Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More Summer

L & I have had lots of activities together this summer.  It has been nice to spend one-on-one time with her...something we've never really had the chance to do before!  We've done simple things like take a picnic lunch to a local park and play on the playground...

 
...or climb the trees.

 
We went mini golfing, but didn't get photo documentation.

Last week we went to a nearby village and museum with re-enactors from the late 1800's.  We had the chance to practice our atlatl throwing.


And of course, we've spend lots and lots of time in the car, driving J to and from work at the library.

L also FINALLY had her voice recital.  She did a great job, but looked extremely nervous.  She does not want me to post the video here...sorry.

 
All three of us spent a few hours at the county fair last week.  One of our favorite things, the petting zoo, was conspicuously absent this year.  We did manage to buy expensive food on a stick, and ride a few rides.

 
Today was J's last day of work, although she is returning tomorrow to volunteer for the final Summer Reading Club.  She has had extremely long days for the past 2 days...working 8 hours, and then going directly to 3 hours of soccer practice. She is getting home at 9:30 PM, eating dinner, showering, and going to bed.  This morning, she also had an appointment before work, so it was even longer.  Tomorrow she has a voice lesson after library, and then concussion testing prior to practice - another extremely long day.  Thursday she will finally have the chance to chill out during the day (I think!)  But, she has her first soccer game on Saturday!

The pullets began laying a couple of weeks ago, and now we are getting many beautiful brown and very small eggs.  Today I found 16!  I think that the pullets themselves are quite attractive.  We only have 6 old, balding hens any longer.

 
Summer is winding down, and I always start to feel a bit melancholy this time of year.  I will really miss the girls when they go back to school!  I'm sure that I will still have plenty of things to keep me busy, but I am happy to say that I managed to accomplish quite a few things that have been lingering on my To-Do list for years.

Here's to the final 2 weeks of summer.  Live it to the fullest!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rain Drops Keep Fallin'

It has rained or been unseasonably cool for most of last week.  It kept us out of the pool, and made it difficult to accomplish outside projects.  I did manage to paint these doors, partly because they are protected under the roof:


They were meant to be green originally, but at the last minute, our builder informed us that the colored doors have to be ordered 6 weeks in advance, and at the time, we needed doors ASAP.  So...9 years in, they are finally green!

JP and I took our yearly Anniversary trip to the city - celebrating 26 years this year!

They had a Pickle festival on the bridge just outside our Hotel, with vendors and live music, so we checked it out.


 
We had a fantastic steak dinner, with complimentary dessert.


In the morning, we woke early, and wandered about the Strip District, and made purchases at the Cheese Store and the Oriental Store.

Saturday was Rain Day in our town, so the girls and I ventured in to check out the festivities and to share a funnel cake.  After about 1 1/2 inches of rain that day, the skies were blue and lovely when we strolled through town.

I stopped to let the girls play on the statue for Union Soldiers near the University.  They used to play on this with their babysitters while I was working in the University Student Health...back in the day.

 
On Sunday, we got the weekly mowing done, and then JP grilled BBQ ribs for dinner while the girls played in the pool.

It was a busy, but fabulous weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Chosen One

Last month, I noticed an article in a local publication.  It stated that a local business was "sponsoring the Great Garden Contest for the best looking flower and vegetable garden in or around" our county.

I sent in this picture of my garden.



The entries were to be judged at one of the local fairs, and since the fair ended last Saturday, I decided that I must not have been a winner.  Imagine my surprise when I received an email from the sponsoring business yesterday, with news that I did indeed win!

I went down this morning to collect my prize.


Woo-hoo!  I have the best looking garden in or around our county by People's Choice!

Thank you very much!

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?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chicken Research

After losing one of my cockerels, I discovered that my other 3 cockerels had similar, albeit not so severe issues.  I did some online research, and determined that they were all suffering from "pendulous crop".  Since chickens have no teeth, their food is ground in the crop, a specialized part of their esophagus that grinds the food, along with grit (dirt & tiny stones that they swallow) before it moves on down the digestive system.  In some chickens, the crop can become impacted with food, or conversely, stretched and filled with liquid that doesn't move through.  In some cases, this liquid can develop a yeast infection, called "sour crop", that can cause all sorts of digestive and malnourishment problems.  This is what apparently happened to my 1st cockerel.

I realized that although the TSC chicks have been pastured on lovely, green grass, and moved every other day to a clean area, they do not have access to any grit to eat.  In addition, I learned that although they get fresh water every other day, adding a smidge of apple cider vinegar to it can be very helpful in alleviating and preventing the yeast infections.

I immediately added ground oyster shell to the feed of all my young chickens, and vinegar to the water of the TSC chicks.  Since then, 2 of the cockerels are greatly improved, and the 3rd, the one with the gimpy leg, is no better.  It appears that we may need to butcher him sooner, rather than later.

I also researched meat chickens, and although I am still unable to identify the breed of chicks that I bought at TSC, I am convinced that they are meat birds.  It is recommended that they be butchered between 5-13 weeks of age, usually at 6-8 lbs.  I am working on a method to weigh them, but it may soon be time to have fried chicken, as they are 9 weeks old and quite large.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I'm THIS Close to Crazy

There have been an insane number of things going on in the past week.  J visited Fallingwater with the rest of the 8th Grade, and she sang 3 solos in front of a packed house at the local Sandwich shop at an Open Mic the other night.  L had her last ever Art Day at school (all art, all day, fun, fun, fun!)  I spent 2 hours before work on Thursday, and all day Friday at the Elementary School helping out with said Art Day for the last time.  Just to name a few...
 
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I forgot to mention that they finally took the well rig away a couple of weeks ago!
 

New things are blooming in the flower beds.



These peonies are currently blooming.



The Creeping Thyme and Yarrow are in bloom as well.
 
The pullets are getting bigger all the time.  Here they are next to my old ladies.
 

Sadly, we've had a few casualties with the TSC chicks.  They are ENORMOUS, which makes me think that they are broiling chickens, and not layers.  In any case, 2 of my cockerels have developed large, fluid filled sacks in their chests that hang down to their scrawny chicken knees.  One has since expired.  Another one appears to have dislocated his hip today, so I suppose we will be eating him soon.
 
Speaking of good eats, the strawberries are in full force.  I have picked about 2 gallons of them.  There is nothing better for breakfast than homemade Greek yogurt on a bed of homegrown strawberries, and topped with homemade chocolate-peanut granola!
 





I've been letting J's rabbit run around with the chickens.  He has a grand old time!  You can tell that it's high time that we mow in the chicken run.