Category Archives: Corgi

March Update, Quails and Garden

The newest batch of hatched quail are about 3 1/2 weeks old, I believe. They are about half the size of their parents, but nearly fully feathered, and far too active to be indoors in the brooder box. So yesterday, I moved them outside.

They have the full run of the largest coop, but I’ve put their EcoGlow heater inside the nest box area in case they still want some warmth.

These golden italian coturnix are so pretty.

Of course I’m eagerly hoping they will all be females, but it’s still too soon to tell. With this coloring, you can’t tell by the speckling (or lack of) on the chest. You have to wait for the distinctive head markings to grow in, and of course that’s the last part of quail to get adult feathering.

If I had to guess at this point, I’d say I have three girls and a boy, but I’ve definitely been surprised before!

So I was busy taking close ups of the quail, and I happened to glance up and notice I had a peeping tom observing the photoshoot…

Everything is growing so fast right now. The violets and peonies are up and running, and I just can’t wait until everything is lush and green again. I suffer in the winter, due to lack of green.

Yesterday, I got the last of the potatoes planted in under straw.

I’ve also been busy fixing up part of the chicken run to welcome muscovy ducks next Spring. The chickens (happily oblivious this means more dreaded DUCKS) helped me prepare the area where the duck kiddie pool will be.

I’m going to make that square slightly larger, fill it with pea gravel, and put the pool on top, with a drainage hose in it so I can send the dirty water out to the garden when I refill it. The holes of the blocks, I’m thinking I’ll plant with peppermint. Ought to be pretty and practical.

Inside the house, I’ve been experimenting with making soft whey cheeses (like mozzarella) and mesophilic heirloom yogurt varieties.  I’m excited because some of these yogurts (if you add rennet) can be used to make the soft yogurt-like cheese I fell in love with in Iceland: Skyr. I can’t make true Skyr without an actual Skyr starter, but maybe I can come close. And if I go back to Iceland…I’m smuggling home a little starter!  😉

I really want to get into making more things from scratch, so I can stop buying the really-bad-for-you storebought versions. Plus, homemade just tastes so much better! Today I made mayonaise, soon I’ll try mushroom soup (it’s a base for SO many of my recipes), apple cider vinegar, butter, sour and cream cheeses, and laundry detergent.

Dexter the corgi has learned the smell of cheesemaking. He ignores me when I’m heating the milk, but as soon as I put in the rennet, and the curds start to separate out of the whey, he’s right there, sitting at my feet.  He’s my taste-tester.

 

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February Update

I want to get into growing mushrooms, but since I’m afraid of poisoning myself, until I do a whole lot more research, I’m confining my experiments to indoor growing only. As a starter, I bought an oyster mushroom growing kit.

And look! I have mushrooms!

Actually, since I took this picture, I harvested the first lot that grew, and now I have new batch beginning to grow. Mushrooms are amazing – they grow so fast. Literally, once they got going, they doubled in size every day.

Last time, I told you about the big Spring project – digging out the raised bed in the back yard, and replanting everything in the ground. That’s done, now. There is still finishing work, like edging and mulching, but that will happen gradually.

The garden looks pretty bad right now.  Luckily, there are signs of Spring everywhere.

The violets are blooming.

As is the “test pansy” I bought to see how many slugs are still left in my garden after the ducks have been working it.

Used to be, I’d plant one of these, and the flower buds would be eaten within minutes. Not anymore. This one’s been out there for a couple of weeks, and not a single nibble!

We built new compost bins, and placed them in the chicken yard. (The green roofing panel behind it is from me testing to see if I want to make a roof over it. I think I do…one on hinges so I can open or close it.)

The chickens also got a new feeder. Mom made this from a 5 galleon bucket, and so far it’s been working great. The chickens can’t get inside to throw their grain out everywhere, and yet it’s low enough to the ground that partly lame Antoinette can still reach it.

Because the ducks do like to eat cabbage and other vegetables – and also poop all over our patio, I fenced off the patio and the four beds that I mainly plant the back yard veggies in.  Simple fix: wire and small t-posts, but it works. And once the plants grow up, you’ll hardly see it.

I also made the ducks a “duck den” beside the rhubarb. In winter, I give them just a small pan (kitty litter box sized) to get in and have a splash. As you can clearly see by the mud and feathers, they’ve had their bath already. Sigh. It’s impossible to keep duck water clean. Five minutes after you change it, it’s already muddy.

Anyway, the ducks really like to hang out back here, and it keeps them away from the areas of the yard I’d prefer they not spend a lot of time trampling around in.

To the right of the duck den, is the worm composter box for all the food scraps that don’t go to the chickens.

Since we have the new chicken yard compost bins, I was finally able to clean out the corner of the yard where I used to throw all the compost stuff.

I’m going to plant a pear espalier against the fence, and probably plant veggies back here until I decide for sure what else I want to do. This is the ducks’ favorite place in the world. Lots of bugs and worms in the compost-y ground!

Dexter, who cannot quite be trusted to practice his herding skills on live animals yet, watches from the living room window…

 

 

Big Spring Project

I always seem to make my plans for the year, and then something comes up, and we make a huge change of plans. This year, instead of building new animals housing, we’re making some structural changes to the circle garden. This is mainly roses, clematis, and other flowering plants.  Two years ago, I ripped out a middle section to put in a quail coop. Since then, I’ve been meaning to get around to revamping things, but I never have.

The wood sides are over ten years old, and are in pretty poor shape. After going over a number of different options, I decided to go with the most labor-intensive. Sigh. Instead of replacing the wood sides, we’re tearing the wood out, digging out the plants, carting away the extra dirt, and making the circle garden into a flat, rather than raised, bed.

Yesterday, it was raining pretty hard. We worked anyway. We got the largest clematis and one rose moved, and I hope the clematis will survive. I’ve never moved a clematis before, but the internet says it can be done. So we’ll see.

Today, it was sunny and actually warm! It was much more pleasant being outside, but it is still back breaking work – especially since our backs were already pretty much pre-broken from yesterday.

One half of the circle is done, however, and I have the largest rose moved from the other half.

The ducks were very interested in the whole process.

What ARE you doing down there?

Are you looking for slugs? Your method seems a bit…destructive…

Dexter the corgi wanted to help, but I felt he’d be more of a hindrance, so he had to satisfy himself with being on duck watch. From his patio position, he warned us whenever the ducks were sneaking up behind us. Beware! Feral garden ducks!

It was a good birthday.

Christmas, and Looking Forward to 2016

This Christmas was one of the best in nearly a decade. The extended family and their drama went elsewhere, and it was a quiet, peaceful Christmas with great food, excellent gifts, and an opportunity to attend our Christmas Eve church service. I actually made it through feeling relaxed instead of stressed out, and rather than being SO GLAD it’s over, I’m looking forward to next year.

This was Dexter’s second Christmas, and the first that he really understood what unwrapping was all about.

We also discovered the perfect way to apply flea medicine to a wiggly corgi…you use the sleeve of a sweatshirt to ardvark them!

It’s been rainy almost non-stop this fall and winter – we’ve set records for rainfall. Finally, though, we’re seeing the return of some sunshine, and it’s bringing on the desire to garden. I’ve been marking up my seed catalogs, and almost have my order ready to send. This year, I’m going to try to stick to tried-and-true varieties, because I’m making it a goal to grow as much greens/seeds for the animals as I can.

rabbitsI found this fabulous book on Amazon:Real Food for Rabbits: Raising Meat Rabbits Without Buying Commercial Feed.  Don’t be put off by the title if you only have pet rabbits – it’s all about feeding, and it applies just as well to pets. I’ve actually suggested to the author that she change the title.

I would LOVE to get all my critters off packaged, commercial food. The chickens are, but the quail and rabbits are (hopefully) being converted over to natural grains and veggies this coming year. I’ve seen so many benefits from the chickens being off commercial food. They are healthy and happy, and – biggest of all – their poop doesn’t stink. At all. I’m looking forward to having that be the case with the quail!

I don’t know if my meat rabbits will happen in 2016. I have a muscovy duck in the fridge ready to cook tomorrow, and assuming we like it as much as everyone says we will, I think I’ll be starting with a few meat ducks.  I’ll order the minimum order of 10 ducklings, save out the nicest trio for breeding, and eat (or sell) the rest. The nice thing about muscovies is how quiet they are, plus the females are terrific mothers.

muscovyI really like having the Indian Runner ducks in my garden. Other than a certain devilish attitude at bedtime sometimes, they are no trouble at all.  And every time I see them out the window, they make me laugh. I’ll be getting two more in the Spring. Either as chicks, or I’ll try hatching some eggs.

I’ll also be hatching more quail. I don’t remember if I told you guys, but I lost a female this Fall, bringing my numbers down to just four females and two males. I want to plump up the female numbers. And my friend lost all but one of her quails due to a predator attack. She didn’t wire in the bottom of her pen, and something dug through the rocks and gravel and killed all of them but one little male in one night. Put wire underneath your cages, folks. It might be a little more trouble and expense, but you never know when a predator will find your cage!

I’m keeping her lonely male with my females, until I get more quail hatched. Then she’s taking him back – I have enough males already!

So right now, that’s the big plan. Re-vamp the chicken yard area to make room for the muscovies, hatch more quail, and garden ALL THE FOOD.

Because seeds.

SAD

http://www.greensparrowgardens.com/2014/12/sad-seed-acquisition-disorder.html

Garden Update & Dexter’s First Beach Day

It is so unusually hot here – we’re having our August weather in June…which makes me concerned a bit about August.  Never thought I’d miss the rain!  But the beans, tomatoes, and squash sure love the heat. I think I’ll be canning beans in under a week.

Good thing, too, as we only have three cans left from the beans I put up last summer. I LOVE home canned beans! They are so much tastier than store-bought.

We’ll be eating summer squash by next week, too. Beans and squash are my favorite summer foods.

It’s been so long since my last update, that I didn’t post the pics I took a few weeks ago. Here’s the front yard vegetable then:

And here it is now. It’s a jungle!

Though the biggest jungle is inside the greenhouse.

Look – we have the brick floor in! And there are SO MANY green tomatoes.  The melons in there are flowering now, too. I’m hopeful that I’ll actually get a bunch of homegrown melons this year.  Early on, I noticed the three peppers I have in there were getting attacked by aphids.  In the outdoor garden, this would be absolutely NO reason for concern, as within days, the beneficial insects would find them, and demolish them.  I never spray anything in my garden, not even soap solutions. Though those are not nearly so harmful as pesticides, they still disrupt the natural cycle of predator/prey in your garden.  If you let the aphids be for a year, you’ll allow the beneficials to establish a base in your garden, and then you’ll never need to spray anything, ever again.  It’s simply amazing to observe.

Inside the greenhouse, I wasn’t sure if a natural balance would be able to happen, but guess what?  After about a week of tolerating aphids on my peppers, the aphids just suddenly disappeared completely! If I’d had to keep the greenhouse door closed during the day, the beneficials probably wouldn’t have been able to find their way inside, but with this hot weather…yeah, it’s an awesome June for the garden and the good bugs!

We’ve done a few more improvements to the chicken coop/yard, with still more to come.

Inside the coop, mom tore out the upstairs loft. She had never been happy with it, and she finally managed to turn me around to her point of view.

Now the girls just have perches along the back wall, with a wind barrier of straw bales in front. Before winter, we’ll have to put in a little more protection, but it’s working for now.

I also got the signs I designed and painted up.

Each girl has her name, along with a picture of the egg she lays. Plus, a blackboard to write their requests/demands.

Outside in the yard, we’re working on making it more chicken-friendly (more shade, more secret nooks, more edible perennials for them and us). So far, we’ve put up two hog panel trellises.

One has two varieties of grapes growing up it:

And beyond that, to the side against the fence, is another with thornless blackberries and a (still-to-be-planted) rose.

Complete with bench, for sitting and holding chickens. Once the vines get a chance to grow up, it will be very nice for all of us.

The neighbor on the other side of the yard finally put up the fence he’s been talking about since he moved in. It’s probably the most white-trashy fence I’ve ever seen (the posts are all cut to different heights, and the boards are nailed on a definite slant), but it does the job. It’s so nice to have privacy again! And now we can tear down the falling-apart fence that used to be there.  We said we’d tear it down for him before he started building his, but he said he wanted to take it down himself.  Then, he just left it up, and built his new fence in further on his property. So he just gave us about ten inches more land!  Woot!  😉  He’s an very odd man.

The new fence extends into the side front, which is very nice. And from this view, you can see just how uneven those posts really are!

Anyway, now that there’s a fence, this just became prime real estate. I’m thinking a bunch of raised beds (the ground’s truly bad here) with raspberries? It gets excellent sun.

Yesterday, we took Dexter to the beach for the first time.

He loved it, but had serious concerns about the sea monsters that kept passing by in the water. We tried to explain what boats are, but he knows what a sea monster is when he sees it, and he knows it is part of his job to keep a wary eye out to sea.

He did love the water though – even though the waves did freak him out at first.

He was so exhausted on the way home. He just collapsed in the back seat, and didn’t move.

Garden Projects, plus a Poisoned Corgi

Wow.  It feels like forever since I’ve posted, but we’ve been super busy here.  No, the duck coop still isn’t finished…but I did get the upper part (and inner nest box area) put together and ready for doors, roof, and foundation.  The green ripple roof section is a piece we bought as a trial to see if we wanted to use it for the roof.  We will.  I think a green roof will be quite pretty…and provide shade protection of the ducks.

Still a considerable bit to do, yet, but at least there’s progress!

Our new paved pathway now has solar lights, and it’s so pretty at night.  Love the patterns they make on the stone.

I want to get some of the solar fairy lights to string over the trellis arch.

The circle garden quail coop has a paved “patio” as well, and I spray-painted a couple of cheap plastic pots blue and planted lavender in them.  Blue is becoming our garden accent color.

Peabody the quail enjoys having a patio.  He spends a lot of time hanging out on his log (like he is here) and watching the goings-on in the yard.  If I walk over, he starts growling and chuffing at me.  It’s pretty cute, even though he’s trying to be Intimidating and Fierce.

I took a video of the Cinna and Martha in their new coop.  This is the rotating coop, that will be alternating over raised beds, so I can grow veggies in one while the quail are fertilizing and tilling the other.  The standard quail seem to be the best at this job.  The others I have (Italians and Blondes) don’t seem to be much into digging holes and turning the soil – except for the occasional dust bath hole.  The standard girls dig the most amazing deep holes.  The one in this video is actually one of the smaller ones I’ve seen.

The front yard vegetable garden FINALLY has a gate.

It will look gorgeous later this year, when I have squash/beans growing up the trellis.  It’s nice to have it fenced off from the rest of the yard, because Dexter is not the most helpful gardener.  Our other big project was fencing in the entire rest of the front yard, so Dexter can have a play yard.

We used t-posts and livestock wire, and it’s amazing how invisible it is, when there’s plants up against it.  One project for a later time, will be filling in plants into the bare spots.  Edibles, I think, but shrubs and larger plants that can take the roughhousing of a corgi.  I might put espaliered trees against the fence on the left.  It looks out onto a lovely view of the neighbors many, many vehicles, and we’d love to hide that behind something green.

Mom spray-painted the white tops of the t-posts black to match the fence, although we left the white sides that faced the driveway.  The wire is a little too invisible, and we don’t want anyone accidentally driving into it.

I have a bunch of kale, cabbage, peas, and beets directly planted into the garden now.  Everything is so gorgeous.  I’ve been hungering for the sight of green growing things all winter!

I’ve also found a cool idea on Pinterest that I’ve started this year…using plastic storage tubs as portable coldframes.  It’s been working perfectly.

Finally, we come to Dexter.  We took him in for his neutering appointment, and the bloodwork they do beforehand showed elevated liver enzymes.  The vet said we’d have to hold off on the surgery, until we checked to see if anything was going on with his liver, so instead of becoming less nuts, Dexter had another test, then was sent home to wait for results.

While we were waiting to hear, we did a little research/remembering on our own, and discovered the culprit: poisoning by lawn chemicals.  There is an abandoned field near our house, where we let Dexter run and play.  Someone keeps it mowed, and apparently they also apply copper sulfate to the grass.  One time when he came back, he smelled really strongly of copper, but we didn’t put two and two together until after his blood test.  The symptoms of copper sulfate poisoning/copper overdose match his blood test results and other symptoms perfectly.

When the vet called with the results of the other test (which were fine) we ran our theory past him, and he agreed that was almost certainly the culprit.  So we have to wait three weeks for the copper to leave his liver, and then we can go ahead with his neutering.

This makes me so angry.  Why are we still pouring poisonous chemicals onto our lawns and into our gardens?  And this was an abandoned field, for pete’s sake!  Right behind it is a wetlands area – of course all that copper sulfate is going straight into the water, and who knows what else it is poisoning?  A friend told me a story of a friend of hers whose dog died because it ate a few blades of grass outside his own apartment.  This is completely insane.

In happier Dexter news, we gave him his first bath.  He was very good, but his favorite part was afterward, when he got to run through the house like a soaked tasmanian devil – and play with the hair dryer.  He loves the hair dryer.  Every time I wash my hair, he stands behind me when I dry it, just hoping I’ll turn the blower on him a few times!

Our gorgeous sunny weather has turned back into rain, so I didn’t work on the duck coop today.  Instead, I worked on a few crafty projects for the garden (I’ll share those in my next post) and hoed up one section of the chicken run/garden to plant a chicken-friendly pasture mix.  It was really pleasant to be out there, hoeing in the drizzle!  Spring rain has such a vibrancy to it; I love the feel of being out in it.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow too – and my plan is to work on the rain barrels.  I want to install three this year: one for the garden roof quail coop, and two for the chicken coop.  I’m looking forward to it.  It’s something I haven’t done before, and that’s always fun!

New Quail Coop

Here is the latest and FINAL quail coop.

This one is my rotating garden bed scheme.  The first year, it will be here, on top of a unused raised bed.  In the fall, after the quail have had time to dig, eat bugs, and fertilize the bed, I’ll switch the coop to another bed that has been growing vegetables.  The quail will get to eat whatever is left of the veggies, and get to work fixing up this new bed for the following year.  I think it’s quite a brilliant idea, so hopefully it works out like I think it will.  I do know that since I had to move quail around, I took the opportunity to take out a couple of barrows full of great compost from the quail coops currently in use!

So now Cinna and his two girls are in the new rotating coop, and Peabody and his wife are in the display coop.  Loki and wives are still in the large green roof coop, but after I build the new greenhouse, they’ll be moving inside there, to help with pest control, and next year, I’ll be hatching out some Serama chickens for the large green roof coop.  After that, everyone should be set for the long term!

Here are a few pics of inside the new coop:

And now, with quail:

Cinna and his girls are happy with their new home.  I had barely put them in it, before they were all having a dust bath together in the corner.

This one has two doors on top.  One over the run, and one over the nest box area on the left.  I still need to put the rubber roofing on the nest box roof.

The chickens weren’t very pleased with the process of building the coop.  First I made the raised bed, and filled it with dirt that they would have loved to dig around in themselves.  They couldn’t quite grasp the necessity of building a coop over the top!  They think I do far too much building of fences as it is!

But they did enjoy seeing the quail move in.  I’ve noticed before that they like to watch the quail.  It’s pretty cute when quail and chicken are standing looking at each other face to face through the wire!

The weather here has been so warm.  We’ve had several days with 60 degree temps, and even the night temps are usually in the high 30s or early 40s.  I’ve decided to risk getting the garden started early, because I just have a feeling that Spring is actually coming early this year, and we’re not going to go back into winter.  Nothing too crazy though!  I started some lettuce, kale, peas, and argula.

You cannot believe how lovely it is to see little bits of green growing again!  Unless, of course, you garden yourself.  🙂

The weather has been making it nice for getting things done outside.  I have a long list (as always) of Things That Need to Get Done:  greenhouse, duck coop, trellises, various gates and fences, and rain barrels.  Plus I’ll be putting in more fruit trees, but I’ll post about that later.

After a day’s work in the garden, it’s good to be able to come in and collapse on the couch!