Letter to a Friend

Hi Lesa,

Receiving your note in the mail was such a sweet surprise!

Congratulations to Kira! Will you visit her often in Tokyo?  You and Paul have been traveling so much! Would you say you are away as much as you are home?

Is there a website you would recommend to someone (me) who loves birds but doesn’t want to travel? We hear more than see birds. Some spring days the noise from the trees is astonishing. I did see one bird that appeared to be protecting its nest – whistling and spinning wings like mad – maybe some sort of blackbird.

Our spring garden was not much – just some lettuce and kale. Tried sugar snap peas but only got enough for a serving here and there. Our onions did very well. We’ve been harvesting as needed and sharing for the past month or so. Soon they will all need to be harvested. Hope we can cure them well for storing.

Our summer garden includes butternut squash, sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, sweet peppers, green beans, bitter melon, blue corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers and purple hull peas. Sounds like a lot but not doing a lot of any one thing. Everything seemed to really take off in the past week. We already got a cucumber and tomato. Would have gotten more tomatoes except a chicken got to a couple first. I think I’ve barricaded their way into the garden but will have to keep checking. Sometimes the chickens seem so stupid and other times rather crafty.

We were up to over 40 birds due to several hens going broody from March to June. We have traded, sold and killed and now I think we have between 30-35. As the roosters mature we will butcher them and then see how many hens we end up with. Hopefully, not much more than 20 as I think more than that is too many for us.

We also have the 2 cats and 2 dogs. Duke, our goldendoodle, will be 14 years old next month. He is quite a dog. Still going strong.

All this and I still haven’t told you about the landscaping we had done! Over the winter we hired a design firm (thenaturalgarden.net) to design a garden for the area between the house and garage (garage has an apartment above it – a cute building we call “the cottage”). It is our back entrance and the one we use most often. For 3 weeks (mid June to early July) they put in stone paths, a rain garden and native plants. We are very pleased with what they did and look forward to watching it mature. We worked very hard all spring in preparation for their arrival – transplanting and giving away a lot of what was there – also saving some things to transplant back into the same ares. A lot of work and I learned a lot too. Here is a list of what they planted – Columbine, Aromatic Aster, Lady Fern, Pennsylvania Sedge, Blue Mistflower, Pale Purple Coneflower, Strawberry, Coral Bells, Soft Rush, Provence Lavender, Blazing Star, Wild Quinine, Christmas Fern, Orange Coneflower, Meadow Petunia, Little Bluestem, Woodland Stonecrop, Creeping Thyme and Golden Alexander.

Funny you mentioned the good by quilts. I just pulled mine out. I thought it would be a good summer quilting project. It’s too hot in my sewing room right now. Plan to hand quilt it.  Not so big that it will be hot in my lap. I enjoy thinking of my QU friends when I hold it. Good of you and Lura to take over the job. It’s a very special gift.

How I’ve gone on!

Would love to meet up. Any ideas?

Love,

Maureen

PS Feel free to stop by any time you find yourself near. The place might be a mess but I’m learning to be OK with that. Paul too!

Weekend Update

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Friday afternoon these big chicks finally let me get close to them.

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They are so goofy looking!

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Emmylou had her little chicks in the barnyard.

Above she scratches and below…

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she pecks. Over and over again. She has her work cut out for her with 10 chicks.

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The pullets and cockerels.

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A candy onion from our barn garden.

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Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all had period of heavy rain. The landscapers were still here when it rained on Friday. They got soaked laying out these tarps. Above you can see the concrete from the old flag pole that they pulled out of the ground.

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The landscapers didn’t come today because they were forecasting more rain. Sure enough it started raining around noon and we had periods of heavy rain during the afternoon.

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Saturday Dave got out his new toy. See the water sitting in among the paw paw trees in the middle of the photo.

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He was hoping to make some progress on removing this willow stump but the ground was too wet. You can see the tracks he is leaving in the grass.

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Late Saturday afternoon we finished cleaning up the mess from the fallen ceiling.

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Now we are looking for a plasterer.

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Sam came over for Father’s day and helped us hang our local artists gallery. We wanted to hang the photos before finishing the paint job in case we wanted to change anything. I love how it turned out.

Early Morning Beauty

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I looked out the front door first thing this morning and noticed the beauty of the fog and snatches of sunlight peaking through.

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I headed to the barn which requires going through the back yard.

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The black raspberries are starting to ripen.

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Looking from the back yard toward Doris and Nelson’s

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The spring house.

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The back yard.

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Heading to the barn.

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My favorite tree.

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Emmylou and her 10! chicks were going after the feed with gusto. Birthing is a lot of work for all!

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On my way back to the house and my cup of green tea.

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I had to stop and take a photo of this hen. I actually took about a dozen. It was like she was posing for me.

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Same hen from the other direction.

It’s Official

Farmer Dave –

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Zero down, zero interest was hard to resist! We now have close to a monthly car payment. Funny how things go. Dave’s back has been bothering him so he is now driving my 5 year old Forester (it has more of an upright seat) and I’m driving his 9 year old Impreza (which has bucket seats). With this new payment I need this old car to keep running a few more years. Yesterday the inside door handle broke off…

Green Pastures

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We planted an osage orange tree along the pasture fence. We traded two hens for it.

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The chestnut oak we planted near the barn last fall.

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And the black locust planted at the same time as the oak.

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our garlic harvest

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Oh, Frida!

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A friend gave me this native wisteria the year we moved in. That was three years ago and now it is blooming. It is down near the spring house.

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First Day of Spring

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Unidentified flowers in the pasture.

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One of the hens came to check me out.

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So this is where they’ve been laying. We have 4 hens sitting on clutches of eggs. For a few days 3 of them were taking up 3 of our 5 nesting boxes. We finally moved 2 of them to brooder boxes. Meanwhile, the other hens found this corner in the barn to be a good alternative place to lay.

Of note – we heard chirping in one of the brooder boxes. Right on time – it was 21 days ago that our first broody hen settled on her clutch of eggs. No siting of chicks though as it was fairly chilly this afternoon. Expecting warmer temps this weekend.

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Such power in this old oak. I love this tree.

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Not focusing properly on this lone Lungwort or Pulmonaria.

Our New Rooster

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Yesterday was a big day for our chicken flock. We got a new rooster. We didn’t want to just keep breeding within our current flock of Dorkings. Dorking are hard to find around here so we opted to get a rooster from a different breed. He’s a Dominique/Barnevelder cross. I was looking for heritage breeds – dual purpose and good foragers. I made a contact in Stafford through Craigslist. A ways to go for us – over 2 hours – but I wanted to get this done. It also worked out that Samantha and her friend Luca were able to come over and help process our current rooster and our lone drake. Our last female duck was killed last week. Our drake spent the week in the backyard. He didn’t seem too distressed, but they really don’t do well as a single and there was no need to keep him. So in the morning we processed and later in the day Damian and I went to Stafford to get the new rooster.

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He spent most of today in the barn. This hen stayed with him. I wonder if she was the same hen that was sitting with the duck under the patio table 2 days ago. In the above photo the rooster and hen are trying to get back together. She finally figured it out.

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You can just barely see his tail feathers to the right of the hen. He was pended up previously so we hope he soon gets used to open forage. I looked in on him again this afternoon and he was in the compost with the hens so that is a good sign.

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Early Lenten Rose

Chickens Out and About

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Cats, too. I wonder if they miss Eartha like we do. Eartha was the tortie, daughter of Freda (left) and sister to Smokey (right). We haven’t seen her for about a month. I like to think she found another family but the reality is she probably was found by a coyote.

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I love the coloring of this hen. Probably a mix of the colored and black dorkings.

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Taking lots of photos of our remaining rooster. We sold Leo last fall and processed, sold or gave away all his male offspring but this one. I hope to find someone on Craigslist willing to trade him for another heirloom dual purpose breed roo. He is at least a half brother to most of our hens. Not a good idea to keep inbreeding.

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I took the kitten I shared in my last post to the animal shelter. They have a 95% save rate and make it very easy to bring in a stray animal.

End of Year Wrap Up

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A Super Moon (whatever that is!) in November. Too bad the street light is there.

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Can you see the icicle on the elm tree? It is the sap from the tree.  We had a quick and steep drop in temperature the night before.

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Dave was bothered by the absence of globes on the dining room chandelier. Me, not so much. The weekend after Thanksgiving he said let’s go to The Antique Factory and see if we can find some. I was very doubtful we’d find what we needed. Couldn’t believe he found some right away and they were 50% off! It does look much better with the globes.

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Christmas cheer

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Many photos of our Christmas Day hike in nearby Montgomery Hall Park.

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The dogs had a great time being off leash. Not many people about.

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We had a new visitor over Christmas weekend. A black and white kitten. I’m surprised our 3 cats didn’t chase it away. Hope we can find a new home for it. We certainly don’t need another cat.

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More Christmas cheer.

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More time for quilting in the winter. I’m basting my ocean waves quilt.

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A couple days ago it was near 60 so Dave got out the chain saw and shredder and Damian and I helped him take down and shred some of the trees growing into the meadow…

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and around the spring house. It seems to be some sort of invasive that keeps spreading into our native meadow.

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Our daughters’ friend, Soupy, built these stairs for our tool shed. We are doing an hour exchange for her. Dave is doing computer work for her and I’m doing some mending.

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Another photo of kitty. Uh, oh! We are all getting too comfortable!

Oak Appreciation

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Above are photos of our approximately 200 year old oak taken earlier in the week.

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Today, Agustina from The Natural Garden came by to plant a black locust and a chestnut oak out near the barn. As I was talking to her I noticed the beautiful, deep color of our old oak. I should have taken photos of the new plantings but they are only 2 feet twigs!