Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is It All Worth It?

Maybe it's because the husband's out of town.  Maybe it's the fact that the coffee maker didn't work this morning.  Maybe it's the fact that contractors are repainting at work, but HR thinks it's okay for us to sit at our desks and smell fumes all day rather than find alternative assignments for us.  Maybe it's just one of those days, but I'm dreaming of that low-maintenance townhouse with maybe just a well-groomed Pomeranian to keep me company. 

The coffee maker really didn't work this morning.  Thankfully, we have a very nice stainless steel French press for camping, so I didn't actually have to go without my fuel for very long.  It just threw my morning out of whack while I did some troubleshooting on the coffee maker and fumbled around for the press.  I was late haying the new ponies (what I had originally planned to blog about when I found a spare moment), which made me late for work.

It's mornings like these that make me realize how well orchestrated my life has to be to fit in a part-time job (30 hours, so technically an almost a full-time job), a family, and a "hobby farm".   That doesn't even cover church, 4-H, and other community involvements.  When one routine breaks down, the cracks show pretty quickly.  Being a perfectionist doesn't help. 
Yes, it's true that our library system, despite kicking off a healthy lifestyles initiative earlier this year, despite insisting that we serve fresh fruits and vegetables at meetings, despite purchasing water filters for all of our locations, despite everything, still insists that it's okay for us to sit in a poorly ventilated office while our branch is repainted.  They insist that it's not harming our health since "the painters are using low-VOC paint."  I guess somebody forgot to tell my headache and sinuses that it's low-VOC paint. 

I got home after work and an appointment for my daughter to find four hungry escaped pigs, 2 stubborn ponies, and 3 spoiled goats waiting for me at the gate behind the barn.  Usually one of the guys from my husband's construction crew comes to feed the pigs once a day when he is out of town -- and I take care of everything else.  Usually we also get our pig feed from the plate scrapings at a local soup kitchen (in exchange we donate the meat from one of our butchered hogs back to said kitchen); however, the cook is on holiday this week and must have forgotten to tell her substitute of our little arrangement.  Yesterday, I told the guy feeding our pigs I'd bring home some commercial pig feed to tide us over until next week, but forgot to mention that I'd be home later than usual because of my daughter's appointment.  When I got home, I assumed he'd already been by at his usual time and didn't have anything to feed the pigs.  Sizing up the 2,000+ pounds of hungry animal waiting on the other side of the gate compared to the 120 pounds of me, I decided the easiest thing to do was walk the fence line through the brambles back to the pig enclosure and dump some feed over the fence to entice them back into their pen, then deal with the horses and goats--who had already been hayed this morning anyway.  A nice, rational plan, right?

Well, the pigs didn't quite figure out that the food had been dumped in a different location in their enclosure, so they followed me, the human with bucket in hand, right back to where it had all started.  Meanwhile, the ponies were sick of squealing, hungry pigs and began to kick at them aggressively, thus increasing the squealing.  As the sky darkened,  I began to stumble over the thick brambles along the fence row even more, praying as I did that the woods would at least spare my eyeballs even if the rest of me was scratched to pieces.  Going slowly, I hadn't been too badly damaged by the brambles when I saw headlights turn into the driveway.  All I needed was a stranger coming up to the house while my daughter was in there all alone so I increased my pace.  Nobody ever comes out here to visit unless they've called first to make sure we're home.  Well, the woods did spare my eyes, but my exposed hands and my fancy knitted scarf did suffer some damage.

The driver of the truck turned out to be my husband's employee and sometimes pig feeder who had arrived later than usual.  He was kind enough to carry a lantern and bucket of feed BACK to the pig pen so the pigs would get the idea that they were being fed and could return home.  He also promised to come back during daylight tomorrow to try and repair and stake the spot where the jailbreak occurred.  Life was somewhat back to normal, but I was coughing like crazy from the paint fumes and running around like a mad woman in the cold air. 

I sat on the couch drinking tea and watching my daughter knit, contemplating whether this life is "worth it".  On days like today, it's easy to question why I live the way I do.  Having a tidy house with a postage stamp lawn on a nice, paved suburban street would be so easy.  They do sell pork and eggs in grocery stores.  We really don't profit much from the pork we sell, so it's not like we can't do without the money.  We lost so many chickens to coyotes this year, I haven't sold a dozen eggs since early spring.  Realistically, if I'm going to continue this lifestyle, I've got to cut back my work week to no more than 20 hours, I just haven't found the right moment to bring that up to my employer.

Well, after the tea stopped the coughing and I had read a chapter out of a good book, I could think more rationally.  I live like this because it's how I want to live. What else would I do with my extra  time?  Watch more TV?  Spend more time on Facebook?  Work more hours? What would I do with my extra money?  Pay for an after school program so my kids could spend even more hours at a school that already taxes and exhausts them?  Get my meat from CAFOs that treat animals in a way that I can't possibly believe was part of God's design?  Buy more Chinese crap that I have too much of already?  Where would I spend my passion?  I'm passionate about THIS life, even at its worst.

Every day, I walk out my door to such balance and beauty that it's a shame I can feel anything but grateful.  The French press uses no electricity, it's a 3-day weekend after tomorrow, and the pigs go to the butcher on Monday.  Buy this time a few weeks from now, I'll be drinking my French pressed coffee and eating bacon and eggs I raised right here on the farm, on bread I baked myself slathered in jelly from sand plums I foraged from the roadside on my way home.  Escaped pigs and a close call with coffee notwithstanding, I live a darn good life.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another Sweet Bus

"Keith purchased his 1977 Bedford Bus back in 2007 with the idea of living in it off-the-grid full-time. Living off the grid is nothing new to Keith. He has been at it for the last 21 years, living mostly on boats and finally making it to land with the purchase of his bus named “The Flying Tortoise.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Blog on Red Letter Christians

Here was a great blog on the Red Letter Christians site by Shane Claiborne, one of my favorite young & current Christian theologians regarding holiday giving that respects the dignity of the recipients.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nice Skoolie!

Found this on the internet today.  If I didn't have 3 kids, I might be inclined to make our bus my full-time home.  This bus definately makes a nice small palace for a young couple.

More pictures of this beauty can be found at:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Goat Yurt

I just realized that I never published the finished picture of the goat yurt, or as my husband calls it, the "Goatzebo".  No matter what you call it, it's an attractive barn and I can't wait until it's filled with baby goats next month!

On another note, the wood stove is working beautifully!  It burned out completely last night & we didn't have time to relight it before school & work this morning.  No matter, it remained a toasty 71 degrees all day.  We didn't relight it until 8pm this evening.  Granted, the temperatures didn't drop below freezing, but they were in the low 40's.  I've never been so excited to see my next electric bill! 

As I told the husband tonight, "Now if only we can find a way to have free air conditioning!"  Going without may not be an option for at least a portion of the summer--Oklahoma had the longest stretch of temperatures over 100 ever recorded this year.

I've ordered several wood stove cookbooks via interlibrary loan to start experimenting.  For now, it's great having the water for my tea kept at the perfect temperature.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Somebody Finally Said It the Way I Feel It

I have been trying to write this same blog for ages, but the words just never come out right.  This blog so perfectly expresses the frustrations of being a compassionate, thinking Christian in the midst of our American "culture wars".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wood Stove Is Here--and HOT!

Finally, our brand new wood stove is here! Following the recommendations of both the stove installers and the man from OG&E who came for a home energy audit a month or so ago, we are leaving the fan in our central unit on to circulate the heat throughout the house. It has worked like a charm and we are staying toasty warm. There is just something so cozy about sitting in our warm cave basking in the glow of the fire while the outside temps plummet.

I have had lots of "bask time" this week as I have some sort of bug, possibly the flu. On Monday, the warmth of the house was a bit unpleasant while I was busy throwing up, but now it's just the thing for a restful recovery.

I'm taking a day for continued rest to make sure this bug is out of my system, then it's back to being a librarian tomorrow. Hopefully, this afternoon the thrift store gods will smile upon me and I will find a large basket or box to put firewood in--the mess on the floor is driving me crazy!

And just in case anyone is interested in exactly how much stove pipe it takes to reach through the roof of a geodesic dome, the answer is 22 feet!

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I have been trying to find a granola recipe that doesn't turn into a crumbly mess for a while now. All of the bars in the stores either contain icky ingredients or are prohibitively expensive, but I like having a quick grab-and-go snack around the house. After much frustration, I finally hit upon the magic phrase "cookie bar" & my quest took an unexpected turn for the better. Most recipes for what are called "cookie bars" don't contain any more sugar than those labelled as granola bars, but they sure hold together a lot better! This one (like many if those labelled as granola bars) is a bit heavy on the sugar, but I always like to cook a recipe exactly as it says the first time & make adjustments later. I will definitely be making this one again & I plan to try eliminating the white sugar to cut back on the total amount.

At any rate, I wrapped the squares in wax paper and have been sending them as an extra whole-grain treat in the kids' lunches. The recipe follows the picture:

Chocolate Chip "Cookie Bars"

1/2 cup canola oil
1cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips*
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut**

*After stating that I never alter a recipe the first time, I just remembered that I used a bit less chocolate chips and . . .

**I replaced the coconut with the health-foodie version of rice krispies because my daughter hates coconut :-p

It's getting cooler here in Okieville, perfect for baking, curling up in front of the wood stove (which will be installed Friday) & snuggling. Speaking of which, here is my new snuggle partner:

Not a bad little sweetie to spend a cozy evening with!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Wood Stove Coming!

We are finally getting a wood burning stove! Our Okie winters have been brutal the past few years & it is not unusual for the layers of ice that cover everything during our infamous "ice storms" to knock out power for days. Last year, we stayed on the skoolie (which has propane heat) for the few days we were without heat. This year I'm looking forward to staying in the house during the storms as well as the local electric company getting less of my money! Wood is plentiful on our property & it feels good to finally independently provide our own heat. I'm also looking forward to lying in the firelight on cold nights.

While we were out of town, a man who works for my husband started the rock wall that will go behind the stove. Hubbie will finish it this weekend & the stove should be installed this week!

With all due respect to Buckminster Fuller, one serious drawback to living in a geodesic dome is the dilemma of where to put a wood stove. The stove pipe has to extend so far above the roof, it is difficult to put one along the parameter of the house. The center, where the ceiling is the highest, is really the only place that works. Unfortunately, it is the spot that requires the most stove pipe to vent! Added with the professional installation required to make the insurance company happy, this has been an expensive project; however, it will be one that will pay for itself in a few years.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dome Construction

I always enjoy looking up at the ceiling in our garage at the "bones" of the dome. There is an elegance to it all.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Blog!

Check out Click-Clack Gorilla as quickly as you can!  It's a great blog by an American living in an intentional community in Germany.  Great pictures an chronicles.  Finding this had made my week!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hipstamatic Pics of Old Buildings

Oklahoma is full of once booming towns that are slowly wasting away. Farming, oil, and manufacturing once supported these little communities. Some that are near larger cities are hanging on, but many more have an almost ghost town feel. The local Wal-Mart is often the only business doing very well although a handful of local businesses usually can scrape by.

There's an eery beauty to the buildings left behind to slowly crumble in the wake of a dying economy. When I am at my most cynical I often wonder if much of America will look like this if our jobs continue to move overseas, oil peaks and declines, and agriculture is in the hands of increasingly larger consolidated corporations.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Goat Yurt

Our new barn, aka the goat yurt, is almost finished! Good thing since our new buck Abraham has done his job well. By my calculations we should have new baby boer goats the first part of February from 2 mamas. We are also scheduled to buy 2 bottle-baby Nubians to start our dairy herd around the same time. We should be swimming in goats by late winter!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Spike the Lonely

Poor Spike, his lady friends are being picked off one by one by some mysterious predator. He has suffered the indignity of having half his tail-feathers removed. We are setting a trap tonight & shoring up the coop as best we can. I wonder if it will work . . . and what species will be in there if it does. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Post-Apocalyptic Landscape of Cadillac Ranch

We did some spray painting at Cadillac Ranch on our way to New Mexico this summer.  The barren fields littered with discarded spray paint cans and respirator masks has an eerie post-apocalyptic feel.  The kids were so excited to get to spray paint something that wasn't ours they were giddy for hours afterwards. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fenton Lake, NM & A Nice Weekend

Another picture from our trip to NM.  Fenton Lake is a peaceful reflection of the sky nestled in the mountains near Los Alamos.  We didn't spend a great deal of time there because we were busy on a wild goose chase for a nearby warm spring. 

We spent our Labor Day weekend visiting family someplace far less scenic, although the company was good.  On our way home from the Dallas area today,  we went to what I call "The Disney Land of Furniture"--IKEA!  I usually don't get to excited about mass consumption, but IKEA is one of those places I have to keep the seduction of consumerism in check.  We managed to walk out with what I came in for, which included a few items to clear up some clutter around the dome.  I'm hoping to carve out some time this week to tackle the constant flow of paperwork that comes across my desk.  There's also some plans to de-clutter a bit  in the kitchen and living room. 

One of the things I manage to do well, if I do say so myself, is to keep MOST our home organized in a way that is functional but neat.  Hopefully, this week I will get a chance to deal with a few corners of our home that are neither functional nor neat!

I did manage to can some pickles for long term storage before our trip and again today upon our return.  I used a pickling spice mix from the store for practice, but I'm hoping, once I master the technique, to start putting together my own mixes.  I tasted the batch I made before Labor Day today.  The flavor was good, but perhaps a bit strong.  Unfortunately, they were extremely mushy!  This time around I pickled the cucumbers straight out of the garden rather than leaving them in the fridge for a couple of days.  Hopefully, this will help them turn out more crisp. 

We are also moving right along on farm projects.  My husband has arranged to donate a butchered hog to a local nonprofit in exchange for their food scraps, which has cut back on our feed bill quite a bit.  We are also ending up with enough to add to our compost bin for the garden next year.  I also have been really wanting to give back to the community, which is hard for us to do right now with money being tight, so I'm happy to have this opportunity.  

My husband has also increased the size of our Hog pen so our gals have more room to roam.  They weren't too short on space before, but now they really have room to walk around in a nice area that extends further into the woods.  We bought a buck to keep our 2 Boer goat females company as well.  They are old enough to be mamas now and we are hoping to have babies by spring.  I don't think that will be too much of a problem--they both already look like their boyfriend has worn out his welcome with all of his friendly advances!  Poor girls!!

Now that the weather has dipped below 100 (hallelujah!), I'm hoping the hens will start laying again.  They have taken to nesting in the woods, laying on the ground, and eating each other's eggs.  Anything chicken related is a hot mess around here right now!  When you factor in some mysterious predator from the woods, we're losing ground on a daily basis.  I think we've made about every mistake there is when it comes to raising laying hens.  We're trying to resolve many issues with our flock right now and I'm hoping by next spring I'll be back to selling eggs again.

At any rate, it's been a long day of shopping, driving, pickling, and many other endeavors.  I think it's time for this mama to head off to bed . . .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Punishment From God?

It makes me absolutely ill when people who claim to know a thing or two about God put forth the idea that natural or man-made disasters and tragedies are some sort of punishment for what they deem "evil".  It's even worse coming from our elected officials.  My beautiful state of Oklahoma seems to be full of these types and I do wish that the good people of this state would stop electing them! 

Above is a great short blog by theologian Shane Claiborne on the whole idea that disasters are a punishment from God.  “God is love.  God is not out to get the world, God is out to save it.”

I don't know why bad things happen.  I'm not going to pretend to know, but I do know that they are not caused by a loving God.  God is where we turn when disaster strikes, our harbor and refuge. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cabins Near Fenton Lake, New Mexico

We found a small area near Fenton Lake in New Mexico lined with rustic cabins.  Some, like the one directly above, are boarded up and likely unoccupied.  Others were obviously occupied and looked very cozy with cottage gardens and firewood stacked in anticipation of winter.  All were nestled on wooded lots and difficult to photograph from the road.  It was one of those places that I've been where I just wanted to jump into the landscape and stay indefinitely.

Project For the Next Cool Day

The next day that it's not 108 degrees outside, this is what I'm going to set up for the kids, complete with christmas lights and pillows.  They'll love it! 

I keep downloading pictures, then they disappear somewhere on my computer!  I still have so many to share.
This picture was taken from the website Moon to Moon, which features bohemian interiors:

Another great site is Inspire Bohemia:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Refrigerator Pickles

After a disappointing Oklahoma gardening season, I am finally at least seeing some cucumbers and melons. I don't yet have enough cukes at once to can a batch of pickles for long-term storage, but I am storing away small batches of refrigerator pickles that will keep around 2 months in the fridge.

After disastrous results with an online recipe last year, I did a bit more homework this time around. I was surprised to discover that the amount to salt called for in various recipes can vary (with similar amounts of liquid) from 1 tablespoon to 1 cup. After comparing various recipes and using some common sense, I cobbled this one together and am pleased with the results. It's perfect for doing a single to several pint jar(s) at a time.

Although I am still hoping to get some water-bath canning accomplished, this method definitely accommodates my working-mama schedule nicely!

2 c. Water
1/3 c. Distilled Vinegar
1tbsp. Pickling Salt
1/2 tsp. White Sugar
1 tsp.-1 tbsp. Chopped Garlic
small sliced onion
sliced cucumbers to fill a quart jar

Boil the water, vinegar, salt, & sugar together while chopping the onion, dicing the garlic, & slicing the cucumber. Add chopped veggies to the bottom of the jar rim & sprinkle with the desired amount if dill. Pour the boiling mixture over to cover. Put lid on the jar & turn upside-down a few times to mix. Allow to cool on the counter, then refrigerate for up to 2 months. Makes 1 quart jar.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

View From Mt. Scott

The Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma may not be proper mountains by Colorado standards, but they are one of my favorite places to visit and hike. Mt. Scott is the tallest point, with a wonderful view of the rugged landscape below. I can easily imagine Clint Eastwood riding across the rocky terrain in one of his movies.

Two migraines in one week have set me back quite a bit with a number of projects, including loading more NM pics, so for today I'm sharing some of our down-home okie beauty. You never have to look too far . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The River Cottage Family Cookbook

The River Cottage Family CookbookThe River Cottage Family Cookbook has quickly become one of my favorites.  It is stocked with simple recipes using mostly whole foods and has easy step-by-step instructions for a variety of cooking techniques. The author, Hugh Fearnley-Whittngstall, is a the host of a British cooking show (some variation of the 'River Cottage' name).  He has a series of cookbooks which feature recipes for mostly farm raised meats, garden produce, and wild foraged foods.  I borrowed a few of the others in this series via interlibrary loan to see if it would be worthwhile for me to purchase them as well.  I found them to be a bit "too British" for my American tastes, but they also feature beautiful, homey farm photography and are categorized with an eye towards using what is available locally.  Many of them do feature information on using almost all (ALL) parts of farm animals in cooking. 

Whittingstall's Family Cookbook sticks to recipes that children are more likely to find appealing and part of the book even mentions that it tries to appeal to a more Americanized audience.  I really liked that he doesn't dumb food down for kids  (no happy-face salad or other gimmicks) but also realizes that complex gourmet fare doesn't appeal to the majority of children either.  We have especially enjoyed the lentil-bacon soup and, after years of hearing about making spaghetti carbonara, I am a pro at this simple dish.  Thanks to River Cottage, I also now know the proper technique for making a French omelet and never over-brown the outside. 

I really can't recommend this book enough.  I usually don't purchase a cookbook if it only has a few recipes worth bothering with; however, this book is well worth the money.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NM Clay Oven

Picture of clay oven at the Jemez State Monument.

I took a picture of this reconstructed clay oven outside of the remains of the 700 year old Jemez village in New Mexico.  As we left the town of Jemez Springs and were driving through the Jemez reservation, I noticed that every single house, from adobes to mobile homes, had one of these ovens in the yard.  My kids were really interested in making one, so I'm going to try to do some research on how they are constructed this week.  Even if we don't get around to actually building one, understanding the construction and culture is bound to be an educational experience.

Hurt Feelings!

My friend Byron is runs a community empowering organization, , and often sends out a little inspirational newsletter. I found this one to be very timely as I deal with a minor case of hurt feelings.  I really like remembering that, although I may be hurting, there is someone else hurting worse and I can do my part to help them hurt less.  It's such a blessing to read the right thing exactly when you need to!

We are all wounded.  Every person has had something happen that has made us feel less than or hurt by others.  It's part of the human condition, being wounded.  It cannot be stopped. Even if someone in the world doesn't get to you, then some illness or disaster can strike at any moment.  Being wounded is obvious; what is miraculous is that sometimes our greatest leaders are the very people who have been wounded greatly.  They become wounded healers.  It's kind of like they say, "Okay, I hurt, but you hurt more, so I am going to help with your hurt."

As I become close to people, what I end up sharing most is not my successes, but my struggles.  In that sharing, I seem to free not only myself, but it has a benefit for others.  I hope that you are free to allow yourself to be a wounded human.  The more you can accept and share yourself in totality, the more it will free others.

Love, Byron

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Mexico

Well, the charger I brought for my iPhone didn't work out and by day 2 of our trip it had died.  So much for my blogging app while I was away.  In the future, however, I'm sure it will come in handy!  Anyway, now that I'm back home I'll share some of my pics of the Santa Fe National Forest.  Stay tuned for some of the Cadillac ranch art installation outside of Amarillo, downtown Santa Fe, and others . . .

The cruelest part of a trip like this is returning to the unrelenting 105-degree Okie heat after frolicking in the 65-degree New Mexico mountain weather.  Even 90-degrees in Los Alamos felt divine!  I woke up shivering one day at our campsite and turned to my husband and said, "it feels great to be cold!"  I'm known for always being cold and constantly complaining about it.  He looked at me with a very surprised face and said, "In the 16 years we've been married, that's definitely a first!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blogger for iPhone

This post is mainly a test to see if my blogger app is functioning. I'm so excited to be able to take my blog on the road! Maybe a picture will upload, too.

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Our Skoolie

After already breaking my "post-a-day" rule in order to finish preparations for our upcoming trip to Santa Fe, I am now posting a Moviemaker video I made after my husband finished alterations on our skoolie, a.k.a converted school bus.  Unfortunately, we won't be taking the bus to New Mexico this time.  Our budget has suffered terribly this year due to unexpected expenses and farm projects.  We will be tent camping to save on gas money and campsite fees. 

Our kids have been very spoiled with their idea of "camping" anyway, so this will be a good experience for them.  In the meantime, check out my preferred manner of "camping"!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Starting Over

After closing my old blog I'm starting from scratch!

The new incarnation of my blog will function as my journal and sounding board and will include anecdotes, reviews, recipes, information sharing, and lots of photos.  In the next few days I'll be posting pictures of the house, farm, and converted school bus. By the end of the week I should be sharing about our upcoming trip to the Santa Fe National Forest.

I'm hoping someone somewhere might be blessed in some small way by my little corner of the cyber-world.  Here's a picture of some cute, fuzzy chicks to start things off: