Posted by mrssmythe on June 19, 2017 in Celebrations, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

Recently, we had snow of a different sort here in Western Massachusetts. It was cottonwood fluff season.

There seems to have been more fluff than usual this year. Here, Pepper holds seeds from the “drifts” we found at the library.

It’s also strawberry season.

The plants on the porch are putting out some lovely fruit – not much, but enough to add a bright note to dinner each day.

I did not plant forget-me-nots this year, after deciding I’d rather not battle their sticky seeds again.

I did get some “volunteers”, though, and as they are pretty, I’ve decided to let them stick around for a while.

This time, though, I’ll be sure to yank them before they go to seed.

The roses are in bloom, but suffered an assault from gypsy moth caterpillars earlier in the season.

You can see the caterpillars left their mark on this poor rose’s leaves.

And, in the backyard, the spiderwort – now waist-high – is in bloom and a favorite haunt of local bumblebees.

The pond lilies are opening up.

And, near the woods, the wild yarrow is beginning to bloom.

We had a lovely, if muggy, Father’s Day. CPT A wanted a burger for lunch, so we dropped in at Luxe Burger Bar in Springfield and cobbled together our lunch using their convenient build-your-own-burger forms.

Here is Pepper’s choice – a burger with macaroni and cheese and barbecue sauce.

She claims it’s delicious.

I haven’t been knitting or crocheting much in the heat, but I did finish this little milk carton for Ginger who is still passionate about having a set of crocheted play food for her stuffed animals. It stands about two inches high.

And, one last photo – a recent visitor to the backyard. I think it must be a Western Conifer Seed Bug. Those are some impressive antennae!

From the dining room table, waiting for a storm to hit (hopefully it will drive off some of this humidity),

Mrs. Smythe



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At Last, the Sun

Posted by mrssmythe on June 8, 2017 in Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

Hello, everyone!

To start: an update on the Kipper fur I put out several weeks ago…

A definite success! I had to refill the “fur cage” this week (I have a whole sack of Kipper clippings in the closet to draw from). It’s fun thinking about all the little birds who are now bedding down in fur-lined nests.

Cooler temperatures and lots of rain kept us mainly indoors the past two weeks. When the skies did clear, I was able to dash out to check on the garden. It was good weather for the seeds I planted, but the weeds have also enjoyed the rain, and I’ll be busy the rest of the week pulling out what I can and getting mulch laid down so that things don’t get out of hand.

Currently in bloom:


Sage and Chives,

and this wonderful perennial geranium a woman at church gave me last year:

Isn’t it sweet? She has the most wonderful garden, smack dab in the middle of the city. You’d never know it was there. When things get overgrown, she digs and divides and then offers the extra plants to others at coffee hour after Sunday services. Isn’t that a kind thing to do? I love having a little piece of her garden in my yard.

We’ve had a couple of “volunteers” crop up in the garden this year: this Iris is one of several that popped up along the driveway:

and this wild rose is blooming along the side of the house right now.

I’m pleased about the iris, but am wondering about the rose. It’s rather vicious if you get too close – there are some nasty thorns hiding behind those pretty flowers. I’ve also noticed many identical roses in other yards in the neighborhood, so I think it must be a bit invasive. I was all set to dig it out, but then it bloomed. Now, I’m waffling. Does anyone have any input?

And, finally, it was so cold and gray yesterday (in the low fifties!) that I lit a fire to try to bring some cheer to the house. It worked, and I enjoyed one last (I hope) cozy moment in front of the fire before summer sets in.

From the dining room table, getting ready to pick up an embroidery project – I’m cross stitching with beads for a change,

Mrs. Smythe

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Curbing the Lawn’s Enthusiasm…and other news from the yard.

Posted by mrssmythe on May 27, 2017 in Chickens, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

Last weekend, I cut the grass for the first time this year.

I should have done it weeks earlier, but between the rain and our schedule…well, it had gotten overgrown (to say the least). Can you see in the above photo?

The most time-consuming part was the side yard where the bugle is growing. This is the second year I’ve mown around the flowers, leaving little “islands” of bugle for the bees.

It took a ridiculous amount of time, but the flowers are pretty, and the bees are happy, and within a month or so, the bugle will be bloomed out, and then I can just mow everything the usual way.

You can imagine how much grass I had by the time I’d finished. Usually I compost the clippings, but there was too much grass and dandelion seed mixed in, so I spread the clippings out as mulch for the chickens to play in.

They weren’t very interested, which surprised me.

They also turned their noses up at this:

I think these are forest tent caterpillars. We found them in one of the trees behind the chicken coop. We thought the chickens would be ecstatic, but they wouldn’t touch them. Can you blame them? Yuck.

Insects I’ve been more pleased to see – the bumble bees that inhabit the azalea bush in the side yard.

There are so many, the entire shrub hums.

The rhododendrons are blooming.

As are the weigela,

the clematis,

the salvia,

and the iris.

(The yard seems to be predominantly pink and purple right now, doesn’t it?)

And I have a nice selection of herbs I keep meaning to get into the back rock garden, but haven’t managed to get past the porch steps.

One last thing – an addition to the yard this week: Ginger’s succulent garden.

The tiny plants you see are ones she has propagated. The three largest ones are recent additions she used to help fill in the space in an old bird bath I wasn’t using. She got the idea to use it as a planter from Pinterest. I love the way it looks and think it’s such a clever idea.

So, lots of plants this week – and little else – but then, it’s spring. Things are growing unbelievably fast. In fact, it’s almost time to mow the lawn again. Sigh.

From the dining room table, up much earlier than usual because Pepper had a bus to catch,

Mrs. Smythe

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A Shift to Beading, Afghan Update, and Flowers (of course)

Posted by mrssmythe on May 18, 2017 in Baking, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

This Mothers’ Day, I sat down at the dining room table and spent several hours playing with a beading kit I’d picked up some weeks back. It was at a bargain store and very inexpensive. One of the projects was this necklace.

I love it. It’s light, easy to wear, and goes with several things in my closet. However…

The string provided in the kit didn’t fit very easily through the holes in the beads, so the whole project took much longer than it should have, and I was reminded (again) that you often pay in other ways when you go the “cheap” route. In this case, I paid in time.

But, I’m still happy with the necklace, and I’ll be doing more beading, I’m sure, in the coming months.

In other news, we’ve been sweltering here in Western Massachusetts. The past two days have been 90 degrees +.

The animals just lay around and pant. Even the chickens.

The only pet loving the heat wave is the Beta, who perks up whenever the weather turns warmer.

He seems to be enjoying the new hydroponic habitat Ginger put together for him. She planted a coffee plant in the top portion, and so far, both the fish and the plant are doing well. I think the fish will like it even more when the plant’s roots grow a bit.

It’s been too hot, for sure, to work on my granny square afghan, but I thought I’d spread it out on the bed to show you how it’s progressing. I’m in the final stretch now and am rapidly running out of yarn – which was the whole point of the project, so that’s a good thing. It reminds me a bit of a braided rug.

Outside, the plants are responding positively to the warmer days. The giant allium have opened.

And the chives are on the verge of doing the same.

The strawberry plants haven’t minded the heat, and are much improved since we removed them from the chicken area to a more protected spot on the patio.

And, we discovered what that strange “growth” on the cactus was.

It’s an emerging “arm”. What a wild looking thing that is! It’s been fun watching it “open up”.

And, finally, despite the heat, Ginger and I, trying valiantly to keep up with the chickens’ enthusiastic egg production, made a Sunshine Cake from a recipe we found in the Fannie Farmer baking book. Eight eggs, a bit of flour, some sugar, and little else.

It was wonderfully light and fluffy but a bit bland. Next time, we’ll add some frosting.

From the dining room table, getting ready to head out to the porch with a book (where it’s cooler!),

Mrs. Smythe

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Animal Blessings and Angel Food Cake

Posted by mrssmythe on May 10, 2017 in Baking, Chickens, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

No, we haven’t decided to let the chickens come into the house – this is just Pepper, trying to lure them in with some scratch…which she should not be doing, but which I found funny enough to photograph. In the end, the chickens held to their good manners and did not come inside. Pepper gave them the scratch anyway.

In other news, our church had its annual Blessing of the Animals service last week. We had a fine afternoon for the event. Here’s Ginger, getting ready to get in line. Can you tell which pet she brought?

It was Opal, her rabbit – one of the few non-dogs in attendance.

And there is our pastor, giving the blessing.

He was really great and gave a lot of time and attention to each animal he saw that day.

Opal made the rounds afterward, meeting the other pet owners and allowing herself to be stroked and exclaimed over (she has a very soft coat). She got her start as a farm animal in a Girl Scout camp, so she’s pretty good around new people.

The only other pet we took was Ursa, and there’s no photo of her being blessed because when it was her turn, she slipped her collar and ran off rather than meet the pastor. Next year, we’ll leave Ursa at home. (So embarrassing!)

In the yard, we have all sorts of color right now. It’s such a beautiful time of year. Our most recent bloomers include the honeysuckle bush…

the lily of the valley…

the creeping phlox around the pond…

and these “weeds”.

They’re all over our lawn right now, and too pretty to mow, so right now the lawn looks more like a meadow than grass. I’ve seen them labelled lots of things, most recently “bugle”, an herb known to be good for healing wounds. Who knew?

The quest to knit/crochet my way through my excess yarn continues. Recent finished projects include these socks, knit from yarn my sister bought me when we visited Old Sturbridge Village together last October…

and this hat, knit from a WWII-era watch cap pattern and made with leftovers from a long-ago sweater vest project. (If you’re interested, you can get the pattern for the hat HERE).

And, finally, with all the extra daylight, the chickens have gone into overdrive in the egg department. In an attempt to keep up with the overflow, Ginger and I made an angel food cake from scratch, going through a dozen eggs in the process. Not a bad solution, eh?

If you’ve never made an angel food cake from scratch, you should give it a try. They aren’t nearly as difficult as you’d think. Just a lot of flour-sifting and gentle folding of the ingredients. The egg whites do all of the real work. (The recipe we used can be found HERE.)

From the dining room table, pretty sure that all of that cake is gone by now (it went quick!),

Mrs. Smythe

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