Cherry Pie Filling


Hope you are having a fabulous summer :) Heather has had a couple of cousins up visiting, which means busy times :)


cherry filling, sophia 009Gotta love great neighbors :) One neighbor called and said she had too many cherries, would we like some? That’s like asking a cat if they would like some fish :)

So we went and picked cherries. The tree has been there a while, so we don’t know what type these are, but they are a tangy pie type cherry.



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Heather got the job of pitting almost 4 gallons of cherries by herself.

(Please tell me other people have stuff sitting on their countertops, too!)




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My big helper’s reaction when she found out there was still another bucket to be pitted :)





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After pitting cherries, you can put them in an ascorbic acid solution (like Fruit Fresh) to help maintain color. I confess, I skipped this step. But if you would prefer to use it, by all means do so :)

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil.




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For 7 quarts of pie filling, wash and pit 6 quarts of cherries.

Place 6 cups of cherries at a time into the boiling water. Boil each batch for 1 minute after it returns to a boil.




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Drain cherries…






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…but keep heated in a covered bowl or saucepan.






Make sure you have canning jars cleaned and sitting in hot water. Have lids in hot water to soften sealant. Get water bath canner water starting to heat up.


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For 7 quarts of pie filling, combine 7 cups sugar and 1 3/4 cups Clear Jel. Add 9 1/3 cups cold water.

I confess, I had some hesitations about using Clear Jel. It is a modified corn starch. I’ve tried using plain corn starch and it just won’t can properly. Clear Jel is not organic, so chances of it being GMO in nature are pretty high.




cherry filling, sophia 032Add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 2 tsp almond extract and 1/4 tsp red food coloring.  Stir and cook over med-high heat until mixture begins to thicken and boil. Some of the Clear Jel clumped on me, so I used a whisk to break down the clumps.

I tried using a natural based red food colorant. It did not impart a bright red color like traditional food coloring does. But it also doesn’t have the weird stuff in it that can make kids hyper.



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Add in 1/2 cup lemon juice.








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Fold in 6 quarts of drained cherries.

Mixture will be thick.





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Fill hot jars with hot filling. Run a plastic knife down the sides of the jar to eliminate air bubbles.

Wipe rim of jar clean. Affix two piece lids.







cherry filling, sophia 035Place jars into elevated rack of water bath canner. When jars are full, lower rack into hot water.

0-1,000 feet: process 30 min

1,000-3,000 feet: process 35 min

3,000-6,000 feet: process 40 min

Above 6,000 feet: process 45 min



cherry filling, sophia 036Even with the red food coloring, the filling has more of the coloration of apple pie filling, which is why I skipped the ascorbic acid step. If the cherries were more red in color, it would have brightened the finished product.

Filling is pretty tasty :) Enjoy over a cheesecake, ice cream or of course, in a pie :) I ended up with 6 quarts and 1 pint of filling, rather than 7 full quarts.


* recipe adapted from Purdue University’s “Complete Guide to Home Canning”

Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many

Memorial and Wildfire


Tomorrow is supposed to be International Jogging Day. Blah! Who put that in the middle of July when it’s 103 degrees outside? Maybe we’re supposed to be jogging to the nearest air conditioned ice cream store…that sounds like a possibility :)


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Heather and I ventured down south again, this time for my uncle’s memorial.





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We went about 3 weeks ago for his burial, which was just for immediate family.





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But the memorial was open to everyone.






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It was held in the high school gym.






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There was to be no preaching at his memorial, rather he chose to give one last gift to the community: a gift of song.

Liz and Nate Dunn aka Melody and Truth, were the singers selected for the task.





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Following the service was a dinner at the fairgrounds hall.

This little guy thought he needed Grandma’s berry cobbler :)




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Amber and Heather thought the iPad was much more entertaining :)






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The husband’s waiting bench :)






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After the dinner, it was a time of family and friends.






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The next morning, Heather and I hit the back roads in search of some fossils :)





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We had to compete for the road with a couple of bovine. This little bull didn’t budge an inch – am glad he was still little :)





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We had success at this spot :) We found a couple of nice leaf impressions :)







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That afternoon, while I was helping my aunt put away leftovers and items from the memorial dinner, the power went out. We kept plugging along, and then my mom came up and said that there was a fire less than a mile down the road. I jumped in my car to go see what we could do.



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Central Oregon has been declared in an emergency state of drought since March, so it is tinder dry.





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The cause of the fire: Johnny Wayne (the name threw me for a minute), a local rancher had been up since 3 am, helping move cattle. It was 101, 103 or 111 degrees, depending on which thermometer you looked at. He dozed at the wheel. When he went off the road, he took out a power pole, and as soon as the electrical lines hit the ground, a blaze ignited.



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My aunt and I pulled off a not-so-daring rescue of the horse and dog. I got to drive the manly truck, which is a 1 ton Dodge diesel, stick shift flatbed, and reeks of testosterone :)

Fire crews were on site within 1/2 hour. Within an hour, there were two helicopters dropping water and a retardant plane in action. It was a sight to watch. I ran several messages back and forth for people since there is no cell phone service in that area. The fire topped the ridge and ran into the night, but by morning, crews were just mopping up. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, and no houses were lost. But it made for an adventuresome weekend :)



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On our way back, we stopped at the park for a break. Plus, my check engine light came on. bummer.





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Look at the adorable little puffs :)

We managed to make it home, but the car is DOA as of yesterday morning – turns over, but won’t catch. sigh. One more thing on the list of things to do.

Hope that you, too, had your own adventures this weekend :)





God tries his votaries through and through, but never beyond endurance. He gives them strength enough to go through the ordeal He prescribes for them. Mohandas Gandhi



Tomorrow is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day and Sunday is Embrace Your Inner Geek Day. Hmm…I don’t know if I want to admit I have an inner geek :) I have to think about that one :)


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My little rockhound and I ventured down to Fernwood, ID to dig for garnets :)

India and Idaho are supposedly the only two places where star garnets have been found.



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On our way down, we got stuck behind a hay baler.






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So I took advantage of the situation and took some pics of the southern part of Lake Coeur d’Alene.





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What else can you do driving 15 mph down a narrow, windy road with no passing zone? :)





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The hay baler finally pulled off to the side, so we got up to 40 mph, and then got behind the hay rake. Oh well.





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I’m sure the white pickup behind me thought I was crazy, sticking a camera out the pickup window :)

I could just hear, “Darn tourists!” radiating through the back windshield.




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But the scenery was beautiful on a nice summer day :)






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We got into St. Marie’s, and followed an ATV down the main road and out of town :)

Kind of reminded me of Wallace, ID :)




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We finally got to our destination of Emerald Creek Garnet Mine after checking the map many, many times! I don’t know if my odometer doesn’t work quite right or if the mileage on Mapquest is skewed.




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Indian Paintbrush in the parking area.

I was surprised to find the parking area almost full of cars of people digging for garnets. It’s an out of the way location.




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You get your geologist juices flowing right off the bat by walking 1/2 mile uphill to the dig site.







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Coming into the dig site.

I really didn’t know what to expect. There is a little booth/kiosk on site where you purchase digging permits and can dig to your heart’s content (or until 4:50 pm, whichever comes first :) ).




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This is the dig site. Shovels are provided, as are buckets and sieves.






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Heather digging away :)








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You fill a bucket or two with the dirt and then take it back to the sifting area.







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Heather was less than impressed with this part of the job. You put the dirt into the sieves to try and remove as much soil as you can.

It’s a lot of shaking and sifting.




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Then you take your rocks down to the sluice area and wash the dirt off of your rocks.

The water helps the garnets sparkle a bit, so you can see them easier.

This was definitely Heather’s favorite part :)



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You can make as many trips with the buckets to the sieves and sluice as you like.

After you have thoroughly baked and sweated in the sun, you take your garnets to be weighed. You are allowed 5 lbs per day per permit.

We got 4 ounces :) Yay!


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And 7 pounds of miscellaneous ‘cool’ rocks that the rockhound thought we needed, too :)





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Along the road is a round barn! I don’t remember seeing a round barn before, so thought you might like to see it, too :)





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The real reason we had to venture down there was to get a box of bees. bleah. I thought I was done with bee duty last summer. That’s what I get for thinking!

This is the chicken’s way of feeding the bees :) I put sugar water into a waterer with a quail base instead of a regular chicken waterer base. That way, this ‘chicken’ doesn’t have to go into the hive any more than I have to :) It sits right outside the hive entrance, making it easy for me to refill and avoid stingers :)



It is easy enough to be pleasant, when life flows by like a song. But the man worth while is the one who can smile, when everything goes dead wrong. For the test of the heart is troubled, And it always comes with the years. And the smiles that is worth the praises of earth is the smile that shines through tears.
Ella Wilcox

Fly Strips


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I saw an article in Mother Earth News about making your own fly strips. It is supposed to save money and be less toxic.

Sounded good.




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Mix 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp white sugar and 1/4 cup corn syrup.






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It makes a thick syrup.






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Take some brown paper bag and cut it into strips. Punch a hole in the top of the strip and run some string through it.

I used an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of brown cardstock and cut it into 4 strips.



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Then dip brown paper strip in sugar/syrup mixture.






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Coat both sides of paper strip with sugar/syrup.








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Hang over night to dry.

Some of the sugar/syrup mixture drips off.





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Then I hung two up in the chicken coop, which is being plagued by flies :(

I was pretty happy to see a fly on one :) Until I realized that he wasn’t sticking to the ‘fly strip.’ Turns out I had just made a big lollipop for the flies :(





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So I put some double stick tape on them.






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But even the double stick tape didn’t stick very well :(






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We had a couple of rainy days, which softened the syrup part and made it sticky again, but still not sticky enough to catch a fly. I thought maybe this fly would stick in the syrupy part at the bottom of the fly strip. Nope. He just had himself a good snack :(

So, maybe if you live in a more humid climate this would work okay, but it doesn’t work very well in a dry climate.





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Hope you enjoyed a great 4th of July :)






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We went up to the Kalispel Reservation and enjoyed a spectacular fireworks display :)





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I didn’t realize how difficult it is to take pictures of fireworks until I tried to do it myself.






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These were really cool – the sparkles just hung in the air for a while.





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Tomorrow is National Fried Chicken Day, so hope you enjoy some great chicken! :)





We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein



Yesterday was International Joke Day :) Hopefully you heard some great jokes :)

Can’t believe we’re in July already! Wow!

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The aquaponics system is up and going for the summer :)

Borage planted this year, along with some volunteer wonderberries from last year.




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Very happy mint plant and a cabbage plant.

I’m curious if the mint will overtake the aquaponics bed, like it usually does in a regular soil bed.




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Small rose :)






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Honeysuckle plant and tomato plant

They are planted in soil and then the container is submerged into the aquaponics system.




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More mater plants

These are planted directly into the gravel of the aquaponics system.





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Andy has an experiment going with trying to start some blueberry bushes. The bottom of the container is submerged to where the cuttings have access to the water.






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Pepper plant. I think this one is supposed to be a mildly hot type, although I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘mildly hot’ depends on how many taste buds you’ve already burned off.






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Strawberries that held over from last winter, despite subzero temps.






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Have been working on the trailer. What a mess the wiring has turned out to be.








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My dad came up to help do some re-wiring.






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Heather busy pulling out staples. She is anxious to get to the painting part of the project :)





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Have also been working at getting the kids to come in when Sassyfras and Meadow come in for treats.

They are getting pretty good at it, but they are busy, healthy, active kids and my camera doesn’t take pictures fast enough to keep up with them.



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They are a lot of fun, though :) Since they are dam raised, they are more shy than bottle babies. Except Aura, who is almost too friendly :) Next step is to start milking Sassyfras and Meadow :)



Hope you have a great 4th of July weekend!

To me, fair friend, you never can be old. For as you were when first your eye I eyed. Such seems your beauty still.
William Shakespeare

Funny Puffs


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Puff 1 has been setting for almost 3 months. I’ve changed her eggs out a couple of times.

Still nothing.




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So yesterday at the feed store, Heather picked out a couple of very cute little brown Americauna puffs.

We kept them in the house until nightfall.




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After it turned dark last night, I snuck out to the chicken coop and took Puff 1′s eggs.

Then I slipped the two little chicks underneath her.



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This morning, I took out some food and water for the babies and checked on Puff 1.

She growled at me.




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She doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with these new little creatures that she has been waiting forever to hatch.

But they know what to do – hide under mama to get warm :)



Enrich the soil that will produce your harvest by speaking words of prosperity over you life. -John Lemme



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Heather and I have started working on our glamping trailer :)






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It’s a lot of work, but we’re making progress (I think).






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I don’t have the right sized bow-tie screwdriver bit to take out most of the original screws. 5/32 is too big, but smaller bits are almost too fragile for such long screws.





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Over the years, some screws have been replaced with Phillips head style screws, making some things easier.

But I can’t get the cupboards out.




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We found the water tank, which seems to still have some water in it.

Ick. Probably can bottle that stuff and sell it as something stout.




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Water pump, which I’m told works, but I don’t really know since it’s not hooked up.

It’s a 12 volt pump, so have to find a battery for it.




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Heather found a fairy :)






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Actually, we found several toy items :)

I can understand a man cave having a tractor and an old Goodyear matchbox car, but what kind of a man cave has a Barbie purse, complete with lipstick, along with a fairy in it? And what’s with the dental pick?



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We did find some water damage, so plan to replace those boards.




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Also found where the roof had been repaired at one point.





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The construction of this trailer is not what I thought it would be. I dunno what I was thinking it would be, but it certainly wasn’t like this.

They built the floor, then the 2×2 framework, then put up the interior paneling, then screwed the beds and a couple of shelves from the outside of the framework into the beds and shelves. Then they put in the wiring, then the insulation, and finally the metal exterior. I guess I thought it should have been built from the outside in, rather than the inside out.



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So this is making removal of the beds impossible without compromising the framework.

Found a Pirate of the Caribbean style screw :)




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Actually, found several pirate screws. Hmm.. wonder if that board needs to be replaced???





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Heather working to remove bathroom fixtures.

She has been a big helper, sometimes too efficient for me :)






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I had to go rescue Kovu (he got his head stuck in a tree), and when I came back, Heather had already started removing the bathroom wall. I wasn’t actually planning on removing it, but it’s gone now!






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Also found some odd wiring. Most of the wiring that appears to be original is 12/2 with bare ground. But found a 16/4 wire that was definitely an add-on running from the bathroom light fixture back to the back of the trailer some where. I kind of think it goes to the exterior light just outside the door, which I’m pretty sure is an add-on. There are also a couple of royal blue wires that disappear up into the ceiling and don’t reappear?



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Also found several of these little red and white wires that had just been cut off?

I explained the wiring as best as I could to my dad, a retired electrician, and I could feel a frown coming across the phone line, “That’s not up to code,” was the answer I got a couple of times.

So, we’re just going to plug along as best as we can and hope for a glamping trip by the end of summer :)


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Wild pink rose


If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans. -Woody Allen



Hummer Wrangler


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We made it down for my uncle’s burial. It was a nice, simple service.





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We set up one of Heather’s hummingbird houses at Great-Grandma’s. We wired some cotton there to make it easy for the hummingbirds to build their nest.




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We also helped my mom move out of her house.








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Heather was less than excited about helping to move a piano, so decided to try and catch a hummingbird.

All of the rest of us figured the hummingbirds were pretty safe. They’re fast, zippy little boogers :)





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That’s what we get for thinking!








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This is the first hummer that Heather caught.

I couldn’t believe it! I ran to get the camera.




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The second hummer I missed because I was out in the barn lot looking for boards for sliding the piano.







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The third hummer.

The rest of us were just shaking our heads in disbelief.





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Great-Grandma feeds the hummers :)






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The fourth hummer.

Heather made me hold him :) I have never held a hummer before. He was pretty cute :)





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She showed them where the hummingbird house is located :)

Then she let them go.





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She wrangled a total of 4 hummers over the weekend :)

I still can’t believe it :)






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On our way back, we stopped at the park and fed the ducks :)






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They are pretty friendly quackers :)






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As we were heading back down the interstate, all I could see was blue sky, but Heather could see this rainbow :)





Hope your summer is off to a great start :)


If life is a book we write, it should be a book of dreams. And even if they don’t all come true, at least the story will still be amazing. – Eytan Rockaway





Hummingbird House


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We have two hummingbirds visiting our feeders this summer!

Heather is so excited :)





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So she thought we needed to build them a house to nest in.

Truthfully, I had never thought about building a hummingbird house before. I don’t ever even remember seeing one for sale.






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We looked online and found two ideas, but no real designs.

So we faked it :)





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The basic idea is that hummingbirds kind of have a droopy nest made from things like spider webs (are they related to fairies?).







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Our nesting holes are 1 1/4 inches diameter. I wasn’t sure how big to make them, so am hoping that is a good size :)







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We made two of them and Heather painted them.






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She is pretty sure that hummingbirds like bright colors since they like bright colored flowers.





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Even the backs got painted :)







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I sprayed them with two coats of clear shellac after the paint dried.







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Looks like a hummingbird should want to live there :)








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Then we put two long bolts on either side of the hole. I’m not certain if that is so they can attach the nest to them, or if so they can perch on them when feeding their babies.

What do hummingbird babies eat? It’s not like the parents can bring them grubs…



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Then we attached some greenery to the houses to give them a more homey feel.






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I’m just sure that a hummingbird would love to live here :)







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I think you are supposed to attach them under the eaves of your house to help keep them dry.







My uncle passed away, so will be out of town for a few days :(

I am certain that children always know more than they are able to tell, and that makes the big difference between them and adults, who, at best, know only a fraction of what they say. -Jacques Lusseyran


Nestor and Nessie


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Heather and I are back to trying for baby pincushions.

So we put Nestor and Nessie in the sink together for a bath time “date.”





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Nessie isn’t very interested.

Nestor has assumed the position, meaning he is pooping.

Something about that warm water…




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You’re not pooping in the bath water, are you?






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Aack! Gross! Let me outta here!






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I can’t blame Nessie for wanting out of the poopy bath water.

Obviously, Nestor did NOT make a favorable move on this ‘date’ and we’re not any closer to miniature pincushions :(   How do you train a hedgehog to give flowers or mealworms?




Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.
Charles Swindoll