Free – this weekend only!

I haven’t really mentioned my writing recently on this blog, but besides chasing chickens and gardening, I’m also an author. The first three books about Molly Claire, time traveler and professional ghost hunter, are now available on Amazon.

GhostscoverHere’s a brief blurb from the first book:

Molly Claire was found aboard an abandoned boat in the San Francisco Bay, wearing an old-fashioned nightgown and a bloody jacket too large for her. The crew of the boat was never found, and the family of the girl never came forward to claim her. She was just five years old.

Now, nineteen years later, Molly Claire has no memory of anything that happened to her before that night – nothing remains of her early childhood except the screams that torment her nightmares. But that’s not the most unusual thing about her: Molly Claire can slip through time, an ability she uses as a professional ghost hunter.

But when she and her two partners take the case of another young child, also haunted by nightmares and screaming, Molly Claire’s current life and her past collide in ways she never imagined in her worst nightmares.

Will Molly Claire discover a way to save this little girl from the bloody future in her dreams? And will she be strong enough to save herself from a web of betrayal and conspiracy she has no idea even exists?

You can read the beginning on Amazon, and if you would like to try the entire book, it’s going to be FREE all this weekend.

I have also set up a facebook page, where I will post all the blogs from here, plus random chicken/garden/homesteading/writing goodness. You can find me on facebook here.

And, of course, if you like the books, and want to be notified first whenever a new one appears, please join my email list. I promise not to spam you – it’s only to let you know of new books!

Towhees, Quail, and Lost Chickens, Oh My

I meant to do a regular update on the Rufus-Sided Towee eggs that were laid in my clematis, but as usual, time got away from me. So here is the story of the eggs, all at once.

So ugly they are ADORABLE. Resisted the urge to cuddle them, but I do occasionally give them a pet on their little fluffy mohawks. At a few days old, their eyes are closed, and they can’t distinguish me from their parents. Anytime I approach the nest, they start begging for dinner.

A few days older still, and their eyes open. Now they know I’m not their mama, and they tend to give me the closed mouth stare of disgust.

Occasionally, when they’re really, really hungry, they still try to talk me into a little treat on the side. (There are still three in the nest, though – one is just hiding in this shot.)

And a surprisingly short time later, they were ready to leave the nest. I happened to go out and visit just in time to see it happen.

They still can’t properly fly – which freaked me out big time when I saw them fluttering and flapping around at the base of the clematis. I actually tried to put them back in the nest, thinking they’d jumped out prematurely. But they weren’t having any of that! After googling it, I discovered that several varieties of birds (Towhees among them) actually do leave the nest before they can fly. It certainly didn’t slow them down any. Just a few minutes after I took this last picture, all three were gone with their parents, over the back fence and into the field behind us. I hope they survived. It must be hard, to leave the nest before you can fly!

In other news, I had a great hatch rate from my last batch of shipped coturnix quail eggs – out of 12, 8 hatched.

They are mostly grown up now, and are outside in the newest coop.  This is a terrible picture, and I still need to put on the roofing material, but here’s a shot of it.

It is divided down the middle by a removable screen, so I can either have two cages, or one big one. At the time of this picture, I had my older pair (Loki and Sweetie) in one side, and their son in the other. He was a solitary hatch, so he’s really happy now that the new quails are big enough that they can all be together in one pen with him.

Here’s a close up of his side:

And here’s the pair in theirs.

Speaking of the cages, everyone asks why I spray paint the wire black. The reason is simple: it makes the visibility SO much clearer. I painted one side, then took a pic, just so you can see the difference.

Totally worth the couple minutes it takes to paint!

Bobwhite quail video (with surprise guest appearance by Goldie!)

I had a chicken go missing the other day. It was right before I had to leave for work, so I was running around the entire property (inside and outside of the chicken yard) calling her and offering treats. Nothing. Not so much as a single lost feather. I asked my favorite hen, Ellie, where Booty was, and Ellie marched into the coop and stood there, cackling.

But Booty wasn’t in the coop, was she? I checked behind all the storage bins and buckets, in case she got somehow stuck. No sign of her. I was sincerely thinking she was gone, but if a predator found her, I wanted to know, so I could take precautions for the rest of the girls. I took one last tour around the yard, and when I finished, Ellie was still standing inside the coop.

“She’s not in there, Ellie,” I said. “I looked.”

Ellie stared at me, with what can only be described as a ‘humans are soooo stupid’ kind of expression. Might I add, that while Ellie was standing in the coop, and I was running around the yard looking, the other chickens were busy eating all the treats I had thrown around trying to call Booty? It was really strange that Ellie was just standing there, and not eating the treats herself. Really, really strange.

Could Booty possibly be in here somewhere? Was there any possible place I hadn’t looked? There wasn’t…unless…yes. The crates we use as nest boxes are slightly raised off the ground, and Booty IS a little hen. Could she have crawled underneath? I lifted up one of the nest boxes, and there was Booty, caught in the process of laying a stealthy egg…or two…or six.

And obviously one of the other hens had managed to squeeze under there too.

Ellie gave me one last ‘took you long enough’ glance, then stalked out of the coop to see if any of the treats were left.

Booty, you bad, bad girl! You had me so worried~

Life and Death

It’s been a tough few days here in the backyard farm. First, one of my oldest hens, Sophie, got flystrike.  I’m not going to go into any details, but this is a horrible, horrible thing, and it happens FAST.  By the time I realized anything was wrong, she was too far gone.  We tried to save her, but I finally made the decision to put her down.

I did it myself, and it’s the first time I had to kill an animal that I looked upon as a pet.  It is possible (sometimes) to find a vet to euthanize chickens, but from what I hear, it’s not an easy process for them. It’s much quicker and less stress on the bird to do it at home, where they are familiar and comfortable.  If you look online, there are multiple ways people go about mercy kills, but I would never be comfortable with anything I didn’t feel was immediate and as painless as humanly possible. All those methods involving ice chests and chemicals? I’m not convinced that’s quick or humane – it’s just easier on the human. I don’t care if it’s easy on me. This isn’t about me; this is purely about the animal.  So I broke Sophie’s neck. I have a pair of pruning shears that do the job perfectly. I held her on the ground, petted her, said a prayer, and just did it. She didn’t suffer, and I was able to be in contact with her the entire time.

Rest in peace, Sophie. And I do honestly believe that’s plenty of Biblical evidence that animals get remade and reborn at the end with the rest of Creation. I hope I’m right. I think I am. I know God cares about each tiny little sparrow.

Sophie as a chick

Then, a few days later, one of my oldest quail died, and because she died, I made the decision to cull her mate, Peabody. He was the accidental white Texas A&M quail that hatched with my very first quail egg order. I never wanted A&M quail, and in fact, quickly learned I never would. Peabody was a difficult bird. He was hard on his mates (he went through three different females) and he hated me. He hissed and growled at me whenever he saw me, and would often attack my hand with his little bitty claws. It was cute in a miniscule bird, but still not a behavior I wanted to breed from. He had a big personality, and he made me laugh, but I really did not want to give him a fourth female when he was so hard on them, and he would be miserable by himself. So he’s gone, and I’m sad, but that was also the right decision. He had a terriffic three years – outlasting the “life expectancy” of a quail by about a year. His cage seems so empty without him in it, growling and hissing every time I walk by!

The fourth loss, was just now, when one of my snowflake bobwhite female died. I thought she’d been looking a little ruffled and slow for a couple of days, but couldn’t see any visible sign of illness. I’ve had sick quail before that recovered, but this time, it wasn’t to be. I went out to her pen earlier today, and I thought she was dead then – she looked asleep, and I couldn’t see her breathing. But when I picked her up, she opened her eyes, perfectly calm, and looked at me. She didn’t seem to be suffering, so I just put her back to die at her own choosing, which she did, about an hour later.

But life and death always turns in a circle, and as I write this, I have more quail eggs hatching in the incubator.  So soon, I’ll have new babies. And since I’m finally down to just Bobwhites and Golden Italian Coturnix, I’ll keep one of the new Italian males as well as the females.

Frizzles, New Kitten, and Sunflowers

We have a new cat, Bundy.

We’ve been looking for a young, black, shorthair male cat for a couple of years now, but the right one was never at the shelters.  A few days ago, we were at the gas station, when a truck pulled up at the next pump.

“Hey – do you want a cat???”

We look over, he’s offering a black, shorthair male kitten.

“Yes, please!” Clearly, he’s our cat. And he’s perfect. Sweet as anything, with the most gentle paws I’ve never seen on a kitten. But he’s also not shy or afraid – from the instant we brought him home. He’s not fazed by old cat’s dislike of him, nor by corgi Dexter’s intense, crazy adoration. We literally could not have been given a more wonderful addition to our family. The only thing he needs to learn is to stay off the kitchen counters!

The little frizzle cochins are also super sweet – the most friendly chicks raised by a broody hen that I’ve ever seen.  They like to be cuddled, and when I bring out the camera? They pose. I must have taken fifty pictures of the little fluffly butts yesterday.

Broody mama Boudica is still stunned by how floofy her children are….

Besides playing with all the new babies, we got in a third load of free wood chips, and have been busy spreading them out in the garden. We finally mulched over the whole of the kiwi/grape vineyard – going all chips, instead of grass. Less to mow! This the area where I’ll be building the newest quail coop – just out of frame, behind the blue chairs.  Also out of frame, on the opposite side, is our beehive. It’s still doing splendidly, and this part of garden will be a relaxing area to sit and watch the bees and the quail. If we ever have time to relax…

P.S. The logs in the photo above will be going inside the quail coop once it’s built. Quail like things to stand on. Tiny little birds need to feel like Rulers of Their Domain!

While gardening, I discovered a bird’s nest in my clematis.

It turns out that the male rufus sided towee who has been drawn to my garden because of the wood chips, has attracted a mate! The nest is only a couple of feet off the ground, so I’ll be taking pictures of the babies regularly once they hatch!

Frizzle Cochin Chicks!

Guys. GUYS. These chicks. I can’t even…they are just so fluffy and funny and cute.

When they first hatched, they were fairly standard chicks in appearance…other than their fuzzy hobbit feet.

Amerauca mom Booty did a great job with her hatch. I put fertile eggs under her, and in 21 days, out popped four fluffy chicks, like magic.

Despite the psycho side-eye she’s giving me here (all my adult hens hate my camera) she’s super sweet, and doesn’t mind me snuggling her chicks at all. Which is good for both of us, because you just gotta snuggle chicks this fluffy. The babies weren’t always sure about all these snuggles, but if one objected, all I had to do was hold her out to her mama, who would peck her on the head and tell her in no uncertain language that I was a trusted friend.  After that, the chick would settle down in my hand, perfectly happy (and often go straight to sleep!)

You can’t really tell in the pictures, but cochin chicks have THE SOFTEST fluff ever in the history of soft fluff. I was amazed.

Booty taught them how to dust bathe. And nap in the sunlight.

As they grew older, their wing feathers came in, proving they were frizzle cochins. See how the feathers curl out? This created the greatest look in chick feather-styling EVER, as they grew out the feathers on their feet and legs.

It also led to jealousy and hurt feelings from Ellie, my soulmate hen. WHY are you always in THERE playing with those little fluffy butts? I’m molting, I’ve got a fluffy butt too – nothing special to look at in THERE.

It’s okay. Ellie always gets snuggles too. She’s a total lap chicken.

We just finished (mostly finished) remodeling the chicken coop, and the mama and chicks have moved into the coop with the big girls…in their own private apartment. I’ll film a video tour soon.  I decided this in-the-coop-apartment will work better for future broodies, and so I moved the pet rabbits (Daisy and Dandelion) into the former duck coop/broody coop.

They have lots more room, plus they and the chickens can see each other, which both species seem to enjoy.

And what, you may ask, is going into the old rabbit hutch? Well, since it was originally made as a chicken coop, it’s going back to that purpose. It’s just the right size for a trio of tiny serama hens! Next Spring I’ll get hatching eggs! I’m so excited; I’ve wanted these mini chooks forever. I plan to let them out for regular free-ranging in the garden. They are so small, I don’t think they will destroy the garden like full-sized hens. We’ll see.

And a brief update on the Bobwhite Quail – I still love them. They are my favorite quail for sure. They are so personable and friendly.


Snowflake and White Bobwhite Quail

Wow. It’s been forever since I wrote about the bobwhite quail. They are mostly grown now – although they obviously mature a lot later than my coturnix. These guys still act like sweet little babies!

They are SO sweet, in fact, that I am planning on keeping two pair (one white, one snowflake). This means I must build yet another quail coop! Well, with every one I build, I figure out a better design, right?

They are very talkative little quail, with lots of cute vocalizations.

I think the snowflake color is gorgeous, but there is something surprisingly appealing about the white ones.

They seem to be more friendly and inquisitive.  Unlike the snowflakes, they are always coming up to the wire to look at me, and talk to me.

I’m trying something new in their coop.

Do you see it? Up there in the corner?


I have four of them outside with the quail – two blues, a yellow, and a green one. After doing extensive research (particularly of English parakeet-keeping practices) I’m going to try keeping them out here year around. As long as they have a secure, draft-free area, and plenty of time to acclimate, they appear to do fine in my temperatures. I will, of course, monitor them closely during the winter, and if they show signs of discomfort, bring them inside.

But right now, they are loving life! They and the quail get along wonderfully, sharing the ground (when the parakeets feel like walking) and the branches (when the quail feel like perching). I even saw one of the keets go for a brief ride on one of the quail’s back! The quail didn’t seem to notice or mind.

And now for a gratuitous squirrel pic.

This nest box was supposed to be for the birds, but the squirrel chewed the opening larger and claimed it.  Pesky little rodent!

Broody Hen, Currants, and Little Fruit Pies

I’ve been waiting for my reliably broody hen, Josie, to go broody because I want to hatch some frizzle cochins.  Surprise surprise, it was her adopted daughter, Boudica, who decided she wanted to start a family.

Booty (as I call her) is just turning a year old, and has never been broody before.  I was a little nervous she wouldn’t have the commitment to carry through, but I went ahead and ordered the eggs for her.

They came via the post office – and my mail carrier was sweet enough to make a special trip by my house at the beginning of her route to drop them off!

The former duck house has been shifted into the chicken yard, and turned into the Broody Barn.

I was afraid Booty would insist on trying to return to her old nest in the chicken coop, but I think she is smart enough to appreciate the peace and quiet. I am able to leave the Broody Barn’s door open, so she can come and go as she pleases…and she does, always returning faithfully to her new nest.


She has eight eggs, and although I really only want one new hen for my flock, I hope she has a good hatch rate. It would be so much fun to see her care for a bunch of babies!

She’s a sweet girl. Although she growls at the other hens if they come near, she lets me raise her up to check on the eggs whenever I want without a fuss.

She’s got about a week left to go. Fingers crossed, everyone!

In other garden news, I’ve been harvesting lots of currants. Pink, red, black, and these gorgeous white ones.

I’m making them into jelly. One batch didn’t set, but that’s ok. I labeled it “Currant Syrup” and will use it for flavoring kefir and yogurt!


I’ve been also canning cherries, and I’m making a bunch of mini 6″ pies (apricot, cherry, plum, gooseberry, and blackberry) to freeze. And, of course, eat. We’ve had three already. Hey, no judgment. They’re small. 🙂