Summer Is Nearly Over!

It’s been so long since I stopped in to say hello, I figured I’d better do it while I had a moment and was thinking about it.  Winter ended rather abruptly, and with the end of the snow, the race to try to get something to grow in the garden (or rather ANYTHING to grow) begins. The growing season is very short here, as at this elevation we get frost into June. Summers feel to be but a blink, then we are back to winter again. I don’t mind that, but I am beginning to see the wisdom of getting a greenhouse that will take a snowload. That’s something that is a big ticket item, so it will have to wait for now.

We experimented with a straw bale garden this year – I had good luck with them when were were at sea level in a temperate climate, so why not? Well, things started out doing great! The bales were placed, fertilized, soil added, then seeds. We put up chain link fencing (10 x 10 dog run) around one set, and not the other.  The fenced area did better than the exposed area – we get a LOT of deer here – but what really did us in was a surprise frost over a 3 day period at the end of June. It killed nearly everything. We ended up with 1 pea plant that rallied, a few  herbs, 1 lettuce plant, and a few sunflowers. Oh, and green onions and potatoes. Those actually did well. Anything NOT in the fencing was eaten by critters. In a separate plot we planted zucchini and pumpkins – did OK on the zucchini and have 1 little pumpkin happening, and now we see that the sage rats have tunneled underneath and are eating the roots from below the dirt, and killing our plants.  It appears that gardening is going to need to be a combination of growing food and declaring war against creatures.  We are already brainstorming ideas for next year.

We had a few weeks of family time this summer – which was wonderful! We had our granddaughter Miss B for a week on her own, then my son’s whole family for a long weekend, our grandson E for a week, then we had my daughter’s family with grandson R for a long weekend! It had been far too long since we had any of them for any length of time, so the time together was a blessing and tears that flowed when they went home were many. We got to go fishing with E every day that he was here, introduced Miss B to fishing – and she LOVED it – and introduced R to fishing when he was here too.  As a matter of fact, we received a video from his parents today – they went to a work picnic and R caught his first fish with the fishing pole that Papaw bought for him. How awesome is that??? It’s hard to be away from family, and we have it easy – we get texts, pictures, phone calls and video. I sometimes feel sad for the people in the pioneer days – they never knew when their wagon trains pulled out of town if they would ever see their families again. As a mama, that thought just breaks my  heart. (Please note – I am not sharing photos of the children any longer – for security purposes)

Our three new chicks have grown up to be very big chickens, with great personalities of their own. One of the girls laid her very first egg last week, which means the other two will follow suit soon. Because they were too young to put in with the older girls at first, we bought them a “baby” coop to live in until they could hold their own in the pecking order. We put a dividing fence between the “old” girls and the “babies”, so the littles had about 12 feet x 10 feet of run, and the older girls had the remainder of the 30 x 10 run for themselves. This way they could all get used to seeing each other before they started to cohabitate. Life moved along, there were some arguments at the dividing fence, but overall, they did find. The day came when the little coop was just too small for these 3 enormous birds to squash in there together. I removed the divider fence, then sat on a chair with a squirt gun at the ready, to make sure there weren’t any fights that drew blood. Other than a few flying feathers and some noisy conversations, they all did well together. We had a few weeks of this, with each group going “home” to their respective coops each night, still not ready to live together in the same coop.  This wasn’t going to work long term. Winter is coming, these birds need to live in the same building so they can have combined body heat and the radiant heaters to keep them alive throughout the frozen season. It was time to resort to drastic measures.

One thing about the littles is that they LOVE the roosting bar in the large coop/run.  It’s a 2 story habitat with a coop up top, and a hardware fabric enclosure underneath – sort of an extra barrier against predators. It gives me peace of mind, even though if a bear, cougar or wolf REALLY wanted to get into it, they could. The other night after dusk, I went out to tuck the girls in for the night, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the big girls went to bed as usual, but instead of going to the little coop, the young ones were all lined up on the roosting bar in the big coop run. Huh. Granted, I’d cleaned and moved the little coop, and they apparently weren’t happy with the new location, but whatever works.  I closed the outer door, and figured I’d go out again in an hour to see if they made the move from bar to coop. Nope, they didn’t. Well, it was now or never.  I stuffed myself into the lower run so nobody would escape – I can stand in there, leaning over, but it’s quite large overall – and with the element of surprise in my favor grabbed the first chicken, and stuffed her into the coop. “SQUAWK”. Grabbed the second one “ACCCK SQUAWK”, final bird – this one is skittish and doesn’t care to be handled, and now she was fully awake and NOT happy at what was happening here.  I managed to grab her with both hands, and with a noisy protest that I’m sure included naughty words chicken style (would that make it fowl language?), stuffed her in too. There was a kerfluffle inside while everyone took their places, but hey, they were all inside. I was a little nervous about how it was going to go, but we’d see in the morning if everyone was in one piece.

Morning found all 6 birds alive, but we did have two eggs get crushed in the process.  What I am guessing happened was that the new girls took up lodging in the nesting boxes –  not cool, but they didn’t know any better – so the big girls just laid their eggs where they were, then someone with stompy feet moved through there and broke the eggs.  Very sad. I cleaned it up as quickly as I could – one thing you do NOT want is chickens to develop a fondness for the taste of eggs. They will begin breaking and eating their own eggs, and seriously, as much as I love these gals, I’m not paying for coops, runs, shavings, treats, food and all of the associated stuff that goes along with this for the fun of it. They need to work for their keep, and that means providing three households with eggs each week. I put a few golf balls into the coop – in the hopes that if they started learning to peck eggs, they’d peck these instead and give up on trying at all when they couldn’t break fhem. So far, no more crushed eggs, so it’s good.

This weekend is supposed to be the last truly warm weekend of the year, with predictions of lower temperatures starting next week. That means Moose gets his last outdoor bath of the year. He’s starting to get a little stinky anyway, so it’s definitely time. Winter prep is in full swing and with snow season around the corner, we may see snow before the end of next month.

I have a few plans for some upcoming posts – food related.  We have been having Sunday international meals most weekends, making a meal from a different country each week, starting with a country that began with A, B the next week, C the next and so on. We are up to K – which is still in the planning stages. I have pictures and lists of each meal so far, and will be starting a weekly international post, catching you up on what we have had so far, soon. The other idea that Hubby put into my thoughts will be coming soon too, but it’s getting late and I want to give this a proper introduction.

I hope that everyone has had a safe and fun summer.  Until next time, God bless you!

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