I also got a chance to check out the colony babies closer today. I had the kids round them all up and I checked genders and photographed all the babies. There are nine in there; six bucks, two does, and the little one I still can't tell. Check out the new photos on the Rabbits page! Two have ears that are damaged, and one is missing half a back foot. This litter was really brutalized and I'm not sure why. I'm hoping this isn't a new trend. There was one with a nipped ear last litter. I wonder how the nest litter will do.
I got all of the tomato plants that have been in my kitchen window transplanted into buckets and out in the yard (in the fenced area to protect them from the birds). That's 13 plants. Off the top of my head I know there were two Mule Team, two Mark Twain, one Dark Galaxy, one Cow's Tit, one Pink Sunshine, one Azoychka, one Kosovo, two Isis Candy, and I can't remember the other two. A nice selection anyway. These were the ones that came up from the seed started indoors with my rarer or lower inventory seeds.
I also got a chance to check out the colony babies closer today. I had the kids round them all up and I checked genders and photographed all the babies. There are nine in there; six bucks, two does, and the little one I still can't tell. Check out the new photos on the Rabbits page! Two have ears that are damaged, and one is missing half a back foot. This litter was really brutalized and I'm not sure why. I'm hoping this isn't a new trend. There was one with a nipped ear last litter. I wonder how the nest litter will do.
We still have one little duckling. It's mommas have seemed to abandon it. It wanders the yard following various other birds. Today he seemed to prefer the company of Phil, our little bantam cochin rooster. If ever the little duckling feels scared or alone, it cries out, and if Josh is within hearing distance he'll let out a call, and the duckling will run to him for a while. I have no idea how this poor bird is going to survive. It has no set flock, but manages to get by.
While I was out taking photos, I took the time to snap some gender photos on the baby bunnies and updated the Bunny FAQ page to also have a guide with photos on how to gender check a rabbit. I've found that a lot of people, including a few local rabbit breeders, don't even know how to properly gender check a juvenile rabbit! So, hopefully this blurb and photos will help someone out there.
I re-checked Gretchen's nest box today. There were four dead kits, including the oddball dutch marked kit. There are three black and one white still in there. I moved the nest to a different container in hopes it would prevent babies from getting scattered. As of bedtime check there was still movement in the nest box, but I didn't dig to see how they were doing.
An old friend came to visit today. It was nice to chat for a while, and her kids seemed to have fun playing on the farm.
As of bedtime, I still had one surviving duckling with the flock.
Between two of the three hanging baskets, I got six strawberries today. The All Star basket is still all greenery and not a single flower. The strawberry bed - still not a single blossom from the three that were transplanted in as plants, and none of the roots have come up with any green at all.
Tomorrow we're making a run to Brainerd. I will be swapping rabbits with someone (his has suffered an injury and needs to be humanely dispatched, and I have offered to give him one of our babies as a replacement).
I had planned to go make another round of nanking cherry jelly at my parents' house, but Tony isn't keen on staying all day. Perhaps we will just go to the store and buy our own sieve so we can make it at home. Seems like a fine idea too. I'm sure I can make use of a sieve more than once or twice a year now that I know how to make jelly.
We have four Speckled Sussex pullets in the barn currently. Today #3 was able to catch all four at the same time.
It's also time for another feed store run. Someone told me they had plants on clearance last week. I'll have to stop by their garden area and see if there's anything left that we could add to our meager garden this year.
While I filled up the kiddie pool today the ducks decided to go for a swim. I'm pretty sure the white and brown one is Gaetos (Indian Runner) and I know the brown and silver one is Nanny (rouen cross).
Tony cooked steak on the grill and I made tinfoil packets of veggies as a side. Potatoes, onions, zucchini, asparagus, and carrots. I just wish I'd had some mushrooms to add in. Dinner was delicious. I do love when he's home to cook!
Last night I looked up a recipe for Nanking Cherry jelly. It calls for 3.5 to 4 pounds of cherries. Today the kids and I picked 1 pound 12 ounces of cherries. Tomorrow morning we will pick more before heading off to my parents' house to have my mom help me to make jelly. As a child I helped her once or twice to make apple jelly, but I was young and I don't remember. So she's going to help me. Tony brought home jars and pectin and cheese cloth, so we are prepared!
While out doing barn chores, #3 was catching chickens (just because it's fun and keeps the birds friendly). She picked up the smaller of the two Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens. The bigger one is a rooster, but this one I'm hoping is a hen. Either way, I love the head feathers. I should really come up with names for the birds we're keeping. Seems odd not to name them. I'm trying to avoid Elvis references, since those seem the most obvious for these birds (haha). Maybe Chanticleer (Rock-a-Doodle reference) for the rooster, but then I don't have a matched name for the hen (still hoping it's a hen).
Anyone have naming suggestions?
Today I repaired a damaged rabbit hutch, only to discover it was damaged somewhere else as well. I will have to fix that part another day. I put a box over the damaged part as the rabbit in the cage is due for babies any day now. She pulled fur and it all went under the cage (out the hole) so I'm hoping she hasn't lost her entire litter to the chickens below and that she will nest in the box now instead. At least the big hole in the front is repaired now. That will keep the cats from getting in.
I also finished the new Rabbit Tractor today. The wooden back door and the boards were in it from the last time I worked on it, but today #3 cut pieces of hardware mesh and I used wire to attach them to the holes in the cage. Then I drilled some holes in a small plastic tote for drainage in the bottom, and in the side so I could wire it to the side of the cage, up on the wood parts so it's up off the ground. We put Princess Poppy and Pocahontas in it for the first time to see how they did. They seemed to enjoy getting fresh grass.
After the photo below was taken, I also added a water bowl (also drilled for wire to hold it to the side of the cage), and used an old feed bag, cut open and attached with wire, to cover the top to keep them dry in case it rains. Tonight will be a bit of a test. We may get some storms coming through and I left the bunnies in the new tractor. I hope they do well. I may have to add more cross boards and another tote. I had originally hoped to put the colony grow out bucks in this pen, but they're small enough to walk right out between the bars. Then I considered just having one rabbit in there, but with the colony bunnies currently in a co-ed grow out pen, I figured it might be best to put these lovely ladies in there and then separate bucks from does in the grow out pen (using their old pen as the doe grow out - which is what it was last year - they just never left). I haven't moved the grow outs yet because I want to make sure this tractor design works first.
It wasn't until one of the kids pointed this out that I noticed... Princess Poppy has a crown mark on her nose. She didn't have this when she was a baby (when she was named) so it's purely coincidence, but it's pretty cute.
The original chicks we got in our surprise box are three months old today. I've been reading that most hens start laying eggs at 16-24 weeks old. That should mean somewhere between July 23 and September 17 we could potentially start getting eggs. I was thinking they'd probably get to proper size just about the time it gets cold again and they stop laying for the winter, so I have not been worried about nest boxes so much until next spring. Guess it's time to hang up a couple more just in case these ladies decide to start gracing us with food sooner than expected. With my ducks no longer laying eggs, and my only adult hen gone, I'd love to start getting daily eggs again.
Today I cleaned out the barn brooder and moved all of the ducklings out of the house and into the barn. I'm so happy to get the birds out of the house. never again! Never ever bringing birds in the house - ever again! They took stinky to a whole new level, and the dust? Oh my goodness - why did nobody warn me about "chick dust" and the fact that it covers every surface from floor to ceiling? The rest of this week will be spent cleaning and sanitizing the entire basement.
The one down side to this move? Peg-leg Sue is now out in the barn brooder. Now, the brooder in the barn and the brooder in the basement are nearly identical. They're both the same size, made of the same materials, the foam padding underneath the pine shavings in the bottom, I even moved their food and water containers out so that wasn't a change. But it means she's just one step away from the rest of the birds being released into the flock once they're all feathered out. If I can't find her an alternate home, I'm not sure what will happen to her. I'll have no choice but to turn her out with the others and hope the bigger birds don't kill her, that she doesn't get that bad leg infected from hobbling around in the barn and the yard, and that some predator doesn't pick her off. We did buy a pool noodle, and I'm contemplating buying vet wrap. How much do I want to invest into pampering this bird when it's chances of survival here are low? The couple of people who voiced interest in adopting her weeks ago have all flaked out. I can't say that I blame them. A disabled house duck isn't really what most people would consider a fun pet. I will talk to Tony tomorrow about ordering some vet wrap. It might be something good to have on hand anyway.
Tomorrow morning one of the bucks from the colony litter is heading to his new home. He's such a cutie with his little cheek patches. The last time we had one like that he was the first one sold from the litter too.
And here as I'm wrapping up writing this blog post it's pouring rain and there's rolling thunder outside. A good test for the rabbit tractor and for Pocahontas and Princess Poppy. I really hope they're smart enough to hop up into the bin and not just sit on the ground.
Goodness it was warm today. Not really so much the heat (90-degrees) but the humidity. Yuck! Clothing sticks to you, there was little breeze to cool off in, and with no air conditioning, we really got a feel for how the animals feel out in the barn. Thankfully we at least have fans (in the house and in the barn) to try to get the air moving.
This morning when I went out to open the barn up, three of the ducklings were out in the yard. Those little boogers can walk right through the chain link fence and don't have the common sense to stay near their mommas. I thought about putting chicken wire over the chain link, but that would lock the cats in or out, and considering these will be our only babies this year, and ducklings grow fast... I think I'm going to leave it off for now.
Since tomorrow should be a little more tolerable than today was, I do have lots of stuff on my "to do" list. I want to work on modifying that turtle trap into a rabbit tractor. I need to have Tony repair the gate at the end of the driveway (he bought the supplies but hasn't gotten to fixing it yet). I need to re-plant the little garden by the screen porch again and then use stakes and chicken wire to prevent a repeat "chicken buffet" massacre of the plants. I need to put landscape fabric on the bottoms of the three potato towers and get them set up and planted.
I want to get to transplanting plants and setting up more garden spaces, but I just don't see that happening at this point. Gardening this year appears to be a big flop. I'm still working on it as I can, but I'm loosing time and other projects and every day stuff keeps coming up and prevents me from getting out there and getting gardening tasks done. It's frustrating, but I'm still hopeful I can get a small crop in. It's a huge project to start from scratch, and I have to remind myself that it took a few years to get all the garden spaces set up at the old house - and that was when Tony worked a lot less and was around to help more. Now I'm largely working alone, and refereeing children and doing all the house and barn chores while I'm at it. It makes sense the project progress is slower than I'd hoped. Most of the fruit trees appear to be dead. Two have leaves and look to be alive. They get watered every other day and have mulch to keep the water from evaporating. The strawberry bed is barren except for the two live strawberry plants I put in and the Black Pearl pepper plant I added in the far corner. Not a single "bare root" from two different sources (four varieties) has come up. I'm starting to feel discouraged with my seemingly insurmountable failure this year. Alas, the cabbage plants are looking great, the three planted potato beds are coming up, the Japanese Black Pumpkin and the Old German tomato plant in the brassica bed are looking good, and the old apple tree still has lots of apples developing. It's not a total loss. Of course the walnuts will produce without any help from me, and we still have two more trees that I'm as of yet baffled by... I thought they were both crab apples, but one has apples as big as the apple tree that produced last year, and the other has red fruits that look remarkably like jelly beans with a single large seed in the middle (like a cherry), but they're so astringent when I tried one I had to spit it out. The seeds are not round, and the flowers looked like apple or crab apple flowers, so I don't think they're cherries... I guess we will wait and try to identify them later. I hope they're edible and we can put them to good use... but I have to know what they are first.
When I did my daily check on the colony bunnies, they had finally decided to explore outside of their nest. I worry about the tiny little one that was salvaged from a younger litter. I don't think it's ready to be wandering off, but now all the older siblings have left, so it's forced to go out too. The little bunny with the bad foot did lose the end of the foot, and it's healing up nicely. It's using the foot and walking around just the same as the normal bunnies in the litter.
The smaller chickens have started to finally come out of the barn and explore their new home. They were out in the grass today, following their duck companions, Happy Feet and Gaetos. There are a couple in the lot that have unique coloring and are especially pretty. Below is one of them. This one #3 has claimed as hers. It's black on the head and tail, but has the coolest white pattern over the wings and body. I don't have a clue what it is mixed with, but if I had to put in a guess at this point, I'd say it may be some kind of silver-laced something or other. I'm really hoping this one is a girl.
The other neat looking one isn't as photogenic, so the best I have is the photo below. This one is similar in having a darker head and tail, but this one is almost pure white in the middle without the pattern the other bird has.
This evening as the sun started to set, I was sitting outside on the bench, and Bufflehead came up. I set him beside me and took a quick video. I love how he flicks his head. Poor guy is virtually blind with all thos ehead feathers, but he has an impressive headdress. He's a Buff Laced Polish cockerel; one of the birds we got in our Cackle Surprise box. He does need a new home if anyone is interested in adopting him. I worry he's not going to survive long as a free-range bird due to his feathers causing issues with his vision. He's just about the sweetest birth too. Easy to pick up, friendly, never pecks, and he's pretty to boot! Not even sure what to ask for a price on him - so if you're interested in Bufflehead, let me know!
Yesterday my mom took me on a bit of a field trip. Once Tony was home to watch kids, and she was done with work, she picked me up and we went to visit my grandpa's grave. He died when I was a child, and (long story short) I had never been to his grave. I wanted to know where he was buried. I can find my grandmother's grave site as though it had a beacon on it. It was a nice excuse to spend some time with my mom, get away from the kids for a little bit, and have a conversation that isn't interrupted every two sentences by a kid demanding attention.
Today one of our youngest chickens died in the kiddie pool. I saw it before we left to run errands, standing in the pool (presumably to cool off). I suspect it was drown by the duck(s) like the last chicken (who was also the smallest at the time). The water was shallow enough for the chicken to stand up and the water was just touching it's belly.
Later this evening I caught Luna (our white barn kitty) hunched over something she'd caught. I went to investigate and realized it was one of the new baby ducklings. It was dead and stiff, so I don't know if she killed it, or if it died some other way and she just found it. It didn't appear to be damaged. Either way, we now have seven baby ducklings... three black and four yellow.
It's been a long day in a weird way. It's 11pm and I honestly can't even remember what in the world I've done today. I know the critters destroyed the one plant I still had on the outside of the fence (which they hadn't touched in the weeks it's been there and I thought it would be safe).... I even planted it into a different container and put it right beside the door.
That lasted all of an hour or two. I don't even know who the culprit is. It was ripped out by the roots and shredded all over the end of the walkway. I grabbed a few pieces and tried to replant them (and then put it in the fenced area). I found a few more pieces and had #3 plant them into cups and put them in the fenced space too. I have no idea if they will grow or not. I hope they do. This was a cool plant. I think it was hen and chicks, but I've never seen one put babies out on strings like this before.
I also picked our second strawberry of the year. This time I ate it before kids realized I'd picked it. It was delicious. The epitome of what a home grown strawberry should taste like.
This strawberry had such perky little seeds that I scraped a few off with my fingernail and put them back into the hanging basket. If they sprout and grow, great. If not, at least I tried.
I was admiring my spitz chickens today. We snagged two Golden Spangled Appenzeller Spitzhauben chicks from our mystery box. I've been watching and waiting to see if they are boys or girls. Their color differences are starting to become more apparent. The darker one is starting to get saddle feathers and is challenging other birds - clearly a rooster. The lighter one doesn't appear to have saddle feathers, but I'm not sure it's a girl. It could just be a slower-to-develop roo. If they're a pair, I'd love to set up a coop and let them breed. If I were to buy more from the hatchery, they'd be $14.90 each. If a coop from the store runs about $200, I'd have to sell 14 chicks at $15 each to make up the cost. That might just be a good investment. Or better yet - sell 20 chicks at $10 each. Either way, as long as one is a male and one a female, and they survive winter to breed in the spring... Knock on wood. Once I know for sure I've got a pair, I'll run the idea by Tony. Just out of curiosity - would anyone in the area of central Minnesota be interested in purchasing GSAS chicks or hatching eggs?
I was able to count eight ducklings today while they were out walking. Matt has been sitting on the remaining eggs, and covers them up when she leaves, so I don't know if they're viable or not, but I'm giving her a chance. Josh (African gander) is taking his roll of protector seriously. He screams if anyone (human or animal) comes within five feet of his new duckling additions. I'm glad he's accepted them as part of his flock. With two good moms and a guardian goose, these babies stand a decent chance of survival.
Tonight we removed the wall from the brooder in the barn. The chicks we hatched from #1's friend and from Henrietta and Big Red are now free to mingle with the flock. Happy Feet and Gaetos were also in this group, so they are free to go too. I don't think I remembered to tag Happy Feet, so we may need to catch him/her tomorrow to put on a leg tag. Any bird with a tag is pretty much guaranteed a permanent place here. Gaetos should get one too, but he's incredibly shy, and we already have his older siblings - Nicey and Charlie... So if Gaetos is a girl, she can stay... but if Gaetos is a boy, he'll have to go. We already have three males now (Nicey, his dad Omelet, and our dominant drake Helvegan).
We have not named the ducks in the basement brooder because only the ones that turn out to be hens will be staying. We really weren't planning on hatching so many ducks, but the excitement of an incubator got to me, and I put in way too many... I guess they call it chicken math... but yeah, too many males will cause problems. This fall the extra drakes will be joining the extra roosters in our freezer. I don't even know if I like duck or not, but it's food, and I'll know it was grown here in happy free-range conditions... I'd really rather not think about the end though.
Tony did say we've really over-reached our bird hobby for now, and I have to agree. As much as I really want more guineas, and some ancona ducks, and a couple turkeys... that order will have to wait until next summer I think. We will have our hands full with the birds we already have. Of course, if someone local had some and wanted to trade for some of our chickens or ducklings... I'd be open to that too!
I'm about at my wits end with my critters and my plants. Three of the last four years I have attempted to grow golden zucchini. The first year the seeds failed. Second year seeds failed, I bought a plant from the greenhouse, and it died from powdery mildew before producing any fruit. Third year we were moving so I didn't plant any. This year I used the last of my seeds, got one single seedling, transplanted it into a bucket and my brat birds ate it! As I mourned the loss of my last golden zucchini - I noticed my Jarrahdale pumpkins, my single Galeaux d'Eysines pumpkin, and some of my Early Moonbeam watermelon have also been eaten. Augh!!!!! I texted Tony at work and told him we needed to figure out a fence or we won't have a garden this year. It's too late to start seeds over now.
He said he'd set something up tomorrow morning, but I doubt it since he works a 12 hour shift tomorrow. Short of sitting outside to guard the plants, I'm not sure what else I can do. Maybe I can get kids to help use sticks as stakes and put the chicken wire fencing up ourselves.
The plans for #3 to go hang out with her friend fell through. Poor kid did extra chores to earn time with a friend too. It was nice to have her home today though. She's very helpful.
This afternoon we finally had our funeral for Elizabeth - #4's rabbit that died months ago. We've had her in the freezer waiting for a nice day. As per #4's request, we buried Elizabeth and planted a lilac bush over her. I hope it grows well. The package said well draining soil, and it wasn't draining at all due to the clay soil. Bonus points - more room in the freezer now, and one more plant off the window ledge in the entryway needing to be planted. I even put down the landscape fabric and mulched the tiny seedling. Rest in peace Elizabeth.
This evening #3, #4, and #5 helped me to re-pot the 37 apple tree seedlings from the winter sown jug into individual cups. I have no idea where I'm going to put these for right now. I can't put them outside - the birds would have a good time ripping them all out. The window ledge is already full with the 11 pear seedlings from yesterday, the raspberries and blackberries I still haven't managed to get beds set up for, the grapes that I'm waiting on trellising systems for, the blueberries that I haven't even attempted to put out yet, and the gooseberry plant that I have no idea where I'm going to put. It'll all eventually find somewhere to be. In the meantime I've got 37 cups sitting on my kitchen floor in front of my refrigerator. I need to get them moved before kids or pets knock them all over the kitchen. I'm open to suggestions on where to move them to but it seems I have over-stocked myself and have run out of window space for my plants. Time to start getting more out the door and planted!
Dashi and Matt's eggs have been hatching over the last few days. We saw one little baby the day before yesterday. Yesterday Tony counted five. Today #4 says she counted seven when one of the ducks left the nest to go eat. They have not left the nest yet, so I'm not sure how they will integrate with the other birds. I'm really hoping they get along, because I have no way of separating them.
One brave (or perhaps just clumbsy) duckling left the nest for a moment causing a short burst of chaos as it ran around and chickens scattered to get away from it. Dashi was having a fit but wouldn't leave the nest, and the duckling ran right up to Ralphie (photo below). Ralphie is a tiny bird but truly takes being a chicken to heart. He fluffed up his hackles like I see the bigger cockerels do when they are about to fight, and for half a moment I was concerned he might pick on this duckling as it's smaller than him and Ralphie is out smallest bird... But when the duckling didn't back down, Ralphie turned tail and ran away. I carefully directed the ducking toward the nest while avoiding putting my hands within reach of Dashi's bill. It did make it safely back into the nest and all the birds calmed down again.
While out watering the fruit trees, I stopped to look at the crab apple tree we found last fall. Turns out there are two, side by side, and currently loaded with little immature crab apples. I also found this neat little bug. I looked it up, and it's a Yellow-Collared Scape Moth. They're a good pollinator to have around. Love to see the diversity here.
We have had an influx of a certain type of bug since the wind yesterday. They're small and grey with wings and very long antennae. They seem to prefer staying on surfaces rather than flying. They were in the trees before, but now have swarmed the outside of the barn. Some of the birds seem to have taken an interest in eating the few that wander low, but for the most part they stay high up and cling to the walls. We'll be happy when they decide to move off again...
Henrietta died in her sleep last night. I still don't know what happened that she suddenly didn't feel well and died within 24 hours. None of the other birds seems ill, and all are active today.
We dragged a few more things up from where we had found the turtle trap. A second turtle trap, two more rolls of (rusty) chicken wire, another round wire thing (will be used as a tomato or other plant cage), a bunch of hard plastic tubing, some kind of pull wagon thing in pieces, a chunk of mesh fencing wire, and a nice critter cage. The cage is about 4-5 feet long, has four doors, four tiny feeders, three lava chews screwed in (too damaged to use now), and two slots for hay. It's all one cage (not separated) and looks to be largely in usable condition. I cleaned it off and hope to use it for bunnies in the future.
Today I finally got the big 55-gallon tank set up for Minnow (our red ear slider turtle). She's been relegated to a plastic storage tote for a year now since the old basement flooded. Unfortunately, her old turtle dock was not in the tank, and I can't seem to find it anywhere. Tony was supposed to have this weekend off, but one of the employees from his department of the store is out sick, so he's working this weekend too. Yay for bonus weekend pay, I guess. He left early today to stop at the pet store before work to buy a new turtle dock, and some StressZyme to put some good bacteria in the tank. I got the tank all set up and put Minnow in to feed her. She seems happy to be able to swim again. The tote only really allowed her to submerge herself partially. It's been 14 months since she was in the big tank. I'm so glad it's all set up and she can have her space again! Tony did set up the floating dock as soon as he got home from work and Minnow is still over by the filter. I picked her up and set her on the dock, I know she is aware it's there. I think she's missed having good swimming water for far too long and is simply refusing to get out. I don't blame her at all.
I was thinking today about Minnow. We got her from my brother-in-law when he decided he no longer wanted the responsibility of cleaning her cage all the time. We've had her for about nine years now. If he had her for a couple years, and she came from a pet store, so she was probably a couple years old already... I wonder how old she actually is. Red ear slider turtles can live anywhere from 45 to 90 years depending where you get your information from. I joke with the kids that they'll have to take care of her when I die. She's really a neat pet; more decorative than hands-on. Aside from feeding her and cleaning her cage, she's pretty low maintenance. Or perhaps we've just become so accustomed to being her slaves that it's not a hassle anymore. She is our oldest pet. Do I recommend pet turtles for normal folks though? Absolutely not. They're a lot more expensive and do require a knowledgeable care-taker and a larger space than most people think. They also are a lot longer of a commitment than a cat or a dog (average lifespan of 15 and 12 respectively compared to a turtle who can outlive you). But if you are willing to do the research, and commit to the time and financial investment in regular maintenance, then maybe a turtle is a good pet for you. I know we enjoy watching Minnow chase feeder fish and swim around. She's actually kind of relaxing to observe. She's definitely a hands-off pet though. I think today moving her into the big tank, and then showing her the dock was more handling than she's had outside of cage cleaning days for a long time. She doesn't like to be touched, and we try to respect that.
Excuse the cloudy water below. I need to clean the glass and add StressZyme to the tank and it should look better soon.
I didn't get to the raspberry beds today. I was finishing up barn chores after the kids lost interest in pulling things up from the stash of wire stuff we'd been working on clearing out when the wind picked up. We were on the back edge of a storm that was brewing just to the East of us. We could see the clouds, there was a lot of thunder, but we remained dry with calm winds. Until the next bit of storm started heading our way. The wind picked up suddenly and blew all these little moth-like bugs out of the black walnut trees. They swarmed all over the barn, they were hitting my face like rain and when I turned my back, they were getting in my face as they were using me to shield themselves from the wind. I finished up barn chores, put everything away, and headed in as it started to sprinkle. The kids said it rained for a bit, but I think it just sprinkled for a while and then stopped. Unfortunately, my then I had lost interest in outdoor chores and worked on stuff in the house instead.
Today #3 managed to get all eleven D'Anjou pear tree seedlings replanted into little plastic cups. Perhaps the 30+ apple seedlings will be worked on tomorrow. Doubtful at this point because she's made plans to go tubing with a friend. She's earned it though. She's been very helpful these past several days.
While looking through the last box we haven't unpacked yet, #5 found a slender blue glass vase. I told him he should go out and find a flower with a long stem that he could put in it to decorate the table. He went out and came back with a stem of Black Eyed Susan flowers. Good selection! I figured he'd come back with clover or dandelion, but this is pretty and I love that he picked them himself.
I did check in with the colony rabbits. I do nest checks once a day to make sure everyone is well. I'm still surprised that tiny little tort baby is still doing well. It's so tiny compared to the others, but perhaps that's a testament to how good Spot is as a mom. She's caring for it as her own. The kit I covered in BluKote has hardly any left on. Spot must have cleaned it off. Still no change on the bad foot. I don't know what to make of this kit. I'm hoping it survives just so I can see how it does.
Tony was finally able to pick up some food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). I want to add some to the colony in the building so they can have little dust baths and perhaps keep ants and such at bay. I want to add some to the barn too for the chickens as well. I did add a scoop of it to their preferred dust bath place. Really though it was bought to go in the side garden (currently has cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, one tomato and one squash plant) to try to combat the ants, though I haven't seen as many since asking for the DE. Regardless, it's something that is nice to have on hand.
I finally figured out where I wanted my raspberry beds. Got them moved and I'm happy with their location now. Tomorrow I plan to get them filled with manure and compost and soil and maybe even planted (if kids and weather cooperate).
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.
While out there I found a hidden rhubarb plant. Great! My awful birds (particularly my embdens) have destroyed every one of my rhubarb seedlings for the second year in a row now (last year it was Josh the African gander). I'll have to wait another year to try again with seedlings. Good thing I have plenty of seeds! Just means waiting another year for our first harvest (which can take years of growth from seed). The birds haven't seemed to mess with the three rhubarb plants that were transplanted from the old house, but they killed both of the existing rhubarb plants here and two containers full of seedlings too. I'm hoping I don't have to fence everything in to prevent them from destroying everything.
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.
Dashi (rouen hen) and Matt (rouen cross hen) continue to share a nest. Today I noticed a partially de-shelled egg just outside their nest. I grabbed it out, it was cold, but I decided to open it up anyway. A perfectly formed little duckling. What a shame it didn't hatch properly. Out of curiosity I braved dueling angry bills biting me to lift the ducks and peek underneath. One hatched duckling under there. Not worth stressing them out and certainly not worth the nasty bite I got from Dashi. If she's half as fierce at protecting that baby from the other birds, maybe it will survive. She's going to be a good momma I think.
I checked in on the colony rabbit babies again. Still all alive and seemingly well. The bigger tort bunny had a chunk missing out of one ear and a bite mark on it's head. Both appear to be healing well. The damaged kit with the bad foot is slowing down on growth and is now a little smaller than it's siblings. The foot is black and shriveling, and there's still swelling around the healthy tissue touching the black portion, but bunny remains active and has a full tummy and moves around the nest. It also has a bite on it's back and I decided today to go ahead and spray it with BluKote. I am worried this may make momma bunny kick it out of the nest, but I also want to hopefully help the bunny to heal cleanly. I sprayed both the damaged leg and the bite on the back and replaced the kit back in the nest. I will check back tomorrow, but from here on out, I won't be able to tell much about the bad foot as the whole thing is now purple from the BluKote.
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.
Yesterday I hooked up the new hoses and was able to bring the hose all the way out to the orchard trees on the far North end of the property. It took some doing, but I got them all watered real well. We've been hauling buckets of water all the way out there to water the trees and it took forever and was heavy lifting. Using a hose is much easier! Tony even rigged it up to have a release valve after the first 100-foot hose, so I can leave the rest of the hose out there to water the trees and still have a workable hose for watering the gardens closer to the house and refilling animal waters. My only complaint so far is that we already have grass growing through the landscape fabric and up through the mulch. What? We bought the more expensive landscape fabric that was supposed to prevent that! Well, no sense being frustrated with something you can't change now. Guess I'll just have to spot-weed as I water.
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!
It was Tony's day off today. We got a lot done. I'm ready for a good night's sleep!
We got both of the raspberry / blackberry raised beds assembled, landscape fabric on, and put at least near where I want them. I don't like how they look where I initially wanted them, so I have to figure out where they'll be. They're pretty much permanent, so I need to really love where they end up. I have not added compost and manure yet.
We finished the hinged screened in lid for the brooder in the barn. Yay! So out went the 16 chicks and two ducklings from the basement brooder, out to the barn today. They'll have the heat lamp at night to try to keep them at least at 70-degrees, but they're mostly feathered at this point and several of them have been flying out of the basement brooder, so I think they should be OK out there. The screen prevents them from getting out, and protects them from the bigger birds who may try to get in. It's still going to be a while before they're big enough to join the rest of the flock.
The hoard of ducklings and the last three chicks from the most recent hatching round are still in the basement. They're still just too tiny to be outside with night lows averaging in the 50's and 60's (last night it dipped into the 40's).
I finished putting landscape fabric and mulch around all of the planted orchard trees. I have to say so far I'm really disappointed. We sunk a lot of money into fruit trees this year to get a good start on permaculture... and only one tree out there has leaves and is growing well. The rest look like dead sticks in nice landscaped plots.
I still need to plant out the two aronia plants, the lilac bush, and the cherry tree stick. The three grape varieties, the blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, black elderberry, and gooseberry need to find their places too. So much more to do!!
I cut the tops off most of my winter sown containers today. I've been putting this off because I just know the birds will go through and massacre my plants now... They did the same to the nursery plants we brought home. I don't want them to bake in the 70's and 80's we're about to get (it's hotter in the little greenhouses). Now I have to figure out what to do with all my watermelon, melon, squash, okra, apple, pear, and rhubarb seedlings. Lots of transplanting into buckets in my future.
I had really hoped to get the in-ground garden done by now, but at this point we haven't even managed to get a lawn mower yet (we need the riding kind to keep up with the big fields here). I'm giving my husband this weekend to talk to his co-workers about getting someone with a trailer to help bring a lawn mower home. If he hasn't lined something up by Monday, I'll ask my Dad is he can bring his trailer out here so we can bring a new mower home. One way or another, we have to mow soon. Today #1 remarked "You know, if you just let it grow, we could go Pokemon hunting soon... 'Oh look, a tick Pokemon!'" Yeah, it's getting a little long out there. Definitely need to mow. The only parts of the yard that actually look decent right now are where the geese like to mow the weeds. The preferred grazing areas look like we've mowed. I'm about ready to go out with a pair of scissors to clean up around the raspberry patch.
We still need to assemble the last three potato towers. At least all the lumber is already on hand. Tony should be able to put them together maybe on Tuesday when he has another day off.
Today we went to check out the local farmer's market for the first time. We picked up a pie, a loaf of bread, a jar of jelly, and a whole chicken. We picked up our CSA bag too - rhubarb, asparagus, another loaf of bread (different kind), a dozen eggs, wild rice, granola, and a giant lettuce plant (complete with roots).
Tonight, #3 and #4 have decided to do a "24 hour challenge" to stay outside for a full 24 hours. They started officially at 6pm. Tony put up the hammocks for them so they have a comfy place up off the ground to sleep. They know they are welcome to come back in if they want to. #4 is a heavy sleeper. Once she's out, she'll stay asleep all night. #3 is a lighter sleeper, but is determined to stay outside. I reminded her that she also has the option of the garage or the barn in case it rains and she absolutely will not come in the house. They've given themselves ten minutes collectively to be in the house for potty breaks. That's ten minutes total for the 24 hour time frame. Fortunately for them, after they'd gone to sleep tonight, the weather channel updated from 80% chance of rain at 6am to 25%. I'm hoping they stay dry and can enjoy their little challenge and see it through. They have bug spray, snacks, water bottles, pillows, blankets, and flashlights, as well as a phone in case they need me to come out for something. The low tonight is 65-degrees, so I agreed to letting them stay out. They liken it to camping. I do hope the resident skunk doesn't find their snack stash while they're asleep... But if he does, it'll be another lesson learned. Always put your food up in a tree at night to prevent critters from getting at it.
I opened up the catnip winter sown container, and went to get the hanging basket we grew catnip in last year. Much to my delight, it had reseeded itself and was starting to grow new plants among the dried stems from last year. I pulled the dead plants out, and then grabbed a different hanging basket to transplant the new (bigger) catnip plants from the winter sown container. Now we have two hanging baskets with catnip. We also have one catnip stoned Luna kitty... We gave her one of the dried up plants from last year. I put the rest in a jar for later use.
It's been a full day. I'm tired. I've got plenty to keep me busy with tomorrow too. Hoping for good weather. Looks like I'll spend most of tomorrow up to my elbows in dirt! Not a bad thing... Gardening is relaxing.
I finally got all of my strawberries planted in the big raised bed today! There are ten All Star, ten Ozark Beauty, ten unknown ever bearing, fifteen unknown June-bearing, and two from Menards that died and came back again (the tags fell out so I don't know what they are). This leaves five 1-foot squares left for other things to be planted. I'm not sure what I'll put in them. I updated the How To Build A Raised Strawberry Bed page with more photos of the process.
I also got the two extra potato towers planted. I did Pinto Gold in the second tower, and Magic Molly in the third. I still have a bag of Pinto Gold (six seed potatoes) and two 5-pound bags of Superior and something else. I have to wait for Tony to assemble some more potato towers before I can get them planted.
We lost one of the little ducklings today. It hadn't been doing well. Over the last several days the kids and I had noticed it laying in the food dish. We'd move him over to the water dish and dip his beak. He'd drink for a minute and then just lay there looking dazed. The next time we went to check, he'd be laying in the food dish with the same dazed look. Poor guy. I have no idea what was wrong with him, but clearly there was something not quite right.
Tonight I decided to swap some of the ducklings around. I kept the three smallest ducklings with the three smallest chicks in the plastic bin. All the other ducklings were released into the brooder with the slightly older ducklings. Everything looks alright. We watched for a long time to see there wasn't any aggression, so I'm hoping all will be well tomorrow when we check in again.
Peg-leg Sue is doing well. She's somewhat mobile. She can move around the brooder anyway. She still falls over sometimes, but she's getting better. I did find her a few times today hiding behind the plastic container (that has the smaller ducks and chicks in it), away from the other ducks her size. On the flip side, I also saw her run over one of the smaller ducks when we let them loose in the brooder. I'm really hoping someone will adopt her.
The bigger chicks in the brooder, from the eggs we hatched from #1's friend, are turning out quite interesting! Most have a top-knot. Not like a Polish fluff, but more like the little mohawk on the Spitzhauben chicks we got from the hatchery. This one in particular has a weird comb. At first I thought maybe Sicilian Buttercup might be in the genetics, but looking closer, I think maybe it's just a weird defect. It looks neat though.
There are two especially pretty birds in the brooder right now. Looks like they might be hens, and if so, they'll both be staying. Oddly enough, both are smooth topped (no crests).
The chick above is dark colored but the feathers are speckled with grey. The chick below was the cool speckled one I liked initially, and now it's getting white feathers across the breast and tops of the wings, and speckled brown wing feathers.
It's going to be interesting to see them get bigger. Such pretty color variations! Of course we also have some Black Sex Link from Henrietta as well. They're pretty easy to tell apart given their color and lack of head fluff.
Speaking of, Henrietta has been on egg laying strike for a month now. I hope she starts laying again. She's stopped, Quiche hasn't laid an egg since she went broody, and now Matt and Dashi are sharing a nest and hissing and snapping at any chick who wanders too close. No fresh eggs for now. But maybe some more ducklings when Dashi and Matt start hatching their eggs out.
Today has been productive to say the least. I slept in and woke up thinking I'd wasted all morning. Mad at myself, I rushed through breakfast and got the boys out the door to help.
Tony cut the last pieces needed to complete the strawberry bed, and we started to screw boards onto the frame work. About two boards in, the battery for the drill died, so he had to get the back up and put the main one on to charge. Literally three screws in to the second battery, it died too. Well, so much for that project.
To kill time while we waited for batteries to charge, Tony cut all the wood to make all six of the potato towers. By then the second battery indicated it was charged (weird, but ok).
We got the last boards onto the strawberry bed, and realized we needed some more supplies. We needed more river rock for the bottom level, and the end of the walkway was uneven, so we needed to buy some braces. Off to Menards we went.
Before we left, Tony managed to bang out one of the potato towers. We opted to add the landscape fabric underneath this time. Last time we were working in an area that was already tilled up and weed free. This time the towers will be placed in a grassy area, so it will be easier this way to keep it weed free.
I threw some compost and manure in the new potato tower, and planted the two pounds of Purple Viking potatoes I had ordered online a while back. There was a grand total of eight little spuds in there, each starting to grow. I planted them whole. The idea being that you should hold back your biggest and best for seed, and with potatoes, the plant grows from the nutrients in the seed potato. If you cut it into smaller pieces, you'll have more plants, but they'll have to work harder to produce. You should get bigger, stronger plants, which in turn should produce bigger potatoes. Right?
We picked up five bags of river rock, thirty more bags of mulch, four corner braces, and a new drill with a better battery.
Upon arriving home, we added the river rock to the bottom of the strawberry bed, then added a layer of mulch over the rocks. We paused long enough for Tony to put the corner braces on the outer edges of the end of the walkway (inside the planter), before starting to add loads and loads of manure and compost over the mulch. Then we added another layer of mulch, and another layer of compost and manure, before adding a thick layer of mulch over the top.
The last layer of manure was a struggle. Our trusty wheelbarrow that we've had for three years finally broke. One of the wheels snapped and came right off. I had to haul manure and compost by the bucket back and forth. Eventually I gave up. I had wanted a lot more in that level, but my back and shoulders were killing me and I was so tired of walking back and forth.
When it was all finished, I soaked the entire thing down for several minutes to make absolutely sure that all levels are wet and would be prepared for planting.
Today we also managed to get the fruit trees all watered, I refilled the bird pool three times, and I negotiated a second sleep over for the girls to stay at Grandma's house one more night. I cut up some of the crab apple branches I sawed off a while ago, and soaked them in a bucket. Tony is out grilling with them right now (insanely late dinner). He says it just smells like smoke, so maybe crab apple wood doesn't work the same as apple wood. I wonder if I could chip it up more and try it in the smoker some time. I'd hate to waste it if I can find a use for it. But if all else fails, I'm sure we could always have a little campfire and roast marshmallows or something over crab apple wood too.
It's supposed to rain tomorrow. Yes, I knew that when I soaked the strawberry garden. I wanted to make sure it actually got thoroughly soaked down. That means tomorrow I can catch up on indoor chores, and Tuesday I can make it my goal to get all of my strawberry roots planted. Maybe Thursday we can add some chicken wire to the upper portion to keep pests out, but if not, I'm alright with how it is for now. It looks awesome. I am working on putting together a page on How To Build A Raised Strawberry Bed with photos in case anyone wants to make one like ours. Please, feel free to take my plans, modify them however you see fit, and make one yourself! If you blog about it, all I ask is for you to link back to the plans page to give me some credit.
Oh, and my beloved sumatra chicken died overnight. I have no idea why. She was the sweetest bird, so tame, the kids loved her. Tony said if we order guinea chicks from the hatchery next month, we can add a Sumatra chicken on to the order.
The fairy garden lasted just one evening. A combination of the birds and the puppy destroyed it in less than 24 hours. It was nice for the moment anyway.
The last 18 eggs are in the hatching incubator now. As of yesterday morning three had pipped, by bedtime, five had pipped. They're not even due until tomorrow, but two hatched this afternoon. I'm wondering if those really hot days may have sped up the process a bit.
I'm still trying to figure out what Ralphie is. He's gorgeous and gets prettier every day it seems. His head is a pale yellow straw color, his chest is black, his tail feathers are black with green tint, and his back is a beautiful mix or golden, brown, and black, each with varying patterns.
**Update - he's been identified as a Golden Duckwing Phoenix
The kids have a special affinity for the Speckled Sussex chicks too. They all look too much alike, so I'm not sure if they're cycling through picking up different ones or if it's just the one super-friendly chick they keep picking up.
This morning Tony and #5 spotted a little turtle in the driveway. He was about half the size of my cell phone, and covered in duckweed. A little snapper. We carefully put it in a bucket and took it back down to the lake to release it.
This evening there was another turtle in nearly the same spot. This time what appears to be an adult painted turtle (male), also covered in duckweed. We left this one alone and he wandered off in the opposite direction of the lack out into the yard. When we came back later he was long gone. I hope he got where he was heading.
As of this evening we had three chicks hatched so far. One yellow, one tan/silver, and one charcoal grey (no idea on actual color variety names). One from Quiche, one from Matt, and one from Dashi.
Tonight we had a real treat! There were over 20 trumpeter swans on the lake... All together, slightly separated by pairs, stretching the entire front line of our yard. We could hear more off to the left too. I was amazed. I always thought that trumpeter swans were highly territorial, so how this family reunion came about, I'm not sure. Whatever it was, it was pretty awesome.
After the sun went down as I finished barn chores, the lightning bugs came out. It was spectacular.
It's been a long day. My mom came by this afternoon to pick us up, just after #1 arrived home from her friend's house. She decided to come along. There were delays across the board all day - from mom not being able to find Tony's vehicle to swap the car seat for #5, to getting stuck behind a tractor and having to drive 20 miles per hour for a good portion of the trip to Brainerd.
We managed to get to the greenhouse just minutes before they closed, and thank goodness they are absolutely amazing and let us stay and shop. I love Erickson's Greenhouse in Brainerd. If anyone is looking for a great selection of flowers, succulents, vegetables, trees, hostas, or fairy garden supplies - check out Erickson's Greenhouse in Brainerd. They're worth the time. Awesome place, I can't say enough good about them. You want a small-town feel where people remember your name and you feel a real connection, and staff who genuinely want to see your garden succeed and can offer you tips and advice - this is the place to go!
We ended up picking up five flats of flowers, three more fairies, and another fairy house. I wish I'd have taken photos of our haul before I started planting it all into planters. I'll have to take photos next time I'm out there to finish potting things up.
We ended up running so late with everything else that we never really made it home. It was nearly 10pm when we finally wrapped everything up, getting back to my parents' house after a last-minute run to Menards. We had wanted to get the coconut cour liner for a couple of the deck planters she had, but they were sold out. Instead we ended up buying a bunch of terra cotta pots to make a tiered fairy garden to add to the ground one we already have set up (at my parents' house).
Then we just waited for Tony to get off work and he drove us home. Poor puppy was locked in the kennel for about ten hours, but much to everyone's surprise - no accidents! Yay! I think that's the longest I've ever left a puppy home alone, and I felt guilty about it, but I'm so glad she did alright. She had some toys in the kennel and was really excited to see us when we got home. She greeted everyone before she stopped to go potty.
When we got home I locked the barn up, fed the barn cats, and headed in to do this blog. I'm exhausted and ready for bed now! It rained off and on all day. Great for the garden beds and freshly planted orchard trees; not so great for productivity. I'll have plenty to do tomorrow.
I snapped a quick photo of our Polish tonight. He's a Buff Laced Polish cockerel. He's decently friendly - comes right up to me, but doesn't want to be picked up. He's all roo though and has been known to have little stand-offs with other cockerels. Today was his first day free with the rest of the flock. I think he probably stayed in the barn, both due to everything being new and the rain. I worry that he won't last long as a free-range bird, because that cute little headdress of his makes him nearly blind to predators. I've been calling him Buffle-Head. If anyone would like to adopt him into a closed flock (one with a fenced run and better predator protection), I am hoping to find him a home before he gets eaten by something.
Can you believe it's June already!? Wow, this year is flying by!
This morning Tony and I got two of the trees mulched (with landscaping fabric under the mulch). After he left, the kids and I did two more, and I did one more myself after the kids lost interest. Three more planted fruit trees to go! Then we have to plant the rest of the trees. If I counted right we still have six trees and tons of berry bushes that need to be planted... plus strawberries, asparagus, and potatoes... I am feeling so behind!
While we were working out in the field with the trees I spotted a caterpillar on one of the shovels. I later saw one up by the clothes lines while I was hanging laundry up. It took some research, but I have identified them as Eastern Tent caterpillars. Apparently they prefer fruit trees and are a bad pest. I hope my birds find them tasty.
In the incubator we had three eggs from Henrietta (our Barred Rock hen). Our dominant rooster is Big Red (a Rhode Island Red), which means the resulting chicks will be Black Sex Link. All three hatched today... We have two boys and one girl. I'm not entirely sure what to do with them. We had a lot more in the incubator originally but many were infertile or were quitters (eggs that stopped developing during incubation). I suppose these will be very confused chickens because it seems my only choice it to put them in with the small ducklings in the brooder.
Our New Zealand White doe, Snowflake, had her litter today. She was four days overdue and I think that caused something to go wrong with her babies. She had a litter of six, but when I inspected her nest box, four were dead and one was dying. With tonight and tomorrow's cold temperatures (lows in the 40's), I expect this litter to be a complete loss. I cannot shelve the kits this time because we now have a puppy in the house that would not leave the nest alone.
Today I paired up three more does for July litters.
I paired Kaelyn to Servine, since Kaelyn's father (Sushi) is a Rex cross, perhaps they will produce some Rex coated offspring. Kaelyn has been paired several times but has never had a litter. Servine is new to us and we've never used him for breeding, so this is a fresh attempt. There was a witnessed connection, so we're hoping for babies.
I paired Gretchen and Ulysses in hopes of a good meat litter. Ulysses is now a proven buck since Snowflake's failing litter was sired by him.
I paired Lilith and Rascal. Both are descendants of our old breeding buck, Bennett. Rascal is out of a purebred Rex momma, and Lilith is from Gretchen's first litter. Neither is spectacularly pretty to look at, but I'm hoping those genetics floating around in there might connect and make some harlequin babies.
All had witnessed successful fall-offs, so here's to three robust litters in July!
I was admiring the older chickens from our first incubator hatch today and I was a little surprised to see about four of them showing crests. I waited several days after they hatched and only one showed a tiny bit of a head bump. I figured maybe the head-fluff genetic was just recessive. The Polish we got from the hatchery was clearly a fluff-head at 3-4 days old when he arrived. The Spitzhauben birds on the other hand got their crests much later. These birds look more like the Spitz. One of them actually has the same feather pattern coming in as our purebred Golden Appenzeller Spitzhauben birds from the hatchery. The photo above is the new chick that hatched from the mixed eggs we bought from #1's friend. It has a wonky comb too.
The chick that I thought was so pretty when it hatched, remains a sight. It's getting feathers in and what a pretty bird this one will be! Photo below...
I got my days mixed up. I was all excited to go flower shopping with my mom today, only to realize it's only Friday and our flower trip is Saturday. One more day. I guess I'll just have to wait.
#1 and #3 are off at friends' houses, so it looks like #4 and #5 will be shopping tomorrow with Grandma and I, and #2 will be helping to get all the flowers and stuff we buy planted when we get them back to Grandma's house.
The new pup still has no definite name, but we have it narrowed down to a few choices. In the end it's Tony's choice what to name her, since she's his dog. He has selected some nerdy/geeky girl names. Honestly, I'm leaning towards Zelda, but dreading the possibility of calling her Sylvanas or Alextrasa. I could live with Wren, but I prefer Zelda. I may have secretly been calling her Zelda Puppy today to potentially influence the choice if he decides to go with what she best responds to.
I'll leave you with one question. Can anyone identify this plant? It's a small perennial bush at the corner of the screen porch beside one of the new border beds. It's only about three to four feet tall. The branches are thin but plentiful, the leaves are serrated and have a distinct three-part pattern to them. Today I noticed it's starting to get little berry-like clusters, that I can only assume with soon open up into some kind of flowers. What is this?
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.