Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We're Still Here

My kid watches more TV than I like, less than he'd like, and I thank my lucky stars for offerings like Peg Plus Cat. This kid does dig numbers! He's tackling addition and things.

I do boot him out to care for chickens pretty regularly and things like that. We've recently taken up herding the chickens to places. It works best if I block them from going back to the pen and he moves them forward. It works least well if we don't divide the task and just dash around making the chickens all flighty. I figure he's learning patience and self-control -- and I am, too. There's also a certain amount of geometric thinking involved, and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if he does well in the physics of fields and magnetism after working with what's basically a negative-pole-to-negative-pole problem so many times. In short, you want the chickens between where you are and where you want them to go, but if that's not where they are, you have to move yourself to move them. We have invented a dandy brain game that also burns calories.

In the calorie department, I made a lentil stew yesterday, and the kid ate it! And wanted more for before-bed snack! This is exclamation-worthy, as he's been pretty off meat for a while and I'm delighted to find a complete protein source he'll eat.

1 leek
1 sturdy carrot
(Heat in a little oil at bottom of slow cooker before adding the rest)
1 1/2 c lentils
1 c kamut
1/2 c brown rice
black pepper, lemon peel (dried), sea salt, and mineral supplement to taste. Goes well with corn chips or popcorn.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Self-Publishing While the Kid Watches TV

I am now on Lulu with two different publications in two different formats.  If you like small, lightweight paperbacks, I have those, and if you prefer ebooks and the instant gratification on order, I have those, too.  Both stories take place in a world where magic exists, is inherited according to the normal genetic rules for recessives, and isn't altogether popular with the rest of humanity.  I've written some short stories set there, as well, such as "Merlin's Dolphin" at The Future Fire.  Free sample!  None of the characters overlap, but the premises that magic isn't altogether nice and isn't supposed to be used in combat carry over.

Meanwhile the kid is watching Disney Junior and snarfing a brunch.  We've finally moved him into the big-boy form of his convertible bed and he isn't sleeping well, so he's sleeping long instead.  However, I think he's about ready to go romp outside with the chickens and such instead.  We have a garden to hoe and a flowerbed to dig.  Best to get on it, I say.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fueling the Future

I’m watching a show on the end of oil, which is on CineMoi rather than the national news, and drinking coffee.  There is food for thought in there.  No oil?  No caffeine.  Ponder that for a bit; how much fuel does it take to get your coffee or tea into that cup?  How much does it take to synthesize caffeine?  There are probably sound agricultural reasons we don’t have a Colorado Coffee Company, but the USA runs on oil and caffeine.  Lose one, we lose both, and suddenly we are no longer a world power, but a sad lot of moping, headachy shut-ins.

Another sip, and then I shall go work on my garden a bit.  I’m trying to cut down our dependence on other people’s vegetables and melons, other people’s blackberries and eggs, but in the process I am using a gas-powered tiller, and must confess it’s saving an incredible amount of labor.  Otherwise the pit bulls would be hitched to a small plow, and even they are eating kibble that comes from a manufacturer in Texas.

They’re not happy that I’ve taken up composting.  The division of our garbage used to be recycling, bin, and dog treats.  Now it is recycling, bin, composting, and dog treats, and the compost pile reduces both from the bin side and the treat side.  They’re going to be even less happy when the chickens start eating more than chick starter; chickens make much better compostable material out of waste than dogs do, and guess what’s happening to more of the scraps?  If the poor canines could figure out how to lay eggs, they’d do it, I’m sure.  As it is, two of them are learning to pull and one is learning to herd chickens when it’s called for.  If they’re going to live here, they have to earn their kibble.

Though I must observe that the manuring they give the nut trees does seem to have a positive effect.

On the larger scale, I ponder man’s ability to invent his way out of all sorts of problems.  Whale oil getting hard to find?  Well, that boot-waterproofer works pretty well for a lot of the same things.  And look at that, the methane can be useful, too.  Running out of easy-access plankton from 100 million years ago?  Well, maybe our cooking oil can help out, too.  The question is, do we collect enough energy from the sun in growing the plant sources of the cooking oil to offset the energy burned in harvesting with the old cooking oil for fuel?  Or do we have to use the energy stored 100 million years ago to survive now?

I don’t have the tools to answer questions like that, but I’m finding that as I get older, I’m more interested in learning about these things.  I always was, but sometimes it seems more immediate.  Perhaps it’s the side effect of motherhood; now I’m investing in someone else’s future.  So, there’s a Victory Garden of sorts, to take us out of the demand side of the equation just a little.  I’m trying hard to develop the ability to say “No” to cheap plastic toys, or at least to buy used ones.  Someday, maybe, my son will let me pass on some used ones to other people, but right now he’s at the stage where he loves all his toys, no matter how outgrown they are.  A friend suggested gathering up a bunch and storing them, not for the purpose of getting rid of them someday, but for getting out on rainy dull days as a surprise.  Absence makes the heart fonder and all that.  I tried it, but he’s a scamp at finding stored toys, it turns out.  Judging by the clutter level, it’s time to try again.

He’s a grand little recycler, too.  We found basketballs by a river on one of Mommy’s more eco-oriented outings.  We filled two garbage bags and brought home three “new” toys, which he and the dogs have enjoyed.  I’m hoping none of them absorbed too much river yuckiness, and the basketballs are now falling apart sufficiently to hit the landfill after just a bit more use has been extracted from them.  The water-bomb toy gave one dog a great deal of pleasure and me a great deal of cleanup, but it did have one last hurrah before it, too, became landfill.  There’s not much else to be done with some of the products of our crazy culture.

On the other hand: seriously, why do we need mass-produced water bombs?  The kid and dog had a good time with it, sure, but they could also have a wonderful time with a magnolia cone.  Or a stick.  Or several other things that turn up in my yard for free and aren’t any harder to get out of the carpet once shredded, speaking of energy usage.

My mechanic, after observing my child on the loose in the waiting room for a few minutes, observed, “He’s easily amused.  That’s good.”  My remark at the time was, “He is,” with an eyeroll to indicate it wasn’t always good, but sometimes I think that’s what’s lacking in a lot of people’s children.  They can’t amuse themselves; they need something that took a hundred barrels of oil to produce.  My kid got half an hour’s entertainment out of someone else’s cast-off pistachio shell, and might have gotten more if his grandmother hadn’t gone and mistaken it for garbage.

With luck, this means he’ll be able to solve some of the problems that are absolutely positively guaranteed to come up in his lifetime.  There’s more water in the air (thus more snow and more flooding), and there will continue to be.  There’s more water in the oceans, being salty and polluted, and less in the glaciers, and there will continue to be.  There’s more need to find power that doesn’t involve burning anything, and there will continue to be.  I’m gently nudging him toward interests in practical things like agriculture, meteorology, and engineering.  He seems inclined that way anyway.  His father is nudging him toward more abstract things, like logic, and our son seems inclined that way anyway also; as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) observed, it’s much easier to teach logic to children than to adults.

Of course, this is also going to make him into either the weird kid or the cool kid, depending on how he plays it and who his classmates are.  I’m hoping for the latter but trying discreetly to teach him the skills he needs to survive the former.  Gregarious little fellow that he is—he picked up TWO girlfriends at a play area yesterday, sequentially, as he’s also energetic enough to play three sets of kids into the ground before getting at all tired—he may never need to deal with being the weird kid, but instead with being the role model.  I’m not sure which is harder.

Like every mom, I spend some time looking at my child wondering who he’s likely to be.  Right now it’s not fair to guess.  He’s interested in everything, energetic as all get-out, and gregarious, but he’s also three.  All of these things are perfectly normal.  It’s on me to channel the drives rather than squash them, and at least I have a little practice in that department.  Maybe everyone should have to train a working dog before having a kid.  I’ve also encountered the idea that before anyone can have a child, they should be required to train a chicken.  Now that I’ve tried to take twenty of five chicks from coop to box so I can clean, I think there’s something to that.  An obliging German shepherd can help mightily with both processes.  “You want the chicks to stay in the box?  Okay.  You lost the kid behind the hedge again and want me to find him?  Okay.  By the way, you know chickens smell bad, right?”  My dogs feel free to editorialize.  Since I feel free to expect them to contribute something to the household, fair is fair.

Still, it bothers me that although French parenting was the talk of the town a year ago, a French take on consumption of world resources seems to be meeting with a vast yawn.  The two do go hand in hand on more than mere Frenchness.  Why are we so determined to load our kids up with boxes that go bing, as Douglas Adams referred to them years ago, instead of teaching them the joys of stick plus dirt, as one of my more cosmopolitan friends advised me to do?  Is it really that much easier?  In the global, thermodynamic sense of energy, we’re now spending incredible amounts more of it to keep our kids amused than we did when we played with them, or when we handed them a shucks dolly to keep them out of our hair while we put our own energy into getting food.  It makes me wonder if we’ve all gone a little nuts.

Mind you, I say this as a mother who does use the Electronic Babysitter to keep the kid busy while I get the food or sweep the floor, but I’m seriously considering cutting the power—“Oopsie!”—and handing him the shucks dolly just to see what happens.  It may be that our house will start suffering more power outages in the next few months than it already does from outside forces.  If nothing else, hitting the circuit breaker now and again might cut our bills a bit.

Speaking of, time to stop thinking deep thoughts and go pay ‘em.  Ah, modern living.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Chickens

I am one of those peculiar women who always wanted to have a few chickens.  This desire came about when I was quite young, and my parents actually considered getting a few, then, through some decision process I was not a party to, didn’t.  Then there was a flurry of overly urban life, dormitories and apartments and whatnot, and then there was the constant mobility.  Now, I am in my early forties, and my son is in his mid-threes.  And he wanted chickens.  “Science project,” thought I.  “Nice creatures who convert yard pests and weed seeds, both of which we have in plenty, into eggs.”

We have five Buff Orpingtons, a week old, peeping away in his room now.  They’re rather charming little things, feathering up nicely, each with her own personality.  I say “her” with a slight reservation, as though they are supposed to all be hens, one has a decidedly stumpier, rounder tail and a slightly more arrogant personality, and also a much greater confidence in her (his?) wings.  I shall have to consult the feed store about him/her and see if an exchange might be possible.  We do still have neighbors, and also, I wish to try herding these chickens with my dog and do not need a creature with spurs in the equation.

Yes, you read that correctly.  As I research chickens, I am learning a great deal of the Buff Orpington, and have concluded that it is the Golden Retriever of the chicken world.  Inexperienced owner?  Get a Golden – er, Buff Orpington.  Parent wanting an agreeable chicken for the children?  Buff Orpington.  Petting zoo owner wanting to branch out?  Buff Orpingtons.  Crazy lady wanting to herd chickens with her herding dog without inducing mass poultry heart failure?  Er...  How about some nice Buff Orpingtons?

The dog has taken to them immediately, and wants to know why I have not simply dumped the crate of fuzzballs out in the yard so he can boss the birdies.  I feel that a week old is too young for bossing by a German Shepherd.  Instead, I put their box on the floor, or even hold it, and tell him “Away to me.”  He obligingly circles counterclockwise until I tell him “Stop,” and then circles the other way when I tell him “Come by.”  We’re getting our directions that much more solid with no particular trauma to the chicks.  Meanwhile, the big brown eyes plead, “Please, please, please put them on the floor.  Or the grass.  Or anywhere at all.  Let me move this livestock!  If I cannot have sheep, O let me work those fuzzy peeping things!”

Dustin has never realized he is not a Border Collie.  He’ll herd magnolia cones if nothing better presents itself, though he’s expressed grave doubts on the subject of ducks.  They move too easily to interest him, mostly, though the dog-indifferent Muscovies at the park excite him greatly with their utter rocklike stolidity.  He likes to push.  I’m still not sure exactly what a dog does when he pushes on stock, but sometimes I can feel it, too, and I’ve seen Dustin part crowds of people who aren’t even facing him.  Subsonics?  Some sort of pheromone?  Psychic powers?  No idea, but it’s fascinating to watch him lie at the starting post and push sheep back to the fence fifty feet away by choosing to do so.  Also, annoying.  One of the things I want from these chickens is to get “Push” hooked to a command, regardless of what it is that the dog is doing when he does it.  If they choose to flop rather than move, as experienced herders tell me they might, they will provide the perfect opportunity.

Still, at this point the chicks are at the science-project phase of their lives: show the small child what it is to grow from a baby, while he watches what that is in the plant world as well.  It is spring, the time for baby things to be growing up as though we’re watching time-lapse photography films instead of real life.  The tomato seedlings are striving out the window; the bell peppers are following.  When we turn up the garden soil, we find small earthworms who will soon become huge on the manure and scraps of the compost pile, though I hope the non-regional mango and banana peels do not give them tummyaches.  I’m trying to make a quiet lesson of our worm safaris and garden work, though the immediate advantage is not academic, but agricultural; nothing but nothing pulverizes clods of soil like a small boy on a quest to find every worm in the garden.

I measure the quality of our day by the amount of sediment left in the bathtub at the end of it.

Today, perhaps, we will finish turning and cultivating the end of the garden destined for cold-weather crops, the peas and spinach and Brussels sprouts, and plant them.  As they fade, that end will be planted in squashes, whose pests are said to be repelled if you leave a few straggling, woody radishes among them.  We shall see; we always miss a few radishes in the lot, so they may as well do some good.  The other end of the garden, which is being reclaimed after perhaps a decade of disuse (and this, too, is an adventure), is intended for the warmer-weather plants, the tomatoes and corn and peppers and peppers and peppers.  I hope some of the latter survive, as it appears that my pots now hold about ten bell pepper plants and a similar number of hot-pepper-mix results.  However, in past years of planters, the peppers have all blossomed like mad and failed to set fruit, looked spindly for a bit, and then died.  I’m hoping our garden soil serves them better.

I am also hoping that before I get planting on that section, the chicks can be put out there to scratch and peck for a few days.  I have a chicken-tractor setup worked out, and they could cover a block of some sixteen square feet or so for a day, get moved over, and keep me company while I dig up yesterday’s bit and they peck today’s.  I could toss them unearthed grubs and delight their little chicken hearts.  One thing at a time, though.  Today they need their chick crumbles and their newspaper, and they are telling me so.  Peep, peep!

Cross-Posted at my Goodreads blog

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mercy Me

Hard to believe, but the boy's turned three. I'm considering changing his online name from Mowgli, though it still has its apt points, to Yossarian. He falls in love like a Yossarian.

And he is three. He is three all over the place. His way is always best, and he's a contrary little cuss much of the time. This would be fascinating if it were not so annoying and exhausting. He's such a little PERSON, which is funny for a little fellow who is determined to be a baby elephant when he grows up. His toys pretend to be other toys; he pretends to be Peso the Medic from the Octonauts; he goes hiking with me and is determined to climb up and down "rocky cliffs" of fully half his height.

As far as his eating habits go, his fondness for ice cream and donuts is balanced halfway decently by his fondness for avocado, dried apricots, and broccoli, that last because he can pretend he is a giraffe while he eats it. He's still not crazy for most meats, but we can make up for that with dairy things and peanut butter. Luckily that last is not a brand recently recalled!

He's interested in planets, bugs, and anything with wheels. He's interested in robots. He's interested in how the world looks through his magnifying glass. He is not interested in toilet training. He mostly shares his toys and he flirts with little girls in pink. Mommy is tired, but generally delighted. When we're not fighting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Growing, talking, climbing

Imagine that, I'm the mother of a toddler and I haven't been blogging lately!

Mowgli occasionally makes a soft popping sound of displaced air and then doesn't fit into the legs of his trousers the same way. If I'm measuring right, he's back up to the 90th percentile after a bit of a lag. This despite the fact that he's still largely a fruitarian--we have reached the compromise position that pizza and noodles are also acceptable, and he'll go for yogurt or eggs now and again as well.

Or, as he would like to add at this point, "donut!" It's his best word. I try not to give in to this request too terribly often, but it's hard to deny a young beanpole the odd bit of junk food.

He has the habit of repeating a new word with a question mark, then solidly with an acceptance: "Ambulance," I say, and he echoes, "Am=lan? Ooooh, am-lan!" as though he should have known it all along but just couldn't recall. It's cute. It was particularly cute when we said we had to buy his new Percy toy, not just run out of the store with it, and he said, "Oh, buy!" and ran to the counter. Since there were already people at the counter (they were already grinning at this, too), we said, "No, we have to wait our turn." "Oh, tun!" he said, and grabbed his new toy off the counter to scoot back to his parents. We laughed. Total strangers laughed. And we told him he was doing very well. For his age he's really pretty patient. Of course, that makes it all the more astonishing when he actually acts two and isn't patient at all.

He also loves to go to the local bounce palace, Leapin' Lizards. He'll bounce for three hours solid, right through nap time, given the choice. He also likes to balance on the log in our yard, run races, chase the dogs and cat, and play the up-down game, the last of which is developing great little child abdominal muscles. Mama should be slimmer from chasing after him.

We're managing. He's Thomas-obsessed and Cars-fond, he's addicted to his bedtime books ("More! Read!"), and he's pretty good about washing his hands. In other words, for a twenty-seven month old boy, he's perfectly normal perhaps with a drift toward the well-behaved side. I remind myself of this when he drops food on the floor and then screeches at whistle-style pitches and volumes when a dog eats the droppage.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Watching the Kid Grow

Mowgli has experienced Star-Crossed First Love now. In the Wal-Mart yesterday, checking out balls and things with wheels, he found a Lightning McQueen and a Mater, just shy of shoe-box sized and rated for rather older children, and fell in love.

However, I'd been more in the frame of mind to spend maybe three bucks on a ball or a wheeled turtle, and furthermore it was time to go home for lunch and dog care. I insisted that he could have one minute, counted it down, and put away the Cars cars.

He was heartbroken, of course, and also hungry enough to really pitch a fit. Ah, first love, always the toughest. I told him I completely understood how he felt, but that it wasn't going to change anything. He pitched more fit. I did buy him a squeeze-pack of applesauce, which improved things somewhat. I did wash an apricot for him (he'd already given it a nip in the produce area) once it was paid for, and that too went a long way toward cheering him up.

I'm not sure how long a child's memory lasts at this age, but suspect we will find out very soon. I missed a couple of necessities at the store, and we'll have to go back.