Friday, August 30, 2013

Country Happenings

We had company last evening.

But she flew away in a snit when we refused to let her have a chick.  It's not like I don't have one or two to spare, she thought!

I've started feeding the bees.  I was worried that they would not be able to find the sugar water so I put it near the water source. 

I needn't have worried!  I didn't try and take a picture of the underneath because it was so very full of feeding bees.  In 30 or so hours, they had gone through 2 quarts of syrup.  Hopefully this will get them through the winter.  I'm just glad I can get 25 pound bags of sugar for a reasonable deal at Sam's!

My Lilies are still blooming.

My sister-in-law gave me these when we moved into our home.

And I am still enchanted by the late summer evening light on our trees.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The View From My Kitchen Window

Week 1: August 27, 2013

All pictures are made facing roughly East.

0600 (pre-sunrise)

Sunrise (about 0642)


The light caught my eye around 1630.

And sunset, about 1830.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bee Update

I finally got to get into the bee hives this past week.  All the books I have read talk about making sure that conditions are right before you try to get into your hives.  Right temperature, humidity, no wind, no rain, etc.  Unfortunately I am a rule-follower.  If a book says that you should not get into your hives in the rain, by golly I am NOT going to get into my hives in the rain. 

In case you missed it, it has rained in Alabama this summer.  A lot.  I heard on the news recently that if we get no more rain for the rest of 2013 we will still end the year with a surplus.  I believe it.

Consequently I have not gotten into my hives until a slightly sunny day a couple of weeks ago.  My bottom-board oil traps were gross and had several nasties in them.  The Small Hive Beetles were everywhere.  My bees were not drawing out comb.  Then I looked down and noticed a bee crawling around on the ground.  It seemed to have one wing shorter than another and was staggering and not flying (which could indicate a problem with Varroa Mites).  I went on the war-path!

The bottom boards were cleaned (the chickens enjoyed the nasties) and the oil was replaced.

I weeded a very wide swath around the hives.

Mr. Marvelous was sent to Home Depot to purchase Diatomaceous Earth.  This was used to dust the ground around the hives and hopefully prevent the nasties from being able to crawl up into the hives.


Then we went to the monthly meeting of our local beekeepers organization .  Some of the experts were pretty entertained that I thought I could not get into my hives unless conditions were perfect.  I was reminded of the fact that commercial beekeepers with hundreds of hives have to get into their hives regardless of the weather.  Oh.  Oops. 

We now have a plan. 
  1. Weekly hive inspection
  2. Weekly replacement of oil in bottom boards
  3. Hives will be treated weekly (on the same day each week) with powdered sugar for six weeks.  I know, crazy, isn't it?  But the powdered sugar gets dusted over each box of the hive coating the bees.  This gets the bees be more aggressive about hygiene, thus decreasing any varroa mites.  We are using sugar instead of chemical treatment because I want to try a non-chemical approach before going with chemicals.  
  4. I will start feeding a 1:1 solution of sugar water.  I have learned that if I put the feeders at the entrance to a hive, or even in the hive itself, the strong hive will rob the weak hive.  Then the strong hive will survive the winter but the weak hive will not.  The way to get around this is to put the feeders slightly away from the hives so that the bees have to forage for it.  I will start with this approach and see how it goes.  If I can't get my weaker second colony built up a little bit (or perhaps a lot of bit), that hive isn't going to survive the winter anyway.  
There's the plan.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Some Random Ramblings



I finally had enough sunshine to do a hive inspection this week.  Because of the wet there are all kinds of little nasties running around in my bottom board.  I'm blaming it on the wet anyway.  My chickens enjoyed the little nasties.  I'm either going to have to pour concrete around the hives or put down some diatomaceous earth.  I'm also going to have to start feeding them with sugar water ("Zed, we have a bug").  The top floor of the apartments are pretty empty, indicating that they are not finding enough pollen and nectar.  At least I hope that is all it is.



The figs finally got ripe!  Sadly while there has been plenty of rain for them, they have not gotten enough sunshine to get them sweet.

The rain has also allowed the weeds to take over.  The pea patch is about waist high at this point.  Why don't we do something about that?  Because it is too wet!  Even when we have our weekly 15 minutes of sunshine it is so wet that our boots sink in the mud and we come in soaked from the water on the plants.  

I am so thankful we are not having a drought!!

I am still able to harvest and can tomatoes, beans and peas.



This is Gracie.  Mr. Marvelous is her human.  She is three years old and thinks she is three months.  She is Mr. Marvelous' puppy.  She likes sunbeams!

Some days I feel sorry for my layers.  Some days I understand why the squawk so much when they lay an egg.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mama Got A Little Carried Away

Some people know me as the Crazy Hat Lady.  I (almost) always wear a hat when I go to church.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have gone to church hatless in the past 10 years.  I like hats.  I have a fun collection.  People give me hats and I have shared a few with other folks as well.

Lately there seems to be a whispered rumor floating around in the atmosphere and cyber-space.  I'm hearing less of the phrase "Crazy Hat Lady" and more of the phrase "Crazy Chicken Lady".  After this past weekend I think we are going to have to quit whispering and just call it.  Yes.  I am well on my way to becoming the Crazy Chicken Lady.

Wearing something on your head when you go out there keeps spiders and other things out of your hair.  Yes, this is an old picture and my hair is much longer now.

For Christmas this past year Santa brought me an incubator with an egg turner.  WOW!  What girl wouldn't be thrilled to find that under her tree?

And doesn't everyone keep theirs in the living room bookshelf next to the baby grand??

In March we had a total of 8 White Leghorn pullets that we had purchased at the Co-Op.  We had 9 female and 3 male Buff Orpingtons (which quickly became 2 males when Mr. Marvelous got tired of them attacking me every time I went out there.  We're talking scars, people!).   I started 14 eggs in the incubator.  We had a power outage and lost all of them.  We also had 2 hens die of unknown causes.  In April I started 18 eggs in the incubator.  None of them hatched, probably because I still wasn't getting everything according to directions.  Oops.

May 16th I set 12 eggs and followed the directions METICULOUSLY.  To the point I was getting up in the middle of the night for the first week to make sure that the temperatures and humidity were right.  Of those 12, 5 hatched and 4 survived.

We let them do a little early exploration,  and then on August 11, they moved to their outside home.

At this point we had 8 White Leghorn hens, 7 Buff Orpington hens (we lost another one in July), 1 Buff Orpington 'Roo, and 4 Buff Orpington babies.  One of the babies is definitely a 'roo, one is definitely a hen and I'm not sure about the other 2.  In July, the Leghorns started laying eggs.  Currently I am getting 8 eggs from these 8 girls 6 days a week and 6 eggs from them 1 day a week (we give them a break on Sundays).  My Buffs are laying 1-4 eggs a day, the lazy things.  Still, I'm getting an average of 10-12 eggs A DAY.  

Are you keeping up with the math at this point?  I now have 12 Buff Opringtons and 8 White Leghorns.

On July 19 I started another dozen eggs.  On July 23 we had a nine hour power outage and lost all of them.  On July 28, I started again, this time with 15 eggs.  I figure if I am doing well to get a 50% hatch rate, this will give me (hopefully) a few more layers.  Once again, I was meticulous with the directions.  

On August 16th the craziness started.  At 4 a.m. on the 17th, I was awakened by CHIRPING.  I came out and sure enough, had 2 new babies in the incubator.  Oh joy!  

 Yeah, they are pretty ugly at first.

By 3:30 that afternoon we had NINE new babies in the incubator.  At this point there are so many of them that they are rolling the unhatched eggs around (not good) and stepping on (and pecking) each other, so we put the 5 dry, fluffy ones in the brooder in the basement. 

Taking pictures of babies under a grow-light who are the same color as the wood chips is a little challenging!

By bedtime we had a grand total of TWELVE new chicks, one egg with a hole in it and another egg rocking.  We moved the rest of the babies to the basement brooder in the morning.

We do try and find creative ways to re-use things at our house.

 I decided to move the incubator down there as well just in case.  I'm crazy enough to think that if the un-hatched chick can hear the chirping and cheeping of its' siblings that will help it somehow.

Sunday evening our neighbors called and asked if they could bring their daughter over to see the new chicks.  They came and we sat visiting around the brooder, watching the babies.  Who needs television?!  Every so often we would get up and go peek in the incubator to see what was happening.  Just before leaving, the daughter went to look one more time.  After more than 24 hours, the last chick was finally out of the shell.  

Math wrap-up: I have gone from 12 Buff Orpingtons to TWENTY-FIVE.  Gulp!  We now have a grand total of THIRTY-THREE chickens.  In one weekend I more than doubled my flock of Buffs.  In two more months I should have at least 1 more buff laying, possibly 3.  In five months or so, I will have another 6 or so laying (that's working on statistics; I won't know for sure for a couple of months).  

Mr. Marvelous says that our chickens are now giving the rabbits a run for their money.  

On my way to being the Crazy Chicken Lady?  Well, I guess in truth I am probably there. 

Oh and if you need any eggs.....!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Letter

Dear Mr. Gore,

Writing helps me stay sane in my crazy-enough world.  Blogging lets me feel connected to people, even when I don't get out much.  For the past several months, I have been having problems with my internet.  I know it is not my computer; Mr. Marvelous is ridiculously competent at diagnosing and correcting such problems.  We also know that it is not our router (that's the little box that sits on the bookcase and sends the signal to our computers.  Oh wait, you know that; you invented it). 

No, Mr. Gore, the problem is with the internet itself.  Remember?  That thing you invented back when you were best-buds with Erich Segal and falling in love with Ali McGraw ~ or whatever. 

Here is my request and deal.  You fix this thing you invented so that I am able to get on the internet and write without having to worry about a 'net-jam (that's like a traffic jam except on the internet).  In return, I am going to sell you some of my carbon credits at a 50% discount rate.  Since we live rather modestly, raise a lot of our own food, use clotheslines, keep the thermostat set high in summer and low in winter, we have a bit of an excess.  I understand that your work requires a larger lifestyle than what we maintain, so you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle periodically.  I want to help out, I really do. 

So you fix this internet problem, I get to write without running into a problem, you get to purchase my excess carbon credits at a deeply discounted rate, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped out.  It's a win for both of us! 

In more ways than one.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


Panic is a strong emotion. 

When Mr. Marvelous left the house the other day at 4:30 am or so to drive to the airport and catch a plane out of town for a few days, I sent him off trusting God to take care of him.  Since 9/11, that awareness and trust is more important, isn't it?

An hour later I turned on the computer to catch up with the news.  A headline screamed at me "Plane Crash In Birmingham, Alabama".  Even though I knew it was too soon for his plane to have taken off, I ran the gamut of panicked emotions.  Those "what-ifs" that can destroy you. 

I quickly found that it was a UPS cargo plane that had crashed.  I also found that it had not made it to the runway but had crashed near an intersection of two highways.  Then I read that witnesses were reporting multiple explosions.  That lead to a whole new set of worries.  Did it crash on the road?  Was anyone on the ground hurt?  Was my husband in the middle of this?  Was it terrorism?  Were other planes in jeopardy? 

It's a little hard to confess to you how self-centered my fears were.  In those moments of fear I wasn't thinking about the pilots of the plane and their families, the fire-fighters, the airport personnel, the people in the neighborhood.  All I was focusing on was how this might affect me and my husband. 

The only emotion that out-weighed the momentary fear and panic that I felt was the relief when I realized all was well with my family.  I read that Mr. Marvelous' plane got off on time and made it safely to Texas.  I got a text from him that he was safely on the ground.  He called and I got to hear his voice tell me that he is fine. 

The relief is there.  The panic and fear are put to rest.  Now I can go and pray for the families and co-workers of the two men who died, for the firefighters who had to deal with the especial horror of a crash, and for the neighborhood where this happened. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The last week or so has been rather full.  You may be tired of reading about chickens, canning, and gardening, so today I'm going to show you some fun we have been having around here lately.

Have you ever heard of the World's Longest Yardsale?  It stretches all the way from Gadsden, Alabama to 5 miles north of Addison, Michigan.  Technically, it follows Highway 127 through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.  Several years ago Alabama and Georgia decided that they wanted in on the fun, so a spur was added along Highways 157 and 176 (roughly). 

When Mr. Marvelous and I lived on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, we discovered the sale.  We had fun trying to follow the little piece of it that runs along the mountain.  We got frustrated with not being able to go anywhere on the mountain that weekend.  We learned to use the W Road exclusively that weekend. 

When we moved to Alabama I started perusing the Happenings websites to find fun stuff to do on weekends and I found the sale again.  It was a little like meeting an old friend.  The first year we lived in our house we began what has become a tradition for us.  We drove to the start in Gadsden (or the finish if you are from Michigan.  Bless your heart) and followed it all the way up to Mentone.  I've posted some of our first year fun here

After that first year we learned to take the Interstate up to Ft. Payne, drive to Mentone through DeSoto Park (one of my favorite drives in Alabama), and then turn around and follow the sale back to Gadsden. 

The yardsale comes at one of the worst possible times in the south.  August?  What were these people thinking!  Heat, humidity, pop-up thunderstorms, stop and go traffic; yuck!  Most years we look at each other as we are driving home and say, "Let's not do this next year!".  We weren't sure we were going to carry on the tradition this year.  However it has been a cool summer, so we decided to carry on.  After all, I was raised in the Presbyterian Church; we stand proudly on tradition.  When we aren't melting in a puddle of sweat.

We rolled out of bed at 5 am, grabbed a biscuit at the drive-through and took off.  We have some favorite stops along the way.  There are some crossroads where the vendors are thick and the prices are reasonable.  We always meet the most fascinating people, like that nice young man on the Harley outside the convenience store.  That seems like a cliche, doesn't it?  But he really was and he and I really did have a nice conversation.  I didn't ask him if he was military but I'm pretty sure he is.  I thought about my own motorcycle nephew!

We did find some great stuff this year.

Can you imagine getting a small Lodge cast-iron skillet for $4??  I know it looks awful, but girls, these things can be cleaned up!
Our coffee maker was dying and we were thinking about having to replace it soon.  We found this and decided to go Old School.  We are sure glad we did; this makes a great cup of coffee!

If you put your glass measuring cup in the dishwasher too often, the lines and numbers begin to wear off in 26 or so years.  Glad to have this replacement!
 If you are one of my mother's daughters or grand-daughters (or if you make banana pudding and custard from scratch) then you will appreciate my excitement at finding an EIGHT CUP double boiler

Calvin and Hobbes?  For $1?  Yes, please!!

I do not like non-stick cookware.  It gets scratched and once it does it isn't really safe to use.  These are cake pans.  You grease them, you turn the little lever to spread the grease around, you bake your cake, after it cools you turn the little lever, and the cake pops right out.  Wonderful inventions and I have no idea why they aren't being used anymore. 

So there you have it.  Now if you will excuse me, I think I will go have a cup of coffee, scramble one egg, make some cake and ice cream and read some Calvin and Hobbes.  Perfect day!

Friday, August 09, 2013


Mr. Marvelous and I are going to the North Alabama Bee Keepers Symposium on Saturday.  Mr. Marvelous Jr. turned down our invitation for him to join us.  Something about watching paint dry.

My eight Leghorns are consistently laying eight eggs daily.  They are now in the back yard and the Buff Orpingtons are in the front.  That means that trash talking back and forth has gained a little volume.

Those Leghorns are able to clear out a patch in the weedy, overgrown corn patch in less than one week.  Lots of rain helps!

We'll be looking for Fog Horn (Leghorns.  Get it?) soon.  If these chickens are this productive, this is the breed I want to incubate.

"Son, I say, Son...!"

From Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain picture

We are nervously leaving the lone watermelon for one more day before picking it.  It needs sunshine.  If we can just keep the bugs away and keep it from bursting for one more day (have I mentioned that we have had a lot of rain lately?)

After a lengthy hiatus, I am back to going through Scripture finding names of God.  I'm still in Deuteronomy.  This week I was reading Deuteronomy 18:2  This passage is talking about the priests and Levites in Israel.  "They (the priests) shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them."  That's a wonderful inheritance, but does the passage seem irrelevant to a modern day Christian?  How about when you move over and consider this:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"  II Peter 2:9 (emphasis mine)

It's fascinating to me when I am reading a passage in the Old Testament and the Spirit of God uses it to remind me of a New Testament passage.  It helps me to understand both of them better.

This Sunday the Sunday School lesson will be on the Ten Plagues.  Pray for me!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Here's What I Am Wondering About Today

I am wondering about something.  I want your feedback, whether you leave a comment here or on Facebook.  I want to know what you think about this, but I also want to know why you think what you do.


Is there are difference in these two statements?  Is one more correct than the other?
  1. The most important work that we have is to make disciples.  This brings glory to God.
  2. The most important work that we have is to bring glory to God.  This is done by making disciples.
That is the first part and I really do want your feedback on it.

I'll share my thoughts ~ as I work them out ~ but I want to hear from you first.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Walkabout Wednesday ~ July Totals

The month of July saw a total of 132.80 miles.

I am NOT to Arizona yet.  I guess I'm not going to make it to church in Mesa until late September or early October.  Rats!

The total so far is 1433.93, putting me on the west side of I-25 walking through the peaks and valleys.

It's hot in New Mexico in July.

This year has been kind to me.  The highest high has been 100.  The lowest high has been 76.  Lows have ranged from 61-75. 

Humid heat, dry heat; heat is heat in my book!

On over the mountains to Arizona.  Westward Ho!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Hide & Seek in the Garden

This year we do not have a drought in Alabama.  That means that even with heavy mulch, the weeds have gotten away from us. 

There is still stuff to be picked.  We just have to look a little harder.

That's an Israeli Melon.  It's supposed to be that small.  Especially when compared to my huge feet!

Oops.  That one got away from us!

Oh look; Fire Ants.  How Wonderful!  (She said with pained sarcasm)

 At long last my figs are getting ripe.

Habanero Peppers.
Scoville Units: 200,000-300,000

 Hot Jalapenos.  A mere 4,000-10,000 Scovilles.  Still too hot for me!

My hibiscus has bloomed three times this summer.  

The sweet potatoes are finally blooming.

You can even find spiders around here.  LOTS of spiders.  You should see the bite on Mr. Marvelous' leg!

And sometimes looking out the kitchen window into the woods, you find little patches of God-light.