Xavier Feathersworth

Sir Hubert McFeatherington is the leader of his flock.

The hens adore him and the other three roosters fear him.

Xavier Feathersworth was his faithful follower.

He’s the lieutenant and Sir Hubert is the general.

Yet, as they’ve grown together, Xavier has started to become…resentful.

Resentful because the other roosters pick on him while Sir Hubert just laughs.

And with this growing resentment, Xavier has started to become…disloyal to Sir Hubert…and his own flock.

One day, after a particularly painful pecking, Xavier quietly escaped through a gap in the run and darted over to the older flock to talk with their leader.

Pecky Greenleg.

 

Pecky and a few of his hens were out in the pen. They turned toward him when he cleared his throat.

“Hmmm,” said one of the hens. “What do we have here?”

“Looks like a little rooster,” said another hen.

Pecky eyed Xavier warily. The hens, who had no respect for Pecky gave a few sharp pecks and wandered up the ramp to eat.

Xavier’s heart fell. A henpecked rooster would not be able to help him.

“What do you want?” Pecky asked, embarrassed by the hen’s treatment of him.

“Well, I had hoped…but nevermind,” mumbled Xavier as he turned to go.

“Wait! Why did you came all this way?”

Xavier turned back and saw a desperate yet hopeful gleam in his eyes.

“I was hoping to find a new leader for my flock. A leader big and strong enough to put the other roosters to shame.”

Pecky looked at Xavier thoughtfully, then turned and looked at his raw, red back and his lack of tail feathers.

Maybe, this was his chance to start over with a new flock.

“Tell me more,” Pecky said, smiling as much as a henpecked rooster could smile.

To be continued…

Wonderland

Our homestead is a wonderland
Filled with new delights
Each day brings surprises
That popped up overnight

The kiwi now have tiny buds
The grapes’ pink blossoms grow
Snow in Summer bursting forth
So bright it almost glows

This is the first time we have seen these little buds on the kiwi vines.

Grape leaves are starting to unfurl.

The snow in summer has spread and is blooming.

Tigerlilies spiking out
And gojis growing tall
The hops are running wild again
And bright green berries crawl

The tigerlilies will be bright orange.

We have hops growing on just about every post in the vineyard.

The strawberries are just starting to turn red.

Roses spreading far and wide
Seaberries growing fast
Popping up all o’er the fedge
This year they’ll fruit at last

We are probably going to start strawberries somewhere else next year…the rose bushes are taking over and those thorns hurt. OUCH!

Seaberries are everywhere in the fedge. We are digging the ones between the rows up and transplanting them to the swales.

A carpet spreads out in the fedge
Sedum green and bright
It doubles, triples every year
It’s short but full of might

It’s fun to watch the changes
As April rolls to May
Vibrant greens and rainbow hues
Get brighter every day

I just love how much the vineyard has grown in 4 years.

Vanishing

Joe has been going on butterfly hunts.

He arms himself with a butterfly net and his bug house.

He takes his trusty assistant along with him and hunts the property.

He’s found two small butterflies, but is concerned that there are no monarchs on our land.

“Where are they?” he asks every time he trudges back to the house, his net dragging on the ground.

Last picture we snapped taken in October 2014.

Well, they’ve been having a bit of trouble getting back to Illinois. Milkweed, where they lay their eggs, is disappearing and difficult to find. Why?

Pesticides are a big factor.

One article I read states that butterflies have to cross “the corn/soybean desert” on their migration from Mexico to Illinois. Steps are being taken to plant milkweed along roadsides, but I’m not sure how much good that would do. Won’t it die out again when the pesticides start hitting fields?

We only saw 1 monarch butterfly last year on our property. Just one. I think we saw 2 or 3 the year before.

We have, or had, a lot of milkweed in our back pasture, but it seems we have less every year. Right now, I don’t see any growing. Usually, we don’t start seeing it until late Spring though. So we still have time. We don’t need to worry…yet.

Deep orange and black wings
The monarchs are vanishing
Never to be seen

Underneath

Underneath the vineyard
Tiny buds appear
Are they signs of kiwi?
Will this be the year?

Underneath the chicken run
Small pullets play and fight
Fluttering and flying low
Huddled up at night

Underneath the playset
Two boys rest with a treat
Chocolate pudding faces
Sticky smiles so sweet

Underneath the lovage
A little kitty purrs
Hiding, yawning, napping
Cleaning all her fur

Underneath the bright blue sky
The wind blows soft and strong
Greens and yellows dot the land
Summer won’t be long



Trampoline Lessons

Joe found a beetle today while we were woodchipping the garden.

It was huge.

It was shiny.

It was making a weird noise…a cross between a hiss and a squeak.

Joe and Jake both thought it was cool.

I thought it was creepy and wanted to feed it to the chicks.

“I wonder what it eats,” said Joe as he put it in his bug house.

“We found it in the wood pile so let’s put some wood in,” said Jake.

I watched them work together, putting wood chips, grass and dirt in.

“What kind of beetle do you think it is?” I asked them.

They didn’t have any guesses, so Joe and I went inside to get a few bug books. The boys both wanted to “do research” on the trampoline so we climbed on with the books and the bug house and started looking for a match.

The beetle was hard to see, so of course Joe needed to take it out.

I tried nonchalantly scoot away when it crawled its way toward me making its weird hiss/squeak.

We looked through all of the insect books and came to the conclusion that Joe had found a female stag beetle.

“Are you sure it’s a stag beetle?” I asked Joe.

“Yep. See, it has the same spikeys on its legs.”

He turned it upside down and touched its back leg causing another hiss/squeak fit.

I tried to get the crazy sound on video, but it would not cooperate so I found a YouTube video of a stag beetle making the same sound.

The boys played with it for a little while longer while I watched on.

When they got bored with it, they put it back in the bug house and put the bug house on the picnic table.

I gathered up the books and told them I was going to go inside and fix dinner.

“Ok, could you take the bughouse in with you? I want to keep an eye on the beetle.”

Gulp.

Bugs in the garden
Learning on the trampoline
Beetles in the house

Second Step: Patio Pavers

We’ve taken the next step in Operation Greenhouse Transport.

We’ve labeled the poles and posts, now it is time to get started pulling up the pavers and transferring them to our house.

Even though I am SO excited that we are getting a greenhouse…I was dreading this part. Pavers cover the ENTIRE floor of the inground pool the greenhouse was built on.

The. Entire. Floor.

We trudged over to the neighbor’s to get started. The boys in tow.

“Should I bring my tools?” asked Joe.

“I don’t think we’ll need them for this step buddy.”

Once inside, I stifled sigh.

This was going to be a big job. It was going to take a long time.

Once we got started though, it went pretty quickly. We got into a rhythm.

The boys and I pulled up the pavers and scraped the dirt and sand off with putty knives so they would stack easily. Ray did the heavy lifting and hauled them over to stack them on the ledge of the pool.

Our neighbor opened up one of the sides, and Ray handed the pavers out to him to put on a couple of pallets we brought over.

By the time we left, we had removed about half the pavers. Half!

I headed home to start dinner and Ray stayed a little longer to chat with the neighbor and pull up a few more pavers.

The boys and I were tired and dirty, but we felt a sense of satisfaction with our work.

“Well, I guess I didn’t need my tools,” said Joe.

The greenhouse is close
And we will transport it soon
Excited for fall

Roadside Jungle

The fedge is overgrown. Already.

It’s a roadside jungle. A tangle of weeds and grass. A mess.

I sighed when I noticed for the first time. How could I have let it go already?

Then, I saw the blackberries. The vines are going CRAZY. They are everywhere.

I saw that the one thorned blackberry plant we have has doubled in size from last year. I’m still not sure why I planted it in the fedge where little hands can get pricked, so I’m transplanting it back to the swales this year.

I saw the seaberries.

Wow have they multiplied…already.

The honeyberry we planted two years ago has tripled in size, the other three we planted last year have doubled.

I saw the Autumn olive with its dusky green leaves. Last year was the second year we had the berries. They were a little bit bigger than the previous year, so I am hoping that they will be double, triple in size this year…and tastier.

As I walked back to the house, I saw the burning bushes we planted our first year here. The snow in summer…the only one that made it…is starting to spread like a carpet around them. 

So even though the fedge is overgrown and it looks like a jungle from the road, I’m so happy to see it thriving. I’ll pull the weeds around the plants. Ray will take a weed eater to the taller grass. And we’ll harvest, harvest and harvest.

A roadside jungle
Vines creeping and invading
Green and overgrown

Quiet Times

Quietly I wander
Through the rows
Searching

Softly I whisper
Words of love
Hoping

Eagerly I welcome
Signs of life
Smiling

A touch of pink
A splash of green
Growing

We wandered around the vineyard yesterday and were surprised to see all the new life.

Grape leaves are starting to grow on the vines.

Chocolate mint is running wild like a carpet on the floor of the vineyard.

The kiwi is already greening and growing.

The goji berries are growing greener than ever.

The one creeping phlox that is still around has doubled in size from last year.

Pretty and Useful

I’ve added a few more flowers to the garden. Today I planted marigolds, alyssum and salvia. At $1.50 a six-pack, I couldn’t resist.

Not only are all of these flowers pretty, they are also useful to detract pests and attract beneficials.

The marigold’s job is to keep bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies away from my produce. Also, I like the splash of deep yellow breaking up all the green in the garden.

I’d never encountered a thrip or a whitefly, so I hope they continue to stay away from the garden. Thrips suck the life out of plants and munch on the fruit. Ick.

Whiteflies are teeny tiny and feed on the undersides of leaves. I don’t think we’ve had a problem with this and I want to keep it that way.

The alyssum smells good, smothers weeds and attracts the aphid-eating flower fly, which looks more like a bee than a fly. What more could I ask for from a flower?

I tried to plant salvia from seed last year, but had no luck. It’s job is to attract butterflies and look beautiful. It is also said to attract hummingbirds and we have a few that hang out at our house.

I planted two in every section of the herb spiral and one or two in each section of the kitchen garden. I’ll also put marigold seeds down, but for some reason I cannot get many of them to grow. At least not quickly enough to be of any use.

I did get a pretty big marigold to grow from seed in the herb spiral last year. I let it go to seed so hopefully I’ll have another one this year.

Flowers so gorgeous
A natural pesticide
Pretty and useful

Okra (et al.)

Today I planted okra
Lettuce, spinach, kale
And one sad tomato
All crooked, bent and frail

Worms in every spadeful
Wiggling in the dirt
A few big nasty grubs
A little chick dessert

Next I planted flowers
And cilantro all around
Bush beans in the garden
Carrots in the ground

I looked down at my hands
When everything was done
Dirt and mud had crusted
My fingers…every one

And then I heard the laughter
The sound of running feet
I looked up from the garden
And got an awful treat

Two boys armed with squirt guns
Had come to chase me off
They giggled, smiled and shouted
Hey Mom! It’s time to stop!