Ah Larry, We Hardly Knew Ye.

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This is Larry, our rooster. Sadly, he is no more.

Larry was an accident to begin with. He was supposed to be a pullet (a girl) when I bought a clutch of six chicks from the Cackle Hatchery. I blame Larry the Cable Guy.

Larry the Cable Guy did a show not long before I picked up my chicks where he was sexing chicks. I’m pretty sure Larry is to blame for the sexing screw-up. Hence, we named the cock after him.

We didn’t WANT another rooster. The last three have all turned mean, and we had to dispatch them.

Remember this debacle? (READ POST HERE).

Yeah, no more roosters.

As it turned out, Larry seemed okay so far, and we were willing to give him a chance to prove us wrong about roosters and their nasty dispositions. Sadly, Larry didn’t get the chance.

One morning I opened the coop to find Larry dead along with one of the hens inside. The gate was still locked so I was stumped as to what had happened. Some investigation around the coop turned up evidence of the B&E.

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Something had CHEWED THROUGH the chicken wire.

I spent the entire day rewrapping the chicken yard with new wire. Bryon sometimes uses the flaming weed dragon up next to the coop yard to burn off weeds, and we think that must have weakened the wire. That and the fact it’s now ten years old.

We didn’t know what had eaten the chickens, but the remaining hens were traumatized and refused to return to the coop the next night. I couldn’t blame them.

I had to gather, and then carry each hen back out to the coop for several nights. One still refuses to go and hides under the shelves in the garage where I can’t get to her. I don’t even want to know how much poop is accumulating back there.

A few nights after the massacre, I carried a hen under my arm out to the coop, opened the door and counted. One, two, three, four, five…wait a minute. You are NOT a chicken. Yep, sure enough the perpetrator was back. A possum was huddled in the corner of the coop. The hens were all up on their roosts and off of the floor, but there was already a pile of feathers on the coop floor. The birds were calm, but if I hadn’t caught the jerk, he would have eaten more for sure.

I poked at him with the rake, but he refused to leave. I ran inside (yes, still holding the chicken under my arm) and told Bryon. He sprang into action and came out with the .22 revolver and dispatched the varmint.

Life on the farm is hard sometimes. There’s always someone waiting in the woods to pick your bones.

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Birthday, Birds and Basketball


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Here it comes, the October super post. Oops. Guess it’s November. See how that happens. Anyway, grab an iced tea and sit back.

OCTOBER

Grace celebrated her NINTH birthday in October. We have had some giganitic birthdays and some small birthdays. Last year we had the first ever haunted trail for her birthday/Halloween party with more than thirty kids plus parents. This year we took it down a notch and had a sleepover. Fear not kidlets, next year the Haunted Trail is back on the agenda and it’s going to be SCARY! Some of the kids complained because it was not scary.

Trust me. We can DO scary. Just. You. Wait.

Sorry, Marah, you may have to go through in daylight.

Not to say there weren’t a few scary moments during the birthday party. Like the lead photo above. Or this…

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Somebody LOVES him some sleepovers. Bryon always wants to sneak outside Grace’s bedroom window, stick this face against the glass and scare the crap out of them but I won’t let him. Maybe when they are teenagers. Or have already watched Salem’s Lot which is the very reason I can’t sleep with the blinds open.

As a former teacher, I know that free time is your enemy with a room or a houseful of kids, so I planned some activities.

I bought shirts for them all and they decorated them with Sharpies. This is a cool activity Grace learned at summer camp and we’ve used it several times since.

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They had some very creative results!

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I also bought little pumpkins and they each carved one.

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It was messy but they had fun. Grace’s molded in two days.

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Gotta love a vampire pumpkin.

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Of course they stayed up ridiculously late. They also slept upstairs in the playroom for the first time. Did I mention the playroom is DIRECTLY over our bedroom? Yeah, we heard every thump, bump and giggle. Which were many.

Nine is a pretty good age.

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BIRDS

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My hens are old and lazy. I’ve been getting one egg a day until recently. Now I get NO eggs a day. In August we tried incubating some eggs and ONE hatched out. You can read that post and see the chick’s birth here.

Then I bought it some friends. That post is here.

A few weeks ago, Bryon and Grace gathered up the new chicks for me and tossed them in with the old to get acquainted. They still aren’t exactly friends, but we haven’t lost any of them. I left them cooped up together for the first three days. The first night after it got dark, I went to count and make sure they were all back in the coop together.

Yep, twelve chickens. Just like I had hoped.

I shut the coop door and said goodnight.

About an hour later, Bryon hollered from the bathroom that I had a chicken squawking outside the window.

Erm, not I didn’t. I cooped them all up.

I went outside to investigate. Nothing. No squawking. No chicken.

I went back to the coop and counted again. Yep, twelve chickens, just like I… wait a minute. Where’s the little Buff Orphington? The one chick we HATCHED? Not there.

I have thirteen chickens.

We all three looked with flashlights for the little buff but no luck. I hoped it had roosted in a tree somewhere and would make it through the night, because there was nothing else to do. I wasn’t going to leave the coop door open for it and leave all of the rest of them in danger.

The next morning, the buff was trying to get into the old coop and was very happy to join it’s friends.

They’ve all made it back into the coop every night since.

I guess we both learned a lesson that night.

BASKETBALL

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Grace has become quite the little basketball player. A couple of the Niangua dads have been coaching them now for two years and their little team has really improved.

They even have REAL uniforms now which makes them much more intimidating than they really are.

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We told Grace we’d pay her a buck a basket. This last session of six week ball we paid out a total of five bucks. I know it will get more and more expensive but it seems to be a good motivator. I was never very good at sports. I’m glad she is and is interested. The good thing about playing sports in a small-town school is if you are on the team you WILL get to play. Every game.

We have a break until January (a short basketball camp in a couple of weeks) then it’s back at it.

HALLOWEEN

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For Halloween this year we went on a Haunted Float with our friends Lynsey & Brayden. It was the first year for the canoe rental place to host the float so it had a bit to be desired. The Type A part of me had an entire list of suggested improvements for them but I resisted. Not. My. Baby.

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I had to repeat that to myself a few times.

On actual Halloween we all three dressed up and hit the good churches and neighborhoods. I made an unfortunate shoe choice so I waited in the car most of the night until it was time to go eat Chinese food.

Still, I looked good. We all did.

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NIANGUA RED RUN

IMG_4415 (1024x1024)Grace and I participated in the Niangua Red Run. I walked. Still I totally beat Grace and the chick with the stroller so WIN! Bryon had to work or he would have been there too. The run was a fundraiser for playground equipment. One boy in Grace’s class one the whole thing! He’s smokin’ fast!

We are NOT smokin’ fast. Or at least I am not smokin’ fast.

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This may be why.

Spring Has Sprung in The Big Cedars

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Sleetbow over Niangua ahead of the big snow storm.

I’m behind.

I know you’re not surprised. Things do continue to go on around The Big Cedars whether I keep up with them here or not, BUT it is well past time for an update.

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The Full Monty: Sleetbow over Niangua.

In the past two weeks, Grace has been out four snow days. The first two were for ice. The second two were for seven inches of heavy, wet snow that lingered for several more days.

It really was a beautiful snow. One of the biggest we’d had here in a long time. I was more than thankful the power stayed on the entire event. Both weeks. I’m a Grid Girl #sonotamish.

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I sent Grace outside for a while so I could try to get some actual work done without constant interruptions. She was grumpy about it. Four days is a lot of togetherness in the house. She wanted me to come outside too but here’s the deal. I don’t like being wet. I don’t like being cold. Cold + wet = grumpy mama.

I stayed inside.

After several attempts she managed to construct this very cute snowman.

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Which lasted all of ten seconds after I let Belle back out of the kennel. She DESTROYED it. All that was left was the slightly mushy hat.

Luckily for Grace, the fun parent, aka Bryon, got home early that day and helped her build this…

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It’s a seal/penguin sort of thing. Pretty cute.

He also did this for her…notice the passenger in the front of the Rhino.

Of course this week has been an entirely different story. That big snow storm was the last hurrah I hope. I’ve been very unmotivated as far as the garden goes. Most years I would have been browsing garden porn for months. This year not so much.

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Luckily, Bryon is more motivated and has saved me from June/July food regret. He burned off the garden beds and already has onions, potatoes, Swiss chard and endive in the ground. I dug out the lettuce seeds today so maybe this week I’ll spread a few around and wait for salad to grow.

And last but not least, Rosie got a makeover.

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She’d gotten VERY shaggy and was basically covered in dreadlocks. We have given her several baths through the year, but she’s a wolf at heart and roams the edges of the forest barking at nuts and invisible threats.

We were worried about how she would do because while she absolutely adores having her tummy rubbed, she does not like to be picked up or cuddled. I couldn’t imagine her being successfully groomed. 

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As you can see the groomer did an awesome job. He thinks she’s part Yorkie and part Beagle. That either makes her a Borkie or a Yeagle. Either way she turned out pretty dang cute!

She even got to sleep in Grace’s bed (reluctantly on her part) for two night and on the couch in front of the pellet stove for two more cold nights. I would be willing for her to become an inside dog, but her heart is wild so outside she is.

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We did buy her a cute little fleece jacket which she wore for a week, but she’d rather snuggle up with Belle in the garage than be in the house.

I guess that’s okay.

There’s room for everyone that way.

 

 

The Honey Thief

Yep, you guessed it. I robbed my bees on Sunday.

It’s such a big job, I sort of dread it. Until I start dripping honey onto hot buns that is…then it’s aaaaalllllll good.

My strategy with the bees these past two years has been: leave them the hell alone.

I haven’t done anything with them other than clip the grass in front of the hive from time to time and slap on a super when it looked like they’d filled up the others. Two years ago, after they died out, I decided to strip everything down and start from scratch. No more chemical mite strips, nothing. Just bees in a box with some wax comb for a jump start.

I ordered new bees, dumped them in, gave them a gallon of sugar water and forgot about them until fall. When I checked back in September, I had honey. Good bees.

This year’s strategy was much the same minus having to buy new bees. I suspect the queen probably needs to be replaced, but I’m going to leave that up to the girls (all worker bees are female) to decide and the boys (drones) to attend to when the time comes.

When I first started with bees, I fussed with them, worried about them and upset their apple cart on a regular basis. Some years were good, some years were not. Now implementing my hands-off strategy, I’ve had two successful years of honey robbing.

Here is my highly sophisticated honey extractor:

Yep, that’s two paint buckets from Walmart. The lid on the bottom bucket is cut out with only an inch or so left around the rim to support the top bucket which has several (10 maybe) holes drilled through it. I line the bottom of the top bucket with cheesecloth, cut out the comb from the frames and stuff it into the top bucket. Occasionally, I push the comb down to free more honey from the cells.

You are supposed to uncap the cells (melt off the top layer of wax which seals the honey inside each little cell) with an expensive, heated electric uncapping knife. I use a long knife and hold it under very hot tap water, then slice off the seals as best I can. It’s very messy and unprofessional but adequate for my one beehive and one super full of liquid gold.

 
Here’s a little before and after action.

The top has been uncapped, the bottom is still sealed over. It isn’t a precise operation, but I already have about three inches of honey that has dripped through the cheesecloth filter to the bucket below.

I smoke the bees before taking the super off then have to find a place away from the hive to remove each frame and brush off the bees. They really want to keep that honey and stealing it makes them pissy.

Bees also like to hitchhike and follow me to the house, so I have to brush off my bee suit before I take it off. I’ve gotten through the entire process more than once sting-free only to get stung taking off my bee suit.

I’m happy to report no stings this year, and I only had one loose bee in the house which I dispatched before she could get me or some other unsuspecting household member.

By this weekend, I should have about a gallon of honey to jar up and put away for the future. We still haven’t eaten all of last year’s harvest, but it will keep. Which is good, because some years are good, and some years are not.