Monday, June 27, 2011

A Missionary Birthday

Has it really been 20 years since the morning Jacob was born?  Where have the years gone?  Where is that little boy with the thick white hair and big green eyes?

He's all grown up and serving the Lord as a missionary in northern California!  And yesterday he celebrated his 20th birthday far away from us.  Of course we sent gifts (a WalMart card and a care package full of goodies), but it's hard for a mom to wonder from afar if someone else will make the day special for her child.

21 June 2011: Elder Jacob Carter and a view of Fairfield, California.
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It seems I needn't have worried! In today's email from my son, he describes the wonderful birthday he enjoyed yesterday:
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     "Thanks for the birthday wish!!! I truly had an awesome birthday. In the morning we went to a member's house for breakfast. We had eggs, sausage, pancakes, English muffins and strawberries. After that it was time for my gift. They gave me a cup with a whole bunch of candy in it. I thought that it was just an ordinary cup, but they asked me if I could read it and then I saw it. It said "Elder Carter Santa Rosa Mission." Then I finally opened the box you sent and out popped a lot of candy and cookies. I was in heaven, but I don't know how I'm going to eat it all. After that we went to church and I got sung to at Primary. Then we went to a member's house for dessert, which was flan."

26 June 2011: The previously mentioned birthday mug.
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Wow! The members really came through for his big day! I'm so thrilled that he is so happy to be where he is, doing what he is doing.
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18 May 2011: Jacob's companion, Elder Edwards.

Jacob went on to describe an exciting event from this past week. In fact, he was so excited and trying to write it so fast that in places he's not as detailed and clear as I'd like, but I'm sure you'll get catch the enthusiasm he's feeling just as I did:

     "This week has definitely been the best week ever. Me and my companion get along really well, and we found a solid investigator named Romy. He is from the Philippines. So the story is, we were walking down the road and we saw this guy taking out his trash and we decided to talk to him, but he kept on saying that he was busy. But we kept talking to him through the week and he started to open up a lot more. Then it went into the baptism invite because he was so solid. He wants to be a missionary just like us. He said he would get baptized, but he's going back to the Philippines on July 8th. So we were freaking out because he needed to be baptized right then, but it is a rule that they have to be at church more than one time. So we were praying so hard that night and that day that he would find work and that he would change his moving date. By the time that we had an appointment with him, he was working in the back to make some money, and that was from the power of prayer and he recognized it. Then we met with him later that night and he was able to change his moving date to July 15th so he can get baptized. You don't know how pleased I am!"

21 June 2011: Elder Carter (in the back) with two other elders.

In his email to Dylan, Jacob said of Fairfield, "this area is exploding and I hope it continues." He's so happy to finally see his hard work coming to fruition.

Speaking of Jacob's birthday, it turned out to be quite a missionary-related day for us, too! First of all, we had two missionaries give their farewell talks in our ward that morning. Monte Prestwich, oldest child of our friends Eugene and Wyndie, reports to the Mission Training Center on July 6th. He'll be serving in the Salt Lake City South Mission. Colten Richards is reporting to the MTC this week. He'll be serving in the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission, Spanish-speaking.

26 June 2011: My nephew, Elder Marcus Butler, with his parents,
my brother Jeff and his wife Dana.

After church we hurried home to grab some lunch and then we headed to Show Low to attend church at my brother's ward to see my nephew Marcus give his farewell talk. His younger siblings Elsie and Burke also spoke during the meeting. Marcus reports to the MTC on July 6th, the same day as Monte. He will be serving in the Argentina Resistencia Mission!

Several of Jacob's long-time friends are on the same path. His good friend Bryn Cochenour left last month to serve in the Washington Seattle Mission. Soon his friend Beau Gardner (our former bishop's son) will report to serve in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. We are so proud of all these young men, choosing to give up two years of their lives to serve their Heavenly Father.

26 June 2011: My niece Ashley and her sons Gage and Garrett.
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Another highlight of the day was getting to spend some time with my niece Ashley, Jeff and Dana's oldest daughter. Several months ago she and her husband Matt left our fair mountain to live in Texas, where Matt was hired to work as a fireman. She came back to visit for Marcus's farewell, but she returns to Texas in a few days. (By the way, she's expecting their third child and--pssst!  It's a girl this time!)  We sure miss having them nearby!
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So, all in all, the day of Jacob's birthday turned out to be a celebration for many people! Happy 20th birthday, my son!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chick Flick

[Sorry, fighting the usual technical difficulties while uploading a video...]


If you aren't totally sick of my pictures of our adorable chicks, I have a chick flick to share!

Today I went out to sit with our babies for awhile (yes, I was taking more pictures), when our most assertive chick, Priscilla (aka Miss Prissy), hopped up on my foot. I had been drumming my fingers on my knee and the movement had caught her eye.  I could see she badly wanted to get up to my knee and investigate, and I suspected she might do something desperate, so I turned on the camera and caught something none of the chicks had ever done before!

Besides Miss Prissy's new behavior, we also celebrate another milestone today.  Our chicks were hatched on May 24th, which means today they are one month old!  That's a big deal for me.  Having never raised any type of farm animal before, I honestly expected we'd lose 3 or 4 of our chicks in their first few weeks.  However, we still have the full dozen, and each one is strong and healthy.

And for those of you who might be wondering, yes, I have named the final 4 Easter Eggers.  Now I wonder why I ever thought they were hard to tell apart!  Here they are:

Lucille, or Lucy for short.  Isn't Lucy everybody's favorite redhead?

Kate, another redhead, but with fancier feathers.

Nadia, after the gymnast.  Our bird likes to use the feeder bar as a balance beam!

Maybelline, after the mascara.  One look at her eye markings and you'll understand why!

I really never imagined that chickens could be so entertaining, but we are having a lot of fun with our young ladies!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Missionary Update

Here's an update on Elder Carter, my missionary son serving in the California Santa Rosa Mission. I can't believe he's already been out in the mission field for 6 months and 3 weeks! (But who's counting?)

Jacob has loved everything about his mission. Every city has been the best city ever; every companion has been the greatest companion ever; every member and every investigator has been incredible; even every challenge and difficulty have been amazing, according to my optimistic son.

Even so, he has found it frustrating that he has been transferred on every transfer day, which occurs every 6 weeks. Not that he minds the transfers. To hear him tell it, every new city and new companion is even greater than the last. However, it has been hard to leave each area before he could see the fruits of his labors there.
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12 June 2011: Newly baptized Sister Melissa Shelby with Elder Jacob Carter.
See how she's glowing!
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On the most recent transfer day, finally, he was not moved to a new area but gets to stay and continue the work he has begun in Fairfield. In his words:
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     "I'm glad that I am still here. Things are just growing here. We have 3 new investigators with a baptism date, and yesterday I got to witness a baptism that I prepared for the first ward elders. I was the first one to ever teach her and invited her, so I'm still going to count that as mine.
     "This week we had a really boring week, but we did have 13 lessons and hope to do better."
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Thirteen lessons seems like a lot to me, but I'm very happy that Jacob is so diligent about teaching the gospel that he feels thirteen is not enough!
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In his last email two days ago, he went so far as to issue a challenge to us:
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     "Something we have been stressing as missionaries is that members of the Church should always look for missionary opportunities and to pray for them as a family. I know that if you will do that you will get so many blessings. I would invite you all to do that today and read also Alma 6:6 as a family tonight."
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That's my boy! What a great blessing it is for us as a family to have a child serving the Lord as a missionary!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Meet the Girls

Ed warned us not to name our baby chicks. After all, when they stop laying eggs they'll likely end up on the dinner table, and when you're on a first name basis with your dinner it may be slightly less appetizing.

Dylan started it. He nicknamed one chick "Quicky Chicky" because she liked to race around the enclosure. Then Sarah decided to call one chick "Gonzo" because of her oddly mottled face.

Before long, I couldn't help myself. When I can, I like to sit in the chicken house and relax while watching the antics of our babies. As their individual personalities began to emerge, names just seemed to attach themselves to the chicks.

Since these gals are in constant motion, it wasn't easy to capture each individual chick on film. Nonetheless, here they are. Allow me to introduce you to our girls, who were 24 days old on Friday when these pictures were taken:
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This is Buffy, originally known as Quicky Chicky.
Dylan still calls her Quicky.

Cocoa

Buffy and Cocoa are sisters from the Ameraucana breed, although I've learned that a true Ameraucana is a show bird which can only be obtained from a breeder. Ours came from a hatchery and thus are probably Easter Eggers, kind of like the "mutt" version of the highly-bred show chickens. That's not bad, though. Easter Eggers lay about 4 extra-large blue and green eggs per week, whereas the more refined Ameraucanas lay only 3 medium eggs in shades of blue.

We have 6 Ameraucanas/Easter Eggers, and Buffy has the lightest coloring of the batch while Cocoa has the darkest. The other 4 look so much alike, we can't tell them apart and have yet to name them.
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Crysta
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Sally

Crysta and Sally are Black Australorps, a breed developed in Australia from Orpingtons, a popular breed in England. When we first got our chicks, we couldn't recall the names of all 4 breeds, but Ed remembered that one sounded something like "Black Astronauts." So I named these 2 ladies after female astronauts Crysta McAuliffe and Sally Ride.

You might wonder how we tell them apart. Notice that Crysta's facial markings are more like dots and Sally's are more like smears. Of course, we have no idea how those markings will change as they mature.
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Gonzo: This little gal is Sarah's favorite.

Lacey

Gonzo and Lacey are Silver Laced Wyandottes. When they grow up, they'll have beautiful silver feathers with dark black edging, making them look like they're all dressed up in a fancy lace gown.

Gonzo is our smallest chick, sort of the runt of the litter. She sometimes swells out her throat like a frog, making us wonder if she swallowed something that stuck in her throat, but she is otherwise healthy.
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Prudence

Priscilla

Priscilla and Prudence are of a breed called Barred Plymouth Rocks, so of course they needed Pilgrim-type names. They are the most assertive of our 12 chicks, especially Priscilla, whom we call Miss Prissy. Priscilla has a big round yellow patch on top of her head, while Prudence's patch is smaller, further back on her head, and almost arrow-shaped.

We've begun feeding the chicks leftover vegetable cuttings: zucchini, onion, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, apple cores, etc. As soon as we enter the shed with food, the other 11 chicks move away from the fence, but Miss Prissy is right there waiting to pounce on it as soon as we drop it. When it comes to food, she is lightning fast, with Prudence right on her heels. The other chicks don't stand a chance!
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Dylan sometimes catches crickets and other bugs and drops them into the pen. Miss Prissy is always first to snatch it up. Ed notes that she begins peeping and fussing as soon as she has the prey in her mouth, alerting the others to the fact that she has something and they don't! I think she gets a thrill out of having the other chicks chase her around the pen.
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One of the final four, unnamed Easter Eggers.

Another of the final four, unnamed Easter Eggers.

Three of the unnamed Easter Eggers with Crysta.
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I think if we could get them to stand together, side by side, and be still for a few minutes, we could note the differences between the last four Easter Egger chicks and give them names, too, but these babies are constantly in motion. In time, I suppose they'll also begin to stand out more.
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I already have ideas for some names: Maybelline, Nadia, Chanel... Well, we'll see!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Wallow Fire

For those who are wondering how the Wallow Fire is affecting our area, here is a little update.

The Wallow Fire at night. (I found most of these photos on news websites.)

As far as I can tell, the northwest edge of the Wallow Fire is something less than 30 miles from our community. There's nothing much left but forest between the blaze and us. Highway 260, between Eagar and Pinetop (where our car hit an elk 2 weeks ago), has been closed. However, the wind has been consistently blowing toward the northeast (we are northwest of the fire), so the fire's spread in our direction has been limited.

In fact, our town of Pinetop-Lakeside is the official location of the evacuation center for the 10,000 or so people who've been evacuated from the small White Mountain towns of Alpine, Hannagan Meadow, Nutrioso, Blue River, Greer, Sunrise, and Springerville-Eagar. That means officials don't see our community as being in any immediate danger from the fire.  (Greens Peak and Hidden Meadows are under pre-evacuation alert, as is Luna, New Mexico.  The fire is currently less than a mile from crossing the border into New Mexico.)

The highway through town is more congested than usual, with emergency vehicles, fire trucks, and evacuees sharing the road with locals and the usual summer vacationers. There is a different feeling in the air that can't quite be described.

This little evacuee boy is sitting in the hall just outside my classroom.

The evacuation center is located at the school where I teach, actually in the same building where my classroom is located. When I drove past the school today on my way to the bank, the parking spaces in front of my building were taken up with official vehicles and broadcasting vans from Phoenix channels 3 and 5. The larger parking lot in front of the main building was filled with RVs and fifth-wheel trailers where some evacuees were staying. Others are staying on cots in the school's gyms.

This all brings back powerful memories of our family being evacuated for 8 days during 2002's Rodeo-Chediski Fire. It almost seems surreal that our lives are going on pretty much as normal here while all around us are folks who've been uprooted and face an uncertain future. I remember clearly how that felt.

8 June 2008 - I took this picture of the Wallow Fire's smoke
from a ridge less than a mile from our house on Wednesday.

The Wallow Fire has been burning since May 29th. That's 13 days now. During that time, we've only had 3 days in which the smoke from the fire has descended heavily upon our town. Last Saturday and Sunday, and then again today, we awoke to the strong smell of wood smoke and a thick haze in the air. It's troubling people with respiratory problems; others are suffering allergies, scratchy throats, and burning eyes. My eyes have been irritated, but not horribly so.

Smoke over the Wallow Fire.

We've been lucky, though, because the wind has been consistently blowing northeast, instead of northwest toward us. While these winds of 30-60 miles per hour have made it a nightmare for the firefighters to battle the blaze, it has swept the smoke away from our area most of this week. On the other hand, it has negatively affected air quality in cities from New Mexico to Iowa.

It's ironic, or maybe it's poetic, that the people of Springerville-Eagar took care of us, the people of Pinetop-Lakeside, when we were displaced in 2002, and now it's our community's turn to step up and serve them in their time of need. Many of my friends are involved in organizing donations for the evacuees, and many others are volunteering their time to help out at the evacuation center and other areas.

Big Lake is one of many places Mark and I often took our kids
for picnics, fishing, and hiking over the years.

In the long term, we wonder how we will be affected. Many of the recreational areas we have loved during our 21 years here are gone or forever changed. The Young Women's camp near Alpine is gone. The camp near Greer where our Boy Scouts hold their Klondike campout in the snow every January is likely gone, as well.

Apache-Sitgreaves Forest burns.

For the first 12 days of the Wallow Fire, there was zero percent containment. By last night, firefighters were finally able to contain 5% of the northeast rim of the blaze. Tonight that number was increased to 6%. Today was a good day, with winds of 7 mph or less. Unfortunately, heavy winds are predicted to return for the next 3 days. Between the mountainous terrain and the high winds and low humidity we've been experiencing, it will be a slow, difficult battle.

A cabin in Hannagan Meadow was in the fire's path.

Where it stands now:
   * There are 4,422 personnel involved in fighting this fire, including 26 hotshot crews and 76 hand crews.
   * About 410,000 acres have been burned so far, making it the second-worst fire in Arizona history (although it may surpass the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which burned about 470,000 acres).
   * 29 homes have been destroyed and 5 damaged, most of them in Greer, but more than 2,700 are endangered. (400 homes were destroyed in the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.)

A map of the burned area so far. Is it just me, or does it look like
a giant fire monster stomped his foot down on our mountain?

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the brave men and women who are battling this blaze, the people who are working around the clock to serve those in need, and the evacuees who are waiting to see what the future holds. May they each be guided, strengthened and comforted.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mom's Garden

I am not a morning person. Never have been. During the summer, my idea of getting up early is to set the alarm for 7:00. To me, it is much more reasonable to start the day around 9:00.
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Imagine my surprise when I woke up at 4:30 this morning and found myself out laboring in the garden by 5:00 a.m. Anyone who knows me well would faint from the shock.
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Let me explain. The garden is Ed's baby. As I explained in my last post, I can't even keep a houseplant alive. It's called a "Black Thumb" (as opposed to a "green thumb"). So when Ed left on Friday to drive his mom back to her home in far northern Colorado, I was nervous. Very nervous.
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Since then, I have watered and fertilized and agonized. I have followed Ed's instructions to the letter, yet I sensed a failure to thrive all around me. The tomatoes drooped. The strawberries lay listlessly on the ground. The newborn cabbages looked dry and wilted.

Ed thinks these may be cabbages. 
The label on the stake for this row washed away, so we don't know for sure!
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Then a windstorm blew through here yesterday. It blew and blew all day long, 50 mph winds that frustrated the efforts of the 2,515 firefighters battling the Wallow Fire not far from here. By the time I went to bed last night, more than 200,000 acres had burned and the fire was zero percent contained. Zero! It leaped a highway where they'd hoped to hold it and destroyed an unknown number of buildings. The towns of Greer and Sunrise, a 30-minute drive from my home, were evacuated. The fire was less than a mile from the trigger point that would have required the evacuation of Springerville-Eagar, a trigger point they expect will be reached today because more heavy winds are expected.
 
We were just in Springerville-Eagar 2 weeks ago for one of Dylan's ballgames!  (That was the night we hit the elk.)

Photo of the Wallow Fire posted yesterday on
White Mountain Independent's news website.
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It all brings back memories of our week-long evacuation during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June-July 2002, and my heart goes out to the displaced families and firefighters risking so much. It makes my little garden complaint seem fairly insignificant but, nonetheless, the wind had a negative impact on my little plot, as well.
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The teepee of poles Ed had erected for his newly planted beans blew down and landed on two struggling strawberry plants. A heavy "wall of water" protecting one of the tomato plants blew over and crushed the plant, tearing off many of its little branches. Another tomato plant, the best of the bunch, whose "wall of water" I had removed two days ago because it was outgrowing the enclosure, was blown onto its side and appeared lifeless.
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I could tell Ed was discouraged and worried about his garden when I gave him the news last night. He'll be gone for at least another week, and he was frustrated that he couldn't be here to handle this crisis himself. I felt as if I were letting him down. I truly had no clue how to save this garden he'd left in my hands.
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So I prayed. In truth, I've been praying for days. I knew I needed guidance if this garden was going to survive until Ed's return. And then I woke up at 4:30 this morning and found my mind filled with memories of my mom's garden and the things she used to do to nurture her plants. Honestly, while I was growing up I never paid that much attention to my mom's beautiful, healthy gardens or her gardening methodology. And yet, there it was when I needed it. I knew what I had to do.
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I got right up and went to work. I labored for an hour and 45 minutes, hard back-aching labor (there go my friends, fainting with shock again), and I did more than I ever dreamed I was physically capable of doing at this time in my life. By 6:45 my arms were trembling, my hands and joints ached, my palms were red and sore and calloused (but no blisters yet), and my lower back hurt so bad I could barely stand upright.
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But what a sense of accomplishment!
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The rescued tomato plants, which seem to be perking up.
The other 3 tomato plants are still protected by their blue "walls of water."
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I built up the earth around the tomato plants to support them against today's expected winds, and then I took a hoe and dug deep furrows around each plant so I can irrigate them more deeply when I water.

The row of spinach.
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Then I did the same for the spinach, cabbage, and yellow onions. Well, about a quarter of the way around the onions. That's a long, long row. Tomorrow I plan to finish digging around the onions, and then make trenches around each of the strawberry plants, as well.

The row of (we think) cabbage.  The peas planted on this side of the stake
have yet to put in an appearance.

When I was done, I leaned on the hoe and understood the satisfaction people like Ed and my mother get from laboring in the garden. I'd never felt that way before.
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How the whole garden looked when I was finished this morning.

It also made me feel a little closer to my mother, who passed away in April 2002. In my mind I clearly saw her kneeling in the garden to pull up weeds and pick off tomato worms, and moving here and there to reposition the trickling garden hose in the furrows she dug around her plants to see that the water soaked deeply into their roots.  It was as if she were showing me what needed to be done.

Although I only filled the furrows less than halfway full,
the water level reached up to the spinach as it soaked into the rocky ground. 

I hope our garden, Ed's and mine, will be fruitful and become the kind of garden that would make my mom proud!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Our New Babies

Ed and I decided it was time to increase our family, so we adopted.  We adopted one dozen baby chicks!

I'm a big city girl, born and raised in southern and central California.  I can't even keep my houseplants alive.  Ed, on the other hand, grew up on a farm in upstate New York.  As an adult he joined the air force, traveled extensively, and lived in many different states, earning his income as a master automotive technician.  Just about as far from his farming roots as you can get.

Ed's garden plot behind our house, taken 10 days ago.

Yet now that he has retired and has a small plot of land to call his own, his roots are calling to him.  Slowly but surely the former Carter home is becoming the Reynolds farmstead!  He has decided we need to grow our own vegetables and raise our own chickens.  He spent months preparing a large area in the backyard for a garden, which is now planted and slowly producing tiny green shoots, and he spent weeks remodeling our old woodshed into a chicken coop. 

The Henhouse formerly known as Woodshed.

We ordered our chicks back in early March and expected to have them in about a month.  After a series of setbacks, our babies were finally hatched on May 24, and we were able to select our twelve chicks from the feed store incubator on May 27, when they were just 3 days old.

Dylan (age 13) checks out the selection of chicks, 5 different breeds!

We chose 6 from the Ameraucana breed, then 2 each from three other breeds.

Here's what I've learned about the Ameraucanas:
     "The Ameraucana breed was derived from blue egg laying chickens, but they do not have the breeding problems inherent to Araucanas. In addition, rather than ear tufts, they have muffs and a beard, and are very hardy and sweet with fun personalities. An adult hen weights about 6-7 lbs. They lay medium eggs in shades of blue (about 3 per week), and even have blue (or "slate") legs. Less rare than Araucanas, they are still quite rare and only available through breeders at this time. They should not be confused with Easter Eggers, which can lay blue and green eggs, and do not conform to any breed standard. Ameraucanas come in several varieties, including Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten, and White."  (I have no idea what color ours are!)

Two of the other six chicks are Black Australorps (Ed calls them "black astronauts").  Here's what I found out about them:
     "Australorps are the Australian take on the Orpington breed. They are calm and friendly, and excellent layers of large, light brown eggs (about 5 per week). The Australorp's exceptionally soft, shiny black plumage has hints of green and purple in the sunlight. An adult hen weighs about 7-8 lbs. Peaceful and dignified, sweet and shy, Australorps are an absolutely delightful bird which we highly recommend to anyone who wants a pet chicken that lays dependably."

Both of these breeds are supposed to be hardy enough to withstand our cold winters.  I really need to find out the names of the other two breeds of our final 4 chicks!  I saw the breed names the day we bought them, but I simply can't remember them now.

Six of our chosen fuzzballs in their box for the ride home.

All the chicks in the photo above are Ameraucanas except the two black ones with yellowish head markings.

Our chicks explore their new home.

It's been so much fun watching them over the past 10 days.  They'll be 2 weeks old tomorrow, but they've already grown so much. 

At just 6 days old they began sprouting real feathers in their wings.  By 8 days old they had actual tail feathers poking out of their furry little behinds.  Three days ago they disovered they could fly across the coop, albeit only a few inches above the ground.  Dylan and I had a good giggle when one little gal flew just a few inches before she smashed into the water bottle and got knocked on her feathered bootie! 

Like all toddlers, they enjoy playing games.  Ed has observed a few instances when one chick would grab a wood chip in her beak and run around the coop while the other 11 chased her, thinking she had a big piece of food. 

These final 3 pictures were taken at 3:00 this afternoon.  As you can see, our babies are growing up!  They are no longer round balls of fluff, but instead are beginning to look like the chickens they will grow up to be.  (I think the black one standing alone against the wall with a yellow breast is a Black Australorp.  The very front chick and the 3 lined up behind her are Ameraucanas.)

6 June 2011: Our 13-day-old chicks


One thing I have found is that watching chicks at play is a very relaxing experience.  We go out to check them and refresh their water and food three times a day, and each time it's hard to tear ourselves away.  I could just sit for hours and watch their antics while my blood pressure eases downward.

If you have a minute and a half to watch this video clip, you might find it relaxes you, too!

video

Friday, June 3, 2011

How Did I Do?

I'm still not ready to post photos of our May 21st day at the temple and our open house that same evening.  Although I took a few pictures with my own camera, our "official" photographers were our friends Eugene and Wyndie, and we haven't seen their handiwork yet.  (Something to do with their son Monte's high school graduation and a family vacation at Disneyland before Monte reports to the Mission Training Center in Utah on July 6th...)

However, I do have some pictures I can share now.  I took a lot of shots of our decorations and our preparations.  (Remember you can enlarge any picture by clicking on it.)

Being a very visual person, I drew out my plan for the table decorations (above).  It not only helped me visualize how I wanted them to look, it also helped me figure out what I needed to bring with me so I wouldn't have to keep running home or to the store for forgotten items.  In that respect I was pretty successful.

How do you think I did in bringing my drawings to life?

The Guest Book Table at the entrance.
(Couldn't find a feather pen!)

The Cake and Punch Table.  Crystal did an incredible job
on the cakes, and they were delicious, too!  See the close-up below.

I'm so glad Crystal came up with the M&M theme for the Guest Tables!
I think they came out great!  This, of course, is the Red M&M Table.

The Blue M&M Table.  We had about 70 guests, and I heard several people
make comments like, "Did you notice we're at the Blue Table?"

The Yellow M&M Table.

The Green M&M Table.

We actually had room for an extra table, so we had TWO
Orange M&M Tables.


And, finally, the Brown M&M Table!

Here's the whole room with all 7 tables.

The trickiest parts were finding the colored cloths to match the candies and 14 glass bowls to hold the M&Ms and honey-roasted peanuts at each table.  I finally found 12" x 18" fabric remnants in a bin at WalMart, and the bowls came from thrift shops and dollar stores all over town for about $1.00 each.

This table for the cheese and crackers and fruit salad was near
the cake and punch table.  Crystal made the adorable watermelon bowls!

This is my friend Crystal herself, hard at work on the punch:
ginger ale colored blue with Boo Berry Punch Kool-Aid
and chunks of peach sherbet floating in the punch.  Very tart!

We also had pink lemonade and raspberry lemonade available.
They were very popular!

Here's the close-up of the three sheet cakes!  Crystal decorated them
with fresh flowers and strings of tiny pearls along the sides. 
Inside was moist white cake and mouth-watering raspberry filling.
The topping was my favorite, whipped cream frosting!

A week earlier, we'd jokingly told the full-time missionaries that we'd feed them
if they came to help.  They showed up an hour early and worked tirelessly at
filling platters with deviled eggs, cheese and crackers, and ham and turkey rollups!
We were just kidding, but now I don't know what we'd have done without them!

Ed and Dylan (age 13) work side-by-side in the kitchen before the guests arrive.

The guests began to arrive and enjoyed a light buffet.

Our guests began to arrive right at 7:00.  As the tables began to fill, we greeted everyone and invited them to enjoy the feast.  Besides the hors d'ouevres we'd prepared ourselves and the gorgeous cakes Crystal provided, Crystal had also supplied finger sandwiches, potato salad, pasta salad, and fruit salad.  It was sumptuous, and there was enough left over to feed our family for the entire following week!

It was an amazing day followed by a wonderful evening.  Soon I hope to have pictures to share of the day's events and those who celebrated with us.  As always, stay tuned!