Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Who could resist

What? That’s not a fawn, you say.


Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me when I encountered the fawn yesterday. So instead of posting relevant photos while I tell the tale, I’m posting photos I’ve been taking since my last posting. We all like a photo or two, I know.

Handsome felow

This fellow was around here for weeks. The females seemed unimpressed, but I bet they are busy sitting on eggs right now.

The girls are not frequent visitor just now. At least not many of them. Today one female arrived at the feeder with three males. The males kept shooing her away, so she, smart turkey, leapt up onto the feeder itself and helped herself from there.

clever turkey

Those are teen-aged guys (I think). Except for the striped bird – that’s one of my hens, chowing down with the turkeys.

So…yesterday I rounded the corner of my house and came upon a beautiful fawn at the end of the drive. She was eating the hostas which I have not yet covered. I immediately froze. She seemed not to be worried about me. She looked up, and then went back to ripping leaves off the plant. Okay, I muttered, I guess you’re going to eat my plants because I’m not going to shoo you off.

The Girls

Then Bo, my little, deaf, poodle, wandered past me and into the garage, He was hoping I had not cleared away the old cat food he’d found days earlier in a garbage bag that was destined for the dump. When he realized it was gone, he turned and saw the fawn.

Perrenial beauty

I was standing right on the other side of these flowers when I froze.

The Fawn became quite excited. Her ears perked up, her tail swished back and forth and around in half circles. Slowly she came toward us.

Heirloom Iris

Bo stood watching. Then he looked over at me. I don’t know what he thought since I never stand still like that.

Suddenly the fawn started stamping her feet. Not pawing the ground the way a horse does, but pouncing on her front feet the way a dog does to invite play.

The Wanderer

The Wanderer

Unfortunately, Bo didn’t pick up on the message. He’s old, and deaf, and not much into play.

Iris Beauties

The fawn wouldn’t give up. By now she was up nearly at the garage, and right in front of me, only ten feet away.


She circled the drive, and pranced her feet, then then snorted at Bo. I wanted to go and dance with her. But I didn’t dare move.

Sweet Woodland Rhododendron

This went on for fifteen minutes. My legs were going numb.


The fawn gave up on Bo and went back down the drive and continued snacking on the hosta.

Bridal V

I cut my bridal veil down to the ground a few years ago – it was in such a sorry state. But it’s coming back.

Sadly, Bo wandered back to the cat door and disappeared inside. I stayed and watched the fawn until she too gave up and headed off through the woods.

Spider Hiding

This yellow spider was on the front of a the blossom when I arrived. He slowly crawled around to the back to hide.

Not a very exciting story to tell, but believe me, it was quite amazing to stand there and watch.


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Toward the end of the winter I purchased a bag of organic potatoes. I don’t eat a lot of potato, so I was eventually left with a bunch of sprouting spuds. Instead of tossing them out, I decided to plant them come spring. Which I did. I dug up a weedy area behind the workshop where Audrey raised her chicks last summer. The soil seemed very rich and fertile, so I did nothing except pull up the weeds in a small rectangular area. Then I cut up the potatoes and put them in the ground, with some straw on top.

The potato patch

The potato patch

I almost forgot about them. Much to my surprise, when I finally did think to check and see what was happening, I had ten or so potato plants growing better than any of the vegetables I’d started in the garden. I’ve been blanketing them in straw as they grow which I understand is what one is supposed to do. 

The chicks' A-frame and chicken coop in the background. And lots of weeds and fern around

The chicks’ A-frame and chicken coop in the background. And lots of weeds and fern all around. I’ll have to watch or the potatoes will be over-run.

Two of the girls, watching.

Two of the girls, watching.

The other day I noticed half a dozen strange-looking bugs eating the leaves. I have no idea what these bugs are. The are translucent except for a brown marking that looks like a teddy bear from above. I’ve never seen these bugs before, and all my searches on Google have not come up with anything like them. So, if anyone knows what this bug is, please let me know. 

What are these?

What are these?

It didn't seem able to fly.

It didn’t seem able to fly.


 I took the bugs to the chickens, and they were gone in about two seconds. It’s amazing how keen the chickens’ eyes are. Even when I dropped one bug on the ground, the chickens had no trouble seeing it.

This morning I was mowing the grass which had grown almost knee-high with all the rainy days we’ve had. I spotted an unusual spider on one of the white iris. I don’t know this critter either. He’s pretty handsome though. What he does is crawl inside the blossom, pull the petals in around him, and hide there waiting for something – surely not a bee – perhaps a moth of some sort. I don’t know – I couldn’t hang around long enough to find out.

I know it's a spider, but it's not a familiar one.

I know it’s a spider, but it’s not a familiar one.

Visiting Kitty was here this morning for breakfast. She stayed all winter – inside the house, but mostly on the screened porch. Once the snow had melted enough for her to walk, she was gone. She stayed away for weeks, and just when I was sure she’d become someone’s dinner, she showed up again, meowing outside the door for a meal. Her habit at the moment is to show up, have breakfast, and then take off for another span of several weeks. It’s mid afternoon now, and she’s gone again. I think she must have another home somewhere. She doesn’t seem undernourished, even when she’s been gone for a long time. She’s clearly feral, but does allow me to pat her when she is outside. I couldn’t get near her this winter when she was in the house. Bo could though. She loves Bo.

Here's Visiting Kitty, having breakfast this morning.

Here’s Visiting Kitty, having breakfast this morning.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Resident Kitty’s been here every day, hanging out at the back door, waiting for breakfast and dinner. As the days grew cold, I worried about her at night. I’ve not been able to determine where she’s sleeping, but I couldn’t imagine that the garage or under the tool shed could be cozy places to sleep. So I decided to build a house for her. It took me a few days, and Resident Kitty hung around and watched the whole time. I think she knew it was for her.

I have a lot of wood remnants here from various projects, so the only thing I had to spend a few dollars on was the roof drip edging. I ran out of shingles, but my local hardware store, Belletetes, gave me the five pieces I needed, for free.

Breakfast on the front porch


I built the house with a removable top for ease of cleaning. The loft area is separated from the bottom with a board, forming a compartment for insulating straw. I put rigid foam insulation under the raised floor. The inside is filled with straw with hollow area for Kitty to curl up in. I put it on casters so I can move it around.

The morning after I built the house, I let Bo out to pee. It was still dark. When I turned the light on for him, out of the little house, climbed Kitty. She’d slept there. YAY! And she was there then next night as well.


Making herself at home

I wish I could say it was a perfect solution for her, but she’s not been around the last few days, so I suspect there’s a barn around here that is a little better protection. I was thinking of getting those warmer things you put in the microwave, but there’s not much point if she’s no longer here. Still, I suspect she’ll be back for a meal at some point, and she may find it a good place when the weather is a little warmer – a place to shelter from the rain.

I enjoyed the project. I’m thinking of painting it come spring. Fun colors!

The chicks are no longer chicks. They all sleep in the big coop now, and only once in a while do I discover one or two at dusk, back on the high perch in the chick’s coop. I don’t  know if they are there due to a lapse in memory, or for old time’s sake. If it’s going to be really cold, I move them. I can’t wait to see the first tiny white egg.

All grown up


Abbey – come to see what I’m doing in the pen


The hens hang out together in the sun – they seem to know the spot where the sun stays most of the day


While I was photographing the hens, I suddenly noticed one of the chicks was outside the pen

One of the chicks has figured out how to get out of the pens. She’s either found a hole that is so far elusive, or she’s flying up and out. Here I was photographing the hens lounging behind the door when I suddenly noticed one of the chicks was outside. She’s done this twice now. It’s a bit worrisome knowing there’s a fox around. I laid out deer fencing on the ground where the fox had been coming in. I’m hoping this is a deterrent. So far, so good.

We’ve had only a dusting of snow so far. This is the first fall I’ve managed to get the garden all turned over and ready for the spring. I was thrilled at how many worms there were. Every shovel full of dirt was loaded with worms. They’d already gone way down ready for the winter. I hope they had enough time to get themselves situated for the cold again after being rudely disturbed.

Ready for spring – the greens are turnips which I’ll harvest in the spring, sweetened by the cold


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The dreaded tomato hornworm

A few years ago I went to collect my daughter’s organic farm-share vegetables for her. While I was there I got to chatting with the owner. In the process of explaining to me how labor intensive organic farming is in the bug-removal department, he held up an enormous chartreuse caterpillar. It was so decorative, I almost laughed, thinking it was a plastic toy, and he was pulling my leg. But he insisted it was indeed real. He said they had to scour every plant by hand to find these critters. Now, I’m a gullible sort of person, and being pretty much city-folk at the time, I believed him. But for years after that, I was convinced I’d made his day falling for his fantastic story.

Several days ago as I was picking beans beside my tomato plants, I saw right there, a few inches away, the exact same plastic caterpillar. I went in and googled it, and sure enough, it was the dreaded tomato hornworm (not really a caterpillar). The article I’d opened suggested feeding them to the chickens, so I went out, and plopped it into the A-frame with the chicks. Instead of rushing over for the feast (it would have fed all four), they went into panic mode, dashing off, creeping back up for a good look, peeping, and scurrying off again. Eventually Audrey came out to see what was up. She didn’t even notice it. She scratched around a bit for some corn. The chicks followed her lead and ignored it as well. I didn’t hang around long enough to see what happened. I have a feeling it’s probably back in my garden. I don’t really blame the chicks. I wouldn’t want to eat it either.

And speaking of odd looking animals, the wild turkeys have been hanging around lately. Maybe they ate it.

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I think they need a roosting pole

Last evening I noticed the chicks were perched up in the tree that supports the netting in the bathhouse. I had the distinct impression that they are ready to roost. I was afraid they might stay out there all night, but they were in the nesting box come bedtime. I made a note to address the roosting pole issue sooner than later.


Mr. Frog invades the garden

Before tackling my to-do list this morning, I was in the garden picking up small tomatoes that had fallen overnight, when a frog leapt away from my on coming foot. This was no small frog. There’s a toad who lives in the garden, but I was surprised to see a frog. This was no ground frog. This guy belongs in the pond. I can’t think what he’s doing in the garden. Perhaps he wandered in, found a lot of bugs, and now is so fat he can’t get out. I’ll keep my eye on him. If he doesn’t move on I’ll take him down close to the water where he’s bound to be more at home.


He’s a hand full

For a good part of the morning I worked on the roosting pole. I’m not keen to have the chicks out in the open on the screened in porch, because they are so visible there. If a fox or raccoon was really determined, they could break through the screen pretty easily. But, I figured if I put a pole way up high where the chicks would be above the screens and out of sight, maybe they’d have the sense to get up there. That meant I’d need to make several poles so they could get manage it.


Exploring the new jungle gym

I headed into the woods to find the perfect climbing tree. Right there by the maple branch I was cutting up was a partially torn beech tree. I asked its permission, and then cut it down and stripped most of the lower branches. It had some interesting crooked limbs that would be great for perches. I got it into the coop and fastened it down in no time. The chicks and Audrey watched me from the A-frame. They knew something interesting was going on, and made a number of attempts to get at it before it was ready.


This is cool

She knows exactly what to do

Next I installed two sturdy nesting poles, one way up high, and another half way.


No one has gone up to the top pole yet, though they look at it. I suspect it won’t be long before they are up there

The chicks were all over it once I got out of the way.


puff-ball mushrooms

I had come across some puff-ball mushrooms during my tree search, so I retrieved them and stir fried them with a few tomatoes for supper.


Ingredients for supper

I thought maybe the chicks would sleep on the roosting pole, but no, they were tucked up with Mama when I went in to say goodnight. Good. I really prefer it this way. I’ll sleep better.


Bedtime at 8 weeks – still tucked in with Mama


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Stopping at the water’s edge

Bo and I walked the trail today. It’s the first time we’ve done this since spring. The deer flies were so bad earlier that walking was not pleasant, even with my hat covered in ferns (old wives method for keeping deer flies away). Once the flies were pretty much gone, the garden consumed most of my time with dehydrating, freezing, and making soups with all the bounty.

Blurry photo, but this little frog is only half an inch long


I don’t know what this blue flower is, but when I tried to photograph it a white spider crawled out (see it at the edge?)


Anyway, today was a beautiful mild late summer’s day – perfect for a walk. I took my backpack, a plastic bag or two, and my camera. I had my mind on an oak tree on which I’d found a huge mushroom some years back. At the time I hadn’t identified it, but recently at a party, one of the women brought a huge mushroom which looked quite similar. Hers was a chicken mushroom, and very edible. She shredded and sautéed it – delicious. Anyway – I was hoping this might be the same species. We have had so little rain this summer that most mushrooms have been few and far between, so I wasn’t surprised when I got to the oak tree and found nothing. Actually, I was a little surprised that there wasn’t even a sign of the old one as it had been big enough to fill my arms, and seemed the sort that would go hard and hang on for a long time.


Coral mushroom – edible

Never mind – we ambled along the trail, and I took a few photos. Then, much to my surprise I came upon a patch of coral mushrooms. I’ve eaten these many times. Ideally one picks these when first up out of the ground and are still pure white, but these were still edible. I also found two puff-balls still at the edible stage.


Back at home

When we got home, I washed and dried the mushrooms in the sun, and then sautéed them in olive oil along with zucchini and yellow tomatoes from the garden. I am still in awe of Mother Nature who provides my summer meals in such abundant and delicious ways.



She has also provided squashes and parsnip for the winter.


Look at these fabulous butternut squashes


and beautiful butternut blossom


Still making zucchini


Just about ready to harvest – I’ll be doing that next week

The afternoon was spent connecting the chicks’ A-frame to the netted tunnels through which the other hens and cats meander. I simply used the cat bridge I’d removed earlier as a connector between the two. Then I let Audrey and the chicks free to explore. They must have been watching me working away, because they ran down the ramp and over immediately to the connector.


Exploring the new connector


Greens again – though a little hard to reach


Running through the tunnel


Here comes the leader


What’s that shiny round thing?




Room for the whole family



I’d blocked the tunnel at the bridge to keep the other chickens and cats from entering the chicks’ end of the tunnel. At some point I’ll open things up so they can all mix. But not until I’m confident the chicks can’t get out, and they are completely familiar with the territory. I’m not sure how Audrey would respond to one of the cats actually going all the way into her coop. I guess I’ll have to stand guard for a while. There’s not a lot of room in the tunnels for passing without rubbing shoulders.


Dead ended at the bridge


exploring the bath house


Excuse me – that’s our bath house!

The chicks and Audrey had a grand old time – not so sure about the ostracised hens.

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I’ve been sun gazing for about a month or so. This is done only during the hour after sunrise and an hour before sun set. One stands barefooted on the Earth and stares at the sun – 7 seconds to start with. This is increased 10 seconds each time. I find I can do this easily and it feels fabulous. There is information about this to the effect that one’s body can be disease free by doing this, and one can eventually live off the sun. I don’t plan to give up eating, but who knows – perhaps one day this will come in handy. (Don’t anyone do this on my say so without investigating for yourself first.)

Shadow dancing

This morning the sun was behind clouds so I did not gaze. However later the sun did come out, so I went to stand outside with my back to the sun, just to feel its warmth. I ended up dancing.  It was impossible not to play with my shadow in the sun. I did that for a while and then pondered how I could photograph this. It took me quite a while to figure this out as the camera would not stay at the right angle. I noticed my shadow growing fatter and fatter all the time as the sun rose in the sky. I ended up putting double sided tape on my t-shirt against which I pressed the camera that hung around my neck.

Too high

Too low

Just right

This bit of fun comes after a spate of mechanical and other annoying issues with which I have been plagued since returning from Scotland weeks ago. They first started when Mercury was retrograde in Leo. I’ve never felt major effects from Mercury before, but I am thinking that Mercury’s being in my sun sign, magnified the effects for me.

Here are the things that fell apart:

  1. First day back, I turned on my computer and heard a loud bang followed by smoke coming out of my desktop computer – new motor required.
  2. I went out to cut the grass that had grown 8″ or so since I’d been away – mower wouldn’t start. I practically broke my arm trying to start it up. Off for major repairs which took 3 weeks. I resorted to a hand mower which at least allowed me to make paths through the grasses.
  3. Telephone’s wouldn’t work and answering machine not working – bought new batteries for phones, not the problem. Eventually moved to a new cord and this fixed the problem.
  4. My oil tank was half empty after two weeks of no one home and after being filled just before I left (which incidentally had gone empty way before schedule).
  5. The cellar felt like a sauna which I eventually found was due to a hot water pipe leak. This is why the oil was gone – the furnace was trying to keep my water hot.
  6. No sooner than that leak was fixed, I got another hot water pipe leak.
  7. Oil company said I should have my water checked – leaks were probably due to reaction between water and copper pipes.
  8. Water analysis found the water was now too acidic.
  9. Just as the water people were scheduled to arrive, I found yet two more hot water pipe leaks.
  10. I went to put stickers on my license plates and discovered my front plate had been ripped off the car and the grill broken – had to get new plates.

Every time I had a hot water leak, I had to turn off the hot water, the furnace, and boil my water for washing and bathing. Thank God it wasn’t winter!

The good news is, I now have a nice new water tank, neutralizer, and all the leaks are fixed.

Wednesday while the oil company and water guys were here, I wandered around with my stomach in an upheaval. I don’t like money worries, and I really hate problems with all those creepy mechanical things in the cellar. I decided I needed some comfort food, so I made bread. I try not to eat wheat, but I was desperate. I haven’t made bread in almost 20 years.

Ready for the oven

I found a recipe in my Old World Bread recipe book which sounded good and for which I had ingredients. (I did have to run out and get yeast.)  This was a recipe for Dutch Prune Bread, and it is fabulous! I’ve been enjoying this all week. I’ve been making soups with things from the garden. So far I’ve made beetroot with feta soup, beet green and potato soup, and yesterday, broccoli tomato soup.

Warm and ready to be enjoyed

The beet green and potato soup is ladled over thick crusty bread. My prune bread was perfect.

Dutch Prune Bread recipe

These soups are all wonderful, by the way. Here are the links:

Recipe: Beet Green Soup – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Beetroot Soup with Feta Recipe from CDKitchen.com


Interestingly, I am not a cook – I’ve never enjoyed cooking. But suddenly I’m having a lot of fun making soups. Next on the list will be zucchini soup.

Nine lunches in the freezer


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