Spring

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They’re here…

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

We were out of town for Memorial weekend, living it up at the Hampton Inn with its creature comforts.  It was nice to get away.  It was nice watching TV.  It was nice taking long guilt free showers.  But, now we are back to reality, and it's pretty good.

We came home to find that Agnes' eggs did in fact hatch.  While she was out getting food for her newbies, I snapped a few pictures.  I wouldn't call them cute necessarily.  They are a bit unrecognizable.  I can't really distinguish body parts yet, but I'll be taking pictures everyday to document their progress.

I was a little concerned when I saw that Agnes was not in her nest with the baby birds.  They look so pink and vulnerable, and it hasn't been warm.  I wanted to intervene and put a hot pad under the nest or something, just to make sure they stayed warm.  Was she ditching them?  Did she not sufficiently bond with them?  I decided to trust that Agnes knew what she was doing.  And, it turns out she does.  When she returned, I secretly, and very quietly glanced out the door.  I could see her tail feathers shaking a bit with each regurgitation she unloaded into her babies mouths.  Good job Agnes.  You got this.

The lilacs are filling the air with flowery goodness.  They surround the old farmhouse, and bring it back to life a bit.  I can picture Emma flinging open the windows to let the springtime smell clean out the winter doldrums.

These old trees come back every year with new blossoms.   Old, dark, knotty bark contrasted with fresh new blossoms gives them an instant face lift every spring.

Apple blossoms are "snowing" right now, according to Axel.  And, speaking of snow, the rivers are HUGE because of all of that snow, huh?  While we were driving west, I was amazed at how much water is forging through the various rivers we passed.  We are definitely in surplus.

Rhubarb finally got my serious attention.  I cut a bunch of stalks and am making strawberry-rhubarb pie with it.  I'm thinking of making some rhubarb preserves too.  Anybody ever try that?  Seems like it would be a good thing to have mid-winter for a pie filling or something.

Thank you lilacs for making my house smell better than it usually does.

We have a plethora of eggs and spinach currently, so what better to use those up than quiche?  I got this recipe from my new favorite food blog Smitten Kitchen.  It turned out awesome.  It's made with half and half, cheddar and parmesan cheese, spinach, green onions and eggs (of course), so you can't really go wrong.  I used the spinach from our garden instead of frozen, which is what the recipe called for.  Again, it was super good.

And, with that my friends, I shall end this post.  Happy Tuesday.

Blooming out, Rocking out and Figuring out.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We've had quite a weekend.  Monumental in many ways, and totally ordinary in others.  First of all, everything is just about in full bloom right  now.  The apple trees are lighting up one by one with pale pinkish-white blossoms, and are all abuzz with bees.  The pear tree is at it's pinnacle of absolute blooming beauty.  Right now.  In a day, or perhaps even today, the steady fall of petals will begin and fruit will start to appear.  She should really live it up while she's still got it.

And then there are the not fully bloomed but equally spectacular apple trees getting ready to burst into glory.

The rhubarb snuck up on on us before we expected it.  This early bird of a fruit makes a damn tasty beverage too.  It's rhubarb-onade if you haven't heard about it.  Recipe to come, after we make it!

Speaking of recipes, this here is Dandelion Soup, made by Asa and Axel.  Ingredients are: stagnant rain water, sticks, plum seeds from last season, grass, dandelions and a big rubber blue ball.

Asa the Chicken Catcher

My main man Andy had a  rock show reunion this weekend.  Humpy played on Saturday night with other Missoula vintage faves Sasshole and Spanker.  What a line up!  I haven't seen Andy rock out since the late 90's.  They did not disappoint either.  Some highlights were the oh-so-nostalgic mosh pit that formed a few songs into their set, the fact that smoking is now prohibited so you don't go home smelling like a giant cigarette butt, and drinking PBR.  I was home by 12:30, and felt great the next day.  As a thirty something mother of two, you couldn't ask for a more perfect rock show.

In Agnes related news:

She now has three eggs in her nest, and she diligently sits atop them all day.  We don't even use the front door anymore, so as not to scare her.  Though a few times by accident one of us has flung open the door only to be met with an angry Agnes.  She flies over to the fence post, looks you straight in the eye with her head cocked a bit, and unabashedly chirps you out.  Then, when you've given her sufficient space, she'll fly back to her nest, fluff her feathers and settle down onto her eggs, looking quite smug I might add.

Agnes is pretty much always on her nest, except this morning.  I noticed another, smaller, more red-breasted robin was perched on the side of her nest.  I found it curious, so watched for a minute.  I'm pretty sure this new robin is a male, because of his more red breast, so I'll call him Tom.  After a few minutes, Tom flew off, and immediately Agnes flew back into her nest and settled on top of her eggs.

I haven't done my research yet, I aim to tonight, but could it be that the male mate helps protect the nest?  I've noticed Tom hanging around in the front yard near the nest prior to this.  But this was the first time I've seen him actually baby sitting the eggs while Agnes was off shopping or whatever.  In light of this new information, I now have a total bird crush on Tom.

Do any of you have some robin nesting habit knowledge you'd like to share?

 

Going to Seed…

Friday, May 20th, 2011

These emerald green days are hard to resist.  I could, and maybe should be inside doing any number of things; cooking, cleaning, organizing, responding to emails, paying bills, etc.  But the pull of fresh spring air and bright green grass is too tempting.  So, here we are, outside hiking the hills above our little house.  How lucky can I be?

My dad has been here for the past couple weeks, and it has been great.  He helps out with the kiddos, and takes me out to dinner a lot.  It's a real treat.  He loves his grand dudes so much, and I'm very thankful for it.

I am standing by my DIY sentiment I mentioned in this post.  I made bread in the bread maker my dad brought me!  I also made granola bars.  Both turned out fabulously.  I have to say, the bread maker rocks.  It isn't essential if you are an occasional bread maker.  But, if you are looking to cut costs by making your bread instead of ever purchasing it, and you are a busy person like me, the bread maker rules.  It's fast, easy, and can be left to do it's thing without you having to be present.

And the granola bars are really, really good.  I got the recipe here.  The good store bought kind are crazy expensive.  So, I know I'm saving a lot of money by making my own.  I'm hoping to get really technical soon, and actually calculate how much money it costs to make these things, as compared to buying them.  Maybe I'll plan a trip with all the money we save.  Or, buy a  new toilet, which is what we really need.  Uggh.

We have been doing a lot of fishing with Grandpa Eric.  We went to Harper's Lake yesterday, which is a great lake for kids fishing.  Although we did not catch anything, it was still pleasant.  Apparently, they stock the lake with trout quite often, and if you call ahead and figure out the day that they stock it, it pretty much guarantees at least one successful catch.  And, although this might seem like cheating, I'm inclined to do it.  Asa was so hell bent on catching a fish, when we had to leave, he was uproariously upset.  It sucked.  I felt bad for him too.

I've been in serious production mode, because we are going to be in the Missoula Made Fair.  It is going to require a lot time and energy, but I'm psyched to be doing it!

Happy Weekending!

Axel turns three, sheep arrive, and Agnes reveals her little blue egg.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

This handsome boy turned three on Friday. We celebrated at Axel's favorite park he calls "spaceman park".  My friend Andrea made an amazing cake for him.  It was the best part of the party, besides seeing Axel being the center of attention by a bunch of adoring people.

I'm fairly certain that I could move mountains for him if he wanted me to.

I made a few things for him, one of them being these little pants.  I think they turned out pretty darn cute.  He likes them too.

The annual sheep drive happened on Saturday.  These sheep have been resting in our pastures for the past few days.  Today they continue their journey up to Waterworks Hill and beyond, where they will be responsible for weed removal.  The lambs are a huge hit around here.  The noises these animals make are hilarious, they sound vaguely human.  And the herding dogs are so good at what they do.  They keep these sheep in line, and make sure they don't wander off somewhere they shouldn't.  It's nice to see dogs doing what they were meant to do.

The young lambs follow around their mama  baaaaaaa-ing.  It's a bit reminiscent of my own babes once upon a time.

This lovely, wind-blown robin is Agnes.  She decided to build her nest in a box that hangs directly outside our front door.  The foundation of her nest is actually a nest that Asa build in his preschool class.  She took over, made some renovations and now calls it home.  Unfortunately, whenever we walk in or out of the door, she flies a few feet away onto the fence that surrounds the front of our house.  She chirps brazenly, looking right at us, warning  us to stay away.  She's been much more brave lately, and will sometimes remain in her nest despite too-close-for-comfort kids and such.

This is her giving me a warning.  Can you see her looking right at me?

I figured she must have laid some eggs, judging by her behavior.  So, we are all using the back door now, so as not to disturb her.  Statistically, the odds of a robins egg hatching and the baby bird surviving, are not that great.  So, we want to do everything we can to encourage Agnes to do what she needs to in peace and comfort.

See what I mean?  This is our front door, and her nest is in that little box!

While she was off for a few minutes, I quickly stuck my camera up higher than I could see, to take a quick snapshot of whatever was in her nest.  And, this is what I saw!  Only one so far, I'm not sure if she will lay more or not.  Typically a robin will lay two or three eggs.  Only time will tell.  I sure hope they make it.

All in one big beautiful spring day…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Seasons here in Montana are never neatly defined.  Especially spring.  It can be any combination of  cloudy, snowy, rainy, sunny, windy, stormy.  But, yesterday was, what I would call, the quintessential spring day; warm, sunny, whispy clouds, and a tiny breeze to blow the hair out of your face.  It was the kind of day we long for and picture in our mind in the darkest of February days.

We found this robins nest in a wooden box  hanging outside of our house right next to our front door.  Asa had made a mud and straw nest at school, and placed it in this box a few weeks ago.  Apparently the robin saw some great nest making potential in it.  She added more straw and shaped it like a perfectly sculpted bowl, and now resides in it when we are not around.  I'm not sure how long she will stick around, as every time we open the door, she gets spooked and flies away.  Andy put a worm in her nest, hoping she would translate that as a peaceful gesture.  But, I'm not sure she noticed or cared.  We sure hope she stays.

We went hiking with some friends up Waterworks Hill.  The cowboys decided to join us, just in case their were any wild horses that needed to be wrangled.  All the kids played for a long time, loving it, as were the mama's.  It's amazing how much visiting you can get done, when your kids are entertained.  I'm thankful every day for these friends of mine.  They listen to my stuff, I listen to theirs.  Sometimes they offer advice, or exclamations, but mostly they just listen, which is all I really want.  This whole child rearing thing would be a lot harder without them around.

After our lovely hike we went fishing with Grandpa Eric who is visiting for the next few weeks.  We didn't catch anything, but it didn't really matter.  It was more about being outside, near water, watching geese chase each other, and casting our hooks out into the water.

Axel's face describes how all of us felt yesterday.  The sunshine melted our troubles away.  Until about 9pm when I realized that the same sunshine that made us so happy, also gave us all sunburns.  Axel had a very red neck, despite the hat and the neckerchief I had him wear all day.  Any of you natural products lovin' mama's have good sunscreen advice?  Recommendations? What do you think about it in general?

Happy Wednesday!

The Fantastic little Fox…

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Exciting day and evening here on the Homestead.  While Andy was presenting his James Welch light box to the public library folks who commissioned it. I was at home having a standoff with a fox.

I was casually heading out the door to retrieve my purse from the car and looked up into the front pasture, not more than fifty feet stood a fox and at least two if not three kits.  I was stunned.  She was stunned.  I'm assuming it was the mama (vixen), however, I just read that sometimes a fox (male) will hunt for the vixen and kits as well.  Anyway, the fox ran away a few yards and turned around to look at me.  I almost ran inside to tell the boys so they could see this little family of foxes too, but I knew they would yell and scream and scare them off.  And, honestly and maybe selfishly, I wanted this moment to myself.

Ever since my honeymoon, when Andy and I were driving to Bowman Lake (near Polebridge) on a little foresty road, and two kits tumbled out of the bushes into plain view on the side of the road, I have had a fascination with foxes.  They are mysterious, smart, fast, and always just out of reach.

Anyway, so there I was, waiting for her to make a move.  I talked to her, told her it was okay, I wasn't going to mess with her babes.  But, I warned, out loud: "You need to relocate, I won't let you hurt my chickens." She yelped/barked a few more times, as if trying to reply: "Yeah, but I need to feed my babes. You understand, right?"

And, the thing is, I would probably be willing to sacrifice one chicken on her behalf, for her kits.  But I know that if she got one, she'd take out our entire flock.

I ran inside to get my camera because the kits were starting to wrestle and I just couldn't handle it!  This is all I got, a very distant shot of one of the babes.  The mama was clearly a red fox, but the kits are this gray/black combo until they get older.

I know, it's so hard to see.  But, isn't that so right?  I think part of why I am so enamored by these little critters, is that it is nearly impossible to get a good look at them.  They have insanely good hearing, and are so fast!  Apparently they mate in January or February, and give birth end of  March/early April. Which would make this kit just a few weeks old.  The vixen usually starts to leave the den to hunt after the kits are about three weeks old.  I'm guessing this kit is somewhere around four weeks old.

So while I was trying to take a picture of these amazing little creatures, the big fox took off like lightning towards some of our chickens.  I thought she had one in her mouth, so I yelled loudly and forcefully. She stopped, looked at me, and retreated. The kits must have ducked  back down into the den pretty quickly too; I didn't see them the rest of the evening.  I did see the big fox a few times far up on the ridge, but eventually she completely disappeared.

I stayed outside and kept watch for the next hour and a half, waiting for dusk, when the chickens start waddling their way back to the coop.  The boys and I chased the last three hens into the coop at about 8:30, and I battened down all the hatches to make sure they were all as safe as can be.  As we strolled back up to the house I took some pictures of the beautiful light.

 

I felt good about saving our girls.  But, I know we are going to have to scare the fox and her kits off, if they decide to hang around.  And for that, I'm a little sad.  I wish there were some way to coexist peacefully.  Apparently foxes typically have several dens in an area, so hopefully this vixen and her kits are relocating somewhere else now.  They will have to survive on field mice and rabbits.  We will have a close watch on our chickens for the coming weeks.  Even though they aren't as cute and mysterious as the fox and her kits, they do provide us with over a dozen eggs a day.  They definitely earn their keep.

Happy Monday.

Today, today…

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Dreaming about planting carrots like last years.

Hoping for a garden that is as spectacular as last years.

This spring is already picking up speed, and even though as I look out the window right now, there is snow on the mountains, by July I will be warm, tanned, and in garden-shape.

Our girls, or, as Asa says, "gewels", are laying again.

I'm ready to start wearing tank tops, skirts, lightweight dresses, sandals, you know?  I'm going to satiate my spring fever with some sewing of vintage-style house dresses like these. They seem perfect for any occasion really.  In the garden, in the house, out on the town, at work.  I like the idea of a zippered front as well.

Here is how we all feel about it not being as warm as we would like yet.

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

red necks

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Today was the first day it has felt like a warm spring day.  Right, Missoula?  It was breezy, even a little chilly in the shade.  But in the bright sun, under the blazing blue sky, it was warm and whistling.  With birds: They were in heaven today.  Holy.  I wish I could have recorded them.  The woodpeckers were going crazy in the orchard and against the tin roofing on the barn.  Meadowlarks were talking to me all day, seriously.  The males I'm pretty sure are totally flirting with me.

We spent the entire day outside.  Doing stuff.  I planted Swiss chard with my shirt off.  It was awesome.  Axel got a red neck from sitting in the sun too long while putting rocks and dirt into the watering pail, rendering it useless when I tried watering the chard I had just planted.  But that was alright by me, because it gave me a chance to pump water out of our glorious water pump.  I love the sound of the squeaky handle and the rush of water hitting the tin pail.  Very satisfying indeed.  No need for music at all outdoors in the spring.

Thank you Mother Nature.  You rule.  I love you.