Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry Jam

Do you know how to tell that the growing season is really gearing up and summer is here?  Look in my kitchen and you see my grow shelf, the one that held seedlings a few months ago is now covered in rows of mason jars!  Canning season has started!

To kick off the season, Frances from The Left-Handed Housewife (check out her blog!) came over and we spent the morning making strawberry jam!  I was so excited, not only because of the fun company, but also because this is my first time making strawberry jam.  

Last year I didn't have my canner during strawberry season so I am really excited about having strawberry jam.  Strawberry jam always reminds me of breakfast at my grandparent's farm.  It is my favorite.  We tried a new recipe using apple juice concentrate to make no-sugar added strawberry jam.  This made a wonderful new flavor that I can't wait to delve into!

In other news, I spent two hours this morning weeding the garden, making bread, and playing with the chicks!  Looking forward to a great holiday weekend and catching up on some chores around the house.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Snake in the Chicken Pen

I just realized the title of this blog posting sounds like a Bluegrass song...

I walked down to check on the chickens yesterday and found a visitor in the chicken pen...a giant Black Rat Snake...

See, we still have 8 babies that are about 6 weeks old (half the size of a full grown chicken) and Broody Mamma Hen in a smaller enclosure inside the big chicken pen.  The other big gals were out in the yard at the time.  I assume the snake thought he might get a tasty snack when he saw the babies...but upon entering the cage he must have realized they were too big to eat. 

When I came upon the scene, the chicks and Broody Mamma were all scruntched up on one end of the pen and the snake was scruntched up on the other trying to find a way out!  I think he was just as afraid of the entire situation as the chicks and Broody Mamma were!  

The discovery of the snake happened at the very same time that hubby pulled into the driveway from work.  So he comes home to be yelling about a snake in the chicken pen.  

Now, there is something you may not know about me...

I love snakes, I respect them and love to see them in my yard.  I know they are at work killing mice and other vermin.  I don't particullarly want to see a venomous snake in my yard, but I still respect and like them all nonetheless.  However, I don't want to see them in my chicken pen and up until now we have never seen one even remotely close to the chicken pen...only a matter of time I suppose!

Anyway, I used the garden rake and eased the big guy out of the pen and he slithered away into the wood pile where I assume he has been living for a while now.  I didn't get any pictures because I was so caught off gaurd from the discovery!  But I do have this picture from about 2 years ago...

This is a baby black rat snake we found in the driveway.  We let him go unharmed that day.  The snake we found yesterday was about the size of a healthy two year old Black Rat we meet again!

Monday, May 16, 2011


First off, I want to say thanks to everyone for the kind words during this rough week.  We miss Kyra terribly, but I feel a little bit better every day.  Every time I walk into the yard I expect her to come up and nose my hand or leg in greeting and follow me around the yard as I do my chores.  But, then I remember she isn't there.  To make things worse, Waylon has been sad and mopey.  He seems to be mourning Kyra.  I know this sounds anthropomorphic.  I am on the fence about whether dogs feel loss like humans.  But there is no doubt they feel the change and when a pack is disrupted it takes a while for things to resettle.  Waylon seems to be mourning the loss of Kyra's guidance and protection.  

Waylon has never been the only dog...he is afraid of the chickens...and now he is afraid to go in the back yard by himself.  We think having Kyra around gave him the confidence he needed to be a normal dog.  Lately he is reverting to his puppy self, when he was afraid of EVERYTHING!  But lots of hugs and kisses and extra attention seems to be helping.  I look forward to seeing a smile like this one again soon...

On the "farm" front...we have re-homed some of our chickens to make room for the new babies.  I have been fretting over how to introduce the babies to the folk without too much turmoil.  Alas...nature always figures out what to do!  

We have had a broody hen for about 6 weeks.  Last week, we made a small pen inside the big chicken pen for the babies to venture out of their brooder house.  From the moment the babies went outside, our broody hen spent her days clucking and pacing near the baby pen.  That's when I had an "aha" moment.   

Broody mama (what I have been calling her) thinks she hatched out those eggs she has been sitting on for weeks!  So I put her in the pen with the babies and boy does she take her mamma role seriously.  She went straight to counting her babies, rounding them up, and clucking directions at them!  After a few days, the babies seem to go to her for direction and guidance.  It is quite amazing to watch how she has adopted these babies.  She sure is proud of herself.  

Today I let the babies out in the main pen with Broody Mamma and her sisters.  There were some pecks from the big gals and the babies learned quickly to stay out of their way.  But any cries of distress from the babies as a result of being picked on by the big gals, were met quickly with the evil eye from Broody Mamma.

We expect to introduce them to the main pen in another week or so, when we know the big gals will be civil!  Did I mention how much I love those chickens?

Monday, May 9, 2011

When you lose your best friend....

Today I had to make the most difficult choice I have ever made.  Kyra, our 13 year old Shepard, my precious baby girl, the pup who has been by my side since she was 12 weeks old, will leave me tomorrow.  

Over the last week she has developed a painful infection.  Treatment options are limited to surgery.  At her age, surgery would be a stressful and unpleasant event.  So, we have had to make the difficult decision of putting her to sleep to end her pain and suffering.  

Kyra was my first pup that was my dog, and my dog alone.  She has spent many hours at my side.  Sleeping at the foot of my bed, waiting at the door when I returned home, riding around in the car with me.  When we were both younger, she went to the coffee shop and friend's houses, we spent hours at the park and afternoons hiking.  She was my companion.  Through friends, boyfriends, roommates, Kyra was always there.  

She is a special girl.  When I met my hubby, our second date was walking our dogs.  Kyra and Sampson (hubby's dog) became fast friends.  Over the last few years her roles have changed.  We no longer venture to the coffee shop together, but she established her new role as herder and watcher of the chickens.  Until recently she would spend hours patrolling the yard and keep the vermin out of the garden.  She has truly been a wonderful dog during all stages of my life and hers.  She is my crazy and neuriotic shepard, she is sweet as pie and I love her dearly.  

My heart breaks to think of life without my baby girl, but I know it is time to let her go.  Hubby and I are taking tonight to say goodbye and we will take her to the vet tomorrow.  Kyra will always have special place in my heart and my memories.  She will always be my one and only baby girl. 

 Kyra at 13 weeks, with "Octopi"

 Kyra at a few months baby girl!

 Backpacking at Shining Rock, she is about 2-3 years here.

 With her best bud Chorney, at our duplex when I was in college.

 About 9 years old here, our first year in our current house

 With Waylon when he was a wee-little one

 Last years egg stealing shenanigans

 Last Fall.  I love those ears and that smile.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mass Emergence

Do you know what made these holes?  They are all over our yard...thousands of them!

Give up already?  It's these little buggers...

So what you may say....who hasn't seen a cicada stuck to a tree? 
Your question raises a valid point.  But have you ever seen this many?
or this many...


The pictures above are from one tree branch in our front yard.  There are hundreds of cicada exoskeletons, emerging cicadas, and recently emerged ones too.  
The kicker is this...every low tree branch, on every tree in our yard is covered like the one you see in the picture.  Not to mention our garage and garden fence, shrubs and the shed.  

To say we are overrun with cicadas is a vast understatement!  Apparently we are witnessing a 13 or 17 year mass emergence of these little critters.  
When you step out on our doorstep you can hear the cicadas.  It sounds like a broken fan belt in a car. 

Apparently adult cicadas do not eat, but the females can damage woody shrubs and trees when they are laying their eggs.  So we are picking them off our more valuable plants to prevent too much damage.  

But guess who really like the cicadas?  I'll give you a cicada is seen alive any where in the backyard, unless they are a good 5-6 feet from the ground and are smart enough not to land lower. 

Here is another hint...

Unlucky cicada gets plucked off a plant and carried to the back yard....
Said cicada gets spotted by ferocious golden feathered predator...
 The golden feathered predator goes in for the kill...
Unlucky Cicada becomes afternoon snack!

Silly dog wants in on the action.

Have you ever witnessed an mass emergence of cicadas? If this ever happens in your yard...I have one piece of advice.  Wear a hat...cicadas will give you the heebie jeebies when they get caught in your hair.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women Conference

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Diabetes Sisters Weekend for Women Conference in Raleigh, NC.  Diabetes Sisters is an amazing organization that brings women of all ages with all types of Diabetes together.  The focus of this weekend was to educate, empower, and energize women with diabetes.  

As a relatively newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic (4 years this June), this conference was such a blessing.  Since my diagnosis, I have not met any other women with diabetes (except for in the online community).  Dealing with this disease is a daily struggle and feeling alone makes this struggle even harder.  This weekend gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing women who are dealing with the same day to day issues as myself.  

Lately I have been feeling lonely and isolated dealing with this disease.  I have a great support system, but there is only so much my loved ones can do to understand this disease and the struggles I face.  The sense of normalcy provided by being in a room with women who have diabetes was what I needed to get out of that slump and soothe that feeling of being alone.

During the conference, we had the opportunity to learn more about dealing with diabetes, complications and risk factors women with diabetes face, and empowering ourselves.  There were talks about heart disease, thyroid disease, Celiac disease, sex, relationships, living with advanced duration diabetes, pregnancy, menopause, exercise and nutrition.  Although some of these talks were too real and a little scary, they brought to light how important it is to take care of yourself, whether you are diabetic or not.  

The most amazing experience for me was to see women who had lived up to 57 years with Type 1 diabetes.  Women with no complications.  Healthy, energetic, beautiful women.  This was such an inspiration for me to maintain my health and a much needed reminder that I can live a long and healthy life with diabetes. 

I also got a chance to meet some fellow bloggers, Allison and Sysy, (you can check out Sysy's coverage of the conference at the previous link, and see a video from Allison at Diabetes Mine).  I consider myself lucky to also have met awesome women who are local to me!  I look forward to building relationships with my fellow D-sisters!  

There is nothing I can say to tell you how important support and love is when you are dealing with diabetes or any other disease.  Knowing I have women who are there to support me, women who understand and can relate to my struggles, is priceless!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Busy Busy Me!

I know you have all been so worried about know since it has been a week or maybe more since I have posted.  Right?  Have no fear, I am still here!  I am just swamped with Spring related projects.  Garden and bees (re-queening our hive) and can't forget the baby chicks who I feel like I have not spent nearly enough time with :-(

Not to mention, I am finally getting around to working on those cabinets I started a year and half ago...yes folks, we have been living without cabinet doors for almost a year.  But we have decided to paint them and we are getting a new tile backsplash in the kitchen!  More on that project soon! 

But I have so many exciting things to share!  New projects in the sewing room, a family auction and some awesome finds, and a diabetes conference for women that was awesome and empowering!

So please stay tuned I have some pictures and stories to share!  In the meantime, I am looking forward to a lot more of this since the weather is warming up!