Apparently I've fallen so far behind on the blog that IG is complaining to my mom. And I certainly don't want to make one of my only readers unhappy, so here I am, trying to make up for a long lost month.
It has been extremely busy around here. Our lingering construction project finally started up again, almost finishing up, in fact. So there were two weeks of workers back in the house, of very early mornings with lots of noise and dust and frequent trips to Home Depot for paint. But the good news is that we are finished with almost all of the job, aside from a few (not so minor) details, such as hooking up the air conditioning (which involves breaking up the cement alongside the house to bury the pipes) and installing the handrails on the stairways.
We made a sudden decision to sand and refinish all the floors. We were giddy with the improvements the workers were able to make in the handful of days they were here (yes, it's true, we waited a year for three guys to come and spend a combined total of 10 days or so to finish up the whole job—it's kind of funny and frustrating at the same time). We had completely emptied the former office and were doing some major patching and painting in there, and Hector (the foreman) asked if we were going to sand the floors. We have never refinished them in all the time we have lived here (we moved in without doing so, and once all the stuff was in, it was clear it was a GIANT task to move all the furniture and stuff in order to get to the floors). But Hector knew a guy. And so he came over (the same day I called him—it was somewhat disorienting how quickly calls were being answered, workers were arriving). There were really only four rooms which needed to be done, since the others were new floors from previous construction projects. So he proposed we put all of the furniture in two of the rooms for the first day and then move everything over to the other two rooms for the second day. Which is what we did. It was a bit hectic around here, and the house reeked of the fumes from the off-gassing, so I worried we were all going to suffer the consequences of breathing in all these unhealthy toxins. But it is done, and the floors are shining and beautiful. It is amazing what a difference it made.
We have been working on the Lego Room. There's much to say about that, but I will save it for a future unveiling post. But now that the old office is officially the boys' Lego Room, they have been very active in helping us plan it. The new office continues to evolve and is mostly finished. We are definitely using it and enjoying the new, more central location.
Also this month, we have been thrown into all sorts of panics about our chickens. First, Max noticed that Trickster was breathing noisily, sort of gasping for breath. And then he noticed Glo doing the same thing. At first, Max was the only one who heard it, and it was more when he was holding her. But once Max pointed it out, we all heard it. We consulted my parents, our local list, we called the Chicken Whsiperer, we considered taking them to the vet. It was suggested all the straw we had laid on the ground to cover the muddy back yard was filled with mold spores and was getting into everyone's lungs. Including ours. So I spent a few days worrying about that as well. It seems like one way or another, we are breathing in some stuff we shouldn't.
We are all now suffering from respiratory ailments of some kind. And I'm not sure if I should blame the floor fumes, the mold spores, the damp weather, or simply just accept that we had a winter completely free of any sort of cold or sickness, so it seems that it's our turn to be sick with something. It's likely a combination of it all.
But as far as the chickens go, we have been watching for other signs of illness, and they seem fine. We only notice the noise when they are being held, i.e. squished by Max's love. I think it is more likely diminished lung capacity from an enthusiastic hugger.
We also had another issue with Glo, which was perhaps a pecking issue, or it may have been that she injured herself somehow in the coop. I got up one morning to let them all out, and she emerged with blood running down her comb and face. There was blood in the nest box and splattered around the walls in the roost area. We have long wondered if one nesting box was sufficient, since they seem to be on some sort of crazy synchronized laying, when they all want to get in at once. It's like a house with only one bathroom for six people. They are often seen standing in line to get into the nest box, and on occasion, we have seen two in the box at the same time. We have also found eggs outside the box (someone couldn't wait any longer) or even on the floor of the coop.
But the bleeding comb was the inspiration we needed to get our act together. Martin got out the saw and made them a beautiful little nest box to put across from the old one, and the hens couldn't wait to christen it, and in fact have been using it as the preferred box since we installed it. I don't know if that old one is just the site of negative memories (whether there was a battle or if Glo simply scraped herself while trying to squeeze in when someone else was there), but it's pretty interesting that they are using the new one with such enthusiasm.
Also on the chicken front, there is a house full of artists and musicians two doors down who have been watching our chickens from their back porch. One day they asked me some specific questions about them, and I told them about the google group for support, as well as giving them my own advice for starting up. I didn't really think they would follow through, or at least not for a while. But two days later, they reported to me that they had their own chickens. I was confused, since we had been in the yard frequently in the days since we had talked and had seen no sign of this. But it seems that in the late evening and night (they keep musician's hours, of course), they built a coop underneath their porch with a bunch of salvaged wood they found, and they contacted a farm a couple of hours away, drove out there and picked out four hens, approximately the age of ours. As proof, they invited us over and gave us a tour. It was pretty impressive for a couple of days of planning and building. Or rather, for a couple of days of building. I don't think there was a lot of planning, which is how they got things done so quickly. They had a vision and ran with it. They had not installed a roost, however. They had put in about six nest boxes for four chickens, so I had to laugh at how cute that was, knowing we only had the one for six at the time. They thought the chickens would just sleep in the nest box and didn't realize they would prefer a roost. So we talked about that, and I saw how quickly they can jump into action. While I was talking, one of them grabbed a piece of lumber and started to install put together a roosting bar.
It was fun to have inspired them, and also a little daunting. I realized that they ran out and did this without doing much research (although they absolutely had done some reading and knew quite a bit, even if there were some holes to fill), and while I admire their inspiration, I realize that this is what leads to a lot of people getting chickens and then abandoning them some time later, when they realize they have gotten in over their heads. They were doing something again with the coop area late in the night, and I could hear the unhappy chickens clucking—it was way past the chicken bedtime, since chickens like to go to sleep with the sunset. Chickens don't like to have their routine disrupted and get stressed out easily by these things. In that sense, the hours of these two combined elements don't fit together. But I will hope for the best for these chickens and for the hopeful young people who are keeping them. Once they get the coop finished, I think their hens will settle into their own routine, and it will work out just fine. And the looks on their faces when they found their first eggs was evidence of their delight with the entire situation.
When I think back to the month, it seems like we have been so consumed with the above two topics—the house and the chickens—that there was little room for anything else. But when I look back at our pictures, I am reminded that we somehow managed to have a very busy time indeed.
We visited the North Park Nature Center, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Legoland, and the Museum of Science and Industry. We took a road trip to Sterling to celebrate Helene's first birthday, and Max and Otto got two days to play with Pierce and Eamon. They are coming to visit us later this week, and we are trying to get the house back together so that we have space for them all to sleep.
We also had a mini vacation in Chicago. Martin had a free night at Hotel Indigo, and so the boys and I went down on a Wednesday afternoon to check in, spent the day in the neighborhood (which happens to be that of our friend Truman, so we all just met for lunch and ran around in the park, then came back to the hotel for some hide and seek in the room), and then Martin joined us for the evening, and we walked to Bistrot Zinc for a fancy french meal, including Max's first escargot (it was not for him, he said, but it was a fun experience to try it). Martin trudged off to work the next morning, while the boys and I walked to Michigan Avenue and had drinks at the Signature Room on top of the John Hancock building. It was a sunny day and the usual beautiful view. We also visited the Hershey Store, which was not much, but we had fun anyway. It was funny to see some of the visiting foreigners loading up their bags with all sorts of Hershey's products, which were ridiculously overpriced in this store. I had to remind myself that I would spoil their fun by telling them they could walk down the block to Walgreen's and get the same stuff for less. It was the experience of being in the Hershey's Store that they were after, and that's what they were getting.
For the first time in the 19 St. Patrick's Days I have spent in Chicago (!!!), I saw the river dyed green. That didn't actually happen on St. Patrick's Day, but the weekend before. We happened to be south of the city (I was taking a chicken care workshop in Hyde Park), and we drove through the area just after the parade had ended. We found a great parking spot and walked around, amazed at how truly green the river was (and at how many people were barely able to walk straight by 4 pm). We also saw lots of people in their hats and gear, and we began a quest to get the boys their own hats, which involved stopping at several convenience, grocery and party supply stores until we found just the right ones.
In other firsts, the boys had their first Smoke Daddy experience, and we left with two bottles of barbeque sauce for home. We also went for gyros at Nikki's, our first visit there since the boys have been around.
We went to pottery classes on Mondays, ice skating on Wednesdays, and Max has piano lessons on Thursdays. We went to the park on almost every sunny afternoon (and even on some very cold mornings, to be out of the way of all the construction). Max and Otto both became proficient swingers in this month, finally both able to pump and swing themselves to great heights. We have made great strides in our Harry Potter audio book, more than halfway through the final book. And when Max is feeling thoroughly tired of Harry Potter, he has been reading Charlie Brown comics to us in the car. And Otto is starting to read a bit as well, inspired by all of Max's new reading prowess.
Max has been playing much more on the piano again, probably because we moved it around when we were sanding the floors, so the new location is a novelty. He played a really pretty song today, and I manged to record a bit of it. His lessons in the last few months have been more about music theory, and he and Noah have been working on some soundscape pieces, using a sampling program on the computer. It is nice to hear the piano keys again, tinkling away.
In the middle of all of this, we also lost about 2 weeks of internet service, and Martin spent hours on the phone trying to sort it all out. It was extremely frustrating for him, but it gave me a bit of a break from checking email and being online, and I really enjoyed my time away.
It was definitely a busy month, despite all my previous thoughts to the contrary.