For Nick – Exotic Cochins

Our favorite nephew who used to work for us, Nick,  has issues with our exotic chicken, Bernadette.  I don’t believe he appreciates her sweet disposition or her unique look.  I will try to help him understand the intrinsic value of the rare, exotic Cochin fowl.  Here is a Cochin rooster that we saw at the Skagit County Fair.  He won a blue ribbon.  Maybe next year we will take Bernadette to exhibit?

cochin rooster

What nice little feathered footed chicks he and Bernadette could have!


Here is some further information about the breed:

Cochins are known the world over for being big friendly balls of fluff and feathers. They don’t lay well but are very popular because of their sweet personality and fantastic mothering qualities.  Cochins became famous in the 1800s when this Chinese breed was given as a gift to Queen Victoria of England, who absolutely adored them.


A Blue Cochin hen

The Cochin or Cochin China, originally known as the Chinese Shanghai, is a breed of chicken. The name Cochin came from its original Chinese name 九斤黄(in pinyin: jiujin huang, pronounced joo-chin hwong), meaning nine jin yellow, where jin is a traditional Chinese measurement of weight.



This chicken was originally bred in China and later exported to Britain and America in the mid 19th century. As a very distinctive breed of chicken, it apparently created a bit of a craze among poultry lovers in the English-speaking world, effectively launching poultry fancy as we know it today.[1] Not only was this breed one of the largest seen, with cocks weighing up to 11 pounds , but also the soft and plentiful plumage makes the bird quite conspicuous by exaggerating its already large size. Once in the United States, the breed underwent considerable development into its current state.



As above, the most distinctive feature of the Cochin is the excessive plumage that covers leg and foot. The skin beneath the feathers is yellow and the egg colour is brown. Eggs are also medium in size. Standard weightis 11 pounds for a cock, 9 pounds for a cockerel, 8.5 pounds for a hen, and 7 pounds for a pullet. Colour varieties include buff, black, partridge, blue, silver laced, splash, golden laced, and white. Cochins also come in a variety called frizzled, in which the feathers are turned outward. Cochins are well known as good mothers, even as foster mothers for other breeds, and they can lay many eggs, but usually not for extended periods of time.

cochin chicken[1]

So you see Nick, Cochins have long been valued for their exotic looks, sweet disposition and great mothering instincts.  Now don’t you appreciate Bernadette?

Cascade Pass Trail

Our daughter Megan and her boyfriend Brandon were here for a summer visit before they start back to school.  Since Brandon is from Texas where there are no mountains, we decided to go for a hike and see some up close and personal.

meg and brandon at lookout

At the end of the road we live on,  about 20 miles from our house, is the Cascade Pass trailhead.  A little 3.7 mile hike didn’t seem too daunting – how hard could it be?

trail sign

As we got past the first couple of switchbacks on the trail we could see the parking lot we had just left.

just above parking lot

Though there was still snow on the glaciers, it had melted a lot from when we were here in July with Alex.

mtns w snow earlier

                                 July 1st

harsh mountain tops

                         August 17th

The trail was really good in some places.

smooth trail

Rocky in others.

rocky trail

With LOTS of switchbacks – 37 if you are counting.


Some of us did not have our happy faces on for the whole hike – even standing in front of one of the many beautiful waterfalls.

grumpy megan

We had gorgeous views.

 view through trees

We came out onto a clearing above the trees and could see the parking lot and our car way down there.

high above parking lot

It was a beautiful, sunny day for a hike. Who says it always rains here?

sunshine trail

Eventually we all did make it to the top.

the summit

Some of us were much more excited about that than others – and still had the energy to celebrate.

rick at summit

Others of us were content to sit down and enjoy the view, eat our little snack and drink the water that Brandon hauled all the way up to the top for all of us.

looking east

Rick and Brandon checked out a bit of the trail to Stehekin. . .


which is only another 28.2 miles.  Not today.

farther up stehekin trail

The views back to the west aren’t bad either.  It is certainly different to look down on a glacier.

view west

Of course no event would be complete for the Aggies without their Gig ’em sign.

gig em

Soon it was time to head back down the mountain.

down the trail

There are Megan and Brandon – little red and maroon specks way ahead of us.  Funny how they were always way ahead of us.

 far down the trail

 The light was starting to fade as we headed back down.


We saw some beautiful moss covered rocks and streams.

big rocks w water

Though it has been a hot, dry summer there is still water trickling down.

mossy stream

water and ferns

Along the trail we saw some lavender blue daisies – or at least they look like daisies to me.


We also saw these flowers.  Very bright royal blue.  I have no idea what they are.

blue flowers

And more beautiful views.

curved tree

At long last, five hours later, we all made it safely back down to the end of the trail and the parking lot.  I am certainly not an experienced hiker, but I have learned one important thing.  When the sign says 3.7 miles that is only one way – the whole trip is 7.4 miles.  Something to keep in mind for next time.  Very tired, a little (OK maybe a lot) sore but it was worth it!

Chickens and Eggs

As our frequent readers know, we purchased baby chicks in April.  We wanted to have our own home grown fresh eggs.

chicks in box 3

Those little fluff balls have grown tremendously since then.  The solid black ones are Austrolorps – a heavy Australian breed of Orpingtons.  The black and white ones are Barred Rocks.

teenage chicks

They enjoy roaming around in their outside pen during the day.  They are very happy when they get treats tossed over the fence.

flock w lettuce

One of their favorites is lettuce.   I try to cut some fresh greens for them every day.

chickens w lettuce better

I had heard of chickens taking “dust baths” but never seen one.  They seem to enjoy digging out a little hole in the soft dirt and rolling around.

dust baths

At night they fight for the top rung on the roost.  They definitely have their own “pecking order” and woe to the one who is in the wrong place.

on roost

The nest boxes are up on the walls opposite the roost.

inside coop 2

I ordered a few more chicks than I thought we really needed – I figured we would probably lose a few along the way.  So far, only one.  She flew the coop – literally.  Molly and Grizzly were right there to play with her.  Unfortunately for her, she didn’t survive the game of tug-o-war.

chickens and dogs

Our exotic chick, Bernadette, is still unique.

bernadette chickie

She is some type of Cochin – a rare, old breed of fowl from the Orient.  She has feathers all the way down her legs.

Bernadette gawky

She did go through an awkward stage as her feathers were coming in, but now she is a fully feathered adult.  She is much larger than the others.

bernadette adult

Today, our first egg!  A little small – which according to the chicken book is normal for new layers.

first egg

If they all start laying consistently, we may be overrun with eggs.  We’ve had a few neighbors ask if we had any extra eggs to sell, so hopefully it will all balance out.

Larry and Karla

Our friends Larry and Karla, previous owners of AAR, were here visiting for a few days.   Starting from their new home in Florida, they are on a five month trip across the country.  We so glad they were able to return to AAR and stay with us.


I think their motorhome is about the same size as our house!

 2 homes

While they were here, Larry graciously volunteered to work on a few of our (many) projects.  He worked on securing the new chicken fence which was a really tight, awkward place and it had to be done left-handed.  Luckily Larry is ambidextrous.  The chickens were very interested in what he was doing over there.

larry w chickens

Being an electrical engineer,  Larry is also really handy with wiring.  Here is a very dark picture of him wiring the new lights in the SeaTrain.  You can see why we needed to add the lights.

larry wiring seatrain

He also does ceiling fans.

ceiling fan master

Your eyes do not deceive you – Rick is actually reading the directions! I had to record that scene for posterity 😉

rick instructions

Putting the old ceiling fan into the guest room.

ceiling fan

While Larry was busy with projects, Karla was feeding us.  These are the delicious shish-kabobs she created and then grilled.

 shish kabobs

 The chickens enjoyed the leftovers.

karla feeding chickens

Karla also spent quality time with the dogs, who loved the extra attention.  Here she is with Molly.

karla and molly

Grizzly got his share of attention too.

karla and griz

 Larry and Karla celebrated their wedding anniversary while they were here.


Don’ they look cute?

Though it doesn’t look like it, we really didn’t make them work every single day.  Another day of working on the fence.  Taking a water break, watching the antics of the chickens. The hens are convinced that anytime someone comes near the fence they are going to be fed again; they get very indignant if that doesn’t happen.

 all w chickens

The guys finished the first section of fence and moved the temporary fence, so now we can use the new gate.  What an improvement!

larry and rick at fence

While Larry was holding from the inside as Rick tied up the (temporary) support, the chickens pecked so much at Larry’s feet they untied his shoelaces.

larry w chickens

We didn’t work all the time.  We also had some great meals under the gazebo.  Very fitting as Larry and Karla were the ones who designed and built the gazebo.


Megan and Brandon arrived from Texas on the last day Karla and Larry were here.  Brandon just had time for a quick tour of the motor home.

brandon in motorhome

Larry’s office away from home.

larry's computer

Larry and Karla travel with a puppy who is much better behaved than our two.


And all too soon it was time for them to head out on the next leg of their adventure.

away they go

We hope they make it back sooner next time.

Garden Update

We are still learning how to grow things in this cool, northern climate.  I am happy to say that our garden this year is much better than we had last year.  Last year we had many green tomatoes and about three ripe ones. Those that did turn red had end rot and blight.  Not a pretty sight.

 green tomatoes

This year we tried some new strategies.  We planted only very early varieties suggested for this area and we planted them all in the wall-o-waters to protect them from the cool nights.

tomatoes growing out of walls

Mother Nature helped out by providing a dry, hot summer.

almost ripe

Voila!  Red, ripe delicious tomatoes.

basket w tomatoes

Ours were ripe even before some of the “local” gardeners who have years of experience in this climate.  I am a true believer in the wall-o-waters for cool climates!

tomatoes in window sill

We’ve also had success with our peas and beans.  Nick’s custom trellis is still standing in spite of my design and engineering, and is covered with pole beans.

bean poles

The peas loved the cool weather, now that is has warmed up the beans have started to produce.

peas and beans

The scarlet runner beans have pretty red blossoms.

scarlet runner bean blooms (2)

We also planted a lot more potatoes this year.  Last year we ran out of time and at the last minute we threw a few seed poatoes in a stack of tires sitting on newspaper and filled it with straw.  We did actually get about four or five potatoes from those plants, but they were never very strong or healthy looking.  This year’s potatoes were planted from seed potatoes in enriched, well tilled soil.  The plants were over three feet tall before they started to sprawl and die back a little.

dying potato plant

When one plant started to yellow, Rick couldn’t wait to dig around and see if there were potatoes under there.  There they were, peeking out of the dirt.

potatoes in dirt

We got more potatoes from that one plant than we did from our whole potato harvest last year.  We are improving.

bowl of potatoes

Another new addition in the garden this year was planting several flowers and herbs as pollinators.  This is borage which the bees love.

borage w bee

We also planted bee balm to attract the bees.  We didn’t get very good yields last year from our squash or pumpkins at least partially because we had no bees.

bee balm

The flowers also make the garden look very colorful.

garden view

Remember those wilted, dead-looking sweet potato slips we got?

wilted sweet potatoes

Amazingly most of them lived and they are now healthy looking plants.  I don’t know if they will produce any sweet potatoes – probably not, but I am surprised they lived at all.

sweet potatoes

Even our little blueberries are ripening and bearing.  Very impressive when you consider they are still in the pots they came in from the nursery last year.  We have the water line in the orchard dug, but don’t have it in yet.  After that is complete, the berries will go on top.  So they are still in their containers, waiting to be planted but bearing anyway.

ripe blueberries

The corn has tassles and ears growing.  We are hoping for some corn on the cob in the next couple of weeks. Last year the varities we planted were too late and never matured.

corn w tassels

A new addition for us is this dehydrator.  Since our electricity is pretty unreliable, it was out for five days this past winter, freezing food is an iffy proposition.  So, I’ve been canning to preserve the harvest, but some things don’t do so well canned.  Those foods, like peas and green beans, I am dehydrating.  I also added in some chopped carrots and celery in this batch.

dehydrator loaded

Here are the carrots four hours later.

dehydrated carrots

Three pounds of carrots in a quart size bag.  Dried foods don’t care if the electricity goes out!

carrots in bag

And to make sure our scraps and ends aren’t wasted the chickens are our new garbage disposals.  They eat a lot of things I would never have expected.  They eat any kind of fruit (except lemons) or vegetables.


They love greens and bread is their very favorite.  They like weeds too. Here is Bernadette with lettuce.

bernadette w lettuce

We are pretty certain now that Bernadette is not a Bernard.  All the hens should start laying eggs in the next few weeks.