Can’t see the forest for the trees

*ALERT…Soap Box post*

Do you ever feel like you are the only person who DOESN’T care what the Kardashians are doing, or anyone in Hollywood for that matter?  The only person who turns off the Disney Channel in disgust for the way the kids on the shows are portrayed as being more intelligent than the adults? Maybe the only person who doesn’t read the news for the fact that it is now written for ratings?  The only one who actually really does care where their food comes from and how it is affecting us?

If so, you and I have something in common!  I got so fed up with television’s programming, the so-called ‘news’, and the junk that we stuff our faces with that I actually decided to do something about it.  Our Directv box broke down about 6 weeks ago.  Haven’t missed it YET, and have cancelled service.  We don’t even miss the evening news, which I thought Jason would just up and die if he missed.  Turns out all he watched was the weather anyway.  Now we are hooked on Netflix instant streaming video.  We can pick what the kids watch.  Last night we all watched Fraggle Rock, and I don’t know who liked it more; me or them!

If you are familiar with my blog, you will know that we do raise a LOT of our own food.  Do you know what you’re eating?  Foods are so full of preservatives, colorings, and artificial EVERYTHING nowadays.  When I think about food, I think about my days working at the veterinarian’s office.  Inevitably, one of the first 3 questions we ALWAYS asked was: “What is your pet eating?”.  Now, I want you to think back to your last doctor visit when you were not feeling well, and you tell me….were YOU asked that question? Ever? Oh sure, we all know we are supposed to eat whole grains and lots of vegetables and fruit, but….

Seems everything now is treated with a pill.  For crying out loud, Pfizer just came out with a DOG OBESITY pill recently.  I read that and I swear I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, or what.  Come on now….who is really getting the benefit?  Does anyone think it’s the dog?  The owner, having to shell out who-knows-how-much?  Isn’t it obvious that the drug companies are the ONLY ones to get benefit here?  Here’s a revelation:  Drug companies follow the money.  Hello?  Anyone listening?  Sure, I am happy they are there.  We need the Pfizers of the world, after all, to a degree.  But not every malady on earth needs to have a pill solution.  Oh, and here’s your fat dog solution:  go outside and play with the darn thing.  A walk would benefit the both of you, mentally and physically.

As Americans, one of our worst flaws is our dependence on convenience.  We can drive just about anywhere we want.  We can get in our car and go and pick up food out of a little window, go back to our air-conditioned, perfectly temperature controlled homes, and sit in front of a TV with our choice of instant entertainment.  I  wonder how many people stopped to think once about where the wheat that made the burger bun came from.  Or the meat in the burger (which, if it is fast food, is almost always combined with an ammonia laced ‘filler’.  It’s true. Look it up.) Or the tomato, or the lettuce.  There is a price that we all pay for convenience.  We aren’t going to see it at the McDonald’s drive thru, but think about this:  Do you ever wonder who harvested those vegetables, who slaughtered your meat, or the thousands of miles that were driven to make that one 99 cent sandwich?

Does anyone but me wonder why people are so driven to make more money?  When is enough, enough? Have you ever wondered why there are people who make 5 times what you do, and yet they are still filing for bankruptcy and divorce?  Admittedly, we are not poverty level, but not too terribly far from it.  If all of my debts were paid off today, I could live very comfortably on what we bring home, and be happy with it.  I will be the first to admit that I am a very, very lucky woman who has a husband who knows his priorities.  And guess what?  Work is on down on that list, and we own our own business.  Yes, we take off of work to spend time with the kids.  Kids will only be little for so long.  I also realize that we are so extremely fortunate to be able to get to do this.  My plea to you is:  Please don’t fall into that common mistake that people make of working harder/earning more money ‘for the kid’s sake’, or to ‘be able to live a better life’.  The kids don’t care if you make five dollars or five hundred thousand.  They don’t care about your promotions or that you worked 70 hours this week.  They just want you there with them, spending time with them.  I hate the term ‘quality time’.  That is the most infinitely STUPID term I’ve ever heard.  Any time you spend with your kids/spouse/whatever IS quality time.  Whatever quality time is supposed to mean, I don’t even really know.  And, if you don’t have kids, then spend that time loving your spouse.  And if you don’t have a spouse, then spend some time for yourself.  Point is, don’t work yourself into an early grave just to earn some money to make that next big purchase.  Be a miser with your money, and save wisely.  Please don’t go blow your paycheck on a TV or a new car.  Or, just something that you really can’t afford.  Don’t try and ‘keep up with the Joneses’.  News flash.  The Joneses were last seen on the Mexican border using the alias ‘the Smith’s’, running from the IRS for tax evasion.  The Joneses were in debt up past their necks.

It’s time for us to wake up.  We have been sleeping for about the past 60 years or so, ever since we gave up our farms and all decided we needed to make more money (for WHAT?) and moved to cities in search of ‘jobs’.  It is time for us all to realize that Hollywood isn’t Washington, D.C., and it isn’t where the most important decisions are made that affects all of us.  Most importantly, it’s time to go outside and feel the sun on your face and get your hands deep in the soil.

You are a child of Nature.  You can laugh about that, but you are.  You are a part of something as large and as infinite as the Heavens themselves, and you are important.  We may just be a drop of water in an endless ocean, but we all are important and, most importantly, we are ALL connected.  A decision as simple as picking up a burger at a drive-thru, or buying all of our goods from non-American made sources really does affect people.  Maybe not you today.  But it will in the long run.  We are so preoccupied with Dancing with the Stars and American Idol, and who is breaking up with who in L.A., and how were gonna pay for all of that stuff that we don’t really need that we forget to pay attention to what really matters.  Ourselves. Our families.  Our environment. What our government is doing up there.

I don’t want to sound self-righteous.  I do things that everyone else does like take out food, shopping at WalMart and the Dollar Tree, etc.  But I am now conscious of my choices. Due to that, I am now a label reader.  I do care where my stuff comes from, and what’s in it.  I want to know what I am eating.  I want to know when our government is about to pass a law that will negatively affect us.  I want my children to grow up NOT sitting in front of a television set, and to be well-informed and aware adults.  I want us ALL to go outside more and realize that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves and that every one of us can make a difference with each decision that we make.

And, in my own selfish thoughts….I want every kid to know that an egg comes from a chicken and not a box in the grocery store.

(I send out a virtual hug to all of you now.  Now stepping down from my box and going to resume my much more comfortable position as humorist/farm life writer)

Technical Errors….

*If you are a new reader to this blog, please semi-ignore this post.  It is boring and I don’t want to scare you away.  Y’all scroll on down for a better post*

Sorry, readers for this completely boring post, but I just found out that a small application I am using on WordPress may have been blocking some of your comments!  So, just a second ago I was reading this really funny comment by a stranger which had been incorrectly labeled as ‘spam’, laughing about it, and I am using this new laptop, and my fingers tapped the little dumb touchpad, and I permanently deleted it.  ARRRRRRG.  I apologize for this post sounding like a FaceBook status update, but I wanted you guys to know that I may not be getting some of your comments.  :0(  I’ll be working on this NOW.

Snakes in the henhouse…doodah, doodah

Apparently it was officially Snake Week here on the farm.  I guess somehow I missed the announcement.  I have found a snake in the chicken coop three times in about as many days.  No, wait.  FOUR times.  Sorry.  I am losing count.

Snake one:  Large black ratsnake, northeast corner of the coop.  Easy catch, no problems.

Snake two:  Another large black ratsnake, same corner.  It is midnight.  Jason has already gone to bed and I had forgotten to close the coop.  I am sweeping my flashlight over all the hens and BAM! there’s another dadgum snake.  He sees me and tries to escape out the little hole he came in.  I grab a hold (a’holt) of his tail and hang on for dear life.  He’s not escaping the Crocodile Huntress of East Texas!  Bear in mind that I am trying to hold onto my flashlight and the butt end of a snake simultaneously here.  After a few minutes, it is apparent that he’s not giving up and neither am I, and his head end is already outside, and no amount of pulling is going to get this snake back in the coop.  Naturally, I forgot to turn on the coop light when I came in, and I now need a third hand to flip the switch.  Since I couldn’t pop one of those out, I take a deep breath, clutch that snake tail in my left hand, get the flashlight in my right and STREEEEEEEEETCH myself into a weird ‘X’ looking position and somehow manage to flip the light on with the tip of my flashlight.  All the while not quite sure that Mr. Snake’s head has not popped back into the room.  I work at him a little more with both hands, trying not to damage any scales in the process, and it’s obvious we are like the proverbial two old goats on the log over a ravine.  Ever heard of that one?  Neither would move out of the way for the other, so they both fell in and died.  But, I was ready to get into bed, so I let go of the tail, and ran as fast as I could around the corner of the coop.  There he was, snaking down the side of the tin and WA-POW my hand shoots out like a bullet and snatches his head.  His mouth is wide open and boy, is he mad at me!  I told him to get over it and I plopped him in my official handy-dandy snake bucket.

Snake Three:  We come home after dark, and Jason drives me up to the henhouse to collect eggs for the last time for the day.  I gather up a shirtfull of eggs, balancing them carefully in the front of my t-shirt.  I talk to the hens and…yeah you guessed it.  Another snake, same corner.  (See the pattern here?)  I look around wildly, hoping that Jason sees my look of desperation.  I have people beating down my doors for these eggs, and I can’t afford to break any.  I see no response, so I hold onto my shirt with my left hand and say a little prayer for the safety of my right hand.  Luckily, the snake’s head is within my grabbing distance and POW!  I grab up that snake with my right hand.  I come out of the coop balancing a dozen eggs and a 3 foot long snake.  Jason apologizes for not seeing me, but it’s nothing that the Huntress can’t handle.

Snake Four:  Snake four was last night.  A smaller ratsnake, probably 2.5-3 foot long.  I was gathering the last laid eggs, look up, and there’s a snake’s head, peering down at me.  I think to myself, “You have GOT to be (………) me”.  (You can add in your own word here, but I wasn’t really thinking “kidding”).  Anyway, of course, I am alone.  This snake is the smartest by far.  He has completely wedged himself behind a board holding up the tin, and there is absolutely no way to get him out.  I go outside and beat on the tin to try and run him out.  I poke him with sticks.  He must have flattened himself to the width of a piece of paper, I swear.  I go out and beat on the tin again.  I come back inside and as I am poking him with another stick, here comes a yellowjacket, rubbing his eyes, looking at me and my flashlight as if to say, “What in the HELL is going on out here?!?”  I freeze.  Snakes, I can do.  Snakes PLUS an angry nest of yellowjackets? Mmmmmm, not so much.  Then I hear buzzing.  I decide that even the Huntress can’t win them all and I shut off my light and run out the door.  As I walk back to the house, somewhat dejected, the comical aspect of the entire situation occurs to me.

I am not big into video games, but I think we can all relate to Super Mario Brothers, right?  You know how each successive level gets more and more difficult?  It occurs to me, at that very moment, how this is really getting to be like a video game.

Level One:  Catch a snake in the open, while wearing pajamas and flip flops

Level Two:  Catch a snake in the open, while wearing pajamas, flip flops, and carrying a flashlight.

Level Three:  Catch a snake in a building, while wearing flip flops, and the snake is about 5 foot above your head.

Level Four: Same as three, except the snake is large and angry, and you must get it down with a pole saw, a nervous husband, and finally a rake.

Level Five:  Catch a snake in a chicken coop.

Level Six:  Catch a snake in a chicken coop, while in pajamas and flip flops, and balancing a flashlight.

Level Seven:  Catch a snake single handedly, in a chicken coop, while balancing a shirt full of delicate eggs in one hand.

Level Eight:  Catch a snake in a coop, single-handed, while being attacked by an angry nest of yellowjackets.

Level Nine (hypothesized): Catch a snake in a coop, single-handed, while also  playing “Beer Barrel Polka” on an accordian and a kazoo, and being attacked  by an angry pack of rabid raccoons, while wearing stilts.

Enough said?

Is it also a strange coincidence that my Chinese astrology symbol is the Snake?

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This is an off-the-farm story, but it was so absolutely hilarious and country,  am going to share….at my own expense.

So, yesterday, we finished up this monster garage sale.  The temperature was almost 100 degrees by the end of the day.  We were hot, tired, and thoroughly soaked in sweat.  My mascara had migrated to my neck.  My clothes bore the dirt and dust of eight hours of a yard sale.  After depositing the last truckload (third) of leftovers at Goodwill, we decided to run into Rusk for a six pack of SOMETHING.  Honestly, at that point, it didn’t even matter, just as long as it was cold, and had some kind of alcohol content.  This is what we do in Texas after a long, hot day.  It just is.

Anyway, we were well on our way, when we noticed a couple, probably in their late 50s or so, with a flat tire.  The man was under the truck, and the woman was standing by, trying to assist her husband.  The entire situation just screamed, “We need some help”, so we turned around and got out.  Here we are, on the side of an extremely busy, dangerous highway.  The man was trying to free the spare from underneath the truck and couldn’t get it loose.  You could see the anxiety in the woman’s face.  Bear in mind, it’s also about 100 degrees, with the pavement being much more than that.  Jason asked if we could help, and when he told the man he knew how to get the spare loose, you could see the relief in their faces.  So the man shimmied out from under the truck, and I swear, for a second, I thought he was either going to pass out or get sick.  Jason works in an un-airconditioned shop all year, so he is very used to the heat.  This man worked indoors for his job, as we found out, so I’m really glad that we got there in time before he had a stroke or something.

So, the tire was changed, the couple gave Jason some Gatorade and hand wipes and ‘Thanks’, and we were walking back to our truck.  The grass this time of year is very tall on the sides of the highways.  I was in a long skirt.  I stopped just in time to see a huge black widow on one of the stalks of grass where I was about to step.  Whew!  Deadly spider bite averted.  What I did NOT avert, apparently, was a huge pissed-off mound of fire ants. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with fire ants, consider yourselves fortunate.  Each sting is like a tiny ember of fire on your skin.  Jason opened my door (as he always does), and I felt fire all over my feet.  CRAP!  FIRE ANTS!  I was brushing them off as fast as I could, when I noticed they were not just on my feet, but my arms, hands, and ALL OVER MY CLOTHES. 

Ok, big decision here.  Should I:

A.  Keep brushing off the unknown quantity of ants, and try my best to keep my panic level under control, whilst keeping on my clothing in the company of strangers, or,

B. Rip off my clothes in a never-before-seen manner, whilst flinging them around frantically, like a rabid spider monkey.

Well, you guessed it, I chose “B”. 

I ripped off my skirt in about a nanosecond, threw it at Jason, frantically brushing the ants off of my legs, torso, and shirt, all in the presence of two absolutely complete strangers WHO NOW HAVE OUR BUSINESS CARD.

I prayed to God that they didn’t see too much of what was going on, but I don’t know what all they DID see, and I didn’t really care at the moment.  At least I was wearing undergarments!  As we took off, I hung my ant-filled skirt out the window at 70 miles per hour, still trying to dislodge ants.  A helluva way to end a day!

What’s up, my peeps?

This was my first official attempt at hatching chicken eggs.  I used a Little Giant incubator, with no fan, but with an auto egg turner.  Temperature was kept at 99.5 degrees as much as possible, and humidity was kept rather low (called a dry hatch) at about 35-40 percent.  After 21 days, here’s what happened:

This tiny break in the shell is called a ‘pip’ (above pic).  The baby chick has broken through the inner membranes to make a tiny hole, and to put a tiny crack in the shell.  Baby chicks will remain in this phase for as long as a day.  You have to remember that the chick has been scratching non-stop for hours with the tiny ‘egg tooth’ on their beak to get to this point.  They need some rest!

 Here’s the next phase.  The chick has now opened up the pip and is enlarging the hole.  He’s getting ready to…..

ZIP!  This is my favorite part of the hatching process.  You can see that his sibling is eagerly awaiting his arrival.  The ‘zip’ stage is where the chick literally zips all the way around the egg.  This part goes fairly quickly.  That baby chick is READY to get outta there now.


 The chick shoves the zipped eggshell as hard as he can, and:

He’s out of there!  Now it’s just time to dry off, which takes several hours.

My hatching percentage wasn’t great at all…likely due to the fact I was inexperienced with hatching bird eggs (I have hatched reptile eggs 100% in the past).  This time around, I am trying a higher humidity level since I went and checked humidity with a hygrometer under a brooding hen and found it to be around 60%.  I’m currently setting more eggs at 99.5 to 100 degrees with the humidity around 50-52% and at the 2 week check, which was yesterday, I only had 2 eggs not develop further after my Week 1 check, so I’m excited!  Right now I have 11 ‘Easter egger’ eggs and 4 Silkie cross eggs. 

Here are more post-hatch images:

Here is the shell after a good hatch.  There are 2 inner membranes in the shell.  The first one closest to the chick contains the blood vessels which have sustained the chick in utero, if you will.  It is a very thin, clear membrane.  The next membrane is a tough, whitish membrane.  If the chick takes too long to hatch, this membrane will dry out too much, causing the chick to suffocate/die in the shell.  This is another reason why correct humidity is so critical.  You’ll see that there is a little pink…this is just where the vessels were.  The chick absorbs the blood which was in them during the hatching process.  This is why you CANNOT just peel a chick who is almost ready to hatch out of the shell.  Doing so will cause massive hemorrhaging and death to the chick.  I have ‘helped’ some chicks hatch, but it is an extremely slow, delicate procedure that must be done in gradual phases, over the course of many hours.

Now here’s some cute and fluffy pics of the chicks at a few days old.  The black chicks, which are Barred Plymouth Rocks, are not the ones I hatched myself.

And, how do YOU do?

A very special thanks to the Swanson family for allowing me to hatch their eggs!