Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Simplified

This year I decided to simplify my holiday decorating. So I put out some special decorations and didn't put up a big tree. Cowboy Santa on his horse greets everyone on the cabinet by the front door.
Instead of the snowman village, I just put out the lighted house along with the snowmen family reunion which I adore. That and the three small trees definitely create the Christmas spirit.
Two sweet angels sit on an end table in the living room...
The packages are placed around the round table with the snowman scene, there will be more by Christmas...
A favorite snowman sledding ornament in front of the winter arrangement and candle is beautiful on the buffet...
And the ornament of the kitchen is all the great baked goods coming out of the oven.

It is simpler but beautiful. Just the right tone for this Christmas season.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Family Visit in North Carolina

My sisters, Bonnie and Marcine, and me
This past November I went to North Carolina to visit my family there including my two sisters. We had a lovely time together.
Cocktail hour included some serious competition
with Mexican Train; above(L-R) Bonnie,
brother-in-law Lee, and Marcine
North Carolina is such a gorgeous State as you can see here during Bonnie and my walks in the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens in Pinehurst, North Carolina. The sculpture at the entry to the Gardens is whimsical and draws you in, as you can see... 

Bonnie at the bridge entrance to the thirty-two
acre natural gardens. This place evokes a spiritual
feeling; it is so peaceful and natural.
The gardens include sculptures throughout...

The garden is made up of fourteen different specialty gardens with streams and bridges, ponds, memorials, children's gardens etc. Most mornings it was just Bonnie and me and the birds. Lovely...

They had a recycle garden...

 And they were growing poinsettias...
But mostly it was the trees and bushes in their full fall glory that caught our attention.
Bonnie and I surprised Marcine with a room makeover while I was there. Her room had few personal items in it and was very plain so we selected things from her home and brought them to her room to make it more homey along with new drapes etc. We included the exquisite framed counted cross-stitch that she created for years. Her room turned out charming...

It was a wonderful family visit that I treasure. I regret the distance that separates me from my sisters but we manage to visit, call and email to stay close. Sandi wasn't with us but she will be with Mark and me at the ranch for Christmas.

Below is a beautiful sunset at home. We've had many lately. I hope you are enjoying the season and the holidays.



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Identity Crisis

If you look closely you'll see five adult guineas and five little keets. The keets have been growing like crazy with remarkable size and feather differences week to week.  I love these noisy creatures as they free range around the ranch. When there are fewer food choices during the winter, we supplement their feed.

You may recall my recent post when I described the guinea that hatched under a chicken and was raised with the baby chicks born at the same time. We noticed that she was getting aggressive with the hens so just before we moved the Dot House, we took the guinea and moved her to the guinea shack to be with the other guineas. For a few days she roamed with them but then we discovered her outside the Dots enclosure trying to get in. She found her old home.
She's walking along the fence, looking for
a way in, back and forth, back and forth.
From the time she could fly, she would fly outside the Dots enclosure but never could figure out how to fly back in. I think it has something to do with the size of her brain! Anyway, when shutting up the Dots for the night, Buddy and I would frequently have to work together to get the guinea back into the pen.

We caught the guinea in the Dot house and removed her. Today she is back inside the enclosure. This time she flew into the enclosure and we will leave her with the chickens. The chickens have a very large enclosure now so they have room to get away when she gets into the guinea mode of chasing incessantly. It is evident to me that this guinea definitely has an identity crisis. So unless she harms the Dots in some way, she stays with them. We'll let her live as a chicken.
"These are my peeps" - she happily flew
back into the Dots enclosure

"Ahh, home at last with my sista's. And
the food is better here too!"
No nightclubs for me friends, I get my entertainment pretty simply right in my backyard!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Dots Have Moved

I'm not sure how the idea started but Mark and I discussed moving The Dot House from the center of the yard near the barn to the other side of the house near the garden. It just made sense for a  number of reasons such as, I could see and enjoy them from the house and they would be protected from the bitter north winds. It made perfect sense to have the chickens closer for their care and closer to the garden so I could more easily give them garden clippings, overripe veggies etc. So the decision was made and the last beautiful day before this bitter cold spell, we moved the Dots (aka chickens - my favorite breeds almost always have dots all over the feathers.

When we had the Dot House built, we asked that it be put on skids. We had tin put on the bottom of the floor to ensure it would be pest proof. Skids would allow us to move the small building when we wanted so that proved to be a good decision.

The first step was attaching the log chain to the anchor bolts on the skids.

Once that was done, we moved the chickens into the Dot House for the ride to the new location.
Slow and easy the house began to move and away we went through the yard down the driveway onto the road...

Mark turns into our garden/orchard area where The Dot House will now reside.
It arrived in great shape, no problems with the building and the chickens were fine.

We chose a spot protected by a stand of cedars. The cedars block the north wind and gives the chickens a large area to roam and feed. We enclosed the entire stand of cedars with fencing so they will be safe and secure. The new location is so protected that even today in the single digits with high winds, the Dots are outside digging and taking dirt baths.

Putting up the fence was a big chore and for me, hard physical work. It was fun too helping it all come together.

The Dot House looks good in its new location just west of the cottage at the edge of the garden.

Their new habitat is lush and the hens took to it right away. I'm sure the pen is full of bugs and seeds and other delicacies.

Another view of the Dot House from the south showing the tree cover. The garden is directly to the left(W) of the Dot House.

The Dot House was next to this tree in the main yard which now looks bare without it but the yard will function better when moving horses and horse trailers around.

View from the west deck shows how close it is now to do the chicken chores. The feed is stored in a container by the deck and the water hydrant is at the edge of the garden.

 My contented Dots enjoying a grain snack to help them stay warm!
We have thirteen Dots and we are getting between 10 - 12 eggs daily! I'd say they are happy in their new home!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

End of Season Delights

The Toad Lily is blooming up a storm on the north side of the house (front) in deep shade! I will be planting many more of these delicate but hearty delights. The arrangement is on my kitchen windowsill above to show it off but it prefers shade, not direct sun.
A closer view of the blooms with the arrangement on my counter. The blossoms are just slightly larger than a thumbnail and bloom along the entire stem which in the garden setting is 10-12". I hope you give the Toad Lily a try.

The last blooms before frost. Can you believe how beautiful the roses are still? I wish you could smell them. David Austin roses have the most lovely fragrance and these are my favorites. They were just tight buds when the frost was predicted and this picture is two days later.

Everything has been harvested from the garden and preserved. I still have to put compost and mulch on the vegetable beds and I have to wrap and mulch the saplings and young trees. Maybe water trees if we don't get more moisture regularly during this Autumn.

And finally, the biggest delight of all, our female guinea had keets, six total, five survived.

She laid her eggs in the pasture among tall weeds. While Mark was mowing, he noticed her nest so gave her wide berth. Buddy however found the nest and would occasionally bring an egg to the front lawn. As you may recall, we retrieved one egg before he ate it and the keet is now in the Dot House with the chickens thinking she is a chicken!
But six managed to hatch and they were discovered by Mark the other day as the guinea momma was bringing them to the Guinea Shack. She stepped right in and Mark had to help the baby keets over the threshold since they were so tiny. The five survivors are growing like crazy and seem sturdy.  As I've said before, female guineas are not known to be the most diligent mothers so we are delighted with five additions to our guinea population.

The pictures above show that several adults stay on to watch over the keets and as I was trying to take pictures, they continuously moved to keep the keets hidden. I took alot of pictures to get these few.
We now have five adults and five keets. The guineas are wild in that they find their own food which is primarily the seeds, grasses, bugs, frogs and snakes around the house in the non-winter seasons. They have reduced our bug count drastically! We feed them grain during the winter. They come into their Guinea Shack each night to roost which is safer and warmer than in trees where they can freeze to death. However, since they roam free, every once in awhile during the winter we will lose a guinea to the wild hungry critters that risk coming closer to the ranch and find the guineas have strayed away from the buildings making it easier to hunt them.

One of the best food delights of autumn is Kolaches, the sweetbread fruit pastry that we of Czech heritage adored as children and still do today. I always think of my Mom and Grandma Hattie when I bake Kolaches because I am using their recipe. Sorry to do this but here is a picture of the treats with homemade 'traditional' poppy seed and prune fillings with my modern twist---addictive. I also use apricot, cherry, blueberry fillings at times. I'm not so crazy for the cream cheese or farmers cheese fillings which are also traditional.

I hope you are enjoying your Autumn with whatever delights it brings for you,Delores