Another rainy day

But at least it isn’t snow. My two year memory for today on Facebook was a good amount of snow and the dogs playing in it.

The grass needs to be mowed, it is emerald green now and growing so fast you can almost watch it change, but it is too wet, way too wet.

The chicken pen was slick as a sloped ice rink when I went over to lock them up at dark last night. I grabbed a few hands full of the moldy spoiled hay from the big bale near their run and laid down a path to the pop door. This morning in the rain, sheets of the bale were put in the pen to keep it from being so muddy and to make going in to let the hens out a bit safer to my old bones. They get free range time for part of each day, but unlike prior flocks, this group has a few that won’t follow me back to the safely of their pen when I shake a cup of scratch, thus making them a target for our Mastiff to try and chase. He couldn’t catch one even when he was young, and running hurts his hips so he become even more lethargic in the house. Usually the hens are released when the dogs are fed in the afternoon and they stay out until dusk when they wander back to the pen and eventually coop up for the night.

As soon as they are let out, they peck around the hay bale for a while then run straight for the gravel under the cars. Eventually out to the front yard and under the cedar trees across the driveway from the forsythia. When the forsythia and lilacs are fully leafed out, they prefer to shelter there and are really difficult to get out of that place.

The half barrel planted with lettuce, radishes, and Chinese cabbage is showing signs of sprouting. When the sprouts are a little larger, the second one will be planted with lettuce, radishes, and Pak Choy. The third one will get some edible flower seed, dill, and basil, but it must get a bit warmer before that one can be planted. The 4th one is undecided, it has a returning perennial of some sort coming up in it. I want to try to sprout some parsley seed. If successful, it may be planted with more herbs for summer cooking to dry or freeze for next winter.

The area inside the wall that gets so overgrown I think will receive a generous handful of mixed sunflower seed and allowed to grow and bloom until it can be cleared of rocks, weed mat or cardboard put down and covered with leaf mulch to plant as the herb, flower, and dye garden. Today’s exercise was moving more rocks and extending the path from the deck to the stone step that was where the old deck ended. That required heavy lifting and some serious weeding. On the step you can see a pigweed root that somehow I managed to lift from the earth whole, it must be 18″ long.

The grill is always in the way when I mow. Eventually it will have a stone pad inside the wall on which to sit. Today, I just moved rocks, weeded a spot and wrestled it to the inside of the wall. It is not a permanent place and I wouldn’t cook on it at that angle, but it is out of the way. The new part of the path starts at the stone step and comes toward the deck. Those six boulders aren’t the only ones I had to move to do that much.

The mower got gassed up and the tire pumped up and it started. It is running a little rough, hopefully once it is out of the garage and can move some, it will be in better shape. The rain stopped in the afternoon, but it is too wet still.

The little potted rose my love gave me for Valentine’s Day was transplanted to a 10″ pot today now that it finished blooming. It is sitting in a sunny spot by the French doors until it is warm enough to put it on the deck. For some foolish reason, I decided last fall to overwinter,indoors, the begonias that were in the front of the house. One begonia and another pot were in the utility room window, two begonias on the floor by the French doors. I decided today that they were going to have to tough it out outdoors and put them out on the deck and front porch. If a frost is threatened, I will cover them, if they give up, I will plant some seeds in those pots.

Right after lunch, I got some bread started. The last loaf in the freezer is almost gone and since we are eating in 100% of the time, more will soon be needed.

Tomorrow is warmer and drier, maybe I can get the lawn part of the farm mowed. Next piece of equipment to fight with is the weed wacker, my least favorite, but necessary to get around the stone wall and the west side of the house. Maybe I can get it started too.

Week Three

This is the third week of our social distancing. We have left the house, other than for walks on our property or rural road only 4 times. Three of those were for groceries, one, a failed attempt to walk in the National Forest where there were so many cars, we returned home.

I had read that the local grocer opened at 9 a.m. for seniors so I left with a list this morning to be there when they opened. When I arrived, the sign on the door said they opened at 7 for seniors. There weren’t too many cars in the lot, so I went ahead. The shelves were not well stocked, but I was able to get most of what I was seeking, using the hand scanner (I sanitized with a disinfecting wipe first) so that I didn’t have to have another person handle the items and so that I could load them directly into a washable bag. I had worn clothing that could all be washed in hot water on my return, had taken a canister of disinfecting wipes to wipe down my car handles, debit card, and hard surfaces of bottles and cans before putting them away. When I got in the lobby, an employee asked whether I wanted a small or large cart, sprayed it down, wiped the handle before letting me take it in the store. Once home, bags were emptied in the utility room. Hard packaging wiped down, other items put on shelves until needed, bags were tossed into the washer. Clothing was stripped and put in washer and a hot shower was taken. After the shower the stall was sprayed down with 1% bleach spray and towel added to the washer and it was run. There are still no reported cases in the New River Valley, but I wanted to keep us safe.

Today’s walk was on our farm. Since my farm walk a couple day ago, a partial skull appeared on the edge of the field. I can’t identify skulls, so I don’t know what critter it belonged to, and it was missing parts.

In the field there were many mysterious holes about the size of a half dollar, I expect skunks looking for grubs. And two ankle breaking size holes that I expect are ground hog holes. One in my path, so I filled it with rocks and took a picture of the other.

There were some wildflowers I can’t identify and the day lilies are up both in the cultivated bed and huge patches of them along the creek where I planted a few corms 15 years ago before the house was finished. The ones up by the creek came from my Dad’s garden and have multiplied and spread.

As long as I can get out to walk or garden, I will be okay. I tried to start the riding mower and it is out of fuel and wouldn’t start. There is no fuel here, I will have to go to the village and self pump a couple of 3 gallon cans. I also have to pump up a front tire and hope it holds air.

The Feeding Station

From fall into early summer, the feeding station is kept full of seed and suet to attract the native and migrating birds to the feeder. This has been a habit for more years than I can count. In the home that our kids mostly associate with as their growing up home, the yard had dozens of mature trees, so squirrels were often feeder raiders and I tried every trick to foil them. Feeder poles with baffles, greased poles, hanging feeders with top shields, nothing worked until… I had the idea to dangle a feeder about 15 feet from a large branch, high enough that I could mow under it, but still reach it to fill, and 10 to 12 feet away from the trunk of the tree. Squirrel proof, but how to accomplish it. By then, Son 1 was at least a young teen and already 6 feet tall, and a Scout so he had bear bag experience camping. I don’t remember what we used as a weight, but a weight was tied to a light rope and after several attempts, he lobbed that weight over the branch. If I recall, it wasn’t heavy enough to pull the rope and fall very far, but somehow we managed to pull it down, tied a vinyl coated clothes line cord to the rope and pulled it over. With his ingenuity and strength, I had a squirrel proof feeder. When asked how we got the rope there by visitors, a sly, “trained squirrel” comment was used more than once. Later as an adult, he built a terrific deck off the back french doors and many hours were spent in the shade watching the birds.

Once here in the mountains, I heard horror stories of feeders attracting bears, so I didn’t hang feeders for a few years, but finally broke down. There is a double shepherd’s crook pole in the back with two seed feeders and a suet feeder, and a single shepherd’s crook pole in the front for the hummingbird feeder from mid April til they leave in October. That one attracts ants and I haven’t been able to foil them.

I love sitting at the dining table or looking our the kitchen window at the birds that come to dine. The usual cast of characters include Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Purple Finches, House Finches, Gold Finches, and in the winter, Juncos that hop around under the feeder for dropped seed. This spring for the first time there are three woodpeckers that come to the suet. I identified them based on what my Dad used to call them, but then when I looked in my bird book, I’m not so sure about that. He called the smaller one a Downy Woodpecker, but this bird is larger than the description and better fits the Hairy Woodpecker description, but the book says they are shy birds, so I’m not sure they would come to the feeder. The other he called a Flicker, but I think it is a female Red Bellied. The third is definitely a male Red Bellied. For the past few days there has been a dove and this morning for the first time, a female Cardinal. I guess we will have to start folding our car mirrors in when not in use or Mr. Cardinal will fight with himself.

Mrs. Cardinal sharing the feeder, though the other birds seem to fear her.

At two corners of my garden are nesting boxes put there for the Eastern Bluebirds. The first year the boxes were there, we had a nest of baby Bluebirds, then the boxes were overtaken by the iridescent Tree Swallows who have occupied both boxes for the past few years. I was pleased to see that the Bluebirds have again staked out one of the boxes and the Swallows the other. I have a third box but the only available post that is already set is too close to the box the Bluebirds have chosen. I have a young peach tree that looked last year like it had died, though it has 4 blossoms on it this year. If it dies, perhaps I will strip the branches off and use the trunk as a post for the third nesting box for next year.

We have a very persistent pair of Barn Swallows that insist on building a nest against the logs on the top of the bathroom exhaust vent. I am as equally persistent in destroying their work before they lay eggs. We have a barn and they can build all the nests in and around it that they want, but I don’t want them on the house. Last year they sneaked around me and build a nest where the logs cross at the back of the garage, but the 6 foot blacksnake I later relocated after it found my coop, was heard and then seen trying to get back down from getting up to that nest.

I liked having it around as long as it was only eating rodents and other pests, but not when it took to climbing the house and getting in the coop.