Monday, December 28, 2020

Carl’s Comb

 Carl started crowing last night around 3am and woke us from a sound sleep. You might wonder why on earth we could hear our rooster in the middle of the night and you would be right to do so. It’s because he is currently housed in a kennel in the utility room. 

Yesterday when I went out to release the chickens there was blood sprayed around inside the coop. Not death quantities, just spatter. The last time that happened Bunty had torn her comb and sprayed blood whenever she shook her head. So I immediately started checking everyone for damage. Sure enough Carl’s comb was torn. Now how on earth he did it is a mystery. 

Chickens have an amazing ability to catch themselves on stuff. When Bunty was injured I decided it was a metal band that I was using to attach the grit cup to the wall. I removed it and no other injuries occurred so I figured I was right. So what was in there that Carl could get caught on? Given the size of his comb I decided it was the mouth of the feed tube. It’s PVC, not sharp, but if he got his head inside the Y joint it’s possible he pulled hard enough to tear the comb where it attaches to the top of his head (no, I’m not posting pictures. Ick). 

The damage isn’t severe but it is enough to make him shake his head and spray blood. It’s also enough to attract the other chickens and they were making it worse by pecking at him. Obviously he needed to be isolated. Chris easily caught him (an indication of his needing help as he doesn’t usually like to be touched) and we cleaned him up, put him in the medium kennel with all the comforts of home, and placed him in the utility room where he’d be warm and quiet. A towel draped over the kennel helped to settle him also.

And he’s definitely feeling better because he’s crowing up a storm. At 3am, of course. He’s also eating, drinking, and the blood is no longer dripping. We’ll keep him isolated for another day, treat him with that goop that turns blood black (to keep the girls from pecking him), and put him back in the coop at nightfall. Everything should be okay when they wake up the next morning.

Oh, and I removed the feed tube and replaced it with a heavy crock. I’ll need to keep a closer eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get soiled or spilled, but hopefully that will solve the problem.

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Traditional Christmas Walk

We typically go on a walk through the woods on Christmas morning. This year was unusual in that instead of our normal December upstate NY weather (cold, snowing) it was 56 degrees and raining. Most years we have to wear snowshoes. This year? A raincoat and rubber boots.

Given that we got 26 inches of snow just over a week ago, this melt off and rain has flooded the streams. This is worse than any spring thaw we’ve had.

There is still some snow in the woods

This is a stream I can typically step over

The driveway culvert

Grass! And 0 inches of snow.

And now, at 9:30pm, it’s just 26 degrees. Everything is going to freeze up tight. Crazy weather.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The 2020 Ornament

Every year we do a special ornament for the Christmas tree. We started this with our first year of marriage so now have 30 ornaments; we’ve had to cull generic ornaments to have room on the tree. The early ones were store-bought and we tried to tie them to something major that happened that year: the year we got snowshoes, a snowshoeing snowman of course. The year we went to Puerto Rico, a tiny handcrafted mask from a local artist. You get the gist. Now I usually make them, which means it’s easier to tailor them to our lives. A small shoe for the year we started making our own shoes; a bulb filled with construction debris the year we built the house.

We don’t just put the ornament up and hope we’ll remember all that occurred though. We also write up a synopsis and store it with the ornament. Just a few years in it was easy to read all of them. Now that we have so many we just pick random ones to read aloud as we decorate the tree. It’s a nice tradition and it’s fun to remember what we’ve done and even what we’d hoped to do as we sometimes included future plans or goals in the write up. 

This year is going to be a hard review. So much has happened in the world. And really, there was only one ornament that would work.

I think it conveys just the right touch of whimsy 

Friday, December 18, 2020

26 inches

What a snow! Far too gentle to be called a storm. No winds, no sleet, just steady wee flakes that piled up, and up, and up.

I braved the depths to jam the snowstick in. I’m reasonably confident I hit ground but regardless it’s a good enough measurement of what accumulated.
26 inches

Cooper was much less enthused by the snow this year. She tried to follow me out to the shed (where we’d left the snowshoes and snow shovels for some silly reason) but gave up pretty quickly.

That dark spot in the path is Cooper’s little head

Note that I was only halfway to the shed when I snapped the picture. Really should have had that shovel on the porch. Trudging through thigh-high snow is hard!

Much happier now that I’m down there with her

Shoveling the path to the chicken coop felt like it took forever. Fortunately my shoulder issues are gone (thank you PT) and I’ve really gotten stronger (thank you fitness classes) so I was actually able to help with snow removal instead of Chris having to do it all. 

That gate is closed for the winter!

 I guess I won’t be pruning the fruit trees on the solstice this least not without a lot more shoveling.

Thursday, December 17, 2020


We didn’t get the snow stick installed before it snowed (oops). But it’s obvious this a lot of snow! I’ll go out later with a yard stick to see just how much. Of course I’ve got to wait until it stops snowing to get a good measurement.

The first real snow of the season 

Nothing is getting light in the greenhouse 

The coop is buried
I love the first snow. It’s gorgeous and makes me feel all snug. It’s magical.

Of course, I’ll have a different feeling later in the winter when I’ve had quite enough of the work that snow brings. But for today I get to look out my windows and enjoy a hot latte while watching my world get covered in fluff.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Chicken Update


In late October the older hens went into molt and halted egg production. Completely normal, nothing to worry about. And the younger hens were still laying 3 to 4 eggs per day from 5 hens. 

The molt was going on a bit long and as the days got shorter the younger hens decided an egg moratorium was a good idea. Huh? This is flock #3 for me and every other young flock laid consistently throughout the winter without needing supplemental light. This flock figured a break was a great idea and quit laying a full two weeks before Thanksgiving.

I had to buy eggs! I own 10 hens! I was a wee bit upset.

So I decided to add a light on a timer inside the coop. I had a bulb cage, an outlet in the coop for the water heater, and a good place to hang the cage where it wouldn’t get knocked down. A bit of research said they needed at least 14 hours of light and that you should introduce it gradually. And that’s what I did. I extended the day in both directions by a half hour until I had at least 15 hours of light (I figured better safe than eggless). 

It took a while for them to start again, but I’m now getting 3 to 4 eggs a day. They started December 7 and haven’t missed a day since. 

The older hens are finally out of molt and laying (that’s a Bunty egg up there. The super extra large that looks like a goose got into the coop) although I don’t expect daily production from them. Two of the younger birds are consistent layers but the other three are sporadic. I think I’ll need to put bands on everybody so I can start figuring out who is laying and who needs culling. But that’s a problem for nicer weather. It’s 4 degrees out and I’m just happy they’re laying at all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Weather extremes

October 30th:

November 6th:

 Wonder what this winter will be...

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Using the broadfork

We got some unexpected warm weather (70 in November? Really?) so I decided to fluff the garden soil before winter set in. 

In the first picture the right side of the garden has been forked while the left is still untouched. You can kind of see a color difference.

This close up shows clods of dirt on the right, smooth soil on left.

Basically you jam the tines into the dirt then leverage the handles back and down to cut through the soil. You’re not tilling so much as, well, fluffing.

This is a good shot showing worked and virgin soil. 

The chickens think I’m brilliant with my new scratching technique. 

It’s still a fair workout but much easier than my old garden fork method.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020


 Whatever comes out of this election, at least people really came out to vote.

We were fortunate. Our very small, very rural town had a very “normal” voting day. No line, no waiting, and friendly people to hand out supplies. Everyone was wearing masks and they had brand new pens and styluses for folks to use. We’d brought our own as that’s what was recommended on several voting information sites and we got some very good natured ribbing and congratulations for doing so. 

Amazing how normal it all seemed despite the pandemic, the rallies, and the marches. Despite, in fact, how very abnormal our world actually is right now. 

I wonder how normal tomorrow will be.

Monday, October 12, 2020

All the stuff

There’s always a lot going on this time of year. The transition from summer to winter is more than just the fall harvest. It’s a mind set, an attitude. Days full of putting up and and putting away combine with a new creativity. A realization that there are days ahead where you won’t have to carve out time to do something frivolous; that the weather will not only encourage, but demand it.

It’s a wonderful time of year.
Getting to 6 Newton meters
Adding a kayak rack
Not waiting for the cushion covers
Grinding raisins
For Dad’s favorite cookies

Enjoying togetherness 
Layers: Ground hot peppers 
It’s supposed to be the dog’s bed

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Late season garden results

I’m getting very little out of the garden now. The nights are quite cold (though no frost yet) and the days are more often gray and overcast. Even when we do get sunshine it’s a pale imitation of the summer heat.

The garden was a definite success this year with only one exception-the beefsteaks. I’m officially giving up on those. They just don’t seem to have time to ripen. Maybe I’ll do some Early Girls in the greenhouse instead since the cherry tomato I’ve got growing in there is still producing flowers and ripening green tomatoes.

I planted a lot of hot peppers this year and they came in nicely. I’ve canned jalapeño and banana peppers, candied some jalapeños, and dried a mix of various hots. I bought a seed packet labeled “Hot Mix” which gave me a good variety. Unfortunately I’m not experienced enough to identify them all. I won’t be doing that again!

Lots of peppers 

Grinding dried hot peppers 

The potato tower worked well. I got a decent yield and harvesting was spectacularly easy. I layered straw, soil, and potato starts for a total of four layers. Will definitely do this again. 

A mix of big and small 

A pretty good yield 
The carrots really came in though the seed bunched up. I guess it was too light for the early season rain we got? Regardless, I got a good crop.

Apparently I planted rainbow seeds

The four red potatoes were volunteers from last year’s failed potato crop. 

The corn did fairly well this year. It all came up strong but about a third failed to fill with kernels. I’m guessing it was the dry summer we had and I’ll institute a better watering plan for next year. 

Mid-August I planted another crop of radishes and they’ve come in beautifully. Much better than the spring planting really. I’ll even have enough to pickle some. Yum!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Painting the dresser

Back about six years ago we scavenged a free dresser off Craig’s List. It was in great shape and was actually really good wood...but I wanted something fun for the studio. I used it, as-is, for years and finally got around to painting it. And boy did I make it fun!

Stripes! Dots! Dragonflies! Bees and butterflies! And lots of color. The purples match the supports for the work table and the greens are the same as on the armoire. The pinks are simply pretty.

The knobs are antique thread spools that my Mom gave me ages ago. I chose ones that had stamped ends then painted the sides with coordinating colors.

An antique hand-embroidered table cover to protect the top and it’s now full of linen and weaving supplies. Great storage and happy to look at. Love it.