Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Animals

Still here!

I’ve been a bit distracted from blogging lately…

We’re on our second round of chicken pox currently. Unless Andrew ends up getting them in a third round, we will have lifetime immunity for seven out of eight Blessings. It’s been a doozey, and we were gifted with a stomach bug in the midst of it, but I think we’re going to pull through. Do please pray for Katie, though. She’s just getting started on her case, and I’m thinking there was some basis to the article I read that said that kids with eczema and other skin problems are likely to have thousands of pox as opposed to hundreds. She’s not up yet today, but from the way she looked last night, my mama-heart is very concerned for her.

I started dreaming last year of making available an Advent Wreath resource that folks could download for free, and that project is almost done! I hope to have it available in the next few days. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, so I’m a bit down to the wire. If you would like to try using an Advent Wreath as a tool for worship this year, consider going ahead and picking up the needed candles while you’re out this week. You’ll need a white candle for the center (I like to use a pillar for this), and four candles for the outer ring (I usually use tapers) – three purple or blue, and one pink or red. What a solemn and estatic joy it is to celebrate His coming!

Our dearly loved dog Juilin died last week. He ran out in the road one too many times, and he did not make it. It was an honor to have him breathe his last with his head resting on my leg. We will miss him. I enjoyed going through our family pictures and picking out some of Juilin. If you like pictures of sweet adorable dogs, you might enjoy looking at them.

Our apples are all canned. I don’t have a final count yet, but hope to post more on our appling with some numbers and pictures. We did six bushels this year and tried some new stuff. I think we all enjoyed it.

And now, I must work on finishing that Advent Wreath book!

December This-and-That (A Poly-Pictured Post)

A conglomerate post in which I shall gather “strings” from December not covered in other (existing or future) posts:

Dad Smith’s Birthday
The day after we arrived home from Florida was Dad Smith’s birthday. We didn’t make it out of bed for church, but Dad and Mom Smith were gracious enough to join us here for supper, catching up, and ice cream/cake so that we didn’t have to haul ourselves out and about. Except Jonathan, who did a post-trip grocery run, including buying a birthday cake – what a man!

Butchering Christmas Tom
Dad and Mom Smith also came over a few days later to help butcher Christmas Tom so he would be ready for the big day. For the sake of my more sensitive friends, I’m not including any shots that are too exciting. 🙂

Cuddling Kitties
Last winter, this was our dog Juilin’s chair. This winter, he is relegated to the little rocker while the cats hog the comfy chair. But aren’t they cute?

The Monday following Christmas, we enjoyed the snow with some friends who came over to sled and play. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, but here’s a taste of the fun:

At two days shy of his 8 month birthday, Andrew tried his first not-Mama’s-milk food. His response was pretty varied, but I think he’s decided that sweet potatoes are okay.

This and That … and lots of it!

I haven’t been very good with blogging regularly about what’s going on around here, so it’s time for a This and That post…

Last month, Jonathan and I waited for a couple of hours in my backup OB’s office, then saw him for less than 10 minutes. We only got as much of his time as we did because I kept asking him questions. I couldn’t help but think, “and this is one of many reasons why we choose midwifery care.” On the bright side, we are in “the system” and don’t need to go back again. I will update my charts with the office by fax, and if there is a need for transport (which we don’t plan on, of course, but for which we want to be prepared), I should slide into things at the hospital without a bunch of hullabaloo about “not having prenatal care.”

Speaking of prenatal care, a couple days after the aforementioned 2 hour wait/<10 minute appt, my midwife's assistant arrived at our home for a prenatal visit. We spent a lovely and mutually respectful hour+ together. We talked about what I'm eating, how I'm feeling, my diastatis, how the baby is lying, and a myriad of other things related to baby and me. We walked around the house and talked about plans for birth, advantages/disadvantages of our house layout, etc. We drank tea together as we chatted. When she left, I felt thoroughly "cared for." THAT is what I call prenatal care. And yes, there are numbers and notes on my chart … probably in more categories than the Dr's office will know what to do with when I fax it to them.

In other news…

Stephen is definitely going through a stage where he is wanting to exert his will, so he’s keeping us on our toes. At the same time, he continues to be such a delight! His imagination is going full-steam, and while he adores playing with his siblings, he also plays happily by himself, totally engrossed in a world of his own making. He particularly enjoys playing with the tub of horses.

The Blessings received five seasons of Daniel Boone on DVD for Christmas. We’ve been watching it at lunchtime a few times a week and finished Season 1 yesterday. I had never seen it before, so it’s been an adventure for all of us.

Last night, Elanor mentioned that she had lost something and had looked all over for it. Stephen pipes up helpfully, “Did you look under the green couch?” “Yes.” “Did you look under the gray couch?” “Yes, Stephen.” 🙂

I’ve been looking across the table/room/yard/etc lately and realizing that Davey, our eldest Blessing, who will turn 14 in June, is looking more like a young man and less like a “boy.” This does funny things to my heart, but mostly makes me realize how much I like this young man.

Have I mentioned that we’ve finally figured out a laundry system that we can actually make work for us? It’s nothing fancy, just a three-bag laundry sorter in the laundry room where all the Blessings’ dirty clothes are deposited (two for darks, one for lights/whites), a white basket for light towels/sheets/blankets and a blue basket for dark towels/sheets/blankets. The four older Blessings have the responsibility of doing two loads of laundry from start to finish on “their” laundry day, picking whatever basket or bag is most in need of being done. Kate and Grace help fold and put away, and I need to start working with Kate on Fridays, working towards her having a laundry day as well. For some reason, this system seems to be one that we can make work, and the laundry room floor is no longer covered with dirty laundry 98% of the time.

Our guinea hens have started laying eggs! They actually lay them in the coop, which is wonderful for us. Hopefully as the weather warms they will continue to lay in the coop and not take to the fields as guineas are prone to do.

I finally finished getting our winter/Christmas decorations packed up and ready to go to the attic. They’ll go up and perhaps the baby tubs will come down…

The taping seems to be working well for keeping my abdominal separation from worsening. I finally started doing pilates again a couple night ago, and am thankful to be back to it. At the same time, I have to admit… it’s kickin’ my tail! But that’s a good thing.

We have our garden mostly planned out for this year and are eagerly awaiting the warming of the soil so that we can get started! We’re going to be using principles from the book Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich. No tilling, established beds/paths, and lots of mulch, for which we’ve found a good and cheap source. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it.

Speaking of the soil warming, I feel like I am blossoming as Spring moves in. I’ve enjoyed several days this week of sitting in the sunshine reading or working on a project. The warmer weather and the smell of spring is such a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s faithfulness! Last night, I fell asleep to the rumble of thunder, the patter of rain on the roof, the occasional distant flash of lightening… and woke to the sound of birds chirping while the sunshine streamed in my window. Spring Bliss!

See Yesterday, my photo blog, for some recent pictures. I’ll be updating it later today.

Maggie the Fire Dog

The other night, Dad and Mom Smith were over, and after supper Jonathan was holding Maggie, their dog, at the table. He had a candle in front of him and it was so funny to watch Maggie watching the fire! She looked like she was sitting in front of a fireplace, dozing off while she watched the flames dance.


I realized this morning that I have only imagined posting about the guineas that we’ve had since the beginning of July. This just goes to show that not all the blog posts that start in my head end up online.

I posted a picture of the guineas over the weekend on my photo blog and my mom commented, “When did you get these??” My first thought was, “Mama! I thought you read my blog…” Then I went back through both the photo and regular blogs and couldn’t find anything about guineas. Ha!

Here’s the tale of the guineas… Linda (our fabulous neighbor) got a batch of guineas in late June and we bought some from her. I think we brought our six down to the house on July 1st or 2nd. We lost one when we moved them outside to what used to be the ducks’ pen, because we didn’t get the ducks’ water tub out at first. Sad. But the other five are doing great. We now let them run around in the fenced garden all day, eating bugs. Come evening, they fly out of the garden and run around the yard until we herd them into their pen. Hopefully soon they’ll fly out of the garden and into their pen in the evening on their own.

And here they are, in case you missed them on Yesterday:

A Fowl Update

Let’s cover the bad first, so we can end on a good note, shall we?

We lost 5 chickens, including four laying hens, in one week to an unknown predator. Two of the losses happened while we were gone at camp. The other three took place all in one day last week. Sick. Disgusting. Frustrating. Infuriating. Expensive.

We have four laying hens left, along with a young hen, a young rooster, and our Big Rooster. So we’re down from 5-8 eggs each day to 2-4 eggs each day. Hopefully the young hen will start laying soon.

For now, we are keeping the chickens (along with their buddies, the ducks) in their coop/pen unless we have someone outside to watch them. Fowlherd is the newest title around our place.

The ducks are doing well. We definitely have a mallard drake, and it is fascinating to watch him develop his colors. In a couple of recent pictures of the ducks, you can see that how much he changed in just one week.

Since we lost the third duck up at the pond, they won’t go up there, and they have become yard ducks. But they love playing in this tub of water. This shot was taken on August 2nd.

And here’s the drake a couple of days ago on August 9th. Jonathan got a great shot that captures the color change in progress on his head. Looks a little rough right now, but he will be gorgeous soon, I think. His tail feathers are also starting to curl up, another drake trait.

The guineas are doing well. We let them out of their pen as often as we can, and they love walking (and occasionally flying) around the yard looking for goodies. Our garden is fenced, and I’m thinking about letting them run around in there, since that’s the biggest reason we got them. We’re just a bit uncertain of getting them out and in, so we’ll see. They have much more of a herd mentality than the chickens; they are rarely farther apart than in this picture:

Mixed emotions on the homestead

I’m sure true homesteaders might take exception to my use of the word homestead to describe our efforts here on our rental property, but it’s all part of our effort to work toward becoming more self-sufficient and resourceful. So to us, it’s our homestead.

This afternoon, I had a terrific time in the garden. I’ll interrupt myself to acknowledge that that might sound crazy. If you had told me even last summer that those words would be typed by my fingers, I would’ve thought you were lacking in the marbles department. But I feel like I’ve discovered something wonderful. The whole process of planning, planting, weeding, tending… I love it. Some parts of the process are obviously more fun than others. But it is such a rewarding journey.

I spent some time clearing weeds around our tomato plants, staking ones that needed additional support (incidentally, in the future, the plan is to stake from the beginning and forget the cages), and trimming some of the lower branches that were sucking energy from growing tomatoes.

The corn patch is doing well, and the Blessings have it almost all weeded. I don’t believe I explained my acute arthritis flare up last week… Basically, we had hoped that the corn would outpace the weeds in the corn patch. Well, the weeds were about to take the lead, so last Monday I attacked them with a vengeance… and discovered that really tall weeds take a lot of work to pull. My hands swelled up and hurt like crazy for a couple days. So finishing the corn patch weeding is now the task of younger and sprier hands.

Miscellaneous other garden updates – Our summer squash and zucchini are looking fantastic! There are actually several itty bitty squash and zucchini growing now, and it’s exciting to see them. I’ve been working the last couple of days moving around our cardboard mulch (love that!), since the places where I placed the cardboard originally are utterly weed free now. Very cool. Still lots of places where I didn’t have enough cardboard or where cardboard wouldn’t fit well, but I’m definitely pleased with the results.

I have a long list of things I need to do in the garden, but as I sat staking and caring for tomatoes, listing to my man running the weed-eater around the yard, I was filled with joy and excitement over the learning that we’re doing and the progress that we’re making.

And then Josiah called from the chicken coop, “Mom, there are only four chicks in the pen, and one of them is limping!”

I finished the tomato plant I was working on, and called to Jonathan on my way to the chicken coop. We arrived to find that Josiah was unfortunately correct. We had gone from 7 chicks to 4.

After checking on the remaining chicks, we set about trying to figure out what had gotten the chicks, or, more importantly, how it had gotten them. The pen where the chicks have been living is attached to the chicken coop, and seemed pretty secure. Jonathan checked all along the base and found a spot where a board was pulled away and a predator could have entered. The strange thing was that there were no feathers… but Jonathan got busy clearing out around the pen and strengthening that weak area. It looks so much better now!

As he used the weed-eater on the back side of the pen (I think he figured he didn’t want to leave any hiding spots for a predator), Jonathan discovered some feathers. Apparently, something had climbed the side of the pen and gotten in a small opening in the chicken wire that covers the top. Not as secure as we had thought… at least not for chickens not yet full grown.

When all was said and done (at least for tonight), we decided to put the four remaining chicks in the duck pen. One has an injured leg, and one has lost an eye. They are just too small to be accepted by the full-grown chickens, which makes it difficult to put them in the coop at night for safety. The ducks weren’t thrilled, but I think we found a workable arrangement, with a spot for the chicks to roost out of the ducks’ way. Hopefully they’ll adjust well, and since the ducks spend most of the day up at the pond, they will all get some space.

So, I suppose it was a good reality check for us, and a reminder that we still have loads to learn. A disappointing reality check, but it’s kind of like the poem that urges us to be thankful for laundry, because we have clothes to wear; to be thankful for dirty toilets, because we have indoor plumbing; etc. I’m deeply thankful that we have the opportunity to do many new things this year – plant and tend a garden, have chickens, have ducks, take care of a 10 acre piece of property, etc. We have much to be thankful for, and I’m eager to continue the learning experience.

Fowl Play

Jonathan came home on Friday with 8 Production Red chicks and 3 ducklings. Very cute! They’re all in our room for now, but will be moving soon. A nice thing about buying chicks at a local store is that you can buy them a bit older and skip some of the less-than-cute things about newly hatched chicks. We’re guessing the chicks are 2-3 weeks old.

The ducks are probably a couple weeks old as well, but we are learning that ducks are much different than chicks. They are larger and seem further developed… except for their wings, which are tiny at this point. Ducks are more direct in their communication than chicks. The first night, they woke me in the middle of the night with piercing quacks to let me know that they were out of water. They had been extremely shy, but when I got out of bed to check on them, they crowded to the side of the box close to me, prancing and quacking eagerly. The next night, the problem was that they had turned their food bowl into a solid cake of food instead of crumbles. Same routine… they made me feel like I was their best friend when I came to take care of their need. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel much like their best friend; I just wanted them to hush so that I could go back to sleep!

Here’s some pictures of our new fowl: