Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tired Baby

This little guy (or gal) is all tuckered out from the busy day yesterday. Getting put in a cardboard box, shipped overnight, getting picked up at the post office, travelling home in a car, learning to drink and eat... it was a big day!

These little guys are so funny. They'll start nodding off and snuggle down on the floor like they're on a nest, and then their heads tilt forward until their beaks hit the floor. Then their heads just slowly sink sideways. They lie there until one of their buddies runs helter skelter right across their exhasted little body, and then they wake up all confused and try to figure out what's going on.

Last night when it got dark, there were little bugs flying around the light bulbs we have running to keep these guys warm (new chicks need ambient temps of 90 to 95F). Their cardboard box brooder is in the greenhouse, and little bugs have easy access. The chicks gobbled up those tiny flying things like nobody's business! They knew exactly what to do. They are lightning fast, efficient, and ruthless.

I'm liking them already. Good chickens!


Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Stop the presses! Our baby chicks arrived today!! They came in a little cardboard box about 18" by 18" with breathing holes in it. My postmaster called me up and said "Hey, listen to this..." and held the phone to the chicks. Peep! Peep! Peep! I left right away and went to get them. They were peeping loudly and he was kind of relieved to see them go, I think.

We dipped their beaks in the water and they drank right away. They climbed into the pie tin so they could get more, More, MORE water. It was kind of a frenzy at first, as you can see above. We took them out because we didn't want them getting even more chilled than they already were. Baby chicks like to be 90-95F the first week. We'll reduce their temps about 5 degrees per week until they get well feathered.

Our chicks are very precocious. They can stand in their food and poop on it. Isn't that clever? We are feeding them starter food for the first 8 weeks. That's what the hatchery (Murray McMurray) recommends.

They'll be on newspaper for the first three days (again, recommended by the hatchery). Then we'll put them on straw or wood shavings or dirt. Guess I better make up my mind, huh?

I put the camera on "macro" and held it in the box and took a few pics. This is the only one that turned out worth looking at. They are BUSY little devils! These are Speckled Sussex. They are on the ALBC's threatened list.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Don King, eat your heart out

Well we had a cold snap and the flycatcher spent more time on her nest. We were relieved to see her spending time there because we thought she'd abandoned it due to the high traffic (human and canine) in the immediate area.

This morning, we saw this little guy perched on an old brick on the back porch immediately beneath the nest. He was very still and very quiet. I was surprised to see him so big and well feathered. I've been listening for hungry peeps from the nest and haven't heard anything. I don't know if the other eggs have hatched or not. I don't want to mess with the nest or get too close right now.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Retarded Toads

We had about ten days of rain recently and so our gravel-and-dirt drive and turnaround had some generous mud puddles. I was outside working when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw some frayed and ravelled strands of carpet or perhaps yarn.

Upon closer inspection, I realized these were frog or toad eggs. A Google image search soon told me these were toad eggs, not frog eggs. Toads' eggs reside inside a protective tubelike casing rather than a single gelatinous blob.
Below is a closeup of the above mass.

Eggs from a second puddle:
The eggs aren't always in a corkscrew tube. Sometimes the tube lies out straight:

Most of these are worth clicking on to enlarge. I wanted to "rescue" the eggs, but my husband observed that perhaps the desire to lay one's eggs in a temporary mud puddle are some genetics that shouldn't be passed on. So I left them alone. About three or four days later they were completely dried up.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Frost Warning

We had a frost/freeze warning last night. I wasn't too worried because I'm running way behind on getting things planted so all I have in the ground are cold hardy plants: peas, potatoes, asparagus, strawberries, a few herbs, some greens and carrots. I did put some straw over a couple of winter squash seedlings I just transplanted over the weekend. The photo above shows an oregano seedling with a light frost on it (large image is better).

Here's my thermometer as I headed out the door to check on the garden this morning. 70 inside but only 35 outside (the numbers on the left are humidity):

Below is a strawberry plant, halfway between dew and frost. I like the way the droplets form on each point of the strawberry leaves.


Monday, May 22, 2006

String Trellis Enhancements

I don't know if it shows in this photo or not, but my sugar snap peas have required an enhancment to my string trellis. Click to see a larger version, where the enhancement does show.

We have had about ten days of rain, causing the sugar snap peas to grow up and over a string and head back down to earth. I think they were just getting beaten down and perhaps heavy from all the water. My english peas aren't doing this, but they're not as tall and their leaves aren't quite as large.

To help them out, I have tied an additional string between my nails at the current "sugar snap pea height" level. The sugar snap peas now have a string behind them as well as a string in front of them.

Since the rains have abated, the peas seem to be more inclined to grow upward. I was glad to see the rain - we were getting really dry here! But after ten days I'm pretty happy to see blue skies.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Ghost Plants

I'm still building my garden beds. The soil has been dug a couple of feet deep with a backhoe, amended, and now I'm marking out what will be the beds and what will be the paths between the beds. I'm shovelling dirt from the paths onto the beds.

While I'm not out there actively shovelling, my dirt-yet-to-be-made-into-beds lies covered with a couple of sheets of plastic. This serves a couple of purposes. It warms the soil and it keeps the spring rains from making the soil too wet and heavy to dig when I get a chance to work in the garden. Kudos to my husband for this idea, it's working out GREAT.

This weekend I pulled the plastic aside and saw that some of the plants beneath had been killed and bleached. Above is clover, and below is ground ivy. I think it's cool the way the veins still show up so clearly. The ground ivy is worth a click so you can see the large version.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Location, Location, Location

A bird has built its nest above our mud room door. This area gets a LOT of traffic. We walk by every time we go to the car. We walk by every time we go to check on the fruit trees and work on the fencing we're putting up around our "orchard" (deer have decimated our pear trees!). We walk by every time we take laundry to or from the clothes line. In short, this is a high traffic area. The poor bird explodes from its nest several times a day and flies off in alarm when we go by. We're concerned that the eggs aren't being kept warm enough to hatch.

On a couple of cool mornings, though, I've seen the bird barely peeking over the edge of the nest, so perhaps it knows what it's doing. I'm not sure what kind of bird it is, as it's either huddled or exploding and it's hard to get a good look. I think it's a house wren.

Today, I was dying of curiosity so I further antagonized the poor thing and climbed up in a ladder to take a very quick photo. Not good quality; I couldn't even see what I was photographing, really, because it's so high up. I'm happy to have gotten the eggs in the frame!

Five eggs seems like a lot. I hope they hatch. I love the melodic song of a house wren.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Grandmama's Canner

When I went "home" for Christmas, my Grandmama gave me her old canner. She said she doesn't have the strength/desire to use it now that my Granddaddy is gone, and she knows I'm putting in a garden and plan to start canning again.

This thing is so cool! I was reading through the guide so I can set it up, clean it, and test it. That should give me time to order any replacement parts before I'm up to my eyeballs in rotting produce, waiting on a part to arrive.


The book that comes with it indicates it was made in 1944. There is a section about cleaning the cooker that says "This Cooker is manufactured from the best material we are permitted to use under the allocation restrictions, and with ordinary care will give many years of satisfactory service. However, there are various alloys in the metal upon which the physical properties of water and certain foods willl react causing the inside of the Cooker to darken." Then it goes on to tell how to deal with discoloration.

Wow, the allocation restrictions.

There is another section that talks about all the various containers that can be used to can produce, following modern scientific methods. It shows the two piece cap we're accustomed to seeing (rings and flats). Also:

Bail or Lighing Type Cap - cap with separate rubber ring, held in place by a steel wire clamp.

Three-piece cap - Metal screw band, glass lid, and separate rubber ring.

Mason cap - Made of zinc with a porcelain lining and separate rubber ring. Screws on with threads.

There is a section on tin cans, too, and the different sizes (number 2, 2 1/2, 3). Also it shows how to cut off the top of a tin can after one using "and still have a sufficient amount of tin to make another seal".

This is SO COOL!!

There are lots of high quality photographs, and the woman is wearing what looks like a white lab coat (you can only ever see her hands and wrists).

It discusses canning on a gas or kerosene stove, electric stove, and coal or wood stoves.

I won't use this manual for the recipes and canning times - they've been adjusted many times since 1944. But of course I'll use it for cleaning and maintenance information. The photos and verbal content are wonderful!


Friday, May 05, 2006

Grape Flower?

There is an old grape arbor here. I trimmed back the vines severely in very early spring (late winter), as all my reading suggested I should do. It's got leaves and looks very happy.

I think these are the flowers that will become grapes. I don't know if they'll grow larger and more beautimous, or if this is as lovely as it gets. Right now they look more like catkins than flowers.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dandy Days

It's been beautiful here the last several days. It smells like heaven - a sweet meadowy smell. Potatoes just began popping up, peas are looking strong, and broccoli is starting to put out real leaves. I'm killing the tomatoes in the greenhouse, but the peppers in there are doing well.

We need rain. Supposed to get some tonight. Fingers crossed.


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