April Showers Bring May Flowers…..

Well, we didn’t actually get that many April showers this year…but the flowers don’t seem to care.  May begins tomorrow….and it will be greeted by many lovely blooms….the gardens are just beginning.

IMG_3888These checkered lilies are in the woodland garden.  Last year I waited and waited for the flowers to come..and then before I could get  picture a little bunny came and nibbled them……

IMG_3890These Bleeding Hearts are in the same garden..

IMG_3924As is this Lamium.  I have them all over but this is always the first to bloom.  It is a beautiful ground cover and meanders all over the woodland floor….

IMG_3925I know some people think of violets as weeds, but I love them.  That is Sweet Woodruff next to the violets.  The Sweet Woodruff will have a lovely white flower in a few weeks.  They are stunning but they will take over if you let them.

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The daffodils have opened and are gorgeous as ever.

IMG_3921And Grape Hyacinth are popping up everywhere.

IMG_3917The forsythia has bloomed at last.  It is a bit late this year…all the more beautiful for the wait.

In addition to the flowers, we have this.

IMG_3920This is the stump of the Corkscrew Willow tree that we lost in the  Thanksgiving snowstorm. It has a baby willow just starting….I had hoped it would. 

More interesting perhaps though is this.

IMG_3923These are logs cut from the Willow.  They are in are woodpile and they have sprouted!  I am wondering how I can nurture them enough for a few cuttings!

Nature is unstoppable and  life is bursting out all over.

IMG_3909The greenhouse is full of baby plants just waiting to be planted….such an exciting time of year.   May will see the gardens planted….

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And the woodlands returned to life!

Happy Mayday everyone!

 

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Back to Gardening !

IMG_3865I am happy to report that Amber proudly laid a beautiful egg yesterday..shell and all!  So that adventure seems to be over for now at least.  So we were all able to get back to gardening.

The girls have been very busy in the compost area.

IMG_3868 IMG_3870It was so cold this winter that the compost just froze.  The girls have been doing their best to break it down.

And while they were doing that I was able to work a bit on the raised beds.  I cleaned out the Coop Under the Stairs (where they spent too much time this winter) and added the poopy shavings to all the beds.  Then I added some compost mixed with soil that I got at the garden center.

IMG_3872The tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be in these beds this year.  They won’t be planted for awhile but the beds are ready.  The girls should be finished with the compost by then so I will add a bit of that when I plant.

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I did plant peas today though and some spinach.  It is still a bit cold but I think spinach will be alright..and I can easily cover it if I need to.

IMG_3873I also planted some broccoli and some lettuce.  I got these at the garden center when I got the soil….I couldn’t resist.  I have some very small lettuce and broccoli that I started from seed but it is not ready to be planted yet and given how popular my lettuce is with the local wildlife (An Unexpected Visitor) I thought I would plant some extra this year.

IMG_3876I started this kale and chard from seed and it is still a bit small but the greenhouse is getting full and kale and chard are pretty hardy.  I have hoops over everything I planted and will cover them at night for awhile since it is still in the 30s here at night.

The season has begun!  There are a lot of plants still in the greenhouse and more under the grow light inside..the planting has just begun.  It is a wonderful time of year!

Even the primroses that were so cheerful inside all winter have been moved outside…

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….where they remain a cheerful sight!

At long last…Spring has sprung!   🌷🌺🌻

Happy gardening everyone!

Posted in Gardens, Hens, Nature, Spring | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Egg with No Shell

One of the joys of raising your own hens is the interesting eggs that you get.  Supermarket eggs tend to be very uniform…same color, same shape…same pale yellow yolk.  But if you raise hens you get many different colors and shapes…and all have that gorgeous almost orange yolk.  I have three hens and I get three distinct eggs.

IMG_3862Amber’s is the biggest, the shiniest and is more pointed on one end.  Beatrix lays the smallest eggs and they are blue.  Prudence’s eggs are darker than Amber’s and less shiny and more oval.  It is easy to tell the eggs apart and that is a good thing because then you know who is laying.  

Of course, because these are not factory hens, they are not always consistent.  Once in awhile  you get an egg that is a bit lumpy.  We have also had a giant egg (https://brookwoodshire.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/the-giant-egg/)      and we have had a tiny egg (https://brookwoodshire.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/ambers-egg/).

Last night we got our first egg without a shell.  It was a bit of a shock.  I went up to the coop to put them to bed and Amber was in the nesting box.  Not the nesting box that they sleep in, but the “perfect nesting box” (https://brookwoodshire.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/the-perfect-nesting-box/) ..the one they lay in.  It was a bit late for her to be laying an egg.  I reached under her to get the egg and all I felt was wet straw!  It was almost dark so I got a flashlight and moved her off the egg.  And there was a lovely orange yolk, surrounded by the white.  It was as if someone had just cracked an egg into the nesting box.  Amber was a bit upset and unsettled so  I put her in the sleeping nesting box with the others. But she was just not herself.  She wasn’t chattering or getting into “her spot.”  She just sat where I put her..and  she seemed uncomfortable.  So I brought her into the house to get a better look at her.  Her comb was red, but she was listless and definitely uncomfortable.  I checked her vent…it was a bit oozy and possibly a bit prolapsed. 

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I hope this isn’t too graphic…but in case someone is reading this because they have a hen in a similar state, I thought it might be useful.  I called my friend Carole, (who is my chicken mentor) and we talked about the situation.  While we were talking the vent corrected itself and Amber perked up a bit.  She managed to eat a grape and some yogurt and then set about exploring the house.  So I decided she was ok and brought her back to the coop to be with her sisters.

I hoped that would be the end of it.  But this morning, when I checked on them, she was still a bit off and all she wanted to do was sit in the nesting box.   She had just laid an egg so I knew she wasn’t going got lay again for awhile, so I shooed her out.   But she was determined and kept getting back in, so I wondered if she might still have something in there.  I had looked up eggs without shells on the internet (what did we do before internet?!)…there are various causes,from lack of calcium to illness to stress.  But most eggs without shells have a membrane at least.  They are soft but egg shaped.  Amber’s egg had no shell at all..not even a membrane.  Where was the membrane?  Was there one?  I decided to give her an epson salt bath to see if that would help.   Amber actually loves baths…she even loves the hairdryer to dry off…but that is another story.

In any case, during the bath I used a warm washcloth to press her vent a bit and noticed it was prolapsed again.  But just as I was starting to get worried I noticed something emerging…I tugged a bit and this came out.

IMG_3825The membrane.  It must have broken as she was laying the egg and got left behind.  It seemed to be complete with no missing pieces.  So hopefully there is nothing left inside her.  She perked up after this, though not as quickly as I thought she would.  I dried her off and returned her to the coop.  She did get back in the nesting box but only for a few minutes.  Then she had a normal day, scratching and pecking and enjoying a dust bath.  She is eating and drinking so I think she is fine.  She was eager as ever to have a few worms this afternoon.

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IMG_3855And wanted more when they were gone.  So hopefully her adventure is over and tomorrow she will lay a “normal” egg!  

And we can all get back to gardening! 

 

Posted in Hens, Nature | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Spring At Last!!

Today was a glorious day! After a too long and too cold winter, and a March that came in like a lion and went out like one as well, we finally had a “lamb” day.  Today the sun was out, the breeze was warm and gentle and the temperature was in the 50s….maybe even 60.  It felt wonderful!  Most of the snow is gone (though there are still a few shrinking piles in the shady areas) and the gardens have begun to thaw….a few green shoots have emerged..life is returning at long last!

IMG_3742Crocus are the first up.  A bit of color in a still too brown landscape.

IMG_3743A few more on a south facing hill.

IMG_3745And these nearby.  They are such a welcome sight!

IMG_3746The heather has just begun to bloom.  It was buried under so much snow all winter that I wondered if it would survive..but here it is!

IMG_3747I cut back a few broken bits but for the most part it is fine.

IMG_3763The garlic I planted in the Fall is also just coming up.  

IMG_3738I have potted on the seeds I started last month and they have been spending days out in the greenhouse.

IMG_3754The tomatoes seem particularly happy in the warm greenhouse.

IMG_3756As does the basil…..it is growing fast.

IMG_3737More happy plants.  I am hoping that the greenhouse will help make up for the late start of Spring.  

And inside….

IMG_3748The forsythia I brought in a few weeks ago is finally blooming.

IMG_3749And the pussy willows have opened…

It has begun….no matter how hard the Winter, Spring does return and miraculously, life reemerges….

IMG_3752Soon these primroses, which have kept hope alive all winter, and are still cheerfully blooming, will be moved to their new, permanent home…outside!

We have all been inside for far too long this winter!

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St. Patrick’s Day

I have always loved St. Patrick’s Day.  Not only because I am Irish, and it is my name day, but because it comes in the middle of March when it is not quite yet Spring but everyone is very tired of Winter.  Despite the promise of Spring in the air, there is still a lot of dirty snow…and things look pretty bedraggled emerging from beneath it.  So it is actually a bit bleak.  What better time for a bit of celebration?  As a kindergarten teacher  we had fun making leprechaun traps and learning about rainbows… and telling a few Irish stories.  Retired, it is a quieter day.

I made some soup.  Spinach, carrots and potatoes…the colors of the Irish flag.

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It will be pureed before eating and be mostly green…but I think it is beautiful with all the colors.

IMG_3704And it will be lovely with this Irish brown bread.

I have pulled out my Irish sweater.

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I made this years ago but it is so warm I don’t often wear it.  It is my official St. Patrick’s Day sweater.

Fergus is dressed for the occasion.

IMG_3720Having a nap while waiting for his walk.  We are so thrilled that he is still with us…last year at this time he was diagnosed with cancer and we were told it wouldn’t be long.  But here he is….Perhaps it is his Irish name that gives him luck! 

Merlin doesn’t have any special outfit to wear today.

IMG_3725So he celebrated with a few extra Greenies.  Purr….crunch..purr..crunch!

The girls got a bit of green in their oatmeal (or should I say porridge) today.

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IMG_3723They seemed to enjoy it.  They are so happy to be back up in Cluckingham Palace again!

We will take Fergus for a long walk this afternoon and enjoy any signs of Spring we might see.  And perhaps later there will be a pint of Guinness to celebrate the day!  

🍀Happy St. Patrick’s Day!🍀

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Posted in Fergus, Hens, Merlin, Nature, Spring | 3 Comments

The Promise of Spring

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me if I had ordered any seeds yet.  She was placing an order.  I told her I hadn’t even really thought about it.  It has been such a cold winter and there is still so much snow that it is hard to imagine anything ever growing outside again.

But then it got a bit warmer..and things are looking brighter.  Suddenly snow is melting, mud is appearing and the air feels gentle.  There is the smell of Spring on the breeze and the birds are singing!  Our solar panels have reemerged from their winter hibernation and we producing electricity again!  The world is thawing..life is returning and we are VERY ready!

IMG_3685The girls are back up in Cluckingham Palace at last!  They even ventured out into the run today.. The sun was glorious!

So I got out the seed starting things and decided it was time.  

IMG_3674Yesterday I went over to our local garden center and got some seeds and some seed starter.  I have some seeds left from last year as well and I have the trays that came with the greenhouse.  I have had the heating mat and the light for a few seasons so it was easy to get it all set up.

IMG_3691I gathered up the seeds and the trays and put some of the seed starter in a bin.  I moistened it and mixed it until it was the right consistency.  It felt wonderful to have my hands in dirt again!

IMG_3692I filled the tray with starting mix.  I usually use little six packs but these trays came with the greenhouse so I used those.  There are 72 cells in each one.  Room for lots of seeds.

IMG_3693Eggplant and peppers take a long time so I always start them first.  This year I am starting other things as well because I am hoping that the greenhouse will enable me to get things out sooner.  I am hoping for larger plants like they sell at the farmer’s market.  We shall see.  

IMG_3696I ended up with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, basil, lettuce and marigolds in this tray.  Once I planted the seeds I covered them with a bit more soil and misted them.

IMG_3697Next I added water to the tray that they will go in.  This lets water come up from the bottom as well and keeps the soil moist.  I have a heating mat under the trays to keep it warm enough for germination.

IMG_3700I ended up planting a second tray..with kale, spinach, chard and alyssum.  These are all pretty hardy plants and can go out pretty early..at least as far as the greenhouse.  The trays are covered with plastic domes to keep things warm and moist.  Once the seedling emerge they will need light, but for now the heating mat is enough.

So now we wait.  Soon we should have green shoots…then leaves…plants and eventually a bountiful garden.  That is the promise of Spring….

 

 

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Waiting For Spring

It has been a very cold and snowy winter here in New England.  Like so much of the country, our temperatures are way below normal and our snowbanks are very high.  It is very discouraging.  My gardens are buried under deep snow.  This should protect them some from the cold, but I miss them.  

The greenhouse is also partially buried.

IMG_4645I try to keep the snow off the roof, but as a result the snow is higher beside it.  It is lovely when the sun is shining but it has been cloudy and grey a lot and the greenhouse is pretty frosty then.  I have moved all the plants inside for now…..I was hoping to start seeds in there in a few weeks but I don’t know.

My girls are also wondering where the “nice” outside is.  They spend nights in the Coop Under the Stairs, but go back up to Cluckingham Palace for the warmest part of the day.  

IMG_3570But there is snow in their run.  The have tried going out but it is TOO cold.  Snacks help but they, like everyone else, are very ready for Spring!!

We have been spending time by the fire.

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And by the wood stove.

IMG_3598Merlin basks unashamedly in its warmth.  

  The primroses remain cheerful.

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And I got some hyacinth for Valentine’s Day.

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They smell heavenly!  

I have been weaving some.

IMG_3627These towels are for a friend.  They are  almost finished.

And I just got a new pattern and some yarn fromPeace Fleece.

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I think there is plenty of winter left to at least start the sweater.  So there is plenty to do.

But the seed catalogs are starting to arrive.

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And I am very ready for Spring!!!    🌷🌻🌹

 

Posted in Fiber Arts, Gardens, Hens, Nature, New England Weather, Winter | Tagged , , | 3 Comments