Suburban Homesteading in Southwestern PA

By Stacy Artis

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October 18
    Tim didn't work today which was nice.  He didn't get the things done around the house that I'd hoped because he helped put a sign up on the church that turned into a nearly all day project.  We are really needing to get a "real" covering on the chicken run.  The tarp we used all summer needed to be replaced before we get snow anyway, but after Tuesday's high winds tugged at it we have no choice but to do it now.  It has a couple of big rips that the chooks could escape through if they put any thought to it.
    Tim and I noticed the roosters are beginning to get spurs.  I am so glad he will soon be butchering three of them.  The big fellow I plan to keep is at least showing no signs of getting mean.  I wouldn't call him tame, but he isn't aggressive.  Though, it was funny this morning.  I can talk to that bird and all he does is cackle quietly and cock his head to get a better look at me.  Tim talked to him and POOF! He got his feathers all ruffled, stretched and flapped his wings, crowed and strutted for all he was worth.  He has the same reaction to Matt to a lesser degree.  I guess a male recognises another male no matter what the species.
    A woman I work with and her husband raise cattle every year to butcher in the fall.  They take orders from family and friends a year in advance for sides or half-sides of beef.  Yesterday she told me they bought a couple of extra cows this year and could take a couple more orders. So, I was able to get in on it.  Nice to know that next October we have a side of beef coming.
    Megan went with Matt to see his girlfriend last night at her father's home.  Holly's step-sister is a year older than Megan and they get along great.  Kayla is also bigger than Megan and still growing so she went through all of her outgrown things last night and bagged them up and sent them home with Megan.  What a welcome gift!  Megan shot up so much over the summer that none of her old clothes fit her.  We got her some things for back to school, but she was really in need of a serious shopping trip for jeans and long sleeve shirts.  I don't have to do that now.  There was so much in the bag and it all looks like brand new and it comes from places like the Gap, Limited, Old Navy, etc.  It's all the "cool" stuff Megan likes.  She is thrilled and so are we.  What a help it is to our budget.....especially when we are getting this close to Christmas.
    I packed away the summer clothes today and got out the sweaters, turtle-necks and longjohns.  It's been cooler this week and last night the temperature made it down to the freezing mark.  Brrrr, was it cold this morning.  We still have some warm days ahead, but not so many that a couple pairs of shorts left out won't handle it. We've had a fire in the fireplace a couple of evenings now, just to chase the damp chill away, not because it was really that cold.
    Tonight we are going to the "Redneck Roundup" at a local church.  They are promising a "rip roarin', hootin' hollerin', music filled, side-splittin', good eatin', fun filled evening.  A very popular Christian rock band is playing as well as an unknown group....MacDaddy Donald and the Farmers of the Dale.  This should be interesting.  The food is inexpensive-50 cent hotdogs, 25 cent drinks and popcorn-and they are giving a way a lot of brand new stuff like televisions, bikes, DVD players, computers and more!  There's even going to be a petting zoo.  It should be a fun time and we are looking forward to it.

October 20
Megan's bus driver called me on the radio during the high school run this morning and asked me to meet her in front of the school.  I was wondering what my kids had done for the rest of the run.  Turns out poor Megan got sick on the bus.  I brought her on to my bus and she rode with me the rest of the morning.  At least this way she got to come home and sleep until this afternoon.  An aunt watched her for then.
An older man from the church stopped by this morning after I got home to pick up the basket lift Tim had rented on Saturday to put the sign up on the church and return it.  Tim left him the right size ball hitch, but it sure didn't go easily.  Zane had never had his hitch off the truck before and it had been painted many times during the 20+ years he's had it.  It took the two of us close to an hour wrestling with pipe wrenches, one working on the nut and the other holding the ball still, to get that thing off.  Only to find that the hitch Tim left would not fit through the hole on Zane's bumper!  I called Tim at work and he said to just go ahead and buy another hitch.  I told Zane, but he didn't want to if he didn't have to.  Finally, he remembered his neighbor was a retired steel mill worker with quite a collection of tools....including a drill bit large enough to enlarge the hole in the bumper.  So, more than two hours after he first arrived, Zane and the lift pulled out of our driveway.  I waved them off, sent up a quick prayer that Zane would get it delivered safely and as I turned to go in the house I looked on the corner of the front porch and saw the hitch that had come with (and should have gone back with) the lift.
    What a day!

October 22
Another cold front came through yesterday bringing rain and lots of wind again.  Just what we needed.  The daytime temps are down in the mid to upper 40's range and we're hitting right around freezing at night.  The weatherman says we may see the first snow flurries of the year on Thursday or Friday!
    I mucked out the chicken coop and rabbit hutches today and put the mess on the garden.  Yucky job, but good for the garden and the animals were happy to have clean bedding material.  The chickens especially go nuts when they get new straw.
    Megan went back to school today after two days off with an upset stomach, headache and low fever.  It really took a lot out of her and when I got home she was in bed sound asleep.  She woke up to eat a little bit of supper and work on all the schoolwork she has to make up.  She passed on going to church tonight.

October 23
    No snow yet, but it sure is cold.  The weatherman still says it could happen tonight or tomorrow.
    It was a good day on the bus.  I've finally found a method of controlling the behavior of the elementary kids that seems to be working.  Every week I'll reward one of them for good behavior by letting them sit in the back seat for that week and they make choose any friend they want to sit with them.  They'll also get an award ribbon (found at the dollar store).  They love the idea...especially the award!  Now if I could only find a way to end the clashes between the "haves" and "have-nots" on the high school run.
    Everyone is actually home this evening (first time all week) and I'm typing this while making supper.  A real sit-down, home-cooked supper!!  It's nice to have everyone gathered for a change.  I'm looking forward to just being at home and doing nothing in particular.
    Look next week for some photos from around our place.  I dropped them in the mail to Nita today!

Carpe diem!