Taking down the dead Red Oak

We finally did it.  We paid to have one of our Red Oak trees, who showed signs of death over a year ago, taken down.

The Bartlett Tree Experts truck – parked as close to the house as possible.

The crew was able to remove a few of the long limbs that were reaching over the house with the “bucket truck”, but the remainder of the tree had to be removed by a single climber.  Here, the bucket raises one of the crew members about 40 feet above the roof to reach the long, leggy limbs over the house.

This is the climber, one of the 3 team members, way up near the top of the tree, on his way up to remove the top limbs.

The hens are very aware of the commotion (loud chainsaw) in the tree.

A rope, which is looped over another tree for leverage, is then attached to the portion of the trunk about to be removed.  One crew member on the ground holds the two ends of this rope.  After the climber attaches the rope to the trunk or limb, he uses his chainsaw to remove said portion of the tree from below.  The crew member holding the ends of the rope gently lowers the piece while another crew member helps to give direction and warn him if he’s getting the piece too close to the roof.

The men on the ground were working in a very tight space between our house and our neighbor’s house.  A good deal of brush and smaller trees populate the space while part of our fence and shed are very near the area.  They also had to be careful not to damage those structures.  Oh, and there is also a power line that runs from the back yard to the roof…  one more obstacle.

In the above photo, the man on the ground with the rope (not in view), is swinging the rope back over to the climber (who is approximately 60-70 feet up in the tree) so he can attach it to the next portion of the trunk he’s going to cut.

Here, you can see the climber using his chainsaw to remove a large limb at the top of the tree.


After using the chainsaw to cut from both sides of the limb, a slight nudge from the climber sends the limb swinging out and away from the tree.


The severed limb is carefully lowered to the ground.


One of the crew members lowers the severed limb to the ground.


Crew member guides the limb to the ground next to the house.  This was this view from the office window.


Once our climber had cut down to about a 12 foot trunk, he descended and another crew member cut down a larger section before finally cutting across the base only a few inches from the ground.


Thanks to the brave crew from Bartlett Tree Experts!


When they were young…

I finally took a roll of film in to be developed that’s been sitting on my desk since March.  It’s so much fun to see pictures that you forgot you took…

Their feathers were so pretty…

Summer Highlights – Part 1

Thanks to my dear sweet aunt, I was reminded that I have a blog.  I have been neglectful of it for too many months.  Sincere apologies to my faithful readers.

Well, since our hens started laying, so much has happened.  Let’s hit the high-points.

First, we thoroughly savored those first eggs.  Perhaps we are biased, but we thought they were the best tasting eggs – ever.

As the summer continued, we enjoyed many a Sweet 100 cherry tomato as well as our Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes.  However, our efforts to grow many other summer veggies were nearly fruitless.  Literally.  Now that I’m starting the work of preparing the raised beds for winter veggies, I think I’ve found the problem.  On the west side of our property, we have 4 square beds.  The ground beneath the topsoil (only 2 inches deep in some spots), is solid, dry, rocky clay.  NO WONDER OUR PLANTS WOULDN”T GROW!!!

So now I have the job of trying to dig much much deeper before trying to plant more vegetables.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  🙂

Let’s see, one of the highlights of our summer was an overnight hike with some friends in the Black Mountains.  We climbed Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Rockies at 6,684 feet.  That evening we enjoyed a lovely meal around our campfire:

Grilled Ciabatta topped with homemade mozzarella, our heirloom tomato, olive oil , salt and pepper

Grilled Veggie Sausages with assorted mustards

Risotto (cooked on the camp stove)

Grilled zucchini, okra and yellow squash

The bread and all the veggies we grilled came from the Matthews Farmer’s Market.

Once the hens had been laying for about a month, we decided it was time to let them out of the coop for a few hours in the evening to roam the backyard.  They were hesitant at first, and the chicken who we lovingly call “Number 5”, took about 30 minutes to discover the way out of the run.  She could see her friends out in the yard from inside the run, but she couldn’t figure out that she had to go back through the coop to get out the door.

Now, 4 months later, ranging in the yard is their favorite activity.  We try to let them out on the evenings that we are home to watch them.  The best part about it is that they will put themselves to bed when it gets dark.  They hop up on the first roost, and then onto the high roost.  All lined up next to each other, they sleep.

Wow, there’s a lot that we did this summer.  I’ll continue with the rest in my next post.  (Let’s hope I can remember to write it before four more months go by).  🙂

Our First Egg!

As I was about to pour quinoa into a pot of boiling water, my husband came into the kitchen and said, “I think we have a chicken emergency.”  So I dumped the quinoa into the pot, put a lid on it, and turned off the heat.  He grabbed two freezer packs and I followed him out to the coop.  One of the hens was in the nest box, pushed up against the side wall.  She was panting heavily, so we thought maybe she was overheating.  After all, we’ve had many 97 degree days in a row.  We brought the waterer over to her so she could get a drink.  After a few moments, she stood up and then jumped down from the nest box.  That’s when we saw it…  our first egg!

As soon as she jumped down, she started singing a very loud song.  After a little search, we found that this is normal.  Most hens pronounce their newly lain egg by singing a song.  I have a video posted to my facebook page of a hen singing the “egg song.”  Or you can watch in on this YouTube page.

She continued to sing off and on for another 5 minutes or so.  We were just so excited that she figured out that she should get into the nest box to lay on the first try!

We’ve decided to wait until we get some more eggs before we cook the first one.  Check back for more eggs!

our proud hen - the first to lay!

Garden Update

We harvested our first batch of green beans.  We planted 12 bush bean seeds in a raised bed during the last week of March.  Most of the beans we picked were just over 3 inches long.

To prepare them, I quickly cooked them in boiling water for 4 minutes, and then topped with a tahini yogurt sauce.

We’ve been short on rain for the last couple weeks, so some of my vegetable plants are looking a little sad.  I’ve added wheat straw as a mulch on top of most of the beds to try and keep moisture in.  I’ve seen some vegetable plants in community gardens this summer with straw mulch, so I thought I’d give it a try.

After starting this post nearly 2 weeks ago, our bush bean plants looked like they were blighted – leaves turning very pale and falling off the vine and small beans losing color and falling off.  I’ve now cut back all of the dead bits and my hope is that they might bounce back.  We do have some new blooms on the vines.

My cherry tomatoes are looking really happy – I know they love the heat.  I’m still waiting for them to redden.  On the other hand, my heirloom Brandywine tomato plants continue to put out blooms, but haven’t produced any tomatoes yet.

Cherry Tomatoes

Only one of the broccoli plants seems to have survived the midnight raids by whatever animal loves to munch on broccoli seedlings.

The lone broccoli plant

I’m also puzzled by the health of my squash plants.  I planted three yellow squash plants and three zucchini plants.  One of the zucchini plants really took off and even started producing a squash, but after one day of 95 degree heat, it wilted and dried out.

Sad zucchini squash

The other plants are alive, but seem to be stunted.  They occasionally produce blossoms, but the plants are still very small compared to the large one.

Yellow Squash plant - 4" wide, 5" tall

I’d love any advice anyone has to offer!  I’m relatively new to vegetable gardening, but I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the subject of organic gardening and haven’t come across advice about slow-growing or stunted plants.

We still don’t have any eggs from the chicks yet…  but we’ll be sure to let you all know as soon as we get the first egg…

At least my flowers are hardy and happy…


Happy Summer!


The chicks have a new home!

On Saturday, around 2 PM, we declared the coop to be complete.

We had fabulous weather that day, the first day of Spring, around 73 degrees F.  And because the chicks turned 6 weeks old on Friday, we decided to move them in.

You can see one of two roosts above their heads.  We had a small, unhealthy tree growing in the vines, so we all decided that it would provide the best material for a natural roost for our chickens.  If you’re wondering about the height, the chickens will be about twice their current height once they are adults.  Apparently chickens love to sleep up high, and especially if they can perch on a rough surface that has rounded edges.  This picture was taken from inside the nest box.  You can see the chicken door that leads out to the run to the right of the chicks.

The interior of the coop has a 3-inch deep bed of pine shavings.  It provides insulation on the floor and will make cleaning the coop much easier.

Here are the first two chicks to be put in the run.  It took them at least 15 minutes to cross the length of the run and arrive at the ramp leading to the inside of the coop.  After another 5 to 10 minutes, they opted not to use the ramp and instead “flew” into the coop:

I’m so pleased that the roof turned out just how I’d hoped it would:

We enjoyed hanging out with the chicks for the rest of the weekend.  It was so much fun watching them enjoy their new home.

Here’s one last picture of some happy chicks:

Hope ya’ll have a good week.  We’ll keep you updated on the progress of the chicks as the weeks progress!

Chick Update

Ok, so our chicks are almost 5 weeks old…

Time to show you how much bigger they are:

And now for some action shots:

The chicks seem even more aware and skittish than before.  The trend is to run into the corner of the box and furiously imagine a way out.  I’m really looking forward to moving them outside to their new home.

Here’s a shot I took with the flash.  You can get a better look at their different colors.