Earlier this summer we had three trees blooming at once. I know one is an apple tree because it mass-produced apples for us last year. The other two I assumed were crab-apple trees. The one closer to the apple tree is producing tiny berry like fruits, currently about the size of my pinky nail. The tree on the far side of the yard, which I recently trimmed all the dead branches from, is producing much larger fruit. Fruits the same size right now as the fruits developing on the apple tree. Could it be they're both apple trees and it just didn't produce well last year because the tree was trying to maintain dead branches? It will be interesting to see what becomes of the fruits. Apple - or crab apple?
I went out to the peninsula that sticks out into the lake. There is a fallen tree (one of many out there), but this one has a hollow bit facing the lake. I figured, why not try to plant something? Partial shade, but it gets a few hours of direct sunlight. Options for shallow roots and limited sun left me with lettuce, peas, or beans. We went with beans. I planted two seeds of Prizewinner - a variety we've grown in the past and it grew so big it actually tipped the fence over, and a small handful of Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Maybe they'll grow, maybe they'll be eaten by squirrels. Maybe they won't grow at all. It's a science experiment.
They also dug up and destroyed my okra, and started to nibble on the melon and squash seedlings. I don't know what I can do to prevent them from massacring all of my unprotected winter sown containers.
Today I transplanted some into 5-gallon buckets, but they ate the okra that was in a 5-gallon bucket yesterday. I think I may have Tony pick up some stakes and I may have to put up a temporary chicken wire fence around the plants to deter them from digging them up.
I brought the containers for apple and d'anjou pears inside. I think I counted 36 apples and 11 pear seedlings. They all need to be transplanted so they have time and space to grow. The kids (#3 and #4) took the time to drill drainage holes in 47 red plastic cups tonight. Tomorrow they want to do the task of carefully separating the entwined roots of the precious baby trees and transplanting each into it's own cup. What a project. I'm glad I have willing helpers!
Today Henrietta isn't herself. She's our Barred Rock hen we got last fall. She went from laying one egg every day up until a couple months ago. She pretty much stopped laying shortly after we put some of her eggs in the incubator (and those chicks are nearly six weeks old now). Today when I opened the barn, she didn't come running out. I found her perched in her favorite spot, with another chicken perched on top of her. She didn't get upset or try to get the other bird to go away. I touched her. Henrietta hates being handled. She opened her eyes and looked at me, then closed them again. I picked her up, but all she did was make a weak groan noise. I set her on a different perch and filled the feed bin. Most of the other chickens came running. Henrietta didn't. I went back and put a handful of food in front of her. She wasn't interested. I left her alone. In the afternoon I saw her near one of the water buckets outside in the shade of a tree. I watched as #5 went right up to her, petted her, and tried to pick her up. I told him to leave her be. Later #3 found her, still under the tree, with Phil and Big Red pecking at her. Her comb has a tiny damaged spot, and her back is getting plucked (from breeding all spring and summer). With nothing else to do for her, I sprayed BluKote on her comb and on her back to try to help prevent further pecking. By bedtime we had to go retrieve Henrietta from the yard. She did not come in at sunset like the rest of the flock. When #3 put her up to roost, she laid down, her legs flopped back behind her, and she didn't even attempt to put her wings at their normal placement. I told #3 to put Henrietta in her normal nesting spot. The place she'd so loved to lay her eggs. A nice wooden crate filled with dried grass over near the nesting ducks. She put her in the box, but it's pretty clear that Henrietta won't be with us much longer. I don't know what's wrong. We have tried to offer her food and water today and she has refused both. We got to spend some time with her, took some photos of her, and are prepared to have a chicken funeral tomorrow if need be. We don't know how old Henrietta is. She was full grown when we brought her home last fall, and her egg-a-day laying schedule would indicate she's likely a young hen yet. I wonder if she found something in the yard that wasn't safe to eat. Just to be sure, I sent #4 on a mission to make sure the yard was clear of any debris that maybe we overlooked. I wonder if she found the new potato towers, as one now has seedlings sprouting up and potatoes are poisonous to chickens. I don't think I'll have the heart to open her up for a necropsy.
In the mail today I got my order from SeedsNow with Scallop Golden Bush squash and Egg tomato seeds, as well as the Greek Basil bonus seeds. All three varieties have been on my wish list for a while, so a free-shipping promotion prompted me to go ahead and splurge a little.
Tony picked up an oregano plant and a Hazen apple tree after work too. I'm not sure where I'll put the new apple tree, but I am certain we will find a place for it.
Last night I finally got online and ordered ID tags for the dogs. Much to my delight, Drs Foster and Smith was having a sale on ID tags. Instead of $3.99 they were just 99-cents! I ended up buying two more tags for the barn cats and still only ended up spending what I'd have spent to buy one tag. Now we have to go buy collars for the barn cats. We will see who is the first to lose their tag (and/or collar). Moose lost his right away when we moved in. I'm hoping he might be less rough on this one, but just in case I ordered stainless steel for him and Mazikeen (orange aluminum for the cats). ID tags have free shipping to boot, so my total order with tax was $4.25 for four ID tags. That's a great deal!
This morning I picked our very first strawberry from our hanging baskets. I'd love to tell you how it tasted, but I set it down with the intent to wash the dirt off before eating it, and it magically disappeared. I suspect #5 ate it - dirt and all.
I suspect Floki (hairless cat) may be pregnant again, and possibly Mabel (Rex cat) as well. Both are showing large teats (nipples), Floki is gaining weight (she's typically a slender cat), and Mabel has become a loner, preferring to nap by herself in high places (a tell-tale sign in the past). This would be incredibly strange as our cats have so rarely come into heat before. One litter a year is all we could hope for at best. We didn't have any kittens last year (that I recall). Sage continues to battle a seemingly never ending upper respiratory issue and her corneal ulcer is nearly gone but also still hanging on. I need to take her back in to the vet clinic again, but I'm not sure what else they can really do for her. Another round of antibiotics for the sinus issue, another bottle of drops for her eyes. She's still not well enough to get her shots yet. I did not dose her with the flea and tick prevention that everyone else got on the 20th. I worry about her. She's petite to say the least. She is active, playful, outgoing, curious... but small, and perhaps medically frail considering her inability to kick this sinus issue.
Tonight I was looking at the big turtle trap that we'd found on the property. It's been sitting up in the yard for a while now (we have two and there are more out there where we got these from). I started thinking about how to turn them into mobile rabbit tractors. Last year we used a 5-foot by 5-foot fenced space, a tarp for a roof, and a plastic bin for a dry house. It worked well as long as the ground was even. It had to be moved daily, but the two rabbits in the cage seemed to be happy all summer long.
There will need to be a few modifications. There are a few spaces where the fencing is missing a space (intentional for the turtle trap but an escape route for a rabbit). A few little hardware mesh patches should fix those right up. The open end where the turtle is meant to come in can be closed up with a 2-foot by 2-foot wooden board. Drill some holes in the bottom of the board and wire it to the bottom of the cage. Add a clip to the top to keep it closed, and use the bent wire form of the cage as a hay holder or something. The end that opens up, just add a clip to keep it closed. The bar spacing allows the grass to easily stick up and through for easy munching, and the whole thing is pretty easy to move. I could play with different design ideas. A board or tarp over the top could protect from sun and rain. I could use a couple boards run from one side to the other to hold a plastic tote up off the ground to allow for a safe place to rest or sleep in without taking away from grazing space. If I were to wire a water container to the side of the cage it would prevent spilling (by the rabbits or while moving the cage) and make it easier to refill without opening the cage. The whole thing is roughly two feet wide, two feet high, and four feet long. If I were to keep one rabbit in each, moving each rabbit daily through the yard, I wonder how many I'd need to keep my lawn mowed (and fertilized). To get started, #3 has expressed interest in doing some of the wire patching tomorrow. With any luck I could have some rabbit tractors up and running within a week with minimal financial investment. Use what you've got! If I end up following up on this tractor project, I'll try to remember to take photos as we go!