Happy Birthday Emily

Today is my wife’s birthday. 

  
It’s a strange world we live in. The older I get, the less I know. I’m sitting here today thinking over my life, looking at old pictures and notes, and would never have thought in a million years I’d be where I am today. 

Emily and I have a wonderful marriage. We have a good life. But what makes it strange is we had everything against us from the start. 

We got together when neither of us were looking and both coming out of another marriage. It wasn’t planned, it just sorta happened. We were friends that gradually fell in love. We had a lot of grief from family and friends at the start. We are both private people so no one knew what was really going on and like always, made up what they didn’t know. I’m turning 50 this year and she turns 28 today. That turned a lot of heads and upset a few folks. 

We are so different in so many different ways. I’m old and she is young. I’m uneducated and she’s educated. I’m from a poor farm family and she’s from a middle class family. She likes steak while I’m happy with beans. Her idea of a garden was having a couple of tomato plants when I had over 200 the year she moved in with me. She’s always joking and fun loving while I’m serious and stern. I’m OCD and she’s a mess. We are the odd couple. 

  
But think about it. We were friends online. Who became friends in real life. Who became best friends. Who fell in love. How cool is that?

Right now she’s pregnant and has hyperimisis so she is very sick. She’s bed fast most of the time, hooked full time to IV fluids and a Zofran pump through her PICC line. Hurting, on mega doses of antibiotics from a blood infection and also taking lots of other meds. She’s sick, hurting, a tiny bit grumpy and not able to do much of anything. 

And to me?

She’s perfect. 

She keeps me from being too serious, keeps me from withdrawing into myself or dwelling on my past mistakes more than I should. She incourages me, helps me and loves me. Right now life is tough. It’s hard. But it’s temporary. Our love is not. So we are the odd couple. It works for us. 

  
I can’t take her out to eat, or buy her anything nice, or even give her a way to feel better. But I am here. I’m staying. I’m happy. And I’m doing the best I can with what we have today. 

Happy birthday my love. 

  

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Throw-Away Boy

“Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 Conner came home to us.”

 

That is the note I have in my phone to remind me of the day my youngest son came to be with us. Con has been with us for a little over a year now and in typical fashion, I’ve told no one anything. Today, as I sit here watching him play I decided to tell his story. 

First off, I am a very private person. Many times it causes me problems in the long run because people tend to talk and make up stories if you don’t tell them life events when they happen. I have always looked at it as “my business is my business” and not anything that concerns anyone else. Therefore usually, even after major life events, it is months or years before anyone becomes aware of it. Divorce, health issues, job changes, new relationships… my own affairs I tend to just keep quiet. Just because today I’m in the mood to share doesn’t mean that will change either. But on this Mother’s Day I will share the story of “the throw-away boy”.

 

It was on a Tuesday evening when my wife Em called me at work. I was taking a break from tree work, catching my breath and getting a drink when she called. She said “I need to talk to you, it’s important”. She then told me a young girl we knew slightly had dropped off a baby at the pet store my wife owns. A baby? A baby what I asked?

I about choked on my drink. I thought I heard her wrong, so I made her repeat it. A young lady walked into our pet shop, asked Em to watch the baby, left and was not coming back.

What the….?

I told her to call the baby’s mother to come and get him. She said she already had called her and that the girl said she was giving the baby to us. That she didn’t want him, that he made her skin crawl. Em said she found a note in the car seat saying the girl was giving us the baby and that he would be better off with us.


I told her to call the cops. I told her they would think she kidnapped him or something. I was freaking out! So she called the police. They sent an officer out, he looked at the baby, said it didn’t look hurt, that leaving your child with someone wasn’t a crime and it was a civil matter. He just took a report and said it wasn’t their problem, to maybe call family services.

You have got to be kidding me!

Em called me and told me what happened. So I told her to call family services, the child welfare folks, whatever she could think of. This was getting ridiculous. They told her to go on and take him home since it was past time for the store to close and they would be out later that night to take care of the situation. So I head home and shortly after that Em shows up at the house with a seven month old baby boy in a car seat.


Now I had no idea where they would take this child when they came out, but he looked hungry. And he was dirty. So I told Em I would be right back and I drove to Walmart and bought diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, a pacifier, baby shampoo, baby nail clippers, a few outfits, just anything I thought he might need for a few days. I spent $150 that first night. All he had when he came to us was the clothes he was wearing and the car seat he was strapped in. That’s it. I figured whoever they placed him with would at least have enough to get through a few days.

Then came an even bigger shock.

The caseworker showed up about 11:00 pm that night. We were standing in the kitchen and Em was holding him and giving him a bottle when the man arrived. He introduced himself then said “I’ll need to take some pictures of him”. I’m thinking great. Good idea. Then no one can say we hurt him or anything before they got there. We will have pictures to prove he’s ok.

Then he said he needed to look at the house. Look at the house? Why the hell does this dude need to look at our house? But ok. If that floats your boat and will help get this child taken care of, then go for it bud. He walks through every room, looks around, got our names and all our info, asked a million questions and has us both tell him again how we got the baby that day… Then says “good luck” and starts out the door.

Hey! Wait a damn minute here! Where are you going? You forgot the baby!

He looked crestfallen and said “you don’t want him”? We both said sure, we would love to have him, but it’s not our kid. We can’t just take a kid like that, it’s just not done like that is it? He said since the mother gave us the child directly, with good intentions on both sides it was ok. He said if he took the baby they would have to find a foster home and that not only was that hard to do, but that it wouldn’t be good for the baby. He explained that many times children were just shuffled from one home to another and that not all foster situations were healthy for a child. He said as long as we wanted the child and the mother was willing to give him to us that we could even adopt him if we wanted.

He left. Connor stayed.


Now a bit of back-story. Emily really wanted another child. A boy. She had a daughter but because she had so many problems with her first pregnancy, the doctors said another child just wasn’t likely nor would it be safe for Emily. Her reproductive parts were a mess. She didn’t even have her monthly visit from Mother Nature anymore. I was 48 years old. Not going to be fathering any kids at my age anyway. So Emily prayed. Often. And I tried to console her. But we both knew it was never going to happen. Then we have a baby just fall into our laps out of the blue.

Did we want him? God, what a dumb question.


We went upstairs to our bedroom and we just looked at each other for a long while. Then I said ok, hand the little feller here, let me see him. I held him, counted toes and fingers, looked for any reason someone would just throw a baby away. I was holding him and said you don’t look like a throw-away boy. He just laid there looking at me and sorta smiled when I said that. Such a sweet beautiful baby boy. So innocent. So perfect. So… lost.

I was hooked. It took no time at all for him to get totally under my skin. A throw-away boy? I think not!


He was quiet. He never cried. He didn’t know how to play. He cringed every time you so much as looked at him. The only time he made a noise was when Em tried to give him a bath and then he would scream and fight like a wildcat as soon as he laid eyes on the bathtub. He was terrified of a bathtub. He would barely try to eat, but once you could get him to take a bite he would eat like he was starving. He would eat anything. No being a picky eater like most kids. Some stuff you could tell he didn’t like but he would open that little mouth like a baby bird for more anyway. He was deathly quiet, didn’t play, and all he would move at first was his eyes. His eyes saw everything though. He watched us like a little hawk.


Now there was of course lots more went on those first few months. Visits from the caseworkers, retaining a lawyer, getting shot records and a birth certificate from the mother, getting him used to us, teaching him to play and so much more. We took him to the doctor for a full checkup and had to go buy all the stuff a baby needs. We had a few friends that knew what was going on bring us stuff for him and Em’s family helped what they could but otherwise Em and I have done it all alone. We are still working on getting the rest of the money for the adoption and I don’t guess we will ever really have everything paid for, but we take it day by day. God is good. We will get through whatever comes our way.


Connor’s birth mother used to come in the store and just sit his car seat down while she shopped. She called Connor “it” or “that”. We had never heard her call him by name or even say “him”. It was sorta creepy. She had told Em that she hated him, wished he would die, that he made her skin crawl to even look at him. To be honest we thought she just had a very bad sense of humor. We never took her serious. Once, when she said something like that in front of other customers, Em pulled her aside and told her she knew she was just kidding but if she was ever to where she was going to hurt him to bring him to us and we would take him. Well, we know now she wasn’t joking. She was otherwise just a normal girl. She didn’t look or act crazy and other than the things she said about the baby no one would have ever given her a second look. I still can’t get my head wrapped around it although we’ve had Connor over a year now.

Maybe God has a plan. Maybe it’s my chance to make up for some of the mistakes I made with my other children. Maybe it’s just God answering Emily’s prayers. I don’t know. At this point I don’t even think of it. Connor is my son. Maybe not by genetic donation, but by love and by choice.


Today is Mother’s Day. I watched Em with the kids today, saw the love she has for them, the love in their eyes for her. It’s a bond so special and so pure. I’m so happy that today, my little Connorbear can have a Mom to fall asleep with. A home he can wake up to. A future.

Today he is a different kid than the one she brought home a year ago. He is a bit slow, he still can’t talk except for a few words, but he is so very much a boy! He’s loud, he is smart, he is in to everything. He plays, he runs, he pesters his sisters, he helps daddy in the garden and he picks up his toys. He hates to be covered up when he sleeps and he wants to try and dress himself and feed himself. He gets more and more independent by the day. His big Lego blocks are his favorite toys and fig newtons are his snack of choice. Watermelon is his favorite food in the world. He copies his daddy and Pa, loves to play with his Granny and uncle Boo, and his sisters are his heroes and can do no wrong. But his mommy? She’s his world.

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I did have a very serious talk with Em a few days after she brought Con home though. In the years I’ve been with her she is always bringing home strays. Dogs, cats, horses, birds and reptiles of all kinds, exotic animals….

I told her I loved her. Very much. But no more strays. She finally hit my limit.

The funny part of this Mother’s Day?

Em is pregnant lol.

God is good.

This is Connor The night he came home to us;

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His first birthday;

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Mother’s day 2014. We had had him I think four days;

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My Old Barn And Chicken Coops

This is an old article I originally posted on BYC several years ago about how we built our old barn and what it was used for. I hear a lot of folks saying they don’t have anything to build a barn with. Here is one built from junk that I am very proud of.

As soon as Emily and I can get a little piece of land of our own I plan on building another one very similar to it here in central Florida.

This is a long read with lots of pictures, but please let me know what you think of it in the comments section below.

Here it is with a little editing;

The Farm At Whippoorwill Creek

Glen, Mississippi.

 

Main barn and coop. 

 


 

Here is a tour and the story of our main barn including the four chicken coops, two stables and feed room. It is roughly 32’ X 32’ and made out of at least 90% used and recycled materials. The building was originally built by my Grandfather around 40 or 45 years ago as an equipment shed to store plows, lumber and tractor parts. Over the years it had gradually became a place for everyone in the family to throw any junk that they didn’t want to haul to the dump. When I bought the old family farm and started fixing everything up it was full of every kind of junk imaginable and on the verge of collapse. All the tin and most of the rafters on the side-shed was missing and several pieces of tin on the main roof had blown off in storms. It only had a complete wall on the west side (made out of old rusty metal billboard material) and had a dirt floor that had settled down and washed out on the east side that was lower than the outside pasture so that side of the barn was a muddy mess and it filled with water every time it rained.

  


 

My first step was to clear all the brush and weeds from around the barn and haul off all the junk and trash. Working every evening and on my days off it still took around a month to get all that finished. I hauled several truck loads to the landfill and several more to the scrap yard. Everything from old used transmissions and engine blocks, old car seats, rotten stacks of post and lumber, old appliances, rotted leather harness, broken furniture, broken concrete blocks and bricks, even several old burlap feed sacks full of black walnuts that had to be at least 20 years old! Next I tore out all of the old lumber, rafters and lathing that wasn’t worth saving. I cut the good sections out of anything that I thought I might could use then burned the stuff that was too far gone to save.

Next I straightened and braced all the support post as best I could. The support poles are made of old railroad cross-ties and used telephone poles. I replaced what rafters, lathing and bracing that I had torn out with used lumber and scrounged up enough used tin to recover the roof. I used several buckets of roofing tar and roofing patch on the seams in the tin and to fill all the old nail holes. I’ve started putting a coat of mobile home roofing coating on it to fill in any cracks or tiny holes I might have missed and as it’s light colored it should reflect the sunlight and help keep the barn from being so hot in the summertime.

I bought a dump truck load of local red sand from a sand pit just up the road and using a shovel and wheelbarrow I started filling in the low side of the barn and leveling the floors. I framed up the outside walls and covered them with old sawmill lumber that I salvaged from several other old buildings around the farm. I did buy a few treated 4” X 4” post along with some 1″ X 2″ lumber for trim, and used some 2” X 10” treated boards from an old porch I tore down to use on the walls at ground level to keep rot to a minimum. I then dug a drainage ditch around the perimeter of the building on both sides and the rear of the barn, shoveling the dirt back up against the barn, to turn any water away from the building. Over the past couple of years I’ve added a few flower boxes and other items to the outside of the barn, added rain gutter sections over some of the pop doors and built a little “bridge” over the ditch in front of the pop doors.


Several people have asked about all the junk hanging on the barn. It started years ago as I was cleaning up around the place. I would find an old wrench or tool, and just to get it out of the way, I hung them on the barn. After a while I started to like how it looked and just kept adding to the growing collection. It wasn’t a planned thing, just one of those things that evolved over the years.

At this point I had a roof and four walls, the floor was dry and fairly level and I had everything around the barn drained and cleaned up. Next I installed an old door in the rear of the barn (This door faces the rear of our house, saves me walking all the way around the barn to get in. The door came from the old house I was raised in!) and built a small mud stoop in front of the door and hung an old set of buggy shafts above the door. After I covered the top of the buggy shafts with a piece of used tin I had a nice small awning over the door, I then installed a used window in the back wall and another in the west side wall for both light and ventilation. I built another window in the east wall and covered it with a heavy wire rack section I salvaged from a storage unit. I plan on adding a few more windows soon to add more natural light into the barn. Also on my project list is to build a welded wire door for a screen door at the back so I can use it during the summer months but still have the old wooden house door for wet, windy winter weather.

  

 

 

 

 

 

Next I framed up the interior walls making three long rooms to start. On the east side I divided it again into a small goat stable around 10′ x 10′ at the front and a chicken coop about 10′ x 22′ in the rear. The chicken coop interior wall I covered with chicken wire from the low ceiling down 3′ and the length of the chicken coop, the rest I covered with old sawmill barn lumber and trimmed it out with 1″ x 2″ pine lumber. I built and installed an entry door that opens inward with a latch and self closing hinges on the chicken coop and regular hinges and an outward opening door on the goat stable. I used small gauge steel cable, “s” hooks and plywood framed with 1″ x 2″ and 1″ x 3″ lumber to make a pop door I can open and close from inside the barn. I built a set of roosting poles with old weathered treated 2″ x 4″ lumber (turned with the 2″ side up) and added a ladder to help the chicks and smaller chickens make it up onto the roost using 2″ x 2″ and 2″ x 4″ deck rails from an old deck I had torn down. I built a self feeder out of 1″ pine lumber divided into two compartments with a sloped hinged lid to prevent roosting for oyster shell and grit and mounted it to the wall. I hung a 12 pound galvanized feeder from a chain and eye hook in the ceiling at back height to the smallest chicken I would be housing in this coop. I placed and leveled landscaping pavers on the floor and set a five gallon galvanized waterer on these to raise it up to the proper height for the chickens to drink from. I add more pavers during the year as the shavings get deeper to keep it raised to the proper height. I covered the floor with pine wood shavings to the depth of about two inches or so and I add more shavings and rake and mix as needed though out the year. I use a version of the deep litter method and usually only completely clean the coops twice a year (spring and fall). However I do spot clean any wet spots or poop build up as needed weekly. It stayed dry and has very little smell. I added a set of old metal best boxes a friend had donated to the project and added our chickens.

Later I divided the big chicken coop by partitioning off the back 4’ X 10’ area to make a separate area for our splash Cochin bantams. I then added a pop door to the north wall so they had access to a pen of their own. The nest box in this coop is made of an old discarded corner bookcase turned on it’s side with a small perch added to the front.

 





The main chicken coop houses all our larger growing birds during the spring and summer and we use it during the winter to house our flock of laying hens for eating egg sales.

 

Next I divided the other side into 3 rooms about 10’ X 11’. The front room is a stable and the other 2 are  chicken coops. I finished them with roost poles, nest boxes, feeders and waterers as I did the main chicken house. Currently one of these is housing our Whippoorwill Creek strain of spangled Russian Orloffs and the red shouldered Yokahamas and black East Indie ducks are in the other one. The nest box in one is made from old vegetable packing crates and the other has a nest box made from an extra section of kitchen cabinet I modified to work.

  

 

 

 

 

 

The center room I divided into a feed room that opens towards our home and a hallway that opens into the barn lot in front of the barn. We store most of our feed in metal and plastic barrels in the feed room with lids to protect it from mice and other vermin. I built a “Pallet” floor out of treated 2 X 4’s and treated decking lumber along three walls under the feed barrels, the big metal cabinet that I store medications and extra stuff in, the area we store bag feed and the area for shavings storage. The rest of the floors are all hard packed dirt floors.

We feed all our chicks 20% chick starter from hatch until they are around 3 months old. At that time we gradually switch them over to 15% starter/grower. At 5 months old we gradually switch them again to 16% laying pellets. When we are switching feeds we always gradually change by adding a bit more of the new feed to the old feed each day until we are totally changed over. It usually takes about two weeks to change feeds but they don’t get stressed by having it all change at once. Unlike some people, I pay more attention to the feed content tag than the name on the bag, so brands of feed change from time to time. Currently we are using Faithway and a local Co-op brand.


All our chickens are feed a bit of scratch grain every morning and every evening, less in the summer, more in the winter. We feed only non-medicated feed along with extra garden waste and a few kitchen scraps. They get grit free choice from hatch onward and oyster shell free choice once they start eating laying pellets. I separate any chicken that needs medicated to a quarantine coop I built out of an old kitchen table instead of treating the entire flock like some people do. I do not medicate unless I see a real problem as I think over-medicating and “blanket” medicating Isn’t good for the chickens and builds up a resistance to the medications. I must say though, that we almost never medicate a chicken. I think I’ve medicated twice in the last 20 years, both times for just minor things they would have probably gotten over anyway. I have a cabinet in the feed room with all the common medications and such on hand, but truthfully, Blue-Cote is about the only one that ever gets used. Usually if one shows any sign of being ill, unthrifty or “off”, it gets culled and life goes on. Nothing wrong with medicating, and if I had the need I would, but I prefer to raise healthy, disease resistant chicks myself.


All our chickens have either large outdoor pens or are free range so they also get all the bugs, insects, grass seeds and other goodies that they can find.

  

 

 

We do not heat or insulate any of our chicken coops not do we add any supplemental lighting in the winter. As a matter of fact we don’t even have electricity or running water in or near the barn. The hens will slow down or stop laying in the winter without extra lighting, but I look at it as God’s way of giving both them and myself a break. If I need to go to the barn after dark I use either a flashlight or a kerosine lantern. We do shut up all the coops and stables at night when I remember to and let them out at dawn each morning. We gather our eggs twice a day as we feed and water all the stock. For fertility we run on average one rooster to each five hens. Most of our breeding flocks are small, usually either one rooster and five hens or two roosters and ten hens. Some flocks like our hens for egg sales are much larger. We keep more than one flock of some breeds to allow for genetic diversity. We keep records of how many eggs we get from each coop so we can average what each group of hens produce in a given season. We also record feed consumed, temperament and hatch percentages, notes on plummage, color, weight, brood ones and any other tid-bits that help us decide which bloodlines to keep for future breeders. Besides our breeder flocks we usually have at least a hundred chickens that we raise to sell locally and as table fowl. You can see in these pictures that even here in the Deep South we get winter weather sometimes, but I have never lost a chicken to cold. The summers many times will hit 100 degrees with near 100% humidity and I have lost very few over the years due to heat.

 

We compost all our animal’s manure, used shavings, leaves, grass clippings and such and spread it on the garden every spring and fall. We do eat the eggs from the birds we raise and butcher and eat most of our culls. We sell eating eggs, hatching eggs, chicks, and started birds every spring, and extra roosters for meat birds the year around. There is very little waste on this farm.

 

I hope you can get some ideas from this and our other pages. Feel free to use any of the methods or ideas we have used, but remember – we all must find our own way. My methods work for me, but your mileage may vary. 

 

My way of looking at raising chickens is this; It’s not rocket science. Chickens have lived for thousands of years with no help from us humans. Give them the basics such as suitable housing, decent feed and clean water and they will do fine.


Roasted Cabbage

I tried something new this evening. Our garden was flooded for almost a week last month and all off my green cabbage was just too far gone to leave. I didn’t want to waste it so I went ahead and pulled it all up and cut off all the baby cabbage heads. 

  
I cleaned them and removed the outer leaves then cut the larger ones in half. I put them all in a roasting dish with the cut half facing up. 

  
I then places cut pieces of thick sliced applewood smoked bacon on each one, then dribbled a bit of bacon grease over each and seasoned them with sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and a touch of Glades seasoning. 

  
Covered with foil and baked at 425 for about an hour. I must say I’m impressed. I usually prefer my cabbage pan fried, but this was delicious! 

We also had a bunch of new potatoes that I was able to save from the potato plants the flood killed. I roasted them with several pork steaks and wow!

  
Also had cornbread, mixed greens and turnips from the garden and fresh yellow crookneck squash. Was a pretty good meal for an old country boy.