Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Abundance of Eggs

Silicone muffin pans make an excellent "mold" for freezing individual eggs

So, what does one do when there is an abundance of eggs? I'm getting anywhere from 12-18 eggs a day from my 26 least this is how many I'm finding. Little stinkers like to lay all over the place, which makes daily egg gathering something of a daily Easter egg hunt.

My husband and I can only use so many eggs; the rest I'm trying to sell, and that's hard to do here in the country when so many of my neighbors have eggs for sale or are giving them away for free.

A friend suggested freezing eggs in silicone muffin pans. Brilliant! I'd been cracking the eggs open and freezing them in containers, intending to use them for scrambled eggs or omelets. Freezing individual eggs in each cup of the silicone muffin pan enables me to place these frozen eggs in a plastic bag and freeze that. Then, when I need a single egg, or a certain number of eggs, I can just open the bag and count out how many eggs I need. And unless I let the eggs thaw a bit then re-freeze, they don't stick together.

Bag of individually frozen eggs

A single large egg, frozen and freshly popped out of the silicone muffin pan

The silicone muffin pan is wonderful for freezing eggs for several reasons. They're just the right size for large and jumbo-size eggs. I suppose one could use very large ice cube trays for smaller eggs; I seem to recall reading that someone had done this, but haven't tried it myself. Silicone is supposedly a food-safe material and won't leech dangerous chemicals into your food. Getting the eggs out of the muffin pan couldn't be simpler....just turn it inside-out and the eggs pop right out. Clean-up is easy.

I'm assuming my girls will slow down their egg production over the winter months, which is when I'll dive into the frozen eggs. These eggs won't be suitable for making fried eggs (sunny-side up type), but should be perfect for baking, scrambled eggs or omelets.

**NOTE. I hadn't used these frozen eggs at the time I wrote the above. Since someone had asked me how they were after being thawed, I thawed a couple to see what they would be like. Interestingly, the yolk becomes somewhat solid, so I'm thinking I'll try stirring the white and yolk together before freezing to see if that makes a difference. Taste is fine. More updates to come...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

They Stink. They Bite. They Swarm.

Close-up of a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle that landed on my jeans

And today is the day they invaded the earth...or so it seems. My sister-in-law in Indiana told me they saw their fist invaders today. People here in Central Pennsylvania have been telling me they've noticed the invasion today for the first time this fall.

What are they? They're often mistakenly called ladybugs, but these are no ordinary "ladybird beetles", though they do look similar. These are the "Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles", or Harmonia axyridis. H. axyridis was introduced to the United States in the late 1970's as a biological control agent, and feeds on such pests as aphids and scales. You can read more about these beetles here, or do an internet search and find a plethora of sites on the subject.

View of the house from our can see the air is filled with swarming beetles!

One article that I read dealing with these beetles stated that the beetles do not bite or sting. Huh? Either I've got a different kind of beetle swarming here, or the person writing that article hasn't been under siege by these beetles. If what I'm feeling isn't a bite, I'd sure like to know what on earth that sensation is!

Part of the garage being overrun by beetles

Today while doing chores, I felt like I was living in a horror film. The beetles were swarming all over the garage and chicken coop, and when I'd get near those areas, I'd be instantly covered with beetles. They have a peculiar smell, and they crawl all over the place, including under my clothes where I'd often be on the receiving end of a bite (or whatever that is!). The chickens didn't seem to be interested in ingesting any of these creatures, sadly.

I can only hope that they do indeed annihilate aphids, scales and psyllids, because anything this annoying certainly must have some special purpose in life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard

Welsummer egg in a hidden snow nest

It's been quite a long time since I've written anything much catching up to do!

Let me jump right into things, then play catch up later. My chickens began laying on August 20, first one egg and now we're up to well over a dozen eggs a day. The record so far is 20 eggs in one day from my 26 girls.

Harriet is one of my Welsummer girls, named after Harry Houdini because she constantly escapes from the chicken run. I discovered that, once Harriet started laying, she began laying in a hidden nest in a patch of beans that I'd been letting go to seed. She's laid an egg in there nearly every day since I discovered the nest a couple weeks ago. Her eggs are a nice dark brown, but not quite as dark as I'd expect from a Welsummer.

Harriet, my Welsummer hen named after Harry Houdini. She's a renegade chicken that marches to a different drummer.

Yesterday we got the first snow of the season, which is quite early for Pennsylvania. It's still snowing today. But, old habits die hard, and Harriet braved the snow and made her way to her "hidden" nest and promptly deposited a nice brown egg. I'd placed a golf ball in her nest to encourage her to return to the same spot rather than lay all over creation, which, of course, would mean I'd have to hunt and hunt and hunt to find eggs.

I'm not sure what goes on in a chicken's brain, but she prefers this spot out in the open to the nesting boxes I have set up in the chicken run. Silly girl.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Just When I Think I've Got Them All...

Blackberries in their prime

I've been picking fresh berries of one sort or another on a daily basis since late May/early June, starting with strawberries. Following closely on the heals of the strawberries were the red and black raspberries, and before they were finished, the blueberries began ripening. The blueberries are still going strong, and now the blackberries are producing in full swing.

A typical breakfast for me consists mainly of fruit (berries!), yogurt and walnuts

What can I say? I love berries. I love picking them every morning for my breakfast of berries/fresh yogurt/walnuts. I'm considering a vegan lifestyle, but I'm not sure I could give up my yogurt...

Toodie, my blue merle Australian Shepherd posing as "Blueberry Muffin" in the blueberry bushes

Anyway, I have lots of help when it comes to picking the berries. Toodie (Australian Shepherd) runs to the blueberry bushes when I ask her if she wants to help Mom pick blueberries. She hovers beneath the bushes, waiting for a handout, or methodically eating the fallen blueberries that she's able to find. Tristan, on the other hand, swaggers out to the blueberry bushes and stands beneath them, eating the berries straight off the bushes like a black bear. Naughty dog! I wonder how many quarts he's eaten this year?

I've learned to be careful when picking blueberries...careful not to pick them before they're entirely ripe. If there's a hint of purple/pink on them, they'll not be nearly as sweet as if they're nearly black, or at least a deep, dark blue.

The amazing new wonder plant that (1) produces beautiful imaptiens flowers, (2) blueberries, and (3) small amounts of silk in the blossom-end of the blueberry!!

I've also learned to examine each berry for impurities, mainly of the bug variety. Some have tiny holes in them, and inside will be a nice juicy worm. Or, the blossom end of the berry will sport a web of looks like it's been stuffed with cotton. I'm not sure what lurks beneath that, but I sure don't want to eat it!

Close-up of the web in the blossom-end of the blueberry. Placed in an impatiens flower for lack of a better background.

The blackberries are in their prime at the moment. Again, I've learned to not pick them before their time. It's tempting to pick anything that appears black, but I've learned to not pick them until (1) they simply fall off the canes with the slightest touch, (2) they're soft and squishy, not firm, and (3) they're entirely black with not the least bit of red showing. The best way to determine this is to view them in bright sunlight, preferably slightly backlit. If you should happen to put them in the freezer, the slightly under ripe ones will turn red, while the black ones remain black.

Blackberries in different stages of, pink, red, mostly black, and black

And it never ceases to amaze me how, when I'm picking berries, I think I've got them all, then I'll stoop down or move a bit and look at the patch from a different angle and see dozens that I've missed. Sneaky guys.

And Just Who Did Patty Frolic With Last Year?!

The Squash Thing

Last year the garden just went to pot after I suspected I had lymphoma in September, then had it confirmed in October. Things just didn't get cleaned up and I left a lot of debris lying about the place.

One of the garden leavings was a squash plant, an open pollinated, heirloom "patty pan" squash. I've got two nice, robust squash plants growing in the bed where last year's patty pan grew. Lots of tomatoes were also left, and as a result I'm happy to have a plethora of tomato plants springing up all over the place and producing nicely. And there's the occasional volunteer potato here and there; I just can't bring myself to rip any of these out of the garden when they show up, so obviously wanting to live and be productive members of society.

The other day I had a hankerin' for some fresh squash, so went to check on the "patty pan" since I'd seen blossoms there for quite some time. I spied one infant squash...but wait! That's no patty pan! It's round. How'd that happen? I just couldn't figure out what the squash had crossed with last year as I'd had no other squash, or even cucumbers in the garden. Then I remembered I DID have a muskmelon (cantaloup)...but I've recently been informed that patty pan squash and melons can't cross, so I guess that's not a possibility. Perhaps a nearby (as in 1/2 mile away being the nearest) garden holds the culprit of Patty's cross pollination?

So, I'm watching the bastard child of Patty and Whatever and am wondering what it will be like when it's ripe. And for that matter, how will I know when it's ripe? Do I cook it, or eat it raw?

Next door to this Squash Thing a cucumber plant has been in bloom, and already I'm wondering what's been going on when no one's looking...

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Russian Banana fingerling potatoes from just one plant!

I'm bad. Has it really been over a month since I last updated my blog?! I won't launch into a bunch of excuses...they all apply!

Today, besides picking blueberries and blackberries, I dug a few more potatoes. This year I planted 5 varieties: French Fingerling, Russian Banana (also a fingerling), Red Gold, Shepody, and Yukon Gold. They were all from seed potatoes which I saved from last year.

In recent years I've been planting my potatoes a little later than most people do because I've found that I don't have the problem with Colorado potato beetles that I do when they're planted early. For some odd reason, probably over-exuberance, I planted my potatoes all on April 23rd this year, about a month earlier than I have been. And of course my plants were covered with CPBs. I was a bit dismayed to find that my new chickens don't seem to find CPBs as tasty as I was expecting them to. They rather acted like a child being force-fed chopped liver.

At any rate, the potatoes all survived and the earlier varieties are now in the process of dying back, indicating that they're ready to be dug. Several days ago I dug a few Yukon Gold and all the Red Gold. Harvest was pretty decent, but never quite what I expect, or rather, hope.

Today I noticed one of my Russian Banana potatoes had died back, so dug that one. Russian Bananas have tan skin and a yellow, waxy flesh, and like most fingerlings, are considered a "gourmet" treat. I was pleasantly surprised when I dug into that "nest" of fingerlings; I've never seen so many from one plant! I planted one average-size Russian Banana and ended up with 48 (not counting the very tiny ones) fingerlings. Quite a haul!

Now, if I could just figure out how to get the rest of my potatoes to produce on that scale! Can you imagine digging up 48 of ANY kind of potatoes from one plant?

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Peas growing up the fence around our backyard

We've been enjoying fresh peas for the past week. I adore fresh peas! And it seems like there's never enough peas, no matter how much I plant. Fresh peas are an entirely different breed of cat than those nasty, mushy, canned things we were served frequently in the school cafeteria. If those are the only peas a person has ever had, it's no wonder folks hate peas!

A small portion of the peas I just picked

Years ago (close to 30!) when we were first married and living in Anderson, Indiana, our little neighbor boy, who was three years old at the time, would often come over to visit us from across the street. One day I was working in my garden behind the house, and I asked him if he liked peas. "NO!" was his answer. I told him my peas tasted like candy and talked him into trying one, fresh-picked and raw. He loved them! I was told by his folks years later, that he still talks about his introduction to fresh peas, and still eats fresh peas.

I've got several beds of peas growing this year. I planted a long row of them along the fence that keeps the dogs in our backyard. These peas are looking wonderful, and amazingly, they haven't been touched by the resident groundhogs. The peas that are growing closer to the groundhog hole seem to disappear at an alarming rate, yet I'm still able to get a few peas from those beds.

Dwarf gray sugar snap peas that I planted for sprouts

Something I've been doing the last few years is to grow peas for sprouts, which make a delicious addition to salads and stir fries. I read somewhere that the best peas for sprouts were "dwarf gray sugar snap" peas. I've been planting these the past few years and the sprouts are very tasty. I plant a row of peas fairly close together, and when they're a couple inches high I take the scissors to them and cut them off, leaving about a half inch of stem. They re-grow, at which time you can cut them off again. You can continue doing this, (also called "cut and come again"), or you can let them grow and produce peas after a few cuttings.

Fresh Pea Soup

One of my favorite ways to fix peas is to make fresh pea soup. So very easy, and so tasty. It can be harty fare, or it can be very elegant, all decked out with cute little flowers for a garnish.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One of My Many "Latest Projects"

A work in progress...variable-height future herb planters lining a flower bed

For years I've been contemplating what I can do with these tiles that I found on our property years ago when we moved here (about 17 years ago!). And for years I've had an idea of what I wanted to do, but just never got my rear in gear and DID it. Well, I take that back. One year I actually did make a sort of "sculpture" with them and planted some stuff in them. This year I've decided to edge a flower bed with them and plant herbs in them.

I've been keeping myself busy the last few days. Yesterday was a major mulch day, and I finally got most of the front yard flower beds mulched. There are still a few areas that need it out front. Today I've been getting a few more things planted in the Secret Garden, plus a bit more mulching done out there.

What else needs to be done here at Cairnwood Cottage? Dead heading rhododendrons, roses, and hanging baskets. Mulching the berry patch. Finishing the vineyard. Planting the millions of seed packets that cover my dining room table. Getting more raised beds ready to plant. Weeding. Plant two azaleas that I've got sitting in pots. Turning the compost. The list is endless...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Peeps--Two Months Later

Welsummer cockerel--Dumpling

Gone are the fuzzy little fluff balls that I picked up at the post office two months ago, and in their place are fine looking young chickens, all grown up looking but still very much just teenagers. It will be a while yet before we see any eggs from the girls, and I have no idea when the boys will attempt their first crow.

I had ordered six Welsummer pullets and six Welsummer "straight run", which means they just grab a hand full of chicks and I get whatever sex happens to be in the mix. Turns out eleven of the twelve were pullets, and I've got one handsome Welsummer cockerel, named Dumpling at the moment. He could end up with a more majestic name later on.

I also had ordered six Specked Sussex pullets, but turns out one of them is a little fella named Noodle. He's a sweet little roo and likes to hang around me when I'm out there tending the flock, but he's becoming aggressive towards the other chickies and I think he's trying to, uh, do the nasty with the hens already. I didn't really want a Sussex roo, so I think I'll be finding a home for Noodle. I can't bear the idea of turning him into Chicken & Noodles, if ya know what I mean. He is a beautiful bird, though.

Noodle, a Speckled Sussex rooster

And last but not least, I had ordered 6 Ameraucana pullets and six straight run Ameraucanas. I still have no idea how many cockerels and pullets I've got, but I think I've got two roosters and the remaining eight (I gave two pullets to Marlenah, my son's girlfriend) I'm thinking are pullets. I'm guessing about the two roosters simply because their combs are bigger and redder than the others, and they themselves are much larger than the others. Time will tell.

Ameraucana pullet

Besides the mail order chickies, I've also got four Golden Sexlink pullets that I got from our local Tractor Supply store the same day I picked up my post office peeps. These four girls are sweet and friendly, though they can look fierce, as the following photo demonstrates.

Who needs gargoyles when you've got chickens?! This is a Golden Sexlink pullet, trying her best to scare off predators and other nasties

Now that the chickens are all grown up, or so they think, they've been spending lots of time in the baths...dust baths. They're loads of fun to watch, but they just make me laugh when they're bathing, which involves much fluffing of feathers, rolling about, shooting dirt out from beneath them (as the photo below shows) and just enjoying what most kids like to do...getting covered in dirt.

Dust bathing chickies...Ameraucana on the left is shooting dirt out from beneath her as the other Ameraucana and the Speckled Sussex relax

We were away all day Saturday, and when we got home I found one of the Welsummer girls with a lame leg. I have no idea what happened to her, but she's very gimpy and hobbles about when she does try to get somewhere, which isn't very often; she spends most of her time sitting. It was suggested that perhaps the Sussex roo was trying uh, mate, with her already and she just didn't have the strength to support that much weight. I'm thinking this is very possible, because yesterday when I went out to check them in the a.m., I saw the Sussex roo, Noodle, just pounce on her, poor little thing. So, I've removed this girl from the flock and put her in a dog crate. I put another Welsummer hen in there with her for company, and they seem happy. I chose this particular hen as a "nurse maid" because she seemed very concerned when I removed the injured girl, and made attempts to follow me. I'd like to think that they're buddies and that this chicken really was concerned about her comrade.

Injured Welsummer pullet in foreground, with her "nurse maid" in back

Here's hoping my little Welly girl heals and gets better soon!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wild Strawberries

Yes, these are WILD strawberries! HUGE, aren't they?

For years I've battled wild strawberries growing in my garden. Weeds. I've been pulling them out, hoeing them, mulching over them, but whatever I do, they just come back. This year I'm behind in a lot of gardenly things, and around the edges of the section of garden where my raised beds are, the wild strawberries are flourishing. In fact, some of the rows between the raised beds have some wild strawberries growing in them. I just can't get rid of them.

The other day I noticed that many of the wild strawberries are producing berries. Massive berries, for wild strawberries. Most wild strawberries that I've encountered are tiny little things, about the size of my little fingernail, if that. These babies are the size of many domestic strawberries. And their flavor? Superb! They have that wild strawberry flavor with the size of domestics. How can that combination be beat?

This morning I picked a bowl full of these wild strawberries to enjoy with my homemade yogurt for breakfast. Divine. Now I'm wondering...why on earth am I going to all the trouble to start an official strawberry bed of domestic strawberries that need to be pampered, when I could just graze off the ones growing around my garden?

Honestly, I'm thinking I'll propagate the wild strawberry plants that seem to be producing the largest berries and start a large patch of very big wild strawberries.

I'm so glad my husband isn't a fan of strawberries....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Rose of Summer

The first rose to bloom at Cairnwood Cottage is this one, a descendant from my grandparents' rose bush

I suppose that should really be the first rose of spring, since summer is technically a month away yet. Actually I noticed the first roses starting to bloom last week. The rose bush these particular roses are growing on is a bush that has descended from a rose bush that grew on my grandparents' farm in northern Indiana. My parents got a start from it and have it growing on their property, just 1/2 mile away from the original farmhouse rose. Then I got a start from my parents' rose. It's nice to know that this rose growing here in central Pennsylvania, has roots in Indiana. And whenever I see this rose, I think of my now-deceased grandparents.

Rain drop-laden rose

I can almost SMELL the sweet rose aroma!

Today is rainy, and I'm feeling quite lazy. I should be taking advantage of this forced hiatus from outdoor work by getting the laundry, dishes and house cleaning done, but I quite simply don't feel like it! So here I sit instead, and will probably take a nap a bit later.

Rain drops clinging to wild cherry blossoms, creating strings of "jewels"

Close-up of wild cherry "jewels"

Several days ago we had rain as well, and I took advantage of the unique beauty that only rainy days offer, and grabbed some photos. I was struck by the unusual jewel-like beauty of the wild cherry blossoms that hung over our driveway, and the velvety soft appearance of the roses covered with rain drops. How can I ever complain about rain?!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Babies Galore!

Baby Blues...future tasty blueberries

Spring is known for babies...chicks, baby birds, foals, calves, name it. Seems like there's a lot of new life in spring. Cairnwood Cottage has its share of new life as well.

The 19 asparagus crowns that I planted on April 6 are finally showing signs of life. Tiny little asparagus "seedlings' are poking up beside the stakes that mark the spot where I planted them. I had been getting a bit worried as I expected them to make an appearance long before this. Better late than never.
Newly planted asparagus is finally peeking!

The fruit trees are sporting tiny little fruits.
Baby pear

The blueberry bushes are loaded with baby blueberries...let's hope I get more than the birds do this season!

Asparagus beetles are hard at working trying to create another generation of beetles for me to battle and feed to the chickens. They just won't give up!
Who gets more of my or these beetles?!

My Miss Bateman clematis blossoms have opened further.
Miss Bateman cleamatis

Miss Bateman clematis...view from below

Baby birds are cheeping from their hidden nest under our front porch roof. The list goes on. Who can't love spring?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Before The Storm

Ladybug enjoying the early morning

A beautiful morning greeted me when I crawled out of bed this morning. I've got lots on my to-do list as normal, but I decided to pause and wander around, camera in-hand, and take a few photos of some of God's wonderful creations before the predicted thunderstorms arrive. Some days it just feels so good to be is one of those days. We truly live on a magnificent planet.

Frog enjoying the cool, moist shade between a flower and a pot of seedlings in a flower bed

Frog eye up close

I noticed that my Miss Bateman clematis was blooming for the first time since I planted it last year.
I've planted several clematis along the fence that keeps our dogs in the backyard/orchard. This is the first one to bloom of the clematis I planted last year. I counted 4 blooms on it this morning.

Miss Bateman Clematis--first bloom of the season

Miss Bateman Clematis up close

The fruit trees are mostly done blooming now, their once snow white blossoms now turning brown where they've fallen on the ground and the picnic table. My quince tree has a few blossoms left, but there is just one that I could find that was intact.

The last perfect quince blossom

My azaleas are a riot of color, and the rhododendron buds are beginning to pop open. The front yard is very colorful at the moment with the various flowering shrubs. Everything looks compressed in this photo, but there is a stream and another small yard area between that row of spent daffodils and the yellow shrub in the background. Yeah, we need to mow, weed, and put down mulch, but there always seems to be something more pressing to do.

Some of the azaleas in our front yard in full bloom. Rhododendrons are not far behind.

And I'm excited to report that of the 11 bamboo shoots that I transplanted, they all seem to be alive to some extent...I realize now that I didn't pick the best time to transplant them, so I'm hoping they all survive. I did notice this morning that one transplant has actually sent up a baby shoot.

Baby bamboo shoot

Now that I've enjoyed the outdoors, bring on the rain and thunderstorms! I've got plenty to do on the sadly neglected inside of the house.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peep Treats

Ameraucana (left) and Speckled Sussex (right) chicks snacking on chickweed

There's a reason they call it chickweed (Stellaria media). Chicks love the stuff. And it's not just chickens that love it. "Little birds in cadges (especially Linnets) are refreshed with the lesser Chickweed when they loath their meat whereupon it was called of some "Passerina"--John Gerard, in his 1597 English text on medicinal plants, Herbal or General History of Plants. Humans can also eat chickweed, but that's another entry altogether.

My little peepers come running lately when they see me approach the Peep House. They know I'll more than likely be giving them treats of chickweed, which they dive into and scarf down with wild abandon. If they were puppies, they'd be rolling in it.

One peep is almost always the first one to greet me. I call him/her Livingston because I think he/she looks a lot like a seagull (some may not be old enough to even have a clue what I'm talking about) with his/her gray head and dark eyeliner. Livingston is very friendly and likes to follow me around, or just hang out nearby if I happen to sit on the cement block I use as a chair while I do nothing but watch the peep antics. I'm not sure how long it will be before I know if Livingston is a he or a she. If it turns out to be a little pullet, I guess I'll change the name to Livvy.

Livingston, an Ameraucana chick

And I'm thankful to still have 31 peeps today! Yesterday Toodie sounded the alarm while she was outside in the dog yard. I could tell from her bark that an intruder was nearby. When I went to check the peeps, I discovered that the gate had blown open (Horrors! It was an extremely windy day and our latch failed), and there was a strange cat a few feet away from the pen. A very pretty long-haired cat, I think it was a female looking for love in all the wrong places, from the sounds of it. I did the pssssst noise at her and she ran off into the woods, but returned later and continued to hang around most of the day. Toodie was not amused, nor was I. I was very concerned, because a cat would have no problems getting into the peep pen, and the little peepers are still small enough that a cat could take one out with no trouble. I had a hard time counting the peeps yesterday because they move so fast, and with 31 to count, they're just all over the place. After a bit of a struggle, I did determine that all 31 are still healthy and happy. And that makes me and Toodie happy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Minky Bean --Fearsome Killer

Minky Bean looking all fearsome, rolling and meowing in our driveway, begging for a belly rub

We've got three cats: Minky Bean, Gypsy, and Little Kitten (AKA Fat *ss). The cats hadn't been introduced to my peeps until recently; I really didn't want the cats to develop a taste for peeps so thought I'd wait until the peeps had packed on a little weight and got a little bigger and didn't look quite so....tempting.

Once the peeps were outside in the Peep House and adjoining fenced run, we'd been keeping the cats indoors to prevent any sort of peep-cat altercation. The cats were getting antsy to go outside. I was getting tired of hearing their plaintive meows and cries, and I was also getting tired of cleaning out the cat box so frequently.

I took Minky Bean outside. Now, Minky Bean is a mighty hunter, which is one reason I was a bit worried for the peeps. She's brought down prey nearly as large as herself: fearsome bunnies, killer chipmunks, man-eating rodents of all sizes and deadly birds of all sorts. She even survived a coyote attack which left her with a broken jaw, permanently oozing wound on her lower jaw, broken teeth, and a horribly crooked face in a cute sort of way. I shudder to think what that poor coyote must have looked like after this encounter; obviously his dinner wasn't quite as wimpy as he was hoping.

So I carried Minky Bean up to the Peep House. Peeps were all out and running about, scratching and pecking and doing their Peeply Thing. Minky caught a glimpse of them and nearly tore my arm off in her frantic attempt to get away. Huh?!

I'm not sure what went through her head. Is she truly afraid of chickens? Was she pecked nearly to death by peeps as a kitten on the farm where I got her? Did she envision a herd of T-Rex babies on the attack?

Whether the sheer numbers frightened her (she's not stupid, she knows when she's outnumbered by a deadly foe) or she just didn't know what these creatures were is beyond me. It is a relief, however, to know we don't need to worry about Minky Bean dining on Peeps--meaty or marshmallow. Oh, and Gypsy reacted in exactly the same way as Minky Bean. Little Kitten never ventures outside...long story, that.

I've been in kind of a funky weird mood today, probably because I stayed up two hours past my bedtime last night reading. Shame on me! I took a nap when I got home from work in spite of the fact that it's a balmy 71 degrees F, sunny and perfect for gardening. I also have an appointment with my oncologist tomorrow to get the results of my recent blood work and PET scan. I'm sure this has some bearing on my mood as well.

So, I'm taking a day off (mostly) from work around here and decided to go mushroom hunting. Walked up the road to the property where morels have been known to thrive, and where the landowners have graciously granted me permission to hunt. I cast my mind back to my childhood to conjure up all the memories of a successful mushroom hunt and the equipment I'd need: a bag for the load of mushrooms I'd find, and the perfect stick, one that is just the right length and has a slight crook at the end for pushing lush foliage aside.

Forest floor where I searched for morels. Note the lush growth of ferns, wildflowers, pretty little stream, and....poison ivy (left).

Armed and confident in my abilities to find the mother lode of morels, I walked the 3/4 miles to the property on Boyscout Road. Wow, lots of poison ivy! Lots of gnats! Mosquitoes galore! My morel mojo left me many years ago I'm afraid; I haven't found a morel in more years than I care to count. Today was no different. Wait...several years ago I did find one dried, shriveled up pathetic little thing, and another that had been growing
under one of our apple trees, also dried and shriveled. Does that count?

I think I had better luck finding mushrooms as a kid because (1) I was shorter and closer to my subject, (2) I wasn't allergic to poison ivy then and was oblivious to its I spend most of my time watching for poison ivy instead of looking for mushrooms, and finally (3), I had much more time to "waste" as a child. I spent nearly an hour searching today and feel guilty, somewhat, that I wasn't doing something else more productive.
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)...view from below.

The only things I found on my mushroom hunt today were some pretty plants, and the solitude and quiet of being in the woods, alone. On my entire 1.5 mile walk on the road I didn't see a single car or truck, or any sort of vehicle. On second thought, that wasn't a wasted hunt at all!