Monthly Archives: September 2012

Cruise Control

1/ SR-89 North of the San Francisco Peaks
2/ Utah State Line at Monument Valley
3/ Monument Valley
4/ Arches National Park
5/ Me at Delicate Arch (the arch on the Utah license plate!)
6/ – 7/ Goblin Valley
8/ Glen Canyon Dam
9/ Cute Junior Ranger station!
10/ Lava Field near Sunset Crater / Wupatki National Monument
11/ Sunset Crater
12/ So big!

(P.S. Beach House show was ah-mazing!)

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So Long!

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Hate to leave town for a few days just when the little okra plants are sprouting! I’m off to do a little bit of therapy camping and soul-searching in southern Utah for a few days, but first…

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A quick trip down to see Beach House at the Rialto. Cocktails at 47 Scott with the boy. Can’t wait to become best friends with Victoria LeGrand hear the band!

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!!!

Can it be? No!

I have finally gotten around to updating my About page!

Go check it out – tout suite!

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Sunflowers

I have begun to find that the busier I am, and the more productive, the better I seem to feel. Whether I’m planting seeds, tilling the garden beds, feeding the chickens bananas out of my hand, or even doing laundry or dishes, I begin to feel the stress of everyday life start to wash away and a sense of usefulness and purpose begin to take its place. It is so hard to maintain perspective during the days and weeks that feel work-centric. I feel like a hamster in a wheel, really. But this week has started showing me that there is so much more to life than just work and making money.

I enjoy the sense of stewardship I have begun to develop in this place. I can pick up little responsibilities here and there, and I feel like I belong. This is home, finally. Although I still feel compelled toward the future, driven by my deeply ingrained goal-driven nature, I feel settled for the time being. No more spinning off in random directions. That is how I feel today, anyway.

Today we let the little chicks run around the yard for a good long time. They are getting so adventurous! Me being the overprotective (and slightly paranoid) mama that I am, I got a little anxious after a while and Blaise agreed to put them in a big outdoor cage. They could still scratch around in the dirt and feel the sun and the air outside, but they had much less room to roam. This made me feel a little more secure, although I’m sure the chicks did not appreciate this helicopter-parent-esque move on my part.

We also planted a great deal of sunflower seeds today. Blaise had a bunch of seeds left over from his last crop of sunflowers, so we soaked those in water for a day, drained and rinsed them, and buried them in several strategic places around the yard.

These will be the typical giant yellow sunflowers. Y’know, the ones that shoot up to impossible heights and grow flowers so heavy that after a time they begin to droop. I can’t wait to see them!

On the other hand, these smaller, dark seeds will become Dwarf Red sunflowers. They will still be tall, but much shorter than the giant yellow ones. We also planted more of these than any other.

Here is a very small part of the left hand side of our walkway. In the foremost plot we placed two rows of dwarf red sunflowers, and in the bed closer to the car we will put in some carrots.

Once again, I am starting to feel grateful for the way my life is turning out day by day. Not to be goopy or anything, but Blaise is a pretty wonderful partner and boyfriend. I couldn’t be more lucky to have him in my life! I feel closer to my family than ever, I feel stronger, more enthusiastic, and filled with optimism about the future. This is good. This is very good.

For now, I will content myself with a little beverage concocted by dear Blaise himself. Perhaps I’ll even open up a book! Some good music is playing and I feel… happy.

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Seedlings (almost!)

Yesterday we started the process of germinating a few seeds. Not every seed can go directly into the ground, so it’s important to sprout them inside before you throw them in the soil.

To work with a few of the seeds we already had on hand (khulrabi, pumpkin, eggplant, fennel, and a few others), we cut coffee filters into quarters and dampened them with a spray bottle.

We then folded the coffee filters in half, then half again, and tucked the seeds inside, carefully folding the filter back together to lock the seeds loosely in its dampness.

Next we placed the seeds into little baggies to help keep in the moisture. We did not seal the bags up so that air can reach the seeds. We’ll have to spray a tiny bit of water into the bags every now and then to keep them from drying out.

 

Some seeds we were able to do a direct plant into some soil. We had a bunch of tiny pots left over from the mass succulent purchases this summer, so we filled those with potting soil and carefully laid the seeds in them. Each seed needs to be planted at a different depth, so we referred to the seed packets for this information.

We labeled each pot so we won’t get confused as to which pot has which plant in it. Above we have sweet pepper, basil, coriander, and okra. Oh boy!

 

We put the pots onto a cookie sheet so we can spread water across the bottom for the roots to soak up. For now we are okay to water them lightly with the spray bottle on top of the soil, but once they sprout, they’ll need to be watered this way.

I am very excited for all of this garden business! We are also ordering a few more seeds from burpee.com, including varieties of tomato, radish, carrot, parsnip, arugula, spinach, kale, onion, and broccoli. We’re also on a hunt for some herbs, but I’d like to find them already sprouted at a nursery. I’m not sure which nursery around here will carry all the herbs I want… I guess I’ll have to do some exploring!

In other news, the baby chicks are doing excellently! Every day they get a little more clever, a little stronger, and a little more adventurous. I can’t believe that in about six months they’ll be laying eggs! They are so, so tiny right now, and still so very sweet.

 

 

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New Additions!

Two pieces of really, really great news, guys!

#1: One of these things is not like the other…

Blaise discovered a green egg in the coop! His newest chickens (which we still lovingly call “the babies”) have finally started laying! He discovered some white eggs a few days back, which was a little confusing because “the babies” are Ameraucana chickens, or Easter Eggers. Their eggs should be different colors, so the white was a tad disappointing. But hip hip hooray! A green egg! And more colors on the way, we hope! Only two babies have started laying, so there’s four more to go.

The little guy in the center is our green egg culprit, which I had previously named Corbett. (For some reason, all the chickens seem to have boy names. I am attempting to fix this for future broods! They are hens for pete’s sake! [oddly enough… one chicken is named Pete… oh boy.]).

Side note: This is probably just me attempting to anthropomorphize the chickens, but I’ve noticed that the two babies who are now laying are able to compete with the older hens for food a bit better now. When the two broods were first integrated – the older and the younger – the babies got picked on a bit and were rather skittish. Now, Corbett and her laying buddy, Rusty, are front and center of the pack. The other four non-laying babies are still pretty much hanging out in the back and being afraid of everything and everyone. Does laying eggs give hens confidence? Have they achieved some kind of social standing in the brood? I wonder about these things. Does anyone have any info on this?

#2: We may or may not have decided to get more chickens!
(And by that I mean we did!)

But first things first.

While I attempted to do physical labor (i.e. raking the garden beds or mopping inside, rather, to beat the heat), my very industrious boyfriend took to the little baby chicken coop outside. Since he has had several rounds of chickens already, he is old hat at the whole thing and has a pretty good setup. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t want to constantly improve on the process. He’s working on fitting in a “doggy door” for the chicks so it’s easier to get them in and out of the little cage.

In the above, you can see Mabus, Pete, and Henface (yes, Henface. I was not around when she was named!) are clearly doing everything they can to distract Blaise from his power-tooling. Such a helpful little brood!

Then it was off to the store to pick out our little chickies!

At Pratt’s, there are several large tubs full of chicks, ducklings, baby turkeys, etc. I had a SUPER hard time ignoring the ducklings, but we were on a mission.

We wanted very healthy chicks, so we had to watch the multitudes swarm around the tub for a while. We pulled out a few who really stuck out – strong ones, curious ones, energetic ones. We ended up with two Ameraucanas, two Cuckoo Marans, one Brahma, and one Welsummer. Six in all.

We put them in a baggy and took them to their new home!

(the big yellow one is the Brahma. She is slightly larger than the others because she is probably a week or so old whereas the others are just under a week old.)

My first baby chickens! I am so very excited!!

It’s warm enough right now that they could probably go outside to the baby coup right away. However, Blaise and I decided we wanted to keep them inside for a week just so they could get some growing done without the stress of the adults wandering near them. The setup is not so very difficult.

Right now they are in a large round tub filled with hamster-type bedding. They have water and feed in constant supply and a heat lamp.  I hadn’t thought of this, but apparently it’s very important that the chickens have room to get out of the head lamp’s glow, but they seem to really enjoy hanging out in the warmth. By this I mean they have space to move around to different climates. As for their feed, I got them a mix made specifically for young chicks – lots of fiber, grain, protein, and a little bit of calcium. You don’t want too much calcium at this age, so we will add more of that into their diet as they reach laying age. I believe this particular blend has sorghum, soybean, corn, meat/bone meal, sugar, and vitamins.

They don’t have a ton of space in their indoor home so we let them out into the garden every now and then to scratch around and enjoy themselves. I prefer that these visits be supervised, personally, because I have seen some cats sniffing around lately. And of course, once real plants have been put in the garden, they shall have to find a new playground!

As I write this, I can hear their little peeps from across the room. It is the cutest little sound! They are pretty friendly and will sit in your hand for a good amount of time. I want to give them nice, girly names at some point, but I will probably hold off for now. No more Petes, Henfaces, and Mabuses! Only one is named so far, a little Americauna I call Goldie. The other ones will have to wait. But not too long, I’m sure – I am certainly one proud mama hen.

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A Transformation

Oh dear, where does the time go? I don’t have a great reason as to why I have not posted in quite some time other than being merely undisciplined and slightly lazy. Lots of things have been happening over here, however, and life seems to have been taking me on quite the roller coaster lately. More on that later, but needless to say, the times they are a-changing!

A thousand hallelujahs! The weather is cooling down! I can’t tell you what a relief this is. After five years away from the Phoenix heat, it’s been very curious to remember (and relive) what 115 degrees feels like. Now, all you naysayers listen up: yes it’s a dry heat most of the time, but 115 is still very, very hot! And we do get a fair amount of humidity towards the end of the season, as a matter of fact. While it may not compare to the sweltering deep south, or somewhere in Texas, when it’s 110 with a fair amount of humidity, it’s still pretty wretched.

Not only do the cooling temperatures mean that we are all much more comfortable in our own skins these days, it also means that we have little to no excuses for finally going outside and doing some work in the garden. A lot of the work had to do with clearing out the debris that had settled there over the long summer.

Dead sunflowers from the last round.

Lots and lots of little raked up piles that needed to be moved

We tilled the soil and…

A great big dirt-y canvas for our forthcoming garden!
(for those who are curious: the trees [trunks] you can see in the shot are sissou, pomegranite, mesquite, and over to the left, palm [of course]).

Blaise really wanted to find some kind of shrubby plant of some kind to plant, one that the chickens wouldn’t be compelled to munch on. Chickens are pretty non-discriminatory when it comes to yummy plants. This presents a challenge to maintaining a nice garden / yard.

The guys at Whitfill nursery (which is EXCELLENT, guys – go there) recommended this particular little plant. It’s called an emu bush, and the man helping us thought that it might fit the bill because rabbits don’t like it. We tossed a clipping out to the chickens and they didn’t seem to give it much attention, so maybe it’s just what was needed!

We also nabbed a few sprouted plants from Whitfill, and also later from Home Depot. While I feel that it is much more satisfying to plant seeds that you have sprouted yourself (or at least, I imagine it is more satisfying – I haven’t gardened in so very long!), sometimes it’s nice just to throw a healthy plant in the ground and say “look! We have some stuff growing already!”

We nabbed peppermint, tarragon, basil, and rosemary so that we could cook with them, and also an asparagus plant. Asparagus is apparently very difficult to grow in Phoenix, but we’ll give it a shot. We’ve been consulting the Maricopa County Planting Guide to help us pick out seeds for the rest of the garden. But more on that later as we actually get to work on it (hopefully today or tomorrow). I’m so very excited!

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Long Weekend

Oh hey there, mini-hiatus. Didn’t see you there!

It was a nice long weekend on this side of things. We went up to Flagstaff for a couple days and had a pretty lovely time wandering around and doing a lot of nothing.

We sampled a flight from Mother Road Brewery. And Blaise made a new friend!

The flight was accompanied also by a dirty game of scrabble in which tricky words like “djinn” were played, followed by a complete bogart of the triple word score. I got “tired” and didn’t want to finish the game shortly thereafter.

But then it was time to come home. Back to the grind!

Pointy weapons

New pencil sharpener and pencil set-up

Raffle tickets! Students earn these by earning table points, or by being awesome individuals. I have one bucket for each class and on Fridays I do a drawing for fun things.

They are earning more and more points every day!

We’re now breaking into the watercolors… which means…

Water damage sneaking into all my decorations!

along with all the regular wear n tear, of course…

Oh well… at least they’re making neat things!

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Corrections

A few nice things –

I gave my “Art of the Middle Ages” quiz back to the students and made them take it again. I got an A+ finally! I am not surprised that this student received it – she’s sort of wonderful. A few tests past hers however, someone earned an unprecedented 24/25. I wasn’t planning on giving any extra credit, but her short answer response was too, too good!

I did get this awesome answer though. What a hipster. He was over gargoyles before Notre Dame was even built.

Apparently I am now a class. Hooray! Everyone gets an A!

Even though it’s just a silly painting with crappy watercolors, it’s still fun to make demo pieces for my classes. This is what I did this week with 3rd grade. The ACTUAL final product has some black pen outlining, but details schmetails.

While all the other teachers have math books, Latin worksheets, science experiments, or English exercises on their desks, I get to have watercolors, bowls of water, markers, and construction paper littering mine. Look closely on the front left side… I started Islamic Architecture with the 4th graders (now that we’ve finished our Art of the Middle Ages unit). I gave them a worksheet on which we identified minarets, prayer halls, and domes. I’m keepin’ it simple this time around. No more Gothic Gombel!

My last post was pretty fatalistic. I definitely hate my job sometimes and seriously feel like typing up a spiteful letter of resignation, saying something snippy and clever, and walking out on my boss. Buuuuuut at the end of the day, I guess I’m pretty lucky. I have a job and  my boss isn’t actually a jerk (it’s just the authority-hating teenager screaming in me).

And when I’m really, really lucky, sometimes the  kindergartners finish all their projects in time (which look amazing, by the way – photos to come), get in a half-kidding fight about who loves me more, and end class with a big, fat, wonderful group hug.

Off to Flagstaff for the 3-day weekend. Life is pretty good right about now.