Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Chick Duplex

At the last chick update, the chicks were outgrowing their current brooder space.

Remember how I've been using the thermometer to gauge the chicks growth?
That green tape you see behind these four?  That's the thermometer.
They are now as tall - if not taller than - the thermometer on that back wall.
I'd say it's high time they have more space to spread their wings.

Originally our plan was simply to make a second brooder and separate the chicks into two equal groups.  Making a duplicate once they were bigger.  That changed the more we thought about it.  The chicks have been together since the beginning and have probably started to develop a bit of 'pecking order'.  We didn't want to separate them out and cause any distress.

So, our new plan was to build a chicken apartment.  A duplex if you will.

Making their current quarters more expansive to allow increased space for ALL the chicks without any separation.

Planning began.

We had an idea to connect the two bins with a 'tube' of some sort to make a tunnel from one container to the other.  Resulting in the duplex - in essence.  The problem was, it needed to be a good sized tube that the chicks could walk through. They weren't little bitty anymore.

Off to the store we went.

We searched for conduit of some kind that we thought would work.  It had to be big enough.  Sturdy enough.  We found..... NOTHING!  Well, I found one heavy, metal pipe like thing, but it was too big -- too heavy.

We started to leave the hardware store, a bit discouraged by our lack of purchase options.  As we were walking down the main aisle, an end cap caught my eye.  It was filled with bottles of some sort of solution.  (What was in them didn't matter, it was the vessel that got my brain whirling.)
The jugs resembled big gallon containers of vinegar that we had at home.

The lightbulb went off.  We could cut the top and bottom off of a vinegar bottle and make the tunnel.


Cheap - well, free - since we had vinegar bottles at home; light weight; easy to cut; big enough for adolescent chicks to trundle through to get to the other side of the chick brooder duplex.


Once we figured that out, we felt we were ready to begin construction.

Here's where everything went amuck.

After cutting the vinegar bottle to make the tunnel - which was the easiest part of this whole escapade - we traced the circle for the opening on the second bin.  This would become the hole where the tunnel would be -- connecting one section to the next.

Then....... I began cutting.

If you recall our original brooder post, you'll remember that the plastic was a royal pickle to cut through.  Once you got the Exacto knife to penetrate the plastic, you had to be very careful or the plastic just 'shattered and splintered' instead of 'cutting' along the nice line you had envisioned.

I had made provisions for this and bought 'special tools' to accomplish this endeavor.

You guessed it.......    they didn't work so well.

Barely at all, in fact.

After a good half hour of attempting to cut out this one circle; I had cut through......  oh maybe......... an inch to an inch and a half curve.

You have got to be kidding me.

That's it?

Scanning the remaining portion of the circle that needed to be cut; then glancing over at the second brooder bin that would ALSO need a circle cut out of it; I instantly changed plans mid course.

That little one inch 'slice' wouldn't compromise the integrity of a second brooder.

We were back to plan A.

Pecking order or no pecking order, the chicks were gonna be separated.

I consoled myself with the knowledge they would at least have enough space this way.  {Funny how we play mind tricks on ourselves, isn't it?}

Justification at it's best.

So, we simply cut a hole out of the top of the second lid to the second bin and cut wire mesh to attach to the top.  Once again, duct tape proved to be the best medium to attach said wire.  Next we taped the thermometer to the wall; affixed paper towels to the bottom of the bin to keep the chicks from slipping around; covered the bottom w/pine shavings; placed a waterer inside; and repurposed an ice cube tray to be a feeder; and.........
The new ice cube tray chicken feeder.  They already emptied one cube.


Chicken brooder number 2 was ready for occupancy.
The new brooder with it's four tenants making themselves at home.
You can see my attempt at cutting out the 'hole' there on the front.
Yep, that's all a 1/2 hour of work produced.
I think they are happy in their new digs.
The Dark Brahma - my chick as the kids say - looks like she's thinking,
"At least it's roomier than the last place.  Sharing w/3 others instead of 7."

We decided to put these 4 in the new brooder.
The Dark Brahma; 2 Golden Wyandotte; and the Columbian Wyandotte.
Figured they were the 'odd balls out' so they should stick together.

Here's Elijah's chick.
Unnamed currently, but we love her colors.

Ideal?  No.

As cool as a chicken brooder duplex?  Not by a long shot.

Would I rather keep the chicks all together allowing THEM to determine who goes to the other side, who doesn't, and when?  You bet.

 But... necessity took precedence and we.........
We kept the four Speckled Sussex
together.  Just seemed logical.


All four seem to be adapting,
even if they do look a bit skeptical
about the whole shebang.


Later, we may add roosting branches, but in reality I'm hoping they can move out to the 'big girl coop' sooner than later.

{They'd already be there if we lived in a warmer climate that didn't have 6 inches of snow in May, but... I digress.  
We don't, so they aren't.}

At the very least, the chicks are no longer over crowded.  They have room to move about without smooshing (a very technical term) one another.

I'll call it a win for improvisation and meeting the specified need we had.  :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Flourishing with T1D

Recovering from food poisoning, I sat in my comfy chair with my blanket, sipping a cup of broth, looking out our front windows at the beautiful view of the mountains in the near distance.

Selah skipped in and kneeled down in front of my footstool (which is command central for all things diabetic).  It's where we keep the girls diabetic 'go bags' with their insulin, glucose meters, snacks, etc for when we are out and about.

Upon kneeling down she grabbed her meter, looked at me, and said, "I feel a bit low and I have a blood drop after resetting my CGM."  My heart swelled.

Pride for how independent she was.  How smart she was.  How diligent she was.

Sadness for the fact she HAD to do this.  That her blood sugar was dropping making her feel less than great and therefore knowing she needed to check to see what her blood glucose reading was.

She was correct.  60.  A juice box should do the trick.

Finishing her juice, she was off like a flash to continue her board game with Elijah.

I just sat there and watched her.  She knew what to do.  How to do it.  

She knew she needed fast acting carbs.  She even knew the correct amount for her given blood sugar.

I'm glad she's becoming so independent with her care.  It helps this mama's heart as she grows and gets closer - day by day - to that time when she'll have to venture out on her own.  When she'll not have Techno and I just down the hall to check on her, wake her up, remind her to check, to treat.

It's amazing the variety of emotions that erupt from such a simple task.

There she was, poking her little finger to elicit a blood drop in which she'd adhere to the test strip in her meter.   Allowing a reading of her blood glucose levels to appear so she could determine the right course of action to help keep her little body functioning, healthy.

As she sat there I saw a young lady emerging.  Strong, independent. I also saw that little toddler so shy and sweet yet so feisty.  A teary eyed smile crept across my face.

I wish she didn't have this path to take, this cross to bear.  But... she does.  I'm glad to see her embracing it.  Living it.  Persevering through it.

Diabetes isn't controlling her, she's controlling it.  Yes, some days are hard.  Some days diabetes wins.  Too many highs; too many lows.  However, most days, Selah wins.  She lives.  She thrives.  

I know we have many years before she's 'on her own' but watching her each day take ownership of this disease that resides within her, makes the thought of her being out from under our wings easier.  I know dangers still exist.  I know struggles will erupt.  Yet, I  trust she will continue to flourish, to persist.  In just the last year, at such a young age, I've already watched her blossom.  The sky is the limit in the years to come.

She's strong.  She's determined.

She will continue to tackle this beast within her.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Food Poisoning, Lost Tooth, Flooding - Oh My!

After a full week of working out of the home for the first time in almost 20 years, I was looking forward to a fun-filled Sunday as a family and with our church family.

Status quo for a Sunday with the addition of a fellowship dinner at the pastor's house following the evening service.

We stayed much longer than expected as we planned to 'get home early' from this affair as Techno needed to prepare for his work trip to Ohio, the girls insulin pumps were due for a change,  and we had school the next day.

We pulled in our drive after midnight.  That's REALLY late considering the older kids still had to walk the dogs and tuck in the chickens and rabbits. The girls sleepily got ready for bed and we postponed pump changes b/c everyone was so tired.  Techno and I waited for the older 2 to return from their dog walk then we meandered back to our bedroom.

That's when it all changed.

Suddenly my stomach started to hurt.  Then it got worse.  A lot worse.  Severe cramps, cold sweats, nausea.  This was at 1am.  I finally laid down around 1:30 am but was so cold I couldn't get warm - I turned on my electric blanket and tried to snuggle in.  Finally I drifted off to sleep.  Around 2:10 am - it all returned.  Severe cramps, cold sweats, nausea.

This continued every 20-40 minutes through 4:00am.  It was like wash, wring, repeat.  Over and over and over all night long.

Techno researched a few 'possible' problems that would cause my symptoms.  Many suggested a trip to the ER, but I didn't want to do that as we really didn't have any contingency plans for the kids at home.

After the 4am bout I actually slept for almost an hour till the next episode.  Then another hour till about 6am.  Finally it began to stretch out to an hour and a half to two hours between episodes.  Then excruciating pain and nausea would hit again.

I was down for the count.

A call mid-morning to Teledoc revealed I had 'classic symptoms' of food poisoning.

Food poisoning.  Yuk.

The thought had occurred to me when it all started, but I discounted it b/c no one else in the family had any symptoms and we had all eaten some of the same things.  Apparently food poisoning can be quite selective in terms of who is effected and who isn't. We assume that my previous week of working full time, not sleeping well during that week, resulted in my immune system being a little under the weather - hence not as capable of fighting off whatever bacteria made it's way into my system.  Sigh.

While I huddled under the covers in my room dozing b/w bouts in the bathroom the kids continued on with 'life as usual' just minus mom.

Selah came in at 7:30 am and started to climb into bed with me. I stopped her and told her mama was sick. She was sad and started to wander off. I asked her what she needed.  Her first tooth had fallen out in her sleep.

What an exciting day for her and mom was too sick to celebrate much with her.  Later in the day I did take a picture of her and we talked about her tooth falling out when all three girls brought me 'get well' cards, pictures, and presents they wanted me to have.  They were all super sweet.  Loving on mom and wanting her to feel better -- soon.

Techno brought me water when he went out to work.  Later, the older kids brought me a cup of broth in an attempt to help me stay hydrated.  While they were delivering my cup, they mentioned how the girls had 'flooded' the kitchen.

Wait.  Rewind.  Flooded the kitchen?  How?  In my muddled state of consciousness, it wasn't really registering how such an event could occur.  Had they filled the sinks so full and just kept letting the water run?  Discipline would be in high order.  How else could they flood the kitchen?

Apparently as they were doing their morning chores of washing the breakfast dishes, the hose that connects the faucet (that pulls out to spray etc.) and the water source, came undone at the faucet level when they returned the head to the base after spraying off some unsuspecting dish.  Thus allowing water to simply flow under the sink. Apparently it didn't seem odd to them that water was no longer flowing INTO the sink.  A short time later as they continued to wash the dishes, Selah looked down and said, "Uh, Charity" and pointed to the floor that was now resembling the start of a pond.

You guessed it, water had filled under the sink and was now flowing out on to the floor.  Gulp.

Big kids to the rescue.

All the towels in the house later and the mess was resolved. All that was left was for Techno to reattach the hose.

One good thing that came of my bout with food poisoning?  I didn't have to contend with the flooding issue.  LOL!

The remainder of the day went off without a hitch.  At least as far as I know.  I spent most of the day and early evening in my room, under the covers, dozing when I wasn't doubled over in pain.

The Teledoc came to the rescue with prescriptions for an antibiotic to rid the bacteria that I most likely came in contact with as well as a med to help relieve the cramps and pain that my intestines were going through.  Techno was my hero and took a break from work to pick them up so I could start them ASAP!

Once those were in my system, it was only a brief time before all the symptoms subsided.

Phew!  Praying to never get that again.  Praising God it was as short lived as it was.  (Although 13 hours of that didn't FEEL like it was short lived at the time.) Apparently food poisoning CAN last days before it works it's way through one's body -- ridding itself of the bacteria causing the distress.

Although an extremely painful and less than fun event, getting food poisoning helped remind me how wonderful my family is and how blessed I am to have them in my life. They all took care of me, brought me trinkets to show their love, handled the day to day running in the house, and worried and loved on me as I recovered from a long night of pain.

I am blessed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Summer Internship

A sophomore in college, Jacob had spread his wings and worked in Laramie over the summer between his freshman and sophomore years.  This summer, however, he's expanding his wings further and heading off to Texas for a summer research program.


I knew this was a possibility.  A probability.  He's a smart guy.  A hard worker.  A diligent student.  His character warrants being chosen for such an honor.

Now, it's real.

He'll be home for a few weeks before his start date, but then he'll load up his car and travel almost 1000 miles away to work as a research assistant in Dallas, Texas.

Double Gulp.

We're so proud of him.  So excited for him.

Yet, the mama in me is sad, nervous, anxious about this new adventure he'll be taking.

So far away.

Such a big town.

Many new experiences, people, places.


I know he'll be fine.  Great really.

He's a strong young man.  His intelligence, kind heart, and good sense will aid him as he's miles from home.  Far from our reach, our influence.

I rest assured on the fact we've taught him well.  We've directed the arrow of his life in the manners of God.  Striving to guide him as God directed us.  Teaching him right from wrong.  Good from bad.  Helping him learn to make his own decisions based on God's truth; on God's Word.  Pointing him in the direction to learn to find God's Will in his life.

My head knows these things to be true.

I've watched him navigate adolescence and young adulthood.  Making good choices. Following the moral path set out in the Bible for his life.  Choosing to turn away from evil; avoiding pitfalls that many young people fall into.

My heart, however?  Well, that's a little more difficult.

It still sees that tiny baby we brought home over 19 years ago - so precious, perfect.  That young toddler just beginning to take those first steps; tears falling from the bumps and bruises, yet determined to get back up and try again.  The young boy whose heart was broken by a harsh friend.  The teenager learning to maneuver his way through the growing pains of life.

It's amazing as we traverse these new parenting waters.  Just when I think it's gotten easier to 'let go' another 'first' erupts that seems to rattle the chains that tether a mother to her child.  Reminding me that another link needs to be added so he can venture further away from me.  One day, I'll have to unhook that chain altogether so he's no longer bound to his mama.   At least not in the same way.  He'll be out there - on his own. Making his own decisions.  Only coming to me of his own volition.

I know those days are not far off.

I know the links I'm adding to this parenting chain are running out.  It's almost time.

Each step; each adventure; each new experience gets us closer to unhooking, unleashing the chain.  Releasing our little boy into the world as a man.

This summer is just yet another step toward that end.

I know he's ready.

Me?  Well, let's just say, "I'm slowly, tearfully, sometimes fretfully getting there."  :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Needing More Space

As the chicks grow -- which they are doing by leaps and bounds -- it's becoming obvious we need to expand their brooder.

They are getting quite large.
They still have several weeks (if not more w/our crazy weather) before they can move out to the big coop, so in the meantime I believe we are going to need to make a chick brooder duplex.

Originally I thought we'd just make a second brooder box - pretty much  just like the first one.   However, the more I've considered it, the more I'd hate to separate out any of the chicks.  How do I know who are chickie friends and who aren't?  Who wants to stay together and who wants to move?

So.... instead, we are going to expand the current brooder so all the growing chicks have plenty of room WITHOUT leaving their little chickie friends.

First, just look at how they've grown!

Their getting tall.
Soon they'll be AS TALL as the thermometer.

I've been using the thermometer on the back wall as a gauge.  You can see how much further they stand each week next to the numbers on the thermometer.  Amazing!

Bigger and sharper each day, it seems.

Plus, those feet!  Even bigger this week than last.  The 'toe nails' (for lack of a better description) are REALLY getting long and talon like now.  Pretty crazy.

Not to mention, the combs on their heads.  They have them now.  When they were just little puff balls, they didn't really have the combs -- well, at least you couldn't see them.  They are becoming oh so apparent now.
She has a nice little comb coming in.
A good side view of her pretty 'comb'.

In addition, the down like fuzz is quickly being replaced by more and more feathers. In some spots they look a little 'bare' as the fuzz falls off before the feathers replace it.  But, for the most part, they just have big, growing feathers.

Wing feathers.

Tail feathers.

Feathers, feathers, feathers.

Less 'fuzz' and more feathers abound.
It's getting harder to catch them with one hand as they have grown so much.  Watching the girls hold them is cute as now the chicks fill both their little hands quite readily.

Still her favorite - little Silver Fox - the Columbian Wyandotte.

The little dark brahma.  One of my favorites.

Either a speckled sussex or a golden wyandotte.

They are very active too.  They hop, jump, fly around inside the brooder to get to the food, water, grit, and just to hop over one another.

Once we open the door, they REALLY go crazy as they are still fearful of being picked up despite daily handling.

Come back soon as I'll update the progress on their chick duplex construction and how they enjoy the expanded space.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Spring Day

Yes, spring officially sprung last month, but about that time, here in Wyoming we got about ...... hmmmm..... 8 - 10 inches of snow.

Hence, it hasn't felt much like spring here.  LOL!

Until.............. Last week!

Well, maybe a couple other days, but this day the drifts were melting and we could walk through ALMOST our entire yard without climbing through and over 5 ft drifts.  (Everywhere EXCEPT around the chicken coop and rabbit hutch.  It's still a good 3-5 ft there.  CRAZY!  Maybe it would be a good idea to relocate those things?  Nah, where's the fun in THAT?)

With the sun shining, the breeze warm, and the snow melting the girls and I decided to venture outside to do trash pick-up around the property.

You see, the critters and our very own dog, enjoy our trash and recycling.  All through the winter they get IN to said trash and recycling.  The raccoons, foxes, and who knows what other critters have officially stolen or lost one of the lids to our outdoor garbage cans so now it's a 'free for all'.  The pup thinks the recycling shed is his own personal toy bin.

As you can imagine, we get a lot of stuff floating around our fenced in yard from the pup playing in the recycling bin and the rest of the unfenced yard from the wildlife getting into our trash as well.  The wind then picks up said stuff and carries it even further around the yard.  (Sorry, neighbors.  We are trying to figure out a new plan now that I know the lid is gone.)  With the snow falls we've had, the trash was being covered by snow so it didn't look quite so atrocious, nor had I realized just. how. much. the critters were causing a ruckus with our garbage.


Last week, the girls and I grabbed a huge black outdoor trash bag and began making a sweep of the yard.  Most of it got 'stuck' in the trees and bushes along the creek bed area - a blessing since it acted as a barrier and kept it from TOTALLY infiltrating the neighborhood.  We picked up a myriad of 'junk' that had been scattered about by animals and wind as we made our way around our property.

In addition, we found a pair of socks - yep, you read that right, a pair of socks by the creek; at least 4 hats and 2 sets of ear muff type things; and a multitude of toys; not to mention 2 of our sleds.  Yes, 2 sleds were covered in snow and buried under the trampoline.  Go figure.

Once we finished our 'chore', Trinity and Charity returned inside to finish their school.  Selah and I had a great time outside for another 1/2 hour or so tossing a frisbee around.  Mostly throwing and chasing said frisbee, but it was good exercise and kept us both outside in the sunshine.  Vitamin D is good for the body, right?

Tossing the frisbee for mom to chase.

Trying to catch the frisbee.  She reached a bit too high.

Watching Selah and I play, made Trinity and Charity hurry along with their lessons and they too went out and tossed the frisbee.  We all love when the weather gets nicer after a long, cold, snowy winter.

Tossing and chasing the frisbee.
Just look at that view.  I'd happily sit on the porch
and look at the mountains while they play frisbee.

Retrieving the frisbee was half the fun this day.

It was a good day.  We're all looking forward to more snow melting and more time outside.  One day soon, hopefully the chicken coop and rabbit hutch area will be melted as well and we can get to work making improvements there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Silver Fox Breeding Trio

I succeeded.

I convinced Techno to allow us to expand our rabbitry by purchasing a breeding trio of Silver Fox Rabbits.

Two does and a buck.

We picked them up near Denver yesterday after doctor appointments for Elijah.  Two birds, one stone sort of thing.  Since we were already going to be in Colorado, we just drove a little further to pick up the adorable bundles of fur.

Once we decided to go forward with our venture in meat rabbits, I had to come up with at least 2 more rabbit cages.

We had Orchid's empty cage, but we were getting THREE rabbits.

A conundrum.

The three could NOT stay in one cage unless we wanted perpetual pregnant does and the possibility of the does harming - even killing - the buck.

No good, no good.

Fortunately, Techno's friend -- whom we had gotten Orchid and Charlie from -- had offered us their leftover rabbit supplies (including cages) as their daughter's last rabbit had died of old age about the same time as Orchid.

What a blessing for us.  Sad, I'm sure for them.

Fixing the sides/tops/bottom of one of the
'new to us' rabbit cages.
I think we may invest in wire to make our
own in the future.  Fixing this one
showed me just how easy it really is to make.
Just put the little 'clamp' on and pinch.
Easy as that.
We picked up the cages Saturday afternoon and realized one needed a little repair.  Nothing major.  Just some 're-attaching' of the pieces to make it secure.  Once that was done, we arranged the hutch to house not 2, but 5 rabbits and their cages.  (Since Lucas will be joining the outside living quarters now that the weather is improving).

Of course, I was gone all day Saturday and Sunday with 4H projects and picking up said cages, so I did NOT get to fix them in the nice balmy sunshine, instead I had to fix them after it snowed.  LOL!  Murphy's law, right?

The new configuration for all the bunnies to live outside.  Lucas will go on top of that single cage in the very near future.
In addition, I made plans for expanding our hutch by using shipping crates to make the space bigger; more spacious; more functional for more rabbits.  (Or course, I need to GET said crates, but I know where some are located, just need to pick them up.)  The girls will be able to house ALL the rabbit cages along the back wall; the food along one side; and 'work stations' along the other where they can train, groom, and practice with their rabbits.  Plus it'll be more 'snow proof' and make it easier to clean cages in the dead of winter when drifts can get close to 5 ft near and around the rabbit hutch.  (I'll do another blog post once we get THAT endeavor underway.)

As the rabbits begin breeding, I realized we'd need cages for the babies once they get big enough to be removed from mama, but prior to being processed for our freezer; sold at fair; or to other rabbit owners.

I remember laying awake one night trying to figure out what I was going to do for cages.  The cost of a multi-teir cage set up is close to or over $200. I wasn't sure I wanted to invest that yet -- just in case we weren't very successful with this whole rabbit breeding venture.

Then.... it hit me.

We still have our 'small' chicken coop that I use as a 'brooder box' that I could convert into 4-6 rabbit cages with a  little 'repurposing'.  (I'll be sure to share that project once it's in progress as well.  The coop was buried under a snow drift and suffered a little damage as a result.  But... all in a days work, right?  Some nails, wood, new wire - it'll be right as rain.)


Of course, that does mean I need to come up with an alternative plan for a brooder box, but that's for another time.  Another 4H project?  Sure, why not.

The rabbits all seem content.

We managed to obtain ownership prior to the April 15th cut off for fair guidelines.  We also are in the process of determining if we will breed them now as the kits need to be no less than 6 weeks old by 4H fair time.  One is too young, so she will have to wait till after fair to be bred.  The other had a litter recently that she lost (mothering instincts kicked in a little too late and all her kits died.  Not an uncommon occurrence for a first time rabbit mama - so I'm told.)  So, we are debating whether or not to re-breed her or wait.  Decisions, decisions.

Let the fun begin!

Here's our new trio of Silver Fox rabbits.

Scarlet - the young doe -- just 4.5 months old.  Not as much silver in her fur, but evenly distributed, which is what you want.  Even Steven.  She's a bit shy still - having just moved to a new place many hours from her old home.

Look at that sweet face.

The silvering is faint in the picture.
It's more prominent than this photo shows, but still much
more subtle than the other two.

Trixiebelle - the older doe.  She's 10 months and has a good amount of silvering that is also nice and evenly distributed.  She had 12 kits with her first litter.  A good mix of blacks and blues.  I'm excited for the blues even though they are not yet acknowledged as an acceptable color of Silver Fox rabbits. I believe they will be in the coming years AND they are just beautiful.
Feeling shy and nervous in her new home.

Nice silvering.  A little sparce in her face.

Finally, our buck.  Shortstop.  He's heavily silvered, again with nice even distribution.  He's a big guy and a sweet guy.  His brother has won many championships.  Hoping the same for him.  He was going to be one of the breeders kept rabbits to continue his wonderful line of champion blood, but the rabbit she had in mind for us, hurt his eye and she didn't want to sell us an injured rabbit.  Here's hoping his champion bloodlines continue in our little rabbitry.

He's been a little more curious.  Hopping around,
sniffing everything.  Adapting well.

Just look at all that silver.  Trinity says 'he looks like an old man'
since he's so 'silver' all over.