We love our technology, but in some ways we are taking the old road.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Saint Lucia's Day

My daughter is getting us into the Saint Lucia tradition.

My husband and I both have Swedish ancestry. But we didn't grow up doing this. The churches in my area did crown a Saint Lucia, who wore the crown of candles and the white robe and served coffee. I've always thought it was cool.

Now my daughter is a big fan of Kirsten, the Swedish immigrant American Girl. She's read all the stories. She saved her money for a year and a half, I think it was, and bought herself the doll. And we've all given her the clothes as gifts. My mom got her the St. Lucia outfit.

Recently, Kirsten was discontinued :( and my daughter used the money she'd saved to buy the holiday treats.

They're so darn cute. The Scandinavian painted candle holder, the woven table runner, the heavy enameled coffee pot... Just precious.

And then we have a cobbled-together St. Lucia outfit my daughter wore once to school for a parade in which the kids dressed up as book characters. We used a white robe I'd (badly) made for her to be an angel for Halloween (yes, you've seen it on Princess Leia this year). And we turned a paper grocery store crown inside out and fastened on some tall, skinny candles and some silk ivy. Tie on a ribbon sash and you've approximated a St. Lucia costume.

Daughter wanted to get up early and serve rolls and coffee on the 13th, the way you're supposed to. But it just wasn't reasonable that morning, so we waited for bedtime. She and I baked lemon mini-muffins (not exactly saffron buns, but very tasty) and made hot chocolate. And she served it by the light of our Advent candles.

Little sister wants a turn next year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I've gotten one Christmas baking project done: gingerbread people. Well, I have also done basic, everyday sugar cookies, the kind I roll in balls and dip in sugar. I dip them in colored sugar and, voila, Christmas cookies. But gingerbread is a multi-step project.

I must say, a KitchenAid mixer is the best thing that's ever happened to my gingerbread process. It mixes up that big batch of stiff dough in no time flat. I got it for Christmas last year, and I'm feeling grateful.

I have the cutest gingerbread people cutters ever, thanks to my mom.

They're Raggedy Ann & Andy. We had them when I was growing up, and she let me have them when I had my own place and started baking gingerbread every Christmas. I have a traditional gingerbread boy cutter, too.

The kids helped roll out the dough, cut out the cookies, and frost them. It took two evenings and they were unusually squirrely, so I had to go looking for some patience. I put on Christmas CDs and we sang along, which seemed to focus all of us - them on listening and singing rather than acting crazy (really, they're very well-behaved children in general), and me on the meaning of Christmas rather than how much mess we were making.

The frosting turned out too stiff for the decorator utensils we were using. I ended up scraping it all back out to thin it, then using a plastic bag with the corner cut off, because that was just easier. Of course, I cut too much off. At that point I didn't care. We're just getting them done.

You can see that some have such skinny lines of frosting; that's from the first attempt. The thicker bands are from the second. None of them are beautiful. But our tradition is accomplished for the year. I hope the kids had fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


In November, I worked on doors.

I stained and varnished my kids' bedroom doors.

No, I have not been keeping up with finishing my house.

I stained and varnished the windows and trim and door frames (with a little help from my friends - you know who you are) before we moved in. And then I stained and varnished a bunch of new windows after we moved in because the window company agreed with our builder that they were defective - unbeknownst to me.

When the window company called and told me they were ready to deliver the new windows, I told them they had the wrong account. They had to convince me that, yes, they really meant my windows. Well, shoot. I was done with the windows. I needed to do the doors! We'd put those off because we just needed to move in once we'd sold our old house.

That was last year. I did get the doors in the public areas of the house done last year. Bedrooms, no. I still have some to do next year once it's warm enough to work outside.

That was the great thing about this November. It was so mild. October was rainy and cold and, as you can see from one of my posts, it even snowed. I got so lucky with the nice November weather to get some things done. I do well with desperate deadlines. So, yes, I was painting outside in November in Minnesota. Crazy.

I worked on the chicken coop.

I got the trim all primed and painted. I also got a second coat of red paint on most of the building, which will make life easier once the rest of the trim gets put up. It's a pain to paint two very different colors on adjoining surfaces. I actually still need to get a second coat of red paint on the door next year.

I also primed and painted my front door.

My husband put on a storm door this fall, which made it SO much easier to paint the outside of the front door. We have a lot more bugs here in the country than we ever did in town. I painted my front door there, just leaving it standing open for hours. Once a wasp flew in, but that was about it. Here we get attacked by swarms of Asian lady beetles, quite a number of flies, and wasps, off and on. A storm door was the answer to "How am I ever going to leave this door open long enough for the paint to dry?"

It still needs another coat to achieve nice, solid blueness. I love having a little color. Our house, garage, and shed are white. We like white. But we needed some color accents.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our Pet Chickens

We have carried out most of our original plan to bring the started hens over to my parents' place to add to their flock. They'll be selling eggs soon.

For a few different reasons, we decided to keep three hens here at our place. Two of them are very, very friendly and curious. They run toward you when you come outside and follow you around to see what you're doing. And they talk to you. More like warble loudly. It's so funny. The third is very docile. She used to let the kids pet her - not so much anymore. But they're the three that my kids are attached to. Oh, who am I kidding - we're all attached to Miss Curious, at least. That's the name of the most sociable one. She explores everything and is unafraid to strike out on her own without the other chickens. And she is the most like a puppy with the way she follows us around.

The other two are Georgie (we used to call her "the second curious hen", but she needed a name) and Dovey (the submissive one).

It's fun to have them around and not have to be worried about the rooster.

When I put straw down on our strawberry patch, they were in heaven. They like to scratch anything loose like mulch. So even though they'd been walking around on the strawberry plants right before that and should have known that there were no bugs or anything else tasty to eat there, they were powerfully driven by their instincts to scratch in the straw and try to find things to eat.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Change of Seasons

Yesterday I took down my Thanksgiving decorations...

...to make way for Christmas.

The last ornament is in memory of my grandma, who loved to see the birds that came to her bird feeders.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Eggs

Since I keep getting hits on my blog from people Googling "pullet eggs", I thought I'd show another photo. The egg on the left is pretty much a normal, large egg like you'd buy in the store -- if I haven't lost my perspective entirely from not buying store-bought eggs for quite some time. The one on the right is a good example of the pullet eggs we got for a while when the hens were getting started.

They do vary in size all along, generally getting bigger. Sometimes the tiny ones we got later had no yolks at all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


This year harvest is actually happening here in Minnesota at Thanksgiving. Usually late November seems pretty ridiculously late as a time to give thanks for the harvest. But October was so wet that hardly anyone got in the field. And November's been sunny and warm. Most but not all fields are done now. Our renter is still working on combining the corn in ours:

I had Thanksgiving dinner at my house for my family. I wish I'd taken a picture of my table and the food at dinnertime today. I'm kind of proud of my set of formal dishes, 'cuz I love fancy things, and I've been lucky to get a set of china as gifts. But instead I didn't get my camera out until suppertime.

My son suggested I do so because he thought of a blog topic. See, I've got him thinking like a blogger now. :)

Here's the spread of leftovers we all had to choose from:

You know, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, rolls, broccoli salad, fruit salad. (No, I didn't make it all; my mom helped a whole lot.)

And here's what my son ate:

It's a roll, left over from dinner, topped with pepperoni and shredded mozzarella.

Oh, well, he was happy. He's probably hungry, but at least he wasn't horribly tortured like when he has to eat traditional holiday meals. He's getting less picky at 12 years of age, but he still doesn't like much for Thanksgiving food.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thing 45: Cloud Computing

I'm going back to do another "thing" from this year's state-wide library project, "More Things on a Stick." I did only my required ten items by the deadline and got my certificate and prize, but I did want to eventually learn about the rest of the library 2.0 topics.

Since I'm going to teach a class on cloud computing next week at the library, it was time to do the thing on that topic, I thought.

The advantages & disadvantages of joining the cloud by using a Web OS:
Boy, the topic on the wiki didn't cover much on web-based operating systems. But this is a timely topic, with Google just coming out with some announcements on Chrome OS, its web-based operating system. It and some other web operating systems are offered for free, so there's an advantage. This type of set-up allows you access on any web-enabled device wherever you have a connection. The current plans are only for netbooks, but that is supposed to be just the beginning. The disadvantage would be that you don't really own any of it, so more of the control is in their hands.

In general, the advantages of the cloud are that you can get to your stuff anywhere that you can get to the Internet. Many applications are free. And if your personal computer crashes, gets a virus, gets destroyed in a fire, your files are still safe out there in cyberspace. And many applications are available to share with others, leading to easier collaboration.

The disadvantage of working in the cloud is that you have to consider the security and privacy implications. A company has your information and/or your documents. Do you trust them? If they have a computer failure or go out of business, your information could be lost or at least temporarily inaccessible. You still need to back important things up on your computer or a memory stick. And if you can't get access to the Web (Ever had an Internet service outage? I have.), you don't have access to your files unless they are something you've saved locally.

Computing I do in the cloud:
This blog is in the cloud. I also use the following: Gmail, Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Pandora, Amazon, online banking, Bloglines, online medical records, Picasa, Shutterfly. I have used PayPal and Photobucket, though not lately. I love working in the cloud. I don't have room on my computer to save all of my blog; thank goodness it isn't stored on my hard drive. I feel safer having my photos saved on Shutterfly. I really need to put all of them there, in case my computer ever succumbs to one of the viruses that come after it. I love being able to access so many things when I'm away from home. While on vacation this summer, I was able to continue to use Gmail to communicate with museum staff so that we could go on the dig I only learned about the day before we left. Plus I was able to check in with family via Gmail and Facebook so that we all knew everyone was okay, without any need for phone calls that can interrupt vacation time. At work I can pull up my Delicious links to help find resources for patrons, when I know I've saved something useful but can't remember the web address. That particular one is a productivity boost. I can also plug an event announcement into my workplace Facebook page from home; I don't have to be on that workplace computer to get to it.

Other cloud applications I plan to investigate:
I need to learn Google Docs by next week! Should I be admitting that? :-o I've been sent documents that way. I've read them but never worked on them. Google applications are usually pretty easy to work with, so I'm confident I can figure it out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What I Have Learned About Roosters

When we started having problems with our rooster being aggressive, I thought we might be able to curb his bad behavior. Well, I hoped. When it kept going and got worse, I started researching.

You know what? Mainstream sources of farm-related information are not interested in roosters. If you search extension-service information and animal science departments of universities, you will find almost nothing. Really, all I ever found was that veterinarians can surgically remove the spurs from a rooster. That's it. Maybe I missed something. But it appears that conventional, official, mainstream advice now is "Don't keep a rooster." But yet I know of many people who keep (or have tried to keep) a rooster. There are two others we can hear from our house. My parents had one for a while. My co-worker has one. A former classmate has one. People do this. Apparently we are way out there, man. Totally alternative. Crunchy.

So, without the university/extension sources I wanted, my best sources of "published" information were Internet discussion groups for people who raise chickens. Read enough on those and you get the general wisdom. (Um, yeah, I suppose there are books. I do work in a library. But there again, I figured I'd be getting one person's opinion rather than study-based information from an organization. But, no, I didn't really look.)

So, from my experience and that of other regular folks who've shared theirs, here's what I've learned about roosters:

1. They can be sweet as anything when they're young. Once testosterone starts up, all bets are off.

2. Some roosters are nice and gentle. Some are mean and aggressive. They just are the way they are. You're not going to change that.

3. To increase your odds of a mild-tempered rooster, you need to get one from a line of mild-tempered roosters. Don't be surprised if your accidental rooster in a group of supposedly female chicks is aggressive. He wasn't bred for gentleness.

4. You cannot make an aggressive rooster stop being aggressive. You can make him see you, individually, as higher up in the pecking order and stop attacking you. But just because he respects you -- that doesn't stop him from attacking your wife, your children, your visitors, your puppy....

5. To stop a rooster from attacking you, you can pick him up and hold him firmly until he stops fighting. Or you can hold him down on the ground. (Uh, wear leather gloves and other protective gear. We did not try these methods ourselves, so I cannot tell you exactly what happens.) Or you can kick him or hit him with a stick. Yes, I know that sounds cruel. It feels cruel (well, if you're a wuss like me). But when you are literally under attack by a male bird who is protecting his hens or who is hoping to dominate you through violence (hey, this is nature), you will do what you have to to protect yourself or your kids. (And maybe you'll cry later. Or maybe that's just me.)

6. Once you have proven to the rooster that you are the boss with the above methods, he probably will leave you alone. But each person who wants him to stop attacking them has to take him on individually. Do you want your 5-year-old giving that a try?

7. Sometimes you have to throw in the towel. A farm animal is a farm animal, and you don't want chicks from an aggressive rooster, anyway. Those males will likely be the same. So if the benefit of the rooster isn't worth the trouble he gives your family, you've got to make a hard decision. Some of us believe in giving an animal a good life and a quick death, and then, as a friend of mine said, "repurposing" a resource.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Costumes

I love putting costumes together. I suppose it comes from being in theater as a teenager. Costumes are really an illusion. They don't have to be wonderfully made. If you look at them closely, they often aren't quite what you thought. But when you see an outfit on stage or out in the dark for Halloween, if it gives you the impression of the character, you did it right.

This is all very good for me, since I hate sewing! I really have no talent for it.

But today my kids were telling me that, even though I say I hate making crafts, their Halloween costumes always turn out awesome. I'm honored they'd say such a thing, because it is my ambition. Whatever else I've failed at in motherhood, I think I've poured myself into the fun of Halloween.

But, like I say, I'm not a sewer. I just make things that create an illusion. So don't expect to be impressed with my beautifully-made costumes.

This year, my youngest was Princess Leia. I was so happy when she decided on that, because I already had a white robe/dress that I made years ago when my older daughter was an angel. All I had to do was tie a ribbon around her waist to create a belt effect, put her hair in Princess Leia buns, and give her her brother's Nerf gun. She's fierce.

My older daughter was Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. That's the crown I made her at the top of this entry. I did look for crowns to purchase, but nothing was even close to right. So I picked the brains of the women in an online group I belong to: what would be some flexible, translucent plastics I could use? Bingo! Quilt template plastic. I attached two sheets together, because one wasn't long enough to go around my daughter's head. I glued sheer pink pearlescent fabric onto it, using an adhesive that bonds fabric, vinyl, and plastic, and that is clear and flexible when it dries. I looked at the Wizard of Oz movie and at websites to figure out what the top edge should look like. And I cut that out with scissors. Then I decorated with silver glitter glue and some adhesive silver glitter paper that's meant for scrapbooking. I am so not good at crafts. But I was pleased with how it turned out. After it dried flat overnight, I fit it to my daughter's head and stapled and glued the second seam to make it round.

I should have made it a little tighter, but that was so hard for me to figure out. It kept slipping down. I bobby-pinned and clipped it in place, and I set her hair in curlers to try to create some resistance. Of course the curls drooped. And all night while trick-or-treating, that tall, tall crown kept falling off. But she insisted she didn't mind. It looked great in the dark. People knew instantly who she was.

The dress was one I bought used in college for a costume. We layered multiple skirts underneath to make it more full. And, yes, I sewed those silly puffs for the "sleeves" when we decided today that she needed something like that. Eh, I tried. And I bought the wand.

My son's costume... well, he couldn't decide what to be. He's almost too old for trick-or-treating. He wanted something ancient Greek or Roman, since he's been interested in that kind of thing since reading "The Lightning Thief". He finally, last weekend, decided to be a Roman gladiator. Okay, so he had a cape. I started thinking of cardboard armor. I had some vague ideas. Then I came across a ready-to-wear costume in a store. "Boy, should I spend the money?" Uh, how much do you spend buying craft supplies for these kinds of things? How much time do you really have this week? Luckily when I called my husband to ask his opinion, he said, "Buy it. Yes. Do it." It was a good choice.

Of course, it wouldn't have been Halloween if I didn't have to get my sewing machine out. My son said there was no way for him to hold his pumpkin candy bucket while holding his sword and shield. And, besides, it would ruin the effect. So I took the unbleached muslin I'd bought to make him a tunic, back when I was going to make his costume myself. And I sewed him a little bag with handles that he could carry behind his shield. It worked.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack O'Lanterns

The kids have carved their pumpkins. They actually did it mostly themselves this year because I bought one of those handy-dandy kits on clearance last year, the ones with the little saws. I've always just had them design the faces (and clean out most of the goop), and then I'd do the carving with my dull kitchen knives. This was better. The saws broke about the time they were done, but I'd still buy them again.

I've baked the pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies. I need to finish frosting them. Then I'm on to finishing costumes. No, I'm not done, but it's within sight.

I love Halloween.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pheasant & Kale Soup

I didn't take a picture of tonight's supper. I ate it all before I thought to take out the camera!

I had some leftover pheasant that my husband got in South Dakota lately. I had some kale from the plant that my boss gave me this summer. Both were in the fridge and needed to be used.

I searched the Internet for soup ideas involving chicken and kale and made up my own version. I didn't measure much, so some of this is a guess:

Pheasant & Kale Soup
2 carrots, diced
2 TB diced onion
1 TB oil
3/4 C chopped cooked pheasant or chicken
6 C chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
1/4 tsp salt
4 kale leaves, torn, with stems removed
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 handfuls fine egg noodles or broken spaghetti

Saute the carrots and onion in oil. Add pheasant, broth and seasonings and bring to boil. Add kale, garlic and noodles and cook until everything is to desired tenderness.

Even my picky eaters ate this up and said it was great.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heritage Hjemkomst

We went to the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center in Moorhead, Minnesota, last weekend. We wanted to see something interesting while we were there, but we didn't want to go somewhere where lots of germ-sharing was likely, like the children's museum.

Inside the museum is the Hjemkomst Viking ship, a replica that was built by a Minnesota man in the '70s and sailed from Duluth to Norway by a group of his friends and family in 1982.

They had to have been crazy to strike out on the ocean in that little thing, but they made it.

Right outside the museum is a replica Norwegian stave church, the type of churches built in Norway shortly after the Viking age.

It's beautiful inside in its way, but so cold and barren compared to what I expect from a church. Of course, it was cold and cloudy the day we were there. But there is no seating, the wood is unfinished with just a bit of painting in one area, and there aren't many windows. And then there's extensive, detailed carving in many places. It's primitive but extremely ornate at the same time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cosmic Joke

This is not supposed to happen in early October. I do not live in International Falls.

Okay, I know it can happen. But I don't have to like it. It's 32 degrees out at 6 pm, and the snow has not fully melted yet. I keep shaking my head.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Salsa Struggles

I finally had enough tomatoes, between my garden and my mom's, all at once, to make salsa. I've made salsa before with my sister-in-law's recipe. It was good.

I started out fine. I remembered to peel the tomatoes first this time. I put them in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skin. My daughter peeled them and cut off the the stems:

She did really well. She's an efficient girl.

Then I found that I was short on vinegar. So, do I run out at suppertime to get more, or do I find a substitute? I read in multiple places on the Internet that you can substitute lemon or lime juice for vinegar in a salsa recipe, and some even recommended it instead because the flavor will be better. I thought lime was a natural choice for Mexican food, so I filled in the rest of my needed vinegar with lime juice.

Well, that made it taste very sour, and I could really taste the lime. So I added a bunch more sugar and kept adding spices. There was also a bitterness I couldn't figure out.

Turns out I burned it on the bottom. My stove top is overly hot, and I was not cautious enough with my settings. I really can't turn it down enough for some things. I'm used to cooking on electric stoves, but I don't care for this one.

So I did the best I could in seasoning it to taste, well, acceptable. It's nothing like I've made in years past, though. It even looks dark in the jars.

I'll work up the courage to serve it to the kids once I buy some new tortilla chips. But I don't think I'll be sharing these jars with anyone else.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pullet Eggs

We've started getting eggs! Here's a picture of the first one I found:

The hen pushed the hay out of the corner of the coop and lined the spot with a few feathers, then laid the egg there. So then my husband and son got to work building nesting boxes! The hens mostly use those, but usually one egg a day is just laying out on the chicken coop floor. That can't be a very good mother hen, at least not yet.

Pullet eggs start out smaller than a normal egg. I should have taken a picture of the teeniest one we found. I wasn't even able to use it, because the membrane inside was so tough that it wouldn't break without shattering the shell. I decided a teaspoonful of egg probably wasn't enough to fight over.

At first there was one a day. We've worked up to usually four a day now, with ten young hens laying.

They are still mostly small eggs. We've gotten two that were like typical large eggs, but the one I've used had a double yolk; that makes an egg larger.

I've used them only once in baking, because it's hard to figure out exactly how many to use. I did measure a large egg in a liquid measuring cup so that I could approximate the volume when using the pullet eggs for cookies.

We're going to be bringing most of the hens over to my parents' soon, where they were always intended to go. But we're going to keep three hens, which theoretically will give you about 2 eggs a day on average, according to a chicken book I looked at. We've got a light on a timer in the coop now to encourage them to keep laying even though the days are getting shorter.

Those little eggs make cute, miniature fried eggs. Normally I can fit three large eggs in my frying pan, but on this day it held five:

The yolks are so orange from all the fresh greens the chickens are eating (and my red tomatoes, those darn birds). The pancake batter and chocolate chip cookie dough I made lately were deeply golden.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A New Favorite Quote

"I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good enough at it, and I don't think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath." -- Anne Lamott

Sunday, September 27, 2009


At the beginning of September, I already had to harvest my carrots, because they were HUGE:

I got a shopping bag full. I eventually put a bunch of them in a bin filled with sand in the garage, but now they're sprouting new stems. That can't be good, but I don't know what to do about it.

I got hardly any tomatoes this year. Maybe it was too cold, maybe it was something else. I should say that tomatoes did grow in my garden, but almost all of them had blossom rot and were spoiled. The night I picked the carrots, I found my first sound tomato:

Remember when the potato beetles ate my potato plants? Well, we had tried to save just a few plants, but they did die. But when I went to pull up the dead plants, I found some good-sized Yukon Golds:

That was a fun find.

My yellow onions did alright. I've never had success with onions before, since the rabbits at our old house would eat them (weird rabbits). But these grew nice and big. My husband built me a little screen-topped table quickly out of some scraps so that the onions could dry properly:

My garden really wasn't very successful this year, and I was a poor gardener. I need to get in the habit of getting out there regularly. Once I get in the garden, I see all kinds of things I want to take care of, and I actually enjoy the work, for the most part. But I tend to put off going out to work in it, and things got out of hand on many fronts this year. Next year, there's always next year... Maybe next year the weather will be better for growing things. But this summer sure was beautiful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Lost Hen

One of the hens is missing. She didn't come to the coop Friday night. It had been raining in the evening, so we thought she might have gone under some kind of shelter and not wanted to venture back to the coop once it was dark. So my husband and I went looking for her. We even brought our son out, since he tries to chase the chickens out of the woods and knows where they usually go. But we couldn't find her anywhere. A predator must have gotten her.

It wouldn't surprise me if it were the chicken we call the Lost Hen. There's one that loses track of the group. All twelve don't stick together all day, but they tend to stick together in small groups. The rooster usually has five or six hens with him; that seems to be all he can handle.

In any case, this hen loses track of the others. She realizes she's alone and starts crying. Once I heard this terrible chicken-wailing outside my window. I looked out and this hen was warbling with her beak open. Then she ran to the garden. Then after a few seconds, she ran back to our house, all the while making a racket. So I went out and said, "Let's go find the others." I persuaded her to follow me to the coop where, lo and behold, there were a half a dozen hens. Girl, don't you think you could have checked there first?

So that's not a bright chicken. It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine a coyote could notice her if she got lost in the woods. I just hope that she didn't lead a coyote to discover that this is a great place to find tasty chicken.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Early Morning Rooster

Our rooster has learned to crow. I missed his first attempts, partly because I'm a great sleeper. But now he crows all the time. He crows in the morning while it's still dark. He crows around the time the sun comes up. And randomly throughout the day he crows. Sometimes he does it while he's standing right outside our open living room window, and that's a little startling. But it's cute.

I'm not much for getting up and outside early, but whenever I do on a beautiful morning, I'm glad I did.

Before school started I needed to get outside before it was too late, to let the chickens out. Now I just let them out as we're walking down the driveway to catch the bus.

Mr. Rooster used to be the nicest chicken of the bunch. He'd come up to us and coo like a dove and let us pet him and even pick him up. Then he got less sociable. Then he started flapping his wings at us when we'd approach. Okay, no big deal. He wants to show he's big and tough, but he knows we're the boss. We've always given the chickens a tap on the head or back if they tried to peck us to let them know we're higher up in the pecking order.

Well, now Mr. Rooster's mature enough to breed, and he's just started acting like he's thinking about a coup. He acted funny with my husband just yesterday. Then today he bit me hard on the foot for no reason; the chickens do peck if you have something interesting on your body, like a ring or a paint splatter, but they don't normally otherwise. I have a red mark on the top of my foot now. Usually their pecks don't really hurt, they just surprise me. This was different. So I ran at him and tried to give him a kick, but he is fast. I think the most important thing is to chase him and make him run away, because he does that to the hens. So the current plan is to be prepared that he could be agressive and do something each time to show that we are still, in fact, at the top of the pecking order. Carry a big stick, perhaps. These chickens are afraid of big sticks despite the fact they've never been hit by one.

Mr. Rooster is so beautiful; my photos don't do him justice. And he is too much of an individual for us to want to eat him. So we want to keep him. It would be neat to have a hen actually hatch chicks (although I know getting that to happen can be highly challenging). And someone I know has a barred rock rooster with a nice temperament. It is possible. I hope we can keep him in line.