Cat in a Chicken Run: Reasons to be Awakened at 1:30 a.m.

So, a bit of background…

We have a raw-fed Westie, that greatly enjoys salad, cucumbers, and pretty much will do anything for a tomato.  We even have to spell the word, “tomato.”  And we’re reaching the point where we have to spell the spelling of tomato, which gets very confusing.

And, we have a pair of self-indulgent, sweet, but highly demanding cats, that after packing on the kitty-pounds have been placed on a canned food diet, fed twice a day–first when the first person wakes up in the morning, and it has reached the point where, at the first sound of movement from any bedroom, the incessant caterwauling begins.  I’ve even had to change my alarm tone to try to forestall their demands.  This is highly irritating, but I do admit to being particularly amused by the game of walking obliquely towards the stairs to the basement, and watching them tear down the steps like bats (or cats) out of hell.  The pitter-patter of little feet is not the operative description.

As a result of their weight-loss, however, they are behaving more like cats, but they still think they must be fed.  Often.  Incessantly.  Repeatedly.  And much more than they are going to be getting any time soon.  And perhaps they think we don’t know it, more likely they don’t care, but they leap onto the kitchen counters, the kitchen table, the dining room table,  to forage for food; the tell-tale sound of little cat feet alighting on the kitchen floor is a dead-give-away.  And they are getting more uppity, more bold, and more demanding as they are slimming to actual cat-like proportions.

Finally, we have chickens.  I’m not saying that they are spoiled, but… we toast frozen waffles (organic) for them; we cook rice for them; they get the leftover salads that our dog doesn’t scarff down.  When they hear the back door open, they come a-running.  Or a-waddling.  The sight of a chicken sprinting across yard: tough to describe, harder to forget, and hysterically funny.

Cat, chickens, dog, enough said.

Cat, chickens, dog, enough said.

It’s not unusual to look out the window and see two Welsummers, two Rhode Island Reds, a Westie, and a cat foraging together in the back-yard. I wonder at times if the hens are part of a weird pack, or the dog and cat part of a freaky flock.

Have I mentioned that the cats are getting uppity, bold, and seem to think that all the food in the world is theirs by right?  The male, Simon, in fact, has taken to sneaking into the chicken coop to snack on the bird’s grains.  I’m not entirely sure that Simon is actually aware that he is, indeed, a cat.  I’m not sure he’s a cat.  More like a stomach, with legs.

Anyway, I told you all that, so I could tell you this.

We recently replaced our old chicken coop, and (not that we are spoiling the chickens) attached a covered run for them, so they aren’t always cooped up in the morning, while they not so patiently wait for us to come release them to free-range.

Well, to keep them comfortable and protected from inclement weather, I fashioned together a nifty roof for the chicken run–corrugated UV tinted plastic, so they have a nice amount of shade, and so that their food stays dry in case of rain.  Karen lets them out in the morning, as I leave for work in the pre-dawn; as she works later into the afternoon, I lock them back in at dusk–and thanks to the wheel in the sky keeping turning, dusk is getting later and later.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So, last Saturday, we’re a bit late on the animal feeding game, as the day got away from us (weeding the front yard and then taking a nice walk; love a sunny day).  But, with only a slight delay, and only slightly after their accustomed feeding time, and only slightly after dusk, the dog is fed, the cats are fed, Simon is let out to do a bit of whatever it is that cats do when they are outside, and I lock up the girls.

Hours go by. I let the dog out into the back yard for her evening potty run, expect the cat to come back in. He doesn’t, but that’s okay.

I wait for the dog to come back in–it takes her awhile because she is foraging for snackage; which may, or may not, include chicken poo. I try not to think about it.  Or let her lick my face.

A few more hours go by; no cat. Karen and I retire for the night, still no cat. And a few more hours go by.

One-thirty a.m., the daughter comes to our door; a tiny voice says: “I went to get Simon to come inside, and he didn’t, and I can hear him meowing, and he’s trapped somewhere.”   Karen leaps into action; I move a bit slower, and take some time to look for a flashlight–which by the time I locate and head outside Karen has found Simon.

Who was locked in the chicken coop.

And had been for at least 7 hours.

I’m not sure how I managed to not see him in the chicken run when I locked the girls in.  I’m not sure why he did not meow when the dog went out to go potty; I’m not sure why the dog didn’t bark at the cat locked in the coop.  But what I’d really love is to be a chicken-whisperer so I could know what they thought about it–and the biggest regret that we have is not taking a photo of the cat in the chicken-run… though we prepared for when it happens again.

Because it will.

Simon: chicken-food eater, late-night prowler

 

Ultra-Posh Tiny Homes: The Small House Movement Goes Luxe

The Tiny Home Movement is getting noticed by Forbes Magazine.  It’s with mixed emotions that I make that statement, and that I even share this article.

I’m not sure how I feel about the majority of the homes in the gallery photos linked to this article.  The exception is the Zyl Vardos home (see also links under Resources), and a few others.  Some seem way too extravagant (1.8 million?), but it is Forbes.  Ultra-posh may appeal to the typical Forbes reader, but most of us who wish for a tiny lifestyle are focused on living simply and intentionally, not just seeking to expand our inventory of toys.  Still, I wanted to share this article, as I’m always looking for new ideas and working on the plan in my mind.  I do like the media attention the movement is getting of late, and hopefully building codes will be modified by the time we’re ready to transition in a couple of years.

Ultra-Posh Tiny Homes: The Small House Movement Goes Luxe – ForbesLife.

A Tiny Home Open House: Visiting Hannah’s House

Today we attended Hannah’s Open House, a gathering that we’d found through Meetup.com.  Although we’d seen a Tumbleweed home at the Mother Earth News Fair, and I’ve obsessively viewed thousands of photos online, It was nice to finally see a Tiny Home that was being lived in.

Hannah’s home had a couple of great features that we’ll have to borrow for our design.  The L-shaped seating in the main living space converts to an RV-style guest bed, which is something that will be extremely useful when adult kids return to visit.  I also enjoyed seeing and using the mini-staircase, and we’ve decided this is a feature we like, especially since we’re approaching 50.  We backpack and stay active, but because I’m nearly comatose in the morning, stairs are a good thing!  The loft was nice and bright, and seemed roomy.  We can see ourselves living in such a space.

Wish we’d had time to talk to Hannah or her parents, but there was some serious inquiry going on.  Hannah, we think your home is adorable, and wish you the best in your tiny house endeavors!

Check out additional photos of Hannah’s house here.

Mortgage

 

Lab-created milk: New from Coca-Cola

I normally stay on top of food news, so I’m surprised I missed this announcement in November.  As if we don’t mess with food enough, we will soon see Coca-Cola’s new lab-created milk Fairlife hitting the market.  Higher in protein and lower in sugars, the milk is essentially “ultra filtered”, then reformulated with different nutritional components.

With the steady decline in the consumption of sugary beverages over the past few years, its no surprise that the company would seek out a way to capitalize on the current market trends.  Unfortunately, many of us already eat more protein than we need (most of us need only 40-70 grams per day), and overconsumption of protein has its own health risks, including leaching of bone minerals.

Read more on this topic at The Washington Post: Why Coca-Cola wants to sell the world expensive “science milk”

After watching that conveyor belt of cows circling around in the video, I think I’ll stick with almond or coconut milk.  If you want to be further disappointed, just google images for the keyword “Fairlife’.  Apparently, sex will make it sell.

CocaColaCows

Photo Courtesy of Fairlife

 

Becoming Minimalist: Eliminating Junk, Gaining Freedom

Clutter. It tends to creep slowly into our lives, despite our best intentions. Having grown up with a mother who had hoarding tendencies, I developed an aversion to clutter early. This will be a valuable trait while planning our downsizing to tiny house proportions.  When I think about how much “stuff” we’ll need to eliminate to live a tiny lifestyle, I’m relieved we have time on our side, yet I’m anxious to feel free from unneeded possessions.

It’s not that I’m without my own “dirty little secrets” — the armoire that once housed the large TV is now home to an assortment of junk that doesn’t have another place. It seemed like a perfect pairing: an entertainment center that was no longer needed, with junk that didn’t have another place.  Where else would you store 300 or so candles?  Ok, so maybe there’s a little of my mother in me.  To my defense, most of those are tea lights.

Today I was inspired to start getting rid of things I didn’t use. I started in the obvious spot: my own dresser. I realized a while ago that I didn’t know what was at the bottom of my t-shirt drawer. I seemed to be wearing only what was on the top third, but this could be because I live mostly in black t-shirts and denim. (Doesn’t everyone need 15 black t-shirts with varying sleeve lengths and necklines?) I was able to cut my t-shirt inventory in a third at the first pass, and yes, most of what I donated was non-black. I’ll revisit this drawer later, but my strategy for this first pass is to just get rid of the obvious: if it hasn’t been worn in the last year, it goes.  If I forgot I even had it, into the donate pile it went.

The next pass will be more challenging, but it feels great to get rid of the obvious things that are just taking up space. In the first pass, I was able to get rid of 23 t-shirts, and although I wasn’t targeting anything else today, I was on a roll and grabbed 3 sweatshirts, 2 sweaters, and 2 pair of pants. And, to avoid changing my mind, I ran right down to Goodwill and made the donation — 2 paper grocery sacks full of clothes, and that was from only 2 of the 4 drawers of my dresser.  I imagine we’ll be getting to know the Goodwill Donation staff pretty well over the next few months!

MinimalismWhile I feel invigorated by getting rid of just a small amount of unneeded items, I imagine the decisions around paring down will become more difficult as we continue the process of simplification. I’ve challenged myself to look at things with new eyes, and redefine what is a “want” and what is a “need”. I’ve decided it’s ok to want something if it is useful and fills a purpose (black t-shirts), or is simply something of beauty that makes me happy (artwork), but there must be a limit.  We long to live intentionally: to have what we need, and to need what we have.  We will get there, and I’m looking forward to the journey.

My Favorite Cauliflower Crust Pizza: Low Carb, Gluten-free, and Delicious!

I went low carb nearly a year ago.  I guess the best explanation of why, is that I went on a research binge about the relationship between the carbohydrate and sugar-rich diet we enjoy in Western culture, and cancer.  The big C.  Both my parents died of cancer.  What I read was enough to convince me.  I was going to take sugars and refined carbohydrates out of my diet.  Cancer cells require glucose and sugars to survive.  I was going to starve those cancer cells before they could take up a home.

Now, please understand that this is a remarkable feat for a part Sicilian American.  I was raised on bread and pasta.  For most of my life I could not imagine existence without them.  Then there was college, and pizza, and beer.  Why would anyone give up pizza, bread, pasta, and beer?  Once you actually do, you will understand.  I no longer need or crave these things.  I feel well, satisfied, satiated, and like I could skip eating for 2 days if I needed to.  But, that’s another blog post.

So, I’ll get off my soap box and share the best ever gluten-free, low carb pizza crust.  We had it tonight, and it was amazing as it always is. I tend to add a little extra cheese and a second egg to the crust.  It never fails.  Enjoy!

The Iron You: Cauliflower Crust Cheese Pizza

Update: It came to me the other day that I could use this recipe to make sopes.  I will be experimenting with cauliflower crust sopes (instead of masa) for Super Bowl.  I miss my local taco truck since I’ve gone grain-free and low-carb.  Maybe this will fill the void!  If they turn out well, look for a new post!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Pizza Crust – just add toppings!

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Homemade Laundry Soap: A Year Without Commercial Detergent

It was just about a year ago that my boyfriend and I were inspired to make our own laundry soap.  Ok, I was mostly the one who was inspired.  He was supportive, willing to lend his clothes to experimentation, and happily muscled through the grating of the Fels Naptha (not fun).

You’ll find several recipes for homemade laundry soap scattered around the internet.  For ease of assembly, I chose to go with the powdered version.  That, and I’m frugal.  I blame my Scottish mother.  After comparing ingredients and weighing the pros and cons, here’s the recipe we ended up following:

Ingredients
  • 
2 (5.5 oz) Bars of Fels-Naptha (If you can’t find it locally, check Amazon)
  • 1 (5 lb) Bag of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 
1 (3 lb) Box or Tub of OxiClean
  • Optional:  Several drops of essential oils

Grate the Fels-Naptha soap bar, then put the grated soap into a blender or food processor and blend or pulse until it’s a fine powder.  Combine with remaining ingredients in a large container.  A 3-5 gallon bucket works best.  Use only 1-2 tablespoons per load.

Note:  If stored in a semi-damp basement as ours is, you’ll want to break up the detergent occasionally.  One of the few drawbacks is that it wants to clump in a moist environment.

The Bottom Line:  We paid slightly over $30 for all ingredients, as I recall.  They could have been purchased for less, but I shopped from the comfort of my living room sofa, and didn’t have to step foot into a large chain retail store (big bonus).  We average about 4-5 loads of laundry per week, and a year later, we still have about 2-3 cups left.  I’m probably using closer to 2 tablespoons per load since I do large loads.  My cost is closer to .12 cents per load of laundry, but others have reported .05 and .06 cents per use.  It cleans well enough, but we are an English teacher and IT worker.  We do play in the dirt on the weekends, and clothes come out clean and fresh.  Our youngest children are of the teenage variety, so I can’t speak to the stain removal capabilities for things like strained spinach and carrots.  Occasionally, an oily spot will need an additional wash to come clean.

Although the resulting costs per load (due to my heavy handedness) were double what I’d originally read, I feel good about doing this for a number of reasons:

  1. The amount of packaging saved is significant.  I always preferred liquid detergents. Plastics, even when recycled, are often shipped to China for processing, which has an additional environmental impact.
  2. The laundry soap is phosphate free and biodegradable. Environmentally responsible companies have created phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents, but the cost of these can be prohibitive.  This homemade version is both earth and budget friendly.
  3. Even at 12-cents per load, the savings over commercial detergent is significant.  I imagine we’ve saved a minimum of $100 by making this ourselves.
  4. There is satisfaction in simplification – in doing things the way our grandparents may have.

We are due to make another batch soon, and I think this time, I may research various liquid recipes and try something new, just for comparison.  If you have a great liquid laundry soap recipe, please let me know!

 

 

Life Lessons

Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to learn the most simple of lessons.  If I could give these as a gift to my children, would I?  The lessons we are placed on this earth to learn are those that can really only be learned though hardship, conflict, and angst.

Today I reflect upon my life.  Somehow, I feel that in my 46 years, I have served my purpose and learned my lessons.  I’ve learned so much, and have come so far, and yet I hope there are many more lessons to learn.  When you stop learning, you stop growing.

For most of my life, I felt so out of touch, so painfully like a puzzle piece that people kept trying to shove into the wrong spot:  I looked like I fit, but I was a little different – not quite right.  Maybe life is about not fitting into the puzzle.  Maybe it’s about being the piece that drops on the floor, never fitting into that pre-defined space, and perhaps finding peace among the dust bunnies (and the occasional dead spider) in the Dyson.  I am at peace, and am thankful I’ve reached this place in my life.

The things I know/rules to live by:

  1. Be kind
  2. Work hard
  3. Live life like everything you do (and think) will eventually be known
  4. Learn to appreciate the beauty in the simplest of things
  5. Love without fear
  6. Listen to your intuition
  7. Be thankful every day
  8. Forgive, and understand everyone has their own journey

I’ve been absent for a while, learning more lessons, applying for re-written job descriptions within my organization.  Thankfully, after two months of upheaval and chaos in the workplace, I will continue to be employed.  Twenty percent (yes, that’s 20%) of my colleagues in IT Operations will cease to be employed.  I wish them luck, and thank them for participating in my journey.  Life will unfold as it should, and though our paths have diverged, we will all end up where we are supposed to be, learning what we should.