A Field Trip to the Hot Springs

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The mountains were alight with the glow that only comes from thick blankets of snow.  An illuminant feel to the air, light and free, while whipping through the valleys of highways to get to our destination.  We had escaped.

We didn’t get as much snow as everyone else and we figured if we could get through the drift on the driveway and if the dirt road had been plowed it would smooth sailing up the roads to the mountains.  The two hour drive was beautiful, the glistening snow fresh and the roads were not treacherous as we had feared.  We were on our way to the Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

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So often folks think of Glenwood Springs as the hot springs of the mountains but this beautiful respite is often overlooked.  The priest at my parish when I was a child, Father Weibel, would take my siblings and I to the hot springs for fun.  It was always exciting and we would end the outings with a stop at the A&W, now a Barbeque joint.  We have taken our children to the hot springs since they were small and have enjoyed many a stay here for birthdays and anniversaries.

You would have to live in an old homestead to think it the Ritz, but the quaintness and the rusticity of the place is endearing and a lovely, peaceful getaway.  We stayed in a room in the main building.  The ones across the street are complete with full baths and such but they remind me of a motel and I rather enjoy the idea of staying in ancient rooms with push lights, windows with views up the mountains and wood paneling.  Presidents likely stayed in these rooms.  They have half baths but if you are swimming in the lovely hot springs the whole time, who needs their own shower?

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Thanks to the snow storm, many guests had cancelled so we had the pool to ourselves twice during our visit.  The temperature was so cold outdoors that under the greenhouse canopy of tropical plants steam rose up from the lagoon-like pool creating a feel of stranded island and romance.  It was heavenly and warm, the hot mineral springs loosening my aching shoulders from too many hours of typing.  In passionate embrace we took in the smells of soil, the large palm trees tucked under the corrugated roof with condensation dripping lightly into the warm water.  The only sound was from the gush of searing hot water coming from one end and the light wading of water from our fingertips.

After nearly thirty years of going to this beautiful holiday spot, I recommend that you go on weekdays and avoid weekends and holidays as it gets very crowded.  A random Tuesday or snowy Sunday night will find you mostly alone.  There are caves and clothing optional, gender specific areas, which we haven’t ventured to yet only because we like swimming together.  They have a package for $109 for the night Sundays through Thursdays which includes unlimited access to the pool and caves, an overnight room, and a $25 gift certificate to a choice of four restaurants for dinner.  A wonderful price for a wonderful place for escape!

http://indianhotsprings.com

A Shed of One’s Own

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This has been the year of inspiration for me.  I am passionately fired up and fueled by inspiration and sheer joy right now.  This beautiful homestead and all its capabilities, a new place to call home, meeting new people, closing one side of our business and building the other, I am dreaming, and notebooks are filling up with ideas to incorporate this year.  I am writing two books, my classes are filling up, and my seeds are arriving in the mail.  And I am looking at sheds.

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In the book I told you about called “Off on our Own,” by Ted Carns, he had built several sheds over the years on his property to hold tools, one that acted as a library, even a chapel.

The tiny house craze has certainly been an inspiration as well.

On one of our trips to New Mexico we toured a very old hacienda that was the blueprint of our dream home.  Each room stood side by side in a square all facing an inner courtyard.  Each room led outside to the courtyard.  The rooms consisted of bedrooms, a rough kitchen, a fiber room, and a chapel.

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Doug came up with the idea.  We could use sheds to create our little hacienda.  We will have one that is a bedroom, either for ourselves or as a guest room for friends, children, or interns.  We will have one that is an art studio so that I have a place to stretch out and not worry about kitties running across wet paint.  We will have one that is a sitting room, maybe complete with a small wood stove for sitting and dreaming quietly, with a wall of books nearby.  We will have one with a chapel.  A place to pray, reflect, light a candle, a place where visitors can say their graces and feel healed upon this magical land that we have encountered.  We could even put up a shed with a composting toilet.  These sheds would be in a U shape with the courtyard in front complete with a high enough fence that an owl won’t take off with the kitties should they want to take a field trip to the hacienda.  The view would look out across the mountain range.  The combination of city lights and stellar stars would be a magical place in the summer.  We could be close to the chickens, goats, and lambs to ward off predators, and we would have a place for visitors or give the visitors the house and we’ll stay in our shed hacienda seasonally.

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There are no zoning laws or permits required for a shed.  A shed could be built with found materials with friends for little money or one could purchase one of the darling ready made sheds complete with windows and a front porch.  We will probably seek assistance and build our own, unless we come into a bit of money, then we’ll go shopping!  We will face our shed hacienda to the west so we have this view.

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What are you inspired to do this year?

Excerpts From My Honeymoon Memoirs (and never ending adventures)

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2003…It’s seventy degrees, slight breeze.  I look out and see nothing but navy blue with white foam spreading sporadically.  Glorious!  I did not, for the first time in my life, wake up last night. The rocking of the boat knocked me into restful bliss!  The sky, right now, is cloudy with patches of blue, the air is sweet, and salty, and clean…

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We went to a beautiful theater, large with lush red sofas and small tables set in front with art work of Renoir pasted upon them.  Large windmills two stories high perched on the sides of the stage, millions of lights.  A big band played and we danced up a storm in front of a partially filled theater on stage.  I have married my soul mate!…

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Jamaica…exuberant, vibrant floral trees, one hundred foot high bamboo, everything tropical and lush.  The mountain was scattered with mansions and cinderblock homes in no particular order.  Children bathing in the stream.  The sound of birdsong, the smell of rain and earth, hot sun, tropical flowers, dark skinned beauties (with no dental care), and another world…Doug was offered drugs four times…

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We are quite famous on this ship.  We are stopped several times a day and complimented on our dancing and singing.  We are sweetly referred to as the Honeymooners though it wasn’t really announced that we are.  We were told we have stars in our eyes…

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Cayman is the opposite of Jamaica, sparkling clean, English influence, professional souvenir shops, more expensive, but still breathtakingly beautiful…a lot of tame stingrays swept briskly and familiarly along our sides and legs.  We fed them squid, and with a strong suction, they slurped it out of our fist.  They are incredibly soft, four feet across, magnificent animals…

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We went to the top of the ship, to the top deck, under the stars looking out across the water, and danced to Doug singing “When I’m Sixty-Four” without another soul around…

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We rode horseback in Cozumel in the sweltering heat through Mayan ruins which were rather fascinating.  My horse had a mind of her own and didn’t like Doug’s horse.  The foliage was very much like ours.  The difference was the hundreds of iguanas freely crossing the streets, trails, running about as frequently as squirrels!…

Overall, the places we have visited are beautiful and colorful, different and exciting.  But nothing beats Colorado’s charming mountain towns, swimming in the hot springs, and the houses down sixth avenue are still the prettiest I have seen.

I am sitting on the veranda once more waiting for Doug to take me on more adventures…

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My, what adventures we’ve had!  I look forward to many, many more….

We were to go on a trip to the mountains this weekend for our anniversary but it looks like we will be snowed in.  As long as I am with him, I will be happy. 

Emily at Eighteen (Happy Birthday!)

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“Oh Emily, so sweet and true

Oh Emily, my love for you extends beyond a thousand miles

Will see us through a thousand trials

All I see and know to be right,

disappear from my sight,

as my adoration for you surrounds us like light.”

March 1997

a long time ago

1997

I think Maryjane looks a lot like her mother!

I think Maryjane looks a lot like her mother!

2015

Emily at Eighteen, a beautiful sight

sweet and kind, a joyous light

a stubborn streak, a knowing grin

a good friend to seek, a great passion within.

And now another from your womb

brings even more light to this room

And the world spins and I have won

with my girls life gets lots more fun.

 

I am honored to be the mother of one so dear

Emily, you grow more beautiful with each passing year.

 

Happy Birthday!

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Creamy Coconut Curry (in a Crockpot!)

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This is a Maryjane Rose approved recipe.  She had thirds!

At the beginning of the year I mentioned that we would try new types of food.  Ethnic food includes many spices that support the circulatory system and boost immunity.  There are many vegetarian recipes as well.

There are many different curry blends out there.  The one I bought had the ingredients we liked the most higher on the list.  We are new to Indian food.  Doug and I were pretty certain we didn’t like it.  We are trying to open our horizons!  We were truly American in our culinary ventures growing up.  Mexican food was tacos.  Italian food was spaghetti.  Chinese food was American Chinese food.  Indian food was not on either of our plates growing up.  So, here is my attempt at a delicious, warming Coconut Curry, not too hot, just spiced well.

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Creamy Coconut Curry

In a crockpot combine:

1 cup of dried garbanzo beans

1 cup of frozen peas

1/2 acorn squash, peeled and diced

1 medium potato, diced

3 1/2 cups of water

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Add one can of unsweetened coconut milk

3 Tb of Simply Organic Curry Powder

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (add more to taste after letting settle in)

Cook on low for a 1/2 hour while making rice or couscous to serve over.

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Drink Pairing: We had hot vanilla tea for lunch but if you were so inclined a Sauvignon Blanc would be excellent.

 

How to Crochet Fingerless Gloves (easy pattern!)

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It is Emily’s birthday Thursday and I wanted to crochet her something along with a regular gift.  I couldn’t decide what.  Since we girls all crochet, we have a bunch of scarves, hats, and gifts from others.  I thought about leg warmers or boot cuffs then I looked down at my own hands.  My good friend, Lisa, knitted me some fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm while I type in the early morning chill.  They are great.  I love them!  So, I thought I would make Mims some too.

Thicker yarn comes together quickly but produces a more bulky (but possibly warmer) glove, and thinner yarn takes forever (my patience is staggering) so I used a medium thick yarn in a lovely coral color.  I a crochet hook that looked like the right hole size for the job, not too big, not too small.  As you may notice, I wing a lot of stuff.  And really, you can’t mess it up.  You can always pull it out.  But have fun choosing the color and feel of your yarn and find a hook that holds that yarn easily and feels good in your hand.  This is unconventional information.  If the gals at knitting club heard me say this I would certainly get a tisk, tisk.

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Chain 14.  Turn.  Double crochet in the third hole and continue across.  (should have 12)

Turn.  Chain 3.  Triple crochet in all the holes across.  (making sure you have 12)

Continue for 7 rows. (total of 9)  Or test it by placing your hand on the square and seeing if when folded that it covers both sides of your hand, not including the thumb.

Slip crochet hook into top hole, grab yarn with hook, and pull through.  Continue down the row 5 holes.

Chain 3.  Triple crochet in next seven holes to end.  Turn.

Chain 3. Triple crochet two more rows.  (Total of 3)  Knot.

Fold piece together and sew up with yarn, folding the thumb to meet the longer side.

Triple crochet in each of the holes along bottom of glove to create a cuff.

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I gave them to Emily early.  It only took me one knitting group meeting to make them and she was there so I just handed her to them because I cannot keep secrets, particularly gifts.  She drives my big truck that doesn’t open without rolling down the window.  She drives every day to take Bret to school and then to work.  I figured these would be a cute way to keep her hands warm while still being able to finagle the carseat and radio!

 

Choosing a Garden Design

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It’s been a long time since I had a blank slate.  I am staring out at the fenced in garden.  26×30 sized plot, no beds.  The porch longs to be filled with pots of greens.  The side field will become a pumpkin patch.  Fruit trees will be off of the porch.  The big blank garden space needs life.

We have made the very possibly crazy but incredibly giddy decision to jump ship into full time farming.  Oh the excitement!  But, that means I have a quota in my head of how much produce I need to sell, how much I need to feed us, our intern, our friends, and for events, plus have enough to preserve for the winter.  That kind of glazed over expression sneaks up and I grab another cup of coffee.

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I read that circles are the most space savvy way to farm.  How do you find things to border circle slightly raised beds?  I don’t have that many rocks.  My friend recommended a hexagon.  Doug was explaining how much square footage was in a circle bed verses a square.  “Well,” he says, “If pi equals….then the bed would be…..minus the path…”  He sounded like the teacher in Charlie Brown.  wawa..wawa..wa.  Uh, what?  I am not a math girl.  I could be if I wanted to but I was daydreaming about swirly twirly paths of herbs and water features and the new Asian greens bed I am planting.

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I am going to create this plot in a permaculture fashion.  No rototiller, no digging.  I will outline the beds with rocks, bricks, wood, whatever I can find around and fill them lightly with compost and amended soil.  That will be the basis of my planting.  Two tons of wood chips are on my wish list.  Alas, my daughter has my truck.  Lisa told me to call the utility company.  It’s on my ever growing list!

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But outside of the no digging, building up theory I am stuck in my ways.  I like the look of long rows of potatoes intermingling with garlic and collard greens.  I saw some photos of permaculture farms that do garden that way so I shall too.  I may make it a bit more creative though.  Maybe the lines of the long beds will be a little wavy, like little rivers of vegetables heading down the garden.  A water feature in the middle will add beauty and a water source for visiting bugs and birds.  A handful of arbors will create a walkway to the water feature, yard long beans, squash, and morning glories scampering up their sides.  I can fit 600 square feet of plants in with 1 foot paths minus the water feature area and the walk way.  That’s the kind of math I can understand.  I am so ready to plant.

Spring fever’s got a hold of me!  Would y’all mind checking out my new website for the farm?  Let me know what you think. I am most ridiculously proud and enthusiastic for the next person to ask me, “So what do you do for a living?” “Me? I’m a farmer.”

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http://pumpkinhollowfarm.net

Ending an Era to Make Dreams Come True (full time farmer and The Homesteading School at Pumpkin Hollow Farm)

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I write a lot about following dreams, taking chances, and working to bring goals to fruition.  It never fails to amaze me how when you start walking toward your dream, the doors naturally open and some close.  The universe conspires to bring everything into alignment, or “Everything works together for the good of those who love Him.” Romans 8:28.  I am sure there are passages and sayings such as these in every culture and in many circles.  It is a fact that if you so desire something and start putting it out there that you want that goal, you will achieve it.  Passions are put in our hearts for a reason and I view them as a guide map of where my journey ought to go.

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Five years ago when Doug left his city job with the comfy pay and benefits and I closed my dance company so that we could go peddle Echinacea at markets with three children at home, it was scary.  How many bottles of medicine would we have to sell to survive?  But we took that leap of faith.  A shop came available.  The money appeared.  The customers came.  The shop closed.  The customers doubled.  For six total years we have had the great pleasure of meeting and helping literally thousands of people.  We have learned and dreamed and succeeded.  And now the few we have whispered to our crazy idea wonder why we would close a perfectly good business that brings in a good amount of income.

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I teach.  It’s what I do.  I stayed in at recess in second grade to teach younger kids how to read.  I taught modeling while I was a model.  I taught acting classes.  I taught dance classes.  I teach herbal classes.  I teach homesteading classes.  I want to teach and farm full time.  Well, with this lifestyle when I say full time I mean enough to get the bills paid and then spend some time in a hammock or writing!

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I have a strong passion for teaching people how to empower themselves with plant medicines.  To not be fearful of diseases in the news.  To not be afraid of broken wrists or high fevers.  Knowledge that was lost must be found and redistributed!  I want to teach all about herbalism.  If there is an underlying worry that the student will become my competition then I cannot be a proper teacher.  If I have to keep all of my tried and true recipes top secret then what good am I doing?  By closing my Apothecary I will be a far more effective teacher.  I also lowered the price of my classes.  I combined the additional Master’s class into the Certified Class for the price of the latter.  A much more comprehensive course at a reasonable price.  Our school is superior to many of the others.  I know this because I have had interns from other schools who knew nothing about practical uses of herbalism.  But I lowered my price to make it more accessible.

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I have a strong passion for homesteading.  I love the freedom of it.  I love having the option to go watch the sunset, then come in and make supper, after I play with the goats, and plant a few more kale seeds.  I love that we can live on a small enough number that it is somewhat easy to get the bills paid and still have plenty of time to be together and play and enjoy our farm.  I love teaching homesteading classes.  Because the second you teach someone how to can, you open up a whole new world of affordable, healthy eating.  If someone can make their own soap, they eliminate the need to purchase expensive soaps and do not need to worry about skin conditions and irritation.  Teach someone how to farm, and they don’t need to depend on the grocery store so much.  Teach someone how to do any of the skills I offer classes for and they save money and are more easily able to attain their goals.

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I have a strong passion for farming.  The soil on my fingers, caterpillars slinking by, birds singing, bees on the flowers near, providing food for myself and others.  I love the animals.  I love this life.

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In the summer I am often too busy to really enjoy any of it.  We do farmer’s markets all week, we make a year’s worth of medicines, we answer phone calls and emails, we fill product, we ship, we wild craft and harvest enough for the year, we preserve all of our own food.  Now we will be getting most of our own wood.  We have a larger space to farm.  We have more animals.  When do I have time to really pursue farming and teaching when I am so busy with the Apothecary and basic homesteading?

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Something had to go and it wasn’t the chickens!  So, June 1st I am closing my Apothecary.  I’ll still be around to help people in a pinch.  I can still work on a sprained ankle or have some salve on hand.  But the retail side will be gone.  I am going to really promote my classes, which will be the make or break of this crazy idea, and I will farm with all my heart and spirit and physical ability.  Doug by my side.

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And when you put something out there, listen.  As the wheels of the goal start turning and coming into being you will be able to feel if you are on the right path by how much resistance comes your way.  Yesterday, a gal that runs a market in Elizabeth asked me to come each week and teach a small class or demonstration and promote my school.  For free.  I had the best talk with my intern from last year who resides in New York.  He’s coming out for two months this summer to help us get this thing in full swing.  I’m on fire, folks!  I am so excited.

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One always thinks of the worst case scenarios which hardly ever come up.  What if we need to make more money? (get a part time job or sell something else)  What if a storm wipes out the gardens?  After any storm in life we get up and start over knowing that only good can come out of difficulty.  But life is short and dreams are big, so we may as well start following them now.  I have no doubt that come summer this blog will be reflecting that dream come true.

Now, it’s your turn, dear reader.  Write out that dream or goal, no matter how big or small.  Details, people!  Get it all out.  Now, are you really ready for it to come true?  You wouldn’t want to block your own goal!  Now, place it in the responses so that the wheel can start turning.  It’s going to be an exciting year!

Choosing Farm Animals (no alpacas this time…)

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We went over to Sylvia’s farm Sunday afternoon.  The day was warm and sunny and her alpacas were wandering happily about their pens.  Sylvia was a gracious host and went over again everything we would need to know after taking the two alpacas home that she had generously offered us.

They are very cute boys.  Buddy is small and fluffy and his friend, Carmello, looks like a camel.  Their fleece is lovely and they didn’t kick me or spit at me.  They did immediately head away from anywhere we were.  That is how alpacas are.  I don’t know if I thought these alpacas would be different.  They would run up to me and want their noses rubbed and a hug around the neck.  They aren’t mean but they aren’t really friendly either.  A little newborn kept nibbling at my shirt and was absolutely adorable but would skitter away as I turned around.

We thought it through, we planned.  We decided.  Not this year.

Our Lady of the Goats

When I write something on this blog and set it out into the universe it starts spiraling.  It starts manifesting.  And my dream for this year is Doug’s as well and we are going to make it happen.  (Look for the full scoop later this week!) but for now, our entire income will hinge on the success of our Homesteading School including the Certified Herbalist arm.  Farm tours and interns, vegetables, milk shares, eggs, lots of folks coming to the farm.  The aura of the farm needs to match our intention.  Having families come tour our homestead is always a delight for me.  I love how excited the kids get when they hold a docile chicken or play with Elsa, the uber friendly goat.  When they talk non-stop about bottle feeding goat kids or kitty “hunting” (can you find all nine in our house?).  If we had terrified animals in the back corner…well that doesn’t really fit in.

I am getting two lambs next month that will be bottle babies to make them tame and I will try my fiber fun with them and if I love it, I can always get an alpaca next year to add to the fiber animals but in the meantime, we need more of a petting zoo environment, I think.  A good experience for kids (and adults) to hold onto when dreaming of their future farms.

Keeping Chickens (glamour, ew, green eggs, and opera singing)

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It was my turn to see if there was an egg stuck.  Ew.  If you didn’t read The Embarrassed Chicken and need a laugh, you ought to check it out.  That was Doug’s turn.  So, I found a produce bag because we didn’t have any gloves and went in to see what was the matter.  Oh, the glamours of chicken farming.  There was not an egg stuck but I do not know how far up you are supposed to reach!  Her vent was swollen and she seemed to be clogged but I couldn’t find anything.  So, we stuck her in a pot of warm water.  See if we could soften things up a bit.  She laid there like it was a hot tub and she’d had a hard day hiking, or fending off boys.  We took her out and put her in a warm corner of the coop.

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Daffodil was one of our last three chickens from our original flock.  She laid eggs religiously for three years.  She was tired.  I had read that chickens lived twelve years.  Seeings how Doug and I are not really the ax wielding, chicken beheading types, we figured we’d see these girls for a long time!

Daffodil and Peep, two of our first chickens.

Daffodil and Peep, two of our first chickens.

My friend Sandy’s chickens (she and Bill are not really the ax wielding, chicken beheading types either) lost almost all of their three year olds last year.  Just dead, face down in the dirt.  Sandy commented that she understood now why the farm women in the past culled two year olds in the flock.  You didn’t want to waste meat and if you waited too long you’d find them dead!

Daffodil lay on her side, barely breathing, her feet sticking out.  We moved her to the rabbit hutch because Owl wouldn’t stop humping her.  Teenage boy chickens, I tell you…

She died overnight.  We had known something was wrong because she was floofed up, sitting in corners, head down, eyes glazed.  But what exactly was wrong could have been anything from being constipated, a virus, or old age.  ‘Tis the life of a chicken.  She had a pretty good one here though.

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On a positive note, we have an interesting chicken.  I had looked at the local feed stores to see if they would get Olive Eggers but did not see them on the list.  The next day we had an egg in the coop that was a beautiful olive green.  The green against the blush, beige, blue, and chocolate colored eggs was breathtaking.  Our own Easter egg hunt each day.  Reeses, who was assumed to have been an Araucana like her sisters, must be an Olive Egger.  Does anyone know?  She is very friendly as well as showy.

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And our final surprise was when Owl started crowing alongside Christopher Robin.  There is a lot of opera singing going on around the chicken coop!

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Ups and downs and ins (ew) and outs, having chickens is fun, entertaining, sometimes sad, mostly fabulous work.  And the dozen plus eggs we are getting each day isn’t a bad reward!

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