Signs of Spring…and Some Crocheted Donuts

Posted by mrssmythe on February 19, 2017 in Chickens, Crafting, Garden, Ginger's Snaps, Seasons, Toys |

Look what’s popping out despite the snow!

Part of me says, “Hooray!” Part of me is concerned. But, with warmer temperatures forecast for the coming week (conveniently in time for school break), I suppose it can’t be terrible.

Elsewhere (outside a Noodles and Co. restaurant, to be precise), bulbs are emerging.

Maybe we’re headed for an early spring after all.

The remaining snow, though, has kept me largely indoors this week. Dog walks have been difficult along the narrower, snow-bordered streets. In the end, I put in a lot of crochet time, as you will soon see.

Chief on the agenda was this chicken – “Mrs. Chicken” – crocheted for my dear mother who has a birthday this month. (Happy birthday, Dear Mother!)

When I saw this chicken, I immediately thought of my mother who has decorated her kitchen with hens and roosters. Mrs. Chicken will fit right in.

And, here you see Mr. Wa supervising the final sewing together of Mrs. Chicken.

Mr. Wa likes to make sure things are done correctly. He’s very detail oriented.

Also on the crafting front – more play food.

This week, I made donuts. I tried out three different kinds of yarn before I found a combination I was happy with.

There was a definite “Three Bears” feel to the project. This yarn was too thick, this yarn was too soft…etc. Finally, I lit on a Patons sock yarn that produced a “just right” donut.

(And, yes, I really did take my crocheted donuts to a cafe with me so I could photograph them. I can only imagine what the wait staff thought).

Once I finished, Ginger had fun putting together a photo shoot with the play food and Mrs. Chicken.

(I think Mrs. Chicken must be a nervous sort of chicken. Else, why doesn’t she set her hand bag down when she eats?)

So, that was the week. Spring buds and crocheted donuts. This is what happens when the snow lies thick and you have an abundance of yarn on hand. Some people will call it creativity. Others will label it strange. Perhaps both opinions are correct.

From the dining room table, leaving you with one last photo of Mrs. Chicken (who goes into the mail on Tuesday).

Mrs. Smythe

P.S. If Mrs. Chicken was a breed, she would be a Wyandotte.

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Snow and More Snow…along with some baking

Posted by mrssmythe on February 13, 2017 in Baking, Chickens, Cooking, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

After last week’s chicken trauma, Ginger declared herself a vegetarian. So – off I went to the library to find some inspiration. I came home with The New Moosewood Cookbook and promptly made a batch of Gypsy Soup (You can find the recipe HERE) Think sweet potatoes, chick peas, and lots of spices. Absolutely delicious! Though, in truth, the chick peas scared off both the kids and CPT A, so I ended up eating soup for the rest of the week.

The remaining chickens, though doing well, don’t seem as eager to run about the yard as before. When the snow isn’t covering everything, the girls take them out for supervised walkabouts, keeping them close – though not usually quite this close:

In other bird news, I went to pull a dryer sheet out of one of our bushes and found it was attached to a nest!

Now that’s some clever recycling! (Though I hope there aren’t any chemicals in the dryer sheet that would be harmful to the birds.)

And then on Thursday the snow hit..and hit hard. There was much rejoicing in some sectors of the house (namely, the dogs and Ginger).

CPT A didn’t rejoice quite as much. There he goes – off on one of several trips to dig out the chickens.

At the end of the day, we had quite a bit of snow – more than I can remember having in a long time.

To combat the cold, the girls and I did some baking. Ginger requested popcorn balls – a celebrated vegetarian food (wink, wink). We used our favorite recipe – you can find it HERE.

And then we worked on chocolate heart cookies to take for our church’s coffee hour Sunday morning.

These turned out very pretty, but tasted just okay in my opinion. They are more of a shortbread cookie, and I would have preferred a sweeter sugar cookie base.

With Sunday came more snow.

Here is CPT A plowing a path to the barn. He has done a lot of plowing this week.

And, with six more inches of snow on the ground, schools closed, and work delayed, I imagine he’ll being doing even more plowing today.

From the dining room table, with gusty winds on the way (and, no, that’s not a reference to the Gypsy Soup),

Mrs. Smythe

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And Then There Were Four

Posted by mrssmythe on February 6, 2017 in Books, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Toys, Week in Review |

More snow this week…

About 2 inches is all, but it came down all day, and the snow dogs – Kipper and Ursa – were thrilled. Kipper, in fact, didn’t want to come in out of the storm.

When we finally got him inside, his coat was covered in snow and he had to be toweled off.

The geraniums don’t seem to mind that it’s winter, either.

I brought them inside at the end of the summer, not expecting much, but they’re enjoying the southern exposure in the living room, and – though a bit leggy – are really doing well. I appreciate the extra bit of color they give us this time of year.

Another spot of color – the yellow of this Old Sturbridge Village yarn my sister gave me.

I was hand-dyed using Osage Orange by people at Old Sturbridge Village. And, according to the label, they used “period receipts” to do so. So cool.

However, I’m having a heck of a time knitting this yarn up into a pair of socks. I’m on my third attempt. Twice, I’ve had to unravel an entire day’s efforts after realizing the needles and/or pattern I’d chosen wasn’t going to work. Hopefully, my third attempt will be successful, and I’ll have a nice pair of golden socks to show you soon.

One project that did work this week was this little piece of crocheted bread.

Crocheted bread?

Yes, crocheted bread. Ginger had been asking for some “play food” to use with her stuffed animals. This seemed like a fun way to fill her request and use up leftover yarn. The pattern came from a book called Ice Box Crochet. Stay tuned for more fun food in the coming weeks.

Pepper’s rock tumbler continues to spin in the basement.

Phase two is now complete, and she had to actually take some of the rocks out early because they were in danger of grinding down into oblivion. Only one more round to go, and they should all be complete.

And, finally, a bit of bad news…we’re down to four chickens. A hawk came through on Friday and took out Eowyn, our Dorking. We were all very sad – Eowyn was a definite favorite. CPT America took immediate action and put together an enclosed run that will offer them greater protection.

And, while this has curtailed their space somewhat (they now have 60 square feet), it sure beats sudden death from above.

One last thing about that hawk. The very next day, he was out in the chicken yard, on the ground, just outside the coop, staring through the bars at the chickens! He acted like he was at some sort of chicken zoo! The chickens were very vocal in their displeasure and were relieved when he finally flew into a neighbor’s tree. I was glad, too, though I had to admire his cheek.

Dang food chain.

From the dining room table, wishing that the food chain wasn’t so brutal and that all animals were vegetarians,

Mrs. Smythe

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Rock Tumbling and Other Winter Pastimes

Posted by mrssmythe on January 30, 2017 in Baking, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, House, Week in Review |

With the cold stretching long before us and the bright busy-ness of the holidays over, we at the Smythe house find we are, more and more, relying on hobbies and creative projects to fill our days.

Pepper received a rock tumbler for her birthday earlier this month and finally broke it out.

It’s been a fascinating process to watch. Here are the rocks just before they went in:

And this is the goop that works to smooth and polish the rocks – at least for the first round.

The whole process takes weeks rather than days, but when contrasted with the amount of time it takes for rocks to round themselves out in riverbeds and on beaches, it’s lightning fast.

Here’s what a couple of the rocks looked like when they came out of the first round of tumbling:

Now, just two more rounds to go!

We’ve been trying to get the chickens out for a bit each day to walk around the yard. Here’s CPT A taking his turn as “chicken shepherd”.

As you can see, the dogs are out too. They’ve gotten used to the chickens now and hardly notice them, though Kipper doesn’t appreciate getting chased. (There’s one particular chicken that seems to have it in for him). And, though we would never leave the two groups together unattended, it’s amazing how far the dogs have come in just eight months.

A Nor’easter brought us close to two inches of freezing rain earlier last week. Ginger took advantage of it, digging out an old pool toy to test on our backyard slope. By the end of the day, she’d managed to make it to the bottom of the hill without falling off the board. She did, however, run into the chicken fence several times.

Cooking has been a pleasant way to spend some of our indoor time, though I confess I haven’t been brave enough to try making these:

It’s nice to know frog legs are available, though, should I ever get a hankering. The meat counter was even kind enough to supply flyers with recipe ideas.

I did, however, make fudge. I found a recipe for Nestle Toll House Famous Fudge on the back of a bag of chocolate chips, gave it a try, and was really impressed with the results.

CPT A spent some time in the basement stripping Ginger’s closet door. He stalled a bit when he realized previous owners had wallpapered parts of the door, then, later, painted over the paper.

It wasn’t a pleasant discovery, but CPT A soldiered on and finally managed to get all of the paper off.

And, in knitting news, I finished my Crazy Zauberball socks!

Normally, I try to match the stripes when I make socks, but you can’t really do that with a Zauberball. Instead, you have to embrace the mismatch. Ginger says she actually prefers her socks to look like this.

And, finally, an update on the Fireside Throw.

Just looking at this photo, it’s hard to see the progress I’ve made. I know I crocheted lots of hexagons this week, but the only tangible proof I have of the throw’s growth is the fact that I’m having to spread it out on the floor now, rather than the table.

And that brings you up to date. Hope you’re finding similarly crafty and creative ways to amuse yourself during these cold winter months. And, if you decide to make frogs legs, please let me know how they turn out.

From the dining room table, getting ready to make some tea,

Mrs. Smythe

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Hair Inspired by a Chicken…and More

Posted by mrssmythe on January 23, 2017 in Art, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons |

First news out of the gate:

Pepper has dyed her hair!

Actually, Pepper didn’t do anything but sit in a chair while her stylist worked the magic, but Pepper was certainly the one to select the color. She wanted a silvery/white, and she got it. I told her it looked like she’d tried to duplicate the feathers of her Lavender Orpington chicken, Everest.

Pretty close match, eh?

All teasing aside, I’ve been amazed at how much I like this color on Pepper.

In other news, Ginger’s succulent nursery has really taken off.

Inspired by the Needles + Leaves blog, Ginger took a rather leggy succulent she’d been nurturing, plucked off the leaves, and laid them on a bed of soil. She told me the leaves would sprout offspring. I was skeptical, but it turns out Ginger was right. Here’s one of the many emerging plants:

Aren’t they cute? Even the original stem is showing signs of new growth.

I’m not sure what Ginger intends to do with all of these new plants. Gift them? Sell them? Breed more? Who knows. Whatever she decides, it’s been a lot of fun to watch the process.

Something else that’s fun to watch – chickens dust bathing.

I wish I had a photo that could convey to you how ridiculous these birds look when they’re doing this. They roll on the ground, shudder, shake, and twitch, all in an effort to keep themselves clean and parasite free. It looks like they’re having seizures. It’s even more ridiculous looking when they do it in groups, as is often the case with ours. Several times, I’ve thought the birds were injured, or sick or, worse, fighting – only to realize they’re simply cleaning themselves.

Our lack of snow has made it possible for these dust baths to continue through the winter, which is good for the chickens but a bit concerning to me otherwise. While I enjoy the warmer temperatures, the fact that the pansies in the front yard are trying to bloom concerns me.

Even the lilacs look like they want to put out new growth.


And, finally, I continue to work on my artwork-inspired Fireside Throw.

As it gets larger, it gets more challenging to decide where to place the hexagons. Usually the table isn’t clear enough to spread it out like this and judge which spot might work best. Instead, I rotate the mass of it in my lap and just guess. So far, though, that seems to be working.

Meanwhile, I continue to be grateful for the calendar art that guides my color choices. I would have run out of hexagon combinations long ago if I didn’t have a stack of paintings to inspire me. Here’s what I’ve chosen for my next hexagon:

From the dining room table, hoping this post finds you warm and well,

Mrs. Smythe

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