Category: This New Hampshire Life

Making Strides

Fish & I with Pink Ribbon Tatoos on our facesLast week, we participated in the American Cancer Society’s local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. The dojo where the kids and I workout organized a team. The kids would each get a blue star signaling community service for their efforts. There were several options for participating but A-man and I decided that walking as a family made the most sense. My mother and his mother have both battled breast cancer and won. Not everyone is so lucky.

A walker for Lula's Peeps TeamThis past June, the mother of one of Mim’s classmates lost a valiant battle with breast cancer. She left behind, a devoted husband, a 10 year old and an 8 year old. She also left behind an army of people committed to raising awareness and money for breast cancer research. Lula’s Peeps was the largest team walking with 110 walkers and they raised almost $22,000. Lula would have been proud. She was an amazing woman who never met a stranger. The world is most definitely a lesser place without her, but there is hope that she did not die in vain.

The the kick off banner, A sea of pink shirts, The thank you banner at the end of the walk.

Our walk had more than 6,000 people and it was announced yesterday that New Hampshire is the largest fundraiser per capita for the Making Strides Program. Before the walk, Fish and I took a walk around and noted the local businesses who sponsored teams. I also made note of some of the more humorous team names.

More than a Handful

Fighting to Save Second Base

Hakuna Ma Ta Ta’s

Save our Weapons of Mass Distraction

Thanks for the Mammories

Walkers for Healthy Knockers

Mim in his rain gear ready to walk.A First

I’ve contributed to Making Strides before, but never walked it. It was incredibly well run and despite the slightly soggy weather, I enjoyed it. The kids held up well too. As we walked, we talked at different times about the importance of what we were doing. Who it would impact and how. We talked about being tired but not stopping because Lula was tired and she never stopped, she couldn’t. We talked about euphemisms, who says them and why and what they mean. We talked about the importance to maintaining good health.

According to my fitness tracking app, we walked almost 6 miles and burned 566 calories. Ours was but a very small contribution, but together we can all make a difference.

 

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Eggstatic

Our efforts have begun to pay off!

Can we have (DRUM ROLL PLEASE) TA DAH!!!

A small egg all by itself in an egg carton

IT’S AN EGG!!!

On the left is an egg from a mature chicken. On the right our little egg.

It’s a little small compared to an egg laid by a mature chicken, but we’ll take it. Of course the girls need to get busy!

Pile of empty egg cartons waiting to be filled.

Mamma’s got LOTS of egg cartons to fill.

Funky Chickens and Other Fair Phenomena

Pictures of Fancy breeds of chickens. Sometimes it is hard to tell which end is which.

Fancy chickens in the poultry barn. Sometimes, sometimes it was hard to tell which end was which, if you know what I’m sayin’.

 

Required eating. pierogies & kelbasi, funnel cakes and chili in a bread bowl

Required eating at the fair, pierogies and kielbasi for me, and chili in a bread bowl for A-man.

A ride that spins like a pendulum in a complete circle.  My crazy kid road this thing.

My crazy kid road this thing!!! What’s worse is that I let her!!

My kids in front of a monster Jeep

I take this picture every year, and the jeep keeps getting smaller. How does that happen?

Maximum Opportunity for Advancement.

MOA Maximum Opportunity for Advancement Summer 2012 Red writing on a gray t-shirt.

Back in the days when we were DINKS (double income, no kids). I STRUGGLED to fit exercise into my daily routine. It was much easier to take off on a Sunday and ride into Boston to the Museum of Science (and back) on a 25 mile bike ride.

These days, I’ve still got the husband, but have added two kids and their activity schedules, and a fledgling writing career. Now? Now I REALLY don’t have time to exercise. I’ve made some attempts along the way, but have not been consistent. I don’t mind exercise and I truly do feel better when I’m exercising regularly, but it honestly has to be in my way to happen. If I have to make room for it, no way, no how it’s gonna happen. Sad, but true.

Last spring, Fish was promoted in karate, so our time at the dojo went from 45 minutes twice a week to 90 minutes, twice, sometimes three times a week. As I waited for her class to finish, I watched the BagFit class going on in the second dojo. BagFit is part cardio and part boxing, and from what I saw it also included a lot of sweat and laughs. The class was made up of women around my age, many of them karate moms. They finally razzed me enough about being a lurker that I decided to give it a try. I have zero upper body strength and am prone to tendonitis in my shoulders (I’d just come off 3 months of PT for my left shoulder when, with permission, I started BagFit). No problem. The instructor (one of the co-owners of the dojo), modified the workouts so I didn’t strain anything. After my two demo classes, I was hooked.

I tell people, I hate it when I start but by the time I’m done, I love it. I sweat like crazy, I get my heart rate up and I truly have a lot of fun. There is a lot of camaraderie in the class and we cheer each other on. I love that I can burn some calories rather than warming a seat. Like other martial arts programs, there is a belt system to keep you challenged and motivated. I started as a white belt and worked my way to a yellow belt by the end of the summer. I’m now working towards my orange belt.

My kids are into karate but with summer comes camps and vacations and other schedule busters. To keep attendance up over the summer, The dojo ran a program called MOA, Maximum Opportunity for Advancement, for all their classes. Any student that attended 18 classes June 25th and August 25th earned the opportunity to test early for their next belt promotion and they got a special t-shirt. My kids were into MOA. I was regularly quizzed about how many classes they had in the MOA count and if we missed a karate class on a given week they wanted to know when they were going to make it up.

When we were getting close to the August 25th cut off, the kids had more than enough classes, but it was unclear if I would make the 18 classes. Since, I’m a newly minted yellow belt, I wasn’t interested in testing, I just wanted the shirt! A miracle came through and I did indeed get the t-shirt. The belt tells my peers in the class I’m progressing, but the t-shirt? The t-shirt tells the world hey! I kicked some butt and took some names this summer, what did you do?

 

Killer Instinct

Don’t let the innocent faces confuse you. These are the faces of killers.

On the left, Dory a 2 year old collie.  On the left, Mork, an almost 8 year old Collie

Three chickens in three days!

When we came home Friday evening, we closed the chickens in and tried to do a headcount, but as they are literally a moving target, I didn’t worry too much for absolute accuracy. I was aiming to be sure I hadn’t locked half the flock outside.

It was as I was backing out of the driveway headed to my house that I saw the brown lump out of the corner of my eye. Yup, a dead chicken in the middle of my Mother-in-law’s front yard. I sent the kids home and instructed them to call both dogs in. I’ll admit it, my city kid roots showed through as stood there wondering “what the hell am I supposed to do with a chicken carcass?” I called some of my experts but no one was available, so I just left it knowing A-man would be home soon.

As for what killed it, the dogs were barking their heads off when I pulled in (something I’ve become remarkably adept at blocking out). So my theory at the time was they had scared a predator off, but it was too late for the chicken. Heh, innocence is bliss ain’t it?

Saturday, I was at a karate tournament and A-man was in the barn working on a chicken door for the pen. A chicken door in the pen would allow us to leave scraps for the chickens without the fear that the dogs would nosh and make themselves ill.

Sunday we were all set to tackle some nagging chores. When we heard the dogs screeching and growling outside the back door. As I rounded the corner on the deck, I saw the telltale black and white feathers. As I texted to the other co-owners “We forcibly expressed our displeasure with their behavior.” Then we put them inside and A-man went in search of electrified poultry fencing.

!%$#@!!! Dogs!!! I can hear the critics nodding their heads saying “Ay yut, coulda told ‘ja that’d happen”. I know it is instinct, but they are herding dogs. Can’t they just herd the chickens? Everybody gets a little exercise, no one gets hurt right? Yeah not so much.

We spend the afternoon installing the chicken fence. Chicken fence that is meant to be installed on flat land when we live on anything but flat land. We finally got it all set up and let the birds out to “play”. They seemed to figure out pretty quickly, not to touch it. I went home to let the dogs out and in search of caffeine. A few minutes later, I heard A-man yelling. A-man doesn’t yell. He is not easily ruffled. As I bolted down the trail between the two houses, Mork, the older of the two dogs, met me half way. I grabbed his collar and dragged him back. Seems he plowed right through the fence and snagged another chicken without even batting an eye. I guess our previous expression of our displeasure didn’t settle in. Like I said !%$#@!!! Dogs!!!

For the short term, we’re on a rotating schedule. If the chickens are out, the dogs are in and vice versa.

!%$#@!!! Dogs!!!

For those who are counting, between this incident and the three we lost last weekend, we’re down to 20 birds.

. . . and Then There Were Two

A Rhode Island Red, a New Hampshire Red, (Back row), a Leg Horn and a Barred Rock foraging. Image Copyright Lee Laughlin, 2012

Our flock is a mixed flock. I’d love to tell you that the breeds were picked for their superior laying ability, but the truth is it came down to appearance, availability and egg color. Yes you read that right, egg color. You’re probably most familiar with the quintessential white egg. Here in New England we have brown eggs (sing with me now, brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh). Some of the fancy breeds lay beautiful pastel color eggs, but A-Man and eggs have not always had the best relationship. In college he experienced salmonella poisoning and a reaction so severe it required an ambulance ride and hospitalization. It’s only been relatively recently that he started eating eggs again.

Despite the fact that the perpetrator of his illness was a western omelet, something about the fancy eggs brings back bad memories. So our girls will only lay white and brown eggs. The majority of our flock are reds 6 New Hampshire and 6 Rhode Island. Our next largest population are the barred rocks then we have 3 Leg Horns and 3 sex-linkeds. well, we had 3 sex-linkeds.

A Barred Rock in the brush Image Copyright Lee Laughlin 2012

Last week the circle of life continued. One of our flock became another creature’s lunch. One of the other Mother Hens (the human kind) was nearby at the time, but the exact details of the demise are unclear. The girls were out and about foraging for bugs and at one point there was a big kerfuffle that involved the dogs throwing a ginormous hissy fit, a flurry of feathers and lots of squawking. Things settled down pretty quickly, so no one thought much of it at the time. When we did our nightly headcount we discovered that one of the sex-linkeds was gone. A search was conducted but every other hen was in the pen and the saying “birds of a feather stick together” is true. Not to mention, that no bird EVER misses out on a bowl of dinner scraps. Holding out just a smidgen of hope, we waited 24 hours before before we broke the news to our respective flocks, but she didn’t return.

The birds exiting the pen in the morning. The Sex Linkeds are the two on the far left with golden brown feathers on their breast and black feathers on their backs. Image Copyright Lee Laughlin 2012

So now we’re down to 23 birds. I suspect this will not be the last time this happens, nature of the beast as they say. The birds go off in the woods to forage. The collies have decided that the birds occasionally need to be herded. If the hens move too far away from home base, Mork, the older one will circle them back in with calm and patience. Dory, the younger one demonstrates no finesse whatsoever and just runs at them barking until they move back to where she thinks they should be. However, the dogs are limited by an electric fence. If a chicken strolls beyond the fence they will lose their protection detail. “Oohhh I’ll take a jolt in the neck to chase a chicken”, said no dog ever.

 

Sending Summer Off with a Giggle or 8

This past weekend, we sent summer on it’s way. “MOM! Summer’s not over until September 21st.” Mim emphatically reminded me. Summer may not be over in the meteorological sense, but after Labor day our lives are once again filled with homework, karate and Scouts. So, we try to live it up in a summery (read relaxing) way for Labor Day weekend.

We managed to pull off an impromptu get together with friends. There are four of them and four of us and there is always laughter when we are together, so by riffing on parts of both last names, I have dubbed us 8 Giggles. With four careers, four kids and the associated scheduling, our face to face get togethers are few and far between and always planned well in advance. This time, the odds were ever in our favor as we pulled off a get together at the lake with just 4 days notice! By 6pm on Friday my house was filled the laughter of friends who had some catching up to do. We ate and then divided by gender for the ride North. As we rode, there were stories and giggles from the back seat and my friend commented on how cousin like the three girls are. It’s true and ’tis a good thing indeed.

Saturday was my idea of a perfect day. We all slept in, then noshed on rarely consumed Pop-Tarts and assorted forms of caffeine. We packed up lunch and took to the water, anchoring the boat on the sand bar with about 100 of our “close” friends. We turned up the tunes and broke out the frisbee.

Kids playing on the lake.All images Copyright, 2012 Julia Lafererra

Eventually we made our we back to the camp for a delicious dinner of steak tips, large print chicken tips (a.k.a marinated chicken breasts), salad and fresh corn on the cob. There were s’mores for dessert and a relaxing end to the evening with glow sticks and roaring fire. It was just one of those days that rejuvenates you body and soul.

Me Relaxing on the boat, swinging along to the music, A-Man behind the wheel

All images Copyright, 2012 Julia Laferrera

I’m so grateful we have a place to get away to and wonderful family and friends to enjoy it with.

Learning As I Go

A-Man gifted me with a fantastic DSLR camera the Christmas before last. I’ve taken some great photos with it, but most of those have been luck combined with the camera’s automatic settings. I decided it was time to learn how to get the shots I wanted rather than snapping 100 pictures in search of the one good one.

Understanding Exposure on my iPad resting upon my binder of notesI’m reading Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I like the book at times it’s very beginner and at other times, I feel like I walked in the middle of a topic. However, I suspect that is my non-numeric brain more than Peterson. I can’t remember a time since I finished college where I actually took notes while reading a book. The relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO is taking a while to sink into my head, but I’m really enjoying the process. there is nothing quite like the thrill of snapping a shot and realizing it came out exactly as you intended.

 

A sand pail with walking down a beach in the background

 

Peaceful Coexistence

The chickens have grown and the time has come to give them some freedom. You know, let them fly the coop so to speak. It’s time to let them free range and get their fill of bugs and the oh so delectable weeds we raise here in Skeeterville. It’s better for their health and heaven knows it is better for our wallets. Free ranging also makes for happy chickens, they are less restless in the coop.

It was always in the plan to let them free range as much as possible. The challenge was going to be integrating the fowl with the canines. We have collies, who are herders by nature, but still, there was some uncertainty about how things would play out.

We started by letting the chickens out while keeping the dogs in. This was fine in the hazy hot and humid days of summer. The dogs would much prefer to be inside in the shade. However, the ultimate goal was peaceful co-existence.

Today, it appears our efforts paid off.

One collie laying down with a chicken wandering beside him the other watching a group of birds off camera.