Obligatory trip to a sunny Florida beach accomplished. DH makes me go. He knows I need to step away from the chores even though I love our farm on the top of our hill. I also need sunlight – clear, warm, health-giving sunlight – as opposed to the often-gray Winter days of middle Tennessee.
With critters inhabiting this farm, leaving is a challenge. Must have someone on site to let hens in & out & collect eggs, feed & pet pups, feed & pet Moxie, feed & let Lu in & out… Always something to do…
My best friend’s son agreed to house/pet/farm sit for us. So grateful for him.
Great kid! Fine young man!
The note that greeted our return:
P.S. – one of your chickens laid the biggest egg I’ve ever seen yesterday. It is in the garage fridge and it deserves a prize.
Of course, we ran to check out the egg & it was whopper! The question was whether it was a double-yolker or triple. It was huge!
DH cracked the giant for breakfast – definitely a double-yolker, but usually the 2 yolks are small. Not this time! Two very large yolks!
Our hens change weeds & feed & kitchen scraps into the most delicious, nutritious eggs!
Egg customers are beginning to line up so I must call Myron for more hens this Spring.
The weather has been so moderate the winter greens in the garden are trying to go to seed. But that’s OK. I pinched their flower heads & tossed them to the hens. I need to cook collards…or sell them…
But the garden, everything looks awful right now. Weeds galore in the raised beds. Berry bramble not pruned & putting out leaves.
Asparagus bed needs expanding.
I have so much work to do…
…& continue to battle rabbits enjoying the garden greens…with the puppies & Moxie Kitty sitting by watching!
Returning from exercise early yesterday, DH & I were greeted by an all to familiar odor…& it was coming from the Pyre puppies…
& we hadn’t opened the car doors yet. Uh oh!
Too many things already on my To-Do list for a Monday, a bath had to be delayed. It also gave me some time to research remedies for skunking.
The best solution came from my friend Jane:
1. rub them down with baking soda
2. drench them in vinegar
3. bathe with Dawn Dishwashing Liquid
4. rinse with cheap vodka
Sounds like a plan!
Tuesday morning, pups are nowhere to be found & as usual, do not come when they are called. OK, who told them they were getting a bath today?
After all my chores & a few extra, after I actually sit down to eat lunch, next time I look pups are asleep on the front porch. Here we go!
Leash wrapped around post to the deck stair, Mason runs to me to be petted. Well, he was petted & scrubbed & washed & rinsed. (Except for the vodka. I decided to take a chance.) Cockleburs bite me as I work the various substances through his cotton-soft fur. Praise the Lord for the hot water spigot out back! (Thanks Harry & Carole for the example! It was a lifesaver!) Now time for Dixon. Not as easy, Dix tries to walk under the deck so I have to constantly pull him back to the concrete. Manhandling a 90-lb dog in the wet chill – oh my aching back! This one even has cockleburs on his feet! More work to be done, but not right now.
Both received their daily raw turkey neck – yes, I am moving them to a raw diet, which has worked quite well for Lucy for over 16 years – then their raw ground beef with supplements added. Now they are ready to play though still a bit wet. The rougher outer coat is drying quickly. I’m glad tonight will be a bit warmer than last night, though they could always get into the doghouse…
Oh, the stink? I can still smell it a bit but it is significantly better! (Granted I have an amazing sense of smell, which an allergist told me was a gift. Doesn’t always feel like a gift…especially when folks wear perfume/aftershave nearby. DH has considered renting me out to the local Sheriff’s Department to sniff out small children who have walked away from campsites. He thinks I can rival any Bloodhound.) Maybe I should have used the vodka…or maybe I’ll just go pour myself a cocktail & not worry about it!
I love soup in the cooler seasons of the year. This one is one of my favorites.
Gluten-free. Dairy-free (if you opt out of the sour cream garnish).
Savory Sweet Potato Soup
2 large Onions, diced (3 cups)
2 large Celery rib, diced (2 cups)
3 tablespoons+ Bacon Grease &/or coconut oil (bacon drippings, as I prefer to call them, adds a really rich flavor)
3 pounds (about 6) roasted Sweet Potatoes, peeled (about 3 cups packed)
1 quart Chicken or Beef Stock+
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Dried Sage
1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
Sour Cream, optional
1. Cook the onion and celery in the oil over a medium-low heat, until the onion is transparent but not brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add sweet potatoes, half of stock, onions & celery mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the bowl, if necessary.
3. Return to the pot, and add remaining stock.
4. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. (Be careful on the salt if you are using store-bought stock. It may not be needed.) If needed, add a touch of extra stock to reach the consistency of a thick soup.
5. Garnish & serve.
Serve with a Reserve Chardonnay
Weather finally cooled so I decided to tackle the sweet potato bed that I planted months & months ago & never touched again.
I have not tried to grow sweet potatoes before so this was an experiment. I wanted to prepare another bed for moving strawberries & thought I would let the plant break up the dirt for me. I had no idea what would happen.
I bought 1 package of small plants marked “Sweet Potatoes” at Lowe’s late last Spring, covered a 5-foot by 4-foot area outside the garden fence with cardboard then poured out 3 big bags of organic garden soil on top.
The slips were planted in the dirt then covered with pine straw as a mulch. Nothing else for about 2 weeks when I suddenly wondered if I should treat the sweet potatoes like white potatoes & cover the emerging leaves with more soil. So I did. Once.
Lots of vining leaves covered the area even invading under & through the garden fence. Lots of leaves. Periodically I would yank a bunch out or I think they would have taken over the top of our hill.
The bed was well watered with a sprinkler on a timer.
To harvest, I thought it best to pull the vines off the top then work my way down. I could not believe what I found! Sweet potatoes! Huge sweet potatoes! Just brush the dirt off the top & there they are! Pounds & pounds & pounds of sweet potatoes! Have you ever seen a 6-lb sweet potato?
I haven’t weighed them all yet but I’m thinking there is well over 50 pounds, gosh, maybe 75 pounds of sweet potatoes! It took all my strength to pull the garden cart up to the house & into the garage.
If you are coming for Thanksgiving, plan on eating sweet potatoes. Sweet Potato Pie. Sweet Potato Muffins. Sweet Potatoes Praline. Sweet Potato Soup. Raw Sweet Potato Salad. Sweet Potatoes baked, candied, every way I can possibly think to prepare them!
I’ll post a recipe tomorrow.
The chicken coop is now in what was the dog yard. Seemingly safe. I leave for choir practice. DH wants to mow the front & back lawns with his new lawn mower.
“Keep the pups in the garage until we are sure they won’t go over the fence,” says I. “They don’t want to be in the dog yard. They won’t go in.” Hmm…
While I am at choir practice I turn my phone off – no distractions, only music for an hour & a half. When I get to my car after practice I turn the phone on to text DH that I am rolling home from church. This is what I find:
“found dixon in pen with chicken in mouth – one was running to front porch – I caught it – dogs locked in garage”
“chickens are all accounted for but pretty scared”
“bad dogs asleep”
So Thursday I placed insulators & ran wire around the chicken yard, installed our very old electric fence charger & waited to see dogs touch the wire with their noses & get a shock. Nothing! Evidently the charger is dead. (Anyone else ready for autumn weather? I drank all the water I could get down while working, a quart of coconut water, a big bowl of bone broth after & still had horrible leg & foot cramps all night! This heat is going to kill me!)
Off to Tractor Supply for a new charger Friday morning.
New charger installed. Lines all the way around checked for no grounding. Safe at last…I hope!
All 8 hens came out at the same time to graze for the very first time!
While I was bush-hogging the top of the hill I saw Dixon heading for the chicken yard. I followed quietly…well, as quietly as I could on a tractor. He lay down next to the tarp side of the yard in the shade, lifted his head & touched the electric fence. “Yelp! Yelp” He was off like a shot across the driveway & away from the chickens! SUCCESS! Poor puppy.
SAFE AT LAST! at least from dogs…
As I said, NO HENS! I didn’t panic. I quickly parked the car, glad I had packed cold groceries in the ice chest, grabbed my big hat & took off running to where the coop was parked next to the barn. Of course, puppies were excited – Mom was running! Idiot dogs! I ran back to the house, locked the dogs in the garage with their water. Mason was thrilled. He loves sleeping on the cool concrete floor of the garage.
Running back to the coop, not quite out of breath, but note to self: work on your cardio! The red line was not on the fence. It was hanging down & clicking which makes me think the electric fence was working. I do not know why it was hanging down. Did DH not attach it? Did the pups knock it loose? Doesn’t matter. I turn off the power & quietly walk to the coop.
Praise the Lord – 2 hens are inside & seem unscathed! So where is everyone else? I reattached the roosts inside the coop (not good! dogs got inside?) & close the end door of the coop. I close the small door of the run, pick up the overturned range feeder & close the larger door while I refill the feeder.
I call the hens, like I call Harry & Carole’s hens who actually run to me when I call, but mine are still skittish & this isn’t going to help. I reset the fence but leave the power off. That’s when I hear chickens. One was coming from the neighboring pasture fence row, very agitated but obviously wanting to be back with her sisters. I lay the fence down on that side, open the big run door then step back, all the time speaking quietly to the henny-pennies. That makes 3 of 8.
Walking around the hedgerow & the garden hoping they haven’t gone too far, I see feathers in different places but no blood – good! They should have survived.
It’s been a couple of hours, I still have groceries to unload, I’m hot, tired & aggravated. Time to take a break.
Back to it, this time with Dixon on a leash to maybe sniff out the hens. He does! He pulls me to the garden fence & lays down as I hear the hen squawk. A solid black hen, missing all of her tail feathers is trying to move away from the dog through a large canna. I manage to catch her in my hands & pull her close because the puppy thinks it’s time to play again. Sternly admonished he goes down quickly. Hen goes back to the coop, poor little thing. No blood, but no feathers – she should heal. 4 of 8.
I need to pick raspberries having not been in the garden for a few days, okra, purple hull peas & bell peppers, too. Shorts & sleeveless top, I step into the bramble & hear a chicken! Trying to coax her out doesn’t work but it does get me seriously scratched up. Every time I get her near & reach out my long-handled net she goes under the plants the other direction. Frustrated, I call Harry. “Please help!” He comes quickly. He goes to one end, I go to the other, he pokes at her with his long-handled net, I wave my arms & she’s out! Gently guiding her to the coop, she’s in! 5 of 8.
Harry & I walked the top of the hill but no more chickens were seen. He advised that I wait until evening, “They should come home to the coop as the sun goes down. Be patient, leave the fence down & the pups locked up.” Okay. Not like I really have a choice.
Sun goes down. I walk out. 2 hens, pretty as you please, are walking around the fence trying to find a way in. I lower the fence on their side, open the run door, walk around the coop encouraging them to the door side & rejoice when they walk inside! Fence raised again. 7 of 8. Where is the last one?
Tuesday – no #8. Tuesday evening, DH flies in & wants to know why the pups are in the garage. A brief, limited explanation ensues. Better to tell him a little at a time.
Wednesday – DH going to help me move the coop into the old dog yard/kennel. Puppies on leashes we walk to the barn, take the semi-permanent dog fence down, take the electric fence down. By this time the hens are back in the coop; they had been scratching around in the run. We are about to move the coop when the dogs dart toward the hedgerow fence & I see something move. A hen! DH grabs the leashes & I go down on my knees into the privet, poison ivy & every other noxious thing you can think of in a hedgerow. She is trying to get through the fence but not successful – HURRAH! I gently take her in my arms holding her wings down, talking/cooing to her & place her in the run with her sisters. That’s when DH gets the rest of the story – the story of the missing hen.
The move took a bit of elbow-grease, then reattaching the run, leveling the waterer, setting the feed then admonishing the dogs when they got too close to the fence. Safe, I hope.
It took a couple of hours for the girls to venture into the run then out of the run into the grass. They are still skittish & go into the coop when I step too near the fence or into the yard. We are going to free-range these ladies once the permanent coop gets built & the puppies get trained a bit: just because hens squeak when you pull their feathers does not mean they are toys. Note to self: no more squeaky toys for the dogs!
3 eggs on Sunday. 4 eggs were waiting on Monday. 2 eggs Tuesday (1 a double-yoker) 2 eggs so far Wednesday. Not bad for very upset henny-pennies!