Monthly Archives: April 2015

Ducks, Bees, and Growing Things

The garden is growing really well.  This is probably my favorite time of year among the ornamentals.  Notice the new greenhouse – still a work in progress, but slowly getting built.  Everything in it should grow extremely well, after I made a blood sacrifice Monday while working on it.  Yes, my knife slipped, and I made a nasty cut on my knuckle.  I could probably have gotten a stitch or two, but since I don’t care about scarring, I didn’t bother going in.  It’s healing nicely, but it’s awkward working outside without the use of my left forefinger!  Not to mention typing.

I’m hoping we get the greenhouse finished soon, because I have three cold frames and some indoor growlights bursting at the seams with little tomatoes, squashes, and melons!  The melons and a few of the tomatoes will go into the greenhouse and stay there; the rest just need a bigger place to grow while they wait for warmer weather.

My potatoes-in-trash-cans are growing nicely.

And I have itty bitty apples on the columnar trees I planted.  First apples!  Squee!

The grapes have TONS of fruit on them.  It’s going to be a bumper year.  I just put the vines in last year, so this is the first year for fruit.

The strawberries are also going to town, setting fruit.  Especially the alpines.

Something new I just started is growing duckweed.  All you need is water and sun, and it reproduces like mad.  It’s terrifically good for ducks – and other poultry.  I want to add it regularly to the duck pond once it gets going, and also skim some off for the quail.

The bees are so cool.  I love sitting right next to the hive and watching them going about their business.  They fly around me and investigate me, but are not aggressive at all.  I try to spend a few minutes with them every day.  They say bees can recognize humans, and I’m trying to make them realize that I mean them no harm.

And the ducklings are beside themselves with excitement!

They have officially moved outside into their Big Duck pen!  I still have their Ecoglow Brooder out with them for a heat source, but they didn’t even get under it once all day.

They are such sweet little girls.

And tomorrow we are picking up Josie’s new babies at the feed store.  She’s been very patiently waiting for them, growling whenever I disturb her in the nestbox.

I’ll try to get a video of the moment of first introduction.  It’s such a magic moment.

 

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Ducklings, Quail, and a Greenhouse, Oh My!

First off, the Indian Runner ducklings, Maisie and Millie, are now a week old.  Ducks grow so freaking fast!

We’ve been letting them out to run and play in the living room, and today, because the weather was so lovely and warm, they got to go outside and have a bath.

While I was outside with the camera, I also took a few pictures of the quail.

A gratuitous shot of Peabody because he is a camera hog:

And then I visitied Loki and Isis.  When I open the door to the coop, Isis always comes running right up, expecting treats.

If I don’t immediately comply with a handful of seed or greens, she sometimes attempts to walk (always very calmly) out of the coop to go get her own greens.

It’s at this point that I give in to her wishes…

I really, really like these Golden Italians.  They are so docile and sweet-tempered.  Though Loki is always slightly suspicious of my motives.  He’s a good male, and protective of his girl.

Speaking of quail, I said I’d show you pics of my new coop.  It’s smaller than the others – I originally meant it to hook onto the from-scratch greenhouse I was going to build.  I wanted to make sure they had an outside area they could escape to if the interior of the greenhouse got too hot.

The entire top lifts, for easy access to the quail.  I wouldn’t have a top *quite* like this, if I didn’t trust my quail to be so tame they wouldn’t fly out.  As it is, one of the girls does *pretend* she’s going to fly out if I’m not quick enough with the treats.  But once I drop seed or greens in the pen, they all let me pet them, clean around them, and do whatever else needs to be done without fear.

Notice the chickens looking on.  They have severe quail-food envy.  The highlight of their day is when I scatter a few quail crumbles on the ground for them!

We aren’t doing a from-scratch greenhouse any more, for a variety of reasons.  The biggest one being that we found a kit that is everything we want, for a reasonable price.  It’s the Early Bloomer, by Solexx.  We have the frame up, but we were accidentally sent the wrong size of anchoring/tie down pieces, so we can’t put the skin on it until we get those in the mail.

The company, Solexx is AMAZING to deal with.  They are willing to answer all our questions over the phone, and after we bought one, the guy who gives help on building it gave us his personal cell phone number in case we had trouble and needed help after hours or on the weekend!  Wow.  That’s customer service you don’t often see.

If you’re looking for a greenhouse, I highly recommend checking them out.

And what’s new in the garden?  My beans are coming up like wildfire!

I’m growing so many different kinds of snap beans this year.  I want to can millions of them!  Seriously, those beans I canned last year are so yummy.  I’m also growing a couple of varieties for dry beans.  Black Turtle and Saxons, neither of which I’ve done before, and Scarlet Runner Beans, which I do every year.  The hummingbirds LOVE the flowers, they are gorgeous on the trellis, and the dry beans are wonderful.  Similar to a pinto, I think, only creamier.  Since I tried them as dry beans, I don’t bother picking any of them as young snap beans.

And here’s a picture of one of my favorite flowers, Forget-Me-Not.

Oh, and I almost forgot – we’re getting three new chicks this year!  My broody hen, Josie, went broody at just the right time this year, so I reserved two Ameraucanas, and one Speckled Sussex.  Every time I get an Ameraucana, it ends up being a rooster.  Every. Freaking. Time.  So this time, I’m getting two.  My luck couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Don’t answer that.

Bees and Ducklings are Here!!!

Friday was an eventful day.  Not only did we pick up our three sexed Fawn and White Indian Runner ducklings, but we got the call that our package of honeybees was also ready!

First there was some bad news though – one of the first things I always do in the morning is check email and facebook.  One of the very first things to pop up on facebook was a story about a horrible accident on the nearby freeway involving a semi tipping over while delivering Belleville Bees.  I ordered my bees through Belleville, and I was so sure that this accident was involving the delivery of the package bees!  Would I be getting bees at all this year?  It was a moment of great disappointment, as I’d been looking forward to having bees again for nearly a year.

It was quickly obvious, though, that these were hives being delivered to pollinate a field.  What a horrible, horrible accident.  I heard there were 3.7 million honeybees on that semi, and while beekeepers were able to rescue some, many more were either crushed in the accident, or killed on purpose by the firefighters spraying foam.

Our package was fine, though, and was SO MUCH MORE HEALTHY than the package we bought last year, which arrived with a dead queen and more than an inch of dead bees on the bottom of the box.  This one had only a few dead bees.

Last time, we got Italians.  This time, we were swayed into getting New World Carniolans by a local beekeeper, who thinks they are the best for my area.

Hiving a new package of bees is an exhilarating experience!  Even though you are literally touching bees, having them crawl on you, and buzzing all around you, it never feels frightening.  It’s just one of the most awesome, incredible feelings!  Neither one of us were stung, and even though we were just wearing jackets with veils and rubber dish-washing gloves rather than a full suit, we never felt like we were in danger of being stung.  It’s just so, so cool.

Our hive is a Warre hive, and one of the nice things about this particular one (made by Sweet Valley Hives) is the queen release ring system they have.  Instead of hanging the queen cage down inside the hive, you just slot it into the side of the hive. In this picture, you can see the bees crawling around this slot, checking things out.  The white tab you see is part of the queen cage – it’s the hanging strip.

When it’s time to see if the worker bees have accepted her and freed her from the cage, it’s as simple as pulling the cage out of the side and looking!  Today, I did just this – not wearing any protection at all, not even gloves – and the queen has been freed!

The bees have already also made a large section of comb, and today I saw about five bees coming into the hive with pollen.  Unlike last year, I think this lot of bees are off to a great start.

I made a quick little video right after we hived the package of bees.  The audio isn’t very good, but you can see all the bees flying around us.

After we picked up the bees, we went to Valley Farm Center for the ducklings.  They are one of the few places that offer special orders of breeds, and also sexed ducklings.

Sadly, the ducklings must have been exposed to something nasty, because just a couple hours after we brought them home, one of them started having trouble walking and was staggering around.  Within another hour, she died in my hand as I was holding her.  Mom did some googling, and found out that the symptoms and rapid onset and death matched exactly Duck Viral Hepatitis, which is highly contageous among waterfowl, and has a 90% mortality rate.  I called Valley Farm Center, and learned some of the other ducklings that came in with ours were sick/dying.  Terrifed we were going to lose all three, I sterilized the brooder box, and everything in it.  I don’t know if that did the trick, but it’s now past the 48 hour incubation time for DVH, and the other two ducklings are in perfect health.  I think they are going to be ok.  Whew.

We named them Millie and Maisie.  Maisie (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be a crested Indian Runner.  I’m happy about that, because I love crested ducks!  You can just see her little topknot in this pic:

They are both so cute.  I really think there is nothing on earth more adorable than a duckling!

Look! Here is Millie asleep in my hand!

In garden news, we finally demolished the falling-down, rotting shed in the chicken yard.  I should have gotten pictures of its decrepid state, but I forgot.  Here’s a picture of the new space I have to work with.  I’m still planning what to do, but I think it will involve another grape trellis.

There beyond the make-shift fence, is the bee yard.

I planted some pasture mix beyond the hive, which is starting to green out now.  When it’s more mature, I’ll let the chickens in for a  short time every few days to get some green forage in them.  The trash cans are my container potatoes, the bed at the bottom is seeded with millet for the quail, and there’s comfry, kale, and blackberries as well.

All of the fruiting trees and vines are doing REALLY well.  The hardy kiwis are covered in buds, which is so exciting.

The fuzzy kiwi is growing well, but because we only planted it last year, I don’t think we’re going to get fruit.  The fuzzy green-and-red leaves are beautiful, though.  It still kind of blows my mind that growing kiwi is even possible here in the Pacific NW.  It just seems like such a tropical fruit.

Also fun is the “Tiny Tim” tomatoes I have growing in the kitchen window.  This is a mini variety that does well in lower light, and only gets about a foot high.  We have little green tomatoes already!

Oh, and do you remember when I said we weren’t getting a greenhouse this year?  Yeah, I need to stop saying things like that.  A while back, I said I’d built my last quail coop…since then, I’ve built another.  A little one just for the extra girls.  I need to get pictures up for you.

And now, after I said no greenhouse…we’re building one.  From a kit, though, not from scratch.  Mom found this company called Solexx, and their product sounds perfect for us.  The kit is arriving tomorrow, so this weekend, we’ll be putting it together.  I have all kinds of little melons and tomatoes started just to put in it!

Garden Update

Everything is growing and green!

Every year, I’m chasing my tail trying to accomplish a long list of projects, remodels, and maintenance in the garden.  And even though I never get anywhere near the end of that last, it always feels so good to be out there working.  Even the total grunt-work and the occasional icky bits are so much more enjoyable than not being outside.  And slowly, we are getting things done.

This year, building the greenhouse has been pushed back until next year, in favor of building the paver patio addition and pathway.  It’s a good tradeoff.  We’ve also put up a clothesline in the back yard.  I love line-dryed clothes.  They smell so incredibly good, plus they have that fresh stiffness that is so preferable to soft.  Can I say that I just hate fabric softener?  Ick.  (I also hate thick plush towels that are too plush to properly soak up water, and too thick to wrap around your head.  There’s a reason I always buy the absolute cheapest towels I can find, and it’s not because of cost!)  Anyway, that was a digression…we’re here to talk garden!

I’ve also chosen and planted a bunch more fruit trees and shrubs.

Three more blueberries: Jersey and Bluecrop

Two red currants: Cherry Red

Two peaches: Indian Free and Charlotte

One pear: Seckel

One apple: Arkansas Black

Two cherries: Tartarian Black and Royal Anne

Two plums: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle

Purple raspberries: Brandywine

Next year, I hope to put in four more apples, and then we’ll be done…except for possibly another couple of grapes.  I’m thinking the chickens need a Concord grape in their run.

All of the new trees are leafing out, which is always good to see.  Following the directions in Growing a Little Fruit Tree, we’ve chopped them off to knee height.

The columnar apples I put in last year are blooming for the first time.  They are so pretty and SO sweetly scented!

Plus, I put in a bunch more strawberries, of a variety called “Mara des Bois”, which is a cross between a regular strawberry and an alpine/wild one.  It’s supposed to be similar in flavor to the tiny alpines, but in a standard size.  If that’s true, it’ll be amazing!

The duck coop is almost done.  The foundation is in, the top part mostly just needs hardware and doors attached, and then it needs a roof.   Weather permitting, we just *might* get it done before next week…which is good because that’s when the ducks are arriving!

Ducklings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And because I don’t have any duck pictures, I’ll end with a few pretty blooming flowers.

The smell of pansies is the smell of Spring, to me.

This is one of the new lavenders that’s blooming. It’s called “Raspberry Ruffles”. Perfect name. I hope it survives in my garden. Fancy lavender is sometimes iffy for me.

Geeky Fun

Last Saturday, a friend and I went to Emerald City Comic Con.  Since we both had missing costuming mojos, we hit the thrift store and I went as a MiB agent, and Betsy went as as undercover alien tourist.

We also visited the EMP museum and the Star Wars Costume Exhibition.

More words (and pictures!) are on my other blog: http://www.dragonflydesignsbyalisa.com/apps/blog/show/43217191-emerald-city-comiccon-star-wars-costumes