Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 2017

My grandmother always wore a long-sleeved shirt and a large, round, straw hat whenever she went out to work in the garden. Several years ago, I realized it might be wise if I started providing my face with some shade when I was outside, so went on the hunt for a similar hat. I found one at Target, bought it, and tried to wear it once. But since it was made of some horrible, plastic, fake straw, it was so hot, I never wore it again. Today, I wandered in to our local lumber yard, and encountered a stand of hats. The big round ones were made of the same lousy plastic, but there were other options made form actual straw. So I bought one.
This week is promising to be miserable. High heat and humidity dominates the forecast. I suppose I should be glad that I didn't plant anything other than some tomatoes this year and don't have much obligation to be outdoors, but I am finding if I don't get a good dose of outside every week, my spirit suffers.

I tried to get some sour dough starter going; but either my starter isn't strong enough yet, or I didn't give the dough enough time to rise, so I ended up with a little sour dough brick instead of a loaf. I sliced it, harvested the only tomatoes ripened in the garden, and proceeded to make myself a tiny tomato melt. I cut the 4 or 5 cherry tomatoes in half, nestled them into a generous layer of mayonnaise, topped it with shredded cheddar cheese, and threw it in the toaster oven. Then I ate it very slowly. I might have to steal some tomatoes from my mother's garden and try baking another loaf soon.

In other news, my bees seem to be doing well. I'm too much of a chicken to really dig into the hive at this point, as I have either killed or almost killed the queen more than once. But I took a good look at the top super last week (a third 8-frame), and several of the middle frames had capped brood, and the bees were working on filing the outer frames with honey. That prompted me to get on painting the boxes I bought last month, and so a 4th super has been added to the hive. At some point, I guess I will have to work up a little more courage and inspect the whole hive if I want to do this beekeeping thing right...

We had another critter get into our coop a week or so back, and thanks to the security cameras Chris installed, discovered this time we had a raccoon infiltrator. It killed Fluffy and all of the chicks the two mama hens had hatched. So, thanks to the possum and raccoon, our two favorite hens (Fluffy and Goldie) have both been killed this year. I wouldn't mind so much if a predator came in once in a while and picked off a rooster or two, but it appears these lot of boys have no interest in defending the flock.

Finley is off at band camp, and Joe is at a robotics day camp this week, so things are quieter around the house this week. Then the kids head back to school in just a few short weeks. Summer is flying by.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 2017

Rumor has it that inquiries are being made about the state of my garden, so I figure it is high time for another update:
The weeds are growing nicely, as are the five tomato plants growing with them. 

One of the tomato plants growing this year, is a volunteer, the other four are starts from my brother. I have yet to put the cages around them, and I better do so before I risk damaging their limbs. Pardon me a moment while I take care of that.


It's hot out there. The volunteer tomato is already sprawling too much to cage it. It has been sporting several, little green tomatoes for the past week and is teasing me by not letting them ripen. Thankfully, my mother, who is a more diligent gardener than I, gave me several yellow tomatoes last week that I devoured with some salads slathered in bleu cheese dressing. I have been diligent enough to weed around my tomatoes, but need to top with some compost and mulch so the weeds have a little harder time coming back.

If I manage to till the garden for a third time, I may get around to planting some winter squash. We shall see.

I do have a plan in the works to foil those pesky weeds. I have scalped the grass in a good sized area next to the current garden and covered it in black plastic. The hope is that all the grass will get killed off, I can build several raised beds, and put down some of that commercial landscape fabric between and around the beds to prevent weeds- and specifically that evil Bermuda grass- from growing up into my beds. The problem with my regular garden is that, although I edge it in the spring, we are far too busy to weed-eat the edge every week when we mow, so by the end of the season, Bermuda grass has infiltrated the whole garden. It's awful. 

Moving on to other things, my bees seem to be doing well. 

We just finished fencing in a new section for the beef cattle. They pasture they were on had been eaten down quite a bit, and the three steers had started getting into the habit of finding weak parts in the fence and getting out. I was so desperate to get them on the new grass that I put off protecting the maple and oak trees in the new area, and went out to discover they had rubbed a good section of bark off the maple. I'm hoping it survives. Today, I braved the heat and did my best to protect them from further damage with some t-posts and barbed wire.

Out in the chicken coop, I discovered one nesting box always had one, both, or the other of two hens sitting on some eggs. They must have decided that such a tedious job was more fun with a friend.
Now that some chicks have hatched, they are sharing the mothering duties as well.
I never get tired of seeing new chicks. It continues to be a problem, however, that a good number of them grow up to be roosters. And since we have bantams in the mix now, they don't show much promise of growing into good meat birds. As such, I have decided that the coyotes living nearby will soon be surprised with some tasty treats. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Cold in May

My tonsils are whimpering, and my Eustachian tubes are irritable. It is a minor miracle that I am breathing through one nostril. Zivah is camped out in the guestroom with similar symptoms, though her coughing is more frequent than mine.

I might come across as a less-than-dramatic person, but the truth is, there is plenty of that going on inside my mind.

Dramatic Me: WOE IS ME!
Logical Me: Shut up. You aren't even close to being near death.
Dramatic Me: The snot!!! It runneth like a river from my nose!
Logical Me: Stop exaggerating.
Dramatic Me: Oh, who will save me from this misery!
Logical Me: Are you borrowing from the Apostle Paul, or Dr. Seuss?
Dramatic Me: I need to write poems about the agony of having a cold in spring. begins coming up with other words that rhyme with snot
Logical Me: debates with self whether it would be wiser to work through the cold or sit on the couch and rest
Me Me: listens to all the inward banter and decides it would be okay to ignore major housework and sit on the couch to write a little

I bought a new hummingbird feeder. The one the birds liked best grew mold in the inverted bottle that was impossible to clean out. The new feeder sports a wider mouth and little slits instead of  holes that are supposed to keep the wasps and other bugs out of it. I'm happy with the ease of cleaning but am not sure the birds like drinking through the slits.

Our second female duck is sitting on a pile of eggs. She just recently moved her nest right in front of the door, and while the other mama would run out in fright when I came in to check on things, this mama stays and hisses like a mad cat about to claw you to pieces. We will soon be overrun with ducks. If anyone in the Middle Tennessee area wants a few, let me know.

I started digging the Bermuda grass out of the garden a couple weeks ago, but as things tend to go around here, I still haven't finished, and the tomato plants Mark gave me are hanging on to life while they wait for transplantation. Guess there won't be much of a garden this year. I did manage to spray the fruit trees yesterday.

The gold finches are back. I should take a break to research whether they are migratory birds, but I am assuming so, since I never see them over the winter months. They have a habit of hanging out on the driveway in the mornings. When we leave for school, we scare them up, and their droopy flights always catch my attention. It's as if they are too heavy to stay aloft and start diving toward the ground. Then a few hard flaps, and they swoop back up, only to drop again.

Monday, April 17, 2017

For the Bird and Bees

There is so much to tell.

While the writer in me wants to take the time to tell the story, the utilitarian in me would like bullet points to get through it all. 

In my last report, Goldie was sharing a nest with the duck, and I had plans to separate them. We moved Fluffy and her chick, Bailey, out to the stable, along with Goldie and her chicken eggs. Everyone settled in nicely. The duck was happy to have her nest all to herself, and Goldie barely blinked at being moved. Bailey took to snuggling up with Goldie and her eggs at times. On chillier night, all three would snuggle up together in Goldie's nest.
When Goldie's eggs started hatching, the two baby chicks took to Fluffy right away, while Goldie stayed on the nest, waiting for the rest to hatch. It became apparent they never would, so I removed them before the stink got bad. Soon, they were a tight knit little group of two mamas looking out for three chicks, regardless of who had sat on the egg.

Meanwhile, the duck still had a week to go on her eggs, and her pile kept growing as she incorporated any egg laid on the floor of the coop. 

Then we acquired some bees. I waited a little too long to check on them after installation, and was confronted with some large drawn-out combs attached to the bottom of the feeder. 
The good news was that I could tell the queen was laying. The bad new was, I didn't know what damage I did when removing the comb, if any. A week later showed spottily-capped brood and perhaps some attempts by the bees to make a new queen. I will check soon to see what happened.

Back in the chicken coop, the duck hatched out five, cute, little ducklings.

Soon after, we moved Goldie, Fluffy, and the three chicks back out to the coop.

That was a mistake. 

A few days later, Goldie went missing. Aside from a few downy feathers scattered about, there was no sign of her. We checked everywhere: in Jane's hutch, underneath the coop, behind the feed bins, everywhere. I couldn't understand it. There was no way I saw that she could have escaped the aviary and wandered off. Maybe, I hoped irrationally, she was so loved, God whisked her away like he did Elijah.

The next day, I checked the coop, and -horror of horrors- found a mangled, half-eaten Bailey in the back corner of the coop. Something was getting in.

Now, I know there are these little articles floating around the internets about opossums and how great they are because they eat ticks. But chicken keepers don't care. Chickens eat ticks, and opossums eat chickens. Opossums are not welcome here on the farm.

The next morning saw a possum in the trap outside the coop, and we will have to be a little more careful with the hole (aka. possum access) we have in the gate that lets us chain it shut.

In other news, we finally put up the bat houses I received last year for my birthday. I stood outside at dusk a few nights ago, and was delighted to see two or three little bats swooping through the air above the farm. We have no idea if they are making use of the new accommodations, but at least the bats will know they are welcome here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Messing with the Mamas

I underestimated the duck.

After noticing the duck had laid one egg back in the nest with Goldie yesterday, I snatched it out and placed it in another pile of duck eggs in a different corner of the coop. This morning, I went out to check on the birds, and noticed first thing that there was only ONE duck egg where I had left the pile the day before. Befuddled, I dug around in the mound of hay surrounding the single egg, thinking they might have gotten buried in the hay, but nothing was there. I glanced back over toward Goldie's nest (that the duck had just abandoned when I came in), and there they were. Somehow, that duck had moved her eggs back to the nest she was cohabiting with Goldie!
Meanwhile, Fluffy-Head was getting hungry. As soon as I threw down some feed a few feet away from her nest, she jumped up to eat, and I was able to get a picture of her chick.
Finley named the chick Bailey after her band-mate that shares a birthday with the chick.

I figured I probably needed to move FH and her chick to the pen in the stable so they would have hassle-free access to food and water. I plan to move Goldie and the chicken eggs out there later tonight, in hopes she won't get too shook up by the move and the duck will get to have her duck-egg nest all to herself. Who knew birds could be so complicated?