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Two Moms, Three Babies

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Yesterday we had two mother hens and two chicks and a bunch of unhatched eggs. But then we looked in on them we saw that one of the eggs in the left behind nest was hatching. We could hear it peeping and see (through a small hole) the folded up chicken moving a bit. What to do?! This always seems to happen and we always end up getting involved and anxious. I tried to entice the hens over to the egg, picked up the egg, put the egg near them, and they were very interested in the peeping. In fact, when the egg peeped they peeped back at it. But they couldn’t seem to make the connection that they should stick with that egg. And then another hen came running over and pecked the egg really hard, making the hole much bigger. Clearly we couldn’t leave it out there. So we put it in a little tub, under a lamp, and decided to just see what would happen. At the end of the night we went out to see and, a chick!
chick hatchingStanding there, peeping. We were pretty surprised. At this point we had a choice: raise it all alone under a light or try to get the hens to accept it. Based on past experience there was a good possibility that they wouldn’t take the chick and might even harm it (I’m looking at you, mother of Laura and Mary who pecked them almost until death-and btw, this mother hen now is Laura/Mary!) But the hassle of raising a single chick is, well, a terrible hassle. Since it was late at night and the hens had gone to bed on their nest (a process I happened to see and which involved the mothers heading inside while the chicks stood on the ground peeping. I suppose they would have somehow gotten back, but I picked them up and put them in.) we decided we had a good shot at introducing the new chick into the nest. So we took the chick, snuck over to the coop, and just tucked the chick under a mother hen. And guess what? It worked!!! All day the two mothers have been working together with the three chicks. They peep, scratch, scamper, and are adorable. IMG_3829
I love seeing that they all look so different (the newest one is all black.)
Chick TrioTwo Moms, Three Babies

Two Moms, Three BabiesTwo Moms, Three Babies

And I had been thinking these were not the best chicken mothers, but when I was out taking pictures and they walked away from one chick I reached out to pick it up. And both hens raced over and attacked me. So, yeah, they are doing ok.

Here a Chick, There a Chick

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Hatching day! We were expecting chicks to hatch today and delighted to come home last night and be told that chicks could already be heard.
UntitledAfter a day running outside periodically to stare at the hens hoping for little heads to peek through wings,  I’ve got pictures and I think things have worked out. As usually happens we had two broody hens both on the same nest. Because our chickens are ridiculous. At various points in the morning I saw the hens swapping places (front and back) and with different little heads poking out of wings. Hatching day!  Two confirmed chicks so far. They are precious!  It's two mothers on one nest,  they are sharing

Hatching day!  Two confirmed chicks so far. They are precious!  It's two mothers on one nest,  they are sharingBut on my latest visit to them I saw that they have apparently divided up the chicks and left the nest. Only 2 chicks have hatched, and there are about 10 eggs left behind in the nest. I always think our ladies have a very low hatching rate. In any case, the buffy is on the floor of the coop with a little fluffy white and silver chick.  This chick looks rather delicate and I do hope it survives. Mother and chick
The black hen (who, by the way, joined the broody game several days later than the buffy hen so totally got off easy without a full 21 day sitting) has relocated to the ground with the most darling little tan and reddish fluff ball. I do wonder how they made it to the ground. Did the chick just fall out the door (a 18-24″ drop)? or did it walk down the long ramp? Both seem difficult for a less than 24 hour chick.
Checking out the world
Fingers crossed they both survive!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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Simple FlowersNormally at this time of the year my Flickr stream and blog would be filled with photos of large zucchini, ripening tomatoes, and so on.  I’m afraid that this year that’s not happening. The garden is…not really a garden. And you know what? I’m ok with that. If I live a nice long life it’s ok if one summer I let it all turn into a mess. As you might know, I have been waging a constant battle against the mugwort and morning glory in our fenced, raised bed garden (which should be free of all that nonsense, but is not.) I ended up only putting in 1 cucumber plant, a couple pepper plants, and a couple tomato plants.  The spring lettuce was great, but I left it in there when we were done eating  most of it and now it’s 4 feet tall and flowering beautifully. The small white butterflies like it. flowering 4ft tall lettuces
The peas had a big crop, but I didn’t love them that much and ended up leaving most of them on the vine-and consequently leaving the whole plants in.  I’ve got some huge herb plants and the warning that catnip might take over is proving true. So I do have some good herbs I can get to, and there are actually some tomatoes and 1 pepper in there. But beyond that I’ve allowed the insane rogue morning glories to take over.  I’m kind of looking forward to seeing it when it blooms. And next year we might even do a full start over.
the jungle, ahem, garden.As for the flower garden my mailbox garden is a disappointment compared to years past, and my little L-shaped annuals garden is cheerfully blooming, though not as dense as I would have liked. The butterfly garden needs some serious attention. Apparently I will never be able to keep lavender, as it consistently dies. I need to add some more perennials and remulch the whole thing.  At the garden center this week I decided to go ahead and get a few things that weren’t necessarily butterfly attractors. I just wanted some color and some things to take up space. 25% off big blooming rose bushes? Yes, please. So now I’ve got that to add, plus some blanket flower that I’ve always wanted. I was also pleased they had some cleome for sale in the annuals. I’ve always admired this kind of old-fashioned cottage garden flower but have only ever seen it in seed packets.  It’s a big self seeder so I hope it continues to come back. Cleome
Meanwhile the coneflower are lush and colorful and the bees and butterflies love them. No sign of any monarchs yet, but I do hope they’ll come. Of course, the aphids are all over the milkweed again, so I’m not sure how well the plant will do.

In the chicken coop it’s the same story as in summers past–broody hens in the nesting box, two in there together, things probably won’t end well.
2015 Coop nonsense I am keeping fingers crossed for them, though.  They are due to hatch tomorrow or the next day. You know I’ll be running out to listen for peeps!

Willow continues to delight and tire us.  She really hates being left alone, whether it’s in the crate or downstairs while we’re upstairs, and barks loud and long when she is.  I’ll tell you with a bit of pleasure that she seems really attached to me and I love it when she sees me in the morning and just wants to sit in my lap and be with me. It’s been two weeks today since we’ve had her and I swear she looks bigger already! The cats are getting used to her and Liesl is occasionally going up to Willow to check her out.  Her kennel cough is gone and housetraining is going really well.

Lap love

Clark & WillowWe’ve taken her twice to the field where I used to walk Pippin and she liked it very much. Tabby walking Willow
The meadow is beautiful in the summer and it was so nice to be back there with a dog again.
Willow & Me (still a novelty to me to be able to just pick her up and hold her like a baby)Gordon & Willow

More Birthday, More Puppy

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Willow, Posing PrettilySo it ‘s been just a little over a week that we’ve had Willow, and I have to say I just feel so lucky and happy that we have her. We all adore her, even though her puppy ways are sometimes a bit taxing.  She’s quite bite-y with her sharp little needle teeth and poor Tabby had a terrible pet day yesterday with being bitten quite hard, twice, in the same spot. As well as having Willow bite a small hole in a favorite dress (she has a terrible habit of grabbing hanging cloth-dresses, skirts, robes-to try to engage you.) Followed by the awful discovery that due to the gates being up for the dog the bigger, less nimble cat, pooped in Tabby’s bed. It was pretty dreadful and left her feeling not very fond of any of the animals.  Fortunately, she is quick to forgive. IMG_3684 And has been having a lot of fun playing with Willow. And is also great about walking her around and such. Playtime
Housebreaking is going well-it’s been two days without an accident in the house! Crate training was more of a struggle, with barking at night and sadness at being not with us. However, for the past 2 nights she went to sleep in her crate without any barking. There have been a few times where I’ve had to lie down next to the crate to soothe her and fortunately that helps.
It’s so much like having a baby in the house again, and just like a baby the cuteness makes up for being tired from having to get up early (or during the night, as was the case last night) and constantly taking things out of their mouths and replacing with appropriate things. Here she is being a Cinderella dog-she loves to curl up in this little corner, or sometimes stretch out here.
She had her first vet visit where it was confirmed that she has kennel cough, but is otherwise in good shape. We started the medicine for her, but it made her throw up spectacularly, which the vet warned might happen, so we’re supposed to call tomorrow.

In other continuing news for the week, we had Clark’s birthday party last night.  Although we knew that he and his friends would be happy to just run around like crazy, Paul and I wanted to have a few things planned for them, and I think they all had a great time. The first thing was a treasure hunt, which I insisted on calling a National Treasure Hunt because Clark and I have been watching the National Treasure movies and he really loves them.  Here’s how it worked: The first clue was the  riddle of the sphinx. When they figured out it’s man, they went to Paul who handed them the next clue and a pencil.  It was: 12 5 20 19  7 15  6 15 18  1  16 1 4 4 12 5  15 14  20 8 5  18 9 22 5 18.Which if you do a simple alphabet to number thing translates to “Let’s go for a paddle.” They raced off to our canoe where they looked inside it and found the next clue taped to the seat. It said “Don’t call me a dinosaur! I do like to soar, though, and prehistoric skies were once filled with me and my kind.  I usually grab fish in my talons, but you might find the next clue instead.” They all knew that in our woods hangs the model pterodactyl Paul made. With some stretching they were able to find attached to the talons a string of letters written down and one of the circles with the alphabet around the edge and a smaller alphabet on a circle on top. On the back it says you need to know the key for this. Whose birthday is it ? Clark (with a big  C) So you line up the alphabets so C is with A and then you write down the letters and translate it.  This didn’t work so well because my letters didn’t line up quite right and I may have kept forgetting which ring was the actual and which was the translation.  So eventually I told them it said: The rope ladder has what you need. They ran  to the rope ladder and found a little scroll through one of the holes and a scroll in another hole. One has the freemasons’ cipher and the other the symbols. They quickly deciphered the message : Want to shoot hoops? They ran to the basketball net and found a scroll wedged into the rim (which was fun to watch because they didn’t see it right away and were all looking all over.) This last clue said “Through the cold winter I will keep you warm.”  It took them a while to figure that out.  They were sure it must be in the chiminea, but it wasn’t. Eventually they ran to the chimney on the house and discovered, between the chimney and a big bush, a crate filled with water guns and treats. I have to say, I was pretty pleased with this and the boys had fun with it.
CiphersThe water guns were the kind you could attach a soda/water bottle for the water supply. The water bottles we had didn’t work well, so we pulled out the 6 pack of diet Coke and tubes of Mentos and had fun exploding all of those. IMG_3703 Then the boys filled the bottles with water and immediately formed teams and dispersed for an epic battle. IMG_3711 Then pizza, then backyard laser tag. As Paul pointed out the game before dinner and after dinner was basically the same, only difference being water vs. lights. They had a marvelous time and we vowed to do laser tag more nights this summer, because it’s really fun. And because Clark has been so into Lego Jurassic World, Paul whipped up this amazing cutout for this year. Happy 10th, Clark

A New Addition to the Family

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In addition to the 4th of July and Clark’s birthday, the other really big news this week is…we got a dog! As you may or may not know we’ve been looking for a dog for several months now. And as you may or may not know, despite the thousands of dogs in shelters, it’s not all that easy to just go and get one.  After a few bumps in the road, it feels like we just lucked out and everything fell into place.  Last Monday we happened to take yet another look online for a local shelter, but this time we saw two young dogs that might be great. I called and they were still available so we raced over and met “Susan.” Of course we fell in love and couldn’t believe that we were the first people to meet her. She was being spayed on Wednesday and we would be able to get her on Thursday.  I was so afraid of it falling through that I made us keep it all a secret and tried (and failed) not to get too excited.  We puppy-proofed and shopped and counted down to Thursday. And then, we got her!
Meet: Willow
She is a 4 month old black Lab mix.
Meet: Willow
A small, squirmy, playful, sleepy, bitey, naughty, adorable puppy.  She is not housebroken, so that’s #1 on the training list.  We’re also crate training and while there was crying on nights 1 and 2, night #3 went pretty well (I put a cassette player next to the crate playing a tape of me reading aloud stories, which I made several years ago for the kids.)
We had a bbq on the 4th and she met lots of people and got very tired out.
Happy Independence Day from Willow
Tuckered out.
We also were dogsitting Sophie, my mom’s dog (and another guinea pig as well!).  Sophie is 15 and we basically kept the two dogs apart as she is an elderly lady who doesn’t need puppies climbing on her.  However, when Sophie finally got out of her bed she did let the puppy satisfy her friendly curiosity, which involved so much tail wagging.
Young and Old
In other animal meetings she has been curious about the guinea pigs, barky at the cats, though kind of afraid of them(who she only saw one of them for the first time yesterday as they are so good at waiting until she’s asleep before checking her out), and very interested in Gordon, who apparently has no sense of being prey because he ran up to the fence to meet her and they touched noses. More than once.
Oh! And what’s her name? Well, it’s Willow.  We went in thinking it would be Ramona (yes, after Ramona Quimby), but Tabby suggested Willow (no one really knows why) and Clark really liked it, and Paul and I thought it was nice too and also thrilled the kids agreed on anything, so Willow Susan Debraski it is.
She’s definitely a handful, but I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a dog in the family again.
A new family portrait


A Decade of Clark!

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Happy 10th Birthday Clark! I can’t even believe my wee little boy is 10 years old now. He’s really been anticipating this particular birthday like crazy, and assaulting us with day by day countdowns to the big event. I hope it lived up to his expectations, and I think it did.
Birthday Breakfast: Chocolate Waffles
As usual the birthday began rather early in the morning and included presents, waffles, and bacon.  This year he asked me to make the waffles chocolate, which I did with half the batter by adding cocoa.  He has been crazy obsessed with the new Jurassic World Lego video game and of course wanted the actual Jurassic World Legos, which he did receive.
Hooray! I got what I wanted!
There was plenty of time for playing with it while I put ribs in the crock pot and baked the cake before we all headed out to see Jurassic World.
Jurassic World
We watched Jurassic Park on the last day of school to kick off the summer and the kids loved it. I was a bit worried about it all being too scary for Tabby but she did fine with it.  As for Jurassic World, I loved seeing it as much as I had loved seeing Jurassic Park in the theater (although–I was absolutely terrified when I saw it. Like, cowering in my seat.) It definitely was too scary for Tabby, but easily solved by covering eyes and ears. And frankly, I covered my eyes a few times too. Clark LOVED it, especially all the things he knew already from his games. I loved all the references to the first movie.

After that I went to the airport to pick up my mom and niece from their European vacation.  I brought my niece back to our house, and it was wonderful to get a visit with her.  The kids played and played, and we had the birthday dinner.


IMG_3617The cake request this year was chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and “a surprise inside of strawberries.” I think it came out great.
chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, strawberry middle

Happy Birthday, Clark! I love you!

The First Week of Summer Vacation (and about a million more activities)

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Well, that’s the first week done. It went about as expected-some fun, some friends, some moping, and after some blessedly restful days (see: previous busy week), a few more activities.  On the heels of the Belle and Sebastian and Weird Al concerts, Paul and I went to see Rush. [Should you be interested in his take on the concert, here it is.] Full disclosure: I used to hate Rush. They were the most identifiable-to-me band on the radio and whenever I heard them I would change the station. But, I suppose time has mellowed me. That, and being married to a huge Rush fan. Paul loves Canada and prog rock and is of a certain age, so yes of course he loves them. I enjoy their place in pop culture (see: I Love You Man, Freaks & Geeks, etc.) So, off we went to see the big 40 year retrospective anniversary tour. And I have to say–it was great.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a big arena show and I forgot what fun that can be. Plus, I was truly impressed by the absolutely huge sound created by 3 guys. Plus, it was kind of cool to see musical icons (let’s face it, hearing Tom Sawyer was great.) Plus, it was just an all around good show. Oh, and plus it was really fun to see all the Rush fan stereotypes come to life. Absolutely true. So many men there with their friends just loving it, air drumming away, and totally into the music. (Paul included.) And that’s another thing, though I could not appreciate this, apparently they played a lot of deep cut type stuff that Paul really loved and never though they’d play and he was ecstatic that he got to see/hear that. So watching him enjoy that must have been like when he went to the Neil Young concert with me.
And they used lasers and smoke sometimes, which felt wonderfully 70s. And I saw a guy propose to his girlfriend. All in all, a really fun night.

On another night we went to a local church’s Italian festival, where we played midway games and ate delicious pizza frite and other foods.  Both kids tried steamed clams for the first time. Clark LOVED it.
Clams  for the first time
Tabby initially did, until she tasted/felt sand and then had this funny reaction.
Clams  for the first time
We went to the bike shop to outfit Clark with a new bike.  These children are growing like weeds! He is now 5 ft tall and we got him an adult bike with gears.
A New Bike
With proper care this could be a bike he takes to college with him. We’ve had a few rides around on it and especially enjoyed our own road which was so much easier now that it is level.
Bike Ride
Tabby will be getting Clark’s old bike and she is still working on getting used to the hand brakes.

And then there was a super suburban evening of hosting bunco. I had a “red, white, and bunco” theme as we’re so close to the 4th of July and totally went the classic/cheesy route of red, white, and blue cupcakes and jello parfaits.
Red, White, & Blue Desserts
Instead of a traditional flag cake, though, I went with a savory flag focaccia, using blue potatoes for the field of blue.
Move over Flag Cake
Definitely recommend this for a patriotic type party.  Next time I will remember the stars and put some ricotta or fresh mozzarella on it.

And after that was a Game Night with our gaming friends.  I would play board games into the wee hours ever single weekend if I could.

And before all that was a camping trip, which really turned into just a day at a campsite due to approaching guaranteed bad weather, and Father’s Day. Both were very pleasant and rather low-key. On Father’s Day we went to see Inside Out, which we all loved (and made Paul and I cry more than once.) I made a nice dinner, including a strawberry trifle,
The Golden Bowl of Yum
and the bizarre weather yielded beautiful sunsets.
And since these pictures maybe never made it to this blog, I’ll share a couple pictures I posted on Father’s Day that I like very much of Paul and the kids when they were babies. He’s a great dad and I feel our kids are so lucky to have him.
Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day
And as for news outside: The garden is so insane and overrun by morning glories and the dreaded chrysanthemum weed that I’m considering just leaving the whole thing to be a jungle and starting anew (in a new place??) next year. That seems a bit drastic, but really the garden is just not showing me love (and, honestly, I’m not showing it any) this year.
Gordon has been a naughty bun bun and twice escaped. We were able to figure out that the second time he did it he did not dig under the fence, but found a way to squeeze through the chicken wire overlap. He had to remain confined to his hutch for a few days until we could fix that up and make it secure.  When I let him out again he was very happy and clearly missed his chicken friends. I was delighted and startled to discover him in the actual chicken house, sitting on the edge of a nesting box!! (his girlfriend is in the adjacent box-perhaps he just followed her in?)
Look who's in the chicken coop


I’m thinking it will be a slower pace next week-no concerts! But we will be thinking about Clark’s birthday, which is a mere 1 week away.



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