Sewing Knew Year

Oh, I have knit, I have painted, surely that’s all I accomplished this New Year, right?  Wrong!  On New Year’s day I completed a project to ensure my chickens stay warm through subzero winter temperatures.  I made window blankets for our chicken coop.  What is a window blanket?  It is Mr. Afthead’s brainchild, which I executed.  (Okay, he helped with the grommet hammering part.)  Window blankets are insulated pieces of fabric created with hanging mechanisms at the top, which can be placed over the windows of the chicken coop to provide insulation and protection from our chilly winter days and nights.  They also keep snow from blowing into the coop.  Let me show you some pictures.

 

I think the window blankets provide a nice pop of color in the chicken run too.  Thankfully these got finished before the snow and subzero temperatures arrived this week.

What!?!  No!  These are not just curtains!  Curtains go on the inside of structures and these are on the outside.  Also, curtains must be ironed and sewn with matchy matchy thread, and these do not.  Finally, these might get chicken poop on them, and that’s probably not a concern with your curtains, right?  Totally different.  The only similarities are that they are made of fabric, cover a window, and must be measured with a smidgen of accuracy.

Let me tell you, we may have to patent these wonderful window blankets, because this past week the chicken coop was eleven degrees warmer than the outside when we had the heat lamp on and the window blankets attached.  Without the window blankets the difference was 4 degrees.  So the chickens are staying toastier thanks to my handiwork and my husband’s invention.

It’s the least we can do for these feathery gals who keep giving us eggs and provide us so much joy.

Oh!  You want to make your own window blankets?  Instructions are coming soon…

Solstice Gift

My husband raced downstairs tonight with happy crinkles decorating his eyes.  “I have a present!” he announced.

My daughter waited in anticipation, but I didn’t even need to ask.  Only one thing could make him so happy:  our chickens laid their first egg a month before we expected it, and on the shortest day of the year no less.  A week after temperatures didn’t reach 0 Rosie decided it was time to make an egg. (Well, we think it was Rosie.  Even though she is the youngest in our flock her comb and waddle are the most developed, which is supposed to indicate egg laying readiness.)

The upside?  Well, the beginning of eggs of course.  The downside?  My chickens have trumped any hope of me being responsible for delivering the true joy of Christmas this year for my family.  I’ve been trumped by a bird.  My daughter is running around singing, “All I want for Christmas is another egg…another egg… Oh!  Another eeegggg.”  My husband semi-jokes that he’s going to sleep with the egg tonight.  There is nothing wrapped or planned that can match the miracle of the first egg this season. 

I think I have a tiny bow downstairs.  Maybe I’ll stick that on the tiny precious gift and call it good.  (Or is that what they call gilding the lily?)
Happy solstice everyone!  May your own families be as lucky as the Aftheads and have their hearts filled with whatever gives them joy this week.  

The Recliner

Today would have been my Grandpa’s 103rd birthday.  A few years ago my mom uttered this infamous – in our family – statement, “It makes me feel better knowing that if grandpa was alive he’d be dead by now.”  She’s right.  If my grandparents weren’t dead already they’d probably be dead by now, but the week bracketed by their birthdays is still one that pulls at my heartstrings.

Adding to the angst this year is that we finally got rid of their recliner.  When my grandma died, I inherited this gem.  I was poor, just out of college, and furnishing my first apartments and home.  Somewhere in there Grandpa’s recliner became mine.  I didn’t care what it looked like because I just wanted a comfy place to sit.

img_5428

Now the recliner has lived with me 16 years, which is longer than it ever lived with my grandparents. The chair has seen me and my boyfriend turned husband through innumerable head colds and bouts of bronchitis: nothing is better than a recliner when you are stuffed up and coughing.  My daughter has spit up, peed, pooped spilled, and snotted on this chair.  Throughout her infancy breast-milk was leaked all over it because I loved nursing in this chair.

img_1502

When our basement construction started, heralding the end of the recliner’s life in the house, the baby chickens pooped on it while my daughter sang lullabies to them in the garage.  I hand medicated little baby Rosie chick in that chair.  There may or may not be mice in the chair because there are mice out there.

img_3978

The time for the chair to leave our home had come.  No more would my daughter recline the back, extend the footrest and launch herself off her indoor playset.  Finally I could stop worrying which kid-friend would end up with stitches from emulating my daughter’s antics.  We will never figure out where that missing thumb screw goes: the one that fell out of the bottom one recline. I’m sure there is a whole set of knitting needles and stitch markers hidden in there, never to be found.

img_3638

Before putting the chair out to the curb I went out to the garage, curled up, and read in it one last time.  The book was A Man Called Ove, a perfect choice because my grandpa could have been named Ove he was so much like that character.  I read, I cried, I remembered, and I watched my cats stalk spiders and mice.  Finally, I turned off the lights and, like a dope, said “Goodbye chair.”  By the time I got home from work the next day it was gone.  My mom said, “It was an awfully big memento,” and it was.

img_5429

The first post-chair evening I was down in my study digging around in my sewing machine cabinet and for a moment I smelled cigarette smoke.  Throughout my childhood my grandparents were both smokers and that scent still calls up memories of them.  At that moment I realized that one of them was reminding me that my sewing machine belonged to my grandma.  I remember sewing Halloween and theater costumes side by side.  I still use her manual, filled with her hand written notes, every  time I need to sew on rickrack.  I still have a big memento and one that isn’t going anywhere.  All I need to do to reconnect to them is sew something and, you know, my husband did just mention that the chicken coop needs curtains.  (Well he actually said “The chicken coop needs window blankets,” but either way it means sewing project.)


Correction 10/28/2016

I misquoted my mother in the original version.  She did not say, “It makes me feel better knowing that if grandpa wasn’t already dead he’d be dead by now.”  The corrected, and even sillier, quote is above.  Thanks mom for pointing out my mistake.  Love you!

Call me farmer Afthead

The Afthead family got some chickens.  After the rough experiment fostering kittens last year we left the mammal group of the animal kingdom in favor of the bird group.  Meet Buffy, Rosie and Hope.

img_4345

“What?!?!  You got chickens?” asks Hope.  The girl with her face in the camera was named after Hope Solo.  We got the chickens during the Olympics and little Afthead decided the representative of the Ameraucana breed had to be named after an American athlete.  As a big soccer fan she decided Hope was a good chicken name.  (Given Ms. Solo’s antics during the Olympics I think having a chicken named after her is appropriate.)

This goofy girl is a Buff Orpington.  I really wanted to name her Buff Orpington the Third, because she’s such a formal sounding breed, but Mr. Afthead won these naming rights.  Buffy was the obvious choice for this brave vampire hunting fowl.  In the coming years I’m hoping that in between laying eggs for our family she’ll star in her own sitcom or maybe a movie about a vampire, werewolf, chicken love triangle.

Finally we have Rosie, the littlest of the chickens.  From the beginning she’s been the sweetest, the most friendly and, of course, was the one that almost got sick and died the first week.  Yeah, we appear to attract sickly animals.  After panicked googling, visiting feed stores, and syringe watering this little girl she’s now in great health.  All that hands-on attention in those early weeks has made her brave, well socialized and willing to pose for pictures.   “Who’s a pretty bird?  You are Rosie!”  Momma Afthead got to name this one, and I went for the obvious color-related name for this member of the Rhode Island Red breed.

So that’s our flock.  Really, I have no idea why we are trying this adventure.  We aren’t big local food people.  We aren’t even big egg eaters.  I think Mr. Afthead wanted a project, and converting little Afthead’s old playhouse to a chicken coop seemed like fun.  Of course little Afthead was in: what kid doesn’t want chickens?  It’s all I could do to keep her from grabbing bunnies, turkeys, miniature goats and peacocks from the feedstore the day we got the birds.  Man, that kid loves animals.

Me?  I’m still on the fence about about being a chicken farmer.  While I love them much more than I expected I don’t appreciate my morning, “Are the chicken’s dead?” routine.  I’ve never cared if skunk, fox, coyote, stray dogs, feral cats, or opossum lived in my backyard before, but now they are all chicken dismembering predators waiting to infiltrate every nook and cranny of our chicken habitat.  Ugh.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we can get these girls through to the spring, so at least we start getting some eggs.  I’m also hoping if something gets them it isn’t a week when my husband is traveling.  I don’t want to handle a chicken murder scene alone.

Now off to go find some overalls, a nice straw hat and a toothpick to chew.  Come back soon, y’all.  I tell ya more chicken stories.  Ah yup.  “Bawk!”