Eggs!!!

Well, really, so far it is just egg!!!  On Sunday, I went outside to feed the chickens and let them roam around a bit in the yard.  We don’t exactly allow the chickens to be fully free-range as there are too many predators around and we cannot provide a truly safe habitat for them.  Still, we give them a lot of yard time and they have a fair space that is safe when they are not in the yard.

My Easter egger
Sue Sylvester…the bully

One of the birds spent a good bit of time investigating one area in the yard that was secluded and confined.  It was apparent that she was looking for a place to lay an egg.  “Hodor” (she was big and not very bright when we got her) is a brown egg layer and one of the two that is a week older than the other birds so it made sense to me that she would lay earlier than the others.

Our first egg!!!
Our first egg!!!

Anyhow, I watched Hodor and she never did lay an egg.  I urged the chickens back into the coop area and went out for a bit.  When I returned, I opened the pen again and, by dumb luck, looked into the nesting boxes.  I thought I might see a brown egg from Hodor, but didn’t really expect anything.

Our first egg!!!
It was even clean!
Our first egg!!!
Compared to an x-l store-bought egg

To my surprise, there was a nice but small blue egg!  We have two birds which I think are Ameraucanas (or more likely Easter eggers), one of which must be the source of the first egg!  My Easter eggers, Sue Sylvester and Houdini, are skittish crazy birds so I figured they would either stay so “cinched up” that they would never lay or be dropping eggs every time the wind blew.  Maybe Sue and Houdini will settle in and be pretty cool…or maybe the wind blew.  Who knows?  I am not sure I care though…after all, one of them gave me my first egg!

The surfer look?

We’ve been back from the beach for a few days, but my head is sort of still halfway between home and the ocean.  I was looking back over the pics I took and there are far too many of the pier.  The other trend I think I found were of the four of us looking like wannabe surfers.

On the beach

On the beach

Really, it is more of a matter of wearing rashguard shirts so we don’t get sunburned, but that’s not too sexy so we will go with the surfer look.

On the beach

Abigail in particular, is the water-dog when it comes to body-surfing.  We had several days of pretty rough waves and she didn’t seem to even notice.  I was getting beat to death, but she kept going out into the surf.  Of course, she, too, was getting beat up, but it just didn’t seem to bother her.  And heck, scars and scabs on my little girl’s knees and feet are kind of cool.

On the beach

On the beach

Well, beach time is over I guess so I will have to get back into real life mode I suppose.  Really though, I suppose I will have enough sand it my delicate parts to be reminded of the beach for some time to come!

Pier pressure

I mentioned that we are at the beach and are lucky enough to have a house pretty near to one of the piers in the Topsail Island area.  I have this thing for structures I guess.  Every time I see a cool bridge, I pretty much take a picture of it.  It drives Emily nuts a little.  In a way, I guess I get a little satisfaction from that alone, but I digress.  I like bridges and stuff like that.

Topsail Island Pier

On this trip, I have identified the fact that I also like piers.  Every day I walk at least one time to the pier, just so I can look up its skirt as it were.  I am fascinated by how it is built and how it stands the constant bashing of the waves and even the occasional hurricane.

Topsail Island Pier

From a distance, and even close up in many cases, piers are just amazing works of art!  I don’t think I am ready to change careers, but if I were, I think I might consider being a bridge or pier architect…or maybe just a critic…or maybe a hotdog vendor so I can walk on the pier all of the time.

Topsail Island Pier

Topsail Island Pier

Most days, I have seen cool pools formed by the turbulence generated by the pilings of the pier.  There are all sorts of fish and birds that seem to accumulate around the pier.  People are drawn to the pier too.  Of course, people fish from it, but I think I have seen more people resting under the pier than ever before…it is a great shade and wind break…or maybe people are just hanging out there waiting to greet me as I walk by.

Topsail Island Pier

Anyhow, I love the pier and I feel pier pressure to take a picture of it just about every time I walk by!

Beach 2014

We go to the beach every other year or so and this is our year.  This is weird I know, especially since I never went to the beach as a kid, but it truly doesn’t feel like Summer to me on beach years, until we actually go to the beach.  Of course, this year we have had screwed up weather so it really hasn’t felt like Summer until now anyhow.

Topsail Island 2014
Topsail Island 2014

I am not sure why I need to go to the beach to feel Summery but I am definitely on holiday and enjoying my most favoritest season – Summer!  We have been to Topsail Island, NC the last few beach trips and I think it has become our new favorite place.  When we do the beach, we do the beach and nothing else.  Topsail is mostly houses on the beach and not much touristy stuff to do.  It’s mostly not crowded and suits perfectly my need to lay on the sand in earshot of waves crashing so I can sleep properly.  It’s perfect!

Topsail Island 2014
They were so happy to get here that they actually posed!
Topsail Island 2014
Isaac is always hungry!

As the kids get older, I think that we have found that it is as much fun to watch them at the beach as any other thing.  They like to people watch and body surf and read and all the stuff we do.  It’s just total fun!  It is contagious and we all just relax and kick back.  We are here this year with Emily’s family and it’s a great opportunity to spend time with cousins and stay up late and eat too much rich food.  I used to be able to add “get sunburned” to that list but we have taken that out of the mix…we are very diligent about keeping everyone slathered in sunblock…funny how times change and we get smarter.

Topsail Island 2014
The freckles have appeared!
Topsail Island 2014
Feed us!!!

Anyhow, I love the beach and need to re-charge every couple of years.  And like they say, even a bad day at the beach beats a great day at work!

The Greenbrier and the bunker tour

Where did the last 10 days go?  It seems like we just got back from the trip we took to Lewisburg, but it’s been a while now!  So, it turns out, the Greenbrier resort is in White Sulphur Springs, WV, a few miles from Lewisburg.  The Greenbrier is one of those pretty high-end resorts that reminds me of where Daddy tried to put Baby in the Corner.  It’s not a place I really understand, but they have really pretty grass, so why not?

Front of the Greenbrier
Front of the Greenbrier
The Springhouse at the Greenbrier
The Springhouse at the Greenbrier

Emily and I decided to go and walk around the place and enjoy the beautiful views and take a tour of the declassified bunker that was built into the mountain during the Cold War.  The bunker was called Project Greek Island and was built to allow government to continue to exist in the event of nuclear war.

The ugly wall paper false wall hiding the blast door of the Greenbrier bunker
The ugly wall paper false wall hiding the blast door of the Greenbrier bunker

The bunker itself is not all that notable, but the tour given by staff is well worth the cost of the tickets.  There was so much secrecy and Cold War intrigue in its construction that simply seeing the structure without the story would be to miss the real gem.

Greenbrier Clubhouse
Greenbrier Clubhouse

We had a  lot of fun walking around the grounds as the staff prepared for the Greenbrier Classic.  We spend a few moments indulging our fantasies of wealth and importance and the state of the world during the Cold War.  I think the Greenbrier is exactly built for that…a place to get away from reality and ponder things.  The cool part for us, at least, is that we didn’t have to pay to stay in the hotel or eat at the restaurants.  We were able to escape for a few bucks for the cost of the bunker tour.  And even better was leaving with my savings in my pocket, my wife at my side and a reservation back in Lewisburg!

Lewisburg and stuff

A few weekends ago, Emily and I were without kids so decided to take a trip to Lewisburg, WV.  Lewisburg was voted “America’s Coolest Town” in 2011 so we figured we should check it out.  There is a lot of beauty across WV, but some of the best of it is collected in Greenbrier county and the counties that surround it.  We had a perfect weekend for walking about town and that was exactly our plan.

Lewisburg, WV
Just a shot of Lewisburg, WV

There are numerous small shops in Lewisburg that very clearly cater to tourists, but are still very cool regardless.  In particular, we found a place that was sort of a health-food, earthy, new-age-almost place, called Edith’s Health and Specialty Store.  Normally I don’t care much about that sort of place, but we planned to check out every store in town.  What I especially liked about Edith’s was the bulk food area in the basement.  They had a barrel of the finest dates I have ever eaten.  I know, dates aren’t a thing most people care about, let along spend time writing into a sentence, but these dates were so fresh and wonderful, I can’t wait to go back and get more!  Dates…who knew?!

Emily at lunch - Stella's
Emily at lunch – Stella’s

There were trinket stores and an outfitter and bakeries and antique stores and even a pecan store.  We hit all of the shops and had a really cool time talking about, you know, adult stuff.  The kids would have been crazy, but we had a great time eating dates and talking about…whatever we wanted!  Lewisburg is sort of what small towns used to be I suppose.  From the time before there were big box stores, when people went to the local whatever shop for…whatever.  The downtown was alive with people…likely tourists, but still, people wandering around, chatting and enjoying the weather.  It reminds me somewhat of my hometown before it hit against hard times.

Lost World Caverns
Lost World Caverns
Lost World Caverns
Inside Lost World Caverns

Near Lewisburg, there are a number of other sights…we took a tour of Lost World Caverns.  It was a cave homecoming for Emily as she had gone on a guided tour of the cave when she visited on an elementary school trip when she was a kid.  Since we were adults, we got to do a self-guided tour which was cool.  It’s nice spending extra time staring at any old dang rock we pleased as opposed to speeding through a tour guided by someone else.

Lost World Caverns
Us in Lost World Caverns

I was especially surprised, as Emily is not a wine drinker, that we visited a winery/vineyard and did a wine tasting.  Watts Roost Winery ferments wine onsite, but unfortunately, is closing as soon as they run out of their stock.  I guess the owner prefers sheep farming to wine making so is expanding one business and closing the other.  Too bad, as the wine was pretty good…we bought 10 bottles of various sorts.

Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg, WV
Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg, WV

Back to Lewisburg, we walked around and saw Carnegie Hall, one of four Carnegie Halls in the world.  We didn’t go in, but we did walk the grounds a bit and get to say we licked Carnegie Hall…who else can say that?!

Old Stone Presbyterian ChurchOld Stone Presbyterian Church
Old Stone Presbyterian Church

Across the road from Carnegie Hall is “The Old Stone Presbyterian Church“, an old…stone…church.  What did you expect?  Anyhow, it has an old cemetery attached as well.  It was striking that there were a number of tombstones there that had birthdates before the US of A was the US of A.  It’s hard to even think about that for me for some reason…to wonder what the area was like before the area was a state, let along a country.  It must have been thrilling and terrifying and amazing and terrifying (again).

Old Stone Presbyterian Church
Born before the United States

All-in-all, it was a great trip to see a cool small town.  It was fun to hang with Emily and see some neat things and to sip a little wine, eat some rich food and act like adults!

Confirmed…he’s a rooster

So I mentioned the other day, that I have a bunch of chickens, one of which I thought might be a rooster.  He runs the hens around and very clearly is the boss of the coop.  He has pointy saddle feathers and he’s huge compared to the other birds.  Still, I was sold hens so I held out hope that “Licorice” was just a bossy hen.  I mean, each bird has her (or his) own personality so I thought I might still be ok.

Of course, the kids are out of town with my folks, so Emily and I have enjoyed quiet sleep.  On Monday morning, however, at almost exactly 6 am, we heard a sort of ill-formed warble that turned into a rooster-like sound.  He practiced a few more times and finally let out a few real rooster crows.  By 6:15, he was done.  I was able to visibly catch him in the act at one point because I didn’t want to mistakenly pin maleness on Licorice if it were really Beatrice doing the crowing.

Licorice, my "hen" that isn't a hen
Licorice, my “hen” that isn’t a hen

Emily didn’t hear him crow another single time the rest of the day or evening.  Tuesday morning, he was at it again from 6 until 6:15 am and then he was quiet.  That wouldn’t really bother me, but we do live in the city and have neighbors fairly close-by.  I will definitely talk to them and make sure they aren’t terribly inconvenienced, but city ordinances do stipulate that while hens are legit in the city, roosters are definitely not.

I talked to a few friends who could have roosters but neither needed him so unless someone else turns up who needs a rooster, Licorice will make us a fine dinner this weekend.  I hate to see him go as he is a pretty bird and really pretty gentle with humans, but I do not want trouble from the city or my neighbors.  Ultimately, all of the chickens will be eaten as well so this is not a huge deal…just a little sooner than I had planned.

The old stink eye
The old stink eye

Ah well, I guess this is the life of an urban chicken farmer.  I guess you can never truly know whether you have males or females until you get proof…noisy proof…

Honey moon

So last night at 12:11 am, we witnessed the first honey moon (also known as strawberry moon) that happened to fall on a Friday the 13th, in almost 100 years.  I stayed up until around midnight to try to take some pics of the moon hoping to see its yellow tint, the reason it is called a honey moon.

The full moon nearest the Summer Solstice is at its perigee or the time when it is closest to the Earth and lowest in the sky.  Since it is low in the sky, it appears to be much larger than normal, due to a trick that our brains pull on us…it’s called the moon illusion (see possible explanation here).  Add to that the effects of pollution and dust in the atmosphere which reflect light differently, and you end up with a larger-than-normal yellow colored moon.

Full honey moon
Full honey moon

So I wandered out late last night in my boxers and gum boots to take a few pics.  They aren’t high def amazing shots, but I think they came out pretty neat in a creepy-cool kind of way.

Right before our real honeymoon
Right before our real honeymoon

The other fun fact is that today, Emily and I are taking a sort of get-away weekend to celebrate (a little early) our 20 year wedding anniversary…so we have a honey moon kicking off a second  sort of honeymoon!  It must be a good omen!

MANKs

This week, Emily and I are MANKs….Married Adults, No Kids!  The kids went home with my parents last weekend after a visit here in WV.  We have done that several summers but this year is a good bit longer…all told, they will be in PA for 12 days!  Emily and I do not know what to do with ourselves!

My lovely kids!
My lovely kids!

Of course, we love the kids and love being with them, but we have had very little time for just the two of us.  It seems like there were just two of us when we got married, but that was a long time ago so it is hard to remember!  It’s a little weird, but it sort of feels like when we were first married!  We went out to eat a time or two, saw a late movie, stayed up too late, went grocery shopping in peace, ate without breaking up a fight, took walks, and talked about whatever we wanted to, whenever we wanted to.

While it is fantastic having kids and being with the kids, I gotta say, being a MANK again is a nice change…but just for a little while…

Almost as good as a day at the beach…

We have had chickens for a little while now. They aren’t quite old enough to lay eggs so really they are free-loaders at this point, but they are some of the most hilarious freeloaders I have ever seen. If you have never seen chickens behave, you are missing a true treat!

Hunt and peck!
Hunt and peck!
Crazy chickens!
Crazy chickens!

We have a coop that is apparently adequately sized for holding the number of birds we have.  They do seem quite happy inside and are safe and healthy.  Still, we especially like to let them roam about our fenced yard.  I cannot leave them there all the time as the neighborhood cats are ferocious hunters…they leave dead stuff on our doorstep all the time.  So we let them out often to roam about but we sit with them all the time.  Abigail and I dragged a couple of lounge chairs over by their coop so we can watch their antics a few weeks ago.  We go and sit with the birds pretty much daily.  At least one of us gets their daily, but it is so much fun that we usually hang out together.

Lounging in the chicken yard!
Lounging in the chicken yard!

We were talking the other day as they birds pecked and scratched about…Abigail declared that watching the birds was relaxing and, “Almost as good as a day at the beach.”  Indeed, sitting on a lounge chair in the back yard with one’s daughter watching chickens is a great day!

Probably a rooster!
Probably a rooster!

One day in the somewhat near future, I expect that we will get eggs so the chickens will get out of freeloader status.  Until then, they get marked in the budget solidly as entertainment and team building expenses!