Thursday, July 28, 2011

The predator

Illustration photo from Google

I remember some of you had warned me that we might lose chickens to wandering predators; and well, it happened sooner than we thought.

Yesterday morning, as I went out to feed the chickens, I saw a fox circling the chicken coop, and our rooster was missing. The other birds were twittering in panic inside the coop, and I rushed to their aid. I had seen foxes around here many times, but only at night and on the outskirts of the habitated areas, and was astonished to find one so close, in broad daylight, right in our back yard. Moreover, even though I made loud noises and threw stones in its direction, it looked almost fearless and it took quite an effort to drive it away, which made me suspect it was rabid.

When we later found the killed rooster, we saw that the fox didn't actually eat him - it put its prey aside and proceeded to look how it could get to the rest of the birds. Imagine its frustration when we prevented it from enjoying the results of its hunt.

Anyhow, we called the local veterinary services and voiced our suspicion as to the fox being rabid, and were told that because of the summer draught, many foxes can't find food and are therefore far more likely to visit garbage heaps and back yards to look for something to eat, in particular when there are such attractions as our chickens and the neighbours' rabbits.

All day we were on the alert, but didn't really think the fox would come again before nightfall. However, just as the sun began to set and it was twilight, our old pal was right on the spot again. The panicky behavior of our chickens made us guess how it got to the rooster in the first place: it couldn't get into the coop, but it scared the birds so much that they began to look for any possible venue of escape, and the rooster squeezed out of a small hole near the top. Of course, that was his fatal mistake. Had they all hidden in their nest in the middle of the coop, there would be no way for the fox to get at them, but of course there can be no expecting them to figure this out.

Anyhow, we gathered the chickens in a cardboard box to spend the night at home while we're working out ways to make the coop safer, and later at night, a guy from the veterinary services stopped by and brought a fox trap, which we placed next to the coop. Last night we had no result.

I will keep you updated if we catch the fox, but even if we do, there are others in the area and if they actually dare to attack in broad daylight, I guess this means we'll be unable to follow up with our plan to let the chickens roam in the garden during the day. I admit I had not foreseen something like this; I thought we should only be worried about predators at night.

Any advice from those with more experience will be welcome.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Horses

 Right next to where we live, someone keeps horses for riding and breeding. His stables, naturally, are a source of constant attraction and delight to the little ones of the neighbourhood. Here are a few pictures from our visit there today.

 A close-up. This horse was looking up at me rather hopefully for a while, as though expecting a treat... but was disappointed - we came empty-handed.
An adorable little one, next to its mama.

Computer time has been very short lately, but I hope to catch up with comments and emails soon, and in the meantime, thank you for your patience with me, and have a wonderful, beautiful day.

Warmly,

Mrs. T

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken discoveries

Just a couple of months in the company of our first birds were enough to turn me into a great chicken lover - and that's before we've even reached the egg laying stage! Sure, they are a handful, but along the road we're having the time of our lives, not to mention making entertaining discoveries, such as:

* Chickens like to flock together, which makes it a lot easier to locate them when they cross the border to the neighbours' garden.

* Having chickens means a lot less food goes to waste, since chickens eat practically anything...

* ... including Styrofoam, which they will devour as though they've never tasted anything more delicious, if we only let them.

* Your efforts to provide a nice "nest" for your birds might go to waste if they express a sudden and unexpected culinary interest in its insulation.

* Chickens will flock near you and poop on your shoes when you least expect it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to add your own observations!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creativity

Shira's watercolors on a slow morning.

I hope your day is beautiful,

Mrs. T

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Inspiring homemaking quotes



"Every woman should understand, and know how to perform, every duty of cooking or cleaning, mending or making, proper to a house."

"As for sewing, every woman should know how to cut out and make all garments for herself and her children up to a full-grown dress."

Charlotte Mason in "Formation of Character"

I feel this is challenging me and calling me to great things. What about you?

Illustration: The Knitting Woman painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Monday, July 18, 2011

More snapshots from our household

 As you can see, we continue working on the chicken coop. The roof is a new addition, and yesterday my husband has been fixing a "nest" for them instead of the cardboard box in which they have been sleeping until now. 

From our observations, at least one of our birds, contrary to what we were promised, is a rooster. Now we're wondering what to do because we really hadn't planned on keeping a rooster, both because we don't want problems with the neighbours and because we aren't interested in fertilized eggs. On the other hand, the chicken which is presumably a rooster is the cutest and friendliest of the lot, so we're in a dilemma. 
Near our home, there is a beautiful narrow road where we often go for nature hikes. On our last such walk, we discovered a lot of tomatoes growing by the roadside. Since it didn't look as though they belong to anyone, we helped ourselves and came home with a bag of naturally grown tomatoes. They are very delicious and their taste is much more concentrated than that of store-bought tomatoes. Additionally, we had a wonderful time as a family picking them, and hopefully will return later on for the ones that aren't ripe yet right now.

Hope you are all having a lovely summer!

Mrs. T

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Poverty or simplicity?

I would like to write down some thoughts, today, on two matters which are often a subject of confusion: simple living and poor living. Where do we draw the line?

Generally speaking, I think the difference can be pointed in the way that living simply is living well, even when it is done within the scope of the same budget which draws another family into the pit of poverty.

In many ways, this is also a matter of attitude. It is possible to have an income which could provide for normal life – good food, reasonable housing, proper healthcare, etc – and yet be dissatisfied and feel poor, if one thinks oneself entitled to all sorts of fancy things which cannot be afforded on that small income. Or worse, the modest but steady financial resources are squandered on luxuries which “must” be had, and not much is left for the true necessities.

Simple living, on the other hand, is voluntarily and cheerfully going without things you know you don’t really need – either foregoing them completely or taking it as a challenge to make the best of all you can have right now.

For example, if right now your budget prescribes that you go without new clothes, you can either feel “poor” (or worse, buy that which you cannot afford) or you can take it up as a challenge to go through your closets and look for things you have forgotten about, and how they can be combined with what you do have – or look through second-hand shops to look for items in excellent condition, or learn to sew, etc.

Simple living is making small steps towards sustainability – cooking and making what you can from scratch, growing some of your own food and/or swapping with families who are doing so. It’s not that you “can’t afford to buy”, but you are delighting in the blessings of abundant health, resourcefulness, and an easier burden on your budget.

Simple living is making the best of all the pleasures of life which cost nothing or next to nothing. If you can’t afford costly travel abroad and staying in hotels, you might feel poor and deprived; or you can put your effort into vigorous, extensive exploration of the area near your home, and it is almost certain you will make fascinating discoveries of wonderful spots you haven’t visited yet.

Simple living is shedding the time-consuming pursuits which stand between us and what is truly important to us.

Poverty is deprivation, while simple living is fullness of beauty in everything that is available to us. No one wants to be poor, but many can and do find true delight in simple living.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The never-ending housework

I believe the thing about housework that makes many wives so stressed out over it, is the fact that it never ends. The same things must be done over and over again, such as:

* Dishes to be washed
* Laundry to be washed, hung up, sorted, folded and put away
* Ironing for items that need it
* Floors to be swept and mopped
* Dusting shelves and other surfaces
* Meal planning and shopping (better in this order than the other way around)
* Food to be cooked and meals to be served
* Garden upkeep, if you have a garden
* Taking care of your animals, if you have any
* Making up the beds and changing the bedding

And of course, in addition to these and other tasks which must be done daily or weekly, there are countless other missions, seasonal or annual, such as re-arranging the closets and pantry shelves, getting rid of clutter, major planting or harvesting done in the garden, etc.

If you’ve ever woken up to the thoughts of everything that must be done and felt overwhelmed, I’m with you. That’s the main difference between office work and housework: in your home, you can never be really “done”. You can’t even walk away from the things that aren’t undone, because your home is also your working space (and your living room table, perhaps, serves for dinnertime, school, sewing, ironing and your husband’s computer business).

So what can we do? We can fret over everything that hasn’t been accomplished yet and turn our life into a pressure cooker, or we can ease up a little, slow down, and do what must be done with a smile, not forgetting to seize the moment for small joys of life – a particularly fine morning on which we choose to head out to a picnic at the park, delicious meals served at a table which perhaps still has computer parts piled at its end, and evenings of relaxing in the garden while sharing ice-cold watermelon for a summer dessert.

And accept the fact that neither today, nor tomorrow, nor next year there will be a moment when we are “done” with housework.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, I’m not saying all this as an elaborate excuse to do nothing. Orderliness and cleanliness are the cornerstones of a peaceful home, and I’m all for scheduling and planning, cooking and baking, cleaning and scrubbing and getting to all those nooks and crannies once in a while – only it isn’t really possible to have it all together in one day, and even if it is, some things might be more important. Better split a large project in several days than become impatient and brush your whole family aside.

There are of course also those things where your work can be simplified and/or reduced, especially during the busier periods of your life. For example, since Tehilla was born, I haven’t done much ironing. I also deliberately choose to buy clothes which do not require ironing. In your garden, you can choose plants which are easier to care for; meals can be a simple affair. Around here, during the week I usually serve simple one-course meals such as soup, crustless quiche or pasta, or bread and an array of cold salads on those days which are so hot that you can hardly bear to cook.

I wish everyone happy housekeeping and a wonderful weekend!

Warmly,

Mrs. T

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rice with ground beef

I wanted to share a recipe which began as filling for grape leaves, and turned into a dish of its own, and family favorite.


You’ll need:

1.5 cups of rice
3 onions
500 gr. Ground beef (we always have our beef freshly ground)
5 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Approx. 2 cups of boiling water
Pepper, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, nutmeg and other spices to taste

Chop onions finely and sautee with a bit of oil and soy sauce, in a wide pan or shallow pot with a lid. Add rice, meat and spices and stir for a couple of minutes until thoroughly mixed. Mix tomato paste with boiling water and pour over rice. Mix well. Cover and cook until rice is soft, stirring occasionally.

This is very easy and delicious, and can of course be used as filling for stuffed vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, cabbage leaves) although we like it on its own. Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts on singleness

As I return once more to talk about matters of singleness, in particular the very real and pressing problem of delayed marriage and childbearing, I would like first of all to state that I am no expert on marriage or on how to avoid remaining single until later in life. It is only by G-d’s help that I got married at 22 and was a mother at 23, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

However, it seems to me that sometimes we hide behind saying things which are undoubtedly true, such as “G-d has a special plan for every person” and “you never know when you will meet your intended husband”. On an individual level this is of course true, but statistically, the age of marriage and childbearing has climbed up to alarming numbers, with an ever-increasing pool of older singles.

I have heard people (yes, even within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism) offer all sorts of scandalous solutions, from sperm donation to polygamous marriages. Some claim there aren’t enough single Jewish men to go around, some say there are actually more men than women, and each side is ready to support its arguments with statistics. Well, I’m not an expert on numbers, but sound logic and first-hand observation tell me there are many single men and women, who all pay the price of loneliness, heartache, and on a larger scale, emotional and economical instability.

So what is to be done? In the first place, I believe that both men and women should put more thought into marriage, much, much earlier than is common these days. Planning and preparing for a future marriage must begin long before the actual search for a potential spouse. It has a lot to do with the choices we make early in life, in particular for young women. If a woman remains career-focused throughout her twenties, without a thought to spare for her personal life, she will in all likelihood see a most disappointing outcome of this in her thirties. By picturing marriage sometime in the distant future, she might miss many opportunities to meet good stable men who are willing to settle down, and waste her time on unworthy connections.

Second, young people should not be ashamed of letting others know they are seeking marriage. I’d like to know how many grieving and lonely hearts are hiding behind statements such as “sure, I would love to get married one day, but in the meantime I’m doing great as I am.” Of course we should always be content, single or married, but there is no shame in acknowledging something great is missing from our lives. Together with this, the relatives and friends of singles should always keep them in mind when it comes to prayer, support, and especially a potential introduction. The meddling Jewish mama might be a subject to countless jokes, but many marriages took place thanks to her.

Third, conscious effort must be made by singles to make time and opportunity for meeting someone suitable, just as time is made to pursue school, work, hobbies and other things which are ultimately not as important as starting a family. Suitable is the key word – no precious time should be wasted on those who are dawdling, aren’t sure whether they want to settle down yet, or are clearly incompatible.

Perhaps if such logical and simple steps are taken, we will be spared the frantic discussions on whether egg freezing is a good solution for single Jewish women in their late thirties. Of course our hearts should open up in grief and prayer for every such sad situation, but the fact that this matter comes up to public light hints that it’s becoming more and more prevalent, which is worrying. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More summer fun

 Don't those lounge chairs look inviting?
 More pictures from the local mini-zoo, which we visit often. This rooster looks like a very self-confident fellow, and not at all intimidated by being put into the same pen with five or six goats.
 One of the goats.
 The rooster, again.
Is it only my imagination, or does this peacock look surprised?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wildlife

Well, some of them aren't really wild, but it's a collection of some of the best animal photos my husband was able to capture through the lens of his camera. 

One of the loveliest things about living where we live is the abundant animal life - reptiles, birds, foxes, deer, wild hogs, and an amazing variety of insects. 
 This duck actually was our neighbours'. One day it disappeared, and we can't say we exactly miss him, given how our front step was always covered with duck poo when he was here.




And cats are simply always irresistible.

Have a wonderful day!

Mrs. T

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beauty

My husband and I are currently assembling a photo album, which means we went through hundreds of photos in the last couple of days, and shared many wonderful memories. I came across some real treasures, which I am not sure whether I shared here before or not - but I'm posting them now, and I hope they make you think and feel beautiful. 




Photography is one of my husband's many talents. He does it just amazingly. Most of the blog photos I post are taken by him. I especially like this last photo, of a lovely winding road, as a metaphor of our lives.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some more thoughts on education, from Charlotte Mason

As I approach the last chapters of “Parents and Children”, I must say that Charlotte Mason’s works are not light reading. I was initially very put off by her expressing a lot of negative ideas about Jews, but eventually I decided to glean what I could. Luckily there are a lot of sub-headlines so it is easy to navigate through the book and find relevant ideas.

Teaching must be fresh and living. … we shall perceive that whatever is stale and flat and dull to us must needs be stale and flat and dull to him, and also that there is no subject which has not a fresh and living way of approach.

Books must be living. We take the child to the living sources of history… without any diluting and with little explanation.

No Neat System is of use. It is the very nature of a system to grow stale in the using; every subject, every division of a subject, every lesson, in fact, must be brought up for examination before it is offered to the child as to whether it is living, vital, of a nature to invite the living Intellect of the Universe.

Children must have the best books. Children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough.  

Here we can all happily say that today, wonderful books can be obtained for virtually no cost from the local library, and we also have the internet, which is a great resource.

We need not say one word about the necessity for living thought in the teacher; it is only so far as he is intellectually alive that he can be effective in the wonderful process which we glibly call “education”.

Here of course we must all ask ourselves: are we constantly learning? Are our minds open to new ideas, or have we got into the habit of intellectual laziness? My belief is that in a family where both parents love to learn, the children will probably love to learn as well, with hardly any conscious training. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer pleasures

 Beautiful beach photos, taken by my husband.

 A backyard clothesline, full of little cotton things.
Two of our chicks, which have grown a lot in the past weeks. I initially thought of chickens only as providers of fresh healthy eggs, but now I'm just enjoying them as they are - exceedingly cute and lovable birds.

Today is 4-th of July, and I know my American readers are celebrating Independence Day, so I hope you all have a good time!

Mrs. T