I’ve wanted to get chickens for a few years, but we kept getting caught up in the logistics of it all. Figuring out where we’d get them, what we’d use as a coop, how we’d care for them, etc. So I finally decided that we were DOING it this year and getting chickens and, like magic, within a week a post popped up in my Facebook feed that the Alpaca Farm 2 miles from our house had chicks for sale in just the breed I’ve been wanting to get. They’re all Ameraucanas, or so we think. I keep reading that it’s really hard to have actually Ameraucanas, but that most that are labeled as such are some sort of mutt breed that are lumped into a category because they lay blue or green eggs. I’m ok with that. We wanted them because they are notoriously gentle and good with kids and they also do well with cold weather and pretty eggs and a lovely bonus for sure:) So…meet the girls!
Penelope: a.k.a. Bossy or Sassy. She’s Mia’s little girl. She’s the BOSS. She flocks the other girls and yells at them and tells them what to do all.the.time. She’s a total stinker, but also the most friendly and because she looks so typically like what we all think of when we think of chicks, she’s also the first that everyone wants to hold.
Clementine: My little girlie:) She’s the runt of the pack and we’re still not sure if she’s just smaller and going to be more like a bantam size or if she’s just a day or two younger than the rest of the girls. She’s sweet as pie and by far the most calm. She’s the easiest to hold because she doesn’t try to escape as much as everyone else, she just loves the warmth and snuggles and loves to fall asleep in our hands or on a chest.
Beatrice: John’s little lady. She’s the wild card. While Penelope is The Boss, Beatrice is not far behind. She gives her a run for her money and she is totally crazy and LOUD. She loves to bother her sisters and is incessantly pushing them around to get the spot she wants for food or in the nap pile.
Nicholas The Girl: Nick’s girl. She’s calm and steady, but has no problem holding her own against the bossy ladies. She’s also a bit protective of Clementine and I could totally see her being the nurturing mama of the group if she had chicks. I feel like she’s still a little reserved, so we’re excited to get to know her as she relaxes with us a bit more.
They’re all growing like CRAZY and I’m totally in love with their little tail feathers that are popping out. In these photos they’re about 1.5 weeks and it’s wild to see how they’ve grown just since I took these photos last Friday. They’re taller, their legs are darker, they’re all losing tons of down and have beautiful wing feathers and tail feathers – it’s so fun to guess what they’ll look like when they’re full grown! They keep trying to fly (and being successful sometimes!) so we need to get them into a new space quickly. We started them in a big old Rubbermaid bin, but they’re quickly outgrowing that. They had to be in there last night for the warmth and the high sides,but we’ll need a better solution soon. I put them in a baby pool yesterday during the day and they loved having more space, but two flew out, so it wasn’t safe for nighttime. I know we’ve only had them for a week and they’re not full grown, but taking care of them as chick was my biggest hurdle in wanting to have them. If it’s been yours, too, believe me: it’s no big deal at all! They hang out in their little spot and we give them clean water and food and bedding every day. I got the waterer and feeder that fit a mason jar on top and those were only a few bucks each. Chick starter feed was about $6. A bag of pine shavings was $4. We put newspaper under the shavings. They were $5 each, so that brings the total startup costs to just under $40 – not too shabby. We still need to build a coop and we could go nuts with just buying one, but we’re either going to use our old shed or build something mobile to move around the yard and, either way, with using scraps and supplies we already have and wood from pallets it’s not going to cost more than $100. And they really are low maintenance. The kids love to hang out with them (my favorite quote from Mia is when we were driving home with them and she said, “Mommy, we’re not going to need our tv anymore! Now we can just watch the chicks when we want something to do!” I keep reminding her of this:) So I know it’s kind of premature, but this is the part I was most hesitant about before we got them and it’s been no big deal at all. If you’ve been wanting to get some chicks, I vote that you should absolutely go for it if you can do it in your community:) These little girls are making us all so, so happy!
A few resources if you’re considering chickens:
Backyard Chickens – forums and more info than you could ever want about chickens!
I’m pretty sure I just blinked and somehow we jumped from March to May. Where did April go?? Preschool is over in just over a week and Kindergarten in just over a month, we’re getting chicks any day now (!!!), it’s almost summer and everyone is happy that it’s getting so warm. I know I’ll blink and it will be fall again, so I’ve been trying to use our open afternoons to get out a bit when we’re all getting a little crazy at home. We couldn’t take one more second of whining and screaming earlier this week, so we ate lunch and headed out on a little adventure and I think I need to do this more. Exploring a bit, checking out the lake in anticipation of summer, playing on a new playground and checking out their favorite fairy garden were just the ticket to get us all a little bit happier. I’m getting massively excited to make a Summer List again – are you? I love to make it and have it and not feel too crazy about it, just know that it’s there when we need to get out and we want to have fun. If you want to make your own, check out The Happy Family Movement’s Summer Bucket List Challenge! It starts May 20th and they’re full of SO many fun ideas to make the most of the way-too-short summer!
It’s crazy to me to look around and see bare trees, knowing that in just a few shorts weeks everything will be full and lush with leaves. That slight hue of neon spring green is everywhere. We’re sticking with our Sunday Adventuring plan and stayed kind of close to home this past weekend. A friend introduced me to this trail last summer when we did family pictures there – I can’t believe that I never even knew it existed. From the road and parking lot, it doesn’t look like much. If you search around on the internet, it also doesn’t bring up much as far as info. But it’s a great trail! Maybe the info isn’t out because it’s newer? It was finished in 2009 and is managed by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority on land that used to be owned by the Lancaster Malleable Castings Company (evidenced by the random bricks strewn about through the edges of the trail that make no sense if you don’t know that about the land.)
The trail starts just off of Good Drive between Marietta Ave and Oreville Road. The trail itself is easy, save for a few kind of steep-ish hills that might make you huff a little extra hard if you’re not in the best shape. At only 1.3 miles for the longest loop, it’s a short enough trail to do with kids and still have time to explore. There are a few different loops that you can take, first through wetlands, then most crossing over Farmingdale Road and winding back toward the Little Conestoga Creek and along the railroad tracks. There is an open space for dogs and we see tons of dogs on the trail every time we visit. The best part, in the summer, is the creek that runs along back end of the trail. The access points in most sections are easy enough and shallow enough for kids to play with a few more spots under bridges that are even easier and more shallow. The trail is also almost all gravel, so it’s especially well-marked and easy even with a stroller with big wheels. It’s a “hike,” but really just a walk through the woods and easy enough for a quick stroll and I love that so close-by.
Trail: Farmingdale Trail Lancaster, PA. Loops range between 0.3 and 1.3 miles, so it’s an easy evening stroll or quick weekday adventure with kids.
Getting There: This one is much easier to access than last week It starts at a parking lot off of Good Dr. just north of Marietta Ave. and south of Oreville Rd, about 1 mile south of the Lancaster General Health Campus.
- There are picnic tables on the trail in two spots, so bring lunch!
- Dogs are welcome and you’ll see many as you walk.
- If it’s hot out, bring a towel and play in the water – there are access points at a few different spots along the various trails.
If you live nearby, have you been here? Any other little local jewels to share? If you lie far away, what are your favorite spots to head out for some time in nature?
First of all: My body would like you to know that I’m about to tell you that this is an “easy” hike and it disagrees. It might be that the hike was combined with planting seeds the day before and way more bending and lifting and squatting that this old girl is used to. So, it might be “easy” but I was still sore all over, which feels really good. It’s a direct reflect of how out of shape I am, though, not a reflection of the terrain.
Once upon a time, I was in the Outdoors Club in high school and it’s almost comical to think about now. I hiked and camped. Spent two weeks canoeing in Canada and went white water rafting and jumped off of cliffs two summers in a row. I love this stuff and want it to be one of the major things my kids remember about childhood – dirty feet and wild freedom and exploration without constraints. But I’ve been so self-conscious the past few years that I’ve let it keep me from getting out and moving and as a result (surprise, surprise) I’ve gained more weight…and it’s all a vicious cycle. So, I decided that I’m getting outside and going on adventures more, especially with my family. I need the exercise and prefer it 100 to 1 over being in a gym and it just makes my soul feel good.
I decided to do some digging and find an easy hike for us to explore. Sunday mornings are going to be family adventure time. I remembered passing a trail head for the Appalachian Trail last year that I’ve wanted to check out ever since, but it was a bit farther than I wanted to go and there are so many amazing trails that are closer, so I googled a little bit more, thinking about Tucquan Glen and knowing that there are some incredible spots in southern Lancaster County, but knowing that Tucquan Glen would be a little too difficult for the kids right now, at least until we get a few easier trails under our belts. When a Wildflower Preserve listed as an easy hike popped up in my search, I was sold.
We headed out on Sunday morning for a hike at Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve. When I read online, it said that the blooms were most abundant from March-May, but I think it’s all a little bit slow this year. There were blooms, but much more there was a general sheen of spring green everywhere on the ground that meant that everything major was still on the way. There was less blooming than I had thought would be there by now, but TONS coming up everywhere so it will be perfect by May. We’re definitely heading back in a few weeks again to see more flowers, the kids had a ton of fun trying to find new colors and count how many different types we found. It was a little hard to get to because there’s a dirt road in, but worth it, especially since it was a really easy, short trail that was mostly flat with great views for the kids. I really want to hike a lot more now that they’re a bit bigger and it was a great place to start. I always forget how close so many beautiful places are around here, it was beautiful and felt so good to get outside!
Location: Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve in Holtwood, PA, listed as, “one of the most impressive wildflower areas in the eastern United States and certainly one of the most popular natural locations in Lancaster County.” A 50-acre glen with 73 identified species of flowers blooming in the spring alone – another 60 varieties bloom through the summer and fall.
Trail: The main trail is 1 mile and it’s an easy walking trail with mostly flat terrain.
Getting There: We followed the directions in this pdf brochure and made it fine. The last bit of getting there is along a dirt road for a bit, so make sure your car can handle some bumps and dirt. “From Lancaster: Take New Danville Pike to Conestoga, veer left onto River Corner Road at the post office. After 1.3 miles you will come to River Road. Go straight across River Road to Shenk’s Ferry Road. Turn left at Green Hill Road. Follow this road through the tunnel and bear left 200 feet past the tunnel. The trailhead is located next to Grubb Run.” I’d add to that a note that it’s still a few more minutes past the tunnel after you go through. I could see it on the map, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but it wasn’t right after the tunnel, you had to go through and veer to the left and follow the railroad tracks down the road a bit further to get to the entrance to the trail. There also wasn’t a ton of parking, so be aware of that if you’re going on a weekend or busy day. We got there around 9am and there were only 2 other cars, but by the time we left around 10:30/10:45 on a Sunday morning, lots more people were arriving.
What We Took:
- A backpack
- ch kid brought a friend that was small enough to put in the backpack. Normally I wouldn’t let them bring toys, but he’s been especially nervous about new stuff lately and I knew that he’d feel a little bit better if he had a friend to hold. And if he got to bring one, she need to bring one as well, that’s just how it goes. It worked out well and he held his bunny the whole time with no whining, so I’d suggest it if you have little ones who are nervous about new places.
- Water (duh.) But maybe this isn’t such a “duh?” When I started filling up a full water bottle for each of us, John asked me why. He didn’t think we needed it. ”The trail is only a mile long, how much could we drink?” But 1 mile could be really far with kids, especially kids who could potentially be unhappy. Plus, you just never know. I’d rather have it and not worry.
- A tiny first aid kit
- Snacks. Enough for lunch since I wasn’t sure how long we’d be out, but it was easy stuff. Cut up oranges, cheese sticks, almonds, raisins, peanut butter crackers, fruit leather and I meant to throw in an apple for each of us but forgot.
- My camera
- Binoculars. These were used a ton – they loved having them!
A few other notes:
- It’s hard to tell because of how I had my camera settings and the lens I had on my camera, but the drop-offs here are steep, at least to parents with little kids. 90% of the trail was steep drops down the side that I’d be nervous to attempt by myself and in most spots I wouldn’t consider trying to get down to the water (though it would beckon like crazy on a hot day!) If I were a climber in great shape, they might be no big deal at all, but I’m not:) I was far less nervous than my husband with the kids, but 2 years ago I’m not sure that I would have wanted 2 year old Nick anywhere near this trail, I just wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it because I’d be trying to herd them away from the edge of the trail the whole time. So I just wanted to share that in case you have really little ones, especially dare-devils or those with no fear.
- There’s a port-a-potty at the start of the trail and it wasn’t awful at all. There are also a few benches along the trail if you want to stop to hang out or have lunch or something.
- The trail is just down the road from the Safe Harbor Dam, so it was an easy stop on the way home to check it out. I included our family photo since you guys never get to see me – I used the self-timer to get us all in and it’s a good example of a not-great photo that still means a lot to all of us:)
Fun Resources for hiking with kids:
National Geographic’s Top 10 Family-Friendly Hikes in U.S. Parks – are you near any of these??
This weekend was the best sort of work and play. The kind that leaves you falling into bed early in the evening with sore arms and legs because of the work and the play. We planted seeds, the kids played for hours and hours in the backyard, the sheds got some organization, we sorted out the yard toys that are just too small or babyish now and went on a hike that left us all massively happy. There was also learning to roller skate, learning to flip on the swing set rings, talk of goals to learn to ride a two-wheeler and swim alone in the local pool this summer, a camp out in their bedroom with the mattresses on the floor, lunch with a friend who I need to see more, an afternoon of time by myself working, a meal of epic deliciousness from the grill (which may have been the perfect combo of the first grilled food of the season and all of being starving after a day full of sunshine.) All in all, so much goodness.
I’m kind of behind on garden prep this year. I keep saying I’ll get to stuff, but then it feels like a domino effect of things that need to happen before I can actually plant. Dirt needed to be turned and fresh compost added to it to fill up the raised beds a bit more before I could plant seeds and I did’t want to turn it because it hadn’t had a chance to dry…so I kept waiting. We finally did all of that and put in seeds this weekend because I was worried it would be too late if it gets much warmer for peas and radishes and some of the greens. I quit trying to start any seedling myself, so tomatoes and peppers and some herbs are just going to purchased already started from my favorite roadside stand and greenhouse from the woman with 14 children. (I’m starting to feel much more brazen with the camera, so maybe I’ll ask her if I can take some more photos of their space this year.) We also started some bamboo A-frames that are going to connect between the raised beds for beans and cucumbers to climb up. The kids are dying to play under them.
Planted so far: peas, some carrots*, beets, kale, radishes, some head lettuce (I have a feeling I jumped the gun on that one and will need to try again), spinach, arugula and swiss chard.
*I say some because I’m trying to be better and planting some stuff in waves so that it’s not all ready at once. I should have also done it with some of those greens, but I didn’t. Oh, well.
Still to be planted this year: Potatoes, onions, lima beans, green beans of some sort (these and romaine and a few flowers are the last seeds I still need to get,) romaine (or some sort of hardier) lettuce, flowers and cucumbers from seeds.
If you have a garden, what’s going in this year? What are you most excited to plant??
We spent 15 minutes in the backyard last night. They were so happy to be outside playing and instead of staying inside and enjoying the quiet, we both headed outside for a few minutes to hang out, too. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but it was fun to watch her blow bubbles and try to see how many laps back and forth across the yard we could get them to run to wear them out.
My heart is heavy. It’s not good or bad. It’s not sad, it’s just struggle and lots of jumbled thoughts. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and being vulnerable this week and my head is a little cloudy. At a heart-stirring dinner with an amazing group of women who I had only just met, I let tears fall over something so close to my heart, I can barely speak the words out loud. I spoke the words out loud, then had to look down through my tears. Then felt the need to apologize for my tears and wipe them away. I let the tears fall, then we went around the table speaking of the things in the world that are most dear to our hearts and the ways we want to change the world and I am eternally grateful for every person in that room who was willing to also open their own heart.
The thing is, it’s hard to speak things out loud when they live so deeply in your heart. It’s hard to say out loud that I am trying so so hard to grow my business because we need the income. It’s even harder to say that it’s because we’re trying to aggressively pay off debt and save money to possibly adopt and to buy a house with more than two bedrooms. It’s hard to say that my first step in admitting my imperfections was when I accepted the fact that I am an awful, anxious, panic attack-riddled, complete bitch of a person in a high stress corporate environment and my health and well-being relies on me never going back there again…but we need (and want) the additional income stream, so I have to figure out how to make it work in a different environment.
When you think people have it all together, they don’t. When you think people live perfect lives and have time left over to blog: they don’t. I’ve been learning this over and over and over again – we all have struggles. I question posting photos from our backyard because our old rotting shed in the background makes me cringe and really needs to be fixed. But you know what? I love that back yard! And my tiny house. My cozy little home makes me happy, even if we still haven’t prioritized replacing the side of the shed and repainting and landscaping the backyard and still might not for a while because we want to prioritize paying off debt and more savings first. My kids might look like little ragamuffins running around in the backyard, but they’re happy in their adult-size t-shirts that they got for being the honorary something-or-other at the local team baseball game last year.
“For women, shame is: Do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat…Shame for women is this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight jacket.” -Brené Brown
I really don’t want to live my life in that straight jacket. How about you?
We’re down to 2 or 3 pants that fit each of my kids right now, with an extra thrown in here and there that are inches too short, but pass the test when worn with boots. Flurries are swirling outside today, but I just cleared out all of the holiday dresses and too short pants and random winter stuff that never actually got any wear. Thank goodness for hoodies to get us into t-shirt, especially for Nick. At least 75% of his winter shirts are stained or just too short for public wearing.
I keep going outside without a coat, sort of hopeful that my wishful thinking will bring the warmer weather and sunshine and green. We are bursting to get outside and dig in the dirt and get some sunshine on our pasty legs. The weekend isn’t looking like it’s going to give us much in the way of warmth, but at least there will be sunshine! Peas and radishes and some greens are going in the ground and a few little ones will be started inside, too. I’m scaling back on variety this year and adding more flowers to the garden. What are your weekend plans? If you have on, are there any garden happenings in your neck of the woods yet?