New Friends

About a week and a half ago two new girls came to live with us.

They are Annabelle (left) and Hildy (right).

Annabelle has a bit of a reputation as a bossy girl. She’s been known to beat up some on Hildy (note the Blu-Kote on Hildy’s comb!).

Moments into their arrival here Annabelle took on Ducky – who currently sits at the top of the pecking order and it was only moments before blood was drawn.

Dang it all.

Ducky was NOT amused.

BB became pretty miffed that someone would go after her pal Ducky, and joined the show down. More blood was drawn.

It took about 3 minutes to get Annabelle cornered and captured, and sequestered in solitary confinement. We kept Hildy in a separate location until everyone had gone to sleep, and then put her on the roost next to her new flock mates later that night.

Hildy melded into the flock with hardly half a thought.

Annabelle stayed in solitary for several days. It was interesting that after the first night, Hildy would come and sleep near Annabelle – with the chicken wire wall between them. There must be some love between the two!

Things have gone swimmingly since Annabelle came out of solitary confinement. She has avoided further conflict with our existing flock, and has been getting along quite nicely with Hildy. We have noted that each night Hildy and Annabelle roost up on the roosting later next to each other. It’s also interesting that they seem much more attached to the coop than the rest of our girls are. They do free range some with the rest of the girls – but they come back to check out the coop pretty frequently throughout the day.

I will say they are likely the smartest two of the flock – when it’s raining, windy, and cold – they head straight for the cover of the coop. Smart girls! How come the other girls haven’t figure that out yet?


(The girls enjoying stir fry for morning snack – Annabelle waiting her turn.)

I am happy to report that Scarlet is finally over being broody. Hooray! If she goes broody when it’s warmer I plan to let her set eggs and see how it goes. I think she’ll be a good mom. To be honest, I’m hoping Shelly or one of the other girls will go broody, too. I’d like to hatch chicks this year, rather than buy from a hatchery. We’ll have to wait and see if the girls will cooperate with my scheming!

In real life news – I started my new job right before the end of the year. The other day I met one of the managers for the hospital and we got to talking. He asked where I lived, I told him, he mentioned he lived in the same vicinity. We got a little more specific as to location and then he said, “Oh! I totally know where you live – you have the chickens in your yard and a large garden!” Turns out he has chickens, too. Gosh, I’m starting to think about half of our neighborhood has them! Anyway, we had a lovely conversation, and he promised to stop by one day to meet the girls. πŸ™‚

Seems impossible that we’re 8 days into the New Year. Time has just flown. Jessica got an acceptance letter to another university – it’s about number three on her list of five faves. It will be late March or early April before she hears from her first choice. Jonathan continues on with the JV2 basketball team – he’s loving it, and continues to train several times a week to go on with developing his skills. William – after much nagging, potential bribing, etc. on his mother’s part – has finally decided that reading is pretty cool. He’s read two books in one week. That is quite possibly a miracle! All we have to do now is keep on with this trend!

There have been a number of developments in the family that I’ll write about later. Suffice it to say that we’re trusting God to guide and comfort us as we go forward.

Home again!

One has only to spend 17 days in the hospital (two stays) over the course of a month (first admission 7/23/09 – second discharge 8/23/09) to really come to appreciate one simple fact:

Home is precious.

I’m so glad to be home.

I’m about a weak as a kitten, but I truly feel the beginnings of well. I haven’t been there for a while.

I have a lot of work ahead of me- remembering to eat (even though I don’t have much of an appetite), remembering to rest (probably the hardest thing), resigning myself to doing what I CAN, not what I feel I OUGHT to do. Can put a kink in a girl’s preconceived ideas of doing stuff!

And just in case you didn’t know.

I adore my husband.


(John holding William – Oregon Coast, 1997. William was just 6 months old.)

He’s so kind. Patient. Loving. Compassionate. Conscientious. You know – one of those guys who do the right thing – even when it’s not the easy thing to do. A guy who has the character of God deeply ingrained in his heart. His smile and laugh just make my heart glad. I’m just so thankful to God for the great honor of being John’s wife. Something I truly do not deserve. But God…

So – guess what I did when I got home from the hospital yesterday afternoon! (Okay, after I checked email.) I grabbed the camera, headed out to the yard, found a place to plant myself, and I took a few pictures.

Stuff happens when you’re away from home!

The babies stopped looking like babies and look more kinda like awkward teenagers now! At first we thought we had one Dominique and one Silver Laced Wyandotte. Now we don’t know. I’m hoping they are two different breeds – cause one of these might be a roo if not!

Note the differences:

Birdhouse gourds galore have grown!

And so exciting!

Someone has started to lay the cutest little white eggs!

They weigh in right at 1 ounce each.

Kinda piddly compared to BB’s 3 oz eggs!

Here’s my guess as to WHO the layer of said adorable eggs is:

One of the Blue Andalusians. Isn’t she pretty?

So – it’s good to be home.

Happy sigh.

I refuse to think about the fact that it’s only two short weeks before my kids head back to school again. I am SO not ready for that yet. Jessica comes home from camp tomorrow late afternoon – after a summer away. She will be a senior in High School this year. I want every moment with her possible.

Off I go to rest.

I can’t believe it’s January!

December flew past in a bit of a white blur… At one point in time we actually had two feet of snow on the ground… Looking back and remembering how slow some of those days went by – with no ability to get out and about – there really was no true sense of cabin fever. We enjoyed having the chance to do some things slowly – to be honest. But here – at January 5th (how did THAT happen?!) – with the kids back in school today for the first time in weeks and weeks – it feels like it was just a blur.

I decided quite definitively this morning that I would not allow the girls to free range today – there’s a big rain storm moving in – they’re saying we may get up to an inch of rain this afternoon and evening. But as I went out to let them into the run I was greeted by their sunny little faces on the back porch!

“How did you get out?” I asked them. They squacked in return.

I eventually figured out the nest box door had not closed completely the day prior – apparently – and the girls had found a way of escape!

So they’re free ranging today. They love it so – it’s hard to deny them the freedom! (Well, except for when it requires me chasing them back home from the neighbor’s yard down the street!)

Isn’t BB getting pretty? She’s our Cuckoo Maran – I think I’d like to add a couple of more of her breed to the flock… We’re getting ready to put together an order of chicks. Lots of thinking to do on that!

Ducky – honestly – is the sweetest little chicken. She’s sweet natured and lays the coolest eggs. And she’s very pretty!

I just love Ducky’s stripes!

This might be Angel… there are a couple of the California Whites that I have a hard time telling apart. But this one – and Shelly – both have the super floppy comb and are kind of comical looking.
Pepper was a little jealous that I was taking pictures of the chickens, so she had to haver her picture taken as well. She’s getting so whiney lately! Lord! It’s about to drive us nuts!
Here’s Millie – official leader of the pack – telling me all of her woes and concerns about the goings on in the flock. She is SO vocal! Maybe that’s where Pepper is learning the whiney thing!

And here’s our newest arrival – Crayon! She’s adjusted so nicely to life in the coop with the girls. I feel pretty sure she’s younger than the others… I know so little about this breed. I’ve done some reading – but I come away feeling like I still don’t quite get it. I have noticed in the past few days that her little comb is redder than it’s been thus far. Maybe she’s just coming into lay. We’ll see!
There is just something so right about looking over the garden plot and seeing the girls hanging out and scratching. I honestly couldn’t imagine our lives without the chickens in them now. It’s kind of fun how the neighbors (well, most of them anyway) are just as thrilled with them as well.

I should also report on Shelly – our broody girl. She continues to spend the majority of her time on the nest. We did end up moving her back into the coop with the rest of the girls. It was the right thing to do. She’s such a grump! She will peck at anyone who attempts to take a peek under her to see if she’s hijacked anyone else’s eggs to sit on. We did our best to try and find fertilized eggs for her to sit on – but honestly, we’re just not ready for that yet. Plus the weather is so cold… maybe if she goes broody again in the Spring – we’ll see. In the meantime, we humor her.

We’re not the only ones in the neighborhood…

The funniest thing happened the other day. We were on our way back from the airport – having met our niece who was going to be staying with us for nearly a week – hooray! (She was in town interviewing for a medical residency program at OHSU – we’re so proud of her!)

Anyway… we were nearly home – just about four or five houses down the street from ours – I glance over at the newly cleared lot that someone has purchased and I would assume will build on before long – and lo and behold! What do I see?

“OH MY WORD!” I announce.

“What?!” Dawn, Jess, and William ask in unison.

“Look! It’s one of the girls!” I pointed to said cleared lot.

“OH MY GOSH!” the kids responded. Dawn wasn’t quite sure what we were talking about, I’d think.

There was a line of traffic behind me, so we formulated a plan as we headed home to turn around. “Okay, Jess, William – I’ll turn around, we’ll go back to the lot, and I’ll drop you and you’ll have to catch her. Do you think it’s Millie?” I asked, knowing it was a dark colored chicken I’d spied.

Both kids seemed sure it was either Ducky or BB. So turn around we did, headed down the street, and I let the kids out. Dawn and I watched for a moment, but again traffic was building so we headed home.

A few minutes later Jessica and William returned – panting and laughing.

“Did you catch her?” I asked.

“Nope!” They responded and laughed. “It wasn’t our chicken!”

How hilarious is that?

So… we aren’t alone in our chicken ways! Of course, we hear the rooster a couple of blocks over like clockwork… But I hadn’t realized there were other chickens so close!

And, speaking of chickens… I was gone for several hours this morning and when I came home and collected eggs – here’s what I came away with:
Yes! I have a LOT of eggs in my refrigerator!

While it’s a little sad that it’s not Spring or Summer and our garden filled to overflowing with potential – there’s something just – well, right about this season where the yard’s leaves are raked up and piled on… And the chickens may scratch about in without fear of what burgeoning plant they might decimate!
I wondered how they’d act during the wintertime… and you know what? Pretty much exactly the same as in the Spring and Summer. They still love the yard. They still love worms. They still come running whenever I step out the door.
They don’t get to free range as much as they did during the summer months, but the girls would still rather be out and in the yard than anywhere else – no matter what the weather.

Ever vigilent – Pepper, the wonder chicken dog – watches the girls carefully as they free range in the yard.

I once had a lovely, prepared flower bed…. then I got chickens. LOL!

And I know – it’s just fungi – but really – isn’t it pretty?

Okay – I’m willing to admit it now. Winter isn’t so bad. Especially the part where the seed catalogs start showing up again! πŸ™‚

Getting Ready for Winter

This is a very pretty flower I picked up at Home Depot in late Spring. I wanted it in the vegetable garden because I felt it would attract pollinators. It did. It’s lovely. And, it’s pretty darn hardy. Today I transplanted it out of the garden – which hopefully will get tilled tomorrow – and into planters on the front porch. Here’s the info about this flower – Sunny Day Tickseed – a type of coreopsis. But you wanna know what bugs me about this plant? This little blurb on the plant identifier tag: “Protected by US Patent Laws and/or Canadian Plant Breeder’s Rights. Illegal propagation is prohibited.” Okay – how stupid is that?! I’m sure someone somewhere thinks it’s a good thing to have intellectual property rights to the propagation of this plant – but one has to wonder… what if it accidentally is propagated naturally? Will I be prosecuted? Ugh!

I hope this pictures comes out okay… In the background – see that truly BIG pile of leaves? The boys worked hard today to amass it. They’re planning on building a fort from the raked up leaves. Ummm… today was one of those rare REALLY blustery days here in Oregon. Supposed to be tomorrow, too… This Mom can’t help but wonder if this plan may somehow be, well, difficult to execute fully. πŸ™‚

ALL of the animals are loving the leaves. Pepper likes to roll in them. Jake and Caleb like to curl up in them. The chickens like to scratch through them… And soon, I hope, they will be moved to my compost heap – helping to make wonderful compost for my garden one of these days!


Today John worked hard to finish up pulling up all of the remnants of the garden. The chickens LOVED following behind and scratching through everything.


Wow – it’s that time of year ago – time to start strategizing what next year’s garden will be.

It’s wild how strange it is that we’ve come full circle. No more green beans… This will be my garlic patch – and soon! Thanks to Danni‘s and Melinda‘s examples and excellent information – I will FINALLY – after years of feeling completely inadequate and definitely not smart enough to attempt it – plant my first garlic patch. Woo Hoo! I’ll be sure to report later!

And here is my piled-high compost heap. The girls are investingating – trying to determine if there’s anything worth finding in there.

And here is my new composter. Kinda wild, huh? It’s called Earthmaker – it’s an Aerobic Composter. It involves a three step process – it has three different compartments – see?

Interesting, huh? I like it thus far, and will be sure to give updates as to how effective it is – or is not!

It occurred to me today – Hey! I should harvest the seed from my basil! Why have I never thought of that before? So, I went out with my scissors and a saran wrapped basket (so anything that escapes a seed pod will not be lost between the slats of the basket), and went to work. Here’s a peek. I’ll probably get around to coaxing the seed out of the pods tomorrow – I’ll be sure to report back! But here’s a great resource I found online about harvesting basil seed.

So – it’s true… it’s full force fall with winter on the way. I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s only a week until November. But I think I’m ready for it now. I think the fact that it hasn’t been horribly soggy has helped. I may even be ready for the rain. We’ll see!

Will she make it through the winter?

Speedy, as you may well recall, has not had an easy time of it. She is smaller, less coordinated, definitely lowest girl on the pecking order, and well – sad. That’s her on the left.


I think it’s so interesting that some of her pals – the girls who are the same age (aka the California Whites, Ducky, and BB) will take turns hanging out with her – typically making sure she’s not alone much. Here she is with one of the Whites and BB.

We’ve talked much about the fact that Speedy may not make it through the winter. We’ve really only had a few nights where the low has gotten close to freezing – but I have to wonder as the winter progresses, will she make it? She’s so light. She seems to have so many fewer feathers than her peers. And she struggles so to do things the other girls do routinely.

She definitely has not started laying – in fact, we’d be blown away if she did! Poor thing – she’s so peeked and pathetic. We’re worried.

This is Shelly. Doesn’t she look hilarious with that crazy comb?

Here’s one of the Welsumer babies. They’re old enough to start laying now, but haven’t begun quite yet. Their combs and wattles are becoming more pronounced and redder – shouldn’t be long now.
And here’s Ducky. Remember the big conclusion that Ducky was laying those gorgeous dark eggs with the freckles? Well – ummm… maybe not! I went back to my photo archives after some suspicions and found that sure enough – our Ducky does NOT, in fact, lay those gorgeous dark freckled eggs – BB does! Ducky lays a lighter egg with lighter freckles – much like it sounds Vonda’s chick does! Just when you think you’ve figured your chicks out! LOL!

So you gotta see the new bigger run that my brilliant husband has put together!

It gives the girls a much larger area to hang out – while still being confined somewhat.

You see – they’ve developed a bit of wanderlust, these girls. I keep finding them going DOWN THE STREET toward the various neighbors yards. That had to change!

So John added this additional fenced yard. Part of it is under the big old willow, part gets sun.

Thus far, the girls seem quite happy with the new digs!

Gosh, my husband is the coolest!

I love Ducky

When I first started looking seriously for breeds of chickens I found an article about heritage breeds of animals… i.e., animal breeds that have been nearly forgotten and some nearly lost, due to the fact that they aren’t has hardy in large scale production. I’m a history girl… I love it. I read about it – all the time. So when found some information about Dominiques, particularly, I thought, “I want those!”

So when it came time to order, I placed an order for five Dominiques. There was a little boo boo at the feed store – my order got mixed in with a bunch of other black-ish looking chicks – and I was sent on my way with what was HOPED to be five Dominiques – plus one, just in case.

As it turns out – three of our “Dominiques” were boys. They had to go away – and they did, to a very nice farm. The other three are Ducky, BB, and Speedy. Of the three, I’m convinced that Ducky is the lone Dominique. 😦 The jury is still out on what BB is, and Speedy – well she’s a sad story all unto herself!

But Ducky… She’s so sweet! She’s so lovable. When you go outside and speak – she comes running! If you reach to pet her – she holds still so you can. She looks at you when you talk to her – and acts like she really gets what you’re saying! She’s adorable.

And… she lays the coolest looking eggs!

Aren’t they pretty? How’s that second to the left one for huge-o!?

Can you see the speckles on them? They’re very, very dark brown. Kinda freckled.
Here’s that big one – 2 and 3/8ths ounces. Wow!
I’m so glad we ended up with Ducky – she’s a wonderful chicken!

Should we? Or shouldn’t we?

We’ve always just pretty much assumed we’d never own a home. We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in November – and – for us – it has never seemed an automatic that we should or would join the ranks of homeowners. We decided long ago that it was far more important – for our family anyway – for me to be home with the kids (where I want to be) than to be out in the work force. Yes, that means we have much less income coming in. Yes, that means we must be very intentional with every little penny.

We’ve been so blessed to be renting an older home – in NW Portland – on half an acre. It’s not a fancy house at all. In fact, it has original a bunch of stuff – not good stuff to have original just to be clear – you know, wiring, plumbing, etc. It’s not insulated. It has issues. Big issues. But it’s affordable – AND – it’s HALF AN ACRE IN NW PORTLAND! The reality being – our landlords are pretty committed to not improving the place. So, we must do with what we have.

For years now we’ve been working diligently to pay off debt – including mountains of school loans – we’re exceptionally well educated but of course, in fields that neither of us ended up working in. We’ve put our extra pennies into savings, and done without as much as possible.

As a result, we find ourselves in a place we didn’t think we’d be… contemplating purchasing our first home.

If the truth were told, we’d confess to longing for…

A home with enough room for all of us – the human contingent of our little world – two adults, the three kids, with an additional nephew thrown in for good measure at the moment.

Enough land to grow what we want to grow – lots and lots of organic stuff.

Enough land to have our chickens – and maybe even a small flock of turkeys.

Enough land for a goat or two.

Enough land for a couple of cows.

That doesn’t exist in the area where we live right now – at least not in our price range. Speaking of price range – ours is pretty modest – compared to the values of the places that we can see in a five mile radius of where we live. VERY modest. It’s a given that if we end up buying a house it won’t be nearby.

We figure we’re gonna need a place to be within an hour drive for John’s commute to work. We know we won’t move to a place that has schools that don’t meet certain criteria. We know it’s going to be a big deal – moving our kids from one set of schools to another, as well. And we know that it will be a big adjustment – going from suburbia to a more rural lifestyle. When we lived in Kentucky we lived about 20 miles from the nearest town. The places we’re looking at now are nowhere near that far out.

So we’ve been looking. A bit passively, actually. Not many places come up that fit our criteria! But of the ones that do – it’s kind of funny how many places look amazing on ads – but not so much in real life. Seen a bunch of those. But what do you expect given our price range?!

Today we did a drive-by on a place that at first blush is beautiful. See?

We were happy to learn from our real estate agent that it is vacant, so we could peek in the windows. Bottom line… from the outside it’s REALLY cute. Come Monday we’ll actually peek inside to see more.

But the real question is this, I guess: Just because the lender says you can afford to buy this house – can you really? Or more specifically – can we? Or should we?

There is a great yearning in our hearts to own some land… Usable land. Land that we can do something with, and that will sustain – well – not just us but our animals.

But at what cost?

I’m guessing we’re not the only ones asking that kind of question right now – given the current state of financial affairs in our country.

Owning, of course, has it’s advantages. Not owning does as well.

Oh – if only we knew what it was we really ought to do.

It may well be we’re not the first ones to ponder that very question while standing a ways off gazing at the potential of this being our home – it was built in 1890, after all.

Hmmm…. we’ll see.

On a completely different note…

We get the magazine Backyard Poultry and this month’s issue arrived today. There’s an article on Barred Rock chickens. Know what? I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that our BB and Speedy just might be Barred Rocks! But after reading this article today – I’m convinced that Ducky (below) is a Dominique. (Our only Dominique pullet – out of the six chicks we started out with!)

Wasn’t it nice of her to stop and pose for me?

And here’s Rooth – not to be outdone by Ducky – she wanted her picture taken, as well. Isn’t she growing up?

Sigh… it really would be nice to have a place of our own…

I was wrong!

Remember the mondo egg? The 2 and 7/8ths ounce one? Here’s a picture:

And remember how we thought it was BB who had laid it?

Well – I was wrong! It wasn’t BB at all – it was Millie! Here she is below – she’s the darkest of our Rhode Island Reds – and has the sweetest temperment. Not only has she laid that one mondo egg – she has followed it up a couple of times now with others of exact same size! She’s kind of coming into her stride egg-laying wise. She’s laying pretty much daily now and the majority of the time her eggs are right between the 2 oz and 2.25 oz range.

Remember my late planting of the Scarlet Runner Beans? Well, they worked hard and finally filled out – and produced the most beautiful peachy color blossoms… See?

Here’s a picture of the other planting on the other side of the trellis:

These ones (which I can never remember what they’re called) have a pretty little yellow flower.

And this is what they look like now – after the deer came to visit my garden:

I’m not feeling very warm or fuzzy toward the deer right now. Grrrr!

On Saturday late afternoon – with the skies and the weather forecast predicting rain, we realized we ought to pull the ripe tomatoes in. When all was said and done – we picked about 120 pounds of tomatoes of various varieties…

We love the stripey yellow/orange/red tomatoes that you can see below. They are so sweet and robust tasting.

We decided to try a yellow Roma this year. Wow – they’re gorgeous! And tasty!

We always plant cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes, and pear tomatoes, and… you get the idea. This year we planted a variety called sugar lump – here’s a good picture:

Here’s a couple of baskets full of the mini tomatoes. They’re amazing!

Thus far we’ve made pomodoro, diced tomatoes, tomato basil sauce, garlic tomato basil soup, and I’ve got about a gallon of peeleed and seeded tomatoes waiting to be processed.

This is the pomodoro, above; and the tomato basil tomato sauce below.

John’s Hungarian Wax peppers are nearly ready to harvest! Aren’t they pretty?

And just a few of his bell peppers… They’re nearly ready!

Henrietta – always willing to reassert her role as leader of the pack – loves to sit up on the lawn furniture. Here she is – on her throne – observing her minions!

And lest you think we’ve gotten all of the tomatoes that our garden will offer – THINK AGAIN!

These are from Wednesday evening.

That’s a BIG tomato, huh?

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me! Our tomato plants are still pretty loaded and it’s supposed to be 90 on Monday – in the mid to high 80’s on days on either side of Monday. I’m thinking there’s gonna be lots more tomato processing!

Now that’s a BIG egg!

Yesterday BB laid her first egg…


That’s BB on the left. Her name stands for big black – yeah, I know, not very inventive – but we were trying to keep a LOT of chicks straight – and she was just consistently bigger than the other chicks! She (and the rest of the “middle” girls) was 18 weeks old on the 1st of September. So we’ve been watching for her first egg.

Yesterday was the day! It was exciting – but a rather average, albeit a bit smaller than average (compared to the big girls, anyway).

THIS is today’s egg from BB:


Yep – that says 2 7/8ths ounces.

DANG! That’s a BIG egg!

Compared to Rooth’s eggs…And in with the other eggs from the big girls – who routinely lay about 2.25 oz eggs…

By the way… Aren’t they pretty eggs? I love the color variations. The kids are getting expert at being able to identify who laid what egg. Wild!

We live in an old house – and sometime shortly after the house was built (in 1946) someone planted a hydrangea right under the kitchen window. It’s a very large bush! It is kind of wierd, though – the colors on it tend to wash out to almost white in late summer and early fall, and then it seems to shut down production, as I assume other hydrangeas, do. I was walking past the bush – as I do many times each day – and was shocked to see one cluster of flowers on the back to a truly stunning blue. Isn’t it pretty?

Here are a few of the girls out sunbathing the other day… So much for cleaning the carpet and letting it dry in the sun!

It didn’t take us very long along the road of chicken ownership to figure out that chickens make the funniest noises. Henrietta makes the funniest little chirping sound when she’s on the nest box and you dare to disturb her. Here’s a tiny little video clip that Jessica took of her the other day.

And here (the lightest brown egg) is the egg she laid shortly thereafter!

Interestingly enough – Henrietta is still the most consistent egg layer. We get an egg a day from her – pretty much without fail. Rooth is right behind her in consistency. Interesting, huh?