Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Afternoon Coffee on the Deck, Anyone?


It's probably not the best afternoon for spending time on the deck.  That "white stuff" you see is all i-c-e.


The ice coating is getting thick enough that the trees are starting to bend.

The good news is that it's dry, warm and cozy inside . . . but Papa Pea did just go dig out some winter gear (that had been put away for the season -- ha!) to put on to go do afternoon chores.

Our friend and solar energy guy and his son who works with him did arrive but the weather conditions made it impossible for the repair work to take place.  During communications this morning we asked them to plan on lunch here.  I made potato soup, a tossed salad and blueberry pie.


I had to go down into the basement this morning to fetch a kitchen supply of onions and was happy to see none of them have started to sprout.  I've got one whole milk crate of the yellow onions left, but no more red ones.  This year I'll plant more of the reds.  It's great when you find the perfect place for storage.  Our basement stays right around 52 degrees all winter and is dry.  'Tis a good feeling to know you can keep them in good shape all winter and into spring. 


Potatoes from the root cellar are faring well, too.  We're going to have to go a little easy on the consumption of the remaining ones, though, so I have enough left to use as seed potatoes.  

So very grateful to have the veggies from our garden and a place to store them where they keep well.

Now I'm going to go enjoy the rest of the afternoon on this foul weather day in my quilt room! 

Foul Morning

Mother Nature has a strange definition of "Spring" up here in the northland.


Pictures taken at 6:30 this a.m.


We have an ice/sleet/snow/rain warning until tomorrow morning.


Not sure if you can see him, 
but there is a squirrel in the bird feeder.
Wonder how he got in through 
the icicles?
He may be planning on staying the day.

Our solar energy guru/guy is scheduled to arrive today to put up scaffolding and install a new part on our solar energy panel.  Something tells me that may not happen.


What a lovely day to be home!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Oh, Well . . .

We woke up to this scene this morning.


As Sweet Sue will remind me, it's poor man's fertilizer.  Sigh.

Could be worse.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gardening Question

Anybody got an idea what's going on with my broccoli seedlings?

They've all grown about an inch high, but now about five of them have suddenly keeled over.  Upon examination, the little stems seem to have withered right at the soil (actually organic starter mix) line or slightly above.

I've never had this happen before.  The seedlings are in starter trays, under full-spectrum lights, on a heat mat, and have had adequate moisture.

Have any of you gardeners had this happen to any of your seedlings?  And do you know what's caused it?

Thanks for any help or suggestions you may have.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Too Late Smart

We goofed.  We knew we needed to get Mama Duck and her mixed brood out of the chicken house and into a place of their own, but hesitated making the move too soon fearing we'd upset this first time mother enough that she'd stop caring for her hatchlings.

When we shut them up in their little corner of the chicken house last night, she had them all nestled down under her.  We didn't realize until this morning that the little yellow duckling was missing.  Again.  Darned if he didn't (apparently) venture out of the chicken house for the second time yesterday unnoticed by us.  We failed to see his escape.  Upon searching, Papa Pea found his little body under a tree this morning.

Also, one of the two chicks Mama Duck hatched out is completely missing.  We cannot figure out what happened to the yellow chick.  The remaining chick is black and white.  We've been trying to figure it out all day but have come up with no answer as to what could have happened to the yellow chick.

Having gone through this, we decided we had to transfer Mama Duck and her brood to their own safe, secure new home today.


We readied this chicken tractor-type house and caught all the small renegades in the chicken house (including Mama Duck who was not happy being evicted) with the fish net and carried them to their new quarters.


Dumped into the new pen.  "Where are we??"


The new pen is situated so they'll get sunshine as the sun travels across the sky for most of the day.  Two-thirds of the pen is open but screened with hardware cloth (wire) and one-third is closed in with wood for night time warmth or protection from high winds.


We realized it was a bit more of a jump into the enclosed area than they could all manage.  See the little chick determined to make it?  He's definitely more feisty and agile than the ducklings at this point.  Mama Duck is in the enclosed area trying to coax everyone to get up there with her.


We had to provide some "steps" to make it easier until they grow a bit more.  They all can make it up now with the provided boost.

Final count that we hope to raise without further unhappy incident?  One chick and eleven ducklings.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Duckling Rescue

There's a steady rain falling this morning and the thermometer reads only 38 degrees.  It is COLD outside.  A good morning for spending in my quilt room which is what I was doing.

Papa Pea was upstairs in his office trying to shovel the mess off of what he thinks might be his desk top underneath catching up on some paper work when he looks out into the poultry pasture and sees the very small yellow fuzz ball of a one-day old duckling madly running after any Muscovy duck he can get close to.  The adult ducks seems very perplexed and half afraid of this strange wind-up toy pursuing them.  They're running away from him as fast as they can.

Even the adult geese are curious but pull in their necks when he whizzes by them.

Good grief!  How the heck did this little duckling get out of the chicken house?  He would have had to jump up at least 8" onto and negotiate two separate ramps from where he was hatched yesterday to make his way out-of-doors.

Having done so, the little dummy guy obviously couldn't find his way back into the chicken house and the warm nest where his mother and siblings are.  I think he was frantically chasing after the other ducks thinking they must be his mother.

So what choice did we have but to put on rain gear, find the fishing net and go out to rescue him.  Of course, once in the poultry yard, we couldn't immediately spot him.  Papa Pea was (fearfully) scanning the pond when I saw him under some evergreen trees.


Once caught (and it wasn't easy as the little bugger is fast) he looked no worse for wear.  He wasn't even wet!

As soon as he was put back in the chicken house, he scooted under his mama and is probably taking a long nap right now.


I was hoping to get a picture of some more of the little critters but no one was cooperating in the least bit.  How can she possibly have a dozen (or so) little hatchlings under there?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mama Duck of the Year Award

I've mentioned that we've had a female Muscovy duck sitting on a clutch of eggs in an out-of-the-way spot in the chicken house for a while now.

Several days ago she hatched out a little peeper.  A little chicken-type peeper.  Well, when you make your nest in the chicken house, these kinds of things can happen.

Chicken eggs take 28 days to incubate, duck eggs 35.  We were concerned that after this one little chick emerged, Mama Duck would abandon her nest as birds will do shortly after they have a live hatch, and no more appear within a day or so.

But dear, determined Mama Duck (muttering "my work here is not done") just kept on sitting with her one little chick, and a bunch of eggs, under her.  Then two days ago, we spied another little fuzzy body.  Another chick.  Oh, dear.

Early this afternoon our daughter was walking through the poultry yard when she heard a cacophony of distressed peeping and chirping sounds.  She first looked in the chicken solarium and saw Mama Duck.  Quickly dashing around to the back of the chicken house, she peered in to see . . . ELEVEN little ducklings and the two chicks scampering around the chicken house floor yelling for their mom.  Then Mama Duck dashed back in to her nest area and gathered her brood under her.


Dear daughter ran to get her camera and was able to get only this picture.  (Do you see the little duckling head sticking up in back?)

Mama Duck asks that you forgive her disheveled appearance.  She's had a long and rough several weeks getting this multi-cultural batch of eggs to hatch.

More pictures as soon as we can get them.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Yesterday and Today

We had a smattering of rain this morning right around dawn.  It didn't amount to more than making the deck wet, but it was the first moisture we've had in the form of rain (or snow!) in a couple/few weeks.

The good part of not having received much precipitation is that the garden soil is finally drying out.  Yesterday I was able to do a little work in the raised beds.

I cleaned up the bed I'm trying to fill with peppermint in the hopes I might, someday, be able to harvest a year's supply for Papa Pea's daily morning cup of peppermint tea.

I uncovered the bed of rhubarb and comfrey.  Both are showing teeny-tiny shoots of new growth. 

Of course, the blasted quack grass is starting to rear its ugly little green head in several of the raised beds so I dug it out of about three beds leaving the rest for later.

Yesterday we had to move and restack quite a bit of lumber, some of it older and dry, some of it newer and wet.  There were 8, 10, and 12' lengths of both and the wet lumber was Heavy.  (Yes, Heavy with a capital H!)

I also split quite a few bundles of slabwood into small wood for next heating season.

Between all those activities, some muscles got used that are complaining a wee bit today.  (But it's all good, right?)  Not to be too indelicate, but today I'm well aware of the muscles in my (ahem) buttocks (bending in the garden, I'm sure) which got more use than they apparently have all winter.

While working outside most of the day yesterday we got to see four different "V" formations of wild geese winging their way northward.  A sure sign of spring.

As for our domestic geese, we have two females sitting on nests.  Time will tell the results of that.

There's also a female Muscovy duck who has been sitting in a corner of the chicken house, of all places, on a nest of eggs.  When Papa Pea went out for afternoon chores today, he thought he got (maybe, possibly) just the quickest glimpse of a fuzzy yellow head peeking out from beneath her!  If that proves to be true, I'll have pictures to share soon.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Starting to Garden (In My Head)

Our weather is still not conducive to putting on shorts and a tank top and going out to dig in the dirt.  (That's an understatement.)  The soil in my raised beds and the field garden is still too wet and cold.  For the past two nights, our temps have gone down into the 20s.  You can bet there has been frost on the pumpkins these mornings.  Or more correctly, frost on the still-dead grass.

But I do have seedlings started inside and so far everything but the peppers has popped up out of the starting mix.  I have eggplant (don't tell Papa Pea or he will yank the spindly things right out by their tiny roots), broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes.  I'll take pictures to prove this to you as soon as the fragile sprouts are big and sturdy enough that the flash from the camera won't knock them over.

I'm so eager to uncover the strawberries but must restrain myself until this freezing and thawing cycle is over.  The straw we got to use for mulching last fall and bedding for the poultry over winter turned out to have a lot of seeds in it.  If I remember correctly it was oat straw and the poultry were pleased as punch with it because they snarfed up every last oat seed in it that they could lay their little beaks on.  The strawberry bed is going to be another story.  Mama Pea is not going to be a happy camper (or gardener) when I uncover the berry plants . . . and those katrillion oat seeds left in the soil start growing.


Here's a shot from Pap Pea's upstairs office window of my raised beds.  I have cold frames strategically placed on five of the beds in an effort to warm the soil in preparation of planting some early crops.  What will go in these first-to-be-planted beds?  Well, since you asked . . .  

One will hold my started cauliflower plants since cauliflower likes to grow in cool weather and be headed out and done before the warm/hot days come.

One is for sweet peppers as I find my peppers do much better if I leave the cold frame on them all summer.

Two are for early lettuce and salad greens including spinach.  Those crunchy greens can never be ready too early after the months of winter that lack adequate fresh greens for us to munch on.

The last is for slicing cucumbers.  We eat them like candy and I'm really going to push the gardening envelope this year and put them in super-early.

That's all for today, folks.  Now if I can just find my list for today I made out last night, I'll get on with it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Where To Start?

My husband ordered a bottle of eye drops, and the bottle arrived in the mail today.


In this box.

Eye drops in foreground.  Box behind it.

There is so much wrong with this situation, I don't know where to start.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Water for Health

A good friend recently brought me a bag of wonderful Meyer lemons from her daughter's tree in California.


I've been using them to make lemon water and guzzling it as a spring tonic.

Years ago when I was ill (physically, not mentally . . . truth to tell, mental health was probably involved, too), I worked with an amazing naturopath.  When I was undergoing a total body detoxification, she suggested I fill a half gallon jar of water every morning and try to drink it all in a day's time.  I did that with no problem and know it was beneficial.  (Hmmm, maybe I should try that again now to see how it affects me.  Although I think I drink an adequate supply each day, I suspect I don't drink that much on a regular basis.)

One of the reasons we decided to purchase this particular piece of land many years ago was that it had an established drilled well with a good flow of excellent tasting water that tested out clean and pure.  The well we had drilled on our previous homestead in this county had perfectly awful water, and not much of it.  It tested safe to drink but the taste of it flavored anything in which it was used.  Ugh.

We believe having a source of good, plentiful water is not just important but vital, and we feel very appreciative of ours.  When we remodeled the house and grounds here we had a hand pump put on our well so that we would always have the option of hand pumping our supply of water even if we had no electricity.

Do you have an ample supply of "good" water where you live?  And do you think you drink enough water each day?

Friday, April 7, 2017

In the Poultry Yard

All the birds couldn't be happier since the snow has melted and they have the run of the whole poultry pasture again.  A sunny day and what more could a chicken, duck or goose ask for?


Yes, you are a good-looking boy.


The geese have to be in
the middle of everything.


This is Chatty Charlie.  
He "talks" constantly.


Who doesn't appreciate an
afternoon snack?


The pond ice is thawing fast now.


A fowl meeting.


This is Shivers, a bantam rooster.
  About a year ago,
folks we know decided to stop raising chickens
for a while and dispatched their flock
to freezer camp.  All except for
Shivers who had been
raised in their house.
They asked if we would give him 
a forever home.  We have and he's
adapted wonderfully.


Our two Black Australorp roosters
are almost as big as our
female geese.


These are two of the Muscovy boys.



Something strange is happening at the
upper end of our pond.
Can you see that hole
in front of Papa Pea's right foot?


It's appeared out of nowhere.  The pond
water is flowing into it and 
cutting a path underground.  The earth
looks as though it's going
to collapse into the flowage.
This is not good.  We've got to do
something about it.  The waterfowl
will be very upset if their pond
empties completely.  
We will be, too. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Playing Mind Games with the Honey Bees

We had to move our hives of bees to a location that would maximize their situation for these coming summer months.

Today was designated moving day.


Since I don't have a good relationship with the bees (actually it's only their back end stinging apparatus that causes me a problem), I stayed out of the fun and games while Chicken Mama and Gilligan gave Papa Pea a helping hand.


The bees can be particular about the relocation of their hives.  If you move them less than a couple of feet, no problem, all is well.  But if the move is to more than a couple of feet away from the old location and still within their familiar flying range of several miles, you have to trick them into returning to their newly moved hives rather than going back to the old location . . . even though the hive is no longer there.


Just to make things seem even more complicated, if you move the hives to a new spot many miles away, they fly out of the hive, take a look around and realize they are definitely not (in Kansas anymore?) in familiar territory and will automatically re-orientate themselves to the new spot and have no trouble finding it when they make the trip back to the newly located home base hives.

Anybody still with me?

Now back to how to convince the emerging bees that we didn't locate them two counties away, but rather only moved them ten feet.

It's necessary to create some sort of barrier in front of the hive that is unusual.  This could be some lengths of boards leaned up against the hives, the handles of many garden tools like shovels or hoes, a length of snow fencing, anything that they can get through but not something solid like sheets of plywood.


Or you could use evergreen boughs as we did.  (Extra person in the above picture is our good neighbor, D, who had come over to pick up the incubator and some duck and goose eggs he's going to give a try at hatching out.)

The bees come out, (probably say, "What the heck?!") navigate their way through the constructed barrier and go on their merry little pollen-gathering way.  When they head home, they remember this strange barrier they had to go through to get back to the hive and all is well.


We'll leave the boughs in front of the hives for 2-3 days which should be enough time for the bees to acclimate to their (slightly) new location.

Now a new coat of paint on the hives and they should be set for summer and happy in their sunny location.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chuggin' Away on Spring Time Chores

'Tis a lovely change to have our temps teasing us with a small taste of real spring weather to come.  Each day our remaining snow recedes a bit more.  The pond continues to open up to the delight of the waterfowl.  Even the chickens seem to prefer going down to drink the cold water appearing around the edges.

Yesterday Papa Pea brought the deck furniture out of storage.  I'm fantasizing about sunning my lily-white legs one of these afternoons soon when the sun's warmth is strong enough.  But first I need to wash winter's grit and grime off the chairs and table.  That would be after my dear husband moves the hive of bees off the deck however.

He had one weak hive that he gave extra protection to by situating it on the south facing deck up against the house these past winter months.  At the warmest part of our day yesterday, I went out onto the deck to wash furniture and immediately stepped into a whirl of honey bees taking advantage of the good weather.  This caused my hasty retreat back into the house as I'm allergic to bee stings.


"She's lovely to look at, delightful to see . . . "
 
I don't go into anaphylactic shock or anything close to it, but after being stung (see picture above from a couple of years ago) I swell up like a balloon and feel quite cwappy for about three days until the venom works its way out of my system.

I hit the kindling making job pretty hard yesterday and this morning my right wrist is well aware of the hour and fifteen minutes of constant thwack, thwack, thwacking.  I thought I had only three bundles left to work my way through, but found six more which is all for the good because the kindling bin won't be totally full even when I'm finished.

Beans.  'Member I mentioned I still have lots of frozen green and yellow beans left from last season?  There's no doubt the poultry would gobble them up (even without butter and salt) should I decide to give the excess to them.  But my frugal nature won't allow that (quite yet) so I've been trying to use as many as I can (without causing out and out revolt) in the kitchen.

Last week I made Cream of Broccoli Soup except I substituted beans for the broccoli.  As I was making it, it occurred to me that the left over wild rice in the refridge would go well in it.  Then, how about some cooked turnkey meat I had in the freezer?  The pot of "string bean soup" actually turned out to be very tasty.  Just goes to show there's more than one way to snap a bean.

Yesterday I made a casserole using more of the green and yellow beans.  (I'm on a mission here.)  It's a recipe for Hot Dog and Green Bean Casserole I've been making forever.  If you're interested, you can find it here.

Enough sitting at the computer.  Main items on my list for today (along with the usual other 15 . . . or so) are going to the dairy for our resupply of milk products and more wood work.

Hope you have a great day doing whatever is on your agenda!