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December has finally drawn to a close, and with it 2015.  The month started with more setbacks, as my husbands job became subject to a “Last in , First Out” thing when business took a downturn.  It is a bit of a rough way to start out the month, much less the new year.  We keep making our plans, though.

The month’s weather kept with the theme it had all year, rain and more rain.  The unseasonably warm temperatures gave rise to a some nasty storms. Those storms left us with downed branches and bog over the entire property.

We were lucky enough to avoid the tornados that plagued the rest of the state, but we are still slogging in the mud. Those vehicles not parked on our paved driveway have been sinking into it, making for some muddy adventures as we try and pull them free of the muck and move them to drier ground.

Oh yes, so much adventure.

I am grateful for my mud boots, or I would have ruined a few pairs of shoes already.

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The warm weather has allowed my pepper plants to continue to bloom and set fruit. My plants  , that have survived this long, are covered in peppers of green and purple. Some are getting quite large. I do believe the lack of sun has kept them from ripening to red and yellow, but they are still tasty.  I am content to let them keep going until they are ready to keel over on their own, or the squirrels rob me again.

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We could not save the radishes and most of the lettuce from my scratching hens obsessive habit of destruction  of all things garden. Only two pots remain of mixed lettuce,  saved only by a half baked idea of using a tomato cage in the pots. It keeps the girls off the pot. They lost interest in the lettuces once they couldn’t get their big backsides up there to scratch up the dirt.

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Mostly, my garden has been pulled up, the pots empty and set aside for a few weeks. Not for long,  though.  It will be time to start planting my spring garden soon.

I am excited about this year’s garden and have been pouring over seed catalogs, making lists  of seeds and sets I want to order for my spring planting. I also have been taking inventory or what pots I have here and need to look into storage for more, and also gather up my seed trays.

Being limited on budget, I am having to be frugal and creative. The big expense will probably be the actual seeds and sets. The rest will be using what we have on hand and can dig from random items laying about.

So far, a baby swimming pool and a few cloth shopping bags have pulled as possible planters. Some old rolled wire fencing has been pulled for chicken barrier. Planting does no good if my hens destroy what I have put out. Little greedy things that they are.

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One thing I don’t have to purchase is good dirt. My compost pile, started in May of this last year, has grown large on a steady diet of kitchen vegetable  scraps, leaves, grass , chicken egg shells and poo. The compost is dark , rich and there is enough to make a big, healthy garden this year.

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My dear husband, and my father made one of two potato boxes I want for this year, from scrap lumber we have on property.  They only made one, just to see if this was what I wanted and was describing as I waved my printed Pinterest potato box plan around. It was, and now just needs to have the bottom plastic bag ring stapled in.

Another box is under construction as I write, then they will be filled in with dirt, potatoes planted, then boarded up as the plants grow. This will be my first year with potatoes.  I am excited to try it.

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My Poo-Princesses are still toddling about the yard, getting big off a steady diet of bugs, greens and layer ration.  I am glad I took the leap last year and went ahead and got them.  They have eliminated our spider problem, I hardly ever see snakes in the yard, they turn my compost for me,  and are sweet girls and fun to watch. 

My having hens  as ‘pets’ this year has  led to my being dubbed, “The Crazy Chicken Lady” amongst friends, family and neighbors.  This led to a ‘theme’ appearing in my social media accounts  in the form of pictures and articles people tag me in, that have anything to do with chickens.  It also was the theme of many gifts I received this year for the holiday.

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Maybe they are right.  I am crazy about my hens. They get good, nutritious feed, a solid house to rest in,  tasty treats, and even get warm oatmeal  every evening on cold nights before they roost up for the evening. I love talking about my girls, and most people who come to visit usually are taken outside to observe my feathered beauties. I even convinced the big dog, who hates birds, to watch over them while they roam out in the yard all day.

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There is danger everywhere when you are a chicken.  Death from above is a very real possibility here.

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So , it was easy to train the big dog to keep the bad birds out of the yard. It was not so easy to convince him to not chase the “good birds” a.k.a. MY HENS, in the yard. In the end, bribery won the day. The big dog takes payment for his services in the form of extra treats and/or extra love.

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Our reward for this devotion to my fluffy ladies is fresh eggs every day.

An incredibly useful gift for this chicken lady, this year, was an egg skelter. I have wanted one so badly, but was unable to find one at a price I could justify. I have one now! I am so glad my daily trip back from the coop no longer includes finding a sharpie and writing dates on the eggs. My mother gave me this for a holiday gift, along with a few other fun kitchen items.  One of those fun items was a Rooster Kitchen Timer that crows a loud, “Cock-a-doodle-do!”, or its own rendition of “The Chicken Dance” with a flip of a switch.
Probably a very appropriate gift for a Crazy Chicken Lady.

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The lack of sun has made for a slow ripening of all the lemons on our lemon tree. They have been ripening, though. Where we had been picking off a lemon every once in a while, we had a day where we had half a tree of ripe lemons all at once.

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Big  ole fist-sized lemons. Hundreds of them. Some were given away, the others were squeezed into juice.

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It took a while, but I managed to squeeze out about 10 quarts of juice from that one basket full. Most of it was jarred and then frozen. We still have another basket full waiting on the tree.

I see plenty of lemonade and lemon-flavored food in our future.

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Another great gift was this shelf my husband built for me to store my things in.  He built it from left over 3/4″ plywood we bought for building the coop. It is a wonderful use of the scrap wood, and it turned out great.  I was excited to get it in the room and start putting things in it.

It even makes a great spot for another gift for the chicken lady. A cute black hen, that heats scented wax and makes the room smell heavenly, sits on top.

This shelf is the first of a few projects we have planned for the next few months.. We need to  build out and repair bedroom furniture for ourselves.  We gave away our entire bedroom set when we moved. What we have now is either borrowed, or something that was used for something else, but is now bedroom furniture. 

We will get there, one piece at a time.

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My books have arrived for my course. Class starts this week. I am excited to start, but I am more excited to finish. If there ever was a time we needed me making good money, now would be it. First to get my training, then the job. I am just glad it is a course I can do at my own pace, so I can get through it as fast as I can absorb the material. 

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The rain continues on into the new year. We are making an effort not to get as bogged down and gloomy personally as the weather has been outside.  Our situations,  like the weather, can change anytime. Some days are more rain than sun, but the sun does come.

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My parents have left again on their travels. My husband and I are alone. Well, except for a moody big dog. He is  lonely because my parents dog left on the trip with them.  Poor Big Dog. Extra loves are the only remedy.

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Also a small cat, who suddenly realized he need not hide under the bed, plotting against us in secret, anymore. He can now plot in the open, without fear of seeing “The Man”. “The Man” a.k.a. My Father, has never hurt the small cat, but the small cat still thinks he is terrifying.  No amount of love remedies being a small, scaredy cat.

I have made no resolution this year. Just plans. Having a bigger container garden, caring for my animals,  making and refinishing a new bedroom for us, going back to school, and hopefully getting a good paying job are plenty to keep me busy for the next few months.  Maybe we will get thrown a bone and my husband will find good work soon.

Until then, we just keep on keeping on.

Now I leave this long post with a reward! A short Tale From the Broken Cookie Jar- Doggie Edition
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DON’T EAT MY CHICKENS, CHICKEN FLAVORED DOG BISCUITS

Ingredients :

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Preparation :

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, chicken stock and butter. Knead dough until well combined, about 3 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4″. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Place cut biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Beat egg and milk together in and small bowl. Brush egg mixture over biscuits.

Bake in an oven preheated to 325° for 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

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