(Edit:  I realize WordPress is having issues right now – all my photos are loading sideways, and while they look fine on my Dashboard, they appear flipped on their side in the final post.  Working on it!)


The past few mornings have felt like September with their crispness, and we’ve started out the day in sweaters.  And yet the afternoons are the best that summer in Oregon has to offer with blue skies and warm breezes.  So, of course we’ve been taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and spending every possible moment outdoors.   Every evening we’ve taken long walks, and most days we head to a playground in the city after swim lessons and garden chores.


Sunday we played hooky from church, packed a picnic lunch, and went for a day hike in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.  The paths are wide and easy to navigate for toddlers like George who want to walk/run like the big kids (“No backpack!  I walk!  I WALLLLKKK!”).


And the wildlife!  We saw frogs and birds and insects and fish at every turn in the path and every pond.  Bea tuned-in to every call of every bird, particularly the Orange-Crowned Warblers and Song Sparrows.  But the highlight of the afternoon is when a Bald Eagle flew very low to the ground, directly over our heads, and landed in an adjacent tree.

If you haven’t made a trip out to the Refuge, we highly recommend it.  And we’ll be traveling back again to see the migratory birds moving through in the fall and spring.

I’ll be back later this week with some knitting, spinning, and maybe a few new recipes.  But for now, it’s back outside to soak up that sunshine.


Swift Watch 2012

So, I’ve come to realize that blogging, even sporadically and ineptly, is really difficult with four busy kids, and a very busy life.  I cannot figure out how to do it without taking time away from the children, or my precious few hours of sleep. (The farm’s FB page is equally neglected lately.) This morning, I sacrificed the latter, getting up long before the children, finishing poultry chores, tidied and swept the downstairs, and folded a basket of laundry before sitting down to a mug of coffee and my laptop.  So, hopefully there will be a few posts up this week.  🙂

Yesterday evening, we said goodbye to summer with a trip to see the Vaux’s Swifts at the Chapman School.  For bird nerds like us,  it had been far too long since our last Swift Watch,  so we threw together a packed dinner, snagged some toys and blankets and headed out NW Portland.

There is a steep hill next to the school, and all the children bring cardboard to “sled” down while waiting for the birds to start spiraling in.

While we waited, I got a little knitting done (trying to finish socks before the cold weather sets in) while chatting with friends.

George played on the blanket and flirted shamelessly with the women sitting behind us.

The best part of the evening was watching the Peregrine Falcons swoop in and snatch two swifts.  George just called them “ducks” and signed “birdie”, but he found the whole thing terribly exciting.

I can honestly say that every member of the family thoroughly enjoyed himself or herself, and we are hoping to go again next week.  Best outing in a long time, and if you’re in the Portland area, we’d love to have to join us next time we go.  🙂

Frosty morning


The ducks were quacking extra early this morning.  I couldn’t figure out why they were so darn quacky at 7am, when they usually aren’t up until 8:30ish.  In retrospect, I think they were chilly and complaining for a hot breakfast.  🙂


When I went down at 7:45 to let the poultry out, I had to break the ice on their watering pans.  The hard frost on the garden was just simply stunning.  The kids were all in bed (except George, my early-bird, who was happily playing with a spatula), so I stayed outside for a few minutes and enjoyed watching the birds scatter around the yard, crunching the frozen mulch as they flapped about, their breath trailing out in front of them.


Now, bread is rising on the counter, the baby is happily rolling about on his blanket, and there’s  a Sweet Meat squash roasting  to mix with some scratch so the poultry can get that hot breakfast they’ve been wanting.


Once the girls get up, we’ll work on some Christmas gift crafting while we listen to our new book on CD, followed by some baking and our Advent reading for the day.

Looking forward to a peaceful wintery day at home.

9 and 10 days old

The chicks, 9 and 10 days old (Here’s hoping they all survive and none turn out to be cockerels, because the kids are just smitten and have named them all):


Cookie, the Buff Orpington. (She’s the largest and fluffiest of the chicks, by far.)



Violet (dark brown), and Nudge II (golden), the Auracanas. (You can see their little tufty beards coming in already!)


Fiesty, the Salmon Faverolle.  She’s a petite little thing, but has lots of attitude (and 5 toed-feet and feathered legs!)



Midnight and Blacky, our tried and true favorite breed – Black Australorp.  Our two and a half year-old is very partial to Blacky, who is the gentlest and most mellow of the chicks.


And last but not least, Pickles, the Delaware.

We’re all amazed at how quickly they’re growing, adding bulk, wing and tail feathers every day.   We’re going to do our best to photograph them once a week to see how they change and mature.

That’s MY Spot!!


Let me start off by saying that the entertainment potential of chickens is extremely under-valued in most poultry books.

This is Oregon, in March.  Needless to say, the ground is VERY soggy and it rains every day.   Our hens don’t have a spot of dry ground anywhere in their run to dust-bathe.  Because we have not planted anything besides garlic in the backyard, the hens have all-day access to the back and side yards at the moment, in an effort to reduce the population of  slugs, weeds, etc before we begin planting this weekend.

While ranging and scratching this morning, the ladies found a little dry patch of dirt, under the eaves, by the back door of the house.  It was big enough to fit one hen.

Never one to wait her turn, Bolt (on the right) decided that Kate (on the left) had better clear out, and made a big show of flapping and pecking and clucking at her.  Kate decided passive resistance was the best plan of action, and laid there, quite determined not to be booted out.


The Australorps and I stood by and watched the hilarity ensue.  I swear Plucky and Sarah were rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at the Speckled Sussex’ ridiculous behavior.  🙂

In a related note – The BCS Teaching Garden kickoff workparty is this Saturday 3/5, from 10am-noon  with a FREE LUNCH (Olive Garden has donated catering) to follow from 12-1!

Please bring your shovels, gloves, wheelbarrows, and help us spread compost, plant peas and greens, and plant seeds (tomatoes, sweet peppers, and other yummy things) in pots.  We work rain or shine, so dress for the weather and lend a hand as we get the garden going!

Did I mention the FREE soup and salad lunch catered by Olive Garden afterward??

We still have a few spots open, so contact Tiffany at to sign up and get directions!  Thanks!

7 Fluffy Chicks!


Our chicks have come!  We were worried they’d be delayed because of the cold, but they arrived this morning, and we picked them up at the feed store this afternoon.


Because of a raccoon and a freak illness, we are down to 4 hens: 2 black Australorps and 2 Speckled Sussex.

To our flock, we hope to add these heritage breed girls: 2 more black Australorps, 2 Auracanas, 1 Delaware, 1 Buff Orpington, and 1 Faverolle.

We’re big-time Australorp fans, but are always up for trying new breeds.  The Auracanas are to replace our beloved Nudge, who fell victim to a raccoon.  She was such a prolific layer, 6-8 extra large green eggs/week at her peak ,we figured we needed two regular auracanas to make up for her.

I originally wanted some Welsummers (for their lovely chocolate-colored eggs), but none were coming in the same week as the Australorps, so we decided to try some other heritage breeds instead.


Everyone is so excited to have these puff balls in our breakfast nook, and can’t wait until they’re old enough to the join the flock (just in time for our shipment of ducklings to arrive!)

For tonight, we’re off to a Girl Scout Thinking Day event, and then it’s a frantic clean-up in preparation for tomorrow morning’s visit of volunteers from our church, who have generously offered to help us spread compost and mulch and plant peas in the garden.

If your weekend is as bustling as ours is going to be, we hope you get a little rest in there somewhere!

Surprise in the nest box


While it’s by no means as big as this monster, we found quite a surprise in the nest box after church today.

Nudge, our Auracana, usually lays a large to extra-large sized egg (the pale green one in the middle (it looks a bit washed out in this shot)),  compared to our Australorps that lay medium-large eggs.  However, today Little Hen found that she had left us one the size of a duck egg (far right)!


And just because – to finish up, here are some photos of the chickens that Little Hen took yesterday (our first sunny day in a LONG time.)


Plucky, Sara, and Nudge soaking up some sunshine


Me, holding Plucky.


A rare shot of the Speckled Sussex chicks – they love to be held, but are difficult to photograph, because they are fast.  We finally named them this week (now that we can tell them apart) – Sugarplum (looking at the camera), Kate (eating a cherry), and Bolt (in the background, who, as her name suggests, is super fast).

And with that, we’re going to take it easy and get some real rest for the remainder of our Sunday.  After a crazy day crammed with hours and hours of yardwork yesterday, the rain today is almost welcome, because it’s forced us to stay in this afternoon.  I think my husband is doing to finish reading Skulduggery Pleasant aloud to us (while I get some knitting done for friends’ upcoming baby showers!), and then we’re going to make some homemade pizza for dinner.  And totally avoid all housework until tomorrow.

Wishing you peace and relaxation…

Preparing for the duck invasion


After a flurry of chicken-planning activity this winter/early spring, we have our long-dreamed for chicken flock (the three hens, plus three new Speckled Sussex chicks, and three more chicks on order (2 Australorps and a Buff Orpington)).  And the chicken run is mostly complete (needs a little gussying up, and a grape trellis up the side).  Now, moving on to the next project, the Baker boys have gone into intense-planning-mode for …



The boys are a bit so-so on the chickens, but can’t wait for ducks!  We have room for 3 (and maybe sneak in a 4th?) next year, and all the talk from Daddy is, “Where do we put in a duck box and run? What style?”, and “should we get runners or Khaki Campbells?”   Tum Tum’s contribution is more along the lines of  “Duck goes QUACK QUACK!”, but he loves to look through the stack of duck-keeping books with his dad.


Did you know that the better duck breeds are more efficient at removing slugs than chickens (a major problem in the NW)?  And lay larger eggs (sometimes more eggs -up to 300 per year for Khaki Campbells) than chickens?  And those eggs that produce more substantial whites, which makes for better meringue, souffles, etc!  And, ducks are darn cute!

So, if all goes as planned, by next year, our little urban farm will be complete when it comes to livestock.  Except, maybe for future additions of meat rabbits…or honeybees…If you could (or do!) have any livestock on your property, what would it be?

Fresh Eggs


We got chickens!!

After months of scouring Craigslist, pricing materials at the ReBuilding Center and researching plans (not to mention years of wishing, dreaming)… we finally found a used coop that met our super tight budget. (A coat of pretty paint, and the sturdy coop will look quite nice in the back corner of our yard.)   And a completely unexpected bonus- the large (6 nest boxes) coop came with enough fencing and fence posts for a very large run.

An even bigger bonus – the coop came with 3 organically-fed, heritage breed, 9 month-old hens – 2 Australorps (two big glossy-green/black girls that lay brown-eggs) and an Auracana (a rusty, stripey hen with big tufts of feathers on the sides of her head that lays blue-green eggs).

We can’t wait to expand out little flock, and I can’t wait to write some more about the beginning of our chicken-keeping adventure.   But, that’s all for now- yardwork calls.   After having friends and neighbors help us move the weighty coop into place yesterday, we need to get out and put the fencing up today, so Sarah, Plucky and Nudge can roam their patch of the yard safely (and also keep the tender baby veggies safe from them!).

More soon…

Vaux’s Swifts


Kortney at One Deep Drawer told me about the congregation of Vaux’s swifts in NW Portland, and this week we made it over to the Chapman School to see them.   For a bird nerd like me, it was a huge thrill.


We set up early, with hundreds of other families, enjoying our picnic dinner (homemade hummus, Greek yogurt, tomatoes, flatbread, pear sauce), and reading books until the sun began to set.



The school had some well-made signs up about swifts – with sections at the bottom geared for children.  One sign suggested we try  tracking one swift in the sky as long as possible before losing it in the swirl of birds (which we did!).  We learned from another that a single Vaux’s swift can eat 5000 bugs a day!



Then, the swifts began to congregate, and we got out the binoculars to watch.  It was truly breathtaking to watch the birds spiraling together and hear their constant vocalizations.   And the evening only got more spectacular as a Cooper’s Hawk attempted (and finally succeeded!) to catch his dinner from the cloud of birds.   The crowd reacted in unison to his swoops and dives – it was quite a show!



I wish I had a better camera that could have captured just how stunning the whole display really is.   If you’d like to learn more about Vaux’s swifts, and see some better images of their temporary residence at the Chapman School, check out this segment from Oregon Field Guide –

Oregon Field Guide – Vaux\’s Swifts



We took the children for a quick visit to the Oregon  Zoo (the best part of having a pass, in my opinion, is that you can pop in for an hour or two and just see a few things, so the children don’t get maxed-out).  This visit, we decided to go with a bird theme (surprise, surprise).


Tum Tum signed “bird”  and said “cheep cheep” pretty much non-stop the entire morning.  🙂



We saw the penguins and the African bird aviary, but by far, the kids’ favorite stop was the Lorikeet exhibit.

I hope these last days of summer provide you with some fun family outings as well.

Morning on the Farm


Some more shots from yesterday’s trip to Sauvie Island Farms.


Little Hen in the raspberry canes,


where we found an old abandoned nest, lined with feathers and seed fluff.


Firecracker helped her auntie pick blueberries.



And the flowers were absolutely stunning.


The biggest surprise of the day was finding a nest with four baby birds in the middle of the marionberry canes.  They sat very still as we observed them.  It was a real treat – the nestlings were clearly Cedar Waxings (the black face mask and yellow band on the tail were telling signs), which are one of my favorite birds.   The nest was right at eye-level for the girls, so they got an excellent look.

Please come back tomorrow – I’ll be having my first giveaway.  Thanks!


My favorite vacation desination – the beautiful sandy beaches of Sanibel, FL.  The shelling is the best in the world, and the water is clear and warm. 


We spent our time making a “beach fairy sand castle”, collecting sea shells, watching shorebirds.  The girls also went kite flying with their Grandpa.  

Wishing you a day just as sun-filled and relaxing.

Six Mile Cypress, Part II

More from our day at the Six Mile Cypress Slough.   I love being able to share my interest in the outdoors and birdwatching with the children.  My mother was excited to share her botanical knowledge and interests with us, too.  Not to mention the perfect sunny day spent exploring out of doors! 

The new nature center was a big thrill for the girls – it was really well designed for young children (a rarity in Southern Florida, where children themselves are a rarity, it seems).  We had the place to ourselves, and the volunteers were eager to show the girls around and go through the exhibits with them.

Afterward, we sat out at the various decks and blinds and did a little bird watching. 

TumTum was more content to flirt with the nice ladies volunteering there, and then occupy himself with his toes for a while.

I hope your day was spent enjoying family and sharing your passions with them, too!

Six Mile Cypress

The weather was a little cool for another trip to the beach, so instead we went for a walk in this gorgeous preserve.

The entire walk through the slough is on a boardwalk, since the cypress preserve is flooded most of the year.   

 Last year we saw lots of alligators and a family of otters playing right in front of us.  No such luck this year, but we saw lots of birds (yay!), including green herons (below), white ibis, palm warblers, Carolina wrens, anhingas, great blue herons, great egrets.  Oh, yeah, and some non-avian wildlife - lizards, various turtles, butterflies, beetles.  My mom is a Master Gardener and she’s a plant buff the way I’m a bird brain, so she was able to teach us a lot about the bromeliads, ferns, cypress, and other plants in the slough, too.

The Preserve has added a new nature center since last year, and I will write a bit about that tomrorow.