Coop, Eggs, Et Cetera

We finished the deluxe coop yesterday:
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Twenty-four hours later, we have our first egg!
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We visited some friends on Saturday, and the kids played with their cow:
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Abby got to ham it up a bit:
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And Brandi got to ride a mower:
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Here's a parting shot, taken tonight, of the Guel girls:
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If I Had Twitter ...

If I understand Twitter correctly, I believe you essentially use it as a miniature blog to tell about every detail of your life (e.g. I just flushed the toilet).

I'm thinking, just to add more content to this blog, of posting occasional tweets (I can't believe I just said tweets) on this very blog. It'll be fun. I guess.

Without further ado:

Right now I'm reading a Wikipedia article on Oneness Pentecostalism.

Almost Done

The chickens aren't quite ready to move in just yet. We still need to build the nesting boxes and do a few more finishing touches.

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Milky

There wasn't a cloud in the sky Tuesday night. On just about any night that the stars are out, Brandi and I love to sit out back behind our house and look up at the stars. Tuesday night the sky was so dark you could see the Milky Way stretched across the blackness -- it was awesome. I love gazing into space.

Coopin'

This half of our barn will be converted to a deluxe chicken coop. If all goes according to plan, the coop should be up and running within 7 to 10 days.

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10th

My church, Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, celebrated its 10th Anniversary today. Instead of holing up in the cushy auditorium, we went old school and had our morning worship in the parking lot like we used to do in the old days. My wife and newborn and I left Houston at 6 a.m. in order to make it to Waco by the 9 a.m. start time. (Since I was the official photographer for the event, I sort of needed to be there at a decent hour.) We had a blast, and the Spirit of God really touched us. Here's one of my favorite photos from the service:

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"At the name of Aslan ..."

At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

-- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Family Portrats From The Farm

I did some family portraits for some folks over at our farm. I was happy with the results and I thought I'd share them here ...

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Some Sunday Photos

Abigail playing with Legos in the Homeschool Room:
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Daniel playing a game:
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Nathan playing with crayons:
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A shot of our shop with the chicken tractor in the foreground (the chickens were out ranging):
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A couple of photos from the back of our house (yes, whoever owned the house before us had satellite TV inside the shop ;-). That larger satellite dish on the house (it's actually twice as big as the TV dishes) is the dish for our Internet; the thing is huge! We call the fenced area between the shop and the house "the Little Yard." The chickens and ducks live in the Little Yard during the day. The small window upstairs is the window to Abby's bedroom:
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The wildflowers are finally dying. I think this is where we plan to put our garden next year. The barn's in the background:
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Our field that will hopefully be a pasture next year:
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Finally, another shot from the back of our field. That white building is the shop:
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Happy birthday, baby.

The Downside

There are downsides to everything, I suppose, and there are certainly downsides to living in the country. Here's my list:

- We're a good 25 minutes from any decent-sized grocery store or restaurant.

- We're about half an hour from our church. Previously we were five minutes from our church.

- Since everyone out in the country is responsible to take care of their own septic system, it's not uncommon to periodically catch a whiff of someone's septic problem. (Most systems need to be pumped every three to five years.)

- Bugs! We have no shortage of creepy critters out here. There are even larger, "super" versions of bugs we'd see around our old place in town. Bugs aren't a problem in the house, but we do occasionally get flying insects who get sucked into the house when we open and close the doors. Of course, our ranging chickens help out tremendously with the bug population.

- Dogs. When you don't have a city ordinance enforcing a leash law, dogs often roam freely. Thankfully, most of the dogs around here are used to human interaction. We haven't heard of any real problems with them.

- Our soil is sandy, which apparently is great for gardening, but it fosters the growth of sand burrs. Frequent mowing keeps the burrs to a minimum, so they're not really a big deal, but when we first moved in I went two or three weeks without mowing and there were burrs all over the place. Ouch!

- Snakes, scorpions, coyotes, et cetera. (We actually haven't seen any snakes or scorpions, but they're definitely around. We can often hear the coyotes howling in the forest behind our house.)

That's all I've got for now. Despite all those challenges, we love it out here.

"Bill Clinton to Seek Release of U.S. Reporters in North Korea"

The New York Times is reporting that President Clinton is on his way to Pyongyang on behalf of the two condemned American journalists.

Godspeed, President Clinton.

4-something

Evangeline didn't want to go back to sleep after her 3 a.m. feeding, so here I am at 4-something in the morning, swinging her around in a sling with nothing much else to do. I guess I'll give an update on our farm, since stuff around here consumes most of our non-Evangeline-related time.

First of all, I always thought it was cool how the Brits name their homes. After we bought this place I wanted to do the same, but couldn't think of anything that sounded right. For the most part we, or at least I, have taken to calling this place "The Farm." That's not very original, but it does personalize the place a bit for me.

With regard to the animals, we still only have 10 chickens (nine hens and a rooster), and three ducks. The ducks spend all of their time in a small duck tractor (a portable cage, really). I'm keeping them confined to their tractor until they get big enough to not fit through the pickets of our little yard (the fenced area adjacent to our house). I'm a little concerned that once the ducks get a taste of freedom they'll want to fly away, but, supposedly, ducks get used to being fed and don't wander off unless they see a body of water nearby, and even then, again, "supposedly," they'll eventually return. I'm sure they'll be fine, but we may clip their wings to be safe. They're still a few weeks away from being able to fly anyway. Speaking of water, I put a little pan of water in their tractor tonight and, despite a little initial fear of change, they hopped right in and started floating around like, well, ducks. They look like three rubber ducks floating in there -- pretty cool.

I'm more excited about eating the ducks than I am about eating the chickens, and I'm pretty excited about eating the chickens! Of course, we won't do any butchering with any of the birds until they start to lay eggs and reproduce. The chickens ought to start laying in September, so I'm sure I'll be building the deluxe coop here sometime in August. Lately I've considered buying a bunch of meat birds just for the purpose of slaughtering, but I'll probably hold off on that for now to see what our current flock does.

Brandi and I are both liking the idea of having a meat cow (a cow raised to be eaten) and some of our bumpkin friends around here have suggested the idea of getting an electric fence because a) they'll apparently keep in a cow and b) they're cheap as dirt compared to other fencing. I'd need to fence off about 1.25 acres, but much of that is already fenced by my neighbor, so I'm really only looking at about 750 linear feet of fencing. I contacted a farm supply dealer and I can get a bare bones set up for a little less than $300. I'm still not sure how much the cow would cost but we'd probably buy a calf, have it slaughtered in a few months, and then repeat the process. Some country friends I went to lunch with the other day told me they slaughtered a cow a few months ago and still have all sorts of meat in their freezer: ribs, tenderloins, etc. (The company that does the slaughtering gives you all your cuts of meat in nice shrink-wrapped packages.)

Brandi and I had a good chat with our neighbor who owns the rent property next to our house. As far as rent houses go -- heck, as far as any house goes! -- he keeps the place looking flawless. Anyway, his residence is about three-quarters of a mile down our road. We had a chat about his garden (he's been keeping it for 15 years), the neighborhood dogs (he said they're friendly and haven't been known to bite anyone), and he spent a little time cooing over Evangeline. I can't believe how warm and friendly the guy is. He told me he's got all sorts of farm tools and that if I ever need anything to let him know. (Most people out here are very friendly.)

That's all I've got for now. I'm off to bed.

One Rerun

[This has become a bit of a photo blog lately, which I don't mind, but I decided to rerun a post I did over at Thinklings a few months ago about U2's masterpiece, "One." Truth be told, it's just an easy way to get a lot of words on the blog in an effort to break up the photos a bit. Incidentally, the post did cause a bit of a brouhaha in the comments thread at Thinklings because I likened Bono's live addendum to "One" as "the boldest speech to the Almighty this side of King David." Sure, I was being a wee bit hyperbolic, so I softened the language a tad in this rerun post.]

This afternoon I took the familiar three-hour trek from Waco to Houston to join my family for New Year's Eve celebrations. On the way to Space City I listened to a lot of music: worship, classical, 80s rock, and, of course, U2. Among other anthems, I enjoyed two versions of U2's quintessential track, "One." Since my with-child wife is fast asleep right now (it's 10 p.m.), I thought I'd take the opportunity to blog about my favorite song of all time.

I recall being in high school gym class in 1992 and being asked by a cohort of mine if I had heard the new U2 song, "One." I wasn't much of a U2 fan back then -- heck, I wasn't a U2 fan at all -- and I told him I hadn't heard it, and, frankly, I didn't care to listen to it (I didn't tell him that last part).

A few months later many of the popular kids showed up to school wearing U2 concert T-shirts, and a popular shirt had a big "ONE" printed down its back. Believe it or not, I wasn't one of the popular kids back in high school, and I didn't care to get into their fads, so I continued to shy away from U2.

Eventually I heard the song, and in time I would listen to the song more than any one piece of music ever. The song was my bridge to U2, and to what has been my enjoyment of, I believe, the best band in history.

Is it getting better, or do you feel the same ... The song starts out benign enough, and with its subtle, almost cryptic, lyrics it can't quite be pigeonholed into the love song genre, but it definitely has an almost romantic flavor to it. In an interview with Rolling Stone (circa 2004), Bono said that there's "a little of everything" in the song.

On a random message board about the song, one poster said, "Somehow this song defines the bitterness in me." I can almost agree. A large part of the song sounds austere: We're one, but we're not the same/We hurt each other, and we'll do it again, and I can't be holding on to what you got, when all you got is hurt ...

Thankfully, the mood of the song changes, and I believe the crescendo turns from pain to love: One love, one blood, one life/You got to do what you should/One life with each other/Sisters, brothers.

I've heard people pontificate about lost love, citing "One" as a crushing love song, and I've heard people talk about the song's motif revolving around a common thread of platonic affection for all humanity. I've even heard Vineyard worship leader, David Ruis, say that the song is a prophetic utterance to the church at large. I think they're all correct.

To be sure, the song encompasses a vast landscape of human emotion, and the lyrics paint an unembellished picture of human feeling. In the aforementioned interview with Rolling Stone, Bono recalled an invitation by the Dalai Lama to some sort of world peace/oneness gathering. Bono declined the invitation, scribbling a curt reply: "We're one, but we're not the same."

In just about all live performances of "One," Bono expands the lyrical canon of the song by singing out to God: Hear us coming, Lord/Hear us call/Hear us knocking, we're knocking at your door/Hear us coming, Lord/Hear us call/Hear us scratching/Did you make us crawl?. While the addendum may sound heretical to sensitive ears, I think it's some of the boldest speech to the Almighty this side of King David. If we're honest, I think we all wonder whether God makes us crawl at certain points in our lives. Indeed, I think He does.

When I saw U23D with my wife, Brandi, at an Austin IMAX theater a few months ago, I remember listening to the song, watching the band in 3D, with my heart beating like a drum. I could actually feel my heart rate increase as I listened to the song. When "One" was over, I turned to Brandi and said, simply, "I love that song." I do. I really do.

[Click here to read the lyrics to "One."]