Monday, April 28, 2014

It Must Be Spring -- New Chicks Have Arrived!

Way back mid-winter when we placed our order for some new chicks to revitalize our laying stock, who would have guessed it would still be this cold at the end of April?

Regardless, we got a call from our local post office shortly after 7 this morning asking us to come pick up the little peepers.

Upon getting them home, they all looked good except for one little fuzz ball the hatchery had thrown in as a "mystery" chick.  It was splayed out on its side, and I really didn't think it had a chance of making it.  But now, seven hours later, it's up eating and drinking with the rest of the flock.  Tough little bugger.

Our "brooder" is a small garden cart in the garage with a frame on top covered with hardware cloth.  This arrangement is easy to roll outside for cleaning and works well for us.

Here you can see the hardware cloth on which we set the warming lights.  This way there's no danger of the chicks getting too close to them.

The chicks are a mix of Black Australorps, Red Stars and Cuckoo Marans.  All hens except for one Cuckoo Maran rooster.

New chick time should be spring time, but looks as though we've got a week coming up with nothing but very non-spring like weather.  Highs barely reaching the 40s, dampness, grayness, no sunshine and the threat of rain/snow/sleet.  ARRRGH!

Friday, April 25, 2014

It Won't Last

We have 6-8" of new snow on the ground this morning, and it's still coming down.

But, seriously (you think I've finally lost it, don't you?), it really won't last long.  I think we've had more than the 6-8", but it's sinking into the ground even as it piles up.

Our temp has stayed at 32° for about the last 24 hours, and we keep expecting the white flakes to turn into rain drops.

Can you see the garden beds still peeking through on the right hand side of the above picture?  They're fighting, not wanting to go down for the count again.

Shot of the pond and curve of the driveway above as it goes into the woods.  Papa Pea doesn't want to plow because the road bed underneath would get too torn up, but a 4-wheel drive vehicle will be able to get out if we have to before this all melts.

Needless to say, it's a winter wonderland (or perhaps I should say "spring wonderland?") out there, so we're working on sorting, cleaning and rearranging in the storage loft and basement 'cause we sure can't get anything done outside yet!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dreary Pictures, But Hope for Spring

We've had a beautiful day today that almost, nearly, just about got up to 50°.  Tomorrow is supposed to be another day of the same.  Then . . . dum-da-dum-dum . . . snow/rain/sleet/wintery mix starting Thursday into the weekend.  (Does anybody wonder why our area is so sparsely populated?)

But lots and lots of snow has been melting rather gradually because our temperatures haven't been very warm yet.  And that's a good thing considering all the snow we had to melt.

Still, I've never seen our wood working area in the back so wet.  Our land goes up rather steeply for a long ways right behind this area so with the huge amount of melting snow sliding down the hill, I guess we can't expect anything else this year.

My raised garden beds are (for the moment) totally free of snow.  Yayyy!

The pumpkin patch is ready for planting.  (In another month.  Or six weeks.)

All but the very southern most end of the field garden is free of snow.

The pond's ice around the edges has been melting each day, but then freezes over again at night.

This snow pile on the north side of the house has gone down significantly.  Still a ways to go though.

The blueberries (in the foreground) and raspberries (behind) are emerging from their cozy, winter blanket of snow cover.  

A sure sign that I still have faith in spring arriving to the north woods is that I started my first seeds inside today.  I'm sure that seems very late to most of you, but you have to remember I won't be able to set seedlings out in the garden until the middle of July.  I'm kidding!  I hope.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter Sunday

We'll be having a quiet Easter here.  Just the three of us . . . hubby, daughter and me.  Dinner about 5 p.m. and then Family Reading Night afterwards.

Dying eggs was a little task I never really enjoyed, so I'm very happy to not have to do that anymore.  But we still exchange Easter Baskets.  Papa Pea and I make up one for Chicken Mama and she makes up one for each of us.  Over the years we've gotten away from the traditional candy-filled baskets and instead pack them with small items we know the other person will enjoy and use.  As usual, our daughter does the very best job of finding just the perfect little trinkets.  It's a knack she has, and I can't do nearly as well.

For dinner there will be baked ham which was always the Easter meal at both Papa Pea's and my house when growing up.  But because we were vegetarians for the first fifteen years of our daughter's life, she doesn't care much for any kind of meat and can't tolerate ham.  (Because of the texture, she says.)  So I'll also be making a batch of Burgundy Meatballs which aren't really meatballs since they're made with a meatless mixture of ground nuts, cream cheese, etc.

Both hubby and I commented after coming inside early this morning that it feels so warm (ha!) and spring-like out there.  Our temp is in the low 30s but we have sunshine.  They are saying we will reach 50° today (ha!) so maybe we'll have some significant snow melting (ha!).  (Do you think I'm getting just a teensy bit jaded?)

Yesterday we got a couple more inches of snow, then freezing rain, then just rain.  The temp wasn't warm enough for much melting though.  Still, just by the feel of the air, we can tell spring is coming.  It's having a hard time breaking out in full glory, but it's coming!

P.S.  The above picture makes me think of getting back into raising rabbits again (for food) which my dear husband has been talking about for a while now.  I'm dragging my feet on the project, because I don't think we need the extra meat source.  I still have a freezer full of chicken from our previous culling session last fall, and we should do some more culling this spring because we have a batch of new chicks due to arrive end of this month.  I'll keep you posted on whether we'll be adding "build rabbit hutches" to our already way too long summer list!  

Thursday, April 17, 2014


What can we do but laugh?  And enjoy a bit more time inside before the spring/summer busy season is upon us.

We've spent the last two days working in our basement coating the walls with a good sealer before building permanent shelves for storage.  The floor got painted, too, and now we're waiting for it to dry.

Last night, I decreed we were going to start working on next year's wood supply today because the wood pile was almost totally free of snow and the ground area was dried up enough. 

But then . . .

This is what our driveway through the woods looked like this morning when I headed out to town around 9 a.m.  Snow was still coming down lightly.

You know how when you're driving on the highway in a heavy snowfall and you kinda lose the sense of just where you are on the road because you can't see the center line or shoulders?  I had the same feeling this morning trying to make sure I stayed smack-dab in the center of the driveway and avoided getting too close to either side.  But no fear, my trusty, little 1985, 4-wheel drive, Toyota Tercel and I made it with no problem.

However, my poor raised garden beds are covered with snow once again, and we won't be doing any wood working today.  

Oh, well.  Ha-ha.  Hee-hee.  Ho-ho.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Down with Winter, Up with Spring

Even though it still looked suspiciously like winter outside, a week ago I finally packed away my winter decorations and swapped them for something more spring-like . . . and Easter-ish since Easter is fast approaching.

I even put up the quilted spring wall hanging (it's called "Garden Trellis) I finished a bit ago.  This is a shot from across the kitchen showing the "bare" wall space between the two windows where I keep a seasonal wall hanging.

I think I've taken about twenty shots at different times of the day to show this piece, but I simply cannot get the true colors to come through in a photo.  The grayish check you see next to the pink is actually a pretty spring green and white check.

I found the pattern for this piece in a quilting book, but could not get the first two squares to go together after piecing them.  I finally figured out the cutting measurements for two of the pieces in the square were incorrectly stated in the pattern.  Arrrrgh.  I re-cut them making them 1/4" smaller, and they fit.

When my daughter saw this wall hanging in progress, she said something to the effect of, "That doesn't look like something you'd usually make.  And you NEVER use pink!"

Working "outside the box" occasionally is supposed to be good for us, right?  Well, I did.  And I'm not sure I like this piece very much at all.

* * * * * * * *

This is what my raised garden beds look like this afternoon.  I'm so excited (doesn't take much, huh?) to actually see them (mostly) free of snow.  And, yes, there's still a bit of snow down on the bottom part of the garden.  (Like about a foot.)  BUT guess what our forecast is for tonight into tomorrow night?  Sigh.  Right.  Down to 8° tonight, a high of 26° tomorrow and a 70% chance of snow.  Southwest of us is forecast to get 10-15" (eeep!), but we're to expect no more than 3-5".  (Keeping my fingers crossed we don't get more than that.)

Just for fun (so who's laughing?), take a look at this picture of what we woke up to on this date last year.

See?  We could be farther behind on spring weather than we are this year!

Monday, April 14, 2014

I've Been Bad

Yes, I have been a very bad blogger lately.  Lots of pictures taken and things I could have written about, but I think my head has been too full of spring/summer plans . . . the planning, the thinking, the trying to figure out how to accomplish everything both time-wise and financially . . . that I just haven't made time for blogging.  Mini-panic setting in already.  

Yep, blame it on the time of year.  I do promise to try to be better this week.

Hubby and I were standing inside looking out at the garden beds (yes, we can actually see them now) early this morning.  I was explaining why I needed the one raised bed frame we didn't get replaced last season replaced pronto this spring (long story, not very interesting) when we noticed several crows doing aerial acrobatics over the garden.  Swooping, diving, soaring, etc.  

Then I noticed the slight movement of a remaining clump of snow in between a couple of the beds.

Lo and behold, it was a Snowy Owl perched on the ground, and the crows were giving it a hard time.  (Owl didn't seem fazed a bit.)  At first we thought the owl might be injured, but it turns out that was not the case at all.  I looked Snowy Owls up in one of our bird books and it said they do occasionally perch on the ground.  Wonder if he saw a mouse tunneling in the snow and was waiting for it to re-emerge and become his breakfast burrito?

"You lookin' at me?"

These beauties (the owl, not the mice) are nearly two feet high and have a wing span that is quite impressive.  He stayed around the area, going from one spot to another for about an hour.  (Good thing our chickens aren't out and about yet.)  What a beautiful bird and a treat to get to see him.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

There Is Spring in the North Woods . . . Sort Of

Even though our weather wasn't warm today, it was above 32° so we saw a little more melting.

Remember that picture in my last post of the two deer right outside our back door?  The driveway was completely snow covered then.  This is that same spot today.

I can even finally see some of my raised beds in the garden emerging.  (And I thought that would never happen.)  I'll probably have to wait a few more days to plant the tomatoes though.  (Hahahaha!)

Will ya look at this?  Not only is there ground showing but there is green grass showing!  This photo is straight out of the camera with no color enhancement.  Get out the lawn mower!

Not to say there isn't still a lot of snow blanketing most of the property.  But it's on its way out now, by criminy.

I got a little wild and crazy and hung rugs out on the line today to dry.  Did they dry?  Heck, no.  Actually, they may have come in a little damper (and colder, for sure), but I just couldn't resist doing it.  (They're in the dryer as we speak.)

My bloggy friend writing Tombstone Livestock said she had a temp of 92° yesterday.  What's she bragging about?  That's only 50-some degrees warmer than we had.  (Can't you fry eggs on the sidewalk at that temperature?)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Is The End In Sight?

Our early morning temp today was 36°.  It fell to 35° and now at nearly 7 p.m. it's 37°.  That's all above freezing, folks!

We had a bit of a light drizzle this morning.  And since it was rain rather than the "s" word, it was very welcomed.

One of the highest raised beds in the garden is actually showing now so we know the snow is going down.

The snow is going down so things are looking up!

* * * * * * * * *

These deer were right outside our back door late Friday afternoon.  We see a lot of deer on our property, but they usually don't venture this close.  Considering the harsh winter they've just gone through, it's surprising all the deer we've seen in our locale seem to be in good shape.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Words Fail Me When Thinking of a Post Title

Well, they said it was going to snow.

Looking out our south windows this morning . . . 

The living room window.

The kitchen window.

And the window upstairs looking down on the garden.  Can you see my twenty-seven raised garden beds?  No, me neither.

But, get this.  The temperatures this coming week are supposed to be above freezing every. single. day.

Let the melting begin!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Think We Must Have Been Crazy

You know how your memory can be jogged into thinking of something you haven't thought about in a long time?  That happened to me today and I started reminiscing about when we first bought this piece of property eighteen years ago.

We have eleven acres, mostly wooded, with each of the properties on either side of us consisting of bigger pieces of land.  Both families on these properties had lived on their acreage for several years before we purchased our land in between them.

To the west, a heavily wooded area divides us from those neighbors and we rarely hear a sound from that direction.  Once in a while when the wind is blowing from just the right direction, but not often.  They couldn't be nicer folks.

On the east side, a smaller patch of woods separates the two properties, but we can't see the house.  These neighbors have become good friends and are simply wonderful.  They do so much for us that we have a hard time keeping even.

When we bought this land, it was owned by a gal who had moved to Florida years before and the property had been rented out to various different people for several years.  It was an undesirable case of an absentee landlord.  Our daughter had graduated from college and was living away when we purchased the property and when she learned exactly which piece of land it was, she commented, "Um, you do know that was a big drug house when I was in high school, don't you?"  Ooops.  No, we didn't know.  Nor did the real estate agent think to mention it.  (Ahem.)

We did know we got a good price on this particular piece of real estate because the "house" on it was a crude 16' x 40' building that was at one time a bunk house at a resort on a lake about 30 miles from here.  And we did know the property was a terrible mess.  Lots of junk lying everywhere, piles of garbage scattered in the woods along with old appliances, a shower stall, various outdoor grills (most of them smashed), broken windows, hundreds of beer cans and liquor bottles, disposable diapers (used, of course) by the dozens, and an old boat and trailer parked near the driveway.  The "yard" out the front door was littered with dog poop so thick I had to rake it up rather than using a shovel.

Yup, it was a dream piece of property, that was for sure.

The building was so bad we took it down to the studs (ask me how I tore my rotator cuff) and started over.

In the clean-up operation we found discarded syringes and other things about which I won't go into details.  We even found a grave-like mound of rocks in the woods with a huge, crude wooden cross at the head of it.  Let me tell you, that gave us pause.  I was all for calling the authorities until Papa Pea convinced me the ground was so rocky and full of tree roots that it would have been impossible to actually bury a body there unless one used a back hoe.  We did finally get big and brave enough to dismantle the "grave" and found nothing underneath the mound but more rocks and tree roots.  No bones, no nuthin'.  (Whew.)

The whole area to the south of the existing building had been heavily covered with gravel as someone, at one time, had visions of starting a trucking business.  This was the only logical area for us to put our gardens so we removed all the gravel.

One day while I was raking up debris behind the house, I saw what looked like a leather strap sticking up out of the soil.  I unearthed it and saw it was a dog collar with tags attached.  The phone number on one of the tags was our neighbor's to the east.  When we showed the collar to them, they said at least they finally knew what had happened to their dog who had gone missing a few years previously.  Not a happy situation for any of us to contemplate.

These good neighbors have told us stories of wild parties that had gone on making the neighborhood less than desirable.  They continue to say over and over how very happy they are that we moved onto the property and changed it so drastically from what it had been.

The bottom line to this little trip down memory lane is that despite what we went through to turn this into our happy little homestead, it was all worth it.  And we were so very fortunate to get fantastic neighbors in the bargain.   Which we all know counts for a whole big lot these days.  Maybe we weren't so crazy after all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Is Here!

April Fool!  (You must have known that was my feeble attempt at an April Fool's joke, right?)

Yesterday March did a good imitation of going out like a lion in these here parts.  We had winds measuring 40 mph, and it was actually hard at times to stand upright outside.  It was a very gray day with predicted freezing rain.  That didn't happen until overnight though.

This morning there is a slick coating of ice everywhere (oh, joy), and about two hours ago the temp took a 15° plunge and it started snowing.  The wind can't decide from which direction to blow, and we already have a small 6" drift up against our front door.  This is a great day to be home with the wood stoves corking away.  I'm so grateful and appreciative that we both have the choice to do just that.

This is the rug I made to match my new spring shower curtain.  (Same new spring shower curtain which may never be hung since Mother Nature keeps throwing more and more winter-like weather at us.)

I'm also this far along on making a matching rug to the first one made to use in our bedroom.

I still have a ways to go on the hand quilting of the spring wall hanging I'm working on.  I got a little cut on the left hand finger I use to feel the needle on the backside of a quilt when hand quilting and, of course, no matter how hard I try to use another finger, it's the finger and the cut that I keep sticking the needle into.  So I've decided to give it as many days rest as necessary to heal up.

I just commented to my better half that this would be a perfect day to have something yummy baking in the oven.  But, alas and alack, we've both been doing a good job of staying away from sugar for about the last month, so for the present time baking is a no-no.  My mind says, "Gimme a blueberry pie made with the last of the blueberries in the freezer, and no one will get hurt."  My body says, "But I am losing a bit off those bulges that have sneakily been growing like inflated balloons when I wasn't looking . . . so stick to it, girl!"

Spring may not be here yet, but it will arrive one day even up here near the tundra, and I really do want to be able to bend over in the garden without the buttons on my shorts popping.  Although I can hardly imagine wearing shorts (temp is now down to 16° and still falling) as I look at our near white-out conditions caused by the swirling snow, but it will happen and won't be an April Fool's joke.