Archive for the ‘around the homestead’ Category

Having one of those weeks where I feel like I am getting nothing done. 1) chard is going to seed 2) wormwood needs to be planted 3) front planting bed needs to be weeded 4) various other plants need to go into the ground 5) the hens need access to a dust bath that does not endanger plants 6) kale is going to seed 7) gooseberries are suddenly splitting and dropping to the ground 8) potato plants need to be hilled up and 9) clover needs to be worked into the garden beds… and this just covers the things I actually took pictures of ;0}

But then I am reminded that there is bounty in my garden as well – flowers for the bees and fruit and herbs for us ;0} Italian plums, lemon balm, raspberries, valerian, pears and lavender… and so much more that isn’t pictures here!

I had the day off from work today… which always seems to create a day of urgency, instead a day of accomplishment. It was a 1) rain-boot kind of day! so pulled them on and cuffed up my pants 2) I finally got around to installing the fairy pool and homes (from a local artist group at Kennedy Creek Pottery – they call them bird feeders =0}) 3) went and picked up a few things at the Olympia Farmers Market – had some market dollars burning a hole in my pocket 4) just couldn’t resist the Blondköpfchen (“little blonde head” in German) tomato plant – I grew up in Austria and was blonde back then :0} 5) picked up cherries for hubby and tossed in some garlic scapes 6) added a few more tomato plants, a couple of peppers and a tomatillo 7) in the afternoon, a movie date with my niece (did I mention that I got a picture-text around 3:30 am, from one of four – that’s right, FOUR pregnant sisters (okay! one is a sister-in-law ;0}) in Virginia, with the news that my newest nephew had arrived? James Stephen arrived three weeks early and weighed in at just over 8 lbs.!! The movie choice seemed appropriate – What to Expect When You are Expecting.) 8) met hubby and his work colleagues for dinner… almost stepped on this guy outside the restaurant… he seemed to be enjoying his meal ;0} 9) finally got around to some of my herbs… transferred the dried Calendula to some olive oil to infuse, bottled up dried violet leaves and lemon balm leaves. Then spent an hour collecting feverfew leaves and set them up in the dehydrator.

All in all, a good day… but still so many things to do!! Pulling double shifts the next two days, but then I’ll have a half-day and a day off again! Don’t worry… I’ll find time to take pictures… I always do ;0}


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Just spent the last two days at the  Mother Earth News Fair surrounded by like-minded people… okay, some not-so-like-minded people. You know the types, the ones that answer their cell phones right in the middle of the presentation and carry on a conversation… boy, do they get my goat (needed an excuse for a goat picture ;0}) I was there to listen to the presenter, not their cell phone conversation!

Isn’t she a sweetie? [Instagram]

I was there seeking that information that catapults you from unsure to I can do this! I went from workshop to workshop, hoping that this one would be the one. I gathered some tidbits here and there… but for the most part, I didn’t learn anything new. In a few situations, I felt like I knew more than the presenter… SO, have I already hit the I can do this! point and am simply procrastinating putting it all into practice? Am I allowing myself to be herded along with the other sheep … not wanting to stand out in the crowd? (wait for it, wait for it! I just needed another excuse for an animal picture ;0})

good thing I don’t have a farm, cause she would have come home with me!! [Instagram]

So now what?!

What do I do with the tidbits I did collect? Do they just get added to the ever-growing to-do-list? How? How do I use this new information to catapult myself to that next level? Well, I know the answer! I need to apply it!! I need to stop taking notes (not to be confused with documenting or data collecting) and start doing! I need to start scratching some things off my to-do-list!! Will you help me… remind me, if I post my list here?

  • create a seasonal calendar/journal when and how to harvest wild foods/herbs – photo journal?
  • create a bio-time journal – daily weather and temp / what is in bloom and stages of vegetation – add images
  • learn one herb at a time and spend 1 year with it – learn its seasons – don’t think I’ll be able to limit myself on this one ;0}… too much urgency here!
  • add more medicinal plants to hedgerow – keep bee foraging in mind
  • create two more herb beds
  • harvest medicinal plant material
  • make medicines and use them – create a document that lists the medicine and its uses
  • dial-in my food-producing plant guilds – document it with images
  • aquaponics just can’t add one more thing right now
  • plan and plant for year-round vegetable harvest – decide how to extend growing season (plastic, old windows, grow lights)
  • increase diversity and variety of plants (even within a species)
  • plant existing plants (believe me, there are a lot!)
  • get the garden beds weeded and planted
  • share my knowledge and experience – teach a class (that one is scary!!)
  • celebrate!!

I think that is enough for now ;0}

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As you can probably guess from the picture above, I lost another hen… a friend, really. I really do get far too attached to these animals, but how can I not? They greet me every morning with a cluck (hens) or a nose bump (bunnies). They are happy to see me… or maybe it’s the food I have in my hand ;0}

Vandana was such a wonderful hen. She was always by my side when I was working in the garden, patiently waiting for a worm. She’d come to the back door and beg for sunflower seeds… I usually gave in. That’s how I knew something was wrong… she wasn’t eating the seeds. In fact, she wasn’t even leaving the coop. She was hunkered down, as if she were laying an egg. That is where she was when I left for work… and where she still was when I returned. I hoped she had gotten out into the yard while I was gone, but I had a sinking feeling that this was not the case.

The following morning she came out of the coop and followed the posse. I was relieved… but noticed she was walking a little slow and kept an unusual distance. Later in the day she was off by herself, soaking up the warmth of the sun in her dust bath. By sundown they were all huddled up in the coop. I was hopeful it was over.

The next morning she came out of the coop slowly. All three girls came to the door for sunflower seeds. They usually body-block each other to get the most seeds, but not this morning. Vandana just looked up at me, with her feathers all fluffed up. My other two hens, Loshka and Suki, were eating up all the seeds, and Vandana just sat there… dozing. THAT was not like her at all.

I had to go to work… but couldn’t stop thinking about my little Vandana… I found myself using my 15 minute break to look up her symptoms. What I found, frightened me. Everything pointed to being egg bound… which, if left untreated, can be fatal. At the very least, I needed to get her warm, so she could relax. I rushed home on my lunch break, cranked up the heat in our small bathroom and ran the shower to get it humid, and made a soft spot for Vandana. She quietly sat there and just looked at me. She had never been inside the house before… let alone in the bathroom with a shower running.  I hoped all would be okay by the time I returned from work.

When I got back from work, I could see that she had not moved… she was still all fluffed and very drowsy. Decided to try the next thing on my list… a soak in a warm bath.  I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle being in a tub full of water, let alone getting her to stay there for at least 20 minutes. Plus,  I had to get the water high enough to cover her rear… luckily I read somewhere that I could apply pressure on her tail and help her settle down into the water. She did settle right down… and then she hardly moved. She did take a couple sips of the water. I dried her and kept her in the bathroom the rest of the night. She didn’t move much.

The next morning I tried to be hopeful. I had the day off so I could keep an eye on her. It was going to be a warm day, so I decided put her back outside. She did not MOVE. And now her tail was down… she looked more like a penguin, than a chicken. She acted like she was no longer capable of walking. I picked up my poor hen and brought her back inside. This time I placed a heating pad under a towel inside a cat carrier. I wanted a dark, warm place for her. I detached the top so I could place her down into the carrier and not squeeze her through the little door. Didn’t want to cause her any more undue stress. She seemed a little off-balance… actually tried to walk out of the carrier, but ended up using her wings almost like crutches. I placed her back inside, there she settled in where she leaned into the side of the carrier and rested her head… I found a vet’s office that saw chickens. They had an opening at 3:30pm.

Getting her to the vet’s office was uneventful. When we got there, I filled out paperwork and then we waited. All I could do was watch her.  I’d stroke her head, and she would just look at me… then she would close her eyes. I kept telling her it would be over soon… and apologizing for taking so long to get her help.

The tech and then the vet came into the room. We decided to go with an x-ray… the least invasive way to see what was going on. I must confess part of me was stressing over the money (I had my own medical bills I was struggling to pay). The x-ray was going to cost me $79… and that was just the x-ray.

The x-ray showed no egg… but my little Vandana was clearly in distress. The vet thought maybe there was an infection and that she was showing signs of dehydration. The plan was to give her fluids under the skin, and send us home with antibiotics and electrolytes… with further instructions to keep her separated from the others until she was back to her normal self. While they had her in the back, giving her fluids, the dollar signs were running through my head, trying to figure out what costs I could cut elsewhere. You see, when I bring an animal into my home/heart, I promise to do all I can to keep them happy, safe, and healthy… at all costs. I chose to join their lives to mine… they are my responsibility.

So my head was already whirling when the vet walked back into the room. My first thought was that she was just updating me… but then she stepped past the table and came close to me. I remember that her hands were folded… I could see she was talking, but it took a moment to realize what she was saying… as they were treating Vandana she became extremely stressed. The vet said she threw her head back and then she was gone – just like that. I just sat there. I had no idea what to do next. She asked if I wanted to take her home to bury her, or if they should add her in with one of the other animals for cremation. I told her I could not bury another animal. I just couldn’t do it… not so soon after losing Goldie. But then the dollar signs started running through my head again… and then guilt for even worrying about such a thing when Vandana had just passed. The vet came closer and put her hand on the back of my shoulder… that seemed to set off my tears. Her touch made it real… and then, as if reading my mind, she said that there would be no charge for any of the services, seeing as she had passed while under their care.

The tech brought in the empty pet carrier… and told me she was holding Vandana when she passed… it was comforting to know that she was in a warm lap when she passed and not on a cold metal table. I carried the empty pet carrier to the car. I tossed it in the back and then just sat in my car and sobbed. Sad that I couldn’t save Vandana… that her last days with me were so miserable… and relieved that I had no vet bill, and then miserable for even thinking about money at a time like this.

It is strange to look out into my garden and only see two chickens wandering around…

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bunny update

They love taking a hold of it and flipping it in the air, hence the hay on their backs.

They are chewing on the same piece of carrot… even though there were a couple more in their bowl.


Mini Mae

They have since sexually matured… and needed to be separated. They were each trying to show dominance over the other by pulling fur and mounting each other. Had to separate them before it escalated to a full-blown fight. Still need to build them a hutch!!

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My heart goes pitter-patter whenever I see beneficials crawl and fly in my garden. It means I am doing something right. It means the soil is healthy. It means unwanted critters are being kept in check, without the use of nasty chemicals.

I want to make sure that they have a place in my garden. So I built them a bug hotel last month.

I had put building a bug hotel on my homestead bucket list. It was an idea I saw in Gardener’s World Magazine (British Edition) years ago. I’ve been adding to the ideas ever since, from NW Flower and Garden Show and Pinterest Boards… and boy, are there ideas out there. Some are clearly more decorative, rather than functional ;0}

I was hoping mine would be functional… today I saw proof that it is!

The mason bees have been busy filling in the bamboo tubes, spiders have been spinning their webs, and beetles have been staking their claim in the wood pile underneath. I will have to wait and see about the lacewings, bumblebees, and butterflies.

water for one and all

upturned clay pot with moss and straw tucked inside for bumblebees – decaying leaves, sticks and twigs for beetles – straw, bricks, rocks, clay shards for more beetles and ladybugs

rolled cardboard for lacewings – twigs for butterflies – bamboo tubes for mason bees

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I got bunnies for my birthday!!!

They were in cramped quarters for a few days… I had asked for bunnies, but didn’t really think anyone would get them for me, so didn’t have housing ready…

This is Mini Mae! She is a Chinchilla.

This is Marilla! She is a New Zealand.

This is Mini Mae and Marilla, in their new digs. They were SO happy to be in an enclosure a few times bigger than the cage. They were doing laps around the box in the center… with happy little sidekicks, here and there!

Now I need to decide on a bunny hutch, and set up a permanent home!

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