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May 19, 2015

Tilly's Passing

Her final bouquet.
For the past few weeks our head hen Tilly had begun to show her age. She slowed down. Eating, drinking and dust bathing, she spent most of her days napping in the brilliant spring sunshine. She became a bit less talkative but still came when I called her. Two days ago, she enjoyed sitting in my lap and munching on a handful of dried meal worms just for her. When she was little, she had experienced some major crop issues at 10 weeks of age. All these years later, I was grateful to still have her.

Two nights ago, I noticed that Tilly chose not to roost when turning in for the night. Instead she chose a corner of clean lofty pine shavings away from the flock for her place to sleep. I had a feeling I would not see her again. Somehow, she was telling the flock that it was her time. The following morning, I went out to the coop and noticed that Tilly was not in the run. I peered in the coop through the window. She was laying on the floor.

I mustered up my strength and went inside. She was barely alive. Laying on the floor, calm, peaceful and in a sleep-like state. Her eyes were closed. I spoke to her and gently petted her back. She was warm and soft. Then she lifted her head a bit and opened her eyes to see me. I felt as though she held on to gaze at me one more time. Our eyes met. I could see that she was tired. I lifted her up into my lap and held her. Her breathing was unlabored but slower and less frequent. I stroked her feathers. I told her how much I loved her and that she was free to join her sisters in heaven.  I also thanked her for leading the flock so beautifully all these years.

One day she decided to she had to drag this branch all over the yard!
Tilly was an amazing head hen. Everything started on this blog because of her. A little black hen with spunk, spirit, tenacity, and a lust for life. She taught me and my family so many things. We learned that leaders can be firm but loving. She taught us about friendship, loyalty, and to laugh at ourselves now and then. She taught us about patience and kindness. She taught us about being light-hearted and for that we are so grateful.


I laid her to rest yesterday in the beautiful hosta garden. I placed her in the hole and picked a lovely chicken-sized bouquet of a hosta leaf, Lily of the Valley, grape hyacinth, phlox, and a bit of Russian sage. I placed it on her lifeless body. As the sun shone on her, I could feel the rays of light warming her feathers. It was as if she was taking her last moment to bathe in those glorious warming rays. They were her favorite. I plucked a tiny feather from her wing and tucked it in my pocket. This goodbye was numbing.

I know there are many more little bits of her than just those in my heart. They are in my garden, my children's memories, and the flock. I can still hear her chicken chatter in my head when I close my eyes. I will continue to "see" Tilly all around me. These are the bits and pieces that touch our hearts. They somehow find their way through our exteriors and change us inside without us even knowing. Changing us for the better. Sometimes its when they are gone that we truly realize the internal metamorphosis that has occurred. This time it was through this sweet little hen named Matilda- Tilly for short.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest




May 18, 2015

Dealing with Mean Bees


I have a cranky beehive. It's not fun when this happens. They are down right nasty. They chase me from the vegetable garden and I can't go on the side of the property with the hive or they hit me in the head and bat at my face until I leave the vicinity. No matter the time of day or the weather they are just mad.  Surely they'd love to sting me if they had the chance but I'm no dummy and I'm choosing to avoid them or garden in a full bee suit. Note: Gardening in a bee suit is like working in a sauna. It's very hot and sweaty!

To correct this, this hive will need to be re-queened. So, I will need to try and do that as soon as possible. Cranky hives do happen from time to time and it is important for beekeepers to understand some of the more common reasons why this happens. This week I put together a post for Keeping Backyard Bees on the top 7 reasons why this happens. Please click here to read the article.

Read more about my beekeeping adventures at Tilly's Nest.

May 12, 2015

Garden DIY: The Art of Kokedama


Hundreds of years ago in Japan the art of kokedama emerged based on the age old tradition of bonsai. Kokedama or string gardens are often created when groups of these assorted plants are hung together to form a beautiful living arrangement.  These pot-less plants are wrapped in moss and watered by soaking.  They add a fun touch to the garden hanging on a gate, from a tree or even along a fence.


I chose a few assorted plants including a maidenhair fern, verbena and peperomia. In fact, practically all plants including flowering seasonal bulbs can be used. 


To learn more or to get inspired, please visit my post on HGTV Gardens 
where I share all the step-by-step directions.


May 11, 2015

Giveaway: BriteTap Chicken Waterer

From the pages of my book.
As most of you know, warm weather has arrived on Cape Cod. It's time to break out the BriteTap Waterer as this is my girls' favorite warm weather waterer. It even made it onto the pages of my new book. For those of you not familiar with this waterer, you can read more here. Since 2013, our waterer has kept the water cool and clean.


The BriteTap waterer can be outfitted on just about any type of container. Here, we have chosen to use a two gallon cooler, but you can even use anyone of these. Do you have a bigger flock? No problem, a larger container can accommodate more BriteTap waterers.


Since January, I have been using their newest product with my flock, the BriteTap Automatic Chicken and Chick feeder. This feeder can be used for grit, calcium, or even food. It keeps things dry and clean and keeps the baby chicks can't roost on the top. In my opinion, it solves many issues that I have had over the years with chick feeders and I love that it grows with the flock! In fact, even though they are fully grown, the girls seem to prefer eating from this feeder. Check out this video as Mark, the owner of chickenwaterer.com, shares all the details.

video

Enter to Win: Click on this link to visit Hobby Farms and BriteTap's "Everyone's a Winner" Sweepstakes for your chance to win  one of three $100 prize package. Plus one person who enters by clicking the link above will win a BriteTap waterer ($30 value). You can also take advantage of 10% off your order with the code "Winner"  Good luck!


May 7, 2015

Giveaway: Gardener's Scrub Soaps


Since 2001, Flint Creek Soap Company has been hand cutting small batched bars of soaps. This small family owned business is located  on the banks of Flint Creek in the finger lakes region of New York. This is definitely a company that I can stand by and feel safe using their products on my family. All the products are free from artificial chemicals and harsh additives.

One of my favorite soaps that they make is the Gardener's Scrub. This delightful bar of soap helps to remove all the dirt and grime from my hands after spending the day out in the garden while not making them feel stripped of their natural oils. Its essential oils scent is just heavenly too.

In honor of Mother's Day, Flint Creek Soap Company is giving away 10 bars of their Gardener's Scrub to ten lucky winners. Simply enter below. Also, take advantage of their Mother's Day special. Please visit their website for details and enter "Mom" at checkout for 20% off their floral, fruity and spicy soaps (My faves of these are Three Little Birds, Goat Milk Lavender, and Moroccan Red Clay). As always shipping is free over $50.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo Credit: Flint Creek Soap Company

May 4, 2015

A Momentary Pause of Henopause


Much to my surprise, I discovered our 5 plus year old hen, Oyster Cracker, sitting in a nesting box full of freshly laid eggs. I squatted down next to her and inquired about her role in the box. You see, she had not laid an egg in over 8 months!


As we were carrying on our conversation, in strutted her BFF, Sunshine. She too was curious. There Oyster Cracker was growling, "mumbling" and flattening herself like a pancake. Was she broody? We both waited.


I think Sunshine tried to talk her out of the box. I sat there too curious. Maybe she was taking over for Dolly in the broody department. Then all of a sudden, Oyster Cracker stood up.


From behind, out plopped a dark, brown, wet egg. She laid an egg!  I could not believe my eyes. This girl came out of henopause and I was there to witness the occasion. As the egg song began, in came the others to bear witness to this event. This event surely was a reason to celebrate!


Cuddles was the first one to hop into Oyster Cracker's nesting box to inspect her egg. This made me smile. It was nice to feel good in the coop and make some new memories after the passing of Dolly so recently.  Thank you chickens and thank you Oyster Cracker for your egg.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest

April 29, 2015

Goodbye Dolly


This was a great day. Dolly was the best behaved chicken during the book's photo shoot. She was in a deep state of broodiness and she did whatever we wanted her to do. The Jello Summer Party Treat did get her attention though. Not surprisingly, it got Oyster Cracker's too! 


I am finding it so difficult to write this because there is so much to share and say and I just can't find the words. I can't seem to get it all out in the way that I want. I can't seem to convey what I feel. My blog is full of her stories and my heart is full of her memory.

I've been home for three days.

Each day, I have found myself on auto pilot with the chickens, filling their feeders, tossing out scratch, replenishing the water and looking for Dolly. I have had to remind myself that she is gone.

I cannot even begin to describe the profound sense of loss I have felt for the past few days since I made the choice to put her to sleep. Her body had finally given out. She could no longer walk and her appetite was waning. The hardest part is that she was still fully alert.  Each day I would watch her struggle to reach me in the morning. Tipping from side to side it was painful just watching. Her feet no longer worked and seemed to be frozen in position. But no matter what, she still wanted to greet me each day and spend time with me. Over the years, we had formed the most unexpected and sweetest of friendships.

Dolly has always had a special place in my heart. I guess you could say that she was one of my favorite hens and I was incredibly blessed that she lived with us for so long. Over the years, I watched her mother everything that she could get her "hands" on. She practically lived in a perpetual broody state. She hatched her own chicks. She took to new chicks from the feed store. Dolly wanted to mother everything. She walked around doing baby chick coos and little chatter even when babies were not around. I swear sometimes I would catch her talking to invisible babies as she discovered scratch in the run. She knew her name and she was kind to everyone, Even though many could not understand the broodiness, I could. Her heart was full of love and she wanted to share it. We called her the DollyMama.

I never really would have believed that it would be possible to love a chicken. In fact, 10 years ago I probably would have thought I was crazy too. But I can tell you that I loved her. Through the sobs and plenty of tears, the loss and pain runs deep. I suppose I had been in denial. I wanted Dolly to live forever.

Sometimes the hardest decisions we ever have to make are those of pure acts of unselfishness.  I can honestly say that I love deeper because of Dolly. She made me look more closely at the little things in life. She taught my children many lessons about dedication, family, patience, and respect. For that and those I will be forever grateful.


Dolly, I hope you have found peace. I hope that you have found a full nest of eggs surrounded by tons of baby chicks that were taken too soon from this life.

I owe you a heap of gratitude. I will never forget your friendship and your love.

Until we meet again...


Photo Credit: Keller and Keller