Sunday, July 20, 2014

Skater the chicken keeper

So it's high time that I document one of the funnest (yeah I know that's not a word) adventures we have taken on recently.  WE HAVE CHICKENS!!!  So you might ask does a farm girl - married suburbian - decide to keep backyard chickens?  The answer - have yourself a Skater.  When I was pregnant with SK my mom bought a tiny box of peeps.  She started with quite a few.  Several have died along the way but she still has 3.  It's really neat that they are the same age as SK.  SK has LOVED interacting with Nammy's chickens.  All our kids are thrilled to collect eggs and think watching the chickens is so fun!  

While browsing the aisles of a local store Matt and I passed a chicken coop.  If you know my husband you will be shocked with the following.... so we passed the coop, I stopped and said OH MY GOSH this is so cool!  He then starts looking, asking how much it is, and checking it out.  I asked him what he thought about getting it for SK 6th birthday coming up.  He thought it was a fun idea and wondered if my parents would be interested.  I casually texted my mom and told her that SK would love it and nothing else was mentioned.  

A month or so before SK birthday my dad called and asked if we were serious about keeping chickens.  Matt and I talked and I told him yes.  My parents bought her the coop, set it up at their house and my mom bought a box full of baby peeps.  

SK spent the night at Nammys and discovered these sweet babies and was instantly in love!  She didn't know they were hers and would carefully help Nammy take care of them and handle them so they would be gentle.  

At Easter we handled chickens, painted their toenails and I got REALLY excited about when we would bring them home!

Skater and her new coop!

About a month before her birthday the chickens were getting ready and so we told SK they were hers and brought em home!  She was THRILLED to say the least.  We loaded up the coop and brought it home.  My dad, Matt and I loaded up and went to Lowes and got all the supplies for building the chicken run.  Matt worked hard at building an amazing chicken run.  We added a swing and they LOVED it. 

Tilda swinging.  Even our sweet Chelle who dislikes birds (okay lets not lie, I have seen her sprint at 9 months pregnant, screaming, away from my moms chickens- why oh why don't I have a photograph of that???)  Anyway - even she was entertained by chickens swinging!!! 

Skater and sweet Tilda.  This chicken is more like a dog than a bird!  She loves to creep up and sit beside us on the deck.  I have to say that I have loved her from the start.
When the chicks were still in the box my mom said she thought she had a rooster.  She could tell when he was tiny.  Initially I said we just wanted hens because I feared the rooster crowing bothering our neighbors.  When we were picking out which ones we wanted to bring home (mom got 10 - 5 for us, and 5 for her) Matt said he thought the rooster would be cool.  We had done enough reading about chickens for us to know that it would be interesting to watch a rooster and so I agreed.  SK named him The Mayor and he has been an absolute blast to watch.  We love him and everyone was ecstatic when he started to crow!

Skater holding Granny.  She is so proud of her chicks!

Our silly birds don't sleep in the coop.  Tilda started flying first and jumped on the roof.  Everyone must sleep together and so they all sleep on the roof of the coop.  One night it was storming horribly and I went out and there they all were on top.  They love it!  
We have recently started letting them out to roam in the yard.  Initially I was scared they would scatter in a million different directions and never be able to get em in the coop.  They have the best time in the yard!  We have LOVED watching them in the yard.  And by we I mean me and the girls because they stress Matt out in the yard!  We are having to constantly shoo them from the garden and the flowers.  
The Mayor keeps the girls in line.  He looks like he is pacing back and forth in this picture and I LOVE him.  When he started crowing Matt elbowed me at about 5am and said HE IS CROWING - and of course I FLEW out of bed to peek out the window and watch him!  

Skater has learned how to catch the chickens and she is constantly found packing them around.  I have to remind her that not everyone likes birds (ahem - aunt chelle) and to remember to not bring them out and pack them like pets around everyone!  haha.  
Here is our whole gang.  All 3 kids, 5 chickens and our kitten Rocky.  Oakley is missing from the picture (because she is a bird dog and really would love to eat them!)
Tilda wanted to join us for breakfast.  I made scrambled eggs.  
And....drumroll please - after much anticipation - one of our hens has laid an egg!  I have been waiting and knew it would be soon but was thinking a few more weeks.  Back last week I had cleaned out their coop and put down a lot of bedding in their nesting boxes (where they are supposed to lay eggs).  Usually when we are home we let everyone out at least once a day for a while if not more than that.  Today after church we headed to moms to eat, I had a reception for a friend getting married, and my sweet nephews birthday party.  Needless to say we weren't home.  When I finally got out there today to water the garden and check on everyone it was starting to get dark.  Chickens can't see in the dark and they start heading to their coop at that time and so it wasn't the time to let em out.  I had to remind SK of this when she came out to watch me and said "MOOOOOMMMMM we haven't had em out all day!"  I have been checking their nesting box expecting nothing and I lifted the lid and there it was.  AN EGG!!!! I squealed and told sk who went FLYING into the house for her boots, followed by me for my camera.  W was screaming and Matt came to look but was watching us like we were lunatics.  SK immediately called her Nammy who couldn't even understand her because she was so excited.  

Can you even believe how precious this is????
We came right in and fried up our precious egg.  Everyone had a bite and it was the BEST egg I have ever had.  I cannot believe how proud we are of our hens!  


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Make your own playdoh! You will thank me later!

made 3 quick batches of playdoh this morning for a fun play activity.  This is so easy I literally made the playdoh while I was talking on the phone to a friend!  You have everything in your house probably and once you have tried homemade playdoh you will never go back to store bought.  First things first- 

- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1TBSP oil
- 1 TBSP cream of tartar
- food coloring or a packet of koolaid 
- 3/4 cup boiling water (put a glass measuring cup in microwave for 2.5 min) 

Mix all your dry ingredients and then add the boiling water.  Give the mixture a couple turns to combine and then let it cool.  I pop mine in the fridge because I'm super patient like that!  Once it's mostly cool dump it on the counter and knead it for several min.  Initially it's sticky - that works it's way out as you knead.  

This is the awesome blog where I got this recipe and she has some great pictures and tips

*here is a tip of mine or an admission of my failure whatever - I cannot make double batches.  I have had great success making single batches.  The second I double a batch it doesn't turn out so take that or leave that.  

Today we used koolaid and made grape, strawberry-kiwi, and very berry playdoh.  

I put a ball of playdoh on placemats at the counter and initially only included these cool plastic picks that I found at (ahem- the liquor store).  As they played I slowly put other loose parts in the middle for them to use.  

H had been playing with the first batch while I made the others so she didn't last as long.  She did have fun sticking things into the playdoh, patting it on the counter and attempting to eat it.  W and SK got to work immediately creating.  Sk made a very elaborate hermit crab habitat and family.  If you look carefully her creations really do look like a hermit crab!  

The older two can spend an unlimited amount of time with loose parts and their imagination - I just love listening to them chatting away! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dish washing station

Matt and I have been working in our yard! We started earlier this spring building a deck.  After deck completion we added our chicken coop and run.  After all this building and work we needed a break!  

We are slowly but surely getting around to cleaning up around the deck and coop and making it look more finished.  While we were working our kids played outside.    They rode with us to get each load of rock.  I don't know what it is about me wanting to load everyone up and go too but we always seem to do these trips as a family.  

That being said we needed them to keep busy in the backyard.  I needed happy kids, who were not crying, and could leave us alone to work for a bit.  I had seen an idea for a dish washing station back a while ago and filed it away.  We had an old clear bin laying in the yard and a lightbulb went off!!!  

 After we ate lunch I gathered some plastic dishes, sponges, scrub brushes and a drying tray.  I put a little soap in a couple of old soap containers, filled them the rest of the way with water fot "soap."  I put a lot of soap in the clear bin and filled it half way with soapy water.  The trickiest part was carrying this heavy and awkwardly sloshy bin to the play area without getting drenched!  I am happy to say I busted out beast mode and didn't get soaked!  

The kids loved it and happily played throughout the afternoon!  If you know W he hates getting wet so we did have to listen to his whining about getting soapy water on his clothes.  Apparently logic and reason has left him because he stares at a bin of soapy water, accompanied by his sisters, sets out to play, and seriously thinks he won't get wet/soapy, or that his lovingly kind and considerate sisters won't at some point soak him to hear him scream.  So here are the pictures!  I love this activity because it takes something I have on hand, and with about 3 minutes of set up, presents it in an interesting and fun way.  

And we basically ended our day with this.... We are apparently all about safety here (especially since H fell out of a bar stool earlier this week- we thought her leg was broken- had it xrayed (it wasn't) but she had a severe limp all week.  - Matt may or may not have called her Tiny Tim all week-).  When I texted this picture to my mom she said one almost broken leg a week is enough! 

And a sneak peak of our yard!  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A simple cutting tray

A cutting tray isn't what you think....  wait yes it is.  It's a tray where you cut stuff.  Voila'!  I should end my post here!  

This is the simplest idea ever and your kids will LOVE it!  I went around the house collecting bits and pieces of random items that were scraps or could be cut.  I assembled different things that would give different levels of resistance and sent them to cutting!!!  

We have done this activity before and I was thrilled.  SK is a very good scissor-er (new word)!  W needs some practice and this is the perfect avenue!  In the tray I had scrap card stock, filters, magazine pieces, string, playdoh, plastic lid, scrap paper, and scrap cardboard.  

I lay everything in a tray and give each kiddo a pair of scissors.  Of course I remind them to be careful and not cut fingers!  With W I usually have to readjust how he is holding his scissors to practice.  

The kids absolutely adore not having direction.  They think it's fun to do whatever they want.  This time I included a magazine that the zoo sends us and they thought that was extra fun.  W tends to just cut things up into tiny pieces or shred them.  SK usually makes something or has a "plan."  This time she cut out pictures of the animals from the magazines.  

I am constantly amazed at how little direction the kids really need/want.  Almost anything I give them they will immediately jump in and create their own plan of action.  Occasionally they will ask me what they are supposed to do but generally they know what they want to do which I love!  I really want them to be creative and thinkers and I love these type of activities that promote that!  

The very first time we did a cutting tray they asked what it was.  I told them it's a tray and they can cut things however they want....enough said.  They had no more questions and dove right in.  
W was deep in concentration.  I love how attentive he is to making sure not to cut his fingers.  This is a great way to increase fine motor skills.  Kids LOVE using scissors so they don't even realize they are working on a skill!  The best part of this activity is there is no end product so it doesn't matter to me what they do!  I'm not attempting to get them to do anything specific so for them there is no pressure!
SK worked hard at cutting out the animal pictures on her magazine pages.
The straws provide a neat amount of resistance and W kept commenting on how they "jumped" when he cut them.
The pile of scraps is the result of about 30 min. of close to complete silence.  I set this up for them while H was taking a nap.  SK and W quietly whispered to each other about what they were doing and what they wanted to cut next.  What I noted most was they so deeply concentrated on their cutting they were quiet for such a long time ----- which makes for a happy Mama!

Try setting this up for your kids and let me know what you think!  Fine motor skills - check!  Quiet activity for kids - check!  Kindergarten skill practice - check!  As a K teacher myself this is a big one!  We really work on scissor skills in K so this is an awesome way to give them a jump start!  

Happy Scissoring!!!