Hair – the other renewable resource

While I have always enjoyed having long hair….one thing that I enjoy more is being useful. That is the great thing about Locks of Love – “a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.” (Locks of Love, 2015)

I like knowing that my hair can be used to the benefit of someone else. It is easy for me to grow my hair out and I sort of view it like a renewable resource – it keeps growing and I can keep giving.

 

The Mighty Skeletor has Fallen

Once upon a time, a mighty post oak stood behind the old White House…big and beautiful, sprawling all over the place. One day, the post oak just got too dang big and had to be cut back. Unfortunately, it did not survive. In its place we were left with….Skeletor.

Skeletor
This is one of the few pictures we have of Skeletor. Generally, I try to edit Skeletor out of photographs since it looks like a giant dead hand sticking out of the ground – hence the name Skeletor.

Our big project this spring is to re-side the 100 year old corn crib (just behind Skeletor there) before it gets too far gone. The plan is to eventually convert it into a greenhouse. I told Stephen that as much as we’ve loved having old Skels in our life these past 5 years….it simply had to go. I didn’t want to risk the tree falling down and taking the corn crib out with it.

A few weeks ago a tree service came out to take Skeletor down and haul it away. We all agreed that this would be a quick job since Skeletor was most likely hollow. Well – we all learned a few things right quick:

  1. Skeletor was not hollow
  2. Skeletor was bigger around than any of our chainsaws could get through
  3. Skeletor was almost too heavy to haul away…even in pieces…even with the tractor

It was sort of a nightmare, but in the end the tree came down, the corn crib was preserved…and now we are left with what I fondly refer to as “Skelestump.” It is better than having a dead-hand tree sticking out of the ground, but it is still a bit unappealing. But, Skelestump is actually useful on occasion….like when you want to have hotdogs or smores.

We pondered several ways to get rid of the stump and finally settled on burning it – as it was the cheapest (free) option. We burned Skelestump for 4 days straight. It was sort of like having our own personal volcano in the backyard. The remains of Skelestump are still pretty impressive…I asked Stephen if he thought we should just give up, surround it with rocks, and turn it in to a fire pit.

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Right now the plan is to just keep burning what is left on dry weekends until it is mostly gone. The nice thing about this method is that it is free, it is sort of fun, doesn’t take too much energy, and gives us an excuse to eat food off of a stick.

So, if your ever in Pleasant Hill and you see smoke…grab a bag of marshmallows and stop on by. Our backyard is kind of like Motel 6 – we’re keeping the light on for ya.

 

Soppin’ up Soup

It is generally well known that I am not fond of cooking. One thing I do like to fix is homemade soup – chicken, potato, sausage, rice….you name it, if it goes in broth I’ll probably attempt it.

Armed with my trusty Hotpoint stove, the only electric stove our house has ever had, I’m fighting tonight’s cold, windy weather with my favorite sausage potato soup.

Begin to brown 1 lb. sausage. In a stock pot, simmer garlic, onions, and a small amount of chicken broth until onions are tender. Add remaining stock and chopped carrots and celery. ** You can substitute celery for Kale**

Allow vegetables and broth to simmer. Wash and slice 3 – 4 potatoes leaving the skin on. I typically use either russet potatoes (they hold up better in soup) or Yukon Gold (I like the texture and flavor the best). Add sliced potatoes and browned sausage to the soup.

Allow soup to simmer until potatoes are tender – then, you are ready to eat!

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This is one of my favorite soups to make – it is hearty, tasty, and it reheats well. I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables, so this is also a healthy and sneaky way for me to eat more of them.

Click the image below for a printable recipe card.

Recipe_Card_-_Sausage_Potato_Soup

The New Kids on the Block

This past spring we decided to allow Penfold to hatch out a clutch of chicks. She began her 21 day journey sitting on 6 eggs, all carefully selected from our other hens. We decided against allowing Penfold to hatch one of her own eggs since she is a game breed. Games tend to be pretty aggressive and we did not want to risk her hatching out a “game-boy.”

Penfold and a "game-boy"

In the end we ended up with three successful hatches – Chippy, Sybbie, and Emilius Brown – or “the tiny’s” as I like to refer to them. Each one of the little ones has their own unique personality – they also exhibit personality traits from their biological parents as well.

Emilius, Chippy, & Sybbie

Chippy, who hatched from one of Josephine’s eggs, is bold and gentle. She adventurously hangs out with the big chickens and always counts to make sure her siblings are present before she goes to sleep at night.

Emilius is like a visual clone of Andy. He is small and friendly, and like Andy he prefers to eat out of the top of the feeder (even if that means that he falls inside of it) instead of eating from the bottom like everyone else.

Sybbie is hesitant and sweet, we are pretty certain that she hatched from one of Danger’s eggs. She doesn’t really remind me of any of the other chickens, and in a lot of ways she is just her own self. She is completely enamored with  Penfold and rarely leaves her side.

Since this was our first time hatching out chicks with a broody hen, we pondered quite a bit about whether or not to allow Penfold to raise them in the coop with flock or if we should take them all to the house and reintroduce them later. In the end we decided to leave them where they were. We figured that out of all our hens Penfold had enough brass to take care of business if anyone attempted to bother the little ones. Interestingly, the other hens just seemed to accept the chicks as part of the flock from day one. Charlie and Flannery have given small “Watch yourself” pecks when they get too full of themselves – but otherwise it has been the smoothest flock transition that we’ve ever experienced. 

Penfold and Company

This past week has been excruciatingly hot and Penfold has transitioned the chicks from sleeping in the nesting box to sleeping on the roost with the rest of the gang. While the other hens are not exactly excited about sharing their space, they are tolerant. Chippy has taken to the roost with ease and is even willing to sleep next to the big hens. Emilius and Sybbie are a little less sure of themselves and still like to sleep under Penfold’s wings while on the roost with their heads drooping long and low. Quigley, who has shared a space next to Chippy and Emilius, tends to look at them like they are little boogeymen… “sleep with one eye open” and all that.

The tiny’s are growing up fast and it has been a lot of fun to watch. It has been especially fun to see Penfold mother the little ones around – teaching them how to forage, dust bathe, and chase bugs. I look forward to watching this little wild bunch grow more in the weeks to come.

Josephine

Josephine died last night. She was suffering from a laying problem, egg yoke peritonitis, that is not curable and she was in a considerable amount of pain. I’m still feeling pretty sad about it, even though I know that for her, being gone is better than lingering on and suffering.

 

Josephine on her first day home.
Josephine on her first day home.

We first brought Josephine home 3 years ago on the last night of the Cleveland County Fair. She and Pearla had been impulse buys from earlier in the week and we were excited to bring them home and add them to our small flock. Josephine, unlike Pearla, had a difficult transition into our world. She was generally fearful of everyone except for Pearla. She was difficult to catch, difficult to hold, and was hesitant to even eat from our hands. As time went on, and I just accepted that Jospehine was not a “touchy” chicken, our relationship with her began to improve. She began to trust us and her flock mates, and eventually she was just a solid rock in the flock. Reliable, steady, and calm.

This past Friday morning, when checking on the chickens, I noticed that Josephine was still asleep on the roost – something that was really out of character for her. When I took her off the roost without a fight, I noticed that her abdomen was swollen and her comb was bent over and slightly gray. I knew then that something serious was wrong. Over the next few days we dosed her with penicillin, hoping to see an improvement, but she was already too far gone at that point. Chickens often hide illness and injury until it is impossible for them to continue to do so – it is just a characteristic seen in most breeds of bird – and that is probably one of the reasons that we didn’t catch her condition earlier.

Josephine & Pearla on their first day home. - 2010.
Josephine & Pearla on their first day home. – 2011.

Of all my memories of Josephine, there is one that I will cherish more than any other. Yesterday afternoon, Josephine was laying under a bush that the chickens like next to the house. Pearla, who she has always preferred to spend time with, came up and laid down next to her. For about an hour the two friends just calmly and peacefully laid together in the sun, periodically making little chatter noises to one another. I sat on the back steps just watching them – they seemed happy.

Later that night we buried Josephine near the coop, in a spot where honeysuckle and blackberries like to grow along the fence line and used an old field stone that used to be the foundation of the seed crib as a marker.

It is probably weird to be so sad over loosing a chicken, but Josephine was part of our original group. She had always been healthy and I guess I just wasn’t expecting to loose her so soon. Chickens can live between 7 – 9 years; and, moving in to our fourth year with our original group, I guess I was feeling a bit optimistic. Realistically, four or five years is average for most.

Now, when I go down to the coop and count it feels strange to only count 8 instead of 9 – I won’t go “two white ones, two black ones, two brown ones, two stripy ones, and Penfold” to know that I’ve got everybody accounted for.

Whether we are ready or not, things happen, and we have to embrace the change along with the hurt – and make room for new things on the horizon.  The thing to keep in mind is that we still have our Josephine memories – Stephen and I (perhaps even Pearla) will carry her forward with us and her journey didn’t just end last night. Josephine has now been part of our stories, and our stories are not over yet.