Monday, March 31, 2008

Chicken in my Kitchen

Barbara in my kitchen

It's been almost a week since I've written anything in this space! I have been busy. I have been sick. I have a sick chicken. That's Barbara in the photo above standing on a card table in my kitchen. At least I think it's Barbara. I have two hens that look very much alike. Barbara and Lucy. They are my favorite breed, Buff Orpington, and the only way I can really tell them apart is by their personalities, which are quite different. Well, I had noticed that Barbara was acting strange for a few days last week, not very active and not wanting to sit up on the roost at night or even in one of the nest boxes as she had always done. Then I noticed last Thursday evening when I went to close up the hen house, that she looked very weak and her comb was a darker red and she just didn't look well to me. So I brought her into my house (to keep her warm and separate her from the rest of my flock) in a big dog carrier that I keep for just such an occasion. Clean straw lined the bottom. Food and water dishes hang on the door. I set her cage near the woodstove to keep her warm at night. She ate a bit of oatmeal and cooked rice from my hand that first night, but not much.

I have doctored sick chickens before, but it had been 5 years since my last sick hen. My three remaining girls have been quite healthy up until now. Anyway, it was late at night when I discovered that she was ill, so I had to make do with my own chicken care knowledge until I could call the vet in the morning. There are several vets around our mountain area, but only one who really will take care of a chicken. Most people don't take their sick chickens to the vet. I am affectionately known around here by vets as "the Chicken Lady".

In the past I have learned to give antibiotic injections and subcutaneous fluids to chickens, as well as to give them medicine, food and water by syringe or eyedropper placed in their beak. It's been interesting and challenging. I have been successful in healing some of my hens over the years, and I have lost a few as well. I worry over the sick ones and cry and grieve over every lost one.

So that first night, Thursday, I gave Barbara some subcutaneous (SQ) fluids to help hydrate her and keep her comfortable and warm. I called the special vet who doctors farm animals in the morning and asked her if I could still safely use the bottle of injectable antibiotics that I had that had expired awhile ago. She told me to go ahead and use it and guided me on the dosage. She was the one who trained me to give the injections a few years ago. So since Friday morning I have been giving injections of antibiotic and SQ fluids twice per day to my old hen Barbara in the hope that it will cure her of whatever infection or ailment that she has. She refuses to eat and is very very thin. This tells me that she has been having problems for probably weeks before I noticed anything wrong. Her fluffy feathers and stoic attitude hid her illness from me. I am worried that she won't get better.

This afternoon, Barbara and I traveled the 30 miles (one way) or so to the special vet's office in a neighboring town. The vet examined her, told me to keep giving her the antibiotics and the SQ fluids and also told me how to force feed her to get some nutrition into her so she might possibly heal and recover. It looks pretty grim, but I must try to help her heal. She is old and doesn't lay anymore, but I have grown attached. She is one of my pets.

Six years ago, when my partner's grand niece visited here, she was only 3 years old, but quite precocious. At the time, I had another hen temporarily recuperating in my home, in the big carrier sitting in the middle of the living room floor. This little girl was intrigued by my chicken and also my vegetable garden. I let her pet the chicken and showed her how to feed the other hens who were outside. She helped me harvest some baby carrots and we washed them for her to take with her as a snack on the trip home. On the ride home, her lasting impression of me with my animals and my gardens, was shown when she turned and told her grandmother (my partner's sister), "She has to live with the chickens!"

So yes, I do live with the chickens from time to time anyway. They get doctored in my kitchen on a card table that is in the way of everything. They sleep next to the fire, in the big dog carrier in the middle of the living room floor. They are a curiosity to my two indoor cats, who have both been very respectful and tolerant of their chicken guests. Jessie, my sweetheart tabby, is very curious and gentle. I placed the vase of miner's lettuce on the floor for Barbara to eat (she didn't want any) and my Jessie came running right over to explore the greens and have a quick taste. Miner's lettuce grows here as a tender weed in the early Spring. It is edible and full of vitamin C. Not bad in salads, although I usually just pick it to feed to the chickens.

I have my hands full with challenges this week. My own health challenges (I was really sick on Saturday, better now) and my pets health challenges. Life is busy around here right now.

Please send Barbara any good healing energy and prayers that you may have to spare for her. She is a good little hen. I want her to live a long and healthy life.

Jessie and Barbara with fresh miner's lettuce

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tulip Tuesday

Red Tulips in my garden

I had almost forgotten that I had planted some left over tulip bulbs in my squash beds last year or the year before. They surprised me about a week ago when I went out to see them up and about to bloom. Here are some of my favorite colors. I love the red ones... and the pink ones....and the yellow ones and the purple ones...well, you get the idea. I really like tulips.

Here are some pale pink potted tulips that I received for Easter.

Easter Tulips ~ in a pot ~ blurry image due to low light and no flash

They have grown tall in their search for light in my house. I will plant them in the ground outside when their blooms have faded.

Pink Tulips in my garden

That's it for Tuesday's Tulip Report.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, March 21, 2008

Night Wanderings

Full Moon Goddess

Walking alone in the dark with only the light of the full moon spilling over the nearby hills to light my way, I hike up the hill from my mailbox to my home. Too busy today to leave the house and get my mail, I do it now in the dark. It is peaceful this time of day. There is a slight breeze. It brings the sweet smell of Spring mixed with the distinct scent of steaks that one of my neighbors must be cooking on their grill. The scent of their dinner surrounds me and whets my appetite, although I have already eaten. The barbecued dinner is a sign of the warming weather. The soft breeze and the scent of pollen in the air usher in Springtime.

I look up and gaze at my Full Moon Goddess now rising higher in the sky as I approach my home on the hill. She is beautiful and so bright. She takes my breath away every time she shows off her beauty. Just for me. My moon.

Tonight she is serenaded by soft music floating up from our small town below. I can hear the guitars and the beat and the country twang of the singers. A familiar song to my ears. I stand there and sway with the music as my gaze stays fixed on the moon above. I hear them serenade me too. “knock, knock, knockin’ on heavens door….knock, knock, knockin’ on heavens door…” yes, I remember that song. The beat gets in my blood and I remember good times.

I smile at my Moon Goddess and talk softly to her. I ask her questions and listen quietly for her answers. I feel them in my heart. I can almost hear my Mom’s voice in the moon’s whisper.

The music is fading now. The singer is talking and the crowd is cheering and applauding. The town is entertained tonight, and so am I.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Vernal Equinox

Seedlings Waiting ~ waiting for me!

According to my calendar, yesterday marked the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. The season when the outdoors turns green and everything seems to bloom and grown in abundance.

Well, here I am sitting inside at my computer just having finished my second cup of strong green tea, (my caffeine of choice these days) and feeling a great need for some sunshine and warmth to penetrate my soul. So I gathered these recent photos of bright colors and sunshine from the world just outside my door and I am sharing them with you, my blog buddies, so that we can all celebrate Spring together. Some of you are still having wet and cold weather where you live, so it is my hope that these images of Spring will bring as much sunshine into your hearts as they did to mine.

When I am done with this post, I am going outside to nurture my soul with the real thing. Something I need to do a lot more of. For now, let me share a little bit of my Spring world with you.

Native Manzanita Trees in Bloom ~ Bees Buzzing, hear them?

Fruit Trees ~ planted a few years ago

The Old Girls ~ Red, Lucy & Barbara (still my Spring chicks!)

My Neighbor's Dog ~ through the wire fence ~ notice the blur where his tail is supposed to be. He's wagging it so hard that you can't even see it. He likes me.

Green Onion Pot on my porch ~ planted 6 years ago & still going strong

I love this shot. Makes me feel Spring in my heart & reminds me of Mom.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Small Towns Remember

Main Street

Last Sunday afternoon a friend of ours passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. She was found lying peacefully outside in her yard. She was in apparent good health and excellent spirits. An optimistic and passionate soul who loved people, nature and the small town mountain community that we live in.

She and I were in our local yoga class together, and to attend class on Monday evening this week without her being there left a hole in the room and in our hearts. Our yoga instructor brought in candles and crystals and made a nice little temporary altar in her honor. The candles burned throughout the duration of the class. We laid out her yoga mat, blanket and blocks so that her spirit would be welcome to join us as if she were still with us in body. She was loved and will be missed by all who knew her.

It seems as though there have been quite a few people whom I have known here and who have passed on in the ten years that I have lived here in the mountains. I was thinking about that fact this morning as I awoke. Maybe it’s just that I am growing older and so are the people around me. Maybe I hang out with people much older than myself so that it is natural for me to witness more than the average amount of people passing in comparison to my own age group. Or maybe, and I think this is the real answer, I have been living in this small town now for over 10 years, and the number of people dying is about average in comparison to other places I have lived, but because I am in this smaller town, I personally know a higher percentage of the population than I did when I lived in a much bigger city.

I know more people and I know more about those people. Everyone here in this small community knows everybody else and what is going in their lives. Sometimes that can be annoying or inconvenient. Sometimes it can be very pleasant and comforting. The majority of folks around here, my acquaintances, my friends, the shopkeepers, my neighbors etc. are good people who care about their town and the people who live here. That knowledge brings me comfort. That spirit and good energy is one reason why I chose to live here.

Life will go on in our small town, now without our good friend, but her memory will stay with the people who live here and her spirit will live in their hearts. Her spirit will live in the trees, the rocks, the streams. My spring flowers and the sunshine that makes them bloom will reflect her great passion for life. We will miss you Cynthia. You are still our beautiful passionate butterfly.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Remember to wear your green today, be "green" in all that you do, and celebrate with some good Irish food and maybe green beer if you are into beer.

I will wear green today and cook a nice comforting crock pot dinner that is indicative of both sides of my heritage. I am making Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and serving it up hot with some home baked Cheddar Cheese & Garlic Bread. We likely will skip the green beer, but may color our wine or tea green. Maybe. Maybe not. I am both Greek (on my mother's side) and Irish/Scottish/English/Welsh (on my father's side) so the dinner recipe represents both sides of me.

May your day be a lucky and pleasant one for you all.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Silent Sunday


© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nature's Magic

Nature inspires me. It never ceases to amaze me. Each day brings new beginnings....

Hyacinth Emerges

new growth, new experiences....

Hyacinth Budding

and new surprises....

Hyacinth Blooming

Just like life. Life amazes me. Each day brings something new.

I love Spring.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chicken Field Trip

The Coop

Normally my chickens (3 old hens) live in their chicken wire enclosed yard and plywood hen house under the shade & protection of their big Live Oak tree. They are not allowed to run free on my property because of the danger of too many predators.

They roost at night on their oak branch perches and in their 12 x 12 nest boxes

Hens Roost

The blondes are my Buff Orpingtons, Lucy & Barbara. The black and white hen is a Silver Lace Wyondotte named Red. (named thusly because she had a red head when she was a tiny chick)

Yesterday, I had some weeding and tilling to do in my garden to get it ready for Spring vegetable planting. So I decided that “the girls” and I would go on a little “chicken field trip” to the garden. I corralled all 3 of them into a large pet carrier and carried them over to the big raised bed garden. At first they wouldn’t come out of the carrier, so I picked each one up and gently put them out onto the garden soil. They looked at me like I was crazy. Soon they got the right idea and started to scratch and peck at the green grass and weeds...

We worked alongside each other. I dug and pulled weeds and tilled the soil. They watched me and nibbled on the green stuff and pretended to do their “chicken tractor” thing. By “pretended” I mean that my old girls have gotten lazy in their advanced age. They are 7 and 8 years old, after all. That’s pretty darn old for chickens. They didn’t do very much tilling of the garden soil...

I was the only one out there doing any real work, but they had fun and kept me company. The green grass added good nutrients to their diet. They were happy and comforted to get back to their hen house at the end of the day. Such was our chicken field trip yesterday. There is always something going on around here.

Here is a metal “garden art” hen and her chicks who live in my front flower bed that I include here for Farmgirl DK’s metal rooster “Mike”.

Hen & Chicks Garden Art

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, March 7, 2008

Nurtured By Nature

Springtime on my patio table

It’s been a few days since I’ve felt like posting anything here. My life and my mood have been less than ideal this week. Too much work, too little money, too little time and too little energy. Same old stuff. Add to that some health concerns about my precious kitty companion Jessie, and some partner relationship issues and you have my ingredients for a less than ideal week. Well, at least it’s Friday today. Not that Friday signals the end of the work week for me since I am self employed, but it still triggers some ancient relaxation urges in my psyche.

My sweet kitty Jessie

I want to thank my good friends both locally and in my blogging world for being so psychic and sensitive and for expressing your concern for my well being. I love and appreciate every one of you. You have reached out to me without me even asking you for it.

So here I sit sipping my second glass of cheap Merlot wondering what I will make myself for dinner. When I am stressed as I have been this week, I tend to eat rather haphazardly (which doesn’t help my mood or energy level) and I find myself missing my Mom a lot more than usual. I guess it’s her nurturing and her love that I miss the most. And her laughter. She had a great laugh.

I also miss her more around holidays, my birthday and especially as the season changes to Spring. I have always associated Springtime with my Mom. She loved her flowers and her garden so very much. She was very much like a beautiful blooming flower herself. A bright yellow King Alfred daffodil or a velvety red Mr. Lincoln rose (her favorite). At least in my eyes. She was bright and sunny most of the time. Colorful always. Fresh and vibrant. Full of life. That was my Mom. I miss her every day, but especially this time of year.

King Alfred Daffodils

It’s a wonderful time of year, my favorite season, so it’s not a sad time. I just think of her more as the flowers start to bloom and as I start to work in my garden again. I know she is with me, directing me, telling me what plants to put where and how to plant them. You see, my Mom could grow anything. She definitely had a very green thumb. I used to say that she “could grow popsicles from planting popsicle sticks”. Since her death almost 11 years ago, I seem to have cultivated my own green thumb, when before I couldn’t grow much of anything. I truly believe her spirit lives within me and helps me to continue doing the things that she loved so much.

I love to be in my garden in the Spring. I love the new growth, the new beginnings filled with promise. I enjoy seeing the earth wake up after a cold winter. I love dreaming and visualizing my bountiful harvest while planting the seeds and seedlings in the moist soil. I can feel my Mom in the garden with me. I enjoy my garden and nature in general for the beauty and the feeling they give me, but I also enjoy being in my garden because I feel so much closer to my Mom when I am there.

I’ve neglected my garden in the past couple of years. Oh, I still grew some veggies and a few flowers and herbs, I should say they pretty much grew themselves, but I haven’t really given my garden enough priority or attention to truly feed my soul, make my spirit soar and allow myself to be nurtured by nature, and of course feel closer to my Mom.

So this Spring, I think I must make my garden a higher priority in my life and get out there and plant my seeds, hold my Mom’s hand and harvest some love to feed my spirit. Oh yeah, along the way I’ll harvest some veggies too.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Another Raised Bed Garden Idea

March Issue Front Cover

Have you seen the March issue of Sunset magazine? I had a few moments to relax last night and picked up this latest issue to sooth my mind with their pretty pictures and interesting articles. I discovered a short but nice article that starts on page 49 titled, “Your best ever Veggie Garden”.

They go on to show you their raised bed design for a mixed veggie and flower garden using medium sized rocks to form the garden border and contain the good garden soil. The photos in the article show the garden in March before the seedlings were planted and again in full production in August. Their design creates an artistic yet still productive vegetable garden (with some flowers for beauty and to attract the bees), that would be very appropriate for a small space like the corner of a backyard. I like that they are showing an artistic raised bed design and also promoting how productive a small garden can be.

I use raised beds for my veggie gardens too. Only mine are more utilitarian and functional rather than aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Around my home here in the mountains, the Sunset designed raised bed made out of rocks placed on the ground would not work to keep the gophers out of my garden. They would just tunnel underneath or scramble over the top of the rocks to get to the goodies within. I have actually seen a pumpkin plant disappear before my eyes as a gopher pulled it down into the earth! Whoosh! There it goes. Straight down into the ground. In an instant my baby pumpkin plant became a gopher snack. That was my first season gardening up here. Since then I have learned to plant in raised beds with ½ inch wire grid or doubled up 1 inch chicken wire underneath the whole bed frame.

Anyway, I really enjoy reading Sunset magazine and like their gardening and food ideas very much. I like to sit down and relax with the regular printed version of the magazine rather than just read the stories online. It seems more relaxing to me that way. It gets me in the spring planting mood to see their lush garden photos. They also have some nice recipes for spring veggies in this same issue.

Go check out the March issue. I think you’ll enjoy it too.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Garden Veggie Stir Fry

Veggie Stir Fry with Chicken Potstickers

This is an addendum to my earlier post today. Here is the stir fry cooking in the skillet. It made for a very tasty and filling dinner. I love eating fresh veggies that I grew in my own organic garden.

Please also see the comments section to the earlier post for more info about raised bed gardening in the forest.

Broccoli Trees and Purple Cabbages

Raised Bed Garden in Winter

Today I spent most of my day in one of my vegetable gardens. My biggest raised bed vegetable garden to be exact. It’s a 16 x 8 foot raised bed that my partner Jack and I built about 9 years ago out of redwood boards, salvaged grape stakes and lots of chicken wire. It has actually been rebuilt since then, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, my garden was a mess! Mostly due to my own neglect, but also just because it is winter time. So I spent my day today pulling out the plants that remained from last season, which consisted of overgrown broccoli “trees” and some odd looking purple cabbages. I gathered whatever looked humanly edible into my harvest basket, brought it inside and let it soak in some cool water to remove any soil, dust or possible bugs. I plan to go into my kitchen and turn the broccoli and some of the cabbage into a veggie stir fry dinner as soon as I finish posting this blog entry.

The rest of the vegetation consisted of full blooming yellow broccoli flowers, some grungy looking broccoli and cabbage leaves and their overgrown and very fibrous hard stems and roots. The flowers and some of the leaves became snacks for my hens to munch on all afternoon, and the rest became contributions to my garden compost pile. I really enjoy that there is no waste. Everything gets used for a productive purpose.

So you see the “before” picture above with the broccoli trees, but I didn’t take an “after” shot because it would have been too boring. It looks like a raised bed filled with garden soil and some green weeds now. Not very exciting.

I’ll write more about building and using my raised bed gardens some other day. They work really well around here to grow veggies in and to keep the critters out.

Now, off to my kitchen to make that stir fry dinner…I am hungry after all of that work!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Big Leap Day

Birthday Balloons

Yesterday was Leap Day and a very special day for us as we had a special Leap Day birthday to celebrate around here. We like to celebrate every chance we get, so we celebrate everything. Since Leap Day only happens every 4 years, this was Bob's "Sweet 16" birthday. (I'll let you do the math...) So we made sure the whole town knew about the birthday....

Sign on Main Street Store Window

and also the Sweet 16.....

Our close friend/partner Jack, baked and brought him his special Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip cookies....

Cookies by Jack

After Bob got home from his workday , we lit the natural beeswax (of course!) candles on the homemade birthday carrot cake,

sang Happy Birthday, and watched him make a wish, blow out the candles & open his presents. Then we all went to dinner at our favorite local little Mexican restaurant La Cabana . Over the course of the evening, we ate far too much delicious Mexican food, carrot cake and rocky road ice cream. There were a few glasses of Merlot consumed somewhere in there too. All in all, a fun family evening and a very special birthday celebration.

We hope all of Bob's birthday wishes come true!

Bob and his birthday balloons

Happy Sweet 16 Leap Day Birthday, Bob!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket