The Chicks, Week 3

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At just three weeks of age, the chicks have entered that gawky teenage stage. That’s what I call it anyway. Feathers are coming in, but not all the way. there are still odd patches of down here and there. Just enough to make them look unkempt. Not so cute anymore. But they still provide me with hours of fun, just watching their antics.

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Look everybody! There’s something very interesting here.

Remember how all the chickens were trying to escape their yard in Chicken Run? That’s what my babies are like. constantly straining their necks to try to see over the top of the cardboard. They “fly” up to the top of the waterer and try to see over the top. They run and flap their wings.

And then this happened:

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Yes, one of them, well, actually several of them, made it to the top of their cardboard surround. So that made my decision a little easier. I HAD to let them out of their cardboard nursery, and out into the big world of the chicken coop.

I still have a cardboard barrier to keep them away from the door, but that will probably go tomorrow. One of them has already flown over the top of it.

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After they got over the shock of their world being made larger (there was lots of squawking and carrying on as I worked as quietly as I could to fix up the coop and take away the cardboard,) they were VERY interested in this big new world.

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They are endlessly interested in climbing the ramp (that will eventually allow them to go outside.)

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They still find “things” to be fascinated with, and they do love scratching in their pine shavings.

My favorite baby is still alive, and she eats and drinks regularly. She just isn’t growing as fast as the others.

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And that’s the chicken report for this week.

The Garden

I imagine that some of you think I have abandoned the garden in favor of my chicken duties. Not so. But the garden seems to be in one of those in-between stages, and there didn’t seem much to share with you. So this morning I headed out with my camera to see what there was to see.

There are some places where I am not fighting mother nature. This little bed has always been difficult to get things to grow in. Some of the fairy impatiens popped up here, and I decided to just let them stay.

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Just above that little bed is the shade garden. Finally, one of my heucheras is doing well. I added a little begonia and am trying impatiens again. I used to have a lot of success with them, but haven’t tried much in the past few years. That is my first hosta behind the impatiens.

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I changed out this sun garden. It used to have the big patch of carnations in the middle of it. I think I over-pruned the carnation last fall and killed it. Anyway, I found a small baby’s breath plant for the center, and then got some of my favorite white marigolds. I got a six-pack of pansies called “waterfall blend” that had various blues/violets/whites and planted them in there. And finished off with some new sweet alyssum in a crystal blend. Some of the white sweet alyssums still come back outside the planter. Oh, I also have some columbine planted at the back of this planter. I don’t think they’ll bloom until next year.

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Just above that I have some pansies (Noah seems to have finally tired of eating all the pansies.) I planted a few zinnias in between to take over when it gets too hot for the pansies.

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I’ve gotten a few grasses. I bought a six pack of  fescue grass for the patchwork path, and there were three leftover, so I just popped them in the ground next to the violet path. They seem to like it there.

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I found this fiber optic grass. I had it several years ago and loved it. So I’m excited to have it again.

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Next to the fiber optic grass I planted these Starry Night petunias! Aren’t they spectacular?

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The petunia breeders seem to be having a heyday breeding so many different colors. I couldn’t resist getting this one at the nursery today. Not because I like brown and white flowers, but because it is named Latte! How could I not get it?

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I planted some extra snapdragons in this front bed. See the short ones that are just starting to bloom? That’s because Noah mowed that plant down. There’s something to be said for his unplanned pruning! Oh, and I planted some lupines in here. They are growing well. I’m thinking they are another one that won’t bloom until next year.

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Walking back over to the other side of the garden, I passed the hydrangea bushes. this is the very first bloom just starting.

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And I couldn’t resist including this Japanese maple. It is so vibrant and green. All the plants are loving our wetter climate this year!

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On my very last trip to pick up the last stones for our projects, I let myself buy this heart shaped stone. I like seeing it every time I walk by.

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I don’t think I showed you my newest bonsai tree. I bought it at my last bonsai class a few weeks ago. Its a little elm tree.

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Here is my bonsai bench.

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And here is a new project. One day I realized that I never sat out in my garden. And I thought, the place I really like looking at is right out my bedroom window. That is a nice sized area that is relatively flat. I thought it might be a nice place for a patio. So I talked to J. the Contractor, and sure enough, he has experience doing patios too. He has done colored and stamped cement. So that is a project for next year. I am also going to have him do something with that old cattle gate there–put in some kind of decorative fence and gate. And maybe build some benches for my bonsai. In the meantime, I decided to move some of my chairs out there to see if I would like it. MLG spread some of the shredded cedar there to keep the dust down. It is a very nice place to sit, and the chairs are in the shade for most of the day, which is a big plus!

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Well, how about that. I did have a lot to share with you this week! I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.

The Chicks, Week Two

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Well, it was a very intense and eventful first week. We had a total loss of four baby chicks. The company was very nice and offered to replace the two that died in the first 48 hours. I was excited about that at first, but when I realized that the replacements wouldn’t arrive for a month, and I would have to do the baby thing all over again, I decided I didn’t want to do that. So I went to the Feed Barn to see if they had some chicks I might want. They did! They had Dominiques, which are a fairly rare breed, one that originated in the colonies. They look similar to Barred Rocks. They were the same age as my chicks, so they fit in without any problems. That black chick in the front (up above) is one of the Dominiques. They will end up black and white striped.

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You can see the chicks are already sprouting quite a few feathers. From my previous experience with baby chicks, these feathers are not always the color that they will end up being as adults.

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This chick (above) is that Appenzeller–the national chicken of Switzerland. They have a little topknot, and you can see that starting to sprout. They end up white with black dots.

Chicks at the feeder:

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You can see a couple of the chicks with feathers on their feet in this picture:

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The chicks are VERY interested in that little hole in the cardboard. If one chick looks at something, a bunch of them crowd around to see what’s so interesting.

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Here is my favorite chick–the silvery one in the picture below. Of course, there is something wrong with her. I think it is some internal or genetic abnormality. I was sure she was going to die, but in the past few days she seems to be making her way in the world, finding food and water. (This is why I became a neonatal nurse. I am always drawn to the weakest, most hopeless cases 🙂 )

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More feathers. This one in front is a Speckled Sussex:

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Something is happening over here? what is it? Is it food? Is it an escape route?

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If I jump on top of the feeder, I am closer to the top. Something very important is on the other side of this wall!

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Time for bed. The chicks are so funny. It takes them a while to settle down, but then they all seem to agree its time to sleep.

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There is always one straggler at bedtime.

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And that’s week two of the chick report. Soon they will figure out how to fly over the top of their enclosure, and I will have to decide whether to allow them to roam the whole coop, or to put a wire top on their cardboard kingdom.

 

Garden Report

The cherry tree! I remembered how, when I worked, I would take a walk on my lunch break, and go and stand underneath these two beautiful cherry trees. Those two trees were the inspiration for me to buy this tree. So I went out and stood under my cherry tree and tried to get some good shots. This is a flowering cherry (no fruit) and the blossoms are huge and fluffy. And pink 🙂

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I got a better picture of the fringed tulip. These were spectacular. I will be getting more tulips and daffodils from that John Scheepers company. All of the bulbs I ordered grew and bloomed. The daffodil, Narcissus Golden Echo, lasted forever! I went back and re-read the description, and one of the things they said about it was that it was “incredibly long lasting.”

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Then I walked over to get a picture of the lily-flowering tulips.

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I found a few pansies that Noah had not plundered!

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I turned around and thought that I’d take a couple of long views of the garden to share with you. the Japanese maples just glow in the early spring.

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And lastly, encouraged by Shelley’s new purchase, I bought myself a bougainvillea! Put it in one of my leftover big pots, and placed it near the fence. MLG even pruned up a couple of low hanging oak branches so it could get more sun. It will be an annual here, because it is not frost hardy. We had one when I was a kid in the Bay Area, and it covered our entire porch! I loved it.

Oh, and I couldn’t get a picture of it without the “Pile of things we might need someday” in the background… if the bougainvillea grows well, it might be able to hide that pile 🙂

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And that’s the garden report for the week. A garden this size takes a lot of time in the spring. I have spent a lot of time weeding and pruning and raking in the past few weeks, and very little time planting. I’m definitely getting quite a bit of that functional exercise!

P.S. I have to share a couple of pictures of the little girls. Every day I spend some time in the studio. The girls seem to enjoy spending time in their beds snoring while I stitch. Sophie, Bess, and Chloe got new sparkly collars. I looked at tons of collars, and finally figured out that the customized ones with their names on them were the most economical option!

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Little Fuzz (Zoey) likes to have a bed all to herself if possible.

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A Tale of Two Muffins

A bit ago I was looking for an old recipe in an old seldom-used recipe box. I ran across a very old stained piece of paper, and discovered it was a copy of muffin recipes from the book The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure. Twenty-eight years ago I worked with a young woman whose very thin mother had very high cholesterol, and they were trying to lower their cholesterol with some of the recommendations in this book. She said the muffins were tasty and low calorie, so I made a copy and tried them out. They were good! So twenty-eight years later I made them again, and they are still very tasty. Only about 120 calories per muffin. This book is still in print, but the muffin recipe is all over the internet, so I thought it would be okay to share it with you. I made Banana Nut Bran Muffins, but the book has many versions of different flavors.

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Then, a few weeks ago, I picked up the box of Kodiak Power Cakes mix again and looked at it. Hmmm. 1/2 cup of mix with 1/2 cup of water, and you’ve got pancake mix. The list of ingredients is relatively short, its high in fiber and protein. I succumbed.

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Holy Moly, these are VERY good pancakes. 190 calories for three pancakes with 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. So far I’ve had them with a tsp of butter and SF syrup, and with walnuts cooked in and topped with my banana mash syrup.

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On the box they also have directions for using milk and/or eggs to make higher protein pancakes. And, they had a muffin recipe. One day I decided I could adjust that recipe a little bit, and tried it. These are also very good banana nut muffins! Very different than the previous muffins, which are very much a bran muffin with bananas. These taste more like commercial muffins, light and fluffy, and pretty sweet. These muffins come out to about 150 calories each. My Kodiak Banana Nut Muffin recipe is here.

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A Simple Special Dinner

Most of the time I am cooking for one. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the whole world who does this, so I thought I’d share how I made a special dinner for myself without breaking the calorie bank. Yes, I know its just one meal. But of course, you do end up making enough for several meals, and so for me, its just a good thing to lighten up some of my favorite foods, and also to limit the number of foods I prepare. Don’t feel bad, I did have more than my fair share of sweet treats this Christmas 🙂

So here’s the two recipes I adapted from old favorites. The first was an old recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. My copy is 40 years old! It still has a lot of great basic recipes and instructions, and I am very happy to have it. These are called Buffet Potatoes, and are kind of a simple version of potatoes au gratin. I looked at the recipe and there were a few simple obvious changes and substitutions to make, and still have a delicious side dish. I left out the butter (why do you need cheese AND butter,) and instead of half and half, I used whole milk. That made my version a very reasonable 130 calories per serving. I made a recipe that had 4 servings instead of the 8 in the original recipe.

Here’s how I did it:

I had an 8 oz block of cheese, so I just marked 1/4 of it with a knife, and then shredded that much of the block. I actually weighed out 12 oz of potatoes (I almost always use Yukon Gold because they have more natural flavor,) and I sliced 1/2 an onion as thinly as I could.

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Assembled them in layers with salt and pepper, per the recipe.

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Sprinkled the milk over all, and baked according to recipe, and here are my lightened up buffet potatoes. Perfect with ham!

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I used to make jello with frozen raspberries in heavy syrup, and I used that syrup to make regular jello, and then added the raspberries, cream cheese and plenty of walnuts. For my lightened up version, I used SF raspberry jello, laughing cow lite wedges, and walnuts. I forgot to buy some fresh raspberries, so I used pears this time, which are also delicious in this combination. I have compared, and laughing cow lite has less calories that light cream cheese, and I think its delicious in this kind of preparation. When I had it all combined, I was very happy that I came up with the idea of portioning it out into serving dishes, saving me one more step when it came time to eat! Each serving has about 100 calories.

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And here was my Christmas Eve dinner! The only thing that was missing was some kind of green vegetable. Just some broccoli or green beans would have been great.

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From the Garden

While checking out the garden before another predicted rainstorm, I found three incredible rose blooms. I decided to cut them down and bring them in to enjoy for a bit.

Look how well they match my bathroom! I love that color of pink 🙂

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And even 4 days later I was still enjoying their beauty.

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And one more note about the garden. I was so looking forward to a good year of fall color from the Japanese maples. Unfortunately, the warmer fall that we had (that gave me wonderful roses the last week of November) was not so good for the maples. They just didn’t get that cold shock that they need to turn colors. So I am enjoying bits and pieces of fall color, but so far, none spectacular enough to share on the blog.