.  I order the chicks from McMurray Hatchery – they call them the BBQ Special.  It’s a good thing that I know from the moment those chicks arrive that they are intended for the table.  During those 14 – 18 weeks, I get a little bit attached…

This last group of meat chickens looked great by the time we were scheduled to butcher them.  They had grown out nicely and spent time being chickens, scratching in the dirt and eating lots of bugs.

I tried something new – the killing cones.  A friend let me borrow hers and they’re wonderful.

Once the chicken was caught….

…it was put in the cone.

We did 4 chickens at a time.  I had seen a video by a well respected farmer and he cut the carotid  arteries on the side of the neck.  I tried this method and it was much more peaceful for the birds… and for me.  No thrashing – I don’t like that part.

Sawyer kept watch to make sure everything was done correctly.

I had 2 roosters that had to go.  There were 3 roosters in the hen house and that meant 2 were headed for the stew pot.  Their meat is a little tough but still very good for stews and soup.

See the spurs?  Those are the pointy things sticking out of the side of the legs.  They hurt like crazy when a rooster attacks you.  Fortunately for my guys, they had never come after me …

…and that’s why they had lived this long!

I don’t have one of those fancy  de-feather machines.  And I don’t like to pluck.  So I take off all the skin with the feathers.

We then rinse the chickens with the hose and put them into ice cold water in a cooler until we get several chickens processed.

The chickens are taken into the house where they’re washed thoroughly.

The sink and counters have been washed down with diluted bleach water before any of the chickens come inside.

I pre-wrap mine in plastic before I vacuum seal them.  Two reasons:  it keeps the birds compact – no legs or wings sticking out in weird ways; secondly, it keeps the moisture from being sucked out by the vacuum sealer.

Next, into the vacuum bag….

…sealed and dated.

Butchering chickens isn’t high on my list of favorite fun activities but I sure am grateful for the opportunity.  I know how my chickens have been raised, I know what they’ve eaten, and I know how humane the butchering process is for them.  I thank each one of them before they die for providing food for my family.  I don’t ever want to get to the point where I take a life for granted.

Guinea Hens – I love them!!

September 24, 2010

I’ve wanted Guinea Hens on the farm for a while.  I debated between them and Peacocks.  The Guineas won out…and we’ve raised 6 of them.  They were about 3 or 4 weeks old when they came to the farm.  They grew up with the meat chicks in the brood box.  Then they graduated to their own pen under a tree right near the hen house.

I knew they were getting old enough to let out but I was so concerned they wouldn’t come back “home” once they had their freedom.

Well, last Saturday, I noticed a hole in the side of their pen and they kept sticking their heads through that hole.

Sunday evening, they were all out!  How they got through that hole is beyond me!  I opened the pen door hoping they would come back in to roost when it was dark…no such luck.

I was a little sad when I went to bed that night, thinking I might not see them again.  I’d become really fond of them and their quirkiness and all those odd noises.

The next morning I was outside first light and there they were!  Except they were in my neighbor’s pasture and couldn’t seem to figure out how to get back over the fence.  All the coaxing and coercing didn’t make any difference – they couldn’t get back “home.”  I climbed over the fence and made an opening and pretty soon all 6 were back in familiar territory.

And then the fun began…..

This pack of birds, making lots and lots of really loud noises traipsed all over the chicken area.

Sawyer wasn’t quite sure what to make of them!

Molly knew what to do!  She herds them everywhere and they’re fairly obedient.

Molly loves her new “toy.”

The Guineas go everywhere in a pack and heaven help us all when one gets separated from the group.

Under the watchful eye of Molly, this doesn’t happen very often.

Molly’s quick to get them all back together.

But when it does happen and one is separated from the pack…

Molly gets very concerned – just look at her eyes!

“Yoo hoo!!  Over here!!”  and pretty soon all the Guineas are strutting their stuff in unison.

They are a comical breed and I’m so glad I have them on the farm.  I’ve laughed so much at their antics.  They’ve frightened my cows and made the cows jump…that’s a sight to see 🙂  The Guineas follow me in the morning when I’m doing my other fowl chores, screeching and “talking” the whole time – they’re very vocal.  Maybe the noise will get to me after a while but really, 6 kids have prepared me well!  So for now, I love my Guinea Hens.

Redemption of Fire Ants??

September 23, 2010

I think I’ve mentioned before that I had never seen so many different kinds of bugs and insects till we moved here to the South.  And they’re not small… they’re humongous!  In almost 8 years, I’ve learned not to flinch and take cover every time a flying one whizzes by my head.  I do occasionally start slapping my shirt frantically when I think one may be crawling down my back. All these bugs have earned my respect and fascination – I figure, they were here first, why fight ’em?

One insect in particular has a very bad reputation and sadly, it has earned it….

No, not my honeybees.

We LOVE the honeybees.  It’s their neighbors that we don’t always love….

The Fire Ant.

I have to say, I don’t mind them around my hives so long as their mounds are not where I need to be standing.  They’re a great clean up crew.

As with all living creatures, they will eventually die.  And when the honeybee dies in the hive, the workers push the carcass out the front door onto the ground.

The Fire Ants come out to find the bodies and they drag them back to their mounds.

A Fire Ant mound is very distinctive and if you live in the south, you avoid them at all cost!

Fire Ants have a wicked sting and are rather ravenous.

They’ll eat dead bugs or kill ones who get in their way.

Just look at the carnage in this picture!

But they keep the place clean and don’t allow the bodies to accumulate.  I’ve even left hive frames full of wax moth larva on a Fire Ant mound and they have cleaned the frame spotless.

They’re wonderful that way, cleaning up all the debris.  Keeping the area around my hives neat and tidy.

So I let them stay.

This is a June beetle, decapitated!

Fire Ants get a bad rap in this part of the country and rightly so.  I was bitten twice trying to get these shots 🙂  But I figure that’s my fault since I was right on top of them with my camera.

I’ll make a deal with them….they leave me alone, I’ll leave them alone…so long as they keep cleaning up the bee yard!

Fire Pit Morning – finally!

September 16, 2010

I came out to do my morning chores and there stood Ali – shivering, no shoes.

“Mom!  The grass is so cold on my feet!”

I didn’t even bother asking….she’s a farm girl!

“Why don’t you run in and get the matches, it’s a good morning to burn the stuff in the fire pit.”

With glee and pyro-excitement, she tip-toed into the house…

And came out wearing my shoes, matches in hand.

Didn’t take us long to ignite the pile of paper, boxes and yard debris.

The heat is so intense!  Many times, I’ve singed my plants nearby.

But one thing’s for sure – Ali and I were both toasty warm!

In a matter of minutes, the flames consumed the pile in the fire pit…

And the rest of the day we had that wonderful, camp-fire smell, inside and out.

Even when heat of the day soared  into the 90’s, it still smelled like fall….

So thankful for a fire pit morning!

Narceus Americanus Millipede

September 2, 2010

Over the weekend, a friend and I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The trail we took was covered with a canopy of trees and wound its way along the river.  We each had a camera so it was definitely a “stop/start” kind of hike.  I love looking for the unusual and we were not disappointed…

We came upon this bug as the sun was beginning to set.  It was about 4″ long and moving rather slowly in the the leaves and underbrush.

Apparently, they’re forest foragers and help with the decomposing process.

The outside…so beautiful in its striped coat.

So many legs!!!  We both laughed as we joked about having to cut the toenails of all those feet or having to put socks on in the winter 🙂

We tried to touch it and it curled up into a little ball, head in first for protection.

After a bit, he uncurled and went on his way, doing what millipedes do in the middle of the forest – an integral part of the ecosystem.

For more in depth info on this fascinating creature, check out this link.