Posted by: oceannah | May 21, 2013

terror in tiny town

There will be no photos, however some of the details will be appropriately graphic.

In the absence of our wonderful mama hen, Henny Penny we were forced to resort to raising up a brood of chicks ourselves.  We purchased half a dozen of each Araucana and RSL day old’s from the local Agway.  For the first few weeks (while they were still cute and fluffy) they lived in a crate in the office.  About three weeks ago we began taking them out in the yard in a small enclosed pen.  It was only about a fortnight since we moved them full time into the hen house in the barn with their own crate and warming light…oh the sorrow of motherless children.  Each day we would bring them into the moveable crate in the yard for sunshine and fresh air.  I must say that without a mama to show them the ropes, they were none to quick to pick up hunt for bugs.

Yesterday was a fine day, after the morning dross burned off.  So we moved the kids out to their yard and proceeded with the day.  As usual, I would peek in on them from time to time…listening to their peeping and watch them jumping up onto the roosting limb and flying off.  The crate we were using was a large flexible metal panel pen that can change shape/size depending on how it is placed.  It had an open top and was easy to use.  To provide some shade for the chicks we placed two of the patio chairs up near the crate to cast a shadow.  I checked the water and food then ran off to the gym and to run an errand.  When I returned it was a bit later than planned so I went directly outside to start the grill…it was way too quiet.

I went over to the crate and there lay all the chicks save two.  It is unclear if the two were eaten on the spot or carted off.  Several of the chicks were missing their heads only.   A few looked un-mauled, as if they simply died of fright. There was a great pile of feathers on the ground and some scattered about halfway up the crate wall (a climber?).  We ruled out raccoon since it was broad daylight.  Foxes although a possibility seem unlikely since there were so many left behind.  Fox are very smart and I can’t imagine one leaving that much food on the ground.  I’ve seen my cats eat mice and they usually always start with the head, which is why I’m thinking ‘cat’.

Our best guess is that it was either a feral cat or, less likely a bird of prey.  The crate, although large for chicks and open on top, would have been an awkward target for a bird.  The placement of the chairs could have given advantage to a cat, as the crate walls are about 3.5 feet high.  Sigh.  We knew that raising chicks without a mama hen would not be a simple matter.  Henny Penny never lost a single babe.  A light bulb is a poor substitute for a wise and loving mama.

So the terror the poor things faced in the end was probably extreme.  Woe to the last chick to fall.  We also noticed our poodle pup was beside himself.  It is very likely that he was witness to the destruction and was stuck in the house unable to protect with anything more than a bark.  He was a disconsolate and came outside to lay by the crate.  The remainder of the evening he ran around the yard barking and growling low in his chest.  All in all, a bummer of a day.

Have you ever raised up a brood of chicks without a mama hen to supervise the job?  We have had many many years of predator free chickens.  I know it’s not common I know folks do it but I don’t think we will venture into that fray any time too soon again.




Posted by: oceannah | May 10, 2013

Good Day Sunshine

sun shineToday is a prime growing day.

After the rains, the sun is shining and I swear I am hearing the photosynthesis working its magic.

Laundry to hang, birds to watch, asparagus to pick…what a day!



Posted by: oceannah | May 8, 2013

The smug gardener and nettle pie

stinging nettles

Stinging Nettles are finally at a harvestable size. Nettles are hands down one of my favorite wild greens.

First the Nettles.  If you are fortunate enough to have stinging nettles in your yard or area go forth and harvest them!  Although they can ‘sting’ if you are not careful, harvesting with gloves on or with care makes the task pain free.  The sting is caused by the formic acid in the hairy protrusions covering the stem.  Once cooked the sting is gone and all you are left with is a delicious and nutritious wild food.  My favorite application for nettles is Nettle Pie.  In my case this is a crust free pie, but surely if you favor a crust any would be fine here.  I take a mess of nettles and saute them in a bit of butter.  Once they are wilted and uniformly cooked remove them from the heat.  Scatter a handful of chopped chives which are also up now and mix in several nice fresh eggs.  If there’s cheese in your fridge a few passes over the grater will enhance the pie.  Season lightly with salt and pepper then pour the ingredients into a 350 degree C oven for about 25-30 minutes until just barely set in the center.  Allow to cool before cutting.  Delicious and loaded with good nutrients.

On being smug:  What else can a gardener feel when waking up to a terrific spring rain (our first!) after spending many hours planting and weeding?  Smugness, I’ll relish that for today alone, as a gardener, I know all too well there will be events in the very near future that will not engender such a feeling.

Currently up in our vegetable garden:  Asparagus, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, onions, strawberries- a HUGE amount this year, as well as bumper crop of chickweed.

There are lots of flowers both domestic and wild and our fruit trees are flowering.

Yesterday’s planting included raddichio, several varieties of lettuces, two rows of spring mix salad, kale- winterbor and lancianato, early jersey wakefield cabbages, tat soi, scallions, collards, endives, and I even took a chance on a row of haricort verts.  The 10 day looks promising enough.  I may have forgotten something, as I was keen to get the planting done and the strawberries weeded before the rain.  Job done!

What’s up in your garden today?  Are any of you on the fence about putting in a garden this year?  I’m considering adding a page to this blog for Q&A directed to beginning gardeners.  If you have any thoughts on that I’d appreciate you putting the bug in my ear.

We found an awesome place to take the bicycles out for trail rides yesterday and today my legs are feeling those hills 🙂

Happy Smug-day to you all.


Posted by: oceannah | April 29, 2013

Waking the Garden & Beltane Blessings


These wild violets up against the house are the only ones that are currently blooming. Many other clumps of violets in this small garden are further from the house and still tentative about the weather.


double daffodils

The daffs are blooming pretty abundantly all over the place. This double is one of my favorites.


organic garlic

The garlic is up and doing really great! We trialed the use of pine straw last year with good success. We’re growing a good bit less garlic this year, as storage issues seem to find us losing more than I care to.


garden bed freshly tilled

Since this picture was taken I’ve filled this bed in with a variety of greens.

It is happening.  The land is warming up and things are beginning to look more like Spring.   There are many chores to catch up on and the good news is the weather has been cooperative…in fact it looks like mud season will pass us by this year.  One can hope.

As Beltane approaches (1 May, the mid-point of the sun between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice)  traditionally a time when the ancestors would move themselves and their livestock to higher pastures where the receding snows have left nutrient rich grasses.  The would pass between double fires set as gates keepers or guardians and leave behind the heaviness of winter.  I cannot help but to feel great relief to see Old Man Winter on the run.  There will be a lovely festival, and some good cheer to go round as we celebrate.  Let us all turn our faces toward the sun in celebration of Beltane!







Posted by: oceannah | April 19, 2013

small movements & large patterns

Spring has been a rather elusive character in this season’s opening salvo.  But there are a few small glimmers of hope hither and yon.  The garlic began to poke through ever so tentatively a few weeks ago only to stop cold, quite literally.  This morning some of the early greens that I seeded out are popping through.  Lettuces and such in short order if temperatures stabilize.

Everything else is doing a fair job of emerging but they are still hugging close to the ground for the added warmth.  I’m seeing this in the nettles, violets and dandelion that are everywhere on the homestead.  Even the ubiquitous mints that are can usually be found running rambunctiously over everything, are only tentative about making their debut, and only up close to the house on the south side.

Part of the seasonally ambiguity lies much further North.  The Arctic Oscillation (AO) which Joe Romm explains here is essentially the cause of the prolonged or stalled weather patterns we are seeing.  The warmer it gets in the Arctic the less ice, and the more moisture released into the atmosphere which affects those of us ‘downstream’.  Romm states, “Such a large area of open water is bound to cause significant impacts on weather patterns, due to the huge amount of heat and moisture that escapes from the exposed ocean into the atmosphere over a multi-month period following the summer melt.”  Please do visit his blog for a much more detailed explanation.  I won’t go into it much further than that as my main focus here is the real time effects of AO on my wee homestead.  But surely, things are changing, and I believe not for the better.

The other day on our daily walk my daughter slowed down to a near stop and lifted her nose in the air.  “Mama!” she squealed, “Smell that?  There are flowers on the air.”  And sure enough I could smell them when I took the time to slow down and sniff the air also.  The trees are beginning to flower here.  Spring will unfurl eventually, but I think we’ll wind up with the type of season that goes from cold-wet-grey to hot-dry-blue.  It makes for interesting conversations, but when growing food such extremes are less useful.

Wishing you all a good growing season no matter if you are growing tomatoes on your patio, herbs on your windowsill or acres of various food.  Anyone who takes the time to plant a seed in the ground is an optimist who is willing to take action…and the world needs as many of those as possible.





Posted by: oceannah | April 16, 2013

Down But Not Out

Not my words, but my thoughts.
Thanks LouAnnxo

On the Homefront

hope for the future

not vanquished yet by evil

hold on for dear life

My prayers are with those affected by the explosions at the Boston Marathon. There are no words that suffice. There is no bliss here.

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Posted by: oceannah | April 8, 2013

Crocus Pocus or, how Spring magically arrived


crocusWith deft  sleight of hand and no flick of the wrist flourish, it’s happened.  Mother Nature has quietly but gracefully flipped the silk scarf aside and there it is in plain view, SPRING….and there stand I, shaking my head in awe.

Yes, today is the first Spring-like day here in the mountains.  I am so very happy to have the sun shining and the bluest sky above.  We managed to plant 3 double rows of Stuttgart onions as well as a host of greens scattered over two twenty five foot rows:  Winter lettuce mix to which I added mache as well as one of my favorites (’cause I just love to keep saying it–and it tastes great) Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Cress 🙂  see, makes you smile right?   Also there is frisee, Red Sails lettuce, kales, spinach, and a short row of braising greens I mixed up myself.  Where you might ask are the peas, and rightfully so.  Alas, peas season has more or less come and gone here.  If we plant them, they will very likely not make as it is so late for them.  We usually get them in by St. Patty’s Day, but not this year with such snow!  By the time they might bear it will be too hot for the cool loving peas.

Must content ourselves with more crocus.

crocus cluster


crocus solid purple



And mea culpa… I’ve been a rather remiss blogger of late.  With all the rotten weather it just couldn’t get into writing about the garden.  I’ve also been busily working on getting leaner and hopefully adding some more lean mass gains the past 49 days.  Tomorrow is the last day of that particular challenge and it’s been a good 49 days….however, the beginning was a bit stagnant.  I hired a very respected personal trainer and have been working out with him as well as following the dietary guidelines he’s laid out.  It’s a pretty straightforward body building diet which is a big departure for me from my higher fat lower carb macros I had been following.  I will say this much:  in the past few weeks I’ve made better gains/losses than in a long time.  To wit:

beltThis is my relatively new (bought in the last six weeks) belt.  I like the green color!  Let’s just back up a step.  I am now wearing a belt!   When I purchased it the above holes were the fitting that I could use.  Today, I am down two holes and I’m very satisfied with that non-scale-victory.    Every small victory is a step closer to the finish line.  Although in truth, there is no real end.  It is a journey, and my goal overall is to enjoy it as fit and healthfully as possible.

I have a new series of goals and small challenges that I’m constructing for the coming months now that my 49 day challenge ends tomorrow… Chime in if you’d like to and share your own!  I really love hearing about how everyone is getting on.

Much love to you all…I’ve missed you bunches and with a few other things winding down (daughter’s play is finally in the production phase and will wind up this coming weekend), as well as the grand weather I should have much more to say on a more regular basis.

Pax Veris




Posted by: oceannah | March 19, 2013


apple blossoms apple blossom




It is nearly the Vernal Equinox.  These apple blossoms were trimmed from our trees a couple weeks ago.  They are on my kitchen table…a promise of things to come, even if forced along.

Outside my door is another story all together.

snowy garden cart

Today we got about 8 inches of snow with a modest layer of ice.

Currently my life is a lot like these two photographs.  On the one hand the new trainer I’m working with is a bud unfurling.  Like all new things there’s much to learn.  The fact that some of these lessons have little to do with my physical body and much to do with interpersonal relationships and expectations is not lost on me.  There is great hope that many fine fruits will be harvested, however, there’s some shoveling to be done before biting into that first crispy apple.

I hope that Spring arrives quickly, fiercely even.  I am so ready to put the heft of winter to bed for another year.  How do you all feel about the changing of the seasons?  Do you live in a place that is more static seasonally than the Northeast USA, and if so, would you recommend your area as an ideal place to live?  I’m doing an informal survey regarding ‘place’ and I’d appreciate your input.   Have a wonderful day, whatever the weather.

Early wishes for a blessed Vernal Equinox/Easter/Passover/Good weather 🙂


Posted by: oceannah | March 12, 2013

in a year

photo credit: windows2universe

photo credit:


A lot has occurred in the single orbit of Earth around the Sun.

In the past 365 days I have had many first time experiences, not the least of which was learning to create this blog.  I also branched out to participate in an online fitness community (BFFM) that has been instrumental in increasing my understanding of my body composition.  I was given a digital camera by my father-in-law and have been slowly learning to use it.

What began as merely an online journal of my Dukan Diet experience has become far less ‘diet’ focused and significantly more body composition focused—Or, less about what I weigh and more about what my lean body mass is compared to my fat mass.  Read More…

My daughter has no natural desire to walk four miles per day with the doggie she SO much wanted and was going to do all the chores for, pleeeeeeease mama!

All the adult reasoning in the world (plus an ipod) can hardly even make it a mildly attractive proposition…until last week.  My daughter said to me, “Mama tell me a story about when you were little.”  I’ve had this question before and I’ve certainly spun a few yarns but I’d never done an hour long monologue while walking.  But it worked.  Before we both knew it the hour had passed, the pup had pooped, and the brutal wind seemed less bitter.

Sometimes it’s hard to think up a story on the spot.  So I’ve used this ploy:  A good story has to bubble up, be patient…I can get maybe a 1/4 mile outta that one.

Telling tales of long ago days when I was a kid has had an interesting effect on me.  From this far away, my youth seems much less difficult than the actual experience.  Of course I do some serious editing while on the fly, I do not reveal all, just yet…she is still young, there’s plenty of time 😉  I’m mostly keeping to the time period of between 8-13.

While her early education was pretty much all just one big ‘story’ this new twist is exciting.  We used to play a round robin story telling game where one person makes a couple of statements then passes the story along to the next person.  In this way she learned early on to tell a story.  In a culture so consumed by digital media, I think it’s more important than ever to learn the simple art of story telling.  If that’s what it takes to keep her moving, I’m in.

Onward we’ll walk and talk.



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