A Turkey at the Door, More Christmas Decor, and Some Holiday Shopping

Posted by mrssmythe on December 9, 2018 in Celebrations, Chickens, Critters, House, Out & About, Seasons, Shopping, Week in Review |

Are you wondering how the turkey is doing?

The turkey is doing just fine.

The turkey, and even the guinea hen, are now both sleeping in the coop. At night, it’s one big, cozy flock.

Things are pretty chummy during the day, too, though the turkey gets irritated when everyone’s not hanging out together. Do you see her staring into the back door in the photo above? That’s what she does when she discovers we’ve gone back into the house. The turkey wants everybody to be together. All the time. Birds¬†and humans.

And, the Guinea hen? She just goes wherever the turkey goes.

Ginger is currently trying to get the new additions tame enough to eat out of her hand. So far, only the older birds will comply, but Ginger has high hopes.

In other news, this was the week we got most of our holiday decorating done. On my morning dog walks, I scanned the neighbors’ yards for outdoor ideas. We don’t put usually put lights up – CPT A is a bit too busy for that these days – but I thought we might be able to add some holiday cheer in other ways. One popular motif I saw a lot of was the old-fashioned sled. I dug ours out of the shed, threw on some greenery, and we were set.

(The kids might protest this if we get snow, but we usually don’t get much until January, so the decor should be safe.)

Indoors, I got our tree up, added more animals to the mantle, and set candles (the electric kind) in the windows (very New England).

When everything is lit, it’s all very cozy – and, now, all I need is a fire in the fireplace!

We chipped away at some of the holiday shopping this past week, too. Pepper and I spent Saturday afternoon at the Yankee Candle flagship store in South Deerfield, which is Christmassy at any time of year, but particularly so right now.

The animatronic “Candle Mountain Boys” have even added Christmas songs to their repertoire.

The place was packed, though. If you go this week, ditch your cart (or “carriage” if you’re a New Englander). I tried to wheel my way around the store at first, but it’s really so much easier to get around without one. Also – expect a long wait to see Santa – 2 hours when we were there. (We skipped that part).

Here we are at the fudge counter…Pepper’s favorite stop.

Because the fudge was on sale, and because we couldn’t decide on a single flavor, we now have six squares of the stuff at home in our refrigerator. No one needs that much fudge. Truly. But, what can I say? It’s the holidays.

From the hallway at church, waiting for the kids’ Christmas party to finish up, so I can finally go home,

Mrs. Smythe

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Wild Turkeys, Sunrise Knitting, and the Start of Advent

Posted by mrssmythe on December 2, 2018 in Chickens, CPT's Lens, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

We’ve been up with the sun this past week. Not that we weren’t before. We were. But this past week, there’s been more of an urgency about our mornings. We’ve wanted to make sure the new birds are doing well, so, at the first sign of light, CPT A has been popping out of bed, throwing on some shoes and heading out the door.

from left to right, Poppy the guinea hen, Bianca de la Squeegee the turkey, and Henley the hen

So far, so good.

Which is not to say there haven’t been some tense moments…like the day the wild turkeys dropped in.

Our own little turkey fell right into line behind them and would have flown off with the group if her wings hadn’t been clipped. As it was, she made it to the back fence, trailing the guinea hen all the way.

The sparrows are another point of concern – at least as far as the turkey is concerned. She watches them warily.

Meanwhile, the sparrows know that where there are chickens, there will be cracked corn and seeds and other goodies. So, they bide their time, waiting for the flock to return to the barn, then swoop in for the leftovers.

At night, the three hens and the turkey all manage to squeeze into the coop. The older birds aren’t thrilled with the new arrangement, but they seem resigned, and tolerate the new sleeping arrangements. Meanwhile, the guinea hen makes her own sleeping arrangements. One night, she escaped the barn and spent the night in a nearby pine tree.

(That’s CPT A shining a flashlight on her.)

Most nights, though, we find her perching in the barn. She’s always the first one up.

All of this has ensured that we spend much more time outside than is usual. If the birds are out free ranging, we tend to keep an eye on them. There are still plenty of hawks in the neighborhood, and the guinea hen, despite her clipped wings, is also able to hop the fence.

See the hawk on our neighbor’s dormer window?

Usually, I spend the time outside doing yard work. I’ve been raking up the remaining leaves, putting away pots, picking up deadfall.

Sometimes, though, I just sit on the back step and knit.

Here I am, in my bathrobe at about 7:30 in the morning, working on a sock. You can only knit for so long when it’s 26 degrees, but I think it’s very pleasant to be outside first thing in the morning, listening to the birds and watching the chickens, sipping coffee. Often, it’s the best part of my day.

Another nice morning happening – arriving at church on the first day of Advent.

CPT A snapped this photo from the choir loft while everyone else was making holiday crafts in the Fellowship Hall. It was a lovely start to the Christmas season.

I hope your holiday season is shaping up well. I’m actually a bit ahead of the game this year with my Christmas shopping and am hoping that momentum will hold through the rest of the season for things like cookie making, letter writing, and tree trimming. Check in next week, to see how I’m doing. ūüėČ

From the dining room table, leaving you with a recent photo of Ursa and Opal, doing their best impression of Peace on Earth,

Mrs. Smythe

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New Pets, Some Snow, and a Thanksgiving Table

Posted by mrssmythe on November 25, 2018 in Books, Celebrations, Chickens, CPT's Lens, Critters, Old Books, Week in Review |

The Berkshires looked like a Christmas card this past week. CPT A captured some of the beauty while off running errands. Just magical!

Not so magical…this broken snowblower:

This is what comes of mice in the shed. And, it perplexes me, because I want to be a “humane gardener”. I want to make a place for all wild creatures in my yard. I don’t want to trap and kill things. But when the mice chew through wires and build nests in mechanical devices, I begin to reconsider. Thankfully, CPT A will be able to do the repairs himself – we had only to order the parts.

While I’m not thankful for mice, I was thankful for the kind friend who invited us to Thanksgiving dinner this past week. ¬†And what a feast it was!

Delicious! The conversation was great, the turkey was outstanding, and the things that woman can do with side dishes…! Cream sauces, bits of onion, mushrooms, butter, cheese… Let’s just say she makes it very easy to eat one’s vegetables.

Of course, I didn’t go over empty handed. I took a pumpkin pie and an apple pie. I was a bit out of practice, though, so made a trial pie earlier in the week, something I was actually happy to do as it meant several days of pie for breakfast.

(Do you see that cheeky dog eyeing my pie? The nerve!)

Did you know pie for breakfast is a New England custom? I didn’t know that until I read¬†It’s an Old New England Custom, a fun little book published in 1946. There’s an entire chapter devoted to pie for breakfast, in fact.

I did use any of our own pumpkins for the pies, though. The puree I got was decidedly sub-par.

Instead, the remaining pumpkins were demoted to decor status, got soft, then were given over to the forest creatures. So much for this year’s pumpkin crop.

Speaking of creatures, perhaps you’re wondering about the new pets I alluded to in this post’s title. Well, it’s like this. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we loaded into the car and drove to an animal shelter, hoping to adopt some chickens to fill out our shrunken flock (we were down to two birds from the original five). We had called and were told that there were plenty of chickens available.¬†However, when we reached the shelter, we learned that one of the “hens” we’d been eyeing (online) was a rooster, and that all of the remaining birds, save one, were awaiting results from blood tests. They were not, therefore, adoptable yet.

We were very disappointed. We’d set our hearts on bringing home at least two new birds. Maybe three. Possibly four…

What to do?

Start looking in the other cages, of course. (At least that’s what¬†we did.)

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled out of the parking lot with one chicken, one guinea fowl, and one heritage breed turkey.

Ginger said, looking at the little white “take-out” boxes the shelter gave us, that it was just like going to Build-A-Bear…only these animals were alive!

The birds were well-behaved on the ride home – not a peep or a squawk – and, we’ve had only minor “drama” between members of the old flock and the new. All things considered, it’s going extremely well.

I wish I had a better pictures to show you, but poultry are very hard to photograph when moving and almost every photo I took was blurry. Here is one passable shot of the little black hen. (Aren’t her feathers pretty?) Hopefully, next week I’ll have something better to show you.

From the dining room table, with the poultry bedded down for the night and entertaining thoughts of heading that direction myself,

Mrs. Smythe

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A Foray into Decorating, a List for Brides, and Some Completed Knitting

Posted by mrssmythe on November 18, 2018 in Books, Critters, House, Old Books, Seasons |

I took a step toward holiday decorating this past week by bringing up my “Winter Animals” from the basement. They’re festive, but not overtly Christmassy, so I figured I could sneak them in early.¬†This year I added a strand of twinkle lights for extra sparkle. The kitten in the stocking at the right (just below the mantle) is a recent addition. I picked him up at a craft fair Pepper and I attended this past Saturday. It was a lovely event, and I left with a good amount of my Christmas shopping done and the question in my mind, “Why don’t I shop at these local fairs more often?”

Of course, it’s because I haven’t really given it much thought. It’s simply automatic to run to the mall or to a big box store. But maybe I need to rethink my holiday shopping strategy. There’s a completely different feel at these little fairs- they’re so much more personal, and they provide a different class of things for sale, too. Plus, it’s nice to meet the people who are actually making the things you buy. I felt good supporting their creativity and artistry.

And, speaking of “artistry”, let’s talk about cooking. I’ve been going through this lovely vintage volume lately:

I found it in a give-away pile this past summer and have only recently taken the time to go through it.

There’s a fun chapter for brides toward the back.

It includes a list which, once mastered, will set you well on your way to (according to the author) becoming “a proficient wife and hostess.” Here’s the bulk of the list:

Add to it tea, coffee, tomato bisque, and Irish stew, and you’re set.

And, how do I fare with said list?

Well, in almost thirty years of cooking, I have yet to prepare Lamb Chops or a piece of halibut. And, I have not made Irish Stew. Also, I have no experience with giblets. But, otherwise, I think I’m doing pretty well. How about you?

In knitting news, I spent part of Veteran’s Day weekend in an American Legion building knitting socks for CPT A, my favorite veteran.

It was all a coincidence, but I thought it ended up being a very appropriate activity for that particular weekend.

While there, I couldn’t help but notice a WWI/WWII memorial plaque in the hallway. Skimming the list, I noticed that seven of the names came from a single family: six men, one woman. It’s hard to fathom a one family making such an enormous contribution to the nation. Very sobering to think of.

I also finished two other long-running projects – a Shetland Scarf (started last winter)…

and this Tucson Pullover, begun in July.

It’s so nice to have both of these projects done and off the needles. They were well worth the time and effort, but it’s been a welcome change to begin something simpler – namely socks and a Christmas scarf.

I hope you’re staying nice and cozy as the temperatures drop. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of Mr. Wa and Opal “snuggling” together on the couch.

Opal would love for them to do this more often, but Mr. Wa, cat that he is, can only stand so much togetherness.

From the church hallway, writing as I wait for the girls to finish up their Sunday night activities,

Mrs. Smythe




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Moving Into Fall…

Posted by mrssmythe on October 8, 2018 in Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

Well, I would say Fall has truly arrived here in Western Massachusetts. We’re starting to see some beautiful colors, though the warm weather lingers.

And, continued warm weather means continued flowers. My hydrangeas are still putting out blooms…

…and the zinnias remain colorful and are a favorite with the bees.

The salvia has gotten its second wind and is adding some nice color to the beds. Here you see a jagged ambush bug on one of the blossoms. Have you ever seen a jagged ambush bug?

I hadn’t seen any until this year. Turns out they’re great for aphid control, but they also have a reputation for attacking other, more welcome garden visitors; namely, butterflies. I’m hoping the ambush bugs in my garden will be ¬†more discriminating and leave the butterflies alone. There are certainly enough aphids to keep them busy.

And, speaking of butterflies…here’s an American Copper I spotted today while on a walk. Sadly, it was not in¬†my¬†garden. Rather, it was in a Main Street garden I admire very much and frequently pass.

If I ever meet the garden’s owner, I’m going to ask him or her what sort of daisy this is. It was¬†loaded with bees and butterflies. It’s not the sort of Shasta Daisy I have, because bees largely ignore mine.

Also spotted on my walk…these late season roses:

Aren’t they lovely?

And, one other noteworthy spotting on today’s walk…this wild spiny cucumber vine:

Are they edible, you ask? Sadly, they are not. But they¬†are¬†a lot of fun to look at, and this is what one of them looks like “undressed”.

A bit like loofahs, aren’t they? Fascinating!

From the dining room table, hoping your autumn walks are yielding similar intriguing treasures,

Mrs. Smythe


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