A relationship to a parent can be complicated.

    On the one hand it can be a place of refuge and comfort. But on the other, it can also be genuinely heavy and infuriating at times. My Mother was all of these things - and many things in between. I wish she could have been a happier, kinder person (there was often a lot to be happy about all told). But I also know that she had a very hard time fitting in with others and I can deeply relate to that. I wish she had been more optimistic, but I also know she dealt with a lot of constant physical pain later in life. I wish she had opened her heart to more people and let more of the world in general into her life but, she also often told me that she “didn’t like people all that much”. Depending on the day, I can relate to this too.

    She was human, she was complicated. Just like her youngest son. Just like all of us I suppose.

    There are parts of her I see in me that I really hate. And yet, there are parts of me that are so intrinsically “me”, parts that I am so grateful for. Parts that I love. That I don’t know who I’d be without them. I regret that I never got around to explicitly tell you that, though I tried to live my life while you were here in such a way that you might’ve seen it. Hopefully you did at any rate.

    The grand irony is that the one time in the last decade that she told me that she “had felt the best I have felt in years”, she was gone 6 hours later. I’m grateful that my last conversation with her was a good one, that it was sunny that day, that it was warm and that you sounded happy, optimistic even.

    RIP Mom.

    (About the pictures. I’ve always been told that I look a lot like my father but, these pictures were taken at roughly the same time in our lives and I’ve always loved how similar we look here.)

    After 4 years… it finally got me.

    Mild symptoms at the moment but, I definitely feel ill. Bummed to finally catch it, but not surprised either with the numbers climbing as much as they have in recent weeks. 🤒😷

    Not too bad 📱 13 Pro macro lens!

    Laurel Creek, Deep Gap, North Carolina, 12/2022

    Been a while...

    Pit fire in our backyard

    I’ve intentionally stepped back from participating in social media for a variety of reasons, most of them boring and, by today’s standards, cliché. But, to boil that particular ocean, I did it for my mental health. This last autumn brought a lot of change and the rise of Omicron had me refocusing on the things that are important. Well, important to me anyways, and as much as I love y’all, participating in social media was waaaaaaay down at the bottom of that list. Not at the very bottom mind you, but close.

    Still, I do recognize the value in letting friends and family know that I am still alive. So, yeah, hi there! :)

    Some things that have changed quite a bit since the last time I updated this space:

    Professional stuff. I got a “new old” job back at the Duke Clinical Research Institute. I worked there for about 13 years before heading out on my own for a bit. It’s going great! It’s surreal to be back and seeing a lot of familiar faces. It’s also nice to be working/collaborating with long time friends - and to be able to walk to work again - if we ever head back to the office. Before heading back to the DCRI, I worked a little over a year at a wonderful design firm in Raleigh called Walk West. I learned a ton from that awesome crew of hyper talented people and it was not easy to leave. But life can take you in unexpected directions. RIP Conduit Designs, it was a good ride!

    Requisite chicken update. Our chickens suffered a really awful loss in January. A loose dog got into our run and we lost six hens. Pretty devastating on a lot of levels as those hens saw us through some tough times. Looking forward, we still have Banana and she gets consistently broody when the days get longer and warmer. We are hoping to slip some fertilized eggs under her the next time she is, to see if we can get some new chicks for the Spring!

    Last big thing is my sobriety. It’s been 2 years and 4 months since I’ve had an alcoholic beverage. I’ve battled substance abuse off and on throughout my illustrious drinking career. Right before the pandemic took over the world I had been leaning WAY too much on alcohol for just about everything and it was changing me into someone I didn’t want to be anymore. It was the easiest toughest decision I’ve had to make thus far and literally everything in life has improved significantly for it. It’s nice to be back and present for all of life’s slings and arrows. It’s nice be present for all of the lovely things as well. 10/10. Highly recommended. Would do it again.

    That’s it on my end! I’m doing all right and I hope that, on your own terms, in your own time, you can do the same.

    And just like that! We suddenly have 7 active egg layers! The coop also gets a roost upgrade. 🐓

    The last few weeks have been kinda crazy in the egg laying department. We went from three eggs consistently a day to five to six on the regular. The biggest surprise? The two younger pullets we replaced the roosters with started laying last week!! We had no idea that they were mature enough and expected them to not start laying until the spring. So, needless to say, we were genuinely surprised to find the cutest speckled dark brown eggs mysteriously showing up. All three of our Welsummers are stealth layers (our term, not technical) in that they don’t sit in the egg laying boxes for terribly long. They hop in for five to ten minutes tops and hop on out. The others sit in there for an hour so.

    One of several deciding factors in choosing our hens was the prospect of naturally colored eggs. I am so glad we did this, as we end up with quite the spectrum of colors in our dozens. The eggs taste the same of course, but seeing them laid out all pretty is quite joy-inducing. 😊

    We now officially have had our first traffic jams at the egg laying boxes and we couldn’t be happier. They all make a crazy racket pre, during, and post, laying. Luckily our neighbors find it as amusing as we do! I’m sure the occasional free eggs help a bit. 😅

    One last thing I recently did with the coop was to upgrade the roost rails. The original roost I built worked just fine, but as they grew I kept Frankenstein-ing more scrap pieces of wood to it until it became quite heavy and unwieldy to remove whenever we turned their coop bedding. It only made sense to give them more space and get it all off the coop floor. Now that it’s installed, I honestly wish I’d done all of that when we built it originally. So much cleaner (visually and spatially) and now there’s more space for them to move around inside.

    Three eggs a day and an extended run for the hens! 🐓

    This last week our third hen started laying eggs on the semi-daily. They all take a day off periodically but, for the most part, they are producing 3 eggs a day a now! For the first time since getting these ladies, it feels like we are quickly getting to a point where store-bought eggs will be a thing of the past. At least for a little while anyways. When all 9 are laying, that’ll be crazy!

    We also took some time at the end of November to extend the run beyond the existing fenced-in area. It’s open air, so we have to be out there with them (too many hawks in the area nabbing hens), but they seem to really, really love this addition. Lots of frolicking and happy chortling! It also gets us outside a little more, which is much needed these days.

    One of our ladies started laying eggs at the end of last week! 🐓

    Thanks Latte! 😊

    First egg in hand. Store bought egg (left) next to our hen Latte's first egg (right).Latte the hen, as always, perched on my shoulder!

    The flock gets smaller (but then grows!)... 🐓

    It’s been a while since I updated this space. The new job I started in July really took a lot out of me as far as changes to every day life and the pace at which I had to learn a ton of new skills. It’s going well, it’s just at the end of the day I simply want to turn my brain off and writing on this site requires at least some level of thought.

    8 hens roosting in their coop

    As I mentioned in the title above, our family of chickens had to say goodbye to four of the OG flock. Shortly after the last post Brave, London Fog, Cookies and Cream, and Lemonade started crowing very loudly every morning. We knew this day would come and we bought these birds with the full knowledge that we’d have to let some of them go. Still, it was sad to say goodbye to them. We raised them from less than 24 hours of age, and as much as you try not to, you really do become attached to these silly birds and their personalities. Luckily, one of the farmers that we got 4 of our hens from, had two pullets that were up for grabs. She offered them to us cheaply since one of her “hens” that were supposed to be sexed ahead of time, turned out to be a rooster.

    Our newest hens, Cinnamon and Hashbrown, enjoying a dust bath

    Their names are Cinnamon and Hashbrown and while they are considerably younger than the other hens, they are slowly but surely growing and weeding their way into the flock. We’ve had to break up a lot of fights and play referee a bunch. These new little guys are drama queens so it’s hard to hear their cries and not do anything - I don’t abide bullying with humans and it turns out that that sentiment extends to animals too apparently. Still, I had no idea how brutal these ladies can be to each other! Hopefully, come dead of winter, these new additions will be grown enough to defend themselves a little more and not be such easy targets.

    Oh! On another hen-related note, we opened up the egg laying boxes! They are definitely interested, but no one’s jumped in one of them so I think we are still a ways out. Hopefully we don’t have to wait until the spring for eggs, but we might! 🤞🏼🤞🏼

    The older hens checking out the newly uncovered egg laying boxes, with photobomb from Latte.

    The chicks are all grownz up! 🐓

    Our feather babies are making all kinds of crazy new croaky sounds as they’ve grown significantly in August. They are burning through food and water much faster and, though we are not sure yet, we have some pretty good hunches on who’s gonna be a rooster. Not gonna lie, it will be a bummer if we are correct, since we can’t have them within city lines.

    As we’ve mentioned before though, we’ve got solid backup plans for them to live out their roostery lives to the fullest, it’ll just have to be elsewhere. 😩

    Here are some pics of them at the beginning of the month:

    A picture of our chicken London FogA picture of our chicken BananaA picture of our chicken LatteA picture of our chicken Lemon AidA picture of our chicken Vanilla BeanA picture of our chicken PepperA picture of our chickens Butter Crunch and Pecan SandyA picture of our chicken BraveA picture of our chicken Cookies n' Cream

    Hey there Atlantic... 🌊

    … it’s been a minute.

    I’ve never been a “beach person”. I get too bored, fidgety, and eventually insufferable. I am an ocean person though and it’s been years since we visited the coast. Four years for Melinda. Far too long.

    Looks like we missed peak tourist season too! It was glorious having beach mostly to ourselves. 😷

    🐔 Pals, weathering the storm...

    The chicks have grown so damn much! We were a little worried about how they would handle their first Carolina hurricane.

    So far they seem to be doing just fine. 😊🐥⛈🌬🌊🌪

    Coop Update 6 🐓: The Coop Ramp and a Roof on the Run

    Just a quick update on our coop and run situation. This happened days ago, but I installed a ramp up to the coop. Now we just open the sliding side door and they can walk down the ramp or, if you are too tiny, fly down from the top ramp platform and skip the ramp entirely (which is pretty damn adorable to watch TBH)!

    We also installed chicken wire over the top of the run so they can finally be out in the run all day without us being present. No lie, this is a HUGE quality of life improvement over what we had before. For us and the chickens. They absolutely love being out in the run by themselves!

    In some sad news, we lost our first chick. We aren’t even really sure what caused it. We just noticed our little Salt was super quiet (very odd for her) and actively withdrawing from the flock. We brought her inside and Mel held her through the night until she passed. We did all we could and we knew going into this that chances of losing one of these little guys was pretty high.

    Still, it was bummer for sure. RIP little Salty. We sure miss your salty ways.

    Coop Update 5 🐓: The walls of the run are complete!

    We put in some serious time this week getting the walls of the run built, screened in with hardware cloth, and installing the predator apron. A few measurement issues aside, it went surprisingly smooth. Hardware cloth is not the easiest thing to manipulate but Mel did an incredible job finishing that up. I built the door into the coop as well as the mechanism to allow ourselves out of the run after locking it. Honestly, it all came out great and today? After installing the predator apron? We let the chicks out into the run! Needless to say, they had a blast and most certainly didn’t want to go back into the coop. 😄

    The last bits left are the ramp down into the run from the coop and meshing in the “roof” of the run. Then, aside from some upgrades I have in mind, we are finally done and our chickens will have a safe environment to live out their chicken days!

    Coop Update 4 🐓: It's complete!

    Been falling down the last few days on updates for this project but, I am happy to report that the coop itself is complete and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!

    We learned sooooo much on working on this and there were definitely some moments at the end where we were close to throwing our tools into the next door neighbors' yards😅. But for every obstacle we encountered, we took a step back, readjusted, and found a way around it.

    The biggest concern was making the coop structure itself predator-proof and I believe we accomplished that. No lie though, this thing weighs a TON!

    With the chicks getting bigger by the day, the completion of this couldn’t have come at a better time. The plan is to move them out to the new space today and then get cracking on the run. We hope the construction of the run goes smoother. Though in truth, the coop could’ve gone so much worse.

    Coop Update 3: Raise the roof! 🐓

    I mentioned in my last post that today was the day the roof needed to be added to the coop due to the next five days of rain in the forecast. Well, we got up early and put our all into churning that out. The day was gorgeous weather-wise and even though we definitely ran into some more design issues, we got the roof up and it’s kinda glorious! We were high-fiving ourselves silly when we knocked off for the evening.

    It was a long weekend, but it was definitely worth it. Everything else that is left has been built out. We just need to attach it to the coop and it’ll be done! After that, we’ll hit the run which hopefully will have less surprises.

    Coop Build Update 2 🐓

    We made great headway on the coop yesterday and today. The floor is up and we’ve added the back and side walls, all painted. All that’s left is the egg laying box, the front with its respective doors and, finally, the roof.

    We’ll have to push it tomorrow as Durham’s going to get a lot rain in the next 5 days. Fingers crossed that we don’t run into any show-stoppers. We definitely found some design “gotchas” today that were frustrating, but nothing we couldn’t adapt or move past with some creativity.

    I’ve been really proud of Mel and I for navigating these waters together without melting down as we have in the past. Our brains work very differently and that difference has naturally caused friction when we work on projects that involve building or construction. But not this project for some reason.

    In fact, I think we’ve both learned a little more about each other. Which is really saying something considering how long we’ve been together.

    Chicken Coop Update 🐓

    Things have been progressing nicely here with our newly feathered children. The chicks are heading into a delightfully awkward phase, with new feathers popping out all over the place replacing the downy fuzz they had as babies. It’s been super fascinating to watch them change from day to day.

    baby chicks showing evidence of growth with  new feathers on their wings and tails

    That said, with those changes come new skills. They’ve all started flying! Albeit very short distances. 😄 Still, it’s become painfully obvious that they are outgrowing the bins we were placing them in, so building a proper coop became a top priority. In two days, we built out the floor and the frames of the walls. 98% of all of this was done with 2 x 4’s and 4 x 8 plywood. It’s rugged as hell and, not being carpenters, we are pretty damn proud of it’s design. Now that it’s pretty close to being complete we are looking forward to finishing the run, predator-proofing it all, and giving them all the space they need to grow, be happy, and lay eggs!

    Pages from Melinda’s drawn design plans for the chicken coop we are currently building a picture of the finished coop floor and framed out walls and roof

    Chicken Update! 🐓

    Added two new chicks to the flock today! We were apprehensive at first, but the newbies fell nicely into the fold in a matter of minutes, as if they were always part of the group. I wish humans were that accepting and adaptable (sigh).

    Currently it’s in the 90’s here in Durham, NC so we took them outside for a change of scenery and they are just freaking out with all the new sights and sounds! Definitely going to add this to the routine whenever possible. Next week we get the last four and then we have a coop to build!

    two baby chicken chicks, one black with splotches, one brown with black strips and caramel splotchessix baby chicks in their broodersix baby chicks in their broodersix baby chicks in their brooder

    For years we’ve wanted chickens and today we took the plunge! 🐥🐔

    We got the first allotment of 4 chicks today! We’ll get another 4 next weekend and another 4 the next. So 12 total with the hope to end up with 10 to 8 hens for egg laying and, eventually, food when it’s time. For any roosters we get, we have connections to find them good homes that don’t have city ordinances restricting them.

    We are not even 12 hours in and, so far, we are really smitten with these little guys. Even though I’d read as much, I genuinely didn’t expect these fuzzies to have such personalities! We were nervous at first - they haven’t been alive for more than 48 hours yet - but we got them all to drink and eat! So we are feeling much better about the new stress of keeping them alive.

    Here’s to eggs, more joy, and challenges from unexpected places!

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