Friday, July 21, 2017

Small Wonders

Sorry for the paucity of posts lately.  I have been busy doing a hundred jobs around the "farm", as well as working a lot more than I have for a while.  L and I have taken a couple of little trips, and done some projects as well.  I also have to take J to work every morning, and then pick her up in the evening.

I am so pleased that J is thoroughly enjoying her job at the Library.  She tells us little stories every day about people she meets, or other things that happen.  I think she will be getting paid today...first paycheck ever!

I have been working on:

-Cleaning out both sides of the chicken house
-Switching the laying hens and the pullets to opposite sides
-More canning
-Weeding and clearing in the garden (we have tomatoes, cucumbers & zucchini now!)
-Pruning, weeding and composting around my ornamental trees & shrubs
-Weeding and dead-heading in my flower garden

There have been some tiny, beautiful nuggets that have made the past couple of weeks seem less like drudgery and more like a miracle.

My flower garden has been a profusion of color.

Russian Sage, Black-Eyed Susan, Mums, Gladiolus,
Purple Cone Flower, Queen Anne's Lace, Butterfly
 Bush & Lemon Verbena

I am not the only one who has been enjoying them either...

L and I decided to add a bit more color to the propane tank by adding Lady Bugs.  She did most of them by herself.




L and I loaded up the bikes and drove north to our favorite park this week.  We rode the trails, played on the zip line, ate a picnic lunch, and waded in the creek.



The small wonder here is my lovely girl...

...she was inside of this huge hollow tree.  Last year
it was still alive, but sadly it no longer is.
One of my favorite miracles is my balloon flower.  I love this plant!  It always makes me smile, and adds some lovely cool hues to my flower garden.


This weekend, the girls and I are taking a day trip to visit my 101 year old Grandma, who is a small wonder herself.  J named her "Tiny Grandmom" when she was just a tiny tike herself.  I am not looking forward to 6 hours of driving, but it will be worth it to see her again.

Finally, let me add this link.  These are movie reviews done in Haiku style.  I love it!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Diagnostics

J came home around 10:15 last night, after spending a week with her friend at Myrtle Beach.  This was the longest time that she has been away from home (and us), but we were able to talk with her almost every day.  While she was away doing this...

Surprising her friend at the airport in Myrtle Beach!
...a lot of things happened here at home, including pool play with uncle B & cousin H, and some sparkler action by L on Independence Day!

 
 
Remember the propane water heater issues back in January?  Well, the gas company never made it out here to replace the regulator.  We've been using the back-up electric water heater since then, and recently it too started to have issues.  We had barely enough hot water to take one shower at a time.  We called the plumbers, and they weren't able to come out for about 3 weeks - right before our weekend of out-of-town guests.  They said that the electric water heater was "dead", and replaced it.  We have had plenty of hot water since then, thank goodness.  They also ordered a new propane water heater, and will be able to replace it next week.

I also called Sears back in late May because the washer stopped working AND we had been having trouble with the ovens.  The washer was fixed without new parts, but there were more problems with the ovens.  One of the hinges was broken, and supposedly the part was no longer available (this is a 2009 purchase!!)  The top oven was also getting way too hot, so I assumed it was a thermostat issue.  We did not approve repairs right away, because we wanted to see if we could find the part for the hinge first.  JP was able to locate what is apparently the last 2 hinges in North America on eBay in Canada!  Once they arrived, I called to have the repairs made.  It took a long time for them to return because I refused to have them come back to re-diagnose and order parts, but after a LOOONG time on the phone, was able to get them to order parts over the phone.  Last week the new parts were installed, but the oven is still overheating.  They are coming back next week to look at it again.

We also lost that hen after a day of droopy comb.  I've been trying to keep a closer eye on the hens since then, to be sure that this wasn't something contagious.  Everything I found on the internet contributed droopy comb to either dehydration or anemia (from intestinal worms or mites.)  I couldn't find evidence of either on that first hen.  This AM, I found another hen with a slightly droopy comb, who appeared pretty lethargic.  After much MORE internet research today, I was still coming up with the same things, and once again, I couldn't find evidence of either in the hen.  I actually asked my Dad to euthanize her, because I didn't want to spread anything else to the rest of the flock.  Luckily, while I was away briefly (taking J to her first day at her new job), he was unable to find her.  When I found her, and picked her up, I accidentally squeezed her chest a bit, and she spit up some liquid.  That's when I realized that she had a very swollen crop - like the broiler chicks earlier.  I researched on YouTube how to drain the crop, and did it.

 
She is now in her own cage, with cider vinegar in her water, and yogurt & water melon to eat.  She drank and drank when I put her in there, so here's hoping that the diagnosis (and treatment) is correct!

In the meantime, I took L & a friend to the Natural History Museum on Friday.  We all had fun.

 
This weekend, JP, L & I worked to make an area to get into the pool without dragging grass in.  We put down landscaping fabric, and pounded in edging, and then added pavers and pea gravel.  It works great!


So...it's almost time to pick J up after her first day of work, so we'll be able to see how that went, and learn more about her week at the beach.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I Need a Vacation!

It's been a while since I posted last...sorry.  We've been busy.

We left a week ago on a Saturday afternoon to drive up to Erie, where we had booked a rental cottage for 4 nights.  It rained over 3 inches on the day before we left...remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy.  It was sunny but cooler when we left home.

By the time we got settled into our cottage and had dinner, we only had a few minutes to walk on the beach before it closed at sunset.

Our cottage was right behind an Amusement Park,
so I sat in the yard and watched the roller
coasters, while L rode her scooter on the street.
We could almost  see the lake from our deck.
The only time both girls waded in the lake.

The following day, there were thunderstorms for most of the day, so we stayed in and watched movies and played games.  By the afternoon, the sun came out, and although the beaches were closed to swimming, L & I went out to Presque Isle and walked on the paths for a long time.  We woke to thunderstorms on Monday as well, and although the sun came out in the afternoon, it remained chilly, and the beaches were closed to swimming.  We loaded our bikes back on the van and drove out to Presque Isle for a 10-ish mile bike ride along the lake.

It stormed during the night Monday night, but the sun was out on Tuesday.  We took a tour of the nearby Tom Ridge Environmental Center in the morning.


From the tower, there was a nice view of the lake, and
part of another roller coaster!



The beaches were still closed to swimming by afternoon, but we went to wade for a while.  It was so cold and windy, that J ended up doing this:

 
 
While L and I were doing this:

We didn't stay long!

We had to leave for home on Wednesday, which of course was a lovely, warm day!

Back at home, there was grass to mow, blueberries and peas to pick, and lots of laundry to wash.  J flew to Myrtle Beach with a friend's parent to spend the week with their family.  She has had nothing but warm & sunny days, and has spent lots of time at the pool and/or beach!

Before she left, J fixed us another delicious meal of Honey Garlic Shrimp with rice and broccoli.

A couple of hours after J departed, JP's cousin, her husband, and their son arrived on their way to WV.  We had a lovely evening with them, including a fantastic meal of beef fajitas and home made cheese cake.  They headed west around noon, and JP's sister, brother-in-law, and niece arrived later that afternoon, on their way home from IN.  We had grilled chicken and cheesecake with them.  They stayed through Sunday too, when we had St. Louis BBQ pork steaks for dinner, and I baked fresh blueberry muffins for breakfast on Monday.  It was a lovely visit with all of our family, and L especially enjoyed hours of one-on-one cousin time!

JP and I had to head back to work on Monday, but I got home in time to play in the pool with L in the afternoon.

Today is Independence Day, so the office is closed.  We invited Mom & Dad over for Kielbasa and Turkey Burgers on the grill.

Believe it or not, all of the sheets and towels have been laundered and put away.  All the dishes have been washed, and there is once again extra space in the refrigerators.  I would be glad to not have to cook for the next several days, but that seems unlikely.  We have sparklers for L to play with tonight, and if we can work up the energy, we might cruise into town to watch the fireworks display there.

This morning L found a dead hen.  I am not surprised, as I saw her yesterday looking like this:

 
She is one of the lower ones on the pecking order, so she is missing feathers from the top of her head and the front of her neck, but she looked pretty sad yesterday with the drooping comb...never saw that before.  She is also one that I had marked during the winter as an extremely poor layer. 

Sigh.  The remainder of the pullets and the old hens seem quite perky today.

The past week + has flown by with so many activities that my head is still whirling.  I could use a vacation!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cooking Class & Other Life Lessons

This summer, we asked J to make a meal once a week.  She has risen to the challenge, and prepared 3 delicious dinners so far.  She will research recipes early in the week, and give me a shopping list, and cooks for us later in the week, which frees me up quite a bit.

The first night, she made Chicken Cauliflower Fried Rice.  This was a yummy dish, substituting riced cauliflower for rice.

She prepared Spinach Ricotta Pasta last week, which was another entire meal in one pot.  She thought it needed more flavor, so next time she might add some fresh basil & parmesan, and increase the garlic.

Tonight we feasted on Chicken With Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce and green beans.  It was superb!

We are going to get spoiled with these gourmet meals once a week!

In other news, she has landed herself a summer job at the tender age of 14.  She applied to, and was accepted into a job placement program.  She will be placed at our local public library, where she has the sweet hours of 10-5, Monday through Friday, and will earn more than minimum wage.  She starts in early July, and will work for 6 weeks.  It makes her summer that much more busy, but she's pretty stoked about the chance to earn some money!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bringing in the Sheaves

The 4 of us spent a couple of hours this afternoon bringing in some hay that my Dad cut in our neighbor's field.  We use it for bedding in the chicken house.  I laid in the trailer on the way to the barn on a bed of new hay in all of its fresh smelling wonder.

The garden is doing very well.  The strawberries are almost finished, but the blueberries are going strong.  The next best thing to homemade Greek yogurt on a bowl of fresh strawberries, is the yogurt on a bed of freshly picked blueberries.


I'm also picking lots and lots of sugar snap peas.

The flower bed is becoming more colorful all the time.  I now have red, pink, and peach lilies in bloom, with Shasta Daisies from my friend, T.


In addition to the mauve, pink, peach and white Yarrow, I have red, pink, white and lavender Monarda blooming.

 
Our enormous roosters have been practicing their crows of late.  JP and I decided that it was time to harvest the broiler chickens this weekend.  We butchered the remaining 4 broilers, plus 2 of the old ladies that I had marked during the winter as non-layers.

I do not enjoy this part of sustainable living.  In fact, I felt pretty queasy during the hour and a half that we were working on butchering and cleaning the chickens.  It's part of being an omnivore, however, and I have come to terms with the not-so-nice parts.  The broilers have been either grilled for dinner, or frozen, and the stewing hens have been canned.

Honestly, I am a bit overwhelmed by chickens at the moment.  Until butchering day, we had chickens in 3 different houses, each requiring water and feed on a regular basis.  We still have 20 layers and 24 pullets, which I hope will be weaned down to about 18 good layers by Fall.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Last night JP & I got to cross an item off our "Bucket List."  We went to a U2 concert with some friends.  They are doing their Joshua Tree Reunion Tour, and happened to be in a city nearby.
 

 
I have been a huge fan since their first Joshua Tree tour, 30 years ago (as evidenced by this U2 poster in my dorm room, circa 1988.)
 



We had a fun night, but I have to admit that I'm too old to stay out until 1 AM, and then go to work the next day!
 



This amazing rainbow appeared over the stadium after we had been waiting over an hour for the band to come out:

 
I wish that I could have actually SEEN Bono & The Edge a bit closer up, and I wish the sound system didn't have so much interference, but overall, it was really good.
 
Consider that one crossed off the list!



Thursday, June 1, 2017

One Project Done, 27 More To Go!

I finally finished painting the propane tank today.  It was delayed by needing to purchase paint, and by rain on my days off.

It has gone from looking like this:

 
To looking like this:

 
Big improvement, no?  I even painted the end handles into little inch worms!


It looks like the birds were doing some decorating of their own on the lid of the rain water cistern.

 
I planted 2 more garden beds over the weekend.  Now there are only 4 to go, plus the ones L likes to plant.

Someday I will be all caught up on projects, right?