A Jumping Guinea Hen, A Visit to a Cave, and Lots of Insects

Posted by mrssmythe on July 21, 2019 in Books, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Travel, Week in Review with Comments closed |

Greetings to you! I hope you’re staying cool in all of this heat – that is if, like us, your area of the world is currently sweltering! For once, it’s too hot even to go to the pond, so we’re all hunkered down inside, cuddling up to the fans and window A/C units.

The chickens are faring well, despite the weather. We put out electrolyte-enhanced water for them (“chicken gatorade”, CPT A calls it), and the yard provides plenty of shade. Occasionally, we give them watermelon.

The chickens love watermelon.

They also continue to adore meal worms. Here you see our normally skittish guinea hen performing tricks for the worms Ginger offers her.

We escaped the heat one day this past week by driving to New York state for a tour through Howe Caverns. Have you been there? We took the basic tour which drops you 156 feet below the earth’s surface and lasts 90 minutes.

There was even a boat ride!

The cave’s temperature is about 55 degrees, so it was a welcome break from the swelter.

CPT A says he would like to live in the caves. He says we could bring him sandwiches.

Back on the earth’s surface, I’ve been enjoying all of the recent visitors to my garden.

Silver-spotted Skipper

With so much in bloom, there’s a lot to see, and I can easily spend an hour wandering from plant to plant looking for insects.

I have a guide called Backyard Bugs that I used to identify what I see.

Another book that I’m really enjoying is this one:

CPT A’s aunt gave it to me. It’s a wonderful resource for gardeners interested in using native plants to sustain wildlife. I highly recommend it.

Something else I’m enjoying – taking photos with the little macro lens that fits onto my cell phone camera. The lens wasn’t very expensive, and I use it like I would a microscope. It allows me to see so much more detail than I would be able to observe with my eyes alone.

Here you see day lily stamens…

a nice, detailed shot of a bumble bee…

and the center of a black-eyed susan.

Wonderful textures, don’t you think?

I’m really learning a lot by using it.

And, here’s one last photo – a recent crochet project of Ginger’s…a mermaid cat!

If you’re interested, you can find the pattern HERE.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on a crocheted afghan, but the going has been very slow. An afghan probably isn’t the best sort of project to be working on in the summer heat. I’ll finish it, though…eventually.

From the dining room table, wondering if it’s cool enough yet to go sit out on the porch,

Mrs. Smythe

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A Shift in the Color Scheme and a Shaved Cat

Posted by mrssmythe on July 9, 2019 in Crafting, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

Quick! Does anyone know what sort of tree this is? I was walking in Holyoke last week and came to a full stop when I caught a whiff of its flowers. They smelled divine and the bees loved them!

Meanwhile, in my own yard, the color palette is shifting from the purples and pinks of spring to the oranges..


and whites of mid-summer.

(Yes, that’s a daddy long legs on that flower. I don’t mind spiders a bit, but I apologize if you’re squeamish.)

The “Ms. Mars” sunflowers a neighbor gave me are blooming. 


Aren’t those unusual? I really like them, but wish I’d planted them in a more visible spot. Right now, they’re competing with a tangle of black-eyed susans. Next time, I’ll put them closer to the front of the bed.

And, I was able to harvest my first pea pod this past week. It went to Ginger, who loves them. She pronounced it very good, and hopes that more will be forthcoming.

Near the peas, we found these lovely things…

which aren’t really lovely at all. They’re squash bug eggs. I got rid of them in short order once I realized what they were, but all the while felt a bit sad because they were so shiny and pretty. The garden is a strange and wonderful place.

How was your Fourth of July?

Ours was pretty low-key. We skipped the parades and went to see the new Spiderman film instead. Then, we came home and had a campfire in the backyard complete with S’mores.

It was warm and muggy, so we didn’t stay out too long, but the firefly viewing was excellent.

In other news, CPT A and Pepper have been making the rounds on the college-visit circuit.

Last week was MIT – a school that impressed them both enormously.

CPT A said he wants to sign up for classes.

Meanwhile, Ginger and I continue to craft despite the heat. I haven’t done much on my vest lately as I’m to a tricky bit and need a nice afternoon’s worth of uninterrupted time to get some finishing work done on it. In the meantime, I’ve dug out an afghan project to crochet on and have also started a doily with some scrap yarn. Both projects are nice breaks from the more rigorous vest. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to it soon.

Ginger continues to crank out her assortment of entertaining creatures. Here’s one of her latest…a cat to serve as mascot for the writing group she attends:

Isn’t it cute? If you’re interested, you can find the pattern HERE.

And, one last cat photo – this time of a live cat.

Here is Mr. Wa getting his hair cut. He’d gotten terribly matted and clumpy in the heat, so CPT A broke out the clippers, and, surprisingly, Mr. Wa cooperated.

We stopped short of his belly and left his head and tale as is, but the rest of him is clipped to the skin. He seems much more comfortable now, and feels as soft as a peach when you pet him. I think this may become an annual thing for him.

From the dining room table, hoping you’re staying cool in the summer heat just like Mr. Wa (though hopefully without having to shave yourself so drastically),

Mrs. Smythe


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Not For the Faint of Heart

Posted by mrssmythe on June 24, 2019 in Chickens, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

Today’s blog is not for the faint of heart.

Shall I give you the worst first? Or shall I save it for last?

I think I’ll just go ahead and get the creepy photos out of the way. Here goes –

Creepy photo #1 – The Snake

This guy literally fell into the basement this past week. CPT A opened the door that leads to the patio, and the snake – who was resting in the stairwell – rolled in, righted itself, and slid behind the washing machine…all while I was upstairs doing the dinner dishes. CPT A grabbed a broom, eased the snake out, and carried him upstairs and out the front door. He got huge hero points from me for that rescue. HUGE points. Ugh.

Next up – the Wasp Nest.

CPT A found this little gem while trimming some shrubs in the side yard. This nest – which we thought was defunct – was in the Pachysandra next to the shrubs. CPT A brought it to me because I like to see this sort of thing – assuming there are no wasps in residence.


When we sliced it open, we noticed a family of wasps prepping for its debut. What did we do with the residents? We fed them to the chickens, of course. Double Ugh.

The chickens are huge fans of all things wormy. In fact, since we’ve started giving them meal worm treats, they’ve gotten almost too friendly. They hang out on the back step, making a mess, and pecking at the door in hopes one of the girls will come out and feed them a treat. If you come outside and don’t feed them worms, they act disgusted and walk away, twitching their feathers and casting reproachful glances at you.

Meanwhile, the turkey is getting bolder. This week, we caught her roosting on the car.

Granted, the roof rack is ideally suited to turkey talons, but really! We had to draw the line.

And, anyway, we had to move the car because CPT A was taking down a dead tree in the side yard, and the car was in the exact spot he was hoping to drop it.

Hooray for CPT A – he was nearly spot on with his placement. Thankfully, the irises, which took the brunt of the fall, survived with little more than a broken frond or two.

We hated taking the tree down, as we know dead trees are a boon to wildlife, but they are not a boon to cars or garage roofs, and with the winds we get here, we knew it was only a matter of time before something got damaged.

The local pond is now open for swimming.

Here you see Ginger taking the first dip of the season. Until recently, our days have been on the cooler side, so there weren’t many people at the beach, but Ginger will swim in just about any weather and didn’t mind the cold.

And, finally, firefly season has officially begun. We have a huge population this year – more than I can remember seeing in years past. I tried to get a photo and had miserable luck – only one faint glimmer which in no way conveys the lights show we get each evening. It’s really spectacular.

Trust me, it’s much better than this photo suggests.

From the dining room table, with warmer weather having finally arrived, and weeds multiplying in the garden…,

Mrs. Smythe





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Fair Isle Progress, the First Butterfly, and a Traveling Nest

Posted by mrssmythe on June 11, 2019 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

The fair isle sweater continues to cook along swimmingly. Here is my progress as of last week. I think it’s interesting how the colors in the sweater echo the colors I’m seeing in my yard right now.

The purple of the irises…

and of the clematis, which opened just a few days ago.

The orange of this butterfly (an American Copper?) – the first butterfly I’ve seen in the yard this year.

Also, the blue of this black and white jumping spider….

…who currently inhabits a corner of our front porch. I think he looks like a walrus.

And, as you can see from the spider photo, we have an abundance of pollen right now. It’s everywhere. On our cars, on the plants, and on our furniture whenever we open the windows.

But back to the sweater.

Even the color of the chickens’ eggs is part of the scheme. Here’s a nest we found in a neighbor’s yard a few days ago. It belongs to Pam, our guinea hen. She has a habit of crossing the fence and hanging out in their shrubbery.

I had been wondering where all the guinea hen eggs were going. I thought perhaps Pam had stopped laying.

We collected these eggs, added chicken wire, and then found another covert nest at the back of the yard today. The girls now have instructions to scout for eggs outside of the barn as well as inside of the nesting boxes each day.

And, finally, I’ll leave you with one last image; Mr. Wa, cradling a stem of cat mint…

…cat mint that was part of a bouquet I put together on Sunday. It didn’t last very long. I forgot that cats find the scent of cat mint alluring. Mr. Wa pulled the cat mint out of the arrangement and rolled in it…right on the dining room table.

Ridiculous cat.

From the dining room table, glad to see some rain in the forecast today – my garden was getting parched,

Mrs. Smythe

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Iris Season, the Turkey Returns, and a Knitting Update

Posted by mrssmythe on June 4, 2019 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, libraries, Museums, Week in Review |

It’s Iris season! The lovely specimens you see below are currently outside the Smith Museum in downtown Springfield.

Happily, I have irises growing in my own yard as well – though not in such spectacular profusion.

Here is a yellow “volunteer” that popped up out of nowhere last year. Now I have several along the driveway that greet me each time I get into the car.

And, here is a purple iris that is doing surprisingly well in its spot along the road…a challenging place for many things to grow, considering the salt and sand that get spread on the streets each winter.

Something else that’s doing well – this perennial geranium which was given to me by a woman at our church:

I moved it to the front yard last year, and it seems to really like its new location. That’s always gratifying – to have something actually thrive after you move it. Sadly, that’s not always the case…

In poultry news, the turkey has shaken off her broodiness (with a little help from CPT A, who finally refused to let her anywhere near her nesting spot). Here you see her hopping the fence after a foray into the neighbor’s yard. Have I mentioned before that we have extremely understanding neighbors? We do.

The turkey has slipped back into her role as guardian of the backyard flock and is putting on weight after losing an alarming amount during her broody spell. (If she had to choose between eating and brooding, she chose brooding, which took a toll on her figure.) Here you see the bulk of our flock dust bathing along the south fence. They’re big fans of the spot. It’s like a chicken spa.

In knitting news, I’m making good progress on my latest project – a fair isle vest that I hope to have ready by fall.

I’m really enjoying the work, but the going is slow – it takes me at least 15 minutes to go once around the sweater (300 stitches). If I can make it around twice in a sitting, I count it a productive session.

And, finally, I wanted to share some artwork I saw at the East Longmeadow library this evening:

The children’s department there is gearing up for its annual summer reading program, and this year, the theme is “Space”. I love these tissue paper stars, moons, and planets. They’re so colorful, and very pretty when the sun shines through them. Someone put a lot of work into them with excellent results!

From the dining room table, getting ready to pick up that fair isle vest project again…hopefully I can get once around before bed,

Mrs. Smythe

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