Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring snapshots


Some old containers re-purposed as nesting boxes - works really well! These eggs are plastic, by the way - to encourage laying/brooding in the right places.

Our very handsome Black Brahma roo.

The first broody of the season. Doesn't she look like she might peck the camera any moment?

A patch of mint, looking very fresh after the spring rains.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The things you will never regret

In our previous home, we had a separate room for a home office. Such privacy is very convenient, but it is also the pitfall of the computer junkie (which, I admit, I am). I could tuck children into naps or, at a period of time when I didn't have any children young enough to need naps, I could let them watch a movie - while I got into the office to check my emails, etc.

The problem is, the "etc" only too easily turns into watching silly YouTube videos, participating in draining online discussions, making frivolous Google searches ("why does the top point of my left ear sometimes itch?"), and keeping up with the social media. The power of the click is just too alluring. 

Of course, there are also the good things - reading excellent helpful articles, writing letters to friends, taking care of personal projects, working on my books. However, the good things are even more dangerous, in the way of justifying an extravagant amount of time spent on them. If you watch a video of a cat playing the piano, you'll feel guilty for wasting your time after five minutes. But knitting how-to videos are okay, right?

Unfortunately, I became feeling entitled to that office time, alone behind closed doors. It was my time; I needed it. So when naps were broken, or squabbles interrupted movie time, I became unreasonably frustrated. I don't have an exact estimate of how many hours were spent on lawful pursuits, and how many on mindless web browsing, but there is no doubt a large chunk of my time could have been better employed.

In this house, I have one computer in the living room for everybody's use, faulty internet connection and a little one that really isn't a very good sleeper. And I'm happier than ever; this change has been the best thing that could have happened to me. It taught me to prioritize; on a good day, I might have half an hour or so after lunch for answering emails, browsing ads, etc, and if I'm not too tired there's an hour or so at night when I can write, read, research information or watch a movie in peace and quiet.

The thing is, when I look back on times enjoyably spent with my children - whether reading together, or taking nature walks, doing crafts, playing games, even just watching a movie together - I can't think of one hour I would rather have spent doing something else. Even if a baby is colicky or teething, it means a night of precious snuggling with someone who needs me, just then, more than anything. I might be very tired, but I have no regrets.

But when I remember my "me" time, my feelings are not so unequivocal. There are many pages I wish unread or unwritten, many videos unwatched, many games unplayed, many conversations unspoken. Not because these things were bad in themselves, but because they took away from the truly important things I should have been doing.

You will probably never regret spending time with your children. The same cannot be said of other things, be it personal projects, volunteering, hobbies or social commitments. I keep that in mind every day, and it makes all the difference.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pesach cleaning, schedules and resentment

Purim is nearly here - which, at least in our household, means we're already busy cleaning for Pesach. Some people actually relish the chance to scrub out every little long forgotten nook and cranny, but I'll admit this isn't my favorite season. Our day to day life, while simple, is full - and when extra cleaning creeps into my schedule, it feels like a thief trying to rob me - of peace, tranquillity, adequate rest, time with my children and the very limited time I have for hobbies and personal projects. All gives way to cleaning the top of the kitchen cabinets, because maybe some long-lost crumb had found its way there somehow.

I realize all these spots - the tops of kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, pantry shelves etc - do need to be cleaned some time, and without Pesach looming on the horizon I would have little incentive to do so. Still, I can't love the feverish business of these spring weeks - especially as the lovely weather is so inviting to be out.

My husband usually contrives something to make things easier for me. For example last year we needed to replace our stovetop,  which was done just a few days before Pesach so that I could simply throw the old one away without bothering to clean it. Another year, we had a new refrigerator delivered shortly before the holiday. But of course we don't replace our kitchen appliances every year.

I always find it ironic that window-cleaning, the traditional Israeli pre-Pesach sport, should take place at such a particularly unlucky season - full of sand storms and dusty rains. Rationally I would say there is no point in cleaning the windows on the outside till the summer. But of course everybody still does it, including me.

This year I have a detailed schedule which will, hopefully, get me through the next six weeks with my sanity intact. Every day I get up knowing what I need to do, and when I'm done I hang up my mop and dust rag. I don't try to outrace myself, knowing that no matter how hard I drive at those kitchen cabinets, there will still be plenty to do the next day.

Moving at a turtle's pace, slow and steady 


Monday, March 7, 2016

The Private Life of Chickens





Once in a while I come upon a documentary that is as deliciously comforting as a cup of hot cocoa when you're feeling a little under the weather. The Private Life of Chickens was just that for me: a dose of comfort and relaxation to take late in the evening, when the chores are done and I'm tired and craving something cozy and domestic like only a British documentary can be.



This documentary takes us to the beautiful English countryside (something I would dearly love to re-create in Israel), to the farm of a sweet lady named Jane, who rescues ex-battery hens, cares for them, and passes them into the hands of small backyard flock owners. She is really one of a kind - I wish I had a neighbor like her.



So, if you're a chicken lover and would like to learn some fascinating facts about your favorite bird, kick back, relax and enjoy an hour of fun and relaxation with The Private Life of Chickens.



As for me, I'm moving on to watch The Private Life of Cows.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why I love raising chickens

Our love affair with chickens started a few years ago, when my husband surprised me with a box of baby chicks. Those little ones all turned out to be males, but no matter - the chicken bug was already there. Ever since, we've had a chicken coop wherever we lived.

So what makes chickens such a popular choice for almost everyone? They are kept by big and small farmers, country dwellers and urban homesteaders alike. Here is why I petsonally like my chickens so much:

1. Eggs - need I say more? Fresh homegrown eggs are about the best source of high-quality animal protein out there. They are full of essential nutrients and their taste is far superior to the bland egg factory product. In winter, when our hens went off laying and we had to buy eggs from the grocery store, we were actually shocked at the contrast in taste.

2. Pest and weed control - chickens love to eat all sorts of insects, bugs, worms and weeds in their young green stage. All this goes into the eggs and makes them healthier and better-tasting - and helps with yard maintenance. Of course, chickens will also go for many garden plants, so you have two choices: either keep a fence around your vegetable patch, or learn which plants you can grow without competing with your chickens. Generally we find that herbs (such as mint, sage, rosemary), certain vegetables (onions, garlic, potatoes) and fruit trees are safe with chickens.

3. Entertainment - just sit back and watch your chickens for endless hours of entertainment. Observe how they interact with each other and with you. Yesterday I entertained a 1-year-old for half an hour by making a rooster jump and snatch tricks out of the air. Keeping chickens is one of the best fun and educational experiences we've ever done.

4. Easy maintenance - once you get into the routine of chicken-keeping, it's incredibly easy. Basically what chickens need is acess to food, water and a sturdy sheltered coop that provides protection from the rain and wind and can be locked at night against predators. Depending on the climate in your area and the breed of your chickens, you might have to provide a source of heat during the winter. We usually don't need to do this as we keep sturdy breeds and temperatures here don't often fall below freezing.

You can greatly reduce the cost of chicken feed by giving your chickens your kitchen leftovers (old bread, rice, pasta, cores and peels, etc) and by allowing them to free-range and find their own food.