Disappearing Chicken Mystery at The Purple Gate Herb Farm

Catherine L. Mills

I have a few backyard chickens for egg production. I have learned a lot with the 5-6 chickens for the past few years. I researched, planned, and built a portable chicken coop with the ideas of moving it around the yard so the birds would get fresh greens (weeds)and insects while fouling (I mean, fertilizing) and weeding the grounds.


The “portable chicken coop” wheels proved to be very unstable and difficult to move easily.


In the summer sun, the chickens were roasting alive so I moved the portable chicken coop under a “Hoop house fence” (see- http://www.pgherbfarm.com/MarysBlog/?p=2520 ).


The vines that covered the hoop structure  gave good shade. This worked OK, but this portable chicken coop now had a permanent home. The chickens ranged freely around our property and came home to roost every night in the new home. We could also cage them in the run when necessary (until I got some smarter chickens and they got out). They laid eggs there that were easy to gather.

One day, one of the chickens disappeared. I searched everywhere for several weeks and could not find her. I didn’t find feathers that usually told me a chicken had been killed by some predator. Once I thought I saw her, but couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t imagine where she was for almost two weeks. One day I noticed the lost chicken under a bush beside our porch. I carefully approached the area and found her with about a dozen eggs. Mystery solved, she had been laying and sitting on her eggs under that bush. I removed the eggs when she left to get some food and water. She came back immediately after her pit stop and saw that her eggs were gone. She looked around and the only culprit she could find was Pepper, our dog. She pestered our poor falsely accused dog for a week after. She gave up her nesting spot eventually and followed the other chickens into the chicken coop that night.


After some pretty hefty hen pecking she disappeared again. She did not return to the bush beside the porch. I was unable to find her again. One day I noticed something moving in a decorative pottery pot on the front porch. We had fake plants in the pots after the seasonal summer plants had died. I was sure I saw something move, either the fake plant or . . . (do you see her? She’s a barred rock chicken)

Hoping it was not a snake or other varmint…I carefully looked in and impossible as it seemed . . . there was my missing chicken. I thought . . . No way she could fit in that pot. But there she was.

I looked into the pot and found 19 eggs!

We now have full growing plants in those pots. She cannot get in them now. We are hoping we have convinced her that the chicken coop is where she should be. We hope we have solved our case of the repeatedly “Disappearing Chicken.”

Click here to see our mystery solved!!!


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Memories reoccur…

Love, Grief, Understanding
For fifty two years of marriage
I did not see so many things
As they were— lost in our busy lives.

Late at night I remember.
A new understanding seeps through the dark.

I see.
His smiling face peering around a corner
He seemed to start each new day with that smile.

He did not express his thoughts
He seemed to need me to express mine.
His happiness was Seeing me happy.
His distress was mine also.
We shared. Often without words.

I thought the lack of words
Meant he lacked feeling.
I now know he felt so deeply
And could not find words.

He internalized his pain but his
Body revealed his thoughts
He showed how deeply he felt sorrow or pain.
When his insides distressed him.
He thought he had an ulcer!
His body revealed what he could not express.

I sometimes tried to provoke him
To tell me what he thought or felt.
I got angry when he could not-would not

I simply did not understand his way
Of dealing with things that hurt him.
All he wanted was to be free of stress.
He fled to the garage, and projects.
To distract his mind from distress.

I felt alone when he seemed to shut me out.
I wish I could tell him-that now I understand.

The only way he could express love
Was the loving way he looked at me.
The way he held my hand as we walked.
The way he held me in bed as we slept.
The way he did things to please me.
I love him so. I miss him.

At night he comes to me in dreams
Now we talk the way I needed
For all the years we shared without
The words I craved.

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Back to the future is in progress at Home.

A friend and her husband got behind on payments due to unforeseen events and their home was foreclosed on. They found themselves without a home.  The bank  took their home and all their 18 years of equity. The bank could sell the home again and create a new mortgage, banks really cleaned up on these foreclosure deals.


My friend thought she was lucky to have a son and daughter-in-law invite her and her husband to live with them until they could figure out what to do.


Stunned, my friend and her husband tried to understand what happened to them. They just went through the days. Days stretched into months. They could not think of a way out of this horrible event. They could not think, and just tried to help out with the young family they landed with.

It did not take long for strife to arise. (I heard that the Chinese sign of trouble is 2 women under one roof).



My friend and her husband thought that no effort was made by my friend and her husband to do something since the offer for shelter was not permanent. Hurt feeling and frustration developed in both family members. Finally, a run down house was found that could be afforded and my friend and her husband moved out. My friend could not understand the strife. She told me “lots of family generations live together, I don’t understand what happened.”

I think when family generations live together there has to be an agreed upon elder or person who can settle disputes and keep the peace. This person has the final word on the social interactions of the family. Apparently this is vital for the success of multi-generations living in close quarters.

I thought about the circumstance that created foreclosures. I decided that our families have been conditioned to live “independently or you are a failure.” A whole generation was “programmed” to believe that “More and Bigger” meant success. They bought larger and larger homes and home furnishings. They bought newer, better, more impressive cars.



Then, for many the dream evaporated. Now the bank owned their home.



This was a horrible event in many lives across the United States.

I think that the events happening to create foreclosures made people realize the false security of the “more is better” ideas. Many people are redesigning their living spaces and life styles, both personally and publicly.


They are learning what their ancestors knew and they are reviving self-sufficient living with smaller homes and food producing gardens.


People are learning about old and new ways to live simpler with solar and wind systems and rain water collection.



Using old techniques combined with newer technologies to preserve food by canning vegetables produced in gardens and drying food to store seasonal food. These techniques are now being practiced by another generation.



Back to the future is in progress.

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A Dream Come True

Years ago I read an article about how sunflowers track the sun. Until then I did not know this wonderful information. I had gone through life unaware that sunflowers followed the sun all day, recording the path in the fibers of it’s stem. Then when the sun went down, the stem slowly released the tension in the twisted fibers allowing the flower to face east, awaiting the sunrise the next day. image

How wonderful, I thought. I watched for some time and observed this revelation to be true.

At that time, the art world was producing “kinetic art.” Art that responded to the presence of viewers. Many kinetic art installations had spires of metal that moved slowly as the air you displaced reached the installation.


I had a wonderful thought. I lacked the knowledge to make this happen, but I talked to several engineers and my husband about how a sculpture could be made to track the sun like a sunflower does.

Today there are a lot of solar tracker designs as sun tracking has many applications that have a practical applications and a variety of solutions.


Engineers are very practical men and could not see how they could apply solar tracking to the art sculptures I had in mind at that time. I could not get them to help me with the technical aspects and I am not able to do the project by myself so it was put on my “back burner”. Maybe someday, I thought.

However, today I found something on the internet that makes me smile. Here is the “kinetic art” I so wanted to design, someone did it!!!!. And it is beautiful with a practical function as well.image


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Money Talks

Kellyanne Conway is a  hired mouth with no integrity or beliefs beyond her constant running to follow the money.

She endorsed Ted Cruz during his 2016 Republican presidential campaign. She chaired a pro Cruz political action committee, “Keep the Promise I” that was reported to be almost entirely funded by a businessman, Robert Mercer. While supporting Ted Cruz she criticized Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump as extreme and not a conservative. She hit the nail on the head  at one point, saying Trump was “a man who seems to be offending his way to the nomination. Later she drew attention to his use of eminent domain to “…literally bulldozed over the little guy to get his way.”


Ted Cruz dropped out of the Presidential race,  and on July 1, 2016, after Cruz suspended his presidential campaign, Trump appointed her as a senior advisor to his campaign. Here is where she showed her true commitments. She simply follows the money and stands up for anyone willing to pay her and shifts loyalty accordingly.


Donald Trump says embarrassing and/or untruthful things on a daily basis.  Kellyanne Conway’s role is to cover, explain and deny away the facts. She is available for MSNBC, Fox or any media outlet from late night to morning shows. I wonder why these media outlets allow her to dodge questions, denying obvious facts already out on social media videos and spinning every question toward criticisms of Democrats.

Is she earning her pay? (will she ever collect from deadbeat Trump?). She is in front of cameras talking over interviewers to obscure the truth constantly. Will the media tire of her repetitive, predictable spinning of Trumps embarrassing untruths?  One can only hope SOON.


Posted in Political | Tagged | 2 Comments

Food Forest Project

Mom and I needed a lot of compost and mulch for a project we were starting. I learned that a local organic pecan orchard owner has been chipping up trees for mulch because he had lost many trees in some recent flooding. His name is Gene Niswander, and his farm is called Yegua Creek Farms.


I searched out his business card and called the phone number on it. Mrs. Niswander answered and said that she would have her husband get back with us. It turned out that Mr. Niswander no longer had any pecan wood mulch, but he did have some organically-grown square baled hay that we could buy from him at $6 a bale and that included delivery. We mentioned the price to a friend who had experience buying hay bales and he said that sounded like a very good price and he knew the hay was organic.

We also knew that ordinary hay has pesticides that are used to maximize yield, and we did not want to have that in hay that we used for mulch. I have heard that herbicides are a subset of pesticides, therefore they are very dangerous to garden plants. We have heard that people have lost their garden plants to hay that was not grown organically and had pesticides and herbicides in it.

So we decided to go ahead and buy the hay for mulch in the beds we planned to begin in the spring.

Next we needed to know where on the property to offload the hay. We decided that it would be easier for the delivery truck to offload the hay in front of the garage next to the entry gate. We were also going to get a load of compost, and we did not want the compost to slide down the nearby slope.  So we asked them to pile the hay as a barrier so the compost would not slide down the slope.

We also needed a lot of compost, and we had no idea where to find some. We had driven past a place called Stone Haven out on Highway 71, west of Bastrop, just passed Producers Co-op often.  We decided to check to see if they had organic compost.


It had organic garden soil and turkey compost!  The garden soil had sand, compost and other ingredients. The turkey compost was all compost, but cost more and we were told it was too hot to use directly in our plant beds. We decided that we preferred the garden soil. We bought the garden soil and asked that it be delivered in within a few days.

As the delivery day approached we reconsidered where we wanted the compost to be placed on our property. Our original location was selected because it was out of the way of our work and up hill from everything. We had already placed the hay by the entry gate, but it was not such a good idea after all, because the land sloped toward the neighbors property. We knew we would use the compost gradually over time, and rain would leach the “compost tea” onto our neighbors land. That seemed like a waste. We thought it would be better to put the compost where rain would wash the resulting compost tea into an area that could use the nutrients on our own property.

In order to allow the large dump truck onto our property, Mom and I had to take one of our gates off its hinges. When the day came for delivery, it went well, and we put the compost at the top of a hill so that it would leach into an area where we intended  to create a garden.



Then we moved some of the square bales of hay to the downhill side of the compost to keep the whole mound from washing down the hill.

We were so very happy that we had begun our project at last.

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Memories- Thanksgiving to Herbs

If you ever doubted the benefits of aromatherapy, late November and December is  the time to dispel those misgivings. Just remember the last time you walked into a house where a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas meal was being prepared. Remember the rich scent of the spice and herb blends used to season all those wonderful dishes?


Everyone will have favorite blends that trigger the nostalgic memories of family gatherings during holidays in the past. Most of these herb blends are used in  dressing and desert but there are other ways to enrich holiday meals with herbs.


All of these herbs not only uplift our spirits, calm anxiety, entice us to the dinner table with savory scents and reward us with satisfying flavors, they also aid digestion.

Herb Cutout001

Thyme is an herbal remedy for digestive and stomach problems.


thyme  lemon varigated001sOregano and rosemary also aid in digestion and contain natural antibacterial  properties (wonderful for the cold and flu season). Rosemary, mint and chamomile have calming effects for tension or stress wonderful in after dinner teas. Parsley contains vitamin A and is a natural breath freshener. Poultry seasoning from the supermarket can contain several
herbs: dried basil, rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme, oregano and nutmeg.

Pot of herbs016As you enjoy your traditional Holidays or invent new meals for gatherings of family and friends, give a silent thank you to these simple enhancements herbs provide our lives.

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Wocket Stove Wednesday

My daughter Catherine and I received this invitation. imageCatherine has mentioned her interest in rocket stoves for some time so we read the invitation from Tone carefully.

Wocket Stove Wednesday
Aww yeah peeps, you guys wanna go do something awesome? Cuz I do… come join me and build some rocket stoves on wednesday. I’m hoping to donate whatever we make to help support the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Out of the list of supplies the Standing Rock group needed, wood stoves kind of stuck out to me. I been building these bucket rocket stoves for a while and thought that it would be a perfect portable alternative to a bulky wood stove. If you’re interested in learning more about them, or want to support the people protecting the waterways, please come through and get your hands dirty. I recommend you bring a pair of rubber gloves, like the yellow dishwashing kind and some clothes that you don’t mind getting cement on. Feel free to bring a dish if you want to share something. Beer also makes a great dish.

We decided to attend this event for several reasons. I had communicated with Tone on the internet but never met him, he had recently had a “Permablitiz” at his property installing berm and swales for his fruit trees and I really was interested in seeing these. Also, I loved the idea of supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline people. So I was ready to check this event out and meet a man I admired!

Catherine was the “hands on person” and I was along to photograph a few pictures for this blog.

Before going I wanted to find out what exactly a “rocket stove is.”

So off to the internet and google…

A rocket stove is an efficient and hot burning, portable stove using small diameter wood fuel. Fuel is burned in a simple combustion chamber containing an insulated vertical chimney, which ensures almost complete combustion prior to the flames’ reaching the cooking surface.


In field tests in India, rocket stoves used 18 to 35 per cent less fuel compared to the traditional stoves and reduced fuel used 39-47 per cent compared to the three stone fire, as well as a large reduction in emissions.

Tone is an interesting fellow, willing to show us the development of his property, and to provide an interesting, useful project to help the Dakota Pipeline protestors. Tone was ready to show us around and after getting acquainted he showed Catherine how to build and use the rocket stove.



Using twigs the fire was started and quickly became hot enough for Tone to cook some eggs. He said with very little fuel you could boil water. This is a very useful tool.

If he offers this project again, I wholly recommend it for anyone interested in learning useful skills.

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How I Ended Up Making Black Bean Dip

I am experimenting with a pressure cooker to can the abundance I anticipate from my gardens.

I have had to overcome my fear of pressure cookers based on the rumors I heard as a younger person. Several discussions about blowups that coated the kitchen with food kept me from ever trying to use a pressure cooker.


Now we hear that pressure cookers are used in bombs! YIKES!

I heard these stories often so I never wanted to cook with a pressure cooker although I knew it was faster and used less electricity or fuel. I decided it was time to get over my fear and save fuel as I was trying to “green” up my life. I read lots of stuff on the internet and I was convinced that the newer pressure cookers were improved. Although manufacturers acknowledged the earlier kitchen problems they said there were better measures built into the newer ones.

So I bought a Pressure cooker planning to learn to use it to can and cook. It sat on the shelf for a couple of months while I got myself under control. (Life long fears are hard to dismiss from your mind).


Finally, I “bit the bullet” as my late husband used to say and ran a preliminary test. It went well. Then I tried 2 recipes, one for poor cuts of beef and with this recipe and I ran into trouble,

I burned the food and put a thick burned layer on the pot. Although the beef was scorched, the tenderness and flavor was encouraging.  Getting the burned layer out of the pot was a chore!


After several days, I tried a chicken recipe. It turned out great. Tender and seasoned to perfection. I detected a small presence of hot pepper and checked the recipe I used. I had printed out the beef and the chicken recipes on 4×6 index card. I had followed the beef recipe when I cooked the chicken! I loved the tender, slightly spicy chicken so I will do that again.


Now I was ready to try canning some cooked black beans. I followed the instructions carefully and began the canning temperature. It all seemed to go well but when I opened the pressure cooker, the inside was full of black bean juice and one quart obviously had leaked as the lid was loose. I did not screw it on correctly, or maybe I filled the jar too full. I will work on that.

The second quart jar was sealed! One success.

I was assured if there was a problem and a jar didn’t seal the food was perfectly OK to eat, even though it could not be stored in the pantry.

We were going to a friends home and wanted to bring something to the potluck. My daughter and I sat at the kitchen table with the pureed beans, and we mixed various spices and even sour cream with the mashed beans. The best flavor came from the following mixture.


I will give you our experimental mixture but you can adjust the recipe to the amount of cooked black beans you have. Everything is added “to taste”.  This really was delicious.

Black Bean Dip                           

1 quart of black beans pureed to a thick paste (too thick for our dip)
We added a pinch of salt several times to adjust the amount. (About ½ teaspoon)
We added ½ teaspoon Chipotle seasoning, then added more “to taste”.
The mix was still too thick so we added tomato salsa until the mix was easy to pick up on a tortilla chip. (I think you could add a tomato hot sauce instead for the same reason.)

We left the bean dip in the refrigerator overnight. We found that leaving it overnight melded the flavors, and improved the taste.

We lined a bowl with iceberg lettuce leaves and put the black bean dip in the middle. We waited until we were ready to eat and spread cilantro leave tips all over the top and added small grape tomatoes.  Pile a lot of cilantro tips and grape tomatoes so everyone can dip tomato, cilantro and bean dip on each corn chip.



Posted in Pressure cooker, Recipes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Texas Chainsaw

Be more careful than you think necessary when operating a chainsaw.

My husband and daughter were simply taking down a standing  tree that was burned in a wildfire. He is experienced and has cut many trees down with a chainsaw through the years.


Our daughter was behind a nearby tree watching thinking she was in a safe place.


As the tree began to fall it twisted (this has happened once before) and my husband jump clear as the tree came down.


After a time they both came into our house and told me. “We need to go to a doctor.” They were both walking, my husband looked very distressed and my daughter was covered with dirt and leaves.

When they came into the house, here is the story I got.

He said, “I jumped back as the tree was coming down in the wrong place.

When I looked around, our daughter was GONE! I couldn’t see her anywhere.”


She said, “my dog was distracting me as a big branch of the tree I was under was hit by the tree Dad was felling. I looked up right as the tree fell on the branch which broke off and then fell on me. I landed bent over in a hollow in the ground with the branch across the back of my shoulders and the tree on top of it.  I was pinned so tightly, I couldn’t breathe. I had to struggle to get my arm out from under me so I could breathe again.”

Neither my husband nor my daughter could move the large branches on top of her. Fortunately, she was in loose, sandy soil, so once she got her arm out from under her, she was able to crawl out from under the branches. She was very lucky that she landed in a hollow in the ground and the branch took the weight of the fallen tree. She felt alright, no broken bones or torn muscles, so we did not immediately go to the doctor until we noticed the extent of the bruising. We felt lucky. It took months to recover from the shock we all felt and the $300 doctor bill, but there was no serious damage.

Be more careful than you think necessary when operating a chainsaw. Accidents are often unexpected.

Posted in Central Texas, Dangerous Country living, Hard Lessons, Memories, Observations, Surprise | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments