Fresh Eggs Again!

We were just about to place an order for Red Star chicks when we got the phone call. Eleven hens about 6 months old, needed a new home. Did we want them?

YES!

Not only are they already laying eggs, they are well past the delicate chick stage and have entered the full-grown egg laying stage. We have Buff Orpingtons, Bard Rocks, Silver Spangled Hamburgs and Silver-laced Polish.

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Ray spent the next few days repairing the coop and making the run more secure. All we had to do was figure out how to transport them.

We had an old dog crate, a big piece of plywood and a few 2×4’s. We were able to rig up a chicken transporter.

We took our two chicken whisperers and wrangled 11 birds. I thought we’d need to make a couple of trips, but they all fit in the crate nicely so we made a slow trek back to the house and put them in their new home.

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The poor dears were frightened when we put them in their new hen house, but that didn’t last long.

Once they saw the kitchen garden, they eagerly attacked it and decimated all weeds and remaining pests in a matter of days. They scratched and dug and pecked their way through roots and shoots and found all kinds of yummy bugs and grubs to munch on.

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We didn’t think we would get any eggs from them for at least a few days, but they surprised us. By the end of their first full day on the homestead, they’d given us 6 eggs of assorted size and color.

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The six eggs on the left are from the girls while the four on the right are from the store. 

And these hens? They are…nice. No hand pecking, no angry sqwaucks, no evil plots.

Maybe, just maybe, we can get along. (Fingers crossed.)

Full-grown hens this time
Already laying brown eggs
Nice, friendly and calm

Spring Lessons

Spring means planning the garden, cleaning the house and purging the closets. But it also means fun lessons on gardening and nature and outdoor exploring in warm(er) weather.

We started this week with a lesson on pollination and then, since it was SO nice out, an outdoor cursive scavenger hunt.

The pollinator lesson was a blast. We found it on my favorite science lesson site: Mystery Science. If you have not heard about this site, I highly recommend checking it out.

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The lessons are called mysteries and each mystery is grouped into an overall unit with units grouped by age/level. The content is engaging, the activities are fun and optional extras for extending the lesson are provided. We’ve been using it for the 18 months.

In this lesson, the boys learned about pollination and then made their own paper flowers and pipe cleaner bees to “act out” a bee pollinating flowers.

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We used coffee grounds and cornmeal as our “pollen”. It was super fun and the boys were engaged the entire time.

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Next, we went outside where I had hidden cursive flashcards. I gave each of the boys a clipboard with handwriting paper and explained the rules of the hunt.

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On your mark…

Get set…

GO!

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They raced around to find all the letters of the alphabet and wrote them on their paper. I challenged Joe a bit more. He had to write both upper and lowercase letters since he had learned them all. Jake has only recently learned all of the lowercase letters.

It was close…but Jake finished first took the victory.

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After the hunt was over, the boys played outside for a very, very long time. They jumped on the trampoline, drew sidewalk chalk cities and rode their scooters. It was such a beautiful day.

I’m looking forward to more playful lessons outside. More warm weather. More sunshine.

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The Preview

Summer’s coming
Muddy feet
Fresh-picked berries
Ripe and sweet

Hot sun shining
Grass turns green
Kids are playing
Squeals and screams

Kitties climbing
Garden beds
Ripe tomatoes
Leafy heads

Harsh winds blow
Rain soaks the ground
Sun shines bright
Warmth all around
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What to plant…

As I combed through the Baker Creek Seed Catalog this morning while sipping my coffee, I realized that I may have a problem.

I started with restraint, keeping my seed budget in mind. But as I made my way through the greens, peppers and tomatoes, my resolve faltered and I went a little crazy.

Luckily, I came down from the mania and had enough sense to cross out seeds I already had saved from last season. Whew!

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This year, our big focus is on greens. We, like the rest of the world, made a resolution to eat healthier and (so far) we’ve stuck to it by, sort of, following a ketogenic diet.

We eat salads with just about every meal. And while iceberg lettuce is crisp, it offers little in the way of nutrients.

Greens, purples and reds. Spinach, kale, cabbage and chard. Brussels sprouts and arugula. All super nutrient rich, leafy and delicious in salads.

We’re trying out heirloom variety tomatoes and peppers. We have a dealer for jalapenos so I’m done even trying to grow them.

I’m throwing in a few flowers just for fun. Bells of Ireland, spider flower and euphorbia are unique…at least to me.

We’ll plant a bunch of herbs this year as well. Sadly, they will not go in our herb spiral.

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Planting it around a dead tree stump was a bad idea. Even though we’ve drilled holes in the stump and poured Epsom salt water over and over again, the Bradford pear just refuses to die.

Instead, one of the raised beds we got from the neighbors will be dedicated to herbs.

We have 9 raised beds in all. 6 are filled with topsoil already. They will all eventually go in the greenhouse, but this season we’ll be using all 6.

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One will be an herb bed. Two will be for leafy greens. Another couple for strawberries.

Our kitchen garden will be filled with tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, zucchini and cabbage.

I’m both excited about and dreading planting the kitchen garden. For the past few years, we’ve let the chickens prep the garden for us. All winter they’ve scratched up, eaten pests and fertilized the soil. But thanks to the fox, that didn’t happen.

Thanks a lot Mr. Fox. Thanks a lot.

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Spring is on the Way!

I have a confession…I have lost my motivation. 

Not for homeschooling. Our year so far has been wonderful. I love the freedom we have to alter our day as we see fit. The boys are thriving and we are having fun. 

Not for writing…I’m still researching publishing houses, sending my work out to magazines and adding to my collection of rejection letters.  

No, what I’ve lost my motivation for is planning the garden.

I have no idea where it went. Perhaps the fox stole it when he ruthlessly slaughtered our chickens or the Japanese beetles killed it with their constant assault on the garden.  

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In an effort to find that lost drive, I looked back at the goals we set at the start of the year. What progress have we made?

  • Start and plant seeds early. Uh…nope.
  • Prepare for the war with pests. Specifically, you guessed it, Japanese Beetles. Well…it has been really, really cold. I’m hopeful that most of the grubs will have frozen to death resulting in fewer beetles. And…I do plan to hit the yard with another treatment of milky spore in Spring.
  • Really, really, REALLY create a strategy for keeping up with the weeds. ?
  • Get that greenhouse going for Spring crops. Well…it has been really, really cold…
  • Order replacement chickens. Hmmm…

After reading through these goals and realizing I’ve done little nothing to meet them, my enthusiasm is in overdrive and my mind is whirring with ideas, wants and wishes. There is so much to do! With the last frost date only a few months away, there are plans to make, seeds to start and chicks to order. 

The first step? Inventory seeds and drool over this gorgeous seed catalog. Oh, and try not to go overboard this year. Again. 

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Motivation found
Time to plan, start and order
Spring is on the way

 

 

 

 

 

Bitter Victories

These bitter winds
I do not mind
Nor the chilly nights

The salted roads
Don’t bother me
I like the cold and ice

The ground is cold
The frost is thick
The wind has quite a bite

It’s how I know
When Spring arrives
Most grubs won’t see the light

Let Winter stay
Until late March
‘Til all her work is done

We’ll win a fight
Against our foe
Beetles: 5; Us: 1

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Tender Shoots

Slowly and with little steps
They grow each passing day
Their tender limbs reach to the sun
They blossom in new ways

We gently tend those little seeds
And help them plant their roots
We strengthen them with soft blown winds
Those gentle little shoots

When it’s time to take them out
And plant them on their own
We worry what will happen
When they’re out there all alone

As the season stretches out
Their fruit grows on the vine
We water them and with a smile
We know they’ll be just fine
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And then there’s the garden…

Now that the holiday whirlwind has passed and the elves have returned to the North Pole, I’m feeling a little exhausted and just a tad uninspired.

But…then there’s the garden and all the planning and excitement of this new season.

There are seeds to buy and start.

There are beds to plan and plant.

There are strategies to determine and execute.

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I absolutely love this time of year. Sure, it’s frigid with temps below zero, but I can curl up with my favorite seed catalogs and dream of planting my Spring, Summer and Fall garden.

The seed catalogs are already starting to come in the mailbox bringing with them excitement and dreams of a lush and productive garden.

I’ll circle and plan to buy millions of seeds and come back down to reality when I see the price tag on said seeds.

Goals for this year:

  • Start and plant seeds early.
  • Prepare for the war with pests. Specifically, you guessed it, Japanese Beetles.
  • Really, really, REALLY create a strategy for keeping up with the weeds.
  • Get that greenhouse going for Spring crops.
  • Order replacement chickens.

First, I will determine what to plant and create my seed starting schedule.

Next, I’ll research battle strategies for dealing with pests and keeping up with the weeds using cardboard, weed block and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

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Third, we’ll make plans to get our greenhouse up and going as soon as possible in early Spring.

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Finally, we’ll research the best, kid-friendly, egg-laying replacements for our flock and find fox, raccoon and opossum repelling tricks to beef up coop security.

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The next two months will definitely not be tedious. We have a garden to plan.

Though winter is cold
Though winds blow and chill the land
We joyfully plan

 

 

 

Mischief Makers: The Top Shelf Elves

This season we had so much fun
We hope you liked it too
Next year we will all be back
To laugh and play with you

Be good and kind throughout the year
From far off we’ll be watching
A quick goodbye, a fond farewell
Now Santa’s sled is launching!

Until next season Joe and Jake!
Nim, Lil, Glitter and Barrel

P.S. We Won!!!

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Mischief Makers: The Eve of Christmas Eve

North Pole

Santa towered above a sea of elves giving The Eve of Christmas Eve Pep Talk.

“Mischief Makers, this is your final night on assignment. Tomorrow night will mark the end of another season.”

Loud cheers and whoops filled the air as the elves danced around each other merrily.

“The Top Shelf Elf Trophy has already been decided,” Santa called out over the hubbub. “The winning team will be announced on Christmas morning. Have fun and give your charges a fond farewell!”

Nim and Lil stayed at the North Pole longer than usual to chat with their friends about which team had won the trophy.

“My bet is on Squirt and Cosmo. Remember how they built a ball pit for their kids?”

“Nah, I bet Sprinkles and SugarGems win it. They built a life-size gingerbread house.”

“I can tell you who it’s not going to be,” said the Grumpy Old Elf as he jerked his head toward Nim and Lil.

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“Hey, I heard that!.” Nim crossed his arms and glared at the Grump. 

“Well it won’t be you,” he said. “Not after your reindeer went berserk.”

“Now you lis-“.

“Ignore him Nim, lets go.” Lil took Nim by the arm and pulled him over to the launch pad. It was a quiet flight back.

When they landed on the window sill, Lil touched Nim on the arm. 

“Are you ok?”

“Yes,” said Nim. “I just wish the Grumpy Old Elf would have kept his mouth shut.”

“At least Glitter didn’t hear him.”

Nim shook his head and laughed. “Even if we don’t get the trophy, I don’t regret anything that happened this season.”

“Not even the paper airplane incident?”

“Not even that.” Nim smiled.

Agreeing not to tell Glitter about the Grumpy Old Elf, the elves went in to help give the boys one last surprise…and to have one last fun night together.

“Nim! Lil! Look at this!” Glitter was in the living room looking down at a race track.

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At the elves puzzled looks, Glitter pointed a hoof at a note on the floor. 

Nim, Lil, Glitter and Barrel,

We’ve had so much fun finding you every morning this year! Our favorite was when you took all those elfies and made ornaments out of them, and even though Mom was pretty upset about the snowstorm…we loved it!

Since you’ve worked so hard and given us so much, we wanted to give you the night off. Can you test out these new cars for us? 

Thank you for another great December!

Your friends,
Joe and Jake

“Well,” said Nim.

“Wow,” said Lil.

“Rrrrufff!”

“Isn’t it wonderful?” said Glitter. “Our boys are so sweet, so thoughtful and so, so good!”

Nim and Lil looked at each other and smiled.

“This note is worth ten Top Shelf Elf trophies,” said Lil.

“Come on…let’s play!!!”

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