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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Purple Flowers, A Friendly Chicken, and Lime Jell-O

Posted by mrssmythe on May 27, 2019 in Cooking, Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

Well, we’ve made it through May, with its heavy schedule of rehearsals, graduations and jam-packed weekends. Much rejoicing!

Two perks to the season –

  1. We’ve had fresh flowers all month, thanks to the bouquets  received for opening nights and performances.
  2. There have been plenty of memorable photo ops, like the one below of the girls.


Normally, I don’t think our girls look much alike, but in this shot, they definitely resemble one another. It might be because they were both making fun of my request for a “normal” smile from them. They went all out on the “cheese”, and the result was a very nice shot, in my opinion. Thank you, daughters.

May has also brought the yard and garden to the forefront. Nonstop rains gave the weeds a head start. Now, the flowers are beginning to catch up. Meanwhile, I’ve been struggling to get things into the soil before the days heat up too much. I’ve added loads of day lilies (a gift from a neighboring gardener who had plenty to spare), so am assured plenty of orange in the flower beds come summer. For now, though, purple reigns.

The chives are especially nice right now.

In the back, the flowering quinces are providing an attractive spot for the chickens dust bathe.

Here, you see Bork taking advantage of the area. (We call her Bork because she frequently makes that sound. Her real name is Sedgewick, but Bork is so much easier to remember.)

Bork is also the most social of our chickens. She thinks nothing of interrupting your afternoon’s reading in hopes that you’ve brought her some meal worms.

Go away, Bork!

Thankfully, Ginger was able to distract her, and I was able to finish my chapter.

By the way, that’s Opal the rabbit in the fencing behind the chickens. We had all of the pets out today, as the weather was so nice.

The dogs are especially enjoying the warm days. Here you see how well they get along with the chickens now.

Remember when Manny used to drool and shake whenever he saw the birds? Now, he’s very blasé about the backyard flock.

Finally, I thought I’d share the recipe for my current favorite dessert, a variation of “Pineapple Mint Salad” in Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Cook Book (1964 edition).

Now, if you aren’t a fan of Jell-O, you’ll want to skip this, of course. But, if, like me, you really do like Jell-O, and you actually like bits of other foods mixed into your Jell-O, this might be something you’ll want to try. I find it very refreshing. Also, as no one else in the house likes this dessert, I’m guaranteed all four servings to myself whenever I make it. So, here goes:

Pineapple Salad

1 small package lime gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup canned pineapple juice and water combined
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup finely cut cabbage

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into mold or serving bowls and chill until firm.

Serves 4


Do I really like cabbage in my Jell-O? Yes, I do. Try it! You might find you do as well.

From the dining room table, needing to get dinner going, but really wanting to just eat more Jell-O…,

Mrs. Smythe

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Warmer Days and Some Completed Projects

Posted by mrssmythe on May 19, 2019 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Toys, Week in Review |

Finally! The weather is improving.


I was able to get some good gardening time in this week, and the girls were able to have some outdoor fun with the chickens.

We’ve discovered that the chickens love mealworms. They’ve learned to distinguish the sound the container makes when we shake it, and they come running from all corners of the yard whenever they hear that sound. It makes rounding them up much easier!

Ginger has even gotten them to run laps of the yard by shaking the mealworm bucket.

Pam, our guinea hen, continues to find new ways to surprise us.

Last week, Pepper woke up to find her on the roof, greeting the sunrise.

And we’re having a hard time keeping up with all of the eggs at this point. Everybody but the turkey is laying, and even with eggs for breakfast almost daily, I’m falling behind.

We bake some and are always on the look-out for recipes that use eggs, but, in the end, we give a lot away to friends and neighbors.

A different sort of chicken:

This is one of Ginger’s newest crochet creations.

She made up the pattern herself, and, we’re trying to persuade her to make more to resemble the other birds in our backyard flock. Wouldn’t that be cute?

In knitting news, I finished the raglan sweater I’d been working on since March.

I used a pattern I found in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s book, Knitting WorkshopI’ve made two of these sweaters now, and both had been successful. And, I’ve even gotten to wear the sweater a bit, despite its being wool, thanks to last week’s cooler weather.

I had enough yarn left over to make this vest:

This time, I adapted another Elizabeth Zimmermann vest pattern to suit the yarn I was using. The project came together quickly and was so fun that I ordered yarn for another vest…

…and started working on that this week. My goal is to be finished with it by fall. It will be knit with much smaller stitches and will be more complicated than the solid colored vest, but I think it’ll be doable. I’m really excited to start working with all of those beautiful colors!

Other colors that please me – the blossoms on my Bleeding Heart…

…and, the pretty pink blossoms of our backyard apple trees.

Isn’t it wonderful to see things growing again and to have weather that makes spending time outside a joy? Don’t the warmer days make such a difference? I sure think so!

From the dining room table, listening to Pam making her “goodnight call” to the neighborhood (Go to bed, Pam!),

Mrs. Smythe




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