Monthly Archives: May 2013

Chicks

A couple of posts ago, I talked about how Josie, our perpetually broody hen, finally managed to adopt three chicks and become a mother.  This is an update on those chicks.

They are getting so big!  They have wings now, and know how to use them.  They can flutter up and down from the Big Girls’ Perch, which makes them feel all kinds of important.  And they have very distinct personalities!

The one with the top knot is Isabella.  She’s a Cream Brabanter.

She’s the Adventurer, so her name definitely fits.  The original Isabella (Queen of Spain) was an adventurer too.  She’s friendly enough to me, and she’ll come sit on my lap now and then, but she never has time to sit for long.  She always has things to do!

The other day she did a circus act with her mother, and I only wish I’d had my camera on me.  She flew up onto her mother’s back, and stood there, wings fluttering for balance, as her mother walked the tightrope (otherwise known as the perch.)  It was adorable.

Freddie is an Ameraucana.

Freddie doesn’t mind being close to me, but she definitely does not like me to hold her.  She’ll come right up to me, but run away if I try to pick her up.  Silly chick.  She’s also the greediest.  I’ve never seen a chick run so fast as when her mother does the ‘dinner call’.  I could swear she teleports.

Bess is my baby.  She is a Blue Andalusian, and judging by her juvenile feathers, I think she’ll actually be blue.  Yay!

She loves to be cuddled and petted.  When she hears my voice, she flies onto the perch and runs up it, trying to get as close to me as she can.  I hold out my hand, and she steps onto it, then snuggles down and closes her eyes for a little nap.  She’s the sweetest little thing.

We’re still keeping them penned away from the Big Girls, but they have had a few play dates together.   The Big Girls try to avoid going anywhere near the chicks, but if they manage to get Josie alone, they will jump on her and remind her that she’s still on the bottom of the pecking order.

In garden news, we have little raspberries growing on the vines Laura S. gave me last year.

And the blueberries we planted last year are making little blueberries!

And those ‘White Soul’ strawberries I’m growing from seed?  Strawberries grow so slowly, but they have two true leaves now.  Two tiny true leaves!

It’s shaping up to be a great year in the garden.

 

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Introducing Daisy and Dandelion, also Fun With Jayne Hats

I got a call at work yesterday.  My mom was at the Feed store, and she called me to ask: “Can we have a rabbit?”

We’d been talking about getting a rabbit.  She was reluctant, until I told her how wonderful their dropping are for fertilizer.  You can put it directly on your plants and it won’t burn them.  Plus, if you do put it in the compost first, there is something about that really jump-starts your compost and gets it a-workin’.  This is according to Laura S., who has had a bunny in the garden before.  Me, I’ve had rabbits before, but they’ve always been indoor pets and we weren’t into gardening/composting at the time.  My mom was very intrigued by this info, and after that a rabbit was an easy sell

But we were definitely not going to get one this year.  Too busy, with the quail project, and putting in all the fruit trees/vines/bushes.  So it was all decided: we’d wait one year, or maybe even two.

And then:  “Can we have a rabbit?”  She sounded like a little kid.  I could only ask: “Are you serious???”

She was.  She’d fallen in love.  In fact, as I shortly learned, she’d fallen in love with TWO rabbits.  Five week old sisters (we think) that were just the sweetest, most friendly, tame little creatures ever.

Here is little Daisy and Dandelion.

Dandelion is on the left, Daisy on the right.  They love to snuggle, with us and with each other.

They also wear hats, because of course they are Firefly fans!

How’s it sit?  Pretty cunning, ain’t it?

Funny story about the hat.  It actually belongs to my chickens.

Their godmother (Laura U. from MN) made me a Jayne hat, and then she says I dared her to make a hat for the chickens.  I say she’s a pretty daring woman all on her own, and needs no incitement from me to make crazy wonderful costuming things.  This is the woman who made a steampunk clown costume, after all.

I wasn’t sure the chickens would actually wear the hat, but other than one hen who wants nothing whatever to do with such insanity, they did.

And the best part yet?

I just heard from Laura U. that she made Darth Maul himself almost fall off his stilts by showing him a picture of my chicken wearing the hat. *

darth_maulThe Force is strong in my chickens.

 

*I should probably (reluctantly) explain that she’s at a costuming convention this weekend, and Darth Maul is one of the cosplayers….

Kiwi & Grape Trellises; also Roses.

Remember last post I said it was too early for roses?  I eat my words.  This is Simplicity.  She is pretty, but she’s lucky she’s well established where she is and grows well, because otherwise I’d uproot her in favor of a different variety.  She has one fatal flaw: she has no scent.  I would never buy a scentless rose now, but this was one of my first rose purchases – before I understood the marvels of Old Roses.  Seriously, Old Roses are the best garden plants ever.  They have hardly any disease (the oldest ones have zero disease.  Zero.)  They have a history.  (I’ve mentioned my newest rose “Semi-Plena” which is the White Rose of York.)  They have gorgeous shapes and colors and SCENT.  Hybrid Teas, bah.

Here’s one of my old roses.  This is Wild Spice.  She has single petals, but she blooms non-stop and has a wonderful spicy fragrance.  She also blooms long before most roses have anything other than tight little buds.

But the real reason I took the camera out into the garden was to show you how the new grape and hardy kiwi trellises turned out.

One the left are two varieties of grape.  Einset and Vanessa.  On the right, are the two hardy kiwis.  You have to grow both a male and female plant in order to have fruit.

To make the trellises, we pounded metal stakes into the ground, then arched hog panels between them and wired them into place.  Hog panels are wonderful things.  They come in different lengths and opening sizes, and are tremendously sturdy.  Plus you can scare the neighbors by letting them think you’re getting a few hogs to compliment your chickens!

They need to be sturdy, for the kiwi.  Hardy kiwi are very strong, and will happily and voraciously tear apart most regular trellises.  The kiwi are already growing by leaps and bounds – since we brought them home, they have already grown about six inches!  I can’t wait until they produce fruit.  They are about 30% sweeter than the fuzzy kiwi you buy in supermarkets.  The only reason the sell the (inferior) fuzzy ones in stores is because the hardy kiwi fruit doesn’t keep or travel well.

And lastly, I went to a plant fair today and bought a couple of perennials, a black currant, and three nasturtium plants.  They are a new variety (Flame Thrower Scarlet), and so pretty!  Everywhere I went in the plant fair, people kept stopping me to comment on their striking beauty.  Hopefully they will self-seed like my other common variety, and I’ll have them in the yard forever.  I love to mingle nasturtiums with my vegetables.  They look pretty there, and since they are themselves an edible plant, it’s nice to be able to add a few leaves or flowers to the salad you’re gathering.

Quail, Chickens, and the Garden

The last week (whenever I wasn’t at work) I was outside.  Seriously – on my days off, I was outside gardening and chickening from when I got up in the morning until it got dark!  The weather has been utterly fantastic, and there’s been nothing I want to do more.  It’s my favorite time in the garden.  It’s too early for the roses to be blooming, but everything is so lush and green.

The small vegetable patches are coming along well.  I have peas, beans, lettuce, nasturtiums, kale, onions, and sunflowers in this little square.  Oh, and dandelions!  Did you know nurseries sell dandelions as salad greens now?  While we have plenty of American dandelions (and I would never dig them out of my lawn as they are fantastic culinary herbs – and beautiful as well!) I was eager to try the fancy Italian version Christenson’s was selling.  Very cool.  Hopefully this is the beginning of Americans appreciating and savoring this ‘weed’.

I also have started a new vegetable patch, this one situated in one of the chicken yards.  They are fenced off from it for now, but at the end of the season, they’ll be allowed in the clean up.

They had a brilliant time helping me dig it out and prepare it for planting.

I love gardening with chickens – they make everything so much more enjoyable.  And they are such decorative additions.  The hen in the picture below is of Josie, our Barnvelder.  A few days ago, Josie had the best day of her life.

It began with tragedy, though.  Our much beloved and loving hen Molly developed Sour Crop, and after a couple days of feeling poorly, she died while I was holding her.

Since we were suddenly down a hen, and since I knew a couple of people who had just successfully had their broody hen adopt chicks purchased at the feed store, we decided to give that a try.  Josie, you see, is a Broody Hen.  She spends most of every summer sitting in the nest box, doing a pretty spot-on imitation of a basilisk.  See?

The feed store lady said it wouldn’t work.  She said it never worked.

This is me, Skeptical Feed Store Lady, informing you it can.

Josie now has three adopted babies.  In keeping with our tradition of naming the chickens after Royalty, meet Isabella, Elizabeth, and Frederika.

Isabella is a Cream Brabanter.  This is what she’ll look like when she’s grown up.

Cream_brabanter_pullets_thumb-ShowMeSilkies

So unique!  But right now, she looks like this.

From certain angles, you can just see the ridge across her head where her mohawk will grow in.  She’s extremely adventurous, just like her famous namesake.

Elizabeth is a Blue Andalusian.  Or at least we hope she will be blue.  With blue chicks, you have only about a 50% chance she’ll end up actually blue.  She could be black, or splash.  But if she is blue, this is what she’ll look like, grown.

Right now, she is the most ethereally beautiful chick I’ve ever seen.

She’s nearly silver in the sunlight, and so tiny!

In contrast, Frederika is round, and fluffy, and looks rather owlish.  She also wears entirely too much eye liner for such a young chick!

Freddie is an Ameraucana.  She will lay blue eggs, and will have the most gorgeous bearded face.  There’s no telling right now what color she’ll be, but here’s one grown ameraucana hen to give you an example.

DSC04465

Josie can’t get over how marvelous her babies are.  After we gave them to her, she looked so astonished, and then she just began to purr and purr and purr.  Happiest day, ever.  And she’s so sweet.  Since she loves and trusts us, we can play with, handle, and cuddle the babies and she doesn’t mind.  The babies don’t mind, either – except when they’re rather be hunting worms in the yard.  (Yes, at just a few days old, they are already eating everything mom does!)

Yesterday, I went into their pen, and as soon as I sat down, Josie looked at me, then went off to have a dust bath, leaving me to baby sit.  The babies were a little freaked out by what their mother was doing, so they perched on my fingers and watched from a safe distance.  Best way of raising new chicks ever!

And what do the other hens think?  Although we keep them separate for right now, we’re carried them in and introduced them to their nieces.  Rather than being aggressive as I feared, they actually are quite skittish and freaked out by these tiny little cheeping invaders.  Their faces were quite something to behold when they first saw them – I wish I’d taken a video!

In other news, the quail coop is slowly coming along.  We laid wire in the bottom of the foundation as part of the predator-proofing.

And then we filled the dirt back in and planted various grasses for a natural quail habitat.  Now we’re working on the above ground parts.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be ordering the eggs!