Friday, May 31, 2019

Life is good

My children are more or less occupied. 

My husband is tilling more garden rows for me.

Yoga today, then buying plants at the greenhouse with both littles. Ice cream. Wine . Lounge chair. Best evening ever. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Denim star quilt

This is the first quilt I've been excited making about in a long, long time.

The colors and simple design are so beautiful.  I've been collecting scrap denim from old jeans for awhile now just waiting for a project.  What I notice about this quilt is how she used lots of pieces that have worn/lighter areas.  The scraps that I've saved are either very dark (mine) or very light (my mom's old jeans).  I cut these years ago but probably threw out any worn pieces.  I guess I could have re-enforced them from the back side but wasn't thinking about it at the time. I'll have to look at the thrift store for some denim in mid-tones.  Would like to include some of the kids worn out pants as well.  And I like that grey color in her star, the husband used to have a pair of pants that shade, wonder if I could steal them.

The thing I wonder about this quilt is - we have a queen sized bed - it's got to be HEAVY.  I asked one of my quilting friends about that and she suggested backing it with flannel, no batting.  That makes sense.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Grandpa's missing finger.

I've lost another 4 birds in the last 3 days, bringing the score to Predators 24? (I've lost count), Me 3. Rather than spending more time feeling sorry for myself I would like to share a family story that came up today.

My grandpa was a handy, hard working and inventive guy who could construct absolutely anything he put his mind to. The cider press we use is an heirloom that he built in the wood shop just by looking at a picture in a catalog.  He and my uncles built the new farmhouse. He was amazing in this way. Thrift, brilliance and determination came together regularly to make some impressive  projects.  I mean, why the hell would you pay $5 for something you could build yourself in 4 hours out of scraps? Consider that an un-official grandpa quote. He considered easy spending and lack of hard work some of the major downfalls of modern culture. I kinda have to agree with him on that point.


The oldest and I were playing with a plastic T-Rex today and I made a big dramatic show of it "biting my finger off". He loved it.  Which led me to open my mouth and start into the story of how MY grandpa once DID cut his finger off. For real. With a table saw.

This was years ago when I had first gotten into beekeeping. Grandpa had kept bees on the farm and still had some of the old boxes out in the shed. Beekeeping can actually be pretty expensive if you're just starting into it. He was all fired up about my new hobby, sharing knowledge and his 1930's copy of The ABC's and XYZ's of beekeeping. Even as an adult I loved my grandpa just as fiercely as I did when I was little. He was one of my favorite people. I adored him. He loved when we had some new shared interest to talk about. And so he decided that he was going to get out some of his old bee templates (of course he still had them) and make me some supers  (what the boxes are called), lids and landing boards. This went along smoothly for months until the one day that it didn't.

I remember my dad coming to get me at work.  "Your grandpa... um... did something. He's ok but he's in the hospital"

The story came out.  Grandpa admitted he had gotten lazy in the wood shop. He wasn't paying attention. And cut part of his middle finger off with the table saw.

Apparently he wrapped up the stump in a bunch of dirty shop rags, marched upstairs and informed my grandmother that he was driving himself to the hospital. "Janice! Get in the car!"
My sweet, long suffering grandma gave him a big oh hell no you aren't and called my parents for a ride.  When they got there there was blood all over the basement floor and the part of his finger he had cut off was still sitting on the table saw.

Do I ever miss these two.

When he got to the hospital my grandpa proceeded to tell the admitting nurse his version of what had happened: he was driving in a sketchy part of town when some young kids passed him in their car. My grandpa went on to tell her that he stuck his middle finger out the window and one of the kids shot it off with a pistol.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

He lived the next ten years with part of his middle finger missing.  I only told my son part of the story. From the look on his face I wondered if it was too much. I remember grandpa telling me all about his grandpa as a young child witnessing someone getting their hand chopped off for stealing. That was probably too much.

My son immediately demanded to see a picture of my grandpa, which I showed him. "No, no, no!" he said "I want to see a picture of his finger"!"

We don't have one of those. Just the story. Which is more than enough.

And what happened to the rest of his finger?  The part that was left sitting on the table saw? Glad you asked.  Evidently the whole incident was so off the charts that *someone* (I'm not going to name names here)  decided that the only thing to do was to wrap it in a tissue and flush it down the toilet.

So there you have it.  And it's all true.  You know, except for grandpa's version.  Reading this post I am laughing and crying at the same time. 

Monday, May 27, 2019


Yesterday we were over at my parents house getting some water plants.  The oldest has an aquarium with some goldfish upstairs.  No one cares about the fish but me and I'm kind of sick of dealing with it.  My parents used to have a small pond full of koi and water lilies.  It's neglected and overgrown at this point but I thought if I got some lilies out of it I could make a nice little container pond on our front porch and stick the fish outside for the summer.   While were were outside there I mentioned to the oldest that we'd have to cut some peonies to take home with us in a vase. Which led to this conversation:

Him: "Mom, what are panties?"
Me: "Panties are what you call ladies underwear. Honey why are you asking me that?"
Him: "You said we should take some panties home."
Me: "Peonies.  It's a pretty pink flower your grandma liked. Here, I'll show you. PE-O-KNEES"
Him: "Panties."

So now we have a big-ol vase of panties on the table.

The yellow one is some kind of Japanese? tree peony.  It's lovely.  The orchid came from Aldi last week where I couldn't help myself.  There have got to be 30 tiny blossoms on it, it's beautiful.  However, it's not as beautiful as the "panties" we picked.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A new kind of bird?

Spotted in the birdbath around lunch time.

A new type of catbird, latin name Elyseus Fattypantsus. I have no idea how she got there, she must weigh over 15 lbs. It's her new drinking fountain.

The bird and butterfly garden is 90% complete, I just have to finish shaping the right hand corner of the bed/plant the parsley there and sun flowers in the back left corner.  I imported some milkweed yesterday and put that little blue pot out, hoping a toad will move in eventually. 

That bright blue streak is Bernie our Indigo Bunting. I should also get around to picking up all of the sod I stripped off and left laying around but haven't yet because he and the other birds have been taking the dried grasses out of the piles for nesting material.  Also, laziness.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tiny miracles

Her eggs are hatching.  The baby in front is still damp from the shell.

She's such a fantastic mom.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The great chicken massacre

So I started to tell the saga of all of my chickens getting murdered in broad daylight.  Here's the rest of the story.   My husband was going birding with his parents so the birds got let out at about 7:30 in the morning... all fluffy heads were accounted for.  That morning I had the geese, my rooster Rocky, about 8 full grown hens and 18 half grown chickens.  We had breakfast, I took the oldest to pre-school, ran errands, went to yoga, visited with the in-laws.... we didn't get back to the house until about 3 in the afternoon.  Around 3:30 I was in the kitchen making snack and just happened to look out the window... in time to see something big-ish, brown and mangy looking with a huge tail run into the bushes holding a full-grown chicken in its mouth.

I thought it was a fox.  A brown, mangy fox.  I've never actually seen a coyote before and in the years of living here we've never heard one or gotten a picture of one on the game camera.  But we do have a fox that's been here since we've moved in.  In fact, witnessing this was actually kind of a novelty until the animal was back 5 minutes later.  

Running around the chicken pen.  

At this point I called my father who was out of town.  I told him it was a fox.  He told me to get a gun and shoot it.  I was home alone with two little ones so that wasn't happening.  I opened the door and screamed at it.  It took off.  And was back 5 minutes later running around INSIDE the chicken pen.  More screaming.  More running away and coming back.  I called my husband home from work and that was the routine until he got here:  the animal would come back, I would open the door and yell profanities, it would trot off and then come back again.  Every 5 or 10 minutes.  Until my husband was home and I did go out with a gun to sit.  At which point the animal wisely hid.  I still thought it was a fox.  A big, brown fox.  With a dog-like face.

But that night on the game camera we found this. Lots of pictures of this guy.

Here's our fox for comparison. In my defense, yes, my eyesight really is that bad. 

What I had seen was a coyote.  And it had apparently been at it all day.  The poultry yard looked like rapture had occurred.  It was like a kick in the stomach. Almost all of my birds were gone.  The only survivors are the geese, two young birds, a broody hen and 5 old chickens that were going to be butchered in the fall anyway.

Everyone else was missing or dead. 

This is what was left of my sweet rooster Rocky.  

I found these bodies in the back corner of the pen.  When I picked up the barred chicken there were two more bodies stacked neatly under it. 

So what did I lose? Rocky for starters.  My sweet little auction impulse buy. He was one of the good guys.

Over the spring I had picked up a really, really nice assortment of chicks at TSC so we'd have a more beautiful flock to look at: Dominique, Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, Blue Rocks, Black Austrolops among others.  Black, white, yellow, orange and blue birds. The plan was to grow them out until I could sex them.  The roosters were going to stock our freezer.  A silkie was going to be a special Halloween dinner because they have purple/black skin and meat.  I was going to pick out the prettiest hens to keep and sell the rest to pay for the whole project.  

I'm trying really hard to see any bright side to this disaster.  I guess what I've come away with is that I am very grateful Nigel died before the massacre happened.

Because I had (keyword *had*) some younger ones of this breed, these laying ladies had been sold to a woman through Craigslist just a week prior.

The three ladies sold for $35 and I had two people waiting in line if the first buyer didn't show. So at least they're happy somewhere and not dead.

The silver lining is that this sweet lady, Rocky's mate,  is sitting on a nest again.  She was hidden in the coop when all this happened.  Her eggs look good and I think she's due this weekend.

  The whole incident just drives home that I need to enjoy what I have every day because the shit might just hit the fan tomorrow. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Camping weekend

This weekend we went camping with a friend and her camping group at a little campground near us called Powder Mill Run.  It's a tiny privately owned campground on what used to be a working farm.  This was our first time camping at a place that was not a State Park so we weren't really sure what to expect. 

The whole campground was tucked into a little area surrounded by hills and trees.  There was a tiny stream, not more than 4 inches deep, right behind out campsite which was wonderful fun for the oldest and I.  He could splash around and throw rocks without me having to worry about him.  We found some fossils and some neat rocks.

The oldest found a tiny toad within an hour of us getting there.  We watched it for awhile and put it back where he found it.

The kids pretty much lived on cookies, potato chips and hot dogs for two days.  After all of the "healthy" food at home they were loving every minute of it.

I hung this renovated thrift-store find  up inside the doorway.  It was decoupaged with a map and ended up being a really perfect cubby things like wallets and keys.

The first morning we woke up to cold and rain.  Socks and shoes were soaked and I had to use the old plastic-bags over dry socks trick.  The clothesline was strung inside the camper and the heater turned on full blast to dry clothes. (If you're reading this dear former co-worker - it's the one you bought me for Christmas years ago- it gets the camper up to about 80 degrees in under 10 minutes. Thank you!)  The oldest took a long hike with his dad while the baby and I napped.  The wildlife at this place was amazing.  There were so many different kinds of birds to be seen even from our campsite.

I had purchased some new toys at the dollar store prior to the trip but the favorite activities turned out to be a red plastic cup (the youngest) and a thrift store transformer toy (the oldest).  Go figure. 
The weather quickly turned and it ended up being very hot and humid for the rest of the trip, thank goodness.  Great weather for being outside.

My husband went home after the first day.  With two little ones to keep track of by myself one of the other women camping jokingly called this a "divorceable offence'.  We did ok though.  Something that really helped was that we bought a pop-up changing room off of Amazon to use as a private bathroom for the littles.  It was a lifesaver since we don't have a bathroom in the camper and I couldn't fathom trying to take them  both to the public bathrooms 500x a day.

We did some exploring together.

We checked out who might be living under the old bark of this fallen tree.

And found a stag beetle! It was amazing! I've never seen one before.

Then the oldest smacked himself in the head with a saucer swing on the playground and got a huge bruise right between the eyes.  It doesn't look *too bad* and he did get over it quickly.

 Since the campground was nearby my dad and his lady friend came to spend the evening with us.  They brought wine and we had a great time sitting around the fire and visiting.  The kids went for a car right and fell asleep immediately.

The baby woke up as I was moving him into the camper.  He ended up being up until 10:30 at night, sitting around the fire waving a glow stick and babbling.....

... and woke up before sunrise.  

They both woke up before sunrise.  Like, 5 a.m. The youngest needing a dry diaper and the oldest screaming "my eye hurts!" in his sleep.  A bad dream.  The oldest went back to sleep and the baby gleefully took advantage of his sleeping brother, smacking him on the head repeatedly with a plastic brontosaurus.  Eventually I gave up and took him outside.  We were making coffee on the camp stove by 6:30. 

We played a bit more and finished breaking down our campsite.  Thanks to help from my friend watching the kids, hitching the camper went smoothly and were made it home around lunch without any drama. 

Now that we have the first trip of the season under our belts the camper is ready to go.  It took me three days prior to the trip to stock the camper with everything we would need but the now it's done and the next trip should just be a matter of firewood, food and clothing.  I'd really like to get the kids out doing this once a month during the summer.  We all had a great time.

Adventure awaits.  Every day.

Friday, May 17, 2019

What's new here?

One of the maple trees by the driveway is now sporting a swarm trap for honeybees.  All of the local beekeepers around here had severe or total losses this winter and most of the wild colonies we know of have died as well.  We do have honeybees here, not many, but some have been seen around the house.  Enough to hang a swarm trap on the property and hope that some bees will move in.  There are frames in the trap that will allow any bees to be moved into a hive easily. This has always been my dad's project.  No way do I want to be 15 feet up a ladder and dealing with a heavy box full of bees.  Not brave enough for that.

The Metzendorf for moved into the driveway and I've been cleaning it and stocking it for the summer.  So happy to see my old friend again.  Yesterday I just laid on the back bench for awhile with all of  the windows open. 

Last fall I threw out all of the old ugly curtains and took measurements to make new ones.  Wow, did these notes leaving me scratching me head when I got them out.  I just finished the curtains this morning.  It was very economical to use the biggest curtain panels I could find at Wal-Mart to make these; the pieces were cut to include as many already-hemmed edges as possible and the fabric is a really nice weight.  They're royal blue to match the awning. It's going to look really sharp.  Plus curtains will save other campers from having to look at a certain 3 year old jumping around the beds in his underwear.  :)  

What work looks like.   I took some great photos of the two little guys (not shown) working in the garden together.

I accidentally sprouted about 3 million heirloom tomato plants.  The garden is going to be tilled and planted Monday, weather permitting.  The oldest and I planted peanuts and have them under grow lights to give them a head start, it will be fun to see if we can grow peanut plants successfully, I remember my grandpa growing them when I was little but have no idea the variety he planted.

We've been enjoying the fresh asparagus and lettuces will be ready soon too.

This is a terrible photo but I finished filing in the gaps in the landscaping on the West side of the house with hostas.  

Front planters.


By the garage.

Thanks to last weeks coyote attack we've been taking some time to talk about predators and carnivores.  We haven't lost any more poultry and haven't seen the coyote since.  Thank goodness.

We've been using the local rails-to-trails path a lot.  It's a really nice perk to have in town.  Lots of plants and birds and lovely views of the river.

Quiet contemplation.  He loves that bench.

This is a shrub growing along the path.  It's beautiful. The flowers look like honeysuckle blossoms but it's a shrub.  I wish I knew what it was, it would be nice to have one by the house.

Bee has some sort of odd cough/sneeze thing going on but is in great spirits otherwise.  I remember last summer when she lost her "me-mow" voice  when the baby was born.  

Some adventure planned for this weekend,  hope the weather holds and it's not too hot.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day

A gift from my husband:

to go with a previous gift:

I'm a very lucky lady.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The new crew

I went to an Amish hardware store this morning and came home with these. 

We had a total chicken massacre yesterday. By a coyote.  In broad daylight. I lost 18 birds yesterday.

To be continued...