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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's been a long time!

I realized the other day that I haven't been through here in a while.  I can't believe that it's been almost 7 weeks!  SEVEN WEEKS!  That's insane, and I apologize.

I imagine some of you have been waiting with baited breath, huddled around your  glowing computer screens, wrapped in a tattered blanket, hair all askew, clutching a cold cup of coffee, soothing your frayed nerves by gently rocking yourself.

Well kick off your blue bunny slippers and make a fresh pot of coffee, because here comes the latest installment to the Station.

No news is good news, eh? 

Honestly, it's been a nice slow, albeit hectic, summer.  We were constantly busy but with what is all a blur.

The garden struggled all summer.  The tomatoes never did bounce back from the late replanting.  They should have, in a normal summer, taken off like wildfire with the early June planting.  The soil and nights were gloriously warm.  The problem was that the soil was ridiculously WET.  I don't mean damp, I mean SOGGY.  I was expecting to find buried bog people or bog butter when I replanted the garden after the hail storm.  Then, just as the plants got going, it stopped raining and got hot.  I can do something about the lack of precipitation, but the blazing sun?  Nope. There was nothing I could do about the searing, blazing, face melting heat that we had this summer.

Not only did I not get to can ONE tomato this summer, but I had to pick them green the first week of September.  I managed three harvest flats of green tomatoes for ripening in the basement.  We have about 20 tomatoes left total.  The grasshoppers and crawlies took more than their fair share in the garden.  The second a tomato looked like it was changing from green to orange, it was fair game for a good chomping.  I saw the hens roll their eyes at me more than once when I would throw them yet another wormy tomato.  I think they are sick of them.  Although come January, they'll miss them!

The birds [sparrows, not chickens -Doc] ate all the grapes.  That's fine.  This year was to get the vines going.  In the late winter, I'll go out and prune and train them, along with the blackberries. The onions, all of them, were only about the size of billiard balls.  Which is OK, but as they dried in the sun, on the second floor deck, the hoppers found them.  Some of them were literally eaten half away.  That's CRAZY!  So I lost all my harvested onions too.

The pepper plants just plain died.  I guess they didn't like the bog and became root bound and drowned.

The sorghum had just enough gorgeous canes for me to put aside for next year's fair.  I'll harvest the rest for winter chicken treats.

It was a bumper year for weeds and grasses.

Doc and I tore up the garden two weeks ago, and left the cherry tomato plants, which are full of tomatoes, worms, grasshoppers for the girls to play with.  We are also leaving the gate open so the free ranging pest control team has anytime access.  [Poor Juanita keeps forgetting how to get back out.  Definitely not the rocket scientist of the flock. -Doc]

Speaking of the fair.  I entered several things last minute on a whim.  Why not, right?!

Garlic Dill Pickle Hamburger Slices-1st place
Tart Applesauce - 1st place
Dill Jalapeno Pickle Relish- disqualified but AMAZINGLY delicious I was told - I used the wrong sized jar
Sweet Dessert Cherries -3rd
Candied Jalapeno Peppers (from last year's blog post)- 3rd, but also amazingly delicious.  They didn't know what category to put it in, so they put it in with "others".  It wasn't a jelly and it wasn't a pepper, and it wasn't a sweet.  LOL.  So it was up against about 100 "other" jars.  I'm happy with 3rd.

Barney the Ameraucana Rooster - 1st place and Reserve Grand Champion AND his new forever home, where I hope he is happily protecting his new hens from predators and running around making baby chickens.


The fair took up more of my time than I wished it would.  Mostly because of the rooster/cockerel.  They said food would be provided.  It turns out that their version of food is half a cup of scratch twice a day.  Ummm, that's NOT FOOD!  It was also ridiculously hot and humid every day of the fair, as it is anytime there is a fair.  The heat index in the poultry/livestock barns was near 130 degrees, even WITH the big fans running.

I made it a point to go in before work and after work to make sure he had plenty of water and ice, and to feed him real feed in the morning and fruit at night.  He was not a fan of the cage, more to the point, not a fan of the geese in the next row, nor of children poking their fingers in his cage, or of the judge.  But he was perfectly happy with me picking him up and taking him for walks (carry around) twice a day.  People sure loved to see him out and about and kids loved to pet him.

So with all that extra driving (the fairground is an hour- one way- from the house), I'm not sure critters at the fair will be happening again.  The canned goods and harvest plants, sure, I can do that.

The chickens continue to entertain and delight us.  The egg business is booming.  I have several regular customers as well as the field trial camp below us.  So with all this demand for eggs, naturally the hens have decided to molt!  Feathers EVERYWHERE!   Poor Rose, who was already looking ragged, is now tailless, and has no feathers on her breast or head.  She's quite the sight.  Proud Olive is tailless, and Blizten and Leela look like they need to join Feather Club for chickens.  Everyone else is just losing them here and there.  But OH THE FEATHERS!

We are still waiting on Bea to start laying eggs, although she is looking more and more henny penny than pullet lately.  She also has a nasty habit of nest box sleeping.  The Boy goes out each evening and pulls her out and puts her on the roost with the others.  Some day she'll get it.  Nutty bird.  She is the last of the pullets to lay.  But since no one is laying now anyway....
Ellie's first egg.  SO TINY.  The coddling cups hold one full, large egg.

The build on the chicken run expansion has begun.  It will add another 100 square feet to the run off the side.  It's a sloped cape cod looking thing.  The north side will have a window that will not open, and the other two sides will have giant tipping windows.  The sides are going to be board and batten.  It's a large, but a smaller job.  This project will take me a while as I am working on it in the evenings, when the blazing sun starts to sink behind the barn.  September's and October's sun is like being under a magnifying glass.  The air is dry by the evening, but in the morning, the dew has to burn off before it's comfortable to work outside. 



Fun chicken story of the week:

Last night, Doc and I were outside discussing the plan for the new roof on the new run when The Boy came out to feed the hens, who were all down in the pasture gorging on katydids and grasshoppers.  He stopped and pointed, "what on Earth are they doing?" 

We glanced over and sure enough.  They chickens were being weird.  Well they're always being weird, so isn't that their normal?  So I guess "LOOK, the chickens are being exceptionally NORMAL!" should have been the cry. 

Anyway, there they were, 8 chickens in the round, like a wagon train circled to protect themselves from the impending attack.  Except THEY were the attacking ones!  All razor sharp beaks were pointed to the center of this great circle.  You could hear them mumbling and clucking to each other.  A small step by one towards the center would be met with exciting chittering, and hasty retreat.  Then another would try.  Sure enough, in the center of this feathered hokey pokey was a snake.  A poor, defenseless, 30 inch, terrified, prairie garter snake.

The poor little thing was just out for his evening feast of crickets and frogs, when it found itself the invited guest at a dinner party.  Luckily enough for him, he was just too large of a target for the girls to want to tackle.  Why get up from the sofa for a steak dinner, when there is a plate full of hamburgers sitting on the next cushion over?  While the hens weren't going to eat him, they certainly wanted us to know he was there, and they wanted HIM to know THEY were there.  I shooed away the hens and sent the coiled beastie on his way.  As he slithered as fast has his little scales would take him, he was further put in his place by chasing hens.  Hens who love the chase, but who are equally distracted by the first flying/jumping insect.  Mmmm I'm going to get that snake, snake, snake! Oh look a grasshopper!

The next topic of our day, with no segue what-so-ever, is house projects.  There never seem to be a shortage of those.  We all saw on the news the story about the great earthquake in Oklahoma.  Yes, we felt it up here.  OH BOY did we feel it.  We didn't DO anything about it, but we sure felt it.  Doc was in the little boy's room, which is a tiny cubical.  He heard the creaking of the floorboards in the room behind him and assumed it was The Boy up and walking around the house.  THEN the house started to shake, and then the floor started to roll and the walls swayed. 

On my side of the house, I was sleeping like a brick.  But was listening to the chickens through the open window.  They were really noisy.  I mean really, really noisy.  I mean more than their normal chit chatty.  It was more like a Siberian tiger was stalking the run, and then it ...went ....dead.....silent.  Then I heard the rattle and the windows shook.  I said to myself, "Oh, earthquake." and then since no one was screaming in pain, and the roof and walls were still on the house, I went back to sleep for an hour. 

When I got up I surveyed for damage.  Yes, we had damage.  I swear I am the only person in the whole state of Nebraska with earthquake insurance.  It didn't do enough damage to even make me want to put in a claim.  But I did let them know about it in case it causes a larger problem further down the road. The rolling of the earth caused stress fractures in the concrete floor on the ground level of the house and a pop fracture in the barn concrete floor.  Also the stress fracture in the basement has a corresponding  space in the upstairs hardwood floor joint.  Nothing more than only I would notice.  But they are there.  The few nail pops in the ceiling and a couple walls that I meant to fix in the Spring, are a little more noticeable, but not horrible.  There is also a crack in the floor grout in the master bathroom for the entire 12 foot length of the bathroom.  All the cracks are new and parallel to each other.  Cool, but it is what it is....... So I'll watch the basement for water seeping and patch the pops.

My major project (besides the coop addition) was painting the front door.  As you may recall I just painted, but, although pretty, it just wasn't quite right.  It was supposed to be the bright royal blue of the field of an American flag.  But it really was far too far towards the purple, and that's all I really saw. 
Old door, Homecoming Blue, but too purple!
The more I looked at it, the more it bothered me.  I had to fix it.  The local state park has a sign out front of one of the entrances that I really liked painted a fabulous deep teal color, Behrs Tropical Skies. I really like it, but a sample board placed by the front door wasn't quite singing to me. 

So another trip to the hardware store yielded me a fistful of sample cards which were taped to the door and looked at in the morning and evening light.  Anything that didn't pass muster at either time was pulled.  In the end, I chose Valspars  Turkish Tile  It's a bright duckwing teal and is marvelous!  I had the hardware store tint the primer a dark grey, which made the deep teal paint a more true color.  Two coats of blue paint later, and the door was done.  This time for good!


With the door shining in the evening sun the front porch announced that it was missing a white rocking chair.  A quick stop at Cracker Barrel on the way home from work solved that problem.

With the clean new door, and bright contrasting rocking chair, the old, rusty, cracked doorbell button and surround bugged me.  Silly the things that get to you.  I didn't want another standard button and started searching the hardware store.  At the big orange box store I found a lovely round button in the same brushed nickel as the door hardware. Perfect, until I got home.  I thought the holes for these things were standard.  Wrong.  Since I was dealing with drilled and anchored brick, resetting the holes wasn't an option. (Well I COULD, but that would require at least three long walks to the barn for tools.)

I started thinking about other things I could use as a doorbell button surround.  (It turns out the wired button just pops out of the decorative surround.) My imagination started wandering to things with holes about the right size, or of things I could put the right size hole in.  I wanted cool.  I wanted different.  I wanted original!

Could I drill an antique cup and saucer and glue them together?  Could Doc make me something cool out of wood?  Is there a piece of horse tack I could use?  Could a make a fake nest with ceramic eggs in it and mount the button in the eggs and mount it sideways to the wall?  Everywhere I went I was looking at things to mount or drill.  And then it happened.

On a strop to the Liberty House Antique store to say goodbye to my good friend Pat (who turns out ISN"T moving after all -long story) I found something I JUST COULDN"T put down and leave behind.  Trust me I tried.  The more I thought of it, the more my brain latched on to it.  I just had to try!  I found a galvanized fair ribbon.

I looked it over and it was lightly welded together, so it looked like I could take it apart to paint it.  The center looked like I could take it off and drill it, or if drilling failed, I could replace it with another disk that was for the button.  For $8, it was worth a try.  I stopped at the hardware store and purchased red paint.  Yes, a blue ribbon would be cool, but it would look terrible with the teal door, and look like I was trying to be matchy.  What I wanted was BOLD!  So I went with Gloss Candy Apple Red.

I took the whole thing apart and sprayed away.  The center disk I removed and replaced with two large washers, which were the perfect size for the button and the base.  I drilled the ribbon and mounted it to the existing holes.  It's PERFECTLY ADORABLE!  Everyone LOVES it!  I hope you do too.

With that the only looming project is that coop extension.  We are loosely planning on a barn/stable and fencing in the pasture, but that would be a contracted company job.  I just have to point and serve brownies.  That's if I ever get my nerve up to say "yes" to the whole thing.

I'm such a chicken.