Monday, April 26, 2010


Today, Liam and I picked out 28 baby chicks, loaded them in a box, and brought them home. As a child, chickens were a big part of the farm. It was the one meat source we consistently raised, though we often raised goats for meat and even some cows for a couple years. But chickens, always. Lots of them. So rather than just get the laying hens I had planned on, I got 22 meat birds, too. And six laying hens - beautiful little things with incredible stripes and spots, I just picked up two of each, and figure I'll sort out what is who at some point further down the line.

Of course, this now means I have to build a chicken coop. I've decided - with the help of my all-chicken-knowing friend Judy, who is currently HATCHING her own birds, that one coop is fine for the lot of them. There are theories about disease and stuff, but... materials arrive on Thursday. And off we go.

The kids were pretty funny with the birds - Thea was totally into watching them, but didn't want to hold one. Liam barely wanted to hold one - said the feet freaked him out. But I think they will get used to it soon enough. And Liam's already talking about how he wants to be the one to collect the eggs, etc. and I think he actually would love that. Actually, the family member who is most excited is Hannah, who is beside herself with bafflement as to what these little peeping this are, exactly.

There's something wonderfully stabilizing about having animals to care for - I've always felt that way. And this just takes it to the next level. Between this and my ambitious gardening plans with the new greenhouse, as well as the AHFC energy rebate program renovation, which is ballooning in scope every day, I am trying very hard not to freak out. But I guess it is just one step at a time, and I will manage it, and the world will continue to revolve. I may be very, very broke for a while, but... in the end, I will have a garden that feeds us, chickens that lay eggs and an organic, delicious roast chicken every other week for most of the year, not to mention a house that is not only significantly warmer, but also consumes a lot less energy each year. It's good. It's all good.

Oh, and I bought a chainsaw today. Yikes.

And installed my first new light fixture. And it didn't blow up - except... um... it doesn't turn off. Need to get something to deal with that. Too funny! One step forward, two back.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


This weekend was the Homer Public Library's Celebration of Lifelong Learning - which I have equated in the past to hosting a wedding. While most of the time, my job is fairly relaxed, this is not one of those weeks. Among the things I have done in the past week - hot-glue tiny stars on safety pins, climb willow trees in search of the elusive grey buds that are one of our few indicators of spring, coordinate and recoordinate with dozens of people, food vendors, print countless paper products, and of course, load and unload close to 100 chairs. Oh the joy.

Not that I didn't have some fun this weekend, too. I went to a play on Friday night, which was very entertaining, went for a run on Saturday morning (short, my ankle is still killing me) and after the celebration, we all went to hear some music at Alice's. Our keynote speaker, Seth Kantner, extraordinary writer of all things wild and Alaskan, joined us, and I believe, had an excellent time.

But I'm glad to step down from that wild ride and now I can turn my focus to other things.

Among them - the great greenhouse of 2010. My goal was to have the greenhouse up and running by May 1. That's a little ambitious as it is 2 weeks away and there is still five feet of snow out there. But I'm fixing to change all that starting tomorrow after the chairs get returned to their rightful owners around town, some serious snow excavation is going to happen. After that is done, I can start working on securing the remaining materials - plastic, rebar, rough-cut and dirt. I also need some poles for the expanded new garden. That means I've got to learn to use a chain saw. I can do it. I think I can, I think I can.

Had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine this week about what people really mean when they ask you to explain how to do something - do they mean that you really want them to do it for you? Perhaps most people do, but that's not the case in my case. His allegation, however, was that the only way to really learn how to do something was to actually do it. Just do it. Don't ask for help. Just jump in. And that's probably more true than not. I'm a reporter, a researcher, and I tend to ask and ask and ask. But maybe I need to just do. Just trust that I can figure it out, chainsaw or how to sharpen my knives, or whatever, and do it. I'm going to try that for a while and see how it goes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

mud, mud, glorious mud

I am not sure it would be possible to be more sick of snow. Seriously. Yuck. Last night, a winter storm warning was posted with estimated accumulations of up to a foot of white stuff at higher elevations (guess where we live - yup.) I know, I know, I live in Alaska, not someplace warm, like New England or something. I'm not alone, though. The whole world is sick of winter up here in the Cosmic Hamlet.

It wouldn't be so bad, I think, if it weren't for these little teaser days of beautiful spring that we've been getting. Thursday and Friday were awesome - truly gorgeous days. I didn't actually get to see much of Thursday as I spent the majority of it under the house. I had an AHFC energy efficiency audit on Wednesday where they hook your house up to a huge vacuum fan and then walk around and look at where the air is coming in. Essentially, we found out it was coming in from everywhere, especially the crawl space, where many portions of the wall are completely uninsulated (I had no idea) and the junctions between the old house and the new addition, where a bottle of sprayfoam and some plastic would probably have saved thousands of dollars, not to mention reduced energy consumption significantly, over the past decade. But there are bigger problems, like the minimal insulation behind moldy drywall in the old upstairs section of the house. Drywall must come down, new insulation must go in (blueboard or some similar hard foam insulation) and new drywall must go up. Fun. And other things, like the recessed lighting in the upstairs bedroom, are huge energy leaks. Who knew? Not me. So the great thing is I can now address these things and get reimbursed, and have hired someone to help me tackle it all in the next couple months. This project will also include removing one side of the house, which has been leaking and crappy for years and needs to go. I'm psyched to deal with it all, and grateful for the opportunity to do it without losing my shirt.

Anyway, while I was down in the crawl space oggling at the lack of insulation in all those spots I always felt were really drafty, I realized there was another problem - a big puddle of water all around the spot where the water comes into the house. Not good. On closer inspection, a repair that had been done some 10 years ago was finally failing, and worse yet, I had no idea how to turn off the water so it wouldn't spray all over the wires, some of which were literally just laying on the ground with their ends exposed. Yikes. So I shut everything down as best I could and took a night to think about it. On Thursday, a co-worker mentioned her partner might be able to help. He called while I was in the hardware store trying to find replacement parts, and I gratefully accepted the help. A half-hour later, he showed up and we tackled the situation. He spent several hours not only fixing the problem, but also explaining to me my entire water system, as well as what I might want to install in the future. And we talked about this energy stuff, too. Great deal all around. And not a smidge of condensation - from the guy, that is. Truly a helpful person - I'm so grateful. But we did spend a good portion of a beautiful day in a dark, muddy crawl space.

So Friday, I was not going to repeat that mistake. When a friend offered to take me out on the Bay in the afternoon, I jumped at it. We spent several hours over there, walking around, visiting with friends, and just puttering around on the water. There is nothing like it for refreshing the spirit and I can't wait to get out again. Overall, it was a glorious weekend (another highlight included walking out my friend's door to the sight of an eagle swooping through the air, seemingly right at me, which caused my instinctual response - scream and run back into the house, slamming the door - much to the amusement of said friend), and when I picked Thea and Liam up on Saturday afternoon, we had a great evening, too, despite the impending storm. Today was a little more claustrophobic, but we weathered it with some transplanting (nothing like a bucket of dirt and some water to keep two kids enthralled for a couple hours) and finally, the snow slowed around 4 and we were able to rally outside. But Thea was half a bubble off plumb all day, and this evening, I found out why after she threw up all over her bed (why do they always have to do that in bed? And isn't it amazing how many blankets a single 2-year-old puking can do in?)

I'm holding out hope that spring will arrive, despite this setback. And I'm starting to realize that it's time to get myself moving on a variety of things. I need to dig out the greenhouse site, get poles going for the remainder of the garden, construct the boxes and ends for the greenhouse, and get that puppy up. But first, I must deal with a week of work madness as our annual fundraiser is upon us. Deep breaths. One foot in front of the next. Onward.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Liam gets dramatic

I've known from birth that Liam had a flair for the dramatic, but this week, my suspicions were put to the test. His school had a local drama club starting up - K-6 students were putting on a play, and he would have to stay after school two days a week to participate. I wasn't sure if he would like it, really. But when the activities bus rolled into town at 5 p.m. I got to hear all about it. And there was a lot to hear.
"I have lines I have to study, Mom," Liam said. "But my part isn't very big."
Upon returning home, Liam pulled out his script from his backpack, went to the couch and read it - really read it (I didn't realize he was that far along in reading ... this seems to have happened overnight). Then he walked around singing the songs and telling me about how this one was a really sad song, and this one he was singing in a light-hearted way... good god.
And so it begins. *grin*

Sunday, April 4, 2010

easter images

It's only 8:01 and yikes, what a busy two hours. Take two children. Add magic. Add sugar. Result - chaos. I made a doll house for the kids as their big Easter present, but tried to keep it low-key on the "stuff" factor otherwise. Liam showed amazing restraint as he gave every second jelly bean he found to Théa while she focused on the toy house. Then it was bunny pancakes and bacon and after that, we cranked up the fiddle tunes and tried to dance off some of the sugar. And it's only 8 a.m.