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Category Archives: Chickens

Snow Day!

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Snow Day!This week we had our first, and likely last, snow day of the year. It was so strange because Wednesday was incredibly unseasonably warm (62 degrees in February?!) but we knew snow would be starting overnight and the temperature plummeting 30 degrees. We were all thrilled to have the snow day announced even before it started snowing so we could turn off our alarms and sleep in. This is probably the first snow day I didn’t feel the need to go outside and actively enjoy the snow. Instead it was all about being cozy and doing all cozy snow day things crammed into one day. And that, of course, involved many special snow day meals. It all began with blondies made the night before. For Christmas Paul got this enormous bar of milk chocolate from Trader Joe’s. Truly enormous. Pounds worth. I shaved off some of it and folded it into the batter and oh my, it was perfect.
Snow Day Menu
Snow Day breakfast begins with an option of ice cream, a fun tradition from our friends. I didn’t want any, but both Clark and Tabby had some. Atop their delicious homemade waffles.
Snow Day Menu
Afternoon saw a favorite winter special lunch/snack that I haven’t done yet this year (even though this item requires planning in the summer and canning of the salsa.)–Nachos. A great big tray of them.
Snow Day Menu
And for dinner we had homemade pizza, including one big one made with homemade meatballs which had been in the freezer tantalizing labeled “homemade meatballs in pizza sauce-put on pizza.” Basically, opening up the freezer and seeing that bag so often made me want to make that.

It was a double feature day-Groundhog Day and Iron Man, both of which were well received by the kids. They were really delighted with Groundhog Day, which pleased me very much because I love that movie and hadn’t seen it in a long time.

I also read a book, which was wonderful, and it felt great to just spend the morning on the couch in my pajamas reading it right through to the end.

All in all, it was a wonderful snow day!

In other news: our new furnace installation is almost done and PSEG has connected us to the gas line (two days of digging because apparently everything is solid shale.) We have not had heat (from a furnace) at all this winter, making do with our extremely hard working fireplace/blower. For the most part it has kept us plenty warm, but I can’t wait to be able to just turn on the heat.

In saddest news (this is called burying the lead because I didn’t want to do a whole post about it), our darling cat Sweetie is gone. I can’t say died because we don’t know what happened to her. She was just missing. We’re assuming she stepped outside (our front door doesn’t have a good latch and there’d been a lot of going in and out with firewood) and the door closed behind her and she was frightened and darted off. Two people in the neighborhood said she saw her, but we haven’t. We’ve done everything you do to get a lost indoor cat back, but to no avail. (I still can’t believe we couldn’t trap her in the havahart with enticing wet cat food–we did end up trapping the neighbor’s barn cat both in there and in our garage.) I know everyone thought Sweetie was our unfriendly cat, but she was extremely affectionate and loving with Paul and me. Her purr was so noisy and enthusiastic, she loved being brushed and petted, and although the love was not completely returned, she adored Liesl.2016-12-21-22-18-38 I hope with all my heart that I’m proven wrong and get to write some amazing story of her return weeks after vanishing, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen.

In other animal news our flock has a dangerously and annoyingly large number of roosters in it. SEVEN. Seven! It was six, but get this-some jerk snuck a rooster into our coop when we weren’t home! That was not cool to make it be our problem. He is extremely handsome and seems happy to be with us (he’s the big white one),The Chicken Apartment but the days are getting longer, spring is coming, and the young roosters are getting randy, which means fighting.
The Flock
This past week I celebrated my first anniversary at work. It’s been quite a year of changes, adjustment, good days, and bad days. It was a pretty fast year, I have to say, and I’m still so happy to be there.
Sugar cookies

A Baker’s Dozen

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Last post the chick count was up to 6, which was just crazy. The morning of our vacation (Thursday) we found this little guy:2016-08-04 10.34.23

adorable! A half a dozen darling chicks. We left on our trip, with the animals in the capable hands of a local girl who also has chickens. Though we’d intended to clean out the nests for her we just left them alone with instructions to not gather any eggs and not worry.

To our surprise, on Monday (yesterday) she texted to say that more chicks hatched and there were now…..TWELVE BABY CHICKS! Yep, in our absence (and free of our meddling) six more chicks hatched. I couldn’t wait to get home and see them. This morning (Tuesday) I went to see them and there they all were. Some 5 days old with little wings, and some clearly only 1 or 2 days old. Amazingly they were all mingled together under sort of watchful eyes of two (three?) moms.

2016-08-09 08.37.52


2016-08-09 13.18.08

When I opened the door to the henhouse I discovered, in the empty nest, what looked like a wet, dead chick. But I saw a tiny breath in it. And seeing a hen in the next nest felt it was a worth a shot to pick it up and stick it under her. A few hours later it was dry and fluffy, though not especially strong looking. And locking up the chickens tonight I found it dead on the floor. Unlucky #13. But……..unbelievably……under that hen? A brand new peeping chick! I just saw it! Looking very sprightly.  So, that brings the total to 13 baby chicks. And let’s hope that’s it. And that they’re not all roosters. Speaking of roosters, I’m thinking that the incredible rise in the fertility in the coop is due to the new rooster who took over this winter. He’s evidently a much more effective, well, you know.
The twelve chicks and two mothers have all squeezed into one of the outdoor nesting boxes to sleep tonight. I can’t imagine they will all fit in there longer than another few days at most.

At the beginning of May we had 13 adult chickens. Now we have 13 adults, 7 adolescents, and 13 babies, for a total of 33. That’s a rather dramatic increase!

What’s New in the Coop?

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When last you saw our chicks they were adorable little fluffballs, peeping and following their multiple moms around. Now, at almost 8 weeks old, they are a pack of sort-of-ugly little birds that look like velociraptors (maybe it’s too much Jurassic Park, but that’s always what I think of when I seem them flocking around on their big scaly legs.) Some of these chicks are going to be prettier chickens than others. The moms are done with all the babies. Sadly, this leaves the single baby a little lonely. The group of 7 want nothing to do with her, and she does try to still stay with her mom who, if not exactly going out of her way to see the little one, isn’t actually mean to her. The 7 sleep together every night in the little nesting boxes, which is very cute. All in a heap, still. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for no roosters.Sorority House// also run around freely outside because they can fit through the fence. They are very dumb, though, and often can’t find their way back in (and it’s also a tight fit now.) I’m pleased to report that while Willow will look at them she doesn’t chase them. What a good girl 🙂
Who's an adorable doggie?//
We’ve noticed that part of our grape vines are suddenly decimated. What could be getting them so high up? Mystery solved:
The mystery of the disappearing grape leaves//
We’ve just had the summer solstice-it’s peak laying time. Between 7 and 8 eggs daily, which frankly is an awful lot. The fridge is full, they are always on the counter, and we’ve run out of egg cartons. Yikes! I should probably hang out a shingle again, but it seems easier to hand them out to friends and have Paul bring them to work. Time for omelettes, custards, angel food cake, quiche, and curd!

Here a chick, there a chick

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Last week saw a trifecta of excitement: Mother’s Day, Paul’s Birthday, and baby chicks hatching! The weekend kicked off with the first peep heard late on Thursday, the first chick viewed on Friday morning, and by Sunday afternoon the chicks were out and about in the sunshine. How many chicks? SEVEN. The most we’ve ever had at a time before was 3 (not counting the mail order chicks), so this was pretty exciting. As usual, there was a lot of drama and a lot of mamas. There are 3 hens that are taking on the mothering duties, with all 7 chicks responding to all three. There is a lead mother, though-the small black hen who was the one who went broody first. Babies #6 and 7 seemed to come out of nowhere and due to their surprise appearance in the henhouse after the moms and chicks were on the ground, we were able to pick them up. Meanwhile, another hen patiently sat on her eggs and this weekend she hatched out one. She doesn’t seem eager to get up, but I know the chick is in there because I saw it walking around her. I think it may be just the one. Here’s a progression of the weekend of chicks:
The first chick//
Popping over to visit the other mother//
Suprise, #6! This one got left behind the door of the henhouse when everyone else got down on the ground. We scooped er up, took a picture and then added her to the group.//
All 7 out and about//
Tucked under mom's wing//

Mother’s Day and Paul’s birthday fell on the same Sunday, as they do from time to time. I really wanted to make the day more about him than me, though. We had a delicious French toast casserole for brunch with presents for both of us, followed by Sunday afternoon Pokemon club for Paul and Clark while I baked the birthday cake. Paul chose the cake components from two different recipes in the same book: a vanilla bean cream cake with a caramel nut topping. The batter for this vanilla cake was the silkiest lightest thing I’ve ever tasted. And the baked texture was incredible. A very fine soft crumb. Flecked with vanilla and nutmeg it had a delicate spice. The gooey caramel top was texturally an odd combo, but tastewise a sensation. The birthday cake and dinner were met with great approval.
Happy Birthday, Paul//
Meanwhile, on that same special day I was trying to finish up the final assignment for the course I’m taking (which counted for 40% of my grade!) I was up until all hours toiling away and consequently was exhausted by Tuesday. But I’m happy to say I got a terrific score on it and got an A for the class. Hooray for me! I’m relieved to have that first class done with. Graduate school now is definitely a different experience than doing it when I was 25. I was very happy this weekend to just enjoy doing stuff with friends and family.

April, Come She Will

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In all the years I’ve been doing this blog this is the first time I haven’t written about a birthday right when it happened. When last I checked in we’d just finished a fun week of spring break including Easter. And here we are now with all of April to catch up on. April is one of my favorite months simply because it includes my birthday. Paul always jokes that my birthday ends up lasting at least a week, and I guess that’s a little true. There was my real birthday, which, since it was a work day, we celebrated by going out to eat at a casual place that is always too crowded on weekends. We had amazing cake at home. 2016-04-19 20.18.25And trampolining2016-04-19_07-56-50//
And wonderful presents! This year most of my gifts were games, and we had a great time playing a new one called Dixit and another one called Pick a Pig, and a nostalgic-to-me, Rummikub (my best friend and I used to play it a lot at sleepovers). Also, one we haven’t even tried yet. We’ve had a big influx of new games in the household lately, which I love, though I wish we played them more often. Another night we had a special dinner at my mom’s house and my aunt joined us, which was lovely. Sisters// finally, there was the dinner out with my girlfriends, which is always marvelous. All in all, a great celebration!

April 28 was a huge day and much circled on the calendar. First, it was Take Your Child to Work Day. When Clark was in kindergarten he got to go with Paul because Paul was at a public library. Since then there really hasn’t been an opportunity for either of our kids to participate in this, but now that I’m working and at a place that is ok with people participating, Tabby got to come with me. (Since I am a school librarian at Clark’s school he already comes to work with me every day.) Take Your Child to Work DayShe had a great time, especially since it gave her a nice preview of where she’ll be going to school in a couple of years. Crazily, the same day I also had two big work things going on-my first formal observation and a presentation I gave to teachers. Both went great! But all of that was just filling time until the big reason for all the excitement… Pearl Jam.
You may recall me mentioning in the past that there were 3 bands I wanted to see before I (or they) die-Neil Young, The Decemberists, and Pearl Jam. Last April we saw the Decemberists, and have now twice seen Neil Young. When PJ announced a new tour and tickets going on sale in January, we were wildly excited and made plans to get tickets no matter what the cost. After a very tense process we managed to procure two seats for the 28th. No choice of seats-you get what you get. And we got seats described as “obstructed view, behind the stage.” That did not sound promising, but I didn’t care because we’d be there and hearing the music live and that’s what counted.
So we got to Wells Fargo Center, parked no problem, and stood on a long line just to get inside. We found our way to our seats and guess what? They were great! Behind the stage, yes, but there was nothing obstructing the view-the stage was fully open.  And we were really really close! Pearl JamAnd could see the band when they walked off the stage. I’m just going to paste here now the lengthy email I sent my friends the following morning:
Pearl Jam
….There were the big screens so if the cameras were showing the guys faces and you wanted to see that you could look there. Eddie was really mindful of his fans behind him and to the sides, though, and often turned around. And then (the guy in our row tipped us off this would happen) near the end of the show they uncovered a small drum set facing us, and they completely turned around and played a whole song just facing us–Elderly Lady Behind A Counter, amazing. Unexpectedly it was also really cool to have the same view as the band-we could clearly see at least half of the people on the floor, and really clearly see all the front row folks and thus any of Eddies’ interactions with them (sharing his bottle of wine, standing amongst them, etc.)

Second, the music. You know how before a show you make a mental list of what songs you most hope to hear? and then you think about realistically which ones they might play? they played almost every song on my mental list. And they were INCREDIBLE. They sounded fantastic and the set list was just beyond. They exploded out with Once as their opener. And then I think the third song was one I really wanted to hear (and was pretty confident they would play) called Mind Your Manners, and it was so hard rocking that I just went berserk. Then a couple songs later they played Wishlist, which was my #1 hope and I didn’t think they’d play and it was so overhwelming that I basically kept crying. For real. I felt like I was in the song. They played for about 3 hours, maybe a little more. They took a couple little breaks and, much like Neil Young, sometimes you’d think, wow that must be the end and then they’d take a song and jam for 10 minutes with it. Which they did with the last song I was holding out hope they’d play, Rearview Mirror, and it was just amazing. So, the music was phenomenal. they played a bunch of stuff from 10.

Pearl Jam

Third, the feeling. They were playing at the arena in Philly (wells fargo center, formerly the Spectrum) so that’s a big venue, but it felt like they were playing in a club. Interacting with the audience,and you could tell that 25 years in it they still love playing together. Eddie seems like not just an amazing musician, but also a pretty nice guy–acknowledging people who were holding up things, saying “Happy Birthday” and pointing at a kid with his dad holding up a sign that said “13th birthday” right in the middle of a song, doing a special thing for a make a wish type kid that they put up on the screen and he sang a song for (who didn’t have a tear in their eye when they saw that kid and his mom?); tossing out tambourines to the crowd; and the last few songs the lights were up so you could really see everyone and it felt like a giant party.

Fourth, a bit more on #3, with regard to the wedding. Wedding? Yes, after the first break Eddie came out and said he’d just found out that a couple had come to the show and gotten married during it. He looked around for their suite and it was right above us way up high, in a box. the camera viewed it on the screen. You could tell the people in there didn’t know they were going to be acknowledged. the bridge and groom came to the edge and Eddie said nice things to them and that he was going to play a romantic song just for them. Then he sat on a stool and played acoustic a Tom Waits song that was beautiful. Eddie Vedder sang their wedding song. I mean, really. The bridge and groom cried and were beside themselves. It was fantastic.

Odds n’ ends: we were talking the other day about who still smokes? Pearl Jam fans, that’s who. SO SMOKY outside the arena. I haven’t seen that many people smoking since I don’t know when.
Saw an elderly lady (white hair) wearing a sleeveless Social Distortion/Pearl Jam concert t with autographs, and her old lady bare arms were fully covered in tattoos.
When we got to our seat we made friends with a guy who admired my Neil Young concert shirt and talked to him. He is seeing PJ 4x on this tour and had already seen them twice. Then the next people who showed up were a guy who was bringing his son with him, and it was his son’s first concert. They were adorable and both wearing t-shirts that said “It doesn’t get Eddie Vedder than this”. The crowd was, overall, really great.
To sum up: it was the best concert of my life and all I could have hoped for and more.
And here’s Paul’s report on it:
What else has gone on in April? Well, nothing with regard to the garden. We’d better figure out our plan pretty fast. We are trying very hard to grow grass in all the bare patches in our yard, so at least we’re working on that. Everything is looking very lush and green and beautiful as the leaves are almost fully open on the maple, and the Japanese maple is fully opened.
It’s broody hen time and we’ve got the usual shenanigans of taking over nests. The one nest (with too many eggs in it) has been sat on steadily for 2 weeks, so we’re looking forward to hatching day next Friday.
It was a wonderful April!

Circles of Life & Some Suzy Homemaker-ing

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I was so busy sharing monarch and chick news on other social media, that I forgot to write about it here. Lots of exciting circle of life stuff happened in the span of about 12 hours one day last week. First, one of the older baby chicks (how old are they now? maybe 4 weeks?) died, sadly and under suspicious circumstances. Broken neck. But then two new chicks hatched! Sorry older chicks, you are no longer the cute ones
Old News// these tiny fluffballs are adorable. Sweet peepers//
They definitely seem to be a smaller variety. They are doing very well and Little Silk seems to be a good mother, although her choice of a safe place to spend the night is questionable (on the ground in the open. Why isn’t she under the coop as every other mother has done? Safe and sheltered, duh.)

So, at the same time that was happening, the second monarch was emerging. I had gotten up and checked on the chrysalis. I could see that the chrysalis was transparent and I could see wings were underneath. I knew it would be emerging shortly. Went outside, confirmed that two baby chicks hatched, came back and the butterfly was coming out. Shouted for everyone to come watch and we saw it! Unlike, say, a chick, the butterfly very quickly comes out of the chrysalis.
A monarch emerges// monarch emerges//
It crawled around until it came to the branch we had in there for it. We watched the wings unfurling
A monarch emerges// then they were straightened out and the butterfly stayed there waiting for them to dry. A monarch emerges//
And then it flew away. Hooray!

Although my garden has been dismal/non-existant this year I am still doing my best to freeze/can summer’s bounty. In my freezer I’ve got peaches and blueberries (bought local at peak ripeness, then frozen for future pies, muffins, pancakes, etc.), jalapeno peppers (gifted from a friend’s garden), bell pepper (bought at the farm stand), and corn (you know I have a great love for my corn zipper.) And then this weekend I also canned corn salsa.
Corn Salsa for the winter// is basically now the only thing I care about making sure to can. I love this recipe so much-fresh tomatoes and corn, and a vinegary sugary base that gives it a tang. I’m passionate about New Jersey’s tomatoes and corn being extra delicious and believe me, in the winter this is going to taste so summery and fresh. I canned 9 jars, but may need to do more. And because I make this salsa thinking only of snowy weekend afternoons where we put on a movie and I make a big tray of nachos, I labeled most of the lids with movie titles for fun. Corn Salsa for the winter//

I was very brave and entered one of my quilts in the neighboring county’s 4H Fair. I was pretty nervous because I just didn’t know how it would go over and I had a feeling this fair gets a lot more entries than the previous fair I had entered. I entered my Scrappy Prism quilt as it is the one that is hand quilted and I love it and think it’s beautiful. Indeed, I did not win a ribbon. [But did get a participation certificate, which made us all laugh.]
2015-08-24_09-22-45// so deep down I was really hoping I would, but I guess it’s enough to know that it was hung and admired with all of the others. And at this fair you actually get a judging sheet. I got “fair” on almost everything, with an “excellent” for my stitching on my binding (thank you for noticing judges-my hand stitching was nearly invisible.) The comments admired my fabric choices, but said that it needed more stitching in the center. Fair enough. I can see why they’d say that and I’m ok with it because I had made a deliberate choice when I was quilting to not add more. I happened to like the simplicity and didn’t want to add more. I stand by my choice and don’t care if they didn’t like it. Last weekend we went to Bethlehem PA for Musikfest and so we could all check out the Steel Stacks where Paul has gone to some recent concerts. It was really neat and the Steel Stacks were striking. Steel Stacks//

2015-08-24_10-02-26// old industrial buildings/equipment. Can you see our little shadows in this picture? Steel Stacks//
Very recently the town made it a centerpiece of their arts scene and, somewhat like the High Line, put in a walkway around these giant stacks. It’s incredible to see and imagine what it was like in operation (“Hell”, as most of the descriptions said. It was in operation as recently as the early 1990s.
Steel Stacks// what’s a post this summer without a Willow update? She is doing great. pretty princess must have her beanbag chair//’ve had her for almost 8 weeks, she has gained 15 lbs and I don’t know how many inches. We are starting obedience classes this week, which will hopefully teach her to not pull like crazy on a leash and to stop biting us lovingly all the time. Keep off the furniture is not a rule that worked for us. What can I say? I love having my dog cuddle up next to me on the couch. 2015-08-24_10-01-26// & WillowAnd one last thing, although we haven’t been geocaching this summer, this weekend we placed two more of our own. I hope they get approved quickly and that people enjoy finding them.

After a dreadful heatwave we’ve had a few nights and early mornings of cool weather, which are sparking a little fall fever. Yesterday I started planning a Halloween quilt I’m hoping to do in time for this fall.  It’s definitely back to school time and the kids received their class assignments this weekend too. They were very excited to see which of their friends were in their classes (or, in Clark’s class, which of his most disliked classmates he was assigned with yet again.) Our school district starts pretty late so we’ve got a good few more days of summer ahead of us and will hopefully make the most out of them!


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.