Tag Archives: chores

It is here!

For a week the weather prognosticators have been threatening us with an epic storm of historic proportions.  We have watched as they upped the expected amounts and took heed to stock up, knowing that we may be stranded down in this hollow for many days. Tuesday, schools opened 2 hours late due to the single digit cold, to give the diesel busses time to get going and so the kiddos didn’t have to stand out in the very cold dark morning.  Wednesday was just as cold, but school began on time, only to close 2 hours early due to a fast moving clipper that dumped a couple of inches of snow very quickly, making the roads, especially the rural mountain roads difficult to impossible to travel.  That resulted in schools being closed again yesterday, though the day was beautiful and everything cleared by afternoon except in the spots that never receive direct sun.

Mountaingdad and I went out early last evening and had dinner out together, did a little crafty shopping and stopped at the book store to each purchase a new book to entertain us while stranded.  By the time we got home, I realized that I was developing the early symptoms of the bug that SIL had last weekend, K had early in the week and I spent a very restless night feeling worse as the night wore on.  SIL got up at his early hour and realized that the pending weather had begun.  He is digilently working from home, in his supervisory capacity, trying to cover shifts at work, knowing that he couldn’t possibly make the hour plus drive in the storm and finding others that live closer, couldn’t also.

We are now about 5 hours in to this storm, the snow has fallen consistently for the entire time, the ground already covered with at least 6 inches.

In spite of being ill, I know that the outdoor animals must be cared for, so I donned by barn coat, hat, gloves and muck boots, to go deal with the chickens.  The 8 hens and 2 young roos are closed in their coop, so food, water and more straw need to be put in with them.  As soon as I stepped outside, the drifted snow went over the top of my boot, so they got food, but I will have to go back with water and straw in a little while.

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It is snowing hard enough to not be able to see the ridge line south of us.  Earlier, you couldn’t even see that tree line.  We are forecast to get 24 to 36″ of snow.  The most we have ever seen in our decade here is 22″.  The world is white, there is enough to play in, now go away.  But it isn’t going anywhere for another 36 hours.

With deep snow, we worry about the weight on the high back deck, so already, I have shoveled the first 6 inches off of it this morning.  I guess that will have to be done many times today and again many times tomorrow.

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I hope I feel well enough tomorrow to play in it, or at least by Sunday.  To go out and sled with the big and little kids in the household.  In the meantime, I have two e-books as long as the power stays on, a new paperback if we lose power, lots of yarn to knit, wood split and ready.  I do need to fill the water containers in case of outage.  Perhaps I should go start a slow cook dinner and make some bread in case we lose our power.  You just aren’t allowed to be sick when you have chores to do.

Chores

After a weekend away, it was back to work.  Bed and bath linens needed changing and laundering. Clothes from our trip also needed laundering. The house was in need of a serious vacuuming to rid it of a thick layer of dog hair and that also necessitated dusting.  We definitely need to get our fall HVAC servicing so we have a new filter.  They unfortunately aren’t ones we can go buy locally and the accumulating dust tells me it is time for a change.  The kitchen was given a thorough cleaning and reorganization of a couple of drawers and cabinets.  The laundry room where my outdoor boots are stored and where we feed the dogs was scrubbed.  One of the closets and bedrooms being readied for daughter and grands is done.  There are still some items in the other closet that I need to relocate and after Son #1 and family are here for Christmas, we will move the dresser from that room and eventually get twin beds so that the grands can share the room at least until they are comfortable living here.

We didn’t leave the house today except to let the chickens out this morning and lock them up this evening.

I finally got our Christmas cards addressed and signed, they will be mailed off tomorrow.

There has been no knitting or spinning today at all.  I finished the body of my sweater in the car on the way to Norfolk on Thursday and started on the sleeves, two at a time only to discover after about 3 inches that I had picked up the wrong needle size.  That was ripped out and begun again once we were at my Dad’s house and between my knitting there and on the way home, I have about 8 inches of both sleeves done and most of the decreases.  If I can get the last few inches knocked out in the next couple of days, I will have another hand knit sweater to keep me warm this winter.  I do need to go out and find a large button for the single button neckline and while looking, see if I can find some new buttons for my winter coat.  While in Virginia Beach, DIL asked me if I could repair a pair of baby mitts that I had made when the 3 year old was an infant. For some reason, one of them unraveled about an inch and the I cord holding them together had frayed and nearly come apart.  As I had my needles with me, I reknit the end of the unraveled mitt, cut and spliced the I cord and handed them back to her.  She thinks they got in the laundry with a load of clothes and said she would hand wash them if they have any more kids that will wear them.

Instead of crafting, I’m off to a clean bed in a clean house, with my book.

Dreariness

It is cold and raining.  Not the biting cold of last week, that is due again tomorrow, but cold enough to make procrastination on outdoor chores inevitable.  I cuddled in bed with my book until the Shadow, the German Shepherd was dancing cross legged by my side of the bed, Ranger, the big guy still lazing on his pad on the floor by Mountaingdad.

It is wet enough that the pups didn’t want to stay outside very long, not long enough for me to finish prepping their eggs, so they hovered around and behind me while I cooked.  The recalcitrant hens producing barely enough eggs to have for home use and as I used one of yesterday’s 3 eggs to make cornbread last night for a meal we shared with our recently widowed neighbor after the Pipeline Opposition meeting, there were only two to cook this morning.  Once I carton a dozen and put them in the refrigerator for neighbors or friends, I leave them alone and only use from the bowl on the counter. This left me with no egg today, but I had leftover cornbread, a wedge lightly buttered and toasted in a cast iron skillet is a treat to be savored, with or without an egg.  The pan was heating to cook the pups eggs, so I got my cornbread first.

With the house critters (including me) fed, it was getting harder to stall about layering up in gumboots, coat and gloves and finally making the wet, chilly walk over to let the chooks out and to feed and water them.  Their sloped run, bare of a single blade of grass and with the hay scratched and washed off was as slick as ice.  It is too wet to uncover the big round bale of hay to throw more down at the gate, hopefully later it will quit raining long enough to accomplish that task.  Their coop hay tossed to loosen it up for insulation and turned to facilitate the deep litter composting that produces heat for them, their feed served in two metal dog bowls to keep it from being trampled into the mud and a quick check of nesting boxes for cleanliness and I found a surprise.

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Three fresh, warm eggs to keep my hands warm as I slogged back to the house.  I haven’t seen morning eggs in weeks and am luck to find 3 or 4 cold eggs in the evenings.  It would be nice to get back to going out and finding more than I can carry in without a basket, but maybe not until springtime.

If it is going to be wet and cold, it should at least be white.  I’d settle for the mountain snow flurries that fall for days on end with no real accumulation, just the dusting on gardens, roofs and cars.  Cold, rainy winters remind me of winters on the coast, you are supposed to have snow in the mountains. I know, I should be careful of what I wish for, we may find ourselves snowed in without power later in the winter and we haven’t laid in wood for the stove and fireplace, having only a bit left over from last year.  I suppose we should set in an emergency supply at least.

Sunday Thankfulness – September 14, 2014

My thankfulness is rich this week.  Son #1 came again to try to stain and though yesterday was dismal and he woke with a headache, once he was feeling better, he diagnosed my stove burner problem, moved the burner of the same size from the back right to the front left (being a southpaw, that is my preferred burner position), went online and ordered a new burner to replace the dead one and will install it the next time he is here.

After dinner, a homemade Mexican feast, he serviced both Mountaingdad’s and my bicycles so that we can enjoy the fall weather riding on the Huckleberry Trail to prep ourselves for a longer ride a bit farther afield.

Romeo met his harem and it went very well.  He is so calm and gentle, he wants to be petted and loved by humans.  I was putting the meatie chicks to bed last night and turned around to find him behind me on the other side of the fence wanting some of my attention too.

This morning though still mostly overcast, is dry enough for Son #1 to get stain on the high areas and with a cool mostly clear dry week, I will work downward from what he gets done and get the garage doors done as well.  It is so nice to have him here, even for such a short time.

As we were waiting for the surface to dry enough to get started, I canned another 7 quarts of tomatoes for his household.  The vines are almost totally dead and the green tomatoes are starting to drop to the ground, so I will either bring them in to ripen on the counter or make a green tomato salsa with the remaining ones.  The peppers are producing large quantities.  I thought my cabbages were safe from cabbage worms this late, but one of them has gotten quite lacy.  I guess the chickens will enjoy that one, the others and the broccoli and kale don’t show the damage.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – September 10, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

At times I consider whether I should just rename my blog Olio as most posts fly all over the place.  It is only mid morning on a day that the weather prognosticators said would be mostly sunny and dry, but instead it is thickly overcast and too humid again to paint or stain.  The grass too wet with dew to mow.  This isn’t to say that the morning has been idle, no instead a load of laundry has been folded, Grand #1’s bed remade from his weekend visit; another load of laundry washed and currently drying; the chicken coop refreshed with a turn of the old hay and an addition of new hay; the meaties chicken tractor given a good layer of hay in the bottom as it is currently more or less permanently set at the end of the 6 foot wide run to contain the 5 week old chickies and it was beginning to not smell so pleasant.  Another huge bucket of tomatoes have been harvested, though I haven’t begun to process them yet, as I can’t decide what this batch will become, probably just plain diced tomatoes.  Just in the last couple of days, the tomato vines have begun to fade.

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There are still plenty of tomatoes to harvest, but this is a signal of the end of the summer growing season.  This morning, the spent cucumber vines were pulled and tossed to the chickens to peck at the last few cukes and the bugs on the vines.  Each year I begin the season faithfully pinching suckers from the tomato plants and trying to contain the branches within the cages and by this time each year, the branches have fallen over and through the cages and the plants look pitiful.  Perhaps next year I will use strong stakes instead of cages and tie the plants up as they grow taller, being more faithful about leaving only one main stem.  Next year, they will have the rich soil of the compost bins as we remove the wood from them this winter to expand the garden and create a more reasonably sized compost bin in a new location.  So much of the stuff that used to go into the compost, now goes to the chickens and their bedding becomes the compost, so having the bin near the coop door on the edge of the garden would make more sense.  That area is where I planted the Buttercup squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes this year and between them and my weeding efforts, the bin have remained fairly weed free this summer.

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The squash have spread over the woodpile, over to the vegetable garden, into the chicken run and up the hill past the hay bales and out of the electric fence.  Many of the huge leaves have burn marks across them and cause the electric fence to pop as they touch it.  Yesterday as I mowed, with the fence off, I snapped off the leaves touching the fence.  I know that one day soon, I will begin to see those vines fading like the tomato vines.  The peppers are loving the cooler weather and are blooming and producing new peppers daily.  The summer squash are mostly done.  It is now a time for greens and a few radishes and turnips.

As I sit here waiting for the inspiration to can or the grass to dry for mowing, I am enjoying one of the only two magazines to which I subscribe.  The magazine is Taproot, no advertising, full of wonderful art, recipes, articles about back to a simpler time of producing your own food, making your own clothes, growing your own animals and knowing from where your goods come.  If you haven’t ever seen an issue, you should seek one out.

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Each issue has a theme and each is wonderful to savor each word and save for future reference.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

 

Summer Delights

Yesterday was miserable!  My day started with dog and chicken chores in the rain, not a gentle summer shower, a torrential downpour.  I had moved Broody Girl to the auxiliary chicken run and chicken tractor the day before and had put her in the chicken tractor with some amusing effort the night before.  Her food was in there, but not her water.  She squawked unmercifully until well after dark.  Figuring she was better off in the tractor since it was raining, I attempted to put her water in with her, but she dove past me into the run in the rain so I just left the door to the tractor open.  Now I have heard that turkey’s are stupid enough to drown in the rain.  That may be an old mountain tale, but Broody Girl was stupid enough to stand out in the pouring rain nearly all day instead of going back inside the tractor.  Last night I felt sorry for her and returned her to the coop, very wet and very agitated.

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The first thing she did was go to the nesting box and I ran her off.  She is showing me her wet displeasure.  This morning she exited the coop with the others and has stayed outside.  Yay!

Once those chores were done, I spent 90 minutes in the dentist chair getting a temporary crown on the tooth I broke 7 weeks ago when I went to Northern Virginia to pick up Grandson #1 for the summer.  As soon as I got home from that, the dentist did a build up so the tooth wouldn’t break anymore until he could see me for the crown prep.  This is not a fun time.  It is my 6th crown. 

As we were headed home, still in the pouring rain, we picked up the power washer as scheduled and in spite of the rain, our neighbor with my help cleared the covered front porch and open back deck of plants and furniture and he power washed both.  He was soaked from the effort and the rain and I was also from helping to move furniture and the hose from front to back.

Today is still overcast and has rained off and on, but not like yesterday.  The weather broke enough after we returned the power washer for me to do some harvest.  It is definitely that time of year. 

The two trips out to the garden resulted in a huge bowl of mostly hot peppers and another of tomatillos.  A few tomatoes are getting picked each day and a few lemon cukes.  The counter full of goodies encouraged me to haul out the water bath canner, a box of jars, and the other necessaries to put some of it away for the winter.

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The cayennes were strung to dry, the habaneros and a couple pounds of tomatillos were made into another batch of the I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX hot sauce (son said it was wonderful), the jalapenos pickled for hubby, the rest of the tomatillos canned in quarters and the lemon cukes pickled in a dill brine.  

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One afternoon’s canning session cooling on the counter.  A good addition to the goodies accumulating on the shelves for winter consumption.  As I’m a rather adventurous cook at this age, the XXX hot sauce must be documented so I can duplicate it next year.  My basic idea came from a visit to Mexico where the woman house staff made a salsa for us from Jalapenos, tomato, onion and garlic.  That one is good too.

I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX Hot Sauce

a dozen or so medium Habanero peppers

2 lbs (16-20) tomatillos

1 medium onion

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp pickling salt

1/2 c fresh of 2 Tbs dried cilantro

In a heavy non reactive pot, heat a couple of Tbs of Olive oil and saute the onion, chopped coarsely.  Quarter the habaneros with seeds (gloves are advised), peel and chop the garlic, remove the papery husk, wash and quarter the tomatillos.  In a blender, place the peppers, garlic, tomatillos, sauteed onion, lemon juice and salt and blend until fairly smooth.  Pour back into the heavy pot, add the cilantro and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.  If you are going to can this for shelf stability, it should be water bath canned for 20 minutes in pint or cup jars.  It will keep for months in the refrigerator if just packed in hot jars and lids with bands applied.

I do love this time of year.  Enjoying the spoils of our garden and the labor of putting is away for winter enjoyment.  Soon I will be canning tomatoes and tomato sauce nearly every day, but it will be so good later.

Life is an adventure!

Sunday musings August 17, 2014

This is the first Sunday in 6 weeks that I could be lazy.  The first Sunday where I didn’t have to arise by 7 a.m. prepare breakfast for Grandson #1 and supervise a math worksheet and a writing assignment then encourage him to practice his guitar and his Kung Fu forms.

I was tired last night.  I drove for 5 hours and once home alone as Hubby was out on his BBH riding, I turned on the Solar Charger that I installed just before leaving to charge the electric fence.  Reluctantly I touched the fence at the farthest point from the charger and nothing.  It is a 12V impulse charger, so I should have felt a zing every few seconds, nothing.  Again I read the manual.  I had attached everything correctly, but I had tried to run the wire in two directions from the charger to give me a better place to put the gate without having to bury the wire in PVC pipe below the gate.  Assuming that to be my problem, I disconnected everything and determined that the gate was just going to have to be where the charger is mounted on a wooden post and rewired the fence in a continuous two strand loop from charger to gate opening.  When I turned the charger back on, still no zing.  In walking around the perimeter, I realized that the wire was touching the welded wire fence of the auxiliary chicken pen and must be grounding itself.  That corrected and the charger on, I did indeed get shocked on both sides of the gate opening.  Now I need a third gate and a second non conductive post to hang the gate for our convenience.  The garden and chicken pens are within an electric force field.  It won’t keep the bunnies out, but it should keep the neighborhood dogs and coyotes out of the chickens and the deer out of the garden.

Once that was complete, a walk around just to enjoy the beautiful afternoon, I discovered …

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The apple and Asian Pear trees are only three years old, so I stripped most of the flowers from them this spring to give them another year to establish.  I left a few flowers on one apple tree and the larger Asian Pear tree and was delighted to find 4 apples (one was badly pecked so I gave it to the chickens) and 8 Asian Pears.  I ate one pear standing right at the unsprayed tree, Tossed the two tiny malformed ones to the chickens.  Our first tree fruit.  The peaches produced small hard peaches that all oozed sap.  I assume they were attacked by something.  I will have to do some research as I won’t use pesticide spray on my fruit, near my vegetable garden and the chickens.

Once I was finally moving this morning, after dog and chicken chores, and enjoying a bowl of homemade granola with coconut milk and a cup of coffee, I hauled the lawn mower out to cut the area inside the electric fence that is not vegetable garden, compost bins or chicken pen and also the grass inside the auxiliary chicken pen as there are no chickens in it right now and the grass was getting quite tall.

Later we must make a Tractor Supply run for dog and chick feed and perhaps to purchase the gate.  I can get our neighbor to help me hang it this week.  As I was mowing the area above my garden, I realized how much slope the yard has between the area that Son #1 and wife had established as the upper garden and where my vegetable garden is with the compost bins in between.  As we are going to remove the compost bins and just leave me a compost pile, I think we will have to terrace that area making a 4 tiered garden as we expand the garden and berry patch back up the slope.  It has been nice having the space this year for the pumpkins, winter squash and sweet potatoes.  It will be nice to have more space for summer squash and cucumbers to spread out, a place to again plant potatoes which we haven’t done in a couple of years and more room to spread out the tomatoes and peppers so they aren’t quite so crowded.  Since I have started using the heavy spoiled hay mulch system this year, there has been much less weeding to do.

Planning continues as our little mountain farm evolves.  Life is an adventure!

 

It’s Finally Done

Last night as the sun went down and the evening cooled, the edge of the garden, the empty chicken pen, and between the T posts that son and I set two and a half weeks ago were mowed in preparation for finally finishing the job that he and I started, I worked on and quit.

We had a couple of places that we couldn’t pound a T post in but they were going to only hold polybraided electric fence wire.  I did get the fencing up on the second chicken pen, the one that will be used for meat birds and culls, surrounding the chicken tractor which is too heavy for me to move daily and will serve as the coop for those birds.  I still haven’t reinforced the hardware cloth that the dog tore free from the frame, but I won’t have chicks until mid August and even then, they will be in the brooder for 5 to 6 weeks, so I still have time.  A week or so ago, I started putting the insulators on the T posts outside the welded wire fence and realized that I needed longer ones for the posts that also had fencing on them and stopped.  Grandson and I bought the longer insulators, but they have just been sitting on the workbench taunting me each time I walked by.  Brown Dog hasn’t been back, so I wasn’t in too big a hurry.

During the time that we were setting posts, our haying neighbor came down with a half bale of hay that was in the baler and he was done haying for the season, so he dropped it outside my garden for me to use as mulch.  Grandson attacked it with a fiberglass stake and spread it over a rather wide section of back lawn.  This morning before it got too hot, I decided that I better put it in the garden where it would smother weeds instead of all over the yard where it was smothering grass.  That proved to be a hefty task, pulling it back into a usable stack with the pitchfork and hauling fork after fork into the garden.  I also finally installed the longer insulators and realized that the corners were going to be a problem as the insulators only fit in one direction on the posts.

A few step-in posts solved the problem, setting the electric off the corner post by a couple of inches and placing a less sturdy post where we couldn’t pound in the T posts.  Wire is strung, charge is set.  Our dogs were wary of the electric when it surrounded the entire orchard and garden, but have gotten used to going over to “check on” the chickens since it has been down.  They are in for a shock, literally though mild, when they venture over now.  Hopefully, it will keep Brown Dog out as well, should he decide to revisit us.

Support Services

The blog has been quiet for a few days as I traveled on Sunday to Fairfax County, VA to provide support services for eldest son’s family.  T started a new job 2 Monday’s ago at GMU, W started her Art Camp teaching job the same day and that was L’s last day of 3rd grade.  This week he had an adventure camp that required drop off and pick up for the camp bus at times they couldn’t possible manage. As I have blogged before, they do not have a car. Between the cost, the traffic, and the availability of public transportation, they generally don’t need one.  They get where they need to go by walking, biking or taking Metro system busses and trains. Grandmom to the rescue.  Being retired has it’s benefits and since the camp bus drop off point is the direction I am willing to drive, I came up to help. My sole responsibility is getting L to the bus by 8 a.m. and picking him up at 5 p.m.  That leaves a lot of unencumbered, unscheduled time for me.  I voluntarily fix dinner and keep up with basic chores. I have spent lots of time knitting and reading. My current book is The Goldfinch.  Monday I visited a yarn shop we spotted on our way to dinner Sunday evening. They were so welcoming that after buying some yarn, I sat and knitted with them for a couple of hours.  It is too hot to work on the wool/silk sweater I brought, so a started a scarf with the new yarn.

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With the heat index in triple digits, I haven’t wanted to be outside much, so I have tackled a few chores here.  L will be excited to see that Grandmom cleaned his room. He has so many crates of Lego’s and they were everywhere. They are all re-crated, books re-shelved and trash picked up. I sent him upstairs with clean clothes the other afternoon and found them on his floor.  I figured it was distracted 9 year old behavior but realized he had more clothes in his dresser than he had room for. I sorted through the dresser, taking out all of the too small clothes, sorted winter from summer, undies and socks from shirts and pants and put it back together minus the out grown clothes, two bags full.

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While I am here, Jim is home critter sitting  with these dogs and chickens.

 

 

Mountain Farm Morning

Where is the camera when you need it?  I opened the back deck door to let the dogs out and caught just a flash of movement across the side of the deck.  It’s size told me it was either a mouse or a chipmunk (the farmers up here call them ground squirrels).  Below that edge of the deck is the retaining wall that son and DIL built during construction.  It is a beautiful piece of stonework that gets covered each spring and summer with Hairy Vetch and Virginia Creeper.  The doors out onto the deck are a full story above the ground, though the deck itself is only 3 steps up.

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Beneath the deck there is loose rock tossed in to help with erosion and to keep the weeds down.  I’m sure that it is a great hiding place for all sorts of wildlife, more or less protected from the cats.  As I stepped to the edge of the deck to see if I could spot the little critter, the chipmunk scurried quickly across the deck and through a space I can barely stick my fingers through and down under the deck.  They are cute, but destructive little critters, I hope it doesn’t take an interest in the Direct TV cable that is fastened to the front leg of the deck, travels along the lower edge of the deck then follows the flashing across between the basement and ground floor of the house to where it enters.

Breakfast prep was started as I put some of our fresh eggs on to boil for the pups and me.  My morning ritual includes cleaning up their feeding area, two plastic trays on a bath mat to catch at least some of the food and water that the big guy slings around when he eats or drinks.  His tray always has a cup or more of water and a dissolved kibble or two floating around on it.

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Once their area is cleaned up I call them back in to eat, only as I stepped out to call them, leaning around the west end of the house from the front porch as that is where they always return to be let in, I heard a racket of turkey chatter and dog barks and spotted the dogs both chasing a wild turkey across the near hayfield as the hen took flight and landed way up in a tree on the edge of the field.  Shadow once she stopped bounding, couldn’t even be seen in the tall hay waiting for good days to cut and bale.  Ranger continued to stare longingly up at the tree where the hen continued to cluck.  Hopefully they didn’t disturb a nest, but if it is in the hayfield it will suffer destruction as soon as Jeff comes to mow the hay.  Finally I got them back in the house and breakfast eaten.

Then it was chicken care time.  I filled the pans with mash, millet and sunflower seeds to take out to the two pens and just as I stepped out, I heard the rain moving over the ridge and through the trees in my direction.  Raincoat collected just as a torrential downpour started.  Chickens had to wait for it to subside at least a bit.  We are in for a stormy day.  A good day to sew, knit, spin, and read.  Tonight is Knit Night, hope it isn’t storming too badly when it is time to leave.