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The Ducklings Have Arrived!

Posted by mrssmythe on July 4, 2020 in Uncategorized |

Such exciting news! Our ducklings have arrived! Two weeks ago, they flew all the way from California in this box.

They were born on a Monday – we got them on a Thursday – and they’ve been growing exponentially ever since.

Here they are taking their first swim.

They love the water. It was amazing how natural it was for them to swim and how good they were at it from the start.

They’ve since moved to the bathtub for their daily dips.

When not swimming, they live in a pen in our basement. There’s a heat lamp to keep them cozy, and Ginger keeps their food and water filled and their quarters clean.

The first pet that got to meet them was our cat, Shadow.

She’s intrigued and enjoys watching their swims.

We’ve also introduced the ducklings to our chickens.

The chickens weren’t terribly interested.

The ducklings, however, loved being outside.

Hopefully it will be warm enough for them to go out again today. That’ll probably be the highlight of our Fourth…that and the barbecue CPT A is planning.

I hope you all have a fun and safe Fourth of July!

From the dining room table, thinking I should probably go get dressed now before it’s time to make lunch,

Mrs. Smythe

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Hello, June!

Posted by mrssmythe on June 14, 2020 in Baking, Crafting, Garden, Pollinators |

Hello, all! I hope this post finds you well.

We’re still staying mostly at home these days, though things are slowly opening up in our state. CPT A continues to experiment with sourdough recipes in his free time. Most recently, he made hamburger buns. I think they turned out very well – don’t you?

In crafting news, I’ve started yet another sweater with the infamous green yarn. It’s a good thing I like this yarn. If I didn’t, I’d be tempted to toss it in the garbage after three failed attempts. This time, I’m going in a different direction and am using a crochet pattern. I’m hesitantly hopeful that this will be “the one” – but we’ll see. So far, so good.

In garden news, our peach tree is putting out fruit for the first time! We’re thrilled, but also a little nervous because we have no experience in this area. CPT A is looking into thinning the crop today, as the branches seem to be a bit overloaded.

In the vegetable garden, the radishes are taking center stage. They’ve given me a much needed confidence boost with their enthusiastic growth. Even the rat’s tail radishes (an heirloom variety I’m growing from seed) are doing well! They grow above ground – more like beans than traditional radishes. These are the blooms – aren’t they pretty?

We’re seeing lots of bees. I think someone down the road has added a hive because honeybees are everywhere. Also – the bumblebees (my favorites) are very active. It can make weeding a bit tricky, but I’m so happy to see all the pollinators, I can’t complain.

I’m growing mammoth sunflowers. I started the plants inside and didn’t put them in the garden until they were well established. So far, I’ve only lost one to the chipmunks. I’m currently growing three more replacements just in case something else happens, but the others are growing so fast, I think I’m past the initial danger point. I’ve planted a total of 11 plants so if they all make it to the flowering stage it should be quite a sight!

I’m also planting beans using the same strategy. The first round were dug up and eaten by a critter. So, the second round I’m growing in seed flats that I can take into the house each night. When they’re large enough, I’ll transfer them to the garden, and hopefully they’ll see the same success I’m seeing with the sunflowers.

Because I left things to go to seed last autumn, I have a lot of “volunteer” plants coming up in the front yard. Near the porch, I have a huge patch of parsley where I had a single plant last year. I was going to thin it out some, but then I spotted a caterpillar – the sort that turns into a Black Swallowtail butterfly. So, I’ve decided the parsley patch can stay. I hope to see lots of Swallowtails in the coming weeks!

I’m thrilled to report that my peony bloomed for the first time this year! This is a remnant of one that I replanted elsewhere. The transplant didn’t make it, but the remnant obviously did. I have two other peonies plants that did not bloom this year, so I’m wondering if I planted them too deeply. Maybe I should try to move them as well.

The wild yarrow is beginning to bloom. These pop up all over the yard, but are very popular with pollinators, so I encourage them as long as they don’t get too overbearing.

And, finally, inside the house, Ginger’s peace lily is blooming again. Such an interesting flower!

We’re seeing lots of warm days, but not much rain. I seesaw between feeling overwhelmed by all of the growth in the yard and being thrilled by it. The garden changes daily, and I have to remind myself to stop and observe and savor things – flowers, the light, the bumblebees – all of it. These things don’t last forever, and in the case of some of the flowers – they last only a day! It’s a good lesson to me to enjoy what I have while it’s there. Gardens are good at teaching lessons – don’t you agree?

From the dining room table, getting ready to do some sketching, and hoping you have a great week!

Mrs. Smythe

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May Update – lots of animals, some baking, and a bit of gardening

Posted by mrssmythe on May 24, 2020 in Baking, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Pollinators |

It’s hard to feel isolated when you’re surrounded by animals. That’s one of the things that has helped our family during these past weeks of self-isolation. The pets keep us firmly set in our routines. They provide us with companionship. They entertain us. I’m beginning to view them less as dependents and more as contributors to our quality of life.

Which isn’t to say pet ownership isn’t without its drawbacks. We frequently chafe under all of the maintenance and care the animals require. But, I think for us, at least, the benefits outweigh the irritations.

With warmer weather here, it was time to give Kipper his annual cut. CPT A is getting faster, and, this year, we didn’t have to muzzle Kipper – instead, Ginger cajoled him into compliance with spoonfuls of peanut butter.

The backyard flock is down to four now. We lost another chicken to old age a couple of weeks ago. The flock seems strangely small, and we’ve ordered three ducks to round things out again. They’re due to arrive in June.

The turkey remains broody and has built a nest for herself on the other side of the back fence. She’s very protected and camouflaged. Ginger was the one who finally spotted her after seeing her hop the fence.

And, our first green frog appeared last week in the pond.

Followed by this toad who appeared on the chickens’ water.

We don’t see many toads, so this was a treat.

As to the cats, Mr. Wa seems to be growing more affectionate and friendly with age. In his younger years, he was much more aloof. These days, he wants to be involved in everything we do.

He finds Pepper’s craft projects especially intriguing.

And, happily, we’ve seen lots of bees this spring – both honey and bumble. Our apple tree should have a good crop.

I hope the bees will also visit the vegetable garden I put in on the south side of the house.

The girls teasingly said it looked like a graveyard, but I’m sure it will look a lot more garden-like once the plants start growing.

And, finally, a bit of baking. Ginger and CPT A went all out yesterday and made two batches of macrons.

If you’ve ever made these, you know how labor intensive they can be. But, the results were impressive, and I think they did a great job!

I hope you’re doing well and that you have plenty of interesting things to keep you busy these days. I hope, too, that your weather has improved as much as ours has. I find it’s so much easier to be cheerful when the weather is nice.

From the dining room table, getting ready to eat another one of those macrons before they’re all gone,

Mrs. Smythe

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More Snow, a Dog’s Haircut, and Too Much Baking

Posted by mrssmythe on April 25, 2020 in Baking, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

Spring continues to prove elusive here in western Massachusetts. We’ve had snow twice since my last post.

Granted, the second time, it was simultaneously sunny.

So strange.

I refuse to be put off from yard work, though. Tired of waiting for warmer weather, I finally just bundled up and went outside to putter in the garden. It’s a bit like swimming in cold water. Once you actually “get in” and start moving around, it isn’t so bad.

It’s helped that the seeds I ordered finally arrived.

They took a while to get here, but they’re still well in time for planting. Most of them can’t go into the ground until after our final frost date – May 8.

So, what else has been going on?

Ginger and I have been playing cards regularly. Our favorite game is “Dutch Blitz.” Have you ever heard of it?

It’s a bit like double solitaire. No matter how hard I try, I can’t beat Ginger. She’s lightning fast. My only chance is to catch her first thing in the morning when she’s still half asleep.

CPT A gave Ursa a spring haircut. The entire process took about a week, as he sheared her in stages with a set of clippers that was less than ideal but eventually did the job.

We ended up with a grocery bag full of fur (which I scattered in the forest for the birds to use in their nests) and a much peppier dog. Also – vacuuming doesn’t take nearly as long now as Ursa seems to be our prime shedder.

The poultry are all laying right now, which means an abundance of eggs.

We share with a neighbor and then do our best to keep up with the outpouring. This means more baking than usual. We make things like…

French toast sticks:

These were CPT America’s doing and they were delicious. He used one of Pioneer Woman’s recipes – you can find it HERE . The recipe makes a lot. We froze the leftovers, and Ginger ate them for breakfast for the rest of the week.

I use egg in my pie crusts, so pie is another way we use up surplus eggs.

This was a “Classic Apple Crumb Pie” I found HERE. It was really good but calls for more apples than I usually use in a pie. I got scared when I was mounding them into the crust and so held some in reserve. I shouldn’t have worried – the pie shrunk down substantially and would have been fine if I’d piled them all in as the recipe directed.

Lemon pie also uses eggs – so we tried some of that too.

And, for Easter, I made cinnamon rolls. That took care of three more eggs.

The girls are doing their share of baking. Here’s a cake they threw together the other evening. The frosting they chose uses egg whites, so they get extra points for that.

If you’re interested, you can find the frosting recipe HERE. It made the cake taste a bit like a Whoopie Pie.

CPT A’s sourdough bread doesn’t use any eggs, but I thought I’d show you that his experiment with sourdough starter is going really well, and that his first loaf of bread, made entirely with his own starter, was a success.

Isn’t that beautiful?

And, finally, I’ve had requests for a recent photo of Manny. Here’s one taken this week.

That’s one of Manny’s favorite toys. He carries it around and grooms it, like it’s his child.

From the dining room table, getting ready to get out the colored pencils to do some sketching – a hobby I’ve happily rediscovered since self-isolating,

Mrs. Smythe

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New Yard Visitors and a Traveling Turkey

Posted by mrssmythe on April 13, 2020 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Insects, On the Home Front, Pollinators, Seasons, Week in Review |

Things continue to wake up in the yard and in the neighborhood.

These days, the corn we put out for the chickens draws a wide range of visitors – from chipmunks and birds to squirrels and, most recently, a rabbit.

Meanwhile, the azalea in the front yard – one of the few things blooming – has proven a popular spot for emerging insects. Last week, I saw this wasp…

…and also this bumblebee.

I’m always especially excited to see the bumblebees.

We’re also starting to see violets in the lawn – a sure sign of spring.

Another sign of spring – the turkey’s wanderlust.

Last year, around Easter, she disappeared for several days. Animal control finally found her in a neighborhood north of us, where she was spotted at a backyard bird feeder.

Last week, she hopped the fence again and was gone overnight, returning the following afternoon. The animal control officer we spoke with said he thinks that since this is the time of year wild turkeys nest and hatch their broods, our turkey might be heading to the woods to try to do the same. We’re hoping that as she becomes more and more attached to our flock, she’ll be less likely to venture forth.

Other excitement last week – the Super Moon! Did you see it?

Here’s what it looked like from our yard shortly after moonrise on the 8th.

Can you even find it? I know. It’s hard. Not very “super.”

By the time I put the chickens to bed, it looked like this:

Better, but not anything like some of the photos you see online.

And, this is what our flock looked like that evening, settling in for bed.

You’ll note the turkey is safely inside the barn. (We’re making extra sure of that these days!)

Around the house, it’s been pretty much business as usual. Ginger pulled out the sewing machine this past week to work on some blocks for her quilt.

And I’ve been doing a bit of sketching. The cats are never far when I do.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter. Ours was pleasant, with some nice sunshine, but today we’re getting the remnant of the storms that battered the South. It’s beyond blustery. I definitely won’t be walking the dogs today!

From the dining room table, getting ready to finish a crossword puzzle,

Mrs. Smythe

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