Archive for May, 2016


Cool Ideas to Help Animals Beat the Heat

Author: Meera, May 31, 2016

Whenever the mercury starts flirting with the century mark on the thermometer, I head for the freezer and take out frozen vegetables and berries to thaw a little before I put them out for the chickens and the wild birds.

 

 

The silver-laced Wyandotte (black-and-white) hen in the foreground succumbed to the extreme heat during the night

One of my silver-laced Wyandotte (black-and-white) hens succumbed to the extreme heat a year ago

 

 

Another treat is corn or peas frozen in water in ramekin dishes and offered to chickens on very hot days to help them keep cool. They’ll also like chilled lettuce or spinach leaves, diced fresh zucchini, and crisp cold strips of cabbage.

 

 

 

Short-hair dogs may not be hypoallergenic

Short-hair dogs need to be protected from the heat, too

 

 

 

For pooches, ice cubes made from frozen beef or chicken broth can provide a tasty, cool treat. Chilled carrots, or a frozen ball made from mashed banana and peanut butter can refresh a pooch on a hot day, provided the animal has no peanut allergy. Make sure animals have plenty of clean, cool water to drink always, but especially on hot days.

 

 

If you walk with your pet, it’s best to go in the cool of the early morning or late evening and avoid the heat of the day. I take my Siamese on a leash for a walk in the garden each day but will wait until the evening.

 

 

 

She's intensely curious and loves slipping into the cave with the hole in her cat tree

To protect her from the heat, I keep my cat inside the air conditioned house on super hot days

 

 

 

Cat paws are sensitive to the heat in stones and concrete surfaces. It’s best to steer clear of those heat-trapping surfaces. Stick to grass. Take your cat out in the early morning or wait for a walk until evening after the mercury starts dropping.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about keeping bees, chickens, and other farm animals or learning about growing heirloom vegetables and fruits or making delicious farm-to-table recipes, check out my newest cozy mystery offerings from Kensington Publishing. Chocked full of all kinds of farmette tidbits, these mysteries are available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, KOBO, and other online stores as well as traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

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Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, which means time to grab a little reading pleasure and sample some locally grown produce to go with whatever you’re putting on the grill. And don’t forget dessert.  My mind is already spinning with ideas.

 

 

Hanging out in the hammock calls for a book, so if you haven’t already snagged a copy of A BEELINE TO MURDER, get your e-book today through May 30 for a great price from KOBO Books. Here’s the link: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-beeline-to-murder.

 

 

 

The first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series, Kensington Books 2015

The first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series, Kensington Books 2015

 

 

 

 

For your grilling pleasure, choose some sweet corn to grill to go with the barbecue ribs or chicken. Here on the Henny Penny Farmette, our corn won’t be ready until July, so we’re going to pick some up locally grown corn at the farmers’ market in downtown Concord.

 

 

 

This corn has just started growing

This corn has just started growing

 

 

 

We’ve got more than a dozen heirloom tomato plants with fruit on them. Vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes for a cool Caprese salad are also available from the farmers’ market. And as I consider salads for our weekend meals, a red-skin potato with pesto and shredded basil leaves sounds almost as good as a conventional country style potato salad. But then again, I’d love a fresh broccoli-carrot salad with an Asian sesame-seed dressing or a simple cold slaw.

 

 

 

tomatoes

 

 

 

We’ve got plenty of zucchini and sweet snap peas in my garden that are ready to eat. These taste divine tossed into a garlic and butter shrimp pasta with a little shaved Parmesan cheese. Add a nice chardonnay or a traditional Cuban lime mojito along with some fresh baked bread and you’re ready to head for the table in the orchard.

 

 

 

Sunflower-design bundt pan makes this cake pretty enough to eat without the icing.

Sunflower-design bundt pan makes this cake pretty enough to eat without the the caramelized pecan frosting.

 

 

 

Desserts are on my mind too–a simple cake or a plate of berries or watermelon rings my chime. But then again, with company, I could bake some linzer torte cookies with home-canned apricot jam. Or make a rhubarb-strawberry pie. The rhubarb stalks are cherry red and ready to cut.

 

 

These are some of my ideas of simple pleasures for Memorial Day to get you thinking about yours. Wishing you a peaceful, blessed Memorial Day weekend.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about keeping bees and chickens, raising heirloom vegetables and fruits, and other aspects of modern farmette life, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing (New York).

 

 

 

A BEELINE TO MURDER, available in hardcover, will be released in paperback format in October.  THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE will be released October 1, 2016. Find these titles on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Walmart.com and other online bookstores and retailers as well as in traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Attracting Mourning Doves to Your Backyard

Author: Meera, May 24, 2016

Despite its drab brown coloring with pink legs and round eyes, the Mourning Dove (also known as the Turtle Dove, Rain Dove, and the Carolina Turtledove) is one of the most easily recognized backyard birds in America.

 

 

 

The ladder is a tall one for picking cherries, but it works as a platform for a nest constructed by a pair of Mourning Doves

The ladder is a tall one for picking cherries, but it works as a platform for a nest constructed by a pair of Mourning Doves

 

 

 

We welcome them to the farmette with the lure of seeds, the type of food that makes up most of their diet. My hubby and I place seeds in low-hanging feeders or on the stone retaining wall. Sometimes, we even cast birdseed near the outer edge of the garden.

 

 

These birds also need a source of water. Because we keep chickens and bees, we have fountains running year-round. With an ample supply of food and water and plenty of fruit trees, tall grass, bamboo, and berry bushes for habitat, it’s no wonder the doves and other birds hang around here to mate in spring.

 

 

What surprises me is that one Mourning Dove couple has made a nest on top of the ladder I left out while picking some ripe cherries. The nest didn’t look too substantial, but I guess it works for them. I climbed up on a chair nearby to see the two white eggs after the dove left the nest. Within seconds, she dive bombed me and I nearly fell off the chair.

 

 

Mourning doves usually lay two eggs that are incubated by both parents, taking turns. In one spring season, they can repeat the process up to six times. This accounts for their population numbers staying strong in the face of being hunted for sport by humans and stalked as prey by other species. The baby doves are called squabs.

 

 

I love the lamenting call of these birds, often at sunset. I also appreciate that they are believed to mate for life. The squabs feed on crop milk–regurgitated secretions from the lining of the crop of the parents.

 

 

Attracting these doves into your backyard is easy if you put out a feeder and some seeds. For the July-August issue of GRAND online magazine, I’ve created a birdseed hanging saucer with directions so anyone can make it.  Ours has attracted several doves who forage for food morning and evening.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette life, check out my mystery novel series from Kensington Publishing, New York. The books feature a farmette milieu, farm sayings, tips, and facts about animals and bees as well as delicious recipes to try. The books are available from online sources such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and others as well as traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

 

 

BEELINE TO MURDER is the first book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries.

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

 

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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Buffo’s Gone Broody

Author: Meera, May 17, 2016

My Buff Orpington hen won’t leave the nest. I’ve taken to putting out a bowl of crumbles and a canister of water so she’ll have nourishment while she sits on a a pile of eggs.

 

 

 

Broody Buffo sm web

 

 

 

 

I’m beginning to think that with her this broody period is going to happen about every six months–at least that’s been the case so far.

 

 

Ruby the Rhode Island Red, the Wyandotte sisters, the Black Sex Link, and my two white leghorns are being de-laned into the two other boxes. And I have to practically crawl into the chicken house to reach the last nest box to retrieve their eggs.

 

 

 

Our town doesn’t permit us to keep roosters. Ergo, those eggs that Buffo is trying to hatch will have to be tossed at the end of her broody period. They’re not fertile and will never hatch. But I haven’t the heart to tell her.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette life, check out my cozy mystery novel series from Kensington Publishing, New York. The books feature a farmette milieu, farm sayings, tips, and facts as well as delicious recipes to try. The books are available from online sources such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and others as well as traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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Cherry Picking in the Backyard

Author: Meera, May 15, 2016

The birds have discovered the red cherries on our backyard Bing and Stella trees. My hubby and I decided it’s high time we get busy with some major picking.

 

 

 

These cherries look golden in places because of the sunlight on them

These succulent red cherries from the Stella and Bing trees look golden because of the sunlight on them

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast, he climbed the ladder and I picked from the ground. I had to reach over my head into the trees for the choicest fruit. We’re removing a lot of the cherries, but not all because we like them to eat them fresh, right off the trees. But so do the birds.

 

 

Ripe cherries on the Bing Tree

Ripe cherries on the Bing cherry tree

 

 

 

 

The beginning of stone fruit season has started. Cherries are first up for my jam-making marathons. Next it’ll be the apricots, the plums, peaches, and nectarines.

 

 

 

Although I enjoy this time of year when I start making jam, by the time the cots and plums are ripe, I’m already wondering how I’m going to do everything on my to-do list for May and June including, harvesting honey. The bees won’t wait.

 

 

 

So . . . on it goes. But I wouldn’t trade my farmette life for anything. Some days, I feel like I’m living in the Garden of Eden.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about life on my Henny Penny Farmette, check out my cozy mysteries from Kensington, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and other online stores as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere. My debut novel is A BEELINE TO MURDER and the second book in the series in THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE.

 

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spinning Liquid Gold

Author: Meera, May 10, 2016

Honey is the liquid gold that we harvest from our backyard honeybee hives. Until recently, I had to take frames out of the hives, open the cap cells, and drain the honey through a strainer into a bucket.

 

 

 

Electric 4-frame honey extractor

This electric honey extractor holds four frames of the liquid gold

 

 

 

 

Just before Mother’s Day, my hubby purchased an electric honey extractor. He set it up in the kitchen. This weekend, we plan to open the hives and harvest some frames, giving our new machine a test run.

 

 

 

A hand-cranked or electric honey extractor makes it much easier to get honey out of the wooden frames. After the capped cells are opened with a hot knife, the frame goes into the machine. It spins honey against the cylinder walls and the sweet liquid then drains out the spigot.

 

 

 

Me with a frame of honey from the hive

A frame of honey from the hive

 

 

 

I use a fabric paint strainer taped over a five-gallon honey bucket (also with a spigot) to filter the honey and fill the jars. The jar of liquid gold is then labeled and ready to distribute to customers and friends.

 

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If you like reading about keeping bees and chickens, harvesting honey, and creating delicious recipes, check out my novels in the Henny Penny Farmette series.  Besides offering an intriguing cozy mystery, these books are chocked full of farm sayings, tips for gardening, yummy recipes, and much more.

 

My novels are published by Kensington Publishing and are available through online stores of Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Walmart, Kobo and conventional bookstores everywhere.

The first two novels in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing.

A BEELINE TO MURDER is the debut novel and THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE is the second  book in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sweet Cherries for Mom’s Day

Author: Meera, May 7, 2016

When it comes to dark, sweet cherries, my favorite is the Black Tartarian. A mature tree can reach 30 feet in height and spread. It yields 3 to 4 bushels of fruit. The cherries have a sweet, full-body flavor. Best of all, the tree blooms early. We’re having some in a fruit bowl for our Mother’s Day brunch this year.

 

 

Black Tartarian cherry trees need a pollinator such as Bing, pictured here

Black Tartarian cherry trees need a pollinator such as Bing, pictured here

 

 

Black Tartarian trees need a pollinator with another sweet cherry. Options include Bing, Black Republican, Cavalier, Gold, Heidelfingen, Montmorency, Sam, Schmidt, Stella, Ranier, Van, Vega, Vista, and Windsor.

 

 

We’ve planted Stella and Bing as pollinators because these two cherry trees also have sweet, large size fruit and bloom about the same time as Black Tartarian. You can get by without a pollinator tree if you have one in the neighborhood. Trust the bees to pollinate your Black Tartarian when local cherry trees are in bloom.

 

 

 

A lovely treat for Mother's Day

A lovely treat for Mother’s Day

 

 

 

Black Tartarian cherry trees prefer a sandy, well-drained soil, however, ours tolerate some clay conditions. We’ve improved the soil in the holes where we’ve planted the trees but the farmette soil overall is clay.

 

 

 

The Black Tartarian needs about 700 to 800 chilling hours, meaning hours of outside air temperatures between 32° and 45° Fahrenheit.

 

 

 

Birds love these cherries, too, so you are well advised to cover your Black Tartarian cherry tree with netting (available at gardening centers and DIY stores) unless you care to share.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening, keeping bees, raising chickens, and creating delicious recipes, you might want to check out my novels from Kensington Publishing. The Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries are available online and in tradition bookstores everywhere, in hardcover, kindle, and mass market paperback formats.

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries

See, http://tinyurl.com/gnnqr8z

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

The Murder of a Queen bee will be released September 29, 2016 in hardcover and kindle formats. See, http://tinyurl.com/j9vh7vr

 

 

Check out  my article about “How to Make a Lavender-Sage Smudging Stick.” See, http://tinyurl.com/jds38e8

 

 

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