Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Rose of Summer

The first rose to bloom at Cairnwood Cottage is this one, a descendant from my grandparents' rose bush

I suppose that should really be the first rose of spring, since summer is technically a month away yet. Actually I noticed the first roses starting to bloom last week. The rose bush these particular roses are growing on is a bush that has descended from a rose bush that grew on my grandparents' farm in northern Indiana. My parents got a start from it and have it growing on their property, just 1/2 mile away from the original farmhouse rose. Then I got a start from my parents' rose. It's nice to know that this rose growing here in central Pennsylvania, has roots in Indiana. And whenever I see this rose, I think of my now-deceased grandparents.

Rain drop-laden rose

I can almost SMELL the sweet rose aroma!

Today is rainy, and I'm feeling quite lazy. I should be taking advantage of this forced hiatus from outdoor work by getting the laundry, dishes and house cleaning done, but I quite simply don't feel like it! So here I sit instead, and will probably take a nap a bit later.

Rain drops clinging to wild cherry blossoms, creating strings of "jewels"

Close-up of wild cherry "jewels"

Several days ago we had rain as well, and I took advantage of the unique beauty that only rainy days offer, and grabbed some photos. I was struck by the unusual jewel-like beauty of the wild cherry blossoms that hung over our driveway, and the velvety soft appearance of the roses covered with rain drops. How can I ever complain about rain?!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Babies Galore!

Baby Blues...future tasty blueberries

Spring is known for babies...chicks, baby birds, foals, calves, bunnies...you name it. Seems like there's a lot of new life in spring. Cairnwood Cottage has its share of new life as well.

The 19 asparagus crowns that I planted on April 6 are finally showing signs of life. Tiny little asparagus "seedlings' are poking up beside the stakes that mark the spot where I planted them. I had been getting a bit worried as I expected them to make an appearance long before this. Better late than never.
Newly planted asparagus is finally peeking!

The fruit trees are sporting tiny little fruits.
Baby pear

The blueberry bushes are loaded with baby blueberries...let's hope I get more than the birds do this season!

Asparagus beetles are hard at working trying to create another generation of beetles for me to battle and feed to the chickens. They just won't give up!
Who gets more of my asparagus...me or these beetles?!

My Miss Bateman clematis blossoms have opened further.
Miss Bateman cleamatis

Miss Bateman clematis...view from below

Baby birds are cheeping from their hidden nest under our front porch roof. The list goes on. Who can't love spring?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Before The Storm

Ladybug enjoying the early morning

A beautiful morning greeted me when I crawled out of bed this morning. I've got lots on my to-do list as normal, but I decided to pause and wander around, camera in-hand, and take a few photos of some of God's wonderful creations before the predicted thunderstorms arrive. Some days it just feels so good to be alive...today is one of those days. We truly live on a magnificent planet.

Frog enjoying the cool, moist shade between a flower and a pot of seedlings in a flower bed

Frog eye up close

I noticed that my Miss Bateman clematis was blooming for the first time since I planted it last year.
I've planted several clematis along the fence that keeps our dogs in the backyard/orchard. This is the first one to bloom of the clematis I planted last year. I counted 4 blooms on it this morning.

Miss Bateman Clematis--first bloom of the season

Miss Bateman Clematis up close

The fruit trees are mostly done blooming now, their once snow white blossoms now turning brown where they've fallen on the ground and the picnic table. My quince tree has a few blossoms left, but there is just one that I could find that was intact.

The last perfect quince blossom

My azaleas are a riot of color, and the rhododendron buds are beginning to pop open. The front yard is very colorful at the moment with the various flowering shrubs. Everything looks compressed in this photo, but there is a stream and another small yard area between that row of spent daffodils and the yellow shrub in the background. Yeah, we need to mow, weed, and put down mulch, but there always seems to be something more pressing to do.

Some of the azaleas in our front yard in full bloom. Rhododendrons are not far behind.

And I'm excited to report that of the 11 bamboo shoots that I transplanted, they all seem to be alive to some extent...I realize now that I didn't pick the best time to transplant them, so I'm hoping they all survive. I did notice this morning that one transplant has actually sent up a baby shoot.

Baby bamboo shoot

Now that I've enjoyed the outdoors, bring on the rain and thunderstorms! I've got plenty to do on the sadly neglected inside of the house.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peep Treats

Ameraucana (left) and Speckled Sussex (right) chicks snacking on chickweed

There's a reason they call it chickweed (Stellaria media). Chicks love the stuff. And it's not just chickens that love it. "Little birds in cadges (especially Linnets) are refreshed with the lesser Chickweed when they loath their meat whereupon it was called of some "Passerina"--John Gerard, in his 1597 English text on medicinal plants, Herbal or General History of Plants. Humans can also eat chickweed, but that's another entry altogether.

My little peepers come running lately when they see me approach the Peep House. They know I'll more than likely be giving them treats of chickweed, which they dive into and scarf down with wild abandon. If they were puppies, they'd be rolling in it.

One peep is almost always the first one to greet me. I call him/her Livingston because I think he/she looks a lot like a seagull (some may not be old enough to even have a clue what I'm talking about) with his/her gray head and dark eyeliner. Livingston is very friendly and likes to follow me around, or just hang out nearby if I happen to sit on the cement block I use as a chair while I do nothing but watch the peep antics. I'm not sure how long it will be before I know if Livingston is a he or a she. If it turns out to be a little pullet, I guess I'll change the name to Livvy.

Livingston, an Ameraucana chick

And I'm thankful to still have 31 peeps today! Yesterday Toodie sounded the alarm while she was outside in the dog yard. I could tell from her bark that an intruder was nearby. When I went to check the peeps, I discovered that the gate had blown open (Horrors! It was an extremely windy day and our latch failed), and there was a strange cat a few feet away from the pen. A very pretty long-haired cat, I think it was a female looking for love in all the wrong places, from the sounds of it. I did the pssssst noise at her and she ran off into the woods, but returned later and continued to hang around most of the day. Toodie was not amused, nor was I. I was very concerned, because a cat would have no problems getting into the peep pen, and the little peepers are still small enough that a cat could take one out with no trouble. I had a hard time counting the peeps yesterday because they move so fast, and with 31 to count, they're just all over the place. After a bit of a struggle, I did determine that all 31 are still healthy and happy. And that makes me and Toodie happy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Minky Bean --Fearsome Killer

Minky Bean looking all fearsome, rolling and meowing in our driveway, begging for a belly rub

We've got three cats: Minky Bean, Gypsy, and Little Kitten (AKA Fat *ss). The cats hadn't been introduced to my peeps until recently; I really didn't want the cats to develop a taste for peeps so thought I'd wait until the peeps had packed on a little weight and got a little bigger and didn't look quite so....tempting.

Once the peeps were outside in the Peep House and adjoining fenced run, we'd been keeping the cats indoors to prevent any sort of peep-cat altercation. The cats were getting antsy to go outside. I was getting tired of hearing their plaintive meows and cries, and I was also getting tired of cleaning out the cat box so frequently.

I took Minky Bean outside. Now, Minky Bean is a mighty hunter, which is one reason I was a bit worried for the peeps. She's brought down prey nearly as large as herself: fearsome bunnies, killer chipmunks, man-eating rodents of all sizes and deadly birds of all sorts. She even survived a coyote attack which left her with a broken jaw, permanently oozing wound on her lower jaw, broken teeth, and a horribly crooked face in a cute sort of way. I shudder to think what that poor coyote must have looked like after this encounter; obviously his dinner wasn't quite as wimpy as he was hoping.

So I carried Minky Bean up to the Peep House. Peeps were all out and running about, scratching and pecking and doing their Peeply Thing. Minky caught a glimpse of them and nearly tore my arm off in her frantic attempt to get away. Huh?!

I'm not sure what went through her head. Is she truly afraid of chickens? Was she pecked nearly to death by peeps as a kitten on the farm where I got her? Did she envision a herd of T-Rex babies on the attack?

Whether the sheer numbers frightened her (she's not stupid, she knows when she's outnumbered by a deadly foe) or she just didn't know what these creatures were is beyond me. It is a relief, however, to know we don't need to worry about Minky Bean dining on Peeps--meaty or marshmallow. Oh, and Gypsy reacted in exactly the same way as Minky Bean. Little Kitten never ventures outside...long story, that.

I've been in kind of a funky weird mood today, probably because I stayed up two hours past my bedtime last night reading. Shame on me! I took a nap when I got home from work in spite of the fact that it's a balmy 71 degrees F, sunny and perfect for gardening. I also have an appointment with my oncologist tomorrow to get the results of my recent blood work and PET scan. I'm sure this has some bearing on my mood as well.

So, I'm taking a day off (mostly) from work around here and decided to go mushroom hunting. Walked up the road to the property where morels have been known to thrive, and where the landowners have graciously granted me permission to hunt. I cast my mind back to my childhood to conjure up all the memories of a successful mushroom hunt and the equipment I'd need: a bag for the load of mushrooms I'd find, and the perfect stick, one that is just the right length and has a slight crook at the end for pushing lush foliage aside.

Forest floor where I searched for morels. Note the lush growth of ferns, wildflowers, pretty little stream, and....poison ivy (left).

Armed and confident in my abilities to find the mother lode of morels, I walked the 3/4 miles to the property on Boyscout Road. Wow, lots of poison ivy! Lots of gnats! Mosquitoes galore! My morel mojo left me many years ago I'm afraid; I haven't found a morel in more years than I care to count. Today was no different. Wait...several years ago I did find one dried, shriveled up pathetic little thing, and another that had been growing
under one of our apple trees, also dried and shriveled. Does that count?

I think I had better luck finding mushrooms as a kid because (1) I was shorter and closer to my subject, (2) I wasn't allergic to poison ivy then and was oblivious to its location...now I spend most of my time watching for poison ivy instead of looking for mushrooms, and finally (3), I had much more time to "waste" as a child. I spent nearly an hour searching today and feel guilty, somewhat, that I wasn't doing something else more productive.
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)...view from below.

The only things I found on my mushroom hunt today were some pretty plants, and the solitude and quiet of being in the woods, alone. On my entire 1.5 mile walk on the road I didn't see a single car or truck, or any sort of vehicle. On second thought, that wasn't a wasted hunt at all!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who Needs Sheep When You've Got Peeps?

Toodie fancies herself a Peep Herder...forget sheep! Peeps are more of a challenge

OK, so they're not really "peeps" anymore, but to me they'll always be my peeps, even when they're laying eggs. Peeps is just such a cute word. I normally refer to them as my "chickapeeps" when talking to them, or about them.

Ameraucana teenager--looking (mostly) all grown up and just one month old today!

Australian shepherds are known as outstanding sheep herders. Toodie is, perhaps, the world's first peep herder. And it's far more fun than herding cats...peeps can fly! Toodie knows the word "peeps", and when I open the gate and tell her to "go check the peeps", she's on it like a scalded dog.
She will do a perimeter check, and herd any peeps back in that have made an unexpected jail break. This fence isn't entirely peep-proof, though now that they're getting a little bigger they're having a harder time squeezing through the openings. I've been feeding them a lot hoping for just that.
Toodie watching over the flock

NEWS FLASH!! Pasty Butt is better! PB is back in the Peep House with his/her commrades and enjoying life. MY life is so much more enjoyable now that I don't have peeps in brooders upstairs as well as out in the Peep House.

I think we've finally solved the pecking problem. I started turning the heat lamp off at night so the peeps would have to sleep and not be awake, bored, pecking each other all night long. Problem is, the last few nights have been downright chilly to the tune of 37 degrees F., and my little peeplets are just a month old. Hubby Dean rigged up the Peep House to reduce the interior size by about half, and we hung a heating pad in the corner where the peeps normally sleep. We also lowered the interior roof (tarps are amazing things!) to keep the warmth low, and the peeps have made it through those chilly nights with no problems. It feels pretty toasty in there when I let them out in the mornings.

Camo Peeps investigating shrubs

Yesterday I mowed the dog yard/orchard and had three huge wheel barrows full of grass clippings to use as one of my compost ingredients. I love making compost! It's almost as much fun as baking bread or something. Anyway, we can't find our grass bagger for the lawnmower (since when could those things sprout legs and walk away?!), so I've had to rake all the grass clippings. Normally we don't mess around with the bagger or raking, but the dog yard is growing such lush grass, and at a phenomenal rate with all the rain, I can't let it go to waste. (Speaking of waste, I make sure no dog waste goes into the compost!) I've got two nice piles of compost cooking away; I just can't wait to use it in the gardens. There's never enough "black gold".

You can call yourself a true gardener when you break your hoe. Yesterday I was hoeing some weeds in my berry patch, and the hoe just broke. Snapped right off, broke the metal. I wonder, do I get a patch to wear on my jacket now? I really do need to get another hoe, and soon. The weeds, like the grass in the dog yard, are growing at a phenomenal rate since I don't have a good layer of mulch down in the berry patch yet. That's another to-do on my ever-growing list.

Speaking of berries, picking off blossoms from newly-planted blueberries and strawberries is one of the hardest things to do. Even knowing that it will help the plant thrive and produce more fruit next year, it's just....difficult! I pinched blossoms from the Sparkle strawberries that I planted near the patio. Several of my new blueberry bushes are growing like gangbusters and had popped out quite a few blossoms. Thankfully I've got 12 more blueberry bushes that produce a fair amount now.

On my way home from work this morning I stopped by our friends' house that had some black raspberry canes for me to dig up. Got those out of the ground and planted here at their new home. I'm not sure what variety they are, but hopefully they're not "Jewel", which is the type I planted last month. Even if they are, you can never have too many raspberries!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thoughts on Mother's Day...and other things

Happy Mother's Day! Photo taken in Ricketts Glen State Park

Belated Mother's Day to all mothers!

This morning on my way home from work I was listening to the radio as I often do. An add came on from a local jeweler trying to lure ladies to come into their shop and buy some sort of jewelry. And, as I often do, I shook my head in disbelief that people place so much "value" on sparkly things.

Now, I realize I'm not your typicall female. Maybe that's because I was raised with 3 brothers and did my share of the chores, but I honestly don't understand the desire to be bejeweled. I mean, what's the point? My husband knows I'd probably near-murder him if he were to buy me some outlandish big diamond for Mother's Day (or any other day for that matter) instead of getting me something really cool and useful such as the past gifts I've requested: weed whacker, wheel barrow, spade, reel lawn mower, etc. Now those are gifts I really appreciate!

I'll take a potted plant or a packet of seeds, or any one of hundreds of books I'd like, over diamonds any day. I'd be happy with some Mille Fleur chickens, too!

And ya know what? It's true, some of the best things in life are free. My favorite clothes...and this is no lie...I've found lying in the road! My absolute favorite shirt on the planet is a thermal (waffle knit) long-sleeve Old Navy shirt in confederate blue that I found in the ditch while taking a walk several years ago. Yeah, I brought it home and ran it through the wash several times with a bit of bleach to disinfect it. It fits perfectly and is incredibly comfy. I found another t-shirt many years ago, in the road, and I wore that until it became obscene and I had to toss it in the rag bag. I found a Nautica Competition t-shirt in our intersection a while back, too big for me, but Hubby Dean wears it all the time (I'm not sure if he knows I found it in the road...)

My favorite pair of pants for many, many years, was a pair of army pants that the previous owner had been left behind in our first house when we bought it 28 years ago. I'd kill to be able to find a pair of pants just like those, today. And in a rental house I found a left-behind sundress which I wear a lot, and a long-sleeve sweat shirt type thing that I've worn to work on chilly days for at least 20 years...this thing is made of iron! At the same house, I found my favorite frying pan in the "dump" out back of the house. I cleaned it up and voila! I use it constantly, and have for, again, 20 or more years. Bags of clothes that were given to us for the boys when they were growing up contained many pairs of jeans that I've taken over and don't ever want to part with.

I love finding things that are useful. "If it's free, it's for me" is my motto! Proud? Not me!

My Mother's Day this year was outstanding, as they usually are. Hubby Dean got my new Peep House made. I bought a new porch swing that was on sale (which will hang in my Secret Garden between two big oak trees). We went out for dinner Friday night at our favorite place, the Selinsgrove Brewing Company in Selinsgrove, PA. On Saturday we drove to Rickett's Glen, one of our favorite state

Hubby Dean and youngest son, Tyler, hiking in Ricketts Glen State Park

Another series of waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park

parks, and did a 6.8 mile hike (free!) and took millions of photos (also free since I use a digital camera). Sunday we pretty much chilled out after a wonderful dinner. Took a brief nap in our new hammock which is strung up between an apple and a pear tree in our backyard/orchard, then hopped on the motorcycle and did a bit of riding around with some of our friends. Came home, had a sip of wine before heading of to bed.

Simply enjoying nature (free!) is a perfect gift for me--these fiddleheads were photographed in Ricketts Glen State Park on Saturday

And on the subject of free, I'll be walking down the road soon to see if I can dig up a start from a dark purple lilac that I see growing in our neighbor's yard. Then perhaps a bit of morel mushroom hunting on another neighbor's property (I've already got their permission, of course). Sweet.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Good Day

View of Cairnwood Cottage from my Secret Garden--lots of work to do in those flower beds!

Today was very busy and very good. I woke up several hours earlier than I normally do when I'm on vacation, and went out to check the peeps first thing. They came charging out of The Peep House when I opened their little door, and immediately set about scratching, running, establishing the pecking order, flying about and doing all manner of peeply things. I was yet again dismayed to see that some pecking had occurred overnight...perhaps 8 peeps had bloodied tail feathers. I did leave the heat lamp on overnight, so perhaps that's part of the problem; they've got light all night long and are up and about getting bored all cooped up in their coop.

Here's a photo of the Duct tape solution that seems to work pretty well. Stylish, no?

Peep sporting its' Duct Tape Nether-Region-Protector!

Within 5 minutes of being let out of the coop, one little peeper found an earthworm and came running down from behind the coop just cheeping its little head off, carrying that worm which was so big it was dragging the ground. Of course this alerted all the other chicks to the tasty morsel and the chase was on! One of the golden sexlinks got the other end of the worm in its beak and a short tug-of-war ensued before the sexlink won out and ran off with the worm and a tasty breakfast. As cute as all this was, I still cringe at the thought of the poor earthworm being eaten alive...I like earthworms. I talk to them and apologize to them if I accidentally cut one in half when I'm digging a hole. I try not to run over them when they're crawling all over the road when it's raining. I still can't believe I used to impale them onto fishing hooks when I was a kid....shudder!

I checked the red raspberries that I transplanted into the berry patch. They were a bit droopy last night and I watered them in good before calling it a night. This morning they're all perky and look like they've been there for quite some time, so I think they'll all survive. I've got so many red raspberry shoots coming up all over the yard...I'd like to sell them for what they're selling for at some of the stores around here! I'd make a small fortune!

After breakfast I jumped right into digging up that rambling rose ("The Garland") growing beside the patio and transplanting it into my Secret Garden (more on the history of my Secret Garden in another post). Hubby Dean has always hated that rose being planted there because he was constantly getting tangled up in it and was constantly chopping it back with the loppers. I think he was secretly trying to kill it. When, during lunch, I mentioned that I hoped it would survive the transplant ordeal, Hubby Dean stated, and this is an exact quote, "that bush and the cockroaches will take over after the nuclear war."

While I was planting the rose into its new home, the UPS dude stopped and delivered a package (normally I bring packages home from work with me unless I'm on the motorcycle). My 3 clematis (Clematis Montana "Broughtan Star") and 1 "Chocolate Cosmos" (Cosmos astrosanguineus) have finally arrived! One of the clematis ended up being planted in the spot where the rambling rose once thrived...I wanted some sort of climbing thing there, and I figured Hubby Dean wouldn't complain about a clematis.

Look what the UPS man brought me! One "Chocolate Cosmos" and three "Broughton Star" clematis (yeah, those things that look like cigars!)

Besides the new clematis, which is a dusky rose color and will grow up to 20 feet, I also planted 5 Sparkle strawberry plants in that bed by the patio. I remember my grandfather growing Sparkle strawberries many, many years ago (at least 40!). They were amazing, at least in my memory. I ordered 5 plants via snail mail since I couldn't find them locally. I figured I could start new plants from these when they start doing that runner thing, thus enlarging my ever-growing number of strawberry plants. Plus these will be handy there by the back door. Pop open the back door and grab a handful!

Work in progress...5 Sparkle strawberries (one is hiding behind the far right pot) and a "Broughton Star" clematis will be planted in front of the trellis. Then the dirt will be swept up...

This past week I dug up some "wild" Pheasant Eye type daffodils that I'd seen growing along a little dirt road in the woods. I'm amazed they're still there because the road crew often goes through there and digs the ditch out, and they're growing in the ditch. I promised myself I'd "save" them at some point, but kept thinking of it too late. This year my timing was just right, and I dug up four pots worth of the little beauties. They'll get transplanted into my Secret Garden and my Woodland Garden. I love these little guys.

Three of four pots of the "Pheasant's Eye" daffodil that I dug up from a ditch

Close-up of the "Pheasant's Eye" type daffodil in the process of opening up

And finally, a NEWSFLASH! Pasty Butt has pooped! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you'll have to read my previous post. I went upstairs to the brooder to check on Pasty Butt. I was actually looking at the other chick in the brooder when out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw PB go pooh, but I wasn't 100% sure. There was a little pile of chick pooh there. How to tell if PB did the deed, or was that already there? Temperature. Yes folks, I reached in there and actually touched the pooh, and it was warm! I'm so happy!

And yes, I did wash my hands, multiple times in fact, afterwards.

CAIRNWOOD TIP OF THE DAY: I tried a little trick that I'd read about on my organic gardening list; lavender essential oil drops placed on my hat really does keep gnats from flying around in my face!

Plowing Through "The List"

View from our roof overlooking the front yard and stream--we need to mow! Click the photo for an enlarged version and you can see the lamp post and bench in the front yard by the rhododendron. That's a bunch of daffodils snaking its way through the foreground, which actually sit atop a stone wall, which you can't see from this angle. The poor maple tree to the right needs to be cut down this year...it's mostly dead, thanks in part to the horrible way the road crew trimmed back all of its branches, I'm sure.

I'm a chronic list maker. Always have and probably always will be. I have so many things on my "to-do" list that it boggles the mind (at least it boggles my mind, thus the lists), so I dutifully write a list of things down that I think I can, or should, get accomplished on any given day. Normally a few items get checked off, but a good portion of them remain on the list, reminding me that I've failed once again to do everything I wanted to do.

Yesterday's list: 1. write the tripsheet (paperwork) for the EMS call I went on with the fire department. 2. finish filling the front window boxes. 3. transplant red raspberries, two rambling roses, and some iris. 4. plant more "stuff" in the garden. A small list by my standards, and easily do-able.

My problem...I get side-tracked. Big time. I'll begin one of my tasks, then see something that needs attention, and off I go to tend to whatever grabbed my attention, then I see something else I should do before I get the last thing done, and off I flit to another chore...and on it goes. I get stuff done, just not completely done a lot of the time.

What did I actually do yesterday (Thursday)??? I got three loads of laundry done--folded and put away (including sheets which were hung out on the line to dry since it was, finally, a sunny day).
Made the bed with the fresh, clean sheets. Sat on the patio and had coffee with my dear sweet husband in the a.m. after breakfast. Watered my hanging baskets which do not benefit from the rains we get since they're hanging under overhangs. Pulled weeds. Watched the peeps play and chase bugs. Transplanted 10 red raspberry plants and watered them in (***an actual list task!) Helped Hubby Dean re-roof part of the house. Mowed the lawn around my garden and in the blueberry patch. Filled my window boxes (***another list task!). Went to the fire station and wrote my tripsheet (***yay! another lister!). Helped Hubby Dean stuff envelopes...he was talked into running for Township Supervisor and now needs to send out campaign materials. Fixed lunch and supper and did some dishes. Dealt with "Pasty Butt"....huh?!

One little peep that had its nether regions pecked to a bloody pulp the other day has developed the unfortunate condition known as "Pasty Butt". So now I'm spending the better part of each day with warm, wet paper towels cleaning stuck on pooh off the bum of this little peeper, and hoping and praying that it gets better soon. I hate to see little creatures in pain or suffering, or hurt...it just makes my heart ache. Apparently Pasty Butt can be fatal...it prevents the chick from going pooh because their "vent" gets crusted over with dried on...pooh. It's like the chick is constipated, but what I'm seeing is like something that looks like yogurt oozing out and drying on its little hiner. The chick is not pleased when I have to deal with it, but it does help him/her to go pooh, which he/she did yesterday (definately constipated!) while I was in the process of cleaning him/her. This made me happy because I knew he/she could at least go. I'd read that putting a bit of molasses in their drinking water can help as that acts as a laxative. So I did that as well as add some chick vitamins to the water. I'm keeping this little chick (one of the Welsummers) in an upstairs brooder with another Welsummer chick for company, until it gets better. I'm afraid that if this little chickie survies and thrives, that it will be forever known as Pasty Butt. Poor little peeper....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

First Overnighter

Two Ameraucana peeps survey the great outdoors after spending their first night in the Peep House

Last night was the first night the peeps stayed overnight somewhere other than an upstairs bedroom in our house. I was a bit concerned about them staying out in their new Peep House...what if some critter tried to eat them? What if they got too cold? You'd think I was their mother or something.

Not too worry...I kept a heat lamp on out there and they stayed warm enough, though, like teenagers at a slumber party, I'm sure they were up most of the night. And Dean made the Peep House pretty snug against marauding critters even if they did manage to get into their fenced Peep Yard.

I was a bit dismayed this morning when I went to check the peeps, to find that three more had been pecked badly through the night. Geesh, I think that makes 13 of the 31 peeps that have been pecked to the point of bleeding, which of course prompts more pecking. So nearly half the peeps were once again back in the house this morning.

We'd been doing a bit of internet research on what we could possibly do to stop the current pecking situation and prevent future outbursts. There are a multitude of possible reasons for pecking: crowding, boredom, lack of protein, and parasites to name a few. I know these peeps weren't crowded. I've been feeding them a proper chick starter feed so theoretically they should be getting the right amount of everything. I've not seen parasites of any sort on them (but I suppose that doesn't mean they're not there). If I were a betting person, my money would go on boredom. OR, there might be a bully chick in the group starting all the pecking, but if there is, I haven't been able to pick him/her out.

So, after reading that a good thing to do for a chick's bloody bum or wing or wherever...in our case it's the bum that's been pecked on 99% of the peeps...is to put none other than good ol' Duct Tape on the wound, I proceeded to tape the wounded nether regions of The Unfortunate 13. The tape doesn't stick to the skin, but will stick to the feathers, and will fall off within a couple weeks, all the while protecting the delicate rears from further pecking. I will definitely have to take a photo of our latest Peep Fashion here at Cairnwood. It's rather stunning. The peeps aren't too thrilled about having tape stuck across the tail feather region, but they soon get over it and act like it's not even there.

In an attempt to alleviate their boredom, we decided to go ahead and let the little peepers out into their fenced yard. It's not entirely chick-proof which is one reason I didn't let them out yesterday. Plus it's still chilly...in the 50's, and they're not quite a month old yet.
You go first! No, YOU go first!

I opened their little hatch, which caused quite a stir. Many of them came and stood on the threshold and looked out, but that was it.

Hey look! She's on the gangplank and hasn't been eaten yet! It must be safe!

Eventually a brave peep would walk down the temporary gangplank, then hustle back up into the Peep House.


Once one peep finally went all the way out and down to the feeders, they all decided it was OK. They were having a blast chasing bugs around, scratching, flapping their wings, getting "lost" behind the Peep House, doing "chicken fights" where they'd stretch their necks out and jump up and down in front of each other. Cute.

Once it warmed up into the 60's outside, I turned their heat lamp off. It stayed nice and warm in The House so they could go back inside if they got too chilly while out exploring.

Now it's evening and they're all cooped up for the night. Keeping my fingers crossed there will be no more pecking tonight!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What a Day!

Today started out awesomely, then just got progessively worse....

As you know, if you read my previous post, I got the peeps moved into their new Peep House first thing this morning. Within 10 minutes of moving all 31 peeps into their new roomy abode, the pecking started. Huh?! Here's what's really weird; I noticed them pecking each other every single time I took them out of the house and out into the outdoors where they had more room to roam, grass and bugs to keep them happy. They never pecked each other while inside in their brooders, under a heat lamp and in tighter quarters than outside. As soon as they entered natural light, blam! They started pecking each other and making their little bums bleed. I'd take the wounded peeps back into the house and they'd be fine.

Today's first pecking victim I took back into one of the indoor brooders with another peep for company. They were fine. So I went about my chores...burning trash, taking out compost, pulling some weeds, then lunch.

After lunch I drove over to the place with the bamboo, and dug up 11 clumps of bamboo. If I'd have been counting, I would have dug up one more just to make it an even dozen. When I returned home, I unloaded the bamboo, then checked the peeps.

ARGH! They were at it again! More peeps with bloody bums and being chased around and being pecked by other peeps! What the heck?! I'd catch the main peep being chased by the others, and by the time I got back from taking that one back inside, another one was being terrorized. Then things would calm down, and I had time to plant a couple bamboo plants, then have to rescue more peeps, then I had a chance to start supper (BBQ ribs for Hubby Dean), then rescue more peeps, then plant some more bamboo, then dash off to a 911 call for chest pains less than a mile up the road.

When I got back from the 911 call, I had to rescue a couple more peeps and continue working on supper. I did eventually finish planting the bamboo, but by now supper was just a little over-cooked. Drats!

The peeps I've been bringing inside have been placed back into their old brooders with a red light burning instead of their normal heat lamp. Supposedly red lights help prevent them from pecking each other. But what I find really weird is the fact that they started pecking each other as soon as they got outside. More room. Fresh air. Bugs. Grass and weeds. What more could a peep want?

Now it's almost 10 p.m., we just finished supper about an hour ago. I got some of the dishes done...the rest can wait until tomorrow! Right now I think I need a big glass of wine. Or, maybe I should give the wine to the peeps...perhaps that would calm them down a bit!

New Digs for the Peeps!

Dean adding the Plexiglas windows to the new Peep House

Moving day for the peeps! We pretty much finished the new little Peep House last night. It needs paint and a few minor additions to finish it up, but it's habitable now. I'm even going to hang two hanging baskets of flowers from the front corner overhangs...I'm sure the peeps will be proud to live in such a stylish abode.

Dean working on the new Peep House

The peeps were overjoyed to be in such roomy quarters! I'm overjoyed to get them out of the house and out of five separate brooders from one of the upstairs bedrooms. What a pain it's been to clean five brooders, clean and fill five waterers, and clean and fill five feeders.

Check out all this room in our new digs!!

Angled view of the inside of the Peep House showing their snazzy windows, which will let in winter sun. The overhang will shade them from the sun in summer

When I first released the peeps into the Peep House, they ran and flew and jumped and just went nuts! It was fun to watch them have such a blast and explore their new digs.

Dudes! There's someone peekin' into our house!

What are you lookin' at!?

I got the old brooders cleaned out and the contents (lots of poop, some wood shavings and newspaper plus bits of chick feed) deposited into one of my black plastic compost bins. Liberal quantities of weeds were added, stirred, and now I'll sit back and wait for the magic to happen. I love compost.

On the agenda for today, which is still overcast and threatens rain: dig up some bamboo from a family a couple miles away who have a lovely stand of it. Yeah, I know...it can be invasive. This will form a barrier between us and the neighbors and will hopefully replace our thinning, aging Douglas Fir row that is now our privacy fence...well, mostly private but rapidly declining to the point of screaming out, "hey everybody, look over here and see what's going on in this yard!" The plus side of using bamboo: I'll have lots of bamboo poles to use in the garden! It's also nice knowing I'm getting some bamboo that thrives in our area....and it's free!

Raindrops this morning on a newly planted strawberry plant

Assuming that keeping my fingers crossed will indeed hold the rain at bay, I'm also planning to dig up some black raspberry canes from a friend and plant those in the berry patch. I want to fill the kitchen window boxes and prepare those for planting, gather some leaves from the ditch just down the road to use as mulch and compost ingredients, plant more lettuce, peas, spinach, etc. etc. The list goes on and on and on...maybe I could clone myself?