Sunday, June 29, 2008

What's A Henway?

Since this is my one day off this week till the 4th, I decided to spend it my way. I enjoyed a big cup of coffee after I woke up at 3 and sat on the porch to watch my colorful flock in the yard. It was such a pleasure to look out at the expanse of front lawn and see dots of gold, black and white moving around in the grass. The chooks found lots of worms and other insects after yet another series of afternoon rain showers. I am amazed at their keen eyesight. They find the tiniest of bugs!

I did a bit of weeding in the driveway and around the flower beds, all the while keeping a close watch for any naughty chickens that would dare try to dig in my landscaping. They are relentless!

Rocky has been home the past 3 days and nights. We've had a lot of storms lately and Jim wants to keep him until tomorrow morning. He has been a lot of fun for us, playing squirrel games and just being cute in general. We love to watch him eat and groom himself. Incidentally, squirrels are very clean creatures and groom themselves about as much as cats do...just much faster! We gave Rocky some grapes and enjoyed watching him lick, lick, lick, then CHOMP! Jim took the above photo with his cell phone. Rocky had been playing and running around in the shop and plopped down on the work bench, tuckered out! He looks a little like road kill doesn't he? He seems very happy to be home with us and is one spoiled little squirrel!

After the chooks came into the coop for the night, I checked leg bands on some of the larger birds to make sure none of them were tight fitting. Just for kicks, I decided to weigh some of my birds to get an idea of how big they are at 11 weeks. Here are the results:

  • Roo - Barred Rock rooster, largest bird - 3.75 lb

  • Betty - Barred Rock pullet, one of the smallest - 2 lb 1 oz

  • Poppy - Australorp pullet, largest pullet - 3 lb

  • Rudy - Buff Orpington rooster - 2.7 lb

Yes, I'm easily entertained.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guard Rooster

Recently, Silver (our Silver-Spangled Hamburg rooster) has begun acting more like a young rooster than just a chick. At 10 weeks he's got a bright red wattles and a rose comb that is growing and soon will be larger than his skull. His feathers are finishing out and he's got some developing sickle feathers taking shape near his tail. He's becoming quite the handsome little rooster!

He is also becoming protective of the rest of the flock. This morning, a young rabbit was near the chicken run nibbling on the wet grass and as soon as I let the chooks out, Silver spied him. He clucked a loud warning, which instantly made the flock grow quiet. Silver cautiously strutted up to the fence trying to get as close to the bunny as possible. He strutted back and forth trying to appear as large as possible, all the while clucking loudly. I chuckled at the thought of a rooster chasing a harmless baby bunny away!

This afternoon as I spent some time with the chooks, my old tom cat Tyson was out for his evening stroll. He came too close to the run and Silver followed his every move. What was really interesting was that every time Tyson turned, Silver followed the same direction with precision.

Silver is a medium breed and in my flock, he's the smallest. I think he's as tall as he's going to get but his feathers aren't done filling out yet. I wonder why Roo, the big, robust Barred Rock rooster doesn't act this way. Perhaps it's a behavior not all breeds exhibit. In any case, it's very interesting to watch little Silver react whenever he sees something dangerous, even if it is just an old tom cat with two missing fangs!

After I let the chooks out this morning, I tossed out some cracked corn and chick food for them, then cleaned up and went to bed. Derek went out to say good morning to the birds and said he saw Rocky climb down from a pine tree and help himself to the free breakfast! What a little mooch!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I bought a bale of straw from my cousin first thing this morning. I felt it was time to line the nest boxes in the chicken coop to get the girls used to it before they start laying. I have placed some golf balls in the nests to plant the idea of where the eggs should go. As soon as the chooks saw the straw they got nervous. They had never seen straw before and judging by their reactions, they thought it was going to eat them! They got over it after a while though, and now they are more intrigued by it than anything.

Apparently blood is not thicker than water, at least not in this family. My cousin charged me $5 for that bale of wheat straw. See if that cheap jerk gets any free eggs from me! Harumph!

We haven't seen Rocky in a few days. He is becoming more independent and doesn't seem interested in visiting us anymore. He has been very busy building a nest in one of the blue spruces next to the shop. In the morning, he can be seen scurrying about, gathering grasses and pine needles and hauling them up the tree where he packs the material into his huge nest. It just amazes me how this orphaned squirrel knows how to be a squirrel without ever being taught! Rocky doesn't come back at night to sleep in his cage anymore; he sleeps in his nest. He also weathered three powerful thunderstorms in his nest and seemed to come out unscathed. We wish he would come home for a good meal but he refuses, so we leave peanuts and sunflower seeds on the wood pile for him. Each evening we find the chewed-open peanut shells and halved sunflower hulls on the ground. He doesn't leave a thank you note.

Jim fished this afternoon and caught lots of blue gill and two large mouth bass. Then he caught something that really surprised and thrilled me--a yellow perch! It was one of a batch of 30 that got stocked last fall. It was so good and reassuring to see that little fish. Now I have visual confirmation that they did indeed survive. Jim let the little perch go and the rest of the fish are now in the freezer with the last batch he caught. Wonderful!

The fire flies are out in numbers now. I can look across the field at night and see a scene that reminds me of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". I can just imagine fairies and pixies flying around in the woods with fire flies in their lanterns to light the way. It is a magical scene, right out of a dream! The bull frogs add to the effect with their baritone chorus. Crickets are chirping (at least the ones that haven't been caught by the chooks) and I can hear an occasional screech owl. Green frogs fill the percussion section with their twanging song which sounds like a loose banjo string being plucked. I don't know what pleases my senses more--day or night.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Still Kicking

Above: My chickens helping themselves to my sun tea.

It's been a week since my last entry. Nothing has been going on worth mentioning though. We are busy with trying to budget our insurance money to replace the furnace, remove the skylight and install tile in the foyer. It's frustrating and plain not fun. There are a lot of reasons why my life is "not fun" right now but I'm trying to forget about them all and just enjoy my life as much as possible. I spend a lot of my free time away from everybody, just watching the chickens or doing some light gardening. I'm trying not to dwell on the problems we're facing right now. Suffice it to say that Jim and I feel like we're stuck in the mud, just spinning our wheels, getting nowhere fast.

This blog is about the good in life and how nice it is to live where we do. I won't bring negative topics into it. One good thing that happened is I sold my Cutlass today. It was a 1972 Holiday Coupe and we needed to get it out of the shop to make room and the money is going toward getting the attic better ventilated and insulated before winter. We MUST make this happen.

I climbed up on the roof tonight and cleaned all the maple seeds out of the gutters that were clogging the downspouts. That should help keep the water from entering the basement anymore. They really needed to be cleaned out!

The 50th Annual Moore Family Reunion is coming up on July 13. Some of the cousins are gathering old stories and photos of the family to put together into a book of some sort. I got an email from my cousin Mary this morning asking for a photo of our family. And with a stinging slap in the face, I realized we don't have one. Not a single one. I guess that's what can happen when you have a combined family. I'm not the typical mom. Other mothers might love to get their family together for a yearly photo shoot. I've never done that. I feel somehow inadequate and ashamed. I should want to do things like that but I don't even care.

Driving home from work this morning I thought about all the things going on right now and how it must have felt to be Job. God let the devil mess up Job's life really bad, but he was never allowed to kill him. It feels like God isn't very pleased with me right now.

I'll be back when I have something pleasant to share. In the meantime, I'll just be checking everyone else's blogs and not writing much.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lovely Day

The storms have passed through and left us some nice, cool air to enjoy. There's a nice breeze today and it's just perfect outside.

Last winter we made bird houses for Christmas gifts. Jim made this cute little caboose for fun and we hung it in a pine tree on a whim. It's very small and we thought it would be too small for any bird. Wouldn't you know it? A house wren family has taken up residence in it! Mama wren sits on the nest and we see her come and go. Daddy wren sits in the branches above and sings a loud, melodious tune. Jim feels good knowing his little creation is now providing a home for a wren family.

After four days on the lam, Rocky came back to the chicken run last night. Derek saw him climbing the fence and called Jim to come see. Jim picked him up and put him in the cage for a good meal and drink. Rocky ate and ate and ate and drank and drank and drank and slept and slept and slept! His battery fully recharged, he is now busy climbing the pine trees by the wood pile, foraging for pine cone seeds and fresh grasses. He is a happy little squirrel and it's great to see him doing well and adjusting to life as a wild squirrel. We hugged and cuddled him a lot last night. We missed him! Today, Jim hung a squirrel box he made in one of the pine trees in the chicken run. Rocky knows the chickens and it seemed logical to put a nest for him near the chicken coop.

The chooks are out enjoying some free range time in the yard today. I have had to restrict the times they are allowed out of their run because they are tearing up my plants and mulch. So now they are only allowed out when we are able to keep a close watch on them. They have been finding lots of worms after all the rain we had this weekend! They are 9 weeks old today and starting to "cluck" rather than "peep". I still haven't heard any of the roosters try to crow.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Gift From Mom

My mom stopped by yesterday on her way through the area and she presented me with this quilted pillow that she made. Look at all the different colors and fabrics! Isn't it nice? It goes well with our bedding and it's just the right size for snuggling with while sleeping. It's a one of a kind and I really like it. Mom is getting into the chickens as much as I am.

A very strong thunderstorm system moved through our area later in the day. I couldn't believe how hard it was raining. I've lived here most of my life and have never seen it rain that hard. We got over 8" of water in our basement too. Jim called the insurance company today and took care of everything so I don't have to worry about it. The water heater is fine but we have to have the furnace checked before we will know if we have to replace it. The furnace guy is coming out Monday to look at it. Let's hope it's OK! We are going to have to replace the carpet in the foyer because the skylight leaks like a sieve, especially when it's raining hard. Jim wants to take the skylight out completely and I agree. It just lets excessive heat in and it is a constant headache because of the leak. So we might just tear it out and get rid of that problem altogether.

Here's a picture of our furnace. It's sitting on cinder blocks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

First Dollar

It was a nice but slightly warm day here in northwest Ohio. We didn't do any hard work today. A friend of mine from work brought his daughter and his dad over this morning to go fishing in the pond. They caught 6 fish and left them in the basket we keep attached to the dock. His dad caught some nice sized blue gill and I see there are a few little bass in there as well. They also got to meet Rocky and the little girl just loved him. Rocky has been outside all day and still hasn't come home.

I found some old hot dogs in the deli drawer of the fridge. Instead of tossing them out I cut them up into small pieces and used them for bait. I caught four blue gill! It's such fun to catch them; they put up a good fight for their size. We played a rousing game of badminton after dinner and had lots of laughs. Then the boys went for a swim to cool off while I walked around and checked my landscaping plants and watched the hummingbirds. I see I have some oriental lilies with lots of buds on them. I deliberately planted them near windows so their wonderful aroma can waft through the house when they bloom.

Jim's business, Erie Ordnance Depot, earned its first dollar today. We framed it for posterity and he put it on his computer desk. Jim has talent in gunsmithing, especially building "evil black rifles"--AR-15's, AK-47's and such. There is no one in this part of the state that can custom build an AK-47 except Jim. Since this is a free blog site I won't advertise for him anymore than that, but if you want contact information just send me an email. Jim and I are both NRA certified pistol instructors. We teach the class that the state of Ohio requires in order for a person to get a CCW permit.

It's our goal to get this business to the point where I might be able to quit my job and stay home to raise more of our own food. We both want to live as independently as possible. This recession has made us both open our eyes and realize that we have been too dependent on others to survive and it's time to take on more responsibility for ourselves. It's the reason I got chickens and plan to get meat rabbits and a dairy goat eventually.

I wish everyone in America would do just one thing to break free from the system. What have you done?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Busy Day

Jim and the boys attacked the downed willow today. I posted an ad on Craigslist last night advertising the free wood to anyone who will come and get it. I got an immediate response from a guy wanting to know if it was alright to come out Friday and take it all. He said he would cut the stump to the ground and rake up the mess when he was done! Of course I said yes! We are very happy that he is going to remove the tree for FREE! One man's trash certainly is another man's treasure.

One guy showed up unannounced this morning asking if he could have some of the wood for making some end tables. He had his three kids with him and they wanted to pet the chickens. I caught my Buff Orp rooster, Rudy, and let them all pet him. He was a good boy and they loved him. What is it about chickens that is so irresistible? Anyway, the guy filled up his car with wood and headed home. He was here for a few hours picking out the pieces he wanted. There is extensive rot in the trunk that fell over, as you can see in the photo. Jim cut good pieces for the end table guy, at various thicknessess.

While the guys worked on the willow, I busied myself with getting things done around the house. I love taking care of my household. There is something so satisfying about it. I actually got up at 10 a.m. this morning *gasp, WHEEZE!*, baked a chocolate cake (holy schmoly), hung a load of laundry to dry, cleaned the chicken coop (lotsa crap), mowed the lawn around the house *pant, pant*, vacuumed the house, and then fixed dinner. Just the fact that I managed to drag my carcass out of bed before noon is a miracle in itself. But when you're a night owl, mornings are rough.

After dinner, the guys relaxed and cooled off in the pond. Jim is aggravated by all the coon tail growing in the pond and he's making it his personal mission to pull as much of it as he can. We refuse to use chemicals because we eat the fish we catch and I personally despise chemicals. This weed can be effectively controlled by raking or pulling. It comes out easily but it smells funky. Jim pushed the canoe all around as he pulled coon tail, and he hung it on the edge of the canoe to keep it from getting back into the pond. Ian went along for the ride. When there was no more room for weeds, he pushed it to the edge of the pond and tossed it all up on the bank where the sunshine will kill it. Doesn't it look like the canoe is wearing a ghillie suit?

While Jim was pulling pond weeds he caught a small crayfish about two inches long. I had Sweet Pea and Rudy with me while I did some light weeding and Jim brought the crustacean over to the chickens and dropped it on the ground in front of them. Rudy instantly grabbed it and smacked it on the ground a few times to kill it. Then *GULP!* down it went...whole! I didn't even have time to offer him some cocktail sauce to go with it.

I watched a male house wren stuff this nest box with twigs, then call to attract any nearby females. One arrived, entered the nest box, decided whether to set up housekeeping, then came out. I couldn't tell if the male's nest met her approval or not. I saw him again a few hours later but didn't see a female with him. I wonder if I can expect house wren babies in a few weeks? House wrens fill up every nest box available with twigs, then the female chooses the one she likes best. Some people hate house wrens for this fact, but I don't mind them at all. The male has a very loud yet beautiful song. It's amazing that so much volume can come out of such a tiny bird!

The photo shows the nest box after we built it last fall. It was the very first project we worked on as a family, just after moving back home. It was a very satisfying feeling to hang this little box above the propane tank. And wouldn't it be nice to see another little family inside it?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Scary Storm

A very violent thunderstorm blew through our area tonight. The strength of the wind reminded me of what I experienced during the tornado that blew some of our trees down in June of 1996. Wind that powerful will turn even the bravest individual into a terrified, if not suddenly religious individual. Fortunately, we came through this storm with no damage. I breathed several sighs of relief as I walked the property and saw that no trees had fallen. It took a while for me to relax again. Once you've been through a tornado, that fear never really leaves you.

Some of the chooks were outside during the worst of the storm, huddled beneath their favorite arborvitae. The smart ones ran into the coop for shelter. After the storm, the smart ones were nice and dry while the not-so-smart ones were soaked! I've heard the saying "madder than a wet hen" and I've always wondered if wet hens really are mad. After watching the chooks fuss over their wet feathers tonight, I'd have to say that they're not really mad per se, just a bit verklempt. After the heat we experienced today, I'm sure the rain felt nice and refreshing to them. They didn't run for cover until the rain became heavy.

Here's a satellite photo of the Twelve Acres. You can see the path the 1996 tornado took in the upper right hand corner. The windbreak was a solid swath of evergreen trees. Now there is that huge gap which my new trees will fill in. My mother stood on the front porch and watched it. It was about 300 yards away! Isn't she crazy?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I Toad You!

Today was very enough for me to reluctantly turn the central air on. Thankfully, an afternoon storm blew through and cooled us off. Rainfall often makes the amphibians that share our pond leave the pond's edge and venture further up into the yard. Sometimes a few frogs or toads will get stuck in the basement windows. After the storm, Derek rescued two such amphibious vagabonds--a pair of American toads. I took the opportunity to snap their photos for posterity. They're quite colorful! One was noticeably smaller than the other. Male and female perhaps?

More information about the American toad as well as its call can be found here. During the heat of the summer, these toads fill the air at the Twelve Acres with a pleasant nightly chorus.

Goodbye Willow

A very strong wind blew through on Friday night. I'd say it was a strong storm, but really the rain was minimal. It was more like a low pressure system blowing through very quickly. It took this old black willow tree down. This tree has stood on the farthest southeast corner of the property since I can remember. It was marked for removal anyway, mother nature just decided to help us out with the most dangerous part.

It missed the road by a matter of feet. The funny part is we didn't even know the tree fell until last night as we left for my in-laws for a birthday party. Jim and I were very surprised when we drove by and saw that the willow was down.

We're going to wait a few days for cooler weather to arrive, then cut the tree up for campfire wood. At one time, willow wood was used to make artificial limbs but that ended with the arrival of modern materials. The last photo shows Derek, who is 5' 8" tall, standing next to the fallen willow for scale.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Last Thing

The last thing the cricket saw:

Furry Pencil Sharpener

How to tell if a squirrel has been using your carpenter's pencil:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer Has Arrived

Summer heat has finally arrived in northwest Ohio. Our daytime temps are in the upper 80s and the humidity is in the mid 70s. If it weren't for the humidity, the temps would be more bearable. The chicks are eight weeks old and the size of bantam chickens. They have access to shade beneath the evergreens and I bought them a second 3.5 gallon waterer tonight to make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water. Birds need water...period.

Now that they are bigger I have begun letting them free range in the yard. I prop the gate open with a cement block and the chickens are free to come and go as they please. I stayed up till 9 this morning just watching their antics as they enjoyed tons of fresh grass, a leaf pile to scratch through and all the bugs they could catch. I could have stayed out there all day and just watched them, but I had to get some sleep and I forced myself to go to bed. I'd had a long, hot night at work and badly needed the rest. I awoke to find most of the chickens inside their run happily milling about. I herded the stragglers back into the run and closed it so we could go out for dinner and not have to worry about them falling victim to any predators. They were hot and settled down in the shade, their bellies on the cool, damp earth. Chicken air conditioning. When we returned, I presented them with their new waterer for the run and they all circled around it and drank their fill!

Rocky is now allowed to leave his cage and venture outside during the day. Jim puts him in a tree and leaves him to be a squirrel all day. When it gets late, Rocky ventures back into his cage and eats, then falls asleep in his hammock. So it seems we have the typical teenager...he only comes home when he's hungry and needs a place to crash! Rocky stays in his cage on the hot days though. Jim keeps him in the shop, which is a large aluminum barn. The temps inside the shop are noticeably cooler than the outside temps.

Some day Rocky may decide to not come back. That's fine. We aren't going to keep him against his will and if the call of the wild enters his heart, then we will wish him well and hope he comes around to visit once in a while. He is a charming little character though, and we will be sad if he leaves. He has certainly grown on us.

As I sit here and listen to the bull frogs tune their banjos in the pond at midnight, I am reminded how important it is to notice the little details in everyday life. This evening I was checking my landscaping plants and noticed that my morning glories have really shot up this week. Jim was swimming in the pond and as I looked up to see what he was doing, my breath was nearly taken away by the powerful cloud formations in the sky above the woods. Moments such as this make me constantly remind myself that while it is good to look down and pull the weeds or notice a new flower, it is equally good to look up and notice what is above. Don't lose sight of your path, but remember to keep looking up as you go.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Squirrelly-O Iglesias

Rocky the orphaned squirrel is now a strong teenager. He is a bundle of energy and virtually explodes at playtime. We let him climb in the lilac bush and he goes bonkers! Jim is going to use one of our spare nest boxes to make an outdoor nest area for Rocky when he's ready to be released. Our hope is that he'll stick around and stay in touch. When he discovers girl-squirrels, he might not want to!

What is a male squirrel called anyway? A buck? A boar? A furry grenade?

At any rate, Rocky loves to eat sunflower seeds, maple seeds and today he discovered white clover. He is as healthy as can be and full of explosive spunk! We think he will do very well foraging for food when we release him.

I raked out the chicken run this evening. All the uneaten grass clippings and what-not were used to mulch our blueberry and raspberry bushes. I noticed that one of the blueberry bushes has a few berries on it. If only the bushes were larger I would have a nice blueberry crop to look forward to. As it is, we're going to have to wait a few seasons before the bushes are large enough to produce well for us.

Last week while out on my evening stroll, I found this large gourd that had survived the winter intact. My cousin grows various gourds and pumpkins to sell each fall in a neighboring field. I brought it home and now it's a charming bird house. It only took about 15 minutes to make. I hung it on the trellis my sister-in-law and her hubby made for me a few years ago. I have some heirloom morning glories planted under the trellis. I noticed this morning that they are really taking off now that it's warm. When they cover the trellis and start to bloom, I'll repost this picture. It's a very large gourd and would make a nice home for a house wren family.

The black cherry trees are blooming which means there will be tasty, bird-sized fruit to feed our feathered friends in a few weeks. The windbreak is carpeted with lovely, green growth. The air smells fantastic; crisp, clean and earthy. My senses are overwhelmed with the perfection of the natural world.

The scents and sounds instantly transport me back to my childhood, when I would spend the entire day outside. The family property was my playground. My mother knew I was OK and never pestered me with a curfew or put limitations on me that city kids faced. I could run free, unrestricted, the entire day. I would come home in the evenings tired, hungry and suntanned. I slept deeply and awoke refreshed. That's the way every child should grow up. That's how our children are growing up, thank God.