Iowa Blues: New Coop Tenants


There’s new birds at the Bodeker Coop this week.  We bought a quartet (1 rooster + 3 hens) of chickens this past Saturday for Merritt to show as a 4H Poultry project this summer (his current chickens are not working out for various reasons).  A neighbor down the road has been breeding Iowa Blue chickens for about three years in a bid to help restore the breed back to a sustainable population (along with several other breeders in and around Iowa).  The Iowa Blue chicken almost went extinct by the mid-1980s, but luckily one of the founders of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa began working to bring the breed back from just one remaining flock.  The Iowa Blue dates back to the early 1920s in Northeast Iowa.  It is a very hardy breed–withstands both the horrible high humidity levels of our summers & the sub-zero windchills of our winters rather easily.  Iowa Blues are quite large chickens, good layers, & the hens, I’ve read, can be extremely broody.  Our three hens are not quite laying yet, but should be soon.  We’ve got them sequestered for now away from our other chickens for both their safety & the health of our flock.xzjj65971

This is the rooster.  He’s got some comb damage from abuse by other chickens at the old farm.  Hopefully we’ll get that sorted out.wpls09671

This breed is not actually blue, but from afar the hens are supposed to look blue-grey, hence the name.

I think they’re quite lovely.  We named the hens varying forms of the color blue–we’ve got Periwinkle, Celeste, & Sapphire.  Sapphire is June’s chicken & she chose the name from a list of blue color names.egrg17971


June & Sapphire.  She’s very excited to have another chicken to call her own.


We let the hens run around in our hibernating garden yesterday afternoon.img_87021



I thought these seeds were pretty hanging in our woods.  The pods almost sparkled.


Prairie the cat snoozing in the garage.


On our walk back from the bus stop yesterday we found another blue bird…an Eastern Bluebird!  There are actually quite a few bluebirds wintering in Iowa every year, but this is the first one in our yard this year.

For more information on the Iowa Blue chicken, check out this pdf book by Curt Burroughs & courtesy of the Iowa Blue Chicken Club.


Lately…{photo heavy}

This is basically a post where I throw everything-but-the-kitchen-sink in because I cannot find the time to blog (or shower) lately without Harmon wailing at me.  He learned to really holler last week Monday–I mean holler at me (us) with purpose, but also coo at us with purpose & babble loudly at us.  It is actually quite awesome, but as he is still not napping much, either, blogging time is nonexistent.  This large dump of photos is about the equivalent of four or five posts I planned to write–so here’s your second “photo-heavy” warning! IMG_3239[1]
Our dogs found a rabbit nest near our compost pile (which is roughly 20-30 yards from their kennels) & obliterated it.  They, along with our cat Socks, killed several of the bunnies.  Coincidentally, we also found a dead adult rabbit in one of our gutter drainage hoses this week (drowned, apparently, in the deluge we received), so perhaps that was the mother.  In any case, this bunny was in Sock’s mouth.  It is in good shape now & Coralee plans to release it today or tomorrow, down the drive from our homestead (away from our dogs/cats).  It may seem really small, but it is the right size to be able to survive on its own, hoping it does.

I have no time to cook/bake lately…again, Harmon is so cute, isn’t he?  Ha!  I am trying to make really easy dinners.  Last night was leftover ham, Irish Soda Bread, hardboiled eggs, cheese, fruit, etc.  I ate way too much.Our new cat Prairie (born July 2015–adopted in late summer after I accidentally ran over our female cat, Pepper) was injured by something this week.  Big puncture wound in the back of his back right leg.  This photo is from before the injury.  Racked up a huge vet bill having him treated for it.  He is improving, thankfully.IMG_3252[1]Ferdie, our goose, is molting again.








IMG_3261[1]Girls being goofy.


IMG_3262[1]Birding at the bus stop.

Harmon tagged along a few weeks ago while Coralee monitored one of our Bald Eagle nests.Hard to discern in this photo, but there is an eagle on the nest!
How Harmon birds when it’s freezing & the wind is blowing like a freight train.  Seems to happen a lot in Iowa.IMG_3267Bird blind at Ham Marsh in Buchanan County.  We saw two Sandhill Cranes on the edge of the prairie pond here–they were bugling very loudly, we could hear them as we came down the trail.  Impressive!
Harmon nursing in a bird blind for the first time. #milestone

ⒸCoralee Bodeker

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Brown Creeper

Lately we’ve done a lot of neat things, I must admit, but it sure takes a lot more planning with Harmon in tow.

Lately is good.  Hope your lately is good, too!

Weekend with Bernie

This blog is about four little Iowans, so I’m thinking it’s safe to say readers realize I live in Iowa.  As an Iowa transplant (Wisconsinite by birth!) I am all caught up as of late in the crazy that is the presidential nomination season.  Coralee, Brian, Harmon and I went to see Bernie Sanders speak on Saturday in Manchester, Iowa.  None of us has actually ever attended a single campaign event EVER.  I find that pathetic as I take voting very very seriously.  So, despite the fact we have a slightly colicky 8 week old, I was determined to see at least one candidate in the flesh speak this go-around.  I’m not endorsing anyone yet, but I’m leaning towards Bernie.  I think. I don’t know!  My mind changes by the minute.  Hopefully I’ll figure it out before I caucus tomorrow night (with Harmon in tow, could be very interesting).  Here’s an explanation of the Iowa caucus in case you’ve ever wondered what in the blazes it is we do here every two years (yes, two).  Happy Caucus Eve!
This afternoon Brian and I went for a hike around our property with June and Harmon.  June led the way & she is a really good navigator!  Took us to all her “haunts” such as the place where “the owl killed the bird” (we think it was one of our neighbor’s farm ducks, yikes!).  The weather was quite warm, but breezy.  There is supposedly a giant snowstorm on the way scheduled to hit Monday evening late…I’ll believe it when I see it! 
 Not sure what the face I’m making is all about!  Harmon did really well bundled up in his Tula.

 I visited our filthy chicken run (by way of wading through the muddy moat) to check out Coralee’s show chicken for Fair this year. This is Frost all grown up and all filthy!  She is going to be a lesson in patience for Coralee keeping those feathers of hers constantly cleaned and groomed come the Benton County Fair in July…but Coralee’s definitely a thoughtful, purposeful, deliberate person like her Daddy, so I have no doubt she’ll do great!

Not much left in the slop bucket for you, Frost!

Hope you enjoyed your weekend!

UPDATE: I did indeed caucus for Bernie, but, unfortunately, in my precinct of roughly 70ish folks, Bernie only carried enough votes for 1 state convention delegate to Hillary’s 3.  The lone person that wanted to caucus for O’Malley went with Hillary almost instantly.  My county overall went Hillary.  The statistical tie between the two candidates overall in Iowa, however, is quite exciting!  I definitely think my vote mattered & the race is on!  In terms of the blizzard bearing down on Iowa, Storm Kayla is proving a flop where I live.  We might get an inch or two of snow and then rain after that…bother.

Caucusing in a school library.



Yarn Along {snippets & a chick pic!}

I’ve only had time to read snippets of most of these books in the past week. And my knitting on June’s Bitty Breezy has amounted to even less than a snippet–a snip? Like one row, maybe two. I ordered a few skeins of Quince & Co yarn several months ago when my pregnancy was confirmed–all in the Frost (gender-neutral) colorway. Hoping to start something for this baby soon…still having a really hard time getting my hands to want to knit anything.

Blue on Blue by Dianne White is a lovely book. June has asked me to read it to her everyday. The words flow much like the illustrations. A small family farming beside the sea in what I perceived to be Maine. I picked it up at the library without flipping through it, thinking it was about the prairie. I wasn’t too far off–the prairie rolls so much like the sea.

Soul Gardening is always enjoyable.  It’s like a Motherhood hug.

A Chicken Followed Me Home! was also picked up for June, but all of my kids have enjoyed reading it as they prepare for Fair this week.  No chickens being shown due to the bird flu outbreak, but Coralee & Merritt will both partake in the “Poultry Quiz Bowl” that is being substituted for the Poultry Show on Friday morning.  The book is very informative (& accurate).  Each page contains not only the story (a Rhode Island Red hen followed you home!), but also a set of facts pertaining to an aspect of chicken care.

Darwin’s Armada by Iain McCalman because I am obsessed with Darwin & have been for over a decade.  Homeschooling Coralee has only furthered my interest.  I have literally only read three pages of it, so I can’t really give a thumbs up or down at this point.  The book begins with a very detailed description of Charles Darwin’s death & funeral preparations.  It’s quite fascinating only several pages in to be sure.

What to Knit When You’re Expecting: I NEVER check out knitting books anymore…Ravelry, with it’s insane amount of free knitting patterns, has basically made this pastime obsolete for me.  This book caught my eye from the display shelf at the library last week & most of the patterns really are quite enchanting.  I hope to knit something with my Frost Quince from this book soon.

IMG_5195[1]And look at The Real Frost!!!  She’s grown so big!  June calls her “the big chick.”  She peeps like crazy.  I love her feathered feet.  We are almost 100% certain she is a Belgian Bearded d’Uccle (bantam) in the Porcelain color.  Fingers crossed “she” really is a she!

Joining in with Ginny.


Yarn Along {with chick}


I’ve made it to the bottom ribbing on June’s Bitty Breezy.  We have chicks now–three in all.  This is Frost (Coralee’s chick) hanging out on our dining room table with me (& Coralee) this morning.  (We moved the chicks to their garage digs last night so cute photo-ops in the house are less frequent now.). Her Porcelain coloring is getting prettier each day & more feathers are coming in.  My older kids have become a bit obsessed with Tintin comics lately.  I was reserving said books at the library for them online and the search function also produced this book by newcomer Hannah Tinti.  It has amazing reviews, so I checked it out, too.  Hopefully I can start it this week.

Joining in with Ginny.

Lots of Eggs! {& babies–some cute, some not-so-much}

It may not be spring anymore in the Northern Hemisphere, but we’re still experiencing a spring-like baby boom on our property. The kids & I ventured up the road to a grassy ditch resplendent with Common Milkweed in search of Monarch eggs.  We were not disappointed.  We found ten & brought them home to raise to adults & then release.  I’m sure I’ll post more on these “babies” as soon as the eggs hatch.


We have waffled back and forth several times over the last 2+ weeks regarding what the parent species is of the eggs in our bluebird nestbox.  We’ve seen both Catbirds & Eastern Bluebirds on the box & in the area, but we also thought the eggs looked a bit small to belong to a bluebird.  We were leaning toward robin eggs due to size, but the nesting materials didn’t include any mud and robins don’t tend to nest in nestboxes.  We’ve been monitoring the box from a distance for several weeks & have never been lucky enough to spot a parent enter the nest.  We were stumped.  On Saturday, Merritt checked the box (following the Cornell Lab’s Certified NestWatch monitor training) and there were four chicks hatched!  Still not 100% certain what species these babies are, but Brian saw an Eastern Bluebird exit the nest on Sunday while mowing.  Time will tell.

And now to introduce you to “the girls” (we hope)!  Most of our chicken eggs from Murray McMurray Hatchery were a big old bust.  I don’t know why I forgot that every batch of eggs I’ve ever ordered from this hatchery & had delivered via the post have been this way (read: eggs don’t hatch), but I did.  The one time I actually drove to the hatchery & picked up my egg order we had almost 100% successful incubation.  Something about bouncing around through the mail must render the eggs infertile.  In any case, we incubated 14 eggs in incubators and gave the rest (10) to our Blue Cochins in the coop as they are incredibly broody.  Of those 24 eggs, THREE hatched.  None of the hatched eggs were in the coop.  Brian cracked all the eggs that didn’t hatch & found one fully-formed chick and that’s it.  Bummer.  Next spring we order chicks & pick them up as per our usual.  I can only blame pregnancy for my forgetfulness about the viability of mail-delivered eggs this year.

Meet Frost.  Isn’t she stunning?

This is Coralee’s chick. All our chicks are bantams (so they’ll remain small versions of their standard breed counterparts). We have no idea of the sex of any of these chicks yet, but we’re obviously hoping for females as we don’t keep roosters (unless it’s a Cochin rooster as they are incredibly sweet).

Frost is the Queen of the Clutch (or King, I suppose) and is already larger that the other two despite being born last.  She struts around/scrambles quickly as if she owns the small blue Rubbermaid tub she calls home in our living room.

Meet Early.  This is Merritt’s chick born almost a full 24 hours before the other two.  The incubation period for chicken eggs is 21 days & we’ve found it to be pretty spot-on, so we were a bit surprised when Early arrived at 7:40AM on Day 20 & got a full day of growing in before anybody else hatched.


And finally meet Peggy.  This is June’s chick.

June, at age 4, has come up with all sorts of strange unique names for her chick, but she really wanted to name her Margaret after her “baby” out in the coop.  Her “baby” is a giant, fluffy Blue Cochin that is larger than any other hen in our flock.  June calls her a baby anyway as she is so sweet. I told her ‘Peggy’ was a nickname for Margaret, so let’s go with that as we don’t want two Margarets. I think because she enjoys the PBS show “Pet + Cat” she quickly agreed.

Peggy squawks a lot. And she has a bit more yellow on her chest than Early.  Otherwise, they look like twins.

They are starting to develop their wing feathers already!  Soon they’ll be moving to a bigger home in the garage.  The kids have been pouring over hatchery catalogs & chicken books all weekend, trying to determine the chicks’ breeds.  Stay tuned!

Wash Away Winter, wash away






Always carry a big stick.

Always carry a big stick.






“There’s lots of creeks in our yard,” June told me Sunday afternoon as we took a hike.

Snowmelt is filling Prairie Creek & rushing fast across the western slope out front.

June’s ski trail has given up, only weak prints whisper in the slushy snow now.

An icy tide pool has appeared along the southern field edge.  Perfect for exploring & getting your mittens sopping.

Winter is washing away & I can feel spring hovering nearby.

Sometimes it’s fun to put on a pair of galoshes & explore the puddles & pools as a child would…especially if you take a child along on your trek & let it be.  Let it be, Ruby.  I think I need to be told that more.

The melt water is cold, so cold, shocking when you dip your fingers in it.

I waded too deep & some got in my boots.  June said it was ok.

I totally believed her.


Has winter begun to wash away where you are?