Hens and Chicks

Sempervivum (aka “hens and chicks”)

We have been blessed this year with some new chicks!  Although the title may have confused some since I do talk about my gardens frequently and have a LOT of sempervivum, I am talking about baby chickens.

Two days old

On March 19. hubby decided we needed some more chickens.  Our flock was down to five hens.

Although I really wasn’t too excited about the idea, he brought home ten buff orpington bitties (what we call baby chicks down here).  This is the breed we settled on about ten years ago as the one we liked the best.  He put them into a large box in the living room.   From past experience, we know what a mess that can become as litter dust flies everywhere.  Ha   Since our rabbit cage was still set up, he converted it into a bittie hutch.  They settled in pretty quickly and with the whole hutch wrapped in plastic and a heat lamp, they stayed nice and toasty.

Safe and warm

They grow quickly.  And, once they were introduced to the flock in the coop, everyone has gotten along very well.  Oh, there’s a pecking order for sure, but no one has been agressive in any way.  Here’s a few pictures of them as they grew….

Four weeks old and wing feathers developed

Mingling in the coop with the adults – 14 weeks old

 

 

 

Towards the end of spring, we noticed one hen was being seriously broody.  She would NOT get off one of the nest boxes.  We no longer have a rooster, so fertile eggs were not going to happen.  But she insisted on staying in that box.  Somehow, she even managed to move some of the other hens’ laid eggs from another box into “her” box.  Of course, we collect eggs daily, so she contented herself to lay on some wooden eggs we keep in there.

I guess hubby felt bad for her, so he called up a neighbor of ours, who breeds all kinds of fancy chickens.  He agreed to give us some eggs he had in his incubator.  So, four little eggs came home and were set under Miss Broody.  They hatched the next day!!!!

Miss Broody’s bitties hatching

Look how teeny!

 

 

 

 

 

Momma hen is seriously protective of her little ones.  She and they are in the same pen that our earlier bitties were kept until they grew large enough to go into the coop.  They run around and eat, but the moment Momma makes a certain clucking sound, they all dart in and under her.  It is way too cute to see those little heads peeking out from under her breast or wings.  Another thing I noticed is they ride piggy-back on her.  I had never seen that before..

Riding piggy-back

So, come this fall, I imagine we will have eggs galore!  As it is, with just the five hens, we get at least a dozen a week.  Good thing we like eggs!  Once all of them are laying, we will have to find an outlet for them for sure.  As you can see, the bitties grow fast.  It does take a good six months before a hen will start laying.

Another blessing, folks!  With all of the gifts of Creation from our Father right here in our own back yard, we now get to enjoy watching our chicken family grow.

I pray you have a wonderful day and find many gifts along the way.  Our Father is so good to each and every one of us.  Let your heart sync with him and that communion will bless you in more ways than you can begin to imagine.  His blessings never end as long as we take the time to connect, commune and notice!

 

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Firefly Dance

Lovely firefly

Early in April, before I thought it would happen, I started seeing the fireflies (or, as we used to call them when I was little, “lightning bugs”).  Just as the sun would begin to set, one or two would start flashing.  In that early part of the year, the most I would see was four, maybe five.

I remember, as a child, collecting those flashing wonders in jars and being in awe of “how in the world”???  Letting them go and watching them fly away, flashing as they went, I felt a powerful connection to them, deep inside of me.  As I got older, I seldom had a place to live where I was anywhere near woods and that wondrous site was not something I got to behold that often.

However, since I moved to my new house back in the early 90s, surrounded by woods on two sides, I finally was able to enjoy their dance.  But it wasn’t until the last two or three years that the connection happened again.  This year, this spring, it has filled my heart full of joy and pleasure and amazing gratitude.

Let me relive the last week or so with you and tell you how amazing this has been for me!

I spend a lot of time sitting on my deck.  I have a wonderful view of an expansive yard with many native trees with a pine grove on the right side and a deciduous woods in the back.  At night, as the sun begins to set, the dance begins.  Some fireflies are high in the treetops, while others dart in and out of the undergrowth in the woods.

As the weeks went by until the last two or three, their numbers were still low.  And then, ha!  That sure did change.  Now, each evening, as I sit in the darkness, they come out all over the place.  Some high, some low, some single flashes, some double flashes.  As I watch them twinkling about, I step down onto the stairs of the deck.  I reach my arms out and call them.  “Thank you so much.  You are so beautiful.  Come close and dance for me”!  And, they do!  I mean, they do!   Some have actually come up under the deck roof.  I just stand in awe.  I have no idea how long I stand there, because once again, I am in the moment.

Of course, I do have to mention the symphony that accompanies this feast for my eyes.  From every nook and cranny in the woods all the way out to the ponds that dot our neighborhood, I hear the wonderful love songs of all the many different frogs and toads.  It’s funny, isn’t it, how they all stop for however long.  Then, slowly, they all start belting out their music again!  I just love it and them to pieces!!

And this is just one teeny iota of all the beauty that surrounds us not only here in my yard, but everywhere around the world.  Creation is God’s Gift to us to remind us of how it could have been/should have been/will one day be.  That connection He gives us through our hearts can be overwhelmingly joyous.  Thank you, Lord, for your mighty gifts!

One of the more amazing things about these wonderful creatures is how in some areas (even in my home state of NC), they flash in harmonious synchrony!  Here is a link (will open in a new tab by the way) to the Smoky Mountains website that tells all about this phenomenon and even lots of pictures to show the wonderful display – Synchronous fireflies

Have a beautiful day and don’t forget to take a moment to see just what all is waiting for you to enjoy outside!

 

 

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Backyard Adventures

Ha!  Watching squirrels is so enjoyable.  About five or six of them (it’s hard to tell how many exactly as they dart up and down trees, through the underbrush of our pine grove, and from branch to branch) were playing tag this morning.  I swear they were also playing hide and seek because two of the little ones went behind a tall poke plant and crouched down.  Every now and then they would peek up and glance about.  The others were just looking around until finally one of them spotted the “hiders” and off they all went again, going crazy in their chase adventure.   Here is where they LOVE to play!

Squirrel Playground

On my many feeders, the young fledglings are squawking up a storm, badgering their folks for a sunflower kernel or two.  The House Finch families really were fertile this year.  They each had at least four babies and when they are all visiting the feeders, it’s busy and loud.  We also have a few Carolina Wren families.  They build nests under our front porch steps, the deck, in both of the shops and stay really busy building, feeding and having more broods.  A few weeks ago, one of them was up on the deck where I was sitting.  I was quite surprised that she (he?) didn’t seem to care at all about my presence and kept pecking all over the carpet.  I thought it was bugs she was after.  No, she was gathering shed hairs off my dear hubby’s beard.  After a while she had a whole beak FULL!  Off she went to add it to her nest I would imagine.

I stopped putting out suet although many species of our birds LOVE it.  The problem is the grackles.  They PIG OUT on it, taking huge chunks in their beak and off they go.  And, they don’t treat others too kindly should someone else want some.  Thanks to their gluttony, in one day or two, all the blocks of suet will be gone.

Our blue birds are on their second brood!!  Oh, how happy that makes us.  They started earlier than usual this year with their first.  I believe they had three or four young.  For sure there are two sons because I see them flying around with their dad.  Interesting thing is that bluebird families stay together the first year and the young help with feeding the next broods.  Here’s a link to a YouTube video that shows this in action:  Bluebird Young 

Here are Mom and Dad whilst out looking for food for their babies……

Isn’t he a handsome one?

Not as colorful, but lovely nonetheless

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our red-bellied woodpeckers have a new child, who is now already at the feeders on his/her own.  That is very exciting.  The red coloring on its head hasn’t appeared yet so I really cannot tell what sex it is.

OH!  And guess who came by earlier mid-spring for a visit!  The male pileated woodpecker came back to our old dead pine, pecking around its base looking for a meal.  In another post, I talked about how we used to see/hear them all the time.  Then, years went by without a single trace.  Last year, I think it was, they were back.  A pair!  Can you tell I’m excited?????  Ha ha  Look how beautiful he is!

Our Pileated Friend

One thing that kind of has me wondering/worrying is the absence of fawns this year.  Every year as far back as I can remember, we always have at least two different does come through with one or two young fawns.  This year, the only deer I have seen is one rather large buck (antler-less by now of course).  Our neighbor next door has always put out corn for them all the way back at the edge of their woodline.  I have only seen one deer out there so far.  Perhaps they are using a different route now but the deer paths have been used for at least the last 25 years I have been here!  Back in those days, it was not unusual while coming into the neighborhood for there to be a large herd of does and young’ins in tow crossing from the woods into the farm across the street.

And then, there is our red-shouldered hawk family, of whom I have written in various posts before.  Just type in “hawk” in my search box for a lot more stories about them.

Yes, looking STRAIGHT at me!!

This morning as I sat with my cuppa Joe on my deck, one of the parents flew by with some critter in its talons.  It flew up into the treetops and I soon heard a young one fussing up a mess.  I have no doubt it was the dad as mom stays pretty much at home caring for and protecting her babies.  They have been around the yard pretty constantly these last couple of months.  And, you KNOW how much the bird neighborhood here loves that idea.  The crows and bluejays raise the most ruckus, but I see lots of smaller birds chasing the parents around/off.  I personally think it is wonderful that we have such magnificent birds in our little sanctuary.

Oh!  And one of the pairs of geese that live in our two neighborhood ponds came into our yard a couple months ago.  He, on guard and she stripping seeds off the tall grass.  They are one of two, sometimes three, pair that live here most of the year.

He is serious about this!

Guard and the grazer

 

Filling up the bellies for the upcoming flight to ???

When the whole bunch of them are out and about in the fall, prior to migrating, there can be as many as thirty or so!  Here a few of them are feeding by the pine grove last fall.

I

 

So, there you have it.  At least, part of it.  I have more posts to do about other things around here, but wanted to at least check in and share what I have been blessed with these last few months.  What a blessing it is indeed!

Creation is such a marvel.  It is pure and true, unlike us.  Though we try to be “all that we can be”, we are still fallen creatures.  With my heart-led communion with Father, the connection I experience with Nature is not really able to be described in/with words.   When I am in the moment outside with all the birds, plants, insects, and all that speaks/displays itself; there are no words to describe what is going on.  Nothing of this world (the fallen part) exists in that moment.

Thank you, Lord, for these many blessings and helping me to be in those moments.

 

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For the Love of Fire

No, not like pyromania, but I do love fires.  More specifically,  I  love the fire in our wood stove.  Actually, it is a wood stove insert that we put into our former brick fireplace.  Driving down our street and spying the smoke spiraling out the top of our chimney when it is cold outside warms me up before I even get in the house!  And the smell that wafts through the air is oh so nice!

It doesn’t really get that cold in our part of North Carolina most of the winters we have, but it can.  I have seen many a night with temperatures in the single digits and our ice storms can be pretty nasty:  2016 Ice Storm .   Even when it is in the 50s and that cold northern wind screams through any little crack in our house, you need a fire.  Well, I do anyway.

We don’t use our furnace from November until the end of March with very few exceptions.  But, let me tell you what: a wood stove is a lot of work to keep going.  And, of course, it is a constant battle to keep all the scraps and chunks of wood chips that seem to scatter all over the floor, stick to your clothes and somehow onto your sheets!  With a wood stove, spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning.  Ha ha

The first thing is having plenty of firewood to last the whole season.  We are blessed to have a friend who cuts down trees for a living.  He comes by throughout the year with his big dump truck full of logs and drops the load back in our wood yard.  Usually they will be oak or hickory with an occasional cherry or maple.  And it doesn’t cost us anything.

With all those logs, we need to cut em up into large slices with the chainsaw and then go to splitting those slices with our log splitter.

Splitter

Making firewood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The firewood pile starts out small and then becomes a really big heap.  And this beaut, hubby thought would not last us this winter!

Prepping for Winter

And as you can see, as of yesterday, we still have PLENTY left!

Wood Pile

Of course, once you have the firewood split and in a giant pile, you got to get it close to or in the house.  We have five firewood tote bags and trust me, we need all of them.  Once you fill a bag up, it can weigh up to 35 pounds or more!  It isn’t unusual for me to tote up the steps of the deck and into the house as many as seven or eight per day.  You do the math!  It’s a good thing this old lady stays in shape!  And, that is every single day, weeks on end!

We do have to let the fire go out on occasion to remove the ashes.  Then you start from scratch.  Everyone has their own way of starting a fire.  I like to ball up paper, toss in a few small pieces of shredded cardboard, then top that off with some kindling.  Not bitty branches, but small slivers of firewood.  Once that gets started, I leave the stove door slightly ajar enough to let some air in.  A blaze roars forth.  A few pieces of firewood on top of that and the fire is rocking!  That batch will last a couple, maybe a few hours and then more wood gets tossed in.

Yep, I like to play with fire.  That fire.  Our fire.  It’s warm and toasty.  It crackles and pops.  The flames flicker and lights scatter on the walls.  The ambience it creates is way beyond words I can come up with.   It’s comforting.  It’s beautiful.

God blesses.  Oh, yes, He does!

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Christ’s Saving Grace

It is such a shame that the truth cannot be laid naked, open to all Americans to see. But we have been blinded by false precepts since the beginning. Each side of any protest or confrontation is already full of animosity towards one another especially with the help of all of the “guests” that always appear to ensure violence. When the police step in, that animosity is enhanced by the disdain for authority on both sides. The whole scenario is a match that lights the fire. I cannot fathom with any understanding at all how it is that most Americans are so blind. It’s not that they are naive or ignorant. That would be an excuse or a reason for the behavior. Instead they just don’t care enough or consider it important enough to really look at what is going on and see it for what it is. Regardless of whether any of those in control win, everybody will lose.

I’m so grateful that I have been able to extricate myself from this madness and choose instead to just look away. Away from all of that. I choose to turn my head and look at Father and His Creation that is all around me every single day without fail. In that I trust. In that I draw my strength.  It fills my heart with joy, peace and contentment.  In God I trust, indeed.

The Old Testament helps me to understand what it is that God expected of man. Not in how we humans have expectations of one another, but how He designed us and creation to work in harmony together in adoration  and to the glory  of Him.   It shows how man and most specifically the Israelites failed to meet those expectations. They were His chosen people to whom He gave protection, guidance and wisdom through whom His glory would shine.  They were to show, through their daily discourse and interactions, His Glory to the rest of the world.  Of course there were a few who lived the life of a true follower. But as it is written, most did not and some literally refused to do so.  And so it continues with most of this world’s humankind.

The New Testament shows the results of those failures in the way in which those current day Israelites continued to refuse the teachings of God by fiercely objecting to anything that Jesus had to say. But the blessings of the New Testament are in showing exactly how we can be. How we can actually meet those expectations of God. The New Testament allows us to envision and experience the type of life that we can have by simply following Jesus’s example. It doesn’t matter what version of the Bible you are reading. And you certainly don’t have to pick out certain verses or phrases or chapters and use that as an impetus to prove what you think is true.

The New Testament is an expression of God’s love and desire for us to live a happy and fulfilled life with Him at the center of it, dwelling in our hearts. Jesus as a man lived the perfect example of how we can accomplish this. And the apostles that followed behind him after his death continued to demonstrate this willingness and desire to follow Christ. They themselves did not set precedence. They themselves did not make up new rules. They lived their lives in accordance with what they learned and observed from the life of Jesus himself.  Christ is our example.  Christ is the truth.  It is through His saving grace that we are enabled and gifted to see how we can live.  May He ever live in our hearts!

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Listen to your Heart

Living from your heart is not exactly something that one can do just because one thinks one can do it. You first have to understand what that means and what it doesn’t mean. Most of us learn, then understand, then believe in things that we think about and comprehend inside of our mind. This is something most of us are taught from childhood. We begin to believe that this process is the only means by which we can completely understand something.  As a result, we use what we’ve learned and understood in this manner as a basis for which we live our lives.

Living a heart- led life and having your faith and belief come from within your heart is taking the above notion and tossing it out the window.  Living heart-led is not a natural thing for most people in this generation and society. But it can be done;  that is the way humankind was originally designed by God when he first placed us in the Garden of Eden.

There was no intellectual explanation necessary for the first peoples to know and believe and have faith in God. There was a communion between people and God; a connection from their hearts to Him.  It was not something that had to be learned from birth or gradually dissected, analyzed, and concluded upon in order to be applied. It was just the natural way of life for them.

It is as if you were driving up to the mountains and came up over a rise and what lay before you was an amazing scene of beauty.  Autumn leaves scattered throughout mountainous terrain.  Clouds and blue sky rising up over the high mountain tops. A broad expanse in the valley. And as you gaze upon to it, your breath is taken away. You don’t stop to think about what you’re looking at and analyze it  intellectually. You appreciate it to the point where your whole body glows and your heart leaps and your mind is blown. You are simply responding from a part of you that is as ancient as the beginning of time.

Surely, you have experienced this?  An overwhelming feeling deep inside of you that words just cannot even begin to describe?  This joy, this feeling, this experience comes from your heart, where Father has placed His Spirit to commune with yours.  This is the part of us that communes with nature as we walk about or gaze upon and get that sense of belonging.  For we are part of Creation and it a part of us.  We and He are all one.

Grab on to that.  Build on it.  Capture it and never let it go.  Let it take you away from this world’s notions of what is real.  For this is called being lead by your heart.

Listen to your heart and learn from it.  For God is its guide!

To read more, click here:  Heart Matters   or here:   Heart Happiness  or go to the Search Box at the top of my blog and simply type in “Heart”.

As a part of this experience, I have been blessed with the friendship of like-minded folks who live by the heart-led experience.   We have come together to form an on-line fellowship, called Radix Fidem, currently led by a gentle man, whose blog (see link to Ed Hurst under my blog roll) helps put into words what we believe.  It isn’t a church by today’s definition.  It is a gathering of souls.  You can read more about our beliefs by downloading  ‘Radix Fidem: A Covenant of Faith” here:  Radix Fidem.

You can also get a better understanding of living by the heart-led life by downloading ‘Heart of Faith’ by going here:  Heart of Faith.  This was written by Ed, in collaboration with some of the rest of us.

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Labor of Love

I have had flower beds for as long as I have had a roof over my own head.  The joy and peace it gives me cannot be described with words.  Watching something grow just soothes me.

Since I moved into this house there is one bed right in front of my front porch that I have redone two or three times in the last 20 years. Here is how it looked when I first began.

Happy Flowers

Of course, it has changed as I tried new plantings and different ways of arranging things.

Once we had the fire earlier this year I really didn’t have time to do anything until just recently. The bed had become very overgrown.  I asked hubby if he would mow it down so I could start working in there, which he did.

Place to start

I decided to do something different. I was looking at this 10 by 15 foot piece of beautiful soil. And lately in the last couple of years I have really grown extremely fond of succulents. I am going to build a giant rock garden!

And so I started the middle of this past September. I told myself that I would be done by the end of October. I had about six weeks to complete the task.

Pitchfork in hand, I divided the rectangular area into strips in my mind. The plan was to clear all the wild plant growth one strip at a time and hopefully get a strip done a day. It was hard going with the pitchfork. I would press it into the edge of one of the strips at just a slight angle and then I would lift it up and then I would push it down until as much of the root system that was there could be shaken loose of dirt and put on a pile.

All the rocks that were already in the bed I threw in a couple different piles.  Hubby started collecting giant ones and all sizes from the yard, the creek bed and the woods. Needless to say it was very slow going.

Here’s a clue. I have a few physical conditions that do not prevent me from doing anything but they do limit the amount of time I can spend at a time doing heavy labor. I’m good for about an hour and then I have to stop and take a 20 to 30 minute break. And I can usually do this for about 3 or 4 hours a day.

I went on-line and visited nurseries in the city so I would have some plants once I was ready for them.  As I cleared, I placed some I already had into the dirt to hold until I could give them new homes in the new bed.  Here are some of the ones I bought.

My new babies

Once I had most of everything cleared, a canvas became revealed.

Ready to Start Work!!!!

I started in the rear left corner and made the beginnings of a little rock bed. In went some of the plants and then I decided I had to make it a little bit bigger.

After I had done all that I wanted to so far in that first bed, I thought it would be cool to build up some rock walls and put in a gully.

Gully wash

Next, I started in on the right side of the bed and began another.  This was way too much fun.  Needless to say, it was heavy work because I handpicked each stone/rock and placed it just so (sometimes retrying to make sure it looked “right”).  Here is what I call ‘Bed Two’.

Beginning of Bed Two

I had ordered several different sempervivum, or as most of us call them, ‘hens and chicks’.  So, next on my little agenda was to make them their very own bed in the garden.  I already had plenty in the original beds and pots, so i put them in as well.

Hens ‘n Chicks

Now, i was on a roll!  In the far right back of the garden, i had already planted some comfrey.  They needed mulching and rocks placed along their backside.  Other small rock beds were made or added to.  I made more gullys, filled them with pebbles and covered them with mulch.  I was almost done.

Almost done

I finally wanted to place some little additions.  Little animal figures were tucked in here and there.  Years ago, i had gotten some of hubby’s old work boots and cut holes in them.   I filled them with dirt and tucked little hens n chicks inside.  Moss started to grow and they HAD to have a home in the garden as well.  On the morning of October 31st, after spending two more hours in the garden, I was done!  Here is the finished project.  Right click on these pictures and open in a new tab.  Once you click on the newly opened tab, you can zoom in.  Notice the attention given to every rock in the entire bed.  Each nestles in with the next one.  Some hold/brace others up or are part of a perimeter.  SO MUCH FUN     !!!!!!!!!!

All done!

Left Side

Right Side

Six weeks and hundreds of pounds of pebbles and stones later, my labor of love is done.  I have to admit, the result is way beyond what i had hoped. This old body came through and I really did not end up paying too big of a price in sore muscles.

Now, with maintenance hopefully going to be low, i can spend as much time as i want enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me this gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS I might come back and edit this post more.  I don’t know.  Might have more to say or show.  Tee Hee

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