Thursday, June 28, 2012

Employed at home

A friend of mine, who recently quit her job and is now staying home with her 1-year-old son, told me: "I feel that I'm so much busier at home than I was at work! I always seem to need to have something done, put something on the stove or clear something up, etc, and my son needs me all the time! I actually felt much better rested when I went out every morning to work."

Whenever I mention that I go to an evening gathering, or give some lectures, or do anything that involves being out of my home, I get a sigh of relief from my unmarried, childless friends: "Oh, I'm so glad to hear you are actually doing something, and not just staying at home!" - although I always have a ready answer to such statements, they never fail to amaze me. 

As a matter of fact, we all have different standards of what it takes to keep an orderly home, but unless you are morbidly lazy and/or downright neglectful, being a stay-at-home wife/mom is a full-time - no, more than a full-time - occupation, with its own unique set of challenges. 

First, we have no definition such as, work is where I work, and home is where I put my feet up and relax. We are always at our place of work; it is possible that you just brewed yourself a cup of tea and sat down after a busy morning, and then you notice crumbs on the floor and leap up to sweep them. Or just when you think everyone are nicely and quietly occupied, you hear a kid screaming from the yard: "MOOOOOM!" - which, especially if accompanied by a thud and crying, and/or suspicious silence, sends you running at top speed.

Second, there are no promotions, no employment benefits, no pay rise, no "worker-of-the-year" awards. Sometimes we get compliments for a good meal or a nice little crafty project we have done, but usually no one will say, "wow, you have folded this pile of socks so nicely!" or "I've never seen anyone wash the dishes as well as you do."

Third, our work is seemingly unproductive. It is never done, no aspect of it; we have to constantly labor just to keep a livable (and perhaps borderline presentable) home. We can spend our whole day running cleaning up messes, washing dishes, folding laundry, feeding hungry people - and at the end of the day the floor will be covered in dirt marks again, dishes will pile up in the sink, and our family will be asking "what's for dinner?" By default, sometimes we will work very hard all day, without any visible result to show for it. 

On the other hand, ours is probably one of the only occupations that deals with the eternal. True, a PowerPoint presentation will last longer than a clean floor, but the benefits or having been there for our families, of having created memories, of the carefree childhood we provided for our children, will be there forever. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Around here...

 Chicken walking and clucking all over the yard... new chicks being allowed to scamper outside (under supervision).
 The last golden rays of sunlight hitting these rocks... so lovely. 
Ancient ruins and new houses, side by side. 

Summer goes on, with all its usual attributes:
Trying to think of more dishes that require no to minimum cooking time, to prevent the already overheated house from becoming even hotter.
Laundry drying in a flash outside.
Making lemonade and fruit popsicles.
Enjoying juicy summer bounty - melons, watermelons, grapes. 
Trips to the lovely surrounding playgrounds, to the beach... bedtime consequently getting moved to a little later, so we can all enjoy the later and pleasanter hours of the day. 
Summer is my favorite season... which is why I'm so lucky to be living here, have I mentioned?! We get at least 6 months of summer, and another couple that could very well pass for summer. :-)

Monday, June 25, 2012

The modern homemaker

As I go on to think about the role of homemakers, the uprise of feminism, and the cataclysmic changes it brought to society, it occurs to me that we often feel nostalgic when we remember how things used to be, back when people lived in agrarian societies and close-knit communities where everyone has known everyone (well, almost) for generations. While I love reading/learning about The Old Times, as a rational being I will admit there is no way back there.

So, continuing what we began to discuss in my previous post, the world changed - on came industrialization, urbanization, the fracturing of society, compulsory public education (which deserves a whole discusson of its own motives), smaller families, the advance of technology (washing machines, anyone?) and urban homemakers stranded in houses or apartments with noticeably less to do than their grandmothers. They will be remembered as "the desperate housewives"; it was not until a couple of generations down the road that we are beginning to realize the true impact of empty homes, scattered families, and all the rest that came with it.

What am I trying to say? The pre-industrialization homemaker is typically pictured either as the refined lady for whom there was no practical need to work outside the home, or the hardy farm wife whose amount of valuable work could be questioned by no one. The image of the 50's homemaker, on the other hand, is a woman who waves her husband and children off to school and work in the morning, then prances around the house wearing cute high-heeled shoes and a little apron, dusting a shelf here and a coffee table there. So wouldn't this woman's time be better employed if she went out and earned a paycheck and did something "useful" with her life?

Well, not exactly.

While close to mid 20-th century more women found themselves with more time on their hands at home, it doesn't mean their work could be discarded without any serious implication - which was something feminists have long tried to deny. So, off to earn a paychek women went, and the life and tranquility within the home were lost, along with a sense of community, the family table, and many of the home arts, including home cooking. As a nutritionist, I have often made the observation that the reliance on junk convenience foods is strongly connected to the scattering of the family and the fact that women who work outside the home began to have less time to cook.

In my eyes, our generation - some decades down the road from the optimistic proclamation that women can "have it all" - is the one to stop and re-assess the real situation we've found ourselves in. Some people are therefore making very different choices; some actually dive into partly or almost fully self-sustained homesteading; and while this isn't something everyone can or should do, there is a whole movement of learning about self-reliance, sustainability, making more out of less, and preserving that vital connection to earth and nature that was sadly lost as the country emptied and people flocked into cities. Well, the fact is that we aren't meant to live without nature; for those who live in city apartments, a day out in the country, a herb garden in pots on the windowsill, provide that vital interaction with living, growing things we all need.

We now have the advantage of the internet, which has truly revolutionized our world, providing the possibility of working from home more easily than before, and with more flexible hours. I think today is more favorable than any time to the home and family business, and especially women can take advantage of that, being self-employed, or doing freelance work for someone else, or setting up an online shop for selling things they have made, or doing any other thing via the internet which would have been impossible just two decades ago without extensive traveling and spending many hours outside the home.

Of course here we must be careful, because the internet, including online from-home work, can be a huge time guzzler, and I mention it more in connection with those who reasonably have more time on their hands - such as women before they have children, or women whose children are grown, who might feel the desire to do something else, yet without having to compromise on their work in the home. Women at the busiest time of their life, with babies or young children, and/or homeschooling mothers, might have their day full to burst just with the simple everyday doings of life, like keeping everyone fed and in clean clothes.

And so, it is time to think of the legacy we are leaving for our daughters. Will they see us as happy, content women, satisfied in the importance of their role? Or those who made the second-best choice, not being ambitious enough? Will they have cherished memories of the years we spent at home with them, or will they think Mom would have been better employed elsewhere? Will they want to be like us, or will they want to get as far as they can from the image we are projecting? The answer to these questions will ultimately form the picture of the next generation.

And so the story goes on...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The feminist rebound

All throughout history, there were the traditional home-affiliated women; it's not that women didn't work outside the home, but being home, married, with children, and managing one's own household was - generally speaking - the normal, optimal, desirable occupation, despite the first wave of feminism at the beginning of the 20-th century - right up until the 50's. Then came the big tide of 60's and 70's feminism, during which women flocked out of their homes and into the workforce en masse. 

And what is going on now? Women are expected to be achievers in all areas of their life, to work and to have great marriages and have children and raise them perfectly through the urban myth of "quality time"... and although staying home is still counter-cultural in most areas, and being "just" a wife and Mom is underrated, more and more women are making this choice, realizing that no one can be or do everything, and that when you invest the larger portion of your time and energy someplace, something else inevitably suffers.

So what happened?

Basically, the women who are in their marriageable, childbearing, family-focused years today are very likely the children of feminists, of career-driven women, or at least of women who were forced by circumstances  and newfound social norms to work long hours. Unlike the first generation of feminists, we know what it's like to have mothers who are seldom around, and we know the price the children pay for it. Therefore, women of our generation are more likely to think twice before deciding to make the same choice for their children. 

Very often our mothers aren't getting us. They, after all, invested all those years in establishing themselves as professionals, and yet they were still our mothers, and perhaps were doing their best, or at least the best that could be had at the time, with what they had. When your children make radically different choices, it may sting as an accusation, as an "you weren't a good enough mother, so I'm doing my best to alienate myself from your ways. I will do all it takes to be your exact opposite." 

It is, of course, also interesting to look at this from a different angle: how come a generation of homemakers (again, I am generalizing and simplifying, of course) produced a generation of feminists - moreover, feminists that disdained their mothers' role in society and made such a thorough job of forgetting what homemaking is all about that many of the home arts have all but disappeared? 

I don't think there is a simple answer to this question, but here's something that has been on my mind: children will only want to follow in their parents' footsteps if their parents are happy, or at least generally satisfied with the way their life has played out. I do think there must have been a rising level of dissatisfaction in the last all-homemaker generation, dissatisfaction that the feminist movement played on to promote its goals. 

It's easy to imagine that the typical, 50's urban homemaker might have been looked down upon, as someone boring and unimportant. The diminishing of the agricultural society caused a communal fractionating, the nuclear family no longer worked together as one unit. With the husband gone to his separate outside job throughout the day, and the children off at school - in addition, families were already typically smaller than a few decades prior to that - on a superficial level, it really might have looked like the housewife had nothing to do but dust shelves and bake cookies all day long, which just didn't seem as terribly important and indispensable. Were some women bored, unhappy? Probably yes. More importantly, their daughters saw a lifestyle they did not particularly desire to follow.

Was feminism the right answer? No, of course not. Feminism caused tremendous damage to everyone involved; feminism lead to additional fracturing of society, as homes became empty and everyone was pulled in different directions all day long. It took decades, but finally the truth dawned upon a whole generation of  children whose mothers were overworked, frazzled and on a deeper level, more dissatisfied than the so-called "desperate housewife". The government, the "women's rights" movements and social studies teachers might be still playing the same old song, but we have become disillusioned. 

PS: I have not studied sociology or the history of feminism on any level close to professional. What I offer is simply my own insights and observations, gathered from personal experience and perceptions of other women my age. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The power of good enough

I would like to thank everyone who commented on my last post. It was largely a jotted-down brainwave, but apparently the feelings of guilt, of being overwhelmed, of fearing that perhaps we aren't as good as we are within our right to think, and certainly not nearly good enough - resonate with many people all around the world.

When I get these waves, I think the best thing for me, at least for a while, would be to stop reading books/blogs/websites, and talking to people, who are making me feel inadequate. Now, there's a very thin line between drawing inspiration from something, and feeling like you are absolutely worthless because of that very same something. The first is empowering, drawing us up. The second is debilitating, weakening us even further. 

There are, for instance, books like Nourishing Traditions, which contains a wealth of information and so many wonderful ideas about improving our nutrition, but which often leaves me feeling like an absolutely flippant, thoughtless, careless person. I don't, after all, make sourdough bread or lacto-fermented beverages, and don't go out of my way to obtain fresh, unpasteurized milk from free-range cows or goats. But then I have to accept my limitations, too. I live in a small, isolated place; I'm not even the one who does the shopping around here, because I don't have a driver's license! So, I'm trying to make the best I can with what I have, limited as I am by accessibility, budget, time, energy and the wishes of my family.

Then there are all the people who know just the way to raise children, have solutions for every possible problem you might have with your children, and brag how their 3-year-old can read or point out you must be doing something wrong because your child can't do so-and-so by such-and-such age. You know I'm for the natural learning approach; but at times I felt that maybe I'm not doing enough - and I sat down with Shira to try and teach her something, and realized (with relief) that no, it was not neglect on my part - she simply just isn't developmentally ready for that something yet. Then weeks or months later, she'd learn that same something (like counting, or colors, or size comparison, or taking off her underwear) without any effort on my part whatsoever! 

I am doing what I can, with my thoughts for the good of my family.
I am trying my best, though perhaps I will not be able to produce stunningly impressive results.
I am taking a path, sometimes through circumstances I wouldn't wish on anyone, and making my best effort to tread gently.
I am a mother whose children aren't perfectly-behaved, a homemaker whose home is often messy, a nutritionist who doesn't produce perfect nutritionally balanced food at every meal, a child of G-d who sometimes fails to keep faith... I am a human being who doesn't do anything perfectly.
I am still loved, and wanted, and sometimes able to extend a hand to others, and for that I am thankful.
I am thankful for you, too.
For your kindness and friendship, and your taking the time to stop by.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


So often, I am overwrought by guilt, over things I feel I could have done but didn't, or even things I reasonably know I probably couldn't have done, but still wish I could do. So often, I feel it's almost within my grasp to be a better person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend – almost, but not quite. I can almost make myself into a different person, a kinder and gentler one, a more energetic and upbeat one, a more frugal, savvy one – almost, but not quite.   

Should I use soybean oil (so unhealthy) or extra virgin olive oil (so expensive) when cooking our next meal? Am I compromising my family's health or my family's budget? Am I doing the right thing, keeping Tehilla diaper-free from the age of 18 months? Am I a good wife and mom who cares for the health of her baby's skin and saves the family money on diapers, or am I pushing a very young child to do something she is not yet developmentally ready for?

Should I have allowed myself that quiet midmorning spell in the hammock, reading a book while the girls played alongside me? If I had some time, wouldn't it be better invested in making a meal to freeze for Shabbat? And if I had time to read, should I feel guilty for not choosing something more serious, more edifying, more spiritual? Am I investing enough time in creating activities and opportunities to learn for the children? Or is my "life-learning" philosophy only an embellishment for neglect?

What does G-d think of me? What do people think of me? What should I think of myself? Am I doing enough? Could I do more? Should I do more, and where do I draw the line? There are so many decisions to make, some of them seemingly insignificant, but all of them add up and drive me to a peak of agonizing uncertainty. You aren't investing enough time in pursuing your talents; you will be a boring, lifeless person, unfit to guide and shepherd your children. You only think of yourself and your own interests, and neglect everything else so you can pursue them; you are an immature, selfish person, unfit to guide and shepherd your children. Guilt is everywhere. Guilt and its vile sister, emptiness, when I try to reach out within me for that last bit I can give, and find that I have none.

Then I cry out to G-d. I am trying, I really am, but You see, I have nothing more to give. You will have to work through me, make me Your vessel. Love the people You placed in my care – through me. Give them Your infinite love – through me. Because I, as just me, have nothing, and You have everything. Everything we can ever want or need.

I cry out to G-d. Perhaps this is what I should have done to begin with. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Small surprises

From biggest to smallest: store-bought XL egg; one of our mature chickens' eggs; an egg produced by our little hen, who only started laying last week. 
 Two lovely oil burners bought by my husband. I especially like the one shaped like an old-fashioned stove, with a teapot on top. 
Beautiful stones found around here on one of my solitary rambles with the dog. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Childhood influences and education

I'm not sure whether I ever mentioned this, but one of my favorite authors is Gerald Durrell, the renowned zoologist. He traveled all around the world and wrote many books about all the places, people and animals he encountered, but what I love the most from his works are the books about his childhood on Corfu. 

In the Corfu books, he describes a truly carefree childhood. He was sporadically educated at home by a number of private tutors, but overall had all the space and time he wanted to explore, invent, and give free reign to the primary and overwhelming interest of his entire life - animals. In his books, he reports more than once that he never really had much interest in anything else. 

He was fortunate enough, however, to have what many children these days lack - a true zeal for something, a burning desire to learn, know, and do everything connected with his favorite pursuit. His thirst for knowledge prompted him to read all about animals; a fortunate idea to start a nature journal, planted by a wise friend, encouraged him to develop his writing skills; the practical care of his specimens involved measuring, counting, building cages etc, which taught him probably all the math he ever needed. In the context of the animal kingdom, he learned history and geography, and his roams around the island of Corfu usually involved meeting an entire host of interesting characters, which were later vividly portrayed in his autobiographic books. 

Such an education would have been considered skewed and incomplete, not to mention shockingly undersupervised by many of today's experts, but it was far better than most children can hope for today. A strong passion for something, if this something involves exploring the world and meeting people, and being introduced into life, is education in itself. It is far better than professionally planned, age-appropriate, well-balanced, well-rounded, but insipid and boring lessons received in a school setting and automatically disposed of by a caged brain. Gerald Durrell had the desire and freedom to learn, access to resources of learning, and the rest was done almost automatically. Life educated him. 

And, something which is perhaps a little trivial but nevertheless important, he never forgot to return home for tea. His books are full of descriptions of family meals, of breakfast, lunch, and dinner eaten together, of family outings and family parties, of life lived together, even though each individual child was given the freedom to be, and do, and develop according to his unique personality. I've always loved the descriptions of Durrell's mother in his books - she is portrayed as someone stern enough to keep a family together, but indulgent enough to give her (sometimes slightly eccentric) children room to grow, and easygoing enough to adjust to the flow of life with all its bends and twists. 

This combination of flexible, non-compartmentalized education and good, stable home life produced an intelligent, talented, energetic, sparky individual with an enormous zeal for learning, good works, and life in general. Not all of us can be as talented. Not all of us can do things of such magnitude; but many children can likewise blossom, in a warm home setting, with freedom to be who G-d made them, and encouragement to do what they are good at. 

I was a child when I read those books for the first time, and could relate to the author very well. I remember thinking with envy, I wish I could live like that. For various reasons, I did not, but I think the seed was planted then. I reached adulthood perceiving it as an axiom that schools, at best, contribute nothing to the education of those who already love to learn, read every book they can lay their hands on, and would like to try everything and know everything. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chores and training children for real life

"One day another mom told me that the only reason I have time to teach my children how to do chores is because we homeschool. She explained why her children were not required to help around the house. 'With soccer, the tutor and dance after school each day, I couldn't possibly ask them to do chores.' 

I explained that I am completely certain that with our genes, our children will likely not be professional soccer players or dancers. They will need to wear clothes and eat, though, so it seems appropriate to train them to do laundry and cook."

- Rose Godfrey, The Pig in the Pantry

In my previous post, I have already touched on the subject of chores and the importance of steering children towards a productive, responsible life. I fully believe in pursuing one's dreams and developing one's talents, but not at the cost of shedding all responsibility for the basics without which a family can't function. An individual, no matter how talented, will likely not grow into a pleasant, hardworking adult if he is never asked to lift a finger around the house or be a productive part of family life. 

Now, chores and the running of a home are the primary responsibility of the parents, and no more than is appropriate should be heaped on the shoulders of a child. No child, no matter the age, should be turned into a housework drudge to the point of neglecting all other pursuits, even if it is a 20-year-old daughter with a houseful of little brothers and sisters. A child can do much, but the childhood years, and even the adult years lived at home, are supposed to be a time of training, not an opportunity for the parents to pile adult responsibilities on a child. 

Having said that, the inclusion of children in basic chores - and in the whole process of life - is not only important in the way of teaching how to run a household, but can be a tremendous learning opportunity in many other ways. Every day, I see more and more how kindergartens and early grades of elementary school must artificially create that learning environment which is so naturally and readily present at home. Reading, counting, measuring, matching, dividing, shaping and so much more are all a part, if one doesn't rush and presents things in the right way, of laundry, cooking, dishes, and other such basic chores ("good, now give me three eggs. No, that is two. I want another one"). Of course it's easier to just grab those eggs myself, but there's an opportunity to learn! 

It is important that a child has time and space to develop his inclinations. I believe it is one of the most important things, and the most easily accomplished ones too, in learning at home vs. regular schooling. But it shouldn't be an all-exhausting effort. I don't think any of us is "too important" to participate in the daily mill of normal life, and all the countless joys and sorrows it entails. For children, it is especially important. Children need a lot of seemingly empty time, time to just be; a very rigorous schedule of school and extracurricular activities leaves no chance for that. So what is the result? Talents may be pursued, and later paraded and made much of, but at what price? 

Irritable, tired, restless, cranky children; children with enormous learning difficulties; listless, idle, or on the other hand, unnaturally ambitious, test-results-obsessed children; much of this, I feel, finds its roots in the extinguishing of calm, orderly, nourishing (physically and mentally) home life. Working alongside each other - not in an artificially created environment, but really doing those simple chores that can be shared by a 3-year-old and a 33-year-old, such as watering the plants or sweeping the porch - can be a time of bonding, shared conversation, and an opportunity for a child to feel like an important member of the family, contributing in real ways. It makes them so proud, and really isn't that difficult to achieve. And of course, lending a hand means that time is freed up to do something fun, like reading a story or taking a walk together. 

So what do we need? Primarily time. A life that is always lived in a hurry is no fit environment for little children; for any of us, as a matter of fact. We just weren't created to live at a crazy pace. It stresses us out and makes us sick. To be healthy and happy, we must slow down and make time for all that counts - nurturing real relationships, building real homes, cooking real food, living real life that is happening all around us. 

There's so much confusion, so much conflict of priorities that it's often difficult to know what to think or do. But if one has a child, then drains on one's time must be strictly regulated. Every activity or outside commitment should be weighed and considered whether, taking everything into account, it is appropriate and right for everyone involved. 

I feel I'm getting on a roll here, and possibly headed towards a slightly different subject, so perhaps I had better save this for another day; in the meantime, I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend, and remain,

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Simple life and work value for children

Rhonda Jean, at Down to Earth, asks:

How are you raising your children to live simply in a techno-obsessed world? How are you, or did you, raise children who are happy without having everything their friends have?

Rhonda has hit on what is probably THE most important thing in my stage of life right now. As a mother to two girls (3 1/2-year-old Shira and 21-month-old Tehilla), I often struggle with finding gentle but firm ways to instill discipline. My goal is to raise considerate, kind, generous adults who love to learn, work, and interact with the word surrounding them in a healthy, vibrant way.

First off, children learn from example - not only outward, but inward. I need to be what I want them to become - gentle, cheerful, friendly, hardworking and creative. Otherwise, there is no hope I can ever artificially mold them into some ideal I have spun in my head but never lived upon. So first I am educating and disciplining the person who needs it most - myself. 

Second, we strive to live gently, slowly and simply. The crazy pace of our world often doesn't allow parents to get their children to participate in day-to-day life, because they are so bent on doing everything as fast as possible - and little children do slow you down. Also, children are often shuttled off to too many activities to leave them any time for participating in simple life and simple chores. 

My children, in particularly Shira, pick up their toys, gather eggs, help out in the kitchen, help sweep the front porch, do simple cleaning tasks (wipe the windows, etc) and hang up small items of laundry. Work is not a punishment - being allowed to participate in the adult life is a treat, an honorable badge of being a big girl and Mommy's helper. I'm not saying they do all the above with a 100%-success rate, but I do try to keep them involved on a consistent basis. 

I would do all the work more effectively on my own - for now. But I know that some years down the road, I will be very glad for allowing my daughter to hang up her own underwear, taking about five minutes for each item. 

Interaction with nature, plants and farm animals is important in building up character, too. It teaches responsibility and gentleness in such a wholesome, never-boring way. Seeds need to be watered regularly if you wish to get any results. Animals must be fed first thing in the morning. Chicks must be handled delicately. All of this creates a flow of learning which is only very slightly directed by us, as parents. This type of learning can be created in an urban setting as well; a herb garden in pots and an aquarium, for example, are great as a touch of nature. 

If we have animals, plants, inexpensive crafts, satisfying kitchen work, stories and nature walks, we don't need many expensive toys and gadgets. My girls very rarely watch videos. When our development nurse suggests to "limit screen time for the baby", I give her a wild look. What screen time?? We are busy living life!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Home hatchery: DIY

So, here is the promised post about how my husband made his incubator. Please keep in mind that we are very new to this (about a year of chicken-keeping, first try to hatch eggs) so there are probably things that could have been done better and/or more effectively. Still, in the bottom line we had 100% success so we must have done it right, overall!

We began by collecting, over the course of several days, eggs from our favorite hen. While we waited to assemble our experimental batch, the eggs were kept at room temperature and turned several times a day. In the meantime, my husband built the incubator from materials he had gathered previously:

* A large styrofoam box, of the sort used to transport frozen fish. Styrofoam is very light and good at preserving temperature. We washed it thoroughly beforehand, of course, and let it sit in the air for the fish smell to evaporate.

* A 60-watt lightbulb as a heat source.

* A thermostat my husband had ordered from the internet.

* A humidity sensor, likewise ordered from the internet. Those two items were the only he bought, very inexpensively.

* A ventilator picked off from an old computer.

* An empty egg carton, for placing the eggs.

* A plastic box for water, to keep humidity level up.

 As you can see, my husband cut out a rectangle in the lid of the box, so that we wouldn't have to remove the entire lid every time we need to turn the eggs or make adjustments in the incubator. This way, temperature and humidity are preserved better. My husband kept the rectangle he cut out, glued another piece of styrofoam to its outer side to use as a handle, and used it to open and close the incubator instead of the big lid.

The lightbulb was attached to the inner side of the lid with permanent glue.

On top, you see the thermostat and humidity sensor. The sensor parts themselves are lowered into the box, and placed in the carton next to the eggs.

We tried to keep humidity levels relatively high, between 60% and 80%. Simply placing a plastic box or dish of water into the incubator wouldn't do the job, and that's why we needed the ventilator. It makes the air circulate and helps water evaporate, thus raising humidity level. We refilled the water every couple of days. Sometimes, when we noticed the humidity rising too high, we removed the styrofoam rectangle to allow humidity to drop.

My husband set the thermostat to 38 C. The thermostat kept the light bulb turning on and off, depending on the temperature.

Eggs were turned around 6 times a day. We kept a chart with record of egg turning, to avoid confusion (for example, so I won't go in and turn the eggs when my husband already did it 30 minutes ago).

The thing worked for 21 days, and...

If you've always wanted to hatch eggs but thought it's very difficult to do in a home setting, here are two complete novices who did it successfully, so you can do it too! It's a wonderful, very rewarding experience for the whole family, and we hope to repeat this adventure once more before summer is over. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

One-minute chores - training ourselves in efficiency

Here is a link to a list of chores that don't take a lot of time, but can really make a difference! This includes changing hand towels, wiping a bathroom mirror, etc. 

I thought it was a very neat, motivating and inspiring you to tasks you can complete in a short time. How many times have we looked around and experienced this sinking feeling that there is a million of things to be done, and no time to do them? Well, apparently the key to successful action is to break the million things into one-by-one, and just head in and do something, even if it is something little. The sense of accomplishment will motivate you to move on and continue working, and efficient planning will enable you to make good of those little pockets of time we sometimes have during the day.

I will add one caveat, though. A chore by itself may not take long, but it still might take a longer time to do it; for example, it really is only a minute to change your kitchen towels - if you keep them readily available. I really don't have much cupboard space in the kitchen, so my kitchen towels are kept in the closet in the children's room. So, I will usually change my kitchen towels at a fixed time - normally before Shabbat - and take them out of the closet together with the Shabbat things (special tablecloth, hot plate cover, and challah napkins). 

This problem is of course exacerbated if you have a staircase in your home. Just getting from spot to spot in your house might considerably lengthen the time you spend on each chore. So what is the solution? Living in a small house, some may say. This may sound like a joke, but I do believe that for some people, big houses are status symbols, and it's really better to have just as many rooms as you are comfortable with. Around here, I have several friends living in caravans (with one to four children), with only around 56 square meters of space. They always say cleaning such a small place is a breeze! This only works, of course, if people take up an unrelenting battle against clutter and do not permit unnecessary items to swamp their house. 

So basically I think the key here is - if you really only have a minute or two, work in the space where you already happen to be, or near it. For example, if I'm watching over the girls while they are playing in bath, I might use up that little slot of time to wipe down the bathroom mirror, sink and tap, and perhaps to scrub the toilet. If I'm watching over them while they are playing in the yard, I will clean the outside of the living room window (yes, the one with fingerprints and nose prints all over it :o)) 

Logical storage strategy is another important thing. I've already mentioned kitchen towels; by necessity, I keep them away from the kitchen, but I realize it would have been better to make room in one of the cupboards. The little sponge I use specifically for wiping sinks, I keep in the bathroom so it's within easy reach. I'm forced (again by necessity of space) to keep some of our clothes in the girls' closet, which is larger, but I make sure those are the clothes we use less often, in particular during the warm months (coats, jackets etc). 

Then it's important to assess whether a chore really takes up only a minute, or we are run away with our fanciful imagination. For example, I've been known to step out to fold the laundry, saying "it only takes a minute", forgetting that with two little ones in tow, it does not. In that case I must either make more time, or delay the task until later.

And of course, this doesn't mean every last little moment of spare time must be filled with housework! On the contrary, using up the spare moments during the day will enable you to free your time to do other things. 

Now it's really time for me to stop pounding away on the keyboard and go and do some of the work I've been so faithfully writing about! The day is going to be busy (as always), but since I didn't get very much sleep last night, I am sincere in hoping it will be slow, too, so that I can crawl along... doing a little thing here, a little thing there... and making a difference!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Birth Day

Some time ago, after hoping in vain that our hens would go broody and produce chicks, my husband resolved on making an incubator. Since we really had no experience, he picked up an experimental batch of five eggs from the coop - which, after twenty-one suspense-filled days, all hatched yesterday! 
 We put all the chicks in this plastic box for a group photo.
A close-up shot of one who is, so far, my personal favorite (although they are all very cute). 

We all enjoyed very much watching the hatching process, which is simply fascinating; a crack appears in an egg shell, then little bits of shell fall off, until a really big crack appears and cheeping can be heard... and then, voila! A chick crawls out of the shell, tired of all the efforts of coming out, and bedraggled-looking - but a couple of hours later, he is magically transformed into a cute, fuzzy creature. You can imagine the girls' delight at seeing such miracles! 

Also, last night we received notice that my sister-in-law had had a baby - a girl whom we are yet to meet, but who will be, beyond a doubt, beloved by all whose life she touches, starting from her Mama, Papa, and her two brothers and three sisters who were all eagerly anticipating her arrival for many months.

Later this week, perhaps even tomorrow, when I have a little more time, I hope to sit down and write in detail exactly how my husband made the incubator. We are all very proud of his endeavours.