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Archive for the 'Family and School' Category

March of the Seasons and Halloween Fun

October 30th, 2010

The days come and go…  I seem to remember one of my grandmothers, while visiting her in a nursing home more than a decade ago.   She kept repeating, “Time and tide waits for no man…”   

And she would smile when I asked how she was.   “About as fine as could be I suppose…  Time and tide waits for no man…” and she would laugh a little.  She was 99 years old, and passed away a few months later.  She had a remarkable memory for verse, poem and song.  One of these days I’ll share some of them.

 We decorated around the house the other night… it was fun.  Putting up spider webs and lights.  I don’t remember such festivities for Halloween while growing up, but that’s okay. 

It was also the first “freeze” of the fall season the other night.  I went around getting the house and a few other things ready this week, and then picking green tomatoes and bell peppers… sad to see the garden fade away, and there’s even some lettuce and beans still growing.   The chickens are having a great time pecking through the litter- they’ll be great to keep the garden area mulched.   A few of the plants were hit pretty hard by the frost. 

Everything changes…   but it looks like the week ahead will be nice still, so we’ve had a gentle transition to colder weather this year.

It’s fun to wander around to see how different the landscape looks.  The leaf colors have given way to browns and yellows.   A lot of leaves on the ground, but the majority are hanging on.  The boy loves to play and the dog is more than willing to accomodate his spirit…

I’m still working on a few things at home that have focused my attention elsewhere this year.   I just haven’t had time to get around and visit, or even get outside as much as I would like.   That will change too eventually!  I hope you are all doing well.   Enjoy the season and have a Happy Halloween…

And late entry,  isn’t this great!?  I strung one of the webs where he wanted it in front of his room. The spider theme was his own idea…  makes for an interesting hallway at night! :)




July Ramblings

July 20th, 2010

A few days ago the chickens were hanging out in the shade with temperatures in the coop over 100 degrees.   And then rain, sweet rain.   And then more rain.    Two days ago I began to write, “a passing storm and raging winds, and then a gentle breeze, drizzle and clouds.  Just what the garden needs, and a respite from the heat…”

I saw this early before dawn… it was quiet and a beautiful orange light was all around.   I just had to walk further.

Then I saw this, slowly building to the southwest…

The clouds billowed upward and outward, forming a classic thunderstorm, with the rumble of thunder in the distance.

Soon it became this…

The barn swallows have another nest full of three more fledglings, and a dry perch to watch the rain pour over the gutters.  Methinks there’s a clog somewhere down the line… I cleaned the gutters out not long ago, yet heavy rain pours over.

So yesterday it was another huge storm of wind, rain and hail, and then today more heavy rain!  The clouds are nice in terms of cooling things off, but we’ve had quite enough water for the time being thank you very much.

I remember years ago being surprised to realize that a lot of folks have not experienced heavy thunderstorms before.   Of course that’s what I’ve always remembered about Missouri summers.    Brief storms  with thunder, lightning, showers and blessedly cooling weather.   Then back to the humid and hot.

With a little cooler daytime temperatures we  seized the opportunity to catch up on weeding and pruning.

This was a shrub rose gone wild that I’ve been meaning to cut out for weeks.  It had several more branches just like this one,  spreading out more than twenty feet in all directions!   It’ll come back unless I put something on the stump to kill it.  And the flowers?  Inconspicuous little white things.  I’m not sure where this rose came from, but it doesn’t have a place here anymore.

The young boy is really a great help around the place.   Now I understand why farmers of old had such big families…

Later the boy enjoyed a break with his Shiba.  Although that little dog likes to think he owns everything around here…  he’s a funny little guy, and a good watch dog.  He lets us know when anything out of the ordinary happens or someone comes down the gravel drive.  They are cute together…

Here’s a picture of the shiba when he was a puppy…    A few years ago I described how he adopted us from a little Japanese pet store in 2002.   We call him Kuma, which is short for Kuma no nuigurumi  or Teddy Bear in Japanese.

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This week it was also time to check on the bees.  I’ve got just three hives and a small nuc (nucleus hive) going. Earlier in the spring I had a hive with a drone-laying queen, and she eventually disappeared. Before the hive was queenless too long I solved that problem with the help of another local beekeeper.

We combined that hive with a nuc and a new queen, using a screened divider between them for a week. That gave the failing hive time to become acquainted with the new queen and other bees, and then after removing the screened divider, the hive became one, joining forces to work together.   Since that time they’ve steadily increased their population and look great now.

Alas I have another hive with a failing queen. This hive started out strong, but then simply languished. I have found no disease or other external problems, but the queen is simply not laying enough eggs to keep the population strong.   I will probably order a new queen to replace her soon, and allow the bees to strengthen the hive before winter.

With all the beekeeping challenges this is not a year for gathering much honey.  That’s okay because I’m really trying to build them up going into winter.  But that middle hive is very strong and may yield a small super of honey, so we’ll see.   Here’s a picture of bees fanning at the top opening on the inner cover.

One reason they fan their wings is as a signal for other bees, blowing scent pheromones from a hive entrance or other location so their hive mates know where to go.  But they also fan to cool and circulate the air through the hive on hot days .  Most importantly, the bees will fan to increase the evaporative cooling effects within the hive to remove moisture from the nectar/honey stored within.

After the bees gather nectar from flowers, it is carried in their honey stomach back to the hive, then often passed to another worker bee to process and store within the hive.  During this process the nectar is converted to various sugars by enzymatic action and deposited into the waxy cells within the hive.  But it is very runny and full of moisture at this point… not even close to being honey yet.   Beekeepers call honey which is too runny green.   It doesn’t really become honey until the moisture level is lowered to about 17%-18%.   Then the bees put a waxy cap on the cell and the honey is stored until needed as food.

Because the bees have lowered the water content of the honey, it is very hygroscopic, meaning it can absorb water moisture from the air.   Good quality honey has a very low water content which is one of the reasons it can be stored almost indefinitely without spoiling.    If you’ve ever had honey ferment at home, it’s either because the container wasn’t sealed tightly over time and it absorbed a lot of moisture, or it was too green or allowed to sit open before it was purchased and fermented later.  Of course you could always make mead or use it for baking!  Runny honey just needs to be used a little more quickly.

Everything else is coming along too.  I harvested around 15 pounds of tomatoes and cucumbers out of the garden this morning.  I think pickles are in our future… and tomato sauce!     Seems like the tomatoes are ripening all at once, and I need them to keep going.

Last week I found this lucky titmouse enjoying a feast on a ripened sunflower.

I also planted more squash, and some beets in the garden- hoping they mature in time for a good harvest.  It was the perfect time too with all the rain.    I also planted collard greens which supposedly improve in taste after the first frost.   I don’t know about that, but I enjoy them when cooked and mixed with seasoning.  Does anybody have good ideas for how to use collard greens in the kitchen?  Well I love greens, but I never made them very often.  Maybe in soup?

The sun is back out this afternoon… 96 degrees and hot! Hard to motivate anyone to do anything, even myself it seems. One small step…

Summer Downpour

July 10th, 2010

Isn’t it amazing how the first half of summer explodes with growth everywhere and its hard to keep up with everything?   As we head towards midsummer, the vivid green foliage slowly matures  and begins to dry out to darker colors and browns throughout the landscape.  We’re not there yet, but I’m ready for the grass to slow down a bit more!

Driving home the other day I took this picture just because the clouds looked interesting.  I love the depth of the clouds, and it reminds me of driving out west.  It foreshadowed the rain we’ve received over the past couple of days.  We needed it, and I’m glad it will keep the clover and other summer flowers blooming a little longer for the bees.

It began raining as I worked around the pond, trimming brush and weeds and enjoying the coolness.  But I called it a day after a half hour when I realized the rain wasn’t letting up…  I like seeing the rain around the watershed, and watching it fall on the pond in summer.  A few years ago it we barely received any rain for months and the pond dropped five feet very quickly.  Last year and this year however, the rain has topped it off every few weeks.

Last night there was an enormous rainstorm though, close to 2 inches of rainfall before it finished.  With that kind of rain I worry about erosion and the pond flows out the spillway.  I imagine a lot of insects and organic matter are washed into the pond, and it clouds up for a couple of days and then settles out.

The boy had just climbed in bed with the sound of falling rain outside his window, and then the intensity changed… it became heavier and heavier, drumming on the roof and the gutters began overflowing.   It was amazing really and he said, “I want to see the rain!”   To the kitchen we went, and turned on the outside lights… all the gutters looked like waterfalls, unable to keep up with the volume of water on the roof.

I said, “Do you want to go out there?”  half kidding, and wondering if he would, but he jumped at the chance!   No lightning or thunder, just a good ‘ole fashioned downpour.  He threw on a light windbreaker and went dancing barefoot through the storm…

I watched as he giggled and ran under the gutters, drenched from head to toe.  Just a few minutes of summer fun, and watching him I could remember playing in rainstorms myself as a child.  I almost went out there with him…  almost :)   He was back inside drying out with towels and asleep fifteen minutes later.

This morning the sun is shining and the air is cool… once again the landscape is refreshed, growing and bursting with life.  It’s time for me to head back out  and see what I can do about it!

Roosts and Berries

July 5th, 2010

It’s that time again where we could use some rain.  We received about 20 minutes worth yesterday which was really nice for a quick refresher.  The chickens hid out in their coop during the rain.   I had to laugh at them the other night.  At first I wondered if I would have to train them to go inside their coop.   Thus far it was a trick or treat affair of offering scratch, chasing them and catching them nearly by hand to get them back inside the other shed.   Now I’ve nearly got the run up and it was almost dark when I went out to close them up in the new coop… lo and behold they were inside on the roosts!

I just installed the roosts that day- removable 2×4’s, wide side up.   So there’s nine chickens on the top roost, and one lonely hen on that lower roost!   They’re packed side by side on a five foot roost… too funny.  I’ll probably put a third lower roost in there.  I imagine when they get even bigger they’ll need more room.

The one hen on that lower roost is Brownie… I think she’s at the very bottom of the chicken  pecking order.  I’ve noticed that not only the roosters, but all the other hens chase and peck at her, and she is a little smaller than the rest.  Probably gets pushed around at dinner time too.   But she’s also a smart one… when I let them out in the morning, she stays behind and finishes eating without being picked on.

The night after this picture, guess who was the first one inside the coop at dusk, and sitting right on that top roost?  Yep.  Brownie… she’s really thinking ahead of the rest :)    And yes, there were ten silly chickens on that top five foot roost, wedged together nice and cozy.

Looks like I may have to sink another post for the chicken run however.   For whatever reason, one of the end posts really warped over the past few weeks.  I tried to brace it, straighten it and think of how to use it effectively… but it’s supposed to be the hinge post for the gate.   I know it’s pretty common for posts to warp or twist slightly, but not enough to worry about.  This one went crazy and ended up bending about 4 inches from the bottom to the top.   We’ll see…   Heck, I may still use it if the hinges can reach.    If I do pull it out, I  should knock the cement off and take it back!

It’s also time to pick a few goodies, including the ripening blackberries.  We picked some of our own and the boy needed a container… so he borrowed my hat.  Now it has little purple stains inside :)

That morning we had blackberry pancakes! They were tasty… but these were mine.   Yes, that’s an egg in the middle!  I love my egg and pancakes together, even with a little hot sauce, maybe potatoes, sausage…   the boy thinks I’m gross.   Then again his preferred menu is basically white or yellow in color, without involving eggs… spaghetti, macaroni, pancakes, bagels, pizza.   Thankfully he does like a good salad and a few well-seasoned veggies.

Last week I cheated on the wild blackberries by taking the boy to a local farm whose berries are huge. A little sweeter too, and just the ticket for a pie. Don’t you just love summer?!

Beautiful Morning in June

June 30th, 2010

Sometimes you wake up very early, and can really enjoy watching the world come alive. The temperature was in the fifties, and as the sun rose I saw wisps of fog rising from the pond. I walked around with the dog, taking in the sights and as the sun came up it highlighted the mist rising all around.

The yellow lab was fascinated and wanted to jump in the water…   he sat down eventually and relaxed.   I’d like to think he was enjoying it too.

It was calm, and yet the mist was slowly stirring in circles, moving above the surface of the water, drifting across and towards one end, moving as wisps and pushed by something gentle and unseen…

It’s one of those days I love to share with everyone… but only I was awake.  Like many things, it didn’t last. Within a half hour, the air had warmed and the magic was gone. I can share it here with you however, and it’s a perfect day because today is my Mother’s birthday.   Let’s just say she has a few decades on me yet.   I can’t think of a more beautiful day and picture to wish her a Happy Birthday.   If you can think of someone you’ve always known, that puts you at ease and who always offers love and kindness…   that’s her.

One of these days I’ll put her picture here.   Probably with flowers and gardens.  And I’ll share a few stories too.  In fact she still digs and plants with greater endurance than folks half her age. Our challenge is getting her to slow down.   I should know better…    Happy Birthday Mom!  :)



Three Feet in the Yard

May 5th, 2010

In between all the outside projects, I’m trying to catch up a little inside as well.  Sometimes it seems there are so many priorities, or “would-like-to-do” things, that it’s hard to remember the things we really need to do.  Or maybe we conveniently place them at the back of the list somewhere.   Anway, I realize it’s easy to put up pretty pictures on the blog, even though that is one of my goals:  To share the beauty of where we live, along with my periodic ramblings.  

I must say that I really appreciate comments and visits from readers, and it helps me to remember that other people enjoy and appreciate nature and many other things about life just as I do.    

But in between all the pretty pictures, there is real life going on here too…  including a messy house and kitchen, a garage and barn that needs organized and tons of weeds in various places that we just haven’t got to yet.   But am I going to focus on those things here?  Heck no!  I’m only going to show the good stuff!  :)    

There’s only so much time and energy each day, and everyone stays busy. This week after cleaning, trimming and everyday stuff, it’s been all chicken-coop building and cutting grass. I’ve been out on the tractor past 8:30 pm a couple days just to keep up.  I guess it all depends upon what we want to do really, and how we choose to spend our time.  

I am just not someone who can sit on the couch for hours and watch television.   There are so many other incredible things to do.  I have to admit it frustrates me when the boy’s first thought when he has time is to go watch cartoons for example.  I suppose a lot of kids are like that (and I watched cartoons as a kid too.)

Ah, but I’ve always got better ideas for things he can do (what parent doesn’t?!) and love to see him outside helping out or just goofing around exploring.  Television is a huge magnet for passive activity… and I think it just turns off the brain.   I enjoy watching a few shows too, but even then I could be spending my time more effectively elsewhere (like organizing or writing a little more).

Once the boy gets outside though he finds tons of fun things to do, like climbing trees!  And the hat is really good for holding peanuts. I need to give him a break this week however, or no, that’s not right… well yes, but what I really mean to say is that he broke his toe last week…    Somehow playing or running around the house he stubbed his pinky toe.   It looked like a little bruise at first, and then his foot was even more bruised behind the joint.   Ouch- he could hardly walk on it for a few days.

Better safe than sorry, so I took him to the doctor and the orthopedic specialist confirmed he broke the big bone in the little toe… not just any break mind you.  It was a spiral break through the bone into the joint.  Yikes.   Now how does that happen?!  

So he doesn’t have gym class at school for three weeks and I’ll take him back to the doc to make sure it’s healing okay.  Which is fine right now because school is basically finished in about three weeks.   The good news is that kids usually heal up very nicely from such things.  So now I find myself saying, “Stop running on your foot!”  to make sure he doesn’t hurt it again.

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The boy’s foot is not the only foot that’s causing a little pain and frustration this week.   A strange time for foot maladies…  My left foot has been really sore too, and old ankle injury that just seems to linger.   So I’ve come to really appreciate our feet this week, and how much we need them.  Well, the whole body really.   Is there anything quite like gardening, landscaping or building something to show you the parts of your body you forgot about for a while?

“I just put my feet in the air and move them around.”    

                                                                                                –  Fred Astaire

The other foot I’ve been keeping a good deal busier with is the one on the labrador retriever.   We haven’t been training, exploring or doing anything particularly fun to bother him.  Rather I’ve been sitting on the floor wrapping bandages trying to keep him from making a “hot spot” worse on his leg. 

Have you ever seen one of those? Basically the dog licks its foot or tail or something so much that it creates a raw, red, and often bloody patch an inch or two in size.   Sometimes it’s because of allergies, or anxiety or even insect bites.  Sometimes it’s just what the dog does.  There’s a good two inch hot spot under this bandage, and you can see a couple of tenative spots where he licks at the edge of the bandage.  

The problem is that it just doesn’t heal on its own because the dog just keeps licking, and then develops a habit for doing it and eventually it can become infected or really hurt the animal.  So how do you keep a labrador from chewing and licking?   You don’t.   At least that’s what I found out.  You have to divert his attention, keep the area protected, try to keep him occupied with other chew toys and generally just watch him as much as possible.

So we find ways to compromise and keep his foot wrapped up while the hot spot heals. I’ve used every bandage, ointment, powder and bitter “anti-lick” lotion there is… or it seems like it. I’ve finally got it somewhat under control and healed to a tough outer skin after nearly two weeks. Not only have I kept it bandaged, but I’ve used my socks to slip up his leg and the cover that with masking tape! 

Of course the dog being a dog needs to go outside… which means the bandages get wet and often muddy.   Or he sneaks down to the pond when I’m not looking and goes for a swim.   The nerve!     

But of course that means his bandage needs changed again. And again.  And again. Ugh!  And if I slip up just once and don’t wrap it properly… he gets to it and it becomes bloody and the process starts all over again. 

But I’m nearly as stubborn as he is sometimes, and we go back to square one.   I have found that if you can get the bloody raw part to heal just enough with a good layer of outer skin, then medicated powder works really well to help the dog not feel itchy or whatever in that area. 

Yes, many of you probably know the other possible solution is the dreaded Cone of Shame.  Did you see the movie Up?    It was very cute, and Up took home two Academy Awards, for Best Animated Feature Film and Original Score.   This is Dug from the movie…

Dug says, “I do not like the cone of shame.”

                                                                                                                     Photo copyright Pixar

People use the cone to keep the dog from reaching places on its body that it will lick or bite. I haven’t tried the cone-thingy yet, mostly because we don’t want a 100 pound labrador running around the house with a huge cone on his head smashing into everything! He would roll and fight with that thing, so I’ve just tried to help his leg heal with bandages. The real verdict will come in a couple days when I gradually lessen the bandages. We’ll see in a week or two.   And as always, if you have any good ideas or “home remedy” techniques, I’d love to hear them.  

I’ve said it before, but I love that quote that says, “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”    I try not to let the beauty of each day get too far away…  and while making plans and carrying them out, I think we do need to time to appreciate our lives even when we don’t get everything finished that we would like.   Or when we stub our toe.     Somehow everything in spring seems to happen all at once.  Enjoy the day!

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PS:  If you haven’t read it yet, Jessica Watson has rounded the southern cape of Tasmania and is making her way north to Sydney for her non-stop, solo ’round the world homecoming in about 10 days.    She ran into some awful storms over the past week, but finally came through them and it looks like she will arrive in Sydney on Saturday, May 15.



Everything’s Growing!

April 7th, 2010

How did April get here so fast?! I think I’m still back in March somewhere, planning what to do this month. Now that I’m here, I’m wondering what that was…     As I looked into the small greenhouse this week I had to laugh that our snowman from Christmas was still in there!  He’s camping out in front of some sage.  Kind of a happy guy, isn’t he?   I’m months behind I tell ‘ya. Time just zooms by and I can only wonder what other forgotten treasures we’ve left behind.

But spring is surely here in Missouri.   It’s more than daffodils, because the redbuds and dogwoods have started to bloom… along with a host of wildflowers int the forest.  I’ve seen violets, anemone and even trout lilies this week.   And it’s about time for morels! 

The young boy and I went exploring a little after school yesterday.  The little hollow above the pond serves as drainage for half the watershed, and it’s fun to hike around in there at times.   Something caught my eye while cutting grass, so we went on a little treasure hunt before the heavy leaf cover hides it all.  

We found some neat pieces of dishes or pottery.  I don’t have any idea how old they might be, but it’s fun to imagine someone long ago using them, or the artist that painted the blue flowers.  And what could that rusty piece of metal have been used for?  The boy thought the rock was just neat looking.

We’ve had such warm weather that all the insects have come out.   But there’s a couple of cold fronts coming through this week that will chill things down a bit at night. Nothing close to freezing, so we’ll still be in good shape.  The cool weather is fine by me!  The oak trees have let down catkins already and everything has started leafing out now.  It is so renewing to watch the trees re-dress themselves each spring in shades of light to darker green. 

Even waking up this morning I was amazed at the difference between this picture taken just a day before and how fast the leaves are growing.  Soon we will see the orioles return and even our barn swallows.  The barn swallows are almost overdue, well almost.  But for the two years before last, they have always returned to their nests around the first week of April.  Last year they came around the 15th…  so we have time.  It may have something to do with the storms and weather patterns, but I’m thinking they’ll show up in the next few days.   I did see a tree swallow yesterday, flying low across the fields.

There’s so many things growing around here, which reminds me to share a picture of our new friends.   

I’ll just leave you with this for now… don’t you just want to pick them up or something?   Have a great week! :)




Sunshine On My Shoulders

April 3rd, 2010

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

 

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…




On A Spring Day

March 23rd, 2010

Goodness, Spring has arrived in Missouri in force this week!  It was doubtful for a while this past weekend, with much snow for our western friends.   But after a few days of rain, the sun has returned and with it the frogs, flowers and fullness of early spring itself. 

I saw a few crocus last week, and a couple of daffodils peeking out.  I swear they came out so quickly, and then Voila! all the other daffodils are  blooming at once.  Bear with me… I have to share them as the days go by.   After all, we waited all winter for them! :)

We even enjoyed a brief picnic dinner by the pond before the rain last week.  It felt so strange to be relaxing outside in a light shirt after the cold days of winter.   The yellow lab is always your buddy where food is concerned, and hope springs eternal!

The pond is warming up nicely too.  I’ve seen a few more minnows and fish rising.  Today we even saw the koi, but I’ll save that for another day. 

Of course the yellow lab decided to roll around in the grass while wandering near the pond… the same grassy area that had been burned by my inadvertent fire. He seemed to enjoy that smokey burnt aroma!    And he wasn’t quite so yellow after that… 

A quick retrieve in the pond cleaned things up nicely.   He brings so much energy and joy to my daily experience.    I’m working really hard to enjoy life half as much as my dog does!



Have a Green Day

March 17th, 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day that is…

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

And may you have something for your table to share with family and friends. 

A little corned beef with potatoes and veggies will fit nicely :)

Speaking of potatoes, it’s a good week to head outside and get a few planted in the garden.  With luck that will leave time for another planting this summer.



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