Sunday, January 25, 2015

One of My Favorite Winter Pastimes

I'm not much of a "winter" person.  I do enjoy the seasons and when, while serving in the Corps, I lived in places that lacked a 'real' winter I missed it.  Or at least that's what I told myself at the time.  All that being said, there is one winter pastime that I have really come to enjoy.  I love to sit at the dining room table, sip a hot drink, and watch the birds at the bird feeders.  I promised some pictures in an earlier post, and today I was able to get them.  I'm not the finest of photographers and am not helped by the fact I have a pretty run-of-the-mill 8 megapixel point-and-shoot camera that struggles a bit in the white and gray of a winter snowstorm.  Excuses aside, I hope you enjoy these.

A female Cardinal gets her share

You can just make out a Junco, a Cardinal, and Blue Jay building up their courage to come to the feeders

One of my favorite winter images is that of a male Cardinal shining out from the white and gray

Here a cardinal pair and a junco wait their turn

The male get his turn

His mate is right behind him

Another male cardinal at the feeder

The little Juncos prefer to be ground feeders

When the Jays come, they pretty much take over

And the cardinals wait their turn...

...along with everybody else!

It's a simple and maybe silly pleasure, but I find watching the birds to be a very relaxing thing that just makes me happy.  That in itself is worth the cost of the sunflower seed we provide.  As I watch I can't help but think of Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 10:29-31 - "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows".

Now that is something to smile about.  Have a wonderful week, everyone.  We are blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dealing with the Pecking Order

When we first got our chickens, being somewhat naive, new chicken owners, we had generally assumed that the dominate (or only) rooster would "rule the roost" and be at the top of the pecking order.  We have since learned better, and see the contrary in our own flock. 

It seems Fred the Golden Polish rooster is not at the top of our order and has been suffering a bit for it.  We've known for some time that there was some pecking going on, but as winter came on and they started hanging out most of the day in the coop, the crown of his poor head has had most of the feathers pecked out and was bleeding in places. 

A little research on De's part came up with a suggested solution of a product called Blu-Kote.  It's a blue spray-on germicidal, fungicidal, wound protection antiseptic.  We treated him and Wilma (our one Golden Polish hen who getting the same treatment) once, a couple of weeks ago but didn't get pics.  Wilma is doing much better.  Fred is doing some better, but still shows signs of being pecked.  We re-treated Fred today and did take time for pictures.

The Blu-Kote not only protects the wound, but also puts a bad taste in the mouths of the offenders.  Since we treated Fred's head he's been getting pecked at the base of his tail feathers so we treated that too.  The treatment for that is under the feathers, so with nothing to see we chose not to take pics of a chicken's backside. After we treated Fred did see a Red Star shortly after with a blue beak.

The crown of Fred's head with some signs of recent injury.

Fred's head treated with Blu-Kote.
The stuff will come off of my hand in a few days, and we've been pretty happy with the results from the first treatment.  We'll keep everyone up on the results.

Col. 1:9-12,


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter Update: Mid-January

We are enjoying a beautiful warm winter day here on the Hoosier Country Homestead.  Or perhaps I should say, "I am".

De and Daughter #1 are off at our annual church Ladies Retreat.  It's an over-nighter at a small semi-local hotel/conference center.  They bring in a speaker and music leader and have a wonderful time starting late Friday afternoon running through late Saturday afternoon.  De has considered this a "must-do" event for many years, and I know its a great spiritual 'recharge' for her. That means I had a quiet evening yesterday and I am certain I was in bed looooong before she was.

I try not to be one of the "husband horror stories" where wives come home to dirty dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, trash and clutter strewn about the house, and a husband wondering "what's for supper".  I hear that those get told and retold with relish at the following year's retreat.  To keep my name off the "naughty" list I've been doing chores most of the day.  I went out and got a weeks worth of groceries, did all the dishes and put them away, emptied the trash and took it down to the end of the driveway, picked up all the clutter (that a man notices), tried to make the place look welcoming and peaceful to tired ladies instead of chaotic and disastrous, and shoveled the slush off of the entryway patio pavers.

When the house was in order I turned to on the outdoor chores, but this time of year it's mostly caring for the chickens, who don't care much for winter.  I think today is chicken conundrum day.  We still have five or six inches of snow on the ground, but its a beautiful sunny and warm (for January) day with temps running just under 40F.  I did promise some winter photos of the place, and here they are:
This is about as "out" as the chickens have been in a week.

It's not hard to tell where the centers of winter activities are.  Many of those tracks are Zyla the Dog's.

Looking at the more pristine scene on the North side of the homestead.
Before my Dad passed, he planted the field behind our house in trees: Alternating rows of pines and hardwoods.

Wild blackberries grew up on one of those rows.  Yum! (In the summer)

 De and Daughter #1 are rolling in, so I'm off to greet them.  Most things that happen at the Ladies Retreat stay at the Ladies Retreat, but they'll be some stories to hear and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.  I am blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Winter Comes to the Hoosier Country Home!

Winter has arrived at the Hoosier Country Home!  We're enjoying balmy mid-20 F temperatures today, but all week long we've had single digit temps with sub-zero windchills.  I know that some of you would thrilled to warm up to single digits, much less 20 something temps.  The 26 degree temp made for a great opportunity to muck out the chicken coop and get some other outdoor chores done.  I've been fighting some sort of bug for several weeks, so the warmer temps made it just a but easier.

We've got about 3 inches of snow on the ground with about that much more on the way.  We've had lots of cardinals, finches, bluejays, woodpeckers, and junkos at the feeders, and I was hoping to sit outside and get a pic or two to share.  Zyla the dog had other ideas.

 Fine, I'll just come inside (knowing Zyla would come along) and get one through the picture window.  since I'd been watching through the window before I went out to do the chores, that should be good.  One Orpington had other ideas, which scared away all the bravest of the wild birds.

Oh, well.  There a lot of winter left for getting pics.  I make sure a nice selection gets into the blog.  Good night, all.

Col. 1:9-12,


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

What a year 2014 has been for us here on the Hoosier Country Homestead!  There have been so many changes.
  • Daughter #2 married the love of her life and we got a wonderful son-in-law and two precious granddaughters in the deal.
  • That same event made us (essentially) "empty nesters" although, in practice, the kid's bedrooms have rarely been empty.
  • Our son found a job that he loves and is turning that corner from a boy to a man.
  • Starting with an old 'bus shelter' we put together a chicken coop and, with the help of a niece, now have 13 laying hens and 1 rooster.
  • The coop and the barn both got a paint upgrade.  (And everything got a new roof courtesy of an early summer hailstorm.)
  • We got a start on the herb garden.
  • Oh, and I started a blog: Hoosier Country Home!  "Thank You so much" to everyone who has taken the time to stop by and share in the journey!

So what are the goals for 2015?
  • Get fruit trees, berries and grapes in.  We're thinking apples, pears, raspberries and a combination table and winemaking grape.
  • Get some additional fencing and shelter in place in preparations for meat chickens in 2016. 
  • Get some plantings and other preparations in place for bee hives.  Looking at 2017+ for those.
  • Get the barn cleaned out.  There are things that have been in there for 20 years and have not touched in all that time, and we need the barn space for more than long term storage of forgotten items.  We can feel a yard sale coming on!
  • Finish the ham radio tower I started two years ago.  It's time to get steel off the ground and in the air! (along with some wire...)

It seems proper to list the things we want to keep doing as we roll into the new year:
  • Being good stewards of the land and opportunities God has provided us.
  • Fine tuning the garden.  There is always room for improvement and something new.  We want to keep doing learning, canning, preserving and all that goes with it.
  • Growing the herb garden.  I'd like to add some medicinal herbs to plantings and start learning how to use them.
  • Continue building our skills in making, repairing and re-using.  We have been blessed with so many things. We want to be sure we are really honoring the gifts properly.

A theme of my blog right from the beginning has been that "We are Blessed" and I want to reiterate that as we take stock of the past year and forward to the next.  Again and again God has been faithful to bless us, faithful to challenge us, and faithful to carry us through the hard times.  While I have my list of goals for 2015, I want to recognize God has His own plan for our lives and I pray that we will be open to His plan first.

Regular readers will know I that almost always sign each post with a scripture reference - Col. 1:9-12.  It's a prayer the Apostle Paul offered for the church in Colossi and with each post I offer it as a prayer for my readers.   On this first day of the new year I'll write it out for you from the NIV translation:

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."

May God bless you and keep you all in 2015.


Happy New Year! (And Catching Up On Christmas)

Happy New Year to all! It's hard to believe it is 2015.  I wish all of you and yours the very best for the year to come.

I'm planning on doing another post today reflecting on 2014 and pondering 2015, but for this post I'd like to finish up my 'Catching up on Christmas' series.  I suspect most of you are ready for that.  There's no real central theme here, but I will try to capture some meanigful thoughts.

First an observation: Another view of life through the eyes of the grandchildren.  After all the gifts were opened and we all just enjoying the time together the girls got out things with which to play.  I was intrigued with their choices:  Colored wooden blocks and a 20 year old children's tea set. Baby dolls that belonged to our girls with a few old "Rescue Heroes" on the side were also in the mix.   To be fair, many of the new things had been packed up and much of what De and I bought them were educational toys and books to be used for homeschooling.  All that being said, the toys that were most most played with were the ones that allowed them employ their own creativity the most.  In a world where most things for kids come with a built in storyline, I found that to be encouraging. 

Not be stuck on being a doting grandparent, but I was struck by another example of how important it is to allow the young ones a chance to do 'real' things.  A year ago, when the girls were first coming to with their Daddy as guests when he and D2 were dating, a favorite thing was to have Papa cook a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast with some 'cutie' orange slices on the side.  I've posted before that Heaven, the older of the two, is learning to help with the breakfast making and LOVES to do so.  She's now to the point were I get the things out (eggs, butter, a bowl, small frying pan, etc.) and she does it all herself under Papa's supervision.  She also makes sure she gets to do the dishes after, which in our house is scrubbing the pans and loading the rest in the dishwasher.  The only exception is that Papa lights the stove and peals the cuties.  I'm not ashamed to say her simple accomplishments make for a proud Papa.

No discussion of Christmas should end without a taking the time to remember the reason for it all:  The advent of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  For many, many years our Church has done a Christmas Eve candle light service.  We try to do new things each year, but there is always music and singing, a short message, and concludes with the lighting of candles that each person (something like age 10 and up) gets as they come in.  This year one the new things was a short, simply illustrated video with Paul Harvey reading "The Man and the Birds".  The original author is unknown, but Mr. Harvey regularly included it in his radio program on or around Christmas.  It was first time I remember hearing it and it has made a clear impression on me.  I include it here hoping you will enjoy as much as I.

Our protagonist is not a scrooge. In fact he was a kind, and quite decent, mostly good man. Honest in his dealings and generous to his family, he was commonly received as a man of good values.
But, he could never bring himself to believe the story of Christ. The incarnation, the God born a man by virgin birth… It just didn’t make sense to him, and he was too honest a man to feign devotion to a story he could not accept. The story of Jesus, God coming to Earth as a man, simply didn’t add up in his mind.
And so one Christmas, feeling his pretense of devotion had thoroughly run its course, he told his wife he would not be going with the family to Church.
“I’m sorry to upset you,” he explained, “but I would simply feel like a hypocrite.” He told her that he would stay at home, and wait for them to return from Midnight Mass.
Shortly after the family had left a snowstorm moved into the area. Settling in his chair with a cup of coffee, the man began to relax for the evening.
Before too long, the soft white noise of the steady snow was interrupted by a loud thud. Then another, and another. At first the man concluded someone must have been throwing snowballs against his living room window, but upon peering out from behind the blinds his yard appeared quite empty.
Reluctantly venturing outside, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the falling snow, just beneath his living room window. Having been caught in the storm the desperate birds were trying in vain to fly through the large landscape window.
Being the decent man that he was, he knew he couldn’t leave the stranded birds to freeze in the night storm, and resolved to find a solution. It was just then that he thought of the barn where his children stabled their pony. It would be warm, sheltered, and safe… If he could get the birds into it.
Quickly he put on a jacket and galoshes, and began trekking through the snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light; but the birds did not fly in.
Thinking that food might entice them, he hurried back to the house and retrieved some bread crumbs. Sprinkling the crumbs in the snow, the man made a trail to the warmly lit doorway of the stable.
But still, the birds vainly fought the cold beneath his living room window.
He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by waving his arms and walking around them. But nothing worked. As he approached, they scattered in almost every direction, and as soon as he retreated back they resumed their hopeless attempts to fly through his living room window.
The man realized that the birds were simply too afraid of him. To them, after all, he was a giant and terrifying creature. ‘If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me – that I’m not trying to hurt them. But how?”
Any move he made simply confused, and frightened them.
“If only I could let them know I want them to be safe,” he said allowed. “If only I could be a bird, and mingle with them and speak their language, I could let them know that I mean them no harm. I could show them the way to the safe warm barn, but...” realization seemed to wash over him, “but I guess I would have to be one of them; so that they could see, and hear, and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring through the dense cold. He stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fidelis. Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

We have ALL been blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,