Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memorium

We worked hard for half the weekend to prepare for our annual Poplar Ridge Memorial Day Cook Out yesterday afternoon.  Today, we are prepared to rest. 

It seems that we have lost a large number of loved ones in the past 2 years:

Grandma
JP's Mother
My friend, N
Grandpa
JP's good friend, R
One of my friends wrote a lovely piece about our friend in her column in the newspaper yesterday (you can read it here.)  It's nice, although sad sometimes, to think back over their lives and the good memories we have of these loved ones. That's what I believe Memorial Day is for...that and the cook outs!
 
I was determined to get the trailer full of mulch out of the front yard before the cook out, so I spent several hours Thursday and Friday digging 6,723 baby Oxtail Daisy starts out of my flower bed, and moving around a few other things.  Friday evening I started mulching, and finished up Saturday afternoon.  The girls helped me arrange my pig statues and our bird baths in there.  I think it looks great!


The garden needs some work now, although I think it's looking pretty great too.  I picked about 10 lbs of strawberries out of the terrace in the center of the garden this weekend.  I also picked about 3 lbs of sugar snap peas.  We have corn and beans coming up, which were some of the later plantings.  I still have 2 beds to plant with corn in the next week. 


Our cook out was a success.  I think that everyone, although we were hot, had a good time.


We ate,




And talked.


And had a pretty serious game of 4 Square going for quite a while.




Some folks took a walk, some of us lounged and chatted, the kids played in the KidWash, and played with the chickens, dogs, and a tiny toad.


We acquired 3 more chicks from a friend yesterday.  They are about a month or 6 weeks older than our chicks, and still smaller than the hens.  Like many growing children, they are having a hard time fitting in with either the adults or the little kids.  They were being picked on by the hens, and they terrorized the chicks.  Unfortunately, they have found the best place to hang out is in the middle of the tall grass of the pasture.  This means that they didn't have access to shelter from the sun, food or water.


JP utilized the wood shop to piece together a small shelter for them, and we took them out food and water.  We hope they make it through this blazing hot day, and make peace with the hens eventually!

We are getting ready to chill out and watch a movie now, so I will close.  Enjoy your extra day off, and cherish the memories you have of your loved ones who have passed on.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Hens Lay Lovely Eggs?

This weekend, we put our hens out to pasture!  This has been our intention for this year, to let the hens forage and free-range, but with limits.  After all, I have better things to do than try to herd hens (dumbest animals in the world) back into their coop every night.  Our kitty, Bert, has still not returned.  This is an object lesson, I think, in the big predators that are lurking on and around Poplar Ridge.

We lost another hen on Friday morning.  She was actually not well since we lost the last one a few weeks back, although she had perked up a bit for a while.  Since several of my friends with chickens have had chicken lice issues, I thought I should give the coop a good clean out, and check the hens for lice again.

Nary a louse nor nit could be seen on the hens, but I dusted them with diatomaceous earth anyway.  After the coop was cleaned, we decided to go ahead and move them into the new coop that my Dad designed and built recently.  He utilized the cap from JP's pickup as the roof, and built it on sledges with a tongue so that we can move it with the ATV when needed.  It looks a bit boat-like to me, so I call it the Chicken Barge. 


A door on the side opens up to access the feeder and waterer, which slide out for easy refilling.


In the back are doors for 2 rows of nesting boxes.


There is also a compartment for storage of feed, oyster shell, and nesting material.


JP and I put up 160 linear feet of electric poultry netting, which is solar powered.  It works too, Stella got zapped this morning!  Now the 7 remaining hens have essentially 40 square feet of forage area.  They should be super happy, right?  Well, the eggs are not coming!  They dropped off from 6 or 7 daily to 4 yesterday, and only 2 today.  I even searched the grass to be sure there weren't any outside, and didn't see any.  Maybe they finally see the big picture, and realize they are destined for the stew pot, so they've gone on strike.


The peeps, who are now at the awkward teenage stage and mostly feathered out, were rapidly running out of space in Kali's old kennel.  Yesterday, they moved into the luxurious spaciousness of the Egg Cart'n, and slept outside for the first time last night.  They are all doing fine, although they haven't learned to manage the ramp to the grassy "basement" yet.  In fact, we had to block it off, as they kept falling through the crack!


Besides shuffling chickens this weekend, we managed to get the grass mowed, visit the local Sheep and Fiber Fest, and plant 2 more garden beds of corn.  Only 2 more garden beds to plant...then the mulching can commence!

Hope you all had a productive weekend as well!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lazy Daisy

The cake I baked this weekend is an old recipe from JP's aunt.  The topping bakes up caramelized and chewy...reminiscent of a Girl Scout Samoa cookie.  The cake is moist and light.  I would recommend doubling the topping, as it was spread VERY thinly on the top of the cake.

LAZY DAISY OATMEAL CAKE

1 1/4 c boiling water
1 c oatmeal
1/2 c shortening
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
1 t soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon

Pour boiling water over oatmeal in a small bowl and let it set for 20 min, stirring occasionally.

Cream shortening, then add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Add oatmeal and mix well.

Mix together dry ingredients.  Add to oatmeal mixture and mix well.

Pour batter into greased and floured 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350* for 40 min. (Mine was done at 35, so check it.)

Topping:  1/4  c evaporated milk
                6 T butter, very soft
                1/2 c brown sugar
                1 t vanilla
                1 c coconut

Mix all ingredients well, then spread over cake.  Brown under broiler.

Our skittish black cat, Bert, has disappeared.  He has been on the veranda, crying for attention every morning, and out front at midnight when I take the dogs out for the final time every night for 2 years.  His buddy, Ernie, wanders off for a day or three at a time, but always comes back.  I don't feel that optimistic about Bert.  Ernie is notably distressed.


My friend has been writing Haiku's.  Unlike her, I have a fun time with Haiku.  Whether they are any good or not is debatable.  JP asked last night, "What if one word is 5 syllables long?"  So... we came up with a 5 syllable word Haiku.

Unexpectedly,
I fell down the stairs again.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

This Haiku is for Bert:

Timid, black and sleek,
Yin to the outgoing Yang
Slipped away in night.

I need to go get my Monday started...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

JP got me a lovely cobalt blue enameled cast iron pot for Mother's Day.  It is just like Le Creuset, only about $200 cheaper.  Now I'm going to practice lifting it until I build up huge biceps.

The girls spent the afternoon making a pop-up Mother's Day card, which is adorable.

I spent the afternoon with my Mother.  We had a nice lunch at a tiny bakery on the creek.  Then we examined her flower beds in the drizzle.  I am so grateful on a daily basis that my parents are our closest neighbors.  Partly, I'm grateful for my girls' sake:  I wish that I had the opportunity as they do, to grow up near my Grandparents.  Mostly, it's just nice to know that there is someone else up here on the ridge for company and advice.

This week I spent a long time with a woman who was recently given news of major medical issues.  The woman vacillated between wishing she never had testing done, stating that she just wanted to "give up", and hoping that she would be around for her Granddaughter's wedding.

That experience made me think (again) how temporary everything is.  These people around me, that I love so much, are here for a short time.  It's my job to make the most of it all.

So Mom, in case I don't tell you enough, I love you.  I enjoy having you as such an integral part of my life.  Thank you for all you do in loving and caring for me and my family.  Happy, happy Mother's Day.

Don't forget to tell the ones you love how much they mean to you...you can never say it too many times!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Typos

The "C" key sticks on my computer keyboard lately, unless I pound it relentlessly.  I don't even notice how many "C"s are in what I write until I look back and see that I've written about the hikens and the girls' lothes.  I'm just going to type away this morning, since I have 20 entire minutes to myself before I must leave for work.  Hopefully the spell checker will catch all the misspellings!

I've finally been out in my garden!  That doesn't mean that I haven't had to take breaks for the weather, or for illnesses.  It's rained almost every day this week, but they are calling for a nice day tomorrow.  Everyone has been sick, except for me.  I expect to succumb any minute now!  Taking a sick day on Wednesday was a nice break!  We went easy on school work for the less sick girl, and they both watched movies.  I got a couple of indoor things crossed off my "To Do" list since it was raining outside.

I spent a little time weeding the never ending daisies from my perennial bed earlier in the week.  The air smelled clean after another rainstorm, and the multiflora roses were almost overpoweringly strong.  The dogs ran in circles around where I was working, until they wore themselves out and lay panting under the trailer.  The bees hummed in figure 8's, kissing each clover in our long grass.  The hens crooned their mournful tune down in the coop.  It was just about perfect!

Of course, spending time outside can turn ugly too.  There are stingers and biters out there.  Jenna ran in from picking cherries off the weeping cherry trees and feeding them to the hens last weekend.  Somehow a bee got down her boot and stung her leg.  The stinger was stuck in her skin, still quivering a bit.  She has a large red area there still, but it is a minor comfort knowing that particular bee can never sting her again!

We found a little back and yellow snake (he must be a Steelers fan too!) in the sticker bushes by the walking path.  I'm not particularly afraid of snakes, but after finding one, I'm hesitant to stick my hands places that are not well visualized.


Dad and I were watching the peeps the other day.  They were climbing up on top of their feeder and the rim of their waterer, and balancing there.  "I wonder if they want to start roosting?"  Dad mused.  I balanced a couple of sticks between the bars of Kali's kennel, where they reside.  What do you know?  They are perching on them!


Tonight, JP is grilling a special meal for Mother's Day:  Thai Barbecued Chicken, and Asian inspired veggie packets in foil.  I also baked a cake, and Mom and Dad are coming over soon to eat with us.

I hope you all enjoyed this beautiful day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hugs

My cousin recently sent me several pages of inspirational quotes and ideas for harried Mothers.  (I think the papers actually stated "BUSY" Mothers, but I FEEL harried, thus I used the term.)  One of my favorites, which I have posted prominently at the top of my refrigerator, says this:  "Hug your child as many times as you serve him meals today.  Children THRIVE on touch."

Wow!  It sounds like an easy goal to master.  I have noticed, however, that I have to be conscious to get at least 3 hugs in for J each day.  Miss Love Bird L, loves nothing more than to snuggle up on a lap, so she is frequently in my arms.  I wonder if the girls notice anything different - not that we don't touch around here - but that I am touching them gently more often?

I am feeling particularly harried today, my first work day of the week.  After struggling through a busy afternoon at the office on my own, I brought home plenty of charting to finish up on.  Miss J clicked on a pop-up on her computer during her afternoon school work, and inadvertently downloaded malware.  As soon as I got home, I started (unsuccessfully) working on righting her computer.  (Good news!  JP was able to fix things up once he got home after 9 PM!)  At the same time, I had the other lap top out working on my charts and dinner in the oven.

The girls have been begging for me to get their summer clothes out for weeks, and I have resisted.  I do not enjoy the work of pulling bins of clothing out of storage, sorting and trying it on, then clearing out the dressers to make room for the new stuff.  Of course, both of them are ill, causing increased volatility, nasal discharge and sluggishness.  After working for over an hour through big piles for both girls, I sent them off to the shower already late for bed.

In the meantime, the puppy had over an hour upstairs, with no supervision other than Kali's.  She managed to chew through a surprising number of things in that time, then piddled on the sofa when JP snuck in from the garage and caught her in the act.

Poor JP got stuck cleaning up puppy messes and the dishes (that I left for later) right after walking in the door from a long day's work.  And after that I plopped the ailing lap top on his lap.  Did I mention that he is feeling under the weather too?

On the bright side, we managed to get all of the seedlings planted out in the garden, as well as 4 beds of corn, beans and beets before all the rain.  In addition, the chicks, now almost 2 weeks old, are growing by leaps and bounds.  They have most of their tiny wing feathers, and are growing tail feathers, and some on their backs.  They are also eating enormous amounts, I have to replenish their food and water 2-3 times a day. 

Every day I worry that I am forgetting to give some animal food or water, or clean out their cage.  Today I decided that after a winter's worth of use, the kitty bed needed to be washed.  It looks slightly better since its been through the washer and dryer.  The appliances, however, had to be washed out afterward, as they had a thick coat of cat hair all over inside them.  J, of course, is allergic to cats.  Next year, remind me to just pitch it and buy the kitties a new cushion!

This week was supposed to be the Week-of-Three-Field-Trips on top of work and school and violin lessons.  We skipped yesterday due to illness, and the violin instructor called today to cancel lessons because he is moving.  We'll have to see how everyone is doing by Thursday for the next outing.  Hopefully by then I haven't succumbed to the Virus Du Jour as well!

All this to say "thank you" to my cousin for her thoughtfulness in trying to calm my harried...er BUSY...mind.  Think this week about how many times you hug your kids.  It might surprise you!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mistake

I finally got a couple of hours this week to work on my perennial bed, which is in sore need of attention.  I discovered that the cheerful white daisies that I transplanted from our field, managed to seed themselves in almost every place that nothing else was growing!


See?  Almost all the short, green plants are the daisy starts!

My goal for this bed, was for it to grow so thick with perennials that I eventually would not have to mulch it.  I didn't mean for it to happen this way.  At first, I thought that I would leave the 2 big bunches of daisies that I initially transplanted, and just be sure that I removed all the flowers before they went to seed (what are the actual chances that would happen?)  After meticulously removing HUNDREDS of these weeds, however, I got the shovel and dug out the big bunches.

I removed enough yesterday to plant some starts from my friends' gardens.  JP suggested that I cover the rest with newspaper, then the wood mulch.  That sounds reasonable to me!

Meanwhile, the girls were begging to get the wading pool out.  I mollified them with the option to run through the sprinkler.  They looked infinitely more cool than I felt!


Lesson learned!