Dear Jessica…

Just in case you don’t remember – Oregon is REALLY wet.

The thing is – when it’s not – it can be simply glorious.

Like when Spring comes to call…

Today the clouds were fluffy – with an occasional shower tucked in there – the sky was blue, the sun even shone some. And the green is coming back in force.

(I’m not gonna lie – I’m kinda in love with this beautiful little farm I drove past today.)

Ignore the power lines on this one – focus on the daffodils… tons and tons of daffodils. Hard to believe they’re nearly done blooming. The tulips in the front yard are just about ready to bloom!

Just in case you wondered – the traffic in Cedar Mill sucks just as bad as ever. Yeah – not much to miss in that department!

Oh – and look! The babies are getting big! They came home 6 weeks ago. Hard to believe they’ll start laying in just 3 more months! Not sure, but I think I got a roo in there… Wasn’t Mr. Darcy a Cuckoo Maran roo? I can’t remember!

Oh – and Pepper got a haircut. She seems quite happy with it. (As are we!) And look!

…the willow is getting leaves galore! (Yes, that does mean quite a few of the girls have decided it’s time to sleep in the willow at night again. Ugh!) Oh – and…

…the tulip tree across the street is in bloom. Sublime!

So – you should come home. I miss you. A lot.

Love,

Your dear, sweet, adoring Mother.

I love this time of year…


I was laying down on the couch-y piece of lawn furniture in the yard this afternoon and looked up and saw this pretty cloud formation. It was about 85° F, there was a bit of a breeze, and it was lovely.

Here’s Crayon checking out the new digs. She – along with the rest of the girls – are trying to figure out the new set up. John built new roosts – so that everyone is at the same height when they sleep. It’s really throwing them for a loop – you should hear them squawk when it’s bed time.

See? It’s cool, huh?

Of course, at the end down there – right before the fan, you take a left into the old part of the coop, where the nest boxes are. There will be additional nest boxes soon – John’s working on them. They’ll be to the right – between the door frame closest to us in the picture and the beginning of that roost.

Are those not the cutest little feet? Isn’t it the cutest little butt? And look! Wing feathers! The chicks are going to be 2 weeks old on Monday. There seriously is nothing more precious than watching these three little adoptees follow their Mama Shelly all through the yard each and every day. She clucks when she finds something yummy for them to eat. She’s teaching them that I am the queen of the world because I bring fun snacks. I love it that they are excited to see me! We are SO doing the letting the broody hen set on fertilized eggs again thing!

There have been lots of visiting kids here the past couple of weeks. My neice and nephew have been visiting off and on over the summer thus far – although they’re returning home on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so! And my best friend – who lives in Mexico with her husband and children – spends the summers here with her parents, who live right down the street from us and go to the same church that we do. So Pepper has been on recipient of oodles of love overload all week long. I think she’s had more kids throwing balls for her to chase the past two weeks than she has in the entirety of her life. She’s really been sleeping well at night!

 

Here’s one of the Blue Andalusians. I think they’re just beautiful. They are great foragers – and so GREAT for a backyard flock that gets to free range. They’re quiet, polite, and are reputed to be excellent layers – of white eggs! Go figure!

Here’s one of the Delawares in the garden – eating weeds. I love it when they eat weeds – and remember to leave my cucumbers alone! Isn’t she pretty? She’s got black tips on her tail feathers, too. Interestingly enough, the Delawares lay brown eggs!

John and I were lamenting tonight about the sad state of affairs the garden is in this year. Well, I did have a major orthopedic surgery – so I’m almost no help. I can weed some – but as you can see here – not nearly enough! Here a couple of the Speckled Sussex are helping me with weeding. Those are lima and bush beans behind them.

But when it comes right down to it – we’re doing the best we can – and were just so thankful that we have a garden to grow things in!

Look – lots of cucumber flowers – woo hoo!

When this cucumber grows up – it’s going to be in my next batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!

Here’s Caleb – without a nose. When I was out weeding in the garden tonight he HAD to get close – and as I was trying to take his picture he turned away! Stinker!

OH! And look what we have! I actually ate one tonight – and it was perfectly ripe, sweet, luscious, and perfect. It was the ONLY ONE that was ripe, though. That’s okay – I need the week that it will take them to ripen up to get some projects done before I jump in and start canning jams and jellies.

This is our first year to do corn in AGES. We just really hadn’t had success previously. But with the expanded garden plot we decided to try again. It’s actually about as tall as John – and has put tassels on. I love that! That means there will be corn!

The green beans are coming along nicely. Thus far – no deer have obliterated them. I’ve got a couple of tomato plants that have bites out of them – but so far, they’re leaving the green beans alone.

And if this isn’t cause for rejoicing, then I just don’t know what is!

 

I love these tomatoes – even with the couple of little chicken peck marks in them. They’re a green stripey tomato. I think they’re going to be similar to the ones I eat in Spain – I sure hope so. If so – then it’ll be tomato mush for me!

This really has been the weirdest tomato year we’ve had in a long time. Some of the plants are thriving. Some have set fruit literally at the GROUND – what’s with that? Others are just looking like late bloomers – big time. Virtually every plant has some fruit on it – but man, not the bounty we had last year. Of course, it’s still early…

One of the blogs I’ve read in the past – The Shibaguyz – have constructed potato condos. John decided to give the design a go this year. You build this frame, put the soil in the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and then when the potatoes have come up about a foot or so, you add the next row of boards all around, adding more soil. Again, you wait until more growth, and repeat the process. They say you can harvest 100 pounds of potatoes from one Condo. When it’s time to harvest, you unscrew the bottom row of boards, pull the soil out, and there will be your potatoes! Cool, huh?

Here’s a good peek at the expanded garden plot. See all of the blank space? Yep – it’s the stuff we just haven’t gotten around to planting this year. It’s so bizarre. But, oh well!

Here are my sunflowers (three different varieties, if memory serves), nasturtiums, and poppies that are coming up in the little bed along the street. Please ignore all of the weeds that are coming up along side of them. One day I’ll make it there – just not today, or likely this week.

William was so proud of himself – he caught one of the Delawares!

The hammock my sister sent from Mexico back with Jonathan last year has gotten a real workout the past couple of weeks. The kids swing each other about halfway up the pear tree that it’s tied to. I just don’t watch. They have a great time, though!

So – that’s pretty much what’s going on in the yard!

We’re loving summer – and the beautiful evenings that we can sit out and enjoy the cool breezes and the company of friends and family.

We are blessed.

Well, it’s official…

…well, at least we think so! We think we know what got our California White the other day! (Read about it here.)

Last evening John and I were sitting out in the yard enjoying the evening, watching the girls free range in the yard. All of a sudden there was a racket – and two of the chicks came flying past us at break-neck speed… being hotly pursued by the three neighbor dogs from two houses down.

We quickly stepped in the way of the dogs – got our dog to heel and stay (she’s such a smart, good, obedient dog!) – and aggressively confronted them and told them to go home, clapping and shouting all the way! We basically got them to back up – barking, snarling, nipping at us all the way – until they finally turned tail and ran home.

One of them looked just like this:

A Pitt Bull!

The second one looked more like this:

A Bull Terrier

The third, maybe a mixture of the two. The Pitt Bull being the most aggressive of the three.

We got back to our own yard, were feeling uneasy, and decided to walk up the driveway a bit to make sure they were staying put in their own yard.

They weren’t.

We used our same prior tactics, but since we were closer to their home turf, backed them up to there. It was then that the new neighbor (whom we had yet to meet) came out. She basically told us that they got out fairly easily. She didn’t seem particularly concerned about it. She did tell us that the Pitt was not her own – but was living with her for the time being, and had been reported to the Humane Society for his aggression.

Great!

I told her we’d had a chicken killed in our yard this week. She said, “Oh.”

I guess what bothers me the most is the fact that they have a beautiful fenced front yard – easily appropriate to keep these three dogs in. Her completely casual attitude about the whole thing didn’t help, either.

She didn’t seem to mind at all, either, that the Pitt continued to act quite aggressively toward me.  I turned around for a moment to stabilize my footing – I was further from home on uneven ground than I should have been without a cane, and in a walking cast – and he came quite close to nipping my calf.

So – she put the dogs away. We walked home. And we started planning.

We’re going to have to fence.

Stink.

We really can’t afford it. But we’re going to have to.

Who wants to fence a rental?! Not us. But – is there any choice left?

No, there’s not.

So – poor girls! They’re going to have to stay in the run until we can get the at least even a temporary fenced area in the yard. Poor John – he has so much on his plate already!


(One of the babies thinking, “What are you talking about Willis?!” at the thought of not free ranging at will!)

But I’m so thankful to have such a wonderful husband – who stays calm. Who reacts appropriately. Who is so smart and within minutes has already got the preliminary engineering going on in his head. What a blessed woman am I!

I guess this means it’s winter….

We were given the forecast on Saturday evening that Sunday we’d wake up to snow. As is often the case here in the lovely Pacific Northwest – there are dire warnings of “wicked winter weather” (one news station in particular has an affinity for this phrase!). More often than not, however, it turns out to be nothing – a total bust – much to the kids’ disgust.

So we awakened Sunday morning and rushed to the window…. Would there be the 1 to 3 inches of snow predicted?

Nope.

Nada. Nothin. It was stinking cold. But no snow. Bummer.

But as we were getting ready for church one of the kids yelled (it must have been William), “I see snow flakes!” And sure enough there were a few tiny little flakes descending from the sky.

Well – isn’t that nice?! A few flakes to five the kids their snow fix! Thought I as I went on my way getting ready for church.

Yeah – didn’t stay just a few courtesy flakes. It actually started to accumulate! Wow! Maybe they got the forecast right afterall!

By the time we left for church there was a decent smattering of snow on the ground.
The girls seemed a little puzzled by it, but didn’t pay it much mind.
The yard even took on that lovely wintry look with a dusting!
And it certainly didn’t detain the girls from their warm oatmeal and berries treat for the morning!
Pepper – on the other hand – was over the moon about the snow! She wanted out to run and play and jump and bark at the snowflakes!

She was definitely in her element! Jessica even went out and tried to put together snowballs to throw to the dog to catch – but the snow was very powdery and that didn’t work so well!

Caleb, as it turned out, had other plans for the day. He went and settled himself on top of my sewing “basket” (which is actually just a plastic bin with a lid full of projects that I think I ought to do) to do a little bird watching…


You gotta admit – it is lovely to watch them! And there were so many that came to feed – a much wider variety than we might normally expect.

Caleb did have his moments of excitement – where he tried to climb the window sill to try and reach a bird or two out in the dogwood!

But the birdies were safe!

I think this one might be a towhee… But we even saw a few robins trying to get to the feeders yesterday! Wild!

All in all – we had quite a little bit of accumulation before the day was done. Something in the 3 to 4 inches of snow range. We are up the hill a bit with a little more elevation, so that makes sense.

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. 🙂

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!

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!

A quiet day

I don’t get many of those, by the way – quiet days, that is. Yesterday I didn’t have a single appointment until 6:00 pm. This in contrast to the day before when I had TWELVE.

I needed a quiet day.

And while it was a quiet day – it was not without it’s thrills. Like just happening along and accidentally opening the door to the nest boxes, checking for eggs, and getting to witness our Hallie laying an egg. Standing up, I might add. Danni has a great video of her Sparrow doing the same on her blog today – you can see it here.

How cool is that?! I was really surprised – I guess I shouldn’t have been – that it would be sorta slimey when first laid. And further amazed to watch it dry in what seemed to be just a fraction of a second. And how VERY warm it was when I was able to retrieve it.

A definite highlight of my quiet day.

Here’s our Hallie…
And I spent some time playing with Pepper, the wonder chicken dog. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but she spent several weeks with our wonderful friend (who is a vet) up near Tri-Cities, WA while she was being spayed. I missed her!

Here she is in classic form.

I’m usually pretty driven to get a whole bunch of things done – ’cause there are always a whole bunch of things that NEED to get done. But you know what? Yesterday was amazing – quiet, restful, peaceful, restorative. Sigh. What a gift!

The thrill…

Will I always feel that thrill when I open the door to the nest boxes and see this? Will I ever be able (willing?) to go to the coop and check for eggs without camera in tow? I’m sure that at some future point in time it will change from a feeling of utter delight to drudgery perhaps… maybe in the dead of winter? Nah… I don’t think so!

I actually have a spreadsheet that I’m keeping that includes which hen laid which egg, what time of the day, how much said egg weighed, and the age of the hen. I’m sure some additional fields will eventually make their way in there, but thus far, these fields seem to be sufficient. I’m such a wierdo sometimes! LOL!

Suffice it to say that the egg watch has retained it’s high level of importance at our house – from the youngest kid on up – we’re all still thrilled with the discovery of a new egg.

Today Millie joined the egg-laying ranks! Woo Hoo! Her first egg was 1.5 ounces – just like Henrietta’s first real egg. But note the difference in color! Millie’s egg is on the left, Henrietta’s is on the right. Interestingly enough, Henrietta is the lightest in color of our three Rhode Island Reds. Wild, huh?

Henrietta’s egg shown here was 2.25 oz – thus far two of hers have been 1.5 oz, and two have been 2.25 oz. We haven’t cracked the second 2.25 oz egg yet, but the first one was a double yolker. Jonathan has dibs on the second one, and I’m sure will be a part of his breakfast in the morning!

This is the first time I’ve raised eggplant. This is an Ichiban variety, and is supposed to be good eats. If lovliness of a plants flower has any weight for the flavor argument, this one is gonna be really good. Wow – isn’t it gorgeous?
John’s pepper plants seem to have gone bezerk all of a sudden. One day you can’t find a pepper, the next, this!
Tonight at dinner John actually took one of these Hungarian wax peppers and diced it to enjoy with the tacos. (Yes, he was the only one interested in consuming it!) He reported that it’s a very sweet pepper thus far, but he’s read it has the potential to kick some serious butt!

Aren’t they gorgeous?
And look! The new planting of green beans are doing their thing!

By the way… I know this is difficult to see, but if you’re good at deciphering clues, you’ll find as we did – HOOF PRINTS! That’s not all we’ve found… more plants uprooted, green tomatoes with bites out of the sides of them, etc. Darn deer!

Thankfully, we’ve got enough tomatoes that the few the deer have gone after thus far have been inconsequential. (I could get QUITE cranky, however, if they don’t watch it!)


Last year our cherry tomato offerings were a little bit paltry. That will not be the case this year!

I think one of the most astounding things in life is to find a tiny little zucchini one day, and the next come back to find a ready to pick and consume fruit!

Of course, there is no such thing as too much yellow crookneck squash, but WOW – we’re getting lots of it, and it’s only just begun! Isn’t it pretty?


I’m watching the berry bushes daily (and of course quality control testing) the fruit to determine if it’s time to start picking. I hope to harvest many, many times in the coming weeks so that we’ll have plenty of jam, jelly, syrup, pie filling, and frozen fruit. I’m sure I’ll find some other things to do with the berries, too – just give me a little time! 🙂

And our first green bean patch is growing like crazy – there are blossoms all over, and baby beans left and right – hooray! I can hardly wait to start canning these for the coming year!

We took a ride out to Ag West today to pick up a couple of things. My heart just yearns for a place that we can call our own… driving through the countryside just outside of the urban growth boundary was a call to my heart… oh, please Lord! Let there be a place for us one of these days!

I hate weeds.

Yet, here you can see how very prolifically I grow them.


Late last August (2007) I had a total right hip replacement. Yes, I’m young – 44 years of age. But it was shot, and the old one had to go and the new one had to be “installed” – so to speak. In my hip class my classmates were blown away that I was “one of them.” Can I just say here and how that I have a WORLD of respect for older people who have a total hip replacement. That surgery can really kick your butt. And it’s not just a little recovery – it’s HUGE. Here I am 11 months since that surgery and I’m still adjusting, figuring out how to deal with the hip and my limitations, and finding myself truly shocked when I have a little season of time when my new hip feels “normal” or “natural.”

That all being said – let me just repeat: I hate weeds. A lot. I hated them before my hip replacement. I hate them now. Maybe a little more. Why? Because my knees both need to be replaced, my ankle is being studied for a possibility of being replaced, and I can cause myself a LOT of pain if I use the wrong body mechanics because of my new hip. And guess what – weeding is one of those “wrong” body mechanics. Yes, folks, if you drive past my yard you’ll see me bent over at the waist with my butt in the air pulling weeds. I wish there were some other way to do it – but there isn’t.

So, since it hurts I let them go much more than I ought to. I’m still trying to find a way to have a much less “weedy” garden. I think more mulch is part of it. Sadly, my supply for this year is dwindling and I’m not going to get another load full if it. We really are committed to organic gardening – so we continue to research and do lots of trial and error. I won’t be giving up gardening any time soon – that is for certain. So I’ve got to find some better weeding methodologies!

Isn’t Jake funny?

Cucumber flowers – woo hoo! This photo above are the Straight 8’s. The photo below is a bush cucumber plant. I think the flower on the bush is prettier, don’t you?

I’m so pleased to see how heartily my basil plants have taken off. It’s time to start using it! Pesto here we come!
The green beans are doing it again – nearly exploding with growth in phenomenally short periods of time. Wow! It won’t be long until we have beans!

LOOK! It’s an actual teensy, tiny yellow crookneck squash. It is actually conceivable that I’ll have squash to eat in DAYS – not some indeterminate vague number of days in the future. I find that so exciting!
Here, my friends, is the definition of pathetic:
Poor Pepper – she’s gotta wear a cone right now. She’s in heat and she’s been tearing her hair out – and not gently – her skin is in distress. So we’ve put this contraption on her – much to her chagrin – and we’re hoping she heals up quickly. She will be a very happy camper when the cone comes off!