Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Duped by a fellow farmer

We were really excited to buy some replacement hens this summer.  We thought we had a great situation - healthy looking new chickens and a smooth transition introducing them to the flock.

Then, we had a surprise.  Our ten hens turned out to be two hens and eight roosters.

This is pretty embarrassing for someone with an undergraduate degree in agricultural education.  Friends, I have taken classes and taught lessons on the anatomy of a rooster versus a hen.  This is not tough stuff.  It is, however, tough when the birds are young and the comb and wattles aren't obvious and the farmer selling you the birds plucks out the tail feathers.  We thought the tail feathers were missing because the birds where hot and stressed in the small cage.  In retrospect, I think our birds were selectively plucked to appear like hens.  I guess we can give this farmer points for solving a problem.  Unfortunately, we inherited his problem.  What do to with eight roosters?


Source: BackYardChickens.com

We were discussing our options one weekend afternoon while we cleaned up the garden.  To add insult to injury, our formidable flock of roosters began a chorus of crowing.

We did some outreach to friends with chickens and discovered someone who was butchering part of his flock and he would help us.  My husband had the day off of work and volunteered to see this task through to the end.  The alternative of feeding these food eating monsters through the winter seemed really expensive and annoying.  And, the crowing!  Our neighbors would need a lot of "good will" eggs to forgive all of the crowing.

Please keep in mind that my husband doesn't like to put his hands in dishwater, let alone butcher chickens.  He was also going to have to catch all of the roosters early on that Friday morning...and did I mention this was his day off!  If he didn't have a lock on husband of the year before, he certainly does now.

He was almost finished catching the birds when the door to the cage flew open and one escaped.  At least, he thought it was one, but he wasn't sure.  It was dark and cold and he was chasing the bird around the yard.  At one point, it escaped to the front of the house and onto the road.  He chased it for awhile and saw it last running down the middle of the road towards our neighbor's house.  Geez.  Eventually, the runaway made it back to the yard.

My husband has a whole adventure story about the actual experience of processing the chickens.  The story involves a collapsing cage, runaway birds (again), tackling of runaway birds, and a firearm...all because we were duped by a fellow farmer.

Trust me...I am keeping my eye out for that farmer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kansas adventures: Emporia

 My travels took me to Olpe, Kansas for work yesterday.  After an early morning drive that started with dense fog, I was treated to a beautiful sunrise.  It was one of those classic slow sunrises where it seems like mother nature has the sky on a dimmer switch.  It slowly became light and then the sun was up, as if by magic.  It was a blessing to drive out of the fog before reaching the Flint Hills with the road that winds and curves.

I was early enough to stop and grab a quick smoothie at The Granada Coffee Company.  This was a new stop for me and a delightful place.  The barista was super friendly and knew all of the locals by name.

My drive included seeing this historic bridge over the Cottonwood River on the south side of Emporia.  I learned later that the mini-water fall is over Soden's mill dam and the bridge is the 1923 Marsh Arch Bridge.

The Kansas history nerd in my loves this, especially with the fall foliage still hanging on and providing color in the background.
 Taking a moment to soak in the view and snap a couple of pictures was a great break.
 I cannot drive through Emporia and not stop at The Sweet Granada!  This gem serves up delicious chocolate treats in a beautiful building.
 The Pop-Choc came highly recommended by a high schooler in my presentation.  She works at the store and told me it was their best seller.  This is a delicious snack and may be at the top of my list.

 I loved this seasonal display!
 The Powercat treats were hard to resist and made me feel right at home.
 The case is full of every type of chocolate dipped confection you could imagine.  I picked up some of my husband's favorites - chocolate dipped graham crackers. 
Everything about this place is cute and the treats are delicious. I won't even talk about the fudge options - seasonal pumpkin pie.  Love.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mountain views

 Here is another post about my recent travels.

I just can't help myself on this one.  While I am a prairie girl through and through, I also love myself some mountains.  This trip was for work and I was so fortunate that I had the chance to travel to Aspen - a place I had never been and most certainly want to see again.

The trip started out a little chaotic.  It was a terrible time.  It was at the start of a three city, eight day swing. Things were in upheaval at work and I was fighting every instinct to cancel and stay home to try to "fix" things when I knew in my heart of hearts that things couldn't be fixed.  And, I did what I always do - booked an early morning flight.  It always sounds like a good idea to be on the 6:30 a.m. flight until you set your alarm for 4:00 a.m. the night before.  A car had stalled in road construction on the way to the airport and we sat for several minutes - long enough for me to get anxious about cutting it too close to make my flight.  I also forgot my GPS in my car and had to buy one at the DFW airport from a vending machine.  I had always wondered who bought their electronics from vending machines in an airport.  Now, I know.  It was also snowing in Denver when I arrived.  Geez.

After a hard sell from the rental car lady about how I needed to upgrade my car to keep from going in the ditch, I finally got my car.  Once I escaped the counter and got to the lot, I got an accidental upgrade when all of the compact cars were gone.  The attendant gave me a midsize and things were starting to look up.

Once I got on the road and drove out of Denver traffic and the spitting snow, things really started to look up.  I put the address of my hotel into my brand new GPS and followed it's every direction.

 It took me via the Independence Pass.  I was being a bit naive and should have done a little more research.  More on that later.  

My GPS did take me by Idaho Springs, a cute town with a classic little diner that served breakfast all day.  A veggie omelet with the best biscuits I have eaten in some time were just what I needed.    
The drive was beautiful!  At least what I could see of it when I dared to let my eyes leave the road.  This drive was a narrow and winding road, up and down mountains.  I am guessing the "independence" part of the name was because only strong-willed and determined people forged this road in the beginning.  Wow.  White knuckles and prayers of thanksgiving that it wasn't snowing were the theme for the trip.
When I got to a certain point in the drive, I noticed several pull-off locations along the road and saw that there was quite a crowd of leaf peepers and photographers.  Their presence made me feel safe enough to stop and I needed to relax my tense muscles.  Remember, I had a tight grip on the wheel.

The aspens were turning a beautiful, vibrant yellow.  I could only think of my mom who has a lifetime goal to see the aspens and to hear the moose bugle.  I didn't hear any bugling, but I did see lots and lots of trees and I couldn't help but think of her and wish she were there.

Once I arrived in Aspen, I was blown away by the colors of the trees, the nice people and the quaint "village" feel.  After checking in at the hotel and with someone for the college fair, I was advised to run a couple of blocks to the gondola and take a ride up the mountain.  I was torn - stay at the hotel and unpack and try to relax or run two blocks.  The views were promised to be spectacular...so, I went.  I barely made it for the last ride up the mountain.
One of the gondola operators told me to take a red car because these had music.  I loved listening to their staff playlist - everything from Johnny Cash to newer artists that I am not hip enough to know.

All was going well until the gondola stopped.  I was maybe a third of the way up the mountain and started to have a bit of a panic.  This was the last ride up the mountain and what if they forgot I had gotten on and were closing down for the afternoon.  Rescue scenarios started to play out in my mind.  At the top of the list was calling my husband back in Kansas to have him look up the gondola company and calmly call them and tell them to help his wife in one of the red gondolas.  Then, I remembered seeing some flowers and other items going down the mountain in gondolas on the other side.  I talked myself into believing that they needed to stop the gondola to unload everything from an event.  I guess this was the cause because things started back up again.  Whew.
 At the top of the mountain, the views were spectacular.  It was such a gift to be able to have this experience and I am so thankful for the urging of the kind lady back at the hotel.
 I made a pledge to bring my mom to Colorado to see the aspens.  She would love, love, love the experience and I would be thrilled to travel that way again.


Last week marked my return to work after a long stretch of time on the road.  I was really excited to be back at the office and to begin to sort out some major changes and projects on the horizon.  A really funny thing happened on my way up the hill from the parking lot on Wednesday morning.

I had received a HUGE batch of paperwork that needed to be sorted into groups for response.  I took the paperwork home in the top of a copy paper box and spent Tuesday night watching tv with my husband and sorting papers.  I know, every girl's dream.

On the way to the office, I shouldered my customary multitude of bags and balanced the box of papers on my arm.  Deep in thought, I was trudging up the hill, thankful that for once the wind wasn't blowing.  I was just about halfway to the building when a man's voice jolted me out of my deep thinking.  It was a guy driving a van for a local newspaper; I am guessing he was finishing his campus deliveries for the morning.  He yelled, "Dooonnnnuuuutttssss!," as he drove by.

I THINK he must have mistaken the box of papers for donuts.  Still, I am so confused about why he would yell, "Dooonnnnuuuutttssss!," to a complete stranger.  Did he think I would wave him down and give him one?  Did my reputation of frequenting Varsity Donuts grow to the point where strangers driving newspaper vans know to watch for me?

Still confused.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Local

 One marvelous thing about traveling is that when I am not working and my schedule allows, I can explore.  Unfortunately, many times, my trips look the same - airport, hotel, venue, hotel, airport, home.  So, I count myself lucky to have an afternoon or evening free.

During my time in Minneapolis, I did get the chance to venture out - some out of necessity and some for fun.  I don't think you can be in Minneapolis and not visit a Target; it is their world headquarters.  My first trip to a Target was for the necessities - water and snacks.  My second trip was for presenting supplies - notecards and sticky notes.  These items are basics in any trainer's supply list.  I also felt like I checked a box of some sorts for all Twin Cities visitors.

On my last night in the city, my plans with a local alum fell through, but she had recommended a place a couple of blocks from my hotel.  I had walked by a couple of times earlier in my trip and thought it looked really interesting.  Her recommendation, the proximity to my hotel, and their awesome looking decor won me over.

The Local was everything my friend promised - great food and a great atmosphere.
It was just a little too chilly to eat outside.  Enjoying my meal on the patio might have put me over the edge; I love to eat outside in the city.

 The hanging baskets and arrangements in the urns along the street were spectacular.  I loved the autumn feel and the combination of natural materials was really, really cool.  And, did you see the colors on those chairs. Love.

The name told you a lot about what to expect on the menu - awesome, fresh, local ingredients.  I loved their customer service pledge, "Give every guest an experience so they cannot wait to come back!"  These people were truly after my heart.

 And then, the food arrived.  I ordered a great beer and wait for it...wait for it...the meatloaf!  I know!  I am one of those strange people that loves meatloaf.  It can be a risky choice in a restaurant, but I have rarely been disappointed.  My love of restaurant meatloaf was confirmed years ago by one of our favorite places.

  We have a great restaurant in town - the place everyone sends people for a "nice" dinner - Harry's.  I always recommend the meatloaf and people think I am insane.  Then, they order the meatloaf and they are converts.

This dinner was the perfect cap to this leg of my trip.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Farewell to Magellan

We lost our Magellan or Old Man as I affectionately called him.  Magellan joined our farm in a pair of free alpacas in 2008.  He and Wes came to stay as a gift from an area family and he had grown to be a favorite among our herd.  
He was slow to warm up to us.  He must have really missed his old place because for months, he kept to himself and would stare out of the pen with is back to the rest of the herd.  His buddy, Wes, warmed up to everyone a little faster, but Magellan had a hard time.We lost Wes a year ago June and I feel a similar hurt settling in.

I got the call this morning while traveling for work.  God bless my husband for making tough calls with the utmost care and concern.  We are thankful for a quality teaching hospital nearby to help us when in need.

Farewell, Old Man Magellan.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The year of...

My life feels like a series of contradictions, including it is the best of times to be traveling and the worst of times to be traveling.  A series of events has me feeling like I need to be home where things are safe and predictable and I might, however naive this sounds, be able to exert some influence and control.  The other part of me is thankful for the chance to flee and recover, reorganize and reset.  Regardless of my feelings, I am committed to several obligations related to work and speaking at a conference that has me in Colorado, Minneapolis, and Missouri over the course of the week.

The first leg of the trip took me to Aspen, Colorado for the Western Slope College Fair.  Talk about an event of contradictions.  From the wealthiest and most privileged to the lower income, first-generation college student, we saw them all and many between.  I was humbled by the graciousness of everyone.  There is a spirit in that part of the country that is really inspiring and attractive.

I began my travels early Saturday morning and arrived just in time to take the last gondola ride up the mountain for a spectacular view.  It was so special to see the panoramic views with the fall leaves turning on a beautiful, sunny day.  I have to admit, I cried a little bit on the ride up the mountain   (Thank goodness I had the gondola to myself...I already felt weird riding alone and still a little awkward about crying in the DFW airport  earlier in the day while I tried to figure out if the GPS I was buying from a vending machine (yes, a vending machine) was a good deal.)  At the top, you could see for miles in all directions.  It felt like one of those once in a lifetime moments.

After riding back down the mountain, I had enough time to return to the hotel and get ready for the start to the fair.  I happened to circle up with a great groups of other women attending the fair from colleges all around the country.  We started talking about our work, laughing together about things only people who do our work would appreciate, and enjoying good food.  One of the women told us she was training for a marathon and a half.  We all did a double take.  She told us that runners arrive at Disneyland and run the half marathon on Saturday and then run the full marathon the next day.  C-R-A-Z-Y!  She is training for this now, during travel season.  DOUBLE C-R-A-Z-Y!  (and kind of inspiring)

We asked her about her motivation for this and she said it was HER YEAR.  She had declared 2012 HER YEAR and she created a list of things she wanted to accomplish - buy a house, date a guy, run this crazy back-to-back race, etc.  We were all encouraging her and pouring on the praise and then she turned to me and said, "Emily, so make this your year.  What do you want to do in 2013?"  I kind of freaked out.  We have a lifetime goals list and I am pretty intentional about focusing on one or two things, but nothing that big.  I begged out and told her that I would need to think about it.  So, I am.  I have two and a half months to think through what MY YEAR might include.

So, if this were to be YOUR YEAR, what would you do?  Post comments or I know some of you like to message me on Facebook.  Either way, I'd love to hear about your plans and I am open to suggestions for my own list.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Too soon


Yesterday was October 1.

I had a near panic attack on September 15 when I realized that the month was half over.  I am virtually beside myself that it is October.

Last weekend, I found a virtual winter wonderland/Christmas extravaganza at a local home improvement store.  It was September 29 when I took this picture.

Too soon.  Too soon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

No rest...

 My grandpa used to tease me by saying, "There's no rest for the wicked...I'm just teasin' ya, Em." He would always break out this saying after he had asked about my schooling and later my work.  I think he loved that I was busy with what sounded like (and what I believed to be) important work.

In graduate school years ago, we were asked to reflect on our personal biases and to use this self-awareness to improve our ability to counsel students.  We were prompted that often our personal biases are based in expectations and values instilled by our families.  I recognized that laziness (or perceived laziness) was a bias, and this perspective was passed down from a long line of hard working, determined men and women on both sides of my family.  My parents embodied this tradition and both my brother and I are cut from the same cloth - I think, at times, to a fault.

Last weekend was really awesome and I don't think I could have worked harder.  After a long, long, long and frustrating week at work, I was so glad to have two days to refocus.  My brother, nieces, and my dad were driving up to finished a project at our rental - pouring sidewalk.

I have never really helped pour concrete, but knew it to be hard work.  My brother is an accomplished professional who worked his way up the ladder through education and his own hard work, including several jobs doing manual labor and pouring miles and miles of concrete.  The nostalgic part of me also knows that my grandpa poured concrete for years and years.

We started at 7 a.m. which meant a 5 a.m. departure for my family.  God bless them.  We hurried to finish the last minute preparations and then waited for the concrete to arrive.  We got lucky, according to my brother, that our concrete driver was helpful (and not a know-it-all), respectful, and (fairly) prompt.

Once the truck arrived and the concrete started to be poured, we all pitched in to fill all the forms.  My brother used his experience and expertise to do all of the finishing work.

As my brother left for the day, he told me, "Happy Birthday!"  His help (hours and hours of labor) was my birthday gift and I was thrilled.  It wasn't about finished the project or saving money by roping my family into another DIY project.  My happiness was from working hard, side-by-side with my hard working family.  What a gift.