Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pretty in Pink

While the girls were in school yesterday, I spent several hours giving some much needed attention to the garden.  I accomplished more than I had hoped, which is a great feeling!

The deer have recently managed to get into the garden, and have completely mowed down my beans, strawberries and carrots.  Lately they have been nibbling on peppers, squash, and broccoli as well, and apparently pulled a couple of small onions out by their tops.  When I found hoof prints in my beds of tiny pea plants, it was the last straw.  JP and I got our hunting licenses yesterday in our plan for revenge.

I'm not too upset about the beans, seeing as how Mom and I have already gotten what we need from them for the winter.  The strawberries will bounce back, I hope.  The carrots, however, needed to be harvested.  With no more leaves, they will start to decompose.  I dug them all yesterday, which amounted to over 17 lbs worth!  They are not all lovely carrots, but they are organic and free, so we will enjoy them while they last.

I also harvested this lovely basket of veggies the other day, which included a honeydew melon that L grew.

My last garden project yesterday was to try to make it deer-proof again.  I re-strung wire around the fence posts about 18-24 inches above the deer netting.  I also tied pink ribbons on the wire so that they will blow about in the breezes and hopefully startle the deer.  I have not yet checked to see whether my efforts have paid off.
 
Can you see the pink ribbons fluttering about?

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of School

This morning the girls got up and around in record time.  In fact, I have to say that preparing for their first day of school went very smoothly.

 
It was extremely quiet around here!  I don't think that the fact that both girls will be away much of every day has really hit home yet...it still feels like one of their day camp days from the summer.  I thought about L a lot, hoping that she wasn't feeling anxious, sad or overwhelmed.

The bus was almost 20 minutes late arriving this afternoon.  L stepped off with a huge smile on her face, and J followed a few seconds later.

L showed me the projects they worked on today - most of which seemed geared towards decreasing anxiety and getting to know their classmates (perfect.)

J announced "Mr. B is AWESOME!  He threw Tootsie Rolls at everyone!"  Apparently, Mr. B is not a proponent of lots of homework either.

We are off to a good start up here on Poplar Ridge.  Here's to another great 179 days of school!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making Memories

Before we tucked the girls into bed tonight, we all went outside and watched the International Space Station glide overhead.  What looked to us like a bright light in the sky, was really the sun below our horizon reflecting off of the solar panels on the ISS.  It was the perfect way to end our summer - gazing up into the stars that blanket our ridge, and huddled together against the chill of the night.

We spent the day today with friends who returned to visit from out of town, and with those who remain close in our hearts and our town.  It felt a bit surreal - we are all expecting the change that comes with back to school just around the corner, while we are still trying to adjust our lives to reflect the change of those who are no longer close geographically, but who remain close in our hearts.

JP and I took this week off to spend with the girls.  We didn't have a whole lot planned ahead of time, but wanted to end the summer with a bang.

I discovered last week that JP's niece was home visiting from Europe, and that her younger sister was preparing to move to her new college dorm.  The first activity we arranged, therefore, was a trip down to Virginia to see the girls' older cousins, whom they adore.  It was a quick trip, but well worth it, as we had a wonderful visit with both nieces, and with JP's sister and brother-in-law.

 
Before we left to drive home, JP suggested that we take some extra time to visit Monticello, and perhaps drive and hike on the Skyline Drive.  So, our plans changed to include a visit to Monticello in the rain, and then changed again to rule out Skyline Drive in the rain.  We made minor detours on the drive home to Harrisonburg, our college town, for our favorite ice cream, and again on the top of a hill in Maryland at a store that sells candy by the pound, where we each chose our own little bag of treats.

 
When we finally arrived home, the grass was long, and the rain was heavy.  After a day catching up on mowing, laundry, and pet care, JP and I packed a small bag, escorted the girls and the dogs to Grandmom and Granddad's house, and headed South for our annual Anniversary overnight get-away.  This time, I was in pain from a minor back injury sustained while turning the mattress on our bed the day before.  We sat in the jacuzzi until we were pruney and over heated, then went out for Indian food, and finally retired, relaxed, full, and pain-free to our room to watch a movie.

After another day to regroup, take J to her allergist, and put up 9 dozen ears of corn to freeze, JP suggested a day trip for white water rafting.  Having never done this before, I was a bit anxious, but eager to try.

The day of our rafting trip, we woke to a torrential downpour.  It poured the entire hour and a quarter it took to drive to the river.  By the time we were fitted out with life jackets and water shoes, the rain had stopped, but it remained misty and cool.  After 2 hours on the water, we stopped at a small beach, and hiked a short way into a clearing in the woods where we ate our lunch of sandwiches and fruit.  We hiked back out to the water, and found the sun shining, and the sky blue for the remainder of our trip.  We had a really fun time, and the girls are already asking when we can go again!

This is how our last week of summer vacation flew by.  It was busy, it was fun, it was spontaneous, it was memorable...just how a summer vacation should be.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Treasures

Yesterday, I took the girls out to our favorite park for their last day of Pioneer Camp.  J attended a couple of summers ago with 2 of her BFs, and L has been anxiously awaiting the year that she was old enough to attend. 

Girls in their Pioneer gear, summer 2010
 
The girls and I LOVE this park.  It is a gem, hidden away in the next county, with miles and miles of rolling green hills, huge shading trees, and a crystal clear creek running through the middle.  There are fun playgrounds tucked away behind a curve in the road, and winding paths meandering throughout it all.  I would have loved to wander some of those paths this week while the girls were doing their thing at camp, instead, I drove over 300 miles dropping off and picking up, but I did accomplish a few things here at home.

I am beginning to feel a bit nostalgic about "Our Park."  We used to attend monthly Homeschool Outdoor Classroom sessions during the school year, and we will greatly miss these.  I leafed through the booklet of park educational sessions the other night, searching for things that I could still do without the kids.

The girls have chosen to skip their last day of camp today, in order to attend the Grand Summer Program Finale at our local Public Library.  It too is a gem, right here in our town.  It was in this grand old mansion, bequeathed to the city to be used as a Children's Library by a well-to-do widow, that J and I made our first acquaintances when we were new in this town.  We have visited nearly weekly for 10 years, and this place is very dear to my heart.  That is the reason that I submitted my name to the search committee almost 2 years ago when they were looking for another Board of Trustee Member.  I have sat on the Board for a year and a half, and am certain that my bond with this facility will not soon end.

Summer is drawing to a close, and I am feeling endings very acutely this year.  The school year will be very different for us this year, with both of my children heading off to Public School.  We are all ready to go...finished the back-to-school shopping yesterday afternoon. The soccer season is already upon us...J had her first practice last night.  The whirlwind that was summer vacation, is whirling right into Fall, with all of its activities.

I must remember to breathe.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hen Pecked

We have a pecking problem up here on Poplar Ridge.  You may recall that several months ago, we discovered two hens with severe wounds that were without a doubt spur wounds from the rooster, Miney.  Miney no longer lives here.

However, while I was hoping that the bare backs and necks of the hens would gradually improve once Miney wasn't around, it didn't happen.  In fact, it seems to have gotten worse.  Both JP and I have witnessed the hens pecking each other while roosting in the Chicken Barge.  Why?  Who knows what sorts of thoughts race through the brains of birds?!

 
I've done my research.  I've tried ambushing the hens at night and spraying them with Vetericyn, which seemed to work wonders in healing up the terrible wounds on the two aforementioned hens, as well as the pullet cockerel.  Didn't help.  I read that dusting the hens with baby powder will keep them from pecking each other as they cannot distinguish each other by scent.  I ambushed the hens at night with baby powder.  All that seemed to do was stir up clouds of baby powder and extreme squawking and ruckus each night.  Someone suggested rubbing bag balm on their backs, as they dislike the smell and will no longer peck.  Rubbing bag balm on the backs of hens is easier said than done.  I dislike the smell of bag balm too.

I read that chickens LOVE the color red and will peck unmercifully at anything red.  I have to question this, as none of the hens has gouged anyone else's red eyes out yet.  We decided, however, that the only thing to do at this point, is cover their naked and tender red skin.  Luckily, there are such things as "Chicken Aprons" that do just that.

 
I decided to personalize my Chicken Aprons before putting them on the hens.  I wrote in black sharpie, things like "Cool Chick", and "Bird Brain."  I could only manage getting 6 hens into aprons last night, and gave them a good smear of bag balm too, while I was at it.


Let's hope that our flock will someday stop looking like a refuge for old and battered hens.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rearranging

We spent most of this afternoon rearranging the downstairs.

My Dad finished building and finishing the companion shelving units for the Murphy bed, so he and JP installed them.  The wood for the doors is from an oak tree that fell a couple of winters back.  Isn't this an amazing furniture set?


We moved the big dresser into the girls' room, and moved the smaller of their dressers  to the storage room.  Both girls had to move and re-organize their clothes.

The eliptical moved into its rightful spot in the Exercise/Guest Room, along with the cedar chest.

L's keyboard is now under a window for a more pleasant practicing location, and there is so much open space in the Family Room now!

The dishes still need washing, and it's late, late, late.

Tomorrow starts Pioneer Camp for the girls, but poor L is running a fever, and is headachey and snotty, so she will not get to attend the first day.

2 weeks and counting until school starts!

Produce

I spent several hours in the garden on Saturday, just trying to get caught up.  The girls joined me for awhile.  I got the rest of the beans weeded, along with a couple of the beds.

We picked beans, most of which haven't been picked for a couple of weeks, so they went to the chickens.  We also picked Horticulture Beans for the first time.  I spent several hours shelling them, and they are lovely - pink and white.


The deer somehow managed to get into the garden!  They have eaten off the tops of the strawberries and carrots, and razed a path down the middle of the bean field.  I pulled several of the carrots which didn't seem to have leaves remaining.  We've never gotten carrots this big before!


The onions appeared to be dying back, with all of the leaves lying on the ground.  We pulled all of those too, some of which need some trimming to be usable.

We got some cucumbers, the first few grape tomatoes, and summer squash.  I was pretty amazed at the buckets and baskets of produce that we hauled back up to the house!

 

Snack

 
 
This is what I've been snacking on lately...buttery, salty, chocolately...delicious!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Weekend on the Farm

Every Saturday during this Monsoon Season  (I mean Summer), it seems to rain.  Weekends are usually times that I count on getting some work done in the garden because I have help with the girls.  Well...that was out again this Saturday.  Instead, I finished up the tree house curtains, along with a 2 foot stack of mending.

The bright panel on the door is on a magnetic
hangar, and will be put up only for privacy
and light control during sleep-overs.

The other 3 windows have little flowery
valances that hide the blinds.

I have been noticing that for the past couple of months, the chickens haven't been doing chicken-y things, like scratching in the dirt and chasing bugs.  I think it's because half of their pasture became so overgrown with tall weeds, that they got lost in the jungle and it freaked them out a bit.  JP and I have been talking about moving them (that has been our plan all along - to move their pasture about once or twice yearly.)  However, when we discussed the nuts and bolts of the move, we couldn't figure out how to make it work.  We didn't feel it was safe to move the Chicken Barge while they were in it, because it is heavy enough that we have to pull it with the tractor or ATV.  Since there is no floor in it, we didn't think that the chickens would be able to safely keep up on foot.  We've already learned that there is no easy way to herd chickens.

Plan B was to shut the hens in the Chicken Barge at night, then move the fence and mow before letting them back out.  We also wanted to move the pullets closer to start integrating them with the hens. Unfortunately, I forgot to close them in last night.  The girls and I threw some corn for them right in front of the door to the Barge, then slowly closed in behind them until they all jumped inside and we closed the door.  All but one...we had to chase her down in the armpit high weeds.

The hens (background) will have no choice
but to get used to having the pullets
(foreground) around.

All 4 of us worked together to take down the electric fence, move it so JP could mow, and then replace it.  We fashioned a partition of deer netting so that the pullets could have a small pasture as well for the first time.  All the fowl seemed to enjoy their afternoon of scratching in the shorter grass. 

The pullets out to pasture.  The little white rooster,
(front right) is all healed up from his neck wound.


JP helped me finish mowing the garden paths, and I got the Fall peas planted.  I hope we actually get to enjoy them this year!  Some day, I hope to replant lettuce, spinach and radishes for a Fall crop as well.  I guess I should pick the beans again one of these days too...sigh.

There are never enough hours in a weekend, but we made the most of the fresh air and sunshine on the farm today!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

One Last Trip to Idlewild

We squeezed in our yearly trip to Idlewild last week.  It was overcast and cool, and because of this, the park was nearly empty.  We got dripped on (but not rained on) a couple of times, and the sun broke through around 3:30 when we were getting ready to head home.

I think this might be our last yearly Idlewild trip.  After 8 years, the girls are outgrowing it.  (For pictures of the first 6 years, see this post.)

 
We had a fabulous time, and rode some rides that we hadn't been on before.  L is FINALLY tall enough to go on anything.  We discovered that L loves roller coasters, and J really doesn't care for them.  Good to know.


So...another fun summer trip to add to the memory bank for Summer 2013!