Monday, January 19, 2015

WWI, and Chickens??

We recently added a couple new hens to our backyard flock after a hawk carried off one of our girls for brunch.  Pictured below, you'll see a black and a grey hen, or at least part of a grey hen butt-- she's camera shy, I guess.  The black one we named "Opal", because she has a lovely iridescent green sheen to her black feathers, and the grey/blue hen is named "Betty" to go along with my love of naming hens after little old ladies (Betty was my Grandma).  The rest of our flock are the gold hens named "Helen," after Ryan's Grandma (they are ALL named Helen because we can't tell them apart and they're too dumb to come if we called them separately anyway), and the two crazy white leghorns, Elsa and Snowflake, thusly named because my kids managed to name them before I could intervene and give them old lady names, too.

One would imagine, as I did, that adding hens to a flock would be easy.  Just kinda throw 'em in and hope for the best, right?  What could go wrong with fluffy little dimwitted creatures whose life's ambition is to dig up worms, but would just as soon eat whatever flotsam they unearth during their constant attempts to dig holes to China? 
Ever heard of "Pecking Order?"  
Well, apparently it's the nice name for chicken gang warfare.  
Ryan and I, after picking up the two very indignant, squawking new girls and walking them back to the chicken yard, naively assumed that our old flockers might need to get used to the new ones, and so some bullying of the NEW girls would occur.  
We dropped the new girls in and dang if Opal didn't go in swinging.  First thing she did was walk her little feathered T-Rex butt over to the biggest girl in our flock and beat the ever-loving-snot out of her.  I have never seen such vicious bully behavior in my life!  She then doled out whoopins to every other flock member, save Betty, who acted every bit the part of her smaller henchman, since up to that point she had lived the first part of her stay here in a tiny cage in the garage with Opal and had already received her beatings from the grumpy, larger bird.  
It was hard to watch my girls take their lumps, but thankfully today everyone now knows their place, with Opal at the head of the flock, Betty in 2nd, and all others behind gleefully pecking away at whatever yucky things they dig up in the compost once more.  
So how on Earth, Mel, does this have anything to do with WWI??  Stay with me here, I'm getting to it...

Today for school I introduced our newest unit topic which....[drumroll please]... is WWI.  I began our exploration of the topic with a basic overview of the start of the war.  In their Cliff's Notes version introduction [here provided for those who, like me, spent my first explanation of the topic face-down and drooling on my desk in history], I explained that initially, the war began after Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian, leading ultimately to war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.  Simple, right?  Well then Germany allied itself with Austria, and Serbia allied itself with Russia, so now we have two HUGE powers involved in the skirmish.  At this point, the kids are listening pretty well, so I continued, "and then Germany declared war with France."  The kids then stopped me to ask, "Why France?"  
Unfortunately I had no answer- the part that sucks about being a homeschool Mom.  
Fortunately, between their textbook and the internet, I found the answer pretty quickly... the part that DOESN'T suck so much about being a homeschool mom, lol.  
The answer: Because they WANTED TO.  
It's that simple, but how do you explain that to an 8 year old? 
"Okay, so you know how sometimes you're just having a really crappy day and you just want to yell at everyone around you?  Or even pinch 'em because you just feel like garbage and you're mad at the world? 
"OH yeah!" Sarah exclaimed.  "Like Opal yesterday!"  
"YES!  JUST LIKE OPAL!  Kids, during WWI, all of Europe was in an Opal state of mind.  They were just looking for a fight and all the other countries were just chickens in their way toward the top of the pecking order." 
"Oh... okay Mom!"  

And that, my friends, is how having a flock of chickens has taught my children all they need to know about the geopolitical climate of WWI.  :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tiny Hobos

Last week my father and I went out to clean up the back yard a bit before installing the kids' Christmas present, a playset I purchased off Craigslist.  I have to say, the playset is so super mega awesomely huge and full of fun stuff even I can't resist playing on it.
~See?  Supercool right?  Apparently only for 10 minutes at a time, though~
 In readying for the installation, Dad cut down a tree that was on the verge of falling over on the spot for the set, and I cut out 6 or 7 old azaleas that need to grow back in because they were diseased/unhealthy.  So, needless to say, there was quite a bit of wood out there to be hauled to the burn pile.  I informed the children that Papaw would move the logs, I would move the azaleas, and they would have to move the limbs that were left from the tree removal.
This did not go over well.
"Awww Mom, these are SOOOOOOOO heavy we can hardly lift them!"
My reply: "Use a wheelbarrow then, but they're not too heavy to lift and you can move them faster by hand."
[Grunt grunt grumble grumble]
10 minutes in and the whining was so bad that I had to stop my work to threaten them with a full day of housework enslavement should they say one more word to each other or me about how awful and unrealistic it was for me to ask them to move a pile of skinny limbs.  That did the trick and mouths were shut, but there was much pouting and panting and sadness still for the day.
Fast forward to today.  They had their friend Linda over to play for the morning and they decided after I told them "NO YOU CANNOT COME IN UNTIL 11:30 at LUNCHTIME!!" for the 40 millionth repetition that they could no longer stand sitting and whining on the awesomely awesome playset (which was somehow tediously boring today), and instead put themselves to a little building project.
They opted to build a log cabin.  Out of logs from the tree. That weigh at least 50 times more than the stupid limbs I asked them to haul last week.  So they then hauled about 20 logs from the tree we cut down to the center of my yard and proceeded to stack them up into walls.
I kid you not.
I repeat: these are the same children who a week ago could not be bothered to drag limbs 100 feet to a burn pile.
Then, this afternoon after Linda left, they decided to found a tiny tenement camp in the back yard. So they dragged the old toddler playhouse stored in the very back of the back yard almost double the distance the limbs were moved- all the way into the center of my back yard, so that henceforth I can marvel at my children's miniature hobo camp forevermore.  Here it is, in all it's glory...

I am now taking builder orders for them to come and construct other small Hoover-villes in friends' yards if there is interest.  Wouldn't you want a hobo camp just outside your breakfast window, too?  For all the whining over housework chores, I'm considering making them sleep out there!

Meanwhile...I am gearing up to add bees to my list of beings I take care of that are wholly ungrateful for it.  That makes 9 chickens, 3 children, 5 hermit crabs, a husband (ok, he's at least grateful, lol), and someteen-thousand bees.  And somehow I can't not add more.  It's an illness.  I added 2 chickens this weekend and the poor dears are convinced I am the devil.  So my chicken-keeping friends' advice? "Hang out near their cage several times a day and talk, move around, etc. to make them used to you."  And that is the story of how I ended up sitting in a freezing garage singing "Let it go"  and "Mamas and the Papas" tunes [I have a limited repertoire of songs I know all the lyrics to, people] to two horrified chickens who still have no intention of letting me near them.
But I digress.
I have signed up for a class to learn the art of beekeeping, and upon telling my children, I asked them if any of them wanted to attend alongside me to learn.  They stared at me horrified from the other side of my kitchen island and asked, "WHY?  I don't wanna keep bees!"  Stunned, I asked why they were so opposed to bees, and they replied, "Because they'll sting us and they're no fun at all.  And why do you want bees anyway?"  I told them, "Well, because bees are good for the environment, I like their honey, and it's important for us all to learn about their lives and how they contribute to our world!"  As one, they rolled their eyes.  Then Sarah stated matter-of-factly, "MOM, you know we can just learn all that stuff on the INTERNET, right?"
And so the score is now:
Well-intentioned Mom: 0
Technology: 1
Who am I kidding?  Technology won out a long time ago.  Maybe I should be the one living out in the tiny hobo camp. :/