A few weeks ago a fox took another of our chickens. This time I actually saw the fox coming out of the woods in broad daylight, right at the edge of our driveway, on the tails of two chickens who made it back safely. I yelled and it turned around reluctantly, but managed to find Tira (short for Tiramisu, the dessert, but I like Cale’s spelling better – see pic below) further out in the woods.

Of our original six chicks, two were Isa Browns, both taken by a fox (not sure if it was the same fox). The first one we lost earlier in the summer, and while it was upsetting, it was nowhere near as sad as losing Tira, probably because she was younger, hadn’t started laying eggs, and we weren’t as attached to her. We hadn’t even named her yet because we couldn’t tell the difference between the two Isas.


The two rust & white colored chicks were our Isa Browns.

Tira was our first egg layer and had gotten to the point of reliably laying a large brown egg every morning between 8:30 and 9:00. She was also very curious. For most of the summer Steve had mitre saw set up in the garage for various projects and we could not keep her from jumping up there. She was obsessed. Unfortunately we don’t have a good picture of this. Eventually he put a towel up there and we thought maybe she’d lay an egg there.


Tira’s first egg, about 2 weeks earlier than we expected, so we didn’t have a nest box set up in the coop yet.

We actually don’t have a recent picture of her, only this one with the other chickens that Natalie took.


Tira is on the right.

The day it happened was shortly after my surgery, so I couldn’t go walking through the woods to look for her and Steve was on his way back from up north. We weren’t sure if she was hiding somewhere really good, but we suspected she was gone. He did find a clump of feathers and lots of tears were shed.

Shortly after, I looked out the window to see everyone watching (and guarding) the other chickens out front. I didn’t open the door because I didn’t want them to know I was taking this picture.


The other chickens often hang out in the Front Circle, as we call it.

Later that night, Cale must have still been thinking about it, because he had been upstairs drawing without us knowing about it. He came down to show us this (pretty much the reason for this whole post):


I adore everything about this, especially Cale’s spelling of Tira’s name.

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get_wellLast week at this time, I was in the operating room of our local hospital undergoing a 3.5 hour surgery that I still could not believe was actually happening to me, even though I had known for over a month that the day would be coming. I didn’t tell many people about it because it wasn’t something that came up in ordinary conversation and well, honestly I just don’t have very many people I talk to on a regular basis. It wasn’t something anyone could see from the outside, nor was it something anyone would expect someone of my age to have going on. IF anyone even knew such a thing could happen in the first place. I certainly didn’t. And it wasn’t about something impersonal, like my shoulder.

Hypothetical conversation:
Someone: How’s it going?
Me: Fine, except that my uterus is severely prolapsed all of a sudden, as in falling out of my body and shoving my bladder out of whack on the way.
Someone: Wow. TMI.
(Sorry, male readers.)

So, yeah, the deviant organ is now gone along with some previously unknown extra junk, some repairs have been made, and I am left with a bruised, bloated, and battle-scarred belly and lots of down time to think about stuff.

The first thing that came to mind was the quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” My “invisible” problem reminded me that just because it’s not obvious what someone is going through, doesn’t mean that they aren’t going through something. I want to try to be less self-centered (which I have been pretty much entirely lately) and more focused on others.

Two days after my surgery, I was in severe pain (urinary tract infections, especially after surgery involving the bladder, are from the devil by the way) and the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should not have had the surgery. I wanted to go back to the way things were before, because it seemed better than the current situation. Sound like the Israelites in the desert wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt much? Patience and trust are so hard.

Some other thoughts revolved around relevant topics of general anesthesia (my first experience), modern medicine and surgery, the human body and how it can be so strong yet frail at the same time, and a whole slew of things I’ll just group under childbearing.

I tend to mark time by big life events, and this certainly counts as one for me. I’m trying not to consider this “the summer of disappointment” or “the boring summer where mom can’t do much.” For now I’ll consider it “the summer of mending.”

Definition of MEND (from merriam-webster.com)

  1. to free from faults or defects: as
    1. to improve in manners or morals: reform
    2. to set right: correct
    3. to put into good shape or working order again: patch up, repair
    4. to restore to health: cure
  2. to make amends or atonement for
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2015 strawberries

I’ve been thinking I should start a new category called Farmers’ Almanac since most of these posts are personal record keeping in nature. It’s interesting to compare weather, dates when we harvested different things, and other notes from year to year. Just like the month of May is asparagus time, June is all about strawberries and the plants have been good to us this year.


An early view of one end of the garden. The strawberries are in the middle of the photo as well as in the boxes and planter to the upper right.

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I didn’t always remember to snap a photo of what we picked each day and some are better quality than others, but I imagined a bell curve in my head as the quantity ramped up and peaked (a full 9×13 pan for about 3 days in a row) and now it’s on it’s way down. Maybe next year I will be more scientific and weigh the strawberries every day and then I can plot the data. 🙂

We had plenty to eat fresh, share with friends and neighbors, add to milkshakes, and freeze.

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We extracted our first appreciable amount of honey from hive #1. Steve recently got more bees to start #2 and will possibly split #1 to start #3. There were 6 full frames ready which was about 1.5 gallons of honey. We’re hoping to have quite a bit more next time (end of summer?) and will likely sell some to friends.


Slicing off wax caps.


Uncapped frames in extractor. We rented this from the bee club in Holland, but are going to just buy our own for next time. It has a hand crank and uses centrifugal force to extract the honey without destroying the comb. You spin the frames with one side facing out, then flip them over and spin again.


Honey flowing from extractor into the filter over a 5 gallon bucket that has a gate valve on the bottom for filling jars. We only did a coarse filter to remove wax particles. (photo by Cale)


Empty comb ready to go back in the hive. There were a few cells that did not get uncapped which you can see near the edge. We tried to do the least amount of damage to the comb to save the bees some work. (photo by Cale)


Most of the finished jars.

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chicken update

Our chickens are a little over 10 weeks old now. They should start laying at anywhere from 18-24 weeks, so we are hoping for eggs sometime toward the middle to end of August.

They seem to be doing well and are checking out everything around the house. They are free range during the day so they pretty much go where they want. We let them out of their coop/run (A-frame style, closed in on top with ramp going down to open chicken wire enclosed area below) in the morning and they go back automatically in the evening and we shut the door when the are all in. They apparently like all the places we don’t necessarily want them to go (because they constantly poop everywhere), like the garage, deck, and front porch. They have found nice hiding spots under the deck and under plants when it’s raining or too hot. They come right up to the front door which is all glass and peek in, as well as the sliding door on the deck. They have even “knocked” on the door from the garage to the house. They are super curious and so hilarious to watch and listen to, especially when one is separated from the others.


This is from when we first moved them from the crate in the garage to their coop.


Inside top level of coop when we first put them out there. They were so small then compared to now. Now they just go up there to sleep at night.


Roosting in garage on saw horses which we’ve had out for many recent projects. (It was cold the night before so I had brought the flowers in.)


Snuggled on a deck stair. The dark one is asleep with her eyes closed.


Air conditioner wiring or roost bar?


Checking out the front porch (and corn hole boards).

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around here

There’s a bunch of blooming, buzzing, & birdwatching going on around here.

spring1 spring2 spring3 spring4 spring5 spring6 spring7 spring8 spring9


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We’ve been talking about getting chickens for a few years and finally did it. We’ve had them for two weeks now and they have already grown like crazy. They are in a large wooden crate in our garage staying warm.DSCN1770 DSCN1774

We got 6 pullets (young hens) of good egg-laying breeds (2 each of Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, and Isa Brown).DSCN1795 DSCN1798

We’re “babysitting” two additional Rhode Island Reds for our neighbor until they are ready to go out to the real world.DSCN1808


They look noticeably larger to me now. I love the feather markings of the Rhode Island Reds. Hopefully they will keep them, though most pictures I’ve looked up of the grown hens are more solid color. We shall see…

DSCN1826 DSCN1828

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2015 syrup season

The 2015 maple syrup season is over! We finished boiling the last of the sap last night. The  color of the last syrup batch was considerably darker which is common as the weather warms up and the sugar content changes in the sap. I prefer the lighter syrup which has a hint of vanilla taste.


Taps in: March 6, 2015

Taps pulled: April 5, 2015

# taps = 15

gallons of sap collected = approximately 140

finished gallons of syrup = approximately 2.25

final_bucketsWe collected more sap than last year, but ended up with about the same amount of syrup. Last year we were right around the 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup, but it was about 60:1 this year which is a little disappointing given how long it takes to boil down. We tapped a few additional trees this year, but we aren’t sure what type of maple they are. It’s possible that they aren’t sugar, red, or black maples which have the highest sugar concentration in the sap. We’ll find out when the leaves appear.

frozen_sapWe had a cold snap a week or two ago, after we had collected a bunch of sap. All of our collection buckets were full, stored in snow banks, and ended up partially frozen. The internet consensus seems to be to chuck the frozen sap since it is believed to have a much lower sugar content. Because it would considerably shorten our boil time, we decided to try it, but it didn’t seem to hold true in our case as we didn’t have as much syrup as expected from that day of boiling. At least we didn’t have to worry about the stored sap spoiling that week!


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It looks like the thaw is finally here. With high temps over 40 as far out as the forecast goes, we tapped a bunch of maples last Friday.

Here is part of the intricate path system between trees. 😉


The snow is still pretty deep which makes walking these paths good exercise.

I am going to attempt to record some more detailed sap collection data this year for our own future reference.


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