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October 7, 2015

DIY: Rustic Mason Jar Utensil Holder

We try to maximize our time outdoors for as long as we can. We enjoy dining al fresco from spring until early November. When we dine outside I love having real plates and silverware outside but sometimes keeping everything organized and getting it outside can be the most difficult part.

I came up with the perfect solution to keep all the silverware organized and in tow. With three mason jars, a birch slice, and a branch, this rustic utensil carrier was born! Necessity is the mother of invention and this sure was the case!  I love it because it is durable, hand-washable and adds a fun touch of whimsy to our time spent dining outdoors.

The best part is that you can even switch out the utensils for fresh flowers! What a pretty way to display blooms from your garden as a centerpiece.  For the full step-by-step tutorial, take a peek at my post over on HGTV.

Photo Credits: Tilly's Nest

October 1, 2015

The Attitude of a Geriatric Chicken

Since getting started with chickens in 2010 we have always had Silkies. I selected this breed because of their gentleness, small size, ease of handling, and their undying desire to mother. The breed lived up to all of its promises and more. I have to say I love Silkies.

We have always had at least 4 Silkies in the flock. However as half of our flock continues to age, we have had to say goodbye to some of our favorite original girls including two Silkies.

Now that we have an old flock and pullets. I like to tell people that I consider myself as having a chicken nursing home and a nursery. We like to let our chickens live out their natural lives. After all, it is our way to repay these family pets for their years of gifting us with beautiful eggs. Old hens are funny though. The attitudes of geriatric hens are polarizing. They either completely mellow out or become crotchety old ladies.

The Silkies in general were always easy going. They were content to be at the bottom of the pecking order and never showed any signs of aggression. Feathers is a black Silkie Bantam who is one of our original girls and boy is she one of those crotchety old ladies!

For her miniature size, she has become a bit of a terror. She pecks at anyone who comes near her during morning treats, choosing to hoard the cracked corn in the area immediately around her. She chases anyone out of the dust baths who wish to partake in becoming boneless chickens with her. She even pecks at other chickens half her size just for checking out what is in her zip code.

I call her a tyrant.

My son tells me if she was an old lady, she would be bopping people in the head with a cane! That made me giggle.

I guess like with people we can all chose how we would like to age. Do we choose grace? Do we become more tolerant and accepting? Do we not sweat the small stuff anymore? Do we let things go? Do we develop a deeper understanding of life around us? Oyster Cracker has done all of these and more even though she lost her sister just a few short weeks ago.

It's interesting how aging affects all of us. I love that we have a choice on how we treat those around us and how others see us. We are all in control of our destinies. I will always chose kindness.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

September 29, 2015

Seasonal Recipes for Feeding Honeybees

As beekeepers, there come times when we need to feed our bees or offer them up reserves to help them get through dearths and winter. New colonies should be fed so that they can quickly build out new comb for the queen to lay and for them to store their foraged pollen and nectar.  Existing colonies also require feeding, especially a back up method to help ensure their winter survival. Today I thought that I would place these all recipes in one place for you to easily find them.

Warm temperatures (Spring and Summer)

Sugar Syrup 1:1
5 pints of water (10 cups)
5 pounds of sugar
Honey B Healthy (optional-directions per label)

In a large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir continually until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the Honey B Health. Allow to cool. Transfer to feeders and place on the hives.

Cold Temperatures (Fall and Winter)

Sugar Syrup 2:1 ( use up until 4 weeks prior to the first frost)
5 pints of water (10 cups)
10 pounds of sugar
Honey B Healthy (optional-directions per label)

In a large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir continually until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the Honey B Health. Allow to cool. Transfer to feeders and place on the hives.

Fondant -makes nine 5” x 6” pieces 
(from the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association)
-Mix 5 pounds of granulated sugar, 1 pint corn syrup, 1 & 1/3 cups of water in a large pot.
-Heat over medium heat to 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Stir only occasionally, it takes a while.Important: Hold the temperature at 240 degrees. 
-At 240 degrees F , place the pot in a sink of cold water.
-Change the water a few times.
-Beat with a mixer, cooling the mixture to 190
-Pour onto greased (Pam) cookie sheets to ¼ inch thick
-Cool and slice into patties.

Candy Board- learn how to make you own here.

Mountain Camp Method
Spread piece of newspaper on top of the brood box. Place a 2 inch shim on top.
Pour 5 pounds of sugar on top of the newspaper.
Replace the inner cover and lid.
Repeat as necessary throughout the season.
Do not do this too early or the bees will remove all the sugar from the hive. Begin this method after the first frost.

September 18, 2015

7 Commonly Asked Questions from Backyard Chicken Keepers

Today I'm sharing some of my most helpful posts with you. Here are the top seven that I love to refer to when I am asked to help out with your questions. You might even want to pin this post or bookmark it for the future!

Step by step tips to make this task easier

What happens when a chicken molts and how can I make it easier on their bodies?

Why are my chickens missing or losing feathers? Depending on where the feathers are missing will depend on the cause.

What can I do to keep my chickens happy, active and stop them from picking on one another?

One of the most common issues that can occur in the flock that can lead to a sick chicken. One of the first things every chicken keeper should look for when evaluating an under the weather flock member.

I'd love to share food with the flock from my kitchen and garden. Can you give me some recommendations?

I would like to add to my flock but I'm worried that they will not get along and it will not run smoothly.

September 11, 2015

Sunshine Flies Over the Rainbow

Sunshine passed last week.

I did not want to see her suffer. Chickens are not meant to live long lives like dogs or cats or us.

Fluid had been building up in her belly. I knew it was probably either an egg peritonitis or a cancerous mass that lead to the ascites. A few days ago her legs were so spread apart from the fluid that she needed to balance with her wings. Her mind was sharp, she was alert and eating but I did not want to see her suffer.

You see, she was spending most of her days in the corner of the run. Even Oyster Cracker had sensed that it was her time. They were spending less and less time with one another. She knew, the flock knew, and I knew too.

She sat on my son's lap for the car ride to the vet. I wanted my fears to be confirmed and they were. There was no egg stuck in the vent. She had been in henopause for a couple of years now. The vet removed a bit of fluid with a syringe from her abdomen. Once I saw it I knew. There was no infection but a malignant mass causing the fluid to build up. I could have had the fluid removed only to have it return in a day or two.  It was clear. Her body was failing her.

After we said our tearful goodbyes, complete with chicken snuggles and her nestling into our necks. We put her to sleep.  This is the hardest part about keeping chickens. It is so different than caring for people.

In my career, I have done a great deal of palliative, end of life, and hospice care as a nurse practitioner. It is amazing what the human body can endure. Most often close to the end of life, we fall into an almost dreamlike state. Our mind seems to surrender before our bodies. I think in some ways this makes death much more acceptable in our minds and hearts.  For chickens it is the opposite.

It is their bodies that wear out. Their minds are sharp. This was the same with Dolly too. I've come to the conclusion that this is probably a survival instinctual trait to remain sharp until the very end. It is also what keeps me guessing even though I know exactly what is happening in their body.

Time is fleeting. I have said it again many times but there will never be a flock that I hold more near and dear to my heart as the original six fluffy butts that arrived our our doorstep all those years ago. They changed our lives in so many incredible ways. Today there are 2 left.

I find comfort in knowing that they live on in my book. The original flock graced the pages of my book to touch the lives of many more families around the globe. I never would have thought in a million years that my flock would come into other chicken family homes and begin to share how magical the journey of chicken keeping can be. Life sure does have some unexpected twists- in a good way.

We buried Sunshine with her other sisters who passed before her underneath the Ruby Slipper Hydrangea. I know that they are just over the rainbow on the other side. One day, we will all meet again. If I close my eyes, I can see them all waddling and running to see me.

September 4, 2015

Gathered Fall Wreath

I love to walk in the woods and collect beautiful things from nature. Pine cones and acorns are no exception. I also love to decorate my home with natural elements through the fall and winter holidays. So, I combined my love of the woods and created this perfect wreath for fall.

It took only 5 items to create this wreath and it is one of the simpler crafts I have done. If you would like to make one, please visit my post for HGTV Gardens for all the step-by-step instructions complete with photos.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

September 2, 2015

Giveaway: Country Living Fair Tickets- Columbus Ohio

I am thrilled to be speaking at this year's Columbus, Ohio fair on Friday and do I have a treat for you. I am giving away a pair of weekend pass tickets to 3 winners!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway