A Barred Owl, the Wild Turkeys Drop in…and Some Baking

Posted by mrssmythe on February 18, 2019 in Baking, Books, Chickens, CPT's Lens, Critters, Kitchen, Old Books, Seasons, Week in Review |

We had another visit from the wild turkeys this week.

If you look along the top of our back fence, you can see our turkey (the white one) sidling up to a wild turkey (the darker one to the right). At first we thought she was just being friendly.

But, once the wild turkey dropped into our back yard, our turkey followed it closely (with the ever-present guinea hen in tow), then finally chased it off.

So much for being neighborly.

Later in the day, the wild turkeys returned (though, this time they stayed outside of the fence) with several babies among them.

In other poultry news, two of our chickens continue to lay eggs despite the short days. This is the first year we’ve gotten eggs this deep into winter. Below, you can see a side by side comparison of the yolks of a grocery store egg and one of our chickens’. (Our bird’s egg is on the right).

I don’t taste a difference, myself, but then I don’t have a particularly sensitive palate. I have noticed a difference in yolk color, though, and any time we use our eggs for cooking or baking, the end result is noticeably golden.

Lots of baking going on in the kitchen this week. I made some oatmeal bread – pretty good, but not my favorite, (though it sure looks nice!). I like breads that are a little more rustic…less sandwich-bread-like, if that makes sense. These turned out well, though.

For Valentine’s Day, I baked mini cheesecakes, using a recipe I found in Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook. Have you heard of Junior’s? It’s a restaurant in New York City renowned for its New York style cheesecake. I found their recipe book on the sale shelf at the library and thought I’d give one of their recipes a try for Valentine’s Day.

These are the “original little fella cheesecakes”, and they were very good. However, my cheesecakes fell well below the Junior’s ideal. There’s a chart in the book to help you solve all sorts of cheesecake “problems” and mine had several. They were over-browned, cracked, and they sunk. I think my oven temperature was mainly to blame. But, I used melted chocolate to cover the cosmetic deficiencies, and, as they tasted just fine, didn’t worry too much about it. (I also found comfort in my Fanny Farmer Baking Book which stated in relation to cheesecake, “Don’t worry if the cake cracks in baking.” Thank you, Ms. Farmer. I shall do my best.)

Something else I tried for the first time this week – homemade granola.

CPT A was running low on the sort he usually eats, so I put this together using a recipe I found in The Tightwad Gazette. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. I guess I thought granola required something special – something outside the realm of the ordinary kitchen. But this was surprisingly good – so good, in fact, that I had to stop myself from nibbling on it as it cooled. It tastes a lot like the crumb topping you put over apple crisp. You can customize the recipe, adding nuts, dried fruit, coconut…whatever. I’ll definitely be making it again, and I have to admit I feel strangely empowered knowing I can make my own breakfast cereal (other than plain oatmeal, of course). If you’re interested in trying the recipe, you can find it HERE.

Finally, here’s a photo that CPT A snapped just the other morning. I was making coffee and saw what I thought was a hawk in one of the back pine trees. I asked CPT A to investigate and to put the chickens in the barn if necessary. Imagine my surprise when he returned, very excited, saying it was an owl!

A little research revealed that it was a barred owl. Isn’t it beautiful? It was about 18 inches tall. (I include that last bit because everyone I texted this photo to wanted to know how big the owl was).

From the dining room table, with CPT A brewing beer in the kitchen and snow falling outside (the day is off to a lovely start),

Mrs. Smythe

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


What Every Home Needs

Posted by mrssmythe on February 10, 2019 in Critters, Family, Homeschool |

A kind neighbor passes along issues of The English Home to me when she’s finished with them. Are you familiar with the magazine? It’s wonderful. I always enjoy seeing the interiors of so many beautiful and, frequently, historic houses.

One thing I’ve noted is that many of these homes have at least one dog in residence. And, when asked the question “what should no English home be without?,” many of the home owners respond with the words “a dog.”

I suppose we’d agree. Our three dogs certainly help keep our home cozy and lively. No one is given a chance to feel lonely because there’s always a furry someone tagging along, looking for attention. You can’t even sit on the couches in solitude.

Even when you want to.

And, something as simple as doing one’s poetry assignment can get tricky if there’s a dog around who wants to share a bone.

(Ginger isn’t in pain, as the photo would suggest. If I remember correctly, she was trying to mimic the deep, growly noises Ursa makes when she wants to share something.)

And then there is the enjoyment that comes from the sheer silliness of dogs. Here’s Kipper, sitting on the one remaining snowbank in the back yard. He often seeks out the highest point in the yard from which to survey the woods. And, he remains there long after the other dogs have come in.

I’d love to know what he’s thinking. He looks so funny.

But, lest I suggest we derive all of our entertainment and comfort from the dogs – I must admit the cats offer their share as well. Mr. Wa frequently shows up during math lessons.

He has no respect for textbooks.

And Shadow appears every day when I hang the laundry. She’s taken over the basket where I store my clothespins.

She used to sleep on top of the pins, themselves. But when I noticed this had become her favorite sleeping spot, I transferred the pins to a shoe box and turned the basket over to her. I do this sort of thing more often than I’d care to admit.

In fact, I have to be careful not to let the animals take advantage of my soft heart. Kipper has been trying for months to get us to let him eat at the table with the rest of the family.

So far, I’ve held firm. No dogs as dinner guests. We have to draw the line somewhere.

It’s a feeble attempt at maintaining control, but it’s something.

From the upstairs bedroom, certain your pets must know their place much better than ours do,

Mrs. Smythe


Tags: , , , , , , , ,


A Snowy Morning, a New Haircut, Homemade Hamburger Buns…and a Few Other Things

Posted by mrssmythe on February 3, 2019 in Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

More snow this week…

Wednesday morning, CPT A was up bright and early cleaning up after our most recent storm. I joined him, though I did more picture-taking than snow-shoveling. It was beautiful…bright blue skies; sunshine; crisp, clean snow…

The woods were especially pretty.

And the garden looked like an entirely different place with its layers of white.

There are still a few milkweed seeds hangin around…

And, some of the leaves have dried into curlicues.

While I was photographing all of this, CPT A was busily at work, plowing snow.

He looked like a train – the snow being the “smoke” rising up over the hedgerow. So fun to see.

The snow was followed by bitter cold. The chickens are laying again, and we learned we have to gather the eggs quickly when temperatures are so low. If we don’t get to them in time, the eggs freeze and the shells split.

It was warmer today, though, and the chickens were actually able to leave the barn. Pepper made inroads with the guinea hen who submitted to being held…

…though not for long.

And, speaking of Pepper – she got a new haircut!

I think she calls this a modern bowl cut – but it reminds me a bit of the Dorothy Hammill I had in the 80’s.

I’m still doing quite a bit of bread baking. This week I tried homemade hamburger buns.

I used a recipe I found in Five Dollar DinnersI was surprised – they were easy to make, and pretty tasty, though not as “smooshy” as the ones you buy at the grocery store.

And, speaking of grocery stores – signs of Spring are beginning to appear in the floral department.

Aren’t these sweet? And, so soft! I love pussy willows. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have an entire tree full of these. I wonder if they’re hard to grow…

From the upstairs bedroom – because the rest of the family is watching a loud movie in the living room, and I need to concentrate,

Mrs. Smythe

Tags: , , , , ,


Sledding with Chickens…and some other stuff

Posted by mrssmythe on January 27, 2019 in Baking, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

Ginger took one of the chickens sledding this past week…

It was Cassie. I’m not sure she liked it much – but at least now she can say she’s tried it. None of the other chickens have gone sledding. Maybe she will boast about it in the coop at night.

Ginger, on the other hand, has been sledding almost every day. She was thrilled to get so much snow and had me drive her over to Fountain Park on Tuesday (when it was 23 degrees!) so she could sled down a real slope – not just the one we have in the backyard.

Here she is just before we drove to the park.

It was so cold, the snow had a solid crust, and Ginger was able to stand in places without making a dent.

Other spots – ones that couldn’t bear our weight – looked like this:

It felt a bit like walking on glass.

The next day, the temperatures rose into the fifties, and we had lashings of rain.

The roads were a mess, and the ground – too cold to absorb the extra water – was flooded.

Weatherwise, it was a wild week.

Inside the house, things were much more calm. On Monday, CPT A (home for the holiday) dug out a mix we had for making pretzels and got to work.

The results were delicious and reminded me of the pretzels we used to eat in Germany. They didn’t last long! If you’re interested, CPT A used the Kathi German Pretzel Mix.

He used the radiators as a place to stash the dough while it was rising. Pretty smart, right?

Another baking adventure this week….Bagels!

CPT A got this idea while we were grocery shopping. I had been complaining about the bagel options I found at the store. He thought it might be fun to try and make them himself.

He used our wok to boil the bagels (the step right before baking).

The end result was delicious! I was really surprised how good they were.

I’ll have to see if I can talk him into making them again. If you’re interested, you can find the recipe he used HERE.

Finally, I finished the hat and scarf set I’d been working on. Here I am, wearing them today while holding our chicken, Henley.

Doesn’t she look thrilled to be in the picture? This was the first time I’d ever held her. She’s definitely getting friendlier. She even ate out of CPT A’s hand this past week. I think she’s my favorite of the chickens…but don’t tell any of the others that.

If you’re interested, the scarf is the Noro Striped Scarf, a simple 1×1 rib pattern I knit with two colors of Lion Brand Amazing yarn (sadly, now discontinued).

The hat is a modification of Knit-O-Matic’s Simple Ribbed Hat. I used a heavier weight yarn, and so cast on a smaller amount of stitches, but the results are similar.

Both projects were very simple and relaxing to knit.

From the dining room table, hoping your week is filled with activities every bit as simple and relaxing. Stay warm!

Mrs. Smythe



Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Snowbound…and Baking

Posted by mrssmythe on January 20, 2019 in Baking, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

We woke up to about six inches of drifting snow this morning – a much lower amount than forecasters had been predicting for our area. That said, CPT A still had to get out the snow blower (only the second time we’ve used it this winter) and clear the drive.

Meanwhile, I grabbed a shovel, cleared off the porch and worked on a path to the front door.

I wore my new camel hat…

…and am pleased to report it kept my head toasty warm and dry. In fact, when I finally came in, I had a coating of ice on the hat that I hadn’t even noticed. (It was sleeting as I shoveled).

The birds are not pleased with the weather.

They came out briefly to look at the ground I’d shoveled for them and then returned to the barn where it’s warm and dry.

The snow means there will be no “visiting” for them for a few days. The turkey and guinea hen have discovered that our neighbor to the north is generous with birdseed and have been frequenting her backyard feeders. They’ve also been sauntering up her front walk…

We caught them at it the other day – they looked like they were going for tea. Thankfully, our neighbor is understanding and says she enjoys it when the birds stop by.

Inside the house, things have been pleasantly cozy. The government shutdown has me looking into the pantry for meal ideas more than I have in the past (I’m ashamed to say), and I discovered all sorts of neglected ingredients that needed to be put to use. I started by channeling my surplus of flour into basic white bread (very popular with the family)…

…then progressed to a “Heidelberg Rye” (not quite as popular – I think I added too much rye flour and the loaves were pretty dense. They looked nice, though!)

Meanwhile, Alison baked cookies to put a dent in our stock of peanut butter, and I threw together a pan of “Mary Jane Gingerbread” with the last of the molasses and some forgotten whipping cream.


If you’re interested in the recipe (and it’s a good one!), you can find it HERE. I first came by it in Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Cookbook (1964). She says the recipe belonged to her grandmother.

In other news, the girls learned how to make soap this past week at a class offered by the East Longmeadow Library.

Aren’t these cute?

And they work!

The ducks are actual rubber ducks (CPT A thought they were soap, too, at first). I think these would make really cute gifts.

And, finally, here’s a picture of a sunrise I enjoyed this past week.

CPT A and I periodically complain about how we never get to sleep in now because of the chickens. And, it’s true. Seven days a week, we’re up with the sun…. But, the upside of that is…we’re up with the sun, and that’s often a very beautiful time to be up and about.

From the dining room table, noticing that it has begun to snow…again,

Mrs. Smythe

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Copyright © 2013-2019 Mrs. Smythe All rights reserved.
This site is using the Desk Mess Mirrored theme, v2.5, from BuyNowShop.com.