Art & What I’ve Been Doing While It Rains

As some of you know, I support my chickens by working at my local library. This month is going to be particularly cool, because we are hosting one of our local artists, Karen Bakke. Every Saturday in February, she will be live at the library, painting! This past Saturday was her first, and it was so much fun to watch.

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She’s super sweet, and so kind. I followed her on Instagram, and she saw pictures of my costumes and says she would like to paint me! How cool would that be?

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She also has a display of her art hanging at the library all month, and I am in love with almost all of them. I couldn’t find pictures of my favorites on her social media, so you’ll have to come down to the library and see them in person.

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She also does custom art, like this splendid corgi portrait:

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Ya’ll know I am partial to corgis! Her art is also very reasonably priced, something I do appreciate as a person who is supporting many hungry chickens. I actually bought one of her paintings, this wonderful bluebird:

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I can’t wait to see what she paints this Saturday!

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Besides a new favorite artist, I’ve also discovered miniature room kits. They come with everything you need (including tweezers, paint, and glue) to recreate a miniature room – they even have a light! I bought one for my birthday gift to myself…no surprise, I chose the library/bookstore.

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They come in a box with literally thousands of pieces, and everything is really amazing quality. I wasn’t expecting everything to be so nice – not for $24! I would have guessed this kit would cost more like $50+.  Some of the books open, with illustrated pages you can flip through. You even put together and upholster the red chair! It was so much fun to do. The only changes I made were to change out the flooring to “wood”, paint the walls yellow, and add the mini cats. Because how can you have books without cats? I’ve put it on my bookshelf, where it seems to fit.

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If you want to watch a video of someone building one of these:

I totally want to do another one, but it will probably have to wait until after Spring. They have the cutest little tea shop I have my eye on….

In between the monsoon of rain we’ve been having, I’ve also made it out into the garden a few days to begin the year’s Spring projects. Every since they tore down a nearby abandoned house, we’ve had a rat problem, and since the protective wire on the bottom of many of my animal’s housing is nearly ten years old, it’s starting to give way. And I will not feed and house rats. No way.  Even though I love pet rats and every time I catch one in the live trap I think “You are so cute!”….right before I kill it.

The Muscovy drake, at least, appears to be doing one of the jobs I got him for. When he was young, I used to find rats scurrying out of his coop in the early evening before I locked the ducks up. I haven’t seen a single rat around the duck coop lately. And a few days ago, when the ducks were over by the chicken coop, I heard a squeaking, and looked over to see the drake had grabbed a small rat and was vigorously attempting to destroy it. Good on him!

So to force the rats to move on to somewhere else, we just redid the protective wire on the chicken coop, and got them a new rat-proof feeder. I just put the feeder up yesterday, so it’s too soon to tell, but so far the chickens seem to be learning how to use it, and it seems quality and like it will do its job. I also replaced the wire on the pigeon coop, and while I was at it, built them new nestboxes. I’ll do a separate post on that later. Next up, I’ll be remodeling the quail coops, and Cocoa the angora rabbit’s hutch. And fixing up a couple of the unused coops to prepare for the new ducks and chickens coming this spring (meat birds).

And then. And then, guys…I’ll finally be able to build a BRAND NEW coop, for a BRAND NEW critter coming to the urban farm. No, not the goose. She is coming, but she’ll live with the chickens as their guard. No, I’m going to mail order some fancy doves! I had doves eons ago, and I miss them. They have such wonderful sounds, from the gentle coo, to the manic laugh! I’m still debating, but I think I’m going to get the tangerine color.

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Really wish this rain would let up a little…I’ve got so much to do before planting season begins!

Duck, Duck…Goose????

I don’t believe I mentioned it here, but I lost my Rex buck, Sorrel, this winter. I’m not sure what happened; his illness didn’t seem to match up symptom-wise with anything I could find. It doesn’t appear to have been contagious, thankfully, because the does share a wire wall with him, and they are both thriving. But it left me in want of a new male. I had pretty much decided on getting a breed other than Rex this time, and was keeping my eye out for a breeder of something interesting in my area that would have kits for sale in Spring.

And then, surprise, surprise, I stumbled onto this little fellow.

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Meet Bramble. He’s still a little freaked out by his sudden change of residence, but he’s sweet-tempered and pretty. He’s also a New Zealand/Cinnamon hybrid, which seems about perfect for me. Hopefully I’ll get some gorgeous babies from him.

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And in other news, I decided to go ahead and get a Guard Goose for my chicken flock. The idea is, you get one (and one ONLY) female gosling, and raise it with your chickens, so it bonds to them and wants to protect them. Geese are terrific protection against aerial predators like hawks.

I have a female tufted roman gosling on order with mypetchicken.com, and since they need to ship at least three waterfowl together, I also ordered three male pekin ducks. I’ll raise those for meat.

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I’m hoping one of my chickens will be broody at just the right time (I have four cochins, so the odds are in my favor) and I’ll be able to have her raise the goose. I really can’t wait to see a chicken raise a gosling! How adorable will that be????

I chose a roman tufted because they are quite small for geese, quieter than average, and have an interesting history to them. As one of the oldest varieties of geese in the world, they were around during the time of the Romans. Hence the name. In 365 BC, as the Gauls attempted to steal into Rome under cover of night, it was the honk of a Roman goose that awoke Marcus Manlius and saved the capitol. As I adore both geese AND ancient Roman history, I’m quite excited about this addition to the farm!

So Many Good Things

So some of you know that I work as a librarian to earn money for all the things I love to do. And while I have largely always loved my job, there have been times when I haven’t, largely due to People-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Those people are no longer at the library, and I currently have a fantastic boss whose work goal in life is to make the library a good place for her employees.  One of the awesome things she’s done (besides finally getting me that promotion and raise I’ve been way overdue for!) is figure out what each of us likes to do, and then give us more opportunities to do that thing.

For me, that thing is doing more public programs. Despite being an introvert I truly enjoy public speaking, when it’s on a topic I’m passionate about. In the past, I’ve done a program here and there, but this past year I’ve done five, with more planned for the future. Two were on gardening and raising animals in a sustainable and natural manner.

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At the last program, I brought a couple of quail and a chicken with me. Maisie was a huge hit with the attendees! (Photo taken right before she pooped on the carpet – despite wearing a chicken diaper. Sigh. The library carpet’s seen much worst things….)

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The newest type of programing I’ve been helping with has been events where we’ve served a tasting menu of teas and scones, did a craft, and had a historical presentation put on by me. The first one was for the release of the Downton Abbey film, and I was told I should take my presentation on the road! There are just so many interesting/humorous things to say about historical fashion.

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Recently, we did a Little Women themed Christmas event, where I wore my 1850s beetlewing embroidered gown – still don’t have the pictures from that one. And next, we’re putting on one themed for Outlander. Needless to say, I’m currently working on the 18th century outfit I’ve always wanted to make.

Life is good, and I have so many things I’m looking forward to right now.

But no matter how good it is, the thing I’m looking forward to most right now, is the absolutely certain knowledge that I may not be staying here on earth long enough to do any of those things. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve been warning you that this world is on the cusp of changing forever, and I have to keep warning you. Time is running out. Biblical prophecy is being fulfilled at breakneck speed; everything the Bible said would happen right before the end is happening, right now.

One of the most significant things happening right now is the political turmoil in Israel. The Bible says that at the time of the end, Israel’s leaders will “perish out of the land” and there will be no government. For the first time in Israel’s history, they have lost their government. They are in the process of trying to hold their third election in a year, and every attempt at electing and setting up a government is failing. This attempt will fail too, I believe. The Jews know something big is coming. The rabbis are being outspoken in predicting the very soon coming of the Messiah.

They’re right. He is coming. The sad thing is, they will miss him again, because they are still waiting for the wrong person. Israel is going to be attacked for their wealth, and the people who don’t follow the biblical mandate to flee immediately when they see the city surrounded, are going to be killed and enslaved. The Holocaust was a shadow fulfillment of the prophecy that is going to be fulfilled in its entirely soon. In the 1940s, two-thirds of all European Jews were murdered. In the coming Holocaust, two-thirds of ALL Jews world-wide will be killed. We already see the open and growing anti-Semitism toward them. They are afraid to live in many European cities, like Paris, where they are attacked for walking down a street. It breaks my heart, what’s going to happen. But until they turn to the true Messiah, and understand who he is, these things have to happen. Every nation on earth will turn against them. You see it most clearly in the United Nations. It’s shameful.

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China is one of the most evil countries on earth, they murder and imprison millions of their own citizens, yet they have no UN resolutions against them. Israel, that unique country of personal freedom and life-changing innovations, who offers free medical aid and information such as how to turn salt water into fresh to their sworn enemies, is constantly having resolutions taken out against them. I love Israel. I can’t wait for the day these horrors are finished with, and God’s eternal peace begins.

Hosea 2:18
On that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that crawl on the ground. And I will abolish bow and sword and weapons of war in the land, and will make them lie down in safety.

But sadly, until they go through the horror, they will refuse to understand the truth. Just like the rest of the world does. The bible says they will be eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying, and will have no idea what is coming up until the moment – the second – when everything changes. There’s the going to be a series of natural disasters first. Earthquakes so large they create tsunamis, and also cause volcanoes to erupt across the world. I think it’s the ash from these volcanoes that is going to darken the sun and turn the moon red.

Revelation 6:12-17

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

But before that happens – or more likely at the same instant – the people who genuinely believe in Christ, and chose to accept his offer of salvation – will be taken off the earth and saved from everything that is coming. This is such an imminent event that I look up at the sky every morning and wonder if today is the day.

Revelation 7:9-12

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

The saddest part is that no one has to go through the hell on earth that’s coming. God wants to save you, but he will not override your own free will to chose him. More than half of the bible is prophecy, some of which was already fulfilled down to the smallest detail, but the larger percentage is still to be fulfilled. God says he gave us prophecy, so that when we see it happen, we will believe. It’s happening now. Cell phones, mingling human DNA with animals, globalism, specific alliances between nations, specific wars, signs in the constellations…all of was predicted thousands of years ago.

The only thing I’m surprised by is that we’ve made it through another year. But this year, wow. It’s been huge, prophetically speaking. So many things have happened, so many more pieces have fallen seamlessly into place. I see them happen, and as the bible commands me to do, I raise the alarm to warn everyone I can.

He’s real, and he’s coming. And because he is my savior, and my best friend, I can’t wait to see him face-to-face. Nothing on earth could be better than that.

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NaNoWriMo

If you’ve never heard of it before, NaNoWriMo, is short for National Novel Writing Month, also known at November. Also known as the month writers attempt to make themselves even more crazy than they already were, by attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I knew this thing existed. I just never wanted to do it.

Like, seriously. Never wanted to. At all.

But it turned out that one of my friends has done it for years, and she started talking about it, and I was all “I’ll encourage YOU, but I’m not doing it”, and she said, “You should at least sign up on the website so you can be my buddy,” and that is where I made the critical mistake of saying “Yes, I’ll do that, at least.” Because I really like this friend. She has critiqued my longest novel AND helped me butcher and pluck two roosters when she’s never done anything like that before in her life. If that isn’t the mark of a good friend I don’t know what is.

So because of her, I went on the website, and somehow I got caught up in it. Next thing I know I’m dropping the novel I was about 15,000 words from finishing, and over the course of one sleepless night deciding that I would instead write the sequel to a completely different novel instead…one that I hadn’t had even the lick of an idea for, or a plot, or characters.  I warned you this NaNo thing makes you crazy.

So here I am, at the end of November, and I have written 50,000 words in 30 days. Actually, in 25 days, because I got completely obsessed with doing this thing. Like I do with almost everything in my life.

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Am I glad I did it, and grateful to Reina for asking me (so innocently!) to be her buddy on NaNoWriMo?

Yes. Yes I am.

Will I ever do it again? I doubt it. I learned a long while back that ‘feeling inspired to write’ is meaningless. If you want to write, train your brain to create inspiration on demand by sitting down and writing. 9 times out of 8.9, after you sit for awhile, inspiration will come. And it will come easier and faster, the more you do it. So I already knew the primary thing NaNoWriMo teaches…but I didn’t know that I could push myself this hard and or write these many words, every day. That was valuable. That is the reason I would recommend every writer attempt this at least once.

But by the end of the month, I was a little turned off by the attitude of so many of the people who were doing NaNo. So many of them were…well, they were honestly cheaters. So many were posting on facebook, talking about how they were including all the words they wrote for their grant-writing job as part of their daily word count. Others were writing pages filled with nonsense children’s rhymes, or purposely writing each sentence in the most long-winded and convoluted way possible. Or upping their word count by never using any contractions, ever.

No. This is wrong, and quite honestly, it makes me a little angry. It’s no wonder NaNo novels are so notoriously terrible that many publishers and agents won’t look at any submissions at all right after NaNo. First drafts aren’t going to be perfect, and they can be quite bad, but I can’t even imagine trying to wrestle a novel into shape when you’re spent the whole month trying to make it as terrible as possible…just to get more words in. All I did differently for my NaNo novel was to write more words every day, and write every day. And I didn’t go back and fix plot points that changed as I wrote, or spend any time whatsoever researching online or fussing over names. If I didn’t know a thing, I just made a note and left it for later. And while I’m no where near writing the end of this particular novel (it will probably be around 75-90 thousand words, all told), this first draft no worse than a first draft I took months to write. And that should be the real lesson of NaNoWriMo: that you can write a book, and you don’t have to wait for inspiration, and you can write even when you’re tired, or not in the mood, or just really want to watch the third season of The Crown on Neflix instead. And you don’t have to cheat. Look, I get that many people’s lives are way more complicated than mine. I’m healthy, I don’t have kids, I’m not married, and I have a day job that doesn’t demand much from me.  But NaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be 50,000 words, or you fail. It can be writing for however long (or short) a time you have, every day. Just to prove to yourself that inspiration, while delightful to experience, is a hoax, and if you want to, YOU CAN WRITE. You can do this.

I taught a short class the other day about writing and brain-training, and afterwards had a lovely conversation with a middle-aged woman who had always wanted to write, but never had, because she was too intimidated. After our conversation, I told her to go home and write. Two days later, she came back to tell me that she had started writing, and it was exactly how I said it would be: her characters were coming alive for her, and she was having so much fun. She was glowing with happiness. I’m so glad I did that class, and I’m so glad she came.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite bits from my NaNo novel, a fragment of conversation that sent a shiver through me when I wrote it:

His words went through my heart like one of his knives, and the blood that came out was poisoned and dark. “I should be the Queen, shouldn’t I? Not my mother. Not Anissa. Me. In spite of my eyes.”
      “Because of your eyes,” he said. He leaned in, speaking directly into my ear, a low whisper of words. “I swear to you, by every cut I have ever made, that you are the Queen of Minos. You will sit on that throne. Whatever I have to do.”
      And I believed him.

Our Thanksgiving Turkey is a Fish

Since we don’t do Thanksgiving with the extended family anymore, I take the opportunity to make the day a fun cooking/baking experiment. This year, I REALLY broke from tradition.

Meet our “turkey”.

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He’s a rockfish, and I’ve never in my life bought a whole fish before, much less cooked one! But I’d been reading about salt crust baking, and really wanted to give it a try. The recipe said I wanted the head and tail and scales left on, but to ask the butcher to removed the fins and gills. I don’t know if I got a new guy, or what, but despite the sign next to the whole fish stating they would prepare the fish however I wanted, he didn’t seem to have a clue how to remove the fins, or even what ‘gills’ were. I had to discuss the fin situation with him, and he while he was trimming them off, he discovered the fish hadn’t even been gutted yet. So he did that. And then, when I got home, I discovered the fish still had its gills…I guess my impression was right…he hadn’t even known what those were! I ended up being kind of glad he hadn’t removed them though, because fish gills are pretty weird and interesting, and I was fascinated by the chance to see them up close and personal.

But to salt crust bake a fish, first you prepare about 3 pounds of coarse kosher salt by mixing it with egg whites and water to the consistency of wet sand. This was fun, btw.

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Then you put a layer on the bottom of the pan, and place the fish on top, with its belly stuffed with sliced lemon and herbs.

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Then you cover over the rest of the fish with salt, packing it down tightly, but leaving the head and tail exposed.

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The reason you leave the head exposed, is because you can tell when it’s done by looking at the eye. See how clear and translucent it is? When the fish is cooked, the eye will be cloudy and white. See below. (To double check, you can insert a meat thermometer, and check for a temperature of 140 degrees.)

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The salt becomes VERY hard, and you have to break it open with some fairly serious blunt force.  And the meat inside is…wonderful. Flaky and super moist, and flavored with lemon and herbs. So good! And easy to de-bone, because after you slide the top layer off the bones, you just grab the tail and lift…and voila! the skeleton comes out in one piece! I’m definitely doing this method of cooking a fish again. So easy, and it was so luscious!

I also tried a new cake recipe, and it turned out to be the best cake I’ve ever eaten. First, because I like making pretty cakes, I decorated it for the holidays:
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And inside….a cranberry cake! Now I normally am not that into cake, because cake is too often light and fluffy. Light and fluffy = bland and boring, in my book. When I like cake, I like a cake that’s dense and moist and punched with flavor. And this was that cake.

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My mother also thought it was her favorite cake. And she didn’t want me to make this one, because she didn’t think cranberries in a cake sounded good. Also, because I’m not a fan of icing (I generally scrape icing off cake before I eat it) I googled “icing for people who hate icing” and came up with a suggestion for cream cheese icing.

And it was lick-the-spoon wonderful!

“I Love You.”

What we find nearly impossible to believe is that the God who created the universe has spoken these wonderful words personally and intimately to each of us. And he has done it in a way that no one else could: by entering into humanity and dying for our sins upon the cross. He has thus so fully proved his love that there is no excuse for our ever doubting it.

It is this unparalleled manifestation of God’s love that makes Christianity what it is….the relationship that each Christian is intended to enjoy with Christ himself – an intimate personal relationship that is not only unmatched by any other faith but is absolutely essential if someone is to be a Christian.

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In contrast, for a Buddhist to have a personal relationship with Buddha is neither possible nor necessary. Nor is the practice of Islam impaired because Muhammad is in the grave. It is no hindrance at all to any of the world’s historic religions that their founders are dead and gone. Not so with Christianity. If Jesus Christ were not alive today, there would be no Christian faith because he is all that it offers. Christianity is not a mass religion but a personal relationship.

At the heart of this relationship is a fact so astonishing that most Christians, including those who have known the Lord for many years, seldom live in its full enjoyment. it isn’t that we don’t believe it intellectually but that we find it too wonderful to accept its implications into our moment-by-moment experience of daily life.

We are like a homely, small-town girl from a very poor family who is being wooed by the most handsome, wealthiest, most powerful, most intelligent, and in every way the most desirable man who ever lived. She enjoys the things he gives her, but is not able to fully give herself to him and really get to know him because she finds it too much to believe that he, with all the far more attractive women in the world, really loves her. And to leave the familiar surroundings of her childhood – the friends and family that have been all she has known and loves – to go with this one who seems to love her so much, and to become a part of another world seems so foreign and even inconceivable to her is all too overwhelming.

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Like the small-town girl, each of us finds it very difficult to believe that Jesus really loves us. Although we appreciate his blessings, we find it difficult to become intimate with our heavenly Suitor, because it seems too inappropriate that the Lord of the universe should be wooing us. That he loves everyone and that we are included in that great love is too marvelous.

Knowing that he loves us not because of anything in us but because he is love tells us something else that is very important: God loves all mankind with the same love. There is no special reason why he should love one of us more than another. He is no respecter of persons; there is no favoritism with God. And here we see another reason for rejecting the view that God does not love all mankind enough to want everyone to be in heaven. There is no basis in man (all have sinned and the hearts of all are the same) for God to love some and not others – but neither is there any basis in God for his loving one but not another. Thus we are told that he “so loved the world” that he sent his Son into into world “that the world through him might be saved.” There is no greater love anywhere!

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(Except above from “The Love of God”, written by Dave Hunt)

ABC’s of Salvation….

Admit you are a sinner in need of a savior.

Believe in the finished redemtive work of Jesus Christ on the cross alone for the remission of all your sins (past, present and future) and eternal life!

Call on the name of the Lord. (“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)

“When you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart man believes and is justified and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” ( Romans 10:9-10)

“For it is by grace you are saved through faith. It is not your own doing. It is the FREE gift of God. Not by works lest any man boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Eggs and Introverts

Two quick things today.

First, my black cooper maran hen started laying last week! I didn’t expect this to happen so soon – but when she started “squatting” whenever I reached out to touch her, I knew the egglaying was going to commence in about a week. Squatting is a sure sign.

She lays wonderful dark chocolate eggs…although not quite so dark as I was hoping for.  In the below pic, hers are the two small dark ones (the first eggs a hen lays are very small, and increase to a normal size later on). The lighter egg is a pale brown, laid by my cochin, I think?

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Isn’t it interesting how one is spotted and one plain? This is one of the many reasons I love having chickens. Grocery store eggs are so boring!

And for those of you that have been reading this blog for a long time, you remember that I used to sew costumes and attend yearly costuming conferences. I no longer have the time or inclination for that anymore, but I did just finish a new Edwardian 1912 costume. If you’re interested, you can go check out more pictures and information on my costuming blog.

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I made this dress for a Downton Abbey Celebration my library workplace was having, during which I did a presentation on post-Victorian undergarments, called “What Did They Wear Under There?” It was so much fun to do. I’m an introvert, and so many people have this mistaken idea that all introverts are all shy and socially awkward, and hate talking to people. Not true! Introverts are on a spectrum like everything else, and the only thing that all introverts have is a desire and need for alone time, to recharge. We get our energy from ourselves, and being around people drains that energy. But many of us still love being out…we just need time alone afterward. For myself, I adore public speaking – as long as it’s on a subject I love and am knowledgeable about. Costuming and historical fashion definitely fits those two requirements! I was told afterward by three different people that I should ‘take that show on the road’ it was so good, and one attendee (speaking of the entire evening) said that she’d never been in the library before, and didn’t know she could have so much fun there on a Thursday evening! It was also super fun for me…demonstrating how to walk in a hobble skirt, dispelling the various corseting myths, and even talking about how to use the toilet while wearing a full bustle skirt! I think I’ll be doing more of these…but first I have to do the two-part presentation I’m going in October on natural gardening and natural animal keeping.