Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Tale of the Sweet Tart Cake

I am invited to a dinner party on Wednesday night, celebrating a friend's dog's 11th birthday.  I offered to bake a cake, and since we're having beautiful spring weather, I decided to bake a lemon Bundt cake with tart lemon glaze.

After work today I mixed up the batter.  Bundt cakes bake a long time -- nearly an hour, so I had my supper while it was in the oven.  Oskar preferred to be outside, but Ulani joined me in the kitchen.  I boiled fresh-squeezed lemon juice and sugar together, then poked holes in the cake and drizzled it with the sweet tart syrup.  Then I sliced off about 1/4 inch of the bottom (so it would sit flat) and flipped it onto a rack to cool further.

Ulani and I went outside for a while with Oskar and the cats.  We enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine.  Then, when "Dancing with the Stars" came on, we girls came back inside.  I quickly got wrapped up in the elimination.  Lost track of time.  Then Ulani started grumbling.  So I hopped up and put her outside.  She was back at the door in no time, so I let her back in and hit the couch again.  I looked up and she wasn't at her post on the rug by the door, so I peeked into the kitchen.  And that's when I saw this.

I guess she liked the sweet tart glaze, too!  Now I have to check how many people are coming to dinner.  Will half a cake do?  I'll bring ice cream, too!

Someone's in the dog house.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Oskar had a few thoughts he wanted to share with you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Manic Mama!

It was a peaceful day at Busy Solitude Farm.  All the animals went outside in the brilliant spring sunshine.  The grass even perked up for St. Patrick's Day.  That's Abe (no mice in evidence!) under the tree, pussy footing around the yard.

I thought I'd take a look in the barn.  One of the Cuckoo Marans hens has been setting for three weeks.  I am eager to see if she hatches anyone.  So far the couple of eggs she's pushed out of the nest showed no sign of development.  I also hope to buy a few chicks at the feed store to put under her, so that I won't have to worry about the heat lamp.  I'm even considering a pair of Indian Runner Ducks, just for the fun of them!

When I went into the barn, all the hens came clickety cluckety to see what tasty morsels I might have for them.  As I scattered the scratch I looked in the nest box and what did I see?  Eleven eggs and no hen!  Where was the Mama??

This is the view out the chickens' hatch door to the outside.  Quite muddy, eh?  I like to leave the overgrown remains of the weeds there as a bit of protection against birds of prey.  Just a diversion while the chickens, hopefully, race up the ramp and back into the safety of the barn.  But I digress.  Where is the Mama?

Well, if you look carefully, you'll see her in this picture.

She was furiously dancing in the duck's wading pool!  There's not much water in there at the moment, but all I could think was "oh, I know how it feels when you've been in bed for way too long and you just have to have a bath!"  Hormonal broody hens turn manic when they leave the eggs for any bit of time.  Their tails stick straight up, they squawk at anything that gets in their way:  "Need food!  Need water!  Need to poop!  Time's-a-wasting, tick tock tick tock!"

I've never seen a broody leave the barn, however, while on nest duty, so I feared she'd given up.  I returned to the nest to gather the old, incubated eggs, figuring I would do the dreaded science experiment of cracking them open to see if anything was developing.  But when I touched the first one it was warm.  Quite warm, as if she had just fled the moment I first stepped into the barn.

I left nine of the 11 eggs in the nest.  Eleven is too many to fit under her, really, and could be the reason nothing's hatching.  And indeed, the two I opened were in states of partial development and rot.  BLECH!

When I returned to the barn half an hour later, Mama Broody was back on her nest, in her peaceful zen state.

Perhaps we'll get a blessed event after all.

Monday, March 15, 2010


You'll thank me later.  Here's the story.

Recently, two different television programs have rekindled my interest in genealogy.  I once spent a few months trying to assemble our family tree.  I interviewed my parents (relentlessly) about who was who and where and when.  These interviews yielded some really good family lore, but without technological help, I ended after just a couple of generations.  I did not have the time or attention span to write away to county seats for birth and death records.

Now you can log on and discover all sort of records.  And if you're lucky, some distant cousin will have already assembled branches of the family tree for you to borrow into your own.

It was just such a discovery that I had this morning.  I was mesmerized by the branch extending back through the 1800s, hoping it would reach back to the Revolutionary War.  My eyes were dry and my back ached from too long in front of the computer, but I was transfixed.  Nothing else in the room mattered.

Then Abe, the black cat, jumped up on the desk.  Well, I don't mind if he's on the desk as long as he does not knock my papers around.  So I clicked another generation.  I discovered Gabriel Williams, born 1756 in Maryland.  And as the website offered me the opportunity to view a source titled "Revolutionary War Records:  Widow Files for Benefits", I heard a crunch.  CRUNCH!

And that's when I glanced over at Abe.  And discovered that he was chewing on the head of a mouse.  Still attached to the mouse's (dead) body.  On my desk.

You see.  I told you  you'd thank me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Man #1:  Why does a chicken coop have two doors?

Man #2:  I don't know.  Why does a chicken coop have two doors?

Man #1:  Because if it had four doors, it'd be a chicken sedan!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back Up Plan

 Remember these little guys, hatched last Labor Day weekend?
Mama sat a big clutch of eggs, but these two were the only chicks.  So she focussed all her love and affection on them (as did I!).

She watched over them, made sure the flock treated them kindly, and "raised them up" to be good chickens.  They learned pecking order.  And they grew up to be beautiful...
...ROOSTERS!!!  Drat!  I've already been through a rough time with roosters, first thinking I should add a second one to supplement Egglebert's somewhat disinterested attitude towards the hens, and then realizing I'd made a mistake

In a true touch of grace or synchronicity or whatever you prefer to call it, I heard from Peg.  You might remember that it was Peg who offered me Tweedledum, and tossed Tweedledee in as a bargain.  Clearly I was in a position now for some turnabout when she told me her hens had no one to look after them when they went outside!  "Peg," says I, "I can fix that for you!"

Peg stopped by last Sunday and I offered her a choice of the boy with the pink legs or the boy with the yellow legs.  That's the only way I could tell them apart.  She opted for the boy I could catch first and so took Mr. Pink home to a new flock.

But gentle readers, that is not the end of the story!

For Peg e-mailed me to inform me that upon arriving in his new coop, Mr. Pink was subjected to the pecking-order testing from the chief hen.  He took his pecks and then stood up tall to say "I am now cock of this walk!"  He and his five new girlfriends went out into their lovely fenced run, and Peg departed for her Sunday business.

She arrived home to large dog footprints in the snow, and black and white feathers.  And no Mr. Pink in evidence.  Her second thought was "what will I tell Johanna?!"  Peg went inside and poured herself a stiff drink, gathering her thoughts.

And that's when she heard the knock at the window.

Peg peered through the glass and who do you think she saw but Mr. Pink!  Out she went into the yard to corral him back in with his girls. 

So Mr. Pink is now ensconced in a lovely coop that matches Peg's house, with a lovely fenced run containing him and his lovely hens.  Happily ever after.

And I replied to Peg's e-mail that, while I was delighted to hear that Mr. Pink had survived the excitement, I had no worries, because I have a yellow-legged back-up!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy as...

I believe you have heard the expression "happy as a pig in shit"?!  May I introduce you to "happy as a duck in muck"?!

On Monday the sun came out, advancing our snow melt exponentially.  So in the afternoon, when Oskar, Ulani and I were dozing in the sun on the couch, I let the chickens and duck out into their run.

We basked in the warm caress of the sun.  Ari got down to business in the mud.

That duck bill is made to dig around in the mud in search of whatever delicacies she can root out.  Not unlike a pig's snout.  My lovely white girl, with her perky orange bill and webbed feet, spent a good two hours in her mud bath.  When I arose from my doze and went to check on her, she was merrily waddling around, singing "quack quack quack" to her chicken posse. 

After dusk everyone went inside.  On a hunch, I turned my camera on as I entered the pen to see what I would see.  And Ari looked like this.
Honestly!  I'm sure she would have loved to be thrown in the bathtub.  Instead I left her to her own devices, and by morning she was much cleaner.  In time to go back out into the mud!

Unrelated note.  I noticed today on a farm store website that it's almost time for chicks!  In addition to a few chicks, I'm considering getting a pair of Indian runner ducks.  I wonder if Ari would enjoy them?!

Monday, March 1, 2010

What is that?

Hmmm, some unfamiliar elements made an appearance in the yard today.  What is that on the ground?  What is that above the trees?
Oskar trotted around, investigating.

A chicken pressed herself against the barn window, trying to see.

All the pink begonias shifted to the window side of the pot, stretching their floral necks to get a look.

Abe did his best to act cool, but he was enjoying it, too.

Sunshine!  Strong shadows!  Blue skies!

March is supposed to come in like a lion, but this year it's a purring kitty cat.  Do we ever need a few straight days like this to recharge cranky batteries and inspire us to push through to the summer!

Oskar, Ulani and I took a lovely walk up the road and back.  Even with a cold wind whooshing across the fields, the sun dominated to cheer us.  The cats are basking next to the house, out of the breeze but well in the embrace of the golden rays.  Oskar chose to stay in the yard.  He parades to one gate and the next, then holds a spot by the back door to enjoy the fresh air.

And now that I've shared this, I'm going to pull a chair up to the window and read sitting in the light.  It's unusual for nice weather to come on my day off.  I plan to enjoy it all day long!