Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dad & Son

Originally uploaded by groyse

Ok, so I am going though my son's photos on flickr and saw this. It touched my heart so much I had to blog it and share my son Guy and his middle son Mike with the rest of you. Hope you don't mind Son...but it was a public photo. :)

Hope everyone had a good and safe Memorial Day weekend!

Monday, May 28, 2007

ducks are sitting, peonies are blooming & a recipe: sloppy joes for a crowd

suggestion: if all you see are little blank boxes instead of photos on the website, right click on your mouse and then click on show all original images. I've been experiencing trouble with uploading photos to blogger so have had to bypass their method and insert html into the posts.

The lavender and white sprinkles of wild phlox contrast beautifully against the greens of brush and trees and lend a splash of color to the field across the road. Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to wake to birds singing various tunes? And then this morning, to rise and find the peonies have bloomed!

Summer seems to have arrived although the calendar tells us that it’s several weeks away. The nights have been warm enough to sleep with window open. The woods out back are a mass of green, making the sight of a deer within near impossible now. So, we watch as they cross near the barn to the adjacent field.

This month has been a busy one and June looks no different for the most part. This last week of May will be spent helping Conrad and Janet prepare for their yard sale, then organizing things in the barn here for their auction on June 30th. Janet and I will be setting up the kitchen for auction day and serving the traditional auction fare for those who come to browse and buy. It should be fun…I keep telling myself that lol! I’m sure it will be. I’ve managed the kitchen on several occasions for other auctions so it’s just a matter of organization and preparedness. Once you are ready to go the rest is relatively easy. (It should be fun, it should be fun, it should be fun…it will be fun, it will be fun, it will be fun…)

In the meantime…

Coop has been gathering some eggs recently from Louise, our fickle little black hen Muscovy, who doesn’t seem to be quite sure what she is doing. Thelma by the way is sitting on her nest of about 22 eggs, possibly more. I estimate hatching time to be on or near the summer solstice.

Most people I’ve heard of don’t care for duck eggs, but then they’re referring I believe to regular duck eggs rather than Muscovy. Muscovy eggs are a tad bit richer and have larger yolks, but the difference is slight in flavor compared to chicken eggs. Fried over easy or scrambled they make a fine meal. The eggs are a lot tougher to crack because they have a thicker outer membrane beneath the shell and I notice the white is thicker or more gelatinous than a chicken egg. I haven’t tried them boiled, so not sure if the consistency is any different that way. It may be. There’s only one way to find out!

In light of summer gatherings, whether auctions or reunions, here’s the recipe for a mega batch of sloppy joes. This recipe will make a large electric roaster full or two large crock pots full. As always with my own recipes I more or less estimate amounts, so adjust accordingly to your taste and needs.

Recipe for electric roaster or 2 large crock pots of Sloppy Joes

15 lb. lean ground beef

Approximately 3 large onions diced

Cook beef and onions together in large pan or soup kettle, then drain as well as possible.


1 #10 can ketchup (institutional size)

1 cup brown sugar

Chili powder to taste (I’d suggest about 3-4 T.)

salt and/or garlic powder if desired, to taste

Place contents in your crock pots or roaster and simmer til time to eat.

I think the last time I used this recipe I actually only needed about 2/3 of the can of ketchup. Just store the rest in a jar.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Natural Insect Repellents


One of my friends asked about a natural insect repellent after mentioning it in my earlier post. You can make it easily with essential oils, either using one or a combination. Essential oils that work well are citronella, lemon grass, eucalyptus, lavender, thyme, tansy and pennyroyal (avoid pennyroyal if pregnant!). I use either citronella or lemongrass or a combination of those and others depending on what I have on hand.

Add approximately 20-30 drops of essential oil into a bottle to which an ounce or two of carrier oil such as almond or grapeseed has been added. (A small bottle with a squeeze top works well.) Roll bottle between your hands or shake gently to mix oils before applying to skin.

You can also add essential oils to water, witch hazel or cider vinegar using the same ratio as above. Increase the liquid if you plan on using this as a spray on repellent. I would guess-timate about 20-30 drops of oil per ½ cup of liquid would be sufficient for a spray. My advice is test as you go to see what seems tolerable to your skin and nose. Sometimes less is more or you may find you are senstive to certain oils. Remember; never put essential oils directly on the skin. They can burn or cause irritation.

Be sure to use pure essential oils, not fragrance oils.
Dusk is the absolute worst time for mosquitoes.


Ticks live in grasses, shrubs and trees as well as on warm blooded animals. Be sure to check yourself and your pet for ticks during the summer months when you’re spending time outdoors.

A natural tick repellant is found in rose geranium essential oil. In a spray bottle place 2 cups water and 2 teaspoons rose geranium oil. Shake to blend. Use this to spray dog beds and other areas where they sleep. You can also dab a few drops of rose geranium oil onto clothing or pet collars.

summer morning ramble

The weather has been warm enough the past few nights to allow leaving the bedroom window open. To wake in the morning to the songbird’s trill and smell the scent of summer in the air, to feel the gentle breeze waft leisurely across the body…these moments are just some of the reasons I look forward to and love summer so dearly.

We have been delighted to notice a rose breasted grosbeak residing high in a tree just behind the house near the creek. Neither Coop nor I had ever seen one before. The flash of his red breast is unmistakable, but it was his song that alerted us to his presence. Quite lovely, unique and intense as it rises above that of the other songbirds. I can hear him singing as I type. To see a very good picture and listen to the song of the rose breasted grosbeak, go to http://www.birding.com/topbirds/9519rbg.asp

Today promises to be another warm one. The mosquitoes have become thick already, one of the less enchanting things about the season to be sure. While planting last night I became their feast, coming in with numerous bites. Tonight I will not be in the garden in shorts and a tank top to be sure! Time to get out the essential oils and mix up a new batch of natural repellant!

I’m hoping to get the tomato and pepper plants in the ground this evening. Everything we’ve planted so far has been certified organic, as are the tomato and pepper plants we’ve grown. If all does well I will likely be setting up a road side stand later in the summer as I’ll have excess produce. I have family and friends that are depending on me rather than the supermarket to provide them with home grown fresh veggies this summer. I’ve never raised a garden that didn’t allow an abundance to share, eat and preserve. I will most definitely be busy come late summer making relishes, salsas, sauces and the like, canning green beans, tomatoes, etc. (Thank goodness I have lots of canning jars!) This is another one of my favorite parts of summer; being able to gather and eat fresh veggies from the garden. We eat less meat in the summer, often making complete meals from the garden. I love it! Like the sign in my kitchen reads, “It’s All Good!”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

homemade croutons for pennies

We were able to get part of the seed planted in our garden this evening after the weather cooled. The green beans, beets, eggplant and some straw flowers got planted! Tomorrow we'll get the plants out and hopefully the squash and cucumber seeds planted. The spinach, chard, romaine and radishes are coming up nicely. Again we are planting under a waxing moon for increased abundance.


Everytime we have salad I wish I had croûtons, but I refuse to buy them. The frugality in me, for one reason, ya know? The cost is high plus most, if not all (aside from maybe organic croûtons), have either high fructose corn syrup and/or MSG, both bad. Same story with bread crumbs. So, since I always make my own bread crumbs, I decided to try my hand at making my own croûtons this morning since I'd purchased some day old French bread for pennies the other day. I checked online to find a recipe that would give me the correct baking temperature. However, I found the suggested temps ranging from 225 to 425. So, I ended up through trial using a medium heat of 350. All I did was....

Drizzle olive oil over slices of bread then season with onion salt and oregano. (You can use your own choice of herbs of course) After cubing the bread I placed the pieces single layer on pizza stones to bake about 15-20 minutes at 350 F.
Here is the result.

Note, you'll want to check on these to make sure they don't become overly brown, but you'll want to make sure they are really dry so they will keep well.

Aren't I the lucky one?

The other day my nephew showed up at my house bearing gifts! What a surprise to receive all these flowers! Two hanging planters like the one pictured (that frame the front porch entrance quite perfectly), plus the mega planter and two hibiscus shown on the bistro set on the front porch.

Rich is a professional horticulturist and works as a main grower for a nursery. He knows I love pinks and purples, so he certainly kept that in mind when choosing flowers for me. :) I have to say I was totally in awe and appreciation to be the recipient of so many flowers. I've never received so many flowers in my life and especially from someone other than my husband, lol! They sure will dress up the front porch and patio! I am most certainly feeling blessed by this! Thanks Rich and more hugs...aren't I the lucky one?

peacocks & herbs (repost with photos)

This past weekend
Kingwood Center held their spring herb sale, so Coop, my niece Jenni, (who lives nearby and is like a daughter to me) and I took a trip over this morning. If you live in Ohio in proximity to Richland County, Kingwood is a place you’ll want to visit often. It’s a gorgeous 47 acre former estate garden brimming with flora and fauna amidst the bustle of Mansfield, Ohio. It’s free and open to the public year round. I have been there many times and will return many more. In fact, June is a highlight for me when the myriad of roses come into bloom. There are about 500 roses in bloom between June and September that result in thousands of blooms in every imaginable color and scent.

I was smart enough to take my camera along this morning and capture a few photos of Mr. India Blue Peacock. Along with photos (which should be showing up here but seem not to be) I came home from the sale with a few herbs; lemon verbena, woodruff, chocolate mint, hot and spicy oregano and bronze fennel. I thought the hot and spicy oregano would be a nice addition to some of my sauces and salsas this year! Can’t wait! I use a lot of oregano in my cooking anyhow, so this will be fun to try. The bronze fennel I was thrilled to find. I do like fennel seeds, especially mixed into sausages and spaghetti sauce, but the beauty of bronze fennel is exquisite. At least I think so, with its feathery fronds of bronze. I would plant it whether it was culinary or not, due to its eye appeal. The chocolate mint is deliciously chocolate and minty, of course! I have grown it before and it is a deep green mint that is very eye appealing, too. The lemon verbena…mmmmm, the scent alone is worth its presence in the garden. I like to add it to my herb tea blends, hot or cold. And the sweet woodruff will be a nice addition as a garnish or to add to teas, also. All in all, a nice little start to my herbal garden.

Towards the end of the month Jenni and I will be going to Quail Crest Farm in nearby Wayne County, Ohio to browse more herbs. I am really looking forward to that and spending the day with her.

Hooked on Shawls

This is a republished version (with photos!) of a recent post...

I’m so pleased with some of the nice comments I have received from some of my blog viewers. Thanks so much for the thumbs up!

As mentioned in an earlier blog, I was crafting something green. I’m pleased to say that I finished it the other day. Also is a photo of another shawl I made prior as a gift for someone special. (If I don’t say who, she won’t know) It’s very southwest in color I think. I have been on a shawl making kick for some months now and have given them to friends and family members here and there ever since. Both shawls were bargains to make because the sage green yarn came from a bag full found at yard sale and the light green was free via freecycle! The southwest shawl was made from freecycle yarn and some leftover black I had on hand. Neither shawl cost more than $4 to make. Now that is a bargain!

Shawls are such a wonderful and practical thing not to mention trendy. Nothing better to wrap yourself in on a cool evening or when you feel a chill. I use mine in the mornings quite often rather than throwing on a robe. Plus, they are a great item to take along in the car just in case the day or evening turns cool.

My mother instilled a love of hand made things in me, despite the fact she was not the one to teach me the art of crochet. She was an avid crocheter, but I taught myself after she passed away. So now, when I crochet, I often find myself reminiscing about her and her handiwork and the many things she hand made for me as a teenager. That was back in the seventies when crocheted items became very trendy…from shawls to fringed vests to floppy hippie hats, I had them all. And most of her work was of her own design. Like her I am often one for improvising and creating as I go rather than following a written pattern. I always was a rebel!

Creating a Wildlife Habitat

Coop and I were thrilled to see a Red Breasted Grosbeak the other day high up in a tree at the back of the property. He caught our eyes all right with his blazing red breast. We'd never seen one before. Once you've heard their call it's quite unmistakable, also. It's tone reaches far above the sound of the other birds nearby and is quite lovely.

In regard to that, just thought I would share an article from Mother Earth News that might be of interest for those wanting to attract wildlife into their environment.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Typical Third Thursday

It has gone from 90◦ just two days ago to a high of 50 as I write. We’ve decided to postpone planting the rest of our garden until Memorial Day weekend. My parents swore by this in our part of Ohio and it’s a good rule of thumb to follow. Plus, the new moon arrives on the 16th and waxes until the full moon on the 31st, making that period a perfect time for planting.

Our hummingbirds returned on Tuesday, zipping between the shrubs and trees to the porch and back, looking for their feeder. I didn’t hesitate in filling the new one we purchased on sale at the end of last summer. The previous one we used was beginning to leak and had no perches. The new one is much sturdier, made of glass and has four perches for them to sit on. They have been hitting it repeatedly. Once they become accustomed to being in our presence again, I feel sure they will be perching more rather than just flitting in and out. Years ago when we lived here in the 80’s, I had several feeders up and most generally had between twenty five and thirty hummers. I could stand out front with a feeder in my hand and they fed from it as I held it. When I would attempt to take their feeder down for a refill, I would be met with quite aggressive behavior, though! The hummers would be dive bombing my head, trying to keep me away from their food source. They are quite fascinating little creatures and provide us with such entertainment.

Today was our monthly trip to town after “payday”, our typical third Thursday of the month. By payday, I refer to Coop’s monthly retirement check’s arrival. So, we headed to town for our day out which entailed doing the necessary errands and making the necessary purchases, then topping it of with our once a month treat of dining out. This is the one extravagance (albeit still with frugality in mind), that we allow ourselves each month, along with a stop at the local thrift store. There I came home with three pair of jeans which I was in dire need of, one summer blouse and a pair of good leather sandals. Not bad for the $16 spent! Recycling at its finest! The last time I bought anything new was when I had a ten dollar coupon for Fashion Bug which allowed me to purchase new underwear! And even then I waited until they had a buy one get one free sale!

On the way home we stopped at the neighbors who were holding their yard sale despite the rain and cold. I found a couple of worthy books while there and fell in love with a set of canisters. But, common sense told me I didn’t need them and the price was too steep for my budget anyhow. The air outside is damp and chill, not at all pleasant …unless you are a duck. :) It was good to come home and settle back in to the warmth and comfort of our old house.

And speaking of ducks...
We now have over twenty eggs and realize that both Thelma and Louise are laying. Thelma has been laying but we noticed just today that Louise is, also. Now we don’t know whose eggs are whose, since it appears they are nesting together! We were hoping to gather a few of the freshest eggs for baking and eating when Louise began laying. Ah well, nature will take her course. Suffice it to say, when the opportunity to get our Muscovies arrived, we knew little about raising ducks and had no first hand experience. But as with anything, experience is always the best teacher so I’ve no doubt we’ll learn a lot over the course of a season.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Strawberry Shortcake- easy but genuine

It’s a dreary, rainy day here in Northeast Ohio, but that’s a good thing. Ever since the last storm that dumped about four inches of rain, flooding a lot of local areas, we haven’t had a drop. We’ve been watering the flowers and garden plants daily as the temps have been high. Yesterday we hit 90◦. Today it’s rainy and cool, so I’ve got the oven on doing some baking (and blogging and photographing, too!), in between laundry, budgeting and other miscellaneous and necessary tasks.

Since June is strawberry time in Ohio and just around the corner, thought I’d share my best recipe for shortcake. This is the real deal shortcake, unlike those yellow sponges that are passed off as shortcake in the supermarket.

The original recipe comes from an old cookbook first published in 1924. I have improvised it just a bit to suit me and replaced the added “fat” with shortening, butter or vegetable oil, whichever you prefer. I’ve also added sugar to it because I sometimes do not sweeten my berries unless they really need it or I sweeten them lightly. The original recipe calls for making the dough into individual biscuits, but I spread it into a cake pan and cut into serving squares. Always going for easy when possible! This recipe works for a small or round cake pan. You can easily double it for a larger pan. I used a double recipe and a 9x13" pan in photo.


1 ½ c. flour

2 t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

4 T. fat (shortening, butter or vegetable oil)

½ c. milk

½ c. sugar (optional)

Mix dry ingredients and work in fat. Add milk. (a little extra doesn’t hurt)

This makes more of a dough than batter, so it will become stiff. When mixed well, place in lightly greased pan and spread as evenly as possible. You may need to use your hands. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 450◦. You’ll want it to be golden brown around edges. Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hummingbird Season

I haven’t seen our Hummingbird family return just yet although I expect to any day now. But, since the hummingbird season is upon I thought it would be a good time to share a few facts and tips on these beloved birds.


Hummingbirds zip around at about 30 MPH and when zooming in towards a feeder they often reach close to 40 MPH. (And believe me, they will dive bomb at times if you are near their feeder!)

North American Hummers weigh from 3 to 8 grams on average and measure 3 to 5 inches.

They eat insects and spiders as well as nectar. Even more reason to adore them!

The female Ruby Throat usually lays two eggs with each being about the size of a jelly bean. Imagine!

Their wings beat faster than the human eye can see at 40 to 80 beats per second.

Their heart pumps blood at 1200 beats per minute. When at rest this slows to about 250 beats per minute. Amazing!


To make Hummingbird food, mix four parts water with 1 part tap water. Boil water and add sugar to hot water, stirring until completely dissolved. Let cool before filling feeders. Refrigerate any leftover mixture.

Replenish the sugar water every 2-3 days during the hot summer months and every 4-5 days in cooler weather to keep from fermenting.

Scrub those feeders every week with plain hot water to get rid of mold and mildew and other matter, such ants that find their way to the feeder.

Hummers are attracted to red, but do not use dyes or food coloring in their food! It may be harmful to the birds health. Do not use honey because it fosters the growth of fungus which is lethal to hummers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The peonies are up and bulbous, soon to bloom as the shiny black ants nibble away at their buds. The Maple tree out back near the old Locust stump has managed to save itself as it has transformed from a measly, sickly tree with sparse and tiny leaves to a full, green shelter of shade. I like to think it is happy now that we are here and that maybe that our presence has contributed to its dramatic turn around.

The new peach and pear trees have been planted, the zinnias are popping up in front of the porch as is the calendula and the half dozen sunflowers I have started in pots. Yesterday and today have both been extremely warm days, so I brought the tomato and pepper plants to the outdoors now, feeling as if the chance of frost is past or nearly so. I think they will grow stronger and faster now that they are outside.

This afternoon, in between loads of laundry I pulled my lawn chair up under the big Maple, arranged a small side table, filled a cup with coffee and took a book and my basket of crochet outside. I have begun a new project in greens and am nearly finished reading ‘Zen and The Art of Knitting’ by Bernadette Murphy, a gift from a good friend. It isn’t a big book, in fact just the opposite. It would be a rather quick read except for the fact it isn’t that kind of book. I realized when I began reading it, it was the kind of book that one reads in small increments, savoring the wisdom and philosophical stories a little at a time. I have enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it.

As I sat with my crochet today, thinking on the trees and their significance the tears welled up and my heart ached. The landowner informed us yesterday that the old giant Black Walnut that sits in the ravine behind the house will be taken down. I understood the need to remove the smaller Walnuts close to the house. Their acidic nature is poisonous to other plant life such as the fruit trees and vegetables. But the Granddaddy tree is far from the yard and his absence will create not only an empty spot in the ravine, (and my heart) but take away the only old growth in the wooded area not to mention a generous amount of oxygen production. The fact that he is a living thing and there is no real need for his removal is tough to swallow. He is huge, the size of three trees, the kind of tree you could build a real tree house in. The thought of this grand trees absence causes my heart to ache but I have little right to oppose the landowner. However I cannot help feel sad at the prospect of destroying what seems sacred. Perhaps intentions may change.

Today started out with a power outage, resulting in my inability to shower, wash dishes, do laundry, in fact do little else but crochet. It has been one of those days when I have felt more philosophical than ambitious…a day that has been slow, quiet and given me the opportunity to consider the sacredness in everything. Unexpected occurrences (like a power outage) that are beyond ones control are often opportunities, allowing one to shift gears and make of it what you will.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Journey to Simplicity

I have been contemplating this simple life and comparing it to my previous life of trying to live the American dream. To say I am happier now is something of an understatement. Of course, my definition of happy is relevant to the amount of peace and balance I feel in my life. Happy is after all, an inner state of being, not an outer state of having.

Living a simpler, less encumbered lifestyle becomes a meditation. It is a place where you are, where one moves at an unhurried pace and is able to focus on the moment. There are few, if any distractions. It is authentic. One is no longer trying to “keep up with the Jones” so to speak and the only things that matter are truly the only things that matter.

Simplicity also allows one to open up to creativity, something I feel is an essential facet of happiness. When living a simpler life, thoughts become less scattered and time is more manageable and available to you, both elements conducive to imagination and creative expression.


Simplifying your life is a gradual process that stems from the awareness that your life is not working well, coupled with the desire to make change that will bring about a more satisfying existence. My path to simplicity began about nine years ago when I realized I was working to live and living to work, feeling like a slave to my job without any hope in sight of that changing. The first big step I took to make changes was to sell my dream car, a white Ford Mustang with custom stripes and accent graphics. At the time, I was paying high insurance on it, plus the car payment itself, and keeping it parked in the garage the majority of the time. I finally realized that none of it made sense and to make somewhat of a pun, in essence I was paying for a dead horse. Being able to let go of the car and my false need for it was the turning point that began my journey of letting go and getting back to basics. This was the beginning step towards freedom from the burden of being a slave to requiring and acquiring “stuff”. Again I say, it has been a gradual process, sometimes challenging, sometimes painful, but the journey has brought me to a place of authenticity, peace and contentment. It has returned me to a place of appreciation, creativity and contentment. And these things I have found to be necessary components of my happiness.

Journeying to simplicity is an evolutionary process, one which I believe will continue for a long time to come. I continue to consider new ways of improving my life, becoming more self sufficient and lessening my impact on the environment. Once you have settled in to this lifestyle, like me you may find that to live fully and responsibly, to have time to enjoy oneself, ones family and friends, to appreciate and preserve the sacredness of nature, to think clearly, laugh often and sleep well are just a few of the blessings of the simple life.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

COOL-for Your Own Safety

Yesterday, as I sat at the table discussing politics and consumerism, food safety and other paramount issues that affect Americans (mostly without their knowledge) I asked the questions, “What if the wheat gluten that contaminated our pet food supply also got into our food supply?” It seemed entirely possible, as we import food products from China and wheat gluten is a common ingredient in many of our food products and food producers feed livestock just about anything, including pet food.

Well, according to federal health officials at least 2.5 million broiler chickens from an Indiana producer were fed pet food scraps contaminated with the chemical melamine and subsequently sold for human consumption. It’s believed that hundreds of other producers may have also sold an unknown amount of contaminated poultry in recent months resulting in a much broader consumption of contaminated feed and food than had previously been acknowledged in the widening pet food scandal. Go here to read the May 2 article at the Washington Post.

The second topic that came up at the dinner table yesterday was about not knowing where our food comes from, (which is good enough reason to me, at the very least, to avoid processed foods). Often you’ll read a label and all it will tell you is where it was packaged, not where it was actually produced. I suspected that was a purpose driven “oversight” that allowed food corporations to buy cheap imported ingredients, possibly of questionable safety and quality.

Ironically,the 2002 Farm Bill explicitly mandated that Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on foods go into effect by September of 2004. Nearly two years have passed since that deadline and nothing has changed, except now we have major retail chains (such as Wal-Mart, Meijers and Krogers for example I highly assume), carrying their own brands of USDA certified organics due to consumers demand. Let’s have a look at this…

Corporate agribusiness and retail chains like Wal-Mart have fought the implementation of COOL, claiming it will be too costly for the consumer and producer. The truth is, Wal-Mart, and the supermarket chains bribed Congress with millions of dollars to block implementation of COOL labels. As a result, Americans are buying billions of dollars of imported foods without knowing it, while cheap, bogus "USDA Organic" food from China is starting to appear on the shelves of Wal-Mart and other Big Box chains.

In order to promote health and sustainability, and to save North American family farms, we need to restore our right to know where our food is coming from. Enforcing COOL laws will have a positive impact on the U.S. economy, as more and more consumers choose food products that are grown on American farms. At present, the U.S. imports more food than at any time in history and many of these imports are traditionally domestically grown crops.

So, what can we do? Speak out while we can! Visit the Organic Consumers Association and make your voice heard if you value food safety and organic standards and believe we should be supporting local food growers and manufacturers.

We must NEVER, EVER assume our government has our best interest at heart. Those who make “our” decisions (the ones that affect the safety and welfare of every one of us) have proven time and time again that they do not have our best interests at heart. The only ones who can bring about change are we, the people. If I sound fired up it’s because I am. We must stop our complacency and stop naively believing and depending on others to do what is in our own best interest.

Friday, May 4, 2007

duck eggs, opossums & another beautiful day!

My friend Janet brought me two long planters she picked up from a neighbor’s trash pile on her morning walk. She thought they’d be great for on my patio and she is right! Since this is our first spring back at the farm, I’m not certain yet where my herb garden will be or if I’ll even get serious on it until summer or fall. So, yesterday I planted cilantro in one and calendula in the other. That sure will make it easy to gather fresh cilantro when I’m making salsas or to pluck a few calendula flowers to toss in a salad or decorate a cake with this summer. I hope to infuse some oil with calendula also, since it’s so therapeutic.

Yesterday I noticed some green things coming up in the garden, plus the radishes are really up! A couple more weeks and we’ll be planting the rest of the garden. It won’t be as big as planned but will still be adequate for us to eat from, can from and offer our organic veggies to others I’m sure. It doesn’t take much space to have an abundance of veggies. I can almost taste them now. I become so anxious for fresh home grown veggies each spring, especially a big juicy tomato. There’s just nothing like it and I do believe it’s one of the very best things about summer! Gotta get that deer fencing yet!

Today was absolute gorgeous as was yesterday. Slight breeze, sunny, blue skies and temps in the upper 60’s. Perfect! Coop has been mowing for two days. Next week the weather forecast is rain for about 4 straight days, so we’re doing what we can now beforehand.

One of our hen ducks layed her first egg yesterday and another today! I think it was Thelma as I’ve noticed her hanging around the pen more than the others. They have become quite easily trained. They are let out to forage each morning when we get up, then about 6 pm or so we guide them back to their pen without much, if any trouble at all. They are now accustomed to us and show little interest in our presence except when they are scolded for getting too close to the road. They love it when Coop mows as it makes foraging in the grass easy for them. They have little concern for mowers and cars and don’t get intimidated easily by anything. And we’ve learned that they love dry cat food! So, we’ve taken to feeding Ge, our mouser, in the evenings after the ducks have been penned up for the night. They make short work of cleaning up a pan of cat food.

We watched two opossums sauntering through the woods this morning, down by the creek. I’m guessing there are babies in a pouch, too. I find opossums appealing for some reason, although most seem to find them repulsive. They are so unique with their thumbs on the hind feet. They’re the only marsupial known to North America. They are much like cats, with their ability to purr and the worst they do is hiss, growl, run or play dead if you get too close. They are also naturally immune to rabies, or it’s at least rare that they contract the disease. They do no harm that I’m aware of except scavenge for food. They have dug under our compost bin a few times over the winter when very hungry. Oh, not to mention one came into our yard last week when I was cooking and had the range fan running. I know it smelled the food through the exhaust. It was comical to watch it stand up on hind legs and sniff the sir outside the kitchen window. It finally worked its way to the front porch in hopes of finding something to eat, pausing to sniff the empty cat dish, then parking itself for a few moments at the front door. Too funny! Never a dull moment here! But that is much of what I love being here at the farm.

I have my moments of feeling such gratefulness and blessedness for my life here that it nearly brings me to tears. Sometimes it does. I know not everyone can understand the depths of those feelings, not having been through my experiences and not expecting to ever be able to return to the country and a place I love so much. But as I said before, I am incomplete away from this rural life and am humbled and happy to have been given the opportunity to be here now. I doubt my feelings of appreciation will ever subside. I wouldn’t want them to either.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The trees are greening up and the sun is shining...well now it is. Late yesterday afternoon and night we saw heavy storms directly over our county. Typical Spring in Ohio when cold air meets warm and creates chaotic weather that brings funnel clouds, heavy rain and hail. Fortunately we sustained no damage. And the ducks were in heaven with the rain and puddles! :) As I always say when it rains, "great weather...if you're a duck!"

Speaking of ducks, our three Muscovy followed (voluntarily without prodding) the path to the creek the other day. Since the ground drops in the back, I had to stand on a stool at the kitchen window to watch them waddle down to the creek. Still I could only see so far so we headed upstairs to look out the window. What a wonderful sight to see these fowl in their element, bobbing in the creek, flapping their wings and skimming the water. It was a joyous experience for us as well as the ducks! Needless to say, they are keeping themselves much cleaner now that they have regular baths! They are the most entertaining critters, worth their weight in
comic value if nothing else. They are adapting well and becoming very well accustomed to our presence.

Coop and Conrad (the landowner) worked yesterday on the section of ground by the silo, cleaning up what was obviously a junk pile the previous tenant left. On Earth Day I had gathered up two 55 gallon bags of junk from the area. That was my personal contribution to commemorate the day. That at least cleared the way for the guys to work on the larger pieces of trash. Still have a ways to go, but it's looking better. Just needed to get the worst taken care of before the grass and weeds grew tall.
Beyond the barn bank where the old barn used to be, is now this beautiful somewhat secluded area...a small valley unto itself with the creek running nearby. It is quite lovely and peaceful. Coop has been keeping it mowed. I am thinking I will place my concrete bench down there along the edge of the grass near the trees and creek bed. What a beautiful meditation spot that would be. I have always dreamed of having a serene area in nature to go to when in need of solitude. This will be ideal.

Conrad was going to have the old locust stump removed from the back yard, until Coop mentioned that I wanted it to stay. :) It stays. It's a large stump, several feet high that I will use as an outdoor altar or plant stand. I have many memories of sitting under that old locust tree and breathing in the fragrance of its' blossoms. Though the tree may be gone now, the stump is a reminder and the remainder of something beautiful.