PSA – Skin Cancer

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program for this PSA…


Wear your sunscreen, don’t use tanning beds and get your skin checked yearly.

I had a Moh’s procedure done Last Wednesday to remove a basil cell carcinoma on my shoulder.

I try to wear sunscreen pretty regularly when I’m purposely out in the sun, but I’m also of a generation who are kind’ve on the cusp of the awareness or our parent’s awareness of the long term effects of the sun so there was lots of damage done in my early years, and I’m embarrassed to say a couple of short stints of tanning bed use.

The scar isn’t a big deal to me. I have so many at this point, what’s one more?

What is a big deal is the possibility of something worse: melanoma. Melanoma is scary stuff, ya’ll.  I don’t know if you know it, but in it’s later stages, melanoma is a death sentence.

I’m not interested in losing out on any of this…

…so I’m going to be more diligent about sunscreen on a daily basis and during colder months.

Additionally, this summer I’ll be investing in rash guards, hats, the whole 9 yards.  Fashion be damned.

Better safe than dead.

Chicken Low and Chicken High

The low came Sunday evening as we were getting ready to leave for church and we were trying to round up the chickens, hoping to convince them to go to bed early since we knew we’d be home after dark.  I didn’t see Fancy but eventually found her under a parked car. I instantly knew something was up.  After I retrieved her from under the car with no protest from her, my fears were confirmed.  She had very labored breathing and kept closing her eyes.  Her comb had turned very pale and she looked near death.

Josh tried getting her to drink and then tried giving her a vitamin supplement that sent her into convulsions.  He ended up putting her out of her misery.

She seemed just fine at every point up until then, and apparently Sudden Chicken Death Syndrome is a thing, usually heart related.

Fancy got her name because she had pretty gold feathers, a large comb, and no matter how many times we clipped her wings she would still fly over the fence just to show us she could.  We joked …”oh, she thinks she fancy!” and that’s how she got her name.

She will be missed. She was the last remaining hen from the original chicks and the only one who laid white eggs. Poor Nolan cried when I told him she wasn’t going to make it and exclaimed “Now, I’ll never see a white egg, again!”

We don’t know what caused her death, but we’ll keep an eye on the rest of the flock and start giving them some various preventative things and hopefully all will be well.

RIP Fancy: 2016-2017

The high came last night. I came home and looked around the yard and saw a missing Buff Orpington.  A few minutes later I saw her sneak out from the shed. I glanced under and didn’t see any eggs. After dinner I went out to close the coop and that dang chicken was gone again.  There she was, under the shed. She’d gone broody. Meaning she was sitting on eggs expecting them to hatch. Um, no, honey, that’s not how nature works when there’s no rooster.

I managed to use a stick to convince her to leave. I didn’t want something getting her in the night.  She was not very happy with me and I could hear her squawking from the coop for a good 5 minutes.  Meantime, I knew there were eggs under there because that’s what broody hens do. Sit on eggs. I used a rake to pull them out.

Ya’ll.

YA’LL!

There were 23 eggs under there.  I did the egg freshness test…

and they all passed!

There were no white eggs and we’ve been getting about one white and 1-2 brown ones/day in the nesting box for a week or two as things warmed up, so my best guess is that two of the older Buff Orpingtons and Fancy were laying in the nesting box.  That means that our younger hens, Chicoletta and Little Red, must have started laying in addition to the broody Buff. I mean, how else do you have 23 still fresh eggs out there!?

Craziness!

I’m was feeling pretty disheartened about the chicken situation after Fancy and the egg find helped a little. I’m hoping to build them a new coop and run in a couple of months as it warms up and we hopefully will be putting a little less $ and energy into the rental house we’re getting ready to list.

I’m thinking something like this, with a little supervised free ranging most days.

So, that’s the latest on our ongoing chicken saga!

Spring is sprouting

Well, the garden is in!


I used the same gate and fencing from the backyard in last year’s garden. I had to buy one more roll to complete it.

I picked up a few more t-posts and two cattle panels for the tomatoes, cucumbers and pole beans.


I’ve got the broccoli, kale, lettuce, carrots, bunching onions and some spinach planted. I need to start some more Kale and spinach. I’m trying to use the spinach as a border.

I still need to get the chard in and I’m waiting for it to warm up before I put in the tomatoes and peppers.

I bought a heat mat to get the peppers to germinate and it’s working great.


I learned how to make this grow box on YouTube.


Once the seeds germinate and sprout I move them into the windowsill or cold box.


I moved a few things out of the box today and moved cucumbers in. Re-potting them from the soil blocks where they started to sprout into the Styrofoam cups.

I’m also growing herbs and flowers and ended up sprouting some spaghetti squash seeds because I couldn’t resist when they were already sprouting inside the organic squash I bought at the store.


Now they’re growing quite well in the pots. I guess they’ll go down on the hill with the other larger plants like the watermelon.

I’m thinking of growing the eggplant and zucchini in containers to save room in the garden.


The cold box is working very well, too! Everything is staying protected and thriving.

So that’s the current update and hopefully everything will start taking off soon.

Daddy’s Girl

I’ve had a bit of a revelation recently. I’m a little like my Dad. I doubt many of you reading this have any idea what this means or why that’s surprising.

He died 9 years ago and I maybe saw him once every year or two in the 5 years after I left college, which was when I lived closer to him than I had since I was 8 when my parents divorced. Some years before the divorce, maybe 5 or 6, we had moved out to a house on 18 acres and a pond in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. As it turned out, my introverted mother didn’t like being 30+ minutes from “town” (whoda thunk?). It wasn’t the sole cause of their marital demise, of course, but didn’t help.

I have terrible long-term memory but I recall him growing vegetables and such. We had cows, but they weren’t ours as we leased our land to someone else for them to graze.

After the divorce he tried gardening again at a different property (6 acres) and he had blueberry bushes, as well.

Remind you of anyone?

He was a very intelligent man and would get really into various things only to lose interest at some point.  After gardening came fish (tanks everywhere!) and then “collecting” (he even opened up an antiques shop after retiring from teaching).

I may have some tendencies that way (knitting, anyone?),  though I don’t think gardening is going to be one of those things. I just get so much satisfaction from growing a little food and raising our own egg chickens.

But yeah, it’s funny how as you get older you start to see your parents in yourself (I’ve got my mom’s hands and her preference for quiet and solitude). As a parent, we want to see that we’ve made an impact, but I think we always want our kids to do just a little better than we did.

I imagine my dad is rooting on my gardening ventures and my mom is proud that I’ve been able to cultivate a village of friends, something that was always a challenge for her.

I hope and pray that wherever life takes, Nolan, he’ll do even better.

Just friends

I’m so frustrated, ya’ll. Josh and I were both out late last night and when Josh got home Mae Mae wasn’t in the coop.

We haven’t seen hide nor feather of her. No trace. Damn hawks or eagles. 

They might be the hardest predators to thwart. I hate to not let the chickens free range, but I’m thinking the only way to keep them safe is to keep them locked in their fenced area unless we’re home and outside or the dogs are outside. Harder to do on the weekends when we’re in and out, but I think it’s the only way we’re going to stop losing hens. We may even have to string some poultry netting across that fenced area.

#prayersForMaeMae

On a side note, I took tomorrow off work and it’s going to be a beautiful 70 degree day. We’re (#fingerscrossed) going to pick up some free wood chips and then I’ll be well on my way to having the garden ready for planting. I’m hoping by the end of the weekend to have it fenced and ready to go.

I can’t wait to get my carrot seeds planted. I swear carrots might be the most satisfying plant to harvest. The ones I planted in the doomed fall garden have sprung to life as the days have lengthened and temps warmed. I picked a few today. A couple of them were really good size!


In just a few months we’ll be getting yellow, orange and purple ones.

Mae Mae and Friends

So, how are the chickens doing?

Well, our flock currently consists of these three Buff Orpingtons.  None of which have names except the one in back that we call “hurt chicken.” She’s fine now, but got a bit messed up by Monty (our dog).  He knows better now, but thought he was playing with her and ripped some feathers (and skin) out.  After she molts in the fall we won’t be able to tell the different between these three.    None of these are from our original chicks.  We drove out to Windsor and got these after we were down to two or three.

Fancy, the one with the large comb in front, is the only original chicken left.  The two Rhode Island Reds are very new and young.  The one in front is Mae Mae and the one in back is Lil’ Red.  The White Leghorn is named Chick-O-Letta (everyone with small children will understand the reference)

We’re not getting many eggs right now.  I locked them in the fenced in area for a few days to remind them where to lay eggs because I’m sure they’re laying them somewhere, I just can’t figure out where. These ladies need to earn their keep (the three young ones aren’t of laying age, yet).

In garden news…

Here’s the update on the seeds in the house.  Appears to be only zucchini and swiss chard.  I don’t think any of the peppers or tomatoes germinated.  I’m probably going to have to find a warmer place for them.  This room used to be a garage and has a great window for sun, but doesn’t stay warm.  It’s not connected to the central heat.

Look at that beautiful zucchini seedling.  I can’t wait to chow on zucchini boats this summer.

These seeds are outside.  This container I have them in isn’t the best.  They’re angled which gives them a lot of sun, but the moisture and nutrients are draining down.

The broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach and such are sprouting.  Again, the tomatoes, peppers aren’t doing anything. And neither is the lettuce, which I’m learning is apparently better as a direct sow.

A little research has shown that I can plant most of my cooler weather crops now.  Kale, spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chard…all of that can go in now.  My main hesitation is that the almanac indicates that we’ll get a snow in mid-March.  I can, of course, cover the beds then, but I had hoped not to have to purchase low-tunnel materials until late summer, early fall.

I received my Lasagna Gardening book on Friday and zoomed through a lot of it before starting my beds on Saturday.

The wind and regular weekend happenings limited how much I was able to get done.  Also, my supply of newspaper.  I really wanted to use newspaper but I don’t have a regular supply of it, so I’ll have to use cardboard to finish up.

My layers are newspaper/cardboard, leaves, compost, hay, compost, top soil (not quite done with that.  Once I’m ready to plant I’ll mulch with either hay or wood chips.  I want to lay everything in the garden around the beds with wood chips, too, but I need a free supply to do that.  I’m also working on a supply of grass cutting from one of the landscapers that works in the neighborhood.

I plan to extend these rows longer, add one on the right and two or more in the back.  I really think this is going to be a perfect spot. Full sun, level, well drained soil…

 

“Farm” Update (Long)

Nolan’s teachers and classmates like to talk about our “farm” since for most of them it’s almost the same thing.

Last time I posted we were winding up the summer garden and I had created a very nice looking fall/winter garden.

Man, I worked hard on that thing and it looked so good! Unfortunately, pretty soon (6 days) after I planted that garden, a hurricane came through and all the seeds washed out.

I still had a few things that sprung up, but the fall/winter here means very limited sun. Since it was already not the sunniest place, nothing did well.  I do still have a few carrots that are starting to grow again now that the days are getting longer.

So…on to plan C.  I’m going to plant a garden in the front yard.  Yep, the front yard.  It’s the only place in our entire yard that gets the right sun.

That tree you see there casts shade over that whole area of the yard that has nothing in it, otherwise I’d plant against the fence.  I do think I’m going to plant some blackberry bushes against the fence.  We already have two blueberry bushes in front of the house.  So…this weekend I’m going to start building the beds in my lasagna garden.  No, I don’t mean I’m growing things to put in lasagna (though I suppose I am).

There are a hundred different ways to do it, but it’s really about using what you have to create your own soil.  Our soil is very dry and sandy, especially in the front yard where that large tree has really stolen a lot of nutrients and moisture.

I plan to go with 1) newspaper, 2) chicken compost, 3) dried leaves, 4) not sure…maybe more chicken compost, purchase some mushroom compost or ask the neighbor or lawn company for grass clippings 5) topsoil (necessary because we’re starting in Spring instead of fall which would have given it months to break down) 6) newspaper, 7) hay as mulch.  Everything gets wet down between layers.

I don’t have kitchen scraps to put on/in it because well, 1) no time for it to break down and 2) I bought this countertop compost bin for our kitchen scraps and we give them to the chickens.  I actually just bought a second one for things that can be composted but aren’t food for the chickens, like paper towels, coffee filters, coffee grounds, etc.

The plan is to get the front garden built this weekend (thankfully it’s supposed to be in the 60’s and 70’s) and let it do it’s thing until after the last frost (March 15th around here).

In the meantime I’ve started my seeds.  I went a little overboard and bought a LOT of seeds.  I bought most of them from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

I also bought some other organic ones from Seeds of Change.  I kept remembering other things I wanted to plant so I also bought some bunching onions and cucumbers off Amazon and then some Heirloom green pole beans at Home Depot.I haven’t started most of the larger things like corn, watermelon, cucumbers or any of the things that can’t be transplanted such as carrots or the bunching onions.  They’ll have to wait until mid-March.

So far I’ve started peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, basil, kale.  I plan to put the basil and cilantro on the deck in some planters (away from dogs and chickens), strawberries, too. The corn, watermelon, cucumbers, oh, and sunflowers I plan to try in a garden down on the hill where I have more room. That will be more of an experiment, but I plan to use the same method.

I started the seeds outside in cold frames as a different experiment.  The ones in plastic went out first and after 9 days they hadn’t germinated so last night I moved them inside only to realize after two warms days they HAD started to germinate, so I left the ones in the 3 tiered container (in soil blocks) outside and put a second cover over them.  Some of the seeds on the bottom had started to germinate and those I just planted on Sunday so I’m stoked.  I’m sure I’ll provide pictures in the next week or so.

 

Obviously I was a little into gardening already, but what has really gotten me going is stumbling onto this Vlog.  I would go so far as to say I’m slightly obsessed. lol

They’re actually only days away from leaving the farm for 10 months and touring North America on a school bus they had converted to an RV.  I do miss the garden videos, but they’re touring farms (it’s called the Great American Farm tour) so I’m sure there’ll be plenty to see and learn from.

That vlog is where I learned about soil blocking, which is planting seeds in little blocks of soil with no containers.  They’re not cheap, so I bought a small one to start and so far so good.  The idea is the roots get more airflow and also you’re not spending money on plastic containers or throwing those in the landfill when they break.  I did just like Justin Rhodes did and didn’t cover the seeds.  Just laid them in the little indentations created by the soil blocks.

Clicking around on different related vlogs led me to the Baker Creek Seeds and lasagna gardening.  I’ve got this Lasagna Gardening book on the way and I am just so stoked for spring.  Having all this prep work to do has really made winter go by faster.

Okay, so that’s my really, really long garden update and hopefully there will be more to come soon on the chickens and other life updates.

 

 

Progress

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged since May! I’m not going to even try to catch up. Needless to say it was an awesome summer filled with Busch Gardens, Water Country, boat rides, a visit from family and lots of ice cream.

Now we’re getting in gear for fall. Today is the day I visit the attic and pull out the Halloween decorations. I’ve already made chili and cornbread once and I’m starting to transition from iced coffe to hot.

Nolan moved rooms at daycare twice since we last spoke. Due to his late birthday he had to be on the fast track to the pre-k class. He’s doing well and I’ve seen a lot of positive changes with his behavior and attitude.  

He seems to have suddenly turned into a more rough and tumble boy lately.  It’s been quite a month with him between a concussion, croup, bruised rubs, and hitting himself in the face with a shovel. 0_o 

I for one can’t wait for Kindergarten. His school is on the corner of our neighborhood and after school care is in the school. I hope everything works out the way we hope and our commute will be cut by a good hour/day. I plan to walk him to school with the dogs and if possible go home on the afternoons, get the dogs and then get him. The afternoon is more iffy but the mornings should be fine and walking is easier than driving because that drop-off line gets crazy.

My summer garden did pretty well. Better than last year. Got a lot of beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, a little lettuce, some kale, one carrot. 



There isn’t any great area in our yard with a lot of sun so stuff came in late and some didn’t grow at all. I think part of it was the seed pods I used.

To get ready for fall I pulled out the pepper plants that weren’t producing and put them in containers and they’re doing much better, though I don’t know if they’ll actually bear any fruit.


We have been getting jalapeños now and I made some salsa with the last of my tomatoes and it’s amazing! I don’t even like salsa. 

I really enjoy gardening so for fall I’ve expanded.



I built that fence and gate by myself when Josh and Nolan were out of town. Go me.

Nolan helped me make the mounds and plant the seeds yesterday.  He also wrote most of the labels. Can you believe it!? I mean he had help with some letters, but still.


I had already planted seeds in the boxes and they’re doing okay but I needed to replant the lettuce and some kale because we had crazy rains two weeks ago that ruined it. We got 10 inches of rain in 3 days and schools were even closed.

This year we’ve used a bit of our own compost and a little we bought (needed some to plant grass seed). By next year we shouldn’t need to buy anymore. The chickens provide plenty of compost with their poop, pine bedding and then whatever scraps we throw out there.

Speaking of the chickens they’re doing pretty well. We only have 2 of the original 6 left. Predators (fox – 2, Hawk -1, Monty -1) got four of them. We ended up driving out to Windsor to buy 4 more Buff Orringtons the same age.

Right now we’re averaging about 2 eggs/ day. Some are definitely being slackers. Our favorite chicken (we call her Chicken Parrot) is the only one producing daily.

The black chicken (we call her Fancy) we know isn’t producing because she’s the only one who should be laying white eggs rather than brown (you can tell by the color of their ears).

The difference we’ve noticed with our eggs are harder shells and brighter yolks.

Okay, well, I think that might bring us up to speed for how and I’ll try to update more regularly.

Life on the Farm 

Okay so that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But sometimes between the dogs and the “garden” and the chickens I can slightly feel like we’ve got a little hobby farm.


I thought I’d check in and give you a quick chicken update. Josh got the coop built and they’ve been outside for a few weeks.

IMG_2932
We haven’t put the roosting boxes in, yet, because they’re still months from laying eggs.

Here’s a video of them (and the very eager dogs).

The two gold ones are named Skye and Rubble (from Paw Patrol).  One of the black ones, the one with more orange on her beak is named Phoenix.  She got her name by surviving an attack from Goliath.

We were building the fence and before we could cover the gaps on the ends goliath squeezed through in 5 seconds flat and gave that chicken quite a scare.  She had a gash on one thigh (you know you’re picturing fried chicken thighs) and some feathers missing from her tail.  We didn’t know if she’d survive the stress, but she did so we decided she would be Phoenix.

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We put an old bench out there and it’s very relaxing just to sit and watch the chickens.

I believe it will be September or October before we start seeing eggs.  I can’t wait!

Choices and Blessings

I was driving home yesterday from Busch Gardens and contemplating some things.  It was this amazingly perfect day where my friends were all able to join us at the last minute and there was no drama and no hiccups and we left right before no-nap meltdown time. Beautiful weather, beautiful friends…just an all around amazing day.

As Nolan finally took his nap on the ride home I was contemplating how blessed we are. In so many ways.  I was thinking about how I sometimes wonder when the other shoe will drop. Is it actually possible to be this lucky? Surely something bad is going to happen.

But then, I was thinking…there have been lots of times when I/we could have not felt so blessed.

My parents got divorced and we moved away from my dad.  My grandfather got AIDS during a surgery (in the mid 80’s).  I was overweight for most of high school, nerdy and not one of the “cool kids”.  I had to have back surgery at the age of 14.  I’ve lost a lot of family in the last 10 years, including both my parents and I’m only 35. Josh lost his job at one point, a few months before he started with the police department.  I had post-partum depression after Nolan was born. Josh now works a stressful job with unfortunate hours.  My marriage is not perfect, my child is not perfect (whose is?). I am not perfect and neither is my life.

This made me think that perhaps the blessings in our life, or the feeling of having been blessed, may have more to do with the decisions we’ve made.  The choices we’ve made when faced with the bad or the hard.

I know that things are not always as simple as this makes it seem.  We don’t always know what the good choices are. But maybe it’s more a matter of making choices for the right reasons.  Perhaps then, even if it wasn’t the best choice, it can eventually lead you down the right road.