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My Birthday 2013: I Seem To Have Won The Gift Lottery

My birthday fell during this past week, and to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much in the way of actual gifts… or even much of any kind of celebration at all. Jon & I are on an unbelievably tight budget these days for a variety of reasons, so we’ve both been on the same page with regard to no “store bought” birthday and anniversary gifts lately.

Plus, in my family anyway, we just don’t tend to “do” birthdays in much of a major way after kids hit late teenagehood, although we always have cake and ice cream and at least one special gift. But we adults in the fam tend to simply wish one another a happy birthday and maybe bring a cake over to celebrate, but that’s about it. No big gifts and no real gift expectations.

Now Christmas, of course, is an entirely different matter; that’s when Santa goes just a little nuts around here, and it’s also when we spouses and siblings and other adult family members really try to turn it up to 11 in choosing gifts for each other that we really think the others will love.

So since that’s how we normally roll on birthdays among the adults in our fam, that’s pretty much what I expected when my own birthday rolled around on Wednesday of last week. I was happy and appreciative for the kind birthday wishes from friends, coworkers and family, but honestly, I didn’t expect any sort of celebration or gift of any kind at all. I have been going thru a bit of another rough patch with my grieving process lately (HUGE understatement), and people who know me well have been kind to give me some extra space in recent weeks while I try to regain the healthy forward progress I’d been making til this “grief relapse”‘suddenly kicked me to the curb. I think part of the issue is that Henry’s birthday falls so close to mine – he was born on October 7 - and each year, I always felt like becoming his mama that first year was the best birthday gift I ever “got.” Since he died three years ago, my own birthday still sort of feels more like a precursor to a fresh wave of upcoming grief with his birthday right after that it’s sometimes hard to let that go and accept that I have a right to enjoy my own birthdays – something I KNOW he would want for me.

But anyway, for all these reasons, I truly expected a rather exceptionally unremarkable day last week marking yet another year for me on the planet. However, what actually happened on my birthday this year was really just flat out AMAZING! I can’t recall receiving this many awesome gifts for my birthday – ever! I felt like I’d won the birthday lottery. In fact, I feel kind of guilty about being so thoroughly spoiled thus year.

Okay, first of all, after several years of making my case for allowing me to keep a very small flock of hens in our backyard, Jon finally agreed – on my birthday! We now have three silkie bantam pullet hens, and one dark colored pullet Orpington hen.

Urban Chickens

Right now our girls are temporarily staying with an awesome friend who raises her own adorable flocks of chickens on her gorgeous farm just outside the city limits,  while Jon & I have begun the not insignificant process of applying for city approval for our small flock of hens (no roosters allowed!) to be allowed to live on our property. lus, we also have to draw up plans to build our backyard coop, and then have it inspected and approved by city officials.

We have piles and piles of top quality, finished cedar lumber stacked in our basement – we have no idea who left it there before we moved in, but we’ve been looking for a way to put it to good use.  Thus, we are leaning toward building our own low-cost, DIY henhouse and run, if we can find some plans we think we could actually follow (we’ve never done any carpentry to  speak of). Maybe we could throw a coop-raisin’ party and get some carpentry-experienced friends and fam over to help on weekend.

But then again, maybe not; there are SO many pre-assembled, adorable chicken coops available out there these days.  My growing interest in local, urban chicken culture, and my ever so slight obsession with awesome and creative chicken abodes offer clearer evidence than ever before that I am indeed becoming  slightly batty.

Here’s a photo of 3 of our 4 hens tenporarily hanging out at my super-awesome friend’s farm. She says they’re happy as clams until we get our permit and coop structure both approved. The kids and I hope to be able to pop out to visit the girls sometime today.

knoxville Urban Hens

For this farm-raised, former 4-H kid hailing from Bell Buckle, Tennessee, but now living in the very urban downtown area of a small southern city, you would think that just having my backyard chicken-keeping dreams fulfilled would be PLENTY to have received for my birthday this year. But no! The embarrassment of riches just kept coming when little brother Robert and smy ister in law Nicole (who also have their own backyard chicken set up, by the way) totally and completely surprised me with my VERY OWN… wait for it… wait for it… ROTOTILLER!!! I couldn’t believe that they sent me such a generous gift, and something I’ve been lusting after ever since I started digging in the dirt. When the box arrived on my porch, I felt very much like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he finally received that coveted Red Ryder BB Gun. I mean, who would have ever trusted ME to use a real tiller without losing a limb? But apparently Robert and Nicole did, and you should just SEE the beauty that is my new, very own, birthday rototiller.

tillerI’d already started work (very tedious and exhausting, by hand, with a shovel) on the ornamental dry streambed I am veeeeery slowly adding to my garden, but now that I have my very own tiller, I’ve pretty much started over with this MUCH better tool for getting the job done. And boy do I love rototilling! Yesterday was Saturday, so I happily tilled for hours. Tremendously satisfying.  However I must admit that this morning I am so sore that I feel like someone beat me with the tiller. But that’ s okay. That’s what Ibuprofen is for, right?

Here’s a photo Jon took yesterday of me just getting started learning to use my fab new birthday birthday tiller. Note the look of steely (some might say insane) determination in my eye as I work to master the tiller before it can master me. And yes, I am wearing sturdy running shoes; it’s just hard to see them in the photo.

I am clearly becoming the master of my birthday tilling domain!
I am clearly becoming the master of my birthday tilling domain!

Chickens…a rototiller…how could this pile of super, beyond generous birthday gifts grow any larger? Well, IT DID! My mother’s birthday gift to me this year was a $100 gift card to spend in the Gardeners Supply Company catalog. Perusing their website trying to decide how to spend my $100 has been as much fun as flipping through the Sears Wish Book, circa 1977.  But I think I’ve narrowed my possible selections down to a few possibilities, like this bird feeding station (because, y’know, the two I already have just aren’t sufficient, perhaps with one of these cool Moon Birdfeeders to hang from it. But truth be told, I am strongly leaning toward getting two strings of these gorgeous, multi-sized hanging, solar lights to hang around our porch. Read how great the reviews are on these things.

So yeah. This was definitely a birthday that felt a whole lot more like Christmas. And I can’t thank all the wonderful gift-givers in my life enough – whether you gave me a hug that day, sent me a sweet text that made me smile, or SENT ME A BADASS ROTOTILLER. Either way, I appreciate you EXACTLY the same. No, really, I swear that I really do.

Now who’s up for a chicken-coop-raisin’ partay over at our place soon – after we get our permit approved? If you come, I promise that I will even let you try out my stylin’ new rototiller.

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ADDENDUM: After I wrote this blog post this morning about all these amazing birthday presents I received this week, my awesome in-laws stopped by to bring C, G and NC home from Sunday School. And in addition to the three extremely cute little girls that they had to hand over, guess what else they had? Yet another birthday present for me! Yep, another one. I couldn’t believe it. And it’s something that I REALLY need for all my outdoor projects, and have been wanting for quite some time.

It’s this.

cart

It’s a super lightweight wheelbarrow that’s easy to move around and clean, but it also hauls up to 200 lbs. SCORE!!!

Now I have a way to haul off all the dirt and rocks that are accumulating in a side-pile next to my dry stream-building project – a pile of detritus that had begun to grow taller than, well, something very large. It needs to be cleaned up. And now I can. Woohoo!

Thanks R & J. Love you both!

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And now a couple of questions for y’all:

-How do you celebrate birthdays for the adults in your own families? Big to-dos or minor celebrations?

-What’s your favorite birthday gift that you’ve ever received as an adult? What was the worst one? (If you can say without hurting anyone’s feelings).

- Aaaaaand, do any of y’all raise backyard chickens? City or country? What types of hens do you have, and do you have any recommendations for me regarding coop design?

Thanks! – Katie

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Read more from Katie over at her personal blog, BIG GOOD THING 

And keep up with the rest of her blogging over at INSTAGRAMTWITTER , GOOGLE+  &  FACEBOOK

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