Where’s Wayward?

A few months back, I got some Polish chickens from the feed store.  Polish are a breed with a so-called ‘top hat’, which is just a big ball of feathers atop their little heads, which pretty much make the chicken look like a creature with a chicken body with a lollipop stick head and neck.  Really, it looks very similar to a Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree, stuck on a bird’s body. That’s a bit more accurate.  Anyway, due to the large ball of feathers on their head, their vision tend to be partially, if not almost fully, occluded.  Enter Wayward.

Wayward Jones is a White Crested Black Polish. This means she is primarily a black chicken with a white poof on top of her head.  I knew Wayward was ‘special’ pretty much from the start.  During their first outdoor excursions, Wayward would always end up where the other chickens WEREN’T, crying desperately for someone to come and find her.  When I did go to retrieve her, she was usually so happy to see someone, she would run and jump into my hands and up my arm. 

One morning as we were leaving, we were almost out the gate when we saw a certain chicken over in the orchard who came running to the truck.  Mind you, the others were on the complete opposite side of the house, and this is really a pretty good clip away.  I’m not good with distance, but let’s just say it was a ways away!  Again, she was so happy, she ran to me and I deposited her with the other chicks. 

This scenario has repeated itself dozens of times over the last several weeks.  One day, I found Wayward in a shrub at dusk, so lost she just gave up calling and roosted.  The other day, I found her roosting on the back of a plastic toy dump truck.  The last straw was last Saturday when I was hanging our laundry to dry on our deck.  I saw a bird WAAAAAAAY down the hill behind our house, almost to the creek, and believe me, it’s a long way for a little chicken to go.  I looked at it for a minute, thinking it looked an awful lot like a guinea (which I do not have anymore, they are in the freezer now), before realizing who it was.  My shoulders slumped and I shook my head.  I thought to myself: One day, I’m going to get a collect call from Mexico, they’re going to connect me, and there will be nothing but clucking on the other end, and I’m gonna know EXACTLY who it is. I can foresee the conversation….

Me:  Sure, I’ll accept a collect call.

WJ: Booooooock???  Bock, Bock?

Me:  Wayward?  Is it you? You’ve been gone for weeks!

WJ: BOCK!  Booock, bock, bock, bock

Me: Well, I’m glad you’re OK, but what are you doing in Mexico?

WJ: Bock, bock, bock, booock, bock.

Me:  You got arrested for WHAT?  Where does a chicken hide drugs?

WJ: Bock, boooock, bock, bock, booock

Me: (irritated) OK, look, I don’t want to know any more about it. We’re not telling Jason, and we’re never speaking of this again.  I’ll pick you up in a week.

(connection ends)

 So, I flagged down Jason, who was blowing off the driveway.  I said, “Come look at THIS.”  He said, “Ok, where’s Wayward?”  Does that give you ANY idea how routine this is? I could have been asking him to come look at anything on earth, but he knew it was Wayward, right off the bat.

So, I went and retrieved Wayward yet again, but this time I had a plan.  I took a hairband and made her a ponytail (chickentail?) out of her head feathers.  She went into a slight stage of shock, then surprise.  She ran around in circles, so excited she could finally see something other than the backside of those feathers.  This is the story of Wayward Jones the Polish chicken.

Super Fantastic Cat Alarm 5000

The other day, I adopted a housecat.  I have only had a housecat once in my adult life…for about a month (he was pretty much dumped in my lap and loved to dump on my bath rugs, so I found him another home).  Anyway, we found ‘Garfield’ on Craigslist.  Strangely, he was only about 3 minutes from our house. 

Garfield is the funniest-looking cat I have ever laid eyes upon.  He is an Exotic Shorthair, which is basically a Persian with shorter hair and a perfectly flat face.  I mean, really flat.  Here is is, performing ‘cat yoga’:

Not only does he look funny, his personality is hilarious. 

If Garfield is hungry, he meows.  If Garfield is thirsty, he meows.  If the litterbox is not properly cleaned, he meows.  And, if you are not graciously lavishing him with attention, he meows.  No doubt about it, this is a cat who knows what he wants in life.

So, the other day, I was attempting to sleep in on a Saturday.  At 6:45am, the ‘cat alarm’ has apparently been activated and I wake up to SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF right in my face and crack open my eyes, and Garfield is about 1/2″ from my nose.  “Garfield! Go find something else to do!”  I flip on my stomach and cover my head with a pillow.  Then comes: PUUUUUURRRRRPUUUUURRRRRPUUUUUURRRRR from deep in his little cat chest, so loud that it is now vibrating the coils in my bed and the noise penetrates my skull.  “GARFIELD, PLEASE!” Silence.  Then comes a large, furry critter jumping in the very center of my back, making small circles.  “Meow?  Meow? (DON’T YOU KNOW I’M HUNGRY, YOU STUPID HUMAN!)”  I try to ignore the fact that a huge ball of fur is making figure 8’s on my backside.  Silence.  Suddenly, I feel one of the straps on my pajama top being chewed.  Chomp, chomp, ‘meooooow’, ‘meooooow’.  I give up.  I am now slave to the cat, and give him his kibble. 

No better alarm than a hungry cat.

Rainwater Harvesting

Here is my late spring herb garden, picture was taken today.  In it, I have several kinds of thyme, rosemary, horehound (I’m not making that up), oregano, dill, catnip, catmint, basil, chives, and sage.

So!  For the last several weeks, we have had NO RAIN.  I mean, I was starting to really get worried there for a while.  Typically, our April/May months provide a pretty good amound of rain to tide us through the beginning of summer.  I cursed myself for not collecting more rainwater when it was more plentiful.  I have been collecting rainwater in plastic trash cans for several years now, though not very efficiently. I tend to forget about them…but not this year!  I used my gathered rainwater exclusively for my baby tomatoes this year. 

Anyway, after this mini dry spell, I really got to thinking about water usage and collection.  I mean…almost on the verge of obsessively thinking about it.  How much water do I use washing eggs?  How much do I use in the shower, or bath, or rinsing plates? 

There was a good reason for our grandparents using a ‘dishpan’.  I so happen to have two ‘dishpans’ and so now when I am washing eggs, or rinsing plates, I have been dutifully collecting the runoff and putting it in my garden.  This water is called ‘greywater’.  Your water that is used in your potty is called ‘blackwater’.  Anyway, there is definitely a lot for me to learn about re-using greywater.  I hope, one day, to have my kitchen and shower water diverted to my gardens.  Today, I even scooped out the bathwater after the kiddos got out.  This is NOT something you want to apply to a veggie/herb you will eat raw, though…..as, well, you know…there are ‘booty germs’ in it, but still, it watered the daylily garden anyway. 

Well, so the other day, we got a really nice rain.  I ran like mad to set out all my water collection buckets (read: anything that would hold water).  It’s amazing the amount of water that runs off of a building during a good storm!  We had tons of water, which we deposited into a couple of our water trashcans.  I also went and bought an aquarium gravel siphon @ WallyWorld, to, theoretically siphon out bath water (note to Self: the law of physics prevent this from happening in the manner I had hoped.  So I failed Siphons 101)  So, today I was walking around our shop, and we have 2 jet skis that we are keeping for someone.  The place where your feet ride was FULL of rainwater.  Well, so….I took my siphon and my trusty 5 gallon buckets:

And, out of all 4 footwells, I got almost 20 gallons of water!  So then, I took that, carried it to one of my trash barrels, threw a piece of screening that I found on the side of the road (I KNEW I’d find a use for it!!!) and poured the water through, to screen out the yucky stuff:

My future plans are to utilize some 55 gallon drums into an official rainwater gathering system. 

Water restrictions can happen anywhere at any time, so I want to do my best to be prepared for the worst.  Yay for saving free water!

Creepy Crawlies

Even as a very young child, I have always been attracted to the ‘creepy crawlies’ of Nature.  Snakes, spiders, insects, invertebrates…whatever most people had nightmares about, I was usually out catching them with my faithful bug net. 

I think about my elementary school playground teacher, Mrs. Brown.  Poor Mrs. Brown.  Mrs. Brown probably had some sort of insect phobia (unbeknownst to me) and I was always trying to hand Mrs. Brown all sorts of insects in the schoolyard.  “But, Mrs. Brown, they won’t hurt you!”, I would plead.  She would graciously turn down my tent caterpillar, grasshopper, etc.  I am not sure if she ever did eventually hold any of my prized finds.  Anyway, Mrs. Brown was in the same Sunday school class as my Mamaw and would always tell her how I was forever trying and trying to get her to hold one of my critters and how I would chase boys with worms. 

Anyway, I am proud to say that my own little ones are fairly fearless around invertebrates, and little Zoe carried around a poor tent caterpillar for days, calling it, “my little friend”.  Tent caterpillars, though somewhat destructive to some trees, have always intrigued me.  Honestly, they look like a crawling Oriental rug.  Their patterns are so complex and beautiful.  Here is one of Zoe’s ‘little friends’:

Of course, these little guys do not possess stinging hairs, however many caterpillars DO and some are extremely painful, so be sure you know what you’re picking up!  Here is another little guy  I found on one of our gates the other day. 


Generally, the more colorful the caterpillar, the best it is to NOT TOUCH. Not always true, though, as in the case of the potentially dangerous Puss caterpillar ,  which is what your grandparents call an ‘asp’.  I remember Mamaw nearly having a heart attack when I found a Wooly Bear larvae one day beside her house.  “Asp! Asp!  You stay away from that!” as my Papaw ground the poor little Wooly Bear into oblivion.  Naturally, I had to run into the house and grab my favorite book, my Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife identification book, only to discover that Wooly Bears are completely harmless.  Oh well.  You will often see Wooly Bears crossing the road in the fall.

Anyway, here is a neat little spider I found today, hanging out on my dill:

They may be creepy and crawly, but they all really do serve a purpose!  Well, maybe except cockroaches.  I can do without the cockroaches!  But, seriously, I don’t use pesticides for the simple fact that they indiscriminately kill bugs, whether they are ‘pests’ or not.  When you kill one link in the chain of life, the chain can’t go on.

Goodbye Tom, hello sausage

As you may have read earlier in my blog, I butchered my first turkeys earlier this year.  I am going to give you a step by step on how I made some turkey breakfast sausage and some ground turkey.  Here we go!

All you need for turkey sausage:  I used a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid, a big ol’ bowl of turkey chopped into 1.5″ pieces, a roll of pork sausage (they were out of plain ol’ fat), and another big bowl to catch the ground meat. 


 Most of the turkey was breast meat, but I did have some leg meat in there.  I chopped into 1-1.5 inch cubes to feed into the grinder, and I seasoned with a sausage recipe I found on Allrecipes.  Mostly, it was salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and some red pepper.  I don’t remember the rest, but if you look up breakfast sausage on most any recipe site, you’ll find something that looks tasty.  You also need to stick your meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes prior to grinding.  It makes it a LOT easier to pass through the grinder.  The metal face plates should also be stuck in the freezer as well.

 Here I am feeding the meat into the grinder via a wooden plunger (tip: don’t use your fingers unless you really just don’t like them)  Anyway, first, you grind with a coarse grinding plate (which you have stuck in the freezer beforehand, and you will finish with a fine plate. For some grinds, you can just get by with the coarse plate, though.  The only difference is that the fine plate has smaller holes through which the meat passes.  Anyway, you just put the chunks in the feeder, plunge it down, and it comes out all nice and ground!  When I made the sausage, I did use some pre-made Jimmy Dean pork sausage, and as I ground, I just added it in here and there.  Turkey is very lean, so it needs a little fat to get that sausage just right.  You will also notice a skillet in this picture…when I was done with a ‘pass’ through the grinder the first time, we fried up a little to give it a taste test.  This way, you can correct your spices before you send it through the fine grind.

Coarse grind:

Fine grind:

So then I just made them into sausage patties, and stored them on waxed paper, stacked, in a freezer Ziploc.  For the plain ground turkey, we didn’t season at all, and rolled them into 1/2 pound balls, storing them also in freezer Ziplocs.  And that was all there was to that!   A lot easier than I thought. 

For the final picture, a word:

You know those vintage ads, where the woman always has this shocked, yet pleasantly surprised face?  As if the Good Lord himself came down and handed this woman a blender/coffee/toothpaste/oven/etc?  For whatever reason, I ‘do’ this face in photos.  Unfortunately, I turn my “vintage ad face” up WAAAAAAY too much and end up looking like a psychopathic version. I could darn near be grinding up my husband/dog/mother in law in this picture, judging by my face. Oh well.  Do enjoy.