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Category Archives: Home & Family

The absence of chickens.

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This is the first in a four-post series about hatching eggs from our 5 deceased laying hens who fell victim to a predator, along with nearly all of their temporary flock-mates, during their transitional stay at Harmonious Homestead. For more, read Incubating chicken eggs.

When we moved into our new house a few weeks ago, we anticipated that one of our first priorities while getting settled in would be building housing for our hens. Last fall, our friends at Harmonious Homestead graciously offered to take the five girls in when our landlord needed to take down the coop and run to address moisture issues in the house we had been renting. Our girls enjoyed life in their more rural setting, but we were happy to be having them back soon.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck in the form of an efficient predator. All of our hens and all of their temporary flock mates, except one hen hiding out in the nest box, were killed in one short moment of one morning. I felt helpless as I received the word from Rachel while I was at work. By the time I was finished with my day of baking, the burial was taken care of and there wasn’t much left for me to do. So I plotted the possibilities.

A few days before, I had arranged to supplement our flock of five with five additional unsexed chicks hatched by another local homesteader a few weeks prior. The hope was to build our laying flock to 7 or 8 hens so that we would be able to share eggs with friends during surplus times. But with the Harmonious Homestead fencing and coop already in place, and no concrete plans of our own, we had a lot of options to toss around.

We had access to five additional unsexed chicks from the same homesteader, so we had a bit of a start on rebuilding the two laying flocks. However, Rachel particularly mourned the loss of their rooster, Shackleton II; he was not aggressive toward people, didn’t crow excessively and was good with the ladies. Also,our five hens laid particularly large eggs and the whole flock was robust, healthy and fairly friendly. Eyeing the uneaten eggs we each had stored on our countertops, it seemed like a wasted opportunity to enjoy one last omelette when we could chance their fertility and try to incubate and hatch a new generation of our combined flocks.

Enter our trustworthy local shop-keep and homesteading friend, Shawn. City Folk’s Farm Shop has become more that just our go-to place for any homesteading-related purchase over the last few years, it’s become the hub of a rich community of like-minded folks. And in the face of this chicken loss tragedy, it became a resource that didn’t let us down.

Among other homesteading tools for rent, City Folk’s now has an incubator, holding up to 41 chicken eggs, and its maiden voyage is happening right in my very own living room.

Today is day 13 of 21, so we’re just over halfway there. If you promise to stay tuned, I’ll promise to provide plenty of photos of fluffy newly-hatched chicks in about two weeks.

This may be the most exciting of the possible paths toward rebuilding our flock, and I’m happy to share the journey with you here.

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holding our breath.

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I have discovered a few things during the last month. They might not actually be newsworthy – I’ve had an inkling all along – but they’ve certainly been affirmed.

1. I like being in control.

2. I am not tolerant of incompetence when it stands between me and a goal I need to achieve.

3. When “the immovable object” is placed in my path, I don’t like to waste time trying to move it. I’m content to recalibrate and move on.

These self-discoveries are brought to you by: We are trying to open a business by November 1.

The idea is great; a co-working space for music lessons. Dennis will be joined by a handful of experienced instructors to make up our founding membership, with room for a number of additional teachers to join. I have so many more details to share in the next few months.

For now, people are meddling in ways that make me feel great amounts of stress. As I’m trying to wade through the process of starting a business, obtaining a commercial lease, etc etc etc, I keep running into “the immovable object” of above. But this time, I can’t take a different approach. I have to just sit still and it run its course.

I have come to the recent conclusion that the stress-inducer really might be trying to help. But I don’t need help in the way they’re trying to provide it. I need to be part of the conversation, not someone who receives the information second hand during a one-minute side conversation someone has with my husband a week later.

We’re taking about opening a business in three months.

Three months.

There are things I need to do to get this ready. And there are more things I need to do if the business doesn’t happen.

“Waiting for people” is not on the agenda that I made.

In conclusion, I’m excited about our potential business. And my creative energy is nearly spent. So I haven’t been blogging, and I haven’t been foraging. But I have been collecting furniture and hoping for the best.

Felting, foraging, gardening, pizza and playground.

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Today was a good day.
The kind of day which finds you on the couch for an afternoon catnap to allow your body time to catch up to your brain before jetting off to the next task.

I woke up much much earlier than usual to head up to Stratford Ecological Center. There, I led a felting activity for the approximately 600 participants of Stratford’s annual pancake breakfast. By my estimation, based on the weight of wool used, about 400 wool balls were made utilizing the easy-enough-for-kids wet felting technique which I will share here in the next week or two.

The crowd came through in small spurts, following their assigned meal times. Thanks to Sonia, my very able assistant and friend (who did this for free, as I was volunteering myself), every attendee was able to felt that desired to participate. (Sonia is a talented creator. Please take a moment to see what she does.)

When I arrived home, I was greeted by the daintiest little Henbit and Red Dead Nettle flowers right in my front yard. The snow had given way to green for just 24 hours, but the plants were ready to bust out some color and declare the imminent arrival of Spring!

After resting, I jetted out to the backyard to remove the plastic on the low tunnel and give the raised beds some fresh air and sunshine. I will admit that I planted too soon this year. I used old seeds, for the most part, so I was ready to accept a 100% failure for the chance of having some very early greens and roots. But I was delighted to see the tiniest little peek of beet seedlings under a bit of loose soil and leaf litter. It looks like one vegetable, at least, took to my very early planting.

Darren and I then headed out for more fresh air and Vitamin D, hitting one of our favorite playgrounds. It just happens to be across the street from Luck Bros. Coffee, so I grabbed a bag of fresh beans, roasted on site by owner Andy Luck. After playing for a bit, we made the short drive back home for a homemade pizza dinner.

It was a good day. Tiring and good. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting to bed an hour early tonight.

Foraging walk in January.

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Today it was 50 degrees and sunny, and it was perfect for an early afternoon family hike.

We headed out to Columbus’s lovely Scioto Audubon Metropark. My own agenda, in addition to the fresh air, Vitamin D and quality family time, was to take advantage of our unseasonably warm weather by dusting off the foraging identification imprints in my brain. (Please note that I was not attempting any actual foraging, as the activity is not legal in our metroparks.) I got out my camera to take some quick shots of a dandelion growing in the parking lot immediately after exiting the car and was thwarted by dead batteries. And dead back-up batteries.

So we took our hike without any photographic evidence.

When we got home, I found a few wild edibles growing along the sidewalk as I got out of our car. Darren and I brought leaves from two of them inside to identify. Using a variety of sources both in print and online, we positively identified both multiple times over.

Common Mallow

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Ground Ivy

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To increase our ability to remember these two correctly, Darren and I headed back outside to take the photos above and find all of the instances of each plant in our front yard and our neighbors’ front yard.

January is not too early to start finding your food!

Christmas gifting.

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We made our annual trek to Michigan to celebrate Christmas with both families. As with the last 5 years, we had a slurry of handmade gifts in tow. In fact, this is the first year that all of our gifts were handmade (with the supplementation of two purchased items – locally roasted coffee beans and a whisk – neither of which I would endeavor to make).

I am lacking photos for a number of items, but I was able to snag my niece for a quick photo shoot of three gifts.

First, a rag rug made with a homemade hula hoop loom. I call it Studio Ripple as it was gifted to my mom for display and use in her art studio.

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Darren had been asking for a Batman doll for about a month, and I was able to get this made just in time to give to him the morning of our trip up to Michigan. We opened our family gifts to each other at home to take time for the three of us before the big rush.

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And finally, I leave you with photos of my favorite gift of the season, a set of home-infused vodkas in strawberry, beet, key lime and homemade marshmallow. I hand painted the tags first with water colors and then with a hand carved potato stamp with the VODKA declaration. The little lime is my favorite painting of the four.

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Stay tuned for a tutorial featuring beets and vodka in the next week!

Taking it slow.

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Two new jobs, one of them out of the home, have been keeping me busy and making life move at a quicker pace for all three of us.

But Sundays are blessedly slow days for Darren and I.

While Dennis is off playing his weekly church gig, Darren and I indulge with quiet activities, both separate and shared.

Today he was able to gaze out the window, enjoying the final spoonfuls from a pint of mouth-wateringly delicious Plum Sake Sorbet.

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Foraging: Identifying poison ivy.

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(glossy, medium green, mostly smooth with few lobes)

One of the most most important plants for people to be able to identify, whether foraging or just playing outside, is poison ivy. The ability to quickly  spot the plant is something that comes in handy for me nearly every day as I’m doing yardwork, enjoying the outdoors or foraging. While I am not allergic, a number of people that I know are. I strive to eradicate the plant from my yard so that I know there is a lowered risk for my friends when they come over. Severe allergic reactions are frightening, and not everyone knows how their bodies react to certain allergens until they have been accidentally exposed.

I suggest that everyone, allergic or not…

GET TO KNOW POISON IVY

To start finding poison ivy, think back to the basic rhyme so many of us learned in childhood: Leaves of three, let it be.

Count the number of leaves in each grouping. 1, 2, 3.

(matte, medium green with red stems, lobed – with mirrored pattern of lobes on the side leaves)

Once you have counting to 3 down, move on to familiarizing yourself with the many “faces” poison ivy can present. It’s probably easiest, and least risky, to start seated comfortably at your computer.

Here is a link, complete with a quiz, that you might find helpful.

When you venture outside, take those mental images with you and try to spot poison ivy in each new environment you enter. If you’re in the woods or in an unkempt urban or suburban environment, you’re likely to find it rather quickly. I have made it a habit to always be looking for poison ivy when I’m outside. The longer I’ve had the habit in my life, the easier I find it to spot the creeping vine.

In my experience, poison ivy can be glossy and dark green, or it can be matte and lighter green. The leaf edges can be smooth, serrated or lobed/notched. It forms in bushes and vines, climbing up or creeping out. The vines are characteristically hairy along the entire length of the vine, particularly when the plant is mature. It loves to climb up trees and, the urban equivalent, telephone/power poles. I’ve found it in Franklinton in nearly every yard I’ve been in, in one of our raised garden beds, climbing telephone poles that are in the middle of a sidewalk, up fences on abandoned lots, across the sidewalk in our side yard, and growing out of the siding below a second story window sill on a neighbor’s house. Young plants can have tiny leaves. In the spring, when the foliage is green and it blends in with everything else that is starting to green, it’s harder to spot than when autumn comes and the leaves blaze red.

If you find poison ivy in your yard and want to dispose of it, the only way that is truly safe is to bag it up and throw it out. Burning is the worst option, as the oils, which are the cause of people’s allergic reaction, will be dispersed through the air, getting on exposed skin and even in airways. Serious stuff.

If you encounter poison ivy while out foraging, first assess whether you’ve been exposed. If not, just avoid the plant and continue foraging. If you have been exposed, get to water and wash your skin with soap and cool water. Hot water will open your pores, allowing the oils from the plant to be absorbed more readily. If you’re highly allergic, contact with exposed clothing can even cause a rash. Some people still have trouble with exposed clothing after it has been washed.

The incentive to avoid poison ivy is a potentially large one, so, please, get to know it.