by Maryclaire Mayes
This time of year it seems nature is in denial. The stores have already moved on to Fall, no turning back. I took this picture the first week of August, really halloween already? I know that Summer is almost over, but please don’t rush it. Some parts of nature are moving towards the next season, like the male hummingbirds are not in denial, they have already migrated, they always leave first to get the best spots for the ladies who join them later.
The hundreds of noisy grackles have flocked, cackled and passed through on their way south. Some of my vegetables are done but most of the gardens are at the height of production. The Fall crops are ripening and the elderberries have all been eaten by the birds ( except for some I was able to get to first). The late raspberries are a sight to behold ripening on bowing branches. I’m having a hard time keeping up with them and all the cucumbers, zucchini, pole beans, melons and tomatoes.
The weather seemed to be gradually moving to more Fall-like weather last week and then the 90 degree days and hot nights were back! Here and there are small signs of foliage losing their chlorophyll and changing color, but for the most part it seems greener later than usual. So as I contemplate the seasons changing and look forward to the next, I’m going to take time to appreciate the last glow of summer here on the farm, maybe I’m a little in denial.
by Maryclaire Mayes
Our daughter Nell, I think her children will some day rise up and call her blessed (proverbs 31:28). We think she is such a good mom. Her four children are a testament to her good nature and patience.
Her children don’t always want to help out in the garden, but they always do. The other day we needed to do lots of weeding. Some of the kids were grumbling a bit about it, you know they said things like it’s too hot and it’s too hard. But mom turned it around by turning weeding into a game; 1 point for pulling the weeds and throwing them over the row, 3 points if they get it over the fence. Suddenly they were all weeding and having fun doing it.
Her children are far from perfect but Nell deals with them patiently and with an understanding of where they are in their stage of development. She lets them be kids, getting dirty and all the bumps and bruises that come with healthy explorations and adventures. Whether they are up here in the great outdoors or home in their house, Nell uses every opportunity for learning.
This year she is home schooling all four children; her 9 year old, 7 year old and 5 year old twins. It’s a big job, but the kids are eager to learn and doing very well. Great job mom!
by Maryclaire Mayes
A guinea hen disaster! Anyone who thinks we should all get along like animals do in nature, just don’t understand nature, but I’ll get back to that later.
First I want to tell you about guinea fowl. Some people have never heard of them, some people love them and and lots of people hate them. Even so they are becoming quite popular birds to keep, because most of the country is seeing an increase in tick borne diseases and guineas love to eat ticks. That’s the top reason for keeping guineas on a pretty short list. They also lay small hard shelled eggs that are very tasty. The reasons not to keep them is a much longer list. They are extremely noisy, seriously noisy, maybe only topped by the lack of intelligence. They sound their alarm, or should I say alarming calls at anything they deem a danger.Some say they make good watch dogs, but that is only if you don’t mind them crying wolf all the time.
They can be bullies; they may chase cats and dogs and have been known to kill snakes, rats and roosters. They love to roam and your neighbors may not like it ( see reason one). Guineas are native to Africa and are hardly domesticated. Without proper training they will not roost in the safety of the coop at night, they will fly to the tops of trees. They prefer to make their nests hidden in the brush, with many hens laying their eggs all in the same nest, then one will get the urge to sit on the nest when there is usually about 20 to 40 eggs in it.
When I got 10 keets ( that’s what baby guineas are called) I tried to handle them to tame them but they made it very clear they did not like being handled and it caused them so much stress. When they were old enough I moved their cage in with the chickens and I think that helped to tame them. I was able to train them to come in at night by treating them with millet seeds. But I then I noticed they were not laying eggs in the coop anymore. I had found my white hen on a nest of 26 eggs and she didn’t put up much of a fuss for me to take the eggs and get her back in the coop. Then one evening only 5 guineas came home when I called them. I had an idea where they might be and when I looked I found two hens on a nest and 3 males guarding them. This time these two hens were pretty serious ( and scary) about staying put on their eggs. I had no idea what I should do. Would they be safe because they had all these males that wanted to guard them? I thought about trying to move their nest to a safe spot. I called a friend who thought I should either take the eggs and get the birds back in the coop or just leave them and hope for the best. So I left them there, half my guinea flock! Later that evening I saw the males had all come back to the coop, so I let them in. The next morning I saw one hen at the coop door. Here is where we get back to the nature part. I went to check on the nest and the hen was dead with feathers scattered everywhere. imagine it was a raccoon that mangled her and left her dead next to her nest. She had been sitting on 40 eggs. Whatever it was it seems like it was just for fun as she was not eaten. That’s just one example of how creatures get a long in nature. I’m still letting my guineas free range to eat the ticks, but I won’t be letting set on nests in the wild anymore.
by Maryclaire Mayes
My mom used to say ” Many hands make light work”. I remember she often said this when we would help her can the bushels of tomatoes that came from our garden at the end of the summer. When I had my own children I read if you don’t let your toddlers “help” you with chores around the house, they won’t want to when they are old enough to really help. So even though it always took longer to do chores with a toddler, I considered it an investment in the future. My future, that eventually they would be capable of helping with chores, and their future, that they would become productive adults that have learned that work is part of life.
I know my kids heard “Many hands make light work” a lot growing up too. I always let them “help” with dishes and cleaning and of course canning too. When they were 7 and 10 we moved to a small farm. Then there was lots of opportunity to work together. We did a market garden and our young daughter did most of the planting without complaint. Now we have grandchildren, six so far! They are all becoming eager little helpers. Now our Little Miss Number Five loves to sweep up bugs on our porch. It makes my heart glad to see our kids families carrying on the tradition of ” Many hands make light work”.
by Maryclaire Mayes
I have sweet memories of my mom. We shared a love for gardening, but my mom really excelled at house plants. She had several different kinds of plants. I think orchids were her favorite but mine was her gardenia. It is a treat for your sense of smell and sight. They say fragrance plays an important role in memories and the smell of the gardenia is sweet and intoxicating. It is also has beautiful creamy white petals that slowly unfold like a graceful dance into a beautiful rose – like flower. Unfortunately I’m not as good as my mom in growing them. But every so often I can’t resist bringing one home. The sight and smell of the pretty white blossoms always bring back happy memories of my childhood and my mom.