Category Archives: Life

Feathers and Fluffballs

We’ve had a whirlwind few days with chicks hatching and cheeping day and night.

Seven eggs had hatched fully by the end of Tuesday. It was getting a little crowded in the incubator, so we decided to risk  the 8th egg in order to get the other chicks in their new home, under a heat lamp and with food and water.

The incubator is temperature and humidity controlled to mimic the warmth of a mother hen sitting on her eggs. Once the egg has a pip, a small opening for the chick to work its way out, opening the incubator exposes the egg to dry air.

Drying the pip could make it more difficult for the chick to break through the egg without assistance.

The final egg had pipped before we opened the incubator, so we knew the risks.

After we had settled all of the chicks, we sprayed the sides of the incubator down with water to try and keep the humidity in and put the lid back on…and waited.

In the wee hours, the final egg hatched and a scraggly, wet little chick stumbled into the empty shells on clumsy claws. We let its feathers dry out a bit, before moving it with the others.

The boys and my nieces have named them all…although the names have changed frequently since we moved them.

Here’s the final list…for now.

Yellow Feather
Nita
Cheep Cheep
Sir Hubert McFeatherington
Fluffy
Fin
Cheepy
Flappy

A few of them have a couple gray dots like their father and they all have big feet with feathers on their legs.

This has been an exciting and amazing project for the boys. Joe has been so careful and gentle with the chicks and the eggs. He lets us know when it is time to leave the room so “the chicks can sleep”.

We’ve also learned a lot about the chicken…from anatomy to the lifecycle to how the chicks are able to go a few days without food and water.

I think the best part was when I asked Joe if he wanted to look at a piece of shell under the microscope.

While we were oohing and aahing over the little yellow fluffballs, my niece asked me “what if they are all roosters?”

Hmm. I didn’t consider that eventuality. Didn’t I order all hens? I’m sure Pecky and I talked about it, didn’t we?

Feathers and fluffballs
Yellow chicks with small gray dots
I hope they’re all hens

Pruning

Trailing after daddy
An eager little boy
Pruning back the vines
Filled with pride and joy

Watching daddy closely
Wanting to do it right
Puffing up with pride
When daddy says, “That’s right!”

Working til the sun sets
Big to smaller shoulder
Sighing with contentment
Feeling a little older

I see their smiling faces
I hear their laughter too
I smell the dirt and sunshine
I feel humbled anew

This man I hold so dearly
Will take care of us all
These boys I love so fiercely
Will soon grow big and tall

So as that time draws nearer
I’ll relish every day
From working in the sunshine
To all the games we play

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Midwest Winter

The weather is mild
The grass is confused
The birds are returning
The trees aren’t amused

This mild midwest winter
Calls plants to awake
Calls spiders to come out
And frogs to the lake

If this warmth continues
My garden will thrive!
Extending the season
More produce and life!

But if it gets colder
My roses will freeze
My strawberries wither
And what of the trees?

But worries are useless
Concerns do no good
I’ll laugh and enjoy it
As everyone should!

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Leaves are budding on the rose bushes

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New strawberries are peeking up through the mulch.

Crisp

Sparkling in the sunlight
The frosty, glittering ground
The chickens now are ready
For cold and wind to sound

They moved into the garden
To do their very best
They scratch and shuffle all around
Eating weeds and pests

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They’re now outside our window
And each and every morn
Pecky has confused our light
And crows before the dawn

The cats both like their new spot
As guardians of the flock
They bask in warm, soft sunlight
Ignoring ruffled bawks

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The sky is bright and blue now
But soon it will be gray
And snow will fall so softly
Crisp winter’s here to stay


Winter Fertilizer

The cold weather approaches and it is just about time to move the chickens closer to the house to keep them out of the bitter winter winds that rip through our small homestead.

We’ve let the plants go to seed so that our girls will have a nice treat during the long winter. We will have moved them all over the garden so that by Spring our soil will be rich and crawling with squiggly worms.

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Perhaps telling the boys that it was time to “destroy the garden” was a little short sighted; but it was worth it to see how much fun they had chopping, pulling and stomping all over the kitchen garden.

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Since it has been warm, the borage and lovage are confused. They think they still have time to multiply and grow.

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Borage. It’s all over the garden and some is even in the yard.

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Lovage – smells like celery.

We found a ton of cherry tomatoes on the vine. They are so sweet! We fed some to the chickens and snacked on some ourselves. Most of the broccoli had gone to seed so we gave that to the chickens too.

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I ran around front to see if the strawberries were confused as well…no such luck. I did find a few roses blooming though.

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The chickens “accidentally” got loose so the boys spent an hour or so chasing them around, catching them, letting them go and catching them again.

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Pecky stood guard over the coop while this was happening. He was reluctant to get involved in the shenanigans.

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I think the girls may be picking on him a little bit. He has a few feathers missing on his rear and a few raw spots as well. A couple of the hens have missing feathers on their heads too. I guess chickens must have cat fights too.

The boys are both very gentle with the chickens. They can catch them much easier than Ray or I can. The hens seem almost docile with them.

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We had a beautiful day working outside. I like all seasons, but I sure am going to miss these nice weather days when we are cooped up.

Snow is on its way
Winter days are coming fast
Autumn falls away

Colder

The days are getting colder
The air is crisp and cool
The hens are getting older
To keep them would be cruel

Soon winter winds will roll in
Snow falling close behind
We’ll only keep a few hens
To keep warm and confined

We started with the old gals
We sent them on their way
Then we retired our dear pal
Poor Blue’s seen her last day

Please try not to feel sad
Blue was a lovely hen
But finding eggs that smell bad
Well...I won’t do that again

We’re keeping dear old Pecky
To hatch eggs for next year
That rooster is so lucky
That he is in the clear

The chickens have been helpful
The eggs they laid were great
And now they will be useful
Supplying us with meat

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The Bug House

Every day Joe finds a caterpillar or worm to add to the bug house.

The tiny space is almost at full capacity and soon, we will have to build on an addition to make more room.

“I have to put them in here because they won’t survive the winter.”

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But, don’t they? Don’t they find some way to survive the Winter, at least as eggs or larvae, to be born again in the Spring?

Of course they do! But…how?

We were both curious, so we googled it and looked it up in our bug books.

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And guess what? Bugs don’t just survive the winter as eggs or larvae.

Some, like the Monarch butterfly, migrate to avoid the cold.

Others, like the ladybug, hibernate. They stack themselves up on logs and under rocks, sharing heat and creating a buffer against the wind. How cool is that!?

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Grasshoppers bury their eggs under the soil to protect them from the cold.

Still others, like Japanese beetles and water insects, survive winter as grubs or larvae, under the surface of the ground or underwater.

So this winter, the bug hunters will be active. We will look for ladybug towers and search for beehives. And in the Spring we’ll be digging up those Japanese beetle grubs and feeding them to the chickens.

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Look Mom!

Joe came running up to the house with a ‘surprise’ hidden behind his back.

“You are not going to believe this!”

He slowly pulled his arms around and revealed a small pumpkin. The look on his face, the light in his eyes and the excitement rolling off of him in waves was so contagious.

It was a small pumpkin, but we carved it and roasted the seeds while talking about how it got there when we didn’t plant it.

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We really didn’t plant pumpkins this year. Not in the garden, not in the vineyard and definitely not in the swales.

But last year, we did throw a seed mix down behind the chickens as we moved them through the swales. And we did feed them kitchen scraps.

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Joe and I went walking in the swales to see what else we could find.

We found red and yellow raspberries…ripe and ready to eat. They were hidden in the tall grass and they were oh-so-sweet and yummy!

We found lettuce and mint growing wild.

We found wild mulberry trees.

There is SO much abundance on our land!

We’ve guerilla gardened in our own backyard with seed bombs and chickens.

We’ve forgotten what we planted and transplanted.

We’ve let Nature do that thing she does so well…grow. We’ve created a food forest for our boys to explore.

“Look Mom, raspberries!”

“Look Mom, chocolate mint!”

Look Mom…joy.

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Pumpkins in the swales
Foraging our own backyard
Sweet berries and mint

The Bike Ride

I learned to ride my bike today,
Please come outside and see!
My brother wants to do it too,
So he can be like me!

Watch me pedal down the lane
I can go so fast!
See this trick that I can do?
I’m having such a blast!

Can I go out in the road?
Can I show my friends?
I cannot wait to show them all
I hope this ride won’t end!

I want to ride it to the store
I want to ride it far
Look I’m riding in the grass!
I’m faster than a car!

This is so fun, this is so great
I love to ride my bike
Will you come and ride with me?
I’ll lend you my old trike!

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The Lazy Gardener

I have been a lazy gardener this year.

The kitchen garden looks like a jungle with volunteer cherry tomatoes running wild and broccoli going to seed.

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The fedge has been taken over by seaberry and blackberry plants.

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Seaberry is popping up all over the place!

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Blackberries are shooting underground.

The lone autumn olive is huge…I mean it is ridiculously ginormous. We have to prune it because it is suffocating the honeyberry we have planted next to it and threatening to take out the aronia on the other side.

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Autumn olive

The plants in the vineyard are at war with each other.

The aggressive chocolate mint is attacking the poor grapes, and creeping toward the kiwi.

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The kiwi and hops are jockeying for position, each trying to stake their claim to the trellises.

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I decided to get off my duff and clean up the vineyard a bit…mostly because I wanted to eat a few handfuls of grapes.

All of the weeds came out very easily due to the thick layer of mulch we have laid down. Even the big sprawling clumps of grass came out with barely a tug.

When I started clean-up around the first row of kiwi, I discovered small red berries ripening on a forgotten goji berry vine.

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I’d planted two of them last year. They were small, and I did not expect them to make it through the winter. But they did…barely.

They struggled this summer and did not grow much larger, but both remaining plants have berries and flowers sprouting.

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They may have produced even more and grown even taller had I paid more attention to them…had I not all but forgotten their existence.

Or, had I smothered them with care and concern and fertilizer…they may have died a slow death

We’ll never really know.

In my lazy garden
I sit and watch the bees

In my lazy garden
I look around and see

Greens and reds and yellow hues
Purples, blues and whites

In my lazy garden
Oh what a lovely sight!