Is it a boy or a girl?

Trying to figure out which of our seven chickies are boys is driving me batty. ‘I think it’s a girl, no I think it’s a boy…’ has been my thought pattern every time I look at them!

I KNOW that we have one rooster from the outside four – I thought he might be from two weeks old. When he started crowing at eight weeks, I knew for sure. At twelve weeks he’s doing the little dance for my older girls when they come close enough! He’s the little mixed breed fellow.

I’m almost positive that the outside Araucana is a boy, some of his tail feathers are long and curved, his face is much redder than the other Araucana and he’s definitely way more boistrous.

Of the two Light Sussex from the outside brood I’m almost positive that one is a boy (longer tail, some curvy feathers, bigger wattles, darker red) and the other a girl (short tail, no curvy feathers, smaller wattle and not as red). I only want one Light Sussex rooster, so if the girl turns into a boy we’ll eat him; if she stays a she, she gets to stay.

And at this stage the hand raised trio are all looking to be girls – I’d like it very much if they were!

Chickies 7½ Weeks On…

I’m happy to say that all seven chickies are alive and well! They’ve gone from this –
Hand raised chickies

to this –

Puffball at 7 weeks old

Puffball at 7 weeks old


Fluffball at seven weeks old

Fluffball at seven weeks old

I couldn’t get a nice photo of the three of them together, and believe me, I tried!

It’s amazing how quickly they grow. At seven and a half weeks old these guys are pretty much all feathered up and look like miniature versions of the adults, and in less than a year they’ll be producing eggs! I’m glad my kids don’t grow so fast!!

What have I learnt from this incubating and hand-raising experience? It’s fun, but it’s so much easier if the hen does it! I have discovered that I truly prefer the natural way – it takes longer, but there’s less mess and less fuss. So even though fertilised eggs were available at the Euroa Poultry Auction, I didn’t have a broody hen, and resisted the temptation. I have to say though, I was severely tempted the ducks, especially a lovely blue muscovy girl. We’re not ready for ducks so I resisted. However I did buy Kathy a lovely Araucana rooster who was heading for chop.

I’ve also noticed that the two pure bred, hand-raised chickies are much slower on the uptake when it comes to eating bugs. Skid, the farm chickie of the trio, snaps up earwigs and cockroaches with undisguised relish, while the other two regard them with a somewhat puzzled expression on their cute little faces. Yet the ones outside, pure breds and mixed, with Arabella Topknot have no such problems as they eagerly search for bugs and run about my feet like excited puppies.

At five weeks old the hand-raised trio went from the lounge room to the laundry – they kept escaping from the brooder! On one particular day I came home to find them all sitting in front of the fire! Very cute and all, except for the minefield I had to negotiate to get in the front door! Thank goodness we don’t have carpet so it was easily cleaned!!

Keeping Warm!

Keeping Warm!

We have decided that whatever their sex, the hand-raised trio are our pets and are going to become the first members of our home flock. Personally I’m hoping they’ll all be girls, and if we have to have a rooster, I’m hoping that Puffball (Light Sussex), Kael and I both like the idea of crossing him with our Araucanas to see if we can get a meatier blue egg layers. Won’t know for a while yet, I’m guessing though… However, the four chickies with Arabella Topknot are not our pets, so the roosters are in for a short, but happy life. I’m hoping for one Araucana and one Light Sussex rooster from this lot, but if I don’t get an Araucana roo I know where I can get one! The home flock will be used to work the garden beds I’m establishing close to the house – the chickies have already shown me multiple times just how eager they are to help with the gardening. When I’m pulling weeds, they’re there; when I’m digging holes, they’re there; when I’m spreading mulch, they’re there. You get the idea.

At almost eight weeks the chickies are doing well, but I know we’ve still got a ways to go before I’ll be reasonably confident of their survival – most of the first lot of chickies made it to six weeks, it was after that they started dropping like flies.

A Very Aspie Christmas

Christmas in this Aspie household is something I both love and dread. At one end of the scales the youngest boy is overjoyed and desperate for the decorations to go up and Christmas to come. While the eldest boy doesn’t want anything to do with it until Christmas Eve – he can’t handle the anticipation, and with his birthday only a few days later it’s just way too stressful.

Me, I really enjoy decorating the house for Christmas and even having people over, although I’m always relieved when they leave. Not so big on the travelling to go to other people’s places but that’s because three Aspie boys in the back seat together is always a recipe for disaster. Sometimes we haven’t even got out of the driveway before it starts, so a two and a half hour drive is something I don’t like to do with the whole family. One day, when we have some more money (I can dream can’t I?) we’d like to buy something like a Kia Carnival – we hired one for a weekend away once and didn’t want to give it back!

Last year we decided to have Christmas Day as just our family, so caught up with the other families before Christmas. Spreading it out worked really well for our family, so we decided to do it again. It’s more work and goes for longer (14th Dec – 4th Jan including 13th birthday), but it made the Christmas period far less stressful.

My parents and an Aunt did the 3½ hour trek to our place. Sibs don’t come coz my sister is a retail manager and it’s crazy just before Christmas. Whhile my little bro, doesn’t really have a lot of the Christmas spirit…but that’s okay, it makes for a peaceful Christmas. No arguements I don’t do the traditional roast and plum pudding it’s too hot and not my thing. Still working out what my thing is, but it ain’t that! We had crisps & my homemade dips, cheese & crackers, cold meats, salads, mum’s eggnogg with organic free range eggs from our chooks, a fruit platter and my Grandma’s Fluffy Stuff for dessert. I think it’s proper name is flummery, but as kids we always called it ‘fluffy stuff’ and fluffy stuff forever it will be..

Two days before Christmas we did the 2½ hour drive to my SIL’s place – it was going to be in a park about an hour and a half away, but Aspie kids couldn’t handle the idea of Christmas anywhere but in a house and with the sensory issues we quickly came to realise that it would be a complete disaster. Flies, heat, bright, wind, uncomfortable seats…boys were melting down just at the thought of it. So we changed it, which turned out to be a good thing weather wise as it was cold and rainy! It was an interesting drive, boys tried really hard to hold it together but by halfway it was all falling apart. On the way home Tim sat in the back while the eldest sat in the front and that worked better, especially with the youngest falling asleep.

In hindsight we realised that the 23rd was too close to Christmas, especially as the next day was Christmas Eve and we had things planned for that. Next Chrissy we’ll arrange better dates.

On Christmas Eve the boys opened their presents to each other. Buying them was drama in itself – I took each boy out seperately and with my help they selected prezzies for other members of the family. The younger two did all right at this with only a few small meltdowns, but the eldest melted down at the very thought of it. It was a combination of things – lots of people, noise and the stress of having to choose something for someone and they may not like it! So in the end I shopped on his behalf.

After the unwrapping of gifts we went into town and had pizza in the park from our favourite pizza shop and then drove around town to check out the Christmas lights. It was disappointing, not many people bothered. Oh well, we’ll just have to get our act together and set up our own amazing decorations next Christmas 🙂

Christmas Day dawned and the boys slept in til 8am – nice. We opened pressies together and then everyone went off to their own space and did their own thing. We nibbled throughout the day and did the same thing on Boxing Day and the next. Obviously we all needed time to recover. And then the birthday preparations began!

 

Mr. White – a very short post :-)

At the Doctors the other day with Xavier. I was paying the bill and Xav was standing next to me looking at all the people. Mr. White was called in while we were there, an elderly gentleman with white hair. As he walked past Xavier said, very seriously, ‘I can see why you’re called Mr. White.’

Needless to say, he cracked everybody up 🙂

Good job he wasn’t called Mr. Black or Xav would have been very confused.

Kael’s Minecraft Party

Kael’s 10th birthday was one month after we moved into our wonderful new home and there was no way we were going to be ready to have his minecraft party on his birthday. So almost two months later, we finally had it 🙂 And now, after finally figuring out photos and stuff, I’ve got the blog post up – only 2 months after the party!

A month before the party we looked at lots of different Minecraft birthday invitations on the internet. Kael’s invitation turned out to be a combination of two different invitations we found that he liked.

Kael’s invitation – a combination of two that we’d found on the web. Tim made it look good

Two weeks before the party we began preparing. Should have started months ago 🙂 We were going to make a Creeper and a Pig from leftover moving boxes and do a Steve cut out to have standing at the front gate. Like I said, should have started months ago!

Tim made the Creeper – it took several hours over several days! It was a lot of work!! It’s not quite full size, but not far off it. IRL a Creeper is about 2 metres tall, making it taller than Tim! Our Creeper ended up being shorter than me but taller than the kids 🙂 It didn’t take Tim all that long to build the Creeper out of boxes, but then we covered it in sheets of butchers paper (also leftover from moving) and when that was dry he ruled a grid all over it so we had lots of squares to paint in various shades of green. That’s what took the longest.

Modelling the side view

We decided that making a Pig or a Steve was just not going to happen. A pity, but we so didn’t have enough time. Now that the party’s over we have our very own pet Creeper standing in the corner of the lounge, in front of the tv that’s slowly dying and we no longer use. He takes up a considerable amount of space, so it’s a good thing that we only made one Minecraft creature!

Tim also customised our Creeper slightly by making it possible for the head to rotate (it fell off in the painting stage), now all it needs is to be remote controlled so we can make the head turn by itself 🙂 Kael wants it to be a motion sensor so the Creeper can rotate its head when we move, like it’s really alive, and kinda creepy! Of course, around this place I think the Creeper’s head would soon fall off again as it would be continually turning while watching boys run around the louge room! I said that to Kael who then promptly told me, ‘We’d have a switch on it Mum! We could just turn it off!’

Kael actually posing for the camera

In the week before we made two different versions of gluten free Brownies, testing which ones made the best dirt blocks. Both types worked, so we iced them with green icing and green desiccated coconut for grass and white icing for snow, giving us blocks that were reminiscent of the dirt blocks you find everywhere in Minecraft.

We also made blue jelly for the water and green jelly cut into cubes for the slimes. On the day, the jelly was pretty much inhaled by the boys – it was the first thing to disappear from the table. Chocolate crackles became lumps of coal, the kind of coal Bry said he’d be happy to find in his Christmas stocking 🙂 Packets of whizz fizz became gunpowder, while a variety of square lollies became TNT. And Aunty Sharon’s muffins became Minecraft cookies.

A glimpse of what the table looked like

Then there were the different fizzy drinks that we poured into interesting bottles transforming them into witch potions. Green fizzy became creeper juice – we took off the labels and added our own creeper faces. Lime fizzy will be forever known in our house as Creeper Juice!

Minecraft Potions of Strength, Healing, Harming, Fire Resistance…

And of course, let’s not forget the cake! I wanted a Creeper cake, but it was Kael’s birthday, so he got to choose 🙂 He chose a cake that was like a section of the Minecraft world. It had grass blocks, dirt blocks, sand blocks and water blocks. We also made small Minecraft models from papercraft printouts, a creeper, a pig and one of the skin Kael uses in Minecraft. It looked great. The only thing I’d do differently is a different cake for the dirt and grass blocks. Ours was too crumbly and that made it really difficult to assemble. Perhaps that was also because it was gluten free.

A Minecraft Cake of dirt & grass blocks, sand and water blocks

Green, black and white streamers were used to decorate the house and we also had a minecraft birthday banner.The loot boxes were green noodle boxes I found at Aldi and Tim used black electrical tape to make their faces. We did the same thing to green balloons and stuck them up with double sided tape around the house. We also used white balloons for ghasts. Ghasts have very simple faces so I drew them on with black texta and we attached white streamers to the bottom of the balloon for legs and stuck them to the ceiling so they looked like they were flying. Nearly three months on and the ghast in the photo is still attached to the ceiling and looking good!

Our ghasts were friendly and didn’t spit fireballs at the party guests

Originally we were going to use helium, but have recently discovered that the world’s supply of helium is getting low. Turns out helium is not an infinite resource and is needed for specialised medical equipment far more than it’s needed in balloons. We did our bit and didn’t have floating balloons! This Creeper balloon is still up too, but looking a little more worse for wear, slowly shrivelling.

Creeper Balloon Face

We also created a couple of games to play based on the Minecraft theme. The first was just a variaton on ‘Duck, Duck, Goose!’ Which we called ‘Hiss, Hiss, Boom!’ What a Creeper does if it sneaks up behind you. We also created a game based on a card game called Pit. It’s a stock trading game. We had the Villager Trading Game. Tim even created little cards for it.

Our customised Minecraft Villager Trading Game

But what made our Minecraft party really work was our Minecraft server that ran a Minecraft world. With some extra computers we hooked all the boys up and they got to Minecraft to their hearts content – which they did. I found it funny that I, the Minecraft Noob of the family, was guiding others who were even less proficient than me, showing them how to make crafting tables and different tools and helping them survive their first night!

Minecrafting Together

The boys all had great fun, and although in the photo it looks as though they are all in their own little world and being terribly unsocial, that was most definitely not the case! As they were all on the same world there was lots of interaction where they were trying to locate each other, asking questions, looking at each others’ screens. Aside from coming out and eating cake they also got off the computers to play nerf gun wars and pop balloons while bouncing on the trampoline.

More Minecrafting Together

The next day Tim’s family came up and we did it all over again. Although this time we needed to give guided tours as most of Tim’s family hadn’t seen our new place yet. This time it was for lunch so I had to actually provide some ‘real’ food! Especially as there weren’t that many leftovers from the day before:-)

Thatsss a very nice cake you have there… Not much cake left, looks like the Creeper exploded

We tried to stick with the minecraft theme here too so had what was going to be barbequed chicken and baked potatoes, both of which can be found in Minecraft. Sadly I couldn’t get the bbq to light, so ended up roasting the chooks in the oven. (I’d bought a couple of free range chooks from the Hook & Spoon Butcher, its tag line is ‘from paddock to plate’. No intensively farmed animals there! More on that in another post). More Minecraft was played and the day ended far too quickly as far as the boys were concerned.

Creeper & Kael Again

More Minecrafting

Permaculture Consult – part 1: What’s Important To Us & What Do We Want To Achieve?

On Wednesday Beck & Mark from Cydonia Permaculture came up and did a Permaculture Consult. This means we walked all over the property together checking out the soil, the plants, animals, structures, the lie of the land and other features. They asked lots of questions, particularly about what we wanted to achieve and what was important to us.

Then we brainstormed all the different ideas that could work in our particular situation based on what we want to achieve and permaculture design principles. Beck drew some pictures. We scribbled on the plan. Went back outside and rechecked a few different things. Came back and wrote them all down.

After three and a half hours we have a list that is seven pages long (and still growing) of all the things we could do! Next step is to prioritise and work out what is the most important things are. There will be a flurry of information exchange in the next few weeks via email and lots more questions asked.

So what is important to us and what do we wanted to achieve? The list we came up with is as follows, not in order of importance:

  • Living as sustainably as possible with as little intensive work as possible, as I’m the full time carer for 3 special needs boys and part time to my chronically ill husband, so time is something I have little of
  • Growing as much of our own food as possible, especially fruit, veggies, eggs and chooks. Possibly a house-cow or a goat, bees and ducks. Maybe even grain crops. Growing stock fodder thus reducing the amount we’ll have to buy in
  • Maximising the amazing south facing views from the house
  • Not mowing or whipper-snipping to keep the grass down every few weeks. Our property is set out much like one of those English Manors or Parklands with trees dotted around the place and lots and lots of lawn
  • Improving the soil. Making it less boggy in places. Using the natural bogginess in some way (it’s so wet and muddy here I’m sure we could establish our own wetlands! You sink into the soil almost everywhere in the backyard or step into large puddles of water pooling all over the place). Need good drainage where we don’t want it boggy
  • Retreat spaces throughout the garden to sit and enjoy. Play equipment for the boys integrated within the garden spaces, not standing out like a sore thumb, using existing structures or making new ones that are also part of something else

 

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Keeper

I was making a dip to have with our chips so we could nibble while watching a movie. I love eating chips and dip while enjoying a movie. For me, the movie watching experience is never complete without a bowl of chips and a homemade dip.

Anyway, Brydon said, ‘Feed the dip to the chips, and the chips to us’ while I was preparing the dip. I thought it was quite a novel way of putting it. So I’ve recorded it for posterity because if I don’t write these kinds of things down, I forget them 🙂

Keepers

Over the last couple of days, out of Xavier’s mouth have come two ‘quotable quotes’, what Tim and I have called ‘Keepers’.

The first ‘keeper’ came about when Xav was talking about a pc game he didn’t yet have. He said, on August 3rd, ‘My most favourite game that I haven’t got yet!’

Love it. 🙂

Then last night, while I was suffering a massive headache, he asked me what it felt like. I described it to him, not very well. Pounding headaches and loquaciousness just don’t go together.

His response was this, ‘Does it feel like someone stamping on your head wearing diamond boots?’

That was a so much better description of how my head was feeling.

Fortunately by the time this morning rolled around, the ogre (coz the ‘someone stamping on my head’ wouldn’t be a very nice person) stamping on my head with diamond boots got bored and left. But I’m going to keep Xav’s description for the next time my head is pounding. 🙂

A Mysterious Wind

Standing outside hanging the washing on the line in the evening (because I was out all day and this was the first opportunity I’d had) when from out of nowhere, I heard a sudden rushing wind.

I looked around expecting to see trees bending and swaying beneath what would be a massive onslaught, yet all around me remained still and calm. Well, except for the raucus calling of the sulphur crested cockatoos seeking a place to nest for the night.

They flew directly above me, something I always find a bit nerve wracking. Fortunately no parcels were dropped. It was then realisation dawned. The flock, a good hundred strong, was the cause of the rushing wind I’d heard. The beating of over a hundred pairs of wings sounded like the wind rushing through trees. Impressive.

But funny too. There were three stragglers desperately trying to catch up to the main flock. The wing beats of three cockies was not impressive at all. About five minutes later the same thing happened. This time I knew to look to the sky to watch the cockatoos fly by.

Lemon Butter

‘Gourmet Farmer’ for the win, yet again 🙂 We watched the final ep of season 3 and when it was over Brydon said, ‘I want to do some cooking.’ I’d been planning to make Lemon Butter for about a week, so I said we could make it tomorrow. I thought it was too late to  a start cooking then. But his ASD insomnia kicked in and it was 1am before he (and I) were able to go to sleep. I reckon we could have made it in that time! Needless to say we were a bit zombified the next morning.

At the moment we have two trees heavily laden with lemons – they’re not huge lemons yet, but there’s lots of them – and we have a third tree that’s beginning to fruit. I think it’s time to start using them a little more vigorously, not just picking the occassional one to squeeze into the guacamole or over the fish. Also on the list of lemony things to make is Grandma Phyl’s lemon cordial, cheesecake, perhaps even marmalade and I’ve seen a recipe for preserving lemons. But first, I want to make Lemon Butter.

So that is what we did. I made sure it was pretty easy for his first attempt at cooking since moving to the new house, so had already sterilised the jars and gathered all the ingrediants and utensils. We were using the Thermomix whch also made it easier – no cooking over a hot stove, something he is actually quite terrified of (one of his sensory issues is being incredibly sensitive to pain, which makes him fearful of burning himself).

He read the recipe, squeezed the lemon (after learning about sticking it in the microwave for a few seconds to make it jucier), cracked the two eggs using our fantastic egg cracking gadget (Tim bought because he’s sick of dropping eggshells into the cooking and the boys love using it), helped me weigh the butter and put the sugar in the Thermomix, pressed all the buttons and in 3 seconds we had caster sugar! I did all the bits that required using a sharp knife 🙂

He added all the ingrediants to the Thermomix. Pressed all the buttons again and eight minutes later we had delicious Lemon Butter. This recipe didn’t make a lot, but that was fine, we needed to try it out first. Needless to say, by the time it was chilled and ready to eat it was already half gone!

We have a friend with a house cow, so we’re going to ask her if she could spare some butter – maybe we could even go round and make some! That would be fun 🙂 So that the next time we make Lemon Butter (which will be soon, we’re going to make it for Xmas in July gifts) we’ll be making it with our chemical free, home grown lemons and fresh from the cow butter. When we get chooks, we’ll be able to use their free range, chemical free eggs too and then the only ingrediant not grown by us or someone we know, will be the sugar!

Brydon plans on doing more cooking using the Thermomix. Yay! He liked the fact that he could cook hot stuff with a much smaller chance of burning himself, and that it was so quick and easy. Me, I dream that one day one of my boys will be a gourmet chef and help me with the cooking 🙂