An evening walk

Most of the time, walking with Baxter is a highlight of my day. I love getting outside. The quiet of the farm and the dog clear my mind or give me space to think things through. Usually, Ellie is with us and we savour the farm, the three of us together.

Like me, Sarah in Illinois is trying to slow down and be in the moment. Her time with her favourite furry fellow, Blitz, is special for her too.

The older I get, the more I try to find ways to improve myself. One way I do this is to try to slow down and appreciate things around me. Especially everyday things that I tend to take for granted.

One thing that I realize I am very lucky to have is a nice quiet safe road to take Blitz on walks.

This road is mainly used for field access so most times of the year it is untravelled.

I take a leash with me just in case but for the most part Blitz is free to roam. There are always smells for him to check out.

I got in a great habit of going on a 20-30 minute walk every day after work. However, now that time changed and our daylight has shortened, we don’t get to go nearly as often.

I sure do miss those sunsets!

Blitz and I will both be anxiously awaiting spring and longer daylight hours.

Do you have a favorite walking spot? Do you dread the dark days of the winter months? Do you take the time to watch sunsets/sunrises?

This looks like a great spot to spend time with Blitz, Sarah. We do road walks occasionally at the farm, but our road is pretty busy, so usually we walk in our fields–not a hardship at all!

I find that one “bright” spot of shorter days is that I catch more sunrises and sunsets.

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Green eggs in Illinois

When I first learned there were chickens that laid green eggs, I immediately made up my mind that one day I would have some. Of course, our chickens are still awhile away. So for now, I’m continuing to live vicariously through Sarah in Illinois and her expanding flock–which now includes a green-egg-laying hen.

In my last post I introduced my new chickens and mentioned that while I was expecting to get three Leghorns, I got one surprise Easter Egger. If you remember I was waiting patiently to find out what color egg it was going to lay.

I should have emphasized to Steve how excited I was and how closely I was watching every day to see what was laid. Because one night I got home late and Steve collected the eggs for me. He said nothing about them. The next morning I was opening the carton and this is what I saw.

I texted him at work and asked why he didn’t tell me that we there was a green egg! His reply was, “oh, there was?” He clearly was not as excited as I was.

A couple days later I gathered my second green egg!

The green eggs are appearing a little more regularly now and you can really see how green they are when sitting next to the pure white Leghorn eggs.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the selection of eggs is.

Nature really does have the most beautiful palette.

That is a beautiful bowl of eggs, Sarah. What a treat to have that in your own backyard.

New chickens (again) in Illinois

If you follow Sarah in Illinois on Instagram, you might have seen that some new feathered ladies joined her flock. Sarah seems to be on a quest to have all the chickens–or all the eggs in every colour possible. Read on to meet her new hens.

Back in June, my cousin Emma sent me a message with a picture of her new chicks.

In the message she said that 3 of them were Leghorns if I wanted them. I had mentioned to her over the last several months that I wanted a few Leghorns, but I didn’t want to raise them from chicks. Since she was raising some for herself she said adding a couple Leghorns wasn’t a big deal.

She sent me updates occasionally.

And two weeks ago I went to pick them up.

The 45 minute drive home was either very stressful or very relaxing because one of them laid an egg in the dog crate!

I had everything planned out for the integration into the flock. I divided the run so that the chickens could see and smell each other but not hurt each other.

Then I planned to put them in the coop inside the dog crate every evening.

Well I didn’t make the divider in the run tall enough because Blitz ran towards the chickens and scared one over the divider.

I could have immediately grabbed it and put it back in the separate section, but I decided to wait to see how the chickens would react. So what did they do? All seven chickens ran into the coop and hid from this new smaller chicken.

I had a couple days vacation, so I made a point to go out several times a day to make sure that none of the chickens was injured.

The first night the new chickens roosted up on the dog crate opposite the roost.

After a few days they all started roosting together.

I can’t say that after two weeks all of the chickens are “friends,” but honestly the integration has gone really smoothly. I do occasionally see one chicken picking on another, but the new chickens are very fast so they spend a lot of time playing hide and seek.

And it turns out, one of the chickens is not a Leghorn. It looks like it might be an Easter Egger! Instead of yellow legs like Leghorns have:

It has grayish-green legs.

What does this mean? Well, to me absolutely nothing. I just think of it as a bonus. Easter Eggers can actually lay almost any color egg depending on what they have been bred with, so for me it is like waiting for Christmas morning to see what happens. The two Leghorns have been laying tiny little pure white eggs. As they get older the eggs will get bigger.

Two years ago I thought I would like to raise chickens and started with 4. I now have 10 and I can’t say that I’m done. I’m thinking next I will add Araucana–they lay blue eggs! 😉

Chickens seem to work out very well for you, Sarah. I’m glad to hear the birds integrated so smoothly. It’s great to see how much you enjoy your flock and their eggs. I admit, I love the idea of having Araucanas someday, so I say go for it!

Unwelcome guests

As I pushed the mower out of the driveshed, I felt plops hit the top of my head. A few seconds later, sharp burning pains in my neck. I knew what it was right away, though I didn’t know how it had happened. I ran for the house, frantically sweeping my hands through my hair and over my neck.

Wasps.

I had noticed the nests that were high up in the gable of the driveshed had fallen but not thought much of it.

Wasp nests in the driveshed

Then the day before the stings I noticed a new nest had been built under the hose hanger on the driveshed.

I had moved Baxter’s and Ralph’s water bowl over to the driveshed, as it was easier to fill there, particularly when I was wearing Ellie in her carrier. When I think of the times I’d stood there WITH HER RUNNING THE HOSE NEXT TO THE NEST my stomach clenches.

Wasp nest under the hose hanger

Wasp nest under the hose hanger

I hadn’t noticed that there was a second nest in the corner of the garage door. Until I opened the door and disturbed its residents.

Wasp nest

Matt checked my stings and then set off to the store for bug spray. That evening, Ellie safely asleep in her crib, Matt suited up, and we mounted an eviction.

Matt dressed for wasp eviction

Despite appearances, this is not an ad. Although I think Matt has a future as a spokesmodel, right?

Spraying a wasp nest

Spraying a wasp nest

A few nights later Matt gave the nests an additional shot, and the next morning his Dad showed up. After surveying the nests briefly, Matt’s Dad grabbed a shovel, knocked down the nests and carried them to our burn pile.

Thank goodness the spray worked.

I’m a live and let live woman, but not in this case.

Hand feeding hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are regular guests in Illinois for Sarah. This year she has more visitors than ever… and she’s getting even more up close and personal in a really exciting way.

We are in what I am guessing is the peak of the season for hummingbirds here in Illinois. I am not sure how many birds we are feeding but I know that last weekend they went through over a gallon of syrup in two days.

There are a few sources that say that an accurate way to guess how many hummingbirds you have is to count how many birds are at your feeder at one time and multiply it by six. So for example, if the most birds you see at your feeder are 3, you are probably really feeding closer to 18.

One evening Steve and I tried to count as fast as we could how many hummingbirds were at our feeders at one time and we feel we were pretty accurate at counting 30. So by this estimate we may be feeding close to 180 hummingbirds! I’m not sure if this is true but I know for sure that we have a bunch.

The more I watch them the more I am fascinated by them. I just want to learn more and make our property as inviting as possible for them.

I have had an idea brewing in my mind for quite a while now that I want to hand feed or possibly even hold a hummingbird. So I started collecting the little tubes that come on some fresh flowers. I thought it was just the right size to hold in my hand and already had a small hole for the hummingbird to eat from.

Now I just had to come up with something to attract the hummingbird to this feeder. I looked around the house and found a red plastic cup.

I decided that would be easy enough to cut a flower shape. So I just cut the bottom out of the cup and then cut a petal shape all the way around the disc.

My first idea to attach the flower to the rubber cap on the tube was to use a hot glue gun. Unfortunately this did not hold tight very long. Steve found a bottle of glue we had sitting around the house and it worked perfectly.

After filling the tube with syrup the only thing left to do was hold the tube very very still near where the hummingbirds stop for their meals, and wait. And wait and wait and wait.

I practiced a lot of patience one Saturday evening. But it paid off:

Have you ever hand-fed a hummingbird? Do you ever collect something thinking one day it will be useful? Do you ever have trouble practicing patience?

This is awesome, Sarah! I’ve tried coaxing our chickadees to eat from my hand, but I don’t think I gave it enough time. Apparently I have trouble practicing patience! (Although I blame the cold.)

How to prepare your dog for a baby

Baxter and Ellie

As our little family has grown, I’ve loved watching Baxter with Ellie. I’m so proud of how relaxed he is with her.

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, I started thinking about how I wanted Baxter to act around our baby and what behaviours we needed to work on. We consulted with our trainer and at the beginning of this year (about two months before our due date) we started working in earnest to prepare Baxter for his new role as big brother to Ellie.

Baxter watching Ellie in the play yard

As regular readers know, I’m a contributor to ThatMutt.com, where I write about dog training and behaviour. I’ve been sharing all of the details of our baby prep strategies for Baxter through a series of posts on ThatMutt, and this weekend the final entry was posted. I’m really proud of this series, so I wanted to mention it here.

Baxter and Ellie are both really, really important parts of our family. While Ellie isn’t super aware of her big brother yet, Baxter has been doing very well with Ellie. For the most part he ignores her—which is fine with us—but he also chooses to lay as close as possible to her stroller when we’re working outside and waits beside the car until I unload her when we come home from an outing. He seems to recognize her as part of the family.

Ellie in her stroller in the garden

Here are the links to the individual posts in my series on how we prepared Baxter for our new baby:

As Ellie grows we’re going to have to teach her how to behave in many situations–and especially how to behave around Baxter and other dogs. Likewise, he’s going to have to keep on adjusting to her. We’re very focused on working with them both to make sure everyone lives happily and safely together.

Hiking with Ellie and Baxter

I hope you’ll check out some of the posts and leave a comment if you have any advice or questions. I also hope that this series becomes a resource for other parents and dog owners out there. Thanks to Lindsay at ThatMutt.com for allowing me to document this important time in our family.

For all of you dog lovers out there, ThatMutt.com is having a huge giveaway featuring $500 worth of great dog gear from Mighty Paw. Baxter has a bunch of MP equipment, and we love it. Just for entering, you’ll receive $5 to spend on anything in the Mighty Paw store and a free copy of Lindsay’s dog training ebook, “The Good Mutt Guide.” The deadline is Wednesday. Click over to ThatMutt.com to enter (and read a couple of the baby prep posts while you’re there 😉 ).

Hummingbirds arrive in Illinois

Wildlife sightings are one of the highlights of living at the farm. I particularly love to spot hummingbirds because they’re some of our rarer visitors. Sarah in Illinois enjoys her hummingbirds too, and she’s here today with her latest sightings.

Most days I have a to-do list a mile long, but Steve and I still take the time to sit out on our deck, have a drink and throw the ball for Blitz. We also like to watch the hummingbirds.

They seemed to show up late this year. Looking at my garden calendar (see, I use it all the time!) last year the first hummingbirds showed up on May 3. I waited patiently–well not so patiently after friends and family gave me their updates:

While I was mowing I would look over at the feeder every time I made a pass by the house.

After several days, I dumped out the syrup in the feeder and made a fresh batch. I didn’t want them to have any excuse not to stop at my house!

I finally was rewarded with a couple visitors and I shared with my friends on May 12 that I counted 6 at my feeder at one time.

I now have 4-5 regularly visiting through the day. I feel like this is less than I normally have at this time of year, but since they got a late start I am hoping that that is why I have fewer little friends.

I have talked about my love of hummingbirds before, and here is a reminder of how to make your own syrup:

Boil 4 parts water with one part white sugar just until sugar dissolves. Then let cool.

You do not need to add any food coloring. The hummingbirds will find the feeder. You can store the extra syrup in the refrigerator for a few days.

Make sure to keep an eye on your feeder. If the syrup begins to look cloudy or you see bugs, ants or other insects floating in it, throw out the syrup and add fresh.

Anyone else have their hummingbird feeders out? What breed of hummingbirds are in your area? We only see Ruby-Throated around here but I know the west coast gets a much larger variety.

Hummingbird watching sounds like a great way to end the day, Sarah. I’ve seen one bird this year, flitting around Ellie’s diapers as they dried on the clothesline! Apparently he enjoyed the bright colours.

Early mornings in Illinois

I would not call myself a morning person, but there is something magical about those early moments in the day. Time to be alone and enjoy the quiet of the farm. Time to be productive and tackle a little bit of work. Sarah in Illinois–also not a morning person–has come to appreciate her morning routine. She is here today, sharing a bit about how she starts her day.

Having chickens requires me to get up a little earlier every morning to tend to them. This isn’t the easiest for someone who readily admits she is not a “morning person.” However, I do enjoy the fact that everything is a little more peaceful just as the sun rises. It also allows me to spend a little one on one time with Blitz. We like to play ball and visit with Ruff the barn cat.

These two have comically become good friends.

I think because it is early morning, and they both are still a little groggy from sleep.

When I leave the barn I usually pat Ruff on the head and her head is always soaked in Blitz’s slobbers.

I have begun to really enjoy this quiet time in the morning. It helps remind me to slow down and look around.

Are you a morning person? What do you enjoy about the start of the day? Do you have a pair of unlikely buddies around your house?

Aww. It’s great to meet your Ruff, Sarah. I wonder how she and Ralph would get along. Baxter and Ralph’s relationship is definitely not as buddy-buddy as Blitz and Ruff’s. I would say Ralph tolerates Baxter. She definitely does not allow him to slobber on her. It’s great that Ruff and Blitz have become such good friends.

Chickens by the numbers

It’s been more than a year and half since Sarah in Illinois welcomed her first chickens. She is here today with an update on her flock.

7 – Number of chickens still happy and healthy.

2 – Number of breeds of chickens still on my wish list (Leghorns and Ameraucana).

4 – Number of chickens my stepdaughter put charm bracelets on.

5 – Average number of eggs I still collect every day.

3 – Number of weeks a 50 pound bag of feed lasts.

1 – Number of wheelbarrows of corn I still have left to crack

0 – Number of chickens that will leave the coop if there is any snow on the ground.

100 percent – How happy I am that I decided to take on this adventure.

Between their bracelets, disdain for snow and hand-cracked corn, I think you have some pampered hens, Sarah. (Although I think aversion to snow is fairly common in chickens.) It’s great that you’ve been able to keep them healthy and happy and keep receiving eggs from them. Your enjoyment of them is obvious.

How to prepare your dog for a baby

#2018 onesieAs you can imagine, lots of baby prep is happening here at 129 Acres. We’re finishing off the baby’s room, figuring out how to unfold and then collapse the stroller (seriously, I feel like I should have studied engineering), installing the car seat, freezing meals and a whole bunch of other things.

One of the most important parts of our preparation is working with Baxter to get him ready for the changes that are coming.

Baxter and me in the baby's room

We have a great trainer, and she’s been very encouraging and helpful. As well, we have a great, easy-going, relaxed, lazy dog, so I think we’re starting from a very good place.

I’m going to be documenting our baby prep strategies for Baxter on ThatMutt.com. The series kicked off yesterday and new posts will be added every other week for the next several months.

I encourage you to hop over to That Mutt and check them out. I also welcome feedback, advice and more questions. I may not know the answer yet (#firsttimemom), but I’m happy to figure it out.

Baxter is a really important part of our family, so we want to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible when the new addition arrives.

Baxter up close

I’m still going to be your baby, right?