Mother hen

Posted September 11th, 2006 by Penny Wise

You can't rush things around here, but yesterday – four months after Noel built my chicken house and run for Mother's Day, I finally got five chickens to go in it. We made it our mission for the rainy weekend and scoured all the local 'buy/sell/swap' magazines until we found some. They're such lovely girls and only cost $8 each! Don't ask me what sort they are – two are black and three are black and white but they have settled so well in their new home, it's a joy to see them checking everything out and doing 'happy chook things'. The seller told me not to expect them to lay for several days until they had adapted, but I didn't have to wait that long. I heard a noisy commotion this morning from all the 'ladies' and went rushing out thinking a cat or dog had somehow got into their enclosure. Instead, they all came rushing out to greet me, chatting away and leaving the reason for their excitement neatly placed on a bed of hay – one perfect, brown egg. I was so excited! Of course, now every time I hear the slightest squawk I go rushing out there checking for any new developments! Noel is also very proud that they love his home made hen house. I found lots of helpful tips in the Vault about keeping chickens and also a lovely helpful article on the Aussies Living Simply website so I am pretty confident of giving my girls a happy home and harvesting plenty of eggs in return. One thing I find very helpful is that the chickens eat many of the things that my worms don't like – such as bread crusts and potato peelings, so between the worms and the chooks pretty much everything in the scrap bucket gets utilised now!

Once again the forum proved spookily telepathic this week too! I was amazed to find a thread entitled 'Am I really saving money?' from a member who after baking up a storm all weekend for her family was wondering if she was actually saving anything due to the alarming rate her family was scoffing all the yummy baking and encouraging her to make more. You see, I had found myself thinking exactly the same thing the day before! Over the last week, it has felt as though I have been baking at least every other day to replenish the stocks and provide tasty lunch box fillers. Don't get me wrong, I have really quite enjoyed it and what Mum doesn't get a kick out of seeing her kids well fed and happy on home baking, but I did start to wonder - was I really saving money by going to all this effort, or was I actually spending more? I decided to pay it some serious thought. I looked at our family's Canteen Price list, which reads as follows:

1 bag chippies = 50c

1 Roll-up = 60c

1 pot yoghurt = 60c

Sandwich = FREE

Popcorn = FREE

Muffin = FREE

Cookie (home made) = FREE

The boys are not allowed to eat more than a dollar's worth of snacks from the list every day – so they can have at most two bags of chippies in a day, but not a bag of chippies AND a Roll-up because that's over the $1.00 limit, so they have to choose something from the free items if they're still hungry. The prices for the packaged items I calculated myself from NZ prices, so a packet of Roll-ups contain eight snacks at 60c each, which is darned expensive if you think about it – I mean they don't exactly fill you up, do they? The last one I tried to eat threatened to pull all my fillings out, but unfortunately the kids love them and at least the Canteen system now limits them. I thought about 'charging' the boys for the other 'free' items on the list to make up for the amount of baking they were eating. Then I considered the last bag of Basics brand SR flour I bought, which was $1.99 for 1.5kg. This gives me enough flour to make 72 muffins, which fills them up much more than a Roll-up. I sat and worked out the entire cost of the boys' favourite banana and choc-chip muffins and I won't bore you with the details of breaking down all the ingredients but I discovered that each individual muffin costs just 19c to make. So the boys can actually consume three whole muffins before they have even come close to matching the cost of one measly 60c Roll-up! Based on that and other similar equations for things they like to eat, I don't care if they eat three times as much baking as package food, it still doesn't cost me any more, so I shall keep on baking – and now I don't have to buy eggs I will save even more!

However, one important point which was also mentioned in the discussion is not to go out and buy heaps of ingredients to bake with that you wouldn't normally buy and I have decided to make a mental note of this. For example, if I had Coco Pops already in the house, I could use them to make LCM bars, but I wouldn't go out and buy a packet specifically to make LCM's (ah yes Penny, you are guilty of doing exactly this!) Last week I had a tin of crushed pineapple in the pantry so I found a recipe for boiled pineapple fruit cake to use it in – it was delicious too! Then of course there were the lemon muffins in an attempt to use up all the blasted lemons, so I am making a rule and sticking to it that where possible I shall only bake using items on hand and work my recipes around them. I think I even have a recipe for Tea Loaf somewhere, so even if I were to run out of everything else, I could sacrifice one of Noel's tea bags for the good of family baking. A very interesting thread, with plenty of 'food for thought' – pardon the pun!

Most of the time I wish we never had Pay TV, but for once I was really grateful for it at the weekend, when Animal Planet screened a Steve Irwin marathon across the whole two days. Whenever we could, our family sat enthralled at the antics of this amazing man who still seems so very much alive. Our kids had always loved him, but it was the first time that Noel and I had sat down and really watched and listened to the Crocodile Hunter. We learned so much! As Noel said, Steve achieved more in his 44 years than anyone else could achieve in 144. We laughed a lot and I bawled my eyes out at the episode that documented Steve and Terri's meeting, marriage and Bindi's birth and first plane ride at two week's old. The love for his family just shone from his face and I wasn't sure why I was crying more – that the Irwin family had lost such a wonderful son, husband and father, or that I was so incredibly grateful that the past 20 years of Steve's life had been so meticulously caught on camera for his children to see. I had never really given much thought to crocodiles much before – they had certainly never appealed to me, but after watching all those fascinating episodes, I felt a lot differently about them and certainly agreed they were worth looking after – funny that - isn't that just what Steve was trying to tell us all along!

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