March 30, 2016

A tale of two mothers continues

I started the tale of two mothers in a previous post, but I will retell a little for those who are just joining now.  We have a pair of Pekin ducks who are nesting, mating and laying eggs.  It seems, however, that they don't have great instincts for actually incubating the eggs they have created.  I had hopes that maybe the female was getting it, as she started to lay on the eggs at night when she was locked in the duck house to sleep.  As soon as the sun came up, though, she was off with her mate, running around, swimming, and enjoying herself.  As a little duckling insurance, I decided to take two of the fertilized eggs from the duck nest and placed them under a broody chicken.  Thus began the tale of two mothers.

The duck nest continued to fill and fill with eggs and the mamma duck (Bossy pants is her name) sat on them but never more than part of the night.  

We read that typical incubation for a duckling is 28 days.  Bossy pants had been kind of sitting on her nest for nearly a month so I decided to crack an egg and see what was there - was anything happening or was it time to give up on her?

As you can see - there was no sign of a developing duckling.  I did a couple from different parts of the nest to be sure.  They were all the same.  So we made the decision to end this experiment with the ducks hatching their own eggs.  In some cases, the one who laid the egg may not be the best one to nurture and raise the baby.

So, I brought my basket down and began emptying the duck nest.  There were eggs tucked in all over the place and piled in layers. 

I took out more than two dozen by the time I finished.

I did leave 3-4 in the nest so she wouldn't feel like it was totally empty because we have seen in the past that this induces her to build a nest elsewhere in the yard.  The eggs that I left in there I marked with a tiny X using a sharpie.  That way, when I go out to collect the new egg in the morning, I'll be able to tell which one is fresh.

Here is today's egg, a thing of beauty...

Duck eggs are really big!  This one is easily the size of 2-3 chicken eggs.  You can see in the picture earlier in this post that the yolk and white are gorgeous as well.  The yolk is an extra large sunny circle with a nice rich taste, and the whites are crystal clear.  Here is a good description of the nutritional differences between duck and chicken eggs:

April 15th will be 28 days that our broody  chicken has been incubating her two adopted duck eggs so check back in and see what happens!

March 28, 2016

Coop construction continues

We had stalled out a little on coop construction but got back at it today. I helped Josh get the metal up on the roof and settled in place then he screwed it al in. 

That roofing goes up surprisingly fast.  We had he whole thing done in about an hour - not bad!

I told Josh this morning: a few days ago I looked in on the babies and thought: Wow they still have lots of room even though there are so many of them. But today I looked in there and thought: They are getting crowded!  It is truly amazing how fast those little ladies grow. 

And the moral of the story is: no more slacking off on coop construction. We need to knock this thing out before we have a real space issue because they are definitely too little to wander free. The hawks would have a field day and that would be sad. 

A beautiful Easter celebration

What a spectacular day we had on the farm this Easter!  It was a warm, sun-filled day, filling us with a sense of well-being and gratefulness for all the blessings we have.

The morning started off as the pitter-patter of little feet came down the stairs.  First Oliver came down.  He went into the family room, looking around, then came back to me in the kitchen and asking nonchalantly, "So, do Easter baskets usually show up on Easter?"  I said, "Yeah, they do."  He went back up to snuggle with dad for a bit then reappeared before long, again looking around.  I said, "You know, I think I may have seen something in the backyard."  He rushed out the back door and quickly found his basket.  

Not long after, little B also joined the fun, running out to get his basket.

McGregor took a bit longer to rouse but, when he finally came down, he too happily went through his basket to see what goodies the bunny brought.

After breakfast, we packed in the car and headed to Community Friends Meeting, the Quaker Meeting that I grew up in and have attended almost all my life.  They have a tradition of doing an egg hunt for the children in the woods behind the Meetinghouse.  It's fun for all ages, but especially for the older kids because it allows for more challenging hunting.  

The grounds were in full bloom and beauty with flowering trees and blossoming plants everywhere you turned.  Some of my favorites are the random daffodils that have been planted back in the woods through the years - a happy surprise when you're walking along the paths.  

Someone "hid" a perfectly colored egg in a pear tree that was camouflaged by the flowers.

This year Oliver was big enough to go off with the big kids in the woods, and he was super excited.  Some friendly adults helped him a little with a game of "hot and cold" so that he could find eggs others were missing in the trees and ivy.

After the hunt, Baxter had fun blowing bubbles and eating some candy on the picnic table in the yard.  He even peeled and ate a hard boiled egg that he found all on his own, which he was pretty proud of.

When we came home, I went out and gathered eggs in the coop, kind of like my own little Easter egg hunt.

After washing the eggs, I got dinner started then went out with my garden shears and basket to gather some flowers for our table.  Spring offers so many lovely options.  First I went out to the ornamental pear in the front yard and cut a few low branches.

I just love the simplicity of the branches and small clumps of pale flowers.  I stuck them in a tall vase to decorate the buffet.

Here's a view into my beloved kitchen that my husband did so much to open up for me.  What started off as a dark, closed in space is now an open and inviting work space for me.

Next I went out to get some smaller flowers.  The hillside by the pond is dotted with clumps of daffodils.  Oliver had been out taking pictures in the yard with his new camera but wanted to help cut flowers.  I held the basket while he selected and cut the daffodils.

We got a nice basket full!

After we finished, we sat in the shade of a huge pine tree by the pond for a few minutes enjoying the breeze and watching the ducks splash in the pond.  This is the life!

A rare picture of me!

Flowers collected, my table setting was complete.  I used lots of small objects, vases and candles to fill the center of the large table.  It came together nicely, if I do say so myself :)

I like to put a picture of my mom on the table when we do big family dinners.  Her spirit is always with us; it's nice to have a visual too.  She would have loved having us all together, eating and enjoying each other's company.

I recently got my mother's china and it was a perfect fit for this table setting - plates full of spring!

We were 11 + 2 babies so we needed a second table, which I set up in the family room so we could all be in the same space together, even if we were at two tables.

Ok, now for the food!  

I found a recipe on Pinterest for an Asparagus and Gruyere Tart, which was delicious.  We had that and my mother-in-law's famous deviled eggs (made with Phillips Farm eggs, of course) as appetizers.

For the main meal, I prepared a Bacon Pea Salad using turkey bacon which was really tasty.

Another side I made was Crockpot Creamed Corn, which was very easy to prepare and much tastier than what you get in a can.

My mother-in-law also brought Scalloped Potatoes - who doesn't love cheese and potatoes put together!? - and a beautiful ham.

My dad brought some turkey breasts for the poultry eaters amongst us.

Some fresh baked Honey Whole Wheat and Country White bread rounded out the meal.

And for dessert, Josh's aunt prepared stunning German Chocolate cupcakes and a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.  The perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

During dinner, my niece was standing at the back door saying, "Chickens!  Chickens!"  So when I finished eating, I took her out to the coop.  When we got out there she saw the ducks and yelled, "Ducky!  Ducky!"  We went down to the pond to watch them swim and swing on the porch swing a little.  Before long, Bailey yelled again, "Chicken!" so we came back up to the coop to see the girls.  Next was, "Egg!  Egg!"  She's already made the connection between chickens and eggs (Hooray!  This child will know where her food comes from!).  I took her over to the nesting boxes and opened the lid.  She peered down in and saw something: "Egg!  Egg!"  This time with true excitement.  She reached out and picked up a pretty green egg.  I encouraged her to put it in the basket we had brought out and she did.

We brought our goodies inside: a daffodil we had picked for "grampy" and several more eggs.  She gave the flower to my dad and I got her some eggs I had blown out to carry around.  She really wanted the real ones we had gotten outside, but the empty ones are a safer bet inside the house to save us from a huge mess when she inevitably squeezes it too hard or drops it on the floor.  She is only 1.5 after all!

Look at that face...

Around 7:30, our family went home and we settled in for the night with dusk settling and a breeze signaling coming storms.  Mother Nature gave us a true gift of a day full of beauty.  

March 26, 2016

More spring colors

Yesterday evening, I set out for a walk when it was beginning to get dusky.  Because it had been sunny all day, it seemed like it should be warmer than it was.  I had to go back in for an extra layer, and after a few minutes of walking, I wished I had some gloves.  The cool air was refreshing though, and I could feel my cheeks getting rosy.

It was a beautiful evening.  The sky was mostly clear and beginning to turn shades pastel pink and purple in places.  I was in search of more changes in our land: more signs of spring's arrival.

The first place I looked was the herb garden.  The rhubarb continues to grow and leaf out.  I made a mental note to look for a recipe to make for a rhubarb crumble or pie in the coming week.  Something new to green up is my patch of golden oregano, which came out of nowhere and is now a lush sheet of yellowish-green.   

Around the front of the house, I found myself drawn to this ball of yellow blossoms: my forsythia bushes that I planted last spring are now in full show.  

We have a number of maple trees in our front yard, and they are usually the first to begin to show signs of life after the winter.  This one, right by our driveway, has been covered in small red poofs for weeks now, but just today I noticed these have turned into seeds or "helicopters" as we called them as children.  I love their vibrant red and neon green colors.

Our pear tree didn't produce much fruit last fall.  Frank said it looked like it got "end burn" which their apple trees also got across the street.  The tree is loaded in these lovely pink buds about to open.  Hopefully it will be healthier this summer.  Our first year here it produced so much fruit we started feeding it to the deer because we couldn't eat it all.  

We also have some smaller, decorative "pear" trees in the front yard, which are blooming as well.

Last summer I discovered I have a huge lilac bush on the side of the house, which was being strangled and swallowed up by wild grape vines.  I cut away all the vines and it began to flourish.  Looks like it too is getting ready to flower.

Down by the pond, a new round of happy daffodils have opened up.  I love this kind even more than the yellow ones, with white petals and an orange center.

Finally, I almost stepped on this pretty little violet peaking out from the dry tall grasses on the hillside by the pond.  Maybe I'll ask Rita to show me how to make violet jelly this year.  She gave me a small jar to try last year and it had such a delicate sweetness - a really unique treat!  I always love when you can take something naturally occurring on your land and put it to good use.

I have a quote that I always keep on the bottom of my computer screen that says: Put yourself in the way of beauty.  I think it's from that movie Wild.  The idea is that beauty is always around us, we just have to take the time to notice it, to take it in.  I think these are wise words for us all. 

Happy Spring everyone!