Monthly Archives: May 2015

Garden Update

This will be a quick one, folks, because I’m exhausted.  I spent a good share of today shoveling pea gravel, mostly for underneath the ducks’ kiddie pool.  After it’s done, I’ll show you pics.

The ducks are almost entirely gown up now.  They still have a bit of baby fluff on their necks, and their voices are still in the process of changing to quacks.  Maisie has her quack down pat, and she can really sound demanding!  Millie is either a little more laid-back, or just hasn’t figured out her Human-Do-My-Bidding-Now voice.

They are having free-range time in the backyard garden now, and are so enjoying themselves!

So far they haven’t caused any real damage, just slightly squashed one lettuce.

Oh, and they are making an inventory of all the ornamental pools of water in my garden.  Including dog bowls.

The new chicks are doing great.

Freddie.

Charlotte.

And Edith.

Who I am 85% sure is a rooster.  Sigh.  Her comb is bigger, her feet are HUGE, and she’s much more aggressive.  Remember I said I can never get an Ameraucana in my flock because I always choose the one rooster among the bunch of supposedly sexed female chicks?  I said I wasn’t going to pick one out because of this unfortunate penchant, but when I got to the feed store, I saw this one and just fell in love.  Such puffy cheeks!  Such an owl-like face!  I told the clerk I wanted this chick…oh, and one of the others, a lighter colored one.

So at least the lighter-colored one (Freddie) that the clerk picked out is looking like a girl.  I should hire myself out as a rooster-finder, for folks that actually want one!

I finally got the sign I designed and free-hand painted up.

I  have one more sign for the chicken coop mostly done, and then I need to make two more: one for the ducks (Duckingham Palace) and another Out of Eden sign for the backyard.

My veggies are coming along well.  This is my cabbage/runner bean bed.  The picture is about a week old; the beans are almost as tall as I am now.

And the snap peas are even taller than me.  They must be close to 6′, and producing peas like crazy.

I don’t seem to have a picture, but the tomatoes in the greenhouse are a couple feet tall, and setting teeny tiny little fruit.  Outside, I have a few tomatoes that actually ripening cherry tomatoes!  I think I’ll be eating my first tomato this weekend.  So exciting.

The roses are blooming like mad right now.  This is one of my current favorites.  Belle Isis.

And the bees are out foraging.

The Big Spring Projects are (thankfully) winding down now.  Which is good, because I’ll be leaving for Iceland, England, and Egypt in about three months.  I’ve been too busy to even really think about it, and of course, once I get back, it’ll be time to start seriously planning the Big Spring Projects of 2016.  Right now, it looks like we’ll be adding meat rabbits, and possibly a stock tank of Tilapia!  I keep getting drawn to books on aquaponics, and finally I realized I don’t really want to raise plants with fish, but I do want the fish!  Fresh fish, right from the backyard!  How awesome would that be?

And even cooler, it turns out that species of Tilapia that is best suited for my area is also the same fish from the Sea of Galilea – which means I’d be raising the same fish that Jesus and the disciples fished and ate.  I love connections to history like this.

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New Greenhouse, Ducks, and Garden Stuff

It has been so busy here.  One day, we think, we will be done with all the major builds/improvements, and then we will be able to relax.

Or, you know, at least be able to keep up with the work that we want to do.

The greenhouse (Early Bloomer, by Solexx) is almost finished.  It’s up, and usable – there is just a few remaining details, like the door handle, the solar-powered automatic window opener, and some trim.

There is also quite a bit of landscaping to be done around it.  I’ve already planted some peas and sunflowers around the back.

Inside, I built raised beds, and spent several hours shoveling compost out of the chicken coop’s deep litter, and carting it by the wagon load into the greenhouse…only to shovel it back out into the beds.  Lots of work, but somehow enjoyable, all the same.  I’m finding that there is true pleasure in hard, physical work.  I used to be a total night owl, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping in.  Now I’m so excited to work outside, that I wake up early, work all day in the garden, then collapse in bed around 10pm.

As you can see, the inside floor still needs to be installed.  We’ve bought some lovely brick.

At the far end, will be a potting bench, once I have time to build it.  To the left of the door, is shelving for starting trays of seedlings.

I’ve planted a bunch of tomatoes, melons, and peppers in the beds.

In the front vegetable garden, I came up with a good idea for trellising my beans.  I put in two t-posts, then built a frame of wood and wire that fits between them.  It is zip-tied securely into place.

At the end of summer, I can cut the zip-ties, and store the frame out of the weather.  Next year, I can put two more t-posts in a different bed, and put the frame up there.  Some years, I’ll have a frame between the posts, other years, I’ll use the posts as tomato tie-ups.

The Indian Runner ducklings are getting so big.  Their chests are completely feathered in, and feathers are coming in on their backs, faces, and wings.  They are still very, very cute.

They’ve changed so much from just a few days earlier…although they still like to snuggle with each other.

Josie and her chicks are doing great.  I need to get some more pics; this video is from a week ago.  They have lots more feathers on their wings now, and their tails are coming in.

What’s this I see?  What’s that in your hand?

You have a new camera????

Well, then!  Time for some beauty shots of what’s blooming in the garden!

Peonies.

And roses.

And after years of never seeing butterflies, I’m finally seeing visitors in my garden.  This one seems to come here a lot.  It’s very shy, though, and even though I hunted it as stealthily as I could, this was the best shot I could get.

Is that a Painted Lady butterfly?

And Peabody and Nefertiti say goodnight.

For those of you who are interested in keeping quail naturally, a friend and I are running a new facebook group: Natural Quail Keeping.  Feel free to join and start posting pics or asking questions!

 

Introducing Chicks to a Broody Hen

Sometimes this works with a broody hen, sometimes not.  Sometimes it works, but you have to be a lot more stealthy about it.  I’m lucky, because my broody Barnvelder hen, Josie, will just take chicks straight-up, with no fuss.

I just went to the feed store, and bought three chicks.

Frederika (Freddie)

Edith (Edie)

Both of these are Ameraucanas, and will hopefully lay green or blue eggs.  Edie is already my favorite.  I think she looks like a fat little owl.

And then there’s Charlotte (Lottie) who was supposed to be a Speckled Sussex, only there was some kind of problem at the hatchery, and we had to chose a different breed instead.  We chose a Buckeye.  They are supposedly great mousers!

Here is a video of Josie meeting her new babies.

Josie is such a great girl.  I used to get annoyed with her constant broodiness, but now I’ve learned to appeciate her mothering skills.  It’s so brilliant, being able to bring new chickens into your flock through this method.  There’s no fuss with pasty butt, heat lamps, or messy brooder boxes in your house.  And best of all, by the time they are grown up, they are peacefully intregated into your flock!  And if your hen is as friendly as Josie, she teaches her chicks not to fear humans.  It won’t be long before she’ll be showing them how to jump up on my lap!

I transfered Loki and his girl out of the roof garden coop, and into the smaller one, so I could clean the big coop out and use it for Josie and her babies.  While they are young, I like to give them a little extra  privacy away from the Big Hens Who Are Terrified of Babies.

Josie will be a couple of days coming out of her broody state.  If she were hatching eggs, she’d have to wait for all of them to finish hatching, so even though she has her babies, her body tells her she still needs to sit still on her nest and wait.  Meanwhile, she talks continually to her babies, teaches them to eat food (and not to eat poop).

Yesterday I introduced them, today I took a second video of them.

If you’re interested in why hens go broody, I HIGHLY recommend this article by the Holistic Hen. What she says makes so much sense.  It’s completely true that Josie used to be the absolute bottom of the pecking order…and after her first batch of babies, went straight to the top.  The only hens that give her any sass at all are her two daughters.  Of course it doesn’t help that she’s such a natural mother that when she finds something yummy to eat, she can’t resist giving the “Come babies, come babies, I found food for you!” call.  Her two-year old daughters come running, and when Josie sees them, she realizes her mistake and snaps up the goody herself, leaving her daughters standing around looking confused.

And let’s end this blog with two ducklings in a basket.  Just because I can.