Saturday, December 29, 2012

  1. Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
  2. The flying cloud, the frosty light;
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.
    Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    For those that here we see no more,
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.
    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.
    Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.
    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.
    Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.
    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.
    ~Alfred, Lord tennyson

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Merry Christmas

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had fallen softly, snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part.
Yet, what I can, I give him... give my heart.
~Christina Rossetti

Monday, September 10, 2012

September days

Ahh, September! The month I've waited for. The month whose cool winds whisk away the heat and humidity that have lingered on the shoulders of the earth like a heavy, damp, unwanted cloak. The month that offers a hint of what is yet to come. She restores and refreshes not only the land all about, but snaps me out of my languid mood like the wind moves a sheet on a clothesline. Suddenly I am aware of the pile of weeds awaiting me out in the gardens. I realize that again the barn needs a good cleaning, that soon I will need to stack wood for the winter, that kindling needs to be gathered from the woods. The gardens will need a good cutting back and final weeding before they are put to bed for the winter. The birds feeders will soon be dusted off and re-hung in the dying maple near the house, oh! But first I need to harvest all the sunflower heads from the back berry garden. The kale too needs to be brought in and dried for winter soups. Apples are waiting to be picked, and it is time to clean out the tool shed, outhouse and garden shed, as well. What remains of the comfrey needs drying and setting aside for the chickens this winter... and the list goes on. But I am looking forward to working out in weather like this, instead of avoiding the sun and too-warm temperatures til evening or early morning offers some coolness.
It is curious how much weather can dictate our being in so many ways. As soon as the weather gets crisp, I want to bake and cook and, yes, even clean! Soup once again is on the weekly menu, Sunday suppers replace a weekend cook-out and oatmeal or pancakes are the preferred choice for breakfast after months of fruit and yogurt.
So I shall rejoice September days and look forward to the riotous glory of October, carrying old hope in my heart that winter shall arrive early, snow often and last long!

The golden-rod is yellow; the corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest, in every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side make asters in the brook,

 From dewy lanes at morning the grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter with yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens  September days are here,
With summer's best of weather, and autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty which floods the earth and air
 Is unto me the secret which makes September fair.

 'T is a thing which I remember; to name it thrills me yet:
 One day of one September I never can forget. 
~Helen Hunt Jackson

Monday, June 25, 2012

It is the month of June, The month of leaves and roses
When pleasant sights salute the eyes, And pleasant scents the noses."
-   N.P. Willis

Dear friends, I have been away for months. I decided to take this rainy day to catch up on things inside the house, and one of those things was to post something in my long-neglected blog! Tis not a long post, nor wordy... just a few photographs from around the barnyard and gardens should you care to take a peek... have a lovely day~

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Food for thought?

I have a confession of sorts to make, dear friends. And, as is typical of me, I'll take the long way around to do it. You see, I have been debating about switching to conventional feed for quite some time, as the cost of the organic feed I have been purchasing for my poultry has been climbing steadily. When I went to the feed store a couple of months ago, I asked about the cost of conventional feed versus the organic. I was informed that organic was double the cost of conventional, even when purchased by the ton. The store manager and I discussed this at length, and I almost caved right then. A month later (just before the incident I'm about to share with you happened), I stopped by the feed store again, and we hashed over a few more things. Again I almost switched to conventional, but heeded my inner voice. Mind you, I measure in decades the years I have given my critters organic grain.
Something came about last month that solidified my decision to stick with organic feed. I debated sharing it, as I am not one to "tell" people where they should stand. Please know that is not my intention... it is just to offer my story and perhaps give us all something to consider...
Last month after I posted about clipping wing feathers, I awoke with a very itchy sensation on my face. It started out as a tingling feeling... almost as if I had gotten my forehead and one side of my face into a patch of stinging nettles. There were no marks or red spots, just a painful, itchy feel to my face. After a few days, there appeared to be a few tiny bite marks in my eyebrow area, then another appeared on my forehead and another on the bridge of my nose, and another near my hairline. This was all very perplexing, but I assumed I had gotten bit by a spider whilst at the barn. After a few days more, I developed a mild fever, the "bites" had swollen and turned an angry red, my right eye had almost swollen shut, and the lymph gland on the right side of my neck became very swollen and tender. When my oldest son came to pick up the grandchildren that evening, he made no bones about telling me what I looked like, and I called the doctors and headed in at 8 pm. The doctor on call said it had not been a spider bite, and thought it was impetigo along with a Staph infection. After a short lecture about not coming in sooner, he prescribed an antibiotic. As we were talking about what could have caused this, he made an off-the-cuff comment about giving me a stronger antibiotic due to the fact that I may have been scratched while in the barn. I asked him why that would cause me to need a stronger antibiotic. He said that unless I did everything organic, it was a better precaution. Well, it took me off-guard for a minute, but I asked him to repeat what he had said, and then I told him I DID do everything organic. Needless to say, I got the less-powerful antibiotic, and he got another question from me. I asked him what the difference was, and he said that conventional feed is so often full of antibiotics that merely coming in contact with it over all these years would have made me more resistant to the effects of the antibiotic. I shouldn't have been stunned... but I was.
So, that tipped the scale for me, and got me thinking about so many other things. And I can't help but wonder about them on a daily basis. I mean, if just so many years worth of handling the feed or mucking out the barn can do that, what about... well, never mind. I'll leave those questions for you to formulate if you're so inclined. But I will reiterate what my heart has felt all along... we are what we eat, and it is necessary to really think about what we eat and how it is really grown. Perhaps that is the true meaning of the phrase "food for thought".

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trimming time

I finally got around to trimming the flight feathers of the guinea fowl... young and old... and the banty-houdan cross hens I picked up in Vermont this past July. All 20 guineas and the 9 banties got into the naughty habit of "flying the coop", or at least the barnyard every day, and often than not wound up down near the road where they managed to cause a bit of a stir with ongoing traffic. I always put this particular chore off as long as I can, as it is time-consuming and a bit of a hassle...

The above photograph shows a nabbed guinea hen waiting to be clipped. It is a good idea to make certain their feet are tucked tightly under one arm, as they will fight and scratch as much as they can to escape. What I did not photograph was the half-hour spent wrangling every bird in the barn into one area, the boarding up of the window and unscrewing of the lightbulbs  (the birds cannot see well when it's dark, so they are much easier to grab!) nor the whole process of sorting through a good 60 assorted geese, ducks, chickens and guineas in the dark one at a time to figure out who needed their wings trimmed and who didn't. Such a fun time, as the panicked geese and ducks helped stir up enough choking dust to make the job extra exciting~

In this photograph, you can see that I have already trimmed the wing-feathers to the right side... I just need to trim the left and this guinea is free to go! Now, mind you, I have read many articles on what feathers to trim, but to be completely honest, after I've spent the time trying to corner and grab a bird in the dark, trip over a few geese and ducks on may way into the feed room to flip on the light so I can see where I'm cutting, all the while tucking scrambling wings, beaks and feet under one arm and fanning out the wing as quickly as possible while I reach for the scissors with my free hand, I really don't care if I'm cutting too many feathers. I only want to do this once and get to the other 28 birds and get this over with, so I cut all the lower wing feathers, but on just one wing only. This makes them lopsided in flight... hence, they can't get over the fence and out into the road.

Here is a shot of one of the banty crosses... she is pure black, as is the tuft on her head. I just love these girls... they resemble crows when they're altogether in the field. Two are pure white, and the rest are black flecked with golden brown. They are flighty (hence the need for a wing-trim!) and they lay tiny cream-colored or light tan eggs. Not great for selling on account of the egg size, but the aracaunas take care of my egg customers and I use these. (This procedure was quite stressful for these girls, as they haven't laid a single egg since the "operation")
All in all, it only takes a minute to trim each birds' one wing, so I'm not certain why I always make a big deal about this chore, as once you get a rhythym going, it moves along rather quickly.

Here are the geese giggling in the corner at how silly the trimmed birds look with one wing fully feathered and the other with a crewcut. Thank goodness I didn't have to trim their wings! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A blessed New Year to you

This new year dawned warm and foggy, with no snow in sight. The fog has burned off, and the temperature is in the forties. I am wondering if we will ever receive a goodly amount of lasting snow this winter... 2011's weather sure left a lot of folks scratching their head. I can't help but wonder what is in store for us this year...

I cannot help but think back on the winters of my youth. Perhaps my memories are all tumbled together and deceive me now, but it seems to me there was almost always snow, and lots of it, by Thanksgiving. Certainly there was always snow at Christmas time! And storms would follow, adding more loft to the downy blanket that covered the countryside... and NO melting off in between! I remember playing "King of the Mountain" at recess in gradeschool, and can still picture the huge piles of snow outside the window. And when we got off the schoolbus, we could walk home on top of the snowbanks all the way down our little road. Even when my children were small, the photographs show lots more snow, and it lasted well into April.

So I spend the New Year's Day yearning for a good old-fashioned snowstorm, reminiscing about time's passing, reflecting on last year, and wondering what lies ahead in 2012.

My wish for all is a simple one... may the New Year be kind, may it bring true contentment to our hearts, may we find comfort and grace, peace and good health. Happy New Year!