All Our Needs

Our beloved dog, Hannah Joy, loves to cuddle under blankets. As the weather cools, she spends more and more time under blankets and on my lap. Good thing that I also like to cuddle under blankets.

Our annual autumn game called “How Long Can We Endure Before We Turn on the Furnace For the First Time” is over. We were going to try to last until next weekend, but EJ turned the furnace on when he came home from work in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Physically, mentally, and stubbornly, we would have continued on, but the temperature dropped too close to the low 30s and the NWS issued freeze warnings. We can’t risk our pipes freezing and bursting–that would be an expensive disaster–so EJ turned on the heat. Since Thursday, the night-time temperatures are often in the 30s and have not reached above the 40s.

We had several days of clouds and rain when the high temperatures were only in the 50s. Typically, the weather turns cold in late September and then we have a few warm days in early October before the cold settles in until Spring. As expected, Thursday the weather turned warmer and is forecasted to remain in the mid- to upper-60s for several days. I had waited for these warm days so that I could mow the lawn for the last time this year. I mowed the lawn yesterday. Lawn mowing season is now officially over.

Wednesday evening I went out to shut the chickens securely in the coop, as usual. As I stepped out into the garden on my way to the coop, I heard a great flapping of wings and crashing of branches. The flock of turkeys were in the area again and they were flying up one by one to roost in the trees. I stood still to watch them. A few of the turkeys flew right over the garden and landed in a tree just over the fence! Once they were all up in the trees, I quietly walked to the coop and shut the chickens in. As I left the coop, the closest turkeys felt unsettled by my closeness and flew deeper into the forest. I never get tired of watching the turkeys fly up to the trees at night. I was hoping to also see them fly down from the trees the next morning, but I missed them by a few minutes. They were already on the ground when I went to open the coop for the day.

Strong winds often accompany storms here in our Enchanted Forest. The winds range from about 20-50 mph with strong gusts. I do not know if they are more frequent or stronger than we experienced when we lived downstate. It’s possible we might just be more aware of them now because we live in a forest and the wind really makes the trees sway wildly. Or it might be that we really do get stronger wind here in the north. Whatever. A while back, strong wind ripped some shingles off our roof, which was stressful because we don’t have the money to re-shingle the roof. Recently EJ noticed that the garage roof was leaking so obviously we had to do something about the roof before winter.

Our roof problems are nothing compared to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian that the Floridians have to deal with. I can’t imagine having flood waters churn through my house or the immense effort needed to clean up the damage. So I prayed for them. But God can handle more problems than one, so I also prayed that He would provide a way for our roof to get fixed. I didn’t try to tell God exactly how to meet our needs because God could choose to answer our prayer in a variety of different ways. He could provide us with the money, or insurance could pay for it, or someone could show up and volunteer to fix the roof. However, since winter will soon be here, I asked God if He would resolve the problem THIS week. (Keep that in mind.)

EJ discussed the roof with a co-worker who suggested various options, including seeing if our insurance company would pay to fix our roof. Yesterday EJ talked to the insurance agent. I don’t know if we have ever made an insurance claim so it is difficult to know where to start–because the insurance agent needs estimates to know if they will pay it but if the cost of fixing the roof is less than our deductible then we need to pay for repairs ourselves. But there’s not much use getting estimates if the insurance company says “absolutely not.” So EJ started by discussing the roof with the agent. The result was that at EJ’s request, the agent recommended a good roofer to get us estimates.

Next, EJ called the roofer who asked him to send photos of the roof. EJ did, and the guy said he could fix it for not much money. I was expecting a cost of many thousands of dollars, but the guy did it for a few hundred. He and EJ scheduled for him to come on October 3rd or 4th, but then he called EJ back and said he could come THE VERY DAY that EJ contacted him. Which was yesterday. How many times does a contractor arrive on the very day that he is first contacted? The guy put new shingles on the leaky place and also examined all the roof. He said that the garage roof is actually in good shape and he can re-shingle the house next year for a cost that EJ said is really quite cheap, relatively speaking. Less than half of what I was bracing for. So now we will tighten our belts another notch and pinch pennies a bit harder to save up for a roof.

I feel deep relief and gratitude about the roof. We’ve been through some very difficult times, but God often takes care of us in amazing ways. A few examples: Our realtor told us when moving here that we had bought our Enchanted Forest, which is just perfect for us, for much less than it was worth. And when EJ lost his job at the end of October a few years ago because of some health problems, his company weirdly continued to pay him his wages and health insurance until the end of the year. And we have a neighbor who voluntarily plows our driveway every winter and grades it every summer but refuses to accept any payment. These are just a few of the ways God has taken care of us. I do not know how people make it without Him.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him… (Ps 145:17-20)

My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)

How Long Can We Go?

The weather has now turned sharply into autumn. We are in a midst of a series of rainy days, which is forecasted to continue through Tuesday. Today was especially rainy and gloomy with dark clouds.

The temperatures have dropped into the 50s during the day and in the 40s at night with a dip into the low 30s a few days ago. Brrr. This time of year the weather changes drastically from day to day. The National Weather Service predicts that the temperature will drop down to 29 degrees on Wednesday night and then Thursday and Friday the daytime temps will climb to 62 and 67.

It is the season for our annual game: How long can we endure before we turn on the furnace for the first time since Spring? The longer we put it off, the more we can save on heating bills. EJ is hoping we can last until after the first week of October. Mostly the house has remained warm, but we’ve put extra blankets on our bed, we are wearing sweatshirts, and we are drinking hot drinks on chillier mornings. We will see how long we can go before we give in. We are stubborn, we are hardy, we are resilient.

With the colder weather beginning to move in, we brought in all our house plants last Thursday morning. We always put them out on the deck at the beginning of summer and we bring them back inside when the weather cools in the autumn. EJ transplanted a couple of his pepper plants and brought them into the house for the winter. One year he hand pollinated them and we actually had peppers growing through the winter. I also transplanted a few plants of each type of herb I grow, hoping to nurse them through the winter.

Some years we are successful at keeping the pepper and herb plants alive throughout the winter and some years we are not, but we keep trying. I was wondering if having full-spectrum lightbulbs, which resemble sunlight, would help the plants during the winter when there are fewer hours of sunshine. I am especially concerned for my cactus which I had bought years ago as a tiny nub from Walmart. It’s grown to about 3 feet tall and is too big and heavy to put out on the deck in the summer and I fear it’s not getting enough sunlight; it’s looking a bit anemic. EJ had errands to do and he stopped at a store and bought a couple light bulbs. He said that the lights he bought were on sale and were actual plant grow lights. However, when he opened the boxes, we found that the bulbs were huge, and when he put them in the lamps near the plants, they shone with a purply-blue light that felt rather “trippy.” I thought, “Well, I will try to endure” but then EJ said, “No. These are unacceptable” and I agreed with relief. We laughed about it and then he went back to a different store and bought the lights we had intended, also on sale, which appear as normal lamp lights. He will use the other ones in the Spring–in the garage or something–when he starts his seeds.

During the weekend, we did a lot of “preparing for winter” chores in between rain showers. EJ has been trying to get the veggies from his garden. He also harvested most of the apples. Then he put fencing around the newest cherry tree to protect it from the deer. He still needs to put a fence around the newest little apple tree. I cleaned out the birdhouses so they will be ready for the birds next Spring. I moved the wooden posts they sit on inside the fruit tree fences in an attempt to keep Theo from harassing the birds next year. One of the birdhouses is in poor condition so EJ built a new one to replace it. He just has to get a tool to drill the right-sized hole and then we can put it up.

We still need to get some of the screens out of the windows, but we will leave a couple in so we could open them on warm days. We usually have several warm days in October before cold weather settles in permanently. I unhooked the garden hose in the front yard today, but I’m trying to leave the one in the backyard hooked up as long as possible so I don’t have to lug water to the chickens in buckets. EJ is going to build a warm shelter inside the garage to keep the outside cats warm. There’s a lot to do!

Yesterday a few deer trotted through our yard. One was a fawn that still had spots. EJ has told me that every year there is an early breeding season and a later breeding season. Obviously, this was a fawn that had been conceived during the later breeding season.

This afternoon I was taking Hannah Joy out when we were surprised by a flock of four turkeys who were in our yard just a few feet away. Hannah Joy was interested, but she didn’t protest as I quickly dragged her back into the house so we wouldn’t disturb the turkeys. I was surprised that they weren’t alarmed–they moved off at a quick walk, but they didn’t squawk in alarm or fly up into the trees. In fact, they circled around back into our yard a few minutes later. I wondered if they don’t see us as a threat?

I really enjoy observing the wildlife coming through our property.

September Tasks

We’ve enjoyed a series of days with very nice weather. It’s both pleasantly warm and pleasantly cool at the same time. If I’m holding still I feel cool but if I am working I feel warm. However, the National Weather Service forecast says that Wednesday night the low temperature will be 47 degrees and down to 36 degrees on Thursday night. Brrrr. I wonder if my herbs will survive the cold?

We’ve been working hard to prepare for winter. EJ harvested some of his squash during the weekend. He also dug up some turnips and potatoes. He has been checking the apples on the trees to see if they are ripe enough to pick. Not yet.

EJ also bought 5 bales of straw for the chicken coop. He was going to buy twice as many so we could use the old bales in the garden, but the price of bales has gone way high so I just added the new bales to the old ones. On Sunday he unloaded the truck and brought the bales to me while I positioned them in the coop. The chickens were curious and climbed all over the straw bales. I had to keep shooing them off before I moved the bales. Sometimes they remind me of curious little children. The chickens like to sleep on top of the bales and the straw helps insulate the coop.

During the summer Theo sometimes climbs the posts that our birdhouses are attached to and upsets the birds raising their family inside. I’ve been wanting to move the birdhouses so they are better protected from Theo and today I got started on it. We have fencing around each apple tree to protect them from the deer. The fence around each tree is held in place by three t-posts. I dug up one of the three t-posts around a tree and replaced it with a wooden post with the birdhouse on top. The post helps hold up the fence but also is inside of it which, I hope, keeps it safe from Theo. I got two posts moved and have another post to move. One of the birdhouses has deteriorated so EJ is building another to replace it. I need EJ to take another birdhouse off a permanently installed and unmovable post that Theo can easily climb and put it on top of the post I moved inside an apple tree fence. I will hang something else from that post. A bird bath or feeder, perhaps, or maybe a pot of flowers. While I had the posts out of the ground, I cleaned them out so they are ready for next year’s birds.

Roosting Turkeys

The rain continued this morning, but in the afternoon blue skies chased away the clouds. It was cool enough this morning that I wore a jacket when I went outside, but this afternoon it warmed up enough that I didn’t need one. We are in a transitional time in which a day can start out cool and end up warm. The weather was so nice this afternoon that I took my beloved dog, Hannah Joy, for a walk down the driveway.

The trees are a bit more colorful today than they were yesterday–or even this morning. I took my camera with me for a few photos. In the foreground of the photo above are milkweeds, on which the monarch butterflies lay their eggs. Further back, at the base of the trees, are some of the ferns that grow on our property. We have hundreds of ferns that are multiplying and spreading a bit more each year. I laugh when I think that downstate I once bought a couple fern roots from a seed catalog for at least $5 each. The ferns are now beginning to yellow as they die back for the winter.

Yesterday evening a small flock of turkeys walked across the yard in front of the house. Hannah Joy, of course, did not see them. She only sees invisible things, which she barks ferociously at as she rushes to the window. A little later, as I was walking around the house after making sure all the chickens were shut safely in the coop for the night, I heard the put-put-put sounds the turkeys make as they walk along and then loud flap-flap-flap as they flew up to roost in the trees for the night. I walked back into the garden to see if I could spot them without startling them. I saw one fly up into the tree.

The first time I experienced turkeys flying up to the trees to roost, I didn’t know what was going on. I heard a loud flapping but didn’t see anything. A moment later there was another loud flapping sound, but again I saw nothing. And then another. And another. “OOOOkay. this is weird.” Finally, I spotted turkeys flying one by one up into the trees. I was enchanted.

I always enjoy seeing the turkeys fly up to roost for the night–or fly down in the mornings. I don’t see them often because 1. they wander so they aren’t always on our property in the evenings when they take to the trees and 2. I have to be outside at just the right moment. But I’m always thrilled when I see them. I never get tired of it.

Until we moved to our Enchanted Forest, I wasn’t aware that turkeys could fly. To be honest, I didn’t think about turkeys all that often. If I had, I might have thought (duh) they are birds and birds fly. But ostriches and penguins are also birds and they don’t fly so….! Having lived in small towns all my life, I only saw turkeys when we happened to see a flock while we were driving from one place to another in the country. And when I saw them, they were always walking.

I think it’s easy to laugh at people who don’t know things–like turkeys flying to roost in trees at night. I don’t laugh because I think that often we assume that everyone knows what we know, but generally people don’t know about things they have no experience with. For example, the only experience most people have with chickens is buying them from a grocery store and eating them for dinner. So when people ask questions about my chickens, I patiently answer them, no matter how “dumb” the questions might seem because curiosity ought to be encouraged. The only way to learn things you don’t know is to ask questions. I enjoy telling people interesting things about chickens.

I also like to ask friends online about the places they live–whether it’s from a different region of the USA or from another country. I ask about their holidays, weather, gardening, and many other things. I learn interesting–and sometimes surprising–things. For example, I knew that Australia’s seasons are opposite of ours so Christmas falls in the middle of their summers. However, our Christmas songs in the northern hemisphere all describe wintry scenes–like Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, or “The First Noel” with its line “On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.” I asked an Australian friend if they have different Christmas songs in her country that reflect their summery weather. She said that mostly they sing the same wintry Christmas songs we do. It must be weird singing about snow while you are having a Christmas cookout at the beach.

I was surprised when an online friend who lives in the Pacific Northwest told me that she’s never seen a firefly–because they don’t have them there. Fireflies are such a part of Michigan that it never occurred to me that they weren’t a part of every child’s experience–especially in my own country. When I was a child, children would chase after fireflies after dark. We would catch them in jars and after admiring their lights for a while, release them. Even now I am filled with delight when I see the magical lights blinking on and off in the night.

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It is a gateway to learning. I am curious about many things, which is why I have my page of Everything Links here on my blog.

Corn Off The Cob

EJ had bought a dozen ears of corn at the farm market Saturday so we could try our hand at freezing corn. The process requires several steps.

  1. Shuck the corn.
  2. Put the ears in boiling water for 4 minutes and then immediately put them into cold water for a few minutes. This is called blanching. Most vegetables are blanched for a few minutes before freezing.
  3. Remove the kernels from the cob.
  4. Put the corn into freezer bags and into the freezer.

On Sunday I shucked and blanched the dozen ears of corn and then went to my computer to research how to remove the kernels from the cob. There apparently are various methods, but the easiest seems to be using a bundt pan to hold the cob while cutting the kernels from it. EJ had already set up the bundt pan for me and I asked him for tips. He grew up on a farm and already knew how to do it, but I grew up in a small town and hadn’t done it before. I remember my Mom had a good-sized garden in our large yard when I was very young, but she must have had it for only a couple of years. My Dad was in tournament archery for a couple years and I barely remember that he had set up practice targets where the garden had been. For most of my childhood, the yard was mowed and played in. I don’t recall my Mom ever doing canning or freezing. If she did, I was too young to be aware of it.

For most of my married life, EJ and I had a house on a small lot in a tiny village. We tried to garden but didn’t really have enough land to do much with. We also planted cherry trees, but they’d only just begun producing when we moved. I’ve only begun doing homesteading things since we moved to our Enchanted Forest seven years ago. I love our homesteading life.

In case you are curious, here is a video showing how to remove corn from the cob. I thought it was rather fun.

After we processed and froze our dozen ears of corn, we discussed whether or not it was worthwhile to buy more corn from the farm market. Obviously, we’d both prefer to grow our own produce, but some things don’t grow well here. There are miles and miles of beautiful vineyards and apple and cherry orchards in our area, but the soil isn’t good enough for corn. So our alternative is the farm market or the grocery store. More and more we like the idea of getting away from grocery stores and buying local produce, but we aren’t rich and with inflation rising to historic levels, cutting costs is important. EJ played devil’s advocate and said that the frozen corn at the grocery store was cheaper–and less work–although with the possibility of shortages and supply chain issues there is no guarantee that it will always be available. EJ also said that the corn from the farm market is not exactly local. Apparently, the sellers grow their corn downstate and truck it up here. I said that while we can’t grow corn ourselves, at least we can oversee how it is processed. There was a pickle factory in the area we had lived before and we both remembered hearing firsthand horror stories of factory conditions and how pickles were processed. “If you knew how the pickels were made, you’d never eat another one,” they said. Yuck. Besides, I think it’s very satisfying to process food ourselves.

So, after going back and forth, considering different alternatives, we decided to buy more from the market. EJ drove back to it and bought five more dozen ears of corn.

When EJ returned from the market, I sat out at the patio table on our deck and shucked all the ears. It was a pleasure to work outside on such a beautiful sunny afternoon. Meanwhile, EJ cut his beef fat into pieces, which he put into our roaster pan to melt. He is making it into tallow which he says can be used as an alternative to shortening, used in venison, and stuff like that. It takes hours for the fat to melt so he was free to cook the beef kidneys for his homemade cat food. He was finished with these tasks by the time I finished shucking so he was able to blanch the corn for me.

When I finished shucking the corn, we set the large canning pot on the stove and EJ blanched the corn in batches. He kept bringing the blanched corn to the kitchen island where I stood and cut the kernels from the cobs. We put the bare cobs in the compost bucket and when it was full, EJ took it out to the chickens so they could glean whatever remaining bits of corn they could find. The chickens loved it and were excited when they saw EJ coming with more.

When I had cut all the kernels from the cobs, I had three large bowls filled with corn. I took the bowls to the kitchen table where I sat and scooped corn into freezer bags. Two cups of corn seemed a good serving size for us. I filled 30 bags and put them into our freezer. I was exhausted but I was satisfied with my work.

Later in the evening, after I had gone to bed, EJ poured the finished tallow into jars. He didn’t get the cat food made because he was exhausted. He will do that probably tomorrow.

Today it rained steadily all day. I didn’t mind because rainy days feel cozy–and we need the rain. I thought this would be a good day to relax from yesterday’s work, but I still had a busy morning. I made chicken dumpling soup for today’s lunch. I cut up some of the whole tomatoes that I had frozen and made them into chili for tomorrow’s lunch. The whole tomatoes take up a lot of freezer space which we need for other things so I will use them first. Fortunately, I had diced most of the tomatoes I froze so they don’t take up so much space.

September Harvest

We are now well into September and the weather is feeling more like autumn. Mornings are cooler, although the temperature rises as the day progresses. However, although the thermometer may indicate the same temperature, it doesn’t feel as hot in September as it does in the summer months, which I think is interesting. Most of our trees are still green, but a couple are showing a blush of autumn color.

September is a busy month for us.

EJ has worked at companies that did something they called “Start, Stop, and Continue” in which they evaluated processes and decided which new processes/methods they should start, which they should stop, and which they should continue. We do the same with our garden. Our soil is actually sand so there are vegetables that don’t grow well here. Some plants we are able to grow in raised garden boxes which we fill with good soil but others need more space than a box. EJ is successful growing things like beans, peas, squash, and cucumbers, but corn needs space and good dirt to make it worthwhile to grow. EJ tried different methods for several years to grow enough good corn, but we have been mostly unsuccessful so we decided that this is the last year we attempt it. He does so-so with tomatoes in boxes, but we don’t get enough so we buy a few bushels from the farm market.

EJ bought four bushels of tomatoes at a local farm market and we spent the next couple weeks processing them. In the mornings I blanched, peeled, and cut up a large bowl of tomatoes and then EJ would can them. When we didn’t think he had time to can all of them that day, I froze them in freezer bags. We have 34 quarts of canned tomatoes and several quarts of frozen tomatoes. I didn’t count the bags so I’m not sure how many we have.

While EJ was running errands yesterday, he stopped at the farm market and bought a dozen ears of corn, which we are thinking about freezing. We’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how to take the kernels off the cob. I will research it on the Internet and if we are successful at getting enough corn to make it worthwhile, EJ will probably go back to the farm market and buy more.

EJ also stopped at a grocery store yesterday and bought some beef kidneys to make into cat food for the outside cats. They love his homemade cat food so much that they wait outside the door at about 6 pm every night for me to feed them their special treat. This has the added benefit of bringing them to the house so I can easily shut them into the garage for the night to keep them safe from coyotes and other predators. When EJ makes cat food, he grinds the meat with eggs and maybe a couple other ingredients and then scoops it into cupcake pans and puts them in the freezer. When they are frozen, I take the little cakes out and put them into bags and back into the freezer until I need them. I put one cake at a time in the fridge to thaw and I feed the cats half a cake each day. They also have dried cat food available.

At the store, EJ also bought beef fat to render into tallow to use in venison meat. Or something. I’m not sure of the process or purposes but EJ has researched it.

I’ve been making Kimchi (also spelled “Kimchee”), a spicy fermented Korean dish, with cucumbers from our garden. I am not sure how long Kimchi can be stored. Most articles say that it must be eaten in about a week or so. So I make the Kimchi and eat it, and make more, and eat it.

We have apples on the trees we’ve been planting every year since we moved here. We planted different varieties. Some of the trees are two different varieties grafted into one rootstock. We fence in the apple trees to protect them from deer. We can freeze the apples to make delicious dishes.

I continue to harvest and dry the herbs from my raised garden beds. I cut the heads off a couple sunflowers while mentally commanding, “Off with their heads!” I still haven’t found a good place to plant sunflowers where they don’t rob EJ of valuable garden space or get munched by deer.

We soon need to buy more straw to help insulate our coop for the winter. I’m a bit disgusted by my chickens because at least one hen–and maybe more–are eating the eggs. I have to go out multiple times to try to get the eggs before she/they eat them. I’m concerned that whoever is eating them will teach the other hens to eat them so I will have a flock of 20 hens (plus two roosters) and no eggs. I’m not sure how to solve this problem. My fake wooden eggs didn’t thwart them for long.

Theo likes to come out to the coop with me. He wanders around while I feed/water the chickens or gather their eggs and then together we go out the gate. There is a nest of ground hornets under one corner of the coop left of the door. I’d like to get rid of them but I don’t want to aggravate them so they attack me or the chickens so I leave them be. I’m not sure if they abandon their nest as it gets colder but I’m thinking of waiting until a cold winter day to get rid of them if they aren’t already gone. Because of the hornets, I didn’t let Theo into the pen with me but one day he slipped in. He wandered around as he always does. After I did my chores, I went through the gate and called him. He meandered my way until he noticed the interesting hornets flying in and out of their nest under the coop. He started to chase and swat at them as I frantically yelled “Noooo” and “Come, Theo! Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!” I imagined all sorts of disastrous scenarios, all ending with me, Theo, or the chickens swarmed by angry hornets. Theo looked like a cat chasing butterflies in those sweet videos–but these were not sweet butterflies. Suddenly, one stung Theo’s paw. He shook it and streaked out the gate and through the garden. Later that day he acted perfectly normal, not even limping. Now when he follows me into the pen, he leaves the hornets alone. Theo is very sweet, but he is a bit of a clueless dunderhead.

Hannah Joy is very intelligent, but she makes me laugh. Occasionally she will rush to the window ferociously barking in alarm. We look out but see absolutely nothing. However, there are multiple times when there is a rabbit, or deer, or flock of turkeys in the yard and she is completely oblivious to their presence. Yesterday, for example, we walked with her to the mailbox and she didn’t see a rabbit that was just a few yards away from us. And she didn’t see the turkeys yesterday evening that walked across our yard just outside the window. And she didn’t see the deer eyeing the apples on our trees this morning. Sometimes, when she barks in alarm at nothing at all, I joke in a hushed whisper, “She sees invisible things. She sees ghosts.”

Yesterday our neighbor down the road and around the corner arrived with his tractor to grade our driveway. Several years ago, he saw me snowblowing our driveway. It takes me several hours and multiple trips up and down the driveway to clear our driveway with our walk-behind snowblower. We didn’t know each other, but he had compassion and began to keep our driveway clear of snow with the snowblower on his tractor. He’s done it every winter since. It takes him just a few minutes to clear our driveway with his tractor. He also began grading our driveway whenever he saw it needed it during the warmer months. Although we offered, he refuses to take any payment or even let us reimburse him for his fuel. He is an awesome gift to us.

Here in Michigan we usually get a thaw in January. It melts the snow which then refreezes, covering our long steep driveway in a sheet of ice. The previous owner had dealt with this by salting the driveway, which killed the vegetation that prevents erosion. When we moved in, there were deep and wide gullies alongside and across the driveway. We had to put drainage tile in, fill the gullies with gravel and stones and dirt, build small rock dams to slow the rush of eroding rainwater. We also planted seeds/plants along the driveway for erosion control–like the rocks, they slow the rainwater and their roots also hold on to the soil. Our efforts worked. Our neighbor told us that he had wanted to buy our house before we bought it, but his wife saw the terrible state of the driveway and put her foot down so they bought their current house instead. I think that the only reason our 5-acre home was not more expensive and was not snatched up by others is because of the driveway–so despite the work, the terrible driveway provided us with the gift of our Enchanted Forest.

Tomato Wealth

The weather seems to be transitioning into autumn. We are enjoying slightly cooler days and even warm days have an underlying coolness to them. Looking closely, we can see a blush of autumn color on a few of the trees. Autumn is coming.

I continue to harvest my herbs every couple of days. I dry most of them in my dehydrator and then put them in jars for winter use. The borage, lavender, and chamomile flowers I put in small racks hanging at one of the kitchen windows.

EJ has been bringing in cucumbers from his garden, which I turn into Kimchi, a very spicey Korean dish. My brother married a Korean woman years ago when he was stationed in her country, and she used to make it for us when she and my brother visited our parents. At first, I thought it was much, much too hot, but I developed a taste for it. Kimchi is often made with cucumbers or cabbage. My favorite is cucumber.

We are going to have a good number of squashes this year. We will have a few ears of corn, but not many because our soil is too sandy. One day we would like to have a truckload of good dirt brought in so we can grow veggies such as corn, but that’s not in the budget during these uncertain times. Meanwhile, we have to grow many of our plants in raised garden beds in which we put bags of good dirt. We probably won’t try to grow corn again.

Our crop of beans and peas was “meh” this year–probably because it was very dry this summer and the plants didn’t get enough to drink despite our efforts to water them. EJ planted a few tomatoes, but we decided to buy several bushels at the local farm market to buy enough to make canning them worth the effort. EJ tried his hand at canning a year or two ago but we still consider ourselves to be novices and keep trying to improve our process and expand our recipes. EJ stopped in at the market on Friday and brought home a lot of tomatoes. I didn’t quite comprehend that four bushels of tomatoes would be THAT many. If wealth was measured in tomatoes, we’d now be very rich. We have so many that I was glad to learn that we can freeze some until we are ready to can or cook with them. We froze some of the ripest ones this morning while EJ canned a few others. We will be busy with tomatoes for a while, I think. Our goal is to can diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, and EJ would like to can some chili made with the tomatoes. Eventually, he’d like to learn to can beans and meat.

Our previous house downstate was an older house which we kept working on over the years. Room by room we replaced the cheap paneling on the walls with better quality wall board. Usually one of us had a strong idea of how to renovate a particular room. Eventually, we developed a tradition that whoever had the strongest “vision” for a room got to take creative control of it. The tradition transferred over to other areas of our lives so that now whichever of us has an idea or desire to do or make something gets to be the “job boss” for that project while the other provides any needed support. For example, EJ makes homemade bread in our bread machine because he really wants to do it. He likes learning about bread-making and trying different ideas. He also wanted to do canning so he’s in charge and I support him by finding recipes, cutting up tomatoes, washing the dishes, or whatever needs to be done. On the other hand, I do most of the cooking, including with the instant pot. I care for the herb garden, drying the herbs, and learning about their culinary and medicinal uses because that interests me. Having chickens was my idea so the chickens are mine to care for. This tradition works really well for us because we each get to do what interests us most.

I’ve been getting more fairy eggs–four so far–so I think some of the chicks are beginning to lay eggs. Fairy eggs are not common. I’ve read that a hen’s first egg may be a fairy one. I also gathered more eggs than usual yesterday so I’m really thinking and hoping the chicks are starting to lay. I suppose I shouldn’t call them “chicks” anymore since they are pretty much full-grown.

I had never seen an indigo bunting until we moved here. Even so, I usually just saw a few glimpses a few times a summer. However, this year we have frequently seen indigo buntings in both the front yard and the back garden. A week or two ago I was looking out the window at the vegetable garden when I saw a vivid blue indigo bunting. They are always a joy to see. As I watched, I saw him give a morsel to another bird. I’ve read that birds will continue feeding their young for a day or two after they leave the nest so I realized that I was witnessing the first flight of indigo buntings. Very cool.

The Fairy Egg

Saturday morning I found a “fairy egg” in the nesting box. Do you know what a fairy egg is? I had never heard of them before I moved to our Enchanted Forest and got a flock of chickens. Occasionally, a hen lays a very tiny egg, which is called a “fairy egg.” People call them other less-flattering terms as well, but this is my favorite one. The photo at the top of this post is the fairy egg next to a regular-sized one. They are often even smaller than that. They differ from a normal egg only in size.

I told EJ my theory that the term comes from an Irish myth that says that occasionally a fairy would steal an infant and replace it with a “changling.” I’ve heard a few variations of stories over the years about what a changeling is–from being a fairy baby to being a counterfeit baby that would die within a few days. Eric speculated that the myth might have started as a way for a grieving mother to deal with the death of her infant. She could say that “My baby was stolen by the fairies” and tell herself that the “baby” who died was not actually real. That’s possible.

The website called “The Irish Post” says, “Some believe that the origin of the changeling myth stems from a very dark corner of the mind. Changeling tales illustrate an aspect of family survival in pre-industrial Europe. A peasant family’s subsistence frequently depended upon the productive labour of each member, and it was difficult to provide for a person who was a permanent drain on the family’s scarce resources.” The Irish Post’s explanation makes me sad.

To get back to the egg, my theory is that the small egg might be called a “fairy egg” because it’s not the normal size of an egg–it’s a “changeling” egg.

I think myths and legends are interesting, not because they are fact–although some might have a kernal of truth—but because they expose something about the people who tell them—they expose their fears, anxieties, sadness, dangers, and so on.

The last couple of days we had rain. Yesterday the rain was very heavy. It was good because it’s been a dry summer and we needed some rain. Although the weather hasn’t been especially hot, we’ve had high humidity which made it feel hot. Today the weather has been sunny, cool, and not humid.

Yesterday we had some guests come up toward the house. I always love this time of year when the turkeys bring their babies near the house. I took a video of them. I took it through the window, which was streaked with rain, so it’s a trifle blurry, but not too bad. Toward the end you can hear Hannah Joy softly woofing at them. Thankfully she didn’t bark loud enough to scare them off.

Poultry In Motion

Yesterday I was hanging laundry on the clothesline. I enjoy this task because our “Enchanted Forest” is so beautiful and peaceful. I drink in the forest, the wildflowers growing in the sunny places, birds flying about and singing, and the chickens contentedly clucking in the background. Once in a while, I see something unexpected. As I hung clothes on the line yesterday, I suddenly heard a chicken squawking in alarm. Only…I was confused because the sound was coming from the wrong direction—down the driveway to the south instead of from their pen in the north. As I tried to figure it out, I saw a large bird fly up into the trees. Ahhh. It was a turkey seeking refuge in the branches from some threat. Then I observed a turkey emerge from the weeds and stand in the middle of the driveway. I saw the movement of other turkeys in the weeds behind it. Suddenly, our cat Theo erupted from the weeds near the turkeys and ran full speed up the driveway to the house. Apparently, Theo was the “threat.” While the one turkey flew up to the trees for safety, the others apparently spooked Theo. In a match between Theo and turkeys, I’d bet the turkeys coming out as clear winners. Theo is sweet, but he’s a bit of a dunderhead.

Yesterday afternoon I walked around the back of the coop and saw an egg laying in the ground. “Hmmm,” I thought. “A hen must have decided to lay her egg here rather than in the coop.” It’s never happened before, but who knows what a chicken decides to do? I picked the egg up and saw the “x” on it, which I had made to indicate it was a wooden egg. I bought six of them several weeks ago to put in the nesting boxes to try to discourage a hen(s) from eating eggs. It hasn’t really worked because I still find broken eggs now and then. Lately, I have been unable to find some of the wooden eggs. Our coop is actually a 10 x 12 shed. I don’t think a chicken would/could roll a wooden egg all the way around the coop so “Something Else” must have done it. Maybe a hen isn’t breaking the eggs. A mystery unfolds. Is it a mouse? A snake? Something else?

The young chickens continue to be rebellious about going to bed in the coop in the evening. Last night, for the third time in a row, the adults were all snug in the coop while three of the young ones were playing outside. I have no idea if they will try to remain outside as it grows darker, and I don’t want to try to chase them in the coop in the dark, so I try to get them inside when I see that the adults are all in. Our Alpha rooster has always stayed outside on guard until the last chicken is safely inside so at least the chicks aren’t without adult supervision. Finally, the chicks went in through the little chicken-sized door. All present and accounted for in the coop at last.

While I was chasing chicks in the pen, there was a “food riot” in the coop as all the chickens–adults and young ones–scrambling to get the weeds I’d tossed in.

I’ve never had so much trouble getting chickens in the coop. This young bunch is very rebellious and apparently do not respond to wise advice. I think that this evening I’m just going to try to hold off to see if they will go in by themselves. EJ will be home so if it gets too dark, he can help me. I envision us holding flashlights as we chase chickens about the pen. LOL.

Silly Chicks

Yesterday was a beautiful day with blue skies and just-right temperatures–although the humidity was a bit high. In the evening I turned on the sprinkler to water EJ’s garden. Our “soil” is actually sand and does not hold moisture so we have to water the gardens every day or two. When I finished thoroughly watering his garden, I came in and checked the weather and discovered that the forecast was saying that rain would begin during the night and we’d get heavy rain today. Figures. If I hadn’t watered, we’d have gotten no rain.

Hannah Joy woke me about 4 am and I heard rumbles of thunder. She’s not terribly scared of thunderstorms, but she does come up and lay close to me with her head on my chest when she hears them move in. One crack of thunder sounded as if it were right overhead. Occasionally for the rest of the night, I woke to low thunder or heavy rain, before falling back to sleep. We’ve had periods of rain all day. It gets stuffy with the windows closed so whenever it’s not raining I open a couple so I can enjoy the strong breeze blowing in. When it begins raining again, I close the windows.

The eight little chicks are growing up. They are so big that it’s getting harder to tell them apart from the adults. They are slightly smaller, slightly slimmer but those differences will disappear soon.

The chicks were spending most of their time in the cages in the coop even though the doors were open so they could leave whenever they wanted to. I kept food and water in the cages because they weren’t accessing the adult food and water, but they kept tipping them over. Not quite two weeks ago, I decided that “enough is enough” and I completely remove the cages so they were forced to integrate with the older flock. It worked, and now they are running around in and out of the coop. They remind me of kids running around at a family reunion, once in a while getting scolded by the adults to behave.

The chickens all go into the coop near evening so I just have to count that they are all inside and then shut them in. No problem. Usually. Yesterday evening when I went out to shut the coop, I thought I heard movement in the dogloo that is in their outside pen. Hannah Joy has never used the dogloo so we keep it in the pen for the chickens to use as a refuge if they want. I looked inside and found 4 or 5 of the chicks in there. They are not safe from nocturnal predators there, so I tried to get them out. It took a bit of effort, but I finally got them all out. They didn’t want to go into the coop and ran around the pen. It’s very difficult to get chickens to go where they don’t want to go. I “herded” some and picked up others and put them inside. While I was working to get some inside the coop, other chicks ran out. Then our alpha rooster came outside. I got him inside–his feathers ruffled with the indignity–but other chicks had come out again. While I was getting the chicks back inside, the rooster went outside again. This went on for several minutes until I finally got everyone inside the coop at the same time and shut the door with relief.

Silly chickens.

They make me laugh.

Herbs & Pet Peeves

Today is sunny and hot–87 degrees as I begin this post. Occasionally, there is a bit of a breeze, which helps a bit. I’m comfortable sitting in front of the fan sipping cold tea, but when I go outside, I quickly start to drip with sweat. I try to go outside as little as possible, but I do go out to check on the chicks and gather eggs, and I walked Hannah Joy down to the mailbox and back.

The chicks are still reluctant to wander far from their cages. They do go on top of the cages or next to them, but they run back in whenever an adult comes close. I assume that sooner or later they will find their courage and go out to enjoy the bigger world.

EJ has been picking peas from his garden, which we’ve been enjoying for meals. His other veggies are growing, but are not yet ready for harvest.

I’ve begun harvesting some of my herbs, which I then dry in the dehydrator. the dehydrator is in the hallway where it doesn’t warm the rest of the house. So far I’ve dried a bit of peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint (which does, indeed have a chocolatey taste), sage, parsley, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, and summer savory. I’ve never grown or used the last three, but I want to try them. In addition to using herbs in cooking, I also make them into teas. I just put some leaves–fresh or dried–in little tea bags and put them in hot water. I make EJ a variety of teas, often combining one or more herbs: borage, sage, lavender, mint, chamomile….I really enjoy making mint tea. When it cools down, I put it in a jar in the fridge so I can drink it cold. It’s a nice refreshing drink.

All of these herbs not only have culinary uses, but also medicinal. Many of them relieve respiratory trace conditions such as bronchitis, cough, colds, flu, colds, fever. Many are excellent natural antibiotics and build up the immune system. Some eliminate microbes and prevent the development of intestinal parasites. Some also help with diabetes, detoxify, weight-loss, insomnia, stress/anxiety, digestive problems, and so forth. I really want to get away from drugs and use medicinal herbs, which have fewer side effects and are less costly.

I also have been harvesting, little by little, lavender and borage flowers, which I also make into teas. I don’t dry these in the dehydrator. Instead, I have them on little racks that I hang from a window.

I have decided that next year I am going to plant edible flowers in my flower garden so they don’t take up garden boxes: I already have coneflowers, which are actually echinacea, but I will also plant the borage there, as well as daisies and some lavender. I have lavender growing down the driveway, but I’d prefer to have some up near the house.

I’ve also begun learning about edible wild plants. EJ knows more about them than I do and can help me. Also, I will do research. We have books, the Internet, and I have a phone app. Many of these “weeds” that people toss out–such as purslane and lamb’s quarters–are very nutritious. I know some edibles are growing on our property. Learning about them is my newest goal.

The world God has created is amazing.

Last week I walked Hannah Joy to the mailbox. Usually, I stop at the edge of the road to make sure no vehicles are coming before we go to the mailbox, but that day a large truck came by while we were already at the mailbox. It did not pull over to give us extra room. Fortunately, I held on to Hannah’s harness when I saw it approaching. The two vehicles rounded the curve. They were in the far lane, but Hannah started leaping. I was so glad to get back into the driveway. As we reentered the driveway, Hannah Joy saw a cigarette on the ground, which someone had probably thrown out their car window. I pulled on her leash to try to keep her from eating it, but I ended up tripping her and falling on the ground. Besides feeling stupid, my wrist, knee, and ankle hurt the rest of the day. I’m glad that is all I struggled with. I tend to hurt myself quite badly when I fall so I try to avoid it. I’m quite sure Hannah ate the cigarette while I was lying in the dirt.

As we walked back up the driveway, I grumbled a little bit about pet peeves. EJ ALWAYS pulls over into the far lane when he sees anyone at the edge of the road to give them extra space. I’m used to his consideration. What kind of jerk throws cigarettes out the window??? It could result in unintended consequences: Like a dog eating it and me falling. Or it could cause forest fires.

This got me to thinking about pet peeves. My biggest pet peeve involving pets doesn’t happen now because we live in the country. However, when we lived in a small town downstate, I used to take my then-dog Danny (who died of cancer in 2017) for walks every day. Danny LOVED the attention of people–and especially children–and he always pulled me over to them to get petted. However, he didn’t always get along with other dogs. He was ok with some and not ok with others so I always left plenty of room between us if we encountered another dog…just in case. I hate it when people walking their dog come right up to us without asking me if it is ok. Sometimes they’d say, “Don’t worry! My dog is very friendly.” That might be so, but they don’t know if MY dog is friendly. And there’s no telling how two strange dogs will react to each other. Once a lady approached us with her dog when we were camping. “Don’t worry! My dog is friendly!” she said. Our dogs took a dislike to each other and got into a brief fight. Not cool. It is polite and can solve a lot of problems if a person asks permission to approach with his/her dog.

In addition, EJ and I love to pet dogs we encounter on a walk or in a store. (Some stores allow pets, but we don’t take Hannah into stores because she is not social enough and is too protective of us.) However, we always ask the owner for permission. It’s polite, and almost always the owner says “Sure!” Once we asked a guy in a store if we could pet his dog, and he said no because it was his emotional support dog. We told him we totally understood. It is not a good idea to try to pet service/support dogs because they are working and shouldn’t be distracted. Distracting a service/support dog could have tragic consequences. We hadn’t seen any indication that the dog was a service dog or we wouldn’t have even asked.

Freedom

I’m a bit late in wishing every American a wonderful Independence Day. I love July 4th with its cookouts, parades, and fireworks to celebrate freedom. We were (and still are) patriotic. When I was younger, my Dad bought a small cannon. It was, I don’t know, maybe 2-3 feet long. He’d shoot it off on July 4th. It didn’t have cannon balls or anything because it wouldn’t be cool to knock a hole in a neighbor’s house! It was just packed with gun powder and made a loud boom. I loved it. I would have loved to have inherited it after my Dad died but, alas, I am a black sheep in the family.

When EJ and I were first married, we’d go to various towns to enjoy their fireworks displays. One time we were traveling home from someplace “up north” (I can’t remember where); we enjoyed the fireworks of multiple towns and cities as we drove by. It was awesome. When our son was older, we stayed home because he enjoyed setting off the smaller fireworks that we bought. We stayed home this year and enjoyed the quiet beauty of our Enchanted Forest. Because of high–and rising–inflation, we haven’t bought a lot of picnic or snack foods lately. They can really blow our budget. But because it was Independence Day, we splurged on traditional foods: hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, homemade coleslaw, and Moomer’s Ice Cream, which is made locally and is the best ice cream EVER. Normally I would have also made potato salad, but with our chickens not laying many and at least one eating them, I decided not to.

There are fantastic festivals with fireworks near us, but tens of thousands of tourists come up to the area, which is just too peopley for us. We could hear the loud booms of fireworks all around us and you’d think that with us living on the top of the hill, we’d be able to see some of them, but the surrounding trees and hills block all but the tops of the highest fireworks. I actually spent the evening trying to win first place in a Hebrew challenge on my phone’s language app. I succeeded, although the competition was very fierce. I was able to win this level because I was already mostly familiar with the material from previous studies and I could keep ahead of the competitors…barely. I wanted to win once because with more complicated lessons, I doubt I will make it into first place again.

Last Thursday evening I finally gave the chicks their freedom, letting them out of their cages to join the flock. I felt they were old enough to leave, they were getting too big for the cages, and in the cages they can’t seek cooler places on hot days. EJ and I moved the topmost cage with the younger four onto the strawbales on the floor so the chicks could easily leave it. The next morning, I took that cage out of the coop because it was taking up too much space. I left the other cage because it’s out of the way and the chicks can easily get in and out of it if they wanted. I put their chick feed in there for them to try to keep the older chickens from gobbling it down. The chicks are not too thrilled at joining the adults. Of course, they are now subjected to being taught their place in the pecking order. They stay in a bunch and often I find all eight of them in the one cage. I’m sure that in a few days, they will get bolder. They can’t stay safely caged forever and, besides, freedom is worth having.

Early this afternoon I went out to gather eggs. When I opened the gate separating the chicken pen from the garden, one of the hens escaped. I almost blocked her with my leg, but she squeezed past me. While I was trying to get her back in, our beta rooster escaped. I was able to get the hen back in her area without too much trouble–they like to be with the flock. But roosters are wily and this rooster kept getting past me. The problem is that I have to latch the gate so the other chickens can’t get out, but when I get the rooster near and try to unlatch the gate, he gets past me. I finally knocked on our bedroom window, knowing that Hannah Joy would hear it and start barking, and EJ would hear her and come to see what she was barking at–which is exactly what happened. When EJ came to the window, I told him I needed help. When he joined me, he steered the rooster toward the gate and I opened it to let him in. Unfortunately, the Alpha rooster was nearby and he chased the rooster back out, but I got him away from the gate and we had success the second time. I think that if EJ was gone, I’d never have been able to get the rooster back in the pen, leaving him free to eat our garden plants.

One evening last week when I was walking around the house after shutting the chickens in their coop for the night, my attention was drawn to strange activity on the ground. I went closer and saw that beetles were swarming the carcass of a chipmunk that the cats had killed. They were unfamiliar insects so I took a video of them with my phone. Then I went inside and found an insect identification website. I learned that the beetles were American Carrion Beetles, which eat dead things. As I viewed my video, I noticed that my camera had caught just a brief glimpse of a portion of another sort of beetle. I think that was some sort of burying beetle–probably the Tormentose Burying Beetle? The information said that those beetles bury the carcass of birds and small critters. They lay their eggs on them and when the eggs hatch, the young have a food source. The next day I took EJ to the place where the carcass was to see if the beetles were still there. There wasn’t a sign of the dead chipmunk! Either some animal had taken it away or the beetles had buried it. Amazing! I would share my video with you, but I don’t know if anyone wants to see insects eating a dead chipmunk. I don’t normally like looking at dead things either, but this was actually very interesting. All I could think was that God created excellent clean-up crews to take care of dead things. They are probably why we don’t often see dead critters on the ground.

I wasn’t sure that my herb garden was going to be very successful this year because many of the seeds didn’t seem to be taking off. However, they are FINALLY growing well. In fact, yesterday I began drying the mint in my dehydrator. I have three different kinds of mint: peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint, which really does have a chocolatey taste. I’ve been enjoying making tea with the mint, letting it cool down, and drinking it as a cool summer drink. It’s yummy. Sometimes I put in a bag of Lipton Cold Brew Tea. I also make teas with Lavender, Chamomile, Basil, and other herbs. Herbs have a lot of medicinal uses, including for respiratory illnesses, detoxing, anxiety, insomnia, stomach problems, and many others.

This morning EJ finished making homemade cat food for Theo and Millie, our outside cats. They love his food. I would let them stay out later, but around 7 pm they stand at the front door waiting for their special treat. I open the front door and they come in and I open the garage door and they go through it into the garage. I shut them in for the night to keep them safe from predators, and then I bring them their special food. They chitter with excitement when they see it.

It looks as if we might be getting another cat to join Little Bear and Timmy in the house. EJ’s co-worker is moving and needs a home for his cat, who is 12-13 years old. We are suckers…but we don’t think the cat should have to spend her final years in a shelter–or be euthanized. Hannah Joy has no great fondness for cats, but we will introduce them slowly and hope for the best.

It rained a bit this morning and we are expecting more rain later, which we really need. This afternoon has been mostly cloudy and humid. It’s not terribly hot, and there’s is a nice breeze, but the humidity makes it feel hot. Except for the dryness, the weather this summer has been very pleasant–most of the time neither too hot nor too cold.

Everyday Shoes

Last week my crocs disintegrated, and the shoes I wore out to the coop are falling apart, which means that I only had a pair of “go to town” sneakers that I wear only when I leave home so they look nice. It was time for me to get more shoes.

I had asked EJ to stop at Goodwill on his way to work to see if he could buy some shoes for me. (He buys things on his way to work to eliminate unnecessary trips.) For those who may not know: People donate unwanted items to Goodwill, which then sells them at a low price. We enjoy buying from Goodwill because we’ve always liked being frugal–and it’s especially important with super-high inflation and warnings of supply chain issues. We are trying to buy ahead in case items become too expensive or scarce to buy. Also, we never know what we will find at Goodwill so it’s like treasure hunting. I asked EJ to specifically look for “coop” shoes and backless slip-on shoes. The “coop shoes” are only for walking out to the coop. When I come back into the house, I take them off in the laundry room so Hannah Joy can’t access them–otherwise she licks the chicken poop off them. Yuck. I keep backless slip-on shoes near the door in case I have to take quick trips outside or to the garage–to take Hannah Joy on/off her tether, for example, or when I am moving sprinklers from one place to another. EJ found THREE pairs of shoes: One for “coop shoes” (the pink shoes in the bottom row of the photo), and two backless slip-ons (the white and dark blue shoes in the top row). He got them for $7 each, which is far cheaper than paying $30, $40, or more for shoes. I told EJ he did a wonderful job finding me shoes.

I ordered a pair of new shoes on-line to wear for longer walks on the property–down the driveway to get the mail, for example. They arrived today. I think they are almost too pretty to wear, but shoes are for wearing so I will wear them! They are the top left ones in the above photo. They are comfy.

Before I got any new/used shoes, EJ glued my old coop shoes (battered shoes on the bottom right in photo) together with strong glue so they’d last until I got new ones. I decided I will wear them until they fall completely apart before switching to the new “coop shoes.” No use discarding them before I have to.

I forgot to include my “go-to-town” sneakers in the photo. Oh, well.

Earlier this week I consulted with EJ about whether he thought we should let out the chicks into the general population of the flock this coming weekend. We decided to hold off for another couple of weeks. They have almost all their adult feathers (especially the older ones), but EJ felt they were still a bit too young. They are only half the size of the adults. So we will wait. It doesn’t hurt to continue giving them their “chick starter” feed.

The younger chicks are getting a bit sassy, trying to peck me when I give them fresh food and water. When I got my first flock of chickens in 2016, I read that the reason some chickens get mean is because they think they outrank you in their pecking order so they are trying to keep the inferior human in their place. So I make sure they understand THEIR place in the pecking order by not letting them get away with sassing me. Because of this, I have never had any mean chickens. EJ laughs that our alpha rooster acts like a foreman reporting to his boss (me). He keeps his flock in line and respects me. So with the young chicks now beginning to sass me, I found a ruler-sized stick and I (not harshly) nudge/poke them away, treating them much like a higher ranking chicken would treat a lower ranking one.

The hens have several places in the coop where they like to lay their eggs. Mostly they lay them in the kitty litter boxes I set up for them, but they lay in other places as well. One place is now blocked by the chicks’ cages. I see several eggs back there, but I can’t reach them. So it’s possible we might eventually have some naturally hatched chicks. I don’t see any hen sitting on the eggs…but we shall see.

The bluebirds are starting their second family of the summer. It’s so much fun to watch them.

EJ asked me the other day if we are at war with the chipmunks. Chipmunks are very cute and entertaining to watch as they scurry about, but they are also quite destructive. We seem to have an abundance of chipmunks this year. The chipmunks really irritate Hannah Joy with their squeaky chatter, but I’m not quite ready to declare war. This is a brief video I took of them chasing each other.

The Chipmunk Horde

We’ve had some hot days but mostly we’ve had some pleasantly cooler days with a nice breeze. To me, “hot” is 80-90 degrees and “pleasantly cool” is in the 60s or low 70s. We could use a little more rain, but I really have no complaints about the weather.

We do seem to have more chipmunks than normal. They’ve been zipping around the deck, through my herb garden, and up onto the tray bird feeder where they stuff their cheeks full. One even climbed up the window screen. He ran away when EJ exclaimed, “Hey! What do you think you are doing?” I tried to get a photo of more than one of the chipmunks, but they are so fast that I couldn’t manage it. Also, they don’t like to share the feeder with each other.

One evening when I was returning from shutting the chickens up in the coop for the night, I saw a hummingbird at their feeder. I paused at the corner of the deck to wait until she finished sipping the nectar. While I was waiting, I watched a chipmunk scamper across the deck toward me, and then another followed that one. When the first one got to within a couple feet of me, I suddenly shouted “RAWR!” The chipmunk yelled “EEEEK,” ran into a planter pot on the deck, and then dashed off. LOL.

The chipmunks frequently squeak, which irritates Hannah Joy. Sometimes she’s had enough and she lunges at the window shouting “RAWR!” which is probably where I got the idea. Then she comes up to me with a pleading look on her face as if she wants me to do SOMETHING about those annoying critters. I tell her that there’s really nothing I can do. “It’s Theo and Millie’s job to get rid of rodents so talk to them.” We frequently find a dead chipmunk in the garage so the cats are trying…but apparently there was a chipmunk baby boom or something this year because their numbers don’t seem to diminish. Chipmunks are very cute, but they are nuisances.

I’ve seen no sign of the Mama Raccoon visiting the feeder lately. Probably she’s given up because the Chipmunk Horde is eating all the seeds before she gets there.

I’ve thought about not putting seeds out for a few days to discourage the chipmunks, but we have a little tufted titmouse with an obviously broken leg who visits and I want to make sure he has an easily accessible source of food until he heals. I didn’t think he’d survive long with an injury, but he is still showing up at the feeder. In fact, he showed up while I was writing this post. He is a plucky little thing.

The chicks are doing well in their cage in the coop. I plan to add them to the general population next weekend. I figure they are old enough and big enough now to join the adults–and it seems symbolically appropriate to release them from their cage during Independence Day weekend. I’ve kept them in their cage so they and the older chicks can get used to each other–and so I could keep feeding the chicks their “chick starter” feed.

My crocs self-destructed the other day and the shoes I wear out to the coop are barely holding together. The only good pair of shoes I have (other than dress shoes that I rarely wear) is my “going to town sneakers,” which I prefer not to get covered in dirt and chicken poop. So this morning I ordered shoes online. I ordered slip-on shoes because I am in and out of the house all day: taking Hannah Joy out, bringing her back in, moving the sprinklers, walking to the mailbox. It’s easier to have shoes that I can slip quickly on and off rather than have to keep pausing to pull them on and tie them. I dislike wearing shoes in the house. I asked EJ to stop at Goodwill on his way to work next week to try to find me used shoes that I can wear to the coop. No use buying new shoes that will get all crappy.

I’ve transplanted some of the herbs that EJ started into my herb garden. EJ is currently out working in his vegetable garden. Hannah Joy is snoozing in the sunlight.

I forgot to mention before that June 1st marked the 7th anniversary of our move to our Enchanted Forest. It’s gone really fast. My only regret is that we didn’t move here sooner. I love it here!

30 Pounds of Carrots

I didn’t sleep well for several days last week. Tuesday night my thoughts were too active. Wednesday night we had thundering storms that kept me awake. Thursday was sunny, but we had very strong winds (30-40 mph) that knocked out our power along with 11,700 others. We don’t lose our power often, but if it goes out it’s usually due to winds. I think we lost our power around 4:30 pm and we didn’t get it back until mid-morning on Friday. I didn’t sleep well because usually I have a fan running for “white noise” and it was too quiet without it. Also, Hannah Joy frequently leaped up to investigate little noises (such as the cats running around, the chicks twittering, EJ coming home from work, etc), which the noise of the fan usually blocks out. It was also hot and stuffy with no fan which made it difficult to sleep.

But I survived. Drowsily, but I survived.

Early last week EJ bought 30 pounds of carrots. That’s a lot of carrots. I’ve spent several days peeling them, cutting them up, blanching them, and putting them in bags to freeze. We will use them later in recipes. The first day I worked on the carrots–Wednesday–I took a few out to the patio table on the deck to work. The weather was perfect–not too cool and not too hot, with a nice breeze blowing. Wednesday was much too hot so I worked inside.

Friday morning EJ and I moved the chicks out to the coop. It was easier than I thought it would be because we simply made sure the mesh tops of the cages were wired off then we carried the coop out of the house and onto the wheelbarrow. EJ then wheeled them into the coop. I’m going to keep the chicks in the cages so they can continue eating their “chick starter” feed and to let the chicks and the adults get used to each other.

After we got the chicks settled in their new home, EJ went to work in his vegetable garden while I thoroughly cleaned the bathroom. Hannah looked into the tub several times and seemed surprised to see the chicks gone. I don’t think she actually misses them. Every time they squawked she’d run into the bathroom to check on them, and then come to me with a worried look on her face. I’d tell her that the chicks were just playing, they weren’t in danger, but she didn’t seem convinced. Now that they are gone, she can relax.

Friday afternoon I peeled, but, blanched, and froze more carrots. We were exhausted so we were glad to rest on Saturday, which is our custom.

The National Weather Service forecast called for nicely cool weather for Sunday so I mowed the lawn. It was cool enough that we wore sweatshirts except when we were not working. I usually am the one who mows the lawn because it frees up EJ to do other things–like work in his garden. Also, he tends to mow around any little flower he sees. We keep most of our 5 acres wild because we enjoy wildflowers and wildlife. We just mow a little bit up around the house where we walk/work because we don’t want to risk getting ticks, which carry Lyme’s Disease. Because we have an abundance of wildflowers elsewhere, I do mow the flowers in the lawn area, although I left EJ a little clump of flowers when I mowed on Sunday. Hopefully, we can get the seeds and spread them elsewhere.

I also did laundry and hung them on the line on Sunday. And I peeled, cut, blanched, and froze more carrots. I accused EJ of buying a magic bag of carrots because I felt that no matter how many I processed, the bag was still just as full of carrots.

We both watered our gardens yesterday evening because we had only a 20% chance of rain for Monday morning. Usually, that means we don’t get rain. So I was surprised when I was awakened at 11:30 by thunderous booms and lightning flashes. I checked the radar and we were getting hit by a pretty intense line of storms. I stayed up for an hour watching the storm. After that I wasn’t able to sleep all that well.

I woke late this morning so rather than take a shower first, as I usually do because it wakes me up, I did my chores. I was so drowsy that I spilled water on myself as I tried to refill the chicks’ water bowls with fresh water. Then I accidentally left the gate open so two roosters and a hen escaped into the garden. Not good! I was able to quickly get the hen and one rooster back inside their pen, but the second rooster was wiley. I couldn’t leave the gate open to steer him into it because the other chickens would escape, but whenever I got the rooster close to the gate and was trying to unlatch it, he’d move past it. Finally, I shouted for EJ for help. He guided the rooster my way while I opened the gate. In he went.

The weather forecast was for temperatures in the 90s today and tomorrow. I was worried that the chicks wouldn’t be able to handle the heat, but there is a nice cool breeze from Lake Michigan. I opened both coop doors so there is air circulation inside. I’ve checked several times and the chicks are doing fine. Just in case, last night EJ and I filled empty milk jugs with water and put them in the freezer. If it gets dangerously hot, we can put the iced jugs in the cages for the chicks. The adult chickens always find the shady places in their pen to keep cool. Sometimes I make them frozen treats to cool them off on hot days.

Today I gathered eight eggs and saw no broken ones so maybe my artificial eggs are actually discouraging the one hen from breaking them.

I finished the carrots today. Every time I peel/cut the carrots Hannah Joy sits under the table so she can eat any strays that drop to the floor. She takes her clean-up duties seriously. Usually, I don’t purposely drop the carrots for her because she gets enough that accidentally falls, but I did this one time so I could take this video.

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