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June 29, 2012

Easy Hydrangea Arrangement



Hydrangea season is upon us and I just love them.  They thrive on Cape Cod and the flowers are abundant.  This year is no different.  The blooms are just gorgeous and help to make a lovely arrangement in minutes.  


Here is what you will need to make this:
6 Hydrangea stems or so~ You can also find these at your local florist or grocer.
2 large leaves (I used Hosta)
1 wide mouthed vase (I used one approximately 6" high and 6"wide)
sharp scissors
water


First, you will need to take fresh cuttings.  Always cut flowers in the morning hours.  Cut the stems on an angle with a sharp pair of scissors.  While holding them, allow the flowers' cut stems to face the sky- essentially upside down.  This helps to keep the flowers hydrated until they are placed in water.  I like to pick stems at various stages of opening.  Some are fully bloomed. While others are just emerging from their buds.  This to me, makes for an interesting arrangement and also allows it to last longer.






Once inside, begin to trim off any unnecessary leaves on the hydrangea stems that will sit in the vase's water. This helps to keep the water clean in the vase.  Leaves that are above the water line should be left alone.  Cut the Hosta leaves' stems on an angle.  Fill the vase with water, halfway, and then with the pretty side facing out, mold the Hosta leaf against the glass being sure that it's stem is inside the water.



Add the flowers to the vase, shorter stems to the outside and longer stems on the inside. If you are using a shorter vase, like me, I like to make the arrangement with the hydrangea stems in my hand.  Then I rubber band them together to keep the bouquet uniform and prevent it from toppling over. Hydrangeas tend to be top heavy.  Finally, fill the remainder of the vase with water and enjoy!


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest


This post is linked up to Deborah Jean's Farmgirl Friday Bloghop.

June 26, 2012

The Egg

Every year for the last eight years, we have had a family of Carolina Wrens, most likely generation after generation, that chose to nest in the flower box right outside the kitchen window.  Last year, they successfully laid two different clutches months apart and raised 9 new babies.  It seemed like a new record.  The year prior, their entire first clutch died, except for one foreign sole survivor; a Cow Bird baby that they raised.  As the adult Carolina Wrens were away from the nest to forage, an opportunistic Cow Bird laid her egg amongst the creamy brown speckled eggs.

I can remember two Springs ago feeling so frustrated that here these two tiny little wrens were feeding a baby Cow Bird twice their adult size.  The fledging baby would sit perched upon chair backs, the lower branches of the Japanese Maple and the rim of the fire pit and call the devoted "parents".  I watched for weeks as they diligently fed the baby to ensure it's survival.  Life just didn't seem fair.

Last year made up for the year of the Cow Bird.  I loved peering out the kitchen window or from the slider which offered views directly into the nest.  From early April through July, the window box was full of life.  The new born babies were the size of bumblebees.  The parents returned multiple times per day with fresh juicy worms pulled from the earth.  The babies would poke their heads out of the tiny nest into the big huge world.  Their mouths would open as I peered into the nest ready to eat, all the while their fuzzy heads bobbed wobbling back and forth as their bodies were yet so small.  Loud peeping would emerge when the parents would return.  Through the screened kitchen window I could hear each baby calling out as if to say, "Feed me."

Eventually both clutches fledged the nest and I enjoyed seeing the new little ones pipping and popping about the yard learning to fly.  The parents diligently kept tabs on them as they all headed off in sometimes different directions.  As time went on, the babies soon grew up and the nest was empty.  My heart missed them.  I found myself thinking about them and watching them visit the bird feeders as snow fell in Winter.

This past Spring a mated pair returned, refreshed and repaired the nest.  For two weeks, I watched as both the male and female worked together.  One morning, I peered in the nest and found one tiny little egg.  I watched.  The wrens seemed less dedicated.  Something must have been wrong with the egg.  As days, went on they spent more and more time away.  Months have passed and there the egg still sits.  Perfect little roundness, untouched, lifeless.

The parents still return every few days to check on the egg.  Early this morning, they had returned and both peered into the nest.  I can't help but wonder what goes through their heads.  They are dedicated parents.  Are they hoping that something in the egg will change?  Do they want to reuse the nest?

Like most parents, they must feel a sense of responsibility.  No matter what life brings for them.  They have probably successfully laid a late clutch this Spring in another location.  The babies are now grown and gone.  Yet, they still return to this tiny and lifeless egg.  I am amazed by their curiosity and dedication to this little egg.  For months, I have pondered removing the egg. Yet held off; the wrens and I were all hanging onto a silly bit of hope.  

This morning I watched them hop up like clockwork to check on the egg.  It has now been in there for almost 3 months.  Mr. Tilly's Nest and I decided to remove it.  Sometimes, even birds need a little help from their friends.  Maybe now that the eggs is gone, they may be able to move forward and perhaps lay a second clutch this year in this well used and loved 8 year old nest.

The wren egg next to a Silkie Bantam egg and a Standard egg.

June 25, 2012

Winner: The Anxious Gardener's Book of Answers


Thank you everyone for entering this fantastic giveaway!  I just know that the winner is going to love this book!  It is a fabulous addition to your home library both as a great read and as a reference book.  Also, be sure to click on over to Timber Press and ask your gardening questions.  You could win a book or even an iPad in their GPS Sweepstakes!

Congratulations
Clint Baker
Audrey 

You are the lucky winner!

Please email me at: melissa@tillysnest.com with your US shipping address so 
 Timber Press can get a copy out to you right away.  You will have until Friday, 6/29/12 2pm EST to claim your prize.

Stay tuned.  
We will be reviewing another Timber Press gardening book with another giveaway in July.  
We are proud to be part of Timber Press' GPS Sweepstakes.
Be sure to follow our blog and Facebook page so you don't miss a beat!

UPDATE:  As of July 2, 2012, despite two emails, posting on Clint's blog and Facebook notification, we failed to hear from Clint :( Today, we had to redraw a new winner.  Congratulations Audrey!  Please email us with your US shipping address:  melissa@tillysnest.com by July 7, 2012 12 noon EST or your prize will be forfeited and another winner will be drawn.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 24, 2012

Home


Some chicken coops are fancy, with chandeliers, painted murals and classical music piped in to relax hens laying eggs in the nesting boxes.  Some coops are re-purposed from well-loved children's play houses, old sheds, outhouses, rabbit hutches and the like.  Some are simple with a dirt floor, four walls and just enough protection from the elements. Others fall somewhere in between, with a fresh coat of paint, a window or two and small coop door.  No matter how different the coops, chickens always recognize their home when they are out gallivanting in the yard and like clockwork, return at dusk.  As long as they have full bellies, fresh water, a place to scratch and a small patch of sunshine to lie in, they find happiness.  Dust bathing, eating bugs and watching birds fly overhead become favorite past times.  They cackle with family and enjoy sleeping under the same roof.  I watch them bond together while raising a young clutch of chicks and allowing well-loved family members to grow old in a dignified fashion.

Chickens and new born babies have not a care in the world if they have their health, a loving family, nourishing food and fresh clean air.  People say that chickens aren't smart and most would say that new born babies are nothing more than cute little pudgy lumps of Freudian Id.  However, I think they are quite brilliant.  They know the first lesson in life, a lesson that so many of us lose sight of and forget as we get older and approach the time make a home of our own.  Depending on our own personal budgets and preferences, we chose what we feel is necessary to be happy.

We seem to forget that home is more than a place.  Home is a feeling.  The most important thing a home can provide is a sense of safety, happiness, love and warmth.  It is where life’s lessons are taught around the kitchen table.  It is a place where you can always return.   It is full of encouragement.   It is a place where people believe in you.  It is a place where your family, the flock, returns day after day and year after year to celebrate living.

Chickens have a wonderful sense of home.  Babies have a wonderful sense of home.  Us grown-ups, I guess we need chickens and babies to remind us what truly makes a home a home. 

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 22, 2012

Opening the Hives: At One Month

Bees working bits of burr comb removed from between the frames and placed at the entrance

Two weeks ago, my mentor from the local beekeeper's association came over to visit my hives for the first time.  It was a great experience.  Both hives, Willow and Briar, were growing as expected.  There was beautiful brood, capped honey, pollen and lots of bees.  We even saw the queen in Willow.  It was so nice to hear from my mentor, who has been raising bees since 1989, that everything looked great.  We added on the second deep super to Briar so that it would now match Willow. I had added the second deep super to Willow four days prior.  For a diagram with parts of the hive click here.

Today marked two weeks since I had entered the hives. It was time to inspect them again and to see how they were doing in building out the 10 frames within the new second deeps. Over the past few days it has been sunny, beautiful and very hot. The weather has been optimal for bee viewing. Last night, the kids and I built out the smaller frames for the honey supers, just in case we needed them. I went into the hives at 10 am.

Bees in the Northeast need approximately 60-80 pounds of honey to survive through the Winter. This is roughly equivalent to two full deep supers. Often new beekeepers in the first year, strive to get their bees to completely build out two deeps. It is a great deal of work for the bees. Not only do they have to make beeswax to draw out the foundation on twenty frames, but the queen has to lay lots of eggs, the bees need to collect nectar and pollen, and create honey stores.

Willow was first. Willow has had two deeps on since June 5th. As I removed the outer cover, I found the feeder empty. Bees were still surrounding the opening but it was light as a feather. I removed it and placed it on the ground. Next, I removed the inner cover. The bees were very quiet. They hardly seemed to notice me. In fact, I could barely hear them buzzing. I had never heard the hive this calm or quiet before. I worked methodically and slowly to avoid causing any unnecessary vibrations or jostling that upsets the bees. I had soon discovered that the bees had been very busy! As I inspected each frame I found that eight were fully built out with comb in the second deep super. There were plenty of bees-both workers and drones. Five frames were full of brood and there was capped honey, pollen and nectar in the cells too. I found the queen on the third frame. There she was in the center of the frame and capped brood. As I inspected each frame, I also found it necessary to remove burr comb. Burr comb is comb that does not belong where the bees place it. In this case, they "bridged" the small gaps between the frames in the upper and lower deep with beeswax bridges. With the hive tool, I methodically scraped off this comb and placed it on the bottom board near the hive entrance. The bees will clean this comb of everything useful (see photo above). Within seconds, the comb was covered with worker bees. I finished peeking inside this upper deep and decided to forgo the lower one. Everything was as it should be. In fact, it was time for me to add a honey super to this hive.

Honey supers are about half the height of a regular deep. It is shallower. When full it can hold up to 100 pounds of honey. I decided to forgo the queen excluder. It is an item of huge debate in the beekeeping world. It is not recommended for first year beekeepers by our association. The idea behind the queen excluder is to prevent the queen from going up into the honey super and laying eggs. Worker bees can fit through just fine enabling them to build out the foundations. Without a queen excluder, it is possible that the queen can go up into the honey super and lay eggs. However, the bees will have plenty of work drawing out the new ten frames that are inside the honey super. They may only have enough time this season to draw out the comb or they may fill this super with honey and I might even have to add another! If the queen does lay eggs in the honey super, waiting until Fall to harvest honey should ensure that no more hatching eggs are laid in the honey super. Time will tell.  Once the honey super went onto Willow, it was time to stop feeding them. I removed the empty feeder, added the honey super, replaced the inner cover and the outer cover. The bees hardly knew that I was there. Next it was Briar's turn.

From the beginning, Briar was my gang buster hive. I placed the second deep on this hive on June 9th, four days later than Willow as it was a tad bit slower. I was very pleased when I opened this hive. In the same fashion as Willow, I entered the hive. The feeder was also empty. I inspected each frame in the upper deep. Six out of the ten frames were built out. Three were covered in brood. There was pollen, capped honey, nectar and plenty of bees. I never did see the queen. This hive too, like Willow was incredibly docile today and I decided that I had seen enough evidence of a thriving hive with a laying queen. Briar did not receive a second deep as I wanted to see at least seven frames completely built out with comb.

So in a week or so, I will open Briar back up and recheck the progress of the bees. This hive might just get a honey super too. It is still early in the season here on Cape Cod. My fingers are crossed that I just might get some honey. I talked to my mentor today. He was surprised with the bees' progress. From what he tells me, sometimes new hives are like this. He said the real test will come to see if they survive the Winter.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest


This post is linked up to Deborah Jean's Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop.

June 20, 2012

Heat Stress in Backyard Chickens

Panting Sunshine


Today is the first day of Summer. The temperatures on Cape Cod did not disappoint. This afternoon as the humidity soared the thermometer read 93 degrees in the shade, all the girls were panting wearing their lovely feathered coats. Even Tilly gave up being broody for the day! It was just too darn hot.

Chickens do not do well in heat. Sometimes, it can be downright dangerous. Chickens regulate their body temperature through their wattles and combs. As they do not sweat, you will, on hot days, see them panting. Their beaks are open and their rate of breathing is increased. You might even catch a glimpse of them walking around with their wings held away from their bodies. All these things are normal phenomenon-ways chickens cool themselves. If not carefully monitored, chickens can become stressed in the heat. They can even perish if their needs are not met. So keeping this in mind, there are a few steps that you can take.
Be sure that the have access to cool fresh water. Don't hesitate to refill the waterers a few times a day. Feel free to add some ice cubes. It will stay cooler longer. Chickens will drink up to two cups per day when it is hot. Remember, their bodies are 50% water and their eggs are 65% water. You might even think about providing your flock with an extra waterer or two.

It is normal for hens not to lay as many eggs on scorching hot days. Sometimes they stop laying altogether until their is a break in the weather. Their bodies are stressed.

Chickens' appetites will also decrease as well. They may not eat as much food as usual. This is the time when I bring them treats from the kitchen a few times per day. I like to bring them goodies to serve whole, as they will stay cooler longer- cucumbers, tomatoes, halved watermelon and the like.

Provide shade, good ventilation and do not disturb your resting chicken, even walking can increase their heart rate and demands placed on their bodies.

Gail Damerow in her book, The Chicken Health Handbook, describes heat stressed birds as drinking large amounts of water, having difficulty breathing and overall weakness. If you notice a member of your flock stressed from the heat, move the chicken to a shady area and place it into cool (not cold) water. These measures will help to cool the chicken's core temperature. Be sure to provide plenty of rest and water for your affected flock member. It very well could take a few days to recover.

Today, I reintroduced for the summer one of my girls's favorite treats. I call it the Spa treatment. I take a shallow disposable pan, fill it with ice water and then sprinkle in some fresh herbs. The fresh herb make this absolutely irresistible. The girls enjoy standing in it. Drinking from it and sampling cool refreshing treats. I know that it is a welcomed guest in the run on hot days like this.



You can read more about beating the heat here.


Resources:
Damerow, Gail. The chicken health handbook. Pownal, Vt.: Storey Communications, 1994. Print.

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest


June 18, 2012

Pearly Whites

Silkies are funny little chickens.

Last week, all four Silkies, Dolly, Autumn, Feathers and Fifi were broody.  It doesn't take much to convince a Silkie that they should be broody.  Clearly this was the trendy thing to do this week.  There they were piled on top of one another inside the nesting boxes.  Toward the end of the week, Tilly decided to join them.  For the past few days, one by one, the Silkies gave up being broody.  It wasn't as much fun having Tilly there sandwiched between the two boxes overflowing with Silkies.

Tilly has been taking her time to decide if she truly wants to be broody or was just under the weather.  It seems like the old chicken and the egg argument; which came first.  This morning, Tilly was the last one out of the coop.  I watched as they one by one popped out of the coop with a lust for life.  Dolly and Tilly took some coaxing.  I could hear them "talking" to their invisible chicks as I have heard mother hens do.

They all came outside and were enjoying exploring the run.  A pair of robins landed outside the coop.  Tilly ran for them.  Like a watch dog, she chased them away.  They had no business being anywhere near the newly reseeded grass outside the coop.  Life somehow seemed to be returning to normal for Tilly today.

I went inside to finish up with the morning chores and returned about a half hour later to clean the coop.  There, something caught my eye.  Tilly and Fifi had returned to the nesting boxes.  I had to remove them one by one and place them in the run.  I always clean the coop without any chickens inside.  There, I noticed underneath the coop ramp someone had made a nest.  Two pearly little Silkie eggs were laid inside.


The eggs were tinier than usual, due to the Silkies returning to the egg laying process after being broody.  I removed my coop cleaning gloves and gently scooped the still warm eggs up into the cradle of my hand.  I was surprised that Sunshine had not discovered them.  She is ruthless when it comes to discovering eggs that had not been laid by her.  It is amazing to me that she recognizes her own eggs verses those laid by others.

Tilly is quasi-broody.  The Silkies are laying again.  Sunshine did not use the Silkie eggs as kick ball.  Somehow, things are off kilter, but make me feel content.  Life isn't how one would expect it but somehow, option B turns out to be just as good as option A.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 16, 2012

Giveaway: The Anxious Gardener's Book of Answers


Gardening can be intimidating.  Every single gardener makes mistakes whether we are novices or experts.  We are plagued by insects, plants that sometimes fail to succeed and spring bulbs that never seem to bloom despite beautiful foliage.  Often we are left to troubleshoot things on our own.  We know that next year there will be another growing season, a chance to start fresh.

I was very happy to find that there is a new book on the market for the less experienced gardener that suddenly makes easy practical sense out of mysteries of gardening and helps to troubleshoot and prevent problems from even occurring in the first place.  

Timber Press Publishing is known for their wonderful gardening publications.  The Anxious Gardener's Book of Answers by Teri Dunn Chace is like a cheat sheet for gardeners.  Don't be fooled by its compact size.  It includes 24 chapters and over 100 answers for your most common gardening questions.  It is thorough and comprehensive but does not get bogged down with too much scientific information for the recreational gardener. Spanning all four seasons, bulbs, container gardening,  pesticides/chemicals, lawn, roses, shrubs, vines, watering, weeds, soil and composting are all included.  This book can easily be read cover to cover or serve as a reference guide when there is a specific question.  It is wonderful.

Tilly's Nest is proud to partner with Timber Press in their GPS Campaign over the next couple of months.  The GPS, or Garden Problems Solver, allows readers a chance to ask the experts their own gardening questions.  With each question you ask, you will be entered to win a weekly prize as well as the grand prize-an iPad.  Feel free to submit multiple questions: we know we all have them and the best part is you just might be "rewarded" for your question.  Readers of Tilly's Nest will get an added bonus.  Leave a comment below to win your very own copy of The Anxious Gardener's Book of Answers.  

Be sure to follow our blog.  In your comment, leave your name and a means to contact you such as an email address.  This item will ship to US addresses only.  One entry per person.  Contest ends 6.23.12 at 12 midnight EST.

GOOD LUCK!

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 14, 2012

Chickenless in Seattle


A trip to Seattle is never complete without a trip to Pike Place Market.  This historic landmark since 1907 is known as America's first Farmer's Market.  As we walked from end to end, we saw rows upon rows of freshly cut flowers.

Mixed bouquets like this one for $10
Flowers paved the aisles

Poppies bursting with vibrant hues

My favorite...peonies
Fruits, meats and seafood were also abundant.  One vendor in the market is famous for its "flying fish" tossed from one co-worker to another over the counter to be processed after hand picked by the patron.  The energy was palpable and fun.





Did you know that the Market is also the site of the original Starbucks?  The window proudly displays its original unedited logo.



As we sipped our coffees, we enjoyed a little bluegrass music from the musicians outside, The Tallboys.


As we turned around to reenter the market across the street from Starbucks, I found my first evidence of chickens at the market place...farm fresh eggs.


My visit to Seattle, may have been chicken-less, but I sure did find evidence of their existence not too far away.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 13, 2012

Winner: Manna Pro Giveaway


Thank you so very much to all of you who entered this awesome giveaway from our sponsor, Manna Pro. I enjoyed reading through all of your lovely comments and entries. I loved to see that so many of your favorite products are also mine too!  One lucky person will win a Grow Your Own tote filled with Poultry Protector, Harvest Delight, Limited Edition Egg Cartons (5), a Chick T-Shirt (M), Water Protector and Scaly Leg Protector.  With some help from random.org, one person was selected at random to win this fabulous tote filled with goodies.


Congratulations
Cathy Hansen
Melissa Bayness

You are the lucky winner!

Please email me at: melissa@tillysnest.com with your US shipping address 
so we can get that out to you right away.


UPDATE:  If we do not hear from the winner by Saturday, June 16,2012~ 12 noon EST, 
then another winner will be selected and your prize will be forfeited.


UPDATE 6/16~ New winner was selected.  We have your email so please check your inbox.  Congratulations!


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest


June 12, 2012

It's Tough Being Broody: An Update on Tilly

As Tilly and the girls are safely locked up for the night, I find myself here, in front of the computer sitting and feeling very loved from all of your prayers, words of encouragement and compassion for Tilly.  Thank you.

Just like in pregnancies, some are easier and some are more difficult.  Some women carry their babies beautifully through all nine months.  They barely gain any weight.  They seem to be glowing and they have easy deliveries.  I sort of liken this to Dolly, one of our Silkie hens.  Dolly is always broody and she is very good at it.  She has it down to a schedule and she handles it with such ease.  It is just as though her body is meant to handle this natural process.

Then there are others like myself included, who experience more difficult pregnancies.  We have huge amounts of weight gain, reflux, leg cramps, swelling, medical complications and difficult deliveries.   You might say that this is like Tilly.  I don't think Tilly's body is happy with her mind's decision to be broody.

Yesterday, Tilly was clearly under the weather.  She seemed miserable sitting in her nesting box with her head hung low and her spirits dampened.  Late that afternoon, I had removed her from the nesting box and looked her over.  I felt her abdomen for any eggs. I checked for mites and lice.  I examined her crop.  Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, but it is very difficult to remain objective in a situation like this when your heart is involved and your chicken is ill.  Around 4:30pm in the afternoon, I decided to run things by our vet.  We both mutually made the decision to bring Tilly in for an examination the next day.  Of course, weeks prior, I had volunteered for a whale watch at my son's school scheduled for the morning.

This morning, it was Chicken Grandma to the rescue.  She brought Tilly to the vet early this morning and I participated in seeing Minke and humpback whales with my son.  When we arrived on shore, we raced to the car to pick up Tilly.  The vet and her staff had a chance to examine her and keep her for most of the day under observation.  We knew she was in good hands and our fingers were crossed for good news.

When we arrived, we were met with good news.  Tilly is not egg bound.  Her oil gland is working properly.  She has no mites or lice and her crop seems to be functioning normally.  She is worm free.  Tilly, for now, seems to just be having a difficult time being broody.  When they brought her out to us, we gave her a huge hug.  We were all so happy to be reunited.

It is never easy waiting for motherhood.  I feel badly for her the way it is now; with no fertile eggs, it can never be.  Tomorrow, I have a planned visit to my dear friend's farm.  I might just see if she has any fertile eggs for Tilly.  Sometimes, it's the reward that makes these tough times in life worth the difficult journey.

June 11, 2012

Tilly is Sick

Tilly doesn't feel good.  To begin with, she is not her typical self.  She has been broody for the last week and a half.  Even though she is eating and moving her bowel normally, she just seems so sad.  She is not giddy.  She is not running around telling everyone she is the boss.  Yet the worst part for me is that she has stopped "talking".  Tilly is my talker.  She talks non-stop.  She narrates her every move.  She tells us a play by play account when she is laying her egg. She carries on long and purposeful conversations with the others.  She talks when she eats and drinks and I even hear her say goodnight at dusk.  Now, she is suddenly quiet.

This afternoon as I lifted the nesting box lid, there she was all puffed up. I instinctively began to pet her. I could tell that she did not feel good.  I noticed that her tail feathers seemed to be spread and the feathers were far apart. Her tail seemed large and perhaps swollen.  I am not quite sure what was wrong, but something did not feel right.  My heart felt it too.  I immediately called the vet.  They would like to see her tomorrow.  Illness can move very quickly in chickens and sometimes when they begin to show symptoms, it is often too late.

My heart is just sinking.  Since she first arrived at our home as a day old chick, Tilly has been our head hen. She had health issues early on.   I had thought I was going to lose her.  She was a fighter and with proper veterinary care, she survived.  Since then she has always been smaller.  Her crop has always been a bit pendulous with over eating but that has not stopped her in keeping up or her place in the pecking order.  Her vivaciousness and perseverance lead me to name this blog, Tilly's Nest.  This sweet little Australorp helped me to realize that I truly did love these little ones-all of them.

My heart has grown wide and my wisdom deeper with having these girls in my life.  They make lasting impressions on our visitors and my children have come to love them too.  It is amazing what your life and heart can lead you to if you chose to follow it.   The paths one takes in life are sometimes unknown, like the chicken keeping one.  I was nervous to travel this path, yet it truly has allowed me to experience some of life's magic through the lives of ordinary chickens.  I have come to know now that all chickens are far from ordinary, especially Tilly.

Please keep Tilly in your thoughts.

June 10, 2012

The Birthday Present

Coming in for a landing
My birthday was about a week ago.  My husband always takes the kids shopping for me each year.  Each year they pick out something special all on their own.  Sometimes, it is jewelry, soap, candles or things that just remind them of me.  My littlest one, Miss M, was having the most terrible time finding something for me.  She just kept searching until she came upon this sweet little dish with birds.   As I unwrapped it, I told her it was perfect for the garden.  Before, I left for Seattle, I haphazardly placed it on the railing of our deck, not knowing where its final resting place would be in the garden.

While I was away it rained for days.  The little dish soon overflowed with fresh rain water. When I returned I found my honeybees using it as a source of water.  Each day I refill it with fresh water for them.  There are many birdbaths to drink from scattered among the gardens on our property, however, I think this is their favorite.  I love to sit and watch them dance, perch and sip the cool water with their long probosci.  They don't have a care in the world that I am there, watching. This year's birthday present really was a surprise for me and the bees.

Sipping water from the edge
Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 8, 2012

Broody Tilly


Before I left for the West Coast, I had noticed that Tilly had been spending an awful lot of time in the nesting boxes.  A few days prior, she did have that egg that kept her in the nesting box for a spell.  The thought had crossed my mind that she might be broody.  However, still laying eggs, she seemed to be lingering; savoring the entire egg laying process.

Well upon my return, it was confirmed.   Tilly is definitely broody.  She has all the signs of a broody hen.  She has ripped out the feathers on her breast.  She spends all day in the nesting box.  She "poofs" up when I open the boxes and she has been practicing her growl.  When she comes out in the morning she does a huge broody poop and then she walks around a bit aimlessly clucking quickly, quietly and lowly.  She is practicing calling to her little chicks.  She has little ones on her mind.

Tilly is now over two years old and this is the first time that she has gone broody.  Actually, I was a bit surprised as I never would have expected Tilly to be broody.   Tilly is our head hen.  She is tough and runs the ship.   I guess I just figured that she would always chose leadership over chicks.  For the past week, she has relinquished her title and sits patient and vulnerable in the box on the right.  No one dares to disturb her.  Even our little Silkie Fifi who has decided to join Tilly in the broody party quickly peeks around the corner to catch a glimpse of our newest broody hen.  Surely the Silkies are confused.  We have never had a big broody chicken.

Motherhood comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and situations.  Some women, like the Silkies, dream of having babies right away.  They can't wait to have children.  Most of my Silkies have been broody starting around the age of 7 months.  They spend most of their lives thinking about raising chicks and being broody. In fact, I am almost convinced that this is their main purpose in the chicken world!  Yet, others prefer to wait until they are older, accomplished and "ready" to have children.  This is Tilly.

For some, the instinct of motherhood never kicks in, but for most, it becomes a drive- an instinct to raise, nurture and love a being that is comprised of half of us.  It consumes us when we are awaiting for the arrival of the little ones.  We are dedicated at all hours of the night.  We are compassionate to the little ones and protective.  We would give our lives for them to keep theirs.  It is a deep new kind of love that can only be experienced with children.

Motherhood is always full of surprises. The most fascinating thing is that you never know when the "urge" will engulf you.  I guess, I should never discount the desire to be a mother from any female no matter what the situation or age, even from a chicken named Tilly.


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 6, 2012

Mother Earth News Fair and a Manna Pro Giveaway


I have just returned from attending the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington.  It was a blast!  Sometimes things just work out.  I had planned to visit my sister in Washington at the same time as the fair.  When I discovered that Manna Pro was sponsoring the fair, I reached out and told them I was going to be in town at the same time.  Graciously, we were all invited to attend the fair as guests.

Saturday morning arrived and the rain clouds were just letting up for the day.  Sunshine was in the forecast and I could not wait to attend some of the 150 workshops of the weekend.


There were exhibitors, vendors, a Mother Earth News Bookstore with book signings, demonstrations, food, a poultry show and wonderful lectures.  I had the pleasure of experiencing lectures by Ed Begley Jr., one on natural beekeeping and one on gardening with backyard chickens.  All were excellent.


Alpacas are very popular in Washington State.  We watched as some alpacas and sheep were sheered during a demonstration.  This one is called a "teddy bear".


Goat milking demonstrations were scheduled throughout the day and a local beekeepers' association was present with an observation hive and local honey.


Outside, Community Chickens sponsored a local poultry show.  It was early and many of the cages were still vacant.


However, I did find some sweet Silkies...


and cooking demonstrations.


An amazing woodworking and blacksmith shop was also set up outside.


The kids were able to use century old drilling tools.


Clay oven demonstrations too were available as well as many other vendors willing to share their secrets and talents of living off the land.


Of course, I was reminded by my sister's family that a trip to the fairground would not be complete without a taste of a Washington Fair tradition since 1911.  Filled with warm berry jam, my Fisher scone was buttery savory, and simply delicious.


Finally I reached the Manna Pro booth.  It was hopping with fair attendees.  The booth was so busy that over six employees were there to educate people about goats, chickens, horses and rabbits.  One of my favorite things about this company is their dedication to education as well as providing top-notch quality products.

While there, I decided to pick up a tote bag for my fans.  I could not attend the fair without thinking of you all.  I was excited to get home and fill it with Manna Pro goodies to giveaway.


The Manna Pro Tote Bag Giveaway


comes filled with an assortment of Manna Pro Products
Poultry Protector
Harvest Delight
Limited Edition Egg Cartons (5)
A Chick T-Shirt (M)
Water Protector
Scaly Leg Protector
Grow Your Own tote


Here is how you can enter to win!

1. You must leave a comment on this blog for entry. Only comments here on this blog post will be accepted as an entry. Be sure to leave an email address so that we can contact you if you do not have a blog. (1 entry) If you are doing any of the below actions to increase your number of entries, please let us know in your comment.

2. In your comment, let me know which Manna Pro product is your favorite (1 entry)

3. Visit The Happy Homesteader on Facebook and tell the Tilly's Nest sent you.  Remind me in your comment please.  (1 entry)

4. Become a follower of this blog (1 entry).   Current fans will already qualify for this entry, again please remind me in your comment.

FYI: Comments are moderated so they will not appear immediately upon your posting them.

Good luck and thanks for entering!

This contest ends on Tuesday, June, 12, 2012 at 11:59 pm East Coast Time.
Items ship to US address only. One entry per person.

June 5, 2012

Almost A Week in Photos: Nasturtiums



July 3, 2011

One of my favorite things that my girls enjoy in the summer is the Nasturtiums planted around the run.  They love to pick and peck at the leaves and flowers throughout the day.  The especially love to nibble on them while free-ranging.  These are one of the few things that I plant just for the girls.

 Thank you for stopping in during my few days away.  I return tomorrow and  I can' wait to share my trip with you all.

Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest

June 4, 2012

Almost A Week in Photos: Poultry Show


November 6, 2011

A sweet hen awaits climbing into her transportation box home from the Boston Expo Poultry Show this past November.


I am away for a few days spending time with my sister and her new baby on the West Coast. Please enjoy these photos while I am away.  I can't wait to return and share my adventures with you. 


Photo Credit:  Tilly's Nest