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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Killer ducks!

That's right...two of the ducks pictured above are cold blooded killers! The big white one with his head under the water (Puddles) and the dark brown one next to him (Mr. Bean...alias Mr. Mean) committed murder by drowning last night. Don found poor Rowan drowned in the duck pool this morning. Since we keep the drakes in a separate pen, there is no one else to blame for this heinous crime.

Last night's incident leads us to believe that it was Puddles and Mr. Bean (Mean) who jumped Strayhorn and brutalized the poor rooster so badly he wasn't able to recover. Rowan didn't have a chance last night and now we are left with our least favorite foul fowls!

Rowan is now buried at the garden next to Strayhorn and I told Don I didn't want any more male birds. Don, however, wants another rooster. He misses the crowing...says it makes the place feel more like a farm with a rooster crowing. I just hope we find another nice rooster, but I never want any more drakes!

Rest in peace handsome Rowan. You were never a nuisance and that's a quality I admire in a duck...or a neighbor...or...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life's path...

As I was walking to the house this evening from the chicken pen and garden I noticed that I was walking on a path...a path that I've slowly made from daily trips back and forth. Even in the area Don hasn't mowed yet any one would be able to see my little path. The dogs use it as much as I do and every day we walk in a line out to do the evening chores.

Many times Don and I have chuckled at the horses as they walk their worn path from the barn to the pond after they've been fed. I can even see it on the Google map of our farm! Don's walking path down the hill and into the woods is also visible on the map. Before long the paths our dogs are making in the front and back yards will also be visible. Strange to think that a path made just from walking the same direction every day could become so permanent as to be seen from a satellite spinning in space!

I guess we all make paths in our lives in more ways than one...paths made from doing, feeling, reacting, in the same way day in and day out. Some might say I'm "in a rut" doing the same things every day, walking the same direction, eating the same foods, having a schedule, etc. Some might say that sameness makes me a very dull person. I don't find my life dull at all. I find the sameness...the paths I've be comforting and no day is ever the same!

Today as I walked back from the chicken pen and garden on my same little path I noticed the sunset through the Black Gum tree and wished I could see the solar eclipse, but I still enjoyed the lovely sunset. I rejoiced in the three perfect eggs the chickens gave me and the tiny bean sprouts that had just popped up in the garden today. I walked as I savored the handful of ripe raspberries...the first this year...that I'd picked at the garden. I was tickled to hear the tanager singing his heart out in the Elm tree...he always heralds in summer for me.

I am grateful that life's path has led me to this farm and all the treasures nature has in store for me every day. There is a peaceful contentment to routine and I welcome it every day, just as I welcome all the new and exciting experiences I find here on the farm each day I step outside.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tastes like summer!

This morning Don and I gleefully bit into toasted English muffins spread with butter and freshly made Dewberry Jelly. It was SO delicious, I can't even begin to describe it! We both agreed that Dewberry Jelly is quite possibly our absolutely, hands down, favorite jelly of all time and that I need to make more.

While Don was on vacation last week he helped me pick dewberries along the edges of our field. In fact, he went out again and picked more so I'd have enough to make jelly. I crushed the berries, placed them in cheesecloth and hung them to drip. I got enough juice to make a batch, with a bit left over. I think I'll freeze it and save it to add to the raspberries when they get ripe.

Don was quite disappointed that all his picking efforts resulted in only three and a half pints of jelly. We like it so much that three pints (I'll probably give the half pint to his parents for Christmas) might last a month or two! Looks like we will have to go on another picking foray on Don's next off day! There are plenty of dewberries to be had, without depriving the birds.

What's the difference in dewberries and blackberries? For one, dewberries ripen before blackberries do...usually in late May around here. Dewberries grow close to the ground, unlike blackberries which send out upright "canes". The leaves are also slightly different (dewberry leaves, like blackberry leaves, can be used to make tea). The wild dewberries here in the South have much larger berries than the wild blackberries do and a slightly different taste. In fact, I prefer the taste of dewberries over blackberries.

I always strain the juice and make jelly instead of jam, since I don't like the little seeds. There's no secret recipe either...I just use the recipe in the box of pectin. Dewberry jelly is always the first jelly of the year to be made in my kitchen. Next up will be Wild Plum (if the birds and worms don't get them all), then later in the summer I'll be making Elderberry Jelly. In the early Fall I'll make Kudzu Jelly if the summer isn't to dry to prevent the kudzu from blooming and, hopefully, I can convince Don to hoist me up in the front end loader to pick wild grapes for jelly!

All this discussion of jelly is giving me the urge to have a PB&J right about now. Bon Appetit!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Farewell feathered friends...

I'm back...again! Don was on vacation last week and I didn't get to post. We had our hands full trying to get the garden planted and taking care of Strayhorn, the injured rooster. We managed to get 48 potato starts planted, two patches of corn, four peppers (two each of two different varieties), green beans and cucumbers. Don also did a lot of mowing and bush-hogging and I did a lot of running in circles!

Sadly, our efforts to save Strayhorn were in vain. He died yesterday and is now buried out at the garden. He will be missed, especially by Don and I. We'll miss his gentle nature...a blessing after the last evil rooster we had (who should have been named Diablo instead of Randy)! We'll miss Strayhorn's afternoon crowing and the soft way he would chide the hens in the evening as he urged them to head for the roost.

I don't know when, or even if, we'll get another rooster. I fear we won't be as lucky as we were with Strayhorn, who didn't have a mean streak like most roosters do. If karma decides we need another one, I'm sure we'll take it in and give it a home.

On another sad note, our duck, Ducky, also died on Mother's Day. I'd noticed Saturday evening when I was feeding the ducks and chickens that Ducky was not herself. She was lying down next to the hutch and didn't come to eat. Normally, she would have been all excited hoping I'd brought fish. Don stood her up, but she just laid back down.  Sunday morning Don went out to check on her and found Ducky with her head tucked like she was just sleeping. The other female duck, Ping, was lying next to Ducky.

She was getting old, we've had her almost eight years, so it wasn't a huge surprise, but we will also miss Ducky very much. She was our first duck and had more character and charm than a lot of people! Don loved the way Ducky would "talk" to us, especially if we had the blue bucket with fish in it, and the way she would wag her tail when she was excited.

So it goes on the farm. It's never easy to say farewell, but we know it is a part of life and accept that there will be farewells...sadness along with the joy that our feathered friends bring us.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Miss me?

I'm baack! Never did I intend to be away for such a long time, my intention was to take a break through the holidays. However, life had other plans for me!

On February 18, 2012 my precious new grand baby arrived early...five weeks early! Her name is Bellatriks Coraline and she is just the cutest thing, as you can see in the photo above. There were some problems and I ended up staying with my son, daughter-in-law and new grand baby for three weeks. All is well now and little Coraline is growing at much to rapid a pace. I'm missing her something fierce and am looking forward to seeing her again the end of the month.

My daughter has had some scary health issues and I've been worried sick, but it appears that she is going to be okay. She sees her doctor Tuesday to get finalized results from her last test and they will discuss any further treatment that might be necessary. It is such a relief to know preliminary results were good that I've felt like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.

Sadly, my dear aunt is losing a long and difficult battle with lung cancer. She's been in the hospital and we are hoping she will be strong enough soon to go home for the remaining days of her life. She is a very sweet person and very dear to our family. It's heartbreaking.

My mom was also in the hospital a few weeks back. She had my sister take her to the ER as she was having heart issues. Her BP was high and would shoot up every time she stood. They kept her overnight for observation and let her go home the next day. We're not sure what is going on, but I'm hoping she will see a cardiologist in the near future.

As for daily life here on the farm we've had some ups and downs...mostly downs this year. Right now we have three dogs and a rooster being treated for injuries. Strayhorn, the rooster, has had it the worst. Two weeks ago the three drakes (my ducks Puddles, Rowan and Mr. Bean) attacked Strayhorn during a storm. I heard the ruckus and headed out in the rain to rescue him. He was lying in the pen wet and limp as a dishrag.

Poor Strayhorn lost an eye and had two big wounds on the back of his neck and under one wing. It has been quite a battle to save him. We even stayed up until 4 a.m. one night tending to him. Strayhorn has been living in the house since then, but should be ready to move outside in the next few days.

We've had water leaking through the ceiling in the den and went without running water for over a week and had a cat (Siobhan) go missing for a week. We spent many hours searching for her over the course of that week and then she just showed up at the front yard gate as if she'd never been gone!

To top things off my kitty, Possum, went into heat the morning we were going to take her to the vet to be spayed! She'll be going tomorrow, but we don't regret waiting so long. She provided us with a lot of much needed laughter last week with her meowing and rolling around on the floor. We were the only ones laughing though...the other cats and dogs were freaked out by her odd behavior!