Monday, March 19, 2018

March 19, 2018

The end of the crazy month of February led right into the beginning of an even crazier month of March.  Following the old wise tales you could definitely say March came in like a LION!

While we were finishing up or visit with Traveling Tracy, enjoying the unseasonable warm temps and even daffodils poking out of the ground March quickly put an end to all that.  Week one started off with what would be the first of three Nor-Eaters (big snow storms) in just three weeks to hit our area leaving us buried in snow.  Really was not finding it any fun after we were bare in February and our hearts we all set on warm weather and the possibility of any early spring.
Traveling Tracy from Texas experiences a New York style Nor'easter 
The big snow not only meant shoveling but it also threw in a snow day for the kids that changed the plans for lots of things like the school's drama club production of Aladdin Jr.  It was tense wondering if the show would go on for both of the girls as they both had parts in the play, one preformed and one backstage.  Thankfully the show was only on hold for a day and they were able to get both performances in.  It was a great little musical and all the performers in front of and behind the scenes did an excellent job.  Of course I'm partial to the 2 beauties in the second picture and also very proud of them as well.

Also rescheduled or I guess it was just a time change as the day was the same was our 4-H meeting for the month.  Of course its march so we had to do something St. Patrick's Day themed that still kept with this years theme, Bugs.  Now, I'm patting myself on the back for this brilliance and I'm sure Pintrest deserves a little credit too but we ended up making Bug Houses and then used them to make Leprechaun Traps too.  And if all that wasn't fun we added leprechaun gardens which is like a fairy garden but we used gold and green stuff to help entice the mischievous little things into entering our traps.  It thought for sure we would catch one this year but guess our locks were not so great, maybe next year.

Week 2, with the musical and 4-H meeting over we went right into concert mode thanks to the school's Pop's Concert.  Both girls are in the 5th and 6th Grad Band (drums and flute) and one in 5th and 6th grade Chorus so we were running again and shoveling, don't forget about the 2nd snow storm.  Thankfully other then making trips for dresses and shoes we were able to be home more that week shoveling snow.
Want to talk about a shocker, the night of the concert at the dinner table the Youngest daughter says "I get to do a solo duet tonight."  I tell you it about blew me out of the water, she is a bit more out going then the Oldest daughter but still very shy.  Boy, I wish I had know earlier as I would have been bragging her up like crazy to everyone.  Congratulations to her and the other 3 who were chosen to do the same.   And while I'm bragging her up I should also mention that she was one of only a few 5th graders moved up to perform with the band in the concert that night which meant she is way ahead of many members in the 5th grade band.
And if that don't make a parent proud enough the Oldest Daughter who also happens to be 1st chair flute also performed on her own in band as well.  While it was not a "solo" in the sense of performing on her own with out anything else playing it was a part in the song that she was the only flute playing as the others had not learned enough yet to play that part.
Yes, that't right I'm bragging about my kids.  And they deserve the acknowledgement too as they do wonderful and try very hard in everything they do.  That is something lacking a lot in today's "oh well" youth.  So congrats to both the girls and thank you for being such inspirations.  We love you very much!!!
5th and 6th grade band.

Youngest Daughter's Solo Duet, Awe she just looked so tiny next to that much older boy,  Great job sweetie!

Oldest Daughter 1st Chair Flute, Very proud of your amazing job!   And front row makes it so much easier to get photos, 
And before the week ended we somehow managed to spare some energy for our 4-H Club's annual Basket Party and the Legions Corned Beef Dinner.  For the last 3 years we have combined our effort with the Local Legion, they allow us to sell tickets at their dinner and in return we help them set up, server and clean up at their dinner.  Its a win, win for both of our groups as we need a place to sell tickets and host our party and they need help with the dinner.  Plus the kids get to squeeze in some community service that they don't even realize they are doing.  This year as a special treat as a few of them learned place setting too as they were there to do the table setting as well.  I love it how life lessons are learned every day in 4-H and most of the time they are unaware they are learning them.

Week 3, Daylight Savings Time - which basically means it is going to take us all week to recover from the missed sleep after a busy dinner that night at the legion and a really busy last 2 weeks.  Week 3 also gave us a snow storm but this one was nice enough to string out over 3 days, that's right 3 day of shoveling lol, really its not funny now Mother Nature.  We had 2 hour delays from school which probably helped the kids as they were cranky from the time change too and unfortunately we used a snow day that we didn't have in the school calendar to spare (we will loose a spring vacation day to make it up) but the break from all the chaos outweighed the need for a vacation day so we were grateful to have the day off. 
The only real happenings other then snow for this week was that by the end of the week the sun finally started shining after what seemed like forever and it was St. Patrick's Day.  We usually don't go overboard here on this day as we put so much into it already with 4-H and the Legion but we still wanted to do something with "Green" to it so the girls and I grabby my sister and we were off to Simply Succulents, a work shop on growing and using succulent plants.  It was some much needed girl time and a great break from all the "winter" we have had lately to be playing with plants.

This is also the week we got this years new addition to the list of critters we have.  Babies, that always means we are that much closer to spring here, or at least that is what I tell myself.  We did not add a ton of new chickens this year as we really don't need them but we couldn't let chick days come and go with out getting any so we settled on Bantams as we only have a few and meat birds for the obvious reason.  I'm sure these wont be the last critters added this year but its a nice start with out my typical going overboard on chicks.

And with St. Patrick's Day over it was a quick take down of the decoration to get up Easter as fast as possible with it falling so early this year.  I even waded though the snow to get the driveway display done too.

So you see its been a crazy month and with a big family dinner here Easter Sunday (only2weeks away) it will probably not get any slower for us before it ends but the good news is the sun has been shining for almost 4 days now and the snow storm they were predicting for this week is not going to be the big snow they thought and in 2 days spring starts (according to the calendar).  We will just have to take the rest as it comes at us and do the best we can till the flowers do come up.

Easter Decorating

Doesn't it seem like we were just decorating for St. Patrick's Day?  Well, that is pretty much because we were.  Easter is earlier this year and that means we had to get all the green and gold down and all the pretty pastels and bright cheeriness of spring up in one afternoon.  It made for a busy day but its okay as we all enjoy decorating here.  Why the hurry?  Well I host the family Easter Dinner each year.  It started out as just my side of the family and has grown to include my sisters in-laws and now some of the Hubby's family comes too and with limited time this year decorating had to happen fast so we could do all the other things to fit us all in here that day.

DIY Egg, wreath alternative for the Bull family this year.
Our decorating workload was cut in half this year though thanks to some nasty little mice that some how got into the Easter decorations.  Anything that was foam filled or cloth was chewed and if they didn't chew it they used it as a toilet.  While it was nice to not have to put up as much is stunk that some of our favorites were ruined too.  It also left us needing a new wreath for the main entrance door.  I had though about making a pool noodle wreath like I did for St. Patrick's Day but then decided I wanted something different.  A quick search in the basement found me a piece of scrap plywood and that is how we ended up with an egg on our door.  I used every last bit of that piece of plywood as you will notice the top, bottom and part of the one side are a bit flat on the egg as those were the edges of the board but it turned out perfect for what we needed.  I love that it's personalized too.  Even better was the Hubby who usually don't notice small changes in decorations like a pastel wreath and not a green one could not miss the bright cheery egg when he got home.  BTW he like it too.

Vintage dish and chick making for a cute little Easter Fairy Garden.
Inside decorations were pretty basic given half of them were ruined but the table centerpiece got a taste of our recent Simply Succulent class thanks to the Oldest Daughter.  She even added a few of her fairy garden pieces to spruce it up.  Now we just need to get some Easter grass to add and it will be an Easter Fairy Garden.  Love the vintage glass dish and vintage s&p shaker chick she used too.

Driveway Display 2018
This year's big driveway display was not what I was thinking it would be when I planned it out last year.  I planted a nice row of daffodils and some pieces of Forsythia Bush and was going to put the garden bench behind it and make this adorable spring display.....See all that snow, yea it didn't happen.  What did happen is I went through the snow,  I used the Styrofoam eggs and peep the kids made about 4yrs ago and the same bows and garland I usually use on the fence that is out there and made this display.  While cute its still not what I wanted to do, sinking 3 snowstorms in 3 weeks nonsense.  Oh well, maybe next year.

Vintage Blowmond Eater Bunny
And the last bit of decorating we managed to get done that day was hooking up my blowmold bunny.  I will admit that I just love these vintage decoration whether for Easter or any holiday and I have quite a few of them but that's another days blog. I don't know how old this one is and I think it was part of a set back in its prime days but to me its one of my favorite Easter decorations.  I love this guy, the kids on the other hand think its creepy which I can see too but still the nostalgia of it makes it so hard not to love.  I do think he needs to be in a big ole basket but for now he is just going to have to sit there showing off his nightly glow on the porch.

Simply Succulents

We don't overdue it here on St. Patrick's Day.  We celebrate with fun traditions of leprechaun traps and time with the family but after all the hubbub of the Legion's Corned Beef Dinner we are kind of cornbeefed out and then all the extra we do for 4-H this month with St. Patrick's day in mind we like to just enjoy the day rather then go crazy.

Simply Succulents was a class offered by our local Cornell Cooperative Extension on growing and caring for succulent plants.  The glass was given by the same sweet lady who taught the girls to sew their first real clothing pieces that you can see here.   Since it also took place on St. Patrick's Day I though it would be a fun way to add a little "green" to the day and cure the case of cabin fever that was starting to overcome me after 3 straight weeks of cold temps, gray skies and snow, lots of snow.  So I signed us up and I dragged my sister along for the fun too.

The girls loved the class and had fun learning (I love learning like that) about what they can do with their plants.  Even better was that we each came home with 2 plants and 2 different plant leaves to try to propagate ourselves.  In all we ended up with 9 new varieties of succulents, it should have only been 8 but I may have snagged up the leaf that fell off the one plant, hey someone had to take it right.

And look the Oldest Daughter has already put one to good use as part of our Easter center piece on the dining room table.

New Additions for 2018

Awe, New Babies <3

I will admit even though we really don't need more chickens it just wouldn't be right not to have a tank fully of peeping babies to cuddle to get me though my cabin fever part of the year.
This year we didn't go over board (yet) with chicken additions.  We went with just Bantam Chicks and Meat Birds.  I know its a bit backwards to get the biggest and smallest birds available but like I said we didn't need a ton of new chickens this year.  At first we were not adding any (insert sad face) but then we decided if we could get a new breed to add to our flock or just a few more meat birds and then well we were just going to get some chickens, not a lot but some and then it was just one breed.......anyway we got a few new chicks.  

The bantams from last year have just turned out to be the friendliest chickens of all our chickens so we knew we wanted a few more of them.  Hopefully we will have the same result again.  This is the one I call Banty Girl.  I just love her, she is friendly, will sit on your solder and let you walk all over with her like a parrot and will greet  you at the feed freezer (old chest freezer we store our feed it to keep it from rodents and scavengers) every morning soon as the coop is open.  First she will try to eat directly out of the feed scoop because she thinks she deserves first selection and then when you make her move she will jump down in the freezer and clean up any spills.

We will definitely need to keep an eye out each time we do chores now not to close her in but she usually joins the rest of the flock to eat before we are done doing chores so it hasn't been an issue yet.

Unfortunately there is a down side to all the cute little peeping that is happening in the house right now, and that is our Allergy Girl (the youngest daughter) is in full blown allergy attacks with itching, scratching, sore throat and a cough from the babies or the pine shavings or both as she is allergic to most critters, trees and dust, poor girl.  So to prevent her from having asthma attacks the chicks will be making their way down to the basement where they will be just as happy and content and she will be able to breath better.  She just loves her critters too especially her chickens and Ruby her Rhode Island Red is probably her favorite of all the critters.  Poor girl, I know with them in the basement she will still mess with them but the little feathers and dust will not float around as much in the living area of the house and that will help her out.

So from no chicks this year to a few chicks this year and lets just hope the feed store doesn't get any awesome breed of chicks in and we will be set for our new additions this year. 
That is till we get our 4-H pheasants and then turkey chicks (if we can find them close enough) and maybe a cow as its on the list too.  Obviously we have not reached out max critter addition for the year but I'll update if we do. haha

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Oreo, Hubby's Other Puppy

Oreo came down say have a good day as we left for school and work today.  Just look at that silly boy.
Oreo is a Nigerian Dwarf Goat but don't tell him that as he really thinks he is a dog and follows the Hubby around just like Puppy (our actual dog) does.  He is also the "Hubby's Goat" and not because the Hubby raised him up from a baby or anything but because Oreo chose the Hubby and that is how it has been since the day we got him.  Its really amazing the bond he has for the Hubby, I can do chores and feed Oreo for a week straight and while yes he is a good boy he just really could care less about anything other than the feed he knows I have in the scoop.  Yet, just let the Hubby show up for even a second and Oreo is there at his side.  He has even assumed the roll of a waiting dog and knows exactly when it is time for the Hubby to be home from work and will wait at the gate searching till he does.  Soon as he hears the Hubby's truck Oreo is down the pasture (when its not a snowy mess) to greet him at the edge of the lawn.

For those that don't know, Oreo came to us via an online friend (you know the acquaintances you know but don't really know them kind of friend) when he was just about a year old.  I saw him and fell in love with his cute little face and knowing nothing about raising goats I begged the Hubby and we took on raising goats.  We knew he was going to need a friend and so he wouldn't be lonely so we got him a "girl friend" Heidi (a Pygmy goat) but she absolutely despises him, go figure.  Maybe that is why Oreo has taken to the Hubby so?
Either way Oreo just took to the Hubby.  He always plays with him, he follows him all over as soon as the gate is open and he has sort of become like the Hubby's shadow. 

This winter has just been a pain this year.  I know winters are winters and its part of where we live but this year is crazy, we had horrible cold and record temps and that was just February.  There has been no snow and then too much snow, still as I type you can see just how much snow in the photo.  And with this only the 15th day of March we have had 3 Nor-Easter snow storms this month alone with the possibility of one next week too so as you can see now the goats pasture is buried in a foot and a half of snow and Oreo does not have much place to roam.   We have shoveled and shoveled but its not much more then a bunch of snow piles.  Bringing us to today and the first photo  when the Hubby had to come down from shoveling more snow to fix a wiper blade on the car before I could go to work Oreo decided to take advantage of the open gate and the nicely shoveled paths and come down too. One would expect him to just run and take advantage of the new open space but Oreo did not go any farther than the Hubby and soon as the Hubby said the word he was right back up to the animal pen.  Really it the most just amazing thing between the two of them.  It truly showed the love Oreo has for him (and us hopefully too. lol) and the bond they have developed  Oh and our actual dog Puppy who is Oreo's other friend (yes they even play together) he was right in the mix too, just not this particular photo.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Serving At the Corned Beef Dinner

For any non local followers let me start like this.  We are a small town 4-H club and by small town I mean when a gathering needs to take place the local Legion Hall is 1 of only 2 available places in town available to use.  So when we want to have our 4-H meetings outside of our home we usually use the Legion Hall.  
We could always use the Fire Hall (our other meeting option) but I feel as a club we benefit more from using the Legion Hall.  Why, not just because its convenient with the Hubby being a member and it allows us enough space to work on multiple projects in the same location plus supplies kitchen use as well because the fire hall offers those same advantages (minus the Hubby's membership).  But I think the best reason we use  the Legion Hall is because the Legion Hall benefits just as much as we benefit from us when we use their hall.  That in itself is a benefit to what we are teaching our 4-members every meeting. 
Of course there are the material benefits involved for example in return for the use of the Hall our first 2 community service projects both benefited the Legion (as a thank you) and we do all we can to help out when we use the hall like extra cleaning.  Each year we cohost the Flag Retiring Ceremony with the Legion and Girl Scouts.  We also cleared out their garage in return that we got to use it as part of our Halloween Party.

What is not seen in all the material benefits is how much it is benefiting our members by teaching them responsibly and respect for what they have and what they earn.  I'm sure most of our members don't realize that they are getting this benefit and to some it is just a location for all of us to meet but someday when they look back I hope they know how lucky they were to have the legion hall for all the important lessons they didn't even know they were learning.  So for that I can only say Thank You James S. Moore Post #167!

Photo credit to the James S. Moore Post #167
So with that in mind another great benefit for us and the American Legion is when the Legion puts on its annual Corned Beef Dinner.  For the last 3 years the Legion has graciously allowed us to end our big Basket Party (funding for our community service) at their dinner and in return the club will help out with the dinner.  With the 2 combined happenings the dinner has increased in guests steadily for the last 3 years you can see it really is a win, win for both of us.

All of our members (missing one in photo) who worked the Legion's Dinner 
Like all big dinners the Legions dinner starts with the prep work, thankfully we do not have to do the cooking but we do help with the table set up and getting everything in the dining area set.  Usually there are other helpers there to do the place setting but this year the younger members were right in the mix getting a important how to set a table lesson and yes they did have to go back and fix any oopsies to the correct setting placement.  Another lesson learned I'm sure.

It didn't take long before there was a Packed House!  Every seat in the Legion was full and guests were waiting at the door.  These kids id not let this deter them all and just kept right on serving and cleaning up to keep everyone in  hot fresh food.

Of course not every member should be carrying hot food near paying guests so our younger members were busy selling tickets for our basket party, serving desert and helping wash dishes.   For our youngest member it was also a big learning lesson as she had never seen such a commotion of food and people serving.  She did not shy away or fear any of it and just kept right on selling tickets.   Her best comment of the night "wow I guess its lots of hungry people" and boy was she right with all the guests.  I think it must have been a record serving for the Legion as they sold out with in an hour and I know it was record ticket sales for the 4-H Basket Party.

They all worked very hard and some of them even hung around till the very end for clean up.  It really was a job well done by members and whether they knew it or not they learned a lot at that dinner be it was just basic table setting or dish washing, waitress/waiter skill or sales skill they all learned and that's the importance of this.  I'm sure they all learned a little lesson in communicating with others as well.

For that we again say Thank You to the James S. Moor Post #167 and its members for allowing the members of the Team Clover 4-H Club to be at your Corned Beef Dinner

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Traveling Tracy

Welcome to Downsville NY Traveling Tracy

Tracy is from Texas where she is in 3rd grade with her friend Elena.  Elena's dad and Mr. Bull were in the Army together over 20 years ago so when Tracy decided that she wanted to go learn about other areas of the country Elena knew that it would be fun for Tracy to come and enjoy a few weeks in New York with the Bull children Elaina, Dorothy and Raymon.  And guess what she found out, Raymon Bull is also a 3rd grader too so hopefully he will be able to share the fun with his class as well.

The Bull family lives a few miles outside of the town of Downsville on old farm land.  We do not have a farm with a big barn or even cows but we do have 2 goats, a bunch of chickens, some ducks, a dog, a cat, a turtle, sometimes we have pigs and we even have a rabbit so there was plenty to keep Tracy busy on her visit.

Tracy visiting with "Little Guy" the rooster.  He really is not so "little" though.
Winter time in Downsville is usually quiet and calm, school kids are just hoping for snow days (which we had while Tracy visited) and parents are just trying to keep the house warm.  But the end of winter is a different story all together and Tracy visited at that special time of year, or as it's better know as "Maple Season".  Maple Season is the time of year when winter days start warming up above freezing temperatures but it is still very cold at night. Most of the snow has melted but not all of it so the ground will start melting slowly allowing the sleeping Maple Trees to wake up and start the process of making new leaves.  The tree brings moisture in from its roots and Sap (a sweet watery liquid) flows through the trees.  Maple Syrup producers (like the Bull family) drill holes into the trees to collect the sap, don't worry it does not hurt the trees but it does allow them to insert a pipe know as a spiel into the tree to collect the Sap.

Tracy Helping "Tap" a maple tree and show how a spile works.
Buckets are then attached under the spiels on the trees and the sap then drips one drop of sap at a time until the buckets are full.  It usually takes one full day to fill a 2gallon bucket with sap if it is dripping fast enough.  Each day the buckets are emptied and then put back to collect again.  When Maple Producers have collected enough sap they will cook it for a long time until it becomes much thicker.  Once it reaches a certain thickness it become Maple Syrup, yes the same maple syrup that is put on pancakes.

Tracy showing you a "Sap Bush".  Multiple Maple trees all in the same area that produce sap is knows as a Sap Bush. Look how many buckets Tracy helped empty each day.  Wow!  That's a lot of hard work

Want to know how hard Tracy worked to make her syrup to bring back home?  Well, it takes 40 gallons of sap from a maple tree to cook enough to make one gallon of Maple Syrup.  That's a lot of trees and a lot of sap to collect but the reward is so sweet!  Hope she shares it with everyone else in Texas.

Tracy with a quart jug of Pure Maple Syrup
It wasn't all hard work for Tracy.  Even though it was winter we still showed her around town and the local tourist attractions.

Summer time view from the Mountains looking out at Downsville.  The large water supply is the Peapacton Reservior 
When most people hear of New York they think of the New York City with all its hustle and bustle of a big city, large building and even the Statue of Liberty but just a few hours north of the city is the peaceful little 200 year old town of Downsville.  Located in the Catskill Mountains, Downsville was named after Able Downs who settled in the area and had a leather tannery in the 1770's. One of Able's Children George Downs was also a huge help in the building of the town.  He built many building and businesses that helped form what is now the town of Downsville.  George was laid to rest at Downs Point (known to locals as Down's Grave) a hill top view overlooking the little town he had helped create.  This has been a popular hiking area by locals and visitors as well as there is a splendid view overlooking the town.

Down's Grave early photo showing the rolling hills of the Catskill Mountains - credit Town of Colchester Historian.
There is just one school in Downsville for elementary, middle school and high school students.  All 3 of the Bull children attend the same school, home of the Eagles.  Go Eagles!  Since we live in such a rural area most of the students have to ride the bus to school and some of them are on the bus for almost an hour just getting to school.

Downsville Central School.  Go Eagles!

One of our tourist attractions our beloved covered bridge.  Downsville has lots of brooks and streams that flow into the East Branch of the Delaware River.  One of our local treasures is an amazing covered bridge that spans the river.  We have even dedicated a little sitting/park area for everyone to go and enjoy not only the bridge but the river and wild life that call it home.
Traveling Tracy visiting the Downsville Covered Bridge on the East Branch of the Delaware River.

Another one of our amazing waterways is the Pepacton Reservoir that sits just at the beginning of town.  The reservoir was built to help supply water for New York City.  New York City purchased the large valley area at the beginning of the Delaware River in 1942.  Work began a short time later and the dam was completed in 1954.  The Filling of the reservoir was completed in 1955.  The large dam in the photo has a spillway on the other end that releases water back into the East Branch of the Delaware River.
While it is not an idea place in February for visiting as its usually frozen over the reservoir is a big attraction for your town once it warms up as many tourists come to the area for the great fishing it provides.  And the view of the mountains surrounding the reservoir are just breathtaking in the summer and fall.  If the fishing and view do not draw your attention to the reservoir it is also supplies visitors with some great wild life interaction.  White tailed deer, beavers, raccoons, porcupines, coyotes, black bear, bob cats, lynx, ducks, geese and many more animals right down to the chipmunk call the reservoir home.  With all the small rodent types of pray and the great supply of fish it is also a great feeding grounds for the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagles which is a common daily sight.  Go Eagles!!!

We didn't have much snow here for Tracy to play in when she first got to New York which is rare for February.  Usually all the snow is just starting to melt but with all the warm weather we had in February the ground was getting pretty bare and thawing quickly so it was looking like Tracy might not get to experience a snow ball or the fun of a Snow Day from school with the kids.  I guess Mother Nature wasn't going to let that happen because we got a blizzard and over 20 inches of snow!  Tracy can now say she survived a blizzard but she was not much help with the snow shovel haha.

We had a great time showing Tracy around our little town.  Hope Tracy enjoyed her visit and learned a lot about Downsville and New York.