Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hens, Hot Weather, and a Homemade Electrolyte Recipe

I no longer own chickens, but the summer heat here in southwest Missouri has sure had me thinking back to the days that I did. I've shared this information before, but, if it reaches just one new chicken-owner that didn't know before, then, it's worth sharing again, so, here goes.

The effects of summer heat can be devastating to chickens. Temperatures higher than 75 degrees can cause added stress on their bodies, because extra blood flow to their combs, wattles, and skin reduces the flow to vital organs. This imbalance in the body produces symptoms including purplish combs, droopy wings, a disheveled appearance and a refusal to eat or drink. This eventually leads to coma or death.

Chickens combat the heat, in part, by panting. Their panting to keep cool increases their respiratory and heart rate, causing them to lose carbon dioxide much faster than they would normally. This upsets the Ph balance in their bodies, and that can lead to a potentially fatal condition called Acidosis. Adding a 2% ratio of baking soda to your chickens' water can help prevent Acidosis.

Adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens' water once a week comes with many health benefits including an increase in calcium absorption, which is particularly important during the summer months when the hens' feed intake goes down and they aren't taking in as much calcium as normal.  

A far better water additive in times of extreme heat is this homemade electrolyte balancing recipe. We used it for several years with our chickens and never once lost a hen to summer heat.

To make, per gallon of water, mix 2 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. baking soda. 

When we had chickens, I was notorious for freezing old water, juice, and milk containers nearly full of water (I usually filled them within an inch of the top to leave room for expansion), and popping them in the freezer to make big ice cubes to go in my chickens' water. I usually added them once or twice per day to fresh water during times of extreme heat. At the end of the day, I would rinse the warm containers off, tie them up in a Walmart sack, and refreeze them again for use later in the week. I kept several frozen bottles on hand at all times to keep a rotation going. 

Another thing that you can do to make summer more bearable for your chickens, and give them a treat at the same time, is to freeze chopped up fruit (watermelon, berries, etc.) and mint leaves in ice cube trays, then add them to water or just set them on a tray in the pen and let them enjoy. 

To those of you who are fortunate enough to have your own chickens right now, I hope that some of these tips aid you in keeping them cool and helping them to beat the extreme heat of summer.

Until Next Time,

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A Failing Garden and Flowers in Bloom

It's a beautiful morning here in southwest Missouri. The sun is shining and, even though it's nice and cool right now, it's supposed to be up around 90 this afternoon.

I went out this morning and filled the bird bath with fresh water and filled all the feeders. I'm making a fresh batch of sugar water for the hummingbirds now.

As sad as it makes me to admit it, I think my gardening days are over for this year. If the plants would grow, it would help, but, try as I might, the only thing growing well is weeds. The tomatoes and peppers that have survived are not much bigger than they were when I planted them. I really thought that the heat and dryer weather would make a difference, but thus far it has not. 

Even the one zucchini that I thought was going to make didn't. It grew to a length of about 4-inches, then shriveled up on one end and turned yellow. These are the only tomatoes that I've gotten. One is about an inch across and the other is slightly larger; both are full of holes where something has been eating on them. Pathetic, isn't it?

The squash and pumpkin are blooming beautifully, but there's not a sign of a single fruit on any of them. Just a few days ago I was thinking about working the garden up again and replanting, but, now I'm not sure what to do. I'm thinking that my time and efforts might be better spent doing something else. 

My flowers are doing well though. Here are a few of the ones that are blooming in my yard right now...


Oriental Lilies

White Spiderwort

Purple Coneflower

Miniature Sunflowers




The flowers are lovely, and I enjoy having them, but I sure was looking forward to having fresh produce right out of my own backyard garden this year. I guess we'll wait and see what happens. 

Until next time...

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Master To-Do List and Menu Plan Monday - June 27, 2022

It's the first Monday of Summer 2022 and the new season is well underway! I hope that summer is off to a great start for you and yours!

Gray-headed Coneflowers
Along the Gravel Road

I've been working more hours than usual lately and it feels good to finally be getting back into the swing of things. Due to COVID Missouri State Parks were pretty much shut down in 2022. I was still working, but the nature center was closed and no public presentations were allowed. Then, last year, due to my husband's illness and death I hardly worked at all. In the past week I have gotten in on two events and am very thankful to have been able to be a part of them.

Thursday evening I led a wildflower hike at the Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site at Butler, Missouri. The weather was perfect, we had a good turnout, and I was thrilled!  

Wildflower Hike @ Battle of Island
Mound State Historic Site

On Saturday we held our annual Hug-A-Herp is the first we've had since 2019. We had 22 live animals on display for the public to observe, handle, and enjoy. One of our visitors drove in from five hours away specifically for this event and, before the day was over, we had visitors join us from Texas and Florida. The pivotal moment came, though, when a boy that came in scared of snakes proclaimed on his way out, "Mom, I'll never be scared of snakes again!" It was an awesome day!

Six-lined Race Runner

Frogs in All Stages

Prairie Ringneck Snake

Red-eared Slider

Yellow-bellied Racer

Saturday evening I went to Patrick and Amber's for supper and to celebrate Esther's 8th birthday. Afterwards, we enjoyed cake and ice cream, then, went for a dip the pool. It was so much fun! I'm wondering if Nana doesn't need to get a pool of her own to play in!

Granddaughter Esther

The Lovely Underwater Cake That
Amber Made for Esther's Birthday

Sunday was bittersweet in that it commemorated so many things...the 17th anniversary of my mother's passing and, what would have been my friend, Dorothy's, 61st birthday. Dorothy passed away in July of 2021 (COVID) following just a few days after my husband.

Me and Dorothy

Sunday was also Amanda and Aaron's one-year wedding anniversary and, with it, frail as he was, memories of my husband's miraculous ability to, not only be there, but to stick around for the reception. It was amazing and we were so blessed!

Amanda and Aaron

It was also Hannah's birthday. I ran over after church and visited with her for a while. Before leaving the whole family took a walk around the yard and went down to the creek. We looked at the flowers and garden, saw a rabbit, and played with the kittens. It's always so beautiful and relaxing out there.

Granddaughter Hannah

Now it's Monday and I'm headed for work. I'll jot down a quick to-do list and menu plan, then I'm out of here for the day.

This week's master to-do list...

- work
- clean house
- do laundry
- finish weed-eating (have already got most of it done)
- get an eye exam
- go to the store
- see Amanda briefly when she drops the girls off at Auntie's
- figure the July budget
- go to the bank
- pay July bills
- figure out my plans for Independence Day

This week's menu plan...

Monday - Cheese tortellini with sauce, green beans, and homemade French bread
Tuesday - Broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole
Wednesday - Turkey burger and oven fries
Thursday - THM Cauli Nachos
Friday - Breakfast for supper
Saturday - Oven-roasted chicken, baked potato, and brussel sprouts 
Sunday - Leftovers

That's it for today! You all have a nice day and a great week ahead and I'll be with you again soon!

Until next time...

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Where The Sweet Williams Grow

In this post I'm going to take a step backwards. I actually sketched this post out in early May, then promptly forgot that I had done so. I just found the words that I had scrawled on the pages of a notebook nearly two months ago and have decided to go ahead and publish them even though they're post-season. The pictures alone are worth sharing.

The house was ramshackle and, for the most part, was falling in when we moved into it, but the property that it stood on, and the pastureland and forested area surrounding it, was beautiful...peaceful.

It was the first place in which we had lived when we made the move from the Kansas City area to southwest Missouri back in 1996. We thought we'd only be there for a few short weeks or months, but we ended up living there the first six years.

On a Sunday afternoon in May, right after church, I decided to grab lunch at Casey's and take a drive through the state park where I work. While doing so, memories of Sunday drives and conversations with my husband filled my heart and mind. Suddenly I had a desire to drive out by the old place where we used to live. We hadn't visited there in years. 

The house was gone, of course, but so was the mobile home that had occupied the place later on. I thought about pulling in, but the steep and winding driveway was gouged with deep ruts where heavy rains had washed away the dirt and gravel. I was afraid that my car would high-center and I'd be stuck. I thought about parking at the bottom of the hill and walking up, but I didn't feel comfortable doing so alone. A deep sadness filled my heart. 

"You can't go back," I whispered. 

After a brief pause at the bottom of the hill I drove on. A deep sense of loss overwhelmed me and I felt incredibly sad and alone.

When I came to the crossroad I had a decision to make. I could turn right, turn left,  turn around and head home, or just keep on going straight ahead. I decided to go straight ahead, but I was a bit uneasy. This stretch of road was pretty desolate and I had told no one of my plan to take a drive. Not a soul on earth knew where I was, nor would they guess. I had my cell phone though. I'd be okay.

There was a low-water bridge at the creek crossing and I knew that the area was prone to flooding after heavy rains, which we had just had a couple of days before. I proceeded with caution. 

I wouldn't be able to see the bridge until I rounded the bend. As soon as I did though, the sense of loss that had been so overwhelming just moments before, gave way to a sense of wonder, and the feelings of sadness and loneliness gave way to gratitude. I had forgotten how beautiful this place was.

The creek was running high, but it wasn't over the low-water bridge. I parked my car and got out. I remembered a great blue heron that had often frequented the place back in the day. There was no sign of a great blue heron here today.

But, oh! The sweet williams were in bloom! I had forgotten how lovely they are. I picked a small bouquet of the delicate purple flowers and added them to the Indian paintbrush that I had picked on a prairie pasture around the corner from where we used to live.

The farmer that owned the prairie pasture had granted us permission when we first moved here to use it as an outdoor classroom and many happy hours had been spent there with our children exploring. The farmer is gone now, but his daughter told me several years ago that whatever arrangement we had had with her dad back then still stood, so I felt confident that it was okay to enjoy its beauty and pick a few flowers while I was there. Mingled together, the Indian paintbrush and sweet williams made a striking bouquet!

After leaving the creek, I continued on my way around another bend and, then, another. As I came around the third bend, there it of the most beautiful houses in the entire area (at least in my opinion)...a lovely old Victorian home that has been kept up with very nicely. 

I continued on around the last bend in the road before coming to the straight-of-way that led to a main highway. Rose verbena grew in clumps along both sides of the road and pretty black and white eastern kingbirds lined the barbed-wire fence that ran the length of it. 

When I got to the blacktop I turned off of the gravel with every intention of heading home, but when I came to the next crossroad...the main road that would have led me home...I spotted the old wooden bridge straight ahead and was lured down yet another desolate country road. 

Sweet williams grew thick along the edge of the forest on both sides of the creek. 

Once I crossed the bridge, however, flood waters filled the timbered area and came up close to the road.

The area suddenly felt dark and foreboding. It was definitely time for me to be heading home, which I did, and the day ended up being a good one.

No, I can't go back, but, once I got past the hill where we used to live, it was great revisiting the old places that we used to frequent while living out that way. Looking back, the best years after moving here were spent right out there on that hill and I'm thankful for the memory of them. Now, it's time for me to continue heading straight ahead on this road called life, making new memories along the way. 

Until next time...

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

In the Garden

A long, cool, and rainy season made it nearly impossible to get into the garden this spring. As a result, the grass was so high that I could hardly locate the vegetable plants that weren't much bigger than they were when I planted them. I had all but given up on the idea of having a garden this year. 

Then, all of sudden, here we are. Summer has arrived and, with it, plenty of heat and sunshine. The garden has dried out considerably and some of the plants appear to be growing. Maybe there is hope yet!

A couple of days ago I made up my mind to get out there and take control of it. I weed-eated down to the dirt as much as I could and am plowing up dirt around the plants with my cordless garden tiller as I have time. I've only got one battery for the thing, so I work in spurts, but, little-by-little, I'm making progress. 

After drowning out, there were less than a dozen corn plants left standing. They were about 15-inches tall and had already flowered out without a single ear of corn on any of them; only a handful of beans came up, and they weren't putting anything on either, so I just weed-eated them all down. 

The zucchini, pumpkin, and other squashes seem to be doing a little better. They are blooming out nicely and a few have tiny fruits on them. The zucchini pictured below in only about 2-inches long. 

I harvested the green onions over the weekend, but have a few sets left, so will replant using what I've got. If I can come up with seed I will try replanting corn and green beans and see if I can't do a little better with a fall garden. 

I thought I only had two surviving pepper plants, but in the process of de-weeding, I discovered that there are three. There are a few healthy tomato plants, but most are tiny, weak, and scraggly. I'm hoping that, with the heat, the majority of them will snap out of it and produce enough tomatoes to can this summer. 

I have zinnias planted along the north side of the garden and they're starting to bloom. Monday night Tony helped me lay landscape fabric and put up a little fence along the outside edge in the middle. I'm hoping to border the north side of the garden and all of my flower beds with a layer of mulch to help cut down on the weeds.

I weeded the herb wheel and discovered that the thyme and rosemary didn't make it, but the eucalyptus, chives, and basil are all doing very well. I thought the sage was gone, too, but it looks to have pulled through after all and I think it's going to be okay.

Well, that's what's going on in my garden at the moment. What's going on in yours?

Until next time...

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Summer Bucket List 2022

Summer is still my least favorite of the four seasons, but, thanks to my summer-lovin' friend, Jean, I've learned to live with the heat and humidity and actually enjoy certain aspects of summer in Missouri to a great extent.

While looking over my calendar, I've come up with a list of things that I'd like to do this summer, and possibly accomplish, over the course of it. In reality, I probably won't get to all of them, but having a list will certainly help me to keep my focus and encourage me to keep pressing forward even on the hottest and sweatiest of summer days. 

Purple Coneflowers
" see and know of your own selves
that summer is now nigh at hand." 
(Luke 21:30)

1. Write my summer bucket list
2. Plan my summer menus (these will be posted weekly in my 'Master List and Menu Plan Monday' posts)
3. Celebrate summer birthdays with the grandlittles (there are a bunch of them!) 👧🎂👦
4. Lead a wildflower hike at Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site 🌼
5. Celebrate Independence Day 💖☆💙
7. Eat watermelon 🍉
8. Welcome another new granddaughter into the family 👶
9. Observe a full moon (July 13 - Buck Moon, August 11 - Sturgeon Moon, September 10 - Harvest Moon) 🌕
10. Make red, white, and blue jello 💖☆💙
11. Make homemade ice cream 🍨
12. Catch a lightening bug 🐛 
13. Enjoy the Perseid meteor shower ⭐🌠🌟
14. Celebrate my 61st birthday 🎂
15. Go visit some of my husband and I's old haunts in the Kansas City area 🏙
16. Explore some area Route 66 sites 
17. Go stargazing 🌟
18. Grill burgers on the grill 🍔
19. Go geocaching 🧭
20. Play in cool water on a hot day 🤽
21. Go camping ⛺
22. Visit a state park that I've never been to before
23. Enjoy fresh produce and herbs out of my garden 🍅
24. Attend a free summer movie @ the Plaza Theater in Lamar 🎥
25. Enjoy a banana split 🍌
26. Attend a Kansas City Royals baseball game ⚾
27. Photograph, journal, and record new-to-me nature finds 🐍
28. Enjoy a summer storm ⛈
29. Hike a new trail 🥾
30. Enjoy a campfire 🔥
31. Lead at evening hike at Prairie State Park 🌜
32. Collect, tumble, and polish rocks and gemstones 💎
33. Preserve what I can of the summer bounty 🌽
34. Cut flowers fresh from the garden and make a bouquet 🎕
35. Visit Red Oak II @ Carthage, Missouri
36. Work Hug-A-Herp Day at Prairie State Park 🐢
37. Get an eye exam and new glasses 👀
38. Get past the one-year anniversary of my husband's death 💔
39. Go to the family reunion on my dad's side
40. Attend Corey and Heather's (oldest granddaughter) wedding 👨👩

That's what's on my summer bucket list. What's on yours?

Until next time...

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