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The Newness in the Darkness

December 6, 2009


Even in this dark time, there is newness here at the urban homestead.

The Rice Table

It’s winter at 6512 feet, which means the family is spending many hours inside, getting to know each other better and watching—through smudged windows—our four free-ranging chickens standing forlornly around their frozen water. (Everyone loves to break the thick, top layer of ice in their water bucket that forms and reforms all day long. Rose whaps a dry, limp sunflower stalk at the icy surface while Col rummages around for an antler—never far from reach—and picks a beak-sized hole through the glacier).

Here's a couple

Pelvic bones work great too

It’s never more noticeable than in winter that our house is 800 square feet. That’s why in every indoor photo I’ve posted you can see the bathroom in the background. And while it’s useful to never be too far from the bathroom, (like when Rose sounds the poop alarm and you can count on one hand the seconds you’ve got to drop her on the toilet), it’s not so classy when Col announces at dinner that he needs to poop, takes ten kid-steps to the toilet, and sits in full view of the table, grunting and keeping up his end of the conversation (apparently, no one closes the bathroom door around here).

So I’ve been looking for ideas to make home-time more appealing, and because my kids are such Friends of The Sandbox during the summer, I thought an indoor sensory table filled with rice and little shells and rocks and shiny beads would keep little hands busy and engaged.

Looks innocent enough

The kids love the rice table; they mold rice into yogurt container-sized birthday cakes, which they leave under the rice table for baby marmosets (and pity the mother who tries to keep a marmoset from celebrating a birthday). Then someone crawls under the table and accidentally knocks the quart of rice over. Soon, dry rice is skittering around our house like frightened cockroaches. Or it’s like a bride and groom have fled through our living room on the way to their honeymoon with jubilant rice-throwers on their heels. Eventually I march into the playroom and start waving my arms around like a restaurant inspector that’s seen one too many infractions. “That’s it! I’m shutting you down!”

Lily’s Amazing Technicolor Feathercoat

Our freeloading, bullying hen Lily, who last month had just one ragged tail feather, has sprouted this gorgeous new coat of brown, white and green feathers. She still hasn’t produced a single egg in over a month but like a mother who’s done raising kids and finally has time for the gym or money for the spa, Lily’s been putting all her resources towards her new style; she’s done being someone’s slave.

Meanwhile, the three aracauna hens are molting, which makes them look like they’ve wresting raccoons every night, but they still manage to lay one egg a day between the three of them. Here they are celebrating Durango’s new chicken ordinance, thinking perhaps it means they’re entitled to sleep inside.

The 3000 stairs to our 800 sf abode

Greenhouse chard

We share this greenhouse with our downstairs neighbors, most of

Juniper spoons, y'all

whom are in their twenties and have enough time to carve utensils out of juniper or pry pollen out from the tiny crevices in beeswax (this is precisely what Sage and Thea were doing yesterday as I hustled children and bags of groceries upstairs while plagued with the feverish ick).

I can’t remember who planted this greenhouse chard, it could have been me, it could have been Cody and his ferret, or even Sage between basket-weaving and lying in the hammock. But here it is, flourishing in an unheated greenhouse, popping out new leaves while outside temperatures settle at zero. And we love our chard around here.

What’s new at your homestead?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2009 4:37 pm

    800 Square Feet. We just moved from an 800 square feet home. It was so tiny tiny small. The layout was terrible too. There was a bedroom on one end of the house and then two others on the other end….and there was a narrow hall with the kitchen sort of on one corner of the house and the living room sort of in the middle….but you couldn’t really see anything from the living room because there was a small entry way……….Now that I’ve confused you…..We recently moved to a 1,200 sq ft home and it feels MASSIVE.

    I love your writing.

    How do I follow you?

  2. December 7, 2009 4:48 pm

    Rebecca, you are so kind. I think you can subscribe to my posts via e-mail.

  3. December 7, 2009 10:45 pm

    Ha ha, thanks for the excellent post and all the colorful metaphors!

    I’m still finding rice in all sorts of crevices I never knew existed, and somehow I’m usually barefoot when I find those kernels. We don’t play with rice anymore inside… or oatmeal… or water… or anything else real messy for that matter. Poor Shayden and his overly anal mother.

    And your free-range hens are hilarious!!

  4. December 7, 2009 11:27 pm

    What a beautiful blog! The best advice I’ve ever received about parenting: “don’t sweep until the rice dries.” I have often thought this would be the name of a memoir one day as it rings so true about doing the right thing at the right time. And when we force it, it takes more energy and more time, than it would if we just let it be.

  5. December 8, 2009 11:19 am

    Eight hundred square feet is so pleasant and cozy until it fills with kids, and then I’m always like, wait, don’t we need a football field for this kind of energy? One with a concrete soundproof bunker, say, for Mom?

    Love the chickens. Our neighbor’s lone surviving chicken got to sleep in the garage over one winter. Boy was she MAD when spring came and she had to go outside AND they got more chickens.

  6. Ellen permalink
    December 8, 2009 3:39 pm

    Great photos of Lily, the kids, and the chard. And great writing; I’m rooting for Lily in her post menopausal freedom and splendor.

  7. Ike permalink
    December 8, 2009 10:10 pm

    Great writing and pictures as usual. I kept going back to the great shot of the beautiful juniper spoons and the last snowy scene. Your descriptions of the snow almost made me miss it but I returned to my senses just in time.


  1. Desperately seeking chicken whisperer « 6512 and growing

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