Crowing Contest

The roosters are crowing
A contest of sorts
They crow in the morning
They’ve made it a sport

The newer ones start it
Then Pecky joins in
They crow at each other
They cause quite a din

The ladies all flutter
The girls fluff their wings
At four silly roosters
As they crow, call and sing

They started out quiet
Uncertain and muffled
And when they got louder
Some feathers were ruffled

Now it’s a battle
Between old and new
Who can crow louder
The white or the blue?

Survivors

When we moved in 5 years ago, we brought a blueberry bush from Michigan.

This very sad shrub sat on our deck in Michigan for 3 months. Then, it lived at my mom’s for a month or so while we waited to close on the house.

Then, it sat on our deck for another 9 months.

In all, it was neglected and forgotten for a little over a year.

Yet, still it survived. So…we planted it along with a few more in our new fedge.

None of the blueberries did well that first year, or every year after for that matter. In fact, we didn’t even know we still had blueberries until we started removing cages from the fedge.

We were certain that the cages were just protecting dead plants, so when we pulled them and saw live plants with actual tiny blueberries on them, we were amazed.

The Wonder Plant – Survived a winter in Michigan, a winter in Illinois and 3 years of neglect.

Another neglected plant we put in the fedge in 2013…it lives!

We ended up pulling three bedraggled but very much alive blueberry plants from the fedge. We potted them up and fed them acidic fertilizer and now we’ve only to wait to see if they will finally produce to their full potential.

I’m hoping that placing them next to the thriving one I bought at a bargain will encourage them to grow.

Bedraggled berries
Tired, worn out but not beaten
Forgive my neglect

Vigilant

This year, I won’t get angry.

I won’t throw a fit and stomp my feet.

I won’t let the Japanese beetles get the best of the homestead.

We’ve learned from our mistakes.

1). Using a “trap” to attract the beetles away from the plants ends up doing more harm than good.

Sure, the traps work as advertised, but they draw even more beetles to the property than would otherwise be there.

Last year, we filled several 5 gallon buckets due to the traps, but it made little to no difference in the damage they did.

2). Waiting until the beetles have overtaken every tree, bush and shrub means having and overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and frustration.

Last year at this time they were horrible. So far, they haven’t been as bad.

We are staying ahead of them this year. Every beetle we drown is a beetle that won’t reproduce.

Each morning and evening we go out on patrol. It is a family chore. We work together as a team.

Ray and I are armed with buckets of soapy water.

Joe and Jake are the spotters.

We are ahead of the game, at least for now.

Looking at pictures from last year, they are not as bad. There are fewer beetles and the damage done has been minimal…so far.

We will be vigilant.

We will stay the course.

We will win.

Back to the battle
Japanese beetles invade
We will win this fight

Cattails

Out by the pond
Out by the rocks
A new plant is growing

Out in the swales
Out by the edge
Where water is flowing

They sway in the breeze
They dance in the wind
A myst’ry worth knowing

And then they emerge
Those fuzzy brown stems
The cattails are showing

Under Construction

In January, we said YES! to helping the neighbors move a greenhouse over their pool to our backyard.

We made it this year’s big project.

In March, I wandered over and labeled the parts and then sketched the layout to match the labels. We thought it was going to be difficult to take apart and even more difficult to put back together.

All those pavers! All that dirt! All those posts!

In April, we pulled up, scraped off and stacked the pavers on pallets and used the skid steer to get them to our backyard.

And finally, at the end of May and into June, we transported the dirt and moved all of the pieces of the greenhouse over…not piece by piece, but section by section.

Now, the bones of the greenhouse are in our yard and our neighbor is ready to turn the pool back into a…pool.

It was over a week of heavy lifting, scraping and transferring to move the pavers.

Then, a week of hard work in sweltering temperatures to get the dirt out.

When it came time to move the rest of it, it took two days and a few friends to help carry the light but unwieldy parts.

Operation Greenhouse has come a long way since the beginning of the year, and now we are only a weekend or two of work away from using our very own greenhouse.

A greenhouse out back
Filled with produce of all kinds
A garden all year

Counting Change

Ray and I like to let our spare change pile up on the dresser.

We have containers for quarters, nickels, pre-1982 pennies and everything else and we always say we’ll sort it later…which means we will get to it anywhere between a week and 6 months later.

The last time we did a big sort, Ray had the boys help. He talked to him about each coin and told them how many quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies it takes to make a dollar. At the end of the sorting, the boys each got a Sacajawea dollar for their piggy banks.

That was 6 months ago.

Last week, we decided it was past time to sort change. I wanted the boys to help me again, so I looked for a fun printable/activity on Pinterest. I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I made my own.

Make a Dollar from Change.

First, I talked to the boys about each coin. I asked them who the president was on each coin, which side was ‘heads’ and which ‘tails’ and talked to them about why some of the coins had ridges…something we had just learned when we read The Tuttle Twins and the Creature from Jekyll Island.

Then, we talked about how many of each coin it took to make a dollar. I handed out the printable I had made and told them if they made a dollar with each coin, they could keep all the change for their piggy banks.

They loved it. They learned and they made a little money for helping me.

Jake was tired of counting change by the time he got to the nickel page, but Joe plugged right along until he’d completed all four sheets.

 

 

 

 

Xavier Feathersworth: Chapter 2

This is a continuation of the story about Pecky Greenleg and Xavier Feathersworth.  Click here to read chapter 1.

This is based in fact. We really did lose one of our new roosters to an unknown assailant. 

*   *   *

“Murder! There’s been a murder!”

“Who was it?” peeped Esther.

“Who did it?” cheeped Hilda.

“Who’s next?” asked a calm and unusually confident Pecky.

The hens fell silent. Pecky had never spoken with such authority before…and the hens didn’t like it one bit.

“Well, it won’t be me,” said Mildred.

“Oh it won’t be any of us,” snapped Esther. “It happened in the other coop, not ours.”

“That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in this one,” said Pecky.

Puffing out their feathers, they all turned their backs to Pecky and continued speculating, a bit unnerved by Pecky’s question.

They should be nervous.

He and Xavier Feathersworth had come up with a plan to eliminate all the roosters in the smaller flock.

You see, Xavier was just as miserable as Pecky. Just as picked on. Just as fed up. Last night, Xavier had carried out step one in the plan.

Sir Hubert McFeatherington, the former leader of Xavier’s flock, had disappeared without a trace.

Only a pile of feathers and 7 nervous chickens remained.

As Pecky paced the run, he saw Xavier approaching.

“Well?” said Pecky.

“It’s done.”

Pecky sighed.

“How are the others in your flock taking it?” he asked.

“They saw the attack on Sir Hubert so they’re are nervous and scared,” said Xavier.

“How did it…how did you do it?” asked Pecky.

“I made a deal.”

“A deal?!”

“I couldn’t very well do it myself,” he said defensively.

“No, I suppose not,” said Pecky. “So…what attacked him?”

“An opossum.”

“That was quite a risk,” said Pecky, eying him with shock. He’d never heard of any chicken making a deal with a predator.

Pecky was a little in awe of Xavier.

Xavier was a bit worried about “the deal”.

“Wh-what was the deal?”

Xavier turned his head and picked at a few feathers before answering.

“You.”

To be continued…

 

 

The Raised Beds

We shoveled, wheelbarrowed and transported dirt this weekend from the greenhouse at the neighbors to our yard.

Because the greenhouse is, well, a greenhouse, the crew had to work early mornings and at dusk when the temperatures were not so high and the air was not so still.

Midday on Saturday, before quittin’ time, they brought the raised beds over.

I watched the skid steer lumber over the yard, that first bed in its metal arms and felt giddy.

Even with all the garden space we have, I’m excited about these raised beds. Most of them will go in the greenhouse when it is up, but a few will stay out along the deck holding lettuce, spinach and all the leafy greens.

Once we set up the first bed, I started preparing the soil. I raked in egg shells and vegetable fertilizer and watered it thoroughly.

Once the bed was ready, I planted:

  • 2 rows of kale
  • 1 row of spinach
  • 6 rows of four different varieties of lettuce
  • 1/2 row of lavender
  • 1/2 row of rosemary
  • 1/2 row of basil

I labeled everything, but as I don’t have much luck with labels staying in one spot (ahem…cats and kids), I also drew a map.

The “MG” stands for marigolds. I planted 3 rather sad looking specimens down the center and plan to get a few more to add this week.

I might be a little “off-schedule” with some of the varieties I planted, but it is definitely not too late to start a garden.

Most garden centers have a seed starting schedule specific to your area/zone that is based on the average last frost date.

All those greens, broccolis, cabbages, beans, brussels sprouts and other cool season crops can continue to go in the ground from now through mid-August.

So don’t give up if you think it’s too late to start a garden! Plant now and you’ll have fresh garden veggies for the fall.

Fall gardens are best
For yummy sides and salads
And the taste of sun

Day of Dirt

Yesterday was a day of dirt.

Digging.

Shoveling.

Crushing.

Ray and a team over at the neighbors started transporting dirt from the greenhouse to our yard.

Joe and Jake helped by stomping and crushing the pile.

Meanwhile, I dug holes and transplanted raspberries and seaberries out in the swales.

There are seaberries coming up everywhere in our fedge. They run under the ground and pop up in, around and between other rows.

The root system runs wild under the ground from plant to plant. This means that when you dig one plant up, you usually end up with two or three all strung together.

It wasn’t until I’d dug up the third plant that I’d noticed the nodules.

All of those bumpy white nodes that look like a cluster of eggs are packed with nitrogen. They are just waiting to spread and feed the plants and trees around them. Pretty cool!

After all the raspberries and seaberries were in their new homes, I mixed water with some Superthrive, a liquid multivitamin for plants, and gave them a good soaking.

By the end of the day, I’d transplanted 10 raspberries and 8 seaberries and we had a large chunk of dirt in our backyard.

Playing in the dirt
In the hot summer sunshine
Gives me a warm glow

Milkweed and Mistakes

I have a confession to make. A rather embarrassing oversight on my part.

I had thought all the milkweed was gone.

Whenever I went out to the pasture, I searched and searched with no luck.

Turns out, I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

It wasn’t until Joe, my sweet 6-year-old boy pointed it out that I realized I’d missed it.

“Here’s the milkweed!” he shouted.

I gazed at it and felt an overwhelming sense of…embarrassment. Or maybe shame is a better word.

You see, I had seen this plant before.

In the vineyard.

In the fedge, and all over the pasture and swales.

In short, I’d seen it everywhere.

I just didn’t recognize it for what it was.

I’d been searching for the tall plant with the big pods, not these little guys. I didn’t stop to think what these might be…I just pulled them.

Sure, I left them alone when they weren’t in the middle of a path or smack in the center of the yard. The leaves are smooth and kind of pretty and I thought they looked nice mixed in with all the other greenery.

But I ruthlessly pulled all the others.

I felt really bad that I’d not recognized this plant for what it was. So I did a few Google searches to see what the life cycle of the milkweed is.

I learned that the life cycle from seed to flower is actually about 3 years. And guess what? The young plants don’t look a whole lot like milkweed. In fact, the very first “common mistake” listed is…

Not recognizing the small plant for what it really is- Milkweed!

I felt a little bit better after that.

Until I remembered that my 6-year-old recognized the plant for what it was.

Boy was my face red!