Category Archives: Garden Stories

Mischief Makers: Marshmallow Madness

Glitter eyed the bags of marshmallows warily.

“Tell me again what the plan is for tonight?” she asked.

“We are going to build a fort out of these,” said Nim.

“Or should we build a Christmas village?” asked Lil.

“Or we could build Santa’s workshop,” said Nim.

“We are definitely going to need more marshmallows,” said Lil as she headed for the window.

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“Stop!” said Glitter. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

Both elves turned to Glitter with matching mischievous frowns.

“We promise we won’t make too big of a mess,” said Lil.

“Just a few marshmallow houses and a small workshop for Santa,” said Nim.

“It’s only marshmallows, Glitter,” said Lil with a wink. “It’s not like we are throwing flour and glitter all over the floor.”

Glitter sighed and nodded her head. She had not completely forgiven herself for all the havoc she’d created over the past week. How could she begrudge Nim and Lil a little fun?

“Woo hoo!” cried Nim. “Let’s get started.

At first, Nim and Lil stayed true to their promise. They started building their village while Glitter sorted the marshmallows by color and size.

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But then, things started to get sticky.

Nim accidentally lobbed a marshmallow at Lil’s head.

Lil, of course, had to retaliate.

Glitter tried to stop them, but she only got pelted with multi-colored marshmallows. She ended up ducking behind a snow globe to avoid more hits.

By the time the battle ended, marshmallows of every size and color littered the table.

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“Oops,” said Nim.

“Sorry Glitter,” said Lil as Glitter slowly stepped out from behind the snow globes.

Nim and Lil exchanged worried glances. Would this put Glitter right back over the edge?

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree
You’re covered with marshmallows
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree
They’re pink and green and yellow
A “snowball” fight, it happened here
With messy, sticky Christmas cheer
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree
You’re covered with marshmallows

“Oh no,” said Lil.

“We’ve ruined all her progress,” said Nim.

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“You two had better help me clean this up,” said Glitter. “We can’t have you getting into trouble with Santa too.”

Then she smiled and used her nose to move all the stray marshmallows into a pile.

Nim and Lil looked at each other and sighed with relief.

The old Glitter would have reprimanded them.

The old Glitter would have jotted off an Elf Behavior Report (EBR) to Santa.

The old Glitter would have been angry that they’d made such a mess.

This was a new Glitter. She’d gone from one extreme and back again, but rather than returning to her old, prim and proper self, she’d…well, she’d loosened up a bit.

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“I sure hope this new and improved Glitter will stick around,” said Nim, helping clean up the mess.

“Oh, I think she will,” said Lil with a smile.

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Mischief Makers: Secret Codes

Nim and Lil were huddled together with a group of fellow Mischief Makers getting ready to return to their assignments. Buddy, one of the newer, tinier recruits, was showing them a new tool he’d used to hide candy canes for his kids to find.

“How does it work?” Nim asked looking intently at a colorful decoder.

“It’s easy,” said Buddy. “Each picture represents a letter so you just spin to the matching picture and, voila!”

“Wow,” said Lil with a big smile. “That is so cool!”

“You can borrow it if you want to,” said Buddy. “I won’t need it back until Christmas Eve.”

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Nim and Lil couldn’t resist such an offer. They thanked their new friend and took off, eager to use it with the boys.

When they got back to the house, they found Glitter playing dominoes with Leonard and a polar bear. 

“Hi Glitter,” said Lil.

“We have a really cool secret decoder to use tonight,” said Nim. “You want to help us?”

Oh I’m playing a game with Leonard
Started just before you entered
Why don’t you do it on your own?
We’re in the zone, in the zone, in the zone

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“That’s an interesting version of Let it Snow,” said Lil as she and Nim went back to the kitchen.

The boys had followed the directions for the candy cane garden and left a note of their own.

Thank you for the garden Nim and Lil! 

“I’m so happy they liked it!” said Nim.

“They are going to like it even better tomorrow,” said Lil as she replaced the red hots with mini candy canes.

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Nim suddenly jumped in the air.

“Let’s hide the gardens!” he said.

“Hide them?” said Lil in confusion. “Why would we hide the garden?”

“We’ll hide them and then write a secret message telling the boys where to find them,” said Nim holding the decoder up.

Lil nodded with excitement. 

The elves decided to hide one Candy Cane Garden in the bathtub and one in the refrigerator. Then, they carefully wrote a message using the decoder. When it was finished, they stretched and put the decoder and message where the garden used to be.

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“They are going to love this,” said Nim.

Lil nodded in agreement.

Glitter added her approval to the tune of The Grinch.

It’s a good game, Nim and Lil
Solving clues oh what a thrill
They’ll decode each secret letter
They’ll get better and better
Nim and Li-ill
Nim and Lil!

“I kind of like this new side of Glitter,” said Nim as he hung by his legs from the light fixture.

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Lil smiled. “Me too.”

If the elves knew what was in store for them the next night, they would think differently about this “new” Glitter.

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Mischief Makers: A Messy Surprise

Through the dark winter sky, somewhere south of the North Pole, two elves and a reindeer flew fast past the twinkling stars. One zippy elf suddenly zoomed ahead, diving toward a small house in the country.

Nim, a happy, energetic Mischief Maker, landed on a window sill and hopped from foot to foot, waiting for his partner, Lil.

“It’s about time,” Nim said once Lil finally landed on the window sill with a green balloon and a ‘We’re Back’ sign.

“You flew ahead too fast Nim,” huffed Lil. “Glitter fell behind and I had to wait for her to catch up.”

Lil had barely finished her sentence when Glitter barreled into the rose bushes below the window.

“Oomph! Ouch!”

Glitter slowly stood up and began picking thorns from her reins.

“Are you ok?” asked Nim, trying to hide a smile.

“It’s a good thing those bushes were there to break your fall,” said Lil, holding back a chuckle.

“It’s just too bad they were rose bushes,” Glitter grumbled. “With thorns.”

Nim and Lil shook with laughter as Glitter continued to primly pluck at the thorns on her fur collar.

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“Oh Glitter,” giggled Lil. “I hope this isn’t a sign of how the rest of the season will go for you.”

“Me too,” said Nim. “It took you 8 months to recover from last year’s…erm…initiation.”

Glitter sniffed and pranced, ignoring the chuckles coming from the two elves. 

“Ok,” said Nim, bouncing up and down. “Let’s get started!”

The three friends flew through the window and landed softly on the kitchen table. 

“Oh my,” said Lil with wide eyes.

“Oh dear,” said Glitter with a shocked voice.

“What in the world happened here?!” exclaimed Nim.

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The entire front room and kitchen looked as if it had been ransacked by a giant.

Toys and stuffed animals were everywhere. Christmas ornaments were strewn all over the floor. The tree was on its side. And in the middle of it all a St. Bernard, no bigger than a mouse, slept peacefully in a big pile of tinsel.

“Barrel!” Nim and Lil cried in unison.   

“Well I guess this explains why we haven’t had any Behavior Reports lately,” said Nim.

The sweet looking dog stretched, yawned and blinked at the trio. Then, when the sleep cleared from his eyes, he ran over and tackled Nim to the ground.

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“Ok, ok!” shouted Nim as Barrel licked his face. “I’m happy to see you too.”

Lil smiled when Barrel rubbed on her leg, but quickly frowned as she looked at the mess again.

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“Did you do this Barrel?” she asked sternly.

Barrel hung his head in answer.

“Yikes,” said Nim trying–and failing to hold in a laugh.

Glitter, the tidiest of all four friends, stood in mute shock.

This would not do at all. Glitter was determined to follow The Book this year, and on page 32, Chapter 2 in section 1.5 it clearly stated that messes of this size were strictly prohibited. What would Santa say?

Nim and Lil knew that look.

“Now Glitter,” said Lil in a reassuring tone. “I’m sure that once we scold him, Barrel will never, never, EVER make a mess like this again. Right Barrel?”

But Barrel was too busy running circles around the fallen tree to answer.  

“Well…it won’t happen again now that we are here,” said Nim smiling fondly at Barrel.

“Yes,” said Lil as she patted Glitter on the back. “You’ll be here to keep an eye on him.”

“Well,” said Glitter taking a big, calming breath and shaking her reins. “We’d better get started cleaning up.”

“We don’t have much time until they get up,” said Nim turning to Lil.

Lil shook her head and set the ‘We’re Back!’ note, balloons and hot cocoa on the table for the boys to find first thing in the morning.

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“This is no way to start,” mumbled Glitter from the living room. “Breaking rules, making messes. No way at all.”

Nim and Lil smiled with a little mischief sparkling in their eyes and headed over to help clean up the mess.

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Science Find on the Homestead

The boys and I went out today to harvest some Jerusalem artichokes. Most growers will tell you to harvest them after the first frost as they will be sweeter, but we decided to experiment with the harvest time (aka we forgot until now).

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Luckily, it was pretty easy to dig in the dirt. There hasn’t really been a truly hard frost yet, which is crazy since it will be December in just a few days.

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We stopped digging after a bowlful and were headed back inside when Joe found it: a praying mantis egg sac.

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We have 8 on our rose bushes, but no one wants to try and get one to observe because of all the thorns. So finding one on the Jerusalem artichokes was a really big deal.

As we were gathering our tools up to put away, I found another, smaller egg sac and snapped that twig off too. We went inside and Joe got out his butterfly house to put them in while we researched how to care for them all winter…they don’t hatch until May-ish.

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Although there were multiple and varying opinions and methods on the best way to care for and hatch the eggs, we went with the easiest: in a jar, in the butterfly house, outside.

We have them on the back porch so we can peek at them whenever we think of it. They are no more at risk to the weather than they would be had we left them where they were and we wanted to keep to the most natural environment we could and still be able to observe them.

 

 

Beauty

As I look out over the homestead now, I see brown and crunchy grass and trees. It is truly amazing what a difference the seasons make and the beauty to find in each one.

a pinch of homestead

I walk around
I wander over pastures
I see the world
So beautiful and bright

I see my boys
I hear their joy and laughter
I want it all
To stay like this always

The wind blows soft
It flutters through the grass
This land I love
This life I live

The sun shines bright
My world is bathed in gold
I stand enthralled
I kneel in awe

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Ping-Pong Eggs

I guess we will not have to worry about tricking our hens into laying this winter. Oh how I will miss them!

a pinch of homestead

The eggs had dwindled down
To maybe four a day
We checked boxes with a frown
No hiding our dismay

All hens seemed hale and healthy
All feathers bright and red
Our cats are not that stealthy
Besides, they are well fed

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Was the problem frost and cold?
Was that what made them stop?
Was their laying put on hold?
If so, their heads would drop

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A tiny little laugh came out
While looking in the coop
There they were, without a doubt
A cozy little group

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The ping-pong balls will be the scam
Our plan should do the deed
Call it a trick, a ruse, a sham
But will it work? Indeed.

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Beefing Up Security (Part One)

Almost a week has passed and the loss of our 13 hens to a fox still smarts.

If I’m being completely honest, I am surprised it took this long.

We have been pretty lucky to only have lost one or two to a predator. It was really only a matter of time I suppose.

Still. Did he really have to kill them all?

It is getting to be too late in the year to start a new flock, so we will be taking time to re-evaluate our coop construction and re-think our defensive plan against unwanted visitors.

There are a few sad realizations we have come to as we get ready for winter:

We have no livestock to prepare the kitchen garden.

We relied on the chickens to weed, eat pests and prep the ground for Spring planting. Now we are forced to (gasp) do the work ourselves.

Kitchen garden before chickens have spent 4+ months prepping for the Spring planting.

Kitchen garden after chickens have spent 4+ months prepping for Spring planting.

We will have to buy eggs for at least the next 6 months.

In reality, by the time you factor in the cost of chicken feed, electricity to keep them warm and bedding, we will probably be spending a bit less.

Still…buying eggs.

We won’t only be losing fresh eggs, but also fresh fodder for stories and poems. A tragedy indeed.

So, what can we do to better protect our birds?

We are already doing a few necessary things to protect the flock.

  1. The coop and run are completely enclosed with chicken wire to protect from opportunists like hawks and raccoons.
  2. We keep the chickens highly visible and have a solar powered motion light to deter possible predators.
  3. We collect eggs daily so as not to attract any unwanted visitors

But, as with anything else, there is always room for improvement and there are several precautionary steps we need to step up.

For example, we could do a better job of picking up any food scraps the chickens didn’t eat before nightfall. It should have been obvious to us that food left out in the open can attract more than just chickens.

We could also start to shut the coop door at night to make it more difficult for intruders. The run and ramp to it is “secure” with chicken wire, but that (apparently) did not stop Mr. Fox.

Also, we need to pay more attention to and fix any holes in the fencing that could provide an easy entry into the coop and run.

Another recommendation was to get a rooster. This is not an option as we had several and the crowing got a bit out of control.

But…we could get a guard dog.

A guard dog would provide the same security as a rooster…only better.

A guard dog would scare off any predators…man or beast.

A guard dog would be an excellent addition to the homestead.

Killers Unknown

Since we’ve lost our entire flock, it’s time to start thinking about what breed to get next. I liked our Red Stars and our Rhode Island Reds. It would be kind of fun to get a few different breeds to mix it up a bit.

a pinch of homestead

The morning started just like any other morning.

Bleary-eyed, I started the coffee pot.

Yawning, I looked out the back door.

Uh. Oh. The chickens were out.

I forgot to put them away. Again.

Their coop had been open all night. Again.

Sighing, I started breakfast.

‘I have to start remembering to lock the hens up,’ I thought to myself.

Later, I went outside to move the little girls out to the playpen. After getting them situated (with only a few squacks and pecks), I did my morning headcount.

Nine pullets and six hens.

Wait. Six? Where were the other two?

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I looked around a little, not too concerned yet. They’d been out for most of the morning after all and they’d been getting braver, venturing further away from the coop. Surely they’d come back when they got hungry.

I went about my day, forgetting about the missing ladies.

Early evening…

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The Sac

In the roses, hidden
A crinkly little clump
Squishy, brown and wrinkled
A smallish papery bump

Look a little closer
And see the little swirls
The grooves and swishy-swashies
The round and running whorls

It’s not a wilted flower
A leaf deformed and slack
The blob is quite important
A praying mantis sac

It holds eggs in the hundreds
It keeps the mantids warm
Until the frost is over
Then hundreds start to swarm

So let the brown globs stay there
Don’t pick at them or spray
And you’ll have lots of helpers
To crunch on pests and prey

Greenhouse Project: Plan Adjustment

I had almost forgotten about the jigsaw greenhouse we bought in 2012 only to sell the parts in 2013. Now we are working on building a hoophouse style greenhouse…for real this time.

a pinch of homestead

Our plan this year was to put up the greenhouse we bought at an auction last year. We bought it sight unseen…our family was at the auction and described it to us. They told us that it was in pieces…

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We brought it home, put the glass in the garage and piled the rest out back on cardboard.

It came with four sturdy tables with wooden slat bottoms. Perfect for starting seeds or filling with leafy green. It also came with a pack of pictures showing how to construct it.

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It was a professional grade greenhouse that used to be at a local flower shop in our hometown.

When we finally got around to getting the underground wires and cables marked by JULIE and determining where we were going to put it, we quickly realized that this was going to be a MUCH bigger project than we had anticipated.

The slope…

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