Monthly Archives: May 2016

Bees, Quail, Fruit Trees, and Ducks

The peach trees are still doing fantastic. No leaf curl here!

And the peaches themselves are still growing!

The rest of the garden is looking great, too. I love this time of year.

The wood chip mulch makes everything so woodsy. And so far, it’s really helping with the soil. Although we’ve had some record scorchers, I haven’t had to water anything – other than a few things that I just put into the ground. When I pull back the chips to plant, the ground is dark and rich and full of earthworms!

To the chickens’ great sorrow and lamentation, I blocked them out of the east section of the side yard.  The plan next year, is to turn this part of the yard into a colony setup for meat rabbits. Right now, I’m growing a few excess squash and other things that the chickens would rip apart.

The strawberries are loaded with green berries, and see the little apple espalier in the corner? I love espaliers! So much fun!

And this year? I think the bees are going to make it! The queen is laying up a storm, and they are so self-suffient that they completely ignored the sugar water feeder I set up for them. Once I realized I was only feeding ants and hornets, I took it down.

Also, don’t you love the little waterer I set up for them? It’s a giraffe footstool (formerly inside the house until I got tired of it) with a shallow bowl on top. I’m glad I thought to do this, rather than just donate the footstool!

The newest trees, two little plums, are so cute.  I did a count the other day, and I have TWENTY-FOUR fruit trees in my backyard. And this is not counting the bushes, like the gooseberries and blueberries.  Grow a Little Fruit Tree changed my gardening life!

One of these plums is actually a plum/cherry hybrid, so I’m really hoping it fruits before too terribly long. I’m quite anxious to taste them!

The three new ducks are all grown up now, and they are all three boys! Since I wanted a drake, and only intended to keep one anyway, it doesn’t mess up MY plans, but the friend I was planning to give the extras away too already has a male and needed females. So I have two cute little guys up on Freecycle as we speak. Anyone out there want some ducks?

The one I’m keeping, I’ve named Montgomery.

Maisie, Millie, and Montgomery!  See the new pea gravel bedding inside their coop? They like it, and so do I. Much easier to just wash the poop away with the hose set to ‘jet’.

Oh, and look! My teeny tiny little mulberry tree is producing mulberries this year! I’m so excited, because I’ve never even tasted a mulberry, but folks say they are wonderful.

The most exiting news, however, is what’s currently in my incubator. While I am still absolutely keeping my coturnix quail, I’m branching out to bobwhites! I found a seller with Snowflake and pure white bobwhite quail eggs, and of the 12 I put in the incubator, 11 are currently developing into chicks. When they had only been four days in the incubator, I candled them, and was able to see their tiny hearts beating! Such an incredible experience!

Snowflake bobwhites are gorgeous.

bobwhiteAnd the whites are so floofy!

bobwhite2

If you’re interested, I do recommend this seller. His eggs were wonderfully packaged, and although how they are treated by the post office is out of his hands, I’m impressed with getting 11 out of 12 to develop. Sounds like he raises his birds really well, too!

 

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New Ducks

I always intended to have a trio of ducks, but sadly, one duckling had something wrong with it, and died in the first hour after I brought it home. So this Spring, I bought three more ducklings. I’ll keep one of them, and re-home the other two.  Hopefully one will be a male (for me) and the other two females…because if they are, I already have two friends interested in them.

Because I was so busy outside, I started letting them come out with me, and “help” me garden. They were so perfectly sweet. Here they are, assisting me with potting seeds in the greenhouse.

They are fawn and white Indian Runners.

I looked down at one point, and one had planted herself!

But they always grow up so fast.

We brought in a load of gravel for them.

We had shavings in their duck pen, but it wasn’t working out well. Too stinky and messy. I heard of someone using gravel, and then you can just wash the poop down through it. Seemed like a great solution.

The ducks seems to like it better too.

Kefir, Chickens, and Garden Pics

Chickens love kefir.  I do too, but I always have more than I can drink, myself, so I started giving the extra to the chooks.  It’s so fun to watch them cluster around the bowl and just drink like graceful little ballerinas.

Plus, two of my girls have always had an issue with poopy butts. It doesn’t seem to be a health issue; they’ve been tested for parasites, and they show no other signs of ill-health. But once they got on kefir, that problem started clearing right up!

In other news, the newest package of bees has been installed in the hive, and (fingers crossed) this time they will thrive. So far, they are doing better than the previous attempts, and are refusing to eat any of the sugar water I’m putting out for them. That’s a good sign, I think; they must be finding plenty of natural food on their own.

The strawberry bed is thriving, with tons of blossoms.

I bought a couple of plastic owls, and have posted them on guard wherever I have seedlings that might be eaten by birds. Usually, I have to put screens over my sunflower and millet seedlings, and sometimes my peas. The birds just eat them out of the ground, otherwise. With the owls watching over them, I haven’t needed to do screens. I can see why the birds are frightened of them; I’ve come face to face with them a few times, and been startled myself. They are really quite realistic!

Roses are blooming already.

And surprise! This year, instead of chickadees in my bird house, I have bumblebees! So cool.

But perhaps coolest of all is the peach trees.

I just planted these last Spring, and never thought I’d get blooms, much less fruit. But here we are, with little green fuzzies!

It’s still too soon to tell how many will develop into actual fruit, but so far it’s encouraging!

Out of Eden Goes Back to Eden

One of the reasons I’ve been lax on posting lately is because I’ve been working crazy-mad in the garden. We have new ducks (which I’ll post about later), and we’ve been hauling in wheelbarrows full of gravel (for the duckyard) and wood chips (for mulch).

Have you heard of the Back to Eden gardening method? If not, you can watch the film for free here: http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/

Basically, you use wood chips for a mulch, and it provides incredible benefits for your soil and plants – including not needing to water anything other than new seedlings. After last year’s drought, I’m very attracted to this concept! Plus, if you live near a tree-trimming service, you can usually get their chips delivered to your door completely free.

Which we did. Two of these piles.

After shoveling dirt and gravel, it’s surprisingly pleasant work to haul chips. They are light, and they give such instant gratification.

We put a layer of chips over all the dirt areas of the garden, and a few small areas, like below, where we had grass, but found it awkward to mow such small spaces. In the future, I may plant a green groundcover here, or I might leave it chips. I do like the woodsy effect of the chips.

I also put it over the entire vegetable garden.

The chips that appear brown in the pictures are from the first load, and have had time to decompose a little. The greenish chips are from the second load, and still fresh. Lots of evergreen needles. It smells like Christmas!

Perhaps because of the smell/prickly nature of evergreen needles, I’ve noticed that slugs are keeping away from my plants. Slugs love marigolds, and for awhile I had some planted with chips around them, and some with just a straw mulch. The ones in straw were being eaten; the ones in chips weren’t. Nice.

Also, did you notice my espalier pear tree? It’s doing so well!

No blossoms yet, but hopefully next year?

After we spread the chips over all the dirt areas, we decided to continue on, and put chips on the gravel pathways, too. Gravel pathways are somewhat difficult to keep weed-free, and I’ve never been hugely attached to the look.

It’s only been a few weeks since we spread the chips, and already I see a difference. The earthworms are very active underneath, and I haven’t had to water, and the soil has, indeed, stayed moist. The real test will be later this summer, but I have high expectations.

Universal Hollywood Wizarding World

I have so much to write about the garden and the animals, and I’ll get caught up on that very soon – but first I just wanted to blog about a quick little trip I took to Los Angeles. I primarily wanted to visit the FIDM museum’s exhibit of Hollywood costumes (I’m completely obsessed with this one canary yellow dress from Crimson Peak) but since Universal just opened a Wizarding World in their Hollywood park, of course I had to visit!

hogwarts express

I was a little concerned that it would be too crazy busy since it just opened on April 7th, but since we bought our tickets in advance, we were given admittance to the park an hour before the general crowd was allowed in. This made for a lovely visit.

It was just my friend and I – and a small handful of others.

The amount of detail was astounding. And you really had to pay attention to see it all. For instance, the hog’s head in the Hog’s Head Tavern was animatronic, but only sporadically.

There were animatronic owls in the Owl Post.

And this is the sort of thing I adore – there was fake owl poop underneath them on the floor!

Some of the shops lining the street were genuine, others just fronts, but all of them had fascinating displays.

This picture didn’t turn out well because of the reflection, but that’s a cat. Made out of a measuring tape!

The icicles were completely believable. Even though this was Southern CA.

Hogwarts Castle was fantastic, inside and out.

It was really too dark inside to take good pictures, but the detail and fantastic whimsy continued flawlessly.

And the rides were wonderful. The hippogriff roller coaster is worth riding, even though it’s pretty tame and clearly for the kids – you are taken past a recreation of Hagrid’s hut that isn’t to be missed. And the Journey to Hogwarts 3D ride is the best of it’s kind. So much fun!

While we were at the park, we also rode almost all the non-wizarding rides (the Transformers ride is particularly good) and took in the shows. I enjoyed seeing a trained chicken as part of the animal actors show.

We stayed at the Millennium Biltmore hotel for most of our stay in LA, and it was gorgeous.

And perhaps our favorite part of the entire trip, was seeing A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder live on the stage.  I can’t even tell you how witty and fun this was – and it had the most brilliant staging I’ve ever seen.  If you get the chance to see it, absolutely do!

And if you have seen it, and wonder how the lead does all those amazing quick changes into different characters…watch this! Amazing costuming!