Thursday, January 26, 2012

Life In The Treetops

As I walk outside I am constantly watching the sky and tops of trees to see what wonderful flying creatures may be visiting. I would love to see one of these magnificent birds (sigh).  If you haven't heard of or thought about these birds, check this video to learn more.

Do you walk looking down or looking up? Check yourself. There is so much to see when looking up - magnificent birds, incredible beauty of the sky. I learned that before I retired, I tended to look down when walking outside.

One day on the ranch I heard these lovely sounds coming from a tall tree so I stood quietly and looked up. There in the tree were several brilliant red Cardinals chatting with each other as they flitted from branch to branch. I had never seen or heard a real Cardinal before; for me, they were just pretty pictures on Christmas cards. From that day on, I looked up when walking about outside and now it's a habit. From that habit, I've embraced more natural beauty in birds and colorful skies that I had missed before.

I always thought the Robins migrated south for the winter. Well, apparently, they come to our ranch to winter these days! Check out the bird bath below which I was refilling 4-5x per day while the Robins were here.
Robins at the bird bath and guineas
checking the ground under the bird feeders
At the water and waiting in line
I think this is an amazing sight
I've learned that robins do stay in areas where the winters are milder. They stay in flocks during the winter but in spring they become independent again as they set up their nest and prepare for breeding.

There seems to be interesting visitors who land at our feeding station among our 'regulars' which delights me.
Red-bellied Woodpecker...outside its
winter habitat which is the eastern most
part of Nebraska
The Project Feed Watch count started in November and goes until April; so I've had three counts so far this winter. It is so fun to participate in these bird counts. All of our regulars are here in great numbers...Black-eyed Juncos, House Finches, American Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, Blue Jays,Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, and Mourning Doves; along with the occasional visitor, like the Red-bellied Woodpecker!
Black-capped Chickadee
Photo by Mary Batcheller
Isn't this amazing? Love it!
Here's to tree top and sky-high worlds,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Guinness Worthy Pullet Egg

So as you know the young hens are now laying. And some are doing better than others but this is a Guinness Book of Records egg. Check it out.......
The Ameracuna laid one HUGE egg...compared to
traditional pullet eggs

It doesn't fit in the egg carton

A spectacular double yolker...and as you can see,
she has laid another the same size and the latest
just a tad smaller!
And to all the readers that have never tasted a farm fresh egg, so sorry. There is NOTHING like a fresh egg with it's orangy yellow yolk, firm white, and fresh flavor. Yum! I enjoy my chicken antics but it is the eggs that I love and worth the work.  I know what the hens eat, I know they get exercise and fresh air, and I know they are happy hens so I know I am feeding my family and friends with healthy eggs.

Early morning scratching for ground goodies. You can see
by the back fence the two ice blocks from the water bowl 
that was emptied before putting in fresh water. There is
no snow on the ground but the cold weather freezes the water
overnight if I forget to empty it out when putting the
hens in for the night.
This is the friendliest of the hens, she's a speckled
Sussex. Very sweet and loves to be stroked and held
tight. Who would have thought that chickens like to
The hens tend to lay from early morning to mid-afternoon. We've been getting between nine to a dozen eggs per day now. We have 18 hens total at this time. With that amount of fresh eggs every day, the cartons add up in the refrigerator quickly. I love sharing the eggs with friends.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Cottage Industry?

So, we've decided to start a new cottage industry making --- golf balls. We have a natural production line. What do you think?
Well, in the old days, we're told, people put carved wooden eggs in the nests to suggest to young hens that the nest is where they should lay. We heard that golf balls also work so we put one in each nest and... it works!
With one hen that's gone broody, it's working too good! She has been setting on the golf ball for several days now thinking it is an egg to be hatched (if only!), thus the new cottage industry idea. Ha Ha This would be the modern equivalent of the goose that laid the golden egg! But we aren't as optimistic as the broody hen so after this picture, I removed the golf ball and got her out and about.
Aren't the girls pretty?
Relaxing on a warm day...
Today I'll be ordering the baby chicks for spring delivery. It is always such a fun thing to plan the variety of chicks and to anticipate their arrival.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Everyone Loves Warm Winter Days

The stallions and geldings outside my kitchen window

Buddy, sleeping in the front yard, among all
his treasures---beer cans, plastic bottles, sticks, toys;
a junkyard dog!
The guineas on the lean-to making a racket, waking
everyone up

Buddy playing his favorite game of tug-of-war with Sandi

                 The houseplants basked in the warmth
                 too; I love our sun filled home
There is something wonderful about the warm respite from the cold winter air in midwinter. It renews hope and lifts the spirits of all creatures.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gardener's Winter Dreams

SSE Video HistoryI'm reading all the seed catalogues arriving daily ---the favorite winter activity of gardeners. I saved seeds from our favorite produce last fall so I'm planning when I need to start the seeds indoors.

I planted 21 tomato plants last year and it took forever for them to set fruit and then they did---all at once! OMG! Was I ever busy. This year, I plan to plant 3 tanks with tomatoes and hopefully that will be enough. I had better success with tomatoes in the raised beds the first year than in the ground  last summer.

Laurel holding a Flammée

I heartily recommend Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants in Torrance, CA for healthy, strong, well packed for shipment, heirloom tomato plants. That is where I got my heirloom plants last year and I was pleased with her product; they were worth the money since all the plants thrived. Laurel does plant propagation from the TomatoFest seeds. Gary Ibsen who is the founder of the TomatoFest in Carmel CA that started the heirloom tomato market going and growing through the festival is an old friend of Laurel's. He now has over 600 varities and when Mark and I lived in CA we attended the TomatoFest in Carmel and were thrilled to taste over 300 varieties at that time. It was an incredible experience with the product, the people and the location. It's one of the best food festivals we have ever attended anywhere.
Here is the link to Laurel's webpage.

Check out the TomatoFest here:

I ran into this crazy idea at Gardening; and I may try it on some of my seeds, who knows, sometimes crazy works.

Hello Jell-O Seed Starter

To get flower and vegetable seeds off to a disease-free start, try a sweet approach.
Sprinkle the seeds with Jell-O powder. You can also feed young plants with Jell-O
as they grow.

Peat pots
Potting soil
1 package of Jell-O powder, any flavor with sugar
Powdered skim milk, in amount equal to Jell-O (optional)
Saltshaker or other sprinkling device

1. Fill the peat pots with potting soil, and place two seeds in each pot.
2. Fill the saltshaker with the Jell-O powder (and powdered skim milk, if desired, for extra calcium), and sprinkle lightly on top. Gently press down the powder, and cover lightly with soil.
3. Moisten the soil, and cover it with damp newspaper.
4. After 4 days, remove the newspaper, and keep the seeds in a warm area with temperatures of 55° to 65°F.

We've had a few warm days and I'm itching to get my fingers back into the earth. But patience is the order of the day since it IS still winter! My head is swimming with plans for plantings around the yard and garden. Soon, soon...

Happy gardener dreams,

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lucas, The Great ... Chicken Catcher!

Lucas LOVES my chickens. When he arrives at our ranch, he immediately heads to the Dot House. This day was warm-ish, and the new hens are quite people friendly so we went into the pen together to check them out more closely.

The next thing I knew, Lucas was carrying a chicken to me to pet!
And then another...

He wanted to check everything out in the pen...

And he learned to be quiet otherwise they all ran into the Dot House...

A fun day in the chicken pen for a happy little boy. It's so fun to watch the interaction of children and animals. The next best thing to catching them is watering and feeding them and gathering eggs. A perfect day!
They are really beginning to lay so the production is up and soon I'll have enough to share with friends again.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Twist to New Year's Resolutions

Not So Big Life Book Cover

Do you do New Year's Resolutions? I haven't for some years because I found I often disappointed myself. Maybe because I didn't think through my resolutions and they weren't developed enough to sustain the commitment. But for years now I've done something different and with better results. I give myself a year end assessment and plan my goals for the new year. It may seem like semantics but goal setting to me is more substantial and easier for me to get my mind around.

When I was younger, I would build a journal with pictures I cut from magazines to help me visualize the goal or end result I desired. Over the  years, I got more into journals using words and asking myself introspective questions with less pictures perhaps because my goals became more difficult to capture in a picture.

A book that helped me with personal assessment skills was Sarah Susanka's
the not so big life...making room for what really matters. Sarah is an accomplished architect and the author of the groundbreaking bestseller The Not So Big House and the subsequent series. If you like thought provoking books, books that help you with self exploration, then you will enjoy Sarah's philosophical book that takes the reader to another dimension by showing us a new way to inhabit our lives. Worth the read.

She poses thought provoking questions for the reader and the thoughts about and answers to these questions will help you grow as a person, I know from experience.

One of my favorite doctors is Andrew Weil, MD. I met him in the 80s when he was a guest lecturer in Denver and have been following him since he wrote his first book, (now the author of 13 published books) and I subscribe to his online newsletter,

Spontaneous HappinessHis latest book is Spontaneous Happiness. In this book, Dr. Weil gives us the foundation for attaining and sustaining optimum emotional health. "Rooted in Dr. Weil's pioneering work in integrative medicine, the book suggests a reinterpretation of the notion of happiness, discusses the limitations of the biomedical model in treating depression, and elaborates on the inseparability of body and mind." His books are always so thought provoking that I go away with some new idea, thought, behavior, technique, etc.

NOTE: He is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center where he is also professor of public health and clinical professor of medicine, and the Lovell-Jones Professor of Integrative Rheumatology. He is a columnist for Prevention magazine among other venues. Mark and I went to his lecture at UCLA on aging and it was fascinating. The guy has credentials as well as exceptional communication skills!

And in the USA Today on New Year's, there was a fascinating article about the concept of the 'daily confession', another version of self review.

I try to read not only novels, biographies, and interesting non-fiction but I love to include some philosophical books to my reading diet each year such as:
1) The Language of Life (A Festival of Poets) by Bill Moyers
2) The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
3) Wisdom of the Ages by Wayne W. Dyer
4) Haves Without Have-Nots by Mortimer J. Adler
and, Deepak Chopra's gripping novel, Buddha, which carried this review on the cover..."Deepak's insightful re-imagining of the life journey of one of the world's greatest spiritual leaders is a captivating read and a road map to personal spiritual growth from one of the most respected and inspiring leaders of our time" - Terry Semel, chairman & CEO, Yahoo!

I've always been introspective and I find it so helpful to my emotional well being...along with being connected to nature, being around animals and pets, being of service to others, being able to say 'no' when managing my personal time, and including beauty in my daily life such as fresh flowers, art, music.  These are all suggested by Dr. Weil as examples of behaviors that bring well being. I know it's the secret to my happiness as I've moved into my final act.

Look within, be happy,

Monday, January 2, 2012

Everyday Creativity

I love to witness creativity and I got a wonderful opportunity when my friend Lana B showed me her edible birdhouse.  Edible for the birds, that is! She was inspired by a similar birdhouse she saw in a catalogue. Using her Granddad's old handmade birdhouse that had seen better days, she revived it beautifully by scouring her yard and garden for the berries and seeds - corn, weeds, fruit seeds - that she then glued to the old birdhouse. It has a new life and is a lovely addition to her yard. We so often throw things away when they are a bit worn but Lana's idea to 'recycle' this old birdhouse is inspiration to 'think before tossing'.
Lovely Lana and her creative 'recycled' birdhouse
A closeup...
I love this idea - practical and good looking!
Lana's daughter Sydney is the young woman I mentioned here before who built several of the bluebird houses we have on our little ranch. Bluebirds love them and we had nests in each one last summer. While visiting and checking out her Mom's creativity, she brought me her latest bluebird house that she painted and it is so fun...check this out...

What bluebird wouldn't want to live here? This is
a blue ribbon winner at the 2011 County Fair

To my delight, Sydney gifted me this birdhouse.
It is a spectacular addition to our place. Thank
you so much, Sydney!
Lana's girls are so creative. I was honored to receive this table runner last summer from Brook who is 12. She chose the fabric and sewed the table runner for her 4-H project which she entered into the fair and placed with a blue ribbon. It is beautifully made and I have it proudly displayed on one of my lamp tables in our living room. The fabric is in my colors and has birds as the theme - I'd say Brook knows me quite well, wouldn't you?
On the table in our living room
Here you can see the beautifully tailored end of the runner
Our neighbors created this charming snowman made out of different size tires, painted white with a snowman's face inside the smallest tire which was set on-end and included a corncob pipe.
Tire snowman with corncob pipe!
While my sister, Sandi, was visiting over Christmas, she decided she needed a brushup on making pie crust so we had a cooking class. She excelled and made two delicious pies - cherry and raspberry/peach, YUM!
The beautiful pie is getting brushed with eggwash
and cinnamon sugar before baking
Sandi and the gorgeous final product --- the
class was a great success
She plans to do more baking in 2012.

The use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work is the definition of Creativity. Allow yourself more time for creativity - it is a way to care for your 'spirit'. And it doesn't have to be a great work of art or a book or whatever else is stopping can be Everyday the ideas above.

Here's to everyday creativity in 2012,