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A Ducks’ Tale



In order to find a safe place for the ducks and Canada geese to nest around our pond, my brother placed a nesting box on top of the metal grid over the overflow culvert.  It certainly kept critters like raccoons, foxes and coyotes out of the eggs, but I was worried about how the ducklings were going to get out without going into the gaping hole.  It is hard to see in the picture but there is about half a foot of grid in front of the box where the lip is.  And, if it is windy or stormy and the lake is overflowing, the current would draw in little fluffies.  Our Canada, Gracie, nested along the pond but a Mallard hen chose the box.

I recall several years ago watching a mother duck who had hatched her ducklings along the pond a few days earlier and had been introducing them to lake life.  A rain storm came up with wind.  They were at the end of the lake near the overflow and got too close to the current.  One by one I watched from my kitchen window as each duckling went through the grid and down the culvert.  The hen Mallard was hysterical, flapping back and forth in front of the grid.  Finally, she dove through the grid and down the culvert after her brood.  What a tender picture of motherhood!  I hope they all floated unhurt out the other end–under Springfield Road, under the property across the road and into the lower fork of Lick Creek.  But I was not eager to see that scenario repeated this season.

We checked on the hen periodically to see if her eggs were hatching.  Fortunately I was outside in the garden when I heard the hen quacking loudly and swimming back and forth before the box.  Sure enough, 10 ducklings were huddled together in the box and mom was trying to coax them out.  They were so frightened of me they nearly spilled out; I quickly drew back.  Mom, meanwhile, pretended to be hurt to distract me, flapping to make it look like she had a broken wing.  I called Butch, my husband, and said, “Houston, we have a problem.”  Together, we decided to take a large piece of particle board to make a bridge to the nest to give us access.  I grabbed a small box to place in front of the nest in order to catch the chicks if they scrambled out.

When Butch got on top of the grid, he decided to just scoop up one duckling at a time and launch it carefully into open water to mom.  One-by-one he lifted a soft brown and yellow peeping chick into his hand and plopped it into the water.  The first one went under but ducklings are unsinkable–it quickly bobbed to the surface and paddled to mom.  She summarily had all 10 in tow and swam off as if this were the usual order of the day.

Mom duck didn’t seem any worse for wear and all 10 chicks were happy paddlers.  I, however, was extremely relieved not to witness little chicks swept away.  Even so, we know the odds are that some of the 10 will not make it to adult duck-hood.  All the natural predators in the country ensure the survival of only the fittest.  We haven’t seen the flock in the last few days as she keeps them well-hidden and do not have the latest count.  But such is life in the country.


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Pallet Strawberry Bed

Pallet Strawberry Bed

I am still waiting with baited breath to see if all those white blooms result in lots of plump strawberries.  I just gave the pallet bed a dose of fertilizer in order to encourage them in their fruiting–another bed is also full of lush green strawberry plants and blooms, but I seem to have more blooms than berries in the garden.

Is this the season when my emotional attachment and hard labor will be rewarded?  Time will tell…

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The Security of the Sheep Fold

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Our rustic garden shed was on the farm property when we restored our barn home.  We believe it was a sheep shed.  Now it houses equipment and tools but I like to think of sheep being herded inside for protection after a day in the open pasture.

Sheep going into shed

How cute is this!  The shed will keep them warm and safe from marauders.  I think I am a sheep at heart.  Give me a good shepherd and I am happy!



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A Moment in a Spring Garden

Wind Chime in the Apple Tree

Wind Chime in the Apple Tree

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The apple trees are blooming, a warm breeze is blowing–a spring moment in the garden accompanied by the bronze-tones of wind chimes…  Every other year we have a bumper crop of apples, and this is the year.  The trees are loaded with blooms.  Thy are scattering from the trees in the breeze of an incoming weather front, covering the stepping stones in pale pink petals.

Rhubarb Patch

Rhubarb Patch

I see a fresh rhubarb pie in my immediate future…and fresh strawberries soon to follow.

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My pallet experiment last year was successful.  The strawberry plants weathered the winter between the slats and are producing an abundance of blooms that should yield berries in early June.


The carrots, sweet peas, kale, spinach and potatoes are beginning to break through the soil.  These are the reasons I love spring.

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Seasons of Farm Grove Cookbook – 2nd Edition


We are excited about the 2nd edition of our family home and restaurant cookbook. It is an updated and expanded version of the original, containing not only recipes from our tearoom but favorites from our families and the best of my Cottage Chat newsletter recipes. The book is soft cover, 210 pages, with full-color illustrations of Sunday dinner-ready dishes and views of the Farm Grove farmstead. The price is $20 + $3.50 S&H if mailed.  Seasons is available at Farm Grove, 18886 Springfield Road, Groveland, IL 61535 [309]387-6652, just fifteen minutes from downtown Peoria,  or from The Emerald Tea Room, 132 McKinley Street, East Peoria, IL [309] 694-1972.  Seasons is also available at but at a higher price.

Author Sharon with Signature Farm Grove Cinnamon Rolls

Author Sharon with Signature Farm Grove Cinnamon Rolls

Seasons includes anecdotes from the family about the adventure of owning and operating a family business through faith and hard work.  Recipes are introduced with notes about the region or friend from which they came and recommendations for preparation. Bonus recipes such as Bookbinders Glue and Crazy Green Diet Drink reveal some of Sharon’s best-kept secrets. Look for Seasons of Farm Grove in the May issue of 50+ News and Views magazine, available in libraries and professional offices throughout Central Illinois the first week of May.


Book Signing at Farm Grove:  Saturday, April 30 – 10 a.m.  Join us for a book signing and excerpts from Seasons, complimentary coffee and Farm Grove cinnamon rolls.  Location:  the Farm Grove barn, 18886 Springfield Road, Groveland, IL 61535.  Call [309] 387-6652 to let us know you are coming or e-mail

Breakfast with the Author at the Emerald Tea Room:  Saturday, June 4, at 9 a.m.  Sharon will sign copies of Seasons and read excerpts.  The tearoom breakfast will include specialties from the cookbook. Call the Emerald Tea Room for prices and reservations – [309] 694-1972 or e-mail

It’s always good eating at the barn!





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Are You a Closet Prepper?


Women like security. With the increase in natural disasters, having a stash of handy tools is a good idea; and I have friends who feel the same way.  If the electricity is off for a protracted time, there are simple ways to keep warm, cook dinner, make a hot cup of coffee or tea, and generally keep control of the situation.  This post is about keeping warm.

I am putting together a little Tea Light Home Heater kit for some birthdays. Here is all you need:

  • loaf pan [$1 at Dollar Tree]
  • pack of 16 tea lights [$1 at Dollar Tree]
  • small box of matches [$1 for a multiple pack at Dollar Tree]
  • medium terra cotta pot with hole in bottom [$1.77 at WalMart]



  1. Place 4 tea lights in center of loaf pan

Tealight Home Heater 002

2.  Place pot on loaf pan, centered over tea lights

Tealight Home Heater 004

3.  Heater is ready to use. Simply remove the pot to light the tea lights and replace.

HOW DOES IT WORK?  The pottery pot magnifies the heat of the candles and acts like a chimney.  All heat is drawn up into the pot, which when it heats, radiates the warmth into the room.  One of these will keep a small room warm for several hours–not piping hot, but warm.  A couple of these would help keep a bedroom warm in winter for sleeping and is safe as the candles are contained in metal. Cost:  Under $4.





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