Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wolf Moon

Tonight is the "Wolf Moon," the first full moon of the year, and it also happens to be the biggest in a year, since the moon is closest to us on its orbit. We're lucky enough tonight to have a clear, though cold, sky and we sat on the back porch tonight, finishing our wine with all the lights off and a cozy fire burning in the stove, while the moon rose through the sycamore and pine trees straight east of us over our little woods.

What a sight, as it moved slowly from branch to branch, now in clear sight, now appearing to be pinched in a giant's fingers as it moved through the pine branches. Sometimes a cloud covered it for a while, only to move on to show us where it was now. It looked mysterious, spooky, friendly and flirty in turns.We took a few pictures, and I'll post two of them here, of the moon rising through the trees. Mostly dark, but so pretty. I'll also post one I found on the internet, and didn't take myself. Isn't it pretty? Someone has a much better camera than I do.It's been a beautiful clear sunny day today, about 13 degrees, and we have about 2" of clean snow covering everything. It's so cold that the sun made the whole front yard look like diamonds. What a gorgeous day. I did venture out for a short time to feed the hungry birds, and walked back to see the deer tracks in the woods. I saw a lot of tracks where they were just strolling around, and many tracks around the feed corn we put out, but they're not bedding down in our woods in this cold weather, but staying in the more dense woods to the east of us, where the cold winds are more blocked. Lots of rabbit tracks though.

We've been watching the temperatures in the new greenhouse, hoping for warmth enough to plant spring garden seedlings in there, but the neighbor's tall pines shade it too much to really warm up. It is keeping in the 30's or higher, even on these really cold days, and warmed up to the high 30's today. As the sun rises in the sky, we'll get more warmth in there, and garden seedlings will be a possiblility. I think in a few days, we'll start some lettuces and radishes in there. Those are pretty cold tolerant, so should do well.

In the meantime, we'll enjoy the beauty that surrounds us and stay close to that warm wood stove.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Aren't They Beautiful?

The outside world is locked in winter around here still, and we have a new ground cover of white just this morning. But inside, things are buzzing with thoughts of Spring. Now I'm studying the seed catalogs to plan the garden layout for the next year's growing season and drawing up plans for a chicken house.

We attended a Garden Show and seed swap last weekend and a friend brought me these beautiful eggs. I've had chickens here many times over the years, from my first batch of 100 chicks we raised for meat, to long lived small flocks of a rooster and a few hens for eggs. We found a home for our remaining hens a couple of years ago when we were planning extended travel and couldn't care for them. Now we need to get our own chickens again. Just a few, for fresh eggs and for the fun.

I've always loved the sound of contented chickens scratching in the dirt and having those fresh beautiful eggs was always a treat. There's such a difference between the eggs you buy in a store and those grown in a healthy farm setting that it's hard to believe they're the same thing.

The first difference is color. These shells are a riot of color and texture, from the smaller pale brown one, to the green of the araucana, they all have their own character. Some shells are speckled or rippled, and some are more rounded. The insides are different too, with the yolks of these a rich vibrant orange color and they stand up full and round when you break the egg too, not just lay down and drool all over the pan.

We love to travel, but really miss the chickens when we're home, so we'd decided our next batch of chickens will be just a few hens, in a house so well designed that they'd be safe from varments and well fed and watered even when we're gone for a few days at a time.

With the new urban chicken movement, the internet is filled with all kinds of chicken house plans, including some space age looking pods, that we could probably strap onto the top of the motorhome and take with us if we chose to! I'm studying sturdy little buildings, with extended eaves to shelter the chickens and give them some shade in summer, little trap doors to open on the side so we can gather the eggs without having to climb inside the coop, and automatic feeders and waterers.Now, we'll only want 4 hens at the most this time, and no roosters to chase the grandkids, and I have to decide what kind to get. There are so many breeds out there. Rhode Island Reds are probably my favorites, plump, easy maintenance, and they lay brown eggs, and so pretty with their chestnut red feathers. But there are also Araucanas, who sometimes have silly topknots, leg feathers and lay green or blue eggs.There are over 60 breeds commonly available, and the decision is tough. I love the old barred rocks, with their speckled black and white feathers, the sprightly little bantams, with their punk rock colors and self sufficient manner, and the big golden orpingtons. I guess I have a while to decide. Coop first, then chickens. Hopefully one of these days I'll post a picture of our own eggs in beautiful living color.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year 2010

We're starting the New Year right. We're at our usual place this time of year, at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina with my daughter and her husband for a wonderful visit.We spend this week at a condo on the beach, enjoying so many different things this place has to offer. We've done our share of shopping the flea markets and antique malls, finding lots of good things to list on eBay for sale when we return home. A fun lunch one day was at a little beach lunch restaurant where customers decorate a dollar and tape it to the walls. Later they take them all down and donate to a charity. We all worked on our dollar and Kim taped it right above the fireplace.

A trip to the local seafood market yielded delicious fresh shrimp, triggerfish and oysters for an unforgettable feast.Last night we walked next door to a great seafood restaurant for a marvelous meal, strolled down the street to visit a bar with entertainment, then back and sat out on our balcony in the balmy breeze and watched the lights of the city and the fireworks being shot out over the ocean by lots of people up and down the beach. It gave us time to talk over the year past and think about the things we've done right and others we might not want to repeat, then talk about our direction for 2010.Of course, our highlights were all about family-our new grandson, and our continued joy in our adventures with our Anna. Lots of good love in our life, and we feel very fortunate. Goals for this year focus on spending more energies on our creative works, and improving skills in painting and writing.
What a great evening. It was fun trying to get pictures of the fireworks around us. Timing the shot right isn't easy with the delay in a good digital camera. Some of them were shot from the beach 19 floors down and burst right off of our balcony right at our level. What a view! The full moon kept cruising in and out of the clouds overhead, adding an air of mystery to the evening too.
Today we drove south to Myrtle Beach State Park and went our separate directions. Jim for a leg stretching walk, Kim and Robert searching for letterboxes, while I strolled the beach and the sculptured oaks, wondering at those marvelous trees. Kim and I even found a terrific tree to hug, an annual tradition that we love.Lunch was the traditional hog jowls, collard greens and black-eyed peas, supposed to promise luck and prosperity for the coming year. The strawberry cheesecake was just yummy.Back to the room for a nap, then out tonight for another great seafood dinner, then I think a last soak in the hot tub is in order to finish the day properly.Tomorrow we check out and head out to see more family, then home to cold, snowy Indiana. Each year this visit leaves us refreshed, with enough sunlight and family love soaked in to hold us through the rest of our tough northern winter.

Happy New Year everyone.