Iowa Blues: New Coop Tenants

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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.
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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

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

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

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

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Prairie the cat snoozing in the garage.

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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.

February Heatwave

To say it’s been warm in Iowa the last few days is an understatement.  This is a heatwave!  I feel like it’s the end of April and I need to be out in the garden.  Iowa weather is very tricky.  It will probably snow next week.  Harmon is sure enjoying his first steps–literally–outside the past two days.  He was wary at first, but quickly took off & wandered aimlessly (or maybe not?) all over the yard.  He is still unsteady on his feet & fell over as much as he remained upright.  We discovered he is afraid of the dogs up close, would like to catch one of the cats, & doesn’t really care about the chickens up close, either.  

He’s telling me all about the rooster crowing in this photo.This is Louisa.  One of our favorite chickens at the moment.

On Saturday we headed east to the Mississippi River in Davenport for an Iowa Young Birders trip on Credit Island.  Lots of Ring-billed Gulls & Bald Eagles.June found many gull feathers + she was wearing her new spring jacket resplendent with flying gulls so she wanted her photo taken in front of a large flock of gulls hanging out on the ice.I’m posing, Mama, snap the photo!

Harmon’s first time on a swing!

Later we swung by the University of Iowa to pick up Harmon’s godmother (& cousin) Miss Bailey for lunch at our favorite place Sutliff Bridge & Tavern.  I’ve blogged about Sutliff several times over the years.Quizzing June on her bird knowledge.Harmon is generally very very wary of people other than his mama & Coralee, but he took to Bailey straight off!  So sweet! ‚̧Happy Weekend Warmth!

Walking (with June), Walking (in an ice storm), Walking (with Harmon!)


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June has been feeling very lost/left behind the last few months & it only seems to be worsening…our house is definitely a very, very busy place & Harmon takes up a lot of my time, while the older two seem to take up a lot of Brian’s time when he’s not working [read: unpaid Uber drver!]. ¬†We’ve both been making an effort to spend some solitary time with June. ¬†Iowa (& most of the Central U.S.) was hit with an ice storm over the weekend/Monday. ¬†Iowa got a lot of rain, too, & June loves walking in the rain/puddles. ¬†I took just her outside yesterday [MLK Day, a no school day] for a hike & she loved it as predicted. ¬†I don’t think she wanted to go back inside despite her wet feet.

img_81731Coralee & Merritt spent much of the day playing with Legos.

img_81751It was pretty bad out there…

img_81471…but June & I persevered!

img_81171First we followed our silly goose Ferdie making her way back to the coop over the extremely icy ground…

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img_81231Ooops!  Goose down!

img_81241She made it back inside the warm coop safely, I promise!

img_81271Our ridiculous cat-food-eating, sneaking-into-the-garage-constantly Speckled Sussex ‘May’ got herself trapped downhill from the coop & would not be caught (June tried!), so we just chased her under Brian’s parked, non-operational truck & she stayed dry under there for most of the afternoon. ¬†By the way, if anyone is in need of a free Speckled Sussex hen (she doesn’t lay eggs anymore, however, she’s too old), I can hook you up anytime! ¬†Please.

img_81321June wanted her picture taken by her “outside Christmas tree”–a juniper [aka Eastern redcedar] volunteer in the yard.

img_81291Lots of ice on this tree.

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img_81351Our Prairie Creek tributary was running loudly for mid-January in Iowa.

img_81371This is our yard.

img_81361Flash creek that runs off the bordering field, across our front yard & into Prairie Creek along our southern boundary.  June loveslovesloves it when the flash creek shows up.  Her outerwear was soaking wet from icy rain by this point.

img_81381Um, we’re not going anywhere.

img_81421We found a yellow wooly bear caterpillar crawling on the glacial erratic that sits near our northern boundary.  June is a caterpillar/butterfly fanatic & was quite surprised to see this caterpillar crawling up the side of the rock in an ice storm, in Iowa, in January.

img_81391S/he was moving at a pretty good pace up this rock.

img_81431We pulled the dry grass back from the underside of the rock & tucked her/him underneath.  Hopefully s/he goes back to hibernating.  One life cycle of this species [a Virginia tiger moth as an adult] spends the winter hibernating.

img_81601Our culvert was clogged with ice, but flowing just the same.

img_81591I thought the reflections rather lovely.

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img_81481Back inside Harmon has been spending the last several days WALKING, too!  He mostly walks now!

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Over the weekend he started carrying things around with him as he walked. ¬†He’s getting more confident!

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Mostly he walks around in half circles before falling over…his navigational skills are not developed yet. ūüėČ

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I’ve noticed in the past week when I set him down he no longer collapses his legs to immediately assume crawling, his legs are stiff now & he’s ready to walk. ¬†He keeps his arms mostly tucked up near his armpits like he’s a T-rex with tiny non-operational arms, it makes us all chuckle. ¬†His legs are very bowed as he walks.

My baby is making the transition to toddler…

ekjp82101He’s quite proud of his walking!

We’ve been walking a lot here in Iowa despite the ice, just much more nimbly. ¬†Buses were on hard-surface routes only today so Merritt & June¬†are missing school. ¬†Fingers crossed for lots of ice melting to take place ASAP as I can’t seem to exit my house without slipping/falling. ¬†Yesterday I landed in a big pile of Ferdie poo & bruised myself in several places…I sat there looking at the faux glacier growing/flowing around me & wondered where the winters of my youth have gone? ¬†I’d like to take a quiet walk in a fresh snowfall one of these days.

~How’s winter by you?~

First Tooth Lost!

June lost her first tooth last night after working ALL.DAY.LONG to pull it out!  She was determined to lose it ASAP in order to share about the experience at school.  She kept telling/asking me to pull it out for her which I gladly would have done, but she clearly needed no help.  She wiggled and twisted for hours, exasperatedly telling us how badly she wanted it out NOW.  And then all of sudden it was out!  It didn’t even bleed it must have been so close to falling out.  This is the earliest any of my kids have lost a tooth and Harmon Hunter (who turns one year old this week!!) still has ZERO teeth!  So crazy.  We took all four kids to the dentist yesterday (I thought Harmon would have a mouthful of teeth by one year of age, oops) and everyone with teeth is cavity-free.  (Coralee has a congenital hole in one of her adult molars that we’ve known about forever that will be filled permanently if the tooth ever manages to rise completely above the gums, but we don’t count that.)  The dentist didn’t even look at Harmon, for obvious reasons.  Hopefully he’ll have a mouth full of chompers in six months’ time when we go back.  The Tooth Fairy left June a nice handwritten note rolled up with 5 one-dollar bills & tied with some lovely purple baby alpaca. ūüôā

I should address the fact I’ve been MIA for over six months here on the blog…I can only blame a tornado in July that took out the area’s only cell tower that our service provider uses (apparently) and the fact that we live in rural Iowa and cellular data is our only internet access.  Oh, also, Harmon requires every bit of me.  Every.bit.  I am very tired.  I will post a one-year update for him soon, once we take his one-year photos.  I promise it will be worth it, so I hope I haven’t lost all my readers!  He’s very cute!  A tiny tiny little man at 16lb.  See you back here soon!

Dill Bed Biologists

Merritt planted a dill bed in our garden about three years ago using Seed Savers Exchange Grandma Einck’s Dill seed & we’ve never had to replant since that summer. Dill is an annual herb, but it is very good at self-propagating! The kids have found Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the plants the last two summers–these caterpillars eat almost exclusively from the carrot family of plants. Finding the first Black Swallowtail caterpillar is a source of immense joy for all three of the older kids. Merritt completed his 4H project this year on the importance of pollinators & focused specifically on including pollinators in your garden plantings using dill, so it was quite important to the kids to be successful in their butterfly rearing this past month. The last of our Black Swallowtail butterflies flew away a few days ago & now the kids are patiently waiting for this first adult batch of the summer to lay their eggs so they can raise another brood. From our research it seems three broods per season in the Midwest is a good year for Black Swallowtails. ¬†I wouldn’t be surprised if Coralee, Merritt, & even June all became scientists, but June does still occasionally tell us she also wants to fly planes. ¬†Time will tell all too soon!

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Dill bed.

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Free range dill!

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Black Swallowtail caterpillar–fourth instar (stage).

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Black Swallowtails munching away on dill stalks…& defecating all over my porch!

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June LOVES caterpillars, butterflies, moths, lightning bugs, dragonflies…she says she wants “people to know” she wants to help pollinators more than her brother. Merritt & June are the ultimate competitors for some reason.

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Black Swallowtail in its chrysalis. The chysalis of the Black Swallowtail caterpillar/butterfly is so strangely shaped.

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June doing her “research” . “See mom???”–is her constant refrain.

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A Black Swallowtail emerges!

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Two at once (female on left)! We took six caterpillars from the dill bed (leaving many behind), one died shortly thereafter, five went into the chrysalis stage, & four emerged.

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Male, we think.

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Merritt releasing one…they are much harder to handle than Monarch butterflies. Monarchs are fairly easy to handle, these Black Swallowtails are much more active & agitated–they want out ASAP!

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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.

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IMG_3261[1]Girls being goofy.

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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

‚íłCoralee Bodeker

‚íłCoralee 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!