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Dogs and Chickens…and a few other things

Posted by mrssmythe on February 9, 2020 in Mrs. Smythe |

The days must be getting longer because more of our birds are laying now, including the turkey! Suddenly, we find ourselves with a surplus of eggs again.

In other poultry news, we attended the Northeastern Poultry Congress in January. This is one of our favorite events – the number and variety of birds is amazing. Here you see Pepper enjoying the ducks.

And, this gives you an idea of the number of chickens we saw. This was only a small corner of the expo building. Row after row of cages with glossy birds of all shapes and sizes. It was a lot of fun to see.

Just weeks later, in the same place, the Great Barrington Kennel Club held its dog show. I’ve never seen so many golden retrievers in one place – they seemed to be the most represented of the breeds. Also – the dog owners were so serious! It was fascinating to walk around and watch all of the grooming taking place. So many incredibly clean dogs!

I went home afterward and brushed our own dogs for a good thirty minutes. I’ve decided I haven’t been doing a very good job with their grooming. I ended up with a massive basket of fluff – and I still could have gotten more if I’d kept at it. Since then, I’ve tried to do a little bit of grooming each afternoon. I don’t think our dogs will ever be to show standards, but it has been an improvement.

Crafting continues with scarves being my project of choice lately. Here you see a cowl I finished last week. The yarn is the “flamingo” colorway of Lionbrand’s Stitchbird line.

Another recent completion – this “Seed and Garter Stitch Scarf”, made with Cupcake yarn in “apple picking”. This was a wonderfully easy knit and the scarf isn’t overly bulky, which I like.

In other news, January brought very high winds, and we lost a significant portion of one of our large backyard pine trees. Ian was out in the cold this afternoon, hacking away at it with his chainsaw while I raked up debris. This is the fifth tree we’ve lost since moving to our house, so we’re getting to be old hands at clearing away fallen limbs.

Thankfully, only a small portion of the back fence was damaged.

We’ve also had ice, and though I don’t enjoy what it does to the roads, I do like what it does to the garden.

Since I last wrote, we’ve lost nearly all of our snow, but not before it revealed a network of vole trails that had been carved beneath the drifts.

It’s amazing what goes on just under our noses in the winter.

Now, as we head into February, I find myself very much looking forward to spring. Are you? It will be nice not to have to bundle up quite so much on the afternoon dog walks.

From the dining room table, getting ready to take a nice, hot bath to chase away the chill,

Mrs. Smythe

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6

December Recap

Posted by mrssmythe on January 6, 2020 in Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Family, Garden, Holidays, House Plants, Out & About, Travel |

Hello! And welcome back after what I hope was a lovely holiday season.

We had a very nice Christmas. This year, we splurged on an artificial tree. Here’s Pepper at Home Depot, assessing the selection.

I was set on getting one of the cheaper models, but then this tree caught our eye, and when CPT A (via text) gave it his vote as well, we went ahead and made the plunge.

I’m so glad we did. It’s my favorite tree to date. The glittery “snow” makes it very pretty – even in the sunlight. And, it was nice not having to water a tree or vacuum up needles. Also, I didn’t have to be concerned about the tree drying up in the sun. The biggest challenge was getting it back into the box…and, we never did get the entire thing to fit. So, now we’ll need to get some sort of a storage bag. But, overall, I’m very glad we made the purchase.

The past few weeks brought a couple of fun travel opportunities for our family. Pepper went to New York with her drama club in December to see Phantom of the Opera.

She had such a great time, she asked to go back a few weeks later for her birthday. This time, Ginger and I tagged along.

We took a bus into the city and had enough time for a bit of shopping and a matinee performance of Aladdin.

It was wonderful! Unlike the girls, I’m not a huge fan of music theater, but even I was amazed by the costumes, the sets, and the special effects – not to mention the singing and dancing.

Now, let’s see, what has been going on around the house….

More eggs!

Now, two of our hens are laying – surprising, considering the lower levels of daylight, but very welcome, I assure you.

And, the geraniums we brought in at the end of summer continue to bloom.

It’s always nice to have something flowering in winter.

Toward the beginning of December, we had lots of snow and ice. All of the shoveling I did gave me plenty of opportunities to try out one of my recent knitting projects – a “dickey.” Are you old enough to remember when these were sold in stores?

You wouldn’t think it would deliver much warmth – but it does! And, it’s wonderfully convenient, because, unlike a scarf, there aren’t any ends dangling and getting in the way. On extra cold days, I wear it around the house – especially if I’m wearing my hair up. It keeps the back of my neck from getting cold.

Other snow gear I finished in December – these mittens for Ginger.

I did not have as much luck with a sweater vest I was attempting to finish in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Here you see it at its start…

And now it is all unraveled and sitting in a pile in the closet. I tried several different patterns with the yarn and nothing seemed to work the way I wanted it to. I do like the yarn, though, so maybe I’ll use it for something simpler…perhaps a scarf.

As a sort of palate cleanser, I’m currently knitting a selection of colorful yarns from Lion Brand’s Ferris Wheel line into an afghan.

Here are the first two squares:

I’m basing my afghan on the Noro “To The Point” blanket. The yarn I’m using is a little thinner than what the pattern calls for, though, so I’m having to improvise. I think my afghan will have 42 squares.

So, that brings you up to date. I hope your New Year is off to a great start, and that you’re settling into cozy, relaxing days after all of the holiday fuss. I plan to drink lots of tea and do lots of knitting and reading in the coming weeks. I hope you have similarly pleasant plans. From the dining room table, getting ready to knit yet another afghan square,

Mrs. Smythe

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6

Craft Updates and Chrysanthemums

Posted by mrssmythe on December 3, 2019 in Baking, Crafting, Garden, Out & About, Seasons |

Well, I’ve finished up quite a few craft projects since my last post. November seems to have been a month for tying up loose ends. First, and most important, I finally finished my fair isle vest.

I’m very pleased with the result. And, since I’ve been working on this project since May, I’m very grateful to be finished with it. I bogged down a bit in the finishing work, but once the weather cooled I dug the vest back out and got to work, deciding I wanted to wear it for Thanksgiving dinner.

I also finished a pair of socks I’d been working on since September. They were an anniversary gift for CPT A. I used my tried and true Patons pattern for socks. If you’re interested, you can find information for it HERE.

Normally, it doesn’t take me so long to knit a pair of socks, but I kept getting distracted with other projects.

…projects like these fingerless gloves.

Aren’t these pretty? I fell in love with the yarn, which is Noro. It’s a lot of fun to knit with – lots of surprising bumpy bits and flashes of color. If you’re interested, you can find the pattern for the fingerless gloves HERE.

For chillier days, I plan to wear these newly-finished thrummed mittens.

I’d never made a pair of these, but they intrigued me, and having put holes in last year’s mittens, I figured I was due for another pair. Here you can see what they look like on the inside.

The strands of wool are supposed to fluff up and felt together as you wear the mittens, making them doubly warm. I’m interested to see how effective and durable they are. I used them today for shoveling snow, and they took a beating, but they also look like they felted some (which is good) and my hands stayed warm, despite the mittens being wet, so I’m optimistic. You can find the pattern I used HERE.

Ginger has been busy with projects, too. Here you see a wolf she crocheted recently. I love the shorts and suspenders. You can find the pattern HERE.

She also made another dragon.

I really like the eyes on this one. If you’re interested in giving this a go, you can find the pattern Ginger used HERE. It’s very customizable, and Ginger has used the same pattern to make a number of very different looking dragons.

When not crafting, we’ve been doing quite a bit of baking. Fall is such a great time for that. We’ve had a couple of birthdays in the family, so carrot cake was on the menu.

And, I found a recipe for Breakfast Cookies. These are delicious, and I love thinking that they are “healthy”. They’re pretty filling, too, and great to grab as a snack when you’re on the run. You can find the recipe HERE.

Oh, and I made mine with chocolate chips rather than raisins.

Finally, a little plant life to round out the post. The girls and I went to the Smith College Botanic Gardens for their annual chrysanthemum show. We’ve been to see the bulbs in spring before, but never to see these lovely flowers. What fun!

The variety of chrysanthemums was amazing. There were huge chrysanthemums and tiny ones. Fat-petaled ones and spidery-looking ones.

There were flowers the size of softballs and tiny little bonsai plants.

It was really beautiful to see – and a greenhouse is always a nice place spend a brisk fall afternoon.

Back home in our own garden, we had a few plants still holding out before the snow hit. I snapped a few photos while raking leaves last week. Here you see the last of the wild yarrow…

…and a very persistent strawflower.

Now, though, everything is under a blanket of snow.

I put up some Christmas decorations on Sunday, and my focus has shifted from leaves to the upcoming holidays. I imagine yours has, too. Do you have Christmas carols playing yet? We do. Christmas music is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

I certainly hope your holidays are merry and bright. I’ll check back in in a few weeks to let you know how ours have been. From the dining room table, having just finished round two of snow shoveling,

Mrs. Smythe

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4

October Summary

Posted by mrssmythe on November 1, 2019 in Crafting, Family, Garden, Out & About, Pollinators, Seasons |

October greetings to everyone! Isn’t this a fun picture of the girls? We stopped in at Yankee Candle in Deerfield last week and couldn’t resist a shot in front of these pumpkins. Yankee Candle always does a great job with their fall decorating.

I haven’t written in a while – I hope to remedy that and get back into a more regular groove. In the meantime, here’s a post to bring you up-to-date with what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

In late September, we finally made it to the beach! This is one of Ginger’s favorite things to do – and one of CPT A’s least favorite things to to do. He’s not a fan of the sun, so we usually time our visits for early fall so the heat and glare aren’t so intense.

This year, we chose to go to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Connecticut. Our day was nearly perfect – still warm enough to swim, but cool enough to be comfortable.

Ginger got in the water right away and stayed in for almost the entire visit. She’s such a little fish!

We definitely recommend this beach. It’s lovely, clean, and there were some nice walking trails that I’d love to explore further on a future visit.

On the crafting front, Ginger’s been busy making more crocheted creatures. Here you see her putting the finishing touches on a Hippocampus. This is another pattern she purchased from Crafty Intentions – one of her favorite places to go for patterns.

I love how the tail turned out.

A more recent creation was this koi which was donated to a silent auction that benefited Justice For Our Neighbors, a charity that pairs immigrants with legal and social services. The koi went for $100 – Ginger was very pleased.

Ginger has also been learning to sew and finished her first quilt about two weeks ago.

And what have I been doing? Not nearly as much as Ginger! I have been crocheting Christmas ornaments, though. Here’s one of the army of snowmen I’ve made this fall.

These go together in about an hour and are a lot of fun to make. If you’re interested, you can find the pattern HERE.

In garden news, things are definitely winding down, though we have yet to have a good, hard freeze. Last week, the front flower bed looked like this:

The bees seem to have all vanished (I imagine the bumblebee queens are sleeping in the leaf litter). Before it got too cold, though, we had a good run of late-season bumblebees. They particularly enjoyed the straw flowers.

Apparently, straw flowers have lot of pollen.

And, before that, we had a “flock” of monarchs who hung around for a couple of weeks. I counted eight in the garden on several occasions.

They were so beautiful. I would be outside and think I was seeing a falling leaf, then I would look up and realize it was a monarch. Just lovely.

The local oak trees produced a bumper crop of acorns this year. I love acorns.

When I walked the dogs, I would collect a handful from the road. Then, I’d toss them out into the garden. They were always gone the next day, though I never saw who took them. I suspect it was the chipmunks.

And, we got eight pumpkins, total, from the garden this year. I have them set up on the mini-wall out front.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture I took at Hampton Ponds State Park last week. I had a free hour while waiting for one of the kids’ activities to finish and so stopped at the beach (which was deserted) for a bit of knitting in the sun. The water was littered with leaves and pine needles and lapping the shore with a lovely, gentle rhythm. Such a nice way to spend an hour.

So, now October is over and we’re into November – CPT A’s favorite month, and one of mine, too. Our days have gotten shorter, our trees much barer, and our first snow is likely just around the corner. In the meantime, it’s a blustery Halloween night – seventy degrees, with rain and high winds. So weird.

From the dining room table, enjoying the warmer temperatures while they last…,

Mrs. Smythe

 

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4

Fall is Here!

Posted by mrssmythe on September 26, 2019 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Pollinators, Seasons |

Summer is gone, and now we are within the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (as Keats would say). I think he sums it up rather nicely, don’t you? That is exactly how things have been around here of late – misty mornings and mellow fruitfulness. Enough fruit, in fact, to make a couple of apple pies from our first round of homegrown apples.

We might have had more, but CPT A was concerned about the limbs of our little apple tree being able to handle them all, and so culled a portion of the apples early on.

The apples – and the resulting pies – were delicious. Such a treat! It still seems magical to be able to grow things on our own trees and actually eat them.

Elsewhere in the yard, the pollinator garden is thriving. Here is how it looked at the beginning of the month:

And, it’s still going strong, though at this point, it’s looking decidedly less fresh. We’ve had a wonderful “crop” of butterflies and bees this year. Definitely more than last year. Here you see some visitors to the verbena.

And we’ve had more monarchs than ever before. I counted eight, total, one day. I think the population has risen in accordance with the increased milkweed in our yard.

In the backyard, a vigorous crop of jewelweed is meeting the needs of bees that don’t bother to come all the way up to the front.

 

On the vegetable front, we enjoyed a good crop of cucumbers this year, and now the pumpkins are almost ready to be taken off the vine.

The chickens have been poking around in the pumpkin patch, though, and have gone after some of the pumpkins, so the crop is somewhat scarred and battered.

In early summer, I grew lettuce and enjoyed being able to just gather my dinner salad each evening. I’m trying to recapture some of that fun, so I started another round of lettuce, this time in a container.

I really hope this works.

The weather is still nice enough to spend time crafting outside in the afternoons when I have a bit of time before starting dinner. The chickens and turkey (and guinea hen!) usually keep me company.

I’m working on a variety of projects right now, one of which is another blanket scarf (or “blarf”). This time, I’m using yarn remnants that fit into the “autumn” palette of the Color Me Beautiful book.

It’s a great project to work on while watching TV or a movie…or a great podcast, like the one put out by Fruity Knitting. If you’re a knitter, I highly recommend it.

I did start looking into Christmas gift crafting and thought maybe I’d put together some little mitten ornaments using a pattern I’d seen in a crafting magazine. I sat down one Sunday afternoon and got to work. Here is the result:

Isn’t it wee? It’s like a mitten for a squirrel.

As cute as it is, I’m not going to make another. It was very “fiddly” work and not at all relaxing or enjoyable. So, if you know of a squirrel who needs a single, navy blue mitten, let me know. I have one he can have.

From the dining room table, wondering if human-sized mittens might not make good Christmas gifts instead,

Mrs. Smythe

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