Friday, June 29, 2012

What About the Chickens?

13 May 2012: Nine of our ten chickens outside the hen house.

I've written several posts about our garden this year, but some of you may be wondering about our chickens, who got so much blog-space last year.  Of the 12 we started out with (10 hens and 2 roosters), we still have 10 (9 hens and 1 rooster), and they are all doing well.

Those who have followed this blog know that we butchered one of the roosters, Gonzo, last fall because the more aggressive rooster, Percy, had no intention of sharing his females with the young upstart.

28 May 2012: Percy's feathers get ruffled when he feels threatened.

Percy continues to jealously guard his hens against all comers, including huge neighborhood dogs.  He instantly ushers the females into the hen house and then he's prepared to defend them to the death.  He even challenges us when we enter the coop or stand too close to the fence to feed them cracked corn and kitchen scraps.  Watch your toes! 

Several neighbors also have chickens, and they assure us that Percy is one of the most aggressive roosters they've ever seen. 

26 May 2012: Eggs boiling for potato salad.

The remaining 9 hens continue to provide us with lovely brown and blue-green eggs, about 4 dozen per week.  We have a sign in the driveway near the road advertising the extras for sale.  We only sell about 5-6 dozen most months, but it helps.

You may have noticed that we are short one chicken (besides Gonzo).  One winter day, Ed suddenly noticed that one hen was gone.  One of his favorites, Kate (whose coloring resembled that of a pheasant), simply disappeared.  There were no holes she could have escaped through.  There were no feathers or blood to indicate a predator had gotten her.  We searched the neighborhood for days, but we never saw her again.

Ed wonders if she slipped past him when he opened the hen house door after dark one evening, but if that were the case we should have soon found her (or her blood and feathers), because the hens never stray far from the safety of their coop.  When they get out, they soon become nervous and head for home if they feel threatened. 

As for me, I wondered if a human came and took her.  The hen house is not locked.  I guess we'll never know.

20 June 2012: Incubating eggs.

Meanwhile, we are working on the next generation.  Ed bought a small incubator that holds just 7 eggs and he is attempting to hatch our first set of chicks.  The gestation period is only 21 days, and this batch is due to hatch around July 3rd.  We have no idea how many chicks we will get on this first try, if any.

We won't even be home to find out.  We are leaving very early on Monday (July 2) for a 3-week road trip to New York, so a neighbor boy, Leevi, will be caring for our house, garden, and animals.  In fact, these chicks are going to be his.

Leevi's family keeps their own chickens, but they have none that lay blue eggs, so Ed promised to hatch a batch of Easter Egger chicks for Leevi.  Leevi will be here for his chicks' hatchings, and we will hatch our own batch when we get home at the end of July.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What I Know About Onions

What I know about onions...well, you could engrave it on the head of a pin.  But I did learn some things about them this season.

12 May 2012: The row of yellow onions from last summer.

Originally, Ed had decided not to plant onions this year because we still had most of the ones from last summer in the ground.  There were lots of them, but they didn't develop very large bulbs.  They were more like large green onions, I suspect because we didn't thin them out and give them enough room to grow.  Still flavorful, though.

28 May 2012: The onions with little bulbs on top.

One day while we were working in the garden, I saw these funny little bulbs growing from the tops of the larger onion greens.  I said in surprise, "Oh!  What are those things?"  Ed looked on them in disgust, saying, "Oh no.  They've gone to seed."

Thinking that might be a bad thing that would destroy our garden, I offered to pull them out of the ground and serve them in that evening's dinner salad, but Ed told me to leave them.

After that, I occasionally wondered about the whole "gone to seed" concept. Every onion I knew personally had started from a bulb, so it never occured to me that there were onion seeds. If there are seeds, why do gardeners use bulbs?

19 June 2012: They really had "gone to seed"!

A few weeks later, the little bulbs had turned into fluffy balls that looked quite a lot like the "parachute" seed balls of dandelions and thistles.  They're still out there, although portions have begun to get carried away by the breeze.  Yes, the onions truly had "gone to seed."

I finally went online and looked it up.  The online gardening experts actually called it "going to flower," but the basic concept is correct.  I learned that onions have a 2-year life cycle.  The first year is when the seed grows the onion plant and puts its energy into developing the onion bulb.  The bulbs we purchase from the nursery are simply starter plants which the nursery nurtured from the tiny seed.

During the second year, the bulb quits growing and the plant's energy goes toward forming the flower and seeds.  In other words, our yellow onions are as big as they're ever going to get!

19 June 2012: Red onions growing.

Luckily for me, Ed changed his mind and decided to grow a new crop of onions to see if we can get some bigger bulbs.  This time we planted red onion bulbs, my personal favorite, next to sweet vidalias.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

While I Was at Camp

19 June 2012: Ed pulls weeds around the hot peppers.

Last week I was gone to Girls' Camp.  For 5 days before that, I worked 5 hours a day on a curriculum committee to make some extra summer money.  During those 2 weeks I was sick with a cold-turned-bronchitis.  I have to admit that I pretty much forgot the existence of my husband's garden during that time.

Front-to-back: cauliflower, radishes, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, cabbage.

So it was fun to come home and find that portions of the garden have taken off!  Especially the plants in the middle bed (above), although I wonder if the cauliflower shouldn't be a little bigger by now.

Mixed results on the lettuce.

While some of the varieties of lettuce have whithered away, a few seem to be thriving.

Front-to-back: zucchini, cucumber, one surviving bell pepper,
hot peppers, tomatoes, and a thriving cherry tomato plant!

We actually had a bad frost a few weeks ago, which resulted in us and most of our neighbors losing many plants.  Our stalwart cherry tomato weathered it just fine and is going strong.  Our regular tomato plants, on the other hand, were destroyed and had to be replaced, along with several other plants.

Ed is disappointed that our tomato plants are still so small, when he had such a huge crop last year.  However, it seems to me that the tomatoes really took off last summer when the monsoon rains began in late June.  The monsoon season is nearly upon us, so there's still a chance!  I'm amazed by how much better plants flourish with rain water than hose water.

We are getting a few peas...again.

Not everything is great, though.  Just like last year, the peas are coming in patches.  They died early in the growing season last year, although we got to enjoy them for a few weeks.  I hope we can keep these going longer.  I think perhaps we got a bad batch of seeds, because these came from the same seeds as we used last summer.

Denuded pole beans.

One problem we did NOT have last year was bunnies.  That's right, adorable little cottontail bunnies.  I saw several hopping through our yard this spring and I admired their furry cuteness.  Right up until they ate all my spinach!

No, they didn't just nibble it.  They pulled up every last plant by the root.  Then, when our pole beans finally broke through the ground and began to stretch toward the sky, we went out the next morning and found that the bunnies had chewed every leaf off the stalks!  Ed says it's doubtful that the beans will recover from this violation.

Ed has readied his .22 and tells me we may be having rabbit stew for dinner soon.  And thus the battle for the garden begins...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Girls' Camp

18 June 1976: This is me when I was a 21-year-old single girl
serving as a counselor at an LDS Youth Conference
at Camp Osceola in Barton Flats, California.

The last time I attended Girls' Camp for our LDS youth was in August 1977, almost 35 years ago.  I was a 22-year-old counselor and my 17-year-old sister Karla was one of the youths attending Camp Hemohme near Wrightwood, California.  Those were such fun times!

I never did attend Girls' Camp as a teenager myself.  I was so terribly shy as a teen that I couldn't face being away from home with other young ladies I felt I barely knew.  I wish I'd had more courage back then.  I realize now how much I missed out on!

Our ward camp director Kathy; Young Women president Wyndie;
YW 2nd counselor Mary (me); and YW 1st counselor Jennifer.

This week, as the 2nd counselor in our ward's Young Women presidency, I had the opportunity to attend Girls' Camp as one of the adult leaders.  What a great experience it was!

Twelve of the thirteen girls from our ward who attended camp this year.

We are blessed with one of the sweetest and strongest groups of young ladies I've ever had the pleasure to know.  I'm always impressed by the fearless faith and Christlike love they demonstrate in their daily lives.  They reach out to everyone around them with love and kindness.  Even the shyest girls know they are welcomed and wanted.  They truly live according to Christ's words, "If ye are not one ye are not mine" (Doctrine and Covenants 38: 27).

Our ward's campsite, with "Faith" banner.

The 2012 theme for Young Women is "Arise and Shine Forth," and the theme for Girls' Camp was "The University of 'U': Live It."  Each of the wards in our stake (made up of 7 wards and the Fort Apache Branch) was assigned a "College" of one of the 8 Young Women Values: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Virtue. 

The campers gather for camp songs, skits, competitions, and other activities.

Our group became the College of Faith.  We participated in fun tasks related to our college, such as filming a "college recruiting" video (featuring Angels of Faith taking classes to learn how to help young ladies develop their faith during times of difficulty)and cheering our class motto each time our ward was called on: "Faith, faith, that's our call, come and join us one and all!  Goooooo, faith!"

The beautiful grounds of Wallace Ranch.

In all, 130 young ladies gathered at Girls' Camp, which was held at Wallace Ranch again this year.  The camp they've used in the past near Alpine, AZ, was damaged during the Wallow Fire last summer, so Wallace Ranch has hosted us twice now while new facilities are built. 

This worked out well for me, since I was quite sick with a developing case of bronchitis during the 4 days of camp.  It's just a 20-minute drive from my house to Wallace Ranch (about 15 miles).  Not only is it a blessing to live right here in the beauty of the White Mountains, but it allowed me to go home and sleep in my own bed on the second night of camp and drive into town to see my doctor for an antibiotic prescription! 

One of our girls (pink shirt) tied for first place by balancing 7 Oreos on her face!

The girl on the left is a YCL (Youth Camp Leader) from our ward.
She was also the camp music director.  Here she is leading the girls in a camp song.

Four of our young College of Faith girls enthusiastically join in the singing.

President Jensen, President Shumway, and President Beeler
delight the girls with a skit as mustachioed college professors and an elements of life chart.

On the second night, our stake presidency came out to join the girls.  It was fun to see the less serious side of these wonderful men.  They were quite entertaining!  After their skit, they and their wives shared uplifting messages with the girls.

It wasn't easy to get pictures of the Singing Trees!

After dark following the presentations by the stake presidency, we participated in an inspiring activity called Singing Trees.  Each ward gathered their girls around a tree in the dark.  Then, one by one, each tree was lit up while the girls sang a song to represent their College. 

Our College went first.  Shining our flashlights up into the branches of our tree, we sang a Primary song:
  "Faith is knowing the sun will rise, lighting each new day.
    Faith is knowing the Lord will hear my prayers each time I pray.
    Faith is like a little seed; if planted it will grow.
    Faith is a swelling within my heart.  When I do right, I know.
    Faith is knowing I lived with God before my mortal birth.
    Faith is knowing I can return when my life ends on earth.
    Faith is trust in God above, in Christ who showed the way.
    Faith is strengthened, I feel it grow, whenever I obey."

Then we shut off our lights, and a moment later another tree was lit up and a new song began. It was beautiful.

Our bishopric prepares dinner for our girls.  Left-to-right:
Bishop Trace Wengert, 1st counselor Grant Berges, and 2nd counselor Joshua Hall.

After the stake presidency visit and the Singing Trees, we returned to camp and had our ward devotional, led by our two YCLs.  At that point, I drove home to spend the night in my own bed, but I returned the next afternoon after seeing my doctor.

This third night was the final night of camp, and it was devoted to the individual wards.  Our bishopric and their wives joined us for games and dinner, after which we walked back down to the gathering place to join with all 130 girls for more singing and competitions, including having all seven bishops and the branch president compete in a scripture chase (which, sadly, we did not win).

Until next summer!

Finally, the girls sang the camp theme song, "I Will Live It," for their gathered bishoprics.  It was a lovely end to the last evening of camp.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Receptions I Missed Tonight

Last summer my daughter Sarah and her husband Chris were married on the same day as another young lady from our church ward, Courtney, and her husband Frank.  They also held their receptions at the exact same times on that same day, July 30th.

Luckily, our many mutual friends seemed to enjoy attending two receptions in the same evening, because both were very well attended.

16 June 2012: Newlyweds Richard and Gina.

Today, history repeated itself when two more young ladies from our ward chose to be married on the same day.  I've been so looking forward to attending their receptions, but unfortunately I have been stricken with an ugly case of bronchitis and I was forced to keep my nasty cough at home instead.

I love Gina's sweet expression during the ring ceremony.

My husband, however, attended both receptions and kindly took pictures for me so I could enjoy both receptions from afar.

Richard and Gina's wedding party.

Both young brides are friends of my daughter Sarah.  Gina married her sweetheart Richard.  As you can tell from their homespun-style reception, they are both of the cowboy/cowgirl persuasion.  Western boots, burlap, and daisies abounded.

Burlap- and daisy-festooned wedding cake.

Candles in large jars lighted the path to the pavilion.

A handcart at the entrance.

16 June 2012: Joshua and Ashley.

The other young bride, Ashley, is quiet and shy, but she's also quirky and artistic.  I fully expected her reception to be a horse of a different color, and I was not disappointed!

I just love the teapot chandelier above their heads!

Ashley's new husband Joshua is British, but he and his family emigrated to New Zealand five or six years ago.  I believe he and Ashley met online, and Joshua will now become a permanent resident in the USA. 

The partially painted roses on the wedding cake provide a clue for the reception's theme.

Ashley's theme was Alice in Wonderland.  The decorations were replete with teapots, playing cards, clocks, red roses, and red hearts.  The refreshments included little cards instructing "Eat me" or "Drink me."  I wasn't there to ask who designed the cake, but I suspect Ashley's touch was involved!

I wish I could have been there to celebrate with both of these young couples, but my best wishes and good thoughts are with them.  May they have an eternity of beautiful memories and love to enjoy!