And then there were five…

  
I’m feeling a little sad today.  My sweet Charlotte (above) is no longer with us.  And it is my fault. 😦 I’ve been down sick with a bad cold, along with most of the rest of the household, and wasn’t thinking clearly, I suppose, and I forgot to go out and lock the girls in for the night last night.  Jeff arrived home after a long day out around dark and wasn’t really thinking about chickens either.  

In the middle of the night, it suddenly came to me that I had forgotten them.  I wasn’t concerned that they had run off – chickens are home-bodies, and just naturally return to their coop at nightfall each evening.  I wasn’t even concerned about the fact that my forgetting about them meant I hadn’t fed them for the night – they had been out foraging the yard all day yesterday and were okay to make it until morning without feed.

No, what struck a note of fear in my heart was the fact that they were out in their pen, completely unprotected, since the gate to the pen was never shut and locked up for the night – leaving the girls veritable “sitting ducks” or literally “sitting chickens”.

  
I woke Jeff up and had him keep watch from the porch (in case a crazy night creature tried to attack me), and headed out to the pen, cellphone flashlight in hand, with trepidation about what I was going to find.  Sure enough, the gate to the pen was wide open, just as I had left it earlier in the day when I let the girls out for the day.  I started counting chickens…one…two…three…four…five…I counted again…one, two, three, four, five. I shone the light all around the pen.  I noticed the waterer was knocked over, a red flag since it’s very sturdy and too heavy for the girls to knock over themselves. And then I saw the feathers, black and white striped feathers strewn around the cage – more than the usual strays that adorn the coop daily. 

They belonged to Charlotte, one of my favorites.   My heart sank.  She was our last remaining Plymouth Barred Rock chicken, my favorite breed – I’ve always loved her ruffley, black and white stripes paired with her striking red comb – such a beauty!  Her sister, Nimrod (don’t ask), had died last month after becoming ill, so I really didn’t want to lose Charlotte too!

  
I looked around to make sure she wasn’t anywhere in the cage, but she was gone, carried away by some creature of the night – a raccoon, owl, bobcat?  I checked on the rest of the girls, who were sitting quietly, three huddled together on top of the old rabbit hutch where they sleep each night, and two roosting in the nesting boxes inside the hutch. I told them I was so sorry for forgetting them… for failing to protect them…for allowing their secure home to be invaded. With a heavy heart, I closed the gate, latched it, and headed back to the house, reporting the sad news to Jeff, waiting on the porch. 

We’ve had our chickens for almost 3 years now, and it amazes me that the one time that I forgot to lock them in, a predator was ready and waiting to seize the opportunity. I thought about these night creatures, and how they survive and feed their little ones by being aware and diligent. I imagined a contented little family of wild ones being blessed by my mistake. It is God’s way of caring for his creation,  and it is a good thing, for now, until the day He puts everything to rights and the “lion lays down with the lamb”. 

  
One thing having chickens has taught me is to hold them loosely, because their lives are fragile, and can be gone quickly. It’s part of owning chickens, and I accept that.  It also is a reminder to me that God holds all of us in the palm of His hand – our every breath is ordained by Him, and is in His control. There is blessing in appreciating all of life around us and thanking Him for it!  

I will miss seeing my pretty Charlotte scratching around the yard with the other girls, but will thank the Lord that I was able to enjoy her for the time I had her. And with spring just around the corner, I’m thinking that maybe some new baby chicks might be in our “tomorrow” – definitely some Plymouth Barred Rocks!  

 
Blessings,

Nancy

 

Blackberries Galore!

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We’ve been enjoying these lucious beauties for most of the month of June and there are still more coming in now that we’ve turned the corner into July.  We originally started out with a number of blackberry plants, but have only this one good one that has established itself well.

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Every year this bush has gotten bigger and produced more berries.  This year’s harvest has been very abundant!  We planted four new bushes this spring to replace others that didn’t make it.  I hope that they will grow to rival this one in the years to come.  They are all planted along the pool fence, and I envision the whole back side of the fence being heavy laden with blackberries someday!

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We like to eat blackberries right off the bush while we’re out swimming.  We also have been keeping a big bowl of them in the refrigerator to snack on throughout the day.  And of course, I also used some to make my Grandmama’s Blackberry Cobbler for dessert one night – Yummy!

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I thought about canning some blackberry preserves, but we may eat them up before I get around to it.  I have always loved blackberries and am so happy to have them growing outside my back door!

Have a lovely day!

Blessings,

Nancy

Porch Weather in July??

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I can hardly believe it, but I am actually spending this afternoon camped out in my rocker on the front porch – AT THE END OF JULY!!! This is unheard of here in Texas, where July usually means 100 degree temperatures. The temperature right now is in the upper 80’s, but there is a cool northern breeze blowing and the porch is nice and shady, and it is completely and beautifully comfortable here. There are dishes and laundry to be done in the house, but they are just going to have to wait – this weather is simply too wonderful to waste!

Sometimes it is just what is needed to relax, rest, and reflect. That is what I have been doing this afternoon. I do some of my best reflecting on my front porch, surrounded by the trees, and the beauty of nature. I was reading about Elijah in the book of 1 Kings, and came to the part where he was nourished and given rest by the Lord. God cared so tenderly for him and gave him a break to rejuvenate him. What a blessing to be reminded that these rest times are so important in our life!

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This day began with a bonfire in our side yard! One of our piles of dead and discarded tree branches (we have 2 of these) had gotten so tall that it needed to be taken care of, so our neighbor came over and helped Jeff prepare and burn it. It was our first time to burn a pile, so it was really nice to have our neighbor’s help and know-how. The wood was so dry that it didn’t take long to burn down to a big pile of ash. It is still smoldering now, and will be throughout the weekend. We tried to roast some marshmallows earlier, but we couldn’t get close enough to cook them due to the heat being put off by the pile! We’re going to try again later this evening and see if we can make some S’Mores.

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I took some pictures today of the little ladies also, so I will try to get a chicken update posted soon. They’re not little babies anymore – they’re almost to laying age! I am so much enjoying having them! They are living in a pen under the trees by the pond, but soon we will be letting them out during the daytime hours to free range the entire property. Here’s a sneak peek picture of the girls ~

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Have a wonderful evening, and I’ll be back with you again soon!

Blessings,
Nancy

Porch Weather

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Porch weather is upon us again, and I am trying to make full use of it before the heat of our Texas summer arrives and I’m driven back indoors!

As I sit on my front porch, I can hear various different birds singing their spring songs, and the wind blowing through the trees, who are becoming more and more green every day. Someone down the lane is building something. . . I hear the tap…tap…tapping of a hammer. Possibly our next door neighbor preparing a new pen for their growing flock of chickens, ducks, and bunnies. We have a chicken project to begin soon, too! – cleaning out Jack’s old pen and setting it up for the chickens we plan to start raising this spring.

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Our irises are blooming off of the left side of the porch, and many of the rose bushes in the rose garden are showing colorful flowers as well.

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I purchased these new perennials last weekend to plant here by the right side of the porch, joining the daisy that already lives there. Hopefully, they will come back each year and bless us with their beauty.

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Jeff planted some lovely Petunias and Impatiens in pots on the front porch. The pretty pink Impatiens are right next to me on the table between the rockers. I really love them!

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There are bags of soil, compost, and peat moss piled up by the driveway, waiting to be mixed and poured into the new raised beds in the big garden in the side yard. I will post pictures of this year’s gardens in a forthcoming post.

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The temperature here today is 82 degrees. We are expecting rain in a day or so and a drop in temperature to the 60’s. Porch weather at it’s finest!

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I hope you can get outside and spend some time enjoying spring in your neck of the woods!

Blessings,
Nancy

A Lovely Day

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Today was a lovely day. January – but the temperature was in the 70’s and did I ever get Spring Fever! I spent most of the afternoon outside planning my gardens for this year. I also washed off the porch rockers and spent some time there thinking and enjoying the weather. The kids kept busy playing four-square, basketball, and exploring by the pond. Michael got out my Dad’s old tackle box and tried to get his fishing pole lined up.

I had mixed up some Taco Soup in the crock-pot earlier in the day, so all I needed to do for dinner was pop some cornbread in the oven, which gave me even more time to enjoy the outdoors. Sarah baked some Brownie Pops, so dessert was covered, too.

As the sun started to set this evening, the sky was very beautiful, all striped in blue and pink. The moon came out and was lit up with a lovely bright white light. It was a serendipity day – a blessing that I didn’t expect. The kind that makes my heart sing and my soul praise the Lord.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.”
-Psalm 19:1-4

I’m so thankful for this lovely day – a nice break from winter to enjoy, and the promise of Spring ahead that it brings to mind.

Blessings,
Nancy

Our Lovely Rose Garden

The roses are in full bloom right now in the rose garden. I am enjoying their beauty as well as their lovely aroma. As I sit on the porch, I can smell their sweet smell and it is truly a blessing. I think that there are more blooms this year than ever, but maybe I say that every year? No matter, I am, as usual, bowled over by the sheer blessing of this rose garden, planted by the previous owners of our house – and ultimately a gift from the Lord. Here are a few pictures that I took the other day as I wandered around in the roses.

My Mom brought us a beautiful Knock Out Rose bush on Easter this year, which we have planted in front of the front porch, where we can see it from the rockers. It should grow into a nice size bush and bring me joy for years to come – thank you Mom!

One of my favorite things about having a rose garden is when my children bring me roses like Anna did on this day ~

Have a lovely evening!

Blessings,
Nancy

My Spring Sonnet

I meant to do my work today ~
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
and a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?

~ Richard LeGallienne

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. I hope you’ve been spending some time out in the blossoming world too!

Be back soon ~

Blessings,
Nancy

A Day With the Dinosaurs

A week or so ago we spent the afternoon at the nearby nature museum. They were hosting an exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs, which were placed around the park on one of the nature trails. It was a beautiful afternoon to be outside and we enjoyed the outing. Besides moving, the dinosaurs also made noises and were fun to look at. Here are a few of the pictures that I took ~

This cabin is one of my favorite things on the trail. We used to be able to go inside, but it is in bad need of repair now, so the park had it nailed shut. I hope its renovation is on their spring to-do list!

Thankfully there were some dinosaurs that were specially made to be climbed on by the kids, since they could really only just look at the robotic ones ~

The T-Rex was huge as was to be expected. There was water dripping from his mouth for some unknown reason, which made him all the creepier!

A fairly new and growing part of the museum is their collection of live animals. Some of the ones we saw outside were this raccoon and deer ~

The indoor portion of the museum has many hands on activities for the kids, as well as exhibits about nature items of local interest. Something new this time was live animals, some of them on temporary vacation from the outdoor area for the winter. We enjoyed watching the lemurs ~

There was an entire room devoted to snakes – UGH! But it was a good lesson for all of us on what the poisonous snakes in the area look like, so we can avoid them, like this rattlesnake for instance ~

This guy was fun to look at, although I never saw him move at all!

No matter how many times we’ve been to visit the nature museum, it is always interesting each time. We’ll be going back this Spring, when everything starts to come back to life and enjoy the flowers and plant life that was mostly dormant on this trip.

Have a nice day!

Blessings,
Nancy

Rainy Weather

It started raining here yesterday afternoon, and the temperatures started to drop. Around dinnertime, following a close-by lightning stike, the power went out. I had just put the finishing touches on the taco dinner we were having, thankfully, so we did get to eat dinner. Out came the candles and flashlights. Anna was teary – she gets nervous when the power goes out, but we assured her that it would be back on soon. Jeff, Laura, and Tommy left to go to a minor league hockey game that they had tickets to, and the rest of us settled in to a cozy, but dark evening at home. I was supposed to take them all to Michael’s basketball practice, but I decided against it, due to the storm going on outside.

We lit up the living room with candles, and brought out a couple of games. First we played Disney Apples to Apples – one of our favorites, followed by about an hour’s worth of Nintendo Monopoly ~

We got tired of having to squint to read the Monopoly board, so we called that quits. 9pm, the time the power company had estimated that they would have the power back on by, came and went, but no power. We got in pajamas and read some stories, then got out blankets and tucked in on the couches. David had just fallen asleep when the rest of the family arrived home. They had seen the power company out close to our home working, so that raised our hopes a bit. Inside I think we were all wondering if this would end up being another 3 day outage like we had last year!

One by one, everyone dropped off to sleep nestled in comforters and blankets all around the living room. I dozed awhile myself, and then got up to go lie down in my bed. About 1 am, just as I was about to fall asleep again, the lights came on. Hurray! I got up, checked on the meat in the freezer, turned out the bright lights that had just come on, turned on the nightlights, and went back to bed, thankful that we would now have heat and that the next day would be back to normal.

This morning I awoke to thunder and heavy rains outside. My first thoughts were of Jack, out in his doghouse in his pen. I wondered how wet it was out there, and when I went out on the porch to check, I saw this ~

The pond was about as full as I’ve ever seen it, and I was afraid that it would soon spill over, right down into Jack’s pen at the foot of the pond hill. I woke up Laura to go and get him, which she did. He is now resting, warmly and comfortably in his crate in the house.

The rain stopped around lunchtime, and the pond hasn’t overflowed yet, but we are supposed to get more rain later today, so we’ll see what happens. It will be Omelets for dinner tonight, certain to be another cozy night indoors – I think I’ll keep the candles handy, just in case.

Hope you’re staying warm and dry!

Blessings,
Nancy

Feeding the Birds

It has been too long since I filled up my birdfeeders for my feathered friends, and so I did so yesterday. I don’t usually worry about it too much in the spring and summer months, because there are plenty of bugs around to keep the birds satisfied. But when it starts to get cooler, and the bugs (well most of them) go away to wherever it is they go in the winter, I usually like to keep my feeders filled up. We have had a very mild Fall and Winter so far this year, so I guess I hadn’t thought too much about it, but lately I have started to miss seeing the birds gathered around the feeders. These birdfeeders hang in the Crepe Myrtles on the side of the house outside my kitchen window – the perfect spot for me to watch them come and go. It looks like I may need to add a coat of paint to some of them – they’re starting to look a little more rustic than I’d like!

It usually takes a few days after I fill the feeders for the word to get around that they’re full, so I haven’t seen too much action yet; although I did spot some little chickadees out there a little while ago. Soon the word will be out and the chickadees will have to patiently wait for their turn while the bigger birds have their fill.

Now if I can just figure out how to keep the neighbor’s cat away from the feeders!

Have a wonderful evening!

Blessings,
Nancy