Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I haven't been entirely lazy around here, even though I have neglected this space. After winter, a switch was flipped in typical New England fashion and we find ourselves in summer.... at least thisclose to it. Proof from the gardens:

garlic scapes almost ready to curl

 strawberries turning blush
 these are gooseberries - delicious in pie and preserves
 beans, kale, lettuce
 red currants got decimated by the rain, I think
 the wild strawberries I grow as a ground cover

 the first few cherry tomatoes are forming

 blueberries will need netting soon

a gratuitous flower show of the front yard. The spireas are about to bust out in pink and I am seeing a few more hydrangea buds than last year.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring is here...

... the turkey toms have been letting me know, the spring peepers have given me their opinion. My hens were finally able to take walks again and instantly perked up in behavior and looks. But then, the happiness came to a certain halt today when in the middle of a playdate pickup, this scene happened in my back yard:

I gave the hen (Oreo) up for dead, and went to grab my phone off the table, then a broom to chase the hawk. Though I didn't think I could save the hen, I did not want him (I'm convinced it's a him, though I have no evidence) to think of our backyard as an all-you-can-eat buffet in the future.

As I approached him with my broom, he was entirely underwhelmed by me:

It's not that I'm an amazingly fast photographer to snap this picture. It is that this bird was one hundred percent in control of the situation. He stared me down, probably judged me for my inability to keep my composure even half as well as he did, and did not let go of the hen. When I started actually bumping him with the broom, he let go of one talon, but the other held on tight to the hen's head, dragging her along with him. At that point I realized that Oreo was alive.

I finally chased off the hawk, though he did not leave entirely. He continued to stalk us as we hurriedly got the rest of the flock into the pen (which is covered in the top, bottom and around). He attacked a second hen, who was saved by my daughter's interfering. Then he sat for over an hour on a tree and waited. Two hens were still in hiding and we were unable to find them. I wrapped the injured Oreo, who was limping around now, in a towel and put her in a cage we keep around for times like these, for further evaluation.
By the time we sat down to take a better look at Oreo, the hawk had spied and attacked one of the last 2 hens, but again we were able to chase him away. The hen, though, was not to be found for another few hours, such patience and self preservation instincts, she stayed quiet as a mouse under the neighbor's handicapped entrance ramp.

I decided for the first time in my 6+ years as a chicken keeper that I should take the striped hen, Oreo, to the vet. She was seemingly well, but at the same time injured to such a degree that I was sure she would soon die of infection if left in home treatment only. And then there were the little humans to consider, who had been incredibly brave and patient, keeping a watch on the hawk until all hens were safely in the pen again. I was sufficiently impressed with them and Oreo's will and ability to walk away alive from this situation that I found a vet and took her in for the night. The vet thought her lung might be injured beyond the superficial skin wound I had found and cleaned on my own. Only time will tell the severity of that. For now, she should be resting and be medicated, it is praying time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Good news!

The oldest and I were having a rough morning so we set out to get some sun, exercise and hopefully good news. We knew that almost precisely a year ago we found skunk cabbage pollen in a spot close to our house and our hearts.
But this year, we were not confident to find much, being that we are still under about 2 feet of snow.

And yet, look!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We're graduating ...

Turns out we are graduating at every corner. The dreaded letter to register the babee for Kindergarten was in the mail today (I can barely stand it). We are outgrowing our child size furniture, our bookshelves, and possibly some old habits.
I've been on an overhaul spree in the house and before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of another rug project. The last one was a lot more involved, but this one gave me no less sense of satisfaction, even though it is much more utilitarian.
I wanted a sisal rug to cover the area at the bottom of our stairs, that we so famously can cover in shoes (to the point that the necessity of a new rug may actually be a little questionable but let's pretend for a moment that this house is cleaning up). I measured and had it priced because it turned out to be a custom size. What I wanted came to $600+!!! Oh no! 

An afternoon trip to Sweden to the rescue, and I came home from my favorite store (that keeps my kids, and gives me free coffee) with a $80 sisal rug that was perfect in one dimension, but too wide in the other. 

Turns out, a seam ripper, sharp scissors, a needle and some thread later, I could detach the border, cut the rug to size, and re-attach the border by hand. Went easier than I thought, and I like the outcome. It is just in time for the Big Melt around here, and all the wet boots that will undoubtedly come through the door every day. 

See how neat this area can look (if you don't put the shoes in the picture)?

Now, is anyone in the market for a child-size, espresso brown bench with three cubbies for shoes? 

Monday, March 9, 2015

S'isch zum Baimschneida.

This is how you say you're just about to lose it, in my Southern corner of Germany. It is also how I feel about the snow. Yes, yes, we're nearing spring, and we sprang forward and hope springs eternal.

But that snow, it is hard to remember how much of it there is. I took my kids to the sledding hill, and went to look for the bench to sit on. As it turns out, a person with a daintier behind than mine could just about perch on the six inches of its backrest that stuck out of the solidly packed white mass.

Back to the title, it literally translates to 'It causes one to prune the trees' and that is just what I did this weekend. No ladder needed, I could get to the 10 feet tall branches of our old apple tree that needed a trim.

OK, in the end things were a little sketchy, but the job got done, nobody got hurt, and the tree is in better shape than before. I am calling it the official beginning of the outdoor gardening season.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sewing and sowing

What does one do in this season, too cold to go out, to snowy to play ball?

You sew and you plan. The Babee sewed her very first garment, the simplest of skirts in the simplest of fabrics - fleece. Suited to the arctic temps out there! Think she looks a little bit proud?

Last Christmas, the kids received a 3/4 size sewing machine, it has seen a lot of use by little hands, making the littlest projects...

The biggest kid creates the tiniest projects.

And sowing - is of course not happening yet, but in the planning stages. My order to Baker Creek Heirloom seeds went out yesterday. Spring has got to be on its way.

Taking stock of the ever building inventory...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How do we do it?

It's winter and we're near Boston. How do we do it??? I am starting to wonder that myself but here are a few photos of the menagerie, and how we handle them.

Besides their insulated coop, the chickens have a dug out for fresh air. At this point, it is covered from the top by a small roof and from one side by a wall of snow, so they're pretty sheltered. As long as they have straw to stand on, they don't mind the cold. I have 11 hens in a coop that is sized for 8, so I try my hardest to give them a bit of extra room.


Inside, they have a heat lamp in a ceramic fitting, and that is regulated by a thermo-cube. It turns on when the temp goes too close to freezing, and keeps the water in the waterer from going solid.
The waterer is a clever gadget, made from a rubbermaid container and a pair of aqua miser nipples. This way, the water stays clean and doesn't spill, and the chickens don't need that much of it. Sadly, they really prefer to drink from a regular dish, so we take them fresh water every day, but it is good to have a backup plan that is always available and never dirty or spilled.

They have a lamp that is on a timer, giving them the illusion of longer days, and keeping them laying steadily through this their first winter. Being first years, they would likely lay anyway, but who doesn't like a bit of bright light in the winter? Since we have the heat generation on a separate circuit, I use a CFL lightbulb to save energy. I will keep this one running through the March equinox.

The bees have gotten fall feedings, and then a candy board and are wrapped for winter. It is do or die time for them. The only help they get from me now is that I shovel their entrances. I don't want melt water to run from the entrance boards into the hives, where it could create indoor icicles under the wrong conditions. Getting through the winter for the bees is all about thermodynamics. They eat only to stay warm, and every time they have to expend energy to dry up a mess of water, or to re-heat the hive after a curious beek has opened it, it brings them a little closer to starvation.

In front of the hives (pre-shoveling), you see a bunch of dead bees. This is actually a good sign. Bees are diligent undertakers, and when they have casualties in the hive, they do their best to dispose of them outside, a bit away from the hive. Only a healthy hive has extra energy to devote to this daunting task, though. I have been very impressed with how far from the hive the bodies have been dumped, giving the harsh conditions around here these days!

So here we are, and wait, and wonder if it is time to build an ark, for when spring will finally arrive?

Friday, February 13, 2015

{this moment}


{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

We've had a visitor

I went out last night to close the door to the hen house, and on the small layer of fresh snow, I found a little bit of a calling card:

I went inside to gather those children who were home, and they gathered a flashlight and a tracking field guide. The Possums are back. Or more likely, they never left.

If you know our history with possums, some is less cute than others. Luckily our chicken coop and run has never been breached because one thing is for sure: It's one wild life around here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

{this moment}


{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ring in the new!

A Happy New Year to my select (two or three) readers! This delinquent blogger is having a great start to the year. Here are a few of the things that make my life bright and wonderful right now. At first I wrote 'all the things', but then realized that I would never be able to finish that post. So here we go with a little list:

The seed catalogs have come in and the oogling and heated discussing with friends has commenced. Locals, know that NOFA is putting together bulk orders. Murray McMurray has sent is most tempting publication. I ordered two packages of bees, one destined for a hopeful endeavor: I am working to help establish an observation bee hive at Drumlin Farm.

Meanwhile, the girls (the human girls) are humming as they work and play, and are still excited for snow and winter. The feathered girls are less enthusiastic as they hate to touch snow with their feet, but they are laying, laying!

The fireplace his humming, too, the fan putting out a lot of heat which we need today!

Life is good.